I’ve said it before but when it comes to music I tend to be quite simple: I like my house music dirty, my electro fast and alien, and I like my techno hard and funky.
Perhaps we are all products of our environment when it comes to music, and slaves to our embryonic influences whether we want to be or not, whether we even think we are. I expect we’ve all known people – be they friends, family members, colleagues – who we slagged off for being stuck in the past when it came to music. There was a fella I worked with for years who had seen all the big acts back in the 60s. He still had the ticket stubs from gigs by the Beatles, the Stones, even Jimi Hendrix, and it was fun to listen to his stories of seeing these mythical figures in the flesh, but you gradually became aware that for all his pronouncements about loving music, he was completely oblivious to anything after 1973. For him, the decade of his youth was the be all and end all.
I used to think I was beyond that, and in many senses, I think I still am. I can reel off lists of pure hunnerds of producers and labels putting out music today that would silence all but the most socially damaged of trainspotters, and my purchases of contemporary music financially still lies somewhere between the sort of costs you would usually associate with buying a house and renewing Trident.
But while I still follow and support a multitude of producers, I sometimes wonder whether my likes and dislikes are governed less by what’s happening in music now and more by what happened back then. I get bored easily with deep house – no matter what the pedigree – and monotone techno. I always got bored with deep house and monotone techno. I learned that way back when I first started listening to electronic music. And I still have a punk fan’s slight disdain for disco, regardless of how ridiculous that is and knowing very well that genre’s place in the history of the music I love.
That’s just the stuff I can’t really be arsed with. It’s even more pronounced with the stuff I do. Are all the records I’ve bought over the last few years enjoyed because they remind me of stuff I listened to twenty years ago? Are my pronouncements about the state of techno and house less to do with how things actually are, and more because I’m trying to reconcile my own past with the here and now?
Well, Probably all of that. But I think at the end of the day worrying about it is mostly balls, particularly as so many producers around just now seem intent on returning to those sounds from long ago. It’s weird when you’re wired into a nostalgia trip. It’s even weirder when people who weren’t even around at the time are wired into it too. In fact, some of the worst contemporary music around tries to ape the past, all too often mistaking surface sounds for deeper meaning. It is an easy mistake to make.
It goes the other way too, though. Producers who hunt through past influences and discard everything which imprisons the music in its own heritage are very much in the minority yet they do exists. Look at Bass Clef, and the way he’s taken acid house in the past and refitted it according to his own tastes and needs, or the way the current Bristol crews have built music out of bits and pieces of techno, house and dubstep that feels entirely new and forward looking.
I think the reason I like the music of Mgun so much is that he plays to both sides of this neurotic worry of mine so well. A Detroit artist, deep in the musical heritage of the city due to his relationship with Underground Resistance, he’s always made techno which feels inspired by Detroit’s legacy but he has never sounded like it. Others do that too, of course, and from the same city. Both Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall have a similar relationship with the past. In their case though the music is easier to place, sounding less removed from the tastes which informed it. With Mgun, the connections are harder to make, and following the threads from one to the other takes a bit of effort. You are rewarded, though. And although it doesn’t happen all that often, when it does its best to stop worrying about why and just get stuck in.