Five years, particularly in our strangely whacked-out world, feels a lot longer than it sounds. When I wrote the first of these way back at the start of February 2014, I had no real idea what I was going to do, except to blurt out a few disjointed thoughts about some electronic music I liked. I wasn’t even sure whether there was any worth in a blog beyond that of a slightly massaged ego. Did people really read blogs? Did I care if they didn’t? I’d always told myself I was doing it to get back into writing again. What else mattered? Well, The fact I read mattered.
I read. I find blogs and devour the content, one post after another. In the year before I started this I went through places like MNML SSGS, Little White Earbuds, Infinite State Machine, and others with the sort of ferocity that only gets going when it’s got the teeth of a new obsession to chew things apart with. I’ve always been a sucker for music writing, and the teenage me, trapped in a bedroom behinds piles of Melody Maker, and NME, and Sounds, would have probably blown something important in his brain had there been access to blogs. Even now, when a lot of my reading time is taken up with panicking that I’ve just written another review of a record I might have covered a month before, I like to lose it in blogs whenever I can.
I like the feel of blogs, the way they provide something off on a spiky tangent from the smoother, and better adjusted, Resident Advisors and Mixmags of this world. Too young to have any real memories of punk the first time around, blogs always felt to me like an extension of that genre’s fanzine ethos – cooked up by nobodies and thrown out into the world to see what would happen. And the fact that they do seem to exist in a strange half-light between the underground and the mainstream further heightens the appeal.
But covering something as unwieldy as electronic music can be annoying. It’s impossible to keep up with everything that happens; the way genres split away, forming new and every more niche shapes, has been both a fascinating process to watch, but also a slightly fraught one. It’s one of the reasons I need to excuse myself when I hear people talking about ‘the community’ as if it’s some overarching, exquisitely formed, hive-ethos. If there ever once was such a thing, it is surely long gone, at least in any honest sense. And the idea of a community stretching from Moscow to Detroit, or from Capetown to Chicago frequently feels designed to flatten differences which should be celebrated. Again, the cynic in me tends to think of this as a sort of pan-global form of gentrification, a techno-Macdonald’s in every venue. It sometimes seems a device for bestowing the power to dictate direction, to decide tastes, and enforce authenticity, none of which really promise more than frothy argument in a world of infinite ideas and intentions. The billion or so forms of house, techno, electro, jungle, dubstep, and Lord knows what else, don’t really need to care about where they came from, they only need to know where they’re going, and watching how they react to each other, the tensions growing, the common interests blossoming, is all part of the fun.
This endless, shifting, mass of sounds and ideas is the real reason we all get excited, though, even if there is simply too much for one person to go through in a single lifetime. Occasionally I worry that the sheer availability of the music I like – both new and old – makes it far too easy to stay put, to gorge myself on familiarity when I could be exploring. It’s a danger, to be sure, and is another reason I doubt the idea of a monolithic dance music culture. The crossover is increasingly rare, and once the movement comes to a halt, even for a moment, it is startlingly easy to lose track of what’s going on. In a world which caters to all tastes we quickly alight on the ones which appeal the most, and as the gap between genres and styles widens, we end up on separate islands and evolving down separate paths like those cool flightless parrots in New Zealand. Wait, did I write a parrot metaphor? Erm….
But none of this should be cause for existential teeth gnashing. Electronica is a wonderful organism, flickering with countless colours, and vibrating with a trillion basslines. It doesn’t matter if you’re locking yourself into a bunker with an armload of doom-heavy euro-techno, or fluttering between the brightest lights with only the vaguest understanding of the way they are all strung together, because it’s all just people finding what they like and, perhaps even more importantly, what they don’t. Forget community, and think about what people are actually doing. The scene in Glasgow better be different from the ones on Detroit, or Berlin, or Sheffield, or Bristol, because different movers, different histories, different politics, and different tastes have all played a part in creating them. Ignore the official histories. Chicago may have birthed the sound, but the acid that comes from Manchester, or Liverpool, or London is no less authentic, even if that authenticity has been sparked from different sources. Embrace the differences, Enjoy the clashes. Pay due where it’s due, but never listen to spokespeople, or ‘voices of the people’: they’re always playing the angles. And especially, definitely, particularly, ignore any ageing blog writers who try to convince you of anything. They’re just in it for the fame, and the occasional promo. If I’m still here in five years, somebody come round and unplug the computer. Cheers for reading.
PS, I was going to choose a record from the last five years that really meant something to me. But, well, I sort of couldn’t be arsed, so here’s a bunch that I quite like instead.