And Another (Electro) Thing: Part 1

Even though virtually all modern music is essentially an artificial construct which runs on fads and momentary, almost random, changes in taste and direction, electronica has a habit of taking it to an extreme. It’s always been like this; no scene, no movement within the larger framework seems destined to last more than a couple of years before a Darwinian need to evolve kicks in. In many instances this is a very good thing: a natural (well, sort of) method of ensuring that nothing gets too stale, that nothing outlives its welcome. For a form of music which is largely about movement, and has embraced both technology and concepts of forward thinking philosophy (well, sometimes…) to the extent that electronica has, this rapid evolutionary nature keeps it fresh, and keeps it vital.

That’s the idea, anyway. It hasn’t always managed to do that. Generational changes within electronica are, perhaps unsurprisingly, much the same as they are in other genres. The first port of call always seems to be to raid the past but rarely does that mean exploring themes or narratives. More often than not it is simply reduced to dressing up in older styles. After all, its much easier to wear the classic trainers than to understand why people might have wanted to invent them. Sometimes a classic sound is all you want. That’s fine (although you have to ask why not just listen to the classic records if that’s what you want) but there is something regressive about this which as odds with electronic music.

Luckily we’ve always had producers who get this, who are obviously fascinated by something other than the most obvious facets. Both house and techno have benefited enormously from these people. They swim in the deep currents of tomorrow when everyone else seems content to tread water in the kiddy pool. Without them we would have had no acid house, no Detroit techno. No breakbeat. No Jungle. Without the desire to deconstruct the music to see what goes where, and how it all fits together, we’d have been left listening to vague variations on an early crop of Chicago house until everyone got bored and faded back into metal, or pop, or jazz, or wherever the hell it is we all originally came from in the first place.

My major kink is, of course, electro. As a genre, electro weathers change better than most. Where house and techno often seem overly willing to augment their own natural evolution with whatever fluff is floating through the hive mind at the moment, electro takes its time. Yes, it changes, but it is more gradual. It measures twice and cuts once. I think it allows the music a longer gestation, a stretched out development, which helps the music develop a strength of meaning and belonging which is increasingly rare in some of the other electronic scenes. Of course, there are factors which influence this, not least the fact that electro as a scene exists as a far smaller concern than either of the two dominant electronic genres thus allowing the back and forth of ideas to work without a lot of extraneous noise. For all the exposure that the recent resurgence brought us, the column inches in the big danced music journals, the bandwagon jumpers proclaiming their endless – although hitherto unnoticed – love of electro, the surge in records and pod-casts and publicity, the scene has probably not grown that much. I say this with the weight of past evidence. This isn’t the first time the outside world has sat up and said ‘wow, there is electro. Would you look at that?’ and it won’t be the last. In all those prior occasions we’ve never really seen much in the way of a permanent shift. Why should this one be any different?

If I’m honest, though, I have concerns about long-term viability – which is essentially an ugly way of asking whether enough people care about electro. A long while ago now Jeff Mills said that techno was a music for an ageing audience. I don’t necessarily think he was entirely right – for one thing, large chunks of it seem to have ended up as the music of choice for those sort of vaguely angry young men who, not too long ago, would have been smugly telling you why their love of god-awful Scandinavian death metal meant their taste in music was more finely developed than yours – but it’s a point which has always been worthy of discussion.

What really worries me about electro right now is not that it is a music for an ageing audience, but that it is a music for ageing producers. Such a large amount of contemporary electro seems to be created by a relatively small handful of producers who have been doing this forever. This isn’t an attack on any of them. In many cases the people I’m thinking about have created – and continue to create – art which occupies a place of particularly high praise in my brain. I’d no sooner be without their music than I would be without new work by Juan Atkins or Luke Slater.

A smaller scene, one that is top-heavy with producers who practically invented many of the sounds we now think of as electro, has probably helped keep the scene at a certain level. It’s certainly helped create a feeling that electro is something ‘purer’ than many of the other genres. But I fear it fosters a sort of siege mentality, one where new ideas are slow to be accepted (both by the people making it and those of us listening to it). It elicits an air of elitism where music is accepted if it follows particular rules, particularly if it is being created by those who have’t really paid their dues yet. It’s so easy, when in a minority, to believe you’re the ones in the right; it’s you against them. It cements bonds, but it also ingrains dogmatism.

It doesn’t help that the influences are often very particular – especially when we think about newcomers. Not every electro record has to sound like an out take from Drexicya’s back catalogue, nor does it have to pretend to be Kraftwerk, or technobass. And yet, that is what we hear over and over. Donald and Stintson took, I think, the Drexciyan sound to its logical end point, and it’s interesting to note that neither of them seemed to feel compelled to continue down that road with their solo material. Likewise, Kraftwerk haven’t actually done anything interesting in over three decades. The constant harking back to a long gone time and sound makes no more sense in an electro framework than a rock band deciding they’re going to start playing skiffle.

There is a real danger here. What ultimately saw Detroit techno weaken as a major force wasn’t that the guys who lived and died for the music started to make worse art, it was that in the hands of other people it became a template of sounds and chord movements which were utterly divorced from the world and the urgency which created it. It became Detroit-techno-by-numbers. Anyone can go out, by some gear, and copy Drexciya’s scratchy rhythms but it doesn’t follow that you’re going to understand why the weird pulses of grooves work.

Electro can stand to be a broader church, both in terms of influences and personnel. My worry isn’t anything to do with popularity. To paraphrase Paul Theroux, at times electro feels like owning your own dragon. Something unique and private and awesome. But for its survival it needs to open up and branch out. It needs to take what it can from elsewhere because as wonderful as its relative isolation can feel, the shallow gene pool will eventually lead it either to extinction or into a tiny, closed away world where it is at best an irrelevance.

You know what, though? It doesn’t have to be like that and, if you look hard enough, you can see the fresh shoots of new growth breaking through the earth. In part two I’ll look at some of the stuff that makes me smile for tomorrow. When that’ll be I’m not sure. Hopefully not very long. Cheers.

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Electro Will Get You Through Times Of No Hope Better Than Hope Will Get You Through Times Of No Electro

Just sit down a minute and stop talking about Peggy Gau, The Aphex Twins, that Konstantin guy or whatever else is currently inhabiting the sordid and damp-ridden beachfront property that is your mind. Just hush a moment. Shut the hell up. That’s better.

It’s all shit, mates. All of it. Big room DJ’s who are spinning more lies than records, fat wads of cash circling their souls even as the final strands of their artistic integrity circle the plug hole; PR creatures who spend all their time trying to convince you that tech-house is, like vegetarian bacon, a tasty and viable alternative to the real thing; crowds of glo-stick wielding gonks who whap on about Burning-sodding-man and how 126 bpm is magically linked to the human heart beat; the swish, glistening, bawbags making a career out of who they know rather than what they know; and miserable old bastards in miserable old Transmat t-shirts who stand outside your favourite Twitter feeds raging impotently about it all like an ancient, incontinent hound dog barking in the middle of the night about a fox shitting in the garden. It’s all just shit.

Is Burning Man even a going concern anymore? Us ancient hound dogs have no idea.

See though, this is the thing: Out there, beyond the idiot parade of social media, the finger wagging fascist puritanism of populist politics, and the constant hum of substandard intellectualized excuses , are good things. There are good books. There are mountains and forests. There are deserts and oceans. There are curries. There are beers so cold that they freeze your throat on the hottest of days. There are dogs, and parrots, and bears, and manatees. There is electro.

I love electro. I always, always have. I can’t even remember first hearing it; so perfectly did it interface with my neural net it felt as if it had always been there. Only soul music comes close to eliciting the same response from me. I’ve mucked about with punk rock, and dallied with jungle. I’ve tussled with house and techno, but electro is the one I always come back to. Always.

Sometimes we need to kick ourselves a wee bit to bring the joy back. I’ve been doing that by listening to a huge chunk of electro recently, even more than normal. And I thought, for a change, I might just bash out a wee list of tunes that are doing the job on my jaded, fractured, heart. Maybe in the future I might do one of these about another of the major electronica food group. I might, or I might just do this again. None of these are in order – we’re not playing favourites here (well, not really); some are old – some are older than many of you probably are – and some are pretty much brand new. It’s obviously not an exhaustive list of tracks which I’m listening to just now, it’s just some words about some music. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s all we really need. Funny, isn’t it, how often we forget that. Let’s go!

Berverly Hills 808303: The American Lie (from the Dealers and Lies EP) – Reference Analogue Audio

You might not realise it, but acid electro is a bugger to do right. Often times it sounds as if the 303 has been drugged and dragged along for whatever sorry excuse for an adventure the sad producer has mistaken for a Grand Artistic Statement. This isn’t one of those occasions. This is acid electro done correctly. How can we tell? Because it’s a huge, godless slab of nasty, scabby music which’ll steal your wallet and spend every penny you have on drinks for the doyens of the mankiest bar in the mankiest port city it can find while you reel and weep in the gutter it left you in. Fucking yes.

Sekter.17: Communications Breakdown (from Exterminate. Populate. Procreate) – Twilight 76

Sekter.17 was an occasional side project, along with DJ Dick Nixon, of DJ Godfather who, back in the nineties, would occasionally take time out of his busy day job of writing incredibly fast tunes about ladies bottoms, shagging, and that sort of thing, to do something a bit less naughty. I’ve only got a couple of Sekter.17 EPs, but this one is a proper classic. And although every track in it can justifiably fight its way to the top of the pile, I’ve always had a thing for this one. Something about its ageless old-school style floats my boat. It’s also got a proper old-fashioned breakdown and dodgy robot voice that handily says ‘Breakdown! B,b,breakdown!’ during the breakdown just in case you weren’t sure.

Ovatow: A Thought (from In Loving Memory of Juvenile Ray) – Harbour City Sorrow

We get a lot of electro these days that either thinks its IDM circa 1991, or is receiving EU grant money to explore the greater depths of, uh, deepness. The problem is that a lot of it brings neither a tune or a groove to the party and lounges around on the one comfy sofa whilst wanging on about music with words you suspect it doesn’t really understand. This lovely tune is the opposite of all that. There isn’t really much to it but what there is really does draw a straight line from IDM to now, all while keeping a cheeky little groove boiling away under one of the simplest and most haunting melodies to appear in electro for years. A special sort of tune.

X-ile: I Wanna (from the I Wanna EP) – Direct Beat.

An all too short-lived project from LaToya Vaughn and Aux 88’s former manager Marnita Harris (I think, anyway…), X-ile produced the grand total of two EPs that I know of which is a real shame because both were absolutely belting. What made them stand out was the way they took technobass and simply slipped it a little to the side by simply adding a little more in the way of vocals than you tended to get on electro tracks back then. This is a genuine classic – slick, fast, and exhibiting an understanding of fluid funk that even their Detroit peers rarely came close to. The lyric might be suggestive, but they’re nowhere near as dirty as that strutting bass.

Go Nuclear: Machine Learning (from Descent Into Darkness/Machine Learning EP) – Bass Agenda

Go Nuclear has no where near enough material in circulation yet to make many big predictions about his future…oh, actually: that’s balls. Go Nuclear is operating up there at the top of the pile just now, along side Detroit’s Filthiest and a select handful of others. This is a great tune. It’s stark and busy, evoking memories of Aux 88, Audiotech and other gods of the genre without slipping down into the mud of homage. I’ve been listening to this a lot recently. You should too. It’s a perfect example of electro that understands how grooves and soul link together to create that almost mythic ‘deepness’ that many aspire too but few ever reach.

Keith Tucker: Brace Yourself (from the Brace Yourself double EP) – Electrocord

One of my very favourite tunes of all time. I thought I had lost my copy of this until I recently found it hiding in the wrong sleeve – Your parents were right, kiddies! LOOK AFTER YOUR RECORDS! Every bloody thing about Brace Yourself screams electro; the robotic, experiment recording vocals, the perfect, tight, and utterly pared down beats, and the metronomic bass which kicks you in the heart and feet with every bar. There is no flab, nothing that does not need to be there. This is a flash of pure electro genius whipping out across the empty void.

Drexciya: Andreaen Sand Dunes (from Neptune’s Lair) – Tresor

Every single day brings a different answer to the question ‘what’s my favourite Drexciya track?’ Today it’s this beauty. Andreaen Sand Dunes is a track I’ve been listening to a lot recently for some reason, possibly because it seems to be the one bona-fide Drexciyan classic which resides in the ‘oh yeah! That one!’ pile. I don’t know why that is. This is a stunning tune, and a perfect summation of everything that is good about Drexciya; almost zen like in its calmness, its like diving into a pool of crystal clear, freezing, mountain water on a hot summer’s day.

Ttrax: Weekend (from Technobass: The Mission) – Direct Beat

I’ve never understood why there are so few electro tunes with proper vocal. I mean, yeah, there are plenty with wonky vocoder bits, and a few which untilise snippets of other types of vox. But actual songs? Rarer than an EDM star with credibility. This is one of the few I have and, thank God, it’s a cracker. I’ve written about it before so if you want something more in depth you can look it up. It’s a simple message, but it chimes with something in all of us, something that used to be a reason for getting through the week (still is, if you’re not an old bastard like me). That simple yearning for Friday night, coupled here to a slick, wide angled, funk from Aux 88’s Tommy Tucker, adds together to a devastatingly tight and eternally truthful call to arms.

Anthony Shakir: Mood Swing (from Mood Music For The Moody) – Frictional

At the end of all this, long after the sun swells up and eats its children, after the last black hole has bled itself away through a billion frequencies, and even after the last of the stars blink out, and heat death steals the universe of its last breath, Anthony Shakir will still be thought of as one of the greatest talents of any era to emerge from Detroit. Any era. This is an outrageously serious piece of electro – even more so because it is from an artist who is not especially known for it. Stark, poignant and utterly captivating, it exists purely in that almost invisible point where dreams, hope, and reality come together to create life. A master class, make no mistake.

Mor Elian: Xeric Zula (from Persona Non Grata) – Hypercolour

Persona Non Grata was one of those rarest of beasts – a record which everyone said was great but was probably even better than that. I held out for a while but once I heard it I was completely sold. The title track is probably the most immediately accessible tune on it, but I gradually came to prefer this over Persona Non Grata’s cosmic electro. Something about Xeric Zula continues to give long after you’ve heard it for the hundredth time; harder than you expect, it’s a symphony of broken machines and rogue electronic carefully shepherded into an endless spiral of slowly evolving funk. It’s like an AI reaching for sentience and developing its own hi-tech soul. Mad Mike would be proud, and I can think of no higher praise.

Detroit Techno World Cup Special!!!!

How the mighty have fallen…..

First off I’d like to apologise to anyone who isn’t football obsessed for today’s focus. Actually, no I wouldn’t. If you don’t like football, I’m sure there’s some dreary, drone based, support group you can join for the next month. The rest of us will hunker down and just love one of the greatest things in the world; it’s life in miniature, it’s tribalism and art and science and beauty all in one perfect package. It’s about hopes and dreams and possibility. Drama. Elation. Heartbreak. And no matter how much money is thrown at it, no matter haw far it seems to get from its original sound, meaning, and context, it never stops being wonderful. In short, football and Detroit techno are the same damn thing.

Ok, settle down sports fans, because here is the Detroit Techno World Cup XI. And my God that’s a line I never imagined I’d write.

Let’s get a wee bit technical: We’ve gone for a good, fairly modern 4-2-3-1 here. Consideration was given to a low block because some of our stars are getting on a bit and we couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t collapse with exhaustion as we tried to pull off the gegenpress or something equally knackering but exotic sounding. In the end though we decided just to rely on silky passing, chattering percussion, and sultry synths. That should do us, especially should we come up against teams like the well organised but rather dour and funkless Central European Techno All Stars. Some of you will probably be taking to Twitter to condemn me for leaving such luminaries as Theo Parish (neck injury from wearing a too-heavy jazz hat) or Gerald Donald (wanted to play for Germany as Heinrich Mueller), on the bench but I’m the manager and I’ve gone for the blend of veteran know-how and up-and-coming, blossoming skills that Detroit is known for.

THE DETROIT TECHNO WORLD CUP XI

1: Goal Keeper – ‘Magic’ Juan Aktins

The foundation of any team. The sturdy, eternal presence at the back. We need someone who is both reliable and inspirational, someone who can keep his shit together when the dainty-haired EDM lightweights are swarming towards him, someone who can pull off something remarkable even after he’s done bugger all of interest for ages. In short, we need Juan Atkins: Our goalkeeper. Our number one. Our Captain.

2: Left Full back – Mgun.

Defenders are a weird breed. Until recently full backs got about as much kudos from Proper Football Men as minimal techno semi-deities got from everyone else for playing empty, truncated sets in art galleries. All that’s changed; nowadays the position is about as important as you can get, and we’ve turned to up-n-coming techno don Mgun to lead the charge down the flank, ask those difficult questions from left field, and rampage around with his socks around his ankles, and a untucked t-shirt flapping in the breeze. Like his football, his tunes may sound a bit raw and unkept, but they disguise an innate understanding of just how far you can push the motor city sound before everything falls apart.

3: Right Back – Moodyman

We’ve got one full back bombing down the wing, so we’ve gone for a different sort of presence on the other flank. Someone who brings a calm sophistication to his game. Unhurried perhaps, and relying on brains over muscles even though he might occasionally slip an ankle cracker in there when you least expect it. Folks, who better than old Moodyman himself, Mr Kenny Dixon Jr. God, I can’t believe I’m writing this stuff.

5: Centreback (left) – Omar S

Oooh, central defenders are a difficult breed, aren’t they? Should they be there to clean up the mess, or lead from the back, building attacks from nothing and feeding passing up and out? Quite frankly I don’t know the answer but I suspect it’s a bit of both, so we’ve dragged in Omar S and his blend of bubbling housey grooves and techno snarl to hold the line and kick it forward. If the opposition reckon they can get past him they’ll in for a surprise. A player hitting his peak and a sure starter in the team for years to come.

6: Centreback (Right) – Suburban Knight.

With Omar S providing the light and the dark of the Beautiful Game’s defensive arts, let’s partner him with someone a bit different, someone who’s stripped down, precise talents afford him a laser guided focus when it comes to knowing just where to be, and when, and how much pressure to bring when he gets there. Why, that sounds an awful lot like either Milan legend Paolo Maldini or the music of James Pennington – aka Suburban Knight! That’s the defence done. On to midfield!

4: Defensive Midfielder – Mike Banks.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the true midfield general, the sort of player who is as comfortable putting in outrageously accurate passes as he is bringing a little bit of vigilante justice to the punks on the other team. He needs to be half sergeant major and half mob enforcer. Above all, though, he needs to know his shit inside out, and use his knowledge to see every possibility of every move. Who better than Underground Resistance’s Mike Banks, the man who virtually reinvented Detroit techno in the nineties, and turned it into something far harder, visceral, and relevant. Like a techno Andrea Pirlo, Patrick Viera, or Xavi He’s the beating heart of the team. He’s also our vice captain.

8: Central Midfielder – Seth Troxler

Ooop! I see this surprise inclusion into the starting XI is kicking up some heat from the old guard. Fair enough, but I think every team needs its Troxler, with cockiness hanging off the frame of his undoubted talent like a too-loud shirt draped over skinny shoulders. We might bleat on about Detroit techno and football in the same way – demanding it sticks to the philosophies it came from, but we all secretly love it when the twinkle-toed wonderkid slaps into the game, his talent buoying his arrogance, and getting in every ones face. With Banks beside him, keeping an eye, this should be the chance for our young star to shine. Christ, how many more of these do I have to write?

11: Inside left – Robert Hood

We don’t do wingers anymore. We want them to be more of a threat, spilling in from the wing, leaving space out on the flank for Mgun to bomb past. I think we need someone with pace someone who can change direction in a second, veering between cutting edge minimalist techno one moment and explosive, gospel tinged house the next. Someone who can shoot from deep in the underground and score hits in the bigger, wider, world. Well, that sounds like Robert Hood to me, titan of Detroit’s second wave, and our tricksy inside left. Good Grief. I’m so sorry for this.

7: Wide right – Jay Daniel

With Dixon Jr rolling up behind and keeping shop, our wide right has the opportunity to run riot between the flank and the box. Who better than one of Detroit’s next generation brats, Jay Daniel. Bringing a refreshingly unrestrained sense of what’s possible, the unpredictability of his tunes, and the way they blur meaning between techno, house and something altogether looser, should allow him break down even the most stubborn defence.

10: Attacking Playmaker – Jeff Mills

The most special of all positions, the home of Maradona, of Totti, of Zola. Unbelievable players all. But our number ten shares a kindred spirit with a player of a slightly different sort. Like Messi, Mills reads the world through strange angles, seeing lines and shapes where no one else can. Whether it’s the directness of his earlier work, or the expansive vistas of his more recent, Mills reads the game with alien eyes. If Mike Banks is the beating heart of the team, Mills is the soul.

9; Centre Forward – Derrick May

Tricky one. Do we go for the sophisticated talent of a Carl Craig type? What about the snarling, emotive brilliance of a Claude Young or Alan Oldham sort? All good, as would be Kevin Saunderson’s never-ending, snake hipped, movement and dribbling. But let’s face it, We have to have our star, our prima dona, our brilliant confusion of talent and ego, our talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo: Yes, sports fans, it has to be Derrick May.

Subs,

Theo Parrish, Kyle Hall, Claude Young, Keith Tucker, Gigi Galaxy, Daniel Bell, and K Hand.

Well, that’s that. I reckon they’re good for the semi finals at least. What do you think, readers? Actually, please don’t tell me. Let’s just forget I ever wrote this, yeah? Cheers. I’ll get some reviews up soon.

When a Thought Becomes You: Journeys With Techno

I was already into my thirties when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. It really wasn’t much of a surprise. Even so, I had still spent several of the previous years bouncing between anti-depressants and psychologists before somebody finally suggested I might be on the spectrum. To be honest, I think it was an attempt to get me out of their office where, thanks to the infinitely dubious wonders of Seroxat (the medication I was on), I was probably sweating, swearing, and being insane at terrifying speed.

I wish I could say that the diagnoses changed my life, but I can’t because it didn’t in any useful way. Having had it so late-on meant that I had already created a number of coping strategies, even though I still didn’t know what I was trying to cope with. By the time it finally arrived I could pretty much pass for sub-clinical, or – as one of my doctors described me with all the alleged riches of his profession’s bedside manner – as ‘almost normal’. There was a certain amount of relief to be taken from the fact that not everything was my fault, that there were certain patterns of behaviour which I had essentially little control over ( even if I could, though experience, mitigate many of the more extreme variances). But all of this was tempered with the knowledge that I wasn’t going to get ‘better’, that there was no pill or operation which was going to add to me the basic, fundamental, ability to be like everyone else.

In many ways I am lucky: my autism has never been too debilitating and, save for a handful of gold-medal winning public meltdowns, it has never been overly obvious. None of which is to say I haven’t struggled, sometimes quite profoundly, with the whole social interaction thing that is a hallmark of Asperger’s. I’ve spent a large part of my life feeling like an alien trapped inside a human’s body, never quite getting what comes naturally to everyone else. Not that the normality or naturalism of other people improves anything; While Aspies might well struggle with things like recognising irony, or the subtlety of language, it doesn’t exactly help that most of you neurotypicals are so ass-skinningly awful at both of them.

Back in the days when I was still going to clubs and DJing on a regular basis it could be a nightmare, possibly made worse by the fact I still had no idea what the issue was and tended to blame myself for every little bit of strange disconnection, every miscommunication. Christ knows how others saw me; intense and pretty weird, I expect, and prone to gabbling utter shite out of a need to do or say something. Luckily this was the nineties and virtually everyone else, in every single club, would be gabbling utter shite by two in the morning.

I struggled at parties too, not because I am shy, but because dealing with human beings I haven’t known for 20 years, who I know how to communicate with and who know how to communicate back, can be incredibly difficult to do. Theoretically I understand human interaction. In practical terms trying to pick up on every one of those little signals you lot take for granted is knackering.

The real problems came from crowds. I hate crowds. I know that I would make a lousy promoter because, almost without exception, I prefer an empty club to a full one. Crowds don’t scare me in and of themselves, but I struggle to cope with the flood of sensory data; the noise, the movement of the flock. Every attendant change to its attitude and stance feeds in on top of older data, building up until it reaches a point where it floods nerve endings and neural nets with white noise. I hate crowds because it is impossible to keep your eye on every thing and everyone without going insane, and sensory overload is painful. More than that, it is exhausting.

But the music…..Oh man, there was always the music. …..I’m still not sure whether my quick seduction by electronic beats was locked in from the start. Certainly there was something in the movement and sound which captivated me before I even understood it. There was a profound similarity, in my mind at least, with classical music; a sort of wider understanding of the world and the cosmos than one tended to find in, say, rock music with all of its pungent humanity. Not that I don’t listen to rock, of course. It has been, and remains, important to me. But its subconscious emphasis on things I don’t quite get has always forced a little distance between us.

Electronica opened up for me in a way rock music never did. Long before I had even heard of Asperger’s I was drawn to something in it that I couldn’t really find anywhere else. I think it was the machine in the ghost, rather than the ghost in the machine; there is a certain amount of unhumanity to electronic music, a sense that the tunes I love the most could be hymns by sentient AI, soul music by xenomorphs; tranmissions from a singularity beyond the edge of time and experience. The meaning placed on rhythms, on patterns (especially, for an apsie, the patterns), on pure sound, wired the response differently. It worked not only on the physical level, or the intellectual, but also drew meaning from somewhere that grew from pure imagination. The music seemed to arrive from the depths of a very different existence, and carried within itself the light of other ways of being. For someone who never quite seemed to connect with the world they were a godsend, and proof that music could be more than it was allowed to be. Proof, in fact, that I could be too.

Of course, electronica is no less human than rock, or jazz, or skiffle. It is made by people: some amazing, some twats; some creating for their career, others creating to get the taste of a long, hideous, working day out of their mouths, some because it is all they can do to not create. Electronica, like being somewhere on the spectrum, is humanity coming at things from a different twist. It rides a deeper, perhaps stranger, road than some of you are used to, but it seems to go to the same place. It’s my music in a way that it’ll never be yours, just as it’s your music in a way that it can never be mine. I like that, not least because it actually allows me to feel a bit closer to the great consensual hallucination which forms humanity, and you’ve no ideas how hard that sometimes is.

Four Years

No wonder I’m tired.

Here we are, four years on with just over 500 posts in the tank, and I still have little idea what I’m trying to achieve. Sometimes I wonder whether the nature of the subject makes writing about it redundant, or that the fierce evolutionary speed of the music turns any attempt at documenting it into a smear of words across time’s windscreen.

It’s lucky for me, then, that the music remains as exciting, infuriating, weird, and life affirming, as it always has. It’s heading towards thirty years since I first heard acid house – a late night blast of high strangeness on the radio (I can’t remember where, maybe the John Peel Show). That first dose was beyond my understanding back then; it hovered irritatingly in my mind for days, but never came close enough for me to begin to make sense of it. I didn’t realise that it was already working itself deep inside, rewriting the code and preparing me for when I really started to get onboard. A couple of years later when I first started taking my first tentative steps into a larger and brighter sonic world, I was primed.

Electronic music is the music of my generation. Not only my generation, obviously, but when we love something that consumes us it’s natural to feel possessive about it. I still – mostly – feel like that, and I find I can be more precious about it than I perhaps once was. I think this is a reaction to the ephemera which seems to have built up around electronica over the years. A calcification of nonsense and bollocks which has crusted over the actual point of it all and makes getting to the good stuff underneath just a little bit more difficult than it used to be. And when you dig on through you and finally get your hands on the stuff that matters to you it’s difficult to loosen your grip.

None of that shit matters. It never has. It’s always been there, even though the rose-tinted memories of the old team would have you think differently. Going to a club to listen to loud, banging, music is much the same now as 20 years ago (and the floors are just as sticky); there were more than a few whining, overpaid DJs back then too, and plenty of music that deserved to be lost to a bin fire. Old bastards like me can spin the prose about what a golden age it was, but it was a golden age because we were there and living through it, experiencing it all for the first time, believing it could never be bettered. But it’s the experience that’s the important bit, not whether it could be bettered, because it can and should.

The fact is that I am frequently blown away by music I hear now. And that fact is often chaperoned by the odd sense of incompleteness I feel when hearing old music that I once loved sound lost to the years. I’m sometimes surprised by some of the stuff which is returned to this insane future, amazed by strands of the electronic DNA which seemed an evolutionary dead-end only for them to bloom into new and crazy shapes. Occasionally I don’t get it, and feel confused why you would bother to dig up sounds – which weren’t even that great then – when there is so much good music now. But it is perhaps one of the fundamental truths of the present that the past is now as malleable as the future.

So, yeah, I still don’t know what I’m trying to achieve, but I expect the answer is up there in all the mad toss I just wrote. I’ve tailed off the blog a bit in recent months due to the outside world and the slight suspicion I keep repeating myself, but spring is coming, and energy levels increasing. Let’s hope there’s some good music too. Thanks for reading, across four bizarre years in the life of this alien machine music. I’ve stuck up four tunes from the last four years that wormed their way into my brain and never escaped. If there are four tunes in the next four years that I’ll love as much I’ll be happy.