For most of my childhood, 2001 was mythologized as the coming of the future. Ironically, in the music world 2001 was the year of revivals and revisions, hybrids and new juxtapositions. With our ever-tightening circles of culture, this may be what the future actually is: certain moments from the past recontextualized with new energy and vision.
THE RETURN OF THE ’80S
Within the last year we’ve seen a return to the ’80s. The decade’s influence is everywhere, from teen movies to the re-emergence of New Wave. Today’s generation looks back on the past, not with sentimentality but with an idea of picking up threads of unfinished ideas, taking concepts that were ruined by the commercial concerns of the time and revitalizing them into new contexts. This is the greatest issue of today: revival or revision?
In the ’90s, people may have found the revision of the past combined with the future a bit confusing, but in 2001 audiences met this music with open arms. Finally the crossbreeding of techno, punk and New Wave bore fruit, and the world was happy to have personality return to techno. For the critically acclaimed re-emergence of this sound (Fischerspooner, Felix the Housecat’s latest CD), Adult. was clearly the leader. From the band’s cover of “Me & My Rhythm Box” from the 1981 cult classic Liquid Sky (released on Schematic’s Odd Job Discrimination EP) to its floor-filling Carl Craig remix of “Hand to Phone” (released on clone), to their self-released CD, Resuscitation, on Ersatz Audio, 2001 was clearly Adult.’s year. Not to mention the capacity show at the Magic Stick this summer with Oval or its top-notch performance at the Disco Nouveau release party.
Another tangent of the ’80s return came through some unlikely suspects from New Jersey called Metro Area (Darshan Jesrani & Morgan Geist, pictured). The group is influenced by the sound of Kenny Dixon Jr. and Theo Parrish with its pristine down-tempo beats, and combines that with the sound of early-’80s club music, with all its kitsch and flair. Think D-Train reborn through the mind of Dan Bell — unlikely, but nonetheless stunning and trend-setting. Its label, Environ, helped bring about some of the best from this sound, the sleazy, sweaty style of Balihu’s Daniel Wang and the easy glide of the Metro Area records. Some of the highlights this year include Morgan Geist’s “Super” 12-inch and the Metro Area performance at the 7th City party during the DEMF. A Metro Area full CD is expected sometime in 2002.
The first DEMF was unbelievable. It was a homecoming for many who have made this music their life, and a beacon of hope that something as huge as “Love Parade” or “Sonar” could happen here. It had a level of quality and recognition of Detroit talent that the world had never seen — and with something around 1,000,000 people. Yet when 2001 came around, not content with its glowing global image, the DEMF semi-imploded with the untimely firing of co-founder Carl Craig and, for the fans, the deflating of much of the spirit of this festival. This sparked a spontaneous grassroots movement defending Craig, giving a resistance feeling to the festival. Still, the DEMF endured, with highlights ranging from Autechre filling the underground stage past capacity to Inner City closing the main stage with another capacity crowd.
This year also saw the beginning of the after-party boom, with highlights ranging from Dopplereffekt live to the Underground Resistance party and the Planet E party with a line around the block. No news on any of the lawsuits against Pop Culture Media as of now, or on the future of the fest.
CYCLES OF CULTURE
Months before George Harrison passed, the sitar and the tabla had already been reborn in pop music via Timbaland and Missy Elliot’s groundbreaking anthem “Get U R Freak On,” proving Timbaland to be perhaps pop music’s most adventurous producer. Also noted with great irony, as our nation erupted with racial paranoia, Timbaland had Arabic music coming out everyone’s radios and trunks via Bubba Sparx’s “Ugly.” And with the Neptunes having produced the latest Britney Spears (“I’m A Slave 4 U”), pop music is getting even more bizarre. Perhaps 2002 will bring us closer to the brink of insanity or maybe even closer to that mythological future.E-mail Pitch'd at [email protected]