And the gods shtupped ...
Think of the serious dance party as a kind of liberation — a sweaty, primordial vacation from mundane, banal and ordinary life. It could include a temporary end to care and worry, ritual madness, even states of ecstasy and spiritual epiphany. Golly.
That description could also be a description of the Greek god Dionysus, his Roman equivalent, Bacchus, or part of the increasing amount of journalistic and scholarly attention given to rave culture that dates from the late 1980s to the ever-growing pulsating now, baby. That’s especially true in England, where rave has been most culturally and socially transformative, beginning roughly with the Madchester scene (formed from the ashes of gloomy, monochromatic British post-punk; brightly-colored acid house that was in turn inspired by electronics-based underground movements in Chicago and Detroit; and political resistance to a new conservative world order led by autocratic dynamic duo of the day — namely, Thatcher and Reagan), before evolving into a seemingly endless series of hybrid sub-genres such as drum and bass, jungle, UK garage, 2-step, happy hardcore, grime, dubstep and others even more obscure.
Simon Reynolds (the author of Blissed Out and Generation Ecstasy) has been the most prolific pop cultural researcher on this fascinating topic. He now refers to it all as "the hardcore continuum," that is, a verifiable series of signposts that connect the nebulous dots over the past 20-odd druggy years. It’s all one massive organism, he’s saying (to paraphrase), largely rooted in London (of course!), with provincial tentacles stretching out to places like Bristol (home, incidentally, to Applepips, Caravan, Punch Drunk, Tectonic, several of the UK’s most forward-thinking dance labels). For some reason, Reynolds pleads ignorance about newer developments up north in Manchester and Leeds, where labels like Modern Love, HATE, Daphne and Hessle Audio — as well as artists like Pendle Coven, Millie & Andrea, Ramadanman and Untold — are producing some of the bravest and boldest new dance music of the moment. Call it an energy flash amalgam of ragga, dubstep, Detroit house and warehouse techno via Berlin’s Basic Channel. If that’s not ’ardcore, mate, us slithery sonic subterranean cynics don’t know what is.
A better take on this whole wickedly labyrinthine business comes from one of the hardest working guys in the digital dub underground, Steve Goodman. You may (or probably may not) know him by his nom de guerre of Kode9. A Glaswegian living in South London, Goodman lectures, writes, runs Hyperdub — arguably the most influential dance label of the decade — and has recorded one mind/body/soul-satisfying track after another, often with an apocalyptic MC, the Spaceape, in tow. The duo released the transcendent Memories of the Future LP in 2006; they have another due later this year. Goodman "discovered" Burial, the formerly pseudonymous and brilliant "echoes of rave" project by the now-outed Londoner William Bevan, has championed new sub-sub-genre scenes like UK funky and wonky (seriously, check out tracks by artists like Zomby, Joker, Mount Kimbie, Dark Knight and Blue Daisy). He also has a book coming out on MIT Press, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear, in November. Did we forget to mention a Hyperdub double-CD comp also coming this fall? It’s being mastered as I type.
Goodman refers to himself as "genetically, a junglist," but he’s one with enviable academic cred to top it off. He’s a product of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit — a West Midlands-based collective inspired by militant French postmodernists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus). He even has a Ph.D. from Warwick University, where he studied rave culture and afrofuturism. Best of all, he insists on DJing in total darkness, which he did last summer during his only Detroit-area appearance ever at Pontiac’s Crofoot. Plus, he’s one helluva nice guy for a 21st century Dionysian! Track down the cover story on Kode9 in the May ’09 issue of the Wire mag and then watch a recent interview on XLR8R TV (link" xlr8r.com/tv/119). And then we dare you to disagree.
Death Rave ’09
Of course, no juxtaposition of Greek and/or Roman gods with electronic dance music fun can exclude Detroit. We’ve turned the local rave prototype into a global institution that begat the annual Movement festival. Finally on firm ground, thanks to Paxahau’s promotional hustle now combined with creative leadership by the incomparable Carl Craig, we feel good about the future as we look forward to May 2010. But, damn, what do we do in the interim? Plenty, actually. Take your pick between weeklies and monthlies programmed by FreshCorp, Proper | Modulation, Macho City, Hot Pot and Sin-de-kat, among others. But for local hardcore slaves, one upcoming event stands out above all — the return of the Franco-American electro-metalists named Motor, fresh off a European tour with Depeche Mode.
Comprised of native Minnesotan Bryan Black and Parisian Mr. No, Motor released the full-lengths Klunk and Unhuman on Mute before signing with T. Raumschmiere’s Berlin-based Shitkatapult label for the newly-issued Metal Machine. The music is hard, heavy and now muscular enough to fill an entire stadium with evil rhythmic tremors. Resident Advisor calls some of the new material "almost like KISS gone rave," which might be slightly over the top. But just slightly. We recommend you download "Schism" or "Death Rave" onto your iPhone, put on your headphones and jump up and down on your bed for hours on end. Or better yet, experience it live this Friday at the Works.
Motor comes to town courtesy of Dethlab, Detroit’s original gods and goddesses of the dark electro arts. Michael Doyle, Bethany Shorb and David Blunk ll, who joined the team last year, have built their own distinct scene through selective programming and execution, welcoming Fixmer/McCarthy, Solvent, Lowfish and noise-pop crossover artists like 800Beloved, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Spectral Mornings into their seditionist fold. Come early; contort yourself until late. Very late. The show is at 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7; $10 for 18 and over. The Works is located at 1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit.
Dethlab and Sean Whaley also host a monthly residency, "Dark Ass Bats," at the Magic Stick Alley Deck, the first Wednesday of the month. The Magic Stick is at 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit.Walter Wasacz is a contortionist of the highest order. Send comments to [email protected]