Chance Operations

We begin by setting a standard. This is the greatest online video I know of that captures an excerpt of electronic music performance. Here's Detroit's Octave One:
If that doesn't make you feel like throwing your computer through the window and screaming TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO at any passerby (you don't have to do it, you just have to feel like it), perhaps you would feel more at home here. Enjoy the new Fleet Foxes! If you are feeling properly invigorated, though, you might put that energy to use in locating and purchasing the great new Octave One album, Summers On Jupiter.

Octave One (a.k.a. Random Noise Generation) are brothers Lenny and Lawrence Burden, who for something like 20 years now have been not only producing incredible techno records, they've been playing their productions in what remains a pretty unique live show (though I've heard that both Phuture and Dan Bell do something like it, I've never had the pleasure of seeing it). As the above clip demonstrates, they do their thing with a rack of sequencers, samplers, and synthesizers rather than with turntables, spending performances both engrossed in creating the subtleties of their music and physically expressing its effects. Yes, a lot of the power of this performance is the spectacle of it; seeing the rack, seeing their heads bouncing up and down above it. But what's most compelling about their live shows is that they are a rare instance in which electronic music production and performance collide. The result is an ongoing practice that is profoundly connected to the origins of dance music, in encounters with the early machinery of musical simulation.

That moment of origin is described by Kodwo Eshun as an instance of "autocatalysis," which is
when sound emerges by itself, when the machine generates a new sound autonomously, without a human agent. A machinic lifeform emerges from the sampler on its own. The Roland TB-303 Bass Line Rhythm Composer engineers its own audiomatter. In ’87 the 303 discovers acid on its own, uses Phuture to replicate.
The machine rebels against its creator, in conspiracy with its user. Eshun's gesture towards a process of production that is not merely cyborgian but entirely mechanistic may seem hyperbolic, but it is certainly more reasonable than the boring attribution of complete authorial autonomy to the Artist that cultural producers in the high-modernist traditions of literature and rock music are often granted. In this interview, Lawrence Burden similarly describes Octave One's music as navigating a dialectic between the humanistic and the mechanistic, with the latter sometimes achieving preeminence.

This is nothing new, in the history of radical sonic culture. Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone serialism was a kind of written technology, a system of composition that functioned as a machine: once put into operation by a "composer," it would develop the music itself. John Cage similarly sought to immolate the notion of the composer with pieces based on "chance operations" rather than either composition or improvisation, both of which emphasized a kind of subjectivity/ownership that Cage meant to abolish.

It is this tradition that brings us to Microsoft Songsmith. One wonders what Arnold and John would have thought of this strange artifact of digital you-culture, a piece of software that composes musical accompaniment to match its user's voice. If Songsmith is like the 12-tone serial technique, it's hard to say who its Schoenberg is--is it the user who sets the machine in motion, or the presumably large staff of programmers who created its parameters? Regardless of who its Genius is, it's clear what its Masterpieces are. This video, a recomposition of Oasis's 90's rock hit "Wonderwall" has been causing quite a stir lately.

What an improvement. The song is transformed; a new harmony completely alters its emotional mode, the meaning of its words, the appearance of the video, a new rhythm gives it a goofy propulsion that we could not previously have known Britpop sorely needed. I am reluctant to give youtube poster azz100c full credit for this piece (nor should we grant it solely to Oasis or Microsoft), but I will thank him for bringing it into existence. What's remarkable about this artwork is not only that it has no author, but that it consequently deflects all criticism one could direct at it. Of course it has "no soul," of course it's incoherent, of course it's repetitive and simplistic. Its composer was a series of 1's and 0's, for crying out loud.

"Roxanne" isn't quite as astonishing as "Wonderwall," but it is valuable for demonstrating irrefutably how moronic this song is. Occasional moments of dissonance, when the program does not what it was programmed to do, but what it can do, are an utter delight. azz100c has a couple other pieces posted, but they're not worth looking at; some Doobie Brothers track sounds practically the same as its original incarnation, and "What's Goin' On" was just a terrible idea. (A worse idea: this commercial. DON'T CLICK you will regret it.)

Songsmith will probably fade into relative irrelevance soon enough, with only these wonderful videos remaining as vestiges of Microsoft's folly. The questions Songsmith raises, however, are more important. What can the technology of today produce that is comparable to what the Roland 303 and 808 produced, what the Technics SL-1200 produced? What can it do that isn't just an easier imitation of what previous technologies and their users already accomplished? I'm sure I'm not the only listener sick to death of that Ableton micro-looping warp click sound and all its variations--Songsmith is a breath of fresh air in comparison. But I'm guessing it will be a while yet before anyone does on computers anything nearly as vital as what the Burdens do on their obsolete black boxes.


They Still Call It the White House, But That's a Temporary Condition Too

I'm no chump. As relieved as I am to hear words like "change" and "workers" replace words like "tradition" and "family" in American political discourse, I remain reluctant to invest too much hope in electoral politics. 

But you'd have to be either a cynic or a racist not to feel great about today.



Marcel Dettmann and the Return of Maximal Techno

I was putting off writing an entry on Marcel Dettmann’s appearance at last Friday’s Bunker party at Brooklyn’s Public Assembly, figuring that a recording would soon become available as the next installment in the Bunker’s excellent podcast series. However, the recent appearance of what promises to be an epic five hour set from Jus-Ed makes it suddenly clear to me that these podcasts are delayed by about a month. I hate to add to the anticipation for those of you who have already been impatiently awaiting Dettmann’s set, but let me get this out of the way: you will not be disappointed. In the meantime, you might as well get your house on for a month with Jus-Ed--I sure will.

I’d never been to a Bunker party before, and I was shocked (in a good way, of course) to see such a draw for house and techno in Brooklyn--some regulars told me this was the biggest crowd they had seen yet. The pumping, high-energy vibe that opener Derek Plaslaiko had going in the back room got the night started out just fine, and the floor was already full, but my crew was more drawn to the subtle-but-freaky funk of Eric Cloutier’s set in the smaller front room. I mean, my man put on “Psychotic Photosynthesis” right when we walked in the door, and proceeded to fully live up to that promising start. No small feat. As those of you who have followed
his recorded mixes know, this guy is someone to watch.

The fact is, however, that the size of the crowd and the general sense of excitement was due to the headliner--as far as I know (though I could be wrong), this was his first American appearance. I don’t really need to add to the hype surrounding not only Dettmann, but the whole OstGut/Berghain/Panorama axis of Berlin techno that has been taking dance music by storm in the past year or so. Chris Hobson’s
review at Resident Advisor of Dettmann’s first commercially released mix typifies the eager praise the whole outfit has been getting:
Chances are we’ll look back at Berghain 02 as a defining movement when techno got out of that locked groove, and started moving forward again.
If I were Marcel Dettmann, this kind of talk would make me very nervous. But Dettmann showed no trace of nerves Friday night; he may not have executed flawless mixes all night (what great DJ does?) but he presented his set with complete conviction.

The reason this is worth caring about is because what he presents does indeed break away from the “locked groove” of today’s dance music. My use of the rather obvious term “maximal techno” is, of course, a simple inversion of “minimal techno,” but the difference between what Dettmann does and what minimal techno has been doing is complex.

an interview, Dettmann describes the music he plays as “futuristic, anarchic, uncompromising,” with “character, soul and a kind of hypnotic, industrial feeling,” while maintaining “clarity, deepness, and simplicity.” These words could easily be empty platitudes, but in Dettmann’s case, this is pretty much exactly what he sounds like.

Let me put it another way. In conversation with the Berghain’s enigmatic owner, “Michael,”
Philip Sherbune arrived at a compelling idea: the music associated with the OstGut label and the Bergain club is nearly a sonic equivalent of the Berghain’s space itself. As Sherburne writes,
Housed in a disused power plant, the Berghain complex is an intimidating, post-industrial behemoth boasting a cavernous main room; the more intimate Panoramabar upstairs; cement floors, ceiling, walls and staircases; and dark, meandering passageways and cubbyholes, which unlike their counterparts in the United States, offer zones of total autonomy.
If you’ve heard one of the several recorded sets by Dettmann, you’ll know what I’m getting at. In this musical world, BPMs are quick, but not overwhelmingly so, and beats are simultaneously unrelentingly hard and rhythmically fluid. Sounds are almost exclusively synth-based. You will probably never hear a vocal house track from Dettmann, but words are not limited to pseudo-mystical commandments issuing from the pitched-down voice of the God of Mnml; instead voices and instruments make allusive, arresting appearances. A breakdown is not a call for lighters-in-the-air swayage; it’s a moment of rupture, an explosive overflow of complexity and intensity.

Beyond stylistic descriptions, what’s especially critical in Dettmann’s conception is a careful interpretation of dance music’s history. In
a great interview, on Beatportal of all places, he emphasizes this aspect of his approach:
For me it was the same--when I listened to pop music for the first time, I listened to Depeche Mode and I used to think, “what did they do before?” So I think it’s important to know what comes before, to understand it.
I listen to records that came out in the late ‘80s--Chicago stuff, Detroit stuff, so many fucking great records that I never listened to before--and when I find some artists that I’m really interested in, I want to hear all their stuff.
I think it’s really important to know where it comes from, the whole techno music stuff--is it Kraftwerk, is it funk, jazz stuff? I think it’s good to know.
Dettmann cites Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, and Joey Beltram as his “techno heroes.” It’s worth considering the relationship between the style(s) these figures represent and what is now called “minimal.” Philip Sherburne has suggested that there was some kind of bifurcation in dance music in the late nineties, with Detroit techno persistently “working within the margins of traditional song form,” while European producers began to make “an art out of producing microscopic variations on a single rhythmic theme.” He goes on to suggest that this new minimalism took two approaches: skeletalism, “the imperative to carve everything inessential from dance music’s pulse, leaving only enough embellishment (syncopation, tone color, effects) to merit the variation,” and massification, which “attempts to create extreme densities with a relative paucity of sonic elements.”

On the other hand, Robert Hood’s minimal blueprint on records like
Minimal Nation (a favorite of Dettmann’s) isn’t “traditional song form,” but it doesn’t seem to me to fit this rubric either. His tracks, from earliest to latest, are far from the loop-obsession of post-Hawtin minimal, and they are more than just an unchanging framework for the superimposition of sound effects. Hood’s tracks are infused with a developmental flux within the groove itself, and often incorporate interruptions of voice or melody into an unpredictable structure.

In that same Beatportal interview, Dettmann connects the genealogy he traces directly to the music he plays and produces:
What I think is that this kind of techno music was always there for me. And for so many people, some young people, they aren’t growing up with this kind of music, so when they discovered this kind of classic flavored techno, the raw stuff, they don’t know it before. They only listened to some minimal stuff before, so they think “Oh, that’s new…”
That’s not new! It’s the classic way of techno for me. For me it exists the whole time, since I first listened to techno.
This isn’t just talk; Dettmann’s Berghain mix includes (somewhat controversially) Risqué Rhythum Team’s 1986 Chicago house record “The Jacking Zone” and Kevin Saunderson’s “Just Want Another Chance.” Last Friday he dropped Armando’s acid classic “Land of Confusion” near the end of his set, and yes, it brought the motherfucking house down.

It’s safe to say that the entire OstGut/Berghain/Panorama collective makes a similar effort to historicize their work; think of the wistful spoken interlude in Shed’s
Shedding the Past on “the feeling of the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days,” or hell, just listen to the Detroit-influenced harmonies of his productions (or check out this housey mix on mnml ssgs). The folks upstairs at Panorama, including Cassy and Steffi holding it down for the ladies, have consistently made room for old-schoolers Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Shake, Rick Wade, Daniel Bell, and so on (you've got to hear Steffi's live set here).

Remarkably, this “defining movement” in techno, this “move forward,” is really a throwback of sorts, a return to the origin points of house and techno. But this is only a regression in the sense that the songs of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones were retrograde imitations of Chuck Berry and the Ronettes. In reality, just as punk restructured rock music from the ground up, recalibrating its approaches and effects to maintain only its most salient features, the new maximal techno brings us back to zero.



Musical Eugenics

Since the sixties, the Album-artwork-commodity (on LP, cassette, CD) has become something like Format as Big Other. You must not only listen to every song, in order, says the Media Father, you must like them all. Even “She’s Leaving Home.” Its primary injunction: NEVER SKIP.

That this plays into both high-modernist Art-capital-“A” ideology and the demands of the market should come as no surprise--can anyone really argue there’s a difference anymore? But what is equally important is its technological determination. This Idolator post laments the conflation of music criticism with reporting on technology, but is that really something new? When critics talk about an album’s cohesiveness it’s as much a discourse on the demands of a format as it is on “Art.” In the mp3 era, the Album’s hegemony begins to dissipate, leaving us in a single-based musical environment more like the years before the 12-inch record.

The question is, what replaces the Album, with radio all but outmoded and intangible media ubiquitous? Consumer challenges to the Album are not entirely new either. Consider the opening paragraphs of John Corbett’s brilliant book Extended Play:
At last, I have a CD machine with shuffle mode. It’s a miraculous button, “shuffle.” In an instant it does away with the logic behind decades of music industry packaging, the kind of logic that works with A-sides and B-sides (the soon-to-be-obscure domain of records and tapes), the same logic that sequences a release in a particular way so that cuts are preceded and followed by appropriate others. For instance, think about how many hit singles are positioned as the first cut on the second side of an album; that’s well known as the LP sweet-spot. In the place of this sequential logic, shuffle offers a random number generator, an exciting turn of events. Now a disc can renew itself virtually every time it’s played, putting together unforeseeable combinations, segues, connections, and leaps of faith.
As I see it, this is one of the great possibilities of musical postmodernity. In the process of shuffling, the activity of making connections and creating meaning is somehow thrust back into the lap of the listener. Naturally, shuffle mode doesn’t eradicate the old logic; more often than not, a listener will probably just press “play” and let the disc run its course. But that’s part and parcel of the postmodern: it makes a multitude of systems possible. At its worst, postmodernism manifests itself as an empty form of eclecticism in which, as Jean-Françcois Lyotard suggests, the bottom line is still the buck. At its best, the postmodern is about the opening up of options, the acceptance of incompatibility, the irreducibility of all forms of discourse to the logic of one.
Corbett’s (pre-Napster) enthusiasm for a function that I suspect is rarely used may seem quaint, but his insight into its potential, as some kind of digital-sonic Exquisite Corpse game, is prophetic. The very channels we necessarily use to access music today often don’t even allow us to experience the intended form of content at all (being able to download only half the tracks on a CD, or hear a couple on youtube, or catch some on television, through a blog, etc.). The resulting jumble forces us into being much more active consumers than a bunch of stoner rock fans in the mid-70’s sitting around listening to Pink Floyd’s entire oeuvre in chronological order.

A decidedly not random rejection of the Album’s sanctity is the homemade mix, a possibility that’s been around since the cassette tape, and has been made many times simpler with personal computers. Not to get all Nick Hornby here, but for many music people, making a mix CD/tape is a meticulous, deeply personal process, and receiving one is a profound pleasure. I can’t see any reason to be cynical about it.

On the other hand, the mix form has now evolved into an online application that’s like something out of The Matrix: Pandora Radio. According to their FAQ, Pandora is “a music discovery service designed to help you enjoy music you already know, and to help you discover new music you'll love.”

There’s a bit more to it than that. Apparently they use “vectors,” “complex mathematical algorithms,” and “distance functions” to recommend music to listeners based on a single artist or song selection, employing a system that Pandora founders Tim Westergren, Will Glaser, and John Kraft call the “Music Genome Project”: a list of “attributes” that attempt to quantify and categorize everything about all music. Westergren is quoted in this article in business journal Fast Company on the initial idea for his venture:
"I thought, if I could do a kind of Myers-Briggs [personality map] for music and tell people what songs they'd probably like based on musical similarities, the Internet could solve the problem of access," Westergren recalls. "It would be like what eBay did for pink flamingos."
Pandora’s self-described points of reference--genetics and psychology--make it difficult not to see its aim as manipulative in some grand conspiratorial way. Who knows why they thought it was a good idea to name their service after the mythical figure responsible for all the disease in the world, but as long as they were going for the whole revealingly disconcerting thing, “Panopticon” might have been more to the point.

An explanatory page sums up Pandora’s analytic method:
Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song--everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records--it's about what each individual song sounds like.
Never mind the reductive, self-righteous dismissal of affiliation, context, and reception; the danger runs deeper than that. Pandora can tell you that the Meat Puppets and Mötley Crüe both possess “Basic Rock Song Structure” and “Dirty Electric Guitar Riffs,” while completely missing the point, but it can’t tell you what Mobb Deep shares with Merle Haggard. You know the story about how Brian Wilson first heard “Be My Baby” while driving, and became so enraptured he had to swerve over to the side of the road, fearing he’d crash his car? It’s safe to say that this kind of experience is impossible on Pandora. These are not minor complaints.

In that same Fast Company article, we’re treated to a peek into Pandora’s “boiler room”:
There, five days a week, 32 music-addicted miners pick apart stack after stack of CDs, analyzing each track against a digitized checklist of characteristics. They are all professional musicians--most moonlight in Bay Area bands--and all have studied music theory and been put through an initial 40-hour genome training session (there are training updates as new genomes launch).
Wow, sounds kind of like that second Indiana Jones movie. You know, the one that sucked.

Pandora doesn’t just yank the still-beating heart out of the chest of the listening public, it also cages us in and lowers us down a fiery pit of consumer obligation. You may not be able to repeat a track, but you can definitely buy it instantly on Amazon or iTunes. In the end, we’re left with a dazzlingly naked instance of the most sinister machinations of the culture industry, tricking us into thinking it liberates us through choice when in reality it restricts us by choosing in advance. This is something a smart theorist called repressive desublimation, and a smarter theorist called placebo syndrome.

Technology is not just a part of culture, it is culture. That’s why something like Pandora isn’t just a benign diversion, and why media and format are worth as much critical interrogation as texts themselves.

In other words, when the syndrome is around, don’t let your guard down.



The Top 5 Reasons DJ Hero is Going to Rule

You are not going to believe this. Activision, the company that is probably responsible for reducing the number of shitty teenaged rock bands all over the world thanks to their Guitar Hero game, has announced the summer '09 release of a new game: DJ HERO. How sweet is that! Evidently this is the second time Activision has plagiarized Japanese game company Konami, which not only put out a game called Beatmania in 1997, but also one called Guitar Freaks in 1998. Though trance fool Tiesto may or may not be involved in the game, it seems like the focus will be on scratching and on-the-fly sampling, not on creating DJ sets, and it will be soundtracked by "mashups." This game is two years in the works, and it's going to be so awesome. Check this out, from Kotaku:
Instead of flowing the musical notes down a guitar neck, DJ Hero will flow the music down and around a virtual record in a half arc. Either left top to middle bottom if you are left handed, or right top to middle bottom if you are right handed.
OMFG! Look, I know some of you cynical types are probably skeptical, so I put together a countdown of the reasons that DJ Hero is actually going to rule. Let's get started!

5. Because turntables and CDJ's are just too darn real.
I don't know whether or not that will be the actual peripheral for the game, but it's posted on both Bodytonic and (not making this up) lesbiangamers.com. So let's assume it's somewhat accurate. While Guitar Hero improved on the interface of the guitar by getting rid of the strings, this controller improves on a DJ setup by getting rid of the, um. Knobs? Buttons? Switches? Sliders? Rotating cue?

Okay, so it kind of has all of those. But it's actually just a simulation of those, like the guitar with all the buttons. It's way cooler, trust me.

4. Because you never learned to beatmatch anyway.
If you're like the many DJ's I know who can't keep a couple of hours of music going to save your life, but can scratch my freaking ear off all day, this is perfect for you! Never mind that it's probably not all that different from playing a record on one turntable and scratching on the other; at least this way you didn't have to buy any records.

3. Because virtual crowds are better than actual crowds.
If you think DJing is about catalyzing physical and emotional responses in a dancefloor full of people, you obviously haven't seen this screenshot:
Look at those guys! Think they'll clear the floor when you put on your favorite record, or request "Sexyback," or ask you to play "something we can actually dance to"? No way. They totally love you.

2. Because chicks will probably dig it.
You know how rock stars always spout some dumbass line about how they started a band just to meet girls? Any male DJ stupid enough to think things would work like that for him has probably long since given up entirely, especially if he played (ew!) techno. On the other hand, babes love Guitar Hero, right? Right. So don't even worry about trying to get them on the dancefloor--just invite 'em over to your pad for a little two-player. 

This is probably going to mean that eventually, only female DJ's will be left. Given all the evidence, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

1. Because there's just too much music out there!
The number one reason DJ Hero is going to rule is that DJ's will no longer have to find and purchase music, or worry about making selections during a set. It's all chosen and sequenced for you! This is going to make being a DJ a lot easier, by dispensing with the actual point of DJing and retaining only the relatively boring physical work we do to make a carefully arranged series of tracks sound good. If that sounds like loads of fun, that's because it will be. This is already shaping up to be a great year.


A Resolution for Us

Hi, America. This year is supposed to be all about "change," right? Permit me one suggestion. Please change this:
There's a lot of encoded ideology in this goofy little TV spot. The point, obviously, is the binary opposition between masculine Middle American Greg and the flamboyantly effeminate European "techno twins." Ever hear the word "eurotrash," clearly the absent center of this ad's discursive world? An ugly term, as cruelly smug as the equivalent classist slurs that affluent liberal Americans use for their working-class countrymen, and as distasteful as the implicit cultural heterosexism that accompanies it here.

No one could blame Europeans if they accused us of being rather chauvinistic in our characterizations of European ravers. But I doubt they very often do, because they know that the joke is on us; indeed, the American role in the creation of dance music as a medium of cultural production, exchange, and reception is well known everywhere but America. I do not use the word "medium" rather than "genre" lightly; it's only by overlooking the DJ model of musical performance, absolutely crucial to dance music's development, that the majority of the credit for techno can be granted to Kraftwerk, for house to Italo-Disco. Besides, no disrespect to German and Italian techno ancestors, but for every Ralf and Florian there was a Larry and Fonce, for every Giorgio Moroder a George Clinton, and for all of them an Ikutaro Kakehashi--in other words, techno doesn't have a Mississippi Delta, as in a commonly drawn parallel. Its origin is international, fragmentary, and its subsequent proliferation equally so, but its historical nexus is the American midwest.

Today, it's strange that "techno" has become an umbrella term of some kind; the pummeling, invariant, obnoxiously "euphoric" sound that is too often associated with the word in the U.S.--refer to Exhibit A, above--is trance. The way most Americans use the word "techno" would be akin to calling Jack Johnson and Coldplay hardcore punk, or something. As Simon Reynolds has pointed out,
The urgent distinctions rock fans take for granted--that Pantera, Pearl Jam, and Pavment operate in separate aesthetic universes--make sense only if you're already a participant in the ongoing rock discourse. The same applies to dance music: step inside and the genre-itis begins to make sense.
What is it, exactly, about dance music that makes the majority of Americans so unwilling to step inside? Perhaps its aforementioned cosmopolitanism is irreconcilable with the widespread ideology of American exceptionalism? Perhaps its inauthentic, cyborgian subject positions are too antihumanist, too contrary to the whole "folksy" thing that the McCain/Palin campaign made scarily evident? Perhaps its anti-auratic network of exchange is too threatening to commodity reification and the spectacular model of monopoly capitalism? To be honest, none of these are entirely convincing, given American culture's complex historical engagement with all of these issues.

A frequent point of criticism of dance music by Americans--or rather, a frequent object of ridicule--is the beat that forms its foundation. The base to its superstructure, if you will (I would). By this I mean the BOOFTA or TAKA or OONCE or [INSERT ONOMATOPOEIC TRANSCRIPTION HERE] thump of the bass drum that is the rhythmic engine of house and techno. This beat is, of course, a legacy of disco, and is what has permitted the style of mixing that makes performance of this music so dynamic and exciting. What's critical about this subbeatomic division is the way it deconstructs the measure of western music, splitting it into discrete, equivalent bytes of rhythmic information. One is no longer of primary importance, nor are two and four subordinate. The new rhythm is not 4/4 but 1/1: a new musical language, with its elements running in code at a bitrate somewhere between 120 and 130. This is the sound of the information age.

So is there just something un-American about Roland, a Japanese immigrant?

Actually. Consider recently released year-end statistics on music consumption for the year. (Those of you delusional enough to think that chart music doesn't matter should report directly to David Ramsey's remarkable article on Lil' Wayne and schedule a follow-up appointment with jane dark.)

At the end of 2007, Rich Juzwiak noted the resurgence of house beats in pop and R&B, and regardless of contrarian interjections, the trend has persisted. On many key tracks of the past year, from the enjoyable (Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music," aptly described by Juzwiak as "so housey, it might as well come with its own gay-pride float," Kanye West's magnificent "Paranoid," Ne-Yo's "Closer," even Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me") to the ordinary (Rihanna's "Disturbia," Chris Brown's "Forever," Britney Spears's "Womanizer") to the repulsive (Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold," Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," Kevin Rudolf's "Let it Rock"), it's been time to jack. In fact, the whole of Kanye's fascinating 808's and Heartbreak--produced almost entirely with analog synths, that dystopian electro voice, and our favorite drum machine--evokes electronic music in a more reflective, domestic manner.

Let's hope these really are signs of change--something like what Nick Sylvester has speculated on in a post about Hercules and Love Affair, a potential progression in which
industry moves away from (for lack of better) rock-type commerce (event-as-spectacle, non-functional one-way products, more overhead and initial investment, fewer but bigger acts) to something like a dance-type commerce (non-spectacle events, functional decentralized and debureaucratized two-way musicmaking, less overhead and forcefed "artist development" more but smaller acts).Link
Author as producer, from work to text, as the O.G.'s would say.

This year, with Juan Atkin's seminal Classics compilation, his mind-blowing Deep Space album (both as Model 500), and Derrick May's potent Innovator compilation finally reissued on CD and mp3, with some of Carl Craig's greatest productions collected on his excellent Sessions mix, and with the increasing infiltration of techno sensibilities into contemporary music both "alternative" and "mainstream," there's no excuse for all the bullshit anymore.

So fuck you, Greg.

(Americans with catching up to do should check out French documentary Universal Techno [Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4], British documentary Pump Up the Volume [Parts 1, 2, and 3], and look back to this mix of American jams that deal with American themes.)