why electronic music bothers me an essay in 3 parts by Andrew Jones

August 27, 2004 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

Listening to mae shi right now and the microphones earlier
it occurs to me what bothers me about electronic music:
it can’t change. It’s not that electronica doesn’t distort around
like an inspired free-jazz-skronker or put out bass lines 20
times sickier than your average “dance-punk” band or skew
pysch-pop into such ridiculously elegant forms you can’t keep
the track from buzzing around in your heard all day: it can do
all these things, the problem is: electronica can’t think
on it’s feet. The other night I saw Steve Nelson-Rainey and
the drummer from Pele battle it out at the bottle. Neither players
seemed to be terribly terribly inventive, Jon Mueller from Pele
kept his drums down to a minimal roar that focused on a passionate
almost hypnotic style that frequently saw him beating a single drum
in several different places till a rhythm pattern emerged so tight
it could hold water. Mueller would match this energy running
up the scales dancing on the peripheries of melody and making
some great plays, for what it’s worth neither seemed to listen to
each other enough, I mean I’ve seen improv guys that may as well
just be part of one body, but Mueller and Rainey would often
start in opposite directions and come together as they both
decided to just reach as energetic a state as possible. Naturally
when Jeff Parker from Tortoise came on you just had to leave,
I mean who wants to listen to watered down Bailey like contortions
of the guitar when you just free-spirited americana of the highest
order? For what’s it worth Parker’s percussionist was bad ass playing
with prepared sticks and a kit that seemed less eccentric as ordered
by a highly other logic. But the thing is, these improv duos keep
us attuned because they fight the most basic of battles, they change
and destroy chords, they get physically exhausted, they work together,
and we don’t just see them play, we identify with them play. Improv
holds an additional menace in that it’s made on the spot, and most works
in conversational loops (provided they don’t go into a jam), it’s a call
and response work on the most miniscule order, the musicians feel
around the musics, they (even if not improvising say if their in a pop band),
tone dial into audiences and themselves, they provide us with feedback,
On the other hand electronica, regardless of how well made, is a facsimile,
it can be tweaked on stage, but it’s tweaking is more similar to the excitement
of seeing a guitarist fucking with his reverb pedal than say someone slipping
a note, making it up right there, or even just responding to the audience.
The problem of electronic music is that’s insular and perfected, it comes
with out the threat of a healthy arrogance that could at any moment throw
the whole thing to the floor and stalk off like a hardcore kid after his first gig.
It can be made by humans, sound like humans, but it’s failed to breach many
of the smaller psychological gaps that separate it from more established musics.


Entry filed under: media.

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