Time was, in the '80s and '90s when dance music was so massively marginalised by mainstream culture (yeah, so what’s new?) that trying to get electronic music considered critically by the arbiters and curators of pop was hugely difficult.
The same conservative prejudices that accompanied the ‘disco sucks’ movement and rise of hip-hop (that it wasn’t really music, that it was ‘just some guy talking’) resurfaced with the explosion of interest in techno, jungle and hardcore.
‘FACELESS TECHNO BOLLOCKS’, ‘NOSEBLEED DANCE BOLLOCKS’ tended to be the most oft-used pejoratives of choice by the cardigan-wearing rockist critics.
There were several strands of reactionary thought going into these formulations. For an old-fart generation raised on flamboyant pop stars and narcissistic figureheads, the almost-deliberate anonymity and un-pushiness of many dance artists posed a huge problem, necessitated a focus on the MUSIC that many weren’t equipped to deal with.
Dance musicians weren’t uninterested in image — but they tended to aim for a kind of spectral presence behind their music, sleeves rarely if ever featured photos and although for the dance community this only increased the mystique and power of the music, for trad-minded rock fans it was an aggravating vagueness of persona that irritated and enraged. Hence so many column inches spelunked on the Prodigy, Shamen, Altern-8, artists that still cleaved to the conventional frontman-focussed set-up.
The ‘nosebleed bollocks’ strand of attack was a more nebulous critique but just as reactionary. What was implied was that this music required no skill or finesse in its creation and beyond that, was only consumed by drug-ravaged imbeciles with little or no discernment or taste.
As faster bpms and a more aggressive sound started captivating a whole new generation of noise-freaks AWAY from the stale conformity of grunge and Britpop, this critique found itself frantically repeated to the point of cliché. While most of us could not have given a shiny shite what these dumb motherfuckers thought what’s become clear over time is that their critique has percolated through into the mindset of many dance music artists.
How many interviews have you read with DJs or electronic-music makers where they’ve been at pains to point out how ‘organic’ their music is, how it’s important to them that their music has a ‘live quality’ and that what they’re making is ‘real music’.
It’s as if, stung by years of dance music being so maligned as inhuman and cold and boring in comparison with the easier showiness of mainstream pop, these people feel an urge to justify what they make as ‘equal’ to ‘normal’ music, just as ‘soulful’ and ‘heartfelt’ and yup ‘real’ as the ball-achingly sincere likes of Ed Fucking Sheeran.
WTF’s going on here? Faceless nosebleed dance bollocks is WHAT WE LOVE. I WISH a new d&b/techno/grime/dubstep act would come along, refuse all photos and PR and only release images of themselves that basically looked like small indeterminate squares of shiny metal or inanimate carbon rods.
In fact, if no-one in d&b is gonna call themselves Inanimate Carbon Rod I hereby claim it as my new DJ nom-de-plume. I’ll do whole videos as Inanimate Carbon Rod. 175 bpm ultra-harsh techstep, different camera angles, backdrops, settings and filters but just the Carbon Rod in shot, stubbornly inanimate as it lazes by a pool surrounded by bikini-clad bump’n’grinders, cruising in a velvet cushion, totally inanimate in the back of a limo, surrounded by yet more bikini-clad bump’n’grinders.
Club appearances would be similarly action-bereft too — decks set up, lightshow on, in-between the decks the rod, one headphone off one on, totally and utterly unblinkingly inanimate.
Perhaps for Xmas the addition of googly eyes but THAT’S MY ONLY CONCESSION. Let’s be honest, a lot of us grew up loving Kraftwerk, Numan, Human League — a lot of us fantasised about being in a band that appeared on TOTP and just pressed a single button on a panel of three nameless buttons and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that looked like ‘real’ music making.
Inanimate Carbon Rod’s intransigent inhumanity could take all of our fantasies to a whole new level.
It’s time for dance artists to stop the fake ‘warmth’, banish all acoustic instruments to the nearest council incinerator and start re-emphasising precisely those UNREAL, INHUMAN aspects of electronic music that first fascinated all of us.
When I listen to the latest Black Sun Empire Maztek podcast I’m not looking for warmth, I don’t give a fuck whether what I’m hearing is ‘real’ and I certainly couldn’t give an airborne fuck through a flying donut as to what some prick who’s into Kings Of Cunting Leon thinks about the ‘validity’ of this music.
All I care about is how that music makes me feel, and if it makes me feel like I’m slowly getting encased in chrome and transforming into some kind of auto-erotic killbot SO BE IT. DJs, producers, take note. You have 20 seconds to comply.
KEEP IT UNREAL.