Egyptian Lover’s 1984 – An echo of the future from the past

Like Doc Brown’s 1955, there is some unexplainable significance to the year 1984, and not just in terms of literature and George Orwell’s book of thesame name. While Orwell’s dystopian view of that future year painted a very bleak picture, music seemed to step into a new era in which MTV came to life; Frankie Goes to Hollywood caused a commotion in the charts with Relax; and Michael Jackson’s scalp is badly burned in a Pepsi commercial. Ok that last one might be a bit irrelevant, but regardless of which way you look at it, 1984 is an ominous year in our popular collective musical heritage, and one that is made all that more significant with the rise of one particular artist… Egyptian Lover. Egyptian Lover is electro personified, and in an age that is slowly loosing touch with its electronic musical history, he draws a direct correlation with the origins of the genre and the sound, as if it was still 1984 and we are still trying to soundtrack the future we currently live in. And what is remarkable is that he still succeeds in painting a picture of the future through the music of the past, especially on his latest, and probably most retrospective record ever, 1984. 1984 sees Egyptian Lover back in the studio that started it all, featuring the very same tools that he used for his debut album “On the Nile” all those years ago and what’s quite astonishing is that it captures our imaginations more effectively as the sound of the future than much of contemporary electronic dance music.

During an age where we’ve notably regressed music theory in dance music back to some primitive percussive drone, Egyptian Lover’s newest album returns to harmonic, melodic and rhythmical arrangements of the past, and in the current landscape of dance music, Egyptian Lover’s development of those devices seem far more progressive than anything else today. His signature use of minor second intervallic melodies – something directly inherited from Africa Bambaata – is far more interesting than the microtonal developments that hover around a singular droning tone in Techno and House, while his use of swinging offbeat accents on percussion make for a far more grooving beat than today’s persistence on the standardised 4/4 beat. In our present musical language there is very little room for the type of development that Egyptian Lover would command in 1984 and thus appropriating that in a modern context it sounds exotic and thus unique, and above all futuristic. This is not a journey to the past for nostalgia’s sake. It’s nothing like listening to Egyptian Lover’s debut in a modern context, but rather a new interpretation of Electro for future audiences.

Egyptian Lover’s sound is far more refined than anything from the past on 1984 and a defined verse-chorus song structure is for the most part absent, in accordance to modern trends, and thus even though this is Egyptian Lover as he would have appeared in 1984, it’s far more intriguing than anything we’ve been exposed to in recent years. The irony of 1984 is thus that it is far more inventive, musically than any other forms of popular dance music today and if we need a model for the future of dance music it is still upheld in the past… as confusing as that sounds. Through modern studio adaptations, the Electro from the past is still far more accurate in presenting a vision of the future than its descendents in the form of Techno and Tech House are able to achieve today generally. These present-day variations, although more technologically advanced than their predecessors, have stagnated, and in some ways degenerated our musical language to it’s most simplest forms, backsliding from harmonic and melodic progressions to a point where these elements hardly exist on the larger scale. In 2015, 1984’s musical language is far more advanced than our own, and even if we’ve advanced as a society our theoretical musical expressions have reverted to its most primal origins, away from the theoretical knowledge of music, to some impulse rather than idea.

But that’s ok right because our development is happening at a technological level? Not exactly. In our current technological landscape the sounds of the past are still the standard sound palette in dance music, and Egyptian Lover’s sounds are as concurrent as the latest Innervisions track. The sonic timeline is thus far more difficult to distinguish than before. Egyptian Lover used early equipment like the 808 drum machine and Juno synthesiser on his latest album and if you page quickly to your latest instrument supplier’s website, you’ll notice that many of these instruments are still the norm – in an updated form maybe, but still very much an echo from the past. Any serious musician’s arsenal will even contain these original instruments, and with that the technological advancements are reserved for the studio, and more likely the mastering suite, and with this, these technological advancements have very little effect on the forward momentum of our musical language. Upon reflection what we have are old sounds being delivered in a simpler musical diction, as determined by the effect of attenuating music through an era of stark minimalism, combined with the effects of disintegrating collective musical knowledge in professional music. Drum machines, sequencers and computers have given the lay musician a level playing field, and thus diluted the overall musical training of the practising musician, composer and producer. Egyptian Lover’s musical language in the year 1984, although diluted itself, was directly descended from funk, disco and early hip-hop. So although Egyptian Lover could only imitate his predecessors through the machines, he imitated a far more complex musical discourse than our current musical pioneers would’ve been introduced to through the Techno and House of this generation – dilutions of dilutions essentially.

There are obvious examples that still perpetuate the future of music presently, examples like Floating Points, Nicholas Jaar and Objekt – artist that have developed new music through elements of Jazz, Classical music, House, Techno, and in Objekt’s case technology – but these are expectations to the rule and in general terms music’s development has stagnated and Egyptian Lover has indirectly and unconsciously highlighted this through his latest album, 1984. In doing what he’s been doing since the start of his career and developing in relation to the trends, but without adopting them, Egyptian Lover has showed us that the year 1984 is more in touch with the music of the future than the present.