Fuck that shit in the age of conservative clubbing

As I scramble on a Sunday to find a new piece of dance music to deliberate over, for the sake of content, I come up completely empty. Yes, there is new music out there, more so than ever, but there’s nothing that pop’s out at me, slaps me across the face and vehemently showers me in spit as it curses me from the speaker. It’s all very composed and restrained, inconspicuous and certainly not obnoxious. But that’s exactly what I want from electronic dance music. I want the music to be the guy I witnessed doing cartwheels over the bar at the weekend. The guy that, as some sort of interpretive dance routine, physically assaults his friends in the most primal form of expression. I want dance music to be that guy, to put a finger up to the establishment by breaking all the rules of social conduct and making every situation his bitch. Electronic dance music very rarely embodies this manifestation for me in a time where slick production prevails and it only really ever accommodates two functions, the DJ tool or the iPod-crooner. It’s either stripped back to have no significant identifier, or toned down to placate the sensitive listener on his/her Monday morning commute to work.

It’s Monday morning and nothing has surfaced, worth writing about at least. There are a few releases that have popped up recently, but nothing gives me that feeling when I felt when I first heard Human Resource, ‘Dominator’ or The Subs ‘Fuck that Shit’. While all the other records that have recently arrived are by no means bad, all meticulously crafted and professionally executed, they just don’t have the sheer grunt or fuck-you attitude of those two tracks, two tracks from very different era’s in music but with the same effect. They scream at you with every fibre of their being, and not just in the literal sense. Dominator’s hoover synth is insufferable, in your face and relentless in the fast-paced world of nineties Euro Techno, while Fuck that shit’s modulating saw tooth wave – sitting over a reserved tempo in comparison – builds with some serious intent before erupting in “Fuck that Shit!” during its crescendo. You truly get the sense that whatever is behind the latter’s sound is fervently opposing some circumstance of personal injustice, and you have no option but to let go, and join in the chorus of discontent as you scream along to the song. Music like this is raw in the true sense of the word. It’s not the distorted-kick-I-couldn’t-be-bothered-to-mix-down-made-for-Berghain-raw, but viscerally I-have-something-to-get-off-my-chest-raw.

It’s not confined to a string emotion in the for of anger or rage either. Burial’s Untrue, whose 140BPM percussive rhythms aggressively clash with the half-time legato melodies, was a rude awakening for many, and confronted the status quo vehemently as it used you-tube ripped samples and a heavy low end to get its point across. It does far better in stirring something in the listener than the latest Perc release for instance, whose distorted manifesto is a lacklustre attempt in capturing something from the past, something that is by today’s standards, considered conformist and very rarely engages the listener further than its immediate intent. Everything about Perc’s next release, is superficial, created to adhere to trend where raw is defined by the perfunctory ideal of some idealistic warehouse venue, and the word itself has completely lost all of its meaning. It lacks the visceral value of the word, where music like those early pieces from Burial, The Subs, Human Resource, and pretty much anything that’s ever appeared on Night Slugs have already made their mark. Their virile impertinence is notably more absent from electronic dance music’s modern landscape. The element of surprise is becoming far less of a factor today and with that comes an age of severe mediocrity, music’s greatest foe.

There is a conservative tendency running through club music in our present age, effectively seeping into the culture with the corresponding effect noticeable on and from the dance floor. The guy or girl who relates to the visceral intent of a song like Fuck that Shit, the same guy that might be doing the cartwheels over the bar, is particularly absent amongst the current backdrop. She or he does not have a place in the world of conservative clubbing, where stoic appearances dominate the scene and the intermittent woop or hand-in-the-air dissipates at the moment it arrives, a spasm that only occurs with a drop in volume from the DJ as tradition dictates. Your average partygoer today, is the same person who likes to stroll through the Sunday flea market in a pair of sensible chinos carrying a 5 dollar artisan cappuccino while looking through some homeless man’s thoroughly destroyed vinyl collection for a greatest hits of the eighties record. S/He is the white collared drone of a right wing society where normcore became a viable thing and anything that exceeds ninety decibels is considered ‘pollution’. This partygoer very rarely attends an event because of the music, but rather for the sake of being in a popular venue, being accounted for amongst the mass. They need to be there because everybody else is there and for them the music needs to be functional – there’s a beat and they can dance to it – without ever venturing into the unknown. Their presence dominates the dance floor and thus repels the alternative “freak” crowd, the people who first bore the scene. Mass popular culture eventually consumes all and like every other form of popular trend, all the idiosyncrasies of the counter culture from which electronic dance music was born are smoothed over. The DJs respond in kind and their sets cater to this unadventurous tendency of the average clubgoer, which evidently again perpetuates the trend, spiralling into an infinite loop of tedium.

I was astounded when in a recent interview with a prominent DJ she remarked that she would never think of dance music as interesting. It suggests that the conservative clubber has given rise to the conservative DJ, the one that sticks to the tedious functional demand of dance music without ever venturing into the bold aspects of the genre; the things that engage the listener rather than placate him/her. It’s the reason we are not hearing tracks from the likes of the Subs, Burial and Night Slugs more frequently on the dance floor. Dixon and Alan Fitzpatrick dominate the scene with the monotonous drone of gentrified House and Techno while DJs and artists like DJ Hell, Mr. Ozio and more recently, Andre Bratten are just too few and far between to carry the weight of the novel clubbing experience. The modern day dance floor is a landscape where their eccentricities are considered too “weird” for the conventional tastes of the average clubgoer.

Andre Bratten’s June release Math Ilium Ion, through two tracks, Common– and Minor Misconception cuts to the very core of me, much like The Subs and Human Resources first did, and in those two tracks, I hold out hope for this age of conservative clubbing to sprout another counter revolution in the dank basement of electronic dance music’s most obscure talents. I hope it brings that raw edge back onto the dance floor, creating a place where the freaks are at home and the DJ is there to entertain and astound with awe inspiring music, venturing into uncharted territory. The conservative clubbing experience looks like it might be here to stay for a little bit longer, but at least that brings with it an opportunity to birth another counter culture. A counter culture to a counter culture that has been processed and refined to death, unrecognisable to the type of person that first established it, and appropriated by those who clearly just don’t seem to get it.