Friday, January 04, 2008

House music all era long

Blackdown’s ‘funky’ convention raised so many issues which I'm addressing from my perspective as an aged raver on the margins occasionally dipping his toe in. It didn’t just discuss Wot Do You Call It?, although I would agree it probably needs to be denominated ‘funky’ for it to be specified away from mainstream ‘funky house’, if the main movers really believe it to be different.

It also raised issues of the Where Are We Now? variety. As Bliss suggests, this latest wave could be seen a sign of less ambitious, less demanding times. For old ravers for whom it is mostly about the music, the pressure drop, the euphoria, communo-mystical overtones and general socio-cultural flux, they may well be disenchanted by the need for a new shirt and shiny shoes the second time round, after UKG first demanded those. No bother, this is not reaching out to them.

Newer, or more realistic, crowds, however, will not be bothered by this at all as they may well see the great expectations of the rave/hardcore/jungle/2-step scenes as a false dawn, just a dash of fast-fluctuating transcendental with one’s materialism. A good club night now is a good club night full stop, it doesn’t have any wider resonance. If the times and the majority don’t mind buttoning up to get into a rave where champagne is at least as important as narcotics, then people will go with that. And people can get the more dirty vibe from the afterparty circuit anyway.

I think it’s disingenuous to say funky [house] stylings have never fed the indigenous London ‘nuum/raver crowd. Ever since garage lost its momentum there have been those type of nights from Tottenham to Croydon. And the Hed Kandi types of nights also take those locals who don’t want moody/druggy/innovation (delete as appropriate). But it is often at a remove from the motor of innovation, ie East London and E3 in particular.

House is also the default motor of all those very late bars and even later clubs in places like Brixton and Islington/Old Street, which again take some of that local dancing crowd and mix with it the middle-class immigrants from out of town. Let’s face it, house and garage also reach the wine bar/chrome bar/lounge bar crowd whether that’s uptown or local suburban bar; in this context it’s part of the line that includes soul, funk and jazz-funk. House can range from famed US producers (still) showcasing themselves to the most faceless of tracky cuts rolled out by producer/djs for specific audiences, but it’s still filling a need that isn’t for Hard, isn’t for Techno, isn’t for Garage and certainly isn’t for d’step, grime or jungle, as funky is too.

Though people are still talking about going to the rave, or going raving it now seems to be a generic term for a dj-led party, the same way the more corporate-speak and American-esque “going out to party” is a generic couch for getting way too pissed.

Listening to some of the myspace producers' numbers, it is all competent stuff around the house spectrum – far better than some of that weak Hed Kandi pish - but is not going to get any sound fetishists talking and will merely highlight the divide between real dancers and bedroom ravers. It’s not like producers have tried percussion, broken or otherwise, over a four-four beat before. Some of it has that accent on riff that a lot of London rave music had had; others sounded very much like deep house. Felt the MA1 production Tia Jean’s Walking Away. It has the e-driven deep bass pull.

Overall, this latest wave shows that the 4/4 bounce, note how bassline/niche bounces and eschews any hint of a breakbeat too, is king for the impact it has on dance cultures, and has been for a long time.
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