Friday, September 25, 2009

Cloaks, "Versus Grain"

I'm finally getting a move on with all my End of the Decade musing, which has involved revisiting a bunch of music from that 2000-2002 bygone era that feels like it happened twenty years ago instead of ten. I heard Fluxion's "Vibrant Forms II" for the first time in probably five or six years and was happy to discover that it still sounds incredibly fresh. This actually isn't so surprising, considering that dub techno still worships at the altar of stuff like the original Basic Channel records and seminal compilations such as Tresor 3. As it was for acid house and acid techno 15-20 years ago (another musical form in which the diversity of the music was limited almost by definition), the slow evolution of the genre is its greatest strength or its intolerable weakness, depending on where you stand on appreciating the relatively few tricks that the genre has to offer.

Like many people, I couldn't get enough of dub techno from 2000-2002 but suffered serious burnout afterward. Then we skip a few more years, and we all rediscover dub techno to the cries of either "are we really about to listen to exactly the same stuff all over again?" or "oh how I've missed you". If I have to pick sides, I'll side with the latter group, but I prefer to lurk between the two camps. Dub techno is a comfortable blanket to wrap oneself in, but as it is with the synth pop revivals that pop up from time to time, I can't find myself obsessing over music that so outwardly relies on nostalgia to hook its listeners.*

On the other hand, industrial techno is one genre that I never thought would make a comeback, partly because it was never big enough or cool enough to be realistically considered for a comeback. And yet, magazines like FACT are proudly trumpeting its return and anointing a recent Ancient Methods podcast as the finest and most essential mix of the year. I was really surprised to read that, for although I was really feeling that podcast, there was nothing about it that screamed "bloody essential" at me, unless you were big into dark/horror techno and could hold out through the somewhat boring middle third and stay awake for the strong finish (but then again, I get bored about a half hour into most podcasts these days). It felt more like a harder, bass-ier set of minimal than an authentic noise/industrial coming out party, but never mind that, hurrah, my ant-zen CD's are cool again, at least if the sound of this Cloaks album is anything to go by. And Speedy J was ahead of the curve yet again (listen to "A Shocking Hobby", from 2000, if you're still skeptical). Always trust the Paap!

* "Wait, aren't you the guy who puts M83 at the top of his lists every year??"

"I'd argue that M83's music incorporates a lot more originality than a lot of the other 80's copycats, and relies on elements from a bunch of other more modern genres (shoegaze, techno, ambient) to make the music work."

"I'd argue that you're dodging the question."

"I know."

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