Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Teste, "The Wipe"

Is there a more underappreciated Canadian contribution to techno than Teste's "The Wipe"?  It still appears regularly in many DJ sets, is immediately recognizable to countless techno fans, but how many of them know of its humble Toronto origins?

Count me among those in the dark, that is, until I read Juno's feature on the story behind "The Wipe".  Richie Hawtin broke the track by releasing it on his  Plus-8 label (I first discovered it on the Mixmag Live Vol. 20 compilation, mixed by Hawtin) and it's grown steadily in stature over the years, becoming more influential as it ages.

Techno has been around for long enough to reevaluate plenty of old classics.  How many techno tunes have become steadily more classic as they age?  Underappreciated albums are not uncommon in rock music, people are discovering and rediscovering gems from the past all the time.  In dance music it's usually a different story -- a song becomes a smash hit in the clubs, picks up classic status almost immediately, and appears on a million DJ sets and compilations.  But after a few years, most of those tracks stop getting played and end up out of earshot, out of mind.  There is no classic rock radio equivalent for techno, so eventually twenty years pass and somebody wants to revisit those old tracks in a blog post ...

For example, how many songs from the first Flux Trax compilation are as classic or more classic now than they were in 1995, when the compilation was released?  At the time it was as close to a definitive collection of techno's all-time greatest hits that you were going to find.  And now?  The CJ Bolland, Jam and Spoon, and Empirion tracks have aged horribly and have practically dropped of the face of the clubbing earth to the best of my knowledge.  Others such as Slam's "Positive Education" and Hardfloor's "Acperience" are still remembered fondly but does anyone really feel the need to listen to them anymore?  I would say that the only tracks that have remained stone cold classic throughout the past two decades are "Voodoo Ray", "Energy Flash", "Can You Feel It?", "Loop", and "Strings of Life".  One could also make an argument for "Rez" (Underworld got way bigger long after "Rez", but does anyone really play it anymore) and "Altered States" (one of my all time personal favourites, but it didn't have the impact that many of the other tracks on the compilation had).  Out of those first five, only "Voodoo Ray" feels like it's bigger now than it was at the time (and it was HUGE at the time in the clubs, but now it's huge even among casual electronic music fans who don't remember it from when it was in the clubs).

On the other hand, Hawtin's Mixmag Live mix that I linked to earlier, which was underappreciated at the time and still remains probably the most overlooked Hawtin commercial mix, contains several tracks that have gotten more classic with time.  Octave One and Plastikman were famous then and are still famous now, but "The Wipe" and G-Man's "Quo Vadis" have slowly grown from minor hits into all time techno blueprints over the past two decades.

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