Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Can You Jack? Part 3

Phuture (DJ Pierre/Spanky), "Acid Tracks"

Lil' Louis, "Video Clash"

Tyree, "Acid Over"

In this final installment, I wanted to talk a little more about the actual music that this Soul Jazz compilation features. I've always been a little afraid of dance/electronic music simply because of the inexhaustible number of genres and microgenres that exist. It's difficult to jump into the music when you don't know if you would be more into techno, drum 'n' bass, jungle, house, microhouse, broken beat and on and on and on. While it might not make for a easy terrain, it's a sign of the creativity of the field. Whereas rock and jazz seem calcified, rarely challenging the dominant sound, dance music can barely contain its desire to move on. I hope that I can help make all of these names and genres a little less foreboding, as it's the most fertile music I know of today.

Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-1995 makes quite clear what music it is talking about. Acid house, as far as I can tell, is the original house music, a reaction against the disco sound that had ruled from the early 70s on. Disco was a soulful, lush sound that was oftentimes created in a studio by musicians. It was dominated by superstar DJs like Larry Levan, heard in extravagant, hedonistic spots like the Paradise Garage and Studio 54. It's important to understand all of that to understand acid house or Chicago house, as they are very different but similar in ways.

The main difference, according to Tim Lawrence, is the machines. As disco lost steam, a few new pieces of technology came on the market and forever altered dance music (and laid the seeds for this blog). First, Robert Moog's experiments with the synthesizer got the ball rolling, with Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder advancing the ball down the field, creating sounds of the future from advanced technology. Next up was the Roland 808 drum machine that didn't really sound like drums. This instrument would be the tool of choice for Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker on "Planet Rock" and would be essential for electro in general. These tools helped to create the mechanical, pulsing, futuristic songs that you can hear above and have heard these past few days.

I've been trying to think why this music (and so many other related like electro, booty house, ghetto tech, Miami bass, new wave) sound so perfect to me. I don't have anything profound yet, but I will throw out a few ideas. Maybe it's the idea of man struggling to humanize these machines and technologies? Or it is the fact that they are so reliant on machines, thereby making it cold and distant? Or is it simply that the bass is so important? I don't know, I guess that this blog is a search for the answer to that.

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