cold, hot & bland _ rhetoric of electron balance

Philip Sherburne wrote this:

It seems like it's impossible to read about electronic music in the mainstream media without submitting it to the strawman critique: "Most electronic music is [cold/unfunky/unhuman, etc.] but this album is [warm/funky/human, etc.]."

Yo, from a review for Dusted in October 2003, which in fact is referring to this piece for EMR from 2002. Anyway, from the Dusted piece I wrote in 2003:

Undoubtedly there's an entire thesis here as to why this discourse perpetuates itself in the critical unconscious. From the old EMR piece:

[2] In issue o7 of Grooves magazine, practically every interview with an experimental "electronic" artist accounted for the artist's uniqueness through the use of "warmth," vocals, "organic" influences, or live sounds/instrumentation in a minimal or otherwise experimental context, resulting in the artist's very own niche, genre, or sound. This artist was then contrasted to the "multitude" of pseudo-musicians who, it would seem, tend to operate from their bedrooms and produce clickety-click music without soul or subtlety (it can be assumed that the interviewed artists don't have bedroom gear but studios). For example: "Unlike the glut of software-based producers, Munk makes use of live sounds" (Manual interview, 12); "By believing that there is purity and emotion in noise, the Texan-born artist [Nic Endo] has consistently defied and dissected conventions to carve her own niche" (Nic Endo interview, 14); "Among the multitude of click and nano-electronic desktop musicians emanating from an increasing array of mostly German and American labels, it is sometimes rare to find those willing to inject a discernible human pulse into the proceedings" (Dan Abrams interview, 18); "Vocals and guitar are about the last thing you'd expect to find in electronic dance music, let alone in the stripped-down settings of minimal techno" (Safety Scissors interview, 24).

The observations from the respective journalists, while certainly valid, become clichą©d in their repetition. Perhaps an underlying theme that somewhat explains the current infatuation with emotive tendencies in experimental electronic music can be found in a quote from Rafael Toral - in an interview in the same magazine: "I think what first fascinated me in music was its ability to carry emotions of strange kinds, not found elsewhere in life" (16). But this theme is contradictory: the emotions selected for accolades are usually those from "outside" genres and sites, be it through live instrumentation, the "organic," or the human voice. Can electronic music convey emotions that bear no resemblance to its exterior?

All this stuff is soooo 2002, but I guess it makes sense when everyone is trying to sound sooo much like 1988. For the record, I wasn't blown away by Koze's 2005 album. Wasn't my bag.

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posted. Mon - January 9, 2006 @ 10:14 PM           |