Thursday, 16 May 2013

So Many Genres

Once upon a time there was just Pop music. This largely consisted of syrupy ballads and love songs. Then along came Rock 'n Roll with it hard edged sexuality. But within a few years this too had been largely reduced to syrupy ballads and love songs. Then came the came the Blues revival of the early 60's which gave birth to Rock. In parallel to this was the Soul scene much favoured by the Mods and their all night amphetamine fuelled dance nights - most notabley in the UK at the Wigan Casino which used to draw people from all over the UK for their all nighters. Meanwhile Rock music eventually split and gave birth to Hard Rock, Metal, Thrash and many other sub genres. 

In the late 80's to early 90's Dance music was born. At first this was Acid (it psychedelic variant) and it then settled into the genre known as House. Lots of people said that Dance Music wouldn't last and that it was yet another phase that we would all grow out of. Instead of which it has has grown and transmogrified into hundreds of sub genres. Out of House grew Hard House, Jungle and Drum and Bass and out of Drum and Bass came one of my particular favourites Intelligent Drum & Bass with its flag waver LTJ Bukem. Since then it has split into Techno, Tech House, Progressive, Minimal Techno, Trance and many many more classification. 

Intelligent Drum & Bass, Links by Chameleon from LTJ Bukem's album Logical Progression


Actually I think Trance and in particular is variant of Goa Trance probably predates all these genres by a decade or so. Back in the early 70's there was a wave of hippy trippers who took the high road to India and in particular the lush environs of Goa. They hadn't been there long before the party scene took off on beaches. As with most incarnations of the dance scene it was fuelled by drugs or at least supported by drugs and in this case the most appropriate drugs where copies quantities of hash brought down by the truck load from the north of India and a seemingly endless supply of LSD. 

MOC (Master of Ceremonies) Paoli was one of the founding fathers of this musical scene. (Paoli is now long time resident of Ibiza who should, to my mind, be accorded national treasure status for his ability to grasp the atmosphere of an event and, with his kaleidoscopic knowledge of
music, play to just about any group of people). Paoli (with me on the left in the picture) once explained to me that playing music for the Goa parties they realised when playing to a party of 700 or so on a beach, many of whom where off their heads on LSD, tracks with words in tended to mess with people's minds. They therefore evolved an idea whereby they lined up two tape decks and recorded the intro of a song, paused the recording machine, rewound the other and recorded the intro again. This might be repeated again several times before winding the tape on to the instrumental break which would also be looped several times. Bearing in mind that this was many years before the first sampling machines were commercially available, the principles of looped samples were then established early on with Goa Trance. 

Thinking about the appropriateness of drugs to a particular music scene the British Soul scene was particularly interesting. At this time, in the early 60's, Slimming Pills or to give them their true name, Amphetamines, were being widely prescribed by doctors. Hence every aspiring villain came to realise that Pharmacies across the country were stocked high with these new wonder drugs. I once heard an interview with one of the drug dealers who help stoke the Northern Soul scene with pharmaceuticals and he described how he and a couple of mates would leave London on a Saturday afternoon headed for Wigan, Manchester or Stoke. 

Sometime out of London they would turn off the motorway into a small town, find a pharmacy in a back street, break in and retrieve enough Amphetamine to keep any club they visited dancing all night. This, I understand, was the primary source of Amphetamines at the time. It wasn't Meth labs or similar but rather knock off from Pharmacies. Of course in most cases they would have been insured and within a week or so I have no doubt that the Pharmaceutical reps would have been knocking on their door offering to restock them, paid for by the insurance money. I have often wondered how much these companies must have benefitted from this cycle of burglaries and restocking. Not something they are likely to shout about but it must have been a nice little earner for them.

However, I digress. Since the advent of the dance music scene the genres have multiplied and transmuted into a bewildering range of sub-genres to the point where the industry has now spawned countless cottage industries. Whereas at one time the only way into the music industry was with the all important contract with one of the big distributors, now there are many producers working from home studios producing work to satisfy the niche markets of a given genre. For example a friend of mine is a highly respected record company boss producing Jazz House variants. His limited edition singles are always well received but it is a niche market so unless one of these crosses into the mainstream the income is still quite limited, so he is also a plumber. Many new genres have emerged over the past few years which have absorbed other genres most notably Indie Dance and Nu Disco. New Disco is essentially a reworking of old disco tunes. Often this involves slowing them down, chopping and looping them and adding a much heavier kick so they are transformed from happy go luck catchy dance tunes into hypnotic downbeat tracks, which are more tribal that John Travolta. One of my favourite innovators of this genre are Scots producers Craig Smith & Graeme Clark who work under the name 6th Borough Project.

Just a Memory by 6th Borough Project

Amusingly in a search for sub genres which can be used to identify variants within a genre Nu Disco has given birth to my favourite concept with the sub genre: Disco Not Disco. To my understanding this is a genre of music in which the producers have taken some of the motifs of disco e.g. the hand claps, orchestral stabs and Wah-wah guitar to produce a music which in no way resembles disco other than by the presence of these motifs. What creative thinking.

The complexity of genres can provide additional problems for the DJ. Traditional Vinyl DJ  would arrive at a gig with around 100 tracks for the evening. However, with the advent of CD's and digital DJing this can be multiplied to the point where each DJ will be carrying several thousand tracks with them. If like me you enjoy crossing genres in a set the classification of these tracks becomes something of a librarians nightmare. Yes I can classify tracks as Chilled, House, Latin House, Jazz House, Deep House, Tech House etc but the chances are that each one of these classification will include several hundred tracks themselves. I have therefore found that I have had to identify my own sub genres for no other reason than to help me identify a trend which I am focused on at the moment. So far my private sub genres have included Detective (a cross genres definition which I have applied to tunes which have a certain Film Noir, Blaxploitation or Suspensful feel):

Detective 1. J-Walkin' by Blame

Detective 2 The Assassin Act1 by Street Live Originals 

Clockwork (a style of electro and minimal Techno which seemed to me to have an almost childlike quality reminiscent of clockwork toys:

Clockwork 1. Carousel by Ramon Tapia

Clockwork 2. Pina Colada by Rodrigues Jr.

and Chuggers (down beat largely instrumentals tracks which gradually build to create an epic anthemic feel). 

Chugger 1. Shulme by Smith & Mudd

Chugger 2. Violet Morning Moon by Bubble Club

Within each of these sub genres I will add epithets like Haunting, Upbeat, Spectacular and host of other adjectives so that I can quickly access any element of the comprehensive emotions which dance music now populates. And they said it would never last.