Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[fragment discarded from a larger whole]

... the UK dance music scene  for several years now has been a “relentless churn” of micro-genres, with journalists, bloggers and fan, competing to find the next new thing and then moving on.... One genre briefly proposed as a potential next big thing was called “dubbage”, basically a subgenre of house music,  centered around a club called Circle and irregular raves called Yellow. And the way that the DJs tried to develop a unique sound for themselves struck me as archetypal in terms of the rise of curatorial aesthetics within music. 

In an interview Tippa talked about how he and the three other key dubbage deejays “used to buy vinyl, searching all the sites and shops and Ebay for new tracks and hard to find gems. Then the focus shifted to MP3s .” He explained that when they were starting the club, in three  months, they downloaded around “20 gigabytes of music” –new tracks and lesser known tracks from the last 10 years or so of house music -- and then “sieved through it” –“we all have a go at and then pass on to each other. It's part and parcel of staying on top and playing sounds that we feel fit into what we want others to hear and follow."

I was really struck that he talked of music in terms of weight, gigabites like kilograms. The approach to genre formation struck me as a revealing approach: to find something unique by tracking through a great mass of existing music, made by producers operating in the wider genre of house and its various subgenres – and trying to identify a kind of specific vibe that appeals and is distinctive – a through-line. I suspect this increasingly applies to musical creativity in the broad sense, it’s about either filtration or it’s about making strange connection across zones that would otherwise be considered separate.

But the fact is, to most ears, dubbage sounds hardly any different from house music, a style that originated in the mid-Eighties. And the scene, while having a devoted following based around its club and parties and a pirate radio show, has not taken off in any wider sense.   

that to me suggests the limitations of the strategy in terms of either renewal for music or differentiating oneself as an artist or scene. The weakness in the case of Circle/Yellow scene is that it never REALLY developed beyond a DJ strategy – for it to go to the next stage that would have to have producers producing new music inspired by the mix of existing tracks they had come up - -that has actually happened in the past, with disco, with hip hop, with house music, with jungle – but it seems to be happening less and less.

I think the weakness of this strategy – sifting, filtering, tinkering – relates to the fact that it is basically editing.   (No offence to editors, they improve writers work no end, whether it’s articles or books;  I’ve been an editor myself. But it is a secondary process, in the same way that being a DJ is a secondary process, or a curator, or for that matter a critic). This is I think where I think the problem lies with postproduction art, configurable culture, and all the other Portrait of the Artist as A Prosumer versions of how creativity works nowadays. If we see the artist as someone who a consumer whose sensibility is defined by good or interesting taste in the already extant body of pre-existing material in the world --  that strikes me as a severely reduced notion of what art can be and should be.

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