Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reflections Part I: SPACE

Gravity Pleasure Switchback from Jessie Scott on Vimeo.

Hello fellow SSGs,

today we begin our four part reflection on the year that was. Yes, it is 2010. The mistake would be to imagine that, therefore, 2009 is over. We'll still be digesting (and regurgitating) what happened for the next thirty years, at least. Thought, unfortunately, is slower than media. That's why you have a headache.

An intro and 'reader's guide': I divided the reflections into four parts:

1) space
2) sounds
3) people
4) technology

For each of the four parts, I (PC) got the ball rolling with a polemical opener, eliciting responses from Chris, Todd Burns and Philip Sherburne that reply, build, and generate new lines. I speak for myself when I say: these words are intended to provoke thought. They also, due to their length, press against the limit of what blogspot 'prefers' (with its redundant 'dear diary' journal format). With this in mind, I/we would love it if you would take some time with the pieces, digest them, come back to them, read them again, etc. Refrain: thought is slower than media. And so, without further ado... ... oh, one more thing: set the video above to stream while you read...

click below to read what PC, chris, todd and philip have to say.

PC) Space: Interstice, Entropy, Utopia

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

- Joni Mitchell

House wasn't so much a sound as a situation…. The contexts from which the Deep House sound emerged are forgotten: sexual and gender crises, transgendered sex work, black market hormones, drug and alcohol addiction, loneliness, racism, HIV, ACT-UP, Thompkins Sq. Park, police brutality, queer-bashing, underpayment, unemployment and censorship – all at 120 beats per minute.

- Terre Thaemlitz

A little while ago SSGs noted – and were certainly not the only ones who noted – the quiet absence of the chill-out room.

Yes, it was a very muted death, but to me, in stark contrast to the 90s (with all its glib, naïve optimism, stretched between the potentials of ‘chill out’ and ‘energy flash’) the 00s really represented the partial capture of the utopian energies of the early days, “full of vigor.... not yet touched, used or exploited” by the emotional flatlining, the monotonality of a space dominated by hard surfaces, high modernism, and mid-tempo, mid-intensity minimalism. To me it’s no accident.

I think we’ve all rebelled against it, reviled it (what was minimal more than a gag reflex, a backlash, and the soundtrack to the bloodless achievement of anhedonia after 48 hours on the gear?) but I for one think we should all be concerned by what happened to those shared, loose, social spaces of warm engagement generated by earlier countercultures; angry about how they were transformed into tight, cool (or even cold) privative spaces full of superstars, VIPs, angry bouncers, overpriced drinks, and permissive repression – dance, but keep your hat on, your clothes on, your eyes open, consume, consume, consume, obey the beat, obey the situation, obey the drug, shut up, dance, wave your glowstick, or get the fuck out.

Yes, it’s true: there are about six good nightclubs in the world. Maybe a dozen, if you’ve had a few drinks or the pills are good. The rest of them suck. And yet, most people working in groove-based electronic music are utterly dependent on these shitty venues, full of shitty, stiff rules and shitty, shiny people, in order to turn a dime. In the main, electronic music, as a space in the 00s, has been sat on and partly squashed by bleak nightclubs and big box festivals, with some (growing, I think) spaces of hope in the interstices where interesting, creative things still can happen. We should pause and consider the fact that Berghain, for all its flaws, is almost unique. In most cities, in most countries in the world, Berghain would be impossible. And yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions. If you want anecdotal ‘proof’ of this, ask anyone you know who’s into music, even into electronic music, but who has not been part of the ‘dance scene’, what they think of it, and they’ll say: queues, expensive drinks, cocks on coke in sunglasses, crazy set times fuelled by amphetamine abuse, bad sound systems, rude staff, violent ‘security’… There are plenty of music scenes that are in to drugs; the ‘dance scene’ is, for the most part, a drug scene that’s kinda in to music – but only the kind of music that enhances being on drugs, and only the kinds of drugs compatible with hedonistic consumerism. And hey, maybe nightclubs are good spaces for these kinds of explorations; I personally think they are also mostly quite hostile to the development of interesting music and social life.

So: we need new venues, new models, new spaces – three (that already exist, but that I feel are full of interesting potentialities) spring to mind.

1) Carnival, festival, Dionysia: the first is the festive model – perhaps the only thing worth redeeming from psy trance subcultures (unless post-bulldoze Israeli kids with PTSD in tie-dye t-shirts on peyote is your idea of fun). In this mode, in these kinds of spaces, groove-based electronic music is something that takes place in an open, carnival space, where the rhythms and norms of everyday routine are all turned on their head, and you spend a few heady days in a wonderful dreamland all the more beautiful for being ephemeral.

2) Ritual, worship: the second is the sacred model, which I take from all forms of sacred, traditional music. In this mode, groove-based electronic music could be something attended to with ritual, ceremony – accorded a place in a whole coherent cosmos of values. This get’s easily misinterpreted, so to be clar, I’m not saying we should turn going out into going to church, if by that we surrender all that’s hot and wild about a dancefloor. Rather, it would mean generating a space for transformations to occur, but in a way that’s just as open to families, children, and sunny afternoons as it is to gay abandon on the wrong side of Sunday. I think we can already see these kinds of spaces opening up of a Sunday afternoon – I hope we can look forward to more in this direction. I should add that, at its best, when its well curated and supportive of resident artists and labels, clubs can even be this.

3) The Deterritorialised Mutual Association: The third is, of course, this online space, the blogosphere, which, you won’t be surprised to hear from me, I feel has undoubtedly been the 00s’ greatest space of possibility. But it is incredibly delicate, more like the accidental niche created by informational capitalism than the concerted or deliberate outcome of a struggle over space. I really don’t think we appreciate how fragile this space is, how quickly and easily it could be shut down (or just leveraged in to some kind of pay-per-view Murdoch wet dream), and where we’d be left after the death of the chill-out room, the record store, the squat party, or any kind of party held without police permission if it did.

It’s time to get some vision again. It’s time to actualize the idea of making, consolidating, and defending new spaces, just like earlier waves have done. Need we be so passive and timid? We are, after all, the people who, in the spaces between each other, generate all that ‘vibrant culture’ that capitalism is so good at modulating, leveraging, then paywalling from us, either with credit cards or with real estate prices. When the living embodiment of hope uses his Nobel acceptance speech to go on a rant about just war and the beautiful sacrifice of American lives, you know it’s time to either give up on hope, or go out and make a little of your own. And where is the anger? Why are so many people depressed, withdrawn, melancholy, instead of being full of passion, rage, and a desire for the new? These are all things we need to ask ourselves, unless we want all the world to be whatever happens when we let them round us up and stick us in a stadium, a tent, or a resort/prison island. Of course, I’m engaging in some wild rhetorical overstretch here, but I do so because all these things bear imagining, and because the world out there is real, and its open spaces, its spaces of hope, they are being appropriated - and how we think and act in response to this makes a difference, both real and infinitesimal. Yes - time for dreams and daring. And yes, of course it’s utopian – that is the point.

CH) space: is a weird one

space is a weird one. i think the reflections on this matter are unavoidably very influenced by each person's location and own (head)space. a rather banal observation to start, but i don't find it particularly surprising that someone on the periphery, where taking risks when promoting and putting on parties is particularly severe, is not satisfied with what is on offer; while someone based at the very epicentre of techno offers a much more positive perspective on this. given sherbs and todd are in the same location, and are both ex-pats from the semi-periphery, i'll be interested to see how much contrast there is between the two of them. the opening banality is also a lead in to my own reflections: space has played an interesting part in my (techno) life this year, as i've spent a fair bit of time moving between it. my 'home' in deep, dark wales, is completely devoid of even a crap club playing techno, let alone a good one. but i've also been lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time in my other (real?) home, tokyo. despite being a city of something like 15 million, the scene is pretty small and getting smaller. still plenty of good music comes along, no doubt, but conservative bookings are increasingly the order of the day, in stark contrast to when i first set foot here in 2001. why? liquid room is gone. unit has always been a partial replacement. then yellow disappeared. boom. the top two clubs in tokyo gone and suddenly things are looking grim. add in other disappearances like maniac love and colors studio and the lack of space is impacting upon the scene. one big shitty funnel where many of the interesting artists end up at womb, and those rare treasures like labyrinth, a techno wonderland in the hills, becomes even more valued...

in between the extremes of wales and japan, i've danced in london, manchester, new york and brussels, and shared moments in all those locales. the feel might be different (as todd notes), but the format is roughly the same (as pete points to). for me that works nicely, though. it is comforting arriving in a new place, somewhere very foreign, and then discovering a space that is a bit familiar. people might be different, the language isn't what you are necessarily used to, but the beats are the same. the smiles are the same. those rare, special moments that techno music brings out can be the same too. similarity and difference. the modularity of the spaces that define techno can work in its favour too.

perhaps it helps to generate what i think is one of its deepest, and most important, characteristics: its (sometimes) quasi-universality. and by this i mean even if it is locked to spaces on one level (a dark club late at night), on another it actually allows you to transcend space. the bullshit constructed differences we use to differentiate ourselves are lowered or forgotten about: consider that mnml ssgs has readers from over 100 countries. that says something important. to me at least. house certainly isnt a universal language. neither is techno. but it isnt as culturally specific as terre claims. perhaps the production is, but its reception is far more open that that. it creates a different kind of space. a space for connecting with other people, sharing feelings and moments and so on. this can happen on a dancefloor or somewhere like here, our little patch of cyberspace. and if there is a space i really think it is necessary we preserve, it is this one: the space that transcends territorial space. instead of trying to fix sounds to specific places (techno emerged from this town in this year and that is where it stays), perhaps we need to think of ways of preserving and strengthening the commonalities that techno helps to forge and bring out. and right now, where you have a situation of space limiting our ability to deal with something that transcends space (the recent disaster in copenhagen), anything little thing we can do to strengthen that weak bond we sometimes share feels important.

TB) locality über alles

Hey Peter, Chris, and Philip:

Happy holidays to you all.

The issue of space is one that I think about a lot. In my short time in Berlin, it's become clear that it's what helps make Berghain such a success. The space so quickly defines what a club can be. Cameron summed it up excellently in talking about why he never wants to return to Womb. It's why I think that in an area when music reviews may become slightly devalued—as the cost of music continues to near zero — that the worth in event reviews becomes so much more important. The live show is the last thing that can't be packaged into a zip file. Too many local factors play into making Booka Shade in London a completely different experience than Booka Shade in Brazil, no matter how well-oiled their machine might be.

I think that locality has a lot to do with your disenchantment with clubs, as well. Living in Berlin, I can't help but be excited about the culture. And this is speaking as someone who doesn't do drugs! Maybe I'm just still too wide-eyed and idealistic, but there are only a few clubs that have wandered onto my "never going back" list, and plenty that actually get me excited.

Do we need new models? I'm not so sure. The models that you've presented here are good ones—and they already exist. They just need to be enacted on a more regular basis. And on enough of a regular basis that they start to become a bit muddy and less stringent. The one thing that I think we probably all value more than anything else is surprise — the ability for anything to confound. In going to Belgrade this year, I was blown away a little bit by how some of these things seemed to be in flux. (I wonder if you feel the same in your travels to Poland, Philip?) Some of the obvious rituals of shows are there. Audience, performer, everything in its right place. But then there were acts like K.O.F.Y.—a Serbian journalist who performs reggae in blackface—who was the first person to make me want to go up to them and ask a few hundred questions after their show in a long time.

That was as much about performer as it was about space, but the event was held in a "proper" club context. He was bookended by Felony Flats, a solid DJ who played wonky hip-hop, and T++, whose live show was a revelation. Everyone in the crowd went bonkers for all of it. And that's the most interesting thing to me, because I wonder if the third space that you talk about—the internet — wasn't the exact reason that it was possible for a crowd to simply give up on genre and embrace the unifying theme of the night: bass. You hear so many clichés proffered by festivals in the arts sphere where they bring together dubstep and dub techno and Jamaican dub, but this was the first time that I saw it somehow make perfect sense. With their tastes presumably broadened from hearing things from all over the place — and never defining it as this or that, a new space opened up. I'm eager to see if that can perhaps be replicated elsewhere.


PS) Space: The Final Frontier

Space: the final frontier. I have to admit from the outset, because I believe that we need to bear in mind our own positions and their limitations, that I detached from the scene somewhat this year, at least in terms of physical presence. Which is ironic, I know, because I moved to Berlin just over a year ago. But due to a combination of factors, I barely went out at all. Part of that is the spoilt-for-choice effect that Berlin instills—there's simply so much going on that I find it easy to throw up my hands and simply stay in. Part of it is that I was studying German, 20 hours a week, beginning every morning at 8:30am, which significantly ate into my free time. (But the upside: I can now read the interviews in Groove! I'm afraid it's going to be a while before I can figure out De:Bug's reviews, however. And people call my writing dense!) Part of it has to do with being in an awesome relationship and being perfectly happy to spend a weekend night at home.

And, yes, part of it was a sense of boredom with club culture and its doppelganger, drug culture. While I used to be enamored of Berlin's 24-hour party culture, I'm beginning to see its drawbacks. Nights never peak; the music dribbles on, a secondary consideration to the all-important task of staying out and staying up. I don't mean to sound like a grumpy old man; frankly, I could use a proper debauch right about now. But as much as you may read about "late-morning tracks" in reviews or DJ feedback (and hell, I've used the conceit myself), sessions that run into the afternoon don't necessarily equate to better music.

In any case, this year I was more into records than scenes, more into tracks than sets. I played few gigs of my own this year (though I was lucky enough to get another Panorama booking, which was magical), and I definitely felt that my disconnection from clubbing hampered my own DJing, something I hope to rectify in 2010. (One of my new year's resolutions is to start going out on Sunday mornings. It's cheaper than all-nighting it, for starters.) On the other hand, I spent hours at home playing slower, weirder tracks that I wouldn't be likely to play out. I posted quite a few sets online and have many more similar projects in progress; basically, it's a re-orientation of my own spatial thinking, away from real-time, immediate presence and towards the virtual space of the internet (which is similar to what used to be called "radio").

I don't see why we can't have both. Last night I played the Moog, in Barcelona—almost certainly the place I've played more often in my life than any other (save San Francisco's Dalva bar, where I had a Sunday night residency for two years, and where the house rule was anything but house or techno). I brought a pretty uptempo bag, because the Moog crowds like it hard. And sure enough, over the course of the night, four people came up to me to ask, politely but firmly, that I up the tempo and the intensity. (Another woman asked for Phoenix's "Lisztomania," a rather out-of-context request, while another young man earnestly requested Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" by typing it out on his mobile, and clutched his breast rather dramatically when I told him I didn't have it.) The thing is, they were kind of right—it may have been 2:45am on a Monday night, but fuck it, at the Moog, that's no reason for the music to slow down or mellow out. Headfuck techno wouldn't have cut it, either; here, they like it big, riffy and ravy (also one of the specialties of the night's resident and my ex-housemate, Omar Leon). Hell, even Baby Ford and Eon's "Dead Eye" sounded inappropriately churning and psychedelic. But it gave me a chance to pull out Deetron and Quince's 2009 records on Music Man, and Mental Overdrive's fairly mental "Skanken", and Ben Klock's slightly less full-on Kerri Chandler remix (sorry, forget which one), tracks that I'm less inclined to pull out during my stony, introspective sessions at home. Everything has its place, and (to get around to making my point), part of a DJ's job is to listen to his or her audience and know when to take its advice. And I suspect that's part of a critic's job too—not just to listen to the music, but also to the listeners. Music's primary meanings are social, after all; you don't have to be a knee-jerk populist to remember that it's important to keep an ear on the populace.

Anyway, part of this admission is acknowledging the limits of my own perspective, which is something I wish more music critics and journalists would do. What's that Rumsfeld quote about the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns? I know enough to know that the world is swarming with the latter, and I'm leery of making too many definitive pronouncements based on my own limited view. There are only half a dozen great clubs in the world? That's poppycock. Not to get all sentimental, but for me, the Moog is absolutely one of the greatest places I've ever played or partied, no matter that it's far off most clubbers' maps, no matter that its programming is largely local. How many more places like it exist, that don't figure into our mental maps of the clubiverse? Scads, I'm sure—so I'm not going to write off the whole nightlife phenomenon on the basis of our exhaustion with some of clubbing's bigger brands. I've barely dipped into the world of proper underground parties in Berlin, but I get the sense that it's vast. Despite my own old-man moaning, I remain optimistic.

All that being said, I do wish there were more promoters with more adventurous programming—more mixing up of genres, more noise acts playing alongside techno DJs, more dubstep bookending deep house, more side-rooms, more sanctuaries. And more DJs willing to pull the rug out from under the clubbers' feet.

Having explored the dimensions of the room, I'm interested to see where we take this next. Back to you, Peter.

Philip aka "Sherbs"


  1. If you feel like there aren't good spaces for parties in places like Tokyo (I didn't know colors closed now too, that sucks) and would like earlier events (yes, i know, two comments from different people) why not take a page out of some of the other music scenes and throw d.i.y. events yourself. Have a ssg party (haha) at some small club or studio on sunday afternoon or evening where you only need 30-50 people to break even. I'm sure if you promoted it on here among other places you could get a good group of people who will all be into the tunes. Get locals to dj and have the goal of using any money made to save up enough to bring someone over.
    Looking forward to the next 3 sections!

  2. @ CT: beginning to plan the first ssg party, which will be in tokyo later this year...

  3. The best examples of it been done correctly in all my time clubbing are Corsica Studios in London (less so recently) and the Bunker in NY. The latter ticked all my boxes and blew my mind.

  4. great post by the way, and happy new year. J

  5. Do you guys feel, since your older, that the clubs back then were better just because you were younger? I watched this segment on the on TV about how we always perceive our childhood as being the most amazing time of our lives just because it was a simpler time.

    If I was to answer the above I would say the music and club experiences back then were far superior, even though I did not attend. I mean, cmon' Jeff Mills @ Liquid Room 1995? Fugetaboutit!

    I'm 20 y/o and I've never had a bad experience clubbing, just have better than normal club experiences from time to time. I would never decline an invite to go to a club if there was a decent DJ playing. Even if it is music I really don't listen too I'll go just for the experience.

    It might be because I'm fairly new to the scene (started listening to techno around 2004/5) and everything feels and sounds fresh to me. That being said I do agree with most of what was said in the post.

    Oh, and a ssg party would be fucking amazing. Put a little Dozzy in there, mix it in with some Function, perhaps add a little Levon Vincent for the house touch and your set.

  6. @ feroce: i think people definitely suffer a bit from thinking 'it was so much better back in the day'. i dont know. perhaps. there were certain things you used to that you simply cant to do now. i am thinking especially of underground parties, warehouse parties, things like that. they are still possible, but not nearly as easy as they used to be.

    one thing that has really changed for me as i have gotten older and been to more and more parties is that i have become more particular about space. i cannot handle crowded clubs anymore. no way. it is awful. the second there are too many people on a dancefloor i start struggling these days.

  7. Although I can easily agree with the problems raised here, I think it would be fair to consider some financial aspects as well. Like the sustainability of clubs, how to select a line-up (what this means in $$), and how to select your customers. I would say it is not easy. Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that club owners or promoters or anything should be important aspects, but probably they have a slightly different views (I am not one of them). Crowded is not good, people who definitely are not there for the music are not good, finding the balance is the club's responsibility, but still.

    I guess, I would look into solutions that combine daytime art$culture activities with night-time - or even daytime clubbing, EVENT/APPROACH based...I mean, seriously, if somebody is good in this field, it is not hard to come up with a concept that unifies a photo exhibition and a particular DJ, and "sell it" as a concept-event. Or maybe I am completely off, and these events can suck big-time :)

  8. What an interesting post. There is so much I would like to say I could write a small novel. I’m not very good with words though, so to touch on just a couple of points which will hopefully add something positive to the debate…..

    1. Space: balance

    From the perspective of a Londoner, for me the problem with the current club space is a lack of balance. It’s either full of people that don’t even know who’s playing (think T-Bar vs Scuba) or 95% male techno-heads who don’t appear to be enjoying themselves (think Corsica vs Some of the Best Acts in Techno) (for the record, I love Corsica and hugely appreciate the efforts of Plex and Bleep43 for bringing the goods to London).

    The balance has to be right: a good mix of heads and newbies, guys and girls, house & techno (& any other interesting new derivatives); not too many, not too few. A difficult combination I know, but we’re striving for utopia right?!

    I put on a party for mine and a friend’s birthday at a private venue on Brick Lane this year. It was so refreshing to have control over every little detail: location, sounds, numbers, vibe, people. I put it on in the day, which straight away made for something wholly more accessible. I’m getting to an age where some friends who are exactly the kind of people clubs need inside them are put off by the fact that they have to be out from 1am to 7am to see any decent acts.

    My birthday party space was one of the best I’ve ever found because the mix was mine to make. But obviously everyone’s ideal mix is different, so in the public domain keeping everyone happy is obviously hard.

    Ultimately you can add all the key ingredients: sounds, venue, fair security, fair prices, but the one thing out of the control of nearly all promoters is the people. And as much as I hate THAT door policy, the selection of people is exactly why it works so well in my opinion; and also why I enjoyed my party so much.

    You can have the best dj on in the world, but put too many people in a room, and let too many twats in, and the night is over for me.

    The problem is that promoters in London cannot be selective, there simply isn’t the necessary demand for spaces in the clubs at underground techno nights in London, and as such the finances wouldn’t add up if turned punters away for not knowing who's playing.

    So what’s the solution? Well going back to throwing your own private party with invites only is something I think works pretty well. I’m not saying it has to be some exclusive shit, I’m no elitist. Just be nice to know that everyone there is likeminded and there for the same sound and sharing the same interests. If this online space could be reflected in the real world, you just know it would be a good experience. So that Mnml ssgs party in Tokyo...quality idea.

  9. 2. Playing to the crowd

    Off topic a bit but touching on ‘Sherbs’ point about a dj’s duty to play to the crowd.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot today. I would much prefer a dj to play what he/she wants to hear. For all those people coming up to you asking for a different record there could have been another person thinking, ‘hey this shit is great!’

    It reminds of Peter Hook’s book about the Hacienda, when he commented on resident dj Hewan Clarke playing soul and funk to a punk audience. I quote:

    “It was a musical policy encouraged by (Tony) Wilson; indeed, Clarke recalls Wilson telling him that black music was going to be the next commercial dance music, even as the newly opened Hacienda began to fill with curious punks & Goths, who were expecting a continuation of the Factory nights at the PSV. ‘Mohicans and everything’, remembers Clarke, who became paranoid when none of the punks would dance to the usual funky black tunes guaranteed to fill the floor at the Reno. ‘Tony would come into the box saying, “Wonderful, keep it up darling”, and I’m thinking, ‘but nobody’s dancing.’ They would though. Given time.”

    I have lots of respect for the approach that Tony Wilson employed (although admittedly it did play it’s part in the Hacienda being a complete financial fuck up!)

    Anyway, this post is far too long., soz.

    All the best ssgs. Really great to read the views of 4 people whose opinions I respect so much, all in one place.

  10. @ Feroce: it's definitely true what you say about the tendency to romanticise 'the good old days'. Of course, there were plenty of lousy clubs back then too, which, to me, as an eighteen year old, didn't seem as glaringly lousy to me then as they would now.

    But nonetheless, if you look at the overall ten year trend, I would say that the momentum that came out of the rave scene and filled the clubs has exhausted most of its creative potential.

    The spaces with potential are almost anywhere else BUT the nightclub, for all the reasons ranted.

    @ jonny p: so, so true on the balance thing. I think that it's a matter of cultivating a certain scene by offering a kind of 'recognition' that, if received by numbers of people, takes hold. Ie, treat people like respected, respectful adults, and large numbers of them will interpolate accordingly, until you've built a scene on/by/for respectful adults.

    If you treat people like rude punters, they treat you back the same with interest (that, and those that aren't rude punters get browned off and don't come back, while the other rude punters who had a good, rude time, tell all their mates... etc... )

    Then there is the matter of 'Joe Public' - ssgs got a few emails when we closed the comments to unregistered users. Trouble was our gesture of openness was routinely being exploited by motherfucking trolls. With anon turned off, it's not like we don't get enough comments. We just get the quality people who want to engage (thank you all, always), and fewer trolls. Everyone's happy (except the trolls!)

    ...the underside of this is: what happens to openness?

    But/and if you think of it in terms of hospitality, I could say that 'we' (the regular attendees) were both partygoers and hosts, and our hospitality was being abused... even on that level, whether I think of the blog as a kind of deterritorialised agora or a house or club of our own, this already changes things, no?

    In another context: you start a book club, an asshole joins it and derails the conversations. What do you do?

  11. I understand the need for balance, and agree. But whilst reading the post I could not shake the feeling, that we are the minority, I don't think there is enough of us to ensure the right space. Have we forgotten the RA end year charts already? As such, I think we are always doomed to feel isolated and irritated.

    The post mentioned the fact that this site is frequented by people hailing from all over the world. Now obviously that's positive, but looked at differently you could say it indicates our sparseness; each one of us a lone voice in some backwater rut hole. If you guys decide to take your club night on tour, be sure to stop by Plymouth, I can guarantee the space you so long for for.

    @jonnyp. You mention London, and whilst I had many a good night their, I have to say I was deeply unimpressed by that city in the end. The biggest problem I found with London (beside the price), was the lack of loyalty to the city amongst the people. I think this has had quite a detrimental effect on clubs. I imagine, where a city or town has a strong identity and unity amongst it's people, underground movements and clubs will flourish.

    I agree with your thoughts on DJ's. I want no crowd panderers, I want my DJ's to be anonymous tyrants. I say anonymous referring to Todd's words about performers. Whilst performers are good, I hope GOOD techno and house remains distinct from other genres, by ensuring the focal point is the music not the person on stage.

  12. @ oliver: re: sparseness. valid point, but i think you'd be surprised how many people read this blog and share the passion, without feeling a need to leave comments. as CT suggested, less than 100 peeps. we wouldnt be looking to fill Matter.

    anyway, it's the ssgs' party to throw not mine...but if this ever branched to london i would be more than willing to contribute time and money to making things work. be good to give something back.

    re: london. i think i will refrain from commenting on your criticism. i am london born and bred and as such my view is completely subjective. best city in the world ;-) (although to imply that underground movements do not flourish in london is a little naive. sorry i'm getting defensive already!)

  13. @chris: that is awesome! I hope I am in town when it happens!

  14. @ oliver: fair point about sparse-ness. our most hits come from the US, but chances are they are spread out right across the country... but i think one of the points i was trying to make is that there are opportunities to overcome being stuck in the techno wilderness, and for me mnml ssgs has been a big vehicle for that. yes, i've travelled round a fair bit, but shit, i live 5 hours from london, in deep dark wales. there aint much techno there, i promise...

    and i've never ever thought about putting on a party until recently, but i think it is something i'd like to try doing and put on some parties with people i really believe in. still at the very early stages, but planning has commenced. of course, the ssgs will be the first to know.

  15. @chris, I can only envisage the mnml ssgs club night as being a success of some sort, I just wish I could be there to support.

    @jonnyp, please be defensive, it is your city to defend. What I say is just my experience, and how I felt whilst I lived there. There are examples of the opposite, Brick Lane on a Sunday was always uplifting. On the whole though, I struggled to find a scene beyond the big clubs. I always got the impression space was locked down, prices too high for those who want to make things happen. Isn't Berlin's cultural progress due to the fact it is financially forgiving to precisely the type of people London prohibits?

    I did not meet many born and bred Londoners like yourself (and my family), just lots of professionals and those there for some other purpose beyond simply existing. I admit, perhaps I am being naive.

    A few years back the T Bar was a real breathe of fresh air, I did not care too much about the crowd (which had a nice blend then), I was just so impressed with the lack of cover charge, relatively cheap drinks and really good music. Corsica came about just after I left, but other than that decent venues seemed truly few and far between. In a city that big, what's going on? Perhaps it is up to people like yourself to use mediums such as this blog, to bring people in from the Techno wilderness, as Chris suggests is possible.

    (forgive the Polemic, I just wanted more from London)

  16. this feature gave me butterflies as i read it. great takes from educated angles on this first reflection.
    i can say first hand that i am so thankful to be living in denver right now, because there is an amazing force really cementing itself in the techno/house community at the moment. there have been people quite in the know here for ages, different crews, doing different underground and club events, but always supporting each other.
    at the moment, there are at least 2-4 underground events held a month, that are at quality spaces (lofts, warehouses, mountain parties in the summer, etc), with sophisticated, in the know attendees and an amazing wealth of local talent.
    the key to the success here, in my opinion, breaks down to simple
    we are doing good things out of the want and love to do them...not the need to. and i think its an important point in the shallow, jadedness that this culture can be at times. maybe because i'm getting older as well, but i cannot do crowded, way too loud, wasted kids, commercial music clubs anymore.
    give me a room with 50 heads, good sound and good music...and thats the party your buzzing off of the week after.
    on a recent wolf + lamb radio show, gadi talks of how the marcy hotel came about and how it is SO MUCH MORE EASIER than people think it is to get a loft space and throw small DIY parties.
    but again it starts w/ the priorities in the first place.
    most of these parties end up in loss financially, breaking even or remotely close to it is a win...but the real win is collaborating w/ like minded people and creating those magical techno moments on a semi regular basis. and doing it out of more positive motivations like community, sharing, integrity, passion for good music than making money, doing drugs, posing, or hating.
    it is special when its good and i think more good can happen if people be more real about it...real special.

    looking fwd to the next installment, thanks a lot guys.

  17. @ Steven: it's true, love is totally under-rated (mostly 'cos people are so sentimental at heart, and get embarrassed talking 'to the heart of the matter'.

    I think that we have to acknowledge that a 'business model' is a good way of shaping... business! And orienting things toward turnover, profits, bums on seats, promo, crossover, profits, etc....

    ...but it is not necessarily the most appropriate model for doing creative work intended to be presented by and for social beings... changes everything, as they say...

    ...perhaps the model of no profit, and low risk, no profit, or even mild loss parties in one-off locations is a better way of doing things than a week-in, month-out, regular, habitual fixture that a whole assembly of people become dependent on in order to feed their dependents and their dependence.

    ...nightclubs are businesses, after all.

    And most professional DJs have come to see themselves as laptop entrepreneurs.

    I think the era we've just lived through have forced us to think this way about ourselves (now that people who work with the disabled refer to the people they care for as 'clients')'s a pretty impoverished form of human subjectivity, where freedom is just the freedom to consume and the only rights that are really sacred are the rights to profit and private property.

    ...on some level though it seems that lots of people have grasped this and are looking for new ways of co-operating, collaborating, associating with each other beyond the 'user/client' model...

    ...but then again, there is a spectre haunting 'free' culture, too, as Matteo Pasquinelli has explored. Link here for the curious:

  18. Or you can DL Pasquinelli's intro, here:

  19. @ Oliver: yes the london scene has certainly changed for the worse over the last few years. no argument there. past gems became victims of high prices or were bulldozed to make way for major construction projects. many of the key spaces have disappeared without replacement. prices are still too high, regulation is overly prohibitive. public space is shrinking and the opportunity for culture to develop autonomously is in decline as a consequence. it’s all rather depressing really. but the stream of creative talent always looking to evolve the electronic sound is incessant, and that is something london can be proud of.

    We're lacking a couple more small clubs which play decent electronic music every weekend. i can see things getting better once this recession buggers off and finance becomes available again - people with a vision might start investing again.

    re: berlin being financially forgiving and therefore allowing cultural progress. Yes I agree there; similar circumstances apply to the movement of artists within london, previously centred around shoreditch, now moving towards hackney where rents are lower.

    but london and berlin are at completely different levels of economic development, and the current music scene in berlin is the result of a very unique set of circumstances which london is never going to have. There is little chance of prices going down, cheap space becoming available and subsidies being provided by the government to support the scene. so I think that looking to berlin for answers to the problem is a bit useless. London needs to work itself out.

    re: the scene beyond the clubs. many great nights i've had in london have been outside of the clubs in temporary spaces. ive been to berlin a few times and haven't seen much beyond the clubs either. I guess you need to live in a city a while before you starting digging a bit deeper.

    re: our lack of loyalty to london......hmmm. i actually don’t know what loyalty to a city constitutes? I enjoy living here (but have days when I hate it), work hard here, I pay my taxes, I make people feel welcome, encourage people to come. Is this loyalty? Could I see myself living elsewhere, yes. I don’t go around with an I <3 London t-shirt on but I do love the place.

    Going forward I hope that the scene becomes more polycentric again, with new cities taking some of the focus away from berlin. I think artists living in different places, enjoying different cultures, would result in a more varied sound.

  20. @jonnyp, yep different sounds always welcome and Berlin's needs freshening up in my opinion.

    Whilst that city's financial circumstances are different, it does show us the conditions under which good art can be made. I am not sure it's fair to say that London could not learn from them, after all it was policy that helped improve Berlin's scene. Whether London wants to is different question.

    The creative talent will be there like you say, it's whether it is being helped or hindered.

    I guess the word "loyalty" may seem a little ambiguous, but it is the word I use for just your average city person. Sometimes born bred, sometimes not, but usually they are just existing in a place without much purpose beyond that. I'd imagine the type of person I am talking about has found themselves pushed further and further into the zones (like hackney and beyond).

  21. i have been slowly introducing myself to this dance music 'scene' over the course of the past few years and have consistently been rewarded from my time spent in these 'spaces', created, for those who want to share in an experience.

    i have been lucky enough to live so close to NYC that the clubs have always given me glowing experiences. now, it could just be the fact that I have seen so little that it is all so fresh to me, but even with the potential influx of those not there 'for the music', there has been (from what i have observed) an overwhelming amount of people supporting it, keeping it alive, allowing it to 'flourish'.

    when these events start to become overly-controlled, there is something lost, whether it be spontaneity, or a sort of 'realness', there is definitely a loss of something that occurs when things become 'too' exclusive and/or controlled...

    not to say that it wouldn't be great to attend an event that reflects the discourse ('vibe') of those who post here...that would be spectacular in fact. but as far as 'openness' is concerned, when too many variables are controlled, there leaves little room for things to 'go wrong', but there also is less room for things to 'get real'..

    perfect nights are never really perfect, and the problems that plague some spaces are just part of the realness of the sitution, a sort of realness that needs to be represented in order for the music to have any truth to it. i don't wanna go to a club and be given some 'perfect club experience'. i'd take maybe a large crowd, a douchebag here or there, an overzealous bouncer, etc...i'd take that over something that feels 'set up' to me. it's the randomness of the music and the experience that i am attracted to, and when too many variables are controlled, the randomness is put aside, and for what? better this, better that? sure, i want space to dance. sure, i don't want a drug-fueled macho-fest, but the music will find its way out of those situations, the music will escape, delineate, and then be an escape for those of us like myself...and that's what i love about it.

  22. re: sparse space

    when steve lwe and i put on our first monthly parties, more often than not we'd have been better served to broadcast from my studio than to book a club. we're a heady diaspora each with different views, as evidenced by the post. i don't know if that case study reinforces the possibilities of pc's point #3 or the negatives of almost every other point, or both.

    one of the more apparent benefits of that possibility, though, is the club mix. i've learned more about programming and 'vibes' of clubs from around the globe thanks to mediafire and megaupload. garito cafe in mallorca, spain is one of these places that i've put on my long-term travel plans, if only for the fact that i've been able to hear several great mixes from the space and have been able to check out their website (where the menu looks just as tantalizing as the dj lineup). point being there are a slew of minor berghains out there - obviously the physical space and metaphysical draw of berghain is relatively unmatched, but the global myth of other spaces can be just as vital thanks to the web.

  23. @ feroce and others regarding the good ol days...

    firstly - some personal context: I make every effort to avoid nostalgia, I regard nostalgia as something close to evil. And I have been around a long time, I started clubbing to disco in the 70s, experienced all of the 80s and all of the 90s. I wasn't that young in the 90s.

    I think the late 80s and the 90s was actually a special time in dance music culture. It was new, fresh, naieive, optimistic and solely a subcultural underground.

    Since the loss of innocence in 2001 and the increasing speeed of everything, I wonder if our culture even allows for those same feelings.

    We still essentially listen to that late 80s and 90s sound, the same structures and motifs. It's 20 years old now. In 1990 20 year old music was irrelevant.

    I see so many younger people trying to recreate the innocence, going to great lengths to recreate the sense of discovery, and then validating their discovery by letting everyone know how much fun it was on the internet (and in doing so maybe collapsing the actuality of it).

    Something much bigger is afoot here.


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