Perhaps I need a late pass on this one, but I’m loving this sub genre of techno that the kids are calling Minimal. I always troll the DJ download site Discobelle to try and learn about dance mindedness in other parts of the world. Lately I, like others, have been turned off by the sameyness that has been coming out of what has been dubbed the “blog house” scene, and have generally been skipping a lot of the posts up there. Producers are using the same beat patterns, same synth sounds, same vocal samples, which to me always just seem a little too agressive, and not in the orignal Baltimore/Baile Funk kind of way, which I do really enjoy. But, with any style of music if you dig deep enough, you can find gems.
What has got me flipped is a mix by DJ downtown, which I have listened to 5 or 6 times the last couple of days already. There was a mix by Marflix posted on Cyan Wait blogspot a while back that was on repeat during my BART commute for awhile as well. Maybe it’s my German side coming out. Or maybe influence from my days in Midwest record shops absorbing the Techno vibes through the dusty vinyl.
I’m still trying to pinpoint why this music hits me so. A lot of the productions I’ve heard from similar songs perhaps sound too European, too mentally aggressive, too, “I’m gonna come conquer you and take your land and resources.” But this one is laid back, the synths aren’t harsh, they bounce along in familiar African Diasporic rhythms whether intentional or not. Sometimes the arpeggiator sounds like a Louie Armstrong solo, weaving between the bass and drums, making you create rhythmic patterns in your head that aren’t really there. To me, the beauty in Minimalism is in the implication of what is absent. It leaves room for individual interpretation (especially in dance style.)
It seems I’m not the only one having a week of discovery. The generally funny Dr. Prancehall, one of my favorite music writers has reviewed Coupe Decale for the Guardian. In it he expresses some dissatisfaction with the music calling it out of date, and perhaps implying that it was actually too African. I’ve heard similar criticism from another of my favorite writer DJ’s, Dr. Stats, and also from my brother, who when he was a travel agent said that the number one complaint tourists to Jamaica had, was dealing with Jamaicans. Initially I react negatively to these sorts of criticisms, but now I’m welcoming them. A friend told me recently that I “have Africa on the brain… next time I come visit you your going to be in the African bush somewhere in a village telling people to not wear Western clothes.”
I’m not completely traditional minded, I actually think of myself as a modern forward thinking progressive. I believe in mixing the roots with the technological advance. So as evidence of my kind of past/future minded thinking, I would like to link to some tracks I did, which are now available for download at WFMU, (shout to Dylan and Rupture.) They have featured me in their free music archive in a profile about wha gwan in SF bay area. Check the track Techno Rumba, a sign of my African-German roots.
And here is a video of someone practicing a minimal set I found an the tube: