Music

When Genres Go Bust (Reprise)

WHEN GENRES GO BUST (THE CHANGING MUSICAL TIDES)

This piece was originally published a year ago today in October 2014.

2003 - 2007. This was a formative era for me as a DJ, if less so as a musician. Let me explain why.

I’d already been DJ'ing for 13 years by the time 2003 came round, and from the first time I picked up a piece of black plastic (just as the first time I picked up a musical instrument). I didn’t see genres as a limitation, as a border, as a confine. I saw music - good, bad, indifferent.

During that period, there were four primary sounds that interested me as a DJ, and they were four separate sounds that converged to meet in a supremely happy melting pot of styles, known by some as Tech-Funk.

There was the world of Electro House, back then a nascent scene epitomised for me by the likes of D Ramirezand his fully beefed up chunky drums, and stone cold epic funky buzzsaw basses.

There was the world of Techno, epitomised by the likes ofDusty Kid … fast-paced and at times furious, but a maelstrom of peaks, of builds, of intensity.

There was the world of House Music, impeccably and unceremoniously destroyed and re-constituted by the likes of Switch into new, shape-defying and logic-defying forms.

Finally there was Breaks and a healthy output of music that had House Music as it’s beating heart as opposed to the super-heavy tearout and funky sounds that prevailed in other areas of the genre.

The upshot was convergence. All four genres bought something different to a beautiful melting pot, a rich and varied smorgasbord for any DJ willing to ignore the confines of genre stereo-typing … and for me, it was a perfect and open-minded era. I remember opening my sets at a number of festivals in Australia with Dusty Kid's epic ‘Adyra’ and absolutely destroying people’s pre-conceptions in doing so. These different styles dove-tailed beautifully as they variously shared sound palettes, tempo, groove and perhaps most importantly of all, energy.

Here’s one of my many Strongarm Sessions from the era to demonstrate this blend of styles …..

STRONGARM SESSIONS XMAS SPECIAL 10 JAN 2006

So … fast forward 2014, and the complete eradication of that convergence. Since probably 2008 all of the aforementioned genres have undergone a fairly rapid and radical divergence from one another. (You may choose to disagree with these opinions. That’s fine by me.)

With exceptions of course, Techno has largely become more groove-infused, slower, more compulsive and with fewer seismic drops. Layers rather than impact moments have become the order of the day, but as ever it remains a broad, diverse, challenging world of sound and rhythm.

House Music has diversified (as it always has done), taking on board garage-tinged basslines in some quarters, but becoming a less radicalised & high energy form than in the almost punky subversions of the Switch era.

Electro House has seen the most seismic shifts, adopting a ferocious post-Wolfgang Gartner sound palette and adopting a gonzoid approach to it’s new stadium-sized audiences. The music has undergone an almost complete commercialisation, an extreme dumbing down to it’s most soulless and abrasive form.

Breaks has become dominated on the one hand by booty bass, accelerated tempos, misogynist lyircs and the sound of car alarms mating. On the other hand Psy-Trance has become an unlikely bedfellow with a whole subculture of super-fast and overly programmed noodling. On the third hand, the hard & heavy dubstep-electro palette has become a staple of many breaks tunes. 

In short, that beautiful convergent eclecticism that played ball so damned nicely, has become a wildly flailing octopus having a panic attack in a crowded retail park whilst wearing rubber gloves embedded with razor blades.It’s carnage out there people.

So … when people occasionally ask and wonder why I no longer draw down from the rich and diverse range of styles in the way I was once able to do, the answer is simple … it is no longer possible to FLUIDLY blend those different genres (assuming that I actually liked them all in 2014, which I clearly don’t).

I want my dancefloors to be carried along the ceiling on a wave of euphoria .. I want my dancefloors to be enraptured by range and depth and hypnotised by the blend … I want people to feel the music, to touch it’s soul. I want to reach deep inside myself when I play. I want people to lose themselves in it and I want to feel that emotional connection.

A lush new piece of music ... in exchange for a virtuous act

I love the connections I've built with people over the years...  from those divine Playa Sunrises to hosting a miniature festival at my Home; from the gathering of souls at the annual Boat Party, to the Strongarm Sessions through which I've made so many lifelong friends; from the feeling you get when someone plays your own new release on the dancefloor you are on, to the spectacular unity of spirit that comes from completing a 7-hour set.

There is a warmth and a soulfulness that flows through moments like those that bring people together, that feeds our souls, that is 'special' to us, and through these experiences memories are made, and friendships are built.

Recently I've been working on a lot of new music, and looking at how soulless much of the 'industry' has become when it comes to getting the music into people's lives. Physical products are rare, and their absence denies us that journey into the analogue domain to seek out an artist's work, and then own that work for ourselves. In doing so, we used to to feel a sense of commitment ... we used to feel that we had earned and invested in our artists, and we had stories to tell about 'the time we bought that album' and the journey that came with it. We still have that to an extent in the live arena, but I would like to propose a little experiment today that I am hoping as many of you as possible will join forces with me and take part in.

I would like to share a lush new piece of music with you, in return for a virtuous act. 

This could take any number of forms (and I'd encourage you to use your imagination), but here are a couple of ideas that might get you started.

  • reaching out & helping a stranger in need
  • telling someone you rarely speak to that you love them
  • speaking to an old friend you've fallen out of touch with
  • picking up a bunch of litter from your neighbourhood, and binning it

I'm sure you get the gist.

What I would then love you to do is just email me at simon@simonshackleton.org and tell me what you did, however briefly, with My Story in the Subject Line of the email. 

I would then love to share some of those stories with people on here (anonymously). On receiving your email I will send you a deep and dubby remix of 'We All Shine On', with oceans of space for soulful slabs of reverb, dizzy delays and super subsonic bass throbs. I will also send you a secret streaming link to 3 tracks from my forthcoming album, which I would love to hear your thoughts on.

All the love ... Simon