Decade in Review : Techno0
Wrestling with the spotlight.
Putting aside the arbitrary choice of a calendar date as a turning point in the evolution of anything, I cannot fail to notice that the start of this decade marked a definitive turnaround.
The ‘90s definitely shaped dance music as we know it now, widening its creative spectrum, spawning strong independent labels and distribution networks, spreading its influence into other styles of music.
Techno progressed quickly - from a distant dream in the heart of Motown to a well-hidden secret of the European underground and then further: growing into an innovative global movement with more facets than a mirror ball, but still managing to avoid most of the industry’s commercial traps and pitfalls. By the end of the century, techno was in a pretty good place.
As the decade progressed, so did predictability and clichés
The new century brought several issues, and saw the genre move (uncomfortably?) into the spotlight. The cross-breeding with ‘electro’ undoubtedly added impetus and energy. Techno and electro DJs, still doing what they always did, saw their diaries expand. But the attention did not suit everyone – as the decade progressed, so did predictability and clichés.
Techno became more familiar, perhaps too easy – cancelling the axiom defining it as unclassifiable machine music. Some artists happily gave up their anonymity (another axiomatic prerequisite); some became superstars; some just lost it. Labels splinters, distributors crashed. Change was required.
Next : more thoughts from Nightlight, plus his top five albums and singles...
Minimal inflicted serious damage on many producers' validity (but not their bank balances).
We may distinguish two distinct evolutionary currents in our history thereof. The first, the natural one was the urge to mix styles, to combine elements from different cultures and revitalize the genre. Either like a collage - retaining the various pieces of the puzzle yet recombining them in different ways (the mash-up movement as a memorable peak or the mix-up-massacre of the Britain's ‘nu-rave’ and France’s electro scenes) or by creating complex hybrids, merging styles into a new paradigm that would often surpass its initial influence in creativity and acceptance.
Secondly, we observe certain practices pointing towards monopolies. Toward the end of the decade, the domination of ‘minimal’ (as a style) and affiliated genres, where a commercially or aesthetically successful norm is repeated again and again and again (ad nauseum), inflicted serious damage on many producers’ validity (but not their bank balances).
Many labels - and even whole cities - homogenized their releases and turned themselves into unimaginative jukeboxes
Similarly many labels - and even whole cities - fell into the same trap: by trying to establish their ‘sound’ they homogenized their releases and turned themselves into unimaginative jukeboxes (for audiences who will quit on them when the fad is really over). The download-based, multi-corporation-supported distribution system that currently runs the game did little to help this.
I feel we’re approaching a(nother) turning point; where the music industry will have to decide who it is going to support for real. The artists, or the ones making money off them? The ghosts or the Machine? There are no easy choices anymore. Names weren’t mentioned intentionally. You know them anyway.
Next: Nightlight's top five albums, singles and more...
(I mostly went for the stand-alone work of art, the complete album experience, instead of the all-hits mix compilation kind of thing. I also left out all reissues, re-edits and revamps of any kind for the obvious reasons.)
Luomo ‘Vocalcity’ [Force Tracks] (2000)
The decade gets a kick-start. Nothing less than a masterpiece, it redefined deep dance music and also made it accessible to non-clubbers.
Rhythm & Sound ‘With The Artists’ [Burial Mix] (2003)
Making history once again. More dub than club, still a milestone. Its influence can be heard in the zillions of dub tech releases all around, yet nothing comes close.
Trentemøller ‘The Last Resort’ [Poker Flat] (2006)
The perfect example of how a ‘club hits’ producer may still deviate from the norm and be commercially successful while retaining his or her musicality.
Henrik Schwarz ‘Live’ [!K7] (2007)
A crossover, all-blending proposition by one of the brightest producers and remixers of our time, paying his respects to the past while pointing to the future.
DJ Sprinkles ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ [Mule Musiq] (2009)
Up to now, the last great album of the decade. Infinite deepness, urban landscapes, serious point of view.
Next : Nightlight's top five tracks and more...
Tracks that never lost their appeal, ever.
Lucien-n-Luciano - Madre, Mother & Mère (2004)
A simple, sentimental song of immaculate beauty.
Jürgen Paape - So Weit Wei Noch Nie (2002)
The sweetest thing to come out of Cologne. Heavenly.
Âme – Rej (2006)
The most introvert massive club hit of all time.
Mutron - Hologramized Memories (2004)
Winner of the Blade Runner Award for artificial intelligence emulating sentiments.
And a double-pack:
DK7 – The Difference (2003) and Derrick Carter – Where U At (2002)
For the lyrics.
Next : Nightlight's top five labels and more...
For helping techno, trance, minimalism and the concept of the dance label to evolve and take new forms. Pop culture at its best form.
International Deejay Gigolo Records
For giving in to their fixations and for standing for them.
For broadening clubland’s musical horizons by promoting crucial, innovative efforts and genre-shaping hits with consistency and grace.
For the mind-bending compilations, the history lessons, as well as for re-establishing heavy disco in our conscience.
The Hardwax cluster of labels
For their releases, for creating and promoting tons of experimental bass-heavy efforts, for republishing older classics… just for being there actually.
Next : Nightlight's Hero and Villain of the decade...
The DJ and the dancer
The archetypal figures; the one behind the decks, the other dancing next to you. The ones you occasionally talk to, but when you see them next time at that other place you won’t remember their names.
Drowning our releases in a sea of e1.99 downloads; pushing for boring digital-exclusives; fixing charts; choosing consumerism and over-production instead of quality; keeping half of the money the customers pay anyway; that’s not what I have in mind as service.