Posted by: martinworster | March 29, 2011


I don’t even mind trance music…

I like trance music. There I said it. I like trance. I was listening to the radio the other day. Actually House FM via my iPhone and on came Gouryella. It transported me back to the late 90s when progressive trance was very popular. I was a music journalist at the time. A lot of people (musos, journos, punters) were quite sneering of trance. And in many ways quite rightly so. It is very forumlaic (isn’t all music, apart from modal jazz?). It can be cheesy. There are many other criticisms you can throw at it. However, trance really does make sense in it’s context – a club. I’ve seen four thousand people jumping in unison, hands-in-the-air, at Amnesia in Ibiza to DJ superstar Tiesto. The arpeggiating synth lines, bouncy basslines, rolling snare builds, extended spacey pad and female breakdown vocals – they all make total sense. Music is all about connecting with people – and this music was totally connecting with these people.

I’d see similar scenes up and down the country in the mid to late 90s at various clubs. Oakenfold at Home in London. Armin Van Burren at Gatecrasher in Sheffield. Similar scenes of Uplifting Euphoria IV on pink double CD at various outdoor festivals and ‘raves’. I was – of course – never part of the scene. Painting my face with fluoro paints, sucking a dummy, waving light sticks and boshing Mitusbishis. I’d leave that to the caners. But I was an interested observer.

My point is I don’t like musical snobbery. I think most music has a value and context – perhaps, except for mainstream country. Alt-country I can take. Mainstream country with it’s parochial concerns and basic three chord variations can very much leave. Also, whilst I’m at it, I never really got ’emo’ – probably because I am a couple of generations out of the target demographic. So I guess I’m not really understanding the context here – teen angst, unrequited love etc.

Sometimes listening to music it can feel like I’m the victim of some big marketing campaign. I am a particular age and sex, I read certain magazines and blogs with specific reviews telling me what music I should like. Which I in turn will probably go out and buy. Then there’s the peer group thing – less so now I’m out of my twenties – but you hang around with a group of people who are also into similar things and will turn you onto certain music. At various points in your life music will speak to you and your concerns. Which is why I feel a distance from indie schwindie upstarts – what does a spotty 20 year old bloke from Sheffield really have to say to me and my life? Nothing. So I have to start listening to more ‘dad rock’ acts like Paul Weller and Elbow. Or get into jazz. Maybe classical but that will probably come in my early fifities – demographically speaking.

So particularly as a youth – late teens and twenties – you aggressively listen to probably only one or two types of music. What music you listen to can define your whole look and world view. Goth, metal, emo, ragga, punk, indie, drum and bass, dub step – these musical tribes are so well defined that where you hang out, drink, buy records, how you look can all be accurately mapped. Growing up all I listened to was dance music, particularly electronica (house, hardcore, proto-jungle, techno, NY garage), so that most of the big non-dancey acts and albums of the 90s I’ve had to retrospectively get into. Clubbing a lot also affected how I listen to music. I don’t really listen to lyrics – I go more for the overall atmospherics and emotional textures created by the sounds. 

Amongst a lot of music consumers a certain elitism prevails. Hipsters, trendies, scenesters, early adopters, bores…call them what you like. The cachet of discovering a band before the masses catch on. Seeing early gigs ahead of the pack, so you can boast about it once that band has crossed over. To ‘cross over’ – a band reaches saturation point with the trendies and the mainstream catches on and commercial success and chart domination prevails. Act then to be quickly jettisoned by trendies. Kings Of Leon spring to mind as a band who have recently and very dramatically followed this well worn curve.

As I enter my late thirties I still love dance music. But my tastes have definitely matured away from straight up 4 / 4 house music. Boom boom boom boom. I still like a bit of that but I am definitely discovering classic dance music – disco, rare groove, funk, soul, reggae, dub, classic R&B, Northern Soul and of course the re-edits of all these songs that are now very popular. Live instrumentation and classic song arrangements, more of a musician’s appreciation of musical output. Rather than getting off on the labours of some spotty teen running loops in Logic. So getting into music that was mostly made in the 60s and 70s is also quite predictable demographically speaking. I no longer, read Mixmag. More Mojo. My metabolism has probably slightly slowed down. On nights out I don’t stand in the same spot for hours jacking and gurning. House music all night long. Say what? No.

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