Is dance music really "a walk in the park"?

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Over the next five Fridays, inthemix will be getting involved with a series of hot-topic debates. Each week we’ll chew over topics ranging from the state of weekly clubbing to where trance is at in 2012, with prizes for getting involved in the debate. All this is powered by Hyundai Veloster, and of course the need to stay entertained on Fridays. Here’s the first in the five-part series.

If you care to trawl through 11 years of inthemix editorial (don’t; get some sun instead), you won’t find much mention of the name Noel Gallagher. Despite the occasional hook-up with electronic titans like Goldie and The Chemical Brothers, the former Oasis co-anchor rarely raises a blip on our radar. In October 2011, however, Noel Gallagher made it to the ITM homepage with some eyebrow-raising comments about the current state of dance music.

“There’s too much shit now,” he mused in a video interview. “I had a house in Ibiza for 12 years, and you could just feel the change one year. From nobody knowing what they were doing with these machines, to somebody mastering it and the machine makers making it easier for people to use. Dance music sounds like a walk in the park now. Any fucker can do it – and quite frankly, every fucker is doing it. Back in the late ‘80s, songs like Pacific State, Voodoo Ray and Strings Of Life were just amazing pieces of music.”

Naturally, Noel Gallagher isn’t who we’d consider an authority on dance music, but our curiosity was sparked less by his comments than by the response to his comments on inthemix and beyond. For all the people giving Noel the back-hand, many others conceded that the man’s got a point. Maybe making dance music these days – and even achieving a level of commercial success with that music – is too easy, too formula-driven, too cut-and-paste. In other words: interesting argument, wrong mouthpiece.

Someone whose opinion does hold weight around these parts is house original Francois K, who foreshadowed Gallagher’s comments when we interviewed him in 2010. “When I look back at the ‘90s, it was a time when bedroom studios were not so prevalent,” he said. “In those days, they were spending quite a bit of money in recording studios. Today there’s 100,000 bedroom producers trying to make that magic track that becomes number one on Beatport. They’re basically all sampling the results of those expensive recording sessions that they can’t afford to do themselves for the most part. A lot of people are taking what was expensive to make so that they in turn can make it very cheaply.”

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mocha66

mocha66 said on the 6th Jan, 2012

Noel does have a valid point; dance music is completely saturated right now. But it’s no different from the 80s when every kid picked up a guitar and started a band in an attempt to live the dream. All it takes now is for a kid to invest about $1000 and watch a few tutorials on youtube on “how to make their favourite artists sound” and they think they can produce. Sure they might crack the top 100 on Beatport or get a few followers on soundcloud but what next? It takes originality and perseverance in order to establish a career as a legit EDM producer.

Madeon is a good example of someone who gained recognition from the scene from his insane remixes of pendulum and deadmau5. Only reason being is his sound is original and sophisticated. His productions are on another level and one of the hardest to replicate, very reminiscent of daft punk.

Skrillex is another example who exploded last year simply because his productions are original. Giving dubstep the melody, filth, structure and credibility it deserved and establishing it as a valid genre.

Everyone is in it for the wrong reasons. Kids just want the fame and glory and start imitating their favourite artists and as a result the music is becoming watered down, dull versions of popular artists. If it’s a walk in the park then why isn’t every kid on the block successful? It’s only the select few that come out each year who have poured sweat and blood into their productions who reach the bills of major festivals around the world.

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

Technology

One thing that has facilitated the expansion and cheapness of electronic music has been the rapidly expanded affordability and access to technology. Firstly in the creative sense and then an outlet to communicate and share such music (the interwebs).

When Detroit techno came out it was kids/young people experimenting and playing with sound in their rooms (apparently/if I%u2019m not mistaken). Their dedication, time and genius have made everlasting waves in the world of music. In fact much of electronica%u2019s early history was young people or young at heart (generalization and maybe incorrect) creating. In a similar fashion, do the youth of today create the music in the same way? Yes and No. Now it%u2019s easy for anyone to cut and paste samples and anyone with a decent computer and some time can do this. In some weird ways the techno based culture that electronics would bring to the world (utopian and democratic ideals) has really come to the masses like never before. But has this at the same time cheapened the music?


I don%u2019t know but I%u2019d guess it hasn%u2019t, but as others have pointed what%u2019s changed is the huge amount of shit music coming through. And what%u2019s new too is that before there was a great deal of time involved in getting your track made and out there and then it growing. Now it%u2019s simply a matter of create and upload and then marketing as such come into play (discussed later). Before I think it was a lot more work for your track to make it and there was more work involved in getting the music from being made to being consumed by the home listener. Another factor is that before people actually bought your music, the age of digital still has a lot of buyers but I also question aspects of it. I guess this change in digital has also meant people can now own music and more of it whether legal or illegal. That said I%u2019m a purist- CD%u2019s and Vinyl for me (no cassettes please).

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

This is going to sound weird but I think electronica has gone from being an %u201CAdult sound%u201D to an everyone sound. Before electronica was associated with drugs and clubbing- adult pursuits, thus not really kid friendly. The music played did play in ads but to actually listen to it properly you%u2019d have to be awake in the middle of the night for many radio stations or watch on Rage. And early on where the fuck would you buy it? Not HMV I think.
For me my foray into electronic sounds was driven at a young age and my first CD would be a collection of dance sounds with my two favourite songs Being CJ Bolland track and The Orb%u2019s- Toxygene at 10 (I bought it cause the store guy let me play it and I liked Toxygene lol). For 4 years I didn%u2019t get any electronic music (no money) but listened to it regularly but only on Video Hits and a radiostation, I was really clueless. At 14 I started buying a couple of Chemical Brother CD%u2019s and similar Bigbeat and bigger artists it was only till I hit 16 with the help of alchemy TV show, triple J and RAGE that I started to get into electronica hugely (I didn%u2019t have net and when I did it was slow and even then it was hard to find out about music and there was no YouTube etc) another factor was the access to Mixmag. I was I guess was part of the first group to get easy access to electronic unlike those before me and the kids nowadays can easily find out about it and it%u2019s more mainstream at a younger age.


This factor of access, easiness, easy to share and more people means we just simply have more.

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

This is going to sound weird but I think electronica has gone from being an %u201CAdult sound%u201D to an everyone sound. Before electronica was associated with drugs and clubbing- adult pursuits, thus not really kid friendly. The music played did play in ads but to actually listen to it properly you%u2019d have to be awake in the middle of the night for many radio stations or watch on Rage. And early on where the fuck would you buy it? Not HMV I think.
For me my foray into electronic sounds was driven at a young age and my first CD would be a collection of dance sounds with my two favourite songs Being CJ Bolland track and The Orb%u2019s- Toxygene at 10 (I bought it cause the store guy let me play it and I liked Toxygene lol). For 4 years I didn%u2019t get any electronic music (no money) but listened to it regularly but only on Video Hits and a radiostation, I was really clueless. At 14 I started buying a couple of Chemical Brother CD%u2019s and similar Bigbeat and bigger artists it was only till I hit 16 with the help of alchemy TV show, triple J and RAGE that I started to get into electronica hugely (I didn%u2019t have net and when I did it was slow and even then it was hard to find out about music and there was no YouTube etc) another factor was the access to Mixmag. I was I guess was part of the first group to get easy access to electronic unlike those before me and the kids nowadays can easily find out about it and it%u2019s more mainstream at a younger age.


This factor of access, easiness, easy to share and more people means we just simply have more.

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

Firstly, I believe that even having some minor musical theory knowledge is really pivotal. You don%u2019t need to be an 8th level pianist doing a Bachelor of Music but some theory would greatly advance and distinguish between a good one off producer and good DJ to those that are subpar. Knowing other genres (bar fucking hip-hop or bogan rock music) would add to some more interesting tracks and a more diverse. Some people will counter this by going on by the amount of remixes %u2013 well%u2026a lot of remixes are shit! Either it%u2019s lame ass pop/ hip-hop/ rock anthems and even in the slight chance they choose something awesome they absolutely butcher it. This remix culture brings a lot of people in (and is some what a testament to electronica) but to me it is shit a lot of the time. It also highlights or adds to the idea of a lack of creativity and was a reason that I don%u2019t like or have been put off sets and styles.

Secondly, knowing other genres can add to elements of your production and better samples even. And for DJ%u2019s it can improve your set. I have a feeling many people don%u2019t know much about old school classics recently and you know what? Some of them can still go off nowadays. Recently I tested some electro jerk by linking him the song %u201CNo Way back%u201D by Adonis. A classic and awesome, I asked him what he thought about it. His response was cool but a bit slow. He didn%u2019t believe that it could have been made in 1988. Instead when he DJ%u2019s he probably plays the same electro shit from last 3-4 years%u2026 maybe that%u2019s the done thing and common; but I think you should be diverse in sets from genres to tempo to mood and age of tracks.

In a last point dance music has always been labelled as button pushing and simple. I disagree with this a lot of the time, but you can%u2019t deny it. There%u2019s more skill in playing a guitar or drums then it is mashing tracks. This will always be a side of elecontrica for better or worse but in this day and age it%u2019s why we have such shit music. Why bother learning a guitar and being a rock star when you can mash a track and potentially make it %u2013 it%u2019s fuck loads easier and cheaper.

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

Marketing and exposure

I listen to a wide variety of music. I%u2019m not part of any scene; don%u2019t use beatport, MySpace, lastfm, sound cloud. I just use this forum, another one for indie music and 2-3 blogs one is mnmlsssgs, one is for psytrance and one is for indie music. Essentially I%u2019ve never been part of any scenes or been in the know but I still get a lot. That means that while I%u2019m really clueless to trends and no one really suggests me things I can find out heaps. I find my music through labels, mixes (check the track list), YouTube and Wikipedia (recommendations, similar artists, style and artists links) and so forth. Thus the internet has been very good for me and everyone else provided I%u2019m hit with luck or more often searching out of my way for things.

So for me I wonder how do artists get big and noticed? It has to be marketing and social media (which I don%u2019t use and can go fuck itself). People get exposed/discovered for whatever reason and means tracks can surge in popularity quickly. Suddenly some kid who%u2019s made 3 tracks can be touring within a year it seems. The age of maturity and having some experience seems gone %u2013 something really only unique to Electronica and Hiphop I think. Definitely this is an area of very low level of knowledge but also one of the most important aspects one which has been covered well.
And to be honest this huge immense amount of music, the thousands of blogs and the thousands of tracks is dizzying and confusing. I don%u2019t give a fuck and don%u2019t care. I%u2019m not a hipster and I%u2019ll let time and some true recommendations sway me on what%u2019s good.

hdskp

hdskp said on the 6th Jan, 2012

Conclusion

And that%u2019s where I stop my long inane musings and come up with a conclusion%u2026


To be honest I feel electronica is as vibrant as ever but it depends on what you want and how far you go to search and really if you%u2019re a DJ/producer what you%u2019re doing it for. There%u2019s more people making music because of the affordability to make music and the ease at making music in comparisons to before (cheaper PC%u2019s no hardware needed), the increase of popularity for a myriad of reasons including geographic, economic but mainly the internet, coupled with social media and the age/maturity of electronica itself

I love electronica. It ironically made me fall in love with other sounds and it%u2019ll always be special for me. It%u2019s a music that collectively covers many emotions and is for many places. It%u2019ll continue to grow and merge and influence everything and hopefully be reflective itself %u2013 constantly taking from others sounds. For me music been there when I%u2019m happy, sad, stressed, angry, doing stupid regretful things and so forth, I don%u2019t see it as emotionless. To me it%u2019s vibrant and very comforting. It means enjoyment and pleasure of the sounds. It also means a unique way to hear and understand the world. There are tonnes of bad tunes but over 20 years of electronic dance music and a new wave of creator%u2019s means there%u2019s a really expanding of good sounds. Sadly it seems more and more that a lot of the good stuff is overshadowed by rubbish but I think it%u2019s not all bad. Especially if you seek and want music for pleasure itself and are opening your aural palette.

I do have dreams to create music, when I can afford a computer/laptop and good monitors. And basically, I just want to make something I enjoy and some people enjoy. There%u2019s no need for me to be seen and heard by 100,000 people nor to make it into charts and be famous and definitely not bothering/thinking of making money. If 20 people are going insane to my tune at a club or a bush doof that%u2019s more than enough for me. Of course I would love to be labelled %u201Cgenius%u201D and such but even one awesome track is enough.


Also if you guys know good blogs for specific styles etc please please tell me!


Funkedub

Funkedub said on the 7th Jan, 2012

Why is Francois's opinion more lauded than Noel's ?? Do you know what Noel listens to day and night? And Francois? Perhaps by not being in "the scene" Noel offers a less myopic view?

Anyway ...


Bland dance music has prolifereated because electronic dance music is now very much part of mainstream culture these days and as a result there's more bland people to cater for. More bland people listening to it, means more people making it too.

It's a numbers game. I'd contend that there are as many brilliant and creative tracks being produced now as there was 10-15 years ago .. but the way they permeate the scene and people's tastes has changed ... it's changed a LOT.

Once upon a time the only way to hear the freshest of new tunes was to go to a club where the DJ would be spinning a dubplate or white label ... now you just sit at home and check Beatport charts or go on a youtube adventure.


Also on yutube is a plethora of tutorials on "how to make dubstep" .. is this good? Well, yes and no. It's great that the access to such a creative output has become so much cheaper and readily accessible ... but the flipside is that everyman and his cat are now a "producer" with next to no musical background or interest beyond making a tearout wobblly bassline they can impress their mates with and hopefully get laid.


So in terms of accessability and expense, EDM is a walk in the park compared to how it was 10-15 years ago .. however, i do believe that there is no less inovation and creativity out there, but you have to scratch a bit further down from the surface to surpass the ocean of beige that's consumed dance music.



(a lot of the above applies to DJs as well ... don't even get me started on that)

djredeye

djredeye said on the 8th Jan, 2012

I agree somewhat, but i would like to add this. Back in the rave days the same thing happened. Although it wasnt as portable. Everyone went and found themselves a Roland W30 sampler, and MAYBE an extra synth and started making 100% sampled breakbeat and "hoover noise" tracks. Novelty, knockoff tracks were EVERYWHERE..and were actually EASIER to make than now IMO..I think the big difference now is that there SO much shite out there that the new kids dont even know how to decipher what is actually good anymore. Its so watered down on every level...pop music sounds like it took an hour to make...dubstep used to be an amazing artform of crafting sound, now we have brostep which sounds like everyone is using the same sample pack to kick out a new track every 30 minutes. Making GOOD dance music is just as hard (creatively) as its always been. Making crap is ALWAYS easy, especially if youre just copying the crap thats already out there. I actually work in a musician/studio shop and a couple of kids came in to sell their miniKorg because "making music wasnt as easy as it looked"...so they were gonna "go back to skating"....their words. There used to be a bit of self-imposed quality control in the market simply because of the financial investment that went into the endeavor of making music. That plus someone had to be interested in your track enough to sign/release it. With those two barriers now, for the most part, goneanyone can put their crappy little bedroom project out...sign of the times. Can't stop it. But what you CAN stop doing is PLAYING crappy music as a dj. Its a djs job to filter through the dung and showcase the heat. THAT, to me, is where the real problem is. But I guess thats why we love the underground. Knowing that when i go out, no Guetta, Skrillex, or Deadrat will sully my earholes is a great feeling.

Bruno from Burwood

Bruno from Burwood said on the 10th Jan, 2012

I find these pieces dishonest. I can't help but feel that, in general, they are informed by elitism from within electronic music that is otherwise afraid to come out and be critical or genres, artists and labels. The outcome is this all encompassing crap that could not apply less to the music I listen to...made by artists who use vintage analogue setups (e.g. Dozzy & Redshape); or artists who push digital equipment to its limits and/or use their digital setups to make sounds that are well and truly their own (e.g. Tommy Four Seven, Speedy J [although his current direction is testing my patience] and Radio Slave [see 2006-2008]).

I still appreciate Gallagher's comments because they are honest (if not too simplistic). As a musician (which he clearly is) he can hear that music at the "commercial / manistream" or "trendy level", which is what Ibiza is aimed at, sucks. I agree. The comments of oldies like Francois K who are generally pissed off because they didn't receive royalties for the music they created in those recording sessions don't really help that much.

As much as I want to rant on and on the reality is that there is nothing to add to this topic. If you want to make brilliant, timeless electronic music good luck because it is as difficult to make as anything else. The ideas creative people have are no easier to contrive. If you are happy to be part of the mindless drivel aimed at the gold fish attention spans of commercial markets; or the identityless hipsters it is easier than ever to make a functional track that fits into a DJ set.

The only thing I can add is that it is the personalities who sit at the top of their respective scenes who are responsible for that state of the scene to which they belong. Their attitudes are far more important than a piece of equipment used to make music. The commercial sell outs and the entrepreneurs (afraid to promote distinctive music at the risk of alienating fans) set the trends. If they ask for creativity they will get it and a lot of the shit will fall by the wayside. I am probably just biased but I can't help but think that, for example, Liebing's change of direction and decision to push him and his label creatively has been a huge driving factor in the renaissance of techno. Sure it has cause a saturation of certain sounds but the overall quality has significantly improved. At the same time it seems as though the creative streak in Coocoon and Get Physical (as a few examples) had well and truely run out. Trance's creative streak ended in 1997.

jimmenyC

jimmenyC said on the 10th Jan, 2012



You see, I believe ears and personal taste (or a distinct lack thereof) are to blame ;) Someone needs to get Noel off trawling beatport....


As Libby pointed out, we live in an age of disposable culture, where production is easily acheived through increased accessability. No need to wait for Christmas for software - simply crack a copy. The advantage is, it's levelled the playing fields for someone with less opportunity before, and we

It's easy to polish a turd or a track in this case, by sticking to safe formats, production techniques, marketing etc. It applies to whatever the heavyweight genre at the time is.


If you listen to WSFM or other stations enough, you'll develop a repetoire of a rock music or disco classics, but if you had the time to dig deep, you'd find in the 50s, 60s and 70s there were thousands upon thousands of the 'same' bands coming out, but in time forgotten just like the slew of EDM we are barraged with today, will be forgoten - we're just n the thick of it with Noel - I understand his frustration. I wonder why he isn't lamenting all this 'hipster bands' rippinf off previous rock outfits


In time, as always, quality will always stand with longevity over quantity, and our learned ears will tell us. Like the development of culture, palates will refine and the unworthy will take a dive, paving the way for something innovative and new again - it's the nature if the beautiful beast, called the 'Underground'. She spawns her little proteges, who spread like vermin everywhere, until a few of the blacksheep stand up and make their presence known. the blacksheep, are obviously the worthy producers.

crackthatback

crackthatback said on the 14th Jan, 2012

Well, well, is this a dig at Damon Albarn for being so successful with Gorillaz? I think Noel Gallagher is far from the most talented musician (or credible critic of any genre of music) in the world, and when you talk trash about dance music, you tarnish a lot of different genres. Electronic music comes in so many different forms nowadays...If you want to compare the amount of technology available now to what was available for the early dance music pioneers 30 years ago, there really is not that much difference. Is messing around with loops and samplers and 303s and simple lyric repetition any different in quality nowadays because there is better technology and more accessibility? If anything there are greater possibilities now - guys like Knuckles, Hurley, Derrick May and Marshall Jefferson (and their friends) probably had a bit more musical training/sensibility than today's dance music producers, but some of the stuff possible with different effects and software today is mindblowing even amateur hands - and being so affordable and easily learnt at home, more people are producing music and flooding the web. It's like anything, when there is soooo much of something, it becomes passe. That is the appeal of dubstep (much as I dislike it) - it is new, at least newer than the now Guetta dominated house/electro genres, and gives a certain crew of kids an identity and theme music. Few people need to pick up a guitar or pair of drumsticks nowadays, just get Ableton and you can make your own music. That doesn't make it bad and it doesn't make music with live instruments any better. Would another Beatles be as successful in today's world as it was in the swingin' 60s? Would Oasis have been as successful without a Beatles style to copy so badly in so many ways, even down to the bloody haircuts? No. Noel wrote a song called "My Big Mouth", and it's all about how he has no volume or content control over the crap that comes out. Good on you for running this story ITM, nice to see some intelligent comments in the forum too, but Mr Gallagher really needs to stop talking just cos he can.