31 October 1997

The Electronica Debate

Fans of the musical genre "techno" were in uproar when heroes like the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers finally started to sell in the USA. Quotes like, "They had to make their music digestible for the US market," abounded.

This makes me sick. People like this are in certain need of a good dose of reality. Allow me to illustrate as I pull these dills apart.

Techno fans were astounded that music fans in the US were picking up on stuff that they'd all been listening to for years. Or had they?

The average impression that the techno buff had of the US music fan was that they'd progressed from grunge to a music form that was not all that far removed, namely 'alternative' rock, deadly serious, a sort of rough pop that had more to do with bands of the eighties like REM rather than your grunge behemoths.

So when US music mags started talking about this new thing called 'electronica', techno buffs were apoplectic with fury.

They dissed all US music fans as 'bandwagon jumpers' and told them all to get stuffed. After all, where were these 'electronica' fans when the techno aficionados were getting E'd off their heads and raving all night? Where were they when all the failed raves were staged in the States by enthusistic Brits and Europeans wanting to school the Americans in their chosen field?

The truth is that the genre christened electronica by the US music press bears very little resemblance to that genre formally known as techno.

In these days when more and more music fans are questioning whether they were conned or not during the whole techno phenomenon, it is interesting to note that more of the 'old-school' (now there is an overused phrase) techno musicians are turning to the new electronic sound in order to update their sound. Or to save their careers, depending on how cynically you look at this.

One notorious example is CJ Bolland. After peddling what can only be described as techno for the greatest part of this decade, he burst out of the woodwork with 'Sugar is Sweeter', a ripoff of The Prodigy's 'Poison' if ever there was one. But he's not the only one. As I type this, more and more are switching camps ever so subtly.

US music fans, it seems, unbeknownst to those whose vocabulary consisted of one word, "Wicked!" were also getting into hip-hop. Want proof? How about the Beastie Boys and Beck? How about the Bloodhound Gang and Soul Coughing? Not black, I admit, but then, who's noticing? Not me, although, I could've mentioned that Ice-T has done more to bridge the gap between guitar-based music and funky beats than a myriad of techno pretenders.

Electronica seems to have, in it's most obvious characteristic, dispensed with repetitive, four-on-the-floor, boom-chi-boom-chi rhythms in favour of the diversity of hip-hop flavoured beats. Maybe after the last speed and E cocktail, techno heads can't tell the difference. Mind you, maybe they're just upset that their favourite genre has exploded into three separate pieces - electronica, trip-hop and drum 'n bass, which don't resemble techno that much at all.

Electronica also seems to have embraced instruments that techno found too repelling, such as voice and guitar, making it have more in common with industrial than techno. Where were these techno aficionados when industrial had it's heyday?

Is techno dead, then, the question would have to be?

If it is, then long live electronica.


Anonymous said...

although you seem to have some idea , and a message to get across, your terminology isn't quite accurate here, i am also australian yet i am not sure if we can comment on the american market since we pretty much follow them like a bad smell

Dikkii said...

Do be aware, Anon, that this was 12 years ago.