Had a semi-recent (perhaps unnecessarily heated) discussion on ILXOR w/ Jess re: the ongoing pre-eminence of house and whether it is justified. It's not, obviously, but I ended up being in the position of defending house anyway, which got me thinking a lot about why I do
continue to like house, find it worth spending time, energy and critical thought on. One reason is because, well, it's fucking great to dance to, but that doesn't really advance it to a status beyond current drum & bass, which can also be fucking great to dance to but still seems for the purposes of discussion 'dead'.
Maybe house is 'dead' too (in fact it almost definitely is; is this my way of saying sorry, Jess?) but it's harder to say it with certainty because, well, if house is dead, where is the corpse so that we can bury it? Unlike drum & bass, house hasn't arrived at a singular endpoint but rather a messily differentiated series of gradations, like dying stars in an impossibly over-extended universe. It strikes me that house isn't even really a genre anymore, but a set of stylistic co-ordinates which other dance musics exist in relation to. Jess said, correctly, that all the interesting house music being made these days isn't really house - Basement Jaxx, Luomo etc. are all improving or debasing house, and by including them within the definition of 'house' we render 'house' meaningless. Good. Perhaps we don't really need 'proper' house anymore. Perhaps it serves us better by being a non-existent reference point. I'd go so far as to say that house's current best function is to work as a magnetic north for artists working on the peripharies, on the borders between house and other countries. All the best house these days - microhouse obviously, but also electro, NY jack house, Basement Jaxx, Todd Edwards, Daft Punk - is that which exhibits a tension between becoming full-fledged house and spiralling off elsewhere, like planets orbiting a star in precise but dynamic gravitational balance. If the star exerts too much gravitational force, the planets plummet into heat-death (the warm, mushy tedium of "proper" house), but if it relaxes they disappear, free radicals travelling the solar system. Maybe the latter story is more interesting, more exciting and even plain ole' better (see "the hardcore continuum"), and maybe the fate of peripheral-house - to endlessly go round and round its redundant star - is hardly cause for celebration, but 2-step, the first musical obsession that I was able to both register and articulate intelligbly, has instilled in me an overriding passion for counterbalanced forces, for musics that constantly teeter on the edge between strict groove-conformity and innovation, and you'll see that potentially sad fact lurking in almost every theoretical explanation I offer for the music that I like.
Hooj's Le Future Le Funk
compilation dedicates itself to this margin-walking orbital progression, taking in a good deal of the interesting impulses flickering within house at the moment - the chimerical rhythmic flickers and chromatic delicacy of microhouse, Daft Punk-style open-hearted emotionalism, the brutish pound of Audio Bullies, the avant-classicism of Metro Area, and lotsa great electro. As margin-expeditions go, it's fairly polite - there's not actually much in the way of "real" microhouse here, for example, though the fluttery, wet-sounding disintegrating grooves of Chris Lum or SWAG, say, certainly imply it - but its all-encompassing celebration of house's capacity for anti-purism is heart-warming, and eminently listenable. What I think is notable about it, though, is how affecting - physically and
emotionally - it is for such a relatively low-concept collection; which is to say, this is a collection of mixed together tracks designed to sound good on a dancefloor or in your headphones rather than a statement
along the lines of Digital Disco
or even Immer
. Even for those of us who recognise the value of functional dance music, there's often a near-imperceptible ideological divide that keeps us away from, I dunno, a Global Underground compilation while we happily embrace Shakedown and S Club 7: a distaste for any emphasis on "quality dancefloor sounds" that seeks to limit its own capacity for existence and effect beyond
the dancefloor setting - spiritually and culturally devoid dance music, maybe? But if Hooj are likewise spiritually and culturally devoid, you'd never know it from this thought-provoking, tear-jerking, booty-shaking compendium.
Too many top moments to recount, but here are a couple anyway: the giggly glamour of Danmass's "Haze (Danmass Remix)", swathed in cocaine strings and globular synth squiggles drawn in crayon; the simultaneously foggy and glorious electro-pop of Oko's "Because", an imaginary collaboration between Data 80 and Daft Punk; the plushly furnished clouds of sadness in RJ Project's "What Colour Is Love (Red Jerry's Monkeyhouse Mix)", a gorgeous companion to Michael Mayer's "Falling Hands"; the sparkling Sascha Funke-style tech-house of 16B's "Behind The Face"; the jitterry, timestretched and mysterious anthem-pop of Psycho Radio's "In The Underground", which oddly reminds me of Depeche Mode. On this last track you can really hear how much house is benefiting from the space opened up for it by the rise of electroclash: its casual use of an addictive song hook (with that wordless, groaned chorus!), its metallic glitter and joyfully remorseless grind are all straight from electroclash, but its warm jetstreams of evil bass render it closer to the brutal house machinics of early Frankie Knuckles, early Warp, early 4 Hero. Could this have been a mainstream house hit four years ago?
Above and beyond them all though: Ewan Pearson's Ni NRG Remix of Freeform Five's "Perspex Sex", a frankly astonishing electroclash masterpiece that seriously sets a new standard for the entire genre - that pulverising electro riff, like an icy fist squeezing your heart; those androgynous ectstatic/painful sighs that could double for lions' roars; that ever-so-slight syncopation to the beat that could just go on forever; that commanding male-robot who wants to change my name as a sign that he owns me; that drained diva demanding, "gotta give me what I want!/gotta give me what I need!", cut up into an endless procession of me-me-me desire ('gottagivemewhatiwhatigottagimmegottagimme..."); those arch, dramatic orchestral synth-stabs outlawed since 1982; the eerie the-end-is-near strings that swoop at the end, like angels sent to destroy a culture mired in hedonistic self-worship, or their own sexual depravity and indulgence giving birth to some new force destined to rise up to destroy them - this is the music that plays whenever Angel has sex and "turns", clearly; the soundtrack to a thousand apocalyptic sex scenes. At this point, theories fail me; how could I deny this music, even if I wanted to?