Sunday, 26 May 2013

EDM time

Apparently there is a thing called EDM which is big at the moment and is rising in the States. It includes artists like Parralox, and is indicative in their latest single, and also covers stuff like Moby and Archive as well as the greats like Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys. It is 'Electronic Dance Music' and, if I'm honest, the term confuses me. How can dance music ever be anything other than electronic and how come it's only a thing now? I mean, including all those artists in it then this has been going since the early 80s when it was called House, a term I never fully understood. To catch homages to the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode in Parralox tracks is one thing but to see Mode, Moby and PSB collected deliberately together is quite another.

I have never managed to attend a rave or any kind of club that played the kind of music that I enjoy. The nearest I've ever got was a goth club that had some precursor to dubstep playing in the basement. All hard music and vibrating floors with people dressed in masks. And there I was in jeans a crappy CCCP t-shirt. Heh. I never did muster the courage to dress in line with my musical taste.

Would you like to know more?

Parralox are a group that I've posted about on here before but I found this offering of their's by accident when avoiding work this afternoon and I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. It claims to be reviving something called 'freestyle' from the mid-80s and, sure enough, there is definitely a vibe in there that I recognise from my youth. However, I don't know about that, I recognise it as being very similar to what I used to enjoy dancing to in my bedroom. Much of the time we lived in a particular house between me being six and twelve I recall being in my room alone. I played there with toys and books and stuff, in the days before every kid had a TV or computer, on my own a lot. I played music to myself that usually consisted of a couple of Pet Shop Boys albums and a few tapes that I'd borrow from my parents like Chess or Phil Collins. I remember one occasion that Parralox brought to mind where I was dancing to the opening bits of One Night in Bangkok with the wooden wall from a model farm made for me by my father before I can remember wielded like a Bo. Ahem, confessional, sorry.

After my father left us when I was fourteen mowing the lawn became my duty. I'm not sure how, exactly, this happened except that it was similar to how the bins and the like have become my job now. That is, things are done by one person to the point that other people around simply assume that this person will always do those tasks. My mother did not like doing the garden and my brother was my brother. So mowing the lawn became mine. I was angry a lot at the time and felt stressed at GCSEs. See, stress is a pretty constant thing in my life, and I know that most of the time it is unwarranted. In an effort to stifle my anger and my general irritation at having to do the lawn I listened to my walkman. Yes, it played cassettes and yes this was the era of CDs, I was a technical luddite. One of the tapes that I very much overplayed was Push It by Garbage. I would sing along loudly, comforted by the volume of my walkman and the mower that no one could hear me. It was my mother who broke this comfort zone thing by pointing out, through laughter, that she could see me singing along and hear my "tuneless drone" - her words.

I always assumed that I would grow out of singing and dancing alone. At University, in halls, the paper-thin quality of the walls meant that life was a pretty shared experience so that singing loudly or playing music that one could actually feel in the air via volume was out of the question. Latterly, during A Levels, I had got into the habit of turning my soundtrack into a thing that I played before going to bed and loudly when I had the house to myself. Hardly an hour passed where I wasn't listening to music or singing and dancing along to it. There was a stay of execution and then I was living alone in Leeds and it all came back. When training to be a teacher playing music at oppressively high volume was pretty much all that got me through. Anyway, some two years into teaching I stole this album from my boss and became obsessed with this track, Here, and correctly identified it as talking about a first sexual encounter in typically dark Mode style. Though I didn't know it was typical at the time as, apart from It's No Good, I was unaware of their music. Unusually I did not sing along to this one and still don't, this is one that I prefer to put on repeat and then let it wash over me multiple times.

I got a hold of this one courtesy of free CDs being handed out at Freshers' Fair - these from the local newsagents on campus and being CDs that had been freebies on back issues of magazines that never sold. I became vaguely obsessed with the track over the next three years - I didn't have much of a CD collection - and found myself playing it in my head when walking to and from lectures. It seemed to be more directly emotional than my usual fayre and it seemed to resonate more easily in my mind. I have always had a mental soundtrack that pervades pretty much everything I do. Even today, getting excited about explaining the development of Soviet cultural policy in the 1920s to my students - specifically the rise of the cult of the little man in RAPP and Constructivism - I was playing Axis in my head and was minded how similar this was to the above track.

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