pop / other

dance music

the charts

'Dance Music', eh? I just don't know. Actually, that's pretty true, because I don't know a great deal to be honest. In the words of the punter on Paninaro though, I do know what I like. I mean, my brother, he's out at the Arches every other weekend or whenever, 'avin it large, or whatever the devil it is they do these days. He's telling me about all these great sets of House tunes he's heard so and so play, and ooh, maybe I'm getting older before my time, but it doesn't move me. And I'm not keen on large club spaces, same as I was never keen on shows by bands in huge halls... I just don't like crowds I guess. Hmmm. Whatever, I've listened to some of the deep House tracks he's taped me, and although I quite like them, they do mostly leave me cold. So although Robin may predict Deep house taking off again in '98, I'm rather afraid I shall be looking and listening elsewhere.

Anyway, to be honest, when I'm talking 'dance music' these past few years, it's been very mainly drum'n'bass that I've been referring to, with the occasional techno and 'trip hop' tune thrown in. And, like Robin's mates, if you'd asked me about drum'n'bass in the summer time I'd have been hard pushed to get excited about it at all, and would be tempted to be saying it had run it's course. But as ever, turn arounds happen, and for the past few months it's all been making me as excited as it did two, three years ago when I first heard 'Terminator', 'Parallel Universe' and the early Photek/Studio Pressure cuts, and from which point life was never quite the same again.

Guilty partners for the turn around? Firstly the No-U-Turn compilation 'Torque', which catalogued the dark and deep sci-fi end of drum'n'bass as well as anything could. Sparse yet dense, desolate yet excited and exciting, the collected noises of 'Torque' made for a scary, twitchy fin de millennium party soundtrack. Following in the tracks of 'Torque' came the Grooverider compilation on Prototype, showcasing, amongst others, the most amazing Optical and Matrix; quite literally brothers under a beat. Following from this, Matrix and Optical became my favourite artists of the year, and alongside Belle And Sebastian and Arab Strap are names to be respected and trust in terms of quality product. Quality product from 1997 that I'd heartily recommend as essential purchases would be, on the Optical front, the acidic feeling 'Moving 808s / High Tek Dreams' on Prototype, the more than aptly titled 'Dark Skies / the Shining' on Metro, and the Dom & Optical outing 'Quadrant Six' on Moving Shadow. The Fierce remix is similarly well recommended. Look out in '98 for an Optical single with Ed Rush, label unknown... it's, as might be expected, a killer.

On the Matrix front, seek out the dark sci-funky 'Fluid Motion' on New Identity, the sleeker and no less moody 'Sedations / Double Vision' on Metro and the hard hitting Dom & Matrix 'Vandal / Footsteps' on Moving Shadow. Essential listening. And similarly, look out for the Matrix take on Dilemma's 'Spring Box', due on Genetic Stress at the end of January '98; the vox mix especially mates the glorious vocal with a nerve jangling b-line and synth stabs that make you shiver.

Other drum'n'bass delights in '97? Well I'd lost track totally with the whole Metalheadz scene, so was glad to be in on the glory that was/is the Platinum Breaks collection. With the box like PIL, it's a great collection of cuts, with personal faves coming from Optical (naturally) and J Magik. Dillinja continues to turn out quality, hard material, and his Acid Trax on Pain was justly hailed as a classic. The Cybotron single 'Light Years / Revelations' on Prototype is worth checking as well.

Unknown single of the year? The jabbing 'Seven' by Thunder, on Thunder records carries this one off with its great phaser blasts of laser noise over dark beats. Cool.

What else? I rather lost track with the Mo Wax releases this year, dipping in only three times, to pick up the very excellent DJ Krush 'MiLight', which again augmented great deep beats with guest vocals, not least from Deborah Anderson and Tragedy. Similarly diverting and quirky was Luke Vibert's 'Big Soup', a melange of sonic experiments and breakbeats, which you might not have been able to dance to, but was nevertheless a good giggle. Last Mo Wax buy was the best, being the glorious re-issue of Liquid Liquid's standard setting punk-funk from start of the '80s New York; a reminder of the great depth of sonic experimentation so rife at the time which has been so great an influence on such current artists like Ui and DJ Shadow.

Robin talked a bit about the whole culture of Club life, and I might as well throw my few cents worth in. 1997 seemed to be the year when everyone and their dog started doing club nights, and traditional 'gig' venues turned more and more to putting those club events on. That most of those are just sad boys with their Technics slung like guitars used to be, and that they're playing the dullest, most obvious collection of tripe imaginable, and that their idea of decorations is a couple of tie-dyed sheets stapled to the walls seemed to slip many people's minds as they scrambled to sing the praises of the UK youth cultural movement of the Club. What the cultural proclamation of the UK in its swingingest mood since, well, the last swingingest mood seemed to miss, however, was that in 1997, Club Culture simply slipped ever deeper into being a homogenising media tool.

As is culture's way, though, if you dug deep enough you would find something of interest, and hey, if you didn't you could always make it happen yourself. In 1997 that's exactly what I did with some friends. We called it The Living Room, and after a shaky start we got a residence at an Exeter city centre bar. So at last I've had the chance to put into practice my idea that a club should be truly eclectic, with an interesting and quirky environment; producing an event that gets resolutely ignored by all and sundry in the ivory (re)press(ed) towers of the Wire, the Face et al., whilst similar concepts get full page features simply because they happen to be in Cologne or Vienna or London, and not unfashionable little Exeter in the sleepy south west. Not that I'm bitter or anything...

Anyway. There you have it. 1997 in a (admittedly rather large) nutshell. Keep checking with Tangents for more (hopefully rather more regular) cultural insights and recommendations in 1998.

Alistair Fitchett. 1997.