R U ECLECTIC? PART 1

It could look as a paradox, but the formal and ontological concept of modern Dance music (meant as intelligent & underground, not as mainstream and commercial) derives from Punk, and more precisely from the type of Punk music which developed both in Europe and in USA, from 1978 on, the so-called Post-Punk. This can be our starting point for an analysis of the concept of eclecticism in the field of dance music. A paradox, as we said, because both from a strictly musical point of view and for its contents, Punk music is not “dance” music at all. The aesthetics of “no future” do not tally with the idea of “sharing” which inspires the concept of dance. It is also a paradox that this artistic revolution generated from a new way of considering and playing an instrument, the guitar, that has nothing to deal with what we consider modern dance. And again, it is a paradox that one of the key men of this “revolution” was Jonny Rotten that up to some time before spat on the audience.
New York at the end of the 70s was a breeding ground for artistic experimentation, (Basquiat and Haring, just to name the most famous ones), in each and every field, and it was exactly at this time that No-Wave was born, a kind of Punk-Jazz free form that will pave the way to a crossbreeding of styles and habits that would “make the Punk dance” (true DIY style!). Solo guitar rejection in favour of a bare rhythmic guitar turning each piece in a mantra, and an interest for afro and then dub rhythmics (for bass guitar and drum) represented the main stylistic elements for most art-punk groups: from the Contorsion to D.N.A. not forgetting Slits, Pop Group and PIL of Lydon or the Talking Heads of Eno/Byrne. They were all guided by an idea of nervous and radical dance that went against traditional rock Chuck Barry-like stylistic elements. In the same period two “absolver units” played an important psychological and formal role.
Most groups, from Pop Group till Liquid Liquid began to use rules and stylistic elements from non-Western types of music thus creating a different concept of music beat.
In non-Western music, we find a perceptive “music beat” representation; real time becomes “music” when intentionally synchronised in a “rhythm” thus entering a “cyclic” dimension that allows to live different moments as repeatable units of “present time” (state of trance). In Africa “music” is all that can be danced to, where bass guitar and drum act as “rhythm carriers”. Modern mixing techniques imported from Jamaica thanks to the keen minds of Lee Perry and King Tubby, and the use of electronic tools (samplers, above all,) led to a new concept of Disco Music, Mutant Disco, Hip hop, disco funk, electro, tallied with post punk first of all because these genres were played in the same locations (CBGB, Mudd Club, Hurrah’s); John Lydon was introduced from Don Letts to the dub and roots nights at the Roxy; Afrika Bambaataa wore a fuchsia mohawk and deejays as Larry Levan started to mix music with extraordinary eclecticism, turning the role of the deejay into a myth. Dance music didn’t need beat and style anymore, all that made people move was good. The invention of 12” discs, of remix and re-edit helped to fill the gap between dance and punk. Dub obsession would offer creative input to groups with very different roots and style: from the Clash to the PIL but also from Generation X (!) and Grace Jones, androgynous disco goddess that owed her success to the rhythmics of the Jamaican Sly and Robbie.

One of the people that acted as a link between the gay-disco scene and the heterosexual post punk world, was Arthur Russell. A white gay, literally “stuffed” with the dub and avant-guarde, from Satie to Steve Reich, he founded the Sleeping Bag label and started to record art-disco pieces that were minimal and intentionally not easy to be danced to. Obsessed by Situationism and by the sci-fi imaginative world, he once said to David Toop: “ You cannot bring drums into space, you can only bring your mind”.

3 commenti:

Daidoboy said...

Strange as we were more eclectic when there were fewer possibilities than now...
Sounds are going back to the origins so another round will start and then again and again...

very pleasant article for me!_

gioviii said...

in da beginning was .....

just the roots!!!!
eclectism is the way!!!

thanks for this "old school" article!!!!

the saucer people said...

I really enjoyed the article by Ettore Sorrentino on the emergence of the postpunk/dub/disco/electronica nexus that existed in the late seventies and early eighties...it made for fascinating reading.
Does he/she have a blog or anything where I could read some more by them, I really like their style!