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2013: The Year In Music

0010-Colour2012 in electronic music was too diverse to sum up in a few paragraphs, but that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Of the numerous trends over the last 12 months, the most pervasive may have been the continued revival of retro 90s-inspired house and garage. 2012 was yet again the year of the skippy hi-hat, the soulful chord progression and the organ bassline. For those of us old enough to remember it the first time round, the continued success of the likes of Kerri Chandler and MK provided reassuring constants in this fast-paced industry.

We have no doubt it’ll cross over to even bigger mainstream success in 2013, spearheaded by the chart-friendly sound of Disclosure but backed by solid, slightly more underground sounds from the likes of Bicep, Citizen, Huxley and Eats Everything. Some of the best tracks from all these artists might be shamelessly retro in style, but that doesn’t mean they’re not also fresh and contemporary. Like any artform, the best dance music doesn’t just imitate the past but draws on it for inspiration and then evolves and innovates within the existing framework. There’ll always be formulaic tracks trying to cash in on the latest trend, but the cream will – more often than not – rise to the top.

Elsewhere, there was plenty more to get excited about, with seriously diverse techno offerings from every corner of the globe (shouts to Turbo Recordings; Blawan, Pariah, Pangaea and countless other artists who rightly or wrongly get associated with the UK dubstep scene; and A Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey for their excellent Rebuild project).

2012 was also a fine year for collaborations, from Blawan and Pariah’s hardware-focused Karenn project to Tiga and Zombie Nation renewing their partnership, Hudson Mohawke and Lunice’s TNGHT EP, Joy O and Boddika’s dancefloor-destroying ‘Mercy’ and ‘Swims’.

Finally, lots of great releases trod the fine line between catchy and weird, from mass crowd sing-alongs to the dark vocal hook of ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’ to the almost insufferably infectious Mixolydian melodies of Todd Terje’s ‘Inspector Norse’.

If you couldn’t find any music to get excited about in 2012, you simply weren’t looking hard enough.

Style Over Substance?

We don’t like to be negative, but you can’t have the highs without the lows. 2012 was a year when the issue of style over substance came to the forefront once again. When DJs are paying as much attention to their social media profiles as their track selection, something’s gone very wrong. We know that ignorant promoters around the world might book you on the basis of the number of followers you’ve bought, but aren’t we all forgetting the point of Facebook, Twitter and, to a lesser extent, SoundCloud? Isn’t it more important to make good music than to spend hours every day bombarding your followers with links to your latest release?

Some big name producers and DJs display online personas which would be considered borderline sociopathic if they acted that way in real life. Seriously, reaching for the retweet button every time someone mentions your name doesn’t make you look popular, it just makes you look desperate. Unfortunately, we can’t see the situation getting much better soon. While producers and DJs believe that social media is an important part of self-promotion, we’re just going to have to keep one finger hovering over that unfollow button.

Much has been made of the state of dance music in America and the so-called EDM boom. It’s a debate which doesn’t need to be repeated here, but the bottom line is that when musical styles fall in and out of fashion, strange things happen. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and to believe that the current crossover success of certain artists really matters, but ultimately much of it is just pop music (which isn’t necessarily a criticism). Bitching and moaning about whether EDM artists are ‘real’ is the dance music equivalent of teenage rock fans complaining that Taylor Momsen isn’t a ‘real’ rocker.

Nowhere was the issue of style versus substance more prominent than in the ca$h-fuelled arena of US superclubs. Frankly, we’re sick of stories about which Las Vegas club guaranteed itself a few days of free publicity by throwing a DJ off the decks this week. VIP areas, bottle service and celebrity DJs don’t really have a great deal to do with dance music culture. Unfortunately, the false classification of virtually all American dance music as ‘EDM’ only confuses matters. Ultimately, anyone with the slightest interest in dance music should be able to filter out the bullshit and find the music which resonates with them. Surely it makes sense to judge each artist on their own merit rather than bundling them all together as EDM and universally praising or condemning it?

But let’s not end on a negative note. These gripes are really nothing new, and they shouldn’t distract from the fact that there’s just as much great music being made as ever.

Here’s to 2013. We can’t wait to see what it brings…

31st December, 2012

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  • ‘style over substance’ summaries my views almost perfectly.
    attack have done brilliant work this year, really enjoyed a lot of the articles.
    happy new year
    and stay critical


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