Serenity! At The Disco

Culture, especially music, especially popular music, especially popular electronic music, especially popular electronic dance music, has this thing about taxonomies.
Particularly during the 90s, but continuing to this day, EDM has been full of musicians trying to make something that's just as popular as what everyone else is making, but also different enough to be its own thing. The musicians don't create individual works so much as they create brands. And the people who love this music (who often are people who sell it, too) have scrambled to stay on top of this explosion of brands by grouping them into subgenres and creating new names for them all.

This is a two-edged sword. Like, if you hear something you like and it turns out to be called "UK garage," you can find other music like it if you search for "UK garage." That's good. On the other hand, if you hear something and say "That sounds like UK garage," some pompous little snit will pop up to tell you that actually it's 8-bar grime and it sounds nothing like UK garage, it's not even in the garage genre for Christ's sake. The gatekeeping is...less good.

I don't generally really care about EDM. There's a lot that I like, but saying you like EDM is a little like saying you like poetry, about whom Myles na gCopaleen said, "No one would make ten thousand tons of jam in the hopes of making one ton that was eatable."

But I do like me a good logomachy. So when The Algorithm served me up a video by someone calling himself Dub Monitor promising to lay out all of the subgenres of dub techno, I thought, this should be pretty funny.

What I didn't really expect was that I'd start listening to a lot of dub techno.

So. Dub Monitor is the YouTube name of a Berlin-based dub techno producer who performs under the name Altstadt Echo (because he's originally from Detroit, which to the world of Berlin dub techno is the old city), and prior to that as St. Concrete. He just loves this music so much, in this extremely focused, intense, yet coolly laid-back way, which is, by the way, the precise vibe of the music itself.

His videos are deep dives into the history of people you've probably never heard of, their relationships with other people you've probably never heard of, the record labels and record stores they've founded to pass this music on to other aficionados, and the artistic development of musicians whose entire output sounds mostly the same if you're not listening to it in this extremely focused, intense, yet coolly laid-back way.

It's not really electronic dance music, for the most part. It's too downtempo to dance to, too subtle and quiet to play in all but the chillest of clubs. A lot of it is obviously written to be listened to in the dark, with headphones on. It's a genre that makes heavy (but precise) use of reverb to create the sensation of empty, massive, cold, dark physical spaces that are somehow filled with things which are making sound.

Along the way I've learned that one of the reasons that so much dub techno sounds like it was made in Ableton Live is that Monolake, a foundational ambient dub techno act, is a partnership between two musicians you've probably never heard of named Gerhardt Behles and Robert Henke, and it was to make recording the music they wanted to record possible that the two wrote Ableton Live in the first place.

Anyway, search Dub Monitor on YouTube if you want to go down this rabbit hole. I've really, really enjoyed a lot of what I've been turned onto through this channel.

Just as an example (it's a very good example), here's an album by Echospace, which recorded on the Deepchord label. Okay, so there's no such group as Echospace. Echospace is a name that Deepchord made up so that their label would seem bigger than it is. Also, Deepchord isn't really they. It's a guy from Port Huron, Michigan (just 10 miles from der Alt Stadt) named Rod Modell. Creating things that seem much bigger than they are goes beyond the sound of the music itself.

I can listen to this all day long, and do.


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