I’ve been sitting awake all night, pacing between a computer, a phone and a laptop. In the background two audio feeds are playing simultaneously, overlapping in peculiar and sometimes extraordinary ways. One is a feed of a police scanner broadcasting from Ferguson, Missouri, 24 hours after the power structure informed the world that it would not be moved. The second is playing DETOUR002, a record from two guys in Pittsburgh. I’m not saying these two things have any one thing in common; I’m saying that they have everything in common.
We’re due for some hard times ahead, I don’t need to tell you this. If you live in an urban environment in this country, you know it and can probably even tell me a few things. Cities are becoming zones of palaces and slums, one or the other and nothing in between, a group of have-everythings living in the clouds above the people who want some of it, who live beneath them in just about every sense.
In clubs, music has been engineered to the point where it could have been crafted by the Prolefeed machines of Orwell’s 1984 – electro anthems streamlined by semi-intelligent machines to provoke precisely the sort of self-satisfaction that you see in spoiled children and old priests.
Outside of the glittering domes and the pointy-faced people beneath them, music is taking a different course. The underground is alive and well and it’s turned hard in response to a new world in which everything has an angle and everything is manipulative. DETOUR002 is by turns sinister, energetic, ecstatic and frenetic – there’s an unnerving sense of running, or being chased, through a world that might be hostile but still feels like home. Both Naeem’s “Banding” and the junkyard boogie of “B915” carry this feeling of stripped-down, hand-crafted electronic music that does more to evoke a feeling or emotion than impose one upon you. Gusto has Side B with “Breaker” and the more hectic “Sideswipe” – relentlessly aggressive, rough and raw.
Some modern music implores us to break free, to escape to seek shelter, of going-along-to-get-along as best we can by disguise or distraction. I’m not knocking it – there’s nothing wrong with fantasy and a retreat into an interior world. But this music makes me think not of recoiling from the world but of reaching out and grabbing a piece, if only for a minute or for a night.