On the Jolly Bus going over to the exhibition site, the radio was on, and the Deep Radio Voice promised hits. The 80’s, the 90’s, and NOW! Hah I thought. You left out the wrong decade. But then I wondered which decade really was the abyss. Maybe I’d mellowed on the 90’s. Maybe it was more than the period in which Depeche Mode discovered chin fluff.
I should first declare the 2012 exhibition opened, run and closed without any death or injury. I made the usual video.
The last two years I liked paintings so don’t beat on me for liking the First Person Shouter. We had four computer games on show this year, pretty good for a university that has no games design. Hmmm.
Right, the 90’s. I could hate the 90’s for entirely personal reasons – I did go from the top 20 to 50 bucks in less than a year. But that was ’95 and I was already fed up with The Mod Revival, Brit Pop, Bands That Sound Like Nirvana, the throwback rockist/stubble culture and fucking ‘Big Beat’ way before Fat Boy Slim, which was the anal hair of that whole era. By the end I was being suitably punished by working on major label compilations of ‘Indie’ ‘Alternative’ ‘Big Fat Beats’. The explorers of sound were selling their equipment to people that wanted to make Hammond organ riffs. It felt like the base was falling out of everything, but in hindsight I read the situation a little more kindly.
In 93 I was jumping over to so called ‘new media’ – something which seemed esoteric in Sydney. In reality most progressive bands were investing in interactive works around that time. Like any real underground you heard nothing until it was nearly over.
CD-ROM format came and went so quickly that the WIRED articles lasted longer than the play testing. While you can find albums from 1996 without any trouble the ROMs are dead and buried on abandonware sites. Even if you can find them you’ll have to have a computer from the era running OS9 or Windows 95. New Media diverted the old progressive electronic music scene of energy and gave very little back. It allowed people (including myself) to tread water by switching old artwork to new packaging.
There were a lot of bad ROMs but many good titles that don’t deserve their current obscurity. Take for example the ROMs published by Inscape which are all interesting in their own way. It strikes me that DEVO, The Residents and William Burroughs are all old school, as are the other CD-ROM makers – Bowie, Prince, Gabriel … it could be a money thing, but perhaps CD-ROM was just a 1980’s idea that fell past its use by date.
There’s another thing I missed about the 90’s: my generation were breeding. Breeding means a real job and no nights out. Breeding means transferring libido into the offspring. I see this from the 40+ year olds now spilling back into circulation, paying for Gary Numan / Severed Heads shows and buying downloads of the CDs they owned before the childopalypse.
The important admission – the old guard was seriously out of ideas by this stage. No wonder that the next wave looked at us with contempt and jumped back on the ‘authentic’ stubble wagon. Not that the Mod Revival was particularly authentic – but it was better that than old fat 808 State.
The rescue myth I took up near the 00’s was that the music underground started to grow back in the German club scene – the post-digital glitch and minimal movement. It seemed that electronic music was reclaiming lost ground one hard panned sine wave at a time. But is that really true?
Like punk, the glitch scene started something important it couldn’t finish.The style declared a year zero, popped out quite a few manifestos and then ran screaming back to the past in the form of 70’s dub and disco. I like these styles so I was cool with ‘post glitch’ music but it’s no more credible to make ‘blip dub’ or ‘click hop’ than ‘remixed rock’. If you really want to to be mean – just another white style that needed a black butt.
The majority of ‘glitch’ was only ever listenable on the basis of it being a reaction, correction, the clearing of the stables, an insult to ‘authenticity’. Revolutions have a short shelf life. Long before Clicks and Cuts Volume Five stumbled out in 2010 the whole thing stank as high as every other musical movement. Some existing outfits like Oval were swept up, celebrated and spat out. The survivors were on the outside as always – e.g. Mouse On Mars simply orbited around it all paying small heed to any of it.
The Deep Radio Voice is more accurate than it seems. ‘Now’ is not a decade as such, it’s the time after which we lost faith in these movements, in cycles and some kind of dialectic of knobs versus wires. ‘Now’ is the 00’s, the 10’s and probably until the death of pop music. And that’s a real revolution.