Finding its source in Detroit, Michigan during the mid-to-late 1980s, techno is known for its rhythmic component in 4/4, classically marked with bass drums, snares and hi-hats created by the good old TR-808 or TR-909 synthesizers. Lacking in popularity in the west, big U.S. producers like Robert Hood, Jeff Mills and Octave One migrated to Europe to overtake cities like Ghent, Birmingham and the unofficial techno capital Berlin.
Booming in popularity across the world some feel the sound has been hijacked by ‘techno purist’s’ who measure their pleasure through feedback levels while attempting to ‘out-listen’ and ‘out-intellectualise’ their peers on the nuances of the latest obscure white-label.
"Utopia is good up until a turning point, when the lack of difference sparks forced differentiation" - Sadie Plant
Driven by the need for individualism, labels, artists and listeners engage in a process of radicalisation creating dystopian sounds, offensive artwork and controversial rhetoric. In an interview published in the German Newspaper “Die Welt” Oliver Koletzki talks about his hashtag #FuckEDM and says:
“The underground scene feels threatened and reacts by playing harder and more monotonous music.” ~ Oliver Koletzki (translated)
Styles and genres evolve into more experimental area’s to escape the sonic inertia, away from the “quick-skip” and sidechain compression drops to offbeat and drone sounds.
However, changes become controversial as a product of artistic immersion into taboo areas of human expression that can be misinterpreted. The productions of Ian Dominick Fernow aka Vatican Shadow or the British duo Demdike Stare tickle the edge of political correctness and question the status quo of the passive audience.
Introducing the actual act of listening as an integral part of the relationship between the DJ and the audience, avant-garde producers try to irritate and bother their audience in subtle ways, generating individual interpretations on their form of self-expression by creating sounds with multiple dimensions, letting the audience decide which tones to follow. Empty warehouses can momentarily become intergalactic space portals, giving famous venues like Berlin’s Berghain a spiritual connotation.
Techno has a musical community with an incredible past influenced by a variety of labels, artists and venues but the role of the audience in the creative process and consumption of the sonic tales is not to be neglected. Even if consumers as active listeners are decisive for development, they should not behave like techno purists in such an innovative musical scene.
Arthur Gousset (Editor)