My lovely lady and I just rewatched Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, and as the track "Born Slippy" by Underworld plays over the movie's concluding moments I was taken back to circa-1997 when the movie, the song, this music, even Renton's (Ewan McGregor's character) speech was perfectly contemporary. We had just come through the economic downturn of the early 90s where we were playing in a grunge band. We had kicked our habit. Times had palpably changed in its slow-way, where all of a sudden you look around and nothing is the same. And along starts coming this new kind of electronic music from the UK, bands like The Prodigy, Underworld, The Orb. Even DJs were getting respect, guys like Paul Oakenfold and Moby.
So, for Trainspotting to came out, if felt revolutionary, something of a new culture. The Rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s had taken hold, supplanting the guitar-driven music which came before it. The emergence of Industrial Music such as Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM helped pave the way, as did the popularity of hip-hop which accustomed our ears to the timbre of digital music. Trainspotting's soundtrack was cutting-edge at the time. It had the right mix of breaking bands with some of the more obscure music which had inspired it. Today, the album feels outdated, but it's important to remember that it was once game-changing. "Born Slippy" was played on rock radio stations. It was a hit. It was the momemt where it felt like electronic music was taking over.
Which makes me think about today. What will we be defined by? Certainly there is a certain Wes Anderson-ness to the early aughts, but in this day and age of 2012 how will our cultural character be remembered? While obviously impossible to say conclusively, music is turning its pages once more. Dubstep is the name of the game where acts like Skrillex and Bassnectar have come to prominence without the aid of radio or major promotions. The internet is the great equalizer, but it is also the great distracter, and is as fickle as a spoiled beauty queen. Yet, I think that there has still yet to be the big cross-over for this generation - the moment like "Born Slippy" in Trainspotting where everything coalesces. Its success, I believe, stems from what I like to call the humanizing of electronica. Few realize that "Born Slippy" was released originally as an instrumental track, quite different to the song we're all familiar with. As a B-Side, "Born Slippy .nuxx" was included which is the song in we know. The shouted lyrics were added as the internal monologue of an alcoholic (or so says wikipedia) and this contrasted with the push and pull of the melancholy synth sample and the relentlessness of the house beats.
Before Dubstep can really make a claim for itself as a-sign-of-the-times it needs a humanizing moment. By nature it is a very aggressive, vice-fueled music; built for dancing, driving you through the night and not to introspection, but just as it is from our recognition of ourselves consciousness comes, it is by the same kind of self-reflection that movements grow and mature, and music become something more venerated, like art. Surely there are fore-runners. Beats Antique have taken the Burning Man aesthetique and transcribed it into music, IDM heroes like Four Tet put the intelligence in Intellegent Dance Music, and the Joker puts his 'purple' spin on Dubstep. Still, we seem to be building towards a boil, not rolling quite yet.
How will it come? Who will lead us? I do not have answers to these questions. I do know; however, that we must push our dance music to a place that pushes us back, that pushes the medium to enlighten our senses to what we have not heard before. To make music that resonates not just our hips and our hearts, but also our soul and brain.