Once upon a time rock critics were bullies who didn't want to let the electronic music community on their playground. It was their turf and they wanted to keep the computer nerds and drugged-up ravers out. EDM was viewed as inferior and generally misunderstood because it came from a different ethos than the rock continuum. Those days are long gone though, with electronic music now accepted. Touted by those who once dismissed. It could no longer be denied that it was a premier, boundary-pushing art form which opened up new possibilities for everyone making music. It was a watershed moment when this gradual changed occurred, as it seemed everyone could finally live happily together as one big family.
This is a case of snobbery for snobbery’s sake, and I learned very young via Salvador Dali that snobbery is only cool when coming from the gifted. This poor, angry RA writer was not qualified.
Prejudices still exist. They come not so much from rock critics, but rather from within the EDM culture community itself.
As the indie rock world merges closer and closer with the electronic music scene due to the sharing of production ideas, musical acts, record labels and genuine appreciation for one another's music, an underlying tension still exists that threatens to derail the whole love affair. Electronic music critics and fans have turned into their own version of the self-righteous hipsters they were once ostracized by. One needs to look no further than the reviews section of taste-making electronic music webzine Resident Advisor. Reviews and forum users bashing indie music is not anything new to the website, which still chooses to cover it despite the animosity, but it is reaching new levels of absurdity. A recent review of UK indie band Foals' installment in the !K7's Tapes series contained such snarky lines as, “If you come to Foals from an exclusively indie rock perspective, this may blow your tiny mind.” Besides the obviously condescending assumption that indie rock fans have “tiny minds” incapable of understanding the dynamics of a well-arranged DJ mix, it reveals how close-minded and elitist of a club the dance world has become. Foals’ singer Edwin Congreave who mixed the installment might not have the DJ know-how of Dixon as the reviewer suggests is needed, but is that not the whole point of the Tapes series anyways? Previous artists behind the helm were The Big Pink and The Rapture, two other indie acts with dance influences not traditionally part of club culture attempting to branch out and take a stab at making a mix. The most ironically snide remark in the whole review though is when the writer denounces the tracklist for containing names such as Art Department and Caribou, who he presumes “will hardly set the average Resident Advisor regular's pulses racing.” Yet, both are acts that have topped the website's very own end-of-the-year lists consistently in recent years. Having listened to the mix myself, it might not be the most polished, seamless mix to have ever graced my ears, but it’s entertaining, and not the car wreck the writer makes it out to be. This is a case of snobbery for snobbery’s sake, and I learned very young via Salvador Dali that snobbery is only cool when coming from the gifted. This poor, angry RA writer was not qualified.If someone wanted a perfectly mixed CD with previously unreleased, holier-than-thou techno, they should go lock themselves in a room with Richie Hawtin's meticulously crafted DE9 series and wank off (which for the record I actually like, but you get the point).
It is natural human instinct to want to protect one’s “personal scene” from outsiders who could infiltrate it and potentially ruin it. Underground electronic music is after all one of the last true refuges of independent music, more so than indie rock itself despite what its name suggests. However, at what point are people taking this territorial pissing too far? The music world is vastly different today than it was a decade ago. This is not Radiohead releasing Kid A in 2000 and people being shocked that a rock band is aware of Aphex Twin and Autechre. Guitar-bands having a profound interest in electronic music are so common these days that it is surprising that anyone still bats an eyelid over it. And we are not talking about former screamo singers turned brostep poster boys here, but some English kids who grew up visiting clubbing institutions like Fabric on the weekend and developing a genuine appreciation for the music. They might not have found their true calling there; however, they also never really abandoned it. Jamie XX immediately comes to mind as someone initially involved with indie rock band the XX, but became deeply influenced by UK bass music, and eventually developed into a well-regarded producer and DJ in his own right. In turn, it was the XX’s use of negative space which influenced James Blake to rethink the way he wrote music, and become one of the most exciting young producers around. As it is often said, outsiders bring a fresh perspective to a scene where those already involved can become trapped in their own lil’ bubble. When acts like Laurel Halo can be signed to Hyperdub, and Pantha Du Prince wants to release records through Rough Trade, perhaps musicians themselves understand something far greater than short-sighted fans and critics do.
I entered college and discovered the power of real dance music. Until then I wrongly perceived all dance music to be big room cheese that people popped pills to… much like the rock press before me previously did.
The idea of maintaining the supposed “purity” of a scene is a naïve and foolish one at best. Yes, we all cherish being a part of a special music community with like-minded people, but when others are being excluded simply for coming from a different background, it becomes detrimental to progress and unsustainable in the long run. I admittedly was unaware of most electronic music that was not IDM or ambient until I entered college and discovered the power of real dance music. Until then I wrongly perceived all dance music to be big room cheese that people popped pills to... much like the rock press before me previously did. Not everyone grew up being exposed to the most obscure white labels out of the womb, and bless Detroit for that because how awfully boring would that be if we all had the same taste and made the same music. Even some of our most revered producers and DJs from the scene such as Carl Craig proudly admit they grew up on indie staples like The Smiths who significantly shaped the way he listened to and produced music. And I’m sure he made a mediocre mix or two along the way before becoming the maestro he is now.
It might be fashionable right now to hate on “outdated” guitars, but the reality is that with the possible exception of the late ‘80s, indie and electronic music are more deeply entangled than they have ever been. People should be excited that others are taking notice of electronic music in ways that were once unimaginable, and eager to be involved and contribute in their own ways. Maybe the indie rocker and clubber aren't as different as we like to think.