Everything Is Happening

June 6th, 2008 | shivering sands

The things the internet have done to music continue to fascinate me.

In times past, people recorded for radio — that is, they recorded in a way that would sound good on medium-wave broadcasting, because BBC Radio 1, the nation’s way of discovering music, broadcast on 275 and 285 on the medium wave. FM was, for a long time, reserved for the Chart Show on Sundays, where Radio 1 took Radio 2’s FM slot for two hours. (Or was it an hour and a half?) This is one reason why there wasn’t any bass in British pop music for years and years. It didn’t broadcast all that well. Pop music was incredibly toppy for a long time; you only got real bass in clubs and at gigs.

Today, it’s the middle stretch that goes missing. Mp3 preserves the top and the bottom, but the centre loses nuance in the compression. And now I’m hearing people record for mp3. People are starting to complain about it — click around and you’ll find ”audiophiles” wishing for FLAC and Ogg that preserves more of the music. It’s just another cycle. Sooner or later, we’ll have another moment as in ’87/’88 when people discovered bass again, and everything else sounded kind of insipid in comparison.

Not that it’ll happen in a big wave next time. The other interesting thing is the immediacy and fractioning of musical movements. In (say) 1988, you could feel it coming. (In actual fact, there were two things coming — in addition to acid, there was a reinvention of guitar music). Genesis P-Orridge has talked about this a little bit, the weird surge in the air that took him to Jack The Tab. In those days, big cultural shifts were a slow wave passing over the planet, moving at the speed of postage and club nights and the occasional phone call. And they came, at best, one or two at a time. And they caught up everybody.

What’s changed is the speed of communication and the speed at which new music can be experienced. So today we no longer wait for the breakers to hit every 11 years (roughly: rock, 55. Psychedelia, 66. Punk, 77. Acid, 1988). Instead, micro-movements pop up every month. Some new eddy in the hardcore continuum, MySpacey chavpop, The Fonal Sound, British ”dark folk,” the spooktronics crowd being drawn to the Miasmah label (and too many more to mention)… far more plentiful than “scenes” in the past, geographically scattered and inspiring the sort of mad group inspiration and evolution that you used to only find at the top of big New Sound cultural events.

Everything is happening, all the time, very fast. I like that.


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis