It’s come to a time where I’m about to leave this urban landscape of Melbourne. I’m about to come home to northern NSW. There’s not much of a scene up here electronically, except for outdoor electronica aka Doof. This is filling me with apprehension. I’ve always felt slightly at odds with this culture, and my want to get beyond it was a partial reason for leaving in the first place. I’m still trying to come to terms with this scene at turns marred and defined by its embedded rituals and sounds.
So many questions come to mind. What’s going on? Where are the brackets these days? How can we define our collective Australian electronic music cultures in a country bred on imports? One place where the war on ideas and approaches seems more pronounced between old and new is in the outdoor scene, and in definition of the never-resolved issue of What Is Doof ™.
The introduction of more popular veins of dubstep in 2009 to the outdoor Australian world found many new champions to extending cultural vocabulary, a lot of whom were previously embedded as psytrance purveyors, punters and performers. Labels like Hopskotch Records began releasing former psytrance artists of the well-known institute Zenon Records producing Canadian and Bay Area glitch-hop almost exclusively.
Independent northern NSW small festival Deliverance imported acts like Eprom and Ill Gates, the latter of whom evangelically converted many young producers to these newer possibilities in sound through focused tours of performance and workshops. At that point, Tipper and other acts were already gaining an increasing fanbase from the outdoors, and psytrance lovers were in open revolt as to what they saw as “their” scene.
It seemed at that time like a revolution. However, old modes of behavior and custom started setting in, and the same old hierarchies re-emerged in full force to structure and govern what was popular within this microcosm.
One could say that the problem with newer forms of outdoor electronic music claiming to break genre programming in Australia is that it’s still psytrance. Similar melodic devices and keys are used to still render that sort of “bush” sound. A great many of the new school of producers I’ve seen at work or interviewed still author with software like Cubase, Fruity Loops and Reason, and still use the same VSTs.
This isn’t to dispute what they do in terms of quality, but overall approaches to writing music haven’t evolved. At worst, newer “glitch-hop” tracks can sound like cheap emulations of their influences. Those who reach a level of mastery have learned that computer programs can’t emulate hardware with any real level of accomplishment, although it’s always easy to flex smoke and mirrors to fool the open, or those who have more a cest la vie attitude to their musical consumption, which creates less/more conflict.
I say less/more here because some wish to preach tighter sound architecture as preference, but occasionally get a little too passionate, which in turn raises the hackles of those who don’t want this business of craft evolution to interrupt what is otherwise a very fun party. But criticism and rejection of older ideas is necessary in any evolving craft.
Some Australian psytrance producers – on the other hand – have evolved their craft in terms of what hardware they use, and have embraced use of modular analog equipment and so forth. If you’re already passing a judgement that a genre is going to be shit, then perhaps you’re not listening to the detail of sound architecture. Part of learning to enjoy music is accepting what you’re listening to without judgement. When I write reviews for music, it’s an essential that I try to find the best in what I’m listening to first before I take my blade to it.
Punters are more or less exactly the same when I see them outdoors. They’re still taking the same ol’ drugs, dancing the same ol’ dance, talking the same ol’ shit. The level of sophistication they do this is well-worn in, with accordance with what model of car they’ve decided to work on (so to speak), but all the rituals remain the same.
I actually have learned to revel more in some of these forms of ID and rituals as time progresses. Some more nefarious issues, however, have become massive barriers I simply must acknowledge for my own sanity. One is the same beautiful-people schoolyard culture that used to have me hiding in toilets on lunch breaks, or attempting to fit in when I obviously didn’t.
Some of our rituals are beautiful, some are stagnant, others reek of desperation, while operate exceedingly arrogantly and resist query. For things to evolve, it’s more to do people’s levels of personal conduct and integrity, outside of the ever-permeating hive mind. However, in niche scenes, it usually takes a couple of popular people to adopt a trend before the rest of the sheep come to flock, so we also need this hive mind to a relative degree. But when we identify with it exclusively, problems come forth.
The same application of schoolyard ethics still exist out there in the paddock, except more like a doof version of Lord Of The Flies. In many cases, this new school of outdoor partiers are as unforgiving and as vacuous as any bogan or bimbo at Stereosonic, except they think they’re in some sort of upper echelon, which means they’re even more ignorant and high-powered. In many cases, it’s entry-level EDM lovers who start to embrace the niche trends that keep the wide-eyed magic in the scene, not the older, jaded ones. Perhaps they’re the ones who continue to carry the torch of our idealistic dream.
As we reach a level of confidence, that’s when we have the tendency to not only trim and neaten our own tastes, but unconsciously apply these edits to others. Sometimes this has a less-than-fortunate ending, as strong egos rile up and combat each other when situations become personalised.
Evolution doesn’t have to be forced. It doesn’t have to mean you have to adopt this month’s style of electronica, which to me shows that essential herd mentality rolling on in full force. If you’re going to break your programming, try embracing your true individuality without compromise. </culturaldogma>
Written by Kristian Hatton