The Genre With No Name


2013 has been a tumultuous year for dance music. Daft Punk’s return has topped the album charts, America’s mainstream has invested in ‘EDM’ and the ecstasy-related baggage that comes with it, social media has precipitated rows between the newly wealthy ‘press play’ DJs and the purist old guard, and from dubstep drops to deep house, pop music has embraced electronic sounds.

The beauty of the dance music industry is that it keeps chugging along with or without the various spotlights that are shined down upon it from time to time. Various genres have exploded into the general consciousness on as many occasions as have been written off for dead. Amid all of this, and perhaps as a reaction to it, those less bothered by the big time keep on making music and DJing for a smaller, but far more loyal group of clubbers and audiophiles.

One movement that exemplifies this rejection of the dayglow and digital is the more indie and analogue house and techno being made by a ramshackle group of producers and DJs. The sound seems neatly bookended this year by two albums, Andrew Weatherall and Timothy J. Fairplay’s as The Asphodells with ‘Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust’, and Daniel Avery’s long-awaited debut ‘Drone Logic’. It’s probably fair to say that Weatherall is the elder statesman of this scene, as the man who gave Primal Scream some electronic oomph and still regularly packs clubs with rockabilly only sets, while Avery is the young pretender, who grew up on Death in Vegas and My Bloody Valentine before being seduced by the genre bending of Erol Alkan’s Durrr night.

Both albums were produced to some extent at Weatherall’s near mythical Scrutton Street studios, with an axis of artists using the synth strewn rooms to exchange ideas and create weapons to play at nights like Sean Johnston’s A Love From Outer Space. “We’re all drawing on the same sort of influences, I think originality comes by accident when you start doing approximations of things, so maybe we’re channelling the things we love, trying to use the original equipment as much as possible,” says Weatherall. “It’s taken me and Ivan (Smagghe) probably longer to not get hung up on originality than Dan (Avery), I don’t think he’s set out to be original, but he has by default because he’s channelling the music he loves using the equipment that was used to make it in a lot of cases. If you do that you begin to stand out from what may be more of the moment and by default you become more original.”

Avery’s star has been rising for a couple of years now, from a slew of fine mixes and remixes in his own name and under the early moniker Stopmakingme, to widespread plaudits for his own fledgling productions, and culminating in his drone-y, acidic and assured first album in October. He believes his sound and that of his peers has always been here in some respect, so it’s not necessarily a reaction to anything else. “One thing I’ve noticed is that kids at the moment are wanting and willing to dig a bit deeper into electronic music and some are discovering this sound,” Avery commented. “This is underground music: it’s not based on recognisable R&B vocal samples or bottle service drops. It’s not for the masses but there is a level of depth there for people to explore; sometimes scenes just take a while to come into view.”

For his part, Avery believes that while analogue equipment is increasingly used, it’s not the sole defining factor. “To me, I hear a certain attitude and spirit running through these records; it’s psychedelic electronic music with a dusty, human soul,” he opined, adding that DJing has regained its excitement and signing to Phantasy seemed like a natural move. “Sharing the label with individualist minds like Erol Alkan, Babe Terror, Ghost Culture, Connan Mockasin and In Flagranti makes sense; we don’t make the same music but are all something of outsiders when it comes to [club] music and I’m more than happy to occupy that position.”

Author of authoritative dance music history ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ and keeper of crate diggers paradise DJ History, Bill Brewster is well placed to assess the trend. “It’s sort of the people that are not involved directly in the orthodox house scene I suppose; those on the periphery of it,” he suggested. “I mean when I go and watch Weatherall he’s playing whole sets at around 115 bpm, that kind of chuggy sound is very en vogue in certain areas of dance music.”