Despite my previous dismissal of the new wave of synthpop, I should perhaps clarify that I still believe in 'pure' electronic dance music, when the vibe is right. I really liked a lot of the so-called 'electroclash' stuff that started coming out a year or two back. The best tracks referenced the early '80s, but emphasised the minimal, alien qualities and kept things simple and spacious. As a statement, I still think the "First Album" by Miss Kittin & The Hacker is one of the best debuts I've heard in years. Following on from that, I would say that Miss Kittin's "Radio Caroline" is one of my all-time favourite mix CDs - and that's not just because some comments I posted about her got printed in the CD booklet! No, it's because I think she has outstanding taste and I love the way she makes connections between different 'phases' of electronica, like mixing-in Autechre's mid-90's abstract tune "Flutter" over Jesper Dahlback's "Nyckelpigs" and from there into Pan Sonic's "Hapatus", dissolving the borders of (micro)genre and era. And then there's the way she does her little monologues over the top, giving you tiny insights into her life. Genius! I couldn't imagine any male DJ coming up with something so honest and unselfconscious. Anyone who truly believes in the sensual power of electronics should own this.
A more recent compilation of interest is the latest set from Hydrogen Dukebox, "Music For Heroes Three". Although certain tracks do slip into 'muzak' territory, there's enough here to encourage electropop fans that there is further scope for innovation. Norken's "Motorbreeze" kicks things off nicely, with hints of Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" phase and a dirty, smeared bassline that injects some much-needed muscle into futurism's skeletal frame. 3rd Eye Parametric's "Inner Thoughts" is simply sublime: austere 808 beats, slivers of synth-drone and the mearest hint of a processed vocal emerging wraith-like from the void before dissolving back into deep space. Futurist godfather John Foxx makes an appearance too, remixing a track by his 'protege' Metamatics in fine style. Brutal!
I'm a firm believer in matching form with content, so the idea of using electronics to perform traditional song-based material in 2004 seems like a colossal waste of potential, in my view. Remember when acts like LFO and Orbital were taking instrumental techno into the pop charts in the early '90s? Surely that was the template on which modern pop should have been based. And when Garage invaded the charts a few years ago, it seemed to be speaking a new language. So what happened?Our technology has evolved, but the methods of conveying ideas and emotions have remained static. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Girls Aloud as much as the next man, but there's always that sense of unease....shouldn't pop have evolved beyond all that by now?
I suspect I may be talking complete bollocks here, but hey I ain't Simon Reynolds fer chrissakes! I'm just some geezer who writes what comes into his head without thinking it through too well. If anything above resonates with you, please let me know...