Conventional words of wisdom; What an oxymoron.
There are so many nonsensical phrases that people love blindly bandying about. You know the ones, the proverbial drivel that people throw around in states of cod-philosophical self-approbation, even if it actually makes about as much sense as Joey Barton’s Twitter feed.
He wants to have his cake and eat it. Erm, what point is there in cake without eating it exactly? What else would you do with said cake? Worship it in quiet, Zen-like admiration? Throw it at the nearest moronic convert of this frankly baffling shuffling craze?
Actually, maybe that’s a saying that would make more sense. He likes to have his cake, take it out clubbing and throw it cleanly in the face of the nearest baboon-faced, fake tan-covered shuffler. There’s some wisdom I really can get down with. Or maybe it’s just the one redeeming feature of a Steve Aoki DJ set.
Anyway, my favourite oxymoronic nugget of accepted “wisdom” has to be “imitation is the highest form of flattery”. Brilliant. Copy someone else’s musical innovations, recreate their unique, carefully-sculpted sonic palette and they’re expected to conveniently forget this flagrant act of creative thievery, and instead bask in some sort of perverse glory while you get rich off the back of their hard work?
How did this become so?
A more reliable saying would surely be: imitation is the lowest form of creativity. Right now, an overdose of imitation artistry (read that last word in the loosest possible sense) is sucking all the forward-thinking from today’s dance scene as people eat up a status quo of supposed innovations that have been coined countless times before.
Just take the interminable trend for rehashes of early '90s US house and garage. It’s a solid sound, sure. It was sort of cool the first time we heard a nostalgic bumpy house groove that felt like a lost MK DAT tape. Just like it was cool the first time round, when that sound was genuinely pioneering. In 1993. Or 20 whole frickin’ years ago, to put some perspective on things.
With this backward-thinking trick repeated over and over, it has become about as innovative (and formulaic) as an X Factor single. When will it stop? 'Gagnam Style' has more balls and artistic integrity than this rehashed tosh. I mean that. I really mean that. At least that track says something other than “we like these records from 20 years ago so much that we’ve tried to copy them pretty much beat for beat, organ stab for organ stab”. 'Gagnam Style' is anarchic and unique, two things that most dance music in 2013 certainly ain’t.
Plus it’s pretty hard to argue with the fact that EDM is much more fun when you chuck in a middle-aged Korean rapper who dances like he’s riding an imaginary pony. Anyway, in this bizarre post-modern vacuum of innovation, even the garage pastiches are getting ripped off and retooled. Anyone heard Ruben Mandolini’s 'Modular'? It unapologetically grabs the bassline from Mosca’s (admittedly brilliant) bumpy garage update 'Baxx' and shamelessly slaps it on a b-side blast of generic tech house tosh. What hope for creativity in this copycat free-for-all?
Then there’s the producers that are just endlessly copying themselves. Take the likes of MK and Todd Edwards. Legends? 100%. Talented? Most definitely. But wouldn’t it be great if their respective sounds had moved on a little more than a couple of proverbial pigeon steps from where they were 15 plus years ago?
Ed Rush is another one. In 1997, the neurofunk sound that he pioneered with Optical, Matrix et al was like nothing else around; it felt like having your head blown off by bilious, demonically futuristic bass and sucked down a seedy, sci-fi wormhole. Hearing it trotted out 16 years on is the very definition of diminishing returns. Argh… everything feels stuck on a loop.
But it’s probably not the artists that are to blame. They are just doing their thing. Making what feels right. Or what they feel people want to hear. Making what, dare we say it, sells. Nope, the real blame lies with you. Or us, to be specific. Just like any conventionally accepted norms, nothing will change until it is challenged. The more we continue to gush away uncontrollably every time some two-bit producer ‘successfully’ rehashes a sound that has gone before or trots out their tried, trusted and well-worn formula, the more it will get mistaken for genuine creativity.
So rise up and embrace the rule-breakers, sound punks, dreamers and forward-thinkers; those that are dancing to the beat of their own drum and forging new paths. Even if it occasionally means accepting that a Skrillex record has some actual artistic integrity to it. Well, at least they did until he started trying to sound like Burial. See what we’re dealing with here? Anyway…. innovation: accept no substitute. Or imitations.
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