4×4 = HOOD POLYRHYTHM

Matt Shadetek doesn’t blog often, but when he does it usually involves fascinating polemic. check the new post, ‘Hecko‘ (which i can’t link to directly), a youtube-enhanced argument for hood nationalism in 4/4 dance music. (be sure to watch the Godfather vid!).

here’s a quote:

Techno, house and electro came from the hood in America. Techno was invented in Detroit and House came from NY & Chicago. Bambataa in NYC was doing electro at the same time as he was involved with hiphop and those two were much closer to one another in the beginning than they are now. The Europeans grabbed them and turned them into predictable robot music for pill poppers and did it with a lot of enthusiasm and conviction. So much so, that we, the Americans, basically forgot our claim to this music and started looking to Europe to define what this music was. One of the main reasons I don’t like the Euro variants of these styles is that they are too repetitive, predictable and un-funky. The rhythm is reduced to a pulse that just stays steady all night and by being the same for so long makes you forget about it. This is the ‘Flow’ that so many DJs talk about and think is so great. Godfather on the other hand is constantly breaking the flow, interrupting it, shuffling it, putting the emphasis on the off beat, changing tempo through juggling, building tension through scratching. Basically keeping you from falling into a trance on the dancefloor, which would probably be annoying if you were on ecstasy and trying to zone out, but for someone like me who isnt, is great and exciting. I love the feeling of being thrown off beat for a second, wondering where I am, and then having the next track slam in.

 

bounce! bounce! ba ba ba ba ba babababa bounce!

34 thoughts on “4×4 = HOOD POLYRHYTHM”

  1. Thoughtful post by Shade. And I couldn’t possibly agree more with the thoughts on DJing. Cuts, scratches, juggles, and tempo changing interludes are all golden , and serve to break monotony in a DJ set.

    But, from one ex-pat to another, there’s something a bit misguided with Captain Red Beard’s patriotism.

    See, the guys in Detroit got virtually no love when they first broke in the States (c’mon Matt, you should know this fellow Berlin dweller), and if it wasn’t for labels like Tresor (Berlin), R&S (Belgium), ACV (Italy), Peacefrog (UK) and others, a lot of first and second wave Detroit techno producers, and Chicago “jack” pioneers would arguably still be living in obscurity. Just research the sales of labels like Axis, M-Plant, and Submerged pre and post these artists’ first visits to Europe. This is fairly well documented.

    I also think some of the better “techno” labels today like Bpitch and others, still stay true to the “funky” and not-as-monotonous format pioneered in the US. But electroinc music (as with most popular music) is built on repetition (or some repeated motif), I’m not sure that’s something worth moaning about. I know what he means about certain strains of “Euro” trance or its derivatives (snore), but I’m just not sure the argument holds true with “techno”, as he’s calling it.

    Yeah it’s from the “hood”, kinda. More like from imploding industrial wastelands. If you read interviews with Juan Atkins, it was the internet, and hearing things on pirate radio like Kraftwerk alongside disco, hip-hop and funk that planted the seeds (in his head) of what “techno” music would be.

    I’m just not sure what the hell Matt is tryna say here..? That he’s annoyed by the majority of “white” (not necessarily the color, but the attitude and influences) European techno heads? Great, join the club.

  2. …also, one of the ideas behind the “repetition” of techno records was to give the DJ a tool (a bunch of loops on vinyl) to mix with. I think a lot of the boring shit(i.e. the “euro techno” he speaks of) comes from the current breed of hipster DJ, with no real turntable skills, that’s content to just let the record (or, god forbid, the CD) play and tweak the EQ a little while trying to look cool.

    I’m not sure this is solely a European phenomenon (seen it all over). The responsibility here, I think, lies more with the DJ’s and promoters that can’t tell apart the DJ’s who really mix and create, from those that pose.

  3. Props for drawing attention to that Godfather vid. That’s white hot.

    However, it’s kinda funny that someone who doesn’t like techno – unless it’s cut up in a hiphop style – throws out a blanket comment about Europeans taking techno and turning it into bullshit. 95% of techno is wack. 95% of hiphop is wack. I couldn’t care where it comes from – if I get off on it, I get off on it.

    I djed mainly techno styles for a good ten years. I got hooked on it through Warp, Tresor, R&S, German and Dutch acid stuff, Rising High, Magnetic North, Bunker Records, Peacefrog, FatCat, Aphex, Surgeon, Landstrumm, Vogel… For the first few years Cornwall meant more to me than Detroit (fo’ real). If anything, it was only when the Jeff Mills ‘effect’ (American, non?) kicked in around 1998 that I started hearing this ‘flow’ everywhere that Matt loathes… when tons of Purpose Maker tracks started coming out that sounded exactly the same as the last (and which triggered off that style of techno everywhere, not just in Europe). Before all that, techno was far from stuck in a loop.

    Don’t get me wrong, I dig a huge amount of techno from Detroit, Chicago, New York – I take my hat off to many of those guys… but to write Europe off like that is waaaay off the mark.

    It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at, right?

  4. mmm. slight edit. the flow was there before, though the whole mills thing just ironed out a lot of the interesting elements i think… from reading his post again, i just don’t think matt shadetek likes techno, that’s all. i mean, that shit’s meant to put you in a trance!

    out.

  5. Polemics are good at stirring up the pot, but oftentimes come with one-sided (or short-sighted) argumentation to get there, which I think is the case for Shade on techno, IMHO.

    His gripes: He’s unhappy with techno that’s ruled by flow — seamless, smooth, polished. And he’s unhappy that such techno seems to come mostly from Europe, when the music itself was born in the inner-cities of Chicago, Detroit, and NYC.

    If the flow style isn’t his thing, that’s a matter of taste. I’ve enjoyed quite a few mixes and live sets of techno — without being on drugs — that get deep into the mix, where the slightest tweaks and adjustments are what you notice. Luis Manuel-Garcia, who’s doing some doctoral work on techno, has some great entries on his blog (luisinparis.blogspot.com) that review club nights with a fine attention to such detail. There’s a cerebral aspect to it, but it’s still dance music, although definitely not in the same way as juke or jit.

    As for this Europe vs. U.S. criticism, the obvious answer has already been cited that had it not been for those pesky Europeans, we wouldn’t know our Belleville Three from our Frankie Knuckles. And, moreover, on the precursor side of things, there’s always the famous George Clinton + Kraftwerk in an elevator description c/o Derrick May. Shade seems to want all P Funk and no Dusseldorf, but that just isn’t how it came about. Techno especially always had that kind of hollow, electronic, (post-)industrial feel to it — which of course is why it resonated so well with the Detroit landscape. Also perhaps why it sound so good in the cities of the former eastern bloc, Berlin chief among them. There’s a commonality there for sure. Some of Detroit’s finest of the later generations (thinking namely of Richie Hawtin and +/-; for argument’s sake let Windsor be part of Detroit) are now calling Berlin home, and every May plenty of Berlin’s finest head back to the birthplace for the Movement festival. The Atlantic is far from a great divide.

    Finally, of course, there are still techno DJs from the U.S., from Detroit even, and they don’t necessarily play in a DJ Godfather style. Last time I saw Carl Craig play, he got deeeeeep into the mix. And go back to any old Frankie Knuckles or Chicago house mix . . . the jack sound is abrasive, but still works on the principle of mixing records.

    As for the DJ Godfather video — yeah, wicked cool, but the fact that he’s using a 4/4 “techno” beat almost seems incidental. He’s got his turntables oriented in a hip-hop style and he’s doing turntablist/hip-hop tricks to those records. The method produces a hip-hop aesthetic almost in spite of what’s being played. Just tonight, Ali and I (we’re in cahoots on this comment stream) saw a techno DJ in São Paulo that scratched over some records while largely leaving the mix intact. That sounded like scratching techno records, but what DJ Godfather didn’t more or less wasn’t.

    Sure, Chicago house and Detroit techno have been stripped down for variations that have a more hip-hop aspect to them (i.e. juke, jit, baltimore club, ghettotech), which is perfectly fine collaboration of styles that probably hasn’t been heard since hip-house’s hey-day, but if folks still want to make techno for techno’s sake, why fault them, especially when they’re trying to put an interesting spin on it (cf already cited labels: Bpitch control, +/-, Get Physical)? Shade’s a hip-hop head, it’s clear enough, and so his complaint is essentially self-serving: “Damn, I’d like techno if it sounded more like hip-hop.” But that’s just silly partisanship, as it would be just as dumb for a techno fanatic to say, “Damn, I’d like hip-hop if it sounded more like techno” and go on praising a DJ who oriented his turntables like a house DJ and cut a 10-minute simultaneous mix of some hip-hop records.

  6. Hes hit a nerve tho! – so he can’t be wrong. LOL. I think the point is that the (massive) seperation of ‘hood & rave’ is not a good thing – and that their re-unification results in some AMAZING music/ideas.

    4×4 = HOOD POLYRHYTHM

    your so ill rupture you need a team of doctors!!!

  7. What’s with the chumps that feel the need to say “hood” as a way to delineate musical forms? Sounds like middle-class fetishising. I’ll hood you fools in your grills. And what’s with this atempt to re-package ghetto-tech and electro with the ‘4×4’ label. Labelers. Is that necessary?

    And does the term ‘rave’ really have any meaning these days, other than a word ‘party’?

    Don’t think he’s hit a nerve, only reminded us that most artists should just shut up, make art, and stop talking, ’cause when they do garbage spills out they mouths.

    PS-
    Purpose Maker records are dope.

  8. I wouldn’t say he’s hit a nerve either. Just comes across as way off the mark, that’s all.

    As for Purpose Maker records. Yeah, I still think the first of the series are really dope, though I stopped buying them after about the fifth or sixth, as they started sounding really samey. I guess the comment was a backhanded compliment to Mills, for laying down productions so influential they pretty much singlehandedly changed the trajectory.

  9. Gotta agree w/Ali and Gregzinho. I love juke and jit, but it’s not a monogamous relationship! I wonder, after dissing Norteamericano DJs (Rupture included?) for playing tracks by Chilean Villalobos (whose family, according to Wikipedia, fled Santiago for Germany after Pinochet overthrew the elected Allende gov’t in a USA-backed coup), what would Shadetek (whose music I love and respect, by the way) make of someone like Brazil’s DJ Murphy?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DB02vUdxB54

    Murphy seems a lot more open to different styles of techno that Shadetek: Murphy gives props to Jeff Mills, hard techno, and minimal. Notice also how Murphy lumps Windsor’s Hawtin and Chi-town’s ownDJ Rush in with “German DJs,” and resists the interviewers attempt to compare him to Mills. Fully justified, as their styles are miles apart- I’ve never seen anyonedrum on the record platter like Murphy, and don’t ask me how he keeps the tonearm in place! Here are Godfather and Murphy back-to-back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzJrmP3qTgQ

  10. Also, let’s not forget about the class dimesion of early Detroit techno- it was class-aspirational music. I reading one of the orginators saying something about how he would never play anything with a breakbeat in it. Anyway, the class dimension doesn’t seem to be as big now: Carl Craig spins Ying Yang Twins these days, hardly buppie music.

  11. By “anything with a breakbeat,” I’m thinking (sample-based) hip-hop, not the original breaks themselves, obviously P-Funk, JB, et al. were held in very high regard by Detroit techno originators.

  12. Mills changed techno dj-ing in this way : the hot mix, mixing every 1 or 2 minutes, 3 turntables, scratching, cutting, banging on the turntable platter, leaving the tables smoking when he got done.

    and for playing huge symphonic extra-terrestrial slabs of molten sound that obliterated your mind and body.

    there is a certain lameness in minimal mixing these days, but that has nothing to do with the preceding 20 years of techno. and nothing to do with not keeping it hood (which it never was, it was much greater than that).

  13. Mills was a hip hop dj to start with yeah? (Im not the worlds biggest techno fan by a looong stretch – the few live recordings Ive heard of Mills is as far from ‘smooth trance dancing’ as youd wanna be) & The Hot Mix 5 / Bad Boy Bill etc where there from the very start of House music in Chicago.

    Thats the point I got from the ‘Heckno’ post – theres always been this great interplay between hiphop/rap & techno/house, but, sometimes I get the feeling certain techno guys would prefer to play that down.

    I dont see how anything in that post could be seen as ‘dissing’ anyone.

    Im not from Europe or America so perhaps I missed something.

    Like timeblind says, there is a certain lameness – and a real lack of ‘danger’ in alot (most maybe) minimal/techno mixing. I for one dont see the point in alot of seemless, drawn out mixes of similar sounding tunes.

    I’d rather drop Triple 6 Mafia, Flo Rida & Lil Mama over Bodzin, Rashad & Switch beats!

    And No. I dont think Rave = Party, altho the words can be used in place of one another in most contexts, I think they are two very differant things.

  14. rave=party (UK)
    rave=glowsticks, drugs, and twats (US)
    rave= to shout (GER)
    rave=? (Aus)

    wtf?

    You drop your 36 mafia over Switchfroth, sonny.

    Don’t think anybody was feelin’ ‘dissed’. Enjoyed this discussion this far. Thanks Shade and posters.

  15. yes, this thread is excellent! Class & the kick drum.

    Jeff Mills is one of the few DJs i havent seen perform yet but really want to. (also on list: Otomo Yoshihide)

    this is kinda off-topic, but i find that with much minimal/repetitive music, there is a point at which it is boring/undynamic/etc (and this is a bad thing), and then there’s a point a little bit beyond that at which it is boring/undynamic/etc (and this is a good thing). my fav amibient pieces could all easily be 2-3 times as long and i wouldn’t mind.

    i think a lot of techno mixing involves stretching out time, the long slowly permutating track, the slow fade btwn records, etc.

  16. mills has mashed my head into tiny squares on more than one occasion (most memorably at the orbit in leeds, where he put up the most dense wall of rhythm i’ve ever heard, with 3 decks and a 909). pity he’s been distinctly underwhelming each time i’ve seen him since about 2000. hope you catch him on a good day jace, because when he’s on form he’s got the shake only one man can make.

  17. Timeblind, sorry if I saw a dis by Shadetek that wasn’t there, but it really did come off as one to me. I’d love to think I’m wrong.

    I love that Hot Mix 5 stuff. You can listen to your heart’s content by searching for “wmbx” (Chi radio station call letters) here:

    http://www.deephousepage.com

    To hear Mills back in the day as a hip-hop DJ, search the above site for “jeff mills” or “wizard.”

    Mills also may have doen more than any other single (foreign) individual to popularize techno in Japan, and is still doing his best to keep the scene strong there. He does an annual month-long residency at Womb in Tokyo- a few years back he played a James Brown tribute set I would’ve killed to hear.

    And if y’all will suffer me a few digressions…

    Anybody else wishing someone would break down the boundaries between kuduro and the “proper” European techno scene? They’ve got to be shoulder-to-shoulder in Portugal/Spain, right? Are people looking thru each other? I love both, and the thought of some heavy cross-pollination makes my mouth water. I could definitely imagine Helder’s “Os Marteleiros” tearing up some techno dancefloors. Would also make for a very interesting scene, culturally (the standard concerns notwithstanding)…

    And speaking of those not afraid to experiment, R.I.P. Max Roach, irreplaceable genius. Also a just and kind man, from everything I’ve ever heard. These two videos (and there are many others) leave me shaking my head in wonderment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0DnSMgW4f4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VhQtgSZbsY
    (hip-hop history at 5:00min in- been wanting to see footage of that for years!)

    An excellent LATimes article about the man from ’91:
    http://www.mitchberman.com/Max%20Roach–Los%20Angeles%20Times%20Magazine.htm

    Roach takes the complaint that rap is unmusical and turns it on its
    ear. “The world of organized sound is a boundless palette.” He spreads his arms to sketch it out in the air. “On that palette you have
    classical European music, you have Charlie Parker, you have the music of the East, African music, music of the Middle East, electronic
    music. Some people seem to think that what they are doing way over
    here in one corner”–he colors in a square inch of the imaginary
    palette–“is the end of all organized sound. That’s like saying the
    Earth is the end of the universe.”

  18. Sorry, should’ve been addressing Tomdeadend with this, not Timeblind: Sorry if I saw a dis by Shadetek that wasn’t there, but it really did come off as one to me. I’d love to think I’m wrong.

  19. Quick response. To everyone, thanks for writing.

    Way off the mark: off your mark, yes. I’m on mine.

    Silly partisan: Yes exactly. I’m being partisan, it’s my prerogative as an artist. Please do not try to read my post as a fair and balanced piece of critical theory about techno. Objectivity is not the goal here. I did write at the beginning that ‘I mostly don’t like house and techno.’ Hence people calling it a polemic.

    Hood: A word I use in this case to describe an audience. Fetishising how? By enjoying and promoting their music?

    And yes, I’m very middle class. So? Hood me in my grill? Don’t be so sensitive and post under your real name.

    As far as all the people supporting different artists, I only mentioned those people because they are good enough to be worth talking about. I’m not trying to say people should stop listening to anyone, I’m trying to lift up a strain of american techno, dance, rave, juke, ghetto, booty whatever that I think is great and under appreciated by a great many people. And I’m also coincidentally talking about bassline because it’s wicked and I’ve been enjoying it lately.

    Tom deadend is on point and basically gets what I’m talking about, or agrees with me, take your pick.

    That DJ Murphy guy is sick.

    That Max Roach quote is great, and I totally agree.

    I’m not trying to tear down the bad as much as lift up the good, but am happy to give people something to disagree with.

  20. this is awesome:
    http://minimu.blogia.com/2006/050701-jeff-mills-robert-hood-live-underground-resistance-label-night-limelight-ny-1992.php

    I’ve got the file if the mega upload is gone.

    old style minimal should properly be called “suspense”

    rob hood once commented that there is a point after you’ve been playing a locked loop for about 3 minutes when the dancefloor gets a huge shiver down its spine. I know this sensation very well. its once it hits you that its going to outlive you.

    techno for the most part is about the planes and liquids of sound seeping into each other (in the mix). its the tension and release as they inter-penetrate. its constantly rising.

    the problem with minimal right now is not too slow mixing, but rather that people seem to think its ok to just fucking fade out the last record even while a melody is playing. and actually the dancefloor doesn’t seem to mind. we demanded a lot more of DJs back in the 90s. its not that the mixes are too slow and seamless, its that they are abrupt and unmusical.

    you all know what the third record is, don’t you ? no, it doesn’t involve 3 turntables. its the phantom third that is summoned into existence by the 1 and the 2.

    but techno is about getting a techno vibe in the room, and that means you can’t go throwing in kuduro or (as I did once at the bunker to the horror of several techno heads) mixing missy elliot on top of jeff mills. (I thought it sounded awesome. It did.)

    its about calling up memories of endless past parties, and sorry guys … but its not about the ego of the DJ or the ballsyness of the performance. its about the party, and techno is greater than all of the people involved in making it. its a machine. that’s how it works. its a collective intelligence, and all those Djs are just there to make the life form come to life.

    btw. I heard a lot of very clubby proggy kuduro, so its out there.

  21. great thoughts/observations Timeblind! & thanks for adding some words (& sparking this strong thread) Matt.

    Timeblind — i love the idea of techno as a machine greater than all the people involved in making it, not ‘faceless’ but ego-averse, collaborative.
    re: “the problem with minimal right now” — if the dj does “abrupt and unmusical” segues and “the dancefloor doesn’t seem to mind”, then how (or to whom) is that a problem?

  22. Hey Shadey, the “More Fire, More Bass” mix is OFF THE CHINGA.

    At ’bout 14:50 that “I Gave you all my Love” interlude is so on point, it’s ridiculous. It’s turned into a personal theme song for me. RESPECT.

    Thanks for doin’ what you do.

  23. thanks for listening url pearl, that tune is comin out soon on 12″, one of my favorites too.

    Sick posts from Timeblind. People: if you want to hear constructive, intelligent and critical thoughts about techno listen to this man. He has the knowledge and authority to speak about it.

  24. jace: “i love the idea of techno as a machine greater than all the people involved in making it,”

    plus 8 released a comic book once (drawn by t1000 I think) about a satellite that coordinated the programmers that make techno work. we all really felt that way, that we were just there to help these amazing analog machines discover the tracks.

    and in fact right now I’m into this vibe: I’m in the way (I do keep fucking up these tracks, I know). the sounds and the machines and the memes in the scene need to get connected and I need to make that happen, but other than that my ego is in the way.

    jeff mills: “sometimes somebody opens a door and somebody else goes through it”. a lot of times innovative tracks get forgotten because the breeding and copying produces new forms that are far better records (but only those who watch all the releases know which ones were seminal. but it doesn’t matter, as long as the door got opened).

    jace “re: “the problem with minimal right now” — if the dj does “abrupt and unmusical” segues and “the dancefloor doesn’t seem to mind”, then how (or to whom) is that a problem?

    cause its wack.

    because even if people don’t complain, the artform is regressing and eventually people all realize that the scene has gone to shit. same thing has happened in hip hop. gradually its just rotted out because people said it was ok to do cheap porno and violence (it was funny for a while) and now everybody knows its degraded to the point of collapse.

    do you realize that all dogs were bred by man from wolves ? in maybe 10,000 years. can you imagine if there weren’t specialists that really cared ? we wouldn’t have all of these amazing breeds. if the common dog owner ran things we would just have a bunch of mutts.

    however sometimes innovation springs up in areas that some of us have written off as wack. I used to diss speed garage, then I got into the “underground” proto-grime era, then I went back and found all the stuff that I missed while I was being snobby.

    last week I tried to convince Suburban Knight (UR) that 4×4/bassline was cool. he wasn’t havin it.

  25. “we wouldn’t have all of these amazing breeds.”

    You mean these inbread freak shows with serious debilitating health problems? RIGHT! I’ll take the bunch of mutts thank you very much.

  26. “cause its wack.”

    Thank God there are some tastemakers out there to tell all us common folks what to enjoy else we’d just listen to boring ol’ “speed garage” and minimal techno and owning our butt ugly mutts (who can actually breath normally and don’t suffer nearly as often from hip displacia haha.)

  27. Timeblind: ” ’cause its wack” is definitely the ego speaking, the (unnamed) critical ‘I’ that I see as grinding against your techno-as-a-machine vision… the reason i asked the question was b/c that vision is inherently populist (dj does crappy mixes, crowd doesnt care = machine keeps dancing, keeps moving).

    Can you plug your (eugenics-y!) dog-breeder metaphor into your techno-as-machinery metaphor? the latter seems to be all about cogs not necessarily cognizant of their role in making it all work, while the former invokes full-on God-like, sky-view selection & breeding & culling..

    [and then you throw in the satellite!! turns out the autonomous machine has a remote control, Phil Dick saw it first]

    i think it — that mixed metaphor… or whatever — is a pretty compelling description of how genres + movement in DJ cultures work. the tension or lack of reconciliation btwn the ego with a door-opening vision and the many-part machinery where every Unique Sound gets blent into the next, parties spill over, visionary door-openers overdose, drift away, chase money instead of sound.

    love the description of hiphop. i’d add that it’s purchasing audience drives thematic content to an overwhelming extent; black porno, black (on black) violence is what the predominantly white hiphop buyers most want to see… hiphop as a sleek, only lightly stealthy corporate machine of powerful intricacy, the Rapper is only a small, highly visible part. america — the american machine — has never had the stomach for negro complexity. and so we watch complicated narratives degrade.

    enjoying the conversation.. /r

  28. “the american machinge – has never had the stomach for negro complexity.”

    To me this kind of points to what this dude was bringing up in the first place. People (a global outsider view) have an image of black america. It’s not one of innovating, techno banging subcultured diversity. But black america is VERY diverse. I’ve had conversations where people are shocked to learn the origins of techno and house in the U.S.A.

    Generation to generation connections get lost and youth get lost and think that the only thing that makes them black is fulfilling some image that was fabricated by a machine in the first place.

    From my perspective to acknowledge ‘the hood’ which in this case is a very northeast/midwest U.S. black hood specific definition, is to yes give a nod to innovators, but also to liberate a people and to allow them to express regional or socio-cultural diversity within a race. (It’s funny cause in the bay area, the idea of hyphy is racially and culturally inclusive, even though from an outsider perspective it is a black form of expression. The socio-politics being different than the “frost belt.”)

    Dude (Matt) was just trying to express that thing that goes beyond the music, and it’s time and place and (temporary?) condition.

    The greatness to me of Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore electronic music is the fact that it doesn’t fit into the clean definition of Black America that EVERYONE is always trying to paint, positive or negative.

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