vrijdag 30 november 2012

Looking Back, Analyzing & Looking Ahead

 Scene Analysis | November 29th - November 30th 2012 |

This year is slowly dropping its curtains: 2013 is swiftly on its way to us. I believe now might be a nice moment to look at 2012 in retrospect, analyze myself as a Trance fanatic throughout the years and look ahead to what I expect will be a promising new year!



Finally Feeling The Fun Again... 
As we entered 2012, I had decided to quit following ASOT but also to distance myself from Armin from #550 onward UNLESS both "brands" would introduce me to something positive in which case I would logically support that positive thing: in exchange for that I would regularly start following Markus Schulz' GDJB broadcast instead, accompanied by the monthly Radio Unity broadcast by Orkidea. A nice addition to these shows was the bi-monthly Inspired Podcast by Atmospheric Energy which (unfortunately) stopped being updated in June [http://cyberunknown.wordpress.com/category/inspired-podcast/]. There was no other way for me to start enjoying and discovering proper Trance &  Progressive again if I kept lying to myself that Armin would either become as diverse and funky again as he was in  2007-2008 or as melodic and Progressive Perfect as he was in 2005-2006. June/July 2011 was the point that my disappointment with ASOT, Trance and the route EDM was taking at large reached its height and I felt like dumping this music scene altogether. Thank God for the last weekend of July that year in which Rank 1's DJ sets at Electronic  Family Festival and Ford Fiesta Summersounds turned my mind around.

As 2012 progressed and I embraced Radio Unity and GDJB as my new havens for proper Trance and proper Progressive respectively, with the Inspired Podcast offering the more Downtempo/Breaks driven relaxing nutrients for my EDM hunger, I came to realize how "real Trance" (as in Trance with long melodic textures, deep builds and non-cliché piano breakdowns) did very much still exist, be it that sometimes there could be a driving Psy-Trance bassline underneath to give it a more energetic twist. The same goes for the Progressive brilliance that reached my ears through the likes of Basil O'Glue, Wellenrausch, Tucandeo, Guy J, Styller, Danilo Ercole and others supported on GDJB (mind you, I am solely referring to the Progressive dropped on this show, the Coldharbour Bigroom sound is quickly becoming as generic as 140 BPM uplifting has been for ages now)
. Both these shows have their dedicated followers and both Orkidea and Markus are capable of finding such beautiful music. Orki even manages to kick off some shows with Breaks (like the flawless Radio Unity #045) or with a slightly more Progressive House vibe √° la Jody Wisternoff before building towards more Trancey goodness. Every time I heard a track that nostalgically shot me back to my early 2006 ASOT days I couldn't help but wonder: "Armin, what is your excuse to keep playing cheap Trouse, stupid vocal Pop-Trance and braindead Generic Uplifting?" Do you know the answer to this rethorical question? It's quite a simple one actually! You see, there is no excuse. It's just reality: Markus & Orkidea drop quality Progressive (House) and Trance, Armin does not. Not for someone that first got acquinted with Trance in 2003, 1999, 2005 or whenever. As I came to realize this, I started feeling joy for Trance music again but I also started to believe that this music is not dead; it is simply mislabeled by legions of people new to the scene or deliberately ignorant of its Past.


...Becoming What You Always Hated...
2012 might be the year I've finally come to face that I have become a so-called "Purist". I have always detested the term as it implied that the person in question had the authority to designate what is Trance and what is not as opposed to others who would be too "noobish" to have the same authority or knowledge for that matter. I detested the term because it allowed a handful of arrogant elitist pr*cks to dismiss the musical experience of those newer to the scene than them. Yet throughout the years I've noticed how my thought patterns regarding Trance and EDM in general having become increasingly similar to that of proudly self-acclaimed Purists. So should I apologize for my transformation? No. Unlike many Purists I've encountered throughout my time on Trance forums as well as social media in more recent times, I've always stated my opinions as opinions and not as Facts or Totalitarian Law. That said, I have become aware that some people think that Trance music is merely an opinion which is something I've come to fiercely resist. Trance music (or any specific genre for that matter) is not an opinion. By the logic of that train of thought, someone could claim that because Rock music puts them in a higher state in which they are disconnected from their surrounding that Rock music falls under Trance too.

...


Now that's plain bullsh*t, of course. Trance, as well as any genre for that matter, is bounded by vague borders we can't accurately describe but of which we can agree to a large extent where these borders lie. Moreover, we can definitely agree what does not count as Trance. Now this is an Age-Old tricky subject of which I believe there will never be agreement since the categorization of any genre leads to objectifying them, making them static, frozen entities in the flow of time that in a way, makes no sense at all. Then again, thinking of a genre as an endless continuing stream defies the essence that allows it to be a genre all together. There seems to be a constant clash between the verbally established borders versus the temporal transformation of a genre which makes it hard to ever reach consensus over what is or what is not. If we verbally try to categorize a genre, we will always end up doing it   injustice. I believe there is a social scientific theory that proposes that once we try to capture thoughts, emotions or music in langauge, it loses its fluidity and its essence at the same time. I believe this idea can be mentioned as one of the core problems underlying the so-called "decrease of P.L.U.R." many claim to be tainting EDM scenes today. Even though I am rather skeptical  of depicting the past as one big, happy, Conflict-Free Hippie Era, I can agree that today's EDM communities are sometimes overflowing with verbal conflict. How has this come to pass? Allow me to give my vision on that.



Analyzing... 
Consider that music experience, in any form, is an individual experience at best. Imagine a Trance gig where people close their eyes during a breakdown, all enlocked in a clean ecstasy making them feel liberated from the Triviality Of Everyday Life: in this setting, the chances of there being the exact same thoughts or the exact same images during each individuals' closed-eyes moments is pretty much non-existent. The euphoria might be shared yes, and the euphoria may cause a similar inner sensation but parts of that breakdown experience will still remain specific to the individual. Now imagine someone sitting at home, all alone, listening to a new track and being blown away by its sheer quality. The first thing you'd like to do (besides replaying it) is share your happiness over the music's power with someone else. This how many of us got into the music after all: by being dragged into it by others or approaching others that knew more about it than you did. The moment we start sharing our positive music experiences with others and get them involved, we build our musical communities with mostly like-minded people. But the music itself is so vast and diverse that the communities that sprout out of them will be too. Once the Internet emerged and helped this EDM music spread out to the many corners of the Globe, countless music communities rose in its wake. As we had already verbalized our music experiences -and in turn the music itself- we made them more static than they actually were in the individual experience. This process of "statification" so to speak, was inevitable: it is impossible for me to show you the images I see when I first heard Airbase - Escape for instance. Neither can you show me the images you saw when you first heard Perry O Neil - Wave Force. As years went by, the music slowly transformed with each passing year. Some started feeling disillusioned with the music development and either jumped to other genres or left the scene completely. Some remained. Logically, any kind of music is driven by fads and fashions which the artists as well as the fans react upon: some embrace, others resist, then some actively start a counter-movement: the fans' movement is pretty similar. With the rise of new generations and the phases of musical transformation strongly felt, conflicts started to arise. The shared experiences of older generation barely overlapped with that of newer ones, the result being a generation-based fragmentation where these diverse fans could not See Eye To Eye (or rather, where they could not Hear Ear To Ear). Then there was the  process of genre-based fragmentation taking place which I believe we can blame on the very static verbalization of music. As a result, the EDM scenes were presented overly static which resulted in people being deterministically "Progressive" (in the sense of being anti-boundary, anti-genre, anti-Classic: everything older than last year was "boring", etc.) as well as people being deterministically "Purist" (everything contemporary being put out is "poorly mastered", lacks "soul", is "painful to the ears", is created by "talentless people", is just "to gain  profit" etc.). This is not to say the Internet only caused strife among fans, but it certainly carried the seeds and fertile grounds to make conflict a common part of the online EDM experience. I think we can attribute some of the negativity to the slight anonymity accompanying one's presence on the Internet. Just scroll through some random Youtube videos and notice how the most idiotic usernames make the most stupid comments, often just seeking an online fight for the sake of it. The same can be applied to online EDM communities, and Trance communities in particular. Clashes within and between these communities has become more common, more widespread and larger in scale too. These conflicts are the flipside to the Good that the Internet can and has brought us and I think it's a flip side that Humanity is incapable of overcoming.


...And Realizing...
True, I myself am guilty of having contributed to genre-clashes throughout the years. Curiously, I took on both Purists and new generation fans in these "flame wars", be it in alternating phases throughout the years. It's ironic to see how throughout time my positions have shifted gradually in such a way that I have always been a type of music fan I sooner or later found myself in conflict with. Irony aside, I've become fully aware of all these developments and changes, and to some  degree, their inevitability. My goal for the next years is to try to tone down my passionate involvements in debates I know that can't be won or prevented since the "adversaries" are just as stubborn as me, or too "fresh" to the scene to understand some of its vile machinations (I myself had trouble accepting/digesting some of them). Then again, the idea of  becoming less outspoken might be wishful thinking considering I've always been like that, whether as a fresh new fan of 2005-and-onward-Trance or a now somewhat more educated "Purist" fan of EDM with a taste for the Classics and a high intolerance for much of the generic, mass-produced, overvocalized/overpoppified kind, the unnecessarily noisy music or the music lacking imagination. Besides, with my embracing of GDJB and Radio Unity, 2012 has proven that my "Purist" taste is not that of an extinct "Forum Warrior": on the contrary, if anything, I and my Like-minded Brethren are Many. And you know what? 2013 might see the Music We Hold Dear, reborn. Yes that's right, I hold high hopes for a gradual Renaissance of Trance music starting in 2013. Here are my reasons to be so naive:


...The Counter-Movement Wave Has Begun
Solarstone, backed by Legends/Veterans like John 00 Flemming and Orkidea, has initiated the "Pure Trance" concept as a serious offensive/statement against the overproduced Trouse cr*p that has become the norm, EDM-wide. This concept holds a  series of events with AH.fm support broadcast giving it a steady platform to attain ground next to the overrated ASOT  events. Airwave, a close friend of JOOF, released his album Dark Lines earlier this year which spawned a deep, serious  side of Trance which was once the norm in our scene. The album has had an overall positive reception and further proves the need for this music to be put out and supported. Then there is Rank 1 who unleashed 7 Instead Of 8 last month, and with it, garnered positive reactions unlike I've ever seen for any of their other singles in the past years. The joyous news is that this 7 Instead Of 8 sound is not just a temporarily soundphase but rather the announcement of more "hypnotic flow" to come regarding Rank 1 [read all about it in the interview they did here: http://www.dmcworld.net/features/entry/features/rank-1]. More artists seem to have claimed a return to the roots in  the (near) future. I believe that some have (rightfully) grown tired of the now generic short-hard lead template doctrine whilst others have been punished for their sacred glorification of a very limited "new" style in tango with a  respectless sacking of their previous sound. Whatever their motivation, people moving Back To Their Roots is a foresight I welcome with open arms. Not because I'm looking forward to another Synaesthesia, another Universal Nation, another Superstring, another Exhale, another Orange Theme, or another Hidden Sun Of Venus. No, I am looking forward to new tracks that will outshine these Classics because the artists responsible for them have had over a Decade now to re-invent themselves over and over and finally have the Technology and Know-How to produce Yesterday's Sentiment with the cleanest sounds, craziest twists and strongest bends ever. This is really putting tremendous faith in what so-far can only be called faint signals of a possible turning-point in our music. But for once, I dare to be a naive Dreamer again, just like back in 2005, when the Sky seemed to be the Limit regarding Music. I dream that the greatest producers are scene has (or had) to offer become unique and distinct again, disconnected from bandwagons and all focused on building a Worthy Musical Legacy.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying out a pair of new shoes. BUT. Wouldn't it suck to have thrown out your old trusty ones before having tried the new ones long enough to realize they were not your thing after all? I have my moments when I really enjoy a contemporary "noisy club" track like say, Festen - Wassup Vegas (though should I add this might in part be caused by that wicked main synth sounding similar to the one in Meet Her At The Love Parade?)... And I'm not THAT obsessed with Oldskool EDM that I demand each track be built with 909 kickdrums before I give them a chance. But let's be honest: it's time people stopped being so genre-phobic/fad-ophilic and stopped lying to themselves about what they do. In my eyes, EDM is like a supermarket: it offers a variety of distinct products (read: genres) which you may or may not like or need. If you look at it like this, suddenly you realize how much sense it makes to place the milk where the beans are stocked... And suddenly there's no point in going there if the products lose their diversity because everyone offers the same garbage.


Anyhoo. Let me make a toast *collides glass with bottle* to the return of Bounded Diversity within a Reborn Trance in 2013. Cheers!