modulations

America’s on-again, off-again love affair with electronic music – often, with idioms it helped create – is endlessly full of unexpected twists and turns. But all this bears examining. For some, it’s a journey back to the music that first inspired them. For others, it’s a chance to learn, perhaps, how where music has been might help lead to where it’s going. It’s a chance not just to repeat electronic music past, but go beyond it.

And if you’re looking for something to entertain you this weekend, you could do worse than Modulations, a documentary from 1998.

Back then, it was “electronica,” not “EDM.” But then, as now, high culture met festival culture – Karlheinz Stockhausen and Danny Tenaglia get equal screen time. Robert Moog weighs in. Some figures – Carl Cox, Derrick May, Giorgio Moroder – are just at home on today’s lineups. Others are not. As in the 808 film, Arthur Baker gets a starring role, too.

The film is mainly a document about the dance scene, but as such, offers a reminder to what 90s culture was, and how it does and doesn’t mirror the situation today.

And now you can watch the full thing for free on Vimeo or YouTube. Ah, back when electronic music was real electronic music, parties were real parties, and all the women were purple. (Erm, see the cover image.) Um… right. The 90s. Here’s Vimeo:

Modulations – Full Feature Film from Cultures of Resistance Films on Vimeo.

But wait — there’s more.

David Abravanel, friend of the site, has done an extensive electronica nostalgia trip for Network Awesome, full of still more videos to occupy your brain. He writes:

“I vividly remember the first time I became aware of Electronica. I was 11 and a budding music obsessive, I watched MTV religiously. Sitting in the living room, my parents paying attention to other things, the video for The Prodigy’s “Breathe” came on. I still remember Maxim’s tattooed and painted body gliding towards me. It felt like some kind of disneyland horror ride, but with better music. Keith Flint sealed the deal – these were guys to freak out your parents, the popular kids, you name it.

For this article, assume “Electronica” by its American definition – a catch-all for all electronic music that hit mainstream between 1995 – 2000. It did this by positioning certain figures as rock stars (tellingly, The Prodigy’s breakthrough happened after Keith Flint and Maxim emerged as punky frontmen), and playing up its role as the “future of music”. While Electronica encompassed a number of genres – Daft Punk’s French Touch, Sneaker Pimps’ Trip Hop – Big Beat was clearly the leader.

Electronica also coincided with the most lucrative historical period for the recording industry – as such, artists who had just a few months ago been living check-to-check suddenly had high-budget videos commissioned. This is a celebration of those videos – narrowed down to one song per act, because people got things to do.”

– David Abravanel
http://dhla.me/

Actually, I’ll say, part of why I miss the word “electronica” was that it could sometimes serve as catch-all for electronic music – a genre-blurring vagueness that’s perhaps needed even more in 2015 nomenclature than it was in the 90s. (Contrast EDM, which apart from the ‘d’ meaning ‘dance,’ should be completely general but means something sort of painfully specific.)

Don’t miss David’s full post on the topic:

Get Busy Child: Electronica Videos that Broke the US

And then head to Network Awesome to watch all the goodness, and never leave your house the rest of this weekend:

Network Awesome: Live Music Show – ‘Electronica’ (curated by David Abravanel)

Even me, a classical kid completely out of touch with dance music in the 90s — even I get a bit nostalgic for “Trip Like I Do.” (Also, I love that it samples The Dark Crystal in an all-too-rare crossover of dance music and the Muppets.) Oh yeah, that and The Matrix.

In other film news…

Electronic Beats today posted a trailer for this 2008 documentary on techno, which I wish were as easy to come by as the film above:

Oh yeah, and did we mention I Dream of Wires is now on Netflix? (plus digital services far and wide)

Have a great weekend, everyone. Hope you have a good time out listening to music – or at home making music and, of course, curling up in bed with The Internet and its video entertainment.

Another world…

Another time…

In the age of wonder…

Another world…

Another time…

This land was green and good.

The 90s.

Okay, I need to someday be somewhere where someone drops that track at exactly a completely inappropriate moment.

  • whussup

    This is like doing a docu on Britney Spears and saying it’s about the history of rock music. WTF

    • mercury

      you think that moroder, juan atkins, orbital, robert moog, fsol, pierre henry, ltj bukem and pierre henry are the britney spears of electronic music???

    • foljs

      Please inform us what names would be suitable for a “history of electronic music” documentary according to you.

      • Frank

        So Britney Spears is the Robert Moog of pop music..?! That’s a bit far fetched.Or did you mean to say she’s the Chuck Berry of electronic music ? With that i could agree.

        • foljs

          Yeah, didn’t think you’d have anything concrete to answer…

  • whussup

    This is like doing a docu on Britney Spears and saying it’s about the history of rock music. WTF

    • mercury

      you think that moroder, juan atkins, orbital, robert moog, fsol, pierre henry, ltj bukem and pierre henry are the britney spears of electronic music???

    • foljs

      Please inform us what names would be suitable for a “history of electronic music” documentary according to you.

      Because to continue the “history of rock music analogy” these names sound like doing a documentary with Phil Spector (Moroder), Leo Fender (Robert Moog), Pink Floyd (FSOL), The Doors (Orbital), Chuck Berry (Juan Atkins), W. C. Handy (Pierre Henry),The Who (Prodigy), Marvin Gaye (LTJ Bukem) about the history of rock music…

      • Frank

        So Britney Spears is the Robert Moog of pop music..?! That’s a bit far fetched.Or did you mean to say she’s the Chuck Berry of electronic music ? With that i could agree.

        • foljs

          Yeah, didn’t think you’d have anything concrete to answer…

  • whussup

    This is like doing a docu on Britney Spears and saying it’s about the history of rock music. WTF

    • mercury

      you think that moroder, juan atkins, orbital, robert moog, fsol, pierre henry, ltj bukem and pierre henry are the britney spears of electronic music???

    • foljs

      Please inform us what names would be suitable for a “history of electronic music” documentary according to you.

      Because to continue the “history of rock music analogy” these names sound like doing a documentary with Phil Spector (Moroder), Leo Fender (Robert Moog), Pink Floyd (FSOL), The Doors (Orbital), Chuck Berry (Juan Atkins), W. C. Handy (Pierre Henry),The Who (Prodigy), Marvin Gaye (LTJ Bukem) about the history of rock music…

      • Frank

        So Britney Spears is the Robert Moog of pop music..?! That’s a bit far fetched.Or did you mean to say she’s the Chuck Berry of electronic music ? With that i could agree.

        • foljs

          Yeah, didn’t think you’d have anything concrete to answer…

  • Colin C.

    Don’t forget Better Living Through Circuitry (1999) too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4zN0v7C1mU

  • Colin C.

    Don’t forget Better Living Through Circuitry (1999) too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4zN0v7C1mU

  • Colin C.

    Don’t forget Better Living Through Circuitry (1999) too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4zN0v7C1mU

  • beatboxing

    The quote by Pangea at 51:00 is priceless. “oh my god what have i done!”

  • beatboxing

    The quote by Pangea at 51:00 is priceless. “oh my god what have i done!”

  • beatboxing

    The quote by Pangea at 51:00 is priceless. “oh my god what have i done!”

  • MusicLove One
  • MusicLove One
  • MusicLove One
  • I guess I’m Old. I still use the term electronica when referring to my music( and electronic music in general) because EDM it ain’t, though you can dance to it but that’s edm, IDM is waay too fucking pretentious and all the sub categories – Hungarian-Post-future-Folk House, it just a pess. It’s pigeonholes artists into whatever is trending at the moment (what u aint Bangin Big-Room Brazilian Monkey Trap? LOLWHUT? I mean heck one of the reason I got synthesisers and various electronic Instruments, was to be in a band and get Chicks…. Oh Wait. I mean be able to stretch my creative juices and NOT be trapped by Genre or the Tyranny of 4/4. (Oh I don’t make any money either LOL – thank Bill Gates for Solid a Day-Job)

    • adam cote

      I agree. Maybe the next jump.will be in 10-20 yrs. There is probably a pattern of innovation and integration. Although technology is moving forward with touch screens and wireless capabilities the actual musical/sound innovations have not advanced with the technology, as far as I can tell. It may take Humans more time to be able to understand, appreciate and enjoy the sounds EM is and will be producing.

  • I guess I’m Old. I still use the term electronica when referring to my music( and electronic music in general) because EDM it ain’t, though you can dance to it but that’s edm, IDM is waay too fucking pretentious and all the sub categories – Hungarian-Post-future-Folk House, it just a pess. It’s pigeonholes artists into whatever is trending at the moment (what u aint Bangin Big-Room Brazilian Monkey Trap? LOLWHUT? I mean heck one of the reason I got synthesisers and various electronic Instruments, was to be in a band and get Chicks…. Oh Wait. I mean be able to stretch my creative juices and NOT be trapped by Genre or the Tyranny of 4/4. (Oh I don’t make any money either LOL – thank Bill Gates for Solid a Day-Job)

    • adam cote

      I agree. Maybe the next jump.will be in 10-20 yrs. There is probably a pattern of innovation and integration. Although technology is moving forward with touch screens and wireless capabilities the actual musical/sound innovations have not advanced with the technology, as far as I can tell. It may take Humans more time to be able to understand, appreciate and enjoy the sounds EM is and will be producing.

  • I guess I’m Old. I still use the term electronica when referring to my music( and electronic music in general) because EDM it ain’t, though you can dance to it but that’s edm, IDM is waay too fucking pretentious and all the sub categories – Hungarian-Post-future-Folk House, it just a pess. It’s pigeonholes artists into whatever is trending at the moment (what u aint Bangin Big-Room Brazilian Monkey Trap? LOLWHUT? I mean heck one of the reason I got synthesisers and various electronic Instruments, was to be in a band and get Chicks…. Oh Wait. I mean be able to stretch my creative juices and NOT be trapped by Genre or the Tyranny of 4/4. (Oh I don’t make any money either LOL – thank Bill Gates for Solid a Day-Job)

    • adam cote

      I agree. Maybe the next jump.will be in 10-20 yrs. There is probably a pattern of innovation and integration. Although technology is moving forward with touch screens and wireless capabilities the actual musical/sound innovations have not advanced with the technology, as far as I can tell. It may take Humans more time to be able to understand, appreciate and enjoy the sounds EM is and will be producing.

  • Alexander Baumgardt

    Full length documentary ‘We call it Techno’ at https://vimeo.com/82454065 😉

  • adam cote

    Crap, has EM gotten much better in 20+ yrs…???

    • foljs

      No, more or less the same if not worse.

      • adam cote

        So i’m not the only one that notices…this Doc pretty much shows that.

        • foljs

          I’d guess so.

          Now, it’s easy to dismiss this as “oldtimers talking etc”.

          But I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also a fact that lots of genres have ups and downs in time, and can be stale in a decade and booming in another, even in retrospect.

          It’s not about “nostalgia” either, as we can not only make the same statements about eras far before we were born (to which we don’t have anything to feel “nostalgic” about) but can even inverse them (e.g. were a later decade has better work than a previous one).

          Compared to Dada and Surrealism for example, nothing has happened to fine arts that’s even remotely as interesting in 5-6 decades. Similarly, I wouldn’t put the 80’s up there with the 50’s and 60’s for example when it comes to Jazz.

          But inversely, funk was far better in the 70s than in the 60s, and TV is much better in 201x than in 199x.

          As for electronic music: in that 15 year span we had artists from the birth of Techno and House to Aphex Twin and Autechre, down to Prodigy and Chemical Brothers in the mainstream (and tons of stuff underground). What have we got in the last 15 years that’s as interesting (and no, controllerism, doesn’t count).

  • adam cote

    Crap, has EM gotten much better in 20+ yrs…???

    • foljs

      No, more or less the same if not worse.

      • adam cote

        So i’m not the only one that notices…this Doc pretty much shows that.

        • foljs

          I’d guess so.

          Now, it’s easy to dismiss this as “oldtimers talking etc”.

          But I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also a fact that lots of genres have ups and downs in time, and can be stale in a decade and booming in another, even in retrospect.

          It’s not about “nostalgia” either, as we can not only make the same statements about eras far before we were born (to which we don’t have anything to feel “nostalgic” about) but can even inverse them (e.g. were a later decade has better work than a previous one).

          Compared to Dada and Surrealism for example, nothing has happened to fine arts that’s even remotely as interesting in 5-6 decades. Similarly, I wouldn’t put the 80’s up there with the 50’s and 60’s for example when it comes to Jazz.

          But inversely, funk was far better in the 70s than in the 60s, and TV is much better in 201x than in 199x.

          As for electronic music: in that 15 year span we had artists from the birth of Techno and House to Aphex Twin and Autechre, down to Prodigy and Chemical Brothers in the mainstream (and tons of stuff underground). What have we got in the last 15 years that’s as interesting (and no, controllerism, doesn’t count).

  • adam cote

    Crap, has EM gotten much better in 20+ yrs…???

    • foljs

      No, more or less the same if not worse.

      • adam cote

        So i’m not the only one that notices…this Doc pretty much shows that.

        • foljs

          I’d guess so.

          Now, it’s easy to dismiss this as “oldtimers talking etc”.

          But I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also a fact that lots of genres have ups and downs in time, and can be stale in a decade and booming in another, even in retrospect.

          It’s not about “nostalgia” either, as we can not only make the same statements about eras far before we were born (to which we don’t have anything to feel “nostalgic” about) but can even inverse them (e.g. were a later decade has better work than a previous one).

          Compared to Dada and Surrealism for example, nothing has happened to fine arts that’s even remotely as interesting in 5-6 decades. Similarly, I wouldn’t put the 80’s up there with the 50’s and 60’s for example when it comes to Jazz.

          But inversely, funk was far better in the 70s than in the 60s, and TV is much better in 201x than in 199x.

          As for electronic music: in that 15 year span we had artists from the birth of Techno and House to Aphex Twin and Autechre, down to Prodigy and Chemical Brothers in the mainstream (and tons of stuff underground). What have we got in the last 15 years that’s as interesting (and no, controllerism, doesn’t count).

  • Alexander Baumgardt

    Full length ‘We call it Techno’ – horrid video qual though – http://bit.ly/UA0BtG

  • Alexander Baumgardt

    Full length ‘We call it Techno’ – horrid video qual though – http://bit.ly/UA0BtG

  • Alexander Baumgardt

    Full length ‘We call it Techno’ – horrid video qual though – http://bit.ly/UA0BtG

  • lrlarson

    Intelligent discussion of Stockhausen, Cage and Schaeffer. Refreshingly serious, although all three of them would have hated most of the music.

  • lrlarson

    Intelligent discussion of Stockhausen, Cage and Schaeffer. Refreshingly serious, although all three of them would have hated most of the music.

  • lrlarson

    Intelligent discussion of Stockhausen, Cage and Schaeffer. Refreshingly serious, although all three of them would have hated most of the music.

  • MusicLove One

    If you are in the search of some beautiful classical video then it will be the perfect destination for you. So don’t waste your time and visit here: http://www.musicnoow.com/v/70SqXOUPWaQ/free-love-system-full-songs-per-1969-1974

  • MusicLove One

    If you are in the search of some beautiful classical video then it will be the perfect destination for you. So don’t waste your time and visit here: http://www.musicnoow.com/v/70SqXOUPWaQ/free-love-system-full-songs-per-1969-1974

  • MusicLove One

    If you are in the search of some beautiful classical video then it will be the perfect destination for you. So don’t waste your time and visit here: http://www.musicnoow.com/v/70SqXOUPWaQ/free-love-system-full-songs-per-1969-1974

  • wndfrm

    ah! that bit with tetsu! i remember seeing that and thinking ‘why am i not doing this??’ hehe.

  • wndfrm

    ah! that bit with tetsu! i remember seeing that and thinking ‘why am i not doing this??’ hehe.

  • wndfrm

    ah! that bit with tetsu! i remember seeing that and thinking ‘why am i not doing this??’ hehe.

  • Graham Spice

    I use the accompanying book called “Modulations” in my History of Electronic Music course and require the students watch the documentary. I think it is still the best overview of electronic music available.

    http://www.amazon.com/Modulations-History-Electronic-Music-Throbbing/dp/189102406X

    In this same course, I also use pages from books like “How To DJ Right”, “Remixer’s Bible”, “Laptop Music Power”, “Complete Guide to Remixing”, and “The Techno Primer”. There are some great Wired Magazine articles like “The Roots of Techno” by Dan Sicko available. In addition to the Modulations video, I usually show another doc called “Concentric Beats” which is about Drum and Bass.

    The second textbook that I continue to use is called “Electronica Dance Music Programming Secrets”. That’s a great book, I think it is a little better than the “Dance Music Manual” but as copies of the EDM Secrets book become more scarce I will probably shift to the DMM since it is still in print.

    FYI – I plan to add a few resources to this year’s course including these 3:
    http://www.xlr8r.com/features/2015/04/tears-an-oral-history/
    http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/beat-dissected/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbNbrkhh5_g

  • Graham Spice

    I use the accompanying book called “Modulations” in my History of Electronic Music course and require the students watch the documentary. I think it is still the best overview of electronic music available.

    http://www.amazon.com/Modulations-History-Electronic-Music-Throbbing/dp/189102406X

    In this same course, I also use pages from books like “How To DJ Right”, “Remixer’s Bible”, “Laptop Music Power”, “Complete Guide to Remixing”, and “The Techno Primer”. There are some great Wired Magazine articles like “The Roots of Techno” by Dan Sicko available. In addition to the Modulations video, I usually show another doc called “Concentric Beats” which is about Drum and Bass.

    The second textbook that I continue to use is called “Electronica Dance Music Programming Secrets”. That’s a great book, I think it is a little better than the “Dance Music Manual” but as copies of the EDM Secrets book become more scarce I will probably shift to the DMM since it is still in print.

    FYI – I plan to add a few resources to this year’s course including these 3:
    http://www.xlr8r.com/features/2015/04/tears-an-oral-history/
    http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/beat-dissected/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbNbrkhh5_g

  • Graham Spice

    I use the accompanying book called “Modulations” in my History of Electronic Music course and require the students watch the documentary. I think it is still the best overview of electronic music available.

    http://www.amazon.com/Modulations-History-Electronic-Music-Throbbing/dp/189102406X

    In this same course, I also use pages from books like “How To DJ Right”, “Remixer’s Bible”, “Laptop Music Power”, “Complete Guide to Remixing”, and “The Techno Primer”. There are some great Wired Magazine articles like “The Roots of Techno” by Dan Sicko available. In addition to the Modulations video, I usually show another doc called “Concentric Beats” which is about Drum and Bass.

    The second textbook that I continue to use is called “Electronica Dance Music Programming Secrets”. That’s a great book, I think it is a little better than the “Dance Music Manual” but as copies of the EDM Secrets book become more scarce I will probably shift to the DMM since it is still in print.

    FYI – I plan to add a few resources to this year’s course including these 3:
    http://www.xlr8r.com/features/2015/04/tears-an-oral-history/
    http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/beat-dissected/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbNbrkhh5_g