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:
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
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:
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.
In the age of wonder…
This land was green and good.
Okay, I need to someday be somewhere where someone drops that track at exactly a completely inappropriate moment.