(313) Re: Jeff Mills, "labels" argument

From macqueen
Sent Mon, Jan 23rd 1995, 22:00

<<this has already been Cc:'d to IDM and the 313 list, so please no one
else do it again>>  :)

ozymandias G desiderata <redacted@example.com>  said:

>[I'm cc:ing this to 313, because we think Jeff Mills is pretty neat
>over there]
>>         I am thinking in particular about the recent work of Jeff Mills and
>> Robert Hood.  For those hung-up on the unfortunately necessary labeling of
>> techno, (I know, me too) this is for the record, probably not a whole like
>> IDM and definitely not characterized by  traditionally "ambient"
>> traits.
>        I don't mean to pick on you personally here, Matt, but when
>was it decided that ambient has any necessary or sufficient connection
>to ambient? One of the original IDM "personalities" is Richard James,
>and although he seems to get more serious recognition for his ambient
>music, he's put out many blisteringly hard tracks as well. In fact,
>tracks like "Tamphex", "Phloam", and the Mescalinium United remixes
>are my favorite of James' many modes.
        Don't worry, all my favorite AFX was done long before SAW vol. 2  :)

>        If there are such strong ties between ambient and IDM (and I'd
>say that at least a few members of this list seem to think there is),
>why bother splitting the ambient list off into its own domain? 

        I agree.  I didn't do it!  ;)  I just subbed!   ;)  Hell there are
like 5 or 6 different "techno/house/ambient/IDM/dance/jungle" lists now,
and we've got to all expect some crossover... it's so hairsplitting... 

>there have to be at least a little bit of a rhythmic element to a
>piece of music to make it IDM instead of ambient? Does it, on the
>other hand, have to be "funky" or somehow rhythmically more complex or
>slower to separate it from the undifferentiated mass of techno? I
>really do wonder sometimes how people separate the intelligent music
>from the stupid stuff.

        Yup.  I couldn't agree more.  I was just watching my step cause I
didn't want a bunch of people telling me what I was posting was "off
topic"... it happens, unfortunately.  :)   Now I sub to 4 lists (incl. 313)
and I never know *where* the hell to post my rants and raves about great
techno/electro records  (!)  :)

>        What I'm getting at is that there really is no charter for
>IDM, or if there is one, it's very amorphous. I've been a member for
>so long that I can't remember what the welcoming message says, but I'd
>wager that we vary widely from the boundaries it sets on a regular
>basis. I remember the AI series being one of the prime exemplars of
>the IDM sound, but that definition seems too narrow to reflect what we
>actually discuss on the list.
>        Okay, I went and reread the welcom message, and even the
>_welcome_message_ is (purposefully?) vague. What _is_ IDM? Have we
>ever really decided on some sort of consensus definition for it? Can
>there be one that doesn't piss off at least half of the list? These
>are all honest questions. I don't have any pat answers.

        Me neither.  I don't want any.   :)  Oh Christ, with all due
respect to you and all techno-related lists, this labeling drives me crazy
too.   But *SOMEHOW* you have to describe what you're listening to, it's an
art, unless you want to attatch a sound file to everything you mail (too
cumbersome, ridiculous in fact)...   It's like, how do you describe a
Jackson Pollack splatter-painting?   Yes I was purposefully vague cause
some "ambient" people do "hardcore," some "IDM"'ers do house, some "pure
techno" artists do beatless tracks... I could go on.... as could everyone
else.   :)   You did what exactly I didn't want to happen, endless threads
about "what is techno" and "ok, everyone, let's sit down here and list the
exact elements that make an "ambient" record "ambient," or a "hardcore"
track "hardcore."  I leave those frustrating discussions, which I rarely
think really *GO* anywhere, for the newsgroup lists (ack.)    :)   Don't be
offended, but I personally don't care for the discussion of "What exactly
*IS* <insert music genre here>."  It's all too amorphous, and borrows from
itself, I know.

>> This is short, fast and often very cold techno.  But really nothing like
>> the "hardcore" techno I associate with labels like Drop Bass, Re-Load, or
>> recent DJAX records.  In short, it's stripped down, darker Detroit, less
>> acidic, if acidic at all!   If there is a 303 used at all, it's prob. not
>> used in the "typical" acidic way.   A trademark of Mills and Hood is the
>> no-nonsense method of getting right to the meat of track, no bullshit, all
>> form.
>        Reload and Djax are hardcore? Really? The stuff I've heard on
>those labels doesn't seem very hard to me at all. They seem to be
>pretty much in the Euro-trance / hardhouse / acid house vein to
>me. I'd be interested to hear what in their rosters makes them sound
>hard to you. Not that I'm saying that I disagree with you, I'm just
>curious as to what you've heard that I haven't.

        I'll try and dig up the few DJAX records that I don't care for and
mail you. It's entirely possible that our deffinitions of "hardcore" are
different.  The reload record I was thinking of was trax-x "molecule",
screechy hard acid and analogue at blinding speed, pretty "hard" to me. 
Call it what you will.  :)  Labels.  :)

>        I agree. X-103's "Atlantis" managed to cram a huge number of
>ideas into a relatively short 35 minutes. It's actually kind of
>painful for me, as a DJ, to try to work with most of Mills'
>tracks. (Ideally) he lets a track play just long enough to get the
>song's central "idea" across, and then he gets out. Sometimes the idea
>doesn't work, like in "Changes of Life," where he looped a bad
>happy-house piano chord to death and beyond, but you don't have to
>listen to more than three or four minutes of any of his failures.

        Hah hah, you're right, I know exactly what you mean. I usually
*really* like them or *really* don't.  :)

>>         The beats are un-typical of most techno, no solo 909 kicks at the
>> intro, often it usually starts with a short non-percussive loop, then
>> perhaps another loops are added (quickly), and it's often hard to tell
>> right when the kick drum comes in.  I love that, but *damn* is it hard to
>> mix in and out of during a set. 
>        Amen to that, but that's what makes them so much fun to _try_
>to mix! When it works, it sounds _good_. I've only really pulled off a
>good mix with a Mills track one or two times, but those are mixes that
>(when I listen to them on tape afterwards) make me feel really good
>about being a DJ.

        It's like the ultimate "skills test".... I know I have records that
when I practice I try and try to get them to work together, cause I know
it's so hard and I usually can't.  Mills would probably crack up if he read
this stuff:   "DJ exercises, volume one... put the Mills 12" on the
turntable.  Cue with one hand, and keep your other hand on the pitch
control lever.  Listen with headphones.  Adjust for speed.   Repeat process
ad infinitum....."   :)

>        Don't forget
>        X-103 - Atlantis
>        X-102 - Explores the Rings of Saturn
>                which are way-out-there experimental stuff, and
>                probably the most relevant to a vast majority of
>                IDM's subscribers. Ambient, hardcore, trance, and
>                just about everything else get their moments here.
>        X-102 - The Planet
>        X-101 - Sonic Destroyer
>                old-style but fun old 12"s on UR/Axis. Not as wacky as
>                Mills' other stuff (read: closer to normal), but just
>                as good.

yeah, I don't really care for Sonic Destroyer as much at the more recent stuff,
more "closer to normal" as you say......  I'd like to get more of the early
stuff, though.

>        Really, all of these are good listening music, and have brains
>to spare. Mills is probably the best example (that I can think of) of
>an artist who consistently works under a strong, overarching
>        If you like Mills' stuff, you'd also probably enjoy almost
>everything on Basic Channel. They have a similarly warped
>hi-fi-meets-lo-fi approach to production and they cover all the bases
>from ambient through really hard-edged stuff. Their music isn't even
>that hard to find anymore! 

yes, I agree.  I (believe) I have the entire catalog.  :)  Mills and Basic
Channel share similar elements cause some of their early stuff was made
*with* Mills.

>> I hope that helps.  It sure isn't what I consider to be IDM but hey, it's
>> damn good.  :) 
>        Hah! I'm one of those evil revisionist thinkers that think a
>lot more stuff could be included under the term "intelligent dance
>music" without it losing its intended meaning. There really is only so
>much, in the 365 days that constitute a year, you can say about Speedy
>J, Autechre, Polygon Window, the Black Dog, B12 (not that there's any
>danger of _them_ getting overdiscussed on this list), FUSE, and the
>rest of the AI and RePHLeX crews without the discussion turning kind
>of stale. I think it's pretty sad that we degenerate as often as we do
>into prolonged discussions on the availability of certain records (see
>my next message, where I expand on this ready-to-be-flambeed idea). I
>_do_ think all of the above is IDM, and really good IDM to boot!

I didn't mean to take a smart-ass tone with your response, don't take it 
the wrong way  :)  I think we have a lot of the same ideas and agree on 
most everything anyway.  I appreciate the depth of thought   :)  And yes
I agree that the AI compilation artists get beat to death... compact disks
get a lot
farther, unfortunately, than vinyl 12"'s for most of the world.  But
that's the perils of distribution, and not the consumer's fault.  
I try to buy vinyl whenver possible but let's face it, CD comps have a
purpose:  to be good appetizers and get us to buy *more*... and we always do  :)

>yrz in splendor,
>      ozymandias G desiderata AKA Forrest L Norvell AKA DJ AladdinSane
>GCS/CW/DJ d- H++ s++:-- !g p1 !au a- w+++ v+++ C++(---) U?++++(----)$ 
>          P--- L 3 E++ N++ K++ W---(-----) M++ V-- -po+ Y++>+++ t@ 5- 
>          jx R-- G'' !tv b+++ D++ B-- e++ u*(**) h-- f++ r++ n++ x+(*)


Matt MacQueen                                                   GROWTH.
Interface and Hypermedia Designer/Programmer                  
Communication Technology Laboratory, Michigan State Univeristy