Writing about music

A subject which I’ve been considering a lot lately is ‘writing about music’. It’s an odd thing, I’m shit at grammar, I grew up between Germany, Wales, and England and have no noteworthy GCSEs to my name. But, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I’ve always felt the need to write about the music I’m listening to. And so, for many years and under various guises* I have tried, as best I can, to put into words and sometimes pictures, how I feel about it.

It always ends up the same. Years, or sometimes just months into it, a shadow descends and sucks all of the fun out of the thing. Am I repeating myself? How many times can I get away with writing ‘Bangin”, ‘Floaty’ or ‘Dubbed-out’? The answer, sadly, is FOREVER! The interweb has a short memory and most people don’t read more than a couple of lines of text (Obviously if you read this far, I don’t mean you. You’re great!). Why am I wasting my time with this? Who cares about my opinion? Why do I waste my time supporting artists who rarely return the favour? All valid questions, which I largely ignore. The fact is, I don’t get out much. I don’t like groups in general and for the most part, am anti-social. Networking isn’t really my bag, either, yet I still wonder why I never get any DJ gigs — funny that!

So, this is it. In the absence of a stronger desire for social interaction and in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the interweb is the place where I do my music chat, and, although I seem doomed to repeat this cycle, there are probably some rules I can put in place to stop the shadow from taking over. A deeper analysis, as to what I dislike and how best to avoid it.

The main thing that irks me is writing about new music, by which I mostly mean new electronic music. I get a bunch of promos and, if truth be told, a lot of stuff is decent, but writing about it on the interweb seems, to me, to be an utter waste of time, when I could just whack in an audio clip, a YouTube embed or, better still, post a link and you could make up your own mind. It really doesn’t matter if I like it does it? For me, personally, the interweb-based ‘new release’ review is a bit of a dead-end and can largely be replaced with a link or an embed. The popularity of recommenders like Definite Party Material (38.400 subscribers at the time of writing) goes some way to proving my point. These services are, in my opinion, excellent and as far as I’m concerned, do exactly what is required i.e.

Here’s the track > Listen to it > Buy it (if you like). Job done! Instant gratification.

Dancefloor music, for want of a better description, is especially complicated to write about. “HOUSE IS A FEELING” and all that. After all, it’s supposed to be progressive. Meshing samples of disparate musical worlds with mad synthetic sounds to create some kind of bastard child of music. The ultimate punk music, at least, I think that was the point? But all too often, when describing it, the same tropes rear their head: ‘Amen break’ this, ‘Acid line’ that, you know the sort of thing. And then there are the platitudes. Sometimes when reading reviews I wonder if the writer has actually heard the music, or whether they are literally regurgitating the press release. If I hear another basic techno-by-numbers record compared to Yasuaki Shimizu, Tom Moulton, or Philip Glass again, I swear I’ll go full Rambo!

Without the context of a dance floor, it’s just weird. It’s no good banging on about mind-melting techno-zeug if you haven’t heard it LOUD in a room full of sweaty mentalists and let’s face it, in relation to anything released between 2020 and 2021, none of us have! It kind of misses the point. It’s come to be a bit like pulling teeth for me, like a job. How I’d imagine it is to be an advertising copywriter. Plugging products and trotting out a cavalcade of SEO-friendly buzzwords in the hope that something sticks. This, in my opinion, is the antithesis of what underground culture is supposed to be. I know, I know, this all sounds dead negative but it’s not really. It’s just an exercise in cutting the fat. It’s one of the bigger reasons I stopped working on Cambrian Line. It started to feel detached from me. At the risk of repeating myself… like a job!

I’ve been really inspired of late, reading Jerome Hill’s ‘Record Picks’ posts on Instagram (see @djjeromehill #jeromesrecordpicks). It’s been so refreshing reading about music within its context, with heart, and with a real back story. In that spirit, I’d rather concentrate on writing about music that has really made me turn my head: life-changers, mind-melters, things I’ll carry with me forever. Music that I can weave a story out of. Something personal, something lived in. Of course, as this is just a personal blog, I’ll continue to post current tunes and charts but as short recommendations. Maybe this way I can keep the shadow at bay and enjoy it!

  • RIP Fat Pigeon† 2002-2004, Quantum Bleep† 2008-2011, Cambrian Line† 2012-2021