Monday, May 12, 2008

Lazer Bass, Happycore, and the Battle for the American Soul

One of my favorite useless trinkets is a piece of candy a raver girl once made for me. We met in class, and it was clear from her attire that she was really into the dance music scene (and also dance music itself, which does not always happen). When she found out that I was also into electronica, she asked what specific kind of stuff I liked. I knew it would be embarrassing to say happycore, so I figured a safer response was just to say I liked trance.

"Fucking Trance!" she said, in a rehearsed tone of spite. She was into jungle, which is alright too. The next day, she brought me this:

I think it was a nice gesture. My knowledge of what makes music belong to a certain sub-genre (and the merits of those sub-genres) is limited, but the trick to presenting knowledge (especially in social situations and especially about music) is to sound authoritative without being condescending. And you have to know your audience. I managed to spend an hour on a road trip once describing the differences between house and trance, because what the other people in the car knew about electronica allowed me heavy wiggling room for descriptive bull plop.

So I always keep the potential level of bull plop in mind when reading ABOUT music (and as they say, writing about music is like dancing about architecture). Further, the level of hyperbole exhibited when discussing anything you like can get kind of nertz real quick, as is the case with Sasha Frere-Jones and his new favorite sound, Lazer Bass.

When I first read about lazer bass, it was in print, so I didn't get around to listening to it until yesterday, and actually spent the entire weekend going around inaccurately describing everything I heard as lazer bass. It turns out lazer bass is really just Squarepusher, only more "dubby," with the sampling technique of good lord can you imagine listening to me yak about that for another hour?

So, while I love the descriptive title of lazer bass, the music itself is not really for me, falling into that ubiquitous category of "things to play to trick people into dancing so we can put on the real dance music," or, "electronica that sneaks in through the side hatch." It's probably just a failing of mine, but I tend to see dance music that's not happycore as a pose, sub-genres that are not being too terribly honest about what's on the agenda. But that's just me, and what do I know anyway? I like fucking trance.

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