This Dissect Transect article was written by Ben Duncan-Duggal, a GIGsoup contributor
As we enter a new year Dance music is in a stronger position than ever. Crossover and hybrid hits stemming from dance dominate the singles charts, and elsewhere innovation is rife, with artists such as Jamie xx, SOPHIE and Danny L Harle contributing to the popularisation of some of the more interesting dance genres. And more exciting dance music singles than ever are being produced, with this innovative atmosphere instrumental to that.
Sophie – Hard
SOPHIE is part of dance music’s newest and arguably most bizarre genre, PC Music. PC Music is intended to sound like the endpoint of the hyper-commercialised, over sensory culture we live in, and it arguably reaches that, with its tracks sounding like house music and Nintendo Mario Kart stuck through a blender together. It might not sound appealing, but its appeal arises from its simultaneous maintenance of pop sensibility and hardcore house beats, a rare successful exercise in balancing popularity and authenticity. ‘Hard’is a prime cut of this appeal, skipping between ideas like a child on a sugar high and somehow keeping it all hanging together whilst doing so.
Some producers, however, are looking towards new combinations of the old rather than the brand new in order to drive progress. Funk is one of House’s godfathers, via Disco. House music, in turn, influenced the development of Drum and Bass to no end. How suitable, then, that the Drum and Bass and Funk have got together to create a new love genre – Liquid Funk. Taking a large dose of chill out/ambient with D’n’B and Funk, Liquid Funk is 2 Step music for this decade, jaded by the sensory overload of DnB’s other child, Dubstep. It’s tracks like ‘Got My Mind Made Up’ by Lenzman which earn Liquid Funk’s stripes in this sense, with the expert combination of restless drum patterns and comatose chord waves showing that alternative time signatures can in fact work to take you down a level.
Dance music’s occasional desire to relax should never be taken as gospel, though. The genre is, at its heart, a permanent teenage boy racer. That’s shown by a constant desire to drive things to extremities, including BPM. But that desire only produces anything meaningful (and, let’s face it, listenable) when balanced with some portion of melody. With ‘Can You Dance’ Alf Graham starts with the melody and then works backwards, ensuring that the assault on the senses that the beat of this song presents makes sense and works.
This is actually a pretty energetic track, but next to‘Can You Dance’it sounds positively pedestrian. Nonetheless, on its own terms it achieves everything a good House music track should. A solid bass and drum line and vocal melody with mass appeal are both present, as are the presence of a good but subtle breakdown, build up and drop. And yes, there’s a piano line. There’s unique appeal here too, though, with the new-age computerised phatness of the beat working well against the vintage sounding sample. A perfect track, then, to drop at a house party with your much cooler friends.
A million miles away from your standard house party, Ibiza’s influence continues to penetrate dance music. Trance and the ‘Balearic’ sound has been everywhere ever since the first record label boss in Ibiza experienced his first Ibiza sunrise, but this track shows that the genre and its offshoots continue to contain innovation. This particular track, ‘Icarus (Mr Beatnik remix)’ by Lovebirds, takes the genre into new areas by working its sun filled, blissful energy into something approaching a verse/chorus format. This sort of structure – traditionally more associated with guitar and pop music – is something which Dance music has toyed with in the past, often successfully (see, for example, Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim and Mylo). Tracks like this suggest that it’s a way forward for dance music which is still full of potential.
It’s far from the only way forward, though. There always have been and always will be an infinite amount of directions in which dance music wants to take audience. It’s all the better for it, and 2016 will be all the better for dance music.