Euphoria, History, Tragedy, Farce: A reduced history of stupid dance music

There's a theory that at the start of any new genre of dance music there are a lot of female vocals in the music because:

1) Female vocals signify female friendliness. This attracts a mixed crowd, which makes the nights more fun because people can get off with each other which is what dance music is (mainly) about.

2) Female vocals signify euphoria. Obviously different vocalists can do different things, but the general rule is that at the start of the creation of a new genre, a female vocal will be all warbly held notes and eye-rolling transcendence.

Then I the scene develops in different ways, some more serious and progressive, some dumber and more populist. I guess I'm calling this 'History' as this is when a scene will be most recognised as culturally meaningful. It will influence pop music, and possibly have crossover hits.

Then, history repeats itself.

First as tragedy. the music is mournful, or regretful, or angry (see: loads of angry jungle and drum and bass, The Eternal Sadness of the Post-Dubstep Scene, mournful house, the-bit-in-garage-before-people-properly-started-doing-grime). It knows that the real history of the scene is over, and it can only mourn. Imagine what sort of music you'd hear at a drum and bass rave in the late 90s. You're stoned and on loads of smacky pills while everyone else is listening to uk garage and drinking champagne and having loads of sex. Tragic.

And then as farce. Which I guess is when a scene jumps the shark and becomes sort of unintentionally hilarious to everyone who doesn't listen to it. (see: brostep for dubstep, the end of drum and bass for jungle, happy hardcore for all of dance music ever [though, actually, if you ever watched the weird videos you got with drum and bass tape packs, it always looked like everyone was going to the happy hardcore room and having the best time ever], lots of types of scally-house, donk etc., for techno and house). This happens when the music has already been completely abstracted from its scene: geographical and ideological. Perhaps the drugs aren't any good either. Or non-drug takers are listening to it.


I was thinking about those bits of dance music where it acts out of character. Where dance music reflects on its history as that history progresses. It is most obvious when it is humorous, because dance music isn't normally humorous on purpose, but normally just at the end of that progression from euphoria to farce. And even then it doesn't know its funny. In fact, Skrillex's dedication to music, and the seriousness with which he makes it, is heartbreakingly funny (see: Skrillex posting his favourite song of all time [Aphex Twin's beautiful Flim] and his fans' reactions to it).

I was reading Stewart Lee's book How I Escaped My Certain Fate and he writes about the possibility of a comedy without language (he's quoting someone else, maybe Malcom Hardee), just noises and movements that invoke humour. That got me thinking about all the songs from my misspent youth as a drum and bass listening teenager that were funny somehow.

Sometimes there might be a very conscious attempt at humour - a sample from a film, or a maybe a re-mixed theme tune, and obviously a few novelty raps don't go amiss, but some tracks were just funny via the sound or the feeling of the record. Here's a short selection of songs I remember and songs other people have recommended.

Ray Keith - Chopper Tune. Probably the king of stupid drum and bass tunes. It has a sample of a helicopter, an air hostess saying 'We're now ready for take off' and a portamento bass line.

Andy C - Bodyrock. A swing time drum and bass tune. I hated this when it came out and still do. It started a whole trend of swung drum and bass and it was awful. But it was an unexpected direction for a scene that was, by that time, populated by very predictable music.

Aphrodite - Superman. Pretty obvious really, but really triumphant and stupid. Imagine coming up on pills to this.

Oxide and Neutrino - Bound 4 Da Reload. It has a sample from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and  the music is based around the theme from the TV show Casualty. I remember watching it on Top of the Pops and being totally horrified but now I'm quite a fan of this as a late-garage/pre-grime classic with a really nice sense of geography. If your song samples prime time UK medical drama, you probably aren't looking to break America or whatever.

Donae'O - My Philosophy (Bounce). I'm kind of obsessed with this song. I found it while buying some classic UK garage and I kept playing it over and over. It has weird comedy-moral lyrics ('Don't do guns, don't do drugs, just have sex... Protected!'), its bassline is massive but also sounds really stupid. And it has someone pretending to be a frog saying 'Widdit' in the background.

Funky Dee - Are You Gonna Bang Doe. A funky/grime tune with lyrics which do that thing that grime lyrics do where every line ends with the same thing. In this case it's 'Are you gonna bang though?'. Funky Dee is kind of taking the piss out of it (when I first heard grime I just thought the MCs had got confused about what rhyming was), but he's also testing its limits in the safe environment of the comedy song. It has the same weird sample all the way through and he just messes about over the top. Obviously meant for a holiday crowd in napa who will just shout along and then definitely bang, though.

Whistle - Just Buggin. A quick detour into hip-hop, I actually wanted the Spoonie Gee version of this song, which has the same mad keyboard sample, but also has a comedy narrative rap about a girl who smokes too much weed. That is kind of a genre of its own: comedy-narrative rap w/ humorous music.

D.A.V.E the Drummer & Chris Liberator - One Night in Hackney. This is sort of like a farcical techno version of the hip-hop comedy narrative where someone talks about a really good/really bad night out in Hackney. It sounds stupid now, but when I was a bit younger this song made me feel really scared about raves and drugs. There's a brilliant bit at 4:26 where he improvises the line '15 cans of Stella' and then everyone in the recording booth laughs and then they all chant '15 Cans of Stella'. Also, I've only just realised that the title is a joke on One Night in Heaven.

Robbie T - Mrs. Jones 4x4 mix. This is a very popular remix idea, where the actual song plays for a bit (normally a "classic" bit of soul or pop) and then the remix drops in and everyone listening to it sort of has to acknowledge it as a bit clever and silly and fun. These are also the most annoying songs in the world if you don't like them, because while they are popular they are guaranteed to be played at every night you go to.

Hudson Mohawke - Thunder Bay. Someone suggested another Hudson Mohawke tune but a lot of this music is sort of funny and Thunder Bay is just so brilliant and up front and stupid. It sounds like a theme tune to the best Saturday night program ever.

EPROM - Regis Chillbin (Machinedrum Remix). Amazing suggestion of a recent piece of music. Its serious funny, if that makes sense. It's a very heavy, well produced tune, but with loads of dog barks doing the melody. And then at the end the dog barks turn into a baby crying.

Any suggestions?


Ok, here are some more from people. I'll update this every now and again...

Jamie Jones - 911. The normally dry world of minimal/tech house is livened up with a pretty lol 911 call. Apparently the call was actually made by a policeman who subsequently lost his job.

Marc Houle - Techno Vocals. Self referential techno record: "why are all the vocals pitched down so low, this is the way we make techno." Actually a really good tune as well as being absurd.

Mr. Oizo - Flatbeat. Someone suggested "Anything by Mr. Oizo", so I picked the famous one. But it's a good point, all his songs are pretty tongue in cheek, as was a lot of French of the 2000s. All the Ed Banger records stuff was knowingly dumb - an invitation to unpretentious fun.



Menhirs, triptych of altered digital images, 2013

Compromised Materials

I just moved into some new studios in New Cross, and once I've done this performance on March 15th in Cardiff, I'm going to be making some humiliated/shamed objects. I thought I'd compile a list of materials that I might use for shaming objects.

-Cling film
-Hair (pubic, facial, armpit)
-Blu Tac
-Spices (pre-mixed ones - Curry Powders, stew seasonings, Jerk seasonings)
-Low resolution inkjet prints of: pop up ads, pornography, camera phone photos, google image search results
-Nails (toe, finger)
-Accumulated matter: belly button fluff, pocket lint, used tissues
-Cigarette ash
-Coffee grounds
-Empty cans of lager. The smell of them.
-Dirt - like, city dirt, not mud. Just stuff from the floor.
-Something about A4 paper, maybe thin, cheap recycled - that off-dirt-white colour. Or Pukka Pads, something about lined paper with those bits from where you rip it off the spiral bound, even though it has that "tear along" line, it never works.
-Toilet roll, though I'm aware of making the shaming too obvious - sexual, faecal, etc.
-Party poppers (those bits that fly out, mixed with wet lager)
-Poppers (as in Liquid Gold etc.)
-Rolling tobacco, again, wetness and smell is important here
-Used tape: packing tape (brown), sellotape (dirty/clear)
-Bubble wrap/wrapping/tin foil?
-Plastic drinking straws - I had these nasty, soft-neon colours
-Used cleaning materials (sponges, j cloths, brushes/broomheads/mops)

Ambient Notes #5 (Goldsmiths)

-I'm really late. Feel like I'm in the wrong lecture. One of the Goldsmiths professors is talking about the London riots.

-I can't see a free entry point into the rows of seating so I ask some people to get up and I squeeze past. They do an "annoyed laugh" and in my head I'm like 'well that's unfair', but then when I sit down and look around I see that there are loads of free rows of seats.

-On the projector screen: Riot porn image of the carpet store that got burned down in Croydon.

-Professor says, 'Here's an image from Brixton.'

-A student uses an iPhone to take a picture of text on the screen.

-Instead of looking at latecomers with a superior and condescending smile, I'm now looking each of them in the eye, and subtly nodding as if to say, 'it's ok. It's ok.'

-I feel a bit disconnected to what is happening. Maybe it's being late, or drinking five cups of coffee. Or maybe it's that I was expecting a visiting lecturer rather than a member of the Goldsmiths staff. Or, maybe, last week's hi-tech luxury-lecture at UCL has made me acutely aware of the relative squalor of the Goldsmiths auditorium. Like flying first class, and then flying Ryanair.

-Professor struggles with the volume slider on a internet video. Students laugh.

-Professor says 'That was Mike Kelly. When he was alive.' Students laugh.

-Soft, small wedges of feedback from the two mics positioned in front of the Professor.

-"Anti-social private acts"

-Through being property, art is limited in its political reach.

-Not sure if both mics are turned on, but the Professor's voice is distorted.

-Professor asks if the students have seen the work of a particular artist. Students respond reluctantly and quietly.
  +The artist is a sculptor, community organiser, blues musician and a fireman.

-Professor tells us she is going to read some Marx, 'I'm very sorry.'

-Another Professor is charging her iPhone from the sockets on stage. She sits in the front row, with the white cord trailing across the desk.

-"Property is theft" is a phrase coined by the anarchist  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, often wrongly attributed to Marx.

-Left-wing politics at this level, talking about art and revolution and "The Riots" makes me really tired. I need to burrow underneath it.
  +With Marx, the proposed inevitability of the (self)destruction of capitalism makes him tiring to read. Capital's success as a book would be judged on how unread it was, i.e., when the inevitable revolution occurred it would necessarily be irrelevant. To read Marx is to confirm the present domination of capitalist ideology.

-Professor says 'the creation of and the destruction of the idea of'.

-Social Necessity vs Valuable Asset.

-Just remembered I have a banana in my bag but feel like I can't be late and also eat fruit in the lecture. I'm not even a student here.

-A student uses an iPad to take a picture of text on screen.

-On screen: Andrea Fraser "How can we rationalise our participation in this economy?"
  +The idea that art objects' primary meaning can be found in the web of their economic relations.

-Could objects be comrades not commodities?

-Could objects be enemies?

-Objects can be capitalist, for sure, but could they be socialist, or communist? If capitalism is a void of ideology perhaps objects are necessarily capitalist, if they too are a void of ideology.

-"Convulsions of Empire."

-Sometimes I want to be really well off. Not like, boats and furs and private islands well off. But maybe a three story house in north or east London well off. Turn the heating on when I'm cold well off. Own and not worry about the cost of owning a dog well off. Parents have a second car that I borrow well off. Have been skiing in my life well off. Pay for a full time MA well off. Buy new jeans instead of having to wear black underwear and hoping nobody notices the holes well off.

-Professor says 'I'm going to end on a boring note.'

-I also wish, sometimes, in lectures about Marxist theory, that I was well off enough to be ignorant of how well off I was. Well off enough to feel classless.

-Flat Ontology is enforced (false?) equality. Does it assume an impossible dream, namely that we might be able to think non-anthropocentrically? Is this impossible not just philosophically, but psychologically? Is every denial of correlationism an affirmation of correlationism?


-Writing/note taking surfaces in the auditorium, in order of quantity: Black bound, lined notebooks - various sizes, black bound, sketch books - various sizes, black bound grid squared notebooks - mainly A5, A4 spiral bound lined pads (the "economic" choice, reminds me of sixth form college), Macbook Pros, brightly coloured or patterned "gift" notebooks, mostly impractical - too small and/or too thick, the margins of print outs of today's reading, the margins of the other, less relevant print outs, folded bits of miscellaneous, grubby paper, a napkin, the back of a wrist.


Q & A

-On screen: screensaver of Microsoft Windows XP Professional logo.

-The Professor and the Other Professor share a single, clip microphone that they pass between them.

-The mundane nature of meaningful political/social action.

-Feedback comes in right-angled, triangular waves, rising to a peak, and then cutting to silence.

-The revolution isn't coming. The working class know that. Why don't we know that? The people who would benefit from the revolution know it isn't coming. The rich think it's coming, and are trying to stop it. The (academic) middle class spend their time theorising the conditions for the possibility of it, whilst our very existence depends on it never happening.

-Can you give up on the possibility of meaningful political change and still have meaningful political thought?

-Maybe if I was well off I could begin to tame objects through ownership.

-Student in front of me has taken his notes in pencil. Seems insane. How has he managed to keep the line so consistent?

-I'm so bored of talking about the riots. I'm also hungry.

-Older student humblebrags about their age (i.e., implies that they have wisdom, experience that young people won't understand).

-Student in front of me is distractedly moving the cursor around on the screen of his Macbook Pro, re-sizing windows and highlighting random lines of text.

-The Professor's computer has gone to sleep and the projector screen suddenly turns a deep, International Klein Blue.

-The "No Signal" icon has appeared on screen, along with a five minute countdown timer to when the projector will automatically switch off. Feel like when I die that might be what I see.

-I guess we are all bit guilty. Why are the humanities so guilty? Art, philosophy, literature. What makes us guilty? Science, capitalism? Does the crisis come from within or without?

-The tang of the real, the smell of it. It's a rotten smell that you cannot locate. A decomposing rat in the space between the walls. 'What's that smell?', asks the visitor. 'Oh that?, we're used to it. It's just the real', we say. The visitor wrinkles their nose and stays for coffee but doesn't eat a biscuit and leaves quickly after.

-It stinks, the real. It is honking. Cheesy. A deep, rich scent.

-What is thought? Bleach, to clean the smell away? No. Febreze, to neutralise and eliminate the stubborn odour? No. Pot pourri, to mingle with the stench of the real, give it a sick depth, a horrifying richness? Yes, thought is pot pourri. Cheap and nasty and making it worse.

-Professor says 'I hate to fetishize craft'.

-Art is in a mannerist phase. Painters know this. When it is not mannerist, it moves outside the scope of art.

-Professor openly worries that her arguments are accidentally in support of "The Big Society".

-Student asks a question about boredom, administration as a site for revolution, and the danger of 'exciting administration'.

-The countdown finishes. The projector turns off. The screen goes black.

Humiliating the Objects

Objects are more real than us; stronger than us. Here is a rock mound in a Welsh town. It sits there, and the town has to deal with it.

That's what objects would say if they spoke. 'Deal with it.' But obviously they don't say that. They don't say anything. They're silent. And their silence is a part of their strength.

This is how we get our own back on the world, on objects. We soil the world, we humiliate the objects. We bring them down to our level. Unstable, unsure, unnecessary.

We drop all of our shopping out of our Tesco bag and we just leave it there, on the floor. Our unbagged broccoli, our pre-washed salad, our Ripe and Ready avocados.

Or, on a larger, more collective scale, the detritus of our actions washes up on a beach. Brought together by longshore drift. Our jerrry cans, our mop buckets, our condoms.

Maybe if I want to make inadequate objects then I could take my cue from the everyday humiliations we inflict on objects.

Here's a discarded Christmas tree (isn't the name humiliating, a tree defined in terms of a human festival), wrapped in a bin bag and thrown onto the street.

Wrapped objects. Bagged objects. Objects whose skin is deemed too weak for the attentions of other objects. Objects that need protection from the elements.

Rose bushes wrapped for the winter, to protect them from the frosts.

A bronze statue wrapped in tarp, awaiting repair.

Gagged objects. Bound objects. Objects whose sole function is removed. Objects whose abilitities are constrained.

Slippers placed on fence posts, unable to walk.

A postbox wrapped in hazard tape, unable to accept letters.

Shamed objects. Ridiculed objects. Objects that are made dirty by our spillages. Objects that are misused, brought into contact with other, lesser objects.

A trainer covered in cinnamon, aromatic and dusty.

A towel used for drying tomatoes, trapped underneath the organic matter.