10/2/08

'Ardcore You know the score

My bad reading habits came home to roost today. I looked at the books strewn around my room and realised that I am no more than a third of the way through most of them. I am a bit of a scatalogical book whore that way. I dip into something and then drop it as soon as something sexier winks at me from the shelf in Easons. Either that, or at 27, too many years of immature partying excess has withered my brain into a sodden grey acorn with alcohol-induced ADHD. It's normally a bit of a feat then when I finish a book. Especially when I actually read it, as opposed to lie passively in the dark as a disembodied American voice drip feeds me words from my laptop. Today I finished a book. With real pages. Which I read with my eyes. It had over 550 pages too. It's called Energy Flash. It's by Simon Reynolds and it is the best book I've read on music since Revolution in the Head. I reckon the mark of any good book about music is how quickly it gets you scrabbling to hear the music it considers. When I read Revolution in the Head two years ago, I whipped out my ipod and giddily hoovered every Beatles song through my ears about four times over. My brain sucked that shit up like a Nilfisk. I was listening to the Beatles in an engaged, appreciative way for the first time since I was a teenager and all because I read Ian McDonald's remarkable book. Energy Flash has had a similar effect. Reynolds (who is perhaps better known for Rip it up and Start Again) writes about dance culture in such a personal, passionate way and wears his intelligence with such a lightness of touch that it is really hard not to get swept up in his arguments even though I don't agree with them all. The book sweeps from the early days of Detroit Techno through to Dubstep (in the new edition) giving a view of dance culture that is at once both panoramic and deeply subjective (Reynolds was quite the raver it would appear). Because of it's subjectivity, a huge focus is on the early days of rave through to the mass-cultural explosion of British Hardcore (1988-1993). He writes about countless tracks and artists I never heard about, but does it in such a seductive way I've been downloading shit left right and centre just to get an aural handle on what's being described. I'm sure he couldn't wish for higher praise than that. 'twas far from Bon Iver this young buck was raised. Here is a flavour of how he writes, describing Joey Beltram's 1990 hardcore techno track 'Energy Flash', after which the book is named. This sort of stuff makes me green with Envy.
1990's 'Energy Flash' gets my vote as the greatest techno track of all time. With its radioactive bass-glow and pulsing loop-riff 'Energy Flash' sucks you into a miasmic maelstrom like nothing since the first acid house tracks. An insinuating whisper murmurs 'acid, ecstasy' like a dealer in the murk, or the voice-of-craving inside an addict's head. The track really does sound like the speedfreak's drug 'flash', like being plugged into an electric mains (no wonder amphetamine-aficiandos talk about being 'wired').
And so on for 550 glorious pages. All of this delicious prose is fleshed out with a great deal of heavy cultural theorising, which while sometimes a little carried away, always makes great reading. If only all books on music could read like this. Of course, I downloaded the track described above. MP3:Joey Beltram-Energy Flash and another track by Beltram which Reynolds describes as follows
The monstrous 'Mentasm' sound - a swarming killer bee drone derived from the Roland Juno Alpha synthesiser, a writhing, seething, cyclone-hiss that sends ripples of shivery shuddery rapture over your entire body-surface
MP3:Joey Beltram-Mentasm Yup, he likes his old school hardcore does Reynolds. Now I do too.

13 comments:

John Braine said...

Christ my eyes. Is that an American cover!? Yes Energy Flash is brilliant. I got dizzy with nostalgia reading it. (Even though it was uk-based).

J.

Aero said...

You must loan me that one d. Joey Beltram's Energy Flash has soundtracked most of my life. I first heard it when my brother gave me this cd http://www.discogs.com/release/60999 at the age of 9, to get me started on the good tunes, as he put it. Its one of those tunes that will never get old and can always be stuck on anywhere, like Cowgirl, or Man With The Red Face.

Justin Mason said...

yeah, great book! I loved it too.

original hardcore cred: I have a copy of Acen's Trip II The Moon on vinyl somewhere around the gaff ;)

Gardenhead said...

Hey john Braine-It's actually the new paperback, updated with a couple of final chapters bringing the reader up to speed with developments in dance until last year.

Aero-hah yeah, I've downloaded a lot of early '90s hardcore now. All that Belgian scene, which Beltram was associated with even though he was American. Some of it is insane. Will deffo loan ya the book.

Nice Justin. I was 11 when most of this stuff came out. But I can say the first tape I ever bought was called 'Ultimate Rave' when i was that age. My parents did not have a clue what to make of it. I used to play 'on a ragga tip' and 'trumpton' at vicious volumes and jump around my bedroom like a lunatic.

John Braine said...

Ah I see. He doesn't half waffle on though I managed to do the whole thing in a 1000 words ;)


http://www.johnbraine.com/music/words/hardcore.html

rrrright said...

I love the way in that Energy Flash song, around the 2 minute mark the hushed ecstasy whisperings start... i wouldn't like him whispering in my ears on a night out.

Adam said...

Brilliant, articulate book on a load of dance sub-genres written off by too many fuckwads as 'mindless shite' and he's as passionate about his hatred of certain acts too is he not? Is it LTJ Bukem that gets a going over? I must dip back into it.

Ciarán Gaynor said...

He had a good book out about shoegazing (for want of a better phrase) a few years ago called "Blissed Out", that's probably due a re-issue what with MBV getting back to work. And "Bring The Noise" which compiles the best of his music journalism down the years is also good. But as I was saying to you I find him a little bit too intellectual. Like Greil Marcus or something. But a good book is a good book and "Energy Flash" and "Rip It Up..." are VERY good books, it's just that I found them a bit of a struggle to get through. He also raised my ire by being dismissive of The Beloved's album "Happiness". That's a great record!

Have you read "The Faber Book Of Pop" edited by Jon Savage and Hanif Kureishi? It's completely brilliant, I'm sure you'd love it.

LoLo said...

Future sound of London get a ripping too. Adam.

Rrright-Yeah I can imagine for a lot of people it caught a moment in time when rave turned a bit darker, I'd say that voice resonated nicely with the shadowy feelings a lot of nuttas were beginning to experience in 1990.

John braine gonna read you piece later!

I'm in the airport about to go on my holiday now. Just bought rip it up and start again to read on the plane.

Gardenhead said...

ah that was me signed in as loreana folks.
Yeah ciaran that faber book of pop is great. Gonna read lots of good music journalism over the next few months. Of course, little of it will be current sadly.

Astonishing Sod-Ape said...

I agree. Spiffing stuff altogether. By the way D, you interested in coming out to Greystones Theatre tomorrow? Myself and the Patricks will be supporting David Kitt.

nialler9 said...

I'm reading both Energy Flash and Rip it up and start again at the moment. i'll never finish them

Gardenhead said...

Ape, I was in Italy for the weekend so couldnae make it. Nialler, I'm never going to finish 'rip it up and start again' either, it would seem. I left it in the hotel.