So there was the memory of the 1999 Chemical Brothers show burned into my memory that I described in the first part of my love letter to electronic music. That night is ingrained in my musical DNA like an aggressive gene therapy created by the beats and sights of glowsticks and dancing. That’s about as deep as the scar on my left knee from the two surgeries needed to reconstruct it. That’ll never go away.
My sister took me other shows afterwards of course and I was very lucky for some of those experiences. One in particular was seeing the sweat come off Tiësto’s brow in an incredibly small rave tent in 2002 as he waved his hand at these two blonde girls that had the even smaller waists. This was years before the dudebros and guidos in the Tri-State Area found him and Tiësto started filling up US arenas like he did the ones back home in the Netherlands.
High school shifted the taste dramatically. It was a change made from the angst-ridden years where my mind and body wanted songs from men like Andre 3000, Christopher Wallace, Maynard James Keenan, Chino Moreno, and Jimmy Page. That big rock and hip-hop kick for most of high school, filled with all the introspection and manufactured anguish an introverted nerdy guy is generally known to have, washed out a lot of drum and bass and trance music from my MP3 players and CD mixtapes.
It wasn’t that something switched in me overnight and I just hated EDM. What occurred was just that there was a mental disconnect, at least to me at the time, of being a fan of high tempo dance music while being a moody little shit, you know? And it was a bit hard to keep your headphones on playing Orbital while your friends blasted screamo and the pop-punk du jour. I stopped going to electronic shows, started going to rock concerts. I loved them as well, but looking back they’ve yet to burn into me like the raves tents and dance clubs.
What kept my body sing electronic, even though I sat in my room alone with my headphones on, came in the gust of one particular song – it keeps happening that way with me, as you’ll see in the next part of this series. That song kept coming to me in small parts placed in scenes of episodes on TV or movies. The bass line crept up slowly until the snare drum came in, then the languid sample loops and fuzzy guitar riff in the background. Then the lyrics came on.
“You…are my angel…”
The song is menacing as all hell while maintaining a seductive cool from the juxtaposition of Horace Andy’s voice. And from there I delved into Massive Attack and by that path I found trip-hop, downtempo, ambient, and all the slower undercurrents of electronic music. Here’s sampler of what I was listening to.
There’s a reason why I bring all this up. It comes because of my writing. As far as I can think of, most of my earliest writing came from the sounds of songs like the ones from the playlist above that came from Bristol or many other parts of the aural umbra. There are times when I hear the rhythmic drums in “Inertia Creeps” that take me to places to stories that are far and away from the song’s lyrics about sex. DJ Shadow’s “Midnight In A Perfect World” served as the theme for a lot of my old poems, if that makes any sense.
Even if all of the stuff I made from that time was garbage – and it was, of course – the music helped start it all, and it was this particular type of music that was the hymn. That was my soundtrack when I was sixteen and an insomniac with too many things that needed to be poured out of my head and onto the screen.
I did eventually get to hear “Angel” live, in 2010 at the Warfield in San Francisco – luckily someone put up a YouTube vid of it. The entire show helped me feel young since I remembered the album came out in 1998 and the crowd must have at least been 35-plus in age. I’m soon to be 27 and I’m listening to “(Exchange)” the final song from Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. Seems like a pretty good way to cap off the post.