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Those cvazy Germans

I'm glad to see DJ Koze getting some love in Jody Rosen's Slate column on the overlooked albums of 2005, but I have to take issue with the generalization, "the [German] sound has often been a parody of Teutonic rigidity and reserve: all glitches and stiff beats, dance music for post-structural theorists, not dancers." I realize Rosen is only working with about 200 words here, so there's not much room to back up the statement, but really? Where's the evidence of this? (Ok, aside from most of the Mille Plateaux catalogue.) Anyone who has been immersed in German electronica of the past 10 or 15 years, I think, would argue exactly the opposite: German dance music is often some of the most hedonistic, ecstatic, pleasure-centric stuff in all of contemporary house and techno. (Yes, Vahid, I know, I know: have at me.)

Obviously we could argue back and forth all night about specific examples, but the real point is: why the strawman? It seems like it's impossible to read about electronic music in the mainstream media without submitting it to the strawman critique: "Most electronic music is [cold/unfunky/unhuman, etc.] but this album is [warm/funky/human, etc.]." It's not just that the strategy is lazy and makes for predictable reading — it makes the critic's judgments seem suspect, since it values generalization over any deeper, more nuanced engagement with the form. (I'm not saying Rosen hasn't made the engagement, just that the rhetorical strategy undermines it.)

Koze's album is indeed brilliant, and stands head and shoulders above many electronic albums this year, German or otherwise. But the reason why is a complex question of songwriting, sound design, and that nameless, elusive funk. To say as much doesn't require reducing the rest of the German house and techno canon to a Sprockets sketch.



We must remember most people (including said critic) probably don't delve into this genre like some of us. We may hear the music very differently than some of them. Although I do agree with you about the sound of the German Electronic Scene, to many, most of the stuff 'we hear' on the dancefloor is alien and obscure, very unemotive, very unpersonal. I feel Koze's album is touching on that pop sensibilty (like a few Kompakt releases) so it allows any listener to grasp it a little more than they may, say... Alex Smoke's 'Incommunicado'. Which btw is one of my top 5 of 05';0)



I went to Koze recently and he was surprisingly undancable. It was all tease and no bang: not over-intellectualism like in the article but kinda playing with the genre, not really giving the dancers the ecstastic payoff the music promised. I haven't heard the album but I get a sense Koze doesn't believe in the 100%ness of dance/house, prefering great sonics for the listeners but neglecting the body. let him fuck around on the fringes till he comes to his senses.

i'm surprised to hear that about koze; every time i've seen him it's been incredibly dancy and sexy (and occasionally pretty brutal, but still in a funky way). his history is actually in hip-hop, and his group international pony does a marvelous take on a sort of nouveau g-funk mixed up with house that never neglects the body for a second. well worth seeking out.

omg, so true. i fucking adore international pony. it's great great great dance music. especially 'only you' and 'our house', *excellent* tracks. dj koze is all about making you move.

If I had a pound for every time I've read a review of some German dance music that had either of the words "teutonic" or "academic" in it I would be a very rich man indeed. General music journalism, rather than special ist, tends to fall into those kind of clichés for all sorts of music mind you and as long as it is positive it might make somebody listen to it that wouldn't have otherwise, although of course it lose its credibility for those who are heavily into German techno.


Ya got me.

Yes, I only had a couple of hundred words. But no excuses. This was definitely a lame strawman rhetorical gambit, just waiting to be debunked. (I knew it at the time, but I was on deadline.) Moreover, as you imply, there's more than a hint of nasty stereotyping lurking that "Teutonic rigidity." What can I say: I regret what I wrote, especially because I love the Koze record, and shouldn't have sullied it with lazy praise, let alone used it to slander all Deutschland. I'll do better next time.

Anyway, thanks for a well-deserved smackdown. Sometimes these things hurt so good.

-- Jody

I had the pleasure of DJing with Koze back in the late 90s & he def played for the crowd & had massive funk. The comment from the promoter Ralf was that Hip hop DJs make for better house DJs & in this instance he was correct.
There is always a lazy generalisation when it comes to all things German ie no humour, overly cerebral, funkless souless music etc etc. Which to anyone who has actually been to Germany or knows anyone German or listened to German music knows is complete bollocks.
Big up the Germans & their beautiful music!

Have no fear Jody, it's not you, it's a plague. Koze album aside, I can't help but think of this from October 2003 .. uhh, which I would link to, if it wasn't for the fact that these blog comments won't allow links. Why does spam ruin it for everyone ?

Anyway, from the Dusted piece I wrote in 2003:

"It’s become commonplace – if not absurdly cliché – for ‘electronic music journalists’ to begin their reviews with some statement of the (apparent) ‘coldness’ of electronic music, proceeding to arrive at the most surprising revelation (one conjured either by smug approval or a genuine sense of the origin) that the artist under consideration is ‘warm’ and so unlike the ‘cold’ others in her or his ‘organic depth’.

(I once wrote a review for EMR that quoted at least three articles in the same issue of Grooves, each which opened with some variation upon this theme. Taken at face value, it appears the singular particularity of warmth is synecdoche for the whole trend of cold. Meteorologically speaking, this would precipitate a whirling of hot and cold pressures, blending a cyclone.)"

Undoubtedly there's an entire thesis here as to why this discourse perpetuates itself in the critical unconscious.

The EMR piece I am referring to can be hunted down in the archives. I'll blog something over at quadrantcrossing.org/blog .

.. merry 2006, tV

Koze's OK, but last time he played a Paul McCartney track that really made me cringe.

I read your last column in Pitchfork. I'm from Madrid, I'm agree with Alex Under about the scene in Madrid, almost everyone mix the same.

The problem is that Alex Under and his crew believe that the unique valid sound it's their sound, and the rest of the people that work in the electronic scene sucks.
What's the problem with Get Physical? o with Gigolo? Do I have more music culture for hearing Villalobos or M.Dear instead of Dj T or Mandy? I don't believe it.

Hello from Hamburg,

it's very interesting to read your opinions, esp as a german: From my point of view, all popular music including electronic, is always about fantasizing about another city/country. It's always more fascinating for me to listen to a theo parrish track than to check out the latest homegrown stuff. That might different if I came from Detroit...
Koze's got soul as his buddies in International Pony have got. So much for the cold teutonic, which can be great.
Your discussion reminds me on Kodwo Eshun's theory whereas Düsseldorf is the Mississippi-Delta of electronic music. Yes and no.


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