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Hold that last thought

Carl Wilson weighs in at the Slate critics' roundtable with a pretty fair assessment of what the critics missed this year--metal, noise, breakcore, non-trendy global musics and "new European dance sounds," but uses dubstep (somewhat misappelled as "hyperdub") as the lone synecdoche for said new European dance sounds, which is odd, since the UK makes a rather shaky synechdoche for Europe. (May I suggest some Continental techno?)

But I certainly can't argue with Wilson's claim (echoing Ann Powers) that "the main absence in the disembodied-music age is the body. What we overlook are real human beings in real places. And not just at shows, but in locally specific scenes and communities"; that would certainly explain why American critics don't "get" techno, since you can't really grok the stuff til a body feels a downbeat comin' through the rye of a thousand other bodies. (Indie rock, in contrast, I think you *can* "get" to a certain extent, without physical presence; or I should say, any music that slots itself into an indie rock MODEL--aesthetically, performatively, ideologically--can be lived *as* "live" culture within a downloading culture, substitutionally, by slotting a giving new act in the space occupied by known experience. (If you've been to an indie rock show, downloading, say, CSS or even Lady Sov won't require an entirely new set of values to understand the music and anticipate the live experience.) MySpace and MP3 blogs are essentially the yindie version of baseball cards--you internalize the first-order experience (the game, the players) by participating on this second-order level. But techno, given its inherent focus on physicality, sensuality, collective experience, etc.--dare I say, not to sound to rockist, immediacy--just doesn't work as well in an internet context. Not when the internet is the PRIMARY context, anyway. You do have to be there.)

And lord knows that most American critics aren't traveling much, whether it's due to shrinking editorial budgets (true, I'm sure) or the widespread cultural myopia that leads Americans, especially New Yorkers (no matter how liberal and allegedly cosmopolitan), to assume that anything not happening in their own front yard simply ain't worth covering. Since 2001, that's been the driving assumption behind most American music coverage, and look where it's gotten us.


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