My eMusic Dozen, 2007 Rewind: The Year in Dance, went up today, and I'm quite pleased with it. eMusic subscribers can download the cuts in question; everyone can read my synopses. Whether for space or delicacy, my intro was shortened somewhat; I'm reprinting the full version here, to preserve original's slightly more critical stance. I don't mean to harp on others for having tastes that differ from mine, but it bugs me when particularity is presented as universalism, or, to put it another way, consensus-based presuppositions reinforce assessments that simply aren't true.
That being said, the subject of my Dozen, despite its generalist title, is itself wholeheartedly particular (if not downright peculiar). This isn't really "the year in dance," it's my year in dance; take it as you will. (It's also, I should note, a list of my top 12 tracks that are available in eMusic's catalog; it's a testament to the site's growth over the past year, however, that all selections were already high in my general top 25. That is, I didn't need to make any particular stretches to find 12 catalog titles I could deem "best." Nevertheless, my personal year-end list will differ slightly from this.)
A final note: the tracks I'm singling out are listed, artist then title, in bold type beneath the album covers pictured. The larger, orange titles are the album titles containing them, which in several cases are compilations or mixes; the artists linked are, likewise, the artists responsible for those containers. In other words, I didn't vote Dubfire best of anything, but it's his Taipei where you'll find Len Faki's "Rainbow Delta" on eMusic.
The Year in Dance: The eMusic Dozen: Introduction
Many will undoubtedly look back on 2007 as the year that dance broke. Daft Punk officiated from their pyramid; LCD Soundsystem made wistful funky again; and the likes of Justice, Simian Mobile Disco and Digitalism made 4/4 beats palatable to the rock kids. But for the admirable breadth of that spectrum, other strands of house and techno failed to capture the popular imagination, judging from their near-total excision from the tastemaking websites of a curiously consensus-based blogosphere. Indeed, many U.S. media directed a curious kind of animosity towards another variety of dance music, the stuff that animates crowds by the thousands everywhere from Berlin nighclubs to London backrooms, Argentine beach raves to Romanian afterhours, Ibizan massives to Miami's Winter Music Conference. Nowhere was that animosity more apparent than when a Fader blogger accused the Berlin-based, Perlon-affiliated artist Cassy Britton of belonging to the "minimal techno ghetto."*
Weirdly polemical wording aside—you don't see them calling Houston rap or funk carioca, two genres with far more localized fan bases and talent pools, "ghetto" musics—the accusation simply isn't accurate. In much of the world, house and techno's cultural capital is equivalent to that of indie rock in the U.S. What seems clear is that without access to its native context—namely, the regular club nights where the music comes alive—many American listeners continue to find most Continentally-inclined house and techno forbiddingly alien. The irony is that given the spread of dance-music blogs and Internet-based distribution, the music is more accessible than ever. What follows are 12 highlights from the year in house and techno—not just the songs, but the stories that made them significant. The selection represents the international character of contemporary electronic dance music, drawing from Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, London, the Bronx, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, Santiago, Chile and Cagliari, Italy. Three tracks, in fact, are cross-border collaborations. And all of them are passports to a world where national identity is rendered irrelevant. No "ghetto pass" is needed, just a willingness to lose oneself in the beat.
*Somewhat bizarrely, the blog entry doesn't anywhere identify Perlon as the label behind Cassy's record, despite its instantly recognizable graphic identity, pictured in the accompanying photo.