Monday, 18 October 2010

"D/R/U/G/S are good, they're from Manchester"

Tomorrow D/R/U/G/S are playing at The Nest in Dalston, formerly Barden's Boudoir. They are very much my cup of tea, at least on paper, so I'm expecting good things from the show, partly because the venue is the new project from the guy who used to run Fabric.

I'm not sure how I feel about a band called D/R/U/G/S. Initially it seems repellently Hoxtonite; later it's annoying to type; after a while you become immune to it and start saying things like this post's title when explaining the band to friends. Band name as infinitely variable gag machine. Not the first time, I s'pose, but it's a teensy bit Nathan Barley you'd have to admit (and saying that sounds hopelessly dated in itself).

At least they've updated it with the oh-so-2010 use of slashy symbols. The Guardian has noted this trend so it must have reached tipping point in certain London postcodes.

I'm going to stick my neck out a little and say that D/R/U/G/S have come up with a sound that is "original yet danceable" (my quote for the sleeve, if you will). A tricky marriage: clubbers (or 'people who go to clubs', if that makes you feel less sicky) tend to confine their appetite for experimentation to chemical and biological interactions, choosing their BPM and bass tastes long before leaving the house, home-strength Dark 'n' Stormy in hand. The aim of rave (in its earlier incarnations, especially) is to provide a steadily evolving fabric of pattern and texture that affects your brain and body in almost unconsciously felt ways, so that The Drop is that neuro-physiological pay-off used sparsely for optimum effect.

Not that I'm trying to reduce dance music to mere physical stimulant, but dance plugs directly into the spinal cord in a way the majority of popular music doesn't, which is partly the result of the bizarre circumstances we choose to experience it in (darkness, strobes, intoxication; a sanitised weekend bacchanal with only marginally less gory results).

Meanwhile, the constantly mutating strain of rave for the bedroom, for headphones, for gloomy moments staring out your bedroom window at a pavement strewn with mulchy autumn leaves, is inherently erratic, complex, less danceable. The slow builds and subtle shifts of dancefloor rave aren't necessary when you're soberly sipping tea, wearing your boyfriend's hoodie late on a Tuesday night.

And to combine those two rival aspects of danceability and intricacy is always a challenge. I think it very rarely works, but when it does it is Truly Great. Like so much of my favourite music of the past few years (Caribou, Four Tet, Luke Abbott and others whom I've written more than enough about in this blog), D/R/U/G/S appear to not only embrace complexity, variety, maximalism, bricolage, etc., they also seem to have one ear on the dancefloor, keeping the tempo up and referencing more traditional dancey sounds (like the housey vocal snippets on 'Rad Pitt').

If I elaborate anymore I might end up postulating a feeble cod-sociological explanation for the rise (or revival) of Intelligent(Intricate) Dance(floor) Music based on: the increasing costs of clubbing, alcohol, cab fares and city living; the weakening potency of 'dance drugs'; the relative affordability of home music production software; and the rise of both bedroom DJs and blogosphere tastemakers (who might typically be found in their bedrooms on Saturday nights listening to music on headphones, only prodded into dancing/blogging about dance music when that music is suitably 'headphones-y' and beard-strokey and intricate).

But it would basically be bullshit.

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