At the weekend Eirene and I along with a collective of 10+ other people convened in Birmingham to join several thousand other people in The Q Club for the last ever Atomic Jam there. Back in the mid 90’s, Eirene and I went to one of the first Atomic Jam’s there – so last October when my friend said he was buying tickets – who was in?, I stuck my hand up. So very glad I did. An incredible night with some world class DJs in the main hall of a big old Methodist church. The night also featured two other rooms (+DJs), several bars, loads of corridors and cubby holes, stairways, landings, loads (and loads) of smashing people… and Techno.
‘Techno’ today as a genre remains very close in essence to its Detroit roots from the mid 80s, but arguably its roots go back way further that this. There’s something primeval about it; Techno is about utilising TECHNOlogy to make noises and structure them as patterns in rhythm. The first sound we heard was our mothers heart beat and it’s this that gives us our first taste of patterned rhythm. Pattered rhythm music has been part of humanity since the beginning – the worlds first musical instrument was almost definitely a percussion instrument (something that you hit, shake or rub that makes a noise) and almost definitely, a rhythm was formed. Rhythm is something we innately understand and put into practice – for example – every time we walk.
We’ve been making music with similarities to Techno for a long time. For instance – here from India – the Mridangam Drum and from The Cook Islands the Log Drum. Both of these forms were formed totally without influence of each other thousands of years ago, and along with Techno have a definable commonalities. They trigger a similar emotive response in a lot of cases and even though the pieces above are faster and with more complex time signature than most 4/4 Techno – they are predominantly a concentrate of patterns in rhythm. Some of the technology has moved on a great deal – the boxes that make the noises – from hollow logs to complex electronics as well as the things that peripheral with the noises – from sticks to Serato, but the feel and structure has stuck with its roots; Patterned rhythmic music made by people who like to make noses for people to dance all night to – to me Techno has kept the bloodline of these origins of primitive party music, more than anything else.
The taxonomy of music gets more and more complex as time goes on – along with it, contention, as it fragments and re invents itself. An easy split in definition is this: music that was made on a computer and music that wasn’t. The skills of composing are often very similar – but the noise making objects differ. Old instruments – eg piano = pressing keys to make noises. New instruments – eg : computer = pressing keys to make noises. Most computer music falls into what a broad brush describes as ‘dance music’. Techno, along with House music are the Godfathers of dance music. There’s no real definition on this – but to me, House music tends to be a bit lighter than Techno and House emulates and often incorporates more real instruments and vocals, and is more about the groove – Techno is more about the percussive rhythms and synthetic TECHNOlogically sourced noises.
In the early 90s I first fell in love with Techno at a venue called The Orbit in Morley, Leeds. Luckily for me, this legendary club – one of the finest Techno clubs in the world at the time – was just a short hop from home. Some of the DJs I’d seen there are still on the circuit – including Dave Clarke who I was lucky enough to see again at Atomic Jam at the weekend.
I like all sorts of music – but the weekend reminded me how much I ♥ Techno. Appreciating it properly
is hard work takes a lot out of you – but it’s well worth it.