Last week Beaport launched a new genre label called “Leftfield House and Techno,” aiming to use it to categorize underground and independent labels and releases in an effort to support them through increased visibility.
We waited to announce the news until we had the actual opportunity to navigate through it and get a proper idea of its functionality, and now that we did we can safely say that the idea, while laudable, doesn’t work.
In Beatport’s official statement they said that, “70% of the tracks sold on Beatport fall squarely in our house and techno genres, so we wanted to do something to highlight the high-quality underground releases that people could miss amongst the 25,000 new tracks that appear each week.”
Despite containing releases from albums such as Hessle Audio, HesslWill & Ink, Trip, Ilian Tape, Acido, Lobster Theremin and Hivern Disc, the Leftfield House and Techno section is essentially a mumble jumble of anything and everything that is considered “too underground” for the actual house House and Techno sections on Beatport.
At first glance, the genre’s “Top 10 Releases” section is immediately puzzling. At first place is Lonely Planet by Tornado Wallace on Running Back, a house album filled with slow enchanting melodies, jazzy elements and and drawn-out emotive energy. A little further on the list is Massimo Pagliara’s Time & Again released on Ostgut-Ton, an EP that embodies italo and nu-disco with a blend of deep house, heavy use of analogue synths and the soulful, almost euphoric sounds you would expect Pagliara to play at Panorama Bar during his sets there. Right below it in fifth place is the Forget It EP from Justin Cudmore, released on The Bunker New York and tinged with Acid House from beginning to end. And finally in tenth place is Tripp, the pure techno debut EP from Unknown Archetype, a collaboration between the British conceptual artist and producer Roxy Tripp and the Netherlands-based producer Oliver Kucera.
A quick look elsewhere under the Leftfield House and Techno genre tab only raises more questions. Mr. G’s “Navigate” can be found right beside a Reeko remix of Kessell’s “Sensorium” out on PoleGroup, the unmistakably techno imprint from Spain that the Asturian producer calls home. And what about Tessela’s “Hackney Parrot” on Poly Sicks, a bass-heavy Chicago-influenced house track that can be spotted on the same page as Marcel Dettmann’s remixes (there’s two of them) of Rolando’s “Time To Jack.”
As part of their statement, Beatport specified that the new section “will shine a light on off-kilter, lo-fi, avant-garde house and techno.” The move was an effort to separate more mainstream electronic music from underground productions, following the creation of the Big Room House and Future House sections in the past.
So what is the difference between a Reeko track catalogued under the Leftfield House and Techno genre and one found under the Techno section? Or Hessle Audio releases featured in the House section versus those now located under the newly-announced category? If you’re confused I can assure you that you are not the only one. I could go on with other artist and label examples, but I think you get the idea.
It’s hard to decipher what truly constitutes a “Leftfield” techno or house track. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as, “a state or position far from the mainstream,” but how far from the mainstream does a house release need to be to classify as “leftfield” rather than be catalogued under the simple House section?
Beatport’s idea is commendable, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. Genres are a hot topic of debate amongst producers, DJs and listeners alike, especially as the way that music stores decide on genres can actually impact the success of tracks and artists. The current system, however, does nothing to ease the searching for tracks, but rather adds confusion to an already murky situation.
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