Opinion: Looking Beyond the Current Techno Hype

Techno was long considered to be an elite art form, created by a group of visionaries and enjoyed by few and far away. However, today’s strong demand for the genre has been such that it can affect the choices of the line ups and, consequently, even of the artists themselves. It must be frustrating for these artists having to compromise on their work because of this demand, dictated by a general hype that does not always reflect actual quality.

Artist Levon Vincent ranted against this growing trend saying, “Techno has never reminded me so much of heavy metal as today’s era. Where did the hint of Jazz influence go? Afro-Cuban rhythms? Still, interesting stuff these days, but can a guy get a 7th chord once and again? Why is the scene shut down all the cultural collage, the melting pot, in favor of just angst / angry music? I’m bored. 

Some artists like Coccoluto, KiNK and Steve Bug also commented on this win-win situation, giving their own opinions on Levon’s outburst. It seems it has created little buzz online. Steve Bug for instance seems to agree. “After 30 years of this kind of music, it’s really hard to find a niche and come up with something innovative,” Bug said, adding that a Detroit Techno revival would definitely be needed, not just as a  way of “going back to its roots” and for the sake of nostalgia, but also as a matter of “feelings”. Aah, feelings! Finally someone has managed to talk about the real issue at hand.

At present, we are faced with such an acute saturation that many people seem to forget the real reason for music: passion, mutual exchange of emotions between artist and listener. These are the things that should come first, perhaps even before the good technical success of the “underground-super-right-that-nobody-knows” type of record, and it certainly should come before success or fame.

A genre like techno is bound to have to deal with hype and, consequently, a continuous debate (often not too constructive) between the media and club/nightlife scene. Sadly, such is inevitable when dealing with a genre that is exposed to a wider public. As a result, the quality suffers and many people become disinterested in music in favor of success, i.e. pandering to what is popular to the ears of many people.

There may come a time when the techniques in techno will soon be exhausted, and all producers, DJs and listeners will be eagerly awaiting for the next “big moment”. As a result, it is inevitable to take refuge in a rupture of classical, constitutive aesthetics, and perhaps seek refuge in extinction. However, it also gave birth to a backward movement that negates the melodic approach and tries to experiment through the re-adaptation of heavy metal sounds in techno.

The manifestation of this “new kind” of music is not that much disturbing though. Regardless of the personal taste of each individual and possible influences, whether they are right or wrong, I do not think it is a random phenomenon considering that the representative music of this generation is so detached, cold, and mechanical. Think about it. Beyond the global political-economic situation, in recent years some peculiar dynamics have developed. Take the phenomenon of self-branding that has developed in a large scale on the web. In a sense it is nothing more than a realistic and disarming portrait of the present society that markets anyone like crazy.

Music has become the mirror of this collective discomfort because it always exists not only to create an experience but to send a message. For example, in the 1980s, the message was about euphoria, hedonism, and prosperity for everyone, at a time when everything was carefree and sensual. There was a desire for discovery and tread on new roads. Come to think of it, that era actually began way back in 1978, the year after the world’s punk explosion, with the emergence of hundreds of groups who, starting from a tabula rasa situation, gave new superb music experiences through new wave or post-punk.  It was a time of great innovation and eclecticism, with the attempt to innovate rock gave rise to new genres (from punk to hard metal). With the search for a greater bond (and in some cases of melding) between rock and other self-contained genres such as soul, disco, funk, and rap. In addition, a new and revolutionary declination of electronic music, with the proliferation of new techno and house verbs exploded in the second half of the 1980s, with the unexpected commercial success of synth-pop.

But now in 2017? We have become rich in presumption and hype, but poor in emotions and passion. So why did we get to this point? There is no definite answer here because of varying personal tastes. But we can try to make some possible explanations. In the era when DJs (partially) took the place of rock stars, they came to create a new generation of music producers. A generation that, except quite a few, knows little about the roots of the music being produced but instead is well-versed in what goes on today in terms of commercialism and popular trends. The result is one of endless recycling and basic homogeneity, with little innovation and creativity nor is there the desire to take a different path. This problem, sadly, is something that will not go away anytime soon. But if there’s any comfort in this matter, it’s that trends in music are cyclical in nature. Somehow, by looking at the past, we can tell how long a trend lasts.

I suppose what needs to be asked is: is it all hype or do techno artists still have that pure desire to convey their inner thoughts and feelings into music?