Monday, November 19, 2007


Techno moves fast, always has. It's the genre's boon and its bane. To borrow a phrase from post-punk, techno's a speed trial, though not so much for its beats, but its turnover. The music industry may be slumping, but house and techno's deluge of new material continues unabated, fast and furious as ever. To get a sense of the genre's cruising speed, just spend a few weeks reading the Hot 100 Sales chart on the website of the German vinyl mailorder retailer Updated every week, and tracking sales over a three-week span, the chart's turnover is mind-numbing. Few records last more than two or three weeks before being displaced by new entries. No wonder that over the course of a given DJ's set, I might only identify a handful of tunes, despite the fact that this is a genre I devote most of my waking hours to. The pace of techno's output is like capitalism on speed, with innumerable, virtually identical products hitting the market in quick succession. Along the way, there are the interpretations, the innovations and the occasional improvement-- and that's why we keep listening. The rest of it is churn.

To be honest, I've been dreading writing this column. Going over a year's worth of notes and reviews and charts, what is there? Plenty of great tracks, of course-- some I'm still playing, some I've forgotten about. But can anything sum up the year in any kind of elegant fashion? In an article I wrote for the German magazine De:Bug's 10th anniversary issue in August, I noted the uncanny similarities between 2007 and 1997, from Carl Craig's chart supremacy to the fetishization of the pioneering Finnish label Sähkö's minimalistic aesthetic. It's not that techno went retro this year. And I hate to invoke the (capitalistic) concept of "diminishing returns." But 2007 felt less like a year of innovations, of bold leaps and technological alchemy, than a year of tweaks to the form, of honing in on what I've long called the "boom-tick template."

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