Kickin' with Hard Energy, or Whatever It's Called
I haven’t deejayed since the late ‘80s, when a kid named Sam Donaldson (no relation) and I busted it up for my little brother’s Homecoming Dance. Back then, we were filling the Old Gym with the fresh stylee of Scritti Politti and Run-DMC and New Order—pretty funky at the time, but hardly cutting-edge. The cutting edge was being developed by Juan Atkins and his collaborators in Detroit, heavy electronic blurps and Brobdingnagian bass explosions influenced by dub and Kraftwerk. This sound got refined in Chicago and turned into house music, then went to London and New York and spread everywhere to become what we now know as techno. Thus it is written.
But no one ever calls it “techno” anymore. Dance music is its own nation now, with capitals in Ibiza and Sao Paulo and Miami and rural raves from Wisconsin to India and everywhere else there are kids in hoodies with glowsticks. The music has a hundred heads and subgenres and offshoots with names like drum’n'bass and drill’n'bass and garage and two-step and industrial and laptop and trance and hardcore and breakbeat and big beat and ambient dub and acid jazz, et cetera ad infinitum ad astrum. (And that’s not even getting into glitchcore and IDM, to which no one has ever successfully danced.) These labels are invented by deejays and music journalists purely for the purpose of starting fights, but the kids don’t care: they’re just shaking their asses to whatever it’s called that’s blasting and funky. And the kids can tell if it’s funky, all right.
This CD is a compilation of something called “Hard Energy”, or maybe “Hard House”. So when the booklet tries to break down this supposedly “new” sound as “still hard and fast but is carried by a four-on-the-floor beat instead of the breakbeats of the nineties”, I’m skeptical. We need a new dance subset like Squarepusher needs another metronome. And it just kind of sounds like a tougher version of Goa psychedelic trance with more vocal samples to me anyway. What we really need to know about Speed Limit 140 BPM+: The New Era is: does it have a good beat, and can you dance to it?
Um, yeah. Hells yeah. What this is is 73 minutes of unbroken speed-crazed thump that rocks really hard with the funky beats. I hear the four-on-the-floor (oh, I forgot, that’s another whole dance thing), I hear the keyboards going bloink bloink, I hear a lot of stuff going on but mostly, I’m not even listening. I’m dancing. This is what the best dance music does: bypass your conscious brain and head straight for your gluteus. And whenever this CD is on, I’m workin’ it, baby.
Of course, I’m not playing it when I pick up my kids; the chorus of “Freaky Fukas” by Mr. vs. Tweek pretty much precludes that, as do a couple of other well-placed samples. But when they’re asleep or in school, Vinylgroover’s “Hell’s Drums” and “Bust a New Jam” by Malarky are making me move in strange and mysterious ways. So what if the final 13 tracks (out of 18 total) are all licensed to the same publishing company and all sound the same and feature artists named Steve (Steve Johnson, Steve Lee, Steve Kyte, Acid Steve) on seven of those tracks? Hell, I wouldn’t mind if they were all done by the same person. What kind of freak reads liner notes when he’s shaking ass?
It’s all mixed by a guy named Slipmatt, who if you believe the All Music Guide and the press release should be in the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in the ‘90s in the Happy Hardcore movement. (Wasn’t Happy Hardcore a character from Boogie Nights?) But I don’t care about that. He keeps it moving and that’s all that matters.
So welcome to Hard Energy. You could establish a whole new capital of dance music in your house just by cranking this shit up. So crank it already.