Books

'Around the World in 80 Raves' Is a Serviceable Gazetteer of the Festival Landscape

Did you know that Mexico City hosts its own major rock festival (Corona Capital), there is an annual electronic music fest in Beijing (INTRO), and South Africa has its own Burning Man inspired event (Afrikaburn)?


Around the World in 80 Raves: A Guide to the Best Parties and Festivals on the Planet

Publisher: Dog ‘n’ Bone
ISBN: 1909313122
Author: Marcus Barnes
Price: $14.95
Format: Hardcover
Length: 128 pages
Publication date: 2013-10
Amazon

There has been an explosion of music festivals in recent years. From the UK standpoint I share with Marcus Barnes, I have seen countless new festivals spring up in almost every county of the country. Meanwhile, events in mainland Europe are marketed as music-filled holidays, and the media reports on major US festivals such as Coachella and SXSW.

It’s easy enough to understand why this is the case. Today’s music fan doesn’t have to go to a music store, pick up a physical product and take it home before they can play a new record. YouTube, streaming and downloading, legal or otherwise, have made all kinds of music freely accessible to consumers; it’s now easy to discover a large and varied number of artists within the space of an hour’s web browsing.

Festivals, whose bills include multiple acts and genres across the space of a weekend, replicate this kind of listening experience. There are economic reasons, too: in these straightened times, a £200 festival ticket that includes the opportunity to see 30 or 40 bands offers considerably better value for money than 30 or 40 gig tickets at £20 or so each.

But is this expansion of the festival market a good thing? Barnes seems to think so, and keenly espouses the virtues of 80 of them in this gazetteer of the festival landscape. The book is not intended as a travel guide; it includes only perfunctory information about each event covered, including brief histories of the festivals and details of few of the acts that have played in the past. For festival-goers who have been to all the obvious parties, it offers plenty of alternatives that they are less likely to heard of, and it also functions as a stocking filler for the armchair raver.

The summaries of each festival covered are generally sufficient to give readers an idea of whether any given event is one that they are likely to enjoy. However, there are areas where the book lacks clarity. Each entry includes a handy box that lists past headliners and assigns a star rating to the cost of tickets, food, beer and cigarettes. What’s confusing here is the star rating assigned to accommodation costs: there's a surprising variance here between festivals whose admission price includes camping. But given that the book is clearly intended as a stimulus for further research rather than as a comprehensive guide, this can be forgiven.

Around the World in 80 Raves is a serviceable primer then, but what’s most interesting about it is what it tells us about the festival scene as a whole. The growth of the festival market is one thing that’s highly apparent. The 80 festivals covered here represent only Barnes’ choices from the vast pool that’s on offer. There's clearly growth within individual festivals too: Barnes often points out that events grew from humble beginnings lasting a couple of days and attended by a few hundred people to week long events that sell thousands of tickets.

The internationality of the festival scene is also notable. The book is divided into four sections, namely the UK, Europe, North America and ‘Further Afield’, and while the coverage is fairly Eurocentric, it’s particularly interesting to see that Mexico City hosts its own major rock festival (Corona Capital), there is an annual electronic music fest in Beijing (INTRO) and South Africa has its own Burning Man inspired event (Afrikaburn).

The use of the word ‘raves’ in the title is a telling detail for two reasons. Firstly it indicates a slight bias towards electronic music that’s of no great detriment to the book: while electronic festivals are perhaps slightly over-represented, the overall coverage is sufficiently broad. ‘Rave’, however, signifies not only an electronic music party, but also a party in general. While the act of ‘raving’ might once have stood for travelling to an impromptu gathering in a field somewhere, it can now mean any kind of party or night out.

Barnes is largely very good at sticking to the music, and any distinctive features of each festival, but there's an underlying suggestion that he might be writing for an audience that is visiting such events to indulge in copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. Of course, this is an important part of the music experience for many, but if this, rather than music, becomes the primary reason for visiting a festival, then the whole event loses something. Festivals may be becoming more about the party than about the music. This might not be a bad thing for festivals, but it can’t be a good thing for music.

Finally, it’s possible that the growing number of festivals might result in an undesirable homogeneity. Barnes includes no less than seven festivals set on and around the Croatian coastline: is this poor curating, an indicator that Barnes really loves going to festivals in Croatia, or a sign that the festival market might be being infiltrated by copycat events? Still, for each of these seven, there is at least one more distinctive festival to discover. Austria’s Snowbombing festival, which combines music with skiing, and the tiny 300 capacity Woodsist in Big Sur, are two good indicators that there is at least some room in the world for innovation.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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