Writing About Dancing: Disco Critics Survey

7. What do you think is the most important development to have taken place in dance music in the last ten years?

The affordability and availability of the technology (samplers, etc.). See above. Musically speaking, I would say that drum'n'bass and two-step are the two most innovative forms that have come out of dance music lately. But, like anything, they reach a plateau in terms of development and just level off. I think we are all so spoiled, we expect a new innovation every three months, and if we don't get it, we're bored and, don't you know, XX genre is so OVER!

Drugs--both the highs and the darkside--have massively mutated the evolution of the music and caused it to splinter as it adapts to different social-racial-sexuality-drug oriented factions--not just Ecstasy, but the ever more powerful forms of weed, relatively newer and nastier drugs like ketamine, the perennial amphetamine and acid...and also the rise of the polydrug culture that mixes and matches all of these substances.

Production--with ProTools, plug-ins, Virtual Studio Technology etc.--the level of intricacy and detail in production is staggering--rhythmic complexicity of accents and nuances far exceeding any real drummer's does mean the music sometimes loses the power of a simple Big Riff though...

Growth of sound systems and a "big room" aesthetic in the music, with tracks designed to exploit the quadraphonic potential of the club space, the frequency spectrum...tracks that are sculpted in four dimensions, riffs like blocs of sound in motion that swoop through the crowd-body...full of almost a-musical wooshes and FX...the music becomes spectacular, a sonic spectacle.

The gradual emergence of a single unified bass-beats-bleeps culture, a trans-Atlantic confederacy of street sounds--whether it's 2step garage coalescing as an only-in-London hybrid of house, jungle, ragga, and Timbaland-style R&B, or conversely, with techno-ravey-drum'n'bassy sounds and riffs infiltrating US gangsta rap (due to Ecstasy catching on with B-boys?), R&B, and even Jamaican dancehall.

The most important development to have taken place in the last ten years of "dance music" is, by far, the rise of the DJ as featured performer. Since about 1992-93, when the record labels started issuing DJ-mix CDs featuring big-name DJs, as a means of fighting off the street corner vendors selling home-made house-music bootleg mixes, the DJ has been able to record at length the way bands, singers, and solo instrumentalists are used to doing. Today Danny Tenaglia, Junior Vasquez, Cevin Fisher, and Todd Terry sell tons of full-length CDs and even 2-CD sets.

Um....fuck, I don't know. But that first Britney video is probably way up there.

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