“For us, techno has never left,” argue Carolina Jiménez and Sonia Fernández Pan, curators of You Got To Get In To Get Out. The continuous sound that never ends, an ambitious exhibition that will occupy from October 7 to January 9, 2022, four of the five exhibition halls of La Casa Encendida in Madrid. Although they acknowledge that the genre has had “moments of greater splendor, presence or decadence”, lately it seems that small and fragmented movements from the underground have been noticed, as the music journalist Nando Cruz pointed out in a tweet that pointed to the return of the celebration of clandestine parties where this type of music plays.
For Oriol Rosell, one of the great connoisseurs of shock music in our country, “electronica is already fully integrated into the mainstream; it has ceased to be an alternative to pop-rock to occupy the commercial space that it monopolized in another era. “In this way,” techno continues to have a patina underground very attractive for young people who try to distinguish themselves from the rest by adopting sounds and gestures other than the dominant ones “.
Beyond the 4×4
The young DJ residing in Seville seDJat has verified in the first person that “for a few years she has tried to listen to different genres and thus get out of her comfort zone”. And it is not so much for the appeal of joining the rave: “Personally I was more attracted to the music itself, I see it as a somewhat ritual genre in which the person perceives the music with the environment, but also individually”. She is aware of how other styles work on the dance floor as one of the original founders of the collective Las Gatas Que Tiran Palante, in other genres such as reggaeton she finds the experience “more group, more humorous”.
“Techno has always been there, even more so with the democratization of music production,” adds Topanga Kiddo, who will offer one of the concerts of the cycle at La Casa Encendida, which will also propose Peder Mannerfelt, Valentino Mora, Rrose, Adriana Lopez and Grand River. For the experienced DJ, “the true generational change is that we are no longer compartmentalized by such closed genres; the gender label has disappeared.” That is why “the starting point” of this exhibition is so attractive to him, that he understands techno “as a pilgrimage where each one chooses his route”.
The boundaries between the various scenes seem more blurred than ever. “If you are young and you want to blow everything up”, notes the music critic Daniel Relats, “techno, especially in its loudest variants, is being an ideal vehicle when approached from the urban”. Quote “Parkineos from Madrid and their remixes from gabber with trap and even from the incunabula of the rumba, or going very far, the techno-ragga with a zillion BPM of Sounds of Pamoja, some lads from Tanzania. “For Relats, they are perfect examples of “outsiders of techno culture; They weren’t at the raves of the 90s, but they have that sound within the click of a button and from there come interesting parallel universes. ”
There are kids from Tanzania who weren’t at the raves of the 90s, but they have that sound within the reach of a click
– Music critic
This transfer to more punk than elitist drives seems to fit in well with the speech of Tara Rodgers, who dialogues with Carolina Jiménez in the book of the exhibition about her celebrated Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. In it he defined as “very problematic” the official story that links dance music to John Cage or Italian Futurism. And it is that, when inserting techno in the history of experimental western music, the curators reason, “it misses all its load of political and social struggle”, a type of story that “is part of the ethos colonialist “. In addition to a certain” strategic cleaning “, there is the paradox that” people who do not dance or participate in the eroticism or ecstasy of the dance floor often write about dance music. ”
A thoughtful style in a hyperstimulated generation
A great connoisseur of avant-garde music, Vidal Romero, also points to this debate, who recalls that “techno, as a genre, has almost forty years of history”, so that “the albums that are published have more and more than do with nostalgia than with innovation “. Furthermore, “for many years there have been no great technological advances that support dramatic changes in the way of production.” He defends that “techno has never left”, but regrets that “the current way of consuming music is in general contrary to a style that demands depth in listening and patience”. It is one of the reasons that may have caused that “techno has taken refuge again in the underground“.
For Javier Blánquez, author of the reference anthology Loops where the history of electronic music in the twentieth century is told, “techno as I identify it will always have a niche”. He considers it “a still current concept” because, among other reasons, he sees “unlikely that a form of expression with such a load of meaning accumulated over time, such a powerful central idea – technology at the service of new music – and such an aesthetic defined may disappear. ” Although it points to a cultural change amplified by the forced closure of the clubs during the pandemic: “The suppression of music as the central axis of the party, as the recent jugs testify.”
This absence of music as the backbone of relationships seems to define an era. The curators of the exhibition, Jiménez and Fernández Pan, avoid a detailed analysis of the issue because “although the pandemic is global, the contexts where the dance scenes take place are different and the national and local pandemic policies also”. They also see different “reasons for celebration, resistance or fight against violence.”
Get in to get out, get out to get in (another way)
Although they defend with humor that their curatorial proposal “tries to get away from any position that could be considered titanic”, the project integrates performances, concerts, installations, an original podcast series, a book or a film series. The list of artists includes John Akomfrah, Sergi Botella, Lucía C. Pino, Tony Cokes, Cyprien Gaillard, Paula García-Masedo, Rubén Grilo, Ania Nowak, Michele Rizzo or Alona Rodeh, in addition to a workshop by Frédéric Gies, a conference performance and a listening session by Lou Drago and a film series curated by Enrique Piñuel.
The official history of techno is overloaded with male names and is devoid of dance, sweat, anonymous and plural stories
Carolina Jiménez and Sonia Fernández Pan
They claim that this selection “arises from intuition and desire”, prioritizing “the notion of synesthesia” rather than the search for a specific theme, and without the slightest intention of “making a history of techno”. In his opinion, this culture “reproduces intimate relationships between strangers, dynamic processes in which a multiplicity of elements intervene”. And that, precisely, is not told by the official stories of techno, “overloaded with masculine names and lacking in dance, sweat, anonymous and plural stories”.
As “dissident women and identities were present on the dancefloor from the beginning,” placing itself right there “as a place of political enunciation from relative anonymity” became one of the project’s reasons for being. They recall how in the techno and house scenes of Detroit and Chicago certain figures were praised while “wonderful female voices were made invisible” by removing them from the credits of their maxis. They rescued them from oblivion: “They were Kym Mazelle, Paris Gray, Martha Wash, Loleatta Holloway, Crystal Waters, Ultra Naté, Barbara Tucker or Yvonne Turner”.
This “ghostly condition of female voices” inspires the performance Deep inside by Ania Nowak, scheduled for October 8. The next day another of them, Bakalao, Uncle Candy by Yandira aka Sergi Botella, collects for the curators “this oral dimension of the Route, making it present through its personal and intrahistory connections”. The third performance of the cycle will be HIGHER xtn., by Michele Rizzo, on October 7 and 8.
Investigating the black genealogies of an activist and political style
Techno is often associated with cities like Detroit or Berlin, but applying anti-colonial perspectives breaks stereotypes about its Eurocentric origin. For the curators, “contemporary criticism of the aesthetic and political traditions of black music has been dominated by a simplistic and fetishizing, almost messianic approach”. “Conflicting, hybrid and bastard visions of the poetics of repetition and multiplication” will be reflected in the exhibition thanks to works such as The Last Angel of Historyby John Akomfrah, or Mikrohaus, or the black atlantic?by Tony Cokes. “Detroit has always been there, as is Jamaica, the southern United States or the entire African continent.”
The project book it also includes positions “not so much divergent as complementary” on “the need to renew the political and activist program of techno”, especially in an age when “there are no clubs to take refuge in”. In this regard, they underline “the dialectic that occurs” between the texts of the writer and journalist Matthew Collin and Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, one of the founders of Discwoman, an agency that promotes the artistic activity of women and non-binary people.
Even when talking about the untouchables of the genre there are at least two versions of the same story. For Romero, “venues like Beghain or festivals like Dekmantel still have a strong power of call and a mythical aura that is cemented over time”. The perspective of Jiménez and Fernández Pan is different: “The celebrity of certain clubs makes this continuous work of places and groups invisible on a smaller but essential and much more porous scale.”
They do agree that the pandemic has caused a return “to the spirit of the past, with parties, legal and illegal, scattered in other spaces” that broaden the sound map. For Romero, moreover, “the retreat into the underground” encourages “the presence of women and non-binary people, both at the production level and in the DJ booths.”
Towards greater intellectual validation of dance
Techno has never been widely accepted in certain spheres, but in that sense La Casa Encendida directed by Lucía Casani, a space that Jiménez and Fernández Pan feel is the place “where many of us have become musically uneducated”, is a refreshing singularity. The curators do not escape the fact that “there has been a certain institutionalization of techno”, but if there is a certain validation, they want “it to continue to pass through the members of their communities and all the people who make the scenes possible.”
With or without institutional support, there seems to be a consensus that the gender is in good health. For David G. Balash his strength stems from “a pulse that we believe is new but has something ancient.” The DJ and music journalist defines it as that “feeling of tribalism that invades us when we dance synthetic and repetitive rhythms surrounded by others at a thunderous volume”, a language “hardly unmatched for other music”. “Techno never left, so it cannot return,” Blánquez concludes, “but even though it is, I think it has returned to the catacomb of underground, from where surely, one day, he will return as strong and lush as before. ”