Taste is subjective, and palates grow with time. Like many of you, throughout my life my tastes in music have changed. Different factors ranging from emotion to just pure appeal and lifestyle can change this. For most of my life though, the one constant had been Rock music. Granted in various different forms (from nu to punk to classic rock to indie rock) but nonetheless it was a constant for me until recently.
It was about a year and a half ago that I began to love what I once hated and despised. In my mind, music wasn’t real unless it had bass, guitar and drums in it. “Techno” (as I used to say, incorrectly) all sounded the same and took no talent. So how does one transition from The Who and Animal Collective to Tiesto and Deadmau5? What is the appeal of dance music?
Like I said previously, our palate and tastes grow and change. My first exposure to any sort of dance music came from the band Death From Above 1979. Though perhaps not dance music in the traditional sense, their use of syncopated drum patterns and synthesizer had a hidden house music background. You could say this exposure was blind; it introduced elements of dance music in a package that I could recognize and not judge right away.
From there I got introduced to another band, Kasabian. Again, although not dance music, Kasabian’s self-titled album opened me to the amazing possibilities of electronic music. I was shown that perhaps there is more to life than a guitar and a couple of chords. Soon after I discovered what I’d say was my first true dance artist that I enjoyed, Digitalism. I first heard “Pogo” at a good friend’s house and was blown away. What I heard was reminiscent of Death From Above 1979 (with the same distorted bass sound) but in a much cleaner sounding package. I loved that unique sound from DFA1979 and thought they were the only artist that had it, and I had all of a sudden found a whole genre, electro house, of artists with a similar sound.
Id say the transition was complete when I began to research the origins of Electro House. I had read more and more about house music, and discovered the classic group Daft Punk. I had downloaded their Alive 2007 album on a whim, and it was one of the most mind blowing musical experiences I have ever had. I was always used to 3-minute songs with an ending, and this was a whole album of different familiar songs chopped and spliced together to form new songs, one blending seamlessly into the next. From there on I discovered trance, and progressive house, and dubstep, and I was hooked.
So what’s the appeal? Well, first off, I find that there is much more freedom in dance music than in other styles. The main purpose of a dance song is in its description: it must make people dance. I’ve heard DJs manipulate everything, from Slipknot to Christian music to the Verve to Samuel Barber, and make people dance from it. I’ve never heard another genre that can take influence from so many other genres in one set.
One comment I often hear disparaging dance music is that it has no emotion or soul. Perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak, but I find there to be a lot of emotion in dance music. Maybe not in every club banger, but I find that the dramatic build ups and come downs of dance music extrude so many feeling from me as a listener.
In addition, the different styles of dance music often have their own unique feel and sound. Traditional house music, for example, often is very uplifting in lyrical content and sound and purveys an image of glamour (the same as disco). Progressive house, on the other hand, can be a very somber sounding music, as can trance (though trance often has the ‘mind opening’ feel reminiscent of late 60’s psychedelic). Dubstep and Electro house are often more aggressive sounding, and more angry (like metal music for example).
As my tastes have grown my activities have as well. I used to be a concert guy, and would hit up Terminal 5 or Webster Hall for shows in the city, though now I find myself going to clubs more (Pacha being my favorite). I used to think clubs were full of assholes and didn’t see any fun in it, so what’s the appeal?
Clubs, first off, are a completely different environment than concerts (for those who aren’t aware). Going to a club, people generally dress their best where as a concert is more free form in appearance. A lot of people dislike clubs because of ‘bouncers’ but I can tell you from experience that I’ve never seen one person not admitted into a club because of appearance. Inside the club you’ll find something much different than you’ll see at a concert, you’ll see people giving feedback to the music, truly enjoying it. I’ve been to so many concerts where the crowd either stands there with a blank stare listening to the music or feels the need to incite a near riot because pushing during music is cool I suppose. At a club, the most important thing is that everyone has a good time, dancing all night and enjoying the company of friends, drug of choice. and most importantly the music.
So before you write off dance music please give it an honest chance. Go to a club and experience the atmosphere, listen to the songs with an open mind. The truth is it may not be too far from what you currently listen to, and who knows, you may even like it, Though I haven’t been too active at KLYAM so far I hope to post more, and will be posting EDM recommendations. So look out for my posts and I hope you enjoy!