By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Unlike Iara Lee’s 1998 electronic-subculture film Modulations, which traced the music’s lineage back to the pioneers of the 1920s–’60s, this one isn’t much for the history of the sound, though the droll former Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flur has an amusing turn describing the evolution of the drum machine, illustrating how new musical forms are now following advances in technology. Drum ’n’ bass is an example: Since programmed instruments are capable of spitting out supercomplex rhythms that are humanly impossible to play, this has created a new, virtual music by virtue of its mastery only by machines — the musicality is up to the programmer. (The joke is, drum ’n’ bass is associated with dance music, yet as any DJ will confess if pushed, it’s the best possible way to empty a dance floor.)
So it’s the year 2000, and we’ve come too far to bother with whether any of this electronic noise is in fact music, and any fan of the scene will most likely gaze blankly into your face for suggesting such a thing. You have to be there — in a room with too many people, absorbing wave after wave of corpus-molding, BIG, BIG bass frequencies — in order to comprehend it, which is not so much snobbery as it is a fact of the music’s methodology. Because this is an art form that communicates primarily through the body, if you aren’t willing to use your body, you won’t distinguish much other than its surface repetition and generally simplistic melodic parts. Within the autonomous (and arguably utilitarian at best) world of electronic dance, the traditional high standards that figure into both “serious” and pop music simply don’t apply.
The film’s mantra is that its subjects’ autonomy “scares” outsiders, which is a wishful brag; yet their world resides in an extremely vital hollow center where, since its denizens have made their own rules, including musical, all that’s required for their rules to have legitimate worth is that they remain true to this game of their own devising. And that is very effective in answer to outsiders’ sneers about how silly young people look doing goofy dances, or angry rock critics’ nagging on the “mindless” simplicity of the music.
Old Genesis P-Orridge intones that the establishment cringes before an electronic generation that, with its perhaps superior understanding of the malleability of reality, “could laugh them out of existence.” While the ravers’ alternative world, much like the straight life, is loaded with perceptual clash and blatantly exclusionary attitudes — a useful-not-useful dichotomizing of musical genres/lifestyles such as rock and metal is prevalent, and there’s a lot of harping about how uncool ignoramuses spoil “our parties” — the fact is that there is an amazingly cooperative spirit at most electronic-dance events, and anyone, even the worst nondancing rock moron, is likely to be welcomed at a rave if he adheres to the rules.
And that is, in itself, rather new and decidedly non–rock & roll: not just rebelling or asserting the ego, rather a way of syncing up and connecting with other people, and transcending to a higher place together. This way of expressing the self — through the body — is a means, says P-Orridge, “to forever changing your self.”BETTER LIVING THROUGH CIRCUITRY | Directed by JON REISS | Seventh Art Releasing | At the Nuart Theater, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. | Friday, May 26, through Thursday, June 1