My answer to Tom's question:
I tend to be a More Is More kind of guy, but — in this poll at least, in the general super area of House-Rave-Dance (but not freestyle & hip hop & r&b & hair metal) — Joey Beltram and ilk clean everybody's clock. By "ilk" I don't mean "rave" or any particular genre or style but a tendency within any genre or style to HOLD YOUR OWN, to concentrate on a crucial sound or path or problem, some bone you're chewing, and there you stand your ground rather than synthesize or mash together or collide with or incorporate neighboring styles.*
And of course there's one towering exception, uncleaned and unclocked, Clivillés & Cole's remix of Denise Lopez's "Don't You Want To Be Mine," the only freestyle-house amalgam I've ever heard. Freestyle is basically dead by 1990, the poll's George Lamond track ("Bad Of The Heart") being touching but totally average, a snapshot of a genre that has no forward motion (though there's an unexpected glorious freestyle last gasp the next year from Lisette Melendez and Corina). But now there's an alternate universe in my mind where, instead of stopping dead, freestyle like an alien leaps atop of and claws its way into passing genres like house and techno and New Jack Swing and propagates from there. This kinda sorta DOES happen in 1992 and 1993 in Korea, and for all I know is happening throughout the late '80s and '90s in Japan, the Land Where Italo Lives, but anyway *I* don't find out about any of that for another 17 years.
Speaking of Korea — or Los Angeles — I say in passing, in my kind of in-passing "Legend Of The Glockeater," that the lesson that Drunken Tiger learned from the Wu-Tang Clan is that less is more and more is more, too. In another piece (mostly about rock) I call this Recombinant Dub, to give Jamaica pride of place: My basic attempt is to identify a kind of double direction of contrary motion, which can exist between genres or within a genre or within a person or even within a day: Like, you subdue the thoughts inside your head, taking everything down to a main thing, your breath, say, but then with the inner chatter stilled, sounds around you — crickets, passing cars, tinnitus, a distant jackhammer — come rushing in.
In mid-'70s Bronx you have hip-hop DJs clearing out the rest of a track — taking out the vocals, the flourishes — to bring everything down to the breakbeat, and with 2 turntables and 2 copies of a record you can potentially play that breakbeat forever; but being DJs they use the never-ending breakbeat as a frame for adding sounds and cuts and riffs and melodies and scrapes and flourishes from other records, a whole memory of funk but also Monkees and Kraftwerk, and then tags and shoutouts and rap battles from your crew — potentially anything — and hip-hop is born. And then closing in on the '90s maybe you can hear this within house, acid house being both this singular corrosive 303 sound but also the tendency to sample soundbites. Or think of the house beats added to Denise Lopez. For a related submerged and perhaps otherwise imaginary unknown continent, listen to the second half of Liz Torres's "I Hear Voices (Voices In My Head)" on my playlist; geysers of salsa suddenly emerging from beneath the house beats.
In New Jack Swing ex-boyband New Edition guys find their way into the adventure of hip-hop, in one sense it's all down to a rhythm that sweeps away everything in its path, but it also manages to sweep in a lot: harmonies, black vocal history (a year later: "Motown Philly"). There's a social depth, since New Jack Swing doesn't just put different musics together, it potentially throws different audiences and different musicians together, finds a way for different social streams to coalesce.** (But you can almost feel the need for a pushback, a fight, elements determined to resist.)
On my 1990 Pazz & Jop ballot I put both a Snap! and a Chill Rob G version of "The Power" near the top, behind "Justify My Love," but ahead of LL and Michel'le and "Vogue" and "Roam" and "Ice Ice Baby." Didn't include the New Jack Editions but mentioned Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill in my comments. Anyway by 1991 I decided "The Power" didn't hold up, the whole International House thing and its forced raps and diva samples now seeming tiresome and shallow and who cares. No reason in principle that this should be so, but it was.*** I'm glad the Denise Lopez remix showed up in this poll to remind me I don't have to hate C&C. Actually, as far as the sonic feel, Beltram and C&C-Lopez are hardly opposites. Each sounds as solid and obdurate as the other.**** In the Dance Party I've interspersed these blocks of thundering rave but I'll have one of 'em (e.g.) emerging naturally from a dance ditty that precedes it and leading logically to a hard rock song that follows, the raver seemingly giving birth to the rocker.
So, again, both impulses at once: push it altogether, but also, hey STOP, what's that sound, listen, take account of THIS! So, take account of Joey Beltram's pulsating boulders, V.I.M. taking the piss in "Maggie's Last Party," LFO's dark harm, Marina Van-Rooy's sly "Sly One" (okay, I don't have an adjective for this — who is she? — but I like it), Renegade Soundwave's "Thunder" which is a haunted house that they emptied of all its furniture! Rising High's "Magic Roundabout" is like a bunch of STOP moments strung together, a necklace of boulders, both impulses again. All this stuff I mostly missed in 1990, my not having an ongoing story for house, rave, techno. For all I knew, these tracks could've appeared anytime from '86 to '07, me saying "Hello, where are you from?" with no sense of chronological before or after and no feel of "1990" as they loomed into earshot.*****
*Of course, "Here I am and I'm going to figure out how to assimilate, clash with, take on whatever I can from wherever, while staying myself, transforming myself, abandoning myself, ignoring myself" can itself be a crucial path or problem, so my distinction here isn't exactly a rock-solid "you're in or you're out" kind of thing, and I think I'm achieving some sort of unintelligible Hegelian subsuming of (or?) something by pointing this out.
**But to achieve social depth you're not required to throw together previously existing audiences. The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" at an overseas distance inserts Howlin' Wolf snakin' guitar lines into gospel music, which of course doesn't pull those audiences together (black American gospel and Chicago blues), rather it gives Brit boys a way to insert such lines into pop n soul melodies, invents a sound and creates audiences and puts audience members at odds with themselves. So you've got exuberant pop n soul with a hard blues feel but harder, with an angry blues feel but angrier. Useful for young men changing their lives whereas the American sources are adults just living their lives (or in This May Be The Last Time, contemplating their deaths). Sorry for giving a 1965 example rather than a 1990; maybe Madchester goes here, but I'm not the one to effectively point this out.
***Well, "Everything Rock Vs. Collage Rock" in Chuck Eddy's Accidental Evolution Of Rock And Roll is surely relevant, but I'm already crowding too much into this blog post. My word "shallow" is waving its hand at a whole different frame or frames of categorization: whether something's vacuous or not. So there's Chuck's shooting down collage rock, there's my PBSification complaint, there's Lester et al.'s critique of progressive rock, there's Truffaut's of the metteurs en scène of the Tradition of Quality, there's Manny Farber's of white elephant art. The personal bone I tend to gnaw on is that as a writer and thinker I LOVE self-awareness, but putting what you're doing on display as an "oh oh oh, look look look, isn't it exhilarating the way [we're playing the Ronettes as if they're the Who / we're making a mashup / we're decentering the song form / we're making everything trash and fun / etc. etc.]!" is a good way of hollowing out the enterprise real fast.
****See first footnote.
*****So, since I don't know what I'm talking about, I can't put this music in context of an artist's or a genre's development, hence can't really say whether something IS standing its ground or following its path, on the one hand, or assimilating new material on the other. Your turn?
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