Much like Japanese Knotweed, the invasive garden plant that spreads quickly and is an absolute bastard to get rid of, tech-house has taken over underground dance music with a death-like grip and is refusing to let go.
From the grime producers frantically re-editing classic tracks to fit the tech-house template to the chart-topping electronic songstresses using the sound on their comeback singles, it’s clear the infection has spread far and wide.
And it’s not only niche snobs who are getting pissed off, but respectable, BBC-approved tastemakers, too. The other day, Annie Mac tweeted: “Aahhh jeez, everyone’s making droney house.” By that, we’re assuming she means the drab, uber formulaic four-to-the-floor built from over-polished percussion, mind-numbingly simple chord progressions and sappy basslines. It’s paint-by-numbers dance music and it’s coming for you.
Clubs in London are currently flooded with these monochrome beats but it’s not just the UK capital that’s in trouble. From Miami to Berlin to Sao Paulo to Ibiza, tech-house has swept through like a dense iron curtain that blocks sunlight and crushes all living sonic cultures in its path.
Imagine a bland new world over which tech-house rules. Dancefloors are awash with soulless, globular tunes that, pitched at 123bpm, turn formerly hype party kids into vacant rave zombies; high street shops stock nothing but cheap aviator shades and V-neck T-shirts; shuffling becomes a recognised sport, replacing football on school curriculums; tribes of suburban lads overturn the local authority and police the streets, enforcing their own brand of steroid-ridden martial law; ketamine consumption quadruples and hospitals struggle to cope with the increase in burst bladders. Things get very, very bleak.
But why the obsession with tech-house? Producers seem seduced by its lowest common denominator template and its sleek, chrome edges. But most of all they seem infatuated with its accessibility and the way it hypnotises people in the club. Tech-house works during the warm up, the peak time and the come down because it literally never changes; it’s aural crack for people who only seem to want a dull, thudding beat. Or something inoffensive they can talk over easily and which sounds half decent after necking a mega pill.
As the tech-house blob bounces into the future of dance music, flattening genres in its wake and pulling hapless beat makers into its sticky slipstream, it’s worth taking stock of what’s actually going on. While visions of a dystopian techy future might be a bit far fetched, this wretched genre is actually homogenising underground dance music. Everyone’s making it and everyone’s trying to make money off it, sucking creativity out of an area of electronic music that should be fervent and forward thinking.
It's not that tech-house is inherently bad or evil; millions of people genuinely do like it. It's just that the march towards homogeneity, towards standardisation with once-experimental producers starting to make slick, vacuous music. Dance music should thrive on difference - anything else is worse than evil - it's boring.
It won’t be easy to get rid of and it’ll be around for a while yet, tentacles climbing up the iTunes/Beatport/Top 40 charts with ease. But there’s ways of combating it. Next time you see your favourite producer start to waver and reach for the tech-house sample pack, go grab them and let them know how you feel. Snap them out of the trance by pledging allegiance to their originality. Because there’s more to dance music, way more, than tech-house.
Seb Wheeler is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor and Bass Editor. His views do not necessarily represent those of Mixmag