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Last week, Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor Seb Wheeler whipped up a storm by suggesting that mediocre tech-house productions are ruining dance music. Here, two other Mixmag writers reply in defence of the genre.
Marcus Barnes, Mixmag's Techno Editor
Yes, it's true, there is a particular sound that has become prevalent in recent times – what my colleague Seb describes as "drab, uber formulaic four-to-the-floor built from over-polished percussion, mind-numbingly simple chord progressions and sappy basslines". Indeed, there is an abundance of by-the-numbers house around; dark, with virtually no funk or soul driving at its core. It's music that is contrived, produced by bandwagon jumpers for bandwagon jumpers. But to dismiss an entire sub-genre based on the output of a few lazy producers and their ignorant followers is simply not on.
Like so many other genres and sub-genres, tech-house, as this style of music has been labelled, has been bastardised over time. It happened to deep house, it happened to dubstep and it will continue to happen because, for every person who remains true to a specific genre, there are another 10 who want to exploit it. Tech-house in its 2013 incarnation refers to something quite different from the sub-genre that was born in the late 90s. Back then, the likes of Mr C, Layo & Bushwhacka, Terry Francis, Craig Richards, Colin Dale and their ilk were cultivating the emergent sound. It was house music with a darker, sleazy edge – it had a techno influence but was still firmly rooted in the house end of the musical spectrum and ravers lapped it up in their droves. Over the last couple of years though the term tech-house has, unfortunately, been adopted by a new generation, the same generation who tainted the term deep house.
If you want a taste of the true tech-house sound, visit clubnights like Mr. C's Superfreq or Wiggle or Jaded and you can expect to experience the true sound, not the fake 'deep/tech/minimal house' derivative that's being peddled to some of the younger generation. Outside of the club environment there's plenty of great contemporary music that can be placed under the tech-house umbrella – guys like Hanfry Martinez, Javier Carballo, John Dimas, Subb-an, Dance Spirit, David Scuba, Brett Jacobs, Samu.L and many more have all been responsible for some brilliant, dynamic releases which fit into that category this year. You just have to try and look past all the crap that is touted around, which is difficult sometimes I know. The growing popularity of house music has without a doubt perpetuated a sharp increase in the production of awful music and given rise to some equally awful club nights. Everyone wants a piece of the pie when the good times are rolling, which means waves of charlatans and chancers barge their way in trying to make a fast buck. It's frustrating, but what can we do?
The bottom line is, yes there is a lot of very bad so-called 'tech house' out there, but don't get it twisted; just because there's a scene built around a runt version of a sub-genre, it doesn't mean you can tar the whole thing with the same brush. And for the record, I don't own a deep V-neck T-shirt and have never shuffled in my life.
Joseph JP Patterson, frequent Mixmag contributor
As someone who has recently been championing the tech-house movement, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disgruntled after reading Seb Wheeler’s recent article for Mixmag entitled Stop The Tech-House Takeover. "Over-polished percussion" and "simple chord progressions" are descriptions which snobby Seb tries to use as daggers, but they're actually the reasons why tech-house is so attractive to underground party goers the world over.
There’s something special about its repetitiveness. The uniting of groovy house and bearable techno allows clubbers to get straight down to business on the floor without off-kilter build-ups and off-key vocalists behind multiple drops in tunes, something which is mostly found in the makeup of deep house. I know it might be hard to believe to some, but there are real human beings out there who couldn’t give a shit about a euphoric vocal drop. It's just not a necessity in today’s ever-changing dance climate. All of that euphoria can be found in tech-house, if you take the time out to dissect it.
Known names like Maceo Plex, Heidi, No Artifical Colours, Andhim and Defected’s newly-signed Lee B3 Edwards are a few who know how to bring out the complex sides of this house spin-off. B3, for example, can show you a grimey edge of tech-house you never knew existed, while Plex keeps things industrial and eerie.
London’s Tech Twinz, aka Ben Murphy and Louis Frederick, are budding tech-ers and regular DJs at the city's EGG Nightclub. For them, as Murphy explains, making the move from deep to tech-house was a no-brainer: "We started off as deep house DJs/producers and made some really good tracks and got a lot of good bookings. But as our name got bigger, we started to get even bigger bookings to support top tech-house/techno DJs, like Derrick May, Mark Henning, Martin Buttrich and Moodtrap. Listening to the sound they were bringing, we quickly fell in love with it and started to produce and play that sound ourselves."
He continues: "You can have the simplest bassline and put a basic kick and snare behind it and the crowd will dance all night! Isn’t that what it’s all about? Plus, we’ve noticed that the tech-house/techno bookings bring a much better crowd of music lovers. Plenty of deep house DJs and producers are starting to realise this now, too. Deep house will always be around and be loved, but I think tech-house is just sneaking ahead of it now and will continue to do so."
Oh, and as for shuffling becoming a "recognised sport" – rightly so! The sonic energy that the sound gives off was made for the dance move. You just wait until the rest of the 'urban house' crew make that transition from deep to tech-house and straight-up techno. All hell will probably break loose, but I’m looking forward to being up in the heat.
Marcus Barnes and Joseph Patterson's views do not necessarily represent those of Mixmag