It's 2014 and we're all information fiends. And while we've got more browser tabs open than ever—plus a news feed that never stops scrolling—the problem remains: 99% of what we're reading is garbage. Which is why we're bringing you THUMP's Best Music Writing—a series that separates the wheat from the chaff in order to celebrate the most incisive specimens of music journalism to grace our eyeballs.
By: Michaelangelo Matos
Outlet: Redbull Music Academy
Proving that America's techno history isn't just about Detroit, Matos skillfully traces the rise and fall of New York's underground rave scene. Opening with Frankie Bones taking E for the first time in a traffic jam, and moving from the seminal Manhattan nightclub Limelight to truck loading docks in Queens, this is a tale of mafia shakedowns, drug abuse and McDonalds raves… you know, all the reasons why New York City ruled.
The Best Bits:
"En route to the locale, someone handed [Frankie Bones] a pill. "I didn't know what ecstasy was…[We were] stuck in a traffic jam on a little country road with just two lanes and cars for miles." As he came up on E, he heard one of his songs playing in another car, followed by another of his songs, playing in another car: "I pretty much lost my mind.""
"As the scene's movers became more entrenched, the partiers grew younger — and flaunted it, donning pacifiers and candy necklaces….'Once you get to the mid- to late-90s, you started to see puddles of kids on ketamine on the floor,' says John Selway. 'You're just like, 'What's the point?'"
By: Philip Sherburne
In a stinging response to The New Yorker's blowout on EDM in Vegas, Sherburne calls bullshit on Kaskade's pro-Vegas tourism campaign. But Sherburne's point goes further than quickly cobbled-together snark. He also refutes the Vegas kingpins' attempts rewrite dance music history, calls out EDM's ruling class of powerful white males, and asks what will happen when the festival bubble (finally) pops.
The Best Bits:
"Who is this "we" we're talking about? Because last I checked, disco came predominantly from the gay community, and the house and techno that followed have their roots in overlapping subcultures which were variously black, Latino, Italian-American, gay, and almost overwhelmingly working- or middle-class…none of it is represented in Las Vegas' Disney-fied boozing-and-groping emporiums… "We" didn't make shit."
"If we're being generous, we could say the same about those ahead-of-their-time lighting systems. Lights are fun! A kinetic laser show can make sober people feel fucked up, and fucked-up people feel really fucked up."
By: Jace Clayton
Outlet: The FADER
Six years ago, DJ Figo was just another kid looking up "how to make beats" on YouTube. Today, he's one of the leaders of Cairo's "electro shaabi" scene, flipping the script on traditional Egyptian music. This phenomenal profile of the young producer doubles as an investigation of the massive cultural shifts following Egypt's political turmoil.
The Best Bits:
"More concerned with a savvy, scrappy worldview than doling out prescriptions for how to live, festival is in tune with the city's shakily democratic subconscious, thriving in the edgy social space opened up by the Arab Spring."
"Fireworks scent the air with gunpowder, which mingles with the tang of hash and tobacco. Gyroscopic lights and dancing green lasers illuminate this pop-up desert discotheque while a remote-controlled boom-arm camera swoops and dives above the crowd, recording everything for the DVD. A proud father hands out bottles of Sprite (this is a dry celebration) as women gather in the surrounding balconies."
By: Devin Friedman
Outlet: GQ Magazine
Devin Friedman might be a Dad, but he's a Dad Who Gets It, insofar as his ability to slyly ridicule the shitshow that is a Saturday night at Marquee—the one super club to rule them all. But it's not all talk of women in "vagina-length" dresses and guys with shiny bald heads; Friedman's breakdown of Marquee's "secret sauce" reveals the club's behind-the-scenes in all its splashy, sordid detail.
The Best Bits:
"Like straight pornography, a nightclub is essentially about girls, in that both males and females spend most of their time, and judge the quality of the product, by looking at the girls."
"They opened their first nightclub—Conscience Point in the Hamptons—when they were in their midtwenties. "It was a big pair of balls," Jason said, "putting up half a million dollars" when they were fresh out of college. Then, to confuse the metaphor, he added: "To lift up our skirt like that? Big balls.""
"A member of the bro posse… had vomited. Like really vomited. It was as if a Hale and Hearty Soups had exploded at table 96. But it didn't take a full minute before a team of men in black materialized… to scrub the area, and the puker, absolutely pukeless. This puke would not derail the (extremely lucrative) fun at table 96."
By: Simon Reynolds
Outlet: The Wire
In 1992, Simon Reynolds set out to chronicle the musical culture that was emerging from the British rave scene with a seven-part series of essays in The Wire. The whole continuum is great; Reynolds really knows his shit, and it shows. But the last chapter, on how two-step transformed UK garage, is where Reynolds' immersive academic style really shines.
The Best Bits:
"Somebody really should coin a more attractive name, though, one that captures two-step's lip smacking lusciousness. Because all the juice squeezed out of Jungle by the post-techstep school of scientific drum 'n' bass has oozed back in the succulent form of two-step."
"Two-step transforms Garage into a kind of slow motion Jungle – a languorous frenzy of micro-breakbeats, hesitations and hyper-syncopations; moments when the beat seems to pause, poised, and hold its breath."
"Hang out at a Garage shop like Rhythm Division in East London, and chances are you'll hear one of the blokes behind the counter say 'the girls love that one' in reference to certain tracks… In most dance scenes, this comment would be a diss… For the UK Garage scene, though, 'the girls love that tune' is a recommendation. There's a striking deference to female taste. Pirate DJs dedicate tunes 'to the ladies massive.'"
Michelle is a contributing editor at THUMP - @MichelleLHOOQ