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2013's Most Pretentious Dance Music Moments

Leave Nicolas Jaar alone!!

Richie Hawtin live at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo by Billy Farrell. pre·ten·tious (priˈtenCHəs/, adjective)
1. "Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed."

I love and hate all of you equally. While I often fantasize about punching the plastic glasses off techno snobs' bespoke domepieces, I also can't be bothered to walk among the gnarled masses at EDC unless I'm getting free booze from the VIP section. But here at THUMP we've wasted enough words taking the piss out of kandi-strapped 16-year-olds and it's time to roast some snobs!


This year the term EDM did more to polarize our global village of machine-music aficionados than ever before, with "tastemakers" lining up under websites like Resident Advisor and WIRE and the YOLO squad flocking to colorful blogs with lots of free tracks, bad spelling, and use of the phrase "turn up." But while I do love all you artsy fuckers, I'm here to shake it up a little bit. So let's shine a light on some of the most pretentious bytes and pieces of 2013.


Pete Swanson live in Amsterdam. Look how much fun they're having! Image via.

You know noise music: sounds not organized into discernible rhythms or melodies; mixer feedback screeches; droning guitars and pedals and synths. It was big in, like, Providence, Rhode Island for a couple of years and there were some zines about it or whatever. 2013 was the year all those brooding art-school weirdos got into Autechre and deep house 12"s. What is this, the 90s? Pete Swanson from Yellow Swans took white noise and put a kick drum underneath it and all the Bushwick dudes got jizz on their beards. James Ferraro left the California noise duo The Skaters and now he's making post-R&B techno clicks. Ricardo Donoso decided drones weren't the jam, so he started hitting the sequencer. Wolf Eyes' John Olson, a former noise icon, even declared to the Miami New Times that noise music is basically dead. ::thug shrug:: I know it's nice over here on the dancefloor, but you weren't about that life last year.



Speaking of indie crossover, these Pitchfork faves are so freaking banal that they had to get an edge on the viral marketing game if they wanted to get their records off the shelves. The story goes something like this: in April of this year, one confused fan at New York City's Other Music record shop found a 12" "labeled only with the words Boards of Canada, set atop a series of slants, dashes and X's [sic]," or so says NPR Music. "When it plays, a robotic voice intones a string of numbers — 936557 — over music." How pretentious is that? Well it worked.This little Easter egg set off an Internet-wide shitstorm involving clues on the group's Youtube channel or something, and fans went straight banana flambé trying to complete the puzzle that would lead them to the release of Boards' new album. Which wasn't all that exciting, but it did earn a place on Beatport's Top Albums of 2013 chart anyway.


Are you sick of being seen as a ditzy, drug-addicted airhead? Do you desperately want to be perceived as avant garde? Do you hate fun? All you have to do is feed antiquated drum machines through a distortion pedal, pick an unpronouncable DJ name, and voilà—high art! Rinse FM selector Ben UFO apparently coined the term "outsider house" to describe a group of labels and producers coming from experimental, DIY backgrounds—Bill Kouligas' PAN label, Silent Servant and Regis, the L.I.E.S. dudes, Huerco S, and Oneohtrix Point Never—basically all favorites among the type of people who start flame wars on Resident Advisor forums. That's cool. While y'all are enjoying the live PA sausage fest and standing with your arms crossed watching a dude in a turtleneck slide faders up and down on a mixer, I'll be over here dancing on top of stuff and talking to babes. Later!



This woman desperately wants to be in the cool kids club. And what's cooler than Berghain, Berlin's debauched techno tomb, where even the most fabulous of club kids shiver in fear of the venue's ultra-exclusive door policy? The world's most famous wannabe recently held her Artpop release party in the storied dancefloors and dungeons of this German temple of hedonism. "This is sad," tweeted German techno hero Apparat, when news broke that Gaga had reserved one of the club's rooms for an evening. The online magazine Club Planet likened it to when "Paris Hilton ruined Amnesia in Ibiza."

Reeling from insane gentrification and an increasing tourist presence in the city, Berlin's freedom-seeking cosmopolitans will tell you it's just one more chip in a headstone that reads "There goes the neighborhood." Lucky for the regulars, though, Gaga rented out a separate off-limits area of the club's labyrinthine complex, thereby proving that she is still more VIP than all of us.


Grimes DJing at Richie Hawtin's village. Zero fucks given. The only thing more pretentious than Boiler Room is trolling the Boiler Room. This summer our man Richie invited Grimes, the delightful indie songstress, to DJ at his villa in Ibiza during the height of the Spanish island's storied festival season.

Rather than attempting to impress the livestreaming phenomenon's oppressively anti-mainstream viewership, Grimes went and played Venga Boys and Mariah Carey while a posse of bikini-clad island babes did the slip-and-slide on Richie's lawn. We can't tell if Hawtin was in on the joke or not, but nobody pulled the plug when Daddy Yankee came on and we even saw some dudes trainspotting her selections, so we assume it was all in the cards. Pretentious? Yes. Totally awesome? Uh huh.



This month Ricardo Villalobos released a 30-minute remix of Sparky's "Portland," re-issued by the Scottish tastemakers at Numbers, and designed to work at either 33 or 45 RPM. Because let's be real—you do need a whole 30 minutes to get out of a K-hole.


The techno titan played a special set for the Dior gala at this iconic New York landmark in October of this year, and we were there to witness it. He told THUMP that he had prepared something special for the occasion—something "risky"—but in fact he just played techno loops without any hi-hats or kick drums because I guess that's what artistic integrity sounds like? Also, he had a gigantic light-up obelisk installed in the Guggenheim's rotunda that interacted with the sound. This was fun to look at until our view was so crowded with iPhones that we could barely see it. Yes, the cornbread and salmon nigiri in the VIP section was delicious, but we'd have much preferred a techno tent in Barcelona or something.


The trend in 2013 was all about making snippets of songs… and then not bothering to finish them. I think Zomby the Ultra-Troll started it in June, when he released With Love, a two-part album that essentially sounds like a bunch of unfinished, unmastered demos (and that's probably what it is). Ron Morelli of L.I.E.S. follows suit on Spit, a double album for Dominic "Vatican Shadow" Fernow's cooler-than-Jesus nu-industrial label Hospital Productions—it's the kind of thing that made a few nerds cry over its raw beauty, and the rest of us (including even Pitchfork and RA critics) go "Hmm." This is what Morelli told Fader about said record: "All of the songs or whatever they are, as they are not really "songs"—they're made without intent. They are the victims of their own doing, and end up dictating themselves. 'Sledgehammer II,' for instance, was a field recording. I took this 15-second recording, threw it into the computer and messed with it until it sounded like something that made sense for what it was. Then it was done." I get it. I really do. I mean, I would rather order pad thai to my bed and Tinder than finish tracks too.



Nicolas Jaar L'Uomo Vogue


Rushka Bergman




Nicolas Jaar may in fact be a genius—the recently graduated Brown University philosophy student loves quoting John Cage and making bad music on purpose. ("Failing beautifully, you know?") According to a recent interview with UK paper The Guardian, his label Clown & Sunset Aesthetics is working on an "art-house" film and he wrote a song with Scout LaRue Willis—Bruce and Demi's child—based on "a strange, baroque, almost Shakespearian idea of this queen and the story of a strange forbidden love in the Middle Ages." Oookay. Then the writer asked him to tell a joke and he quoted Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek. And who could forget about this wonderfully coy video he starred in for Italian Vogue where he hides under a tarp in a suit stolen from Coming to America?

Max Pearl really likes Nicolas Jaar, has never actually read anything written by Slavoj Žižek -@maxpearl