Cripes, once in a while you get a wake-up call that makes you jump out of your skin. Well, I mean figuratively. The actual alarm on my phone features a rather strict-sounding lady telling me that ‘It’s time to get up, the time is 7.08. It’s time to get up,… etc’, but I’m used to her. What I’m talking about is suddenly realising there’s something you should have done ages ago but have put off, until someone comes looking for it, and then you get a bit of a jolt. I got a FaceBook request for some information about two of our acts – Piano Segundo and SubMachena today, from a promoter in Canada who was interested in the music they play. He wanted to know if I had any presspacks or material I could send him, with the view to getting the bands some gigs over there. Good question, hang on, I’ll just grab something from the hard-drive, errr….
Not even a single photograph of SubMachena did I find, and scant little else. A couple of paragraphs about the act, nothing about PS. Over the last few months we’ve spent so much time and effort trying to promote the music that we never stopped to think about supplemental details. It’s not hard to find a culprit. In case you’re relatively new to this blog, or to BlancoMusic.com in general, my name’s Sean, and one of my roles at the label is to write words about the label and the acts and music thereon. It’s a lot of fun, although there are times when my self-designated avowal to update the blog every day I’m here seems a bit ambitious. That can feel like a millstone around the neck sometimes, especially when Robin is practising piano in the same room and I can’t think of a single thing to write about. Nevertheless, most of the time writing about the label, or about the music industry and how it affects us, is a welcome chance to indulge in the kind of ‘I’m gonna be the head reviewer for Rolling Stone’ fantasies that are quite enjoyable. Then, wham, something like a request for details about our acts comes in and it all gets a bit daunting. You see, although real music writers (unlike dilitantes like me) often come across as the sort of pompous, cooler-than-thou skinny kids from school who used to carry LPs around the playground at breaktime and sneer at you if you liked anything that had ever sold more than a couple of hundred copies, they do have a pretty tough gig. You see, using words to describe music is a little like trying to explain architecture by dancing. Take aside the fact that critics get sent more music than they can ever comfortably listen to, and because of this, give everything a quick spin and fall back on a well-worn stock of musical descriptors. Take aside the fact that due to the volume of reviews they need to do to make a living, the way they describe the music is most often by comparing it to something you’ve never heard of. Take aside that they all run haplessly after each other to review the same music the same way, because none of them want to be left out of the ‘cool kids’ area. Oh, sod it, what I’m trying to say is that describing music is difficult through the medium of text, and that anyone who actually makes the effort to do so properly has my respect. If I had to do it for hundreds of bands a month, I’d fall back on cliches too.
So now I have to do it, for Piano Segundo and SubMachena. I’m a bit stumped really. Musicians hate genres, and every musician feels that what they do is somehow different from the genre people tend to call it. That’s a cliche in itself, and unfair on artists, but it does tend to be the case that genres are designated to music not by the acts who make it, but by the people whose task it is to sell it. Put very simply – they need to know which bit of the shop to put it in. But these genre classifications are a nightmare in other ways, because when they get tighter and tighter, they really become so subjective as to be almost worthless. Take the genre ‘Dubstep’. My Canadian contact assures me that it’s super-popular in western Canada right now. Great. You see, that term has grown out of all proportion to what it originally signified, and I’m as guilty as anyone for applying it to a style of music that seems to fit the category. But we’re mostly wrong on this one. Now I’m sure that bass-heavy, Caribbean-influenced, dirty, beatsy, chunky, dark dance music is perfectly popular in Canada right now. I’m willing to bet that two-step is doing great out there. However, my understanding of the term ‘dubstep’ relates to a still fairly underground movement based around what’s being played at a couple of East London clubs, on vinyl 12-inch, by a handful of djs. The records are only put out on vinyl, maybe a YouTube link, and are considered to have crossed over into the dreaded ‘mainstream’ as soon as they get played anywhere other than those few designated clubs. It’s savagely, staunchly self-limiting and underground and most certainly not available in Canada. There you have the weird part, because the dubstep movement has done so very well in remaining elusive and exclusive, that the mere word is one that is imbued with so much ‘cred’ that any music that sounds even slightly close is attached to it. SubMachena make Dub, there are two-step rhythms in there on occasion, and I’ve even described it to people outside of east London as dubstep, because I know that’s a term that will describe it to them best. But it’s not dubstep. So the next few days will see me trying like hell to come up with a paragraph of text that gives some sort of idea of what SubMachena sound like, despite each of their songs sounding different. Without using the word ‘dubstep’, even though I know that if I call it ‘dubstep’ we’ll have a 1000% better chance of getting gigs pretty much everywhere except east London. And no-one involved would even know the difference. Except us.
Piano Segundo are just gonzo.
Piano Segundo: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1724410/OnMaMix01.mp3