Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Amen, My Brother

One of the big (unspoken) differences between "traditional" house and electrohouse/microhous is the presence of the Big Guy, our lord and savior (or someones), Jesus Christ. There is no analogue for Jesus in the Euro-house continuum. (Can you name even one major European house tune that features J-boogie?) Even the more "mystical" or "spiritual" house from the UK and the continent (your broken beats, your Jazzanovas) is content to opt for a kind of middling, deity-free spiritualism, a self-actualization poster set to music.

This is obviously because European Christianity lacks that (let's not be coy) Black evangelical edge-of-hysteria delivery that stretches back to Sylvester and disco and soul right down to Mahalia and Sister Rosetta and the Staples themselves. It's hard for me to imagine an Anglican hymn being set to that prostate thumping beat and it being the same. Just like there's no subsitute for going into the revival tent, there's no substitute for an ecstatic religious house record on the floor. Even when it's nothing special, there's something about that canned uplift that's just undeniable. Which is how you get records like Glen Lewis feat. Mojo and Bongani's (oh, those names!) "Life Everlasting (Dennis Ferrer Vocal Mix)".

This record isn't even that good. It starts with the kind of lush pads and synth sweeps that instantly win me over, the kind of thing this music can give you and nothing else can. It's got bongos, people. Bongos! (You keep wincing for a flute that never comes.) There's a very traditional (black) male vocal hymning the joys of love from above and a multitracked chorus extolling the everlasting life. You can not imagine James Murphy covering it. Nor can you imagine Black Strobe remixing it. It is completely unfashionable in almost every way. And that's even before the fake preacher monologue at the end. (And I'm not talking fire-and-brimstone preachin like Green Velvet's "The Preacher," either. I'm talkin we-are-gpnna-make-it-to-the-promised-land-if-we-just-believe.)

I am a lapsed Catholic-turned-agnositc. The only thing that keeps me from being an athiest is humility. There was never any tug between agony and ecstacy when I was growing up. It was just the agony. Church was not about singing and clapping and call-and-response unity. It was about hardwood pews with no cushions on the kneelers. It was about tuneless moaning in a montone that would make Lou Reed blush. It was about sin and rapped knuckles and "it'll fall off if you keep thinking those thoughts." So even though I am going to hell because I haven't been saved. And even though I am neither black nor hispanic nor gay and instead am white and male and middle-class and therefore afflicted with the kind of problems a lot of people would love to have. I still feel the pull. When I think about all those years devoted to religion, all I can think is that I got gyped. I still want that experience. And this stuff is still the closest I've ever gotten.


Blogger OMC said...

Interesting...there's no place for God(s) in Kraftwerk right? :)

Melchior Productions is all about God though (or so it says on the sleeve.) But yeah, if he dared spelling it out in the actual music it would clear dancefloors quite effectively.

I think we gravitate towards this vague pagan-technological worship of house itself, which doesn't need the "bad trip" of substitute father figures looking over your shoulder.

4:16 AM  
Blogger j. said...

i think most american dance music is like that too, really. ("you are all welcome in the church of house," etc etc.) obviously the jesus stuff just calls up weird feelings inside of me that have been supressed for years following giving up the church. a lot of it makes me cringe too! (at least while listening to it at home.)

5:55 AM  
Blogger blissblogger said...

it must have something to do with the big cultural difference, outside of dance music, between Europe/UK and America, viz

isn't it something like 86 percent of Americans believe in God?

whereas it's something like 37 percent of Brits

similar disparity between the countries in terms of practicising some form of regular worship

and just think how it's virtually impossible for a politician in America to be an agnostic let alone an atheist -- whereas no one gives a shit in europe whether their leaders believe, in fact being religious would probably be a minus point

[when i was in LA last i saw a sign saying 'atheists unite!', it had a real lonely quality about it!]

a paradigm of all this is the way that Todd Edwards explicity God-referencing vocal science gets turned into 2step's posthuman eroto-maniac vocal science

his new tune 'burns like the fire' is pretty tasty BTW -- 303's used to create acid gospel

6:57 AM  
Blogger stevo-r said...

Isn’t it primarily a question of ethnicity? Black Churches are unusual in Europe, gospel influences came filtered through RnB, and soul; Cabaret Voltaire + Warp were never going to be inspired by Joe Cocker.

I relate strongly to Jess’s last comment. Listening and dancing to this music does recall the intense filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Pentecostal worship I participated in during my Christian youth.

5:08 PM  
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