Technohistory

Already, rave is classic?

I first saw the Lumière brothers' film of a train arriving at the station ("The Arrival Of A Train" is a classic silent short in which a train appears to hurtle toward the audience, notable in that it was the first film to use such a perspective.) in high school and recall some scraggly burn-out in class calling it "gay" (gay meaning stupid here -- this was high school, remember). Matching primitive critique with primitive cinema, said burn-out was merely casting light on the fact that our cinematic expectations have grown beyond the novel fascination the Lumières' anthropological bores held for a fin-de-siècle audience. The same holds true for pop music, even within particular genres like techno. So were my class Techno 101, the burn-out would become a raver aiming his "gay" invective at Classic Rave -- a collection of early techno milestones.

Not that these twelve tracks are field recordings of insanely specialized interest. But they were the primary belches from a subgenre that, in the early '90s, announced itself as a harder, faster dance alternative to the more sensually (and soulfully) unraveling beats of house music. Enough years later for nostalgia to happen, a cut like Human Resource's "Dominator" (which sounded as fast as they came back when I first heard it on 1992's Only For The Headstrong) sounds positively tortoise-like (as opposed to Tortoise-like) in the wake of gabber. Since techno was (and still is) such a boy's game, I get a mild delight from pointing this out.

And in the wake of, oh I don't know, heroin house (and, what the hell, Tortoise), most of the rest of Classic Rave sounds quaintly songful. That's a little harder to nyah-nyah about, especially for such a populist as I. The soundtracky breaks in Acen's "Trip II The Moon," the club-door hysteria gimmick of Kicks Like A Mule's "The Bouncer" and the reggae push-and-pull of SL2's "On A Ragga Trip" all radiate a respect for user-friendly, junky, concise structures sorely missing in the music of such later avatars as Photek, Goldie and the Orb, all of whom probably find song form too, er, gay.

Still, with an average song length of 5:43, the structures could have been even more concise. And, yes, the best track is the shortest -- Moby's "Go." Hey, on second thought, maybe the long-windedness of Timeless isn't so far off.