by Don Crispy
"The huge industry support for commercial trance
has collapsed, which can only be a good thing."
You'd never know it in Japan, where artists like Jeff Mills
and Ken Ishii are lionized and Maniac Love is still going
strong, but in many parts of the world techno is on the mat,
beaten up and bloody after losing successive battles, first
to drum'n'bass and then to big beat and trance in the '90s.
But listening to UK producer Tim Wright tell it, dance music's
wide-ranging ills have left an opening for the return of techno.
"The industry as a whole is having a hard time, but I
think that's very good for new ideas," he says by email
from York, England. "The scene isn't so dominated by
dance music ?supergroups,' and the huge industry support for
commercial trance has collapsed, which can only be a good
Wright, who releases Thirst in March, will be offering a live
set at the bayside club AgeHa next Friday. He performs as
part of ArcTokyo's inaugural CLASH01 event, which for its
launch looks at highly regarded London-based Novamute label
and will also feature stablemate Cristian Vogel as well as
domestic force Fumiya Tanaka behind the decks.
A violinist in his youth, Wright woke up to dance culture
during his days in Manchester in the late '80s, where the
Happy Mondays "Madchester" scene and early techno
experimentations of the influential On U Sound collective
made him decide to give up physics for a music technology
course at York University.
Wright's early tracks were produced on an Atari computer under
the moniker Germ for the GPR label, but it was his mid-'90s
work with the group Sands that brought him to larger notice.
The group was one of the first to credibly fuse organic and
electronic instruments, an esthetic now taken for granted.
"All of our early gigs in clubs were with trombone, bass,
guitar and me on vocals?and that has continued," he says.
"We've found that it has become increasingly straightforward
to combine live playing in the studio environment, as equipment
has become cheaper and software more powerful. But to perform
a show with the combination of instrumental playing and real-time
sequencing/processing has been consistently challenging."
Notwithstanding Wright's academic pedigree and studio mastery,
he insists on keeping the "dance" in dance music.
"While many of my contemporaries moved into more abstract,
self-indulgent electronica, I was keen to keep a functional
core to my music and continue learning how to make people
He says that the phrase "intelligent dance music"
need not be an oxymoron, insisting that "interesting,
evocative and challenging soundworlds needn't be removed from
dance music." Wright's polyglot sound, which finds expression
on Thirst, combines, for example, the more Spartan, intellectual
leanings of Detroit techno with the sweatier street appeal
of UK garage. It's this insistence on putting the bounce back
in the beat that he sees as his legacy.
"For years in the mid- to late '90s, when 'techno' was
at its peak, there was almost no bass and no funk or groove
in the beats," Wright explains. "That's something
I feel in a small way I have helped to bring back."
CLASH01 "Novamute Night"@AgeHa,
2/27, 11pm, ¥3,500. Tel: 03-5784-7053.