All the way back when we attended the 2013 Winter Music Conference, there was a quote Secret Society’s Frank Lords said during one of the panels: “There’s nothing like the dirt in analog. I don’t think you can really pull that out of a digital plug-in.”
And to a certain extent, Lords isn’t alone with this sentiment. The digital vs. analog debate has raged on in electronic music for years, with many holding onto their old gear.
But digital vs. analog over this past summer gave way to producer vs. instrumental electronic music. Now that Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” got a fair amount of attention, not to mention airplay, the chasm between producer-created and instrumental electronic music is more apparent: Particularly, rather than between the “new” guys and the has-beens, be it New Order or even an early ‘00s act like Ladytron, both halves have visibility through the thousands of producers out there and, in the moment, the radio play of Daft Punk, the Pet Shop Boys’ Electric, and even instrument-featuring cuts off Avicii’s interesting but wildly uneven True.
But this gap really wasn’t always this stark. More recently, I’d put together a playlist of New Order, Inner City, and Frankie Knuckles and realized just how well the sounds, from Manchester synthpop to ‘80s house to mainstream Detroit techno, blended together. You don’t have this type of fluidity when you, say, try playing “Get Lucky” with any Swedish House Mafia or David Guetta tune back to back. Even the Pet Shop Boys’ EDM-leaning Electric doesn’t really gel well with the latest EDM hits.
So, why is it that electronic music really has two sides – the musicians and the producers?
It Wasn’t Always Like This
While techno and house originated in the U.S., one of dance’s key cultural hubs – the Hacienda – had a certain degree of fluidity between instrumental music and DJing. While the design and culture were based on the New York club scene of the early ‘80s, New Order both funded and performed at the club. From here, club DJ Greg Wilson described, the scene had this transitional period: