On music, mostly (not) techno
Okay, uhm… How do I start this without boring statements like ‘music has been part of my life since I remember, yadda yadda yadda’. Let’s try this: of all music-related things that happened in my life, none of them I owe to my music teacher or my family. If I could credit one person, it would have been Daisy Dee.
You can’t stop us
In 2001 I had no internet access at home so I had to use old-fashioned TV for accidental life-changing discoveries. Sadly, television in my country wasn’t particularly educative or entertaining. At some point my parents bought a satellite receiver and I started watching foreign channels in languages I didn’t understand. Apart from a certain type of channels my parents didn’t want me to watch, especially late at night, there was another one, much more teen-friendly: music television. Since most of satellite channels were German, I watched German VIVA and MTV 2 Pop.
Somewhere in July 2001 (this time it’s an actual date, not a symbol) one thing on VIVA randomly caught my attention. It was a live coverage of a major music festival in some German city. Unimaginable crowds of people on streets, live music played from moving platforms, a captivating atmosphere of love and unity.
Another Love Parade was happening in Berlin.
It hit me hard like nothing else earlier and nothing else later in my life. The music. The atmoshpere.
At that time I was way too young to even think about this, but attending a Love Parade became my ultimate dream. I wanted to find myself in that crowd of people dancing to club music in a huge western city. Nothing possibly could have gone wrong about that. I just needed to wait until I could afford a trip to Berlin on my own.
Then 2010 disaster happened and the dream was dead.
My fascination with club music, which I was still erraneously calling ‘techno’, didn’t end there. I was discovering new artists every day. ATB, Kai Tracid, Paul Van Dyk, Kenny Takito, Mark’Oh, Starsplash, Tomcat, Prezioso… I can go on and on.
Viva, Viva Zwei and MTV 2 Pop. The trifecta of German TV channels that were playing club music from western Europe became my primary source of music discoveries. Club Rotation was my obligatory position to watch every weekend.
It was a whole different world of sounds compared to the one I knew from mainstream media in my country.
Up to 2010s Polish pop music felt, I don’t know, dead serious and boring. It wasn’t about fun. It was more about telling stories, sometimes dark and serious, usually about love, spirituality or similar nonsense. I can’t remember any notion of plain old unencumbered fun in Polish pop songs from late 1990s or 2000s that would stuck in my teenage head.
It took me some time to understand why it was that way. In 2020 I came up with my own unproven hypothesis.
Living in a country with traumatic chapters in its history made its music sound the way it sounded. If you wanted to sing about freedom and happiness, it was difficult not to sound emotional or nostalgic no matter how hard you tried not to. And that’s what I didn’t like about Polish pop music of my teenage time.
If you lived on the side of the Iron Courtain, well, things were different. Your country may have had its political problems, but you didn’t have to take them that seriously. You weren’t dreaming of regaining political independence from some big brother that had been pulling strings in your country since World War II. Pop music in your country could, and did, sound different. It could use this element of careless fun and genuine feeling of freedom.
Early 2000s club music from Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France and a few other countries was closely related to dance music from 1990s. Computers and electronic equipment were already present in the production process. Vinyl records, remixing and scratching was still there. Club music was supposed to fill dancefloors and make people tired, so repetitive drums, catchy melodies and atmospheric vocals were used.
Media in my country seemed to ignore western club music. At least that’s what I was thinking. I eventually stumbled upon an equivalent of VIVA Club Rotation in a local radio station, played every Saturday night. When I went to a secondary school, it turned out quite a few people in my group were familiar with the same songs as me. We were a legion.
Somewhere in 2000s I finally saw the Berlin Victory Column, but sadly there was no music festival happening at that time. Felt great, timing a little poor perhaps.
A few years later I learnt about psychedelic trance, minimal techno and many other genres I wouldn’t have heard of from TV. Mahadeva by Astral Projection still sends shivers down my spine. There was a time when you could get me hypnotized with Conga Fury by Juno Reactor.
In 2015 I celebrated the new year with Paul Van Dyk playing live near the Warsaw National Stadium. That one and only Paul Van Dyk that brought me tears of joy with For an Angel and Nothing But You in the 2000s.
I never stopped listening to club music. I never made it to a Love Parade or any large-scale festival like Mayday, and that sucks, but it’s fine. I witnessed slow but steady evolution that put a ‘vintage’ label to vinyl records and brought MacBooks to DJ tables. Electronic sounds typical for trance music started to creep into mainstream genres effectively rendering the notion of ‘electronic music’ meaningless. All popular music sooner or later became electronic music.
I’m glad I was at the right time and the right place.
People often tend to whine music used to be better when they were young. That’s not me. Yes, I tend to feel nostalgic about old music and I don’t understand some modern genres. But lot of great things happened in the meantime.
Dozens of great young artists produce amazing electronic music on a daily basis. Producers like Raz Nitzan still deliver tons of freshly produced beats as if 2000s never ended. I fell in love with modern drum’n’bass and synthwave. I keep discovering new, less known artists that wouldn’t have made it to MTV 2 Pop in the 2000s. Internet revolutionized music discovery to the point I’d never have dreamt of.
Oh, and one more thing. I maintain a nostalgic eurotrance playlist on YouTube. It is the most comprehensive selection of club music as I remember it. Keeping it up-to-date is getting more and more difficult as a lot of songs are getting increasingly harder to come by. But I love getting back to it for my quarterly nostalgia trips. Go check it. It’s good.