How does a dance music archive function without clubs? Over the past several months, the premise of a stable future for in-person clubbing has almost entirely collapsed. Despite several controversial attempts by high-earning European DJs to kick-start the circuit, clubs remain closed, and the impending economic collapse and inevitable wave of austerity will further hamper their return. The premise of this column is that the most dynamic club music of today has the potential to thrive well beyond the contours of the dance floor, but what happens when that space almost entirely disappears?
Dance music’s collective memory function has always been fragile, subject to both shaky recollections of nights out and the sort of hyper-personal archival practices familiar to users of Discogs, IRC chat rooms, and forums. The mass Internet has widened the perspective to a certain extent, but as users shift from one tech platform to another, the lack of permanence and uniformity in memory has allowed for both huge gaps and manipulation in what is canonized. For example, the shut down of private torrent tracker What.CD in 2016 likely meant that thousands of tracks became unavailable in an instant, once again limited to the hard drives and CDRs of individuals.
In the face of the worldwide gap in experience and memory that’s opened since March, both the efficacy and failures of the digital archive have come into focus. Radio has taken on a renewed importance, propagating sound and knowledge across the airwaves, and the accompanying chat rooms that many online stations feature have become ground for friends to reconnect and share in the absence of physical contact. Bandcamp is the hottest thing in music right now, but it’s hard to say exactly how well its social elements function. The site’s “Recommendations” and “Collections” offer space for interaction, but without the ever-present feed expected of social media, it often takes on a more traditional consumer experience.
Especially when undertaken outside of the purview of the major streaming platforms, playlisting can be a respite from the lack of a tangible digital public sphere. ZIP folders, CDs, and YouTube playlists of older music shared with friends can’t replace the in-person experience, but they can allow for a return to a pre-social media mode of sharing. In an undeniably dark time for both artists and fans, perhaps the moment offers a chance to return to a more downsized, interpersonal mode of cultural sociality. With physical mobility limited, this act of refusal—away from atomized digital consumerism and towards concrete social behavior—may yet lead to a healthier set of collective memory practices. Playlists like the one below offer a framing that may extend the cultural longevity of the music, but nothing beats the camaraderie built on sharing tracks.
Amazondotcom & Siete Catorce – Parti
Ariel Zetina – Ribbitool
AYA – Delishus
BADSISTA – SHEELA
Bamz X Scratchclart – Dark Gallium (ft. Wookie)
DJ TAMEIL – Own It
DJ THIAGO O PICA – Aquecimento das Galáxias 2020
Dominowe – The Prayer feat. Mr Alhab (Core Tribe)
FRKTL – Eigenspace
Gooooose & DJ Scotch Egg – JAC
Lil Lemonade – NOW! (BSNYEA Edit)
marvelito – she got a thing (remix) (ft. dj lita & based prince)
Mish – Berserker
MISSDEVANA – C’MON (BUBBLINGBEATS)
Mya Gomez – Tenderheaded
SBF – Touch The Ground (ft. UNIIQU3)
Shakira – Tus Ojos Negros (Debit Chopped & Screwed Witchy Remix)
SWAN MEAT – JEALOUS
Tre Oh Fie – One Mo Time (Woo)
TRAXMAN – WAP Juked Out
Gabe Meier is based in Chicago and has been writing about the latest evolutions in dancefloor music since 2012. The Astral Plane is his primary outlet, spanning a blog, record label and radio show. Follow him on Twitter here.
Original artwork by Sofia Apunnikova.