The latest release on Boomkat’s Death of Rave label is EP16, by Gábor Lázár. He’s a Hungarian computer musician who has so far done an album called I.L.S. made up of modulating variations on a single note, released via Italian experimentalist Lorenzo Senni’s label Presto!?, as well as a number of releases on the label he co-runs, called Last Foundation. Last Foundation has also put out work by artists including Russell Haswell and EVOL—artists, along with Senni, who share an interest in extending, effacing, or deconstructing dance music. And so, Lazar’s being connected with a project entitled “The Death of Rave” makes sense. Some of the other major practitioners of this current experimental approach to dance music are: Evol, Holly Herndon, Mark Fell, Actress, Burial, and Lee Gamble.
What’s interesting about calling a label “The Death of Rave” is that it leaves open the question of what specifically marks the aftermath of rave’s death. A little backstory: “rave” specifically refers to the politically radical musical movement of raves that happened in the early ‘90s. Its “death” ostensibly refers to the decline of a popular, explicitly countercultural political thrust in dance music, particularly in its embodied (rather than virtual or purely recorded listening) communal experience in legally unauthorized spaces. Leyland Kirby has also done important work with this concept, self-releasing a series of field recordings of raves under the title of The Death Of Rave, inspiring this Boomkat label by capturing the social experience and atmosphere of raves along with their music. Berlin-based academic, artist and musician Annie Goh also notably recently curated a two-day discussion exploring the theme of “The Death Of Rave,” with participation by the likes of Lisa Blanning and Lee Gamble.
There are three main references to dance music on EP16: the first is the kind of rhythm employed, which touches at a distance upon club-ready styles. While the music is repetitious, its kind of rhythm is similarly on neither side of a general cerebral/visceral divide—the down beats are not prominent, and the rhythmic accents are not centered around repeating gestures designed to keep time (like a snare drum on the 2 and 4 beats), yet there is undeniably a dance music-like propulsion. The rhythms are kind of punctuation-less, though, or unsegmented. Sections don’t close, tracks just change.
A second dance aspect is the tonal quality of the work: the serrated buzz recalls the psychoactive component of synthesis in early rave tracks (Evol also employs this, particularly on his Proper Headshrinker and Wormhole Shubz albums.) EP16 induces a kind of numbing, humming neon bliss, caught in the cross-directional verge between cerebrally-engaged listening music and purely visceral experience. In this way it recalls the work of people like Yasunao Tone, Florian Hecker, and, again, Evol.
Interestingly, the blissful, meditative experience of listening—like having your brain directly resonated by the music rather than indirectly mediated by detached listening—recalls Elaine Radigue’s Binaural Brain Smoothing techniques, whereby synthesized sound can be scientifically shown to make the brain feel pleasure. These combinations of tones and sound waves are sent directly at pleasure centers, not ebbing and flowing, but pouring in continuously—the kind of steadfast, engaged bliss one associates with the specific pleasures of dance music.
All in all, this is a finely-detailed, compelling release—definitely worth hearing for those interested in tracking how experimental music’s current interest in rave takes shape.