Nov 11

Feelings are boring, synth lines are awsome

FT9 comments • 841 views

I am a great believer in seasonal music, from the laid-back summer beach track to the frenetic late-season club banger, giving way to the Winter Party Anthem. This last one is no doubt due to my feelings for the season but I doubt I’m the only person to find early dark and city lights and the crisp of frost in the air exciting- my favourite view is the lights down Penglais Hill to the storm-drenched seafront, salt freezing on the wind and smearing the lamps into streaks of brightness. This year Diwali seemed to indicate a final end to the overstretched summer, bypassing autumn entirely like some seasonal divination- the temperature finally dropped and my refusal to get my coat out before November seemed foolhardy for the first time*. Then the clocks went back, I was going to work in the dark and even if my scarf was making me sweat it was with some relish that I opened my music library to dig out the tracks designed for breathing slightly boozy clouds of condensation into your collar, waiting for the tube.

Some acts seem to “get” this- even if they don’t, there’s always a plethora of tracks that do. It’s just possible I’m imagining the season, picking up on tracks I like and projecting them onto the lights over Hammersmith bridge like an emotional batsign but it does seem to be that out of the darkness and mist comes something potent and palpable. If nothing else, a cynical attempt at being the track played at every new year’s party.

The important thing is that these tracks are in a cold climate- none of the summer sweaty closeness, although they’re quite intimate in a ‘piling into the warm’ way- but they aren’t unhappy. They might have a tinge of sadness in the way a lot of songs about going bonkers on the dancefloor do but they’re not unhappy (unlike Sad Songs In Snow which are a different, although equally wonderful, thing entirely) and they’re keen to be your friend.

The most recent song I’ve repeatedly returned to as one of these is Who’s That Chick– wait, come back. That synthesised, uhm, panpipe is so glowingly warm, with a metallic edge- the noise of travelling through the night in a city. There’s a particular minor-key softness to a successful Winter Party Song- no point in the sort of horns-aloft bangers you get in the Ibiza season. There has to be an icy uncertainty to procedings- Katy On A Mission gets there, except that it might be a little too distant.

Before that, Movin’ Too Fast by Artful Dodger & Romina Johnson is the first thing that sticks in my head as having done this for me. It reminds me of Christmas, despite not in any way being a Christmas song- it’s clearly after dark, though and that has to be a winter thing. The fizzing excitement of the darkened early evening is a completely different emotion to even the most alluring, pulsating summer heat.

Of course, it’s quite likely that I’ve made the genre up. But here’s to it, in any case- I can see my playlist taking quite a battering over the coming weeks; everyone finds emotional resonance in different things but I’ve written before about how profound I find the grey areas in some electro that occupies this territory- Night Work by the Scissor Sisters straddled it entirely and occupied that nocturnal lack of surety, blurs and panics across the night filled with a pulsing heartbeat.

Maybe it’s the suggestion that there’s something out there, some nebulous or at least unknown area beyond the immediate lights that makes the illuminatory bloops so appealling? I don’t have a word for the ‘exciting/cuddly’ emotion it generates but it’s one I like a lot.

*My resistance to becoming a pampered urbanite who believes I should be able to walk around without a jumper on at all times of the year is falling but since calendar-Samhain predated the first frost this year I did at least hold out for it.


  1. 1
    Alex on 16 Nov 2011 #

    I’ve long thought the marker of a good house track is whether it feels like street lights on wet streets, but then that’s the northern element. Mind you, Justin Robertson did do a Lionrock EP called Wet Roads Glisten.

  2. 2
    Ed on 17 Nov 2011 #

    A fantastic post. That’s an emotion I have felt for years, but never been able to articulate.

    Is this the only track ever to make an explicit attempt to evoke it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzqd5YzGgHI

    At first I thought they had gone too far: a Deep House update of Slade – which is essentially what it is – seemed pretty unnecessary. But it has really grown on me, and now I love it. And I think it captures that nameless winter party feeling perfectly.

  3. 3
    Ed on 17 Nov 2011 #

    Actually, there is another one along those lines right here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/1999/10/49-saint-etienne-i-was-born-on-christmas-day/

  4. 4

    don’t know if the (actual literal quasi-historical) solstice-paganism of rave has been explored anywhere (aside from the works of mr p.orridge and countless muddled hippies)*, but this image came to mind:

    moomin solstice rave

    *so yes it obviously has, i just wanted to post this picture — moomintroll is plainly about to file a noise-pollution complaint

  5. 5
    Unlogged Mog on 17 Nov 2011 #

    That Moomin rave illustration is fantastic, I am tempted to put it up in my office. Pagan aspects of rave are interesting; the ceremony of it seems like a straight lift and obviously acts like the Shamen etc weren’t shy of the reference. The Prodge and Faithless trade off it a lot- not sure where it sits with academical rave theory (as though there could ever be synaesthetic essaying appropriate) but I’d put it at a baser human instinct (viz. ‘the rave has always been with us by other names Mr Tashlan’) and that the emotion begat the reference rather than visa versa.

    I’m rather glad to see I’m not the only one to have identified the bright-lights-on-wet pavements noise. St Etienne have quite a few tracks that trigger it for me- there seems to have been a period of great activity around it in the early-to-mid nineties. (she says, as though the past is an inpenetrable fog)

  6. 6
    Ed on 17 Nov 2011 #

    The solstice-paganism of rave was also at the heart of Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’. Brilliantly so, IMO.

  7. 7
    Ed on 17 Nov 2011 #

    Erm, actually not solstice, more equinox.

    Actually, not even that: it happens on April 23. Definitely some kind of calendar rave paganism, though.

  8. 8
    Ed on 17 Nov 2011 #

    Devastating use of Sandy Denny, too.

  9. 9
    Ed on 22 Nov 2011 #

    @4 Moomintroll went home. Before he went to bed he cautiously pulled Moominmamma’s ear and told her: “It wasn’t a very funny party.”
    “Really, dear me,” mumbled Moominmamma in her sleep. “Perhaps next time…”

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page