Being a reviewer of pretty much any genre that comes at me, obviously there are strengths and weaknesses in my arsenal of scribbled thoughts. Particularly when I see those three little letters in close proximity, E, D and M, I automatically worry about how I am going to find something new and convincing to say about a wannabe DJ remixing the same tired and over-used bass burbles and glitchy beats, enough to fill the allotted space anyway.
Five seconds in to the strange and evocatively titled Philly To Long Branch (part 2) and I realise that I actually have the opposite problem, that EDM is just one small part of this heady, high-octane, electro rock hybrid and that trying to explore, capture and describe the music in mere words is not only going to be a longer job than I anticipated, it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Philly… is built on a beat of fractious urgency, a frenzied, adrenaline fuelled headlong rush where the clinical cold synths of the dance floor are mixed with white hot rock muscle to create a blend of the futuristic and the primordial, the industrial and the elemental, the pre-determined and the organic. It also has a brooding presence, far from the euphoric and joyous nature of the uptown club, it feels as if it has been fashioned from the scattered musical trappings and attitudes that the punks, the goths and the garage rockers left behind after their bubbles burst and they either went underground or learnt to conform.
Those who insist on labels might like terms like Stygian dance music, industrial groove, darkwave, techno-goth, well goth, always a misunderstood term, was very much built on dance grooves and whilst the term now seems to have been re-appropriated into just another sub-genre of metal by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, this gloriously grim groove manages to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres. Knowing where you come from has always been as important as knowing where you are going. But the more you listen to the music, the more labels it manages to conjure, thus reminding you of the limitations of such attempts at pigeon-holing.
This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the nightclub floor, but not the nightclub that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilization and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse.
We are continually told that “rock music is dead” but maybe, like everything else subject to evolution, it has merely changed and is no longer recognisable to those who still think it is all about long hair and a guitar riff. If we ignore what you actually use to make the music and what you happen to wear whilst you are doing so, then Philly…actually ticks more rock boxes than you might think in terms of power, drive, intensity, groove, ferocity, weight and sensibility. AC/DC it obviously isn’t but in many ways a new form of rock music it certainly makes an argument for being.
I like music that I can’t just hang a sound bite or label on, can’t kick into a well defined generic drawer, music that I didn’t see coming. Well, I didn’t see this coming. I feel like I have been run over by demon-possessed truck, experimented on by extra-terrestrials, battled with denizens of the night, have stood on the edge of the end of the universe itself, been attacked by cyborgs and had a music shop collapse on me. What a way to spend a morning. And the weird part is…I can’t wait to do it all again.