A new generation of black artists are reclaiming the roots of techno music
Then Parrish seemed to unveil the meaning of dance music culture itself: “Escapism has always been an adjective used to describe the dance. That’s an outsider’s view. Solidarity is what it really offers.”
Four years later — with our nightclubs emptied and our streets filled with protesters rejecting the lethal racism of American police — it’s a good time for citizens of the nightlife to think about that offer of solidarity. Black artists such as Parrish are generous to make it. White listeners should commit to it completely. Because in the summer of 2020, loving black music is not the same thing as loving black people. When was it ever? Even in the small-hours reverie of clubland — where black disco, techno and house music constantly improve the air — we’re still living in an unjust world where black life needs to be defended with our activism, our advocacy, our money, our vote and more. The dance floor can be a place where solidarity begins. It shouldn’t be where it ends.
Holding these ideas in the front of your brainspace shouldn’t be too hard before, during or after listening to “HOA010,” the monumental new compilation album on HAUS of ALTR, a New York dance label committed to young, black producers and their righteous tomorrow-visions. Released on Juneteenth, “HOA010” came packed with 27 exhilarating tracks and some galvanizing liner notes: “In these trying times, we come together to stake claim on the roots of techno and its potential future.”
Techno’s roots can be traced back to the black community that originally congregated around the music in Detroit in the 1980s, but you’d hardly know it looking at today’s biggest dance festivals, where white DJs dominate the lineups, playing for massive crowds and ungodly paychecks.
MoMA Ready wants that to change. It’s impossible to miss the polyglot producer at the center of “HOA010,” both figuratively and literally — he co-founded HAUS of ALTR in 2018, and the compilation is sequenced alphabetically by artist. His music is dizzying in its multidirectionality, but its binding intensity supports his commitment to communal rhythm as a life-and-death thing. “You’re saving lives and giving context to people’s lives by being honest about your art,” he told the dance music zine Love Injection last year, “in a world where we all face existential crises daily.”
On “HOA010,” the music unspools like a roll call, but the ABC sequence feels dynamic and right on. The itchy twitch of Akua’s “Lucid Dreams” pivots into the elegant pummel of Amal’s “Pyschopass.” The mesmerizing thrum of DJ Nativesun’s “Brainwash Bop” slides into the hyperventilating commotion of DJ Swisha’s “New Luv.” It all happens so fast and unflinchingly, and if you think of rhythm as a metaphor for human progress, the music’s fleet tempos begin to surge with meaning.
As for the future of techno itself, it’s already coming fast. Fourteen days after the drop of “HOA010,” HAUS of ALTR released a sequel compilation, “HOA011,” crammed with equally dazzling sounds and an intensified mission statement: “Back once again, we assume the role of Vanguard in the war against white supremacy in electronic music.”
Dancing to both albums alone in quarantine — while the streets outside convulse in protest — feels invigorating, sobering, ecstatic and strange. If you’re interested in testing the idea that solidarity can be forged in solitude, start here and don’t stop.