Sunday, February 11, 2007

Full Tilt

Live: DJ Tak (Drum & Bass)
Club Troop, Kobe, Japan

Part 1: A State of Mind

The last time I attended a Drum and Bass show was in early 2006, when DJ Tak hit Japan on one of his occasional jaunts from his adopted London. Tak is now resident in Tokyo and played a jaw-dropping set in Kobe last Saturday.

For more than ten years now we've been hearing that DnB is dead, but try telling that to the crowd at Kobe's Club Troop, or Drum & Bass Arena website, which receives 350,000 hits each month. With its in-your-face energy and skittering beats there is still nothing quite like DnB, and it remains far and away my favorite electronic dance music. You have to get out of the house to hear it properly, though. The calmer atmospheres of sub-genres such as Liquid Funk are fine for home listening, but you gots to check DnB full tilt on a mega sound system to experience its manic physicality.

Due to an injured back I'd vowed not to dance on Saturday, but once I fell under DJ Tak's spell, resistance was futile. I quickly lost myself in the veering polyrhythms, subsonic bass and relentless momentum of his creations. For true fans, DnB is a state of mind. It's as much about community and belonging as it is about self-expression, and I was swept away by the exuberance of the Troop crowd, a friendly and welcoming bunch who crave the vibes generated by "the psychedelic drum and bass" as one young lady described it.

There is something inherently ephemeral about electronica, and like other sub-genres, DnB thrives on mutation and innovation. The DnB at Club Troop seemed more hard-hitting and aggressive than I'd hear before. Wondering what further developments are to come, I asked DJ Tak for his thoughts. He feels that DnB is presently in a state of flux, producers and DJs alike waiting for the next exciting development. Whatever that may be, I'm sure it'll maintain the DnB tradition of combining complexity, melody and inclusiveness with an attractive underground vibe.

Part 2: Ear Protection

My ears were ringing when I left Saturday's event, underlining the importance of a good sound system to the crowd and the DJ. Clubs owe it to their customers to install systems which not only can properly express all the frequencies and dynamics of DnB, but which can also help to protect DJs and listeners’ ears at the same time. Sonic clarity is more important than volume when it comes to enjoyment and appreciation of this music, and all clubgoers know the frustration of trying to carry on a conversation when there's no decent chill area to escape the techno barrage.

Anyone who thinks extreme loudness is no biggie should ask Glen, a Kiwi fellow I was speaking to on Saturday. He explained to me that he suffers from severe tinnitus (constant ringing) in one ear. He's lost all hearing on his right side and the buzzing he has to endure is a constant irritation. After that sobering story I suddenly acquired a new appreciation for my comparatively healthy auditory nerves. Imagine if you were denied the pleasures of stereo, or, worse still, couldn't enjoy music at all.

Glen's hearing loss came about as a result of a childhood accident rather than exposure to loud music, but in the course of your techno travels you’re likely to meet many a DJ with tinnitus. Though too few DJs wear hearing protection, the smart ones own ER15 plugs, specially molded to the shape of your ears for $300 a pair. Drum and Bass top dog LTJ Bukem owns a $2000, dual-use earplug/monitor system. That's probably beyond the reach of most clubbers, but cheaper alternatives are available for the masses.

It's one thing to suffer for your art, but needlessly sacrificing your hearing seems to me like foolhardiness. Next time you get down with the techno tribes, do yourself a favor and invest in some ear plugs. Some added aural protection will make the experience that much more enjoyable and ensure you continue grooving to Drum and Bass for a long time to come.

Stream 1: Bassdrive
Stream 2: Drum & Bass Radio


Cushion Meg said...

Hi Shiffi,
Sounds great that you actually made a journey to an island of ecstasy, “Club Troop”! Drum & bass must have been cool! Dancing to the music drives me in a state of ecstasy, sometimes.
As for ear protection , I agree with you. I was reminded of the tragedy of Beethoven. He had suffered a severe form of tinnitus since his early days and later came to lose hearing. Being deaf means almost the same as death to the musician, but astonishingly he overcame his torture and composed music. But he is really exceptional. Without sight and hearing how can I enjoy the pleasure of my life?

Space Bass said...

You are right to draw attention to earplugs and music being too loud at these events. It can be almost painful and it's impossible to talk to your friends. I like your blog.

Jacy said...

Nice blog, so much better writing than I have seen in others. You have very wide tastes. Don't you have time to do anything except listen to music, Mr Le Soy?

hidetoshi said...

Yes it is a problem and some my friends are having this problem when they are clubbing and listen to loud music especially on headphones. please take care, everyone.

spaewaif said...

Shiffi is on holiday...
; - )