Following my earlier post on the next big thing in electronic music it has been said to me that perhaps polyrhythms and polymeters will be at the heart of the next big thing.

It’s something I’ve heard before, in fact it was something often touted back in the heyday of the IDM list, often mentioned (usually by mistake as the case may be) at the height of Autechre’s popularity. While I’m not entirely opposed to the idea, I am also sceptical. Here’s my case against:

  • to start, polyrhythms aren’t really new in electronic music. Certainly the first wave of the IDMers dabbled in them, and the more academic side of electronic music (that music which they like to call “New”) is rife with polyrhythms and has been since at least the emergence of the post-minimalist downtown scene.
  • polyrhythms and polymeters to me don’t exactly scream dance floor, and hipster electronic music tends to always fold out from dance club-centric popular electronic music. IDM evolved from acid/rave/techno and later jungle. Dubstep came out of twostep and garage, itself the poor idiot offspring of jungle and later drum and bass. And dubstep is still very much club music.
  • complexity, inherent to the idea of polyrhythms and polymeters, doesn’t exactly go over large with the audiences. My general observation is that it is much like drum solos, really only its fellow practitioners have any interest in it. Just ask the “New Music” crowd about that whole preaching to the converted thing. Perhaps folk musics like gamelan music or bluegrass buck the trend and are both complex and popular (in the traditional folk sort of way) but then they extend from long traditions, and as such, while complex, change very little from one iteration to the next. Complexity tamed through familiarity.
  • and last, I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak up for the structural reductionists, whose camp I tend to sit in. This is just a personal thing, but I’m more in favour of less complex music, as I find it speaks less of the self and more of the whole. Complex music often leans too heavily on the crawling inward impulse, I give you a fleet of prog rockers (Yes, Tool (yeah that’s right, I said it), Dream Theatre, Rush, etc) and gonzo muso types (Zappa, Mr. Bungle, etc) as evidence.

Shades of the one thing that has struck me recently as having the potential for superduperness can be found on the stuff being put out by Mexican label Static Discos, especially stuff being done by Antiguo Automata Mexicano. It is as yet still bridging on familar techno territory, but it has a certain vibe going on, danceable and slightly loose rhythmic edges (unlike the very rigid Teutonic deathpulse), which I can only attribute to it being Mexican. It makes sense to me that the growth in the field will start happening in places with a newly emerged and ever-strengthening middle class, places like Mexico, Argentina, India, China. And as a result, we’ll like see an increase in signs of their respective local flavours added to the mix, so that gets my vote for next big thing.

As an aside, it’s also been said to me that how and where to comment on these blog entries is unclear. It used to say automatically when the old backend system was in place, but as it no longer does, I’ll try to point out more often that comments can be made in the ever-welcoming SIGHUP forum. Just sign up, start a thread, and have your say. If you are at all apprehensive about providing information for yet another sign up, know that we here at IM are far, far too apathetic to ever do anything we shouldn’t with your sign-up information.

So, I’m ready to hear the case for polyrhythms and polymeters.


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