Electronic music used to get a bad rap. In the ’90s, for example, any mention of the genre seemed to conjure images of bleach-haired, fuzzy-backpack-wearing Germans sipping fruit smoothies while bobbing their heads to House remixes of The Neverending Story. This dismissive attitude was always distressing for enthusiasts, who knew that beneath the stereotypes lay a vital musical form. These days, the embrace of electronic music by genres from indie rock to folk has finally allowed loyal fans a much deserved “I told you so.”
Jerry Abstract, a Detroit-born experimental IDM (intelligent dance music) DJ whose sets have been blowing minds in the underground since the late ’90s, witnessed the evolution firsthand.
“Every producer and DJ worldwide knows that Detroit is the birthplace of techno,” he recalls in a recent e-mail interview. “My personal impression of the music really started when I was a young teen and would stumble onto these underground parties…small, intimate venues that were pitch black with like one strobe light or red siren going off at random, while every single person was shaking their ass off like it was the last night on earth in this sweat box, to this super, super loud yet simple dance music. It was a satisfaction I’ve never experienced at punk rock or industrial shows.”
Although Abstract now resides in Seattle, the musical foundation he built in Detroit translates to his performances. While most DJs are content spinning relatively basic beats, Abstract’s sets raise the bar by incorporating intricate, ambient electronica. For those unfamiliar with the latest developments from the electroacoustic spectrum, it is the gradual shift from analogue hardware to computer-generated sound that’s facilitated the popular explosion of increasingly complex beats.
“Using the computer as an instrument has allowed thousands of more people the freedom to create electronically because of its accessibility and affordability,” explains Abstract, who often incorporates his own computer-generated compositions into his DJ sets. “I believe that using the computer as a major source of sound generation is completely natural in the world of techno production. The computer is an extension of our brain as electronic music is an extension of our soul.”
Jerry Abstract spins with Greg Skidmore and Justin Byrnes Friday, May 20, at The Green Light Red Room. The show starts at 11 PM and goes to 3 AM. $5.