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29 April, 2012

The Quest for the One (Tune)

I wrote a lot while I was away on the weekend, and for that I apologise.
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My first foray into music was a Simpsons cassette. A shitty cartoon ditty that included Nancy Cartwright bellowing "I put the mothballs in the beef stew". It wasn't much of a start. And I'd love to say it got better. It didn't. A bit further along I purchased R.E.M's 'Best of'. I thought it would at least contain 'Losing My Religion' - it didn't. And to be honest, I didn't care for it too much.

I listened to the Top 40 with my sister, but only to maintain some semblance of music knowledge at school. It didn't help much. While TLC's 'Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls' was out, I was buying the eponymous Brown Album by Tony Martin and Mick Molloy. Taste was something I lacked. And I daresay I still don't have much today. But this blog entry isn't about how I acquired or lack taste.

It's about how I got into electronic dance music.

Cue the bass, cue the lights pulsing, sweaty bodies, and repetitive beat. I love it unashamedly and unapologetically. It's a part of me and who I am, and nothing makes me happier than hearing a great tune. Music I didn't take to, but this was something else.

When did this happen? When did I subscribe to this ideology? When was that moment? I would love for you to be able to tell me. Let me repeat that. I would love for you to be able to tell me. The thing is I can't tell you. I remember snippets. Flitting memories of a time passed where I heard that initial track that I would identify electronic dance music with. The first tune (and every subsequent one since) that I could put in this category and say: "that's it, that's me, I'll have one of those please".

Are you picking up what I'm putting down?

I can tell you what happened after hearing that track naturally. I can tell you that Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada all featured prominently. I've even gone back and discovered stuff I liked back then but didn't know the name of, such as The Crystal Method, Aphex Twin, and Cassius.

It's not Daft Punk okay?


I progressed through what pundits like to call 'cheese'. I voraciously purchased Wild FM compilations (I think they were an Australia only thing), graduating to Ministry of Sound, and was graced with some of the best tunes I've ever heard via this series over the period of 2001-2005. Man, I really get a kick out of hearing things like Planet Funk's Chase the Sun.

Around that time I discovered my oft-referred to Inthemix. And was exposed to a broad community of like-minded people who had differing tastes but were all unified under the banner of EDM. I was late to the party, but suddenly realised there were differences between techno and trance, progressive and house, and that I loved a large quantity of it.

I began following a growing list of DJs I could see out who toured Australia, and started judging music by how it made me feel, rather than how catchy the vocal hook was. My tastes continued to develop, and rather than becoming jaded - each new beat, hook, and riff would excite me more. My friends picked up on this, and I would happily tell them "I'm a punter, not a player".

And I owe it all to this one track, this one track I can't name and can barely mumble out a tune for.

It frustrates the crap out of me. I've tried to place it. I've searched through my memories trying to place where it is. I remember it enjoyed commercial success in Australia. I remember it was the mid-to-late 90s. I remember it being a duo or trio on a live performance I saw on Channel V. I remember the haunting electronic vocal that sounded sad. And there was a melodic piano that would kick in as that voice dropped an octave at the end of the chorus.

It wasn't fast, it wasn't mind-blowing, and I don't doubt that most people would find it unremarkable. But it was the song for me that I silently identify with.

Some people have quite fairly stated that it may have warped in my head to the extent that even if I did hear it today I wouldn't recognise it. As my mind has idyllically created a track that's far more perfect in its eye than I could ever hope to hear again. This might be true.

Having been into this style of music for 15 years you would think I would have made peace with this, that it would be time to hang up the headphones, content in the knowledge that I've tried and failed.

But it nags at me, every now and then, I'd say four or five times a year when I meet someone with a compelling amount of music knowledge. I regale them with this tale and how it aches for me not to know what this track is. And maybe its the tale itself, or their romanticised notions of music, but we sit down and attempt to go through artists of the era that it could be.

We've tried. All of the artists I've mentioned and then some. Air, Orbital, Underworld. To no avail.

It haunts me this Quest for the One, but what keeps me going is the thought of that moment when I hear it again. I've tried to articulate how it would make me feel and you might have a sense of how amazing it would be but you don't. Not this tune. Not ever.