By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The trend a while ago
There's still one good reason to tune in to MTV: the late-night weekend show of new electronica called AMP. An hour-long excursion into the near future of music, AMP caters to progressive tastes in both music and visuals, provoking many of the same "wow"s once experienced upon seeing a clip from Gish by Smashing Pumpkins--unfortunately, AMP's arrival came several years too late, a full decade after Detroit techno and more than five years after the rave scene, so the "wow"s are a bit subdued.
Nonetheless, AMP is one of the best venues for accessing the latest electronica. The masterminds at MTV have put together a compilation CD of some of AMP's heavy-hitters, such as the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Underworld, and Aphex Twin. Serious fans probably already have most, if not all, of this music, but if you're new to the digital world, it's a fine introduction.
Kicking off with The Chemical Brothers' head-spinning "Block Rockin' Beats," AMP opens with a blast of hip-hop-influenced dance music from one of the most commercially successful electronic acts. Prodigy picks up the Brothers' beat further down the line with "Voodoo People (The Chemical Brothers' remix)," giving some indication of the trademark anonymity of electronic artists.
Though some of the tracks are already shamelessly out of date, such as "Pearl's Girl" from Underworld and Goldie's "Inner City Life," most of the music is current. And tucked between major names such as Orbital are a few slightly lesser-known works, including Fluke's deadly "Atom Bomb"; "We All Want to Be Free" from a soulful Tranquility Bass; and Crystal Method's Chemical-ish "Busy Child."
Kudos to Aphex Twin and Atari Teenage Riot, who are still pushing the envelope, even within the narrow confines MTV seems to construct for itself. Same goes for Photek's "Ni Ten Ichi Ryu"--where drum and bass meets Japanese Samurai sound, making the all-important link between electronica and the Japanimation images that often serve as backdrop for dance floors.
But in terms of breaking new ground, AMP is a failure. It's hard to be judgmental, though, given the speed with which trends change; MTV has done a good job in capturing a second in time. If you really want a glimpse of where electronica is at today, try the soundtrack to Spawn, get off your butt and go hear a good DJ spin, or tune in to AMP--Saturday mornings at 1 a.m., and Sunday mornings at 12 a.m. on MTV.