Which is why electronic music can produce such wild individualists. From Aphex Twin to Jeff Mills to Björk to Goldie, our world has nurtured some of the biggest, strangest and most flamboyant characters of all, and, of course, some of the furthest-out music. And as dance culture gets ever more globalised, the boundaries between what is experimentalist and what is mainstream get more blurred, too. Alright, EDM is still mainly the province of obvious spectacle, but step outside that and even in the global DJ first division, there’s plenty of oddness. Ricardo Villalobos’s music sounds like nothing on earth, while Nina Kraviz can bring hardcore acid, Aphex Twin glitch-outs and the mysteries of Drexciya to mass audiences. At dance music festivals you can see the likes of ANHONI and Fever Ray performing on the big stages next to your favourite rappers or DJs. And further below the surface, industrial techno, constantly rejuvenated by labels like Perc Trax and Leyla, keeps a flow of vicious noise circulating through the global club ecosystem – while shattered club music variants on labels like PAN, NON, Halcyon Veil, Fade 2 Mind, Objects LTD and dozens of others pumps out awkward, intriguing sounds, laden with questions about race, sexuality and more.
“When the going gets weird,” as Hunter S Thompson famously put it, “the weird turn pro” – though even Thompson might have baulked at just how weird the world of self-driving cars, Cambridge Analytica and Donald Trump is now getting. But if our culture has any value, its in its ability to fight back with its own weirdness. And where ‘the weird’ in Thompson’s time often just meant white dudes with high drug tolerance and a cowboy hat, 21st century club culture is – for all its commercial pressures – once again creating spaces where weirdos of all shapes can be part of the avant-garde. Of course, not everyone has to be that – just as not everyone wants to listen to eight hours of Autechre jams on repeat – but even if your personal tastes don’t get wilder than a four-to-the-floor beat and staying up a little past your bedtime, you should still be proud to be part of a wider culture that waves its freak flag high and free.
Joe Muggs is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter