What’s the next trend? A question, often poised by those in business and creatives alike, with countless answers each presumed to be worth roughly a million bucks. If you had guessed that tech-house would become mainstream and a multi-million dollar sub-genre, I would applaud you as an A&R and trendsetter (shoutout Ayita Management who truly dominated this wave). Alternatively, I still laugh at the notion that in 2001, hundreds of tech-gurus genuinely believed in and financed the notion that Segways would become the future of transportation. For the purpose of this article, “What’s the next trend?”, can be rephrased:
For the musically inclined individual, what is the next major breakthrough within the tastemaker scene which will then shape the mainstream in the months to come.
Having analyzed electronic music trends for the better part of a decade, I’d argue that the dominant sub genre which steers trends in music rotates annually. In my humble opinion, the last 5 years progressed in roughly the following order:
2014 was dominated by Trap created and curated by artists like What So Not and RL Grime.
2015 was dominated by Future Bass being introduced to indie-pop music which ultimately lead to Flume’s sophomore release, Skin.
2016 was dominated by Future/Deep House albums such as Tchami’s Revelations EP whose production now parallels that of Ariana Grande’s.
2017 was dominated Bass House popularized by Malaa and perfected, in her darker approach, by Rezz.
2018 saw Dirtybird win Mixmag’s label of the decade resulting from their unparalleled success in releasing tech-house at its best. If you ask me, they did so in both the single and album format: the single coming from Fisher and the album, Walker and Royce’s 11-track “Self Help.”
Yes, Mr. or Mrs. Music-Snob-Who-Disagrees-No-Matter-What, it could be argued per your personal taste or random outliers that this order is false but bear with me as this piece serves to predict the NEXT trend and why it matters- not to reflect on the old trends. CUE THE LASERS…
It’s the first official K TREND REPORT.
Original Artwork by Lauren Rush
Tech-house is unique as it is the most prominent electronic sub genre ever to have been popularized in the streaming era. Fisher’s iconic, Grammy nominated, Losing It lives on three major Youtube channels; none of these accounts are affiliated with the artist himself. One channel boasts 13 million views on the track, the other 10 million, and the third 5 million. Impressive numbers to say the least. So why was it so damned successful? Fisher’s release exemplifies what people love about tech-house and makes it easy for the masses to enjoy: first the build, then the one-liner and finally the MASSIVE drop whose horns first shook the west-coast and then the world. No literally…
Back to the original question- “For the musically inclined individual, what is the next major breakthrough within the tastemaker scene which will then shape the mainstream in the months to come?” I point to the question again as it highlights the structure of trends. Tech-house was a lovely change of pace from deep and bass house as its repetitive nature, consistent energy and vocals- often hallucinogenic or extraterrestrial in nature- seemingly don’t grow old to the ear. For the most part, they haven’t… the music is structured to be catchy and thus has mass-appeal. The issue? It is important to note that the cool-factor of music goes worlds beyond the audio. Once videos of “Kenny” from your high school, who called you a loser for listening to dubstep, dancing to the four-on-the-floor with his frat bros in Middle America and losing it at the iconic drop (and then the iconic follow up release and then the follow up after that)… the sound loses much of its appeal to those who recognized it as different and would assert they “made it cool” in the first place.
“Must go darker, must go weirder, and fuck Kenny. What won’t HE like that shares a similar appeal to the tech-house sound?” Time for a hypothetical story- largely based in truth.
At Kenny’s electronic music festival debut, he and his brothers sit excited in their jerseys and bandanas having bought tickets with the primary-intent of seeing Fisher perform their anthems live. As Kenny and his squad’s big moment arrives…
Photo Credit: Andrew Whitton
… The Martinez Brothers erupt into a 2-hour set and the crowd is Kenny free. Less bandanas, more tiny sunglasses.
Less “woop woop-ing” and more piercing whistles. There is a chorus of individuals shouting in both foreign and made-up languages. In 2014, Mixmag deemed the Martinez Brothers the producer duo of the year as no artist “encapsulate[d] house music” as well as they. In 2019, The Kollection is deeming The Martinez Brothers one of the best producer duos of the year as they spearhead a sound yet to be defined: Palatable Techno. When I first saw the Brooklyn duo perform in 2016 at Madrid’s mega-club- Fabrik, the set was heavy and acidic so as to please the euro-crowd and command the massive space in front of them. Years later, two stages down from Kenny and Fisher’s one-way-romance, you can hear the distorted lyrics “I woke up blessed, now you can get dressed” pumping on the off beat of their track in collaboration with Tiga which was produced to sound overly-sped up while simultaneously losing some of its appeal if slowed.
What’s the appeal of this sound to those whimsically flicking their wrists while two-stepping to the beat? When Kenny discovered Tchami and pronounced his name “Ti-calmy,” tech-house became cool. When Kenny discovered Fisher and started screaming “Ya kidding” on his Insta story, the beginning of a new trend was imminent. You get it: tastemakers claim it, it becomes cool, Kenny ruins it. Kenny was nowhere to be seen at the Martinez Brothers set, though who is to say he won’t be in a matter of months or perhaps years. Perhaps his taste will mature or in a more likely situation, the Martinez Brothers will take their place as an artist slowly pulled from the underground to a size and stature which would not be believed possible a decade ago.
The latter situation seems almost like a guarantee when the duo drops their phenomenal re-edit of Lil Yachty’s SaintLaurentYSL featuring Lil Baby. The track- please click play above and listen before reading on- is inexplicably smooth in every sense of the word; the energy in the crowd similar to that of when water bottles are dispersed on a scorching day. It is so smooth that many attendees appear to display a sense of discomfort. The song, to me, sounds like something that anyone in their right mind would and should enjoy. The vocals come in ever so slowly- seemingly oblivious to the fact the opening verse can barely be heard. When the vocals fully form, Lil Yachty’s flow blares out of the speakers with a seemingly Nordic-cadence… at moments phonetically reminiscent of Lil Kleine & Ronnie Flex’s 2015 hit Drank & Drugs (prod. Jack $hirak):
The track does not sacrifice any characteristics of techno with its slow build, subtle additions of quirky noises, and the promise of over 6 minutes of noise building on itself. This remix, released roughly a month ago, has only 22.3k streams on Youtube and 48.3k streams on Soundcloud. Kenny will probably never hear this song, but he will hear countless that sound just like it. Perhaps Fisher will be the one to make it accessible to him or a new pop-culture sensation may surf out of the woodworks. What’s most notable is that The Martinez Brothers have dropped the song which points to my response to, “What’s the next trend?”
Tech-house is inherently easy to listen to in most settings and when played you are more likely to receive praise than complaints. In contrast, Techno is a snobbish genre which relies on meticulous decisions and intricacies which demand a special kind of patience to first enjoy or understand. The stereotypes surrounding Techno’s international culture weaves individualistic and communal tendencies and traditions- you dance alone with others, you dress in all black to blend in with the crowd, and if there are short-lived vocals to sing-along then you can likely learn them by heart before they fade out. There’s a certain beauty in these rituals that some live and die for and others simply will never grasp.
The Martinez Brothers Lil Yachty flip will never be played at Berghain where Techno culture is at its most extreme- it doesn’t fit within the parameters of those dark walls- and to repeat myself, nor will it be played at Kenny’s fraternity. What I strongly predict that it will do is pave the way for an oxymoronic trend that will soon dominate streaming platforms and spark collaborations that many would assert would never happen in this lifetime. Palatable Techno is upon us: a long-form reimagination of those hallucinogenic or extraterrestrial vocals that made us fall in love with tech-house framed by a much faster BPM over a longer period of time.
If I’m correct in my assumptions, Kenny will eventually like this style of music… but do not let that deter you from enjoying the golden era that is soon to come. The possibilities are virtually endless and could prompt sonic-gold: Justin Vernon singing on a Bicep track, Toro y Moi and Lane 8 collaborating on an EP, perhaps even Nina Kraviz producing a tune for Kanye’s next album [note from the editor: Nina Kraviz announced her collaborations with LCD Soundsystem 6 days after the completion of this article]. You will not have to say goodbye to techno as you know it- Berghain will continue to play heavier minimalistic basslines for decades to come. Rather, you will soon welcome a trend fueled by a re-imagination of an existing sound under the guise of a misunderstood genre that the domestic masses will be losing it to in no time at all.