Guide to Writing about Music Genres Part 1: Tech House

Writing About Music That Goes Doof Doof

For the dance music writer, there are a number of challenges that present themselves daily – impossible deadlines, savage editors, the comments section (*shudder) and lack of ideas, concepts or even words. However, by far the most difficult task facing anyone writing in dance music today, is finding the language with which to describe and discuss Tech House.

Tech House has come a long way since its birth in the London underground (club scene, not train service), and is now the go-to genre of choice for most ‘super’ clubs in the world. Grizzled old DJs from back in the day will tell you that the Tech House that is around now isn’t real Tech House and the Tech House that they used to play, that’s the real Tech House that is. And you’d have fallen asleep before they’d finished.

But the insistent kick drum of tech house is everywhere. Every club, every festival, every bar: tech house. Boom tiss boom tiss. DJs play it, producers make it, clubbers film the DJs playing it – so inevitably, people who write about dance music have to write about it. The end of the year is when it becomes most difficult. Journalists agree to write loads of end of year round ups and charts for their clients, before remembering that this means they have just agreed to find 100 different ways to describe records that go bmm tss bmm tss, and 100 ways to describe producers that make records that go bmm tss bmm tss.

Start With Some Words

So, for all you budding reviewers and bloggers, here’s a handy guide to writing about that most generic of genres Tech House. First, you’re going to need some words. The following adjectives have all been officially sanctioned by the DJ regulatory body OFFSPIN as acceptable for describing tech house:

‘deep’, ‘dark’, ‘driving’, ‘definitive’, ‘relentless’, ‘rolling’, ‘off-kilter’, ‘twisted’

As we can see, there is a clear bias towards words beginning with ‘d’ at the expense of other, less showy letters. Pick one of the adjectives above, then two of the nouns below:

‘dance floor’, ‘bass bin’, ‘beats’, ‘sound system’, ‘speakers’, ‘groove’, ‘dancers’, ‘club’, ‘breakdown’, ‘white noise’

Some music words will be useful: ‘kick’, ‘hats’, ‘snare’, ‘pads’,’fx’, ‘chords’, ‘bass’, that sort of thing. Also, a note about the word ‘undulating’. You can use it, but only as a preface to the word ‘bassline’ and never in any other context.

You can reference one of three cities: Berlin, Detroit, or Chicago. If you want to be clever you could mention South London and San Francisco too, but no one likes a smartass.

Then you’ll need some superlatives:  ‘filthiest’, ‘finest’, ‘toughest’, ‘funkiest’, and some overblown expressions like ‘tear the roof off’, ‘smash it up’ and such.  Then you put them all together along with  your favourite Tech House song title, artist or remixer, and you’ll have your own Tech House review:

  • DJ Dungeon Master drops yet another rolling tech house banger, guaranteed to sound superb on a big system and keep the dance floor happy till the next breakdown
  • ‘I don’t even know what Generic means mate’ by DJ Dungeon Master is a rolling groover, with relentless Chicago house snares underpinned by a deep, dark bass.
  • More off-kilter beats and deep dancefloor destruction from DJ Dungeon Master, featuring Detroit-esque pads and a twisted bassline to take the roof off.

Essentially, all the terms above are interchangeable – so for example, for one artist the snares could be relentless, but for the next it might be the groove that’s relentless. Finally, you can always shoe-horn in something about the unique results that come from melding the groove of house with the asceticism of techno, that’s always good when you’re stuck for something to say.

Next time, we’ll be looking at how to write about Tropical House without swearing.