Transmission

There’s an article about 808 State in the latest issue of Electronic Sound which opens with a paragraph about the enduring appeal of their breakthrough song Pacific State, a genuine crossover tune and hit record in 1989. The writer describes the song as ‘plucked from that golden age between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11’ (adding that it is something we need ‘to embrace more tightly now in the age of austerity, Brexit and the divide and conquer politics of populism’).

It’s interesting to see the 1990s described as a golden period. Politically the collapse of the Soviet Union was famously declared by US historian Francis Fukuyama as ‘the end of history’, the triumph of western liberal democracy meant that little could prevent it from being the only desirable form of government and the only way to structure society. Fukuyama has rowed back on that since- as you might expect given the War on Terror, the Arab Spring, the financial collapse of the global economy, the right wing populism of Trump and Farage and the swing to authoritarian regimes from Hungary to Turkey. I found myself wondering whether the 1990s really was a golden age. I was 19 when the decade started and 30 when it ended. Your twenties should be a golden period in your life, old enough to do what you want as an adult, young enough not to be weighed down by it all. I remember various attempts to brand the 90s as ‘the 60s upside down’ and there was a tendency at the cusp of 1990 to promote a more spiritual, optimistic spirit for the forthcoming decade. Positivity was much mentioned. Bands went dance, loosened up, wore white, the music was filled with a sense of openness. The Poll Tax was defeated. Thatcher went. Bush followed. The Labour Party and the Democrats were resurgent.

But much of what’s wrong now can be dated to the 90s. Liberal, centre left governments seduced by the power of the market, the blending of public and private in state provision, the sale of assets like the railways to the private sector, the destruction of the social housing stock, the idea that ‘we’re all middle class now’, the belief that commerce would solve all problems, all date from the 90s. The first Gulf War too and the horrors in the Balkans. Balance it up with the freedoms gained by the people of Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990, not to mention what was happening in South Africa at the same time. In the UK there was a genuine sense that music and youth culture were capable of creating community. Many people commented that acid house/rave was partly a response to Thatcher’s declaration that ‘there is no such thing as society’. Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily disagree with the 808 State article and it’s author (Ben Willmott), I like the idea of golden ages, they’re seductive, and I like the idea of one that I lived through and was part of, but the truth is always more complex. Maybe for Ben Willmott and the people he describes responding to Pacific State in 2017, it’s more about nostalgia, memories of youth. For the record, he says it isn’t just nostalgia but something else- futuristic optimism plucked from that time and re-purposed in the present. I think I’m going round in circles now.

You can’t wrong this can you? Wildlife noises, blissed out synths, synapse busting toplines, the rattle and thump of the drum machine and that sax part.

Pacific 202

808 State’s new album Transmission Suite was recorded in the transmission suite at the old Granada Studios building at the bottom of Quay Street in town, the room filled with consoles and equipment and a wall with eighty television screens and the lingering presence of Tony Wilson. The album is fifteen tracks of finely tuned, precision engineered electronic Mancunian dance music, Detroit techno clearly part of its DNA but with an eye on the future and the next step. Futuristic optimism.