Futuromania: Electronic Dreams, Desiring Machines and Tomorrow’s Music Today by Simon Reynolds - review by Kevin Lozano

Kevin Lozano

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Futuromania: Electronic Dreams, Desiring Machines and Tomorrow’s Music Today

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White Rabbit 416pp £25
 

When I was a young music critic, the first piece of writing I got paid for concerned a compilation album devoted to what was billed as an underground genre of South African club music called gqom. It was loud, forceful and, above all, to Western ears new. As the Scottish producer Kode9 put it, this music, mostly emerging from the city of Durban, gave one the feeling of ‘being suspended over the gravitational field of a black hole, and lovin’ it’. And where did this music come from? A local musician included in the compilation explained that ‘some unknown guy from elokishini, the ghetto, got hold of production software and began experimenting and making something he could dance to, and gqom was born’. I can still remember a troll on Facebook sneeringly asking ‘what the hell’ I would know about this music. 

In 2011, Simon Reynolds, writing for the now-defunct website MTV Iggy, tried to explain ‘the impulse to seek out’ sounds that may have ‘existed for decades’ but were entirely new to listeners in the West. It was driven, he wrote, by a ‘future-hunger’ stimulated by the feeling that rock and pop were ‘stagnant and stalled’. To ‘escape the dead end’ of music’s present, one could ‘get … outside the Western narrative altogether and explore all the elsewheres now accessible like never before’.

Reynolds dubbed this phenomenon ‘xenomania’, a previously unseen form of music consumption and fandom made possible by the internet and the beginning of streaming. He identified the growing cohort of xenomaniacs (to which I belonged) as a generation ‘whose consciousness is post-geographical as well as post-historical’ and wrote of ‘a

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