Notes on ISM’s return

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Good news, of sorts. ISM failed in the efforts to kill themselves off, and have decided to restart. ISM is run by knowledgeable, committed people and have always had a distinctive take on house and techno. They can be relied upon for an honest and faithful rendering of their take on music, and I am sure we will all benefit from them assuming a more active presence again. For these reasons, I am certainly happy to see them deciding to keep the blog going. And there is the space, and arguably, the need for ISM to keep going. And this brings me to my more mixed feelings about this news. As ISM noted in announcing one rationale for their return, with the disappearance of the main blogs it ‘left a huge void in music coverage that has only increased in size as we got further away from posting regularly here’. This is most definitely true. It is something I have felt and it is a sentiment that I have heard from many others either online or in person. What disappoints me is that it is left up to ISM to keep fighting the good fight. With SSGS, ISM, LWE and other similar projects winding down, I was really hoping that this would create space for new voices to appear, ones that would be dedicated and engaged, but also brave and critical. And certainly there has been, and continues to be, plenty of excellent writing online, and one can find many specific examples of nuanced positions and proper critique. But it does feel like the space for critically discussing electronic music remains small, and may be shrinking. Instead, we get FACT highfiving Boomkat for its “critical” “reviews”, despite the fact that (a) it does not write reviews but fancy blurbs, because it is a record store selling stuff and (b) related to the previous point, it hypes the shit out of most of the releases that come on out on its own label and those it distributes, while rarely noting it is their own product. There is nothing especially wrong with these practices when considering Boomkat is a record store pushing music they like. I like Boomkat, I give them a lot of my money, probably too much. But we should not be thinking of Boomkat as something else than a record store, and if we are relying on them to call shit out, then online commentary is really getting pretty piss poor. This is just one example of what I see as a more general malaise that electronic music commentary has been suffering from.

My sincere best wishes to the ISM crew on their restart. I still hope they – and the other similar projects that remain dead or dormant – can be a source of inspiration and motivation for another wave of people who see critically engaging with the music they love not as something negative, but as something ultimately constructive, positive and very necessary.

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