Everyone is a critic, but not everyone does the research. The All Music Guide to Electronica is easily the strongest example of people who have done their homework. Brought to you by the handy folks in Ann Arbor who run the online All Music Guide (www.allmusicguide.com), it is easily the best guide yet on these overflowing and omnipresent musics.
Built up by young, interested and willing writers, many from the Detroit area, the 1.5-inch thick guide is being touted as the “largest published guide to electronic music,” with entries that scour genres and countries for the premier mainstream and underground electronic acts. Alongside artists such as Detroit’s Big Three (Saunderson, May, Atkins), Finnish minimalist genius Vladislav Delay and house legend Masters At Work, there also are selections based on influence (Devo, Miles Davis, the Electrifying Mojo) and current avant-garde rock appeal (Godspeed You Black Emperor and Piano Magic).
The only misstep here is having the book at all. The online version is both a more flowing and more pleasing experience than the book, mainly because, like the music it explores, it is electronic and not subject to tomelike qualities. But more to the point, one gets the feeling flipping through this book, like any of the rock books that have come before it, from Lillian Roxon to Trouser Press, that the solidification of music in print is about as unrockin’ a move as can be made. But even if none of these lists, style essays or genre maps are truly exhaustive (how could they be?), controlling the discourse and making sure it’s accurate is completely legitimate cultural politics. And as long as members of the 734/313/248 continue to take the snapshots, I ain’t complaining.
Carleton S. Gholz writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org.