Old is new

2013 has seen a couple of big acts release new albums and, while I haven't listened to them, I've been observing the debates on a couple of websites.

It's interesting to see how some artists stir these conversations with comments that appear calculated, such as Daft Punk's dismissive attitude toward laptop musicians:
The problem with the way to make music today, these are turnkey systems; they come with preset banks and sounds.

I can relate to this. I've found using analogue synths provides richer sounds than software synths but also because I've found my laptop to be a fascinating way of experimenting with sounds once I stopped using the samples.

However, my interest in raising this discussion is to provide a slightly different perspective. While I think Daft Punk's disco shows their age a bit and, though I like disco, it seems a very sentimental direction for a duo who I liked for making techno that harked back to earlier days.

When I first read about postmodernism it was framed as a carnivorous approach that took the aesthetics of movements and reworked them away from such anchors as context. Taking meaning and making it a spectacle freed from result from the needing to deliver a message.

It was suggested the opposing view to postmodernism was romanticism, which prefers sincerity and authenticity, but once irony had been unleashed it was hard not to be skeptical.

When reading Peter Kirn's diatribe against Daft Punk, my Facebook reply focused on how it's a PR technique to draw distinctions between your record and those of contemporaries. But I think Daft Punk's focus on using older machines to make new music is similar to those trends you see in apps where a simple device is given an older look or character.

Software effects have been making VSTs with graphics that reflect old hardware for a long time but the rise of photography filters that mimic old polaroids or the faded brown tones of grainy photographs have been very popular.

Which reminds me a bit of Boards of Canada's aesthetic, known for warbling sounds of tape dubs and the like. It's interesting some listeners say it sounds too digital. Reading an interview with band just now and the interviewer started a question:
In the context of history, we live in an age of unparalleled science and rationality. But despite this, religion and ideas of mysticism – along with other fringe concerns such as conspiracy, etc – continue to thrive.

Part of the appeal in such narratives is they're easy to understand. As technology revolutionises various aspects of our lives, the demand to stay current competes with many other demands. So I'm wondering if the marketing of devices by giving them an old, familiar look isn't a way of selling a product to an audience who are feeling increasingly hostile to having to learn new technology?

In a way this would be furthering the postmodernity of it all too, because the apps never really fully capture the physical model. Sometimes it's the results, sometimes it's the interface, sometimes it's the way they're slavishly imitating hardware but avoiding the key details to avoid infringement.

Which leads to this weird deja vu feeling. Like the sequels and updated myths in franchise movies, there's a sense the meaning and authenticity of an original spirals away into infinite semiosis -- as meaning shifts in each incarnation and floats further from the definition anchoring it.

Daft Punks interpretation of disco harks back to an age that never really existed.