Global Groove Network – Film Review NXNE 2013

The manifesto was the music.  Love is the message”  – Vince Aletti

June 11 2013 – Paradise Garage – NYC, The Warehouse – ChicagoTwilight Zone and Industry –  Toronto.  If these temples of ecstasy were part of your vernacular in the 80’s, then you were a member of an exclusive tribe of beat revellers that succumbed to an insatiable club movement that could only be described as legendary.  Beats saturated your DNA, DJ’s became Gods, and it was all wrapped up in a thumping sound bending odyssey of love.  Filmmaker, Courtney James’s Global Groove Network reclaims the fever that galvanized a subculture as he meticulously chronicles the musical ebbs and flows of a frequently misunderstood, but constantly evolving dance club movement.

The Early Years . . .

Some 35 years ago, the Baby Boomer generation left their lasting legacy on the cultural landscape by giving us an infectious amalgam of Funk and R&B sounds in 4/4 time elevating our subconscious to create Disco.  Iconic stills of the late 70’s trumpeting the who’s who at Studio 54 were a testament to the power of this musical brand.  But, once Disco reached critical mass coupled with a downturn in the economy and subsequent backlash from all side in the record industry, the little engine that could, fell out of favor as its heady days became numbered and Disco became persona non grata. Out of the ashes rose an underground culture of DJ’s starting in the early 80’s lead by the godfather of creation, Francis Grasso, the first modern DJ who stated, “this is my performance.”  This new paradigm opened the doors for the likes of legendary spinners, David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Frankie Knuckles and David Morales to stamp their evangelical vibes on the throngs of beat disciples.

Technology Takes Hold . . .

Ushering in a technological kaleidoscope of transcendental beats, the digital revolution created a new enigmatic state of being that could only be described as House Music.  MIDIMusic Instrument Digital Interface allowed a number of electronic devices to talk to each other paved the way for an unimaginable potpourri of heart thumping groove bending anthems.  While House displayed similar characteristics to Disco music, it was more electronic and minimalist than the former, and the repetitive sometimes tribal rhythms of House in most cases became more important than the song itself. Chicago was the Mecca of this uncontained musical explosion that eventually hot stepped its way into the hipster underground clubs of New York, Detroit and Toronto. The power of House Music  transcended borders and soon the global phenomenon was elevating  DJ’s into deities.  Armin Van-Buuren – Netherlands,  Miss Honey Dijon – New York, Nic Faciulli  and Pete Tong – UK, ATB –  Germany, and Dino &Terry – Toronto were just a few who influenced this subculture of vibe steppers.

The essence for House Music was its uncanny ability to expand globally while still maintaining its subterranean cache. The fact that commercial radio stations won’t play it and mainstream record stores never carried it only pushed the demand in the clubs.   Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, blue chip brands like Coca-Cola, Smirnoff and Benson & Hedges put skin in the game and in one fell swoop upped the anti on the brand. The start of the 90’s ushered in the non conformist powers of Generation X beginning in the UK by pushing the scene once again with a mash up of Electronica, club drugs and synchronized lasers all combining to form the RAVE scene.  It wasn’t long before the North America club kids embraced this new hedonistic expression that rebelled against the establishment. In Canada, its commercial manifestation was further reflected in the wildly popular Electric Circus dance show which was a big proponent of the Gen X movement.

The Science of Sound . . .

The fight for acceptance as a legitimate musical genre has always been an uphill battle when pitted against the traditional forms of classical music. To the skeptics, James enlisted scientific analysis in the form of Dr. Laurel Trainor and Blake Butler in the Department of Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University to determine if the temporal advantages found in classically trained musicians extend to professional DJ’s regarding the rhythmic aspects of music. The Test.  Behavioural constructs within music combined with EEG studies were conducted.   By comparing the control group data to the DJ results in relation to a sequence of rhythmic patterns that when paused for extended periods and then restarted to determine if it was on time or a little early would yield the necessary information.  The Rationale. This task forces DJ’s to internalize the beat even when there was no stimulus.  The Results.  DJ’s were able to pick up beats that came back early better than the control group. The Takeaway. The behaviour data suggest that DJ’s are better at detecting auditory deviations and processing rhythmic changes than the average listener, suggesting there are more neural circuits in their auditor cortex that are devoted to processing rhythm.

Full disclosure when writing this review, this 40 something movie critic savoured the full Twilight Zone / Industry experience back in the 80’s and that’s why Global Groove Network was more of a homecoming of sorts. Long since forgotten jams and club scenes were resurrected before my eyes taking me back to those underground temples in Toronto where collective souls all grooved to the vibe of one beat.  Undertaking a documentary of this magnitude is one thing, getting it right is an entirely different matter altogether.  James raises the bar to Ken Burnsian standards by contextualizing a wealth of musical chapters through the years by bringing insights to a subculture not seen before and for that I am truly thankful.

Verdict: 4.5  / 5: The Global Groove Network is built on 3 distinct roles of human participation: (1) The role of the DJ / Producer, (2) The legions of influential party goers and (3) the people who facilitate these events, aka Promoters. Filmmaker Courtney James’s zeal for all aspect of this subculture shines bright as a historical anthology that enlightens as it entertains. From Ibiza to the UK Underground, Germany to the Winter Music Conference in Miami, the Global Groove Network taps into the essence of what made a movement a joyous existence of shared experiences that allows us to recognize each other as one on the dance floor.

 TAKE IT TO THE FLOOR! . . . never sounded so good.

Review and Photos – John Dash
T-Mak World: Toronto’s Site for Music, Movies and Culture
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