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Question: Do you think 90s electronic music sounds "worse"/"better" than contemp.?
Old 7th July 2019
  #1
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Question: Do you think 90s electronic music sounds "worse"/"better" than contemp.?

Question: Do you think 90s electronic music sounds "****tier"/"better" than contemporary?

I've been in the belief that the 90s sound is thicker and ofter "classily dark". Whereas modern productions have tended to sound "harsh" and been compositionally lazier.

Lately I've been adjusting my judgement about my hearing and switched to thinking that, what if the 90s sound is actually:

-Lower fidelity

Where as the contemporary sound is:

-Higher fidelity

And that people prefer lower fidelity is some kind of psychological "bias". That they tend to find "****tier sound" nicer? Even if it's still objectively speaking "****tier". Since it has been produced with lower fidelity gear.

Regarding composition, well, could it be possible that given the gear limitations, the guys spent more time in honing their sequencing skills, rather than "select which edit technique to use and plug-in to use and whatever bs". It has been argued elsewhere that having more options open doesn't necessarily translate to "better results". Awesome music can be produced using a few samplers. Constraints given by gear could lead to "different thinking".
Old 7th July 2019
  #2
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I think the hook/melody are the most important things, and no matter how abstract, the combination of those and the time passed is the key to why so many of those classic nineties dance tracks still live on today.
Old 7th July 2019
  #3
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Things glued together well back then.Almost as if it had been printed to tape but probably was'nt (well less and less towards the end but people still had that asthetic) Big fairly cohesive subculture (?) back then too.Kinda gon all mega globalized now.Something different.
Old 7th July 2019
  #4
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There are some really lazy 90s tracks.

Three quick hot takes:

1) Without that 90s music we wouldn't have had our newer stuff, or something completely different, and not necessarily better or worse.
2) You'll always remember the good and gloss over the bad.
3) "lower fidelity gear" - when I listen to the Prodigy's "Experience" I'm not really listening to a 28kHz sampler or a cheap Mackie mixer. I'm listening to a lot of raw energy and creative sampling. When I listen to Selected Ambient Works 85-92 I'm not listening to a cheap Quadraverb and a Roland MT-32, I'm listening to (again) a lot of raw energy and a desire to kick the hornet's nest.

The gear is simply something you had to make do with, and the early 90s are mostly depressing in the sense that lots of boards were the black romplers of Roland and Yamaha and demos that were all programmed by the same handful of dudes who wanted to show off their mullets.
Old 7th July 2019
  #5
Gear Head
"Clean" electronic music often sounds boring. The 90ies music had a lot of dirt in it, making it more "real", more "alive".

I don't know though if I am just conditioned to that, and when born today and used to todays digital perfection I would consider the old stuff just noisy.
Old 7th July 2019
  #6
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I still feel more care and attention was paid to melody and instrumentalism in the 90s, in electronic music. Once computers "made it easy", the naiveté was lost.
Old 7th July 2019
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post
Question: Do you think 90s electronic music sounds "****tier"/"better" than contemporary?

I've been in the belief that the 90s sounds is thicker and ofter "classily dark". Whereas modern productions have tended to sound "harsh" and been compositionally lazier.
The only difference between 90's and today is that back then there was no Ultramaximizer plugin.
Old 7th July 2019
  #8
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There are many things I could offer, none of which would be positive.
Old 7th July 2019
  #9
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Still sounds way better compared to most crap that people release nowadays.
Old 7th July 2019
  #10
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90s electronic music sounds obviously worse.
a lot of recordings sound like they are playing from cassette (vomiting smiley here), and high freqs are so saturated that sound almost like pink noise

but no one really cares, because in general 90s electronic music was much more interesting.
Old 7th July 2019
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by sycokay View Post
"Clean" electronic music often sounds boring. The 90ies music had a lot of dirt in it, making it more "real", more "alive".

I don't know though if I am just conditioned to that, and when born today and used to todays digital perfection I would consider the old stuff just noisy.
I went to a lot of raves in the 90s and those people were audio freaks. And druggies yes but you have to experience it to understand it. In that altered state the huge resonating frequencies hit you better than any smart phone or computer could (hahA). They were tailed designed to sound great on the huge rave warehouse sound systems, and I got the feel that there were people who spent all day (getting high and making sound frequencies?) to put out that kind of rave music. It was just a realization. Listening to mind blowing sounds/music/frequencies for hours straight for an entire night, and not just listening but feeling experiencing and dancing. Mind blowing.

I listen to Florida Breakbeats now and missed that breakbeat scene but from the comments on YT their experiences... for them it was life changing. It was about the vibe the music gave, and the whole scene. I'm approaching the latter half of my life, and nearing the end (last 50%) of my earth life & time here. So
it's important I leave super high nice music behind. But I know what I remember. And the 90s music was in no way noisy. Acid sounded way better than anything I've listened to online but maybe because I was high. But it sounded good to me, and I was always into sound no matter what reality. But from what I remember IF it was noisy, it was supposed to be that way and sounded darn good. I dont ever remember "harsh" at any raves. That would have been not good - total party vibe killer. I do remember lots of warm bass, and the acid could get really high/harsh but it was supposed to be, and that was so amazing.

THIS is the experience I'm looking for. All about vibe. Doesnt have to be the most amazing. Doesnt need to be really detailed. Just needs attitude. Character. Just something cool, with a really nice vibe we can all dance to. Back then it wasnt about correcting (someone elses perspective etc), it was about inclusion and simply experiencing.

Here to the old days (glasses up!!!), not because this tune is in some way amazing but just because it's happy. People knew how to be happy then before the world got all complicated.

Old 7th July 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
There are some really lazy 90s tracks.

Three quick hot takes:

1) Without that 90s music we wouldn't have had our newer stuff, or something completely different, and not necessarily better or worse.
2) You'll always remember the good and gloss over the bad.
3) "lower fidelity gear" - when I listen to the Prodigy's "Experience" I'm not really listening to a 28kHz sampler or a cheap Mackie mixer. I'm listening to a lot of raw energy and creative sampling. When I listen to Selected Ambient Works 85-92 I'm not listening to a cheap Quadraverb and a Roland MT-32, I'm listening to (again) a lot of raw energy and a desire to kick the hornet's nest.
.
Point 3 bang on, mate! It wasn't about the gear.
Old 7th July 2019
  #13
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ModMatrix's Avatar
It's a mistake to paint "90's" electronic music with too broad of a brush. A lot happened during the 90's as far as electronic music goes. And there was vastly different levels of quality even within genres.

I will say, not much has happened since IMO. Of course, high end digital recording has become accessible to everyone, but creatively, I don't see much (if anything) new.

So better? Yes and No. It's not really a binary choice.
Old 7th July 2019
  #14
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Really breaking it down into some generalized eras, you can look at electronic music production separated into two categories: mainstream/big budget and underground/low budget.

For mainstream:

19??-late 1990s/early 2000s

In this era of mainstream music you had electronic instruments of varying quality being recorded via the standard high tech methods of recording (console, tape, lots of analog processing, etc). Obviously early in this division you had expensive synths and tape machines along with some DIY built equipment, while later you had increasing amounts of consumer bought music store level equipment but all captured in approximately the same way you’d produce and record live instruments. Mixed in there later was using computers for multitracking ala early pro tools etc but still almost exclusively recorded the “professional” way in big studios. This music would then be released in all common higher fidelity formats like vinyl, 8 track, cassette, and then CD.

IMO this style of electronic music production is probably the best sounding overall and holds up today quite well.

Early 00s-today

In this era of mainstream music you see less pro studios, less and less physical equipment in favor of plugins, and more reliance on the “unlimited” tracks of “highest quality” sound that computer production allows. Post production processes like mixing and mastering could still be done in pro setups with outboard equipment but it wasn’t required. I’d guess this happens less and less as we move forward. This music was released mostly on CD and then direct to digital formats especially lossy MP3 and other compressed formats.

For my ears this isn’t sounding great and isn’t going to age as well. This is the era of technology pushing the loudness wars to its limit. More abrasive highs, crazy levels of individual track compression and processing as well as heavy multiband processing and of course the ubiquitous side chaining etc.

For underground:

Late 1960s-late 1990s/early 2000s

In this era of underground electronic music you see a lot of DIY and small studio produced music. Starting with lower end reel to reel tape early and moving into cassette multitracks in the late 70s, this type of production was common throughout the 80s and into the 90s. Some changes occurred with the introduction of other consumer priced ADAT and DAT tape which could be used for multitracking or final mixdowns respectively. The equipment used varied but leaned cheaper as such gear became available and even moreso as it became available second hand. Samplers were increasingly used as a shortcut to have more complex arrangements and layer in more sounds despite having a smaller amount of equipment. Low end mixers and less FX/processing/compression is more common than not. Releases would be on vinyl and cassette, often on DIY labels or very small indie labels, and then some CD releases for bigger artists.

Obviously there is a lot of variation here, with some records sounding very “pro” and others sounding very grimy. Overall this variety helps keep the music sounding non-homogenized. Different genres would utilize different equipment for specific sounds that were common only to that genre. This generally is a very good thing IMO and this music mostly still sounds interesting at the very least, even if the quality was not objectively amazing.

Early 00s-today

This sees underground electronic music starting to play on the same field as mainstream electronic music. All the same movement towards computers and plug in instruments, FX, and compression is present here but with less and less reliance on any outboard sound generation or processing. This music is released almost exclusively digitally direct to MP3 and WAV file.

Just like in mainstream music, sound-wise this is not a great era thanks to heavy compression especially in the name of loudness wars. The divisions between underground and mainstream are less and less as there is minimal difference in how music is made, finished, and released.

—————

If I was going to make a generalization about the 90s it would mostly be for the underground as that is the most distinctively different sound. It is the sound of a small handful of old analog synths and drum machines that were acquired cheaply mixed with a sampler that is used to layer and process sounds, freeing up that small number of boxes to be used again and again, all mixed on a consumer level small mixing desk with some cheap rack mounted FX boxes. This would be sequenced via a computer or hardware sequencer and then either multitracked to cassette or live mixdown directly to DAT. Overall there would be less compression (though that depends on genre), and it would then be released on vinyl via an independent label.

As far as I am concerned, this is the best era in terms of music quality and sound put together. Limitations in equipment and budget forced creativity, and there was not such a homogenous attachment to high quality sound. This led to more experimentation with fidelity, as well as a more varied listening experience overall.

The way I see it is that these techniques and limitations have more to do with why this sound is interesting to your ears than the specific equipment used. So you can approach things from a different perspective and still use modern tools but get different sounding results. You just have to commit to not wanting to sound like everybody else. Which feels more and more rare these days.
Old 7th July 2019
  #15
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I feel like the biggest difference is that our tools are too good now. like it can sound very very clean, maybe too clean, now everyone can put their tracks through any number of effects and analyzers and pretend they're a mastering pro.

I do feel like there's this....sort of...overly-effected, "fill-in-all-the-frequencies" sort of sound you get today. Perhaps its a low-fi vs high-fi thing, but I don't even think it's strictly that. I feel like it's the same way many of us have no trouble telling VA from real analog. You can just "hear" this quality, It's an almost...let's call it plastic-like quality for lack of better words, just, every dot was connected, everything seems "filled in" so to speak...nothing raw, nothing unfiltered...

it makes me long for the days of tape sometimes, lol. plenty of amazing stuff done on a 4track or what not....
Old 7th July 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xero View Post
I feel like the biggest difference is that our tools are too good now. like it can sound very very clean, maybe too clean, now everyone can put their tracks through any number of effects and analyzers and pretend they're a mastering pro.

I do feel like there's this....sort of...overly-effected, "fill-in-all-the-frequencies" sort of sound you get today. Perhaps its a low-fi vs high-fi thing, but I don't even think it's strictly that. I feel like it's the same way many of us have no trouble telling VA from real analog. You can just "hear" this quality, It's an almost...let's call it plastic-like quality for lack of better words, just, every dot was connected, everything seems "filled in" so to speak...nothing raw, nothing unfiltered...

it makes me long for the days of tape sometimes, lol. plenty of amazing stuff done on a 4track or what not....
Yep
Old 8th July 2019
  #17
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Old 8th July 2019
  #18
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I don't know but I liked 90s music much more, with orbital, klf, prodigy, fsol, etc even technotronic and snap

Nowadays everything is quite ****
Old 8th July 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xero View Post
I feel like the biggest difference is that our tools are too good now. like it can sound very very clean, maybe too clean, now everyone can put their tracks through any number of effects and analyzers and pretend they're a mastering pro.

I do feel like there's this....sort of...overly-effected, "fill-in-all-the-frequencies" sort of sound you get today. Perhaps its a low-fi vs high-fi thing, but I don't even think it's strictly that. I feel like it's the same way many of us have no trouble telling VA from real analog. You can just "hear" this quality, It's an almost...let's call it plastic-like quality for lack of better words, just, every dot was connected, everything seems "filled in" so to speak...nothing raw, nothing unfiltered...

it makes me long for the days of tape sometimes, lol. plenty of amazing stuff done on a 4track or what not....
It's a funny thing. A lot of new records I like, well I do get a bit fatigued by them if cranked loud in the car or listening on headphones. Sometimes though I appreciate the clean of new stuff too. I really like the last Moon Boots record, it's clean and not too fatiguing either.

I have spent the majority of my recording music period of my life recording to tape. 3340 & A77 and then later a 4 track 1/2" A80. I know pretty well at this point what tape sounds like and am very happy to work on digital. It's not easy, tape really does some work for you and makes cymbals sound great automatically.

I find a lot of the 90's so overrated. Not all of it though, sometimes you forget how good some of it is. I listened to David Holmes "This films crap let's slash the seats" the other night and remembered what a genius that guy is.
Old 8th July 2019
  #20
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I think some of the limitations back then affected the music in a good way. There's something to be said for not having the ability to put an eq, or compressor on every channel and slam the hell out of the master. I think the biggest difference though is I was in my twenties for the entirety of the 90's so like was easier and all about music and fun.
Old 8th July 2019
  #21
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I think 90s Eurodance was the absolute low point of all music. No current EDM garbage could possibly inspire dry heaves in me the way that stuff does (edit: actually now that I think about it later, LMFAO are just as bad). EDM at its worst is merely boring, not offensively terrible. And there's nothing wrong with the sound of contemporary electronic music; it's certainly less bad sounding than crappy 90s drum loops and Roland JV presets. I can't really listen to stuff like The Orb or KLF now because it sounds dated and cheesy to me. It's pointless to fixate on gear or recording techniques or to suggest that we've somehow "lost" something. But in a lot of ways I feel like the ideas aren't there. Nothing really blows my mind the way Warp Records stuff did when I was in high school. Maybe I've just outgrown it, or I'm setting the bar too high, but I feel like much of the current stuff is excessively backward looking or not sufficiently ambitious. I'd rather listen to jazz fusion or something.

Last edited by acreil; 8th July 2019 at 02:29 PM..
Old 8th July 2019
  #22
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I find most 90s electronic music to be boring and repetitive, regardless of sound quality. It often seems like a 2 minute song plays three times.

There's certainly a lot of crap out there now, but there's a lot of great stuff too.

I think one of the main differences is that most 90s electronic music was produced specifically for raves and clubs, while today it's for streaming through headphones and car systems.
Old 8th July 2019
  #23
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Eurodance was the best music ever. Roses are Red, Bailando by Paradisio, What is Love, It's My Life by Dr. Alban, - there are countless songs which still bring tears to my eyes. I was a kid then, though.

Out of the recent times I value 2007-2012 period most - with bands like Justice, Neon Indian and Chromeo. Maybe it's a generational thing - I understand their music and influences as if they are my own. Out of current wave there are fantastic musicians. Yesterday I was at Sophie's (of PC Music) performance which was amazing.

Speaking of sound quality, I think that 90's expensive studios and experienced sound engineers are now balanced by wide availability of clean digital recording, so it's hard to say what is better. It's different.
Old 8th July 2019
  #24
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To me, a big difference is in the stereo imaging. T

Personally, I still listen to lots of 90’s electronic music. Yeah, sometimes it seems dated, from a certain, technical point of view, but also timeless. I’m thinking of FSOL - Papa New Guinea, which I’m listening to right now. Yeah, the breaks and beats seem kind of data, but the song still hits hard. It’s beautiful. And epic.

I also think of a lot of Basic Channel and Maurizio. I mean, people STILL try to cop their style and fail, myself included.

And some of that trance and Goa trance, like Man with No Name, and Juno Reactor. Ok, so I had a few beers a few minutes ago, but TIP, Flying Rhino, Blue Room - some really epic and absolutely brain melting tacks. I’ve got to dig them up again.

Can’t forget Leftfield, Black Dog, and of course Orbital. Orbital 2 and Diversions. My mates brother from Hayward’s Heath near Brighton in the UK moved to Tokyo and we drove around the city banging Orbital. Changed my life.

And yeah, Aphex. Man, the memories of SAW 85-92. Heard it at a record shop in Oxford for the first time in 94.

I guess it’s also a function of our age and the time. The internet is great in a lot of ways, but discovery, it’s at the same time too hard and too easy. Does anybody get that? I miss heading to the record shop and being hit by the unexpectedness. 1996 at the Cisco Techno shop in Shibuya, and I heard Mr. James Barth. I was 20.

Anyway, listening to Leftism now. Still epic and hits hard.

Sometimes I think today’s music, it hits soft. You know, Maurizio, M07a and M04a come to mind, chill and soft but hits hard. Nowadays the music can be maximal and wide and complex but it hits soft. Okay, so I put on M04a now and again I’m like whoa. Never gets old.

But modern music can still be good. Some of the newer Orb. And James Blake CMYK. Dope. Claro Intelecto.

But I guess a lot of the freshness will forever be in the 90s. Most of now is kind of derivative. And everything get played out faster.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Transistores View Post
Eurodance was the best music ever. Roses are Red, Bailando by Paradisio, What is Love, It's My Life by Dr. Alban, - there are countless songs which still bring tears to my eyes. I was a kid then, though.

Out of the recent times I value 2007-2012 period most - with bands like Justice, Neon Indian and Chromeo. Maybe it's a generational thing - I understand their music and influences as if they are my own. Out of current wave there are fantastic musicians. Yesterday I was at Sophie's (of PC Music) performance which was amazing.

Speaking of sound quality, I think that 90's expensive studios and experienced sound engineers are now balanced by wide availability of clean digital recording, so it's hard to say what is better. It's different.
Yes man! I totally relate.
Old 8th July 2019
  #25
As much as I hated most 90's electronic music (novelty techno, big beat, trance, whatever else) it was also the decade that almost all of the good IDM came out in, which might be enough to rank it as my second favorite decade behind the 70's.
Old 8th July 2019
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transistores View Post
Out of the recent times I value 2007-2012 period most - with bands like Justice, Neon Indian and Chromeo. Maybe it's a generational thing - I understand their music and influences as if they are my own.
Same here. But I think that's because of my age. I listened to a lot of Danger in that period too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by abluesky View Post
And yeah, Aphex. Man, the memories of SAW 85-92.
Just the thought of SAW gives me chills. Only a few other records like some of Manuel Gottsching's or Cluster's work effects me in that way.
Old 8th July 2019
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acreil View Post
I think 90s Eurodance was the absolute low point of all music. No current EDM garbage could possibly inspire dry heaves in me the way that stuff does.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transistores View Post
Eurodance was the best music ever. Roses are Red, Bailando by Paradisio, What is Love, It's My Life by Dr. Alban, - there are countless songs which still bring tears to my eyes. I was a kid then, though.


Eurodance is one of my guiltiest pleasures but I'm not going to pretend it is high culture.

The EDMized versions (Klaas vs Haddaway - What Is Love 2K9) combine the worst of both, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acreil View Post
I'd rather listen to jazz fusion or something.
Is jazz fusion now also guilty pleasure? I love pre-DX7 Chick Corea. (post-DX7 is tolerable to a point)

Quote:
Speaking of sound quality, I think that 90's expensive studios and experienced sound engineers are now balanced by wide availability of clean digital recording, so it's hard to say what is better. It's different.
There is now so much more knowledge available and a darwinian pressure to get things to sound mindblowing.
Old 8th July 2019
  #28
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we have to go back
Old 8th July 2019
  #29
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not better or worse, just different. a lot of rubbish as well as gems made in every decade.

is this like some inferiority complex thing or something? someone thinks the nineties was a height of musical achievements and there is no way to reach such heights anymore?
Old 8th July 2019
  #30
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Once thing is for sure, we were making music back then and not wondering online which era was better.
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