Thursday, August 9, 2007
Energy Flash is issued in its expanded/updated form in America in May 2012 via Soft Skull. Because the original Generation Ecstasy was an abridged version of the UK edition, this is the first time it's been available here in its full-length form; it also has the 40 thousand extra words, covering developments in the 2000s, that were added to the UK-only 2008 anniversary edition.
About the book
25 years since electronic dance music and Ecstasy revolutionized pop culture, Simon Reynolds’ landmark history of rave is available for the first time in America in uncut form and bearing its original title Energy Flash. A longtime writer about rock and rap, Reynolds started watching––and partaking in––the rave movement in 1991, experiencing firsthand ecstasy’s sense-heightening and adrenalin-surging effects on the music and the scene. In telling the story, Reynolds goes way beyond straight music history, mixing interviews with participants, DJs, and producers with ultra-vivid description of the ever-changing sounds of the dance underground, social analysis, theory-fueled speculation, and personal reminiscence.Blending sharply observed reporting, probing research and passionate opinion in the style of the acclaimed postpunk history Rip It Up and Start Again, Reynolds guides the reader on a thrilling journey from the birth of house and techno in 1980s Chicago and Detroit, through the druggy daze of Ibiza and Manchester, deep into London’s pirate radio underworld of jungle and drum & bass, then on to the hedonistic chaos of America’s East Coast and West Coast rave scenes. Picking up the story in the 21st Century, the new chapters added for this edition track the scenes and sounds that have kept electronic music at the vanguard of pop culture, from trance to grime and electro to dubstep.
Praise for Energy Flash a/k/a Generation Ecstasy by Simon Reynolds
from FACT magazine's 10 Electronic Music Books You Need To Read (April 2012) : "Reynolds’ Energy Flash is indispensable. It was the first, and remains the only, book to subject dance music to serious, searching critical investigation without once losing sight of the brashness, hedonism and hooligan opportunism that has informed some of the culture’s greatest innovations. Reynolds is warmly authoritative on everything from Detroit techno to Dutch gabba, but it’s the section on hardcore that inspires his most luminous, lyrical and insightful analysis."
[from Pitchfork's Words and Music: Our 60 Favourite Music Books] "Generation Ecstasy is the abridged American version of Energy Flash, British critic Simon Reynolds' definitive postmortem of 90s rave culture. But it's still 390 pages of close analysis, lively interviews, and epic descriptions of the reflexive textures of music and drugs. Documentary evidence in the form of names, places, and dates accumulates with dizzying force. With robust back matter including deep bibliographies and listening recommendations, it's a comprehensive trial-by-fire for techno novices. Splicing social history and critical theory with a personal conversion narrative, Reynolds tracks the mercurial development of house and techno back and forth across the Atlantic-- through countless archipelagos of subgenres-- with firm precision. He shows how rave music, though fundamentally "for dancing," was also a collective autobiography, reflecting its drug-fueled community's initial rush of optimistic bliss, slide into gloominess and paranoia, and eventual "debauched extremity." Throughout it all, Reynolds remains devoted to the transcendent ideal of the audience as the star, symbiotically one with each other and the music. The book begins by describing his awakening from "rockism," and from the zealously ideological vantage of the convert, he makes some passionate and provocative arguments about the more cerebral strains of electronic music. (IDM is... racist?) This openly biased humanity is part of what makes the book great. Reynolds combines the scholar's informed perspective with the fan's lived experience in a work of history that feels truly alive. You can feel the beat in it."--Brian Howe, Pitchfork.
"Energy Flash by Simon Reynolds isn't ideal bedtime reading. The book is brilliant,but it's so evocative & stimulating I can't fall asleep."--P. Cumming, Glasgow, reader.
"No one curious about pop-music culture, especially as it has developed after the end of rock ’n’ roll's hegemony, should miss Reynolds’s holistic history of electronic music and rave. The writing is sharp and accessible, mapping the varied trajectories of dance music (from disco to techno to drum ’n’ bass and so on). Equally important is Reynolds’s interest in the organization and folkways of rave culture, a significant underground movement that fostered many ideas about social networks and the way people commune—with and without drugs like ecstasy—in the computer age."--Andy Battalgia, Bookforum.
"Rave music and dance culture, the subjects, by subtitular admission, of this edition of Energy Flash, updated for the 20th anniversary of the dawn of Acid House, bore me absolutely sideways. Whatever exposure I’ve had to the music, invariably accidental, has prompted incredulous reflections on the quantity of mind-altering substances one would need to ingest to find the racket bearable, never mind enjoyable... So, while it may seem somewhat backhanded, the news that I was absorbed by all 500-odd pages of Energy Flash should be read as the highest imaginable praise. Reynolds traces the genre’s development from its origins in Detroit, New York and Chicago, through its climactic budding in the motorway-side paddocks of Britain in the late 80s and early 90s, to its fractious, twitchy, even sinister comedown – a trajectory not dissimilar to that experienced by those who consume ecstasy, the drug that powered it all. Reynolds begins as an observer and finds himself subsumed as a participant, popping the pills, following the crowds, raving amid the throng and, en route, employing his connections as a journalist to meet the prime movers. His digressions on the chemical and cultural effects of ecstasy in particular are lucid and informed, and as such a bracing reminder of how little public discussion of drugs is any of those things.
As for the music, Reynolds writes as wonderfully about dance as he does about any other genre; indeed, he’s very nearly persuasive....
Castlemorton may have been the last moment at which pop culture felt potentially genuinely transgressive (Part V of the 1995 Criminal Justice & Public Order Act specifically targeted raves). Since then, dance/rave music has become as marginal as every other music which isn’t conveyor-belt pop or heritage rock; Energy Flash is in that respect perfectly titled. It’s also thoughtful, meticulous, fizzing with intellectual vigour, a(nother) monumental accomplishment from the best in his business." -- Andrew Mueller, New Humanist.
"An exceptional book. Reynolds has tracked the unfolding sounds and rituals of 'the (al)chemical generation' so comprehensively that he virtually obviates the need for any further literature on the period"--MOJO
"The enthusiasm, passion and knowledge...seeps out of every page, as
Reynolds diligently traces the development of a local scene which
became an international industry. But unlike the rest of dance culture
analyses, Reynolds sidelines the clubs'n'drugs and concentrates on the
music."--THE FACE/ #6 in THE FACE 's TOP 10 BOOKS OF 1998
"Yields new insights across 424 sharply funny, accessible pages. A great achievement from a world class writer."---iD
"BOOK OF THE MONTH... The triumph of Reynolds' history of the
scene is its ability to cast him as both a die hard convert and a
detached critic.....For a culture that relishes its pose of amnesia, Reynolds covers its incandescent memories, and in so doing, he makes its flesh become
" BOOK OF THE MONTH/* * * * *..... Reynolds is the Greil Marcus of rave... As did Marcus, Reynolds--cool intellect and passionate advocate--manages to expose and explain yet retain a mystical awe for his subject..." ---UNCUT
"BOOK OF THE MONTH.... The first incisive attempt at detailing the
post-Ecstasy scene's unending proliferation of sub-genres and new
styles." -- SELECT
"A classic chronicle of the Nineties rave movement... Striking and well-reported" -- ROLLING STONE
"An important cultural critique, a detailed record that brings us up to date on a dynamic social experiment in progress" -- THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"Lucid, comprehensive, and smart.... the best available way into what has always been a closed-to-the-grownups world."--VILLAGE VOICE
"An impressively detailed and well-informed chronology of the last decade's transatlantic nightclub soundtrack"---NEWSDAY
".... One of this country's finest and most intellectually engaging music
journalists.... Reynolds has a seemingly inexhaustible reserve of
enthusiasm for his subject that is ultimately infectious. He's a writer
who manages to transmit the excitement he feels about the music into
his prose--a rare gift, and one that makes him incessantly rewarding to
read." -- THE INDEPENDENT
"Crucially, Reynolds concentrates every bit as much on the music itself... as on the culture of people, places and events... a strong enough mix of insider's insight and cool critical analysis to make a very readable book as fascinating and informative as it is enthusiastic and entertaining." --- Q