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What happened to authentic 2000-era microhouse?

By Thomas (2000 Underground Music)

The title of this article, reuses the title of the documentary What Happened To Tech House? made by Resident Advisor, in 2021.

What Happened To Tech House?

The term microhouse is usually credited to the music journalist Philip Sherburne, from his writing in the magazine The Wire in 2001 (Sherburne, 2001).

Microhouse is basically lighter, more detailed, more intricate and more delicate, than typically harder-hitting or more prominent house or techno. Micro means extremely small, and macro means larger.

David McNamee writing in the The Long + Short magazine (McNamee, 2017) says:

‘But equally, microhouse works as contemplative head music. It can be used in the same way as ambient, for relaxation or mood-enhancing purposes. Perhaps going against conventional aural logic, I find the way it is crammed with musical information, to be soothing’.

Yes for me, it is really an amazing genre of exploring abstraction and compositions, that is endlessly fascinating, sort of like abstract art. I love to hear different musicians takes on microhouse, everyone has their own personalities and approaches.

Related and connected musical areas and genres are:

  • Clicks & cuts.
  • Deep minimal.
  • Experimental.
  • Glitch.
  • Minimal.
  • Minimal house.
  • Minimal techno.
  • Soundscapes.

Microhouse seemed to 1st appear, and echoed in the glitch album by German musician Oval in 1993 (Last.fm, 2024). The 1st microhouse track to gain mainstream popularity, by a non-glitch musician, was Isolée’s 1999 record Beau Mot Plage. However, microhouse did not gain popularity, until the early 2000s. It was helped, spread, supported, published and manufactured by record labels like: Fabric, Force Inc. Music Works, Kompakt, Mille Plateaux, Perlon, Spectral Sound, and Telegraph.

Wohnton by Oval. Ata Tak, Germany 1993

This microhouse music being made in the 2000-era, was undeniably cutting edge, hyper-modern, contemporary, and way ahead of its time! All of it still sounds amazing today, what 20 years later… testament to what was going then and the high standard. The question should be asked: what happened after say 2006, in terms of microhouse quality, interest, engagement and advancement, what was the progression and advancement of it, from say 2000–2024? (not that anything has to be done, or is mandatory, of course…).

I would say microhouse was most active around 1999–2004. Then by around 2006, the 2000-era microhouse wave, faded out and there was much less of it about… When the Force Inc. Music Works empire distribution service (EFA Medien GmbH/EFA) collapsed in 2004, it seemed to have a devastating impact, and we sadly lost many strains of underground electronic music because of it, and what a shame that was… I really do feel, although cannot be totally sure, that this event (the collapse of the Force Inc. Music Works empire), had a disastrous impact on the greatness that was going on then, and did no favours for the genres or musicians going on then. It really could be as simple as that, when a large record label stops operating, it creates a huge loss, and often things do not recover or return to where it was.

Strains, types and sub-genres of microhouse

  • Glitchy microhouse.
  • Dance microhouse.
  • Experimental microhouse.

Good 2000-era microhouse releases to listen to and find out about

Major microhouse singles and EPs from the 2000-era

Major microhouse album releases from the 2000-era

Major microhouse record labels from the 2000-era

Authentic 2000-era microhouse releases in 2023

I am not really in the know these days about modern microhouse, but hopefully the above is useful, and a helpful reference.

Do you remember glitch art from the 2000-era?

3 people who still do it:

Shows Carsten playing music from a laptop in the middle, wearing a black shirt. Then the background is a bright blue, red, green, light green and yellow stripped background, like a TV error screen.

Carsten Nicolai doing a performance, under his alias of Alva Noto, in 2009.

Photograph by Dieter Wuschanski (2 September 2009), distributed under a CC0 4.0 Deed license, adapted, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carsten_Nicolai.

At the installation, presenting the book Ultrablack of Music Vol.1 (Szepanski, 2020), in collaboration with the Frankfurt music label Mille Plateaux, on the 21 November 2021, at Synnika Frankfurt (an experimental space for practice and theory). Achim Szepanski said:

‘Since 1991, the network initiated by Achim Szepanski around the labels Force Inc., Mille Plateaux, Position Chrome, Communism Records, and many more, has had a subterranean [existing, occurring, or done under the earth’s surface] influence, on the development of electronic music from Frankfurt. Thus, entire genres such as clicks & cuts, and glitch, were significantly influenced by the releases of Mille Plateaux. Glitch music is usually characterised by a transformation of sound artefacts, that can be caused by malfunctions of digital technology, such as: bugs, crashes, system errors, hardware noise, CD jumps, and digital distortions. “For us, glitch is more a part of clicks & cuts: dark glitch is the non-signal used not to capitalise on the click or error, as a signal for the quasi-derivative [contract or asset that has the effect of a derivative contract], of the surplus [something left over when requirements have been met], of successful goal-setting, but as a non-successful swim, in the noise of non-music. When we listen to a track, we always hear other things, which Deleuze [Gilles Deleuze] describes as forces, duration, sensation, and lightness, depending on how tempos, rhythm, and sound are varied’.

The ‘visionary pioneering genius figure’ (2000 Underground Music, 2023) Achim Szepanski, says in the Data.Wave online magazine website (Kudrin, 2021), in an interview called Achim Szepanski: ‘Clicks“n”cuts is not a genre’, in question 5:

‘5. Would you consider trying to resurrect the genre of clicks‘n’cuts a gamble? I think clicks & cuts was not understood very well. It is not a genre, it’s not only about failure. What is it?

[…] The click shows its invincible evidence precisely when it opens up various potentials, that the imperative ‘always-proceed!’ demands, because the click is too short, to associate a fantastic imagery on its own, or to tell an already known story, but long enough to work in rhythmic relations, with other clicks and to come close to the music of the real. An indetermination [state of being uncertain] begins to indicate itself through the concatenation [series of interconnected things]. At this point, the error is not something that is written into the clicks & cuts as meaning, but it is a fact, that releases potentials. By potentially turning every sound into musical matter, and at the same time into an a-signifying [when a computer talks to another computer] sign, the head runs amok [behaves uncontrollably and disruptively]. The music now emerges precisely from a shift in what has to act as a click, pulse or noise, in the most minimal symbolic way’.

Listening back to this area of music more than 20 years later, it is still good, stimulating and still highly curious. What an amazing time it was!

Front photo of the very traditional German Römerberg buildings. The roofs are block square constructed and the front of the buildings are light pink and dark orange. People are walking in the square in front, and there is a fountain there.

Römerberg, Old Town Square, Frankfurt, Germany. Near the old office of Force Inc. Music Works on Weserstrasse 7, 60329 Frankfurt, Germany.

Photograph by Timoune Aracama (16 November 2018), distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license, adapted, from https://unsplash.com/photos/people-in-front-of-building-BsE8kjx7KTw.

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