Ketamine House: Into the Hole

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Techno's latest sub-genre is as unstable as the sounds being used to make it, and already people are arguing over a name for it. As usual, it began on the internet, and in a flash: with the flick of a gated hi-hat, a new phrase–intended to describe the psychedelic minimalism of artists like Ricardo Villalobos, Dominik Eulberg and Trentemøller–appeared on the popular I Love Music boards, then in the Village Voice and a certain monthly column on Pitchfork: "ketamine house." Nobody likes the name, but then nobody's figured out anything else to call it, or even what "it" really is, aside from minimal techno's renewed interest in going quietly bonkers. For starters, ketamine house has about as much to do with the drug, aside from its anecdotal rise in Berlin's club scene, as acid house did with its eponymous substance. But like Simon Reynolds' "heroin house"–meant to describe Chain Reaction's languid, horizontal sprawl–the term evokes the music's psychotropic state, in which hard-panned effects, illusory repetition and Moebius-like morphology send time and space spiraling into oblivion. The phrase itself seems unlikely to stick, but in a scene where afterparties run for days, it seems likely that the bloggers will beat the punters to the punch in affixing the final label.