"If rave culture and the ever-proliferating forms of techno and house music have any claims to subversive power, one of them might pertain to the way they resist the privileging of the eye in contemporary pop culture. Thanks to the pop promo, MTV, BET (Black Entertainment Television), et al, success in genres like rock, rap and R&B now depends on the videogenic charisma of the star vocalist, even on a measure of acting skill. The ability to bust cool dance moves in front of the camera is more important than vocal skills: a weak or erratic voice can be enhanced and salvaged using studio techniques; whereas an inability to move elegantly to syncopated rhythm---Whitney Houston, for instance--can only be masked by above-the-waist shots and quick cut-aways to the backing dancers. Part of techno's "underground"-ness relates to its refusal of this culture of the icon, of spell-bound, enthralled fascination. For video is about spectatorship (almost by definition, if you're watching a video, you're not dancing; it's hard to focus on a screen when you're shaking your stuff), whereas club and rave culture are about participation.
"At a more phenomenological level, sound is about involvement and impact, whereas sight contains an intrinsic distance and detachment. "I don't see anything when I hear this music," says Nico Sykes, the engineer/producer/owner of drum 'n' bass label No U Turn. "One of the things it does for me is stop me thinking about that, I'm just absorbed with the sound. I don't get lots of images of rushing down steel corridors of the future fighting aliens or exploring some zone---I'm an audio man.Visually I'm pretty dead."
All of this goes some way to explaining the relatively underdeveloped nature of techno and electronic dance music videos. A genre predicated on the stripping away of pop/rock/rap's iconic apparatus of stars and stage spectacle in order to facilitate a massive reinvestment in pure sonic intensity, is almost inevitably going to create something of an imagery/music gap. What's striking about most electronica videos is the lag between the futurism and alien-ness of the music and the visuals...
fromSeeing the Beat: Retinal Intensities in Techno and Electronic Dance Videos, by Simon Reynolds, 2002