Thursday, July 6, 2017

then and now


both from 2017

(the second one is actually by Mr Foetus, aka Thirlwell, funnily enough)

i feel that we have reached peak electronic

so much - it turns out, as the reissue / archival-exhumation industry is showing on multiple fronts from avant-garde composition to New Age  - was done already, in the sixties, seventies, eighties

so much is currently being redone - the same ground endlessly criss-crossed, exacerbated and amplified maximalism style

what's odd is the current product still manages to trigger the faintest of future-shock feelings


  1. As Theodore Rosczak pointed out in "Where the Wasteland Ends", the "future" = increasing artificiality.

    This is why "the future" always has that aura of thrilling trepidation. On the one hand it feeds the Spenglerian hunger for infinity which is the West's central idea, on the other it marks a further distancing from the natural world, from the tangible. "The future" therefore takes us closer to our destiny, which we expect to be angelic, but know to be alienation.

    But, the ride to the future in music is not exponential - it just feels that way. The move from acoustic to electric to electronic suggests a teleological progression, but I can't see how you can get any more artificial than synthesized music. Once you are there, you have reached the peak of abstraction. At the peak of the sense of the possible, it is also Game Over.

    (Just noticed that "Spenglerian" doesn't get a wavy red spellcheck line - so is in Google's dictionary.)

  2. that is a very good explanation actually

    i had this phrase "arrested futurism" i used in Retromania for how when you listen to modern pop it puts out the same idea of PHUTURE (ie. plastic, shiny-shiny, digital-slick, robotic etc) that you had in the 90s, the 80s, even the 70s. Black Eyed Peas - who i like - are the corniest example of this, using imagery in their videos redolent of Terminator and Robocop and so.

    but "arrested futurism" is just describing the disease, not working out the etiology like you have

    mark fisher used to talk on this subject, about how a sense of change and futurity had been uncoupled from technology, we could no longer "hear" technology in music because it had become normalised, and because at a certain point, things were advancing on the level of upgrades rather than actual major advances - pictures get sharper and crisper. that Shock of the Future's Here Already that you can still feel listening to something "I Feel Love" or the first acid house tracks is not possible.

    i suppose it reinforces the idea that the concept of "future" is obsolete. then again it seems to have undergone a resurgence both on the musical underground (albeit often retro-tinged) and in the mainstream with a spate of films set in space or involving ideas of androids and artificial intelligence.

  3. I think the concept of "the future" isn't obsolete everywhere - there are still opportunities for further artificiality in many walks of life. For example, the marketing has already begun for sex robots (although I doubt they will have any more than fringe appeal). I do think the "the future" is over for music, unless there is somehow a way that synthesized music could be further synthesized, so that it sounds even more artificial. I suspect it isn't technologically possible, and it's certainly impossible to imagine, but if somebody could do it, it would knock you flat when you heard it.

    There's also the religious dimension to electronic music, which is paradoxically a part of its artificiality. It sounds purer, more reverent - think "Neon Lights" by Kraftwerk - and that again is due to its abstraction: it is closer to the Spenglerian infinite. This is the religiosity that drives the underlying need for "the future", and that is no longer being satisfied by music. What remains and is recycled is the nostalgia for when that need could be musically answered to.

  4. yeah future-lust has drifted into other zones, i'm sure you're right.

    probably at one point - maybe still - it was high finance, as one of the sectors for manic neophilia.

    "neon lights" = my favorite Kraftwerk song.

    how is your book coming along, Phil? i think the last time you mentioned in my earshot, it had evolved quite a long way from the Doors as its focus.

  5. I've actually written and published four books since "Strangled" but they've been factual engineering/technology books that wouldn't be of interest to anyone around here.

    I haven't really done anything about the Doors-derived book yet. The basic idea is that it will be about violence in popular culture, including in popular music. I think the appeal of popular music is as much to do with violence as with sex, and that's because the long post-war peace has deprived the populations of the Western democracies of the opportunity to commit violence, which far from being an aberration I think is a basic human need. I call it "War Deficiency Syndrome", and this is partly suppressed by the placebo of representative ultraviolence - everything from "Natural Born Killers" to "Jumpin' Jack Flash".

    Do you remember that Dutch metal band called Gore? They were the only band I can remember who actually acknowledged that they liked war, and made violent music because they hated peacetime. Usually there's a tension where bands plainly fetishize pain and suffering, but like to project their fascination onto "leaders". Discharge and Killing Joke are prime examples of this - war lovers who pretended to be on the side of peace.

  6. you've probably read Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall? it's great on what you are talking about - the currents of virulent madness in the counterculture, sick humour, the violence of amplified and distorted music.

    like The Exploited sung it's definitely "Sex AND violence" that is what rock'n'roll's about - but it's definitely in a sublimated or shifted form in other kinds of music, like rave - cult of force, channeled destruction, music as bombardment and battery, something that tests the dancers

    it thought it was the other way round with Killing Joke - that early on they were fairly upfront about their relishing anticipation of apocalypse and social collapse - at least Jaz Coleman was, going on about the symbology of fire and the power of mob violence, bubbling up some cthonic force. But then later on - in the 90s - perhaps having "grown up" - they seemed to return as concerned liberal-lefties opposed to war, exploitation, callous right-wing policies, etc.

    oh yes i remember Gore, i reviewed one of their albums and described it as a killing machine, a musical abbatoir. we had a bit of a mini-cult of them at Melody Maker although i confess i don't think listened to the album much after the reviewing process. i'd be surprised if they were the only rock band to openly talk about being excited and wistfully longing for war, though. Certainly in the metal realm, i'd have thought there'd be quite a bit honestly Hobbesian or Nietzchean types who explicitly expound a Spartan type philosophy of manhood, mettle tested on the battlefield type thing. Maybe in the industrial world too, with your power electronics and Boyd Rice types.

  7. Hip-hop is big on violence as well of course. With Killing Joke I think "Follow The Leaders" is typical - it's those Generals and Presidents over there who are responsible, not us Guv, we're just documenting it. Same with e.g. "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath. You are right that these bands are killing machines, but they tend to present themselves as chroniclers rather than participants. The whole purpose of a record like "Kill 'Em All" by Metallica is to give the listener the same kind of thrill that they would get from kicking the shit out of someone, but I don't think I've ever seen a reviewer come out and openly say something like that - "listening to this is the next best thing to knocking somebody unconscious". But perhaps I haven't been looking hard enough.

    I should read "Bomb Culture", but the last time I looked it was going for silly prices - I think it's been out of print for quite a while, but I'll check again. That said, I think war itself is a placebo for a deeper human need, which I shall be revealing in the book. One idea that I want to disavow is Freud's idea of the Death Drive, which I think is completely wrong and has led a lot of people up the garden path. War isn't only about death, it's at least as much about risk, about uncertainty, about initiative, and its the bureaucratisation of life and the minimisation of risk that also feeds the urge for representations of violence in the media. Horror movies are basically about the thrill of being chased, for example.