Saturday, December 31, 2011

strange dude, gregg wossname... ever listen to the album this is off?... wild 'n' wacky stuff... where was his head at eh?

this tune still sounds great to me

what a groove

oddly reminds me, though, of

but without the hungry vocal or force-of-personality, obviously
3 years in the extracurricular life of Niles


also sublime!


not so sublime!

not sublime!

sublime in a peculiarly haggard and harrowed sort of way!

Friday, December 30, 2011

further to my "is rock finally dead then?" query here

jon caramanica states the obvious, but states it starkly and sharply, and it's a point well worth making:

mainstream rock (he means rock released on US major labels, regardless of whether it's from the US or not, played on mainstream radio) is

"a musical universe in crisis like no other, full of old bands spinning their wheels, praying for one more summer out under big-tour sheds, and their young reinforcements, not much more than a field of dullards who are the artistic equivalent of grocery store generic brands. 2011 may well be remembered as the most numbing year for mainstream rock music in history.The genre didn’t produce a single great album, and the best of the middling walked blindly in footprints laid out years, even decades, earlier. Plenty of juggernauts — U2 and Bruce Springsteen, among others — took the year off, but the genre’s failings are creative, not commercial. At this point rock is becoming a graveyard of aesthetic innovation and creativity, a lie perpetrated by major labels, radio conglomerates and touring concerns, all of whom need — or feel they need — the continued sustenance of this style of music. The fringes remain interesting, and regenerate constantly, but the center has been left to rot."

the only thing i disagree with is the word "regenerate" in the otherwise correct nod to the continued interesting-ness of the fringes... i don't think that word, with its biologistic connotations of renewal and growth and evolution ... of generation and generative-ness... i don't think it really applies to the way that the Zones of Alteration operate... Hyperstasis, being a fundamentally digital/inorganic rather than analogue/organic syndrome, works through replication, recycling and recirculation, techniques of recreativity such as pastiche, appropriation, citation -- in other words, forms of asexual reproduction. (Or perhaps that should be asocial production - art practice that is incapaable, through its mode of operation and dissemination, of letting "the social" leak into it)

Repro ( according to this dude )as opposed to retro in the strict sense of the term, maybe, but still something that very much falls under the sceptical and unforgiving gaze of Retromania.

(Hyperstasis is, after all, nothing if not a churlish concept, looking a gift horse in the mouth, looking past the immediate bounty to the long-term dearth).

"Mark McGuire owes me MONEY!"--Manuel Gottsching

"The Edge too 'n all"--Manuel Gottsching

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Steve Jones, in Hustler, on Glenn Matlock

"I'm tired of Glen Matlock saying he was the songwriter for the Sex Pistols. I co-wrote as many songs… but I don't go shouting about it. Every time I read it, it bugs me. If he was such a great songwriter, where are the songs after the Sex Pistols? It's just annoying."

He's got a point...

Then again, the jibe bounces back when you think about Jones's post-Pistols (post-Matlock, even) output

as my brother Jez sez, they all sound like "Silly Thing"

probably the only person on earth who remembers this supergroup of r'n'r lags (jones + cook + lynott) called the greedy basstards

but presumably Jones had a large hand in "Nobody is Innocent" aka "Cosh the Driver", one of the tracks done with Ronald Biggs and pretty great, and also the title track of The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle, which is really great

and then there was this

as covered by G'N R

pretty cruddy

still on balance Jones > Matlock

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

thoughts on the end-of-year faves (work in progress)

* Nearly everything in my fave album st is electronic, but little of it is electronic in the electronic dance music sense (the little that is, is so in a rather notional way, as with Glass Swords, most of which I find hard to imagine to rocking clubfloors, or Maria Minerva’s stuff which is more like a private interior dream of dance than actual functional bodymusic for crowded gregarious spaces) (and in the case of footwork is functional for those only for whom it was originally and specifically made and highly dysfunctional for everybody else, making it much more of a headtrip contemplative experience). But all this electronic music isn’t much to do with the IDM/electronic listening music tradition either. It’s coming out of post-noise, or 5th wave industrial esoterica...

There’s hardly any guitars in there, and when there are they’re not particularly rocking uses of guitar. Is rock finally over, in both the underground and the overground? (Ignoring all the living dead still walking around in earshot like Black Keys). Is all this underground stuff in some sense “post-rock”? Dunno, but the guitar seems to have lost any privileged status as an instrument. It’s just one of many sound-generating implements available.

* That said must confess to a certain fatigue with the electronic overload. Got sent so much of the stuff and downloaded even more. Don’t know if it can all be laid at Oneohtrix’s door, but there is a surfeit of music coming out that’s using either real synths or soft synth replicas. A kind of analogue maximalism, since the tracks tend to be on the long side, and if there’s not a proggy busy-busy-fingers ornateness there’s often a certain epic sweep and scale to the music, as well as vaguely conceptual-conceit vibe. Heard rather too many albums where the sound palette presses all the right buttons on an idle, distracted listen, but if you actually pay attention, a certain compositional weakeness becomes apparent... and it’s not at all obvious or clear what the purpose, aim or function of the music actually is. There’s people who release several lengthy records per year who might do better to release just the one.

Another downside aspect to the electronic listening deluge: a lot of this stuff strikes me as part of the syndrome i call "arrested advance" or "arrested futurism". Which is to say that while there's nothing that particularly retro or nostalgic about this synth music's , it's not particularly innovative either... it is resuming approaches developed by Berlin School/New Age/Space Music/etcthat were once exploratory but can now only be considered a settled tradition ... contributing to areas of activity that were already rather crowded in their own heyday (Seventies, Eighties).... so there's a sense of, at worst, redundancy, and even in the better exponents, the nagging doubt, "what is actually being added here, or taken further?"

* As I suggested in the NNF profile for the Wire, this is the time of the concept-musician, where the framing of projects is vital. A certain kind of music-journalist and blogger loves this kind of thing, because it gives them something to riff on and riff off (the musician generates a stream of fully rationalized, eloquently expressed explanations of what they’re doing, and knows very clearly what they’re trying to achieve, and at that extreme verges on obviating any kind of role for the external commentator). The leading exponents of this state-of-art (Lopatin, Ferraro) operate at a very high level, but as with any genre when you get into the second-division there’s a steadily rising quotient of bull-honky. Increasingly with the post-hynagoggy/post-hauntyunderground I’m minded a little of Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word... the danger zone where music can’t actually be enjoyed or even felt without the intervention of a concept. (Read Tiny Mix Tapes and sometimes it's a bit like how reading October or early Seventies Artforum must have been).

* Another tendency, seemingly countering the music-for-concept’s sake/music-as-text tendency, is towards a kind of pure aestheticism: what you might call the New Exquisite... releases by Balam Acab, Water Borders, the Deeep, etc that are very attractive listens but leave you with a disquieting inkling sense of “why?”... and in that sense remind me a little of certain late Eighties moment of vaguely alternative, atmospheric, well-produced to the point of being slightly prissy music (the 4AD of Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Wolfgang Press... Cindytalk... Talk Talk even). The New Exquisite blends somewhat with the New Religiose: a sort of vague, muffled gesturing at the sacred, the transcendent, that you get in the vocal stylings or vocal science of such as Julianna Barwick or Clams Casino (trip hop meets Burial innit)

* couldn't be bothered with Reissues this year: barely remembered any notable ones (exceptions: LFO’s Frequencies and the Sweet Exorcist RetroActivity package; Those Shocking Shaking Days: : Indonesian Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk 1970-1978; T.C.M., The Criminal Minds; a few African things earlier in the year...). The well of the past is getting dry, finally?

* Sam Macklin expressed surprise at my singles/tunes-of-2011 list's being over-run by Top 40, since he'd argued in his own end of year thing that the pop mainstream was at its lowest ever ebb! Well no doubt contingency plays its part, being in the car a lot in L.A., the banging beats suit the sensation of motion. The kids are always pressing for "contemporary" rather than classic-rock stations. I think by certain axes of measurement you could indeed say the pop mainstream at its lowest ebb (philosophically, lyrically, songcraft in the mature sense, musicianship in the conventional played sense... the dearth of characters and real stars, with singers reduced to depersonalised components in the blare of faceless clubpop bollocks). But in terms of catchiness, upfulness, danceabilty, crafty thrills-per-minute programming of pleasure-machinery, and sheer antirockism (rock has just disappeared from the mainstream – we are in a post rock universe now – real ordinary people do not give a shit about electric guitars – those Jersey Shore types prefer to listen to Roland 303 riffs!) it’s definitely something of a high point for chartpop.

talking of rockism what’s interesting me is that rock’n’roll -- not in any musical sense but as an abstract spirit (defiantly heedless hedonism, partying hard, not giving a fuck about the cost or consequences, swagger) is draped all over current pop.(Hence the various songs referring to “Jagger”, or that perfume called Rockstar). All these apocalyptic songs about how this could be my last night, gonna drink like it’s my last night, baby we don’t have tomorrow, britney's "til the World ends" (co-written by Ke$ha), Rihanna's cheerless "cheers" – it’s very Dionysian, very Keith Richards/Guns N'Roses darkside thrillseeking with some recession desperation chucked in. After a few drinks too many myself I tweeted some months ago that Ke$ha is our Jim Morrison but I kind of meant it–she is responsible for a lot of this new reckless get-wrecked spirit in music. The word "fight" appears obsessively in her songs, a deliberate or unconscious echo of her heroes the Beasties and "fight for your right to party". there were moments last year when most of the top 40 seemed to be singing variations on: "well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer/the future's uncertain, and the end is always near"
nano y nano
(work in progress)

I suppose a lot of my problems with the concept of nanoculture (as broached in Tom Ewing's final epic Poptimist column) boil down to the word "nano"

the prefix nano is defined in the dictionary as “indicating extreme smallness”

What that translates to, in nanoculture, is a host of affects and effects that are extremely small, both in impact and in duration

it's not so much the concept, though, as the actual practice of nanoculture -- the day to day, week to week, weak to weaker flow of nanostories... micronarratives, ever petit-er recits

it feels like entropy

the digitally-empowered particulars might have changed a fair amount but in substance and in spirit, these practices of sharing, enthusing, parodying, nerding, etc existed before the web... they took place in informal real-world contexts - -down the pub, in the schoolyard, in fan communities (tape trading, zines,

What has happened with the web is (on the positive side) the extension of those activities to existing friends who are outside your geographical reach these days plus new friends who you’ve never encountered in a geographical sense... and then to strangers with whom you enter into this fleeting relations of comity

And there's a massive degree of facilitation to these processes in terms of physical and financial effort, speed of response (close to real-time)

On the negative side though there is a quasi-public aspect, where it sort of feels like “broadcasting”.... but it isn’t... which leads perhaps to over-estimations of the value and power of these activities

I don’t think global judgements can be made about netlife as a whole... it's about assessing the specific trade-offs between any given analogue-precusor-activity and its digital enhancement/replacement -- in most cases, digiculture is a new way of doing something we used to do before computers and the internet

Blogs retain a lot of what is good about fanzines (in depth writing, eccentric viewpoints, informality) and remove a lot of the stuff that is bad (delays between transmissions, back-breaking graft, the cost, the waste of unsold copies)

Twitter (nano in the nth degree) retains little of what is good about blogs but keep the aspects to do with pseudo-socialisation and self-advertising -- twittering is good for people who have lonely-making professions and like to feel in contact, or self-publicity purposes

What I’m interested in an exploration of the phenomenology of netlife, what it feels like to be “in touch” all the time, to be moving around these great wodges of data, acquiring constantly, attempting to digest and cross-reference

and then on a larger level, what does it mean for the future of a culture when so much energy – psychological, libidinal, emotional, cathectic, also social, the economy of attention – is going into these pursuits and directions and spheres - the endlessly twining stream of discourse, this merging-then-diverging traffic of meta-chat

how nano can nanoculture get before it forfeits any claim on the word "culture"?

what is going on in these streams is definitely not culture in the capital C sense, no Works are being made, this is stuff that is avowedly transient, completely disinterested in passing the Test of Time

but nor is it culture in the subculture sense (the creation of a bounded world, insular, a set of invented rituals, tribal, an ethnos; oppositional to the mainstream, expressive of dissident values and minority worldviews)

if nanoculture isn't sub- then what is it? or rather, where is it, in the topology of culture/society,

the word, i think, is paraculture

something that runs along side the mainstream

a side-stream so very closely entwined with the mainstream as to be inseparable from it, yet not able to affect it to any great degree.... very close, yet beside the point

the prefix ‘para’, as well as suggesting "beside", also contains an insinuation of parasitism -- this stream depends on the creative industries for an endless supply of new material to comment on, recombine, parody, gossip about

(para, or paro? an entire microculture of Weird Al Yankovichs?)

one thinks of the Jaron Lanier quote from You Are Not a Gadget:

"It is astonishing how much of the chatter online is driven by fan responses to expression that was originally created within the sphere of old media and that is now being destroyed by the net. Comments about TV shows, major movies, commercial music releases, and video games must be responsible for almost as much bit traffic as porn. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but since the web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock."

for every creative, or cleverly recreative, response within the nano/para-cultural realm, there are thousands upon thousands of pointless, redundant, content-free emissions from "prosumers"

i think of when i was doing a thing on the Video Music Awards and looking on YouTube for footage clips to illustrate the points... but instead of performance excerpts all i could find was dozens and dozens of fan videos... not shaky videos of the performances taken off the TV screen but videos of the fans, in profile, watching the show on a screen (TV, computer) that was invisible to us out there in youtubeland... with the fans commenting in real-time on the show as it happened... the comments all being on the level of "beyonce looks so great", "chris brown's performance is off the hook", etc etc....


in hot, hectic pursuit of the trivial

i think also of Drake's on-the-money comment recently:

"The thing that scares me most is Tumblr... Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments.... Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living.”
DIYstopia [work in progress]

in the Wire essay Excess All Areas i wrote about how the hydraulics of culture went haywire in the post-broadband era, the channels and pipes for data transmission expanding astronomically and worse, becoming traversible in both directions... so that every receiver can also broadcast (indeed increasingly cannot stop themselves emitting)

too much to listen to, too much to read, too much to assimilate (remember re-reading? listening repeatedly?)

this excess of access / superabundance of output leading to a scarcity of reception/ a dearth of consumers

supply vastly exceeding demand

DIY becomes dystopia

well here's an article about experimental music today that chimes in with these concerns and starts with the words:

"In 2011, the flood continued"

it reminded me of another piece i read earlier in the year, which introduced me to the year's bleakest concept: "the no-audience underground"

the guy who coined the concept seems pretty chipper though and not the least bit bothered by any sense of futility, not the teensiest bit deterred from his maniacal archive fever

but back to the Upstate Soundscape post, this concept of a new kind of "regionalism" seems intriguing... the reinvention of the local ... a deliberate narrowing of range in terms of both input and output

it reminded me of something Charles Hayward said when i interviewed him

"I was from Camberwell. And it’s important to me that music which goes 'outside' still has some sort of semi-folk basis in society. It belongs to a place and comes from a place. Which is something I always hear in Sun Ra. They were part of a community in Philadelphia and Washington, even though their music doesn’t overtly describe the situation they lived in. Everyone nowadays is basing their morality and ethics on gadgets, as if a sense of place doesn’t exist anymore. People feel dislocated when they haven't got that. I'm working with special needs people, the so-called disabled. I work alongside all sorts of people and then I'm trying to assimilate those experiences and do my own synthesis of what it is to be with people and make that come through in my music."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

when i go a-roaming randomly through the sharity blogzone, i am always amazed by how much industrial-drone / dark ambient / isolationist / noise-as-chilling-chillout-muzik is out there, how much got made over the last three decades and is still getting made

some of it in the creepy-dodgy zone



described by one blog that specialises in sharing this sort of thing as

"an original combination of cosmic, mythological and national socialistic themes, mixed and served to listener through experiments and manipulations with analog synthesizer"

said blog files 88MM under: "dark ritual, h8tronics, Nazisploitation" (among other categories)

one of the tracks on their 2008 album Motion of the Spinning Black Sun is titled

"14 Showerheads, 1 Gas-Tight Door"

88MM the name comes from a famous WWII German anti-aircraft/anti-tank artillery weapon of the type whose cumbersome got abbreviated to Flak (which i only just realised is the same flak as in the expression "i've been getting serious flack for ____"), a weapon described by one enthusiast on youtube as a "serious asskicking rape gun"

Friday, December 23, 2011

re. where did that clever-clever quirky-arty meta-pop / playing at "pop" lineage go after 70s/80s (M, 10cc, Buggles) well as this review by John Calvert for Quietus suggests, one continuation of it was Gorillaz

Thursday, December 22, 2011

FLizards got me thinking about that UK-only (or UK-mostly) thing of clever-clever, quirky-arty metapop

like 10cc, Buggles, and above all...

or these proggers playing at pop

70s was the heyday but i'm wondering how and where the lineage extended itself into subsequent decades (White Town?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

couldn't find the TOTP appearance as discussed in Rip It Up but check for the renowned improv musicians lurking in the back of this promo video

strange how something starting out as/intended as/talked-up as this totally open-ended etc etc entity became a one-trick pony so quick

the Status Quo of the cover (sub)version

and the Residents done it first anyways

there was a lot of this about in your postpunk Peely days

as in this John P fave the Hybrid Kids (aka Morgan Fisher from... Mott the Hoople? or Manfred Mann's Earth Band? can't remember)... there was a whole album of this malarkey

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

been looking for this for a long while

Nesting Stones by playingwithwords

cathy lane on 'nesting stones'

Anybody who has ever had an intense relationship with another person will know that for every positive emotion experienced there is a corresponding negative feeling.

Nesting Stones is based on my feelings about my relationship with my baby daughter.
In this composition I am using and developing anecdotal structures and gestural metaphors harnessing the sense of spatial positioning and movement and the tension between the recognisable and stated and the barely recognisable and unrecognisable to explore and express the contradictions and dualities of that relationship.
The sound material for the piece is all drawn from recordings of myself and my daughter.

Nesting Stones was written in 1996. In 1998 featured on Unknown Public Issue 8: Sensuality Essence And Nonsense and as a result was chosen as one of the Wire magazines "100 Records That Set The World On Fire" along with works such classics as Steve Reich's 'Come Out', Alvin Lucier's 'I Am Sitting In A Room' and Glenn Gould's 'The Solitude Trilogy' as well as works by Louis & Bebe Barron, Youssou N'Dour, William S. Burroughs, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock.

"Stockhausen's Gesang Der Junglinge features the voice of a near-infant boy. Nesting Stones doesn't seem so different: a mix of musique concrete and electronic treatment, featuring the cry of Lane's own child Mia. What's so striking is how insipid and even cowardly Stockhausen's pioneering work suddenly seems, how carefully the young Darmstadt modernist (who had just become a father) distances himself from any of his own feelings about child-as-sound (above all, imposing some irrelevant biblical material on the work). Mia's yowling, by contrast, is looped and treated until its primal empathic pull (she's calling "Mama") folds into maddening repetition, strain and ugliness. Even as the sound mutates into gurgles and chuckles - everything we're programmed to respond positively to - the baby manifests as parasite, as cancerous scrawl, as chaotic insistent thing. A simple idea, on the face of it far from new, and yet - in this age of child abuse panic and false memory syndrome - far more powerful, daring and revelatory than almost any Electronica or concrete I can think of."- Mark Sinker The Wire #175 September 1998


and loads more electroacoustica and musique concrete feminine from cathy lane here

this great find by Carl the Impostume (in reference to this post + comment thread on folky currents in UK Eighties pop -- )

led me to

and then all this

and the great lost unreleased scrit track

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Public Information Materials-Mix by Public Information

judd and jury
shite bands of yesteryear, part 2

bow wow wow imitators no less

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

shite bands of yesteryear, part 1

this sorry shower of funkwagon-jumpers actually made the cover of NME for their first single, which was this, i believe

the francois K mix is almost tolerable

despite the picture here, it's the same Scottish crew as before (including a former member of Slik - Kenny Hyslop)

Monday, December 5, 2011

h-pop made so much more sense to me almost the minute i moved to Southern California

like JFerraro's remark in the Wire hypnagogic piece about KFCs as "dark energy temples"... my response reading that, as someone then living in New York, was woah stoned hippie drivel alert... but you know what, out here as you're driving along the endless strip malls, the fast food outlets and name-brand retailers and supermarkets like Bristol Farms can look a bit like ecclesiastical buildings what with their out-size frontages and spire-like constructions calling out to you from a distance, beacons for the faithful in the church of consumerism ... for that matter the modern-look (or even outright Modernist) churches and synagogues and Scientology temples in this town often look like megastores or flashy corporate buildings (if it's a poor neighbourhood, the churches look commercial in a different sense: like bodegas or repair shop shacks)... but yeah, unlike in new york or london, where fast food places are bunched together with other buildings, in LA your KFCs and McDs and In-N-Out Burgers are separated off (cos there's so much more realty space here) and with often wacky ziggurat-like or pagoda-ish shapes, they can look like queer plastic temples glowing with too much artificial light... there's a trippy-creepy kitschadelic aura pulsing around them

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

this summer we went to see two exhibitions in Los Angeles – one was in nearby Pasadena (Clayton Brothers: Inside Out) and the other was in downtown at the MOCA and called Art in the Streets, a mammoth retrospective of graffiti and street art going back to the very beginnings...

Clayton Brothers do life-scale shacks and diorama-type things, lots of stuff based on old illustrative styles, newspaper fonts, etc – readymades either literally or in inspiration, but the overall agglomeration of it tinged towards the surreal-creepy-macabre-twisted... a sort of dayglo American-Gothic

At Art in the Streets, a lot of the more recent work involved very large pieces, real-size reproduction of actual real-world stuff – like a bodega, with cans of vegetables etc – or a shabby taxi hire office in a shady part of town, those band or advertising or prostitute type stickers stuck over every surface – one artist (Neckface, we used to see his graff in our old neighbourhood in the East village) did a thing that was literally street art -- the recreation of a dark, dank alley in a scary, grotty part of NYC, complete with a sleeping bum.

Anyway this got me thinking... about readymades and collage, the tradition that starts with Duchamp... with Schwitters with the merzbau and the merzhaus... then proceeds through Lichenstein, Warhol, Richard Hamilton.... Lari Pitman, whose work draws on decorative and kitschy-retro graphics and fonts... Jeff Koons.... and then into the post-graffiti/hip hop era with people the Alleged Art crew (heavily present at this exhibition)... some of whom were into stuff like the tags left by hobos on the side of railcars, or they were into tattoos... the late Margaret Kilgannen of Alleged used a lot of commercial imagery... hand-painted shop front signage, imagery from advertisements in old magazines... in the Alleged crew doc Beautiful Losers she says something about how "all this stuff becomes interesting to me when it's no longer selling anything to me"-- in other words, once it's divorced from commerce in the immediate here-and-now, it becomes capable of being aestheticized, which is a great description of how vintage chic works

but what struck me about all this in connection with Art in the Streets and Clayton Brothers is that underpinning the whole century-long thing was one idea – a REALLY BIG idea - which is treating the objects of manufactured modernity as if they were nature, as beautiful as a tree or landscape... (c.f. James Ferraro's description of Far Side Virtual as "the still life of now" - the audio and video landscape of our digitized, augmented-reality daily surroundings)

but also it’s a move of taking the non-art, the infra-art, and just moving it across a line... commerce becomes Culture, the mass produced aura-less product becomes the one-off, aura-full handcrafted object ready for the art market

And as the Ferraro comparison suggests, it's the same move being made by the hauntologists and the hypnagogics (a lot of post-Ferraro music is Pop Art meets psychedelia), you take what is deemed beneath or outside Proper Serious Rock-as-Art, so that would be ancient cheese pop or mainstream AOR or library music (in the case of hauntology) or with Ferraro now it's ringtones and computer start-up jingles and so forth i.e. today's equiv to library/Muzak... and ythen ou say well actually if you tilt your head this way slightly , it’s sublime – or even (upping the ante) in some cases it’s just better and more weird than self-conscious Arty art-rock.

And then the art work for a lot of those hypnagogic cassettes is chopped-up magazine images (eyes, lips etc) like a more grotesque and cack-handed version of what the British Pop Artists did... like the popcult unconscious throwing up all over the page (and that's no diss, i love all that artwork)

the low > high context-shift

Nicholas Katranis calls this artistic move "looking at what is right in front of you"

for most people "right in front of you" nowadays means that what they can find on the internet, what’s trawl-able on YouTube etc etc

e.g. oneohtrix scavenging for alchemy-susceptible materials on YouTube, the stuff that’s beneath consideration, infomercials or ancient clumsy computer graphics, or Chris deBurgh... or with Replica, the new LP, he's sampling from a DVD of 1980s and ‘90s daytime TV commercials

what I'm a-wonderin' is whether the BIG IDEA that i mentioned, whether that is so very very BIG -so fundamental and capacious in scope and potential - that it can just carry on and on and on... or is it a 20th Century idea that has just lingered a bit into the next century and hangs on while we all try to think of somewhere new to go?

post-script: what do you know, Aaron Rose, the guy who co-curated Art in the Streets and was owner and director of Alleged Art (and also directed the Beautiful Losers doc) has co-written a book called Collage Culture: Examining the 21st Century's Identity Crisis that looks to be a rather Retromaniac-al polemic ("why has the 21st century become an era of collage, in which creative works are made by combining elements from the former century?", "THE PAST MUST NO LONGER SERVE AS OUR MASTER") which sorta suggests that even as he was pulling together the exhibition he might have been having similar anxieties as i did looking at it

you can check it out here:

here's what he says in an interview with Oyster:

"Everything in this world is built on references. I don’t think that’s really such a problem, that’s part of the creative process. Although where the amount of original input is below 5%, that’s when I feel like there’s maybe a problem... I think the contemporary art world is horrible [as an offender]! And in music. Music, I think, is really bad. Music videos, especially — horrible — are like, basically just taking things frame for frame."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

retromania-related interviews and piece-appearances-by-me

interview at Blurt online

NZ Herald piece on retromania in fashion

Q/A with Rock Town Hall

Wired.TV (Italia) with video interview in which I'm confronted by Oblique Strategies cards and then have to connect them to Retromania

plus only slightly about retro (glimpse the obsession dawning towards the end) - a resurrected interview for David Ensminger's blog i did around Rip It Up that he's now dug up for Pop Matters
how fast the hype cycles churn these days, how amnesiac their roil is ... i'd completely forgotten about Sleigh Bells. what happened to them then?

i found their music almost unendurable at first, got into it a bit -- but from that initial physical discomfort i started to wonder whether digital distortion is radically different from analogue distortion... analog noise is really an overload of signals whereas digital distortion is closer like pixelisation, it's an underload not overload -- a dearth of signals. a kind of pocking of the sound surface with tiny perforations of lack, absent information... this riddling of holes in the sound-surface, it hurts your ears to fill in the gaps in the zeroes-and-ones, it's a strain because you're having to supply what's missing. in other words digi-distortion is a concentrated, instant/intense version of the aural fatigue you can get from listen to digital sound particularly relatively lo-res mpf3s over a long period of time.

Monday, November 28, 2011


It' a word that’s gone out of use, hasn't it? Perhaps because it implies, well, spaciousness: empty expanse, in which remote nodes connect over great distance. But the internet isn’t really space so much as its abolition: an impossibly meshed density, like a magic super-tagliatelle in which every micron of each pasta strand is in contact with all other microns. A reeling horror of absolute proximity: every single thing “in” “there” is right next to every other thing, separated by only a few clicks or well-chosen search engine words.
adios Ken

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

shite bands that filled up the pages in Melody Maker not occupied by "our" bands/part 4

new series/sister-series!

not-actually-a-shite-band that filled up the pages of Melody Maker that weren't filled up by "our bands"/part 1

well i thought they were shite at the time... but now concede that in their untimely way the Godfathers had a certain something

Friday, November 18, 2011

shite bands that filled up the pages of late Eighties Melody Maker that weren't filled up by "our" bands/part 3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

don't think this lot got any coverage in Melody Maker either, or if they did it was before my time


but then they turned into Underworld

who had their moments

shite bands filling up the pages of Melody Maker not filled up by "our bands"/part 2

to be honest i don't remember this lot having many supporters at MM but i just fancied posting it

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

new series: shite bands filling up the space in Melody Maker that wasn't filled up by "our" bands, part 1

"our" = Arsequake League

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

as discussed in Retromania

"The Martinellis Bring Home A Desire System"

derived from this infomercial

what i wanna know is, is it Martinellis or Martinettis?!? Cos I put one of them in Retromania (forget which) and i hope it was the right one!

the thing Dan's put up at Soundcloud is "a stereo redux" of "a 4-channel sound installation commissioned by Anne Hilde Neset for the SONIC TANK exhibition". So much shorter than the full-length work discussed in Retromania, which was about 30 minutes long and was titled the same as the original infomercial as i recall

We've just started working with him so what we have begun with is the idea that he is a guy who has a very particular point of view in terms of how he wants to get his art out into the world, whatever that art form is. He obviously had a big presence on television, has a big presence in the music business and will want to have a big presence in the movie business. [He is also interested in] the partnership business more than endorsement business [working] with companies whose DNA is kind of like his. For us, he's an ideal client type because he's extremely thoughtful, as is everybody on his team. He has a very specific point of view in terms of how he wants to approach the world and he will take the time to do it correctly and he's not swayed by things like big checks or things that need to happen very quickly that are not ultimately for the long term benefit of his career. He is a strategist, and we hope that we are strategists for him.

He's also great in a room. He's really, really smart [and] he's very direct. He's a really interesting, fun and challenging -- in the best way -- guy to be around and to work with. He views the world horizontally, as we do, and so for us it's the best type of client imaginable because we can think through opportunities as opposed to race through opportunities and we can always strategize, take a beat, view things in the short term and the long term. He allows us to do the best work that we can do, and we think that we'll do really good work together.

He looks at everything that is associated with him as something that will either positively influence how people think of him beyond his art or potentially negatively influence how people think about him beyond his art, so everything that we're trying to do is designed to be reflective of who he is as a person, what he stands for [and] how he wants to be presented to the world and what he cares about. So for us, it's thinking: are there companies -- big ones or little ones -- or are there businesses that are established or start-ups, that seem to blend well with what he's trying to do and say? And his thing is, it's not flashy and it's not designed to be quick -- it's really thoughtful. He has specific points of view about categories he wishes to work in, companies he wishes to work with, all that sort of stuff, and part of this is due to the fact that as a young guy, he thought through this a lot and he has proper team members on his existing team. We're additives to a table that's pretty well set before we got there.

n these partnership businesses, I think they will be few and far between, but hopefully they will be really well chosen and really thoughtful.

And I think lastly, he is a guy who is genuinely philanthropic, and he's a guy who wants to pay real attention to people who can be benefitted by his aide and that's going to be a big part of what he does going forward as well. So I think those four things probably represent the primary pillars of what his business is going to be. There will be offshoots because, again, he's so, so smart and so interesting to talk to. They're going to be offshoots to these things that we don't even know about because we haven't put him in the rooms that we're thinking about going forward because he's busy because he has an album coming out next week. But when we have a minute and we have time, our plan is to put him in rooms and set him up with people who have the ability to say yes to certain things in all these categories and just see how it plays because he is not only a fantastic artist, but he can handle himself in any room including any business at the CEO level.

So there's zero baggage, there's no difficulty having him going into a room, there's nothing that represents preconceived notion of who he is. You have the formula for a guy to do great things over a long period of time. And his ambitions are big, but we believe that his talent is such that the things he wishes to do are attainable, and those are big things in all these areas and probably some others that we haven't mentioned. He's absolutely the real deal and he has nowhere to go but further up and up. And I think that he will do something that will be pretty definitive, and people will look at that stuff and say "Wow that guy did spectacular things over a very long career." He's a young guy and I think that he has a young and an old soul, and a young and an old mind. He's incredibly smart and incredibly versed on what's going on in the world, and he's also 25. And that's kind of the most impressive lethal combination, to blend those two things.


""Pop should be a spell"--Marc Bolan

Sunday, November 13, 2011




and some more words... old words, from me (the very first time, i reckon, i used the term "post-rock" , although as an adjective, not a noun)

what a record... still as softly sweetly lacerating as the day i first heard in september 1993

my general impression, unscientific but based on hard won experience, is that through the album discography of Parliament/Funkadelic/George Clinton/etc there prevails an average of two good tracks per LP

there is the Single/the one everybody knows, and the One Other Good One

i bought One Nation Under A Groove in the very early Eighties from a store near Wardour Street that was full of discounted lps from Germany or the U.S. (i'm guessing, because my copy of ONUaG was a cut-out, the corner snipped off, which I'd never seen before, and is US-only-practice, right?)

i had heard "One Nation Under A Groove" the single and imagined the whole album would be like that i.e. glorious

imagine my disappointment!

imagine the consternation, further, on playing the giveaway free 7 inch single which had a live version of "Maggot Brain" on it. (you gotta realise, this is before the internet, the knowledge was not out there, not at all-- i had no idea that Funkadelic had been a black rock group. also, this is when i was a doctrinaire post-punker who thought gtr solos were verboten)

anyway, this is the One Other Good One on One Nation Under A Groove

Friday, November 11, 2011

people talking about this young fellow

what it reminds me of is a sort of Pete Doherty/Viny Reilly hybrid

funny thing, i'd got the idea King Krule was this sort of vaguely drum'n'bassy idyllictronica producer on account of this lovely soft misty remix of "The Look" that's at the end of The English Riviera

Metronomy - The Look (King Krule Remix) by overmuziek

so bit surprised to learn he's this troubadour, potential cult-followed singer of songs

the reverb-soaked setting actually reminds me a tad of Position Normal's song-oriented numbers

but not the vocal obviously

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

odd little british groups (not protopunk/late glam this time, so much as late-hippy/boogie/proto-metal) wot never quite made it

not forgetting carl's faves (who are protopunk)

odd little english groops that never quite made it

although some of them did later in other agglomerations

Saturday, October 29, 2011

highlights of Morrissey's Under the Influence compilation

the sleevenotes are great

Saturday, October 22, 2011

forgot they even existed

not to be confused with Shalamar

Friday, October 21, 2011

fragments picking up from this but also chiming with this


always had this suspicion that the drive towards in-ESSENTIAL-ism – the centripetal drive away from monoculture, the canon, the idea of a music or band that has universal applicability -- while seemingly valuable in its anti-totalizing drive -- ultimately had a tendency (unintended but latent, creeping, insidious) towards inessentialism

once you rid yourself of that tyrant, THE ESSENTIAL – the thing that everyone should pay attention to -- what ultimately transpires is that everything becomes equally inessential

and the solipsistic narrative of "i like this, i don't like that" is all that's left

(and why, unless you're a personal friend, should i care about anyone's completely individual and idiosyncratic taste-patterns or journey-through-music-consumption)

if the confidence that what you are writing about could and should matter to “all” withers away... it is replaced by diffidence

and diffidence is never going to shake anybody out of indifference

the abandonment of the desire to occupy the central place means that there is never a moment of usurpation, coup d'etat, transfer of power... the throne is perpetually empty

it is an opting out of the dialectic altogether, in favour of pluralism... coalition government... shuffle politics... stasis

or to bring it back to Jarvis and his scented candles, the end result of getting rid of "THE CENTRAL" has been that music as a (diffuse, scattered, dissipated) totality has become less central in the scheme of things


the consequences of the (post-broadband) revolution in listening habits = no revolution(s) in music

as once anticipated (in both the predictive and looking-forward-to senses)

the triumph of this vision can now be seen to be pyrrhic

it's a musical-cultural landscape that is flattened and voided -- placid and flaccid

as atemporality takes hold and the privatization of music experience intensifies, you just have an archival wasteland of spent signifiers, that are, fatally,not fully dehistoricized yet (and therefore not yet capable of being repurposed)

a state of entropy, i.e. music as dead energy, energy that can't be put to "work"

less and less capable of being used to generate stances

Taste-stances that are also life-stances

Taste positions that are also subject positions

what has declined in this is the role of music in identity formation

as a result musical choices (by consumers) and aesthetic decisions (by musicians) carry less and less freight

the decision of e.g. Zola Jesus to "go Goth" is far less meaningful than the people who formulated Goth as a look/sound/worldview

the struggle behind that formulation – psychological/personal, social... and just the sheer creative effort to create a new form.... is largely absent

the style/stance is taken from the repertoire of existing, established, archival stances (sound /sartorial)

And there are few consequences or resonances to its adoption – or stakes

Goths, once, risked ridicule, occasionally even attack, for the way they look

Long since acceptable, part of the menu of quasi-subcultural looks, it’s been on fashion runways, it’s underpinned mainstream movies (Tim Burton)

it’s a choice, an option, a flavor

subculture involves putting on the clothes and not taking them off – investment without divestment

today, under the aegis of plus/and aka everything/and, to side with one music and its corresponding identity does not require you to reject or oppose any other

antagonistic and nihilatory energy is not capable of being generated through your likes

perhaps all that (serious choices, taking sides, identity-as-stance-as-moral-choice) now lies outside the realm of music – back where it should be even – in politics

and people keep asking 'where's the soundtrack, the songs, for this political moment(s)?' (student protests/street riots/Occupy____)

perhaps there isn't ever going to be one, or any... perhaps it's not needed... perhaps the relationship between the two is finally uncoupled, for good

(and maybe that is "for good" in the literal sense)

further reading
[fragment from an interview from last year, or was it the year before...]

The Darkstar album could almost have been designed to please me: it's the convergence of the hardcore continuum, hauntology, and postpunk & New Pop! It's growing on me, but initially I found it a bit washed-out and listless. Still, Mark's reading of it is typically suggestive. And I do think it is significant that an outfit operating in the thick of the post-dubstep scene, the FWD» generation, has made a record steeped in echoes of Orchestral Maneuvres (their first LP in particular was apparently listened to heavily during the album's making), New Order, and other early Eighties synthpop. It also means something that a record coming out of dance culture is all about isolation, regret, withdrawal, mournfulness.

The Darkstar record is an example of a self-conscious turn towards emotionality in UK dance. Most of the album features a human voice and songs, sung by a new member of the group recruited specifically for that role. And just this week I've read about two other figures from the same scene--James Blake and Subeena--who are releasing their first tracks to feature their own vocals. But this turn to expressivity seems to me as much rhetorical as it is actually going on in the music. After all hardcore, jungle, UK garage, grime, bassline house, were all bursting with emotion in their different ways. What people mean by "emotional" is introspective and fragile in ways that we've rarely seen in hardcore continuum music. (Obviously we've seen plenty of that in IDM going back to its start: Global Communications and Casino In Japan actually made records inspired by the death of family members).

The idea that artists and commentators are groping towards, without fully articulating, is that dance music no longer provides the kind of emotional release that it once did, through collective catharsis. So there is this turn inwards, and also a fantasy of a kind of publically displayed inwardness: the widely expressed artistic ideal of "I want my tracks to make people cry on the dancefloor". Because if people were getting their release in the old way (collective euphoria), why would tears be needed?

In the Nineties, drugs--specifically Ecstasy--were absolutely integral to this communal release. One of the reasons hardcore rave was so hyper-emotional was because its audience's brains were being flooded with artificially stimulated feelings, which could be elation and excitement but also dark or emotionally vulnerable (the comedown from Ecstasy is like having your heart broken). One thing that intrigues me about dance culture in the 2000s is the near-complete disappearance of drugs as a topic in the discourse. People are obviously still doing them, in large amounts, and in a mixed-up polydrug way just like in the Nineties. There have been a few public scares from the authorities and the mainstream media, like the talk about ketamine a few years ago, and more recently with mephedrone. But these failed to catalyse any kind of cultural conversation within the dance scene itself. It is as if the idea that choice of chemicals could have any cultural repercussions or effects on music's evolution has completely disappeared. Compare that with the Nineties, where one of the main strands of dance discourse concerned the transformative powers of drugs. There was a reason why Matthew Collin called his rave history Altered State and why I called my own book Energy Flash. That was a reference to one of the greatest and most druggy anthems in techno--Beltram's "Energy Flash" (which features a sample about "acid, ecstasy"-- but also to the more general idea of a psychedelics-induced flash of revelation or the "body flash" caused by stimulant drugs.

The turn to emotionality at the moment seems like an echo of a similar moment in the late 90s, when the downsides of drugs were becoming clear and I started to hear from clubbing friends that they'd been listening to Spiritualized or Radiohead. But where that was a flight from E-motionality (from the collective high, now considered false or to have too many negative side effects, towards more introspective, healing music), the new emotionality in the postdubstep scene is emerging in a different context. I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if it has anything to do with a dissatisfaction with Internet culture, the sort of brittle, distracted numbness that comes from being meshed into a state of perpetual connectivity, but without any real connection of the kind that comes from either one-on-one interactions or from being in a crowd. The rise of the podcast and the online DJ mix, which has been hyped as "the new rave" but is profoundly asocial, seems to fit in here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

don't see the appeal

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

you can see why people dedicate their entire lives to reggae music can't you

the power

Monday, October 17, 2011

my favorite of the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills is, of course, English Lisa

Lisa Vanderpump with her Daily Mail airs and her very very slightly husked voice bringing to mind the Silk Cut tones of major label press officers i recall from the late Eighties

i also like Kenneth Todd, her leonine, shaggy and admirably emotionally continent husband, who looks like he could be a former member of Procol Harum

now i knew I recognised Lisa's face from somewhere

and of course it's from here

Poison Arrow by SirCumstance

but she also starred in this forgotten folly, Mantrap, "an espionage flavoured musical" constructed as a vehicle for ABC coming off the monster success of Lexicon of Love.... this stilted and silly flick is what Julien Temple did between Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle and Absolute Beginners (meanwhile, in curious symmetry, Malcolm McLaren, who had been ousted from the GRn'RS director's chair, ends up globetrotting in the company of Lexproducer Trevor Horn)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

[fragments from a prototype book review much different from what made it into print...]

Few would claim that we’re living through a golden age for music. But there does seem to be an emerging consensus that this is something of a golden age for music books. Early in 2011, U.K. magazine The Wire staged Off The Page, a two-day festival dedicated to music writing that was so well-received it’s now set to be an annual event, while American alternative-music webzine Pitchfork recently launched Paper Trail, a series of interviews with music authors. As remarkable as the quality of the work that’s been coming out is the diversity of subject and approach, ranging from sweeping historical overviews (Rob Young’s British folk opus Electric Eden) to zoom-lens studies (David Browne’s Fire and Rain documents the single year 1970), and from associative drifts such as David Toop’s Sinister Resonance to monographs focused on individual artists (Owen Hatherley’s Pulp micro-tome Uncommon People) or specific albums (Continuum’s often superb 33 1/3 series). These highpoints stand out amid a constant torrent of less distinguished biographies, oral histories, and lavishly designed and largely pictorial retrospectives.

It seems significant that virtually none of these books, major or minor, deal with contemporary music or artists who rose to prominence in the 21st Century. The past, and usually the relatively remote past—the Sixties and Seventies above all—appears to offer more for authors to chew on than post-Internet music. Partly that’s because music back then felt more connected to social and political currents, and thus seems more consequential. So much of the really thought-provoking and enjoyable music of the last decade has been meta-music that plays witty games with esoteric sources drawn from pop’s ever-accumulating archive. Yet it’s precisely because the popcult past inundates us with its instant-access availability and materiality (reissues and fileshares, YouTube’s TV clips and live footage, reunion tours and memorabilia exhibitions) that book-length analysis feels more essential than ever. Longform writing supplies a crucial element of abstraction, cutting through retro culture’s bombardment of senseless sense-impressions and allowing the clear signal of truth to emerge from the welter of fact.

What could be truer than a photograph? In Bob Gruen’s Rock Seen (Abrams Books), there are many iconic images from across his four-decade career as a legendary lensman: John Lennon posing in front of the Statue of Liberty, Yoko Ono deplaning into a pit of paparazzi, Bob Dylan’s wizened strangeness, and shot after classic shot from punk’s early days, when Gruen first made his name photographing bands like The New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, and Blondie. But ultimately what Rock Seen reveals is that even the most compelling rockpic is a mute witness. I don’t just mean that the dimension of sound is necessarily absent (one exception here is a short exposure shot of Tina Turner onstage under strobe light, an erotic-kinetic whirl of light-smeared multiple images you can almost hear as paroxysmic rhythm). Ultimately these pictures don’t really tell you anything. I’m biased, naturally, being a text-worker, but I think that pictures are rarely worth a thousand words. The best rock writers, operating at full-strength, can catch more of the music’s essence in a couple of sentences than all the carefully posed or fly-on-the-wall shots in deluxe photobooks. Rock photography requires an eye but not a point of view. Its raison d’etre is radically different to criticism. The photographer’s job is to make the musicians look good, or at least “cool” (which can mean inelegant or grotesque by conventional standards). They don’t have to ask difficult questions or judge the artist’s latest work. The flat inanity of Gruen’s captions--“David Bowie is the ultimate performer”, “the New York Dolls shocked people with their androgynous look”, “[the Pistols]had a reputation for being very shocking, but they offered me a cup of tea and seemed normal enough”—show that he chose shrewdly when he picked up an Olympus rather than an Olivetti.

An increasingly popular mode for presenting the rock past, oral history has the exact opposite liability to the photo-book: it makes nearly everyone look bad, invariably de-heroicizing the protagonists until they seem smaller than life. Oral historians seem particularly drawn to punk rock: there’s been a raft of books documenting city-based scenes for Seventies punk or Eighties hardcore, a trend that can be traced back to Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s 1997 book Please Kill Me, which billed itself as about punk as a whole but was almost entirely focused on New York....and which unfolds as one long litany of baseness, egomania, and drug squalor (history as junk, just one sordid thing after another).... unputdownable on a certain level but leaves the reader feeling vaguely degraded, like you’ve been mindlessly bingeing on reality TV.

The graft and craft involved in oral history is actually similar to reality TV’s production process: copious documentation followed by judicious editing and sequencing... What keeps the genre from rising to the level of full-blown rock literature is the absence of a synthesizing authorial voice.

Real rock history navigates a path between the unpretty facts and the instant myths that spring up around the music....

One way to recover a sense of how music was received in its original moment is through the rock journalism collection. There’s been a bumper crop this season, with volumes by Ellen Willis, Neil Strauss, Byron Coley, Chuck Eddy, and Paul Nelson....

the problem is that which music is going to matter, to become a meaningful phenomenon through mass or cult popularity, is rarely apparent at the time of a record’s release

Friday, October 7, 2011

are not the very best songs of the Beegees, i.e. this one, 'stayin alive', 'tragedy', 'night fever''jive talkin',

1/ simply better on every level measurable than all the obscurer-than-thine 'underground disco' classics that your Brit/Euro (disco)noisseurs and (discog)noscenti types drool over and cough up cash for?

2/ almost,nearly, as epic/superhuman/eerie specimens of out-of-body bodymusic as the Michael Jackson of "Rock With You/Don't Stop/Lovely One/Shake Your Body"?

Got zero interest in the Sixties Brothers Gibb of Odessa etc though

sometimes i think this is the greatest era of music

was analogue-era recording ever better?

see by the late Seventies production is getting ever so slightly... wispy, maybe

but still golden age

love Hot Chocolate, but think i prefer the Stories's version, with the Rod-like rasp in the vocal...

Thursday, October 6, 2011