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