Sunday, August 31, 2003

Lone White Guy Strikes Again. Never noticed it before but there is a classic one in the R. Kelly 'Ignition (remix)' video (one of the very few Kelly songs I’ve liked actually) and instead of being a subliminal thing they make it into a major feature of the promo. The Lone White Guy--looking exactly like the popular stereotype of a bespectacled rock critic actually (he resembles a cross between Michael Azerrad and Lou Barlow) hits the floor and starts throwing these wack (if concerted and earnest) R&B type dance moves, surrounded by a circle of black folks staring in mingled amazement and amusement (among them a second white guy hovering in the background with an ambivalent expression on his face, as well he might). So here the LWG syndrome reaches a kind of self-consciousness. Seems like quite a rich text for a reading in terms of inclusion/exclusion effects, cultural ownership, the wigga, concepts of natural rhythm versus white dis-embodiment. Also the victory of pop-ism and post-Timbaland R&B: even the guys who look like they grew up on (or are even members of) Sebadoh, like they write/read Pitchfork, can't resist getting down to our stuff!
Rob Haigh’s Pre-Omni Trio Discography: A Start

Blimey, Rob was busy in the years before the release of that first Omni Trio EP on Moving Shadow (confusingly titled Vol. 2 -- which is a weird echo of TG starting with Second Annual Report). Below is just his industrial-era output--info provided by
Francesco Brunetti, an expert on that music. Grazie!

Nurse With Wound
---keyboards on Spiral Insana
---appears on Sylvie and Babs

Diana Rogerson
unspecified contributions to albums by
Steve Stapleton's wife
---UDT 017 - Diana Rogerson - the inevitable chrystal
belle scrodd record

----UD 021 - Chrystal Belle Schrodd - Belle de Jour

Robert Haigh releases on United Dairies

UD 026 - Robert Haigh - valentine out of season
tracklist
A1 Open Minor Number One
A2 Blue In Season
A3 Ritual To Revolution
A4 Another Career
A5 Automatic Study Number One
A6 Automatic Study Number Two
A7 Impromptu
B1 Developing In Blue
B2 Senecio
B3 Open Minor Number Two
B4 Ritual To Romance
B5 Berceuse
B6 Automatic Study Number Three
B7 Automatic Study Number Four

UDT 034 - Robert Haig - the best of (only in
cassette).

A track by Truth Club appeared on the first United Dairies compilation
UDT 02 - Various Artists - Hoisting the Black Flag
(features NWW, Whitehouse, Mental Aardvarks, Truth
Club, David Cross, Hamilton and Duarte)

Robert Haigh releases on L.A.Y.L.A.H. Antirecords

LAY 09 ---Robert Haigh - "Juliet Of The Spirits" (12")
LAY 21 ----Robert Haigh - "Music From The Ante Chamber" (12")

compilation track “Music For Piano” on The Fight Is On
(L.A.Y.L.A.H. Antirecords) (also included with
coil/hafler/nww/lustmord/organum)

Rob Haigh as member of bands

The Truth Club -- Sleight b/w Looking for Lost Toy (Le Rey Records)

Sema with Robert Haigh - Three Seasons Only
(Le Rey Records, LR102 ) 1984
01. Empire of Signs
02. Three Seasons Only
03. Two Feats of Klee
04. Tod Dokstader

I wonder if this is all of it. (And of course if any of it is any cop). Before he went breakbeat, Haigh had a transitional period of making house tracks, so I'm curious if any of this stuff was released and what it was like.

Also curious to know if Haigh makes any appearances in England's Hidden Reverse, and whether Keenan realises who he is? 'Cos I seem to remember Keenan making a disparaging comment about Omni Trio. Actually, maybe it was his mate Jade Gordon in Obsessive Eye (yeah another great lost zine of the 90s Jon, i will photocopy you the other issues when I next come across them--Dave Howell now is part of the Fatcat team I believe), it was about how Omni was lite-weight bizniz c.f. Keiji Haino. At any rate this unexpected convergence of the universes of Keenan and Reynolds is like a rift in pop-historical space-time. Although come to think of it, a lot of industrial pierced-dick types ended up making techno-ravey stuff, didn't they, so maybe it's not so odd (remember psykick warriors of gaia? Greater Than One mutating into the ravetastic G.T.O, John & Julie, Church of Ecstasy, and then into gabbanauts Technohead? And wasn't Rising High full of ex-industrialists?). Most of the sigil squad ended up doing the whiter-than-whiter Eurotechno/trance/hardtekno stuff, though, or Drum Club area, rather than junglizm. Although 23 Skidoo claim they released the first breakbeat house track ever--title and artist elude me just now--on their label.

Friday, August 29, 2003

More than ample consolation for the non-arrival of a new Isolee album: Villalobos, Alcachofa, (Playhouse). Sooooooooo good. So thickly, gloopily, pendulously textured it's like the music's going in two directions at once--like the vertical axis is almost overpowering the horizontal, forward-through-time axis.
The secret connection between Nurse With Wound and Omni Trio.
"Many people play with us, sometimes as many as ten a session. The principle contributors are members of Truth Club, Fote, Foetus and Whitehouse. David Cross of King Crimson fame also joined us for a while"--Steve Stapleton, 1982. Truth Club was Rob Haigh's band. I found one of their singles. Not great. I wonder if it was him who jammed with NwW. Anybody know?

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Ad hominem and how. This has got to be the most no-holds-barred, below-the-belt blitzkrieg of a takedown I've ever read. Beyond Burchill even. I mean to say, I find the guy's shtick a bit irritating, and the thought has crossed the mind that Spin should go ahead and rename itself McKlostermann's Monthly Concern and be done with it. But still, this goes all the way through schadenfreude, past empathy, and onto letters of condolence to the nearest and dearest. Makes the review New York Press did of Generation Ecstasy look like milk and cookies. Cover story and all--headline 'Please Kill Me'.

The assassin Mark Ames is the author of To Russia with Love, "an autobiographical collectoin of essays about Russian whores", so possibly deserves some unforgiving scrutiny himself.
Talking of Coil, here’s young Jess Harvell chipping in with some interesting comments on the topic of second-wave industrial and the wheat-and-chaff ratio thereof. But what’s this? The first civil words I’ve had from his direction in many a moon! “….As much as I've given him a hard time on ILM of late (not without good reason in some cases, mind you, but ILM seems to bring out the absolute worst in me at times)…”. Why, that’s almost an apology! A partial retraction--but of which bits, I wonder? The bit where he lambasted me for opinions he himself espouses (“i think hip-hop and r&b ARE pretty poor right now”--just one of numerous comments to that effect)? The weird theory he’s been touting that I never gave two shits for hip hop (seriously not-true, that one--I don’t want to get into reeling off all the rap groups I reviewed and/or interviewed from 1986 onwards, but suffice to say I was no stranger to London’s import stores and for quite some time believed rap to be WAY more futuristic and exciting than house music). Is it that thing where he deploys my critique of Meltzer against me (devilishly cunning, but I can’t help thinking some form of citation is in order)? Or is it just the repeated calls for Blissblog to shut up shop and me to shuffle off to some assisted living facility?

“ILM seems to bring the absolute worst in me”. Well, you’re not not alone there, mate! Mind you, I’m sure it would have the same effect on me if I still participated. It seems like an almost structural thing inherent to online forums and discussion groups. I noticed it first with a mailing list I used to contribute to occasionally, ukdance. The most pugnacious voices inevitably tended to dominate, and debates were always escalating into acrimonious slanging matches; the "winners" were those with the stamina and thick skin to outlast everybody else. Given my natural bent towards combativeness (discursively anyway) and imperiousness, and knowing I could hold my own in any scrap and then some, I realised if I hung around I could seriously rub folks up the wrong way.

We all know how things written in email sound colder and more bombastic than when said on the phone or in person, and how misunderstandings can develop when utterances aren’t enhanced and/or softened by facial expressions, gestures, real-world presence. Online forums that happen in near-realtime seem to have all the negative side-effects of email plus some unique defects of their own. You have the rapid-response element (where you might blurt out something you’ll later regret) but enough of a time-delay such that you can really hone your comment to make it extra-punchy or acerbic or devastating. And the person at the receiving end can of course reread the comment and get more and more offended by it. Then you get the long term syndromes of bad blood and people in fixed adversarial roles.

The interplay between blogs can be prone to some of these things--there are spats, obviously, offence is taken now and then--but not to nearly the same extent it seems. The time intervals involved seem to be short enough for genuine interaction and discursive back-and-forth, but long enough that ill-considered remarks usually get self-censored. There also, at least in this neighbourhood, seems to be a code of civility--almost exaggeratedly so (which is why it can seem incestuous to some folk, I guess). It’s interesting how Mark K-Punk has fallen into this role of “perfect host”, joining most conversations and invariably pushing them to the next level, making introductions (I’ve lost count of the number of new blogs he’s alerted us to), and generously paying compliments to one and all.

“A good argument” is one of the great pleasures in life--for this opinionated fucker anyhow--but it’s a real delicate thing to pull off without one of the parties getting injured. Even now, in person and in print, I’m still got much to learn about the art of arguing hard while still dropping those signals that indicate respect for one’s adversary. It’s a tricky balancing act, though: too much geniality and agree-to-disagree, and there’s no sparks, no energy, no sense of anything at stake. But too much ferocity, and you might win the argument but lose the friendship, or poison the collective pond.

Anyway, if that is an olive branch, when the check for your latest Grime piece comes through maybe you could burn me off one of those CD-Rs we were talking about…
A really excellent album--REWIND RECORDS: Soundmurderer + SK-1 (Rewind/Rephlex). Soundmurderer’s own tunes, ragga-rinse like some neverending ’94, as good as the real-deal old skool biznizz. GET MASH UP.
And there's a parallel discussion of the SFJ/Timberlake piece going on at the rantscentral sector of Onetouchfootball, in which my old comrade-in-arms David Stubbs (Arsequake Division, 5th Regiment) says the following:

"... it's not that pop music in itself is inherently objectionable, it's that there is so little of it that's any good nowadays. Hence the alacrity with which Popists like Paul Morley have seized on Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" like a lifeline. I disagree with E10, I think it's a great record but in recent memory it's a solitary pearl in pop's stagnant ocean (and, arguably, the only decent record the grossly over-indulged Ms Minogue has ever made).

As to why that's the case I'd only mutter vague generalisations here about a paucity of magic, of dreamers, of androgyny, of guilelessness and simplicity in modern pop, which is presently over-determined by ruthlessness, materialism, studied gender apartheid, an almost joylessly anti-romantic, slickly functional attitude towards sex and sexuality - all reasons I can only admire but not really like Beyonce, btw. But that's just one guy's semi-coherent opinions first thing in the morning.

.... far from critics being "afraid" of pop, there's been a long tradition of Popist critics who've used bright, shining examples of the genre as a stick with which to beat grey, moribund, complacent rock (indie, dinosaur, whatever), or even as a form of self-flagellation. Morley himself was the first - in the early Eighties he provocatively remarked that a remix of a Tight Fit single was superior to Led Zeppelin III, thereby driving away the remaining rump of NME's hippie readership.

Since then, numerous crits have invoked pop against rock for various reasons - sometimes out of robust populism, sometimes as indie-kid baiting (Steven Wells is a past and persistent master at this), sometimes revelling in the irony of being in the wrong job - Caroline Sullivan, mystifyingly, has spent a career writing about rock music, even though her true love and, as it turned out, true vocation, was singing the praises of the Bay City Rollers.

It's a tendency which has, if anything, has been over-determined and certainly has no natural constituency among the kids, as MM discovered first in the mid-Eighties and then in its latter days when it attempted, twice, to "Go Smash Hits", like that's what people wanted from a weekly inkie."


Much more to say on this topic, but first...

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A burst of discursive activity from Jon Dale, now at a new home. And apparently, in weird synchronicity, he was already planning to do something on Coil--the Good Stuff, so that should be interesting.
Matthew (I thought you were on holiday, mate, and computerless?) uses a quote from the great Robert Wyatt as a springboard for some alternately hilarious and provocative speculations.

Why's there no such thing as "socialist rave"? Maybe 'cos you can imagine the DJ booth as a pulpit, but never as a lectern.

I do know a few SWP and ANL types who were/are serious ravers/junglists/garagists though--and would go through interesting intellectual acrobatics in order to connect their two fields of passion.

Wyatt's Rough Trade labelmates The Red Crayola--whose Mayo Thompson had a fair few chinwags with Robert the Stalin fan I'll wager--did a whole album, Kangaroo?, based around the humourous notion "what would a socialist pop song sound like?". The results, songs like "The Milkmaid" and "The Tractor Drivers", while appealingly daft, show why the idea of Soviet rock'n'roll is an oxymoron. (That's one of the oddest things about A Clockwork Orange--the idea that the USSR would have this huge influence on Western pop culture such that the youth would speak pidgin Russian slang. But then nobody ever accused Anthony Burgess of being in touch with pop music).
Below, Nietzche diagnoses "indie guilt" over a century avant la lettre. Quote courtesy of Mark at K-punk (who himself beautifully expresses the neither pro nor anti but just plain indifferent feelings that most Now Pop inspires--at least in him and me). Now let's hear from Friedrich:

"In our youthful years we respect and despise without that art of nuance which constitutes the best thing we gain from life, and, as is only fair, we have to pay dearly for having assailed men, and things which Yes and No in such a fashion. Everything is so regulated that the worst of all tastes, the taste for the unconditional, is cruelly misused and made a fool of until a man learns to introduce a little art into his feelings and even to venture trying the artificial: as genuine artists do. The anger and reverence characteristic of youth seem to allow themselves no peace until they have falsified men and things in such a way that they can vent themselves on them --- youth as such is something that falsifies and deceives. Later, when the youthful soul, tormented by disappointments, finally turns suspiciously on itself, still hot and savage even in its suspicion and pangs of conscience: how angry it is with itself now, how it impatiently rends itself, how it takes revenge for its long self-delusion, as if it had blinded itself deliberately! During this transition one punishes oneself by distrusting one's feelings; one tortures one's enthusiasm with doubts, indeed one feels that even a good conscience is a danger, as though a good conscience were a screening of oneself and a sign that one's subtler honesty had grown weary; and above all one takes sides, takes sides on principle, against 'youth'. --- A decade later: and one grasps that all this too --- was still youth! (Nietszche, Beyond Good and Evil, 31)

I think it's also about two different ideas of what youth is -- youth as young adulthood
(well adjusted, enjoyment-oriented, confident, fully sexualized, but also complacent and lacking in romance/Romanticism) and youth as adolescence (awkward, inadequate, maladjusted, but also full of wild dreams and excessive expectations). It's this second 'youth'--excessive Romanticism and the distorted polarized purist worldview that results--that Nietzche is talking about that is then renounced loudly.

Tom Ewing recently described his experience of the contemporary pop paradise as "being sixteen again, but without the hang-ups". But the hang-ups are actually the good stuff, or at least the seeds of glory. Adolescence without hang-ups--what's the point? This is why I believe Pop-ism is a lot closer to Hornbyism than it may realise. It's an oddly self-cornering ideology, progressively eliminating more and more of what actually is good and worth celebrating about pop (freak characters, innovator producers, sonic weirdness) as rockist criteria, residues of crypto-auteurism that must be purged. The trouble with this line of argument if pursued to the bitter end is that all that's left is entertainment as its own justification, showbiz criteria, "I like what I like". Nothing against entertainment, we all need it, and come Friday night I don't nip over to the video store and get out a Godard, i have just about enough mental strength left to cope with the repartee on Sex and the City. But there are good reasons why there's been a massive discourse around rock and rock-related popular musics, and there isn't one about, say, Andrew Llloyd Weber musicals, or why TV criticism isn't as heated and urgent as writing about popular music. Various things have been at stake in that "rock &..." discourse, most of them falling into categories marked either "art" or "folk"/"the social". Pop-ism is a subset of that massive discourse, derives its energy from and most of its polemical point in relation to that discourse; it's not the opening up of some new discursive space. And it's quite a tradition in itself--dating not just back to Morley circa New Pop and his "Tight Fit's single is better than Led Zep III" quips (which successfully goading the Jam-and-Bunnymen loving NME readership) or Vic Godard talking about preferring Radio Two to Radio One and wanting an audience of middle-aged people, but all the way back to moves made by Nik Cohn in the Sixties. I would almost say it's a structural position in the discourse--an option available to uber-hipsters who want to distance themselves from middlebrow peers (although to be more charitable there's perhaps also a genuine yearning to leave behind the game of hip altogether). At any rate there's always been an equivalent available of the Missy Elliott > Radiohead argument, and there's usually been someone making that point. Except that now of course singling out Missy Elliott as great is itself deemed auteurist/rockist...






In the great Sasha Frere-Jones versus Alex Ross debate re Justin Timberlake, for all the power of SFJ's argument, I find myself emotionally more in sympathy with this chap (link via rockcritics daily). By which I mean to say: Justin Timberlake's not an underdog. Pop is the overlord right now. (And is actually aligned with, connected in real ways with, forces that are rampaging over everything). Likewise with Pop-ism: its victory is complete (Pitchfork; last year even my mate Craig "I-Sound" Willingham, DJ Scud's right hand man and manager of uberhipster record store Mondo Kim's, put Timberlake in his Top 10 of 2002). But, as history shows time and again, an ideology's point of greatest strength typically precedes the fall. The cycles shift, and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody started to renew the anti-pop critique; if a new and improved rockism didn't rear up from some quarter.

Anyway, for those who reckon they got me pegged as a closet rockist, check this: jan 86, reviewing the june brides live for Melody Maker: "There is a current argument that the real pop is not the glossy, colourful substance that fills our charts, but the jangly likes of the Shop Assistants, Woodentops, Go-Betweens, Junes Bridges, etc etc. Real pop, in other words, descends entirely from the Velvet Underground. Well, I have a place in my heart for this spindly breed, but what irritates me is that its supporters are invariably such snobs. You can never persuade one of them that, say, the sumptuous, magisterial 'Slave to the Rhythm', or the shoddily dynamic 'Rebel Yell' are glorious pop too. You just know they can't even perceive the magic in something like 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough'". I'm not bringing this up to say "been there done that" (well, not entirely) but to make another point--later in 86, writing a thinkpiece called "Younger Than Yesterday" and various sequel features, I investigated deeper into the scene of groups like June Brides, Talulah Gosh, Pastels, Beat Happening, etc, and discovered that while I still preferred the sonix of Janet Jackson and Mantronix, I was in a lot of sympathy with the reasons why these kids had built a whole culture (the shambling/cutie movement) based around studied innocence, lo-fi naivete, and purist white-only musical sources: it was a revolt against the hypersexuality/glamour/black music-based nature of mainstream pop, which in turn connected to that Eighties yuppie culture of aspiration/health & efficiency/self-realisation. In lambasting the straw man of indie snobbery (which typically seems to be also a form of castigating an earlier version of themselves, more earnest and hung-up--somewhere there's a great Nietzche quote somewhere about this, about how reacting against your youth so stridently, "that too is youth") the Pop-ists have forgotten the original salience of the indie critique, why it was a necessary and good point to make.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Elidor's Robin Carmody back in the fray with new blog The House At World's End. Promised future item on "fascist hip hop" sounds intriguing...
forgot to mention that it was about ten degrees cooler up there

(jeez the insect bites though)

Friday, August 22, 2003

A trip to upstate New York

Musical highlights

-- “Mr. Kirk’s Nightmare” on the ride up (History of Our World Part One, in-car favorite for life, beliiiiiieve) and hearing it in a totally new way: identifying with the father. (And then wondering: what on earth will I say to Kieran when he’s old enough to ask about drugs?)

--listening to Throbbing Gristle (a working vacation, sigh) in the most incongruously bucolic surroundings. Such that in the gap between burns-victim threnody “Hamburger Lady” and whatever “tune” comes next you could hear the sound of a creek bubbling and rippling. Felt a bit sorry for the cat, although that said Nurse With Wound’s Homotopy To Marie (real clangorous metallic tones, lots of high frequencies and sudden loud bits) was the only one that really consternated her.

--rifling through our friends’ record collection (when the cats away the rockcrits will play). trying to do a sort of Vinyl Reckoning from outside type thing, tracing the contours of lives lived through and around music, and wondering which records belong to which half of the couple.

---what a treasure trove! Why didn’t I bring a tenpack of C90s? They’ve got 41 George Jones albums! Crepuscule’s The Fruit of the Original Sin double elpee w/ Arthur Russell and DNA and rare Durutti!). Negativland’s Helter Stupid! the Louvin Brothers!

---finally getting to hearing Déjà Vu by CSN&Y--a Kodwo Eshun fave, believe it or not, also Jon Dale's a big fan. Rather good actually.

--finally getting to hear Wishbone Ash. Hmmmm. The "Tailfeather" of Seventies arena rock? Even the famed dual-guitar interplay ain't all that.

-- finally hearing a White Stripes album all the way through. And Jack White, for sure, excels at what he does--in the same way that a cabinet-maker, or an engraver, or someone who has mastered the art of crafting magic lanterns, excels at what they do. It’s just that there’s not that much call for it anymore. You can listen and feel your ingrained reflexes responding to the tug of that certain way of building with riffs and spacing, builds and dynamics. But then every so often (I find) one's old modernist instincts resurge and it’s like you’re in some dank old cellar and the music has the shuddery sensation of cobwebs on your skin, and you’re like ‘eeurrgh, yukyuk, get it off me get it off me’.

--ah, what’s this? The CD version/condensation of the Lost Soul series, all four volumes of which I bought in, must have been 1982, on the strength of a luminous Barney Hoskyns review in NME. See, I used to be a bit of a soul boy believe it or not! Can’t remember if it was Lost Soul or Shirley Brown’s Woman To Woman, but I used to listen on headphones late at night, and I guess I must have been “singing” along obliviously, ‘cos my mum burst into the room looking all alarmed ‘cos she thought I’d got appendicitis. The vinyl is in storage in London, so it’s an age since I last heard this stuff. And it’s glorious--country-tinged soul that’s moved North and lives in the city now, lush but raw, exquisitely detailed, plus the lyrics are often quite clever ‘n’all. Highlights of this highlight: Howard Tate’s aching, my girl’s gone and what am I gonna do with this here love of mine lament “Ain’t got Nobody To Give It To”, Brenda & The Tabulations “One Girl Too Late” (she’s found the love of her life but he’s already taken), Jackie Moore’s “Personally” (she’s got something she can’t send through the mail--her love), Gwen Macrae’s lovesick tempest “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” (titanic, almost the equal of “Gimme Shelter”, seriously) (Gwen had at least three terrific phases--there was the 70s George Macrae-style stuff, and then she did all this fabulous early 80s “Heartbeat”-era NYC discofunk--“Funky Sensation”), Bobby Womack’s can’t-take-the-country-outta-the-boy, ain’t-got-a-crying-dime-to-my-name, po’-but-happy anthem “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. And this CD doesn’t even have all the good ones on it (where’s “Finders Keepers” by Chairmen of the Board---with its amazing World of Twist/Sign of The Times-era Prince phased clavinet freakout at the end--or Womack’s even better “A Little Bit Salty”?)--so if you see the vinyl you know what to do. Post-Stax and pre-disco, this music was “vintage soul” when I first heard it in the early Eighties, and even more so now, but in its own time it was state-of-the-art. The producers (Thom Bell, Van McCoy, Barry White, Isaac Hayes etc) who inspired the people who made these tunes and arranged these arrangements, they were the Timbalands, Sh’eksperes, Neptunes of their day. (Looking at the sleevenotes, it turns out I actually know the bloke who co-compiled it, Joe McEwen--R&B critic in the Seventies (check your copies of Stranded, crit-nerd bredren) and later A&R at Sire where he signed My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream. Probably had some role in their Dixie-Narco slow-soul shift post-Screamadelica, actually. But Lost Soul makes up for that crime heh heh.
Joe, if you’re out there, big up ya chest, and what are you doing these days?)

--now, The Redskins, Neither Washington Nor Moscow… from 1986--this record is the kind of thing that made me stop listening to soul for a good while. The first live review I got paid for was The Redskins actually. Probably have more sympathy with the politics these days (the punchline to the title is “…but International Socialism”), but musically/emotionally/spiritually this is such a reduced idea of “soul”--it’s all one tenor, one idea (the joys of solidarity and struggle), one hoarse muscley blast of exertion and exhortation. The Jam really, only not as good.

---Swans, Filth. The one before the one I bought, Cop. A record which I listened to a few times, found incredibly intense, but never had the need to revisit. That's a whole category of records right there. Swans sort of
brings us back round to industrial, the working part of this vacation… in the recent blog debates it seems like the actual music, and whether it’s any good, kind of got short shrifted. Let’s start with Coil. I like one or two things by then immensely (“NASA Arab”) and of course some very astute folk rate them highly: IP uses all those words like “sidereal” and “sinistral”, Drew from Matmos reckons they’re among the best organizers of sound extant, Brendan M. Gillen’s a big fan too if memory serves. And yet the bulk of what I’ve heard sounds, well, a tad clunky and portentous. Overworked; treated and processed in quite an ungainly way. Music To Play In the Dark is quite eldritch, I suppose, but Unreleased Themes From Hellraiser, which I found in a store not even that expensively priced, checked on the decks, and passed on, struck me as a bit… hokey really. Horse Rotorvator stuck me as ponderous and borderline preposterous in ’86, and I suspect it hasn’t aged well. Overall, Coil’s way with rhythm seems a bit clumpy and Nordic (I’m surprised such a seasoned funkateer and sensualist as IP goes for it). Industrial music as a whole is about as white as music gets, which is no crime, and can even be intense (gabba, some trance). I suppose with Coil and Current 93 and the rest a lot of it is bound up with the intellectual apparatus and paraphernalia that surrounds the music--how much you are able to buy into the whole hermetic/alchemical/esoterrorist thang--sigils and scrying (or do I mean shriving? I don’t know what either means to be honest) and whatnot. The word “poppycock” dances on the tip of my tongue, which is odd as I’ve got a mystical bent but it’s the mundane epiphany sort. My kind of ritual and neopaganism tends to be the kind that doesn’t have any trappings of ceremony and arcana and initiation. Hardcore was nothing if not a Gnostic cult.
TG--another one I’ve never been able to get off the fence about. Fantastically interesting band in terms of ideas, history, and the characters involved. But as a sonic legacy? Can’t help thinking their odd fixation, live and in the studio, with making everything up from scratch in the absolute spur of the moment--with minimal preparation or preconceptualisation--was oddly limiting, as opposed to freeing. Every so often they constructed an amazing, truly aberrant piece of “music”, and live, judging by the documentation, they could reach these incredible pitches of intensity. But too often they seem to fall back into favorite heavily-effected textures or devices (particular surges or pummels or searing enflamed arcs). There is quite a lot of redundancy in the TG oeuvre, exacerbated of course by its extraordinary vastness. (After five days in the country with TG I feel quite sorry for the chap from the Guardian who tried to listen to 24 Hours in twenty four hours). But then I sort of feel the same way about improv and ‘free music’ in general: that for all the commotion and dynamism and volcanic violence, in terms of timbre and sound-color, it’s rather thin. Timbral invention and voluptuousnesss and variety seems best served by prolonged and fastidious activity in the studio, on the whole.
Now, Nurse with Wound, I’m starting to get a taste for. Starting with the first album was a big mistake. Initial impressions of the later ones--is this the world’s longest running Faust Tapes tribute band?--are fading, replaced by the sense of a genuinely idiosyncratic way with sound. Soliloquy is the one I want to hear next, judging by the descriptions that might be the turning point. Then I might even shell out for that exorbitantly priced Keenan book.
(If anybody out there wants to “enlighten” me in re. any of the above, esp. Coil, well I’d be glad to reciprocate in kind in re. something else)

Non musical highlights of a stay in upstate New York.

---Getting all pawboy with the cat.
---Going all Luka with the fauna and flora (I really feel Luka when he’s talking about this stuff, I grew up in the country). Amazing caterpillars! Leafmunching bugs that look like grains of white rice with little black Cyclops eyes on the end! Hummingbirds outside the kitchen window! Tickling a newt!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

‘Crap Rap’ rap #2
Bonecrusher’s fun, in a growly, gnarly Rob Zombie sort of way. Sing-song choruses in rap rule. The Southern crunk tunes are always cool ‘cos even when the beats and hooks are unexceptional the videos have that Hogarth-esque grotesquerie: the populace revelling in their base appetites and rude pleasures (“Get Low”, indeed). David Banner, “Like A Pimp”: one of those nadir-or-new-thing deals as per “Grindin’”/”In Da Club”--my initial reaction was ‘where’s the music? where, in fact, is the groove?’, but this sort of is-this-actually-music confusion often signals something new’s going on. Perhaps you need to hear it in one of those block-shaking sound system cars. I do like “Pimp”’s weird infra-bass noises, though, which periodically interRUPT proceedings like a particularly pingy and percussive fart. Bubba Sparxx, I’d like to trust the advance reports that his album's solid gold, but will persist in believing “Deliverance” is just refried Everlast. Lumidee: it’s “refreshing”, it’s different, but for some reason it reminds me of Colourbox or The Wolfgang Press. And I’m with SFJ on this one: chick can’t sing. Talking of which, Neptunes single: Pharrell’s falsetto isn’t… actually… that… pleasant a sound, is it really? Not on this outing anyway. The parts where the song changes to a rip-off/homage of/to Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help it” (Off The Wall) are quite snazzy (is having a Janet lookalike in the video some weird conceptual subtext thing?), but… ah, after N.E.R.D, this is a bit blah. 50 Cent/Snoop: Lord save us from steel drums, the rap producer’s most desperate scrape-the-barrel-of-inspiration ploy. Beyonce’s beat is neat, but those crusty archaic horns are an instantly delibidiniser. And don’t you find her personality supremely unattractive? On the cover of Glamour in my local supermarket her face is contorted in a grotesquely smarmy grin; the strapline reads “Gutsy, Grounded, Inspiring”. Mya’s new one might be good, but I can’t really hear it through the booty-shaking and costume changes. Talking of which, what year was it that Spin declared The Year of the Ass. 1999? 2000? That makes it the fourth or fifth consecutive Year of the Ass then, don’t it? Now, listen, I like a bit of butt as much as anybody, but… it’s that "‘too much of a good thing" syndrome. Sorry Joy, it’s not “Tailfeather,” it’s “Right Thurr” that’s “the enjoyable reductio ad absurdum” (rivaled only by “Sample Dat Ass” on Chingy’s CD). No “Back That Azz Up” but jolly enough--still can’t shake the vision, though, of Chingy ten years down the line, as this bum buttonholing people in bars: “don’t you remember, I’m the “thurr” guy, giss a drink, eh?.” Now, “Tailfeather” itself, the nadir verdict stands, with this qualification: its very characterless mediocrity, rather than active badness, is what makes it the anti-zenith (along with the fact that the word “tailfeather” should never appear in a rap song, or any song in fact). Perhaps nadirs take the form not of the true pop atrocities (bad music at least provokes a reaction), but those unremarkable tracks that almost escape our notice--invisible turning points like those strange attractor things in chaos theory, the pivots around which pop’s cycles turn. (According to this theory, Ginuwine’s “In Those Jeans” might be the nadir of R&B). (The nadir of New Pop wasn’t Culture Club’s “The War Song” or Duran’s “Wild Boys”, then, but probably some follow-up single by Blue Zoo that got to #41). Concluding this panoramic survey of the underwhelming and desultory, this extravaganza of faint praise and fainter abuse (just call me the anti-Spizazz!), I'm confirmed in the feeling that commercial/“street” rap is indisputably at a low point (the state of undie: I couldn’t say, but I don’t exactly hear people heralding revelatory works of unbridled genius from that sector). From a pure consumer point of view, no great expectations, just a non-aligned punter tuning into the outlets that make up the mainstream in this country (BET, Hot 97...) in the modest expectation of discrete units of pleasure and novelty---well, it’s plainly not coming up with the surprises, the twists, the tingles, we've come to expect in recent years, nor indeed the larger-than-life personalities (Joe Budden? You’re pulling my leg, sir). Why that is, your guess is as good as mine. Scenius-as-ecosystem exhaustion as with jungle’s sudden fatal depletion of biodiversity circa ‘98? That was terminal though, whereas rap's got larger resources---historically, sonically--and much bigger investments, emotional and financial (it won't be allowed to die, in other words). Probably just a cyclical thing, then.

A flood--I kid you not--of emails alerting me to the fact that Gez Varley is alive and well and living in Berlin, and making the occasional techno record.
Still haven’t heard P. Diddy’s much-ballyhooed house track--but seeing Notorious B.I.G/Puff/Ma$e’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” from way back (97?) on the box just now it struck me that it is basically a disco cut-up, and nearly uptempo enough to pass for house. What with its mad flailing stumbly all over the place beat, if it weren't for the crap rapping it could almost be on Roule.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Elephant Man-- as per Finney's comments, for sure it’d be great if he was next up to make it BIG in the USA after Sean Paul. But that new single, while acely propulsive in the verses, kinda craps out at the chorus, don't you think? It's real ungainly and only-really-semi-tuneful. Plus there’s his image problem--no oil painting at the best of times, but the video, jeez, he looks like Worzel Gummidge*....

* For the benefit of young’uns or non-Commonwealth readers: scarecrow of children’s book/TV series fame with straw hair, mismatched second-hand garments, and rotten parsnip for a nose.
Some things for the k-punk-type headz out there. This. And this. Talking of all things K-prefixed, ccru's site has got a
whole bunch of new stuff but each new article is separately linked and I just can’t be arsed, so here (probably) is the site's foyer.

Here’s something odd and out of the blue--the new LFO album, Stealth, is really rather good. Much better than Advance or whatever the last one was called. In parts Stealth sounds a bit like a "grown-up" Frequencies. It's just Mark Bell on board though--whatever happened to his ex, the wonderfully unseemly/unlikely named Gez Varley?
Garridge-punk meets punk garage! On Basement Jaxx’s forthcoming album Kish Kash, “the track, 'Lucky Star' sees the Jaxx in cahoots with the UK underground's boy in the corner Dizzee Rascal, a harsh tagteam assault leaping straight from the underground and into the charts” [source: Astralwerks press release]. Also appearing on the album is Siouxsie Sioux. With numberless other guests and genre collisions, Kish sounds dangerously like dog’s dinner, but apparently the record takes off from “Where’s My Head At” which is a good take-off point, especially if they've followed my advice and ditched any lingering residues of samba-house tastefulness and gone for that Oi!/New Wave (not nu-wave) aggro vibe.
The original culture warrior goes NOW-POP!!!! Ethan Brown, just back from Germany, tells me that Marc Arcardipane has a huge chart hit over there. From what I can gather Scooter have covered his oompah-gabbatune “I Like It Loud” (already a hit--in Belgium at least--on its original release in 199?8?, via his uber-volkist alias Marshall Masters). Either that or they've combined the original track mash-up stylee with a song of their own, “Maria”. At any rate on the record sleeve it says Scooter Versus Marc Acardipane & Dick Rules (who he?). “Utter crap…. Sort of a dumbed down Zombie Nation if that’s even possible” says Ethan, but “it's sort of thrilling to see him right along with J. Lo and Britney on German MTV”. Well, who can disagree with that? Plus he deserves the money.


Friday, August 08, 2003

The connection between the previous post and the one before that being.... Viva Hate. If only Vini had stayed, become M's new Marr...
It's funny that Mark has been reinvoking the idea of Morrissey and his workshy neurasthenic "celibacy" and morose malingering as a Foucauldian refusal of compulsory sexualisation/positivity/selfrealisation... 'cos I'd been thinking my old 'Against Health & Efficiency' critique had a renewned applicability these days. Very old, actually: 1985, Monitor, a straightforward mapping of The History of Sexuality onto Hatfull of Hollow. There's kind of a 1985 vibe at present, the conditions that demanded the existence of a Morrissey ("a horrified figure against the Eighties", as me old mucker David Stubbs put it) are back in fuller force than ever. But no such dissident figure is in sight, on a mainstream level. Of course, to have the same function/effect as Morrissey did in his time, such a Heroic Miserabilist would not much resemble Morrissey or The Smiths at all, sonically, or in terms of performance/charisma -- the music would have to take into account all that's happened in the last 20 years. Would have to not disgust Luka, in other words, or people of his age.

On the 1985 thing... In Morley’s new book Words and Music (genius, of course, although if I can spare the time from my own effort I’d like to engage with it here at some point, pen a loving critique), he compares the burst of futurist R&B and pop at the end of the Nineties/start of this decade to his beloved New Pop of the early Eighties, and says it felt like those ideas had finally came home to the mainstream. Not sure that this analogy really bears up since New Pop was a rush of arty, postpunk types coming in from the left, strategically taking on the gloss and accessibilty of pop, which is not the case at all with the Now Pop explosion which was organized and controlled by business insiders, professional stage managers, fembot-factory owners, song doctors, etc. Nor does does it quite acknowledge the extent to which the Now Pop has really really been pushed from the hip by black music, by production innovators in R&B, dancehall, 2step, as well as by styles of diva vocalisation, dancing and video choreography, fashion ideas etc. (Mind you, you could say the same of the original early Eighties New Pop too: white Brits nicking ideas from Chic, P-funk, disco, New York synthfunk, electro). Putting that aside and taking Morley’s version as an attractive notion: well, what happened to New Pop was that by '83 it started to go awry. The ideas got staler, the music got bloated; hacks and clones took the most superficial trappings and separated them from the interesting motor-ideas. The good guys, “our” people--Associates, Heaven 17, Human League, Altered Images, ABC--got shunted aside and the careerists took over (Eurhtymics, Thompson Twins, Duran, Wham) and then it got even worse in 84-85 with your Howard Jones types. Well, I would suggest that it's at least worth considering that in a similar cyclical process and for similar reasons (formula-repeating/diluting), Now Pop's fizz has gone and it is right now at the 1984-85 stage. The steady-state theory that holds that pop music annually produces the exact same level of quality with no fluctuations, no drastic ups and downs, is counter-intuitive---it doesn’t correspond to how anything else works either in human existence (economy, etc) or in Nature. Plus if there are golden ages, conceptually there must surely be... less golden ones, no?

[Morrissey-related aside: I never said that heteromales couldn't identify with the emotions in The Smiths songs, just that often the specific scenarios in the songs would be foreign to most of them--like being picked up by an older man in a car ("This Charming Man", or whatever "William It Was Really Nothing" was about (Billy McKenzie dumping him for a girl?), or the erotic allure of skinheads and crims. But because M was oblique about it, the general tenor of longing, homesickness, unrequitedness, frailty, etc etc, was something that het males could latch onto, and that spoke very deeply to a certain kind of UK (and elsewhere obviously) boy. But yes it's totally about unmanliness, a refusal or inability to meet performance quotas.]

I do have something to say about the boys-own nature of blogs (or this neighbourhood of blogs) ["blog"--uncomfortably close to the word 'bloke' innit] but later for that as it might get.. prolonged, complicated. But I had another observation -- s' kind of weird how the vast majority of this neighbourhood is made up of U.K. (including UK expatriates) and Commonwealth (former?--what exactly is Australia now, a republic?) voices. Where my Yankees at?
Contemplating the almost vulgar exquisiteness of Viny Reilly's guitarplaying...
The missus ponders whether the book industry is next in line to be devastated by filesharing and digital piracy.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Re. The Wire's cover story this month--The New Weird America: it's Pop-ism's Other, isn't it? All wood and hand's on here-in-the-flesh, acoustic instruments and metaphysics-of-presence. If I had half a mind to, I'd be tempted to pen a devastating critique of this ultra-underground phenomemon but I'm kind of feeling: good luck to 'em. They're trying to build something and while far from my cup of tea (too Luddite), the anti-corporate tenor kinda appeals. In surprising ways it's got a fair bit in common with Grime: autonomous activity, a samizdat rhizome of self-made music released in staggeringly small pressings. There's even a similar element of there-and-then improv to both, much more central with N.W.A. obviously but with Grime there's the aspect of MCs freestyling and jousting in on-air ciphers. Both have this relationship to folk, but despite its non-folksy vibe and almost total lack of acoustic instrumental sounds, Grime, I think, is closer to folk in the strict ethnological sense--the music of an actual people in a specific locale--whereas N.W.A. is like some ultraBeatnik version, a constructed tradition (just as the original folk movements were, in both USA and UK), and dependent, David Keenan makes clear, on the web and ultramodern technology for its very existence.

There was one bit in the Wire story that rather stuck out as incongruously at odds with the vague highminded spiritual tone of the scene, when John Moloney of Sunburned Hand of Man starts reminiscing about his delinquent youth, and giggling about him and his gang rolling tyres down a hill. This is a built-up area, right, on the edge of Boston. "We would laugh so hard we would piss our pants when we heard the tyres screech and cars crashing into each other." Hilarious, eh?!? Flatten a three year old, dislocate an old lady’s shoulder--what a hoot! You can practically see him wiping the tears out of his eyes as he tells the piece de resistance anecdote, about the time one tyre got a real bounce on and knocked a guy over, knocked him unconscious, and smashed his bag full of beer. "I've never laughed so hard in my life and I still cry laughing when I think about it.... Great fun. I miss it." 'Course Keenan, not wanting to offend his new mates, refrains from editorialising or indeed making any comment whatsoever. Wonder if he'd have said anything if the poor sap had been a gangly Scot whose carrier bag full of Nurse With Wound 7inchs and Jap-psych rarities got pulverised...
Now these people probably do deserve censure of some kind. A sudden attack of squeamishness prevented me from including Simon Sez's "Golly Gosh" (like the Mr. Biggshot track, it's on Social Circles and prod. Sticky) in the Grime Report #1. The tune is great, a chip off the same block of their great "Shut Ya Mouth", but the lyrics, ugh--it's this year's "Swallow". Here's one verse: “Eurrrgh, look at your cold sore/You’re like an old whore/Look like you’re 64/Can’t believe your 24/Give away your body cos you know you got plenty more.” And here's that catchy-like-the-clap chorus: "Oh my/Golly golly gosh/Whole heapa girls today don’t wash…. Them kinda girls ain’t seeing my dosh.” As per the revelation/rumor that Dizzee got stabbed for touching Lisa Maffia's ass, well.... I never said these folks were angels.

Steady on Jon there's a good chap, "the evil of Leaf", --that's a bit... strong isn't it. We're not talking about child pornographers or people who manufacture landmines. Keep it all in proportion, there's a good fellow.
Erratum: Actually there was a whole series of Jungle Tekno comps and although the first one was well ropey, they improved, in fact #3 was fairly hot as I recall. But the term, obviously, didn’t catch on.
Oops, I seem to have made myself misunderstood--that's the trouble with dashing off comments. Absolutely no slight to Mr. Sean Paul intended, LOVE Dutty Rock to the bone (paid cash money for it, worth every penny, barely a weak tune on there) and yes indeed dancehall is in good shape at the mo’. But I do think that it’s current raised chart profile has something to do with (pop) Nature abhorring a vacuum--such that the void of vibe has caused, or allowed, all kinds of “outside” things to rush in (see also Panjabi MC). Sean Paul was probably due for his breakthrough this year anyway, he’s been on a steady upward arc, it was always him and Beenie Man that you’d hear as the token dancehall acts on Hot 97. But in a more robust year for rap, given that it seems to be its nature to be self-sufficient to the point of xenophobia, well I honestly doubt whether dancehall would be doing quite so well. The relationship between US rap and JA dancehall seems to mirror the politico-economic relationship between America and the Caribbean, with the former very much dominating, setting the terms and tone of the relationship. When rap’s inspiration batteries are running low, it’ll turn to dancehall either for ideas to filch or for wholesale tracks to add to the mix (same way as it’s turned to Bollywood to literally spice up its flava-depleted fare--you're mad if you think any real cultural engagement with "India" is on the cards). Conversely, when rap is real strong it can overpower dancehall’s imagination--like in late 2000 through 2001, not long after Jamaica got cabled up and the ensuing indundation of MTV and BET influence which
unhappily coincided with commercial street rap being at its most potent and exciting and blingtastically attractive. All of sudden it seemed like every dancehall DJ was rhyming over the riddim tracks from the ruling videohits of Mystikal, Ludacris, et al. Initially exciting as it was to hear Sizzla over a Neptunes/Jay-Z groove or Spragga over Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson”, it quickly got to be a bore cos you weren’t hearing any new hot ragga riddims....
At any rate while it’d be nice to think that dancehall is now finally established on the chartpop menu, I wouldn’t be that surprised if it went back to its marginal status again.

Monday, August 04, 2003

blimey, the blogosphere is buzzing... usual suspects on top form (esp. k-punk with an absolutely scorching run of late), lots of new/new-ish/new-to-me blogs (big up ya collective chest: gwan nice t'up, i feel love, noway jose, a time for fear, erase the world, demolished man, verlaine_79, biter-hater, there's more i'm forgetting i'm sure, have to update the links someday), i was going to say 'one might never have need to pick up a magazine again' but fact is, who has the time to read magazines?, it's a fulltime occupation keeping up with the non-print anti-professional media. anyway in honor of this prodigious bounty of beauteous discourse i'm herebelow allowing myself a quick "break" from toiling on the coal face of 1979, in order to make a small contribution to the word-surfeit... with possibly more to follow although i wouldn't count on it...

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Grime it is then? Seems like there’s been a definite convergence towards a consensus re. Grime as The Name, both on the scene and within the blogosphere. And Grime’s got a lot going for it. It evokes the ugly side of urbanism--sleaze, pollution, heavy industry, hard graft, decay. It has that "we’re from the sewer"/society’s effluent vibe that was good about gutter. But Grime beats gutter ‘cos it’s only got one syllable and that's always better. Grime also vaguely evokes a sense of soiled or shoddy merchandise, which fits the fast-money-music, cheap’n’nasty production, made-in-two-minutes-onna-Playstation nature of the genre.

I’m slightly chagrined it’s slanguage of American origin (Onyx used to go on about ‘grimy’ way back in ’93) but maybe that’s okay because it sort of parallels the way ‘punk’ was an American word and then us Brits really took it over, didn’t we, made it our own.

Like punk and like grunge (which is almost grime's synonym) grime is a classic in a series of bad-meaning-good inversions.

Most of all there's just no real rival contenders out there. ‘Garage rap’ hasn’t caught on ‘cos it’s dull and the two words glommed onto each other emphasises the transitional hybrid aspect of the music rather than its unitary nature, pointing back to the two precursor genres, UKG and hip hop when it should be proclaiming the fact that the
genre has definitively arrived at itself. ‘Garage rap’ never had a chance, really, in the same way that ‘jungle techno’ couldn’t last--it captured a brief transitional moment in ’92 and accordingly bequeathed just one (real ropey) compilation called Jungle Tekno (likewise there’s been only one Garage Rap comp).

The only real challenger to Grime is eightbar, but that’s too neutral and technical-sounding, just like drum’n’bass and 2step---all formalist precision and zero vibe. Also the chances are the eightbar pattern is not going to be the riddim formula for too much longer, even now it's not the only style being made. Grime as a gestalt seems like it has a longer shelf life, it captures both the genre's content and context without being too musically specific and limiting.

The absolute number one reason why Grime deserves to triumph, of course, is that it’s a dream for editors and headline writers: Grime Pays, A Life of Grime, Grime Scene, Rising Grime, Grime Boss, Fighting Grime, Grime and Punishment…. Seriously, this could make all the difference....

* * * * * *

In this spirit, here’s....
GRIME REPORT #1

Grime galore has been seeping through these doors in the last month or so months--cd-burns, promo 12s, pirate tapes (laaarvely!! nice one fellas), and a heap of vinyl scooped up at BlackMarket’s basement on an all too short trip to London. (On which subject, what’s with this rip-off the punters trend for one-sided 12 inches w/ a four minute eightbar instrumental yours for 8 quid? Guess it must relate to what I overheard the sales assistant talking about, i.e. the stuff not selling that well, even Dizzee. The sales ceiling must have dropped so low--500? 250?--that producers are pressing less and compensating for the overheads of mastering by putting a massive mark-up on the tunes, which they know the diehards (DJs mostly) will grit their teeth and cough up for. And the one-sided single thing fits, because you only need one master to press from, which halves the overhead right there. But why not do what The Desperate Bicycles did, and have two tracks on one master, so you get the A and B tracks but both on one side of the record. Actually the Desps pressed it on both sides--so you got the A and B side twice.) Anyway, all this fresh data warrants a panoramic overview of the state of the form, but… well.... I can’t be arsed really, so in lieu here's a few bits that really stood out from the grime pile....

BIGGER MAN--Funny Song/Trump [white label]
The best of the whites I picked up, this is one of those "if you went one week earlier, or one week later, would have missed it... FOREVER" minor classics that the pirate continuum has churned out since the dawn of time, and whose existence makes me frenziedly frustrated about living on the wrong side of the pond. Bigger Man is supposed to be Jammer’s nephew or something like that. And this tune--I can’t work out which title corresponds to which side--takes eightbar’s Sinophile flirtations to the quirky, charming limit, with what sounds like ersatz Chinese Court Music, almost like something you’d hear in a humorous scene in The Last Emperor, or maybe Kieran's current fave, Sagwa The Chinese Cat. It’s very musical actually, and rather accomplished: this wonderful riddim made out of claps and swooshy sounds (smeared snares?), a ceremonial-sounding yet boombastic bassline (sort of Beijing Bounce), intricate xylophone riffs reverbed for extra ear-tickling plinkiness, and then at regular intervals the groove halts and some pompous synth-horn fanfares rear up. I cannot imagine any MC trying to rhyme over this without cracking up halfway, though.

THE SURGERY feat MR. BIGG SHOTT
-- Shott the Weed (Social Circles)
A sequel (unofficial or official I'm not sure) to last year’s pirate fave ‘More Weed’, this has great gruff oversmoked voices, hilarious lyrics about ganja hustling, and a bumpin' farty-bass groove partly built out of a massive chunk of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing.”

K2 FAMILY & DEM LOTT--What! (Secret Service Remix) [white]
The A-side Bravo Mix is a bit ordinary, but Secret Service (who they?) do a killer remix that improves things by about 500 percent, vastly enhancing the vocal performances (by two of my favorite crews from last year, albeit already deemed no-longer-hot, I sense, by those oh-so-fickle streets). With its almost Was (Not Was)-like twisted jazz horns and ominous bass-knells, this is a beautiful production--sort of slick grime.

MARK ONE vs PLASTICMAN--Hard Graft 1/Hard Graft 2
There’s loads more by Mark One and Plasticman, operating separately mostly, but this is the one that grabbed me, mainly ‘cos it’s so stupendously ugly and oppressive. It reminds me of early Reinforced, especially the Enforcers EP series circa #3 where they were aiming for an experimental sound but didn’t quite have the chops: you listen(ed) and wonder(ed)--‘is this actually music?’ "Hard Graft" is an ear-sore. It sounds like Croydon looks. The dismal slabs of dead sound and leaden lurch-beats evoke the psychogeography of shopping schemes, office blocks, and deck-access low-rise housing blocks, grey concrete walkways and underpasses with all the lights smashed in. If Croydon really is the new Detroit (doubt it, although it is one of this planet’s more desolate and Godforsaken places) then “Hard Graft” is perhaps its “Art of Stalking”. Or perhaps a sluggish variant of minimal techno--Robert Hood at 16 rpm. There’s definite Plasticman/Plastikman parallels here--I really would like to know if he's heard of Hawtin and if so why pick a name so close? Is this sound what they call “deep eightbar”? You can imagine an MC trying to ride this, sinking into a grim trance, giving up. (They all hate the MCs anyway, this lot). If sound could scowl...