Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Think of a Title for my Postpunk Book. Not as easy as you'd perhaps think, summing up an extremely diverse, seven year (78 to 84) epoch in two to five words.
Help out a struggling author, eh?

The prize? A signed copy of the UK edition (i.e. the one with pix) and a thank you in the Acknowledgements Section.

Helpful Hints:
1/ Song titles are public domain. Not sure about lyrics (although England’s Dreaming is from “God Save The Queen” isn't it, so maybe they are okay. Best to avoid, on balance)

2/ Variations on Load of Old Cobblers, More Cack from that Cock etc will be disqualified.
(risking the wrath of Geeta...)


Doing the first one I was really scratching my head trying to remember who at Volume mentioned Galaxie 500 and Luna as ultimate alt-rock slowjamz, and of course it was Matos (who with a hint of querulousness brings this ommission up in Geeta’s comments box). Good call Michaelangelo (that's his new bloghome BTW, my linx sorely need updating). And of course, Dean Wareham was a bit of an indie lovegod, in those days, right, which can’t have hurt?

(On which subject presumably some of the Velvet Underground lps, like #3 and #4, belong in the carnality-canon)

Joe Gross nuances the trip hop data:
"Maxinquaye is the greatest one-night stand album in pop history, and one of the worst fucking-whilst-in-a-relationship records in that same history."

Nathan Walker is bursting with information:
“I have had sex to Godflesh quite effectively in a pounding goth/loop kind of way”. He also rates Babes in Toyland's fontanelle and says john coltrane's ascension was probably the most single amazing piece of music I ever had sex to.” Switching to other people’s proclivities, “I also cannot tell you how many people had peter gabriel's soundtrack to passion at my hippie college” and “an excellent american wing of stoned hippie sex would have to include early-nineties flaming lips (hit to death in the future head esp. except for having to turn it off before locked-groove commences- a downer) and more so mercury rev's boces which is simply unreal… in college the orb's first two albums were very effective for this sort of thing, but also the lords of acid, who prompted a kind of quasi-ironical meta-sexual-activity that still functioned. In high school the cure were most definitely a kind of eighties version of led zeppelin, especially the holy triumvirate of head on the door, kiss me, and disintegration but also the singles collection. how they were (are!) revered!!!”

Troy Loftin also mentions the Cure:
“here in small town america, where "alternative" was never even heard of until the mid-eighties gods of New Order, the Smiths, and Depeche Mode came to save us, there was one band, one man, who could get ANY goth betty in the mood. The man with the biggest, most child-like heart. So real with love and loss. Yes... Fat Bob.... Robert Smith. The Cure. From all stages of their career. Dedicated to the sound of love.”

["Goth betty", cough cough... ]

Now this is something I can confirm from the UK perspective. Not really a Cure fan in any sense (nor an un-fan, just kinda bleh for the most part, Seventeen Seconds has got a nice watery sound...) but Head On The Door (and see Geeta that's an example of the girlfriend controlling the stereo and imposing her taste) is an album I can’t fully renounce for precisely its, mmmm, associations. See also New Order circa “Thieves Like Us” although that’s more for romantic evocations, sigh....

Jim Eaton-Terry
: “The rule I remember was that MBV (this is preLoveless) were too sexy to have sex to. You wanted something which didn't distract you with all that lubricousness. Psychocandy, that was popular. And Dum Dum by the Vaselines…. In those days it was an article of faith that no girl could resist Velocity Girl (the song, not the band) on a mix tape. “

Kirk DeGiorgio (yes, you could have knocked me over with a feather too!) steps forth with some cool data on slow jamz culture and Brit funk’n’soul lovegod Robbie Vincent:

“Robbie Vincent was one of the pioneers of the South East soul scene from the late 70's onwards... he played alongside Chris Hill, Bob Jones, etc at legendary clubs such as The Goldmine, The Royalty, Lacy Lady, and of course various Soul Weekenders. His radio show on Radio London - Saturday mornings from 10.30-1am - was probably the most 'cutting-edge' soul show on radio at this time until pirates like JFM, Invicta and Horizon sprang up in the South East around 81.

“The most exciting feature of the show was the occasional appearance of maverick soul DJ 'Froggy' who would specially prepare 'Froggy's Mono Monster Mixes' - 30 minute mixes of incredible skill - way ahead of their time, mixing jazz funk with
disco, etc. This would be around 1979-1980 when nobody in the UK was doing anything like this to my knowledge. (I'm hoping some of these mixes will be coming my way soon via CJ Mackintosh who has tracked down some cassettes).

[more on froggy here]

“Robbie Vincent certainly played the odd slow jam - and continued to do so in the mid-80's when he got his Radio 1 slot (his Radio London show stopped around late 81/82 I believe) - but the undoubted king of the soul ballad was Greg Edwards.

“Greg Edwards 4 hour soul show was on Capital Radio Saturdays from 6-10pm (Saturdays were a joy in those heady days of 79-81 - over 6 hours of soul with football sandwiched in between). Greg Edwards had a half hour section of the show around 9pm dedicated to slow jams called 'The Bathroom Call'. It was aimed at young women who would be in the bath getting ready to go clubbing that evening and it was he who was famous for doing Isaac Hayes style monologues over the records (having a deep, raspy American voice helped him somewhat - whereas Robbie Vincents more common tones were more suited to his many current affairs 'phone-in shows on LBC after he left Radio 1).

“When I DJ'd on Kiss FM from 98-01 I paid homage to "The Bathroom Call" by having a regular 20 minute slot dedicated to slow jamz called "The Love Zone"... thankfully I left out the monologue..."

and Kirk further offers his “Top 10 "Bathroom Call" Slow Jamz:

Atlantic Starr: Send For Me
Bobby Womack: Love Has Finally Come At Last
NyteFlyte: If You Want It
Teddy Pendergrass: Love TKO
Jones Girls: Nights Over Egypt
Gene Dunlap: It's Just the Way I Feel
Richard Dimples Fields: She's Got Papers
Isley Brothers: Footsteps In the Dark
Chic: A Warm Summer Night
Teena Marie: Portuguese Love”


1/ Luke Davis wishes to point out he’s from E15, a far more credible postal district than E5 as cited here (and which is probably Shoreditch or Hoxton or somewhere like that, horrors!)

2/ Eamon Lyrics is of course just called Eamon ( look I’m getting about 5 and a half hours sleep these days, the 2nd draft grindstone, a 66 hour week fi real, I shouldn't even be doing this you know…)

3/ Mis-attribution alert: The crunk guys sounding like men shouting at strippers is Anthony Miccio’s observation, Jess Harvell was quoting him. Apologies all round.
dogg breath pt 2/the spiritual godfathers of crunk?

Picking up on that crunk-as-carnivore-music theme, it suddenly struck me that all that metal on their teeth must be a bit like braces--really bad for meat-shred retention. (Are rappers good about flossing? [Boom-boom!!!])

Also started wondering where I’d heard those halitosis-rasp baritones before--and then it hit me: The Stranglers! Aren’t they kinda like the godfathers of crunk? There was that infamous open-air concert in Battersea or someplace like that, where they had strippers onstage. And think of all those songs of sexual malice like the leering "Peaches" and the truly twisted “School M’Am” and the ho'-sanna “Princess of the Streets” (“she’s no lad-eee… she’s a sweet piece of meat”). “London Lady” slags off a skeez (except what she--a well-known punk scenester/journalist-- is golddigging ain’t cash, it’s cred). And let’s not forget that charm-ing B-side track “Crabs”.

The Stranglers-as-protocrunk ur-text though is “Bring On The Nubiles”--compare the title/chorus with Lil Jon’s ”all these females”: the idea is, this song is the opposite of a song for and about a special lady, it’s aimed at a faceless plurality of fuckable fleisch, a banquet of ass and gash. "Nubiles" also has the strange malicious-witholding-of-satisfaction lyric "and when the fever reaches you/I'll hide beneath my zip". Pretty fetid, pretty rank, inside Mr Hugh "I Like Dominating Women" Cornwell's skull I reckon.

Yeah, the Stranglers, they also had a whole carnivore theme--they identified with two carrion-eating creatures, first the Rat, and then the Raven. Hugh Cornwell’s gruffmale malevolence is one thing, but Jean-Jacques Burnell took it to a whole lower sewer level of nastiness: “Ugly” (“I guess I shouldn’t have strangled her to death… but she had acne”), and how about this verse from the Yukio Mishima paean “Death and Night and Blood”: “hey little baby don’t you lean down low/your brain’s exposed and it’s starting to show/your rotten thoughts, yeuuuuch”. In classic masculine abjection-projection syndrome, the “rotten thoughts” are all JJ’s. Yeah Burnel's voice simply is the pus of male self-loathing spurting free.

BUT (again like making allowances for crunk cos when all’s said it rocks, unfortunately) The Stranglers remain a favorite band of that era, I can never quite disown them like I know I should. At the time their misogyny just seemed part and parcel of punk’s equal-opportunity animosity, that really crucial part of punk's appeal that related to pure monstrous evil, c.f. “Bodies” and “Belsen”, or the icky-grody side of Devo. Plus they had this really quite idiosyncratic and odd sound, and even the Doors comparison only takes you so far (come off it Robin--Doors as “protoprogpubrock”, you got to be kidding!). “Nice ‘N Sleazy” for instance sounds like nothing else in pop. Dave Greenfield did some cool stuff with Moogs and electronic keyboards on tracks like “The Raven” where the Stranglers developed this kind of rok-disko sound picking up where the electrothrob of “Hello I Love You” left off. And Burnel did a whole electronic solo album come to think of, Euroman Cometh, with an anti-America/European-unity-as-vital-geopolitical-counterbalance concept. Never heard it though.

But yeah with crunk and Stranglers, the nub of it is: you can smell death on their breath.
Contradicting the previous post, the first in a new series:

Waves of love, gratitude and admiration physically pulse from my body in the direction of:

Arthur Russell. “In The Light of The Miracle”: it’s like the missing link between Soon Over Babaluma and MJ Cole’s “Sincere,” innit.

And (so soon?!) the second instalment of the new series:

Waves of love, gratitude and admiration physically pulse from my body in the direction of:

LTJ Bukem

He was our Arthur Russell, right? “Atlantis” = the jungle “Let’s Go Swimming”. Amens smooved out on a galactic garaaaaage tip. Bongos or congas or whatever they’re called rippling like sunlight on wavecrests. That bit where the voice goes “okay, let’s take it slow and easy going in” and then the keyboards start to shimmer and that plunging porpoise-bass takes us under. The exquisite vocal science of those blissed sighs and “mmmmms” and reverbed exhalations that actually sound like a scuba-diver’s trail of bubble-breath. The strange rhapsodic quacking synth riff at the start that reappears ¾ of the way through. The frantic serenity, the deep spiritual chill of the whole piece. Is this not in fact the most sublime 7.22 of the entire Nineties? *

PS. Danny, I’m sorry I slagged “Horizons”. It was a good tune
(still not kay-razeee ‘bout the Maya Angelou bits) but it felt like there was a war on at the time and truth’s always the first casualty, innit. Anyway, nuff respeck, keep on keepin’ on, and hope you made some decent bread somewhere back there.

* you can find “Atlantis (I Need You”) on Points In Time 002, a 1999 Good Looking retro-anthology probably going cheap-ish somewhere near you (001 and 003 also worthwhile purchases). 002 is worth picking up for "Atlantis" alone plus the fabulous “Tear Into it” by Parallel World (really rarver RUFF) and the quite lovely “The Bell Tune” by The Invisible Man. The vinyl “Atlantis” was still in print the last time I checked.
Woebot speaks truth -- specifically re. russell reissue-mania (Calling Out of Context is not... all that, honestly, is it?) and generally re. the fact that unreleased material more often than not was unreleased for a good reason.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

public service announcement

DB & Scotto Present


Saturday April 3, 10 PM til dawn
ARC @ 6 Hubert St at Hudson St, New York

main room

second room


ticket $25 , online only: www.DROP.com
further info 212 330 8233

NASA was America's first breakbeat hardcore club
the DJs are playing their favorite sets from 92/93
Kicks Like a FUCKING Mule!!!!!!!
Simon Silverdollarcircle reimagines sublow/dubstep as the return of techno. Yeah like propah hard-as-nails tekkkno it only makes true sense on the dancefloor, through a big system. And i expect it's drugmusik too--but heavy weed instead of pills.

Monday, March 22, 2004

pleased to meat ya

Nicely vibe-consistent with the previous post--check these musings on the sexlessness of Grime and Crunk from strapping Jess Harvell, which despite his caveat postscript seem pretty fully-baked to me.

Re. Crunk's deep-bass growl... it's funny how when Ja Rule does it's like a thug rap update of Barry White the Walrus of Love, but w/ Crunk it's just pure leering menace, zero slowjamz potential. (Did I hallucinate this or is there actually a line in "Get Low" that goes "until the sweat runs down my balls?"). Jess's shouting-at-strippers thing is spot on, cos as Barthes said in Mythologies, striptease isn't about eroticism, it's about fear.

When I hear that bleary baleful rasp of unison baritone voices on Crunk records, it always makes me think of bad breath--you can almost smell this barking reek of chicken, beer, and stale weedsmoke hitting you in the face. Chicken.... hmmm... that's the thing about Crunk, it's carnivorous. It's all about surrendering to your basest appetities, being a predator. That's what makes it so vital... yet its vitality s intrinsically bound up with a kind of death-force, a monstrous will to make the world dead. Having mentioned Mythologies, I'm going to up the over-interpretation stakes and bring The Sadeian Woman into it, if only to get off on having a sentence that contain the names Angela Carter and Lil Jon. But in that book--whose subtitle if I recall is something like 'the pornographic imagination'-- Carter makes play of the fact that the German word for flesh-- fleisch--is the same as the word for 'meat'. She writes that every time she sees the word she shudders. She then goes on to discuss how a certain objectifying form of (male, natch) sexuality turns everything into meat, devitalized and dead. Now, ur-Crunk text 'What's Your Fantasy' I always thought had a hint of the Sadeian about, the scurrying ominousness of the music making the parade of sexual configurations Ludacris enumerates seem strangely joyless. At any rate as per Carter's fleisch thing you could pretty much summarise the lyrical universe of Crunk in two words: BEEF and RUMP. Men: i'll turn you into carcass. Women: you're just meat to me.

(Interesting too that as per recent New York Times piece Lil Jon has moved into the beating-yr-meat market and actually gotten into cross-synergy with the porn industry, etc)

Brian Miller pretty much nails it I reckon with the following lineage of ‘slow jamz preferred by white alt-rock listeners’:
Cocteau Twins -> My Bloody Valentine -> Portishead -> Sigur Ros.

Portishead got several nominations, with Francesco Brunetti noting the cunning way the group bypass traditional white indie-chick aversion to smoove black loverman ballads by sampling Isac Hayes but siphoning that vibe it into what he nicely dubs “a white accepted mood”

Francesco’s other nominations are:
kruder & dorftmeister-- the 2cd remixes
massive attack--blue lines/protection
headz--the first double compilation

I suspect Maxinquaye belongs in this company also

Interesting that such despondent music as trip hop, with lyrical themes in all those Bristol bands of dependency, addiction, retreat from reality, narcosis etc etc, should be such love-action conducive stuff -- maybe it’s just the right tempo? And nicely texturized?

Also interesting that Massive Attack have plugged into that 4AD vibe on their last two releases, Liz frazer, sinead o ‘connor etc, thus doubling their love-action conducivity

In the Loveless zone, I would suggest Seefeel are inheritors of that and mix up w/ a bit of 4AD/The Sundays vibe

Talking of 4AD, a Netherlands correspondent who ticked the box marked ‘name and address witheld by request’ nominates:

Dead Can Dance - The serpent's egg
Paris Texas OST
Blue Velvet OST
Betty Blue OST
Lenny Kravitz
Orcheste Baobab - Pirate's Choice
Youssou N'Dour - Immigres / Bitim Rew
(not sure about that one w/ the alt-rock contingent to be honest, i think of liz frazer as their Sade)
Slayer - South of Heaven

Robin Goad chips in with the astute remark:
“surely the ultimate indie seduction music is mazzy star?”

Again w/ Hope Sandoval it’s the sadness/sensuality link -- the voluptuousness of a certain kind of melancholy

Peter Maplestoneis insistent: “whitey between the sheets thang of the 90s: slowdive "pygmalion"

Cole Gerard begs to differ: “the 90s alterna-rock slow jam par excellence is Pulp This is Hardcore”.

We're still in this exquisite-melancholy-makes-u-horny zone

An Australian gentleman who ticked the anonymity box knows people who ‘do it’ to Whitehouse. I wonder what the 'it' is though.

Based on nothing (honest!) I’d have thought Stereolab was quite sensuous and gently groovy music, insistent but feminine. See also Saint Etienne. And possibly early--first album to ‘Electric Mainline’ the single--Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 ‘Playing With Fire’, etc. But perhaps these are more romantic/lovey-dovey rather than actively carnal.

Dissent: the Grateful Dead had a surprising number of defenders.

Andrew Glass gets specific: “Have you ever tried shagging to "Dark Star"? If both parties are suitably "lubricated" (i.e. zonked to the eyeballs) it works a treat!” Erm, the answer is no, although that is one of three or four Dead songs I really dige (the others are on Aoxomoa, and I should probably give Anthem of the Sun another go). I guess I was thinking more of the stuff like ‘Truckin’. in fact when I made that crack about the dead and jam bands it was cos i'd just seen this video that’s getting shown quite regularly on VH1 Classic--the Dead circa Terrapin Station or thereabouts -- mid to late Seventies -- it starts with quite a trippy animation but there’s an awful lot of onstage footage later on and loads of shots of the Deadheads capering in bliss to this incredible anodyne and unpsychedelic (to my ears) country-rock, and really it seems like the most sexless subculture ever. The garments the deadheads wear are unbelievable. And how could anyone get it on to the accompaniment of the Dead’s feeble harmony vocals?

(The first time I ever heard of Grateful Dead was in an Elvis Costello interview in the Radio Times, he referred to the Seventies being a stagnant time for music, with only a few things to listen to like, like the Grateful Dead, “when they weren’t too disgusting”. Cos of the name Grateful Dead I assumed he meant ‘disgusting’ as in Alice Cooper-The Tubes-Devo--Stranglers shock-rock grotesquerie a go go (as opposed to what he really meant -- flaccid spineless Poco-esque). So I was quite eager to hear them and when I finally found a Dead record in the record store -- I think it was Terrapin Station actually -- saw the fucking lame cover well I could tell immediately I'd got the wrong end of the stickl. The Dead have always had a cred gap for me since then).

Going back to the subject at hand, you know what I’m certain absolute that oceans of love have been made to Dead music, they’d sort of have to have been given the size of the subculture and its duration. Perhaps the idea is more: thinking of bands whose fans you don’t even want to contemplate getting it on.

One Luke Davis of Stratford E5 chips in to inform that the spirit of Robbie Vincent is alive and well. “sundays are dedicated to the slow jam on all the pirates which aren't dance stations. like deja will defiinitely have shows with a lot of luvvers music and djs that tell the ladies to take the radio under the covers with them and just snuggle up to it, that sort of thing.” Which reminded me that even the hardhearted mannish boys of Grime get amorous sometimes -- one time I was listening to the Horra Squad show and they were having problems establishing a vibe, it was all over the place, and then they cut from some real hate-full misogynist par for the course track into… ‘Sexual Healing’. And a whole bunch of slow jamz type stuff followed. The cognitive dissoance threw me for a loop, a bit like when gangsta rappers praise God on the CD credits then rap song after song about murder, adultery, and coveting worldly goods.

Grime’s a good point to switch to:


From the antipodes Aaron Goldberg:

Slim dusty's entire career (sentimental Aussie yokel country singer)
Metal Machine Music - Lou Reed
Diamanda Galas
Christian rock of all shapes and forms
early Swans
Cold Chisel
actually this weird anomaly of music we had down here called 'Oz Rock' that
existed in the early to late 80s - Uncanny X-men, Choirboys, Dragon etc...

Of this lot the only one I think he’s probably wrong about is Swans (for a certain sort of person)

nathan walkernominates newcomer
Eamon Lyrics, "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)"

Dave Stelfox goes all out and comes up with a Top Ten
1) Regurgitation Of Giblets - Carcass
2) I Kill Everything I Fuck - by GG Allin
3) Size Aint Shit - Geto Boys
4) Cunt - Diamanda Galas
5) I Want To Fuck Myself - Faith No More
6) Anything by Weird Al Yankovic (with the exception of Amish Paradise, which is a work of genius)
7) The Art Of Fist Fucking - House of Discipline
8) Everything ever recorded by Turbonegro
9) Nessun Dorma - Michael Bolton (this really does exist!!!)
and finally, ladies and gentlemen, I give you...
10) DJ Shitspitter – Fuck Your Face
(which he says you can find on Loftgroover's Terrorcore Classics comp)

rather too much reticence from our correspondents on the subject of misjudged soundtrack choices, but
Francesco Brunetti saves the day by divulging all:
personal experience of anti-climax: scott walker Tilt
(can you turn down the volume???) and bjork, and like
you said any wonderful soul music from isaac hayes on,
the white chicks don't like it, i learn it
Personal experience of anticlimax for me:
Dire straits (she liked them.... sob)
Eden @ Uncarved on Big Beat Nostalgia. A hearty hear-hear to his defence of Big Beat. Norman Cook's a hero, although probably feeling a bit lost these days, as presumably the Chems are.

(And no Norman doesn't = Hitler... Hitler, that would be Paul Oakenfold cos he did the first post-Ibiza Balearic/acieeeed club just pipping to the post the Ramplings w/Shoom and thus really kicking this whole movement-that's-ceased-moving off really. And because even now w/ dance industry contracting majorly he supposedly earns 7 million a year. Plus he's PURE EVIL.)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Sorta vaguely related to the below, I thought i'd come up with a nifty new typology of revivals, dividing them into Revivals that Are Inferior to the Thing They're Reviving and Revivals that are an Improvement on the Thing They're Reviving. Unfortunately I could only think of one example in the second category: 2-Tone vis-a-vis the original ska. Every other revival was just not as good as it's precursor. Any suggestions?
Stubbs's blog off to a terrific start with entries on getting into Pseud's Corner (amazed it didn't happen during the arsequake-era output) and Where Did All the Punks In the King's Road go? Strangely, there are still a fair few of punx in the East Village, maundering around Tompkins Square and St Mark's Place, wearing Discharge and Chron-Gen and Exploited T-shirts, but they're all 16 or 17. The mystery of subcultural persistence, part 17.
Inexpressibly thrilling to learn that Jon Dale's met Maddy Prior!!
That album he singles out, Please To See The King, with Martin Carthy on guitar, is where you can really hear the Steeleye/"Skank Bloc Bologna" connection.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


v/Vm, Zatsu Ongaku mix-cd
Surprisingly fresh, bits of it anyway

Jason Forrest, The unrelenting songs of the 1979 post disco crash (sonig)
Surprised me by turning out be an Avalanches/Bentley Rhythm Ace for the post-Kid 606 set. Well riffy and fun. (Is it too early for Big Beat nostalgia?). You should really see this guy--aka Donna Summer--live for full ?let me entertain you? impact. He really puts out for the audience. At the end we all got a slightly sweaty hug.

Various artists/mixed by Diplo, favela on blast: rio baille funk 04 (big dada)
brazil boyz on E--or E-musik. well ravey.

Maroon 5, that song
Attack of poptimism continues (even like the Vines 'Ride' single, well the guitar bits not the song) and that jet single still lingering from last year (hey as chocolate watchband xeroxes go it?s immaculate) and several other things on the box. Maroon 5 is in the not-what-Simon?s-sposed-to-like tradition of new radicals ?get what you give? (what ever happened to him?)--shades of jamiroquai, prefab, and even faith no more doing ?easy like Sunday morning? -- love that sinuous, languid, indelible melody -- also the disjunction of the guy looking like a young jon spencer but sounding all bourgie bourgie/kane gang

The Abyssinians and Friends, Tree of Satta (blood & Fire)

really feeling

Infinite Livez, Bush Meat (Big Dada forthcoming)
wikkid brit rap that's not grime shockah. wicked lyrics top flow cool sonix. killer cut: 'The Adventures of the Lactating Man'. Quite an imagination this guy.

Metal Boys, tokio airport
Side project of Metal Urbain/dr. mix, this is Acute?s best postpunk unearthment so far-- chrome-meets-disko veering into almost Daft Punk avant la lettre territory

Kanye West, the College Drop out
obviously he's got a lot more strings to his bow than this, and real musicality, but i think the most interesting thing about KW is the tracks where he uses such large chunks of old soul records that it's really blurring the line between a sample and the whole fucking song. which re-raises all sorts of questions about sampling as artistry/sampler as auteur, where the creativity is in this thing, also question of the continued parasitism (not just hip hop here but d&b/downtempo/broken beat etc etc) on what LTJ Bukem called "the golden age of music" (i.e. the Seventies where most sampled funk'n'soul'n'fusion lickage still comes from) and whether it'll just get utterly depleted at some point, mined to exhaustion. So like for instance when in 'Last Call' the interminable yet sheer genius rambling and un-rapped account of his career tribulations that closes the record ("will it ever end?" you think, then "i don't want it to end") he quotes Jay-Z saying on their first encounter after he's heard some of KW's beats, "oh you're a real soulful dude", but of course the "soul" in question is entirely Harold Melvin's or Bobby Bland's or whoever else in whatever song where it's the entire basis bar the drum programming for that particular beat ("beat" meaning "all the music" in hip hop) . So "real soulful dude" means you've got good taste in soul music, you can rework someone else's soul...

Animal Collective, Sung Tongs (fatcat)

not really feeling

glenn branca, lesson no. 1 (acute)

rhymes with wanker. (if you're from England where we also say 'garridge'). the one hand giveth and the other hand taketh away, Dan & Todd...
Slow jamz and anti-slow jamz data coming in, full report next week.
At last! My old comrade-in-arms David Stubbs (i always say that, but it really was like we were in the trenches or something, plus his nickname at MM was Wingco so it sort of fits), now the latest recruit to the Wire collective where he is holding down the reviews editor job, has finally built himself a website/blog. The blog bit's not up and running, but there's content on the site (like his classic Reaper series from Uncut of take-downs on Canonical Albums and Artists, what's amazing to me about David is that many of these records/groups are among his absolute favorites, he can just do this thing where he switches off that part of his brain and just goes into total-destruction-mode, it's a bit like being a barrister i suppose, you suspend belief in the guilt or innocence and build the best case, and in this case Stubbsy is Rock's Supreme Prosecutor) and there are grand plans for all kinds of resurrected material from Melody Maker (including the Mr. Agreeable alter-ego) and elsewhere. I hope he exhumes his bilious rants from Deadline magazine (topics include old people, children, and so forth) which i think he actually did under a pseudonym because there were so foreign to his actual liberal-left leaning opinions. And looking forward to his blog commentary. About bloody time!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Kompact versus Rephlex, Volume, last Saturday

What a great night!

In fact, for roughly two hours there, the only thing marring my high was the fact I was going to have to make an embarrassing about-face on the dance-is-it-over topic.

Thank God the drugs (well the Red Bull and cheap champagne--killer combo!) wore off a bit and the music slackened slightly, and so I only have to make a partial retraction.

Well, obviously, the vibe is still there, in certain circumstances, when everything comes together. Objectively I'd say it's on significantly diminished premises, but later for that argument.

I seem to have had the opposite reaction to most everybody else-- I thought the atmosphere was awesome, the space fantastic (sterile?!), great visuals, the crowd good (considering it was mostly undrugged with a few notable exceptions they know who they are heh heh). People openly flouting the smoking laws so yay for that! Something of a reunion aspect (lots of familiar faces from back in the day) and nice to see some new ones (fuckinell, how come no one told me Jess Harvell was so taaaaaaaaaaall).

Ultimately though I felt the music didn’t quite live up to the Killer Vibe and Sense of Event. It was good but it could have been better.

Mostly this relates to the big guys in the main room, Superpitcher and Mr Michael Mayer. I’d hoped my problems with Mayer’s show at APT would turn out to be 95 percent down to that space’s deficits--the overlit and low ceilinged bar-as-dancefloor; the horrible sound system that pipes music out of vents evenly distributed around the room, like hipstermuzak, with no real sweet stereo spots where you can immerse and be crushed in sound. But actually, although massive volume at, er, Volume, improved this considerably, at the end of the day a massively amplified subtlety is still a subtlety, and there’s my problem. All those slow builds and plateau-like tracks make for a bit of a level experience. The Mayer/Kompact aesthetic, it’s a tiny bit too Digweedy for me; chug chug chug, and when the climaxes do come, they’re kind of mild. Someone said to me “Mayer’s tearing shit up tonight” and I thought, ‘has the meaning of the words ‘tearing’, ‘shit, and ‘up’’ changed w/o my noticing?

MACROHAUS made itself felt at APT as a series of lacks and restraints that seemed to physically demand their opposite: slamming, in yer face, full on. Mayermuzik feels like it's on a leash, it veers quite close to trance or even gabba at times but it always checks itself. Then you get the quasi-lumpen impulse--the Glitterband/Quatro electroboogie, the choppy polka beats that always make me think of those toy birds that dip back and forth sipping water, or someone who can’t get the hang of rowing a boat. Yet Kompact never quite leaves the aural nouvelle cuisine zone. MACROHAUS “is” MEATY: Green Velvet “Flash” crossed with Deep Dish/De Lacy’s “Hideaway”, maybe. Not necessarily ravey, but full throttle, to the jugular. I guess my beef with the Kompact sound boils (sustained metaphor ahoy!) down to that anthem-deficit thing again (more on this later).

Here’s my highlights:

The most interesting music of the night
Plasticman and Mark One. Not that huge a fan of the Croydon Sound/Phuture Grime/dark dubstep on record, give or take the odd killertune like ‘Hard Graft’, but this was a real revelation--it sounds so much more overwhelming (no duh) on a big sound system, especially in the more confined and darker space of the Volume second room. Full of intricacies and crannies of dub space, it’s micro-step--but the ‘step’ refers as much to techstep as 2step. It actually reminded me a lot of Photek at his most coldly creative. Like being inside a videogame.

The most exciting music of the night
Well it had to be Soundmurderer, didnit, shame it was only 30 minutes long though. Full on retrojunglizm (whether it was all old tunes mixed or period-styled newies I’m not sure) but significantly mashed more in the deejaying than would have been done back in the day. I forgot to raise my lighter but did get a bit shouty must admit, I hope not embarrassing my companions too much.

The most enjoyable music of the night
Miss Kittin. Some actual Tuuuuuuuune tunes played! I can’t remember any of them (bit mashed) though except the 2step MC relick of Gorillaz ‘Clint Eastwood’--first time I’ve danced to Damon Albarn’s voice--this coinciding with Plasticman in the other room and meaning UK garage was running t’ings for about ooh five minutes. Amd New Order ‘Blue Monday’--bit like if’n Arthur Baker in 1983 had dropped ‘Satisfaction’ or 'I Wanna HOld your hand' into his sets, but the crowd response was cute, like ‘all hail the ancestral track!’. If I’d been more mashed I would have done my ‘WE. ARE. ELECTRONIC. PEOPLE.’ chant.

So yeah a great night (and I didn’t even come down with the usual cold). Big up all cru and roll on the next one.


Anthems, then. On ILM I said rather metaphysically that dance isn’t generating anthems cos a culture in retreat isn’t going to have much call for rallying cries.
The real explanation, though, is more prosaic. The kind of music being made now is made by and made for people who have been in this for a while; they’ve grown with the music, they don’t want to hear crass riffs and obvious hooks. Microhouse, especially, strikes me as music for seasoned sensibilities, sophisticates.

But new recruits get pulled in by the most accessible hooky stuff. I just can’t see it as a music that is going to pull in that many new people. It’s not fierce or full-on enough. Some of the riff-patterns in Meyer’s set verged on the imperceptible to be frank, minute fluctuations of texture. Well they don’t call it ‘micro’ for nothing.
I think you can see this de-cheesing tendency across the genrescape. And of course that becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, the neophytes arrive in steadily diminishing numbers, leaving the connoisseurs in an ever increasing majority.


A culture in retreat. Well, I promised a fanciful and involved theory last week, so here goes. You know how certain rock bands get “destroyed” by their failure to conquer America--it’s their last chance to really make some money, to pay off their record company debts. A certain Liverpool band had to break America to pay for its cocaine requirements and made a fatally compromised album that lost them their fanbase. Another Liverpool band tried repeatedly to break America and broke up over 1 million pounds in debt, despite selling millions of copies elsewhere in the world over the years. Anyway, pondering the meaning of the word ‘retreat’, it occurred to me that Electronica’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to conquer America was a bit like the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union--a fatal act of hubris. In some weird way I think that was the beginning of the collapse.

The Nazis did real well at first, drove deep into Russia (this would be Prodigy, the Chemicals, Underworld in '97). But the supply lines got too long, there was a punishing winter, and then Stalingrad--in this schema, the failed campaign for Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way Baby. I would single out Spike Jonz and his fucking terrible video for “Praise You” as the turning point. (Get Joy on this subject and you will hear a rant, she loves that song, and Jonz just made a joke out of what could have been a glorious redemptive anthem, a ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ or ‘Beautiful Day’ if done right). Oh Fatboy did alright what with the songs in movies and on TV commercials, but in the deepest and realest sense he lost: he never became a household name or star, not even on the Moby level. Astralwerks now is like some Wehrmacht division stranded and surrounded in the Ukraine: you can only stave off the inevitable for so long.

The last gasp for Anglo-Euro-tronica, that would be Daft Punk. The Battle of the Bulge, in my schemata. D Day had happened, but the Germans unexpectly pushed back and looked like they might drive the Allies back to Normandy and another Dunkirk. They’d never win the war but they could dream of fighting on, forever. If the WW2 film I dimly recall from boyhood corresponds to historical reality at all, then the Wehrmatcht were so short of fuel their first goal was to capture the Allied gas depots, while all along their advance back into French territory they had to siphon fuel from the tanks of abandoned Allied trucks and armored vehicles. That’s Daft Punk, siphoning from America’s FM rock radio memory-banks in the hopes of infiltrating some house music into the US pop mainstream. Brave try, not a hope in hell. The writing was on the wall.

In WW2, the Soviet Union engaged something like 70 percent of Axis troops and suffered the most casualties, 20 million, something like 30 or 40 times the Allied losses. Okay, then, in my strained and deranged analogy, who’s the Red Army? Black American music. Hip hop and R&B. Between ‘91 and ’97, I really thought us Brits (and some of you EC lot) gave hip hop a good run for its money. We were more sonically advanced, and the whole rave thing mattered almost as much. It was a close as we were going to get to something as important and life-forceful as rap.

But around ’97, just as we started to flag, hip hop and R&B just surged forward again. I'm talking about the commercial mainstream street stuff of course. By and large, since then it has simply been better than electronic dance music--better on everything level -- just as, and probably more, inventive sonically, and it had personality, and an indelible, perennial connection to real-world stuff. How could trance, or nu skool breaks, or whatever you want to come up with, compete? That’s why even if Basement Jaxx could make the most fantastically excitement-crammed records of their genus ever (and they have, several times now, or so some claim), in America they’ll always sell less than, oh I dunno, Juvenile’s fifth, inspiration-sapped album, or Nelly’s nephew. As for poor old Armand Van Helden…. he knows the score.

The exceptions? Well 2step and Grime are nothing if not attempts to keep up with and assimilate the innovations of Black America. Plus you could see the London pirate continuum as Britain's own little internal Red Army of a black population--the equivalent of Tito’s partisans, perhaps.

(Jamaica? The People’s Republic of China).

Yeah, the Red Army, that’s what Black America is. You cannot stop them. I vaguely recall Julie Burchill in her Stalin-groupie mode going on about the Russian masses, the unstoppable force of "that deep moral fibre". Moral fibre's not exactly the word that springs to me when you think of rap but this is pop music so the values are inverted: in these terms, thing of whatever the energy is that makes Bling or Crunk. English people had to neck loads of E and other mindbending substances for ten straight years just to have the same kind of life-force that Black Americans generate just through living in America and dealing with all the shit they have to deal with!

Okay, then, who’s Stalin? Timbaland, obviously. I never want to read another word about him (give it a rest Sasha!) but he’s pretty much the One who turned everything around in ’97. Interestingly he did it by being almost as good at being a Nazi (electronica, remember = Axis powers) as the Nazis were. He may even have ripped a few ideas off "us" (still not convinced by the he-got-it-all-from-dancehall argument, just don’t hear it to be honest). Jungle never happened in America. Except it did: that was “Get UR Rinse On”-- sorry, “Get UR Freak On.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Da Missus on the most heartwarming docu-soap on TV, Family Business--days in the life of lovelorn porn mogul Seymour Butts.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Talking of Kanye, I've been meaning to do something on "Slow Jamz" (luvvit luvvit, who doesn't?), cos that whole slow jamz genre, I've a bit more time for it than you might imagine (someone recently said to me '"oh i thought you only liked things that hurt your ears!", where do they get these ideas from?), inevitably perhaps leaning more to the 70s stuff in that list --Al Green obviously SUPREME GODHEAD INNIT, Minnie Ripperton for sure, Marvin yeah (although 'Got to Give it Up' is the one 4 me, never really got on with Let's Get It On, while What's Going On seems like a bit of a worthy snooze these day)--plus lots of other stuff not listed in the song like detroit spinners, chil-ites, barry White, rose royce, harold melvin, stylistics etc... whereas by the 80s and 90s the Melisma Effect and the Quiet Storm Snooze Effect are both kicking in a bit: Luther's okay (more in Change than solo though), Anita B now I'm really thinking I might have to revise the longstanding Bakerphobia given how many of my fave jungle tunes are based on her vocal licks, Jodeci's good, but by the time we get to Keith Sweat Ready For The World and all that post-Boyz II Men bizniz, well yeah the tolerance's wearing thin, it's a bit syrupy (a rockist can only change so many of his spots you know) ... BUT ANYWAY what the song made me think about is that as much as I love a bit of soul balladry, I've never actually used it as it's intended to be used, i.e. smooch music, get your ladeee in the mood. Cos the kind of chicks I've dated (actually you know what I've never actually asked anyone on a 'date' date, much more involved and tortuous courtship is more my style), the kind of girls I've gone out with/stayed in with (including the current occupant of the position), frankly, if i'd put on a slow jam type record the effect would have been emetic rather than aphrodisiac, yagetme? Which got me wondering: what are the white equivalent of slow jamz? More specifically what are the white alt-rock equivalents of slow jamz? Now I'd hazard a guess that if you're of a certain age, and U.K. based, Cocteau Twins circa Head Over Heels and Sunburst and Snowblind might have been a bit of a mood-setter, a seduction soundtrack.... 4AD in general probably ("I'm gon' play some Dead Can Dance/you're gon' slip your gloves off").... also in this sensuous/sensual vicinity A Kiss In The Dream House.... verily a Let's Get It On for a proto-Goth generation. But after that I'm blanking a bit in terms of the mid-Eighties. The next one that flushes memory's cheek so to speak is MBV--pretty much the entire body of work really--the You Made Me Realise (esp 'Slow') and Feed Me With Your Kiss EPs, Isn't Anything, "Soon", 'To Here Knows When'--they were pretty explicit about it really, kind of mono-focal on the lyrical front. And the Pixies, actually. Nineties, again, becomes a blank.

Also curious if any one has any ideas relating to (or even actual experiences relate-able about) music that's least likely to have an aphrodisiac or sex-congenial effect: the anti-slowjam. Yeah some would say the entirety of indie rock but that's clearly not the case. Personally I'd nominate Camper Van Beethoven, Phish, and The Grateful Dead (not I hasten to add based on any real-life experience, I wouldn't have the first two in the house no thank you). But you know what, I'm sure people fuck to anything if both parties dig it enough. Still if anyone has stories of soundtrack misjudgements at a critical moment... Anonymity guaranteed if so desired!


As a sidenote, the king of slow jamz in the U.K. used to be this guy Robbie Vincent (maybe he still is for all I know), he had Radio One's "proper black music" show, on Sunday evenings if I recall correctly--this is back in the Eighties--where he'd play stuff like Maze (the real "only black music is good music" import buying Brit connoisseurs choice in those days) and jazzfunk and maybe if you were lucky a bit of Loose Ends or Zapp -- but anyway whenever he was about to play a smoochable slow number, he had this catchphrase: "light those candles... open the freezer door". And I always had this mental image of this smooth operator type guy opening the freezer door, but not getting a bottle of bubbly out, just leaving it ajar and the room getting gradually colder....
Much more to say on is-it-me-that's-over-it-or-is-it-over (including the unfurling of a rather involved and slightly fanciful Theory) but right now I'm just feeling real psyched for Kompact versus Rephlex tomorrow at Volume. So maybe I'll be back next week feeling all re-engaged. If you're going and see a vaguely British looking chap with a walking stick standing in between the two rooms looking paralysed by choice, that'll probably be me. Come say hi and waft your drug exusions my way.

Talking of rave-era sonix having a more exciting half-life in rap & R&B (and I should have said dancehall too, obviously), there's a bit in Britney's single that's basically nu skool breaks, only roughly 1000 percent better.

What with 'Toxic' at number 2 and Usher at #1 in TRL, I seem to be having an attack of poptimism. Might have to buy 'Yeah'. Saw it on vinyl in this local dj equipment/hip hop store on 7th between 1st and A. They also had some kind of bootleg LP of the original tunes that Kanye uses on his most famous tracks which i almost bought. Curious to hear Chakha's 'Through The Fire', I wonder if it might not be disappointing and somehow flat-seeming on its own, at the original speed. Still she did some blinding stuff back in the day ("I Know You Live You" etc) so who knows.
(Doesn't she look luminous in that poster at the end of the video?).

jane dark aka joshua clover has a blog...

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Just got back from Miami a few days ago--and yes, that is on the early side, if I’d been down there for Winter Dance, but I wasn’t: it was a family mini-vac. We left town just a day before the droves arrived. Totally coincidental, of course, but I can’t help finding an inadvertant symbolism in it. It seems all too apt a signifier for my disengagement from dance culture.

Is it just me that’s over it, or is “it” actually over? I can never decide. Some months ago Philip Sherburne stoutly defended dance culture's continued vitality contra an Alex Petridis obituary for same in Tthe Guardian--and much as I admired Phil’s rigour and passion I couldn’t help feel that Petridis was only pointing out the bleedin’ obvious. There’s evidently micro-scenic motion worth monitoring and I enjoy reading the sonic-shift scrutiny from Phil, Finney, Tufluv, Ronan, et al, but…. the burning urgency to go and check out the recommended records, in store or in situ, just isn’t there. And as much as that might just be me, in my heart of hearts I feel it’s an appropriate response to an objective deficit of…. whatever it is that makes things matter, or made this thing matter in first place. Dance may not be a lost cause exactly, but equally, neither is it a cause in any sense anymore.

Sonically, it’s a movement that isn't really moving: people scrabble around to shuffle together some fresh-seeming (meaning slightly-less-stale) combination of established elements from the last 20 years of electronic dance music's rich history(probably the most disheartening dance experience last year for me was watching Luke Vibert live dusting off the 303 again--acieeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzz). With all the period sounds being juggled and obscure archival sources coming in and out of favour, it's at the point of there being a 'record collection dance' just like there's been 'record collection rock' since the Jesus & Mary Chain. Retro-Dance to match Matt's Retro-Rock TM. (For what it’s worth, I think electronic non-dance is probably in even less impressive shape--when was the last really head-rearranging new sound to come out of IDM?).

(Grime exempted from all the above 'cos it's not dance music).

The only people left who really care are either deejays (amateur as well as professional), druggers, or those with some kind of business or career stake in it (including journalists). The punters, the general populace, aren’t there in anything like as much force anymore, and neither are the fashionistas, those fly-by-night types who actually provide vital grist to the vibe-mill. As well as being a bit more demonstrative and lively on the floor than your true school scene-guardian types, the trendhoppers are a bit like opportunist life forms, parasites whose buzzing presence indicates that here is a flourishing source of cultural nourishment. They’re a signal that this is the place to be. At the moment the best that dance culture(s) can hope to be is a place to be, one of a number of leisure options on the urban menu.

And an enjoyable one still for sure. We got a tiny tantalising taste of it in Miami, because our hotel does this Sunday night thing called Soiree in its sandfloor back garden area. With 8 speaker stacks distributed amid the palm frond foliage, pumping out the music into a darkness flickeringly illuminated by a wood fire…. well it was quite vibey I must admit. Unfortunately Kieran couldn’t stand it, something about the music really freaked him out, the tribally percussion and deep bass pulsing through the murk. He clapped his hands over his ears and started screaming “don’t like it don’t like it.” We had to beat a fast retreat, Kieran howling all the way (“he only likes UK garage” I said in fake-explanation to one alarmed-looking woman). I thought maybe it was just amplified surroundsound in the dark he didn’t like, but turns out it’s specific sounds that frightened him, as I discovered by chance shortly after our return when I happened to play M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up The Volume” (on a Colourbox best-of I’ve had for years but never played). It was the same reaction-- except this time he put a pencil in each ear hole (we were doing drawing) and started shouting “I hate this, turn it off. TURN IT OFF!!!!”. The M/A/R/R/S track was pretty much in the same sonic vicinity as the house being played in Miami--pumping dark-bass, ripples of percussion. This got me really curious and I asked what specifically scared him about the music and he said “those sounds”--referring I think to those kinda phased door-slam noises that recur throughout ‘Pump Up the Volume’ and sort of recede back into the mix. The thing that seemed to really unnerve him was sounds panning or moving from front-to-back within the stereofield--something presumably hugely exacerbated in Miami by the octophonic sound system and darkness of the hotel garden. Strangely, though, he doesn’t mind dub and loves drum & bass, both full of eerie spatiality, so go figure. (Maybe he just doesn't like house music).


It's ironic that dance culture recycling its own past highpoints and potent cliches is so vibe-deficient, when tiny shards of rave sonix have such a vibrant half-life in R&B and rap. Viz:

B-Boys On E, Slight Return: Usher, "Yeah"
The synth vamp could be off a Dance Ecstasy 2001 track or Da Hool's "Meet Her At the Love Parade". The laser-scything video could have been shot at Twilo. The groove even reminds me a tiny bit of Timo Maas 'Doom's Night' rmx. Tuuuuuuuuune.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

YO NICHOLAS CORCORAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[everyone else please ignore]

really pleased to hear from you, i keep replying but the emails get bounced back repeatedly, give me a shout via someone else's e-ddress maybe?
and forgot to mention
twista feat kanye west & jamie fox, "slow jamz"
luuuuuuuvvit, more on this later
"dude", obviously