Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bunch of folk emailed to enlighten re. who the fuck Isis are. The album in question, Oceanic, represented “a real moment when the direction in metal shifted”, says John Darnielle, even though he personally is “lukewarm on the whole Big Painterly Gesture school of metal that Isis represents”. Far more enthused is Baal of Erase the World fame: “Isis are post-metal, really: no silliness, no solos, just awesome, gut-wrenching tidal riffs, surges of relentless power… Like MBV meets Black Sabbath via Neurosis 'Through Silver in Blood'…. a new kind of metallic wonder… utter majesty.” Sam Macklin takes a quite different view—“Isis are a not-very-good post-metal band”—but avers that the Low album that is getting the onstage-and-in-sequence recreation treatment—Things We Lost in the Fire--is verily their masterpiece (and flippineck, a second Low show has been added in response to “overwhelming demand” sez a new press release from the Don't Look Back people!*)

Still, the merits of the albums in question or even their genre-local epochal-ness wasn’t my point, which was simply to register bemusement that recordings that were relatively obscure and relatively recent—Oceanic only came out in 2002 ferfucksake!!--had so swiftly become grist for the retro mill.

Still I sense that I’m already moving out of the “this is deplorable” stage vis-a-vis all this anachronesis bizniz and am starting to feel more “bring it on!”… Like, why not see how grotesque and weird retromania can get... it feels like we’re getting close to some kind of brink, a total implosion of culture.

* in that same press release: a new night has been added to the Don’t Look Back season--John Martyn performing Solid Air, September 11th at the Barbican!!!!! Now that is something I would pay to see …

Friday, May 26, 2006

Next two instalments of footnotes at the Rip It Up site:

Chapter One on John Lydon and PiL's first year

Chapter Two (UK edition only) on Howard Devoto and Vic Godard

Big up to Nalin Taneja for doing such nice job with the design and structuring


^^^^^^^^^^^

and a profile of Green in the Guardian by me around the glorious new Scritti Politti album

(the director's cut of this is a lot more thickly detailed, I'll be putting it up on the Rip site shortly)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Past Gone Mad #4

July 18th to July 26, London: the second annual Don't Look Back gig series--bands recreating onstage, in the original track sequence, one of their "classic" albums. Last time it was The Stooges and Patti Smith, this time the line-up is:

Ennio Morricone--Film Soundtracks (fair enuff, living legend)
Teenage Fanclub -- Bandwagonesque (hmmm, reasonably well loved, i spose)
Tortoise--Millions Now Living Will Never Die (weeeell)
Green On Red--Gas Food Lodging (wuh?!)
Girls Against Boys--Venus Luxure No 1 Baby (cmon!)
Nightmares On Wax--Smokers Delight (strickly supine stupor slippers'n'spliff sofa-listening surely?!?!)
Low--Things We Lost In The Fire (ferfuck'sfuckingsake!!!!@*@!???)
Isis--Oceanic (who the fuck are they even?!!?)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

A Past Gone Mad #5

From the current issue of The Wire's 'Bitstream' news section:

London's Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) has awarded 10 thousand pounds to artist Jo Mitchell to stage a reenactment of a notorious 1984 ICA performance involving members of Einsturzende Neubauten and Fad Gadget's Frank Tovey, among others. Called Concerto for Voice and Machine, the event was legendarily chaotic, with members of the group attacking the wooden stage with pneumatic drills, purportedly in order to reach secret tunnels rumoured to run between government departments and Buckingham Palace underneath the Mall, and the audience joining in by tossing glasses into a cement mixer. It ended when ICA staff turned the power off. The reenactment is scheduled to take place in February 2007. www.ica.org.uk.

Does that mean ticket holders are allowed, or expected, to riot, smash up the stage, etc? Or will the mayhem all be enacted by performers, garbed in painstakingly authentic circa-1984/Immaculate Consumptive-type clothes and hair, like one of those fake Medieval villages you can visit with blacksmiths hammering at the anvil, milkmaids tugging teats and lugging pails, miscreants in the stocks, and so forth?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Peanut Butter gets started on the deconstruction of open-mindedness. I like the writing-as-prism analogy-- self as stained glass window versus unself as translucent plane. Especially cos of the submerged religious undercurrent (cueing ancient polarity of fanantix vs dilettantes, this-is-my-truth-tell-me-yours believers versus pleasure-principled agnostics). Neat too how the polarity slots onto the two different meanings of the word "catholic".
Woebot's post on Johnny Too Dark made me think, "Blimey, in a year's time, it'll be ten years since speed garage".

His latest post shows that in fact the UKG decade anniversary is already upon us--if you date the ignition point from Tina Moore's 1996 "Never Gonna Let You Go" , whence spawned diva-lick-as-siren vocal science (via "Ripgroove" et al) and the 2step rhythm (via Kelly G's Bump-N-Go rmx of "Never Gonna").

How the time flies...
Vivien Goldman's splendid The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers' Album of the Century is out now and she is having anreading/discussion/signing event in New York tomorrow Thursday 25th at 7PM---location is McNally Robinson, 50 Prince St.(between Lafayette and Mulberry).
video of Kode9 & Spaceape's "Audio Addiction"
link courtesy of jon wozencroft, two of whose students are responsible for the video



pedigree chum

twiglets

a large-size jar of bovril

Friday, May 19, 2006

Crackergate has legs--the story reaches the pages of the New York Times. (The idea of anybody having accused Merritt of "rockism' is quite deeeeelicious... )

Link courtesy of uTopianTurtleTop, who throws more oil on the fire first here and then here and finally here

What I think of the Greil Marcus quote he's exhumed... Well firstly i blanch at the thought of some of the pronouncement i've made on music way back when being dug up and presented before the tribunal of today ( the thing to remember is these are all historically situated stances, stages on a journey to enlightenment....) But specifically re. Marcus ragging on Anita Baker's gentility as nothing to do with music but just an incident in "class politics". It' s not that he dislikes softer black music per se or in toto (look at all the love in Mystery Train for early '70s soul albeit with the rockism-legitimised element of the political anguish running through "Backstabbers"/"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" et al), what repelled him was Eighties quiet storm ... presumably for its quietism and complacency as much as the bourgie-bourgie black-tie respectability.... and the white equivalents of such anodyne self-absorption and slickness would have been just as repugnant/non-compelling to him. And me, at that point; I could imagine having made a similar remark about Anita Baker-type music and quite probably did. I always think of that kind of post-R&B soul as being like really nice furniture--a beautiful leather sofa or something. You can't really expect people to go against their gut tastes to the extent of embracing its antithesis, cos then you get writing that literally lacks a visceral element. Although, you can certainly acquire tastes and decondition prejudices. IIndeed 've actually developed a taste for that more emollient kind of R&B, bizarrely through the use of R&B diva licks in jungle and in UK garage. Indeed there's one specific Anita Baker song that has been utterly ransacked, there's about five different vocal licks in it that have been used over and over again all across the hardcore nuum. (Another factor: being older and more domesticity-oriented I can appreciate the desirability of a really nice sofa more now).

All these issues raised by Merrittgate (and this Marcus quote) dovetail beautifully with the P-ism/R-ism debate because they relate to this idea you get on the loony fringe of P-ism which is that listeners should step outside their own tastes/biases/preconceptions and achieve an impartial state in which things get understood "on their own terms." I don't think that is possible--not completely anyway--and I'm not sure it's particularly desirable, in terms of its effects of music writing. Oh, open-mindedness is good (although there's more to that statement to be unpacked, a lot more, but later for that; and as an ideal, catholicity tends to keep receding beyond one's grasp, given the dizzying multitude of kinds of music and sheer mass of sound) . But empty-mindedness, which is what a certain sort of "rid thyself of all preconceptions" strand of P-ism seems to propose, is not good. What are we, in the end, but our partialities (in both sense of the word)? Strong writing comes from a situated self, a self with preferences and history, but also blindspots. A piece of music (or any other cultural artefact) doesn't just happen to a listener; the person happens back. Experience is the chemical reaction between a cultural artifact and a self that carries plenty baggage with it. So this idea of achieving a self-erased and
de-valued subject position from which an ideologically "clear" experience of music X or genre Y can take place is an illusion. And not even a useful illusion.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crackergate Pt 296: The Momus take, including witty use of the “a certain ratio” concept

Peanut Butter Words chips in re. P-ism, R-ism, etc
Profile of Joe Boyd by me in Time Out

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Rip It Up and Start Again compilation is out now on V2 Records--and here's a piece by me on it in the Guardian.
Further, and different, expressions of fatigue and/or exasperation with the popism vs rockism debate: Jeff Chang at his blog and Rob Horning at Marginal Utility (the blog of Pop Matters, which very name is anti-poptimistic in tone--Frithy not frothy!)

It's a pity they're called "rockism" and "popism" really, because if you start calling yourself a rockist (or a nu-rockist), people understandably think you're talking about electric guitars and rock being innately superior to other genres, whereas the fact is that the vast majority of electric-guitar based music of the last ooh maybe 20 years fails the nu-rockist's stringent criteria by its dearth of ambition/surprise/edge/shock-of-the-now/whatever axis of intensity one might wish to measure upon. And similarly if you say you're anti-popist, people assume that means you don't like any music in the charts, are a snob about popular culture, only listen to hideous harrowing noise, etc. (Topic for a future thesis: the absolute terror people have of being seen as a snob-- another sign of how culture has become the battleground for blocked egalitarian impulses that in another age would have found expression in actual you know politics) . So although it's true as Jeff argues that a certain kind of rockist a long time ago would have dismissed rap (along with disco, house, techno etc) as not proper music, in a more fundamental sense, hip hop (and this is in part the basis for Merritt's distaste for the music) is riddled with rockism--ideas and ideals to do with authenticity, street credibility, realness, the underground, rebellion, cameraderie. The whole genre is underwritten by the metaphor of music as war/cause/movement/crusade, fueled by the rhetoric of keep-the-faith etc. Most germane to the recent discussion: MCs are mos definitely meant to write their own rhymes (although there is a kept-on-the-downlow phenomenon of ghost-writing in rap) and if they write about being a gangsta it's supposed to be based on true experience. One of my problems with popism is that it cannot explain the persistence and potency of this discourse of the real that you find in rap, grime, dancehall (but also in metal and, I imagine, in country). It can only condescend to it, or recoil from it, embarrassed and squeamish (ick, "authentic"). Or there'll be the gesture of pointedly preferring the commercialized or glossed-up pop version to "the real thing".

A bunch of people have emailed to point out that I do in fact live in a rarified world and that the rockists are out there; they're particularly rife on university campuses apparently. And I'm sure that's right: students have always tended to be a bit middlebrow, in the main, and I imagine the "they write their own songs" notion might still have this perennial, self-reconstituting appeal as a way of positioning oneself above the commercial pablum zone, kids music. This sort of primitive and quaint (and naff) rockism is very much an adolescent attitude, really (whereas the pop-ist sensibilty has always struck me as a post-adolescent reaction against the opinions/tastes formed during sixth form/high school and university years. Unfortunately the reaction often takes the form of a dis-intensification--adolescence is nothing if not a time of urgency and intense emotional investments, whereas in the phase of post-adolescent young adulthood (which lasts until late thirties or beyond these days) that dimension to musical cathexis usually disappears, especially as the onset of relative affluence encourages a music-as-smorgasbord eclecticism. Although these days perhaps downloading has made us all equally "rich," whatever our age or income). But anyways, yeah, I'm aware the general populace has more truck with this kind of thing, but the popism vs rockism dispute is really, if we're honest, overwhelmingly the concern of the commentariat (professional critics but also bloggerati, academics, and maybe a smattering of hipster opinionator types. Really, nobody else gives a shit! And that's what I was addressing: within that internicine zone, I'm really hard pressed to think of a rock critic today who'd be likely to say, as a point of principle, singers must always write their own songs. Even going back to the grand days of High Rockism, e.g the cast of critics who contributed to Stranded, I seriously doubt you'd find anyone among them who didn't think the Spector or Motown assembly lines didn't produce fantastic results that were as much part of the pantheon as Dylan or Van Morrison.

The one rockist bias that does endure within the commentariat (as well as much of the general populace) and that is worth challenging is the fixation on Content, the lit-rock syndrome (Stranded being a perfect example--there's an essay in there by Paul Nelson on Jackson Browne's The Pretender that literally doesn't mention the music once; the record is treated as though it were a novel or series of linked poems, as a font of life-wisdom). Again, though it's worth noting that the "lit-rock" bias is applied equally to the valuation and validation of hip hop: OutKast and Goodie Mob valorized over the base inanities of crunk (and within crunk, David Banner endorsed for having more to say, deeper and more nuanced emotions...). Dance music suffers worse at the hands of this content-bias, seems it's deemed not to have any but to be "merely" functional (the function actually is the content, of course, but to expect critics to go out and be ethnologists is a tall order, apparently). Rather than reject "content" altogether and in a spirit of inverted snobbery set up a new hierarchy that values music in ratio to its contentlessness, deracination, artificiality, lack of depth or substance, etc, the way to go is to recognise the value and the efficacy (past, present, future) of the older notion of content and its related apparatus (the auteur, the album, etc) while also expanding one's net to catch all the instances of intensity that bypass content in that traditional restricted sense of the word. An approach that treats "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Chime", "One In A Million", "Who Am I?", "___", as equally exceptional--flashes of form that may or may not carry content in the traditionally valorized sense as part of their arsenal of impact, but that always create content through the audio-social ripples and cultural shockwaves they trigger.

I need to come up with a snappy name for this approach, this sensibility...
Crackergate latest: Zoilus spots an Oedipal subtext to Merritt's rebellion against "Real"-ism

Monday, May 15, 2006

feeling postscript

feeling

Excepter, Alternation (5 Rue Christine)

Not like the other stuff I've heard by them; kinda like when Royal Trux would do the odd tune that was their stab at Cabaret Voltaire/Suicide

almost feeling

Panic! At the Disco, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"

The Associates of emo?* Can't decide if that would make them even worse than regular emo, or much, much better, but leaning ever so slightly towards the latter. Swoony, bruised-fruity, over-ripe, over-arranged, verbose, etc. Enjoyed the lyric that goes on about
"poisoned rationality" and really quite disappointed to realise on the sixth viewing of the video that it's actually "poise and rationality."

* Panic! at the Disco actually sounds like an Associates-type emotion/mise-en-scene., doesn't it? Or song title c.f. "Party Fears Two". Or even an imaginary genre --panic-disco. That's a perfect descriptive for "Club Country", "Nude Spoons", "Skipping" et al. The fact that they're obviously Smiths fans is even better if you think about what "William It Was Really Nothing" is supposedly about. And blimey their album's called A Fever You Can't Sweat Out and they're on a label called Decaydance--how Billy McKenzoid is that.
Glad somebody said this, that "Touch It" single is perfectly ghastly

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Luka, original grime believer, asks a painful question, and gets some good replies.

Horrendous thought that London's pirate airwaves are over-run with funky house!

That was what struck me last year on my two visits to London: first, that you couldn't hear grime on the streets coming out of cars, and second, that it was really hard to find a grime station on the FM dial. Whereas back in 1999, when 2-step was bubbling on the underground, seething but yet to break into the pop mainstream, there were dozens and dozens of UK garage stations.

Perhaps this prefigures the long-overdue paradigm shift* from the 'Nuum. Alternatively,it could be the final sputtering out of that narrative.

* Don't think dubstep is it, a/ cos it's been around for almost six years already, and b/ the analogy is much more c.f. drum'n'bass breaking off from jungle, i.e. dubstep breaks off from UKgarage and becomes something totally different--techy, instrumental, abstract and thus having far more potential appeal globally,
precisely because it's de-localised, stripped of grime's parochial character (and characters). It's city music, sure, but not London music to anything like the same degree that grime is.

liinju
Slate writer pitches in on the Merritt controversy, further tweaked here and here

Slate's Jody Rosen also has piece on popism/rockism, a hint perhaps of a drift towards sanity on this vexed subject (see also Frank Kogan's murmurmings about trying to understand what was valuable about rockism before it gets chucked out, anti-rockists as teacher's pets, etc). I did wonder though about this bit in Jody's piece:

The question, for those of us who make our living at this, is how to talk about the music we love, and hate, intelligently and non-ideologically.”

What does " non-ideologically" mean? Is it possible, or desirable? I'm not sure you can even experience something (a cultural artifact, that is) without ideology coming into play. But I've riffed on this before. All I would add is that anti-rockism is exactly like deconstruction (or maybe simply is deconstruction?), useful in its historical moment, or as a stage in an individual's personal history, as an anti-schlerotic of thought... but very much about the elimination of reasons to value, care, feel passionate, get worked up, etc. Its logic is one of discrediting ie. eroding the basis of beliefs, and indeed of belief itself, in favour of a pleasure-principled agnosticism. The net effect tends to be a kind of negative egalitarianism: not that all things become equally valued/valid, but that all things become equally trivial. (And that logic dovetails with aspects of late capitalism, digital culture, mp3/ipod/etc etc).

I also had to wonder again about where all these reactionaries actually are. Maybe I live in a rarified world, but I don't know anyone who thinks albums are intrinsically superior to singles. I'm not sure I've ever met a person who espouses that much-pilloried view about singers not having written the songs they sing being inauthentic and thereby lesser. (Surely anybody who ever loved "Reach Out I'll Be There" or "You Keep Me Hanging On" or "I Feel Love" or "Are You That Somebody" or ___ ... which I assume is everybody in earshot, is in the camp of the righteous already by definition....).
Mike Powell offers a refreshingly contrary position on The Drift--an alarmingly persuasive take actually
the missus on the "extreme ethnography" of splendid Discovery channel show Going Tribal

Monday, May 08, 2006

haven’t done one of these for ages


feeling

Various, Get Physical Vol II--4th Anniversary Label Comp (Get Physical)

Rihanna, that Schaeffel’n’B mashup of “Tainted Love”

Audion, Suckfish (Spectral Sound)

Various Artists, mixed by Kode 9, Dubstep Allstars Vol 3 (Tempa)

Tod Dockstader, Aerial #2 (ReR)

Takagi Masakatsu, Journal For People (Carpark)

Xylitol, Perogi I to IX (unreleased)

Booka Shade, Movements (Get Physical)

AFX, Chosen Lords (Rephlex)

Hot Chip, The Warning (Astralwerks)



really feeling

Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of A Beast (Matador)

First Nation, s/t (Paw Tracks) *

Burial, s/t (Hyperdub)

Scott Walker, The Drift (4AD) **


really really feeling

Scritti Politti, “The Boom Boom Bap” b/w ”Last Time I Looked” (Rough Trade)
Scritti Politti, White Bread, Black Beer (Rough Trade) ***


retro-feeling (reissued)

Various, Greek Electronic Music (Creel Pone)
Various, Hungarian Electronic Music (Creel Pone)
Conrad Schnitzler, Conrad & Sohn (Creel Pone)

Isolee, Western Store (Playhouse)

Delta 5, Singles and Sessions 1979-81 (Kill Rock Stars)

Various, White Bicyles: The Joe Boyd Story (Fledgling)


retro-really-feeling (reissued)

Faust, IV

Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life In the Bush of Ghosts


retro-really-feeling (un-reissued)

Ivor Cutler, Dandruff
Ivor Cutler, Jammy Smears
Ivor Cutler, Velvet Donkey
Ivor Cutler, Privilege


retro-really-really feeling (reissued)

Jake Thackray, Jake in A Box: The EMI Recordings, 1967 to 1976 (EMI)****



* Postpunk influenced but not the usual suspect-sources worn-threadbare by everybody else under the sun—for this (all?) female outfit, the coordinates really do appear to be Return of the Giant Slits and Odyshape, with maybe a bit of Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter and Abelarde and Heloise thrown in.

** Astonishing, at points terrifying (that track with the ungodly, subhuman, gargoyle-gloating howls), but I fear it's the kind of record one admires but seldom actually pulls out to play.

*** His best material since Cupid? Indisputably. His best album, ever? Looking more likely with every listen (the DIY stuff being EPs and Early not counting as an album-as-work)

**** I remember this guy as a saturnine, gangly figure who'd do turns on BBC light entertainment shows with his witty and slightly risque (for the 70s) songs. Listening with grown-up ears, I was surprised how incredibly--ecstatically--musical this Yorkshire Dales troubadour's songbook was--the twisty-turny melodies, his guitar playing, his sinuous singing. Something like Jacques Brel meets Jarvis Cocker.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I’m in broad agreement with Woebot's recent survey of the wan soundscape of contemporary musicking. (And most people I know seem to be dealing with the drought either by trawling the past intensively or by bunkering down in one genre and pretending it's the size of the universe). Oh, there's always good records; that’s not the point. What’s missing is surprise*. Even the people who've delivered colossally this season—Scott and Green—are people from whom you expect greatness, and who are delivering it in more or less the form you expect it. Having been around for decades, they know what they’re about now, and so do we.

* well Burial i guess is unexpected... but in a way that's kinda context-dependent. More on this later.
RIP Grant McLennan
New bloggs of note

Francois K's blogg

Dissensus mischief-maker Buick6's The Goldblog

Thoughtful new blogg the Existence Machine

nougat supreme

Friday, May 05, 2006

Of course the fact that straight guys like Eno and Pete 'n' Bob from Saint Et and Momus (who I forgot to mention but fits totally: his critiques of "pseudo-primal" in rock i.e. nick cave, pj harvey; his valorisation of the "fake" aesthetic, his whole empire-of-signs decorative-not-expressive japanophile shtick), the fact that their sensibility can intersect with Merritt's at various points (and some of these guys aren't just heterosexual, they're rampantly heterosexual), well that would suggests that the anti-authenticity/"sincerity = bad art" sensibility is not indexed to a particular sexuality, that there are other forces behind its emergence as a potentially hegemonic mode of relating to culture. And, conversely, there's plenty of gay men who have absolutely no problem with rocking un-ironically, indeed go about it in deadly earnestness--Bob Mould and Rob Halford spring immediately to mind. (Wasn't it kinda sweet when Halford did that "experimental" solo album on Nothing back in the 90s, Reznor/Manson-ed up his whole image?)

gnu

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In an otherwise dormant blogscape, a flurry of controversy over some allegedly off-color (boom boom) remarks by Stephen Merritt at this year's EMP Conference in Seattle--you can read about it here and here and it's picked up and developed here and here again (those two with numerous links to other outcroppings of debate).

Well, for what it's worth, Merritt's been consistent in his self-awareness about these cultural biases of his (but equally unembarrassed and unapologetic about them) for a good decade or more now, viz. this profile I did of him for Mojo in 1995 around the first Sixths album, specifically the last paragraph:

These days, Merritt is more of an anti-rockist than ever. "Rock should have consisted of only the Paul McCartney branch, not the Lennon/Jagger/Richards one," he mourns archly. Detesting the very idea of white blues ("it’s fundamentally racist"), he admits that his own aesthetic universe–from Nordic synthipop to redneck C&W–is "so darn white!" "I’m not so concerned with rhythm or syncopation, which are the main concerns of black music after Duke Ellington," he says. "I think my records could be listened to by the Ku Klux Klan!"

!

Solet's unpack this, translate it into in cult-studs jargon: Being fervently anti-rockist entails, for Merritt, resisting rock’s long-running privileging of/emulation of black music: there's a history of projection towards blackness-as-authentic that's tangled up with white heterosexist "identifications" with/distortions of black masculinity (or at least theatricalized representations thereof, from blues to rap), and this entire apparatus is something that Merritt, as a gay man, has an interest in challenging (hence the disparaging of the raw-and-rasping, swagger-and-snarl Lennon/Jagger/Richards lineage* in favour of the melodious/dulcet-toned/arrangement-oriented/decorative McCartney one). Indeed authenticity itself is something he wants to discredit (from the same Mojo piece: "Music isn’t about pouring out your soul... It’s about making pretty objects you can treasure forever**" and "in 1995, every gesture has quotation marks around it whether we like it or not. It’s strange that a few heterosexuals continue to delude themselves that this is not the case." It just so happens that almost the entirety of black popular music is bound up with these very ideas of authenticity.

But Merritt also (and this is the area--personal taste***--where the tribunal of political correctness' ability to legislate these preferences and aversions gets hazy) simply likes a good tune; his own talents as a melodist of a particular kind banish him from the rhythm-dominated pop mainstream.

My head is starting to ache…

* and **
Cconnections to be made here between Merritt's object-ive approach and two hetero but non-masculinist English artists: Eno's audio-decor, his distrust of ideas of catharsis and torn-from-the-soul expression, and his sense of himself as a rebel-against-rebellion (specifically singling out Keith Richards as his polar opposite); Saint Etienne as practitioners of a form of sonic antiquing, delectating over old French girl-pop singles found in Camden Market etc, plus I recall them listing for me all the music they abhorred and one of the things was funk, especially Parliament-Funkadelic: "too messy". Is it any wonder that England figures as gaytopia in the American non-hetero maginary?

*** then again it's the impersonality of "personal taste", its structural underpinnings, that is the real issue, the nub of dissension here, right?
Cable-endowed New Yorkers should tune in to New York Noise on Channel 25 this week where I'm hosting the show which has a theme of, erm, Postpunk Haircuts. Now, nobody would say I have a bright future in broadcasting, but in compensation there's some really cool videos, including some ultra-obscure promos ("Simply Thrilled Honey" by Orange Juice, except it's the post-purge, Zeke-on-drums incarnation of the band; Raincoats doing "Fairytale in the Supermarket"; Josef K and A Certain Ratio bits borrowed from LTM's splendid Umbrellas In the Sun DVD, etc). The initial airing was last night but it's repeated on Friday the 5th at 9PM and Sunday the 7th at 10 PM.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"forced, lifeless, wearing, and flat"--Nick Southall* at Stylus proves that modern music sounds shit. The principal culprit is "dynamic range compression", record biz weapon #1 in the loudness wars. At the first EMP conference, Douglas Wolk did a presentation on this very topic, demonstrating the pernicious effects of DRC by playing Led Zep's "Trampled Underfoot" with successive and escalating levels of compression applied to it: you could literally hear all the breath and space being gradually squeezed out of the music.

* an aside to one of Nick's asides: i'm nowhere near him in terms of audiophilia, but it has amazed over the years how many rock critics have really lousy stereos. it's like being a film reviewer and forgetting to wear your glasses before heading out to the screening.