Saturday, December 22, 2007



wishing

a merry christmas

and

a joyous and fruitful next year

to all our readers


Friday, December 21, 2007

and the first great record of 2008: Black Habit by Rings (formerly known as First Nation), out on Paw Tracks on January 15th.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

nuum talk

* dissensus thread started by Gabba Flamenco Crossover on dubstep's migration into the free party scene where its sloth and coldness mesh perfectly with the Ketamine-induced Katatonia that's long defined the squat-rave vibe, When the pharmasonic synergy kicks in and producers from that scene start to propel dubstep deep into the K-hole, will the genre's metabolism screw right down to... quarter-step?

* bassline: another piece by Hattie Collins, this time for RWD and letting the scene itself--deejays, producers, promoters, even vocalists--tell their own story.
plus K-punk on bassline's freakadelic fairground aesthetic (and re. erm, nongenitality,yeah, totally, the amorousness of bassline is utterly fantastical and hyper-real; nothing to do with real-world between-sheets carnality, more luvdup than love action.)

* Martin Clark convenes a clutch of movers and shakers in the London scene to assess the significance of funky house's ever-rising popularity in the capital; whether it is indeed a major "pendulu(nuu)m swing". Martin is surely right to argue that the most exciting phases are those periods of semantic indeterminacy before anyone can settle on a genre name, everything's still in flux, the sound has yet to arrive at itself. But the difference between this moment and grime's wot-u-call-it phase in 2003 was that then there was a very obviously new and highly significant entity that was simultaneously demanding to be called something and evading the nomenclative fix. Here it's much less clear if there's even an "it" that's sufficiently defined/different to require a "wot". "Funky" melts into other genres at every edge without establishing much sense of itself as a demarcated terrain of sound. And as Martin notes at a couple of points, "funky" isn't yet a great leap forward, or even sideways, musically; the sonic paradigm shift has yet to reveal itself. Lots of interesting points made during the discussion (e.g. the bit on reloads in grime--a classic example of going into the Zone of Fruitless Intensification, something that was incredibly exciting--the rewind--getting overdone to the point where there's a complete disruption of any flow) but at the end of reading it I felt as confused as its participants appeared to be!

Martin lays out what the shift constitutes more starkly in his Pitchfork summation of the year in grime and dubstep. Kudos for the coinage "reflectist" in this nub passage:

"...In the capital funky house is on the march into grime's London fanbase. Diametrically opposite to grime [feminine, escapist, "mature raver," warm, anodyne, danceable, tracky, DJ-focused, shoes/shirts versus masculine, reflectist, "yout," hard, raw, watchable, MC-focused, hoods/trainers], funky house shows every sign of becoming UK garage part 2. While the sound is fairly generic funky house now, the sound of every wine bar as it has been for over a decade, urban London has now got its hands on the genre. History has proven that when they do, it gets claimed for their own and quickly mutated."

That's the glass half-full view. The other outlook would be to see this latest return to 'dancing/4X4/girl-friendly/'adult hardcore'/dressing smart' not as a drastic swing/start-of-something-new a la 1997 and speed garridge, but as the wheel turning one complete revolution... and coming to a dead stop. Back to where 'we' started. Or before we started, even: pre-rave, pre-acieeed. The words 'house' and 'funky' have a lameness to them, a stale familiarity. They suggest a modesty of ambition, of demand.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

FELT UP: A YEAR IN MUSIC


really felt (new)

long
Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum (Graveface)reviewed
The Good, the Bad and the Queen, The Good the Bad and the Queen (Honest Jon’s/Parlophone) reviewed
Panda Bear, Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)reviewed
Burial, Untrue (Hyperdub)reviewed
Sally Shapiro, Disco Romance (Paperbag)
Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino)reviewed
Moon Wiring Club, An Audience of Art Deco Eyes (Gecophonic Audio Systems)preview reviewedThe Focus Group, We Are All Pan’s People (Ghost Box)
Neil Landstrumm, Restaurant of the Assassins (Planet Mu) reviewed



short
Nelly Furtado, "Say It Right"
TS7, “Smile”
Mr V feat Willis Rose, “What's Your Name”
J Holidays Vs T2, “Bed”
TRC featuring Zoe, “Why Can’t I Find Love”
Sally Shapiro, "I Know" and "Hold Me So Tight" and "He Keeps Me Alive"
Johnny Trunk & Wisbey, "Ladies Bras"
JTJ Productions, “Stand Up”
Rihanna, “Umbrella”
Peter Bjorn and John and Victoria, “Young Folks”
T2 Ft Jodie Aysha, "Heartbroken"
Mr V, “Hey Remix"
Mr V, “Jack In the Box”
Murkz, "Manny Man"
Davina, "Runaway (TRC Remix)"
Aaron, “Never Rush”
Addictive feat T2, “Gonna Be Mine”
Fulborn Teversham, "Beachtune"
DJ Denver, “This Is Sick”
TS7 & T Dot, “Ding Dong”
DJ Q feat MC Bonez’s “You Wot"
Feist, "My Moon, My Man"
Klaxons, “Golden Skans”
Battles, “Atlas”
Caliber Ft KayLee, "Can’t Sleep At Night"
Coki and Benga, "Nite"
Dre, "Whiplash"
Dizzee Rascal and Lily Allen, "Wanna Be"
Dial Tone featuring Danielle Senior, "Take it to The Dance Floor"
Mercury, "My All (TRC Remix)"



really felt: transatlantic release delays confusion category

Lady Sovereign, Public Warning (UK release)
Lily Allen, Alright, Still (US release)




felt (new)

long
DJ Q, 4X4 mix cd volume 6 (Q Recordings)
Battles, Mirrored (Warp) reviewed
Evan Lurie, music for The Backyardians
Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future reviewed
Kevin Ayers, The Unfairground (Lo-Max)reviewed
Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino) reviewed
Britney Spears, Blackout (Jive)
Various, 200 (Planet Mu)
Jamie Duggan Flavas November.2007 (Nocturnal)
Xylitol, Error Bursts In Transmission (Pierogi)
The Caretaker, Deleted Scenes/Forgotten Dreams
Dizzee Rascal, Maths and English (XL)
Skull Disco, Soundboy Punishments (Skulldisco)
µ-Ziq, Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique (Planet Mu)
Epic45, May Your Heart Be The Map (Make Mine Music)
Liars, Liars (Mute)reviewed
Enter Shikari, Take to The Skies (Ambush Reality)reviewed
Pinch, Underwater Dancehall (instrumental version)(Tectonic)
The Octopus Project, Hello Avalanche (Peek-A-Boo Industries)
The Dirty Projectors, Rise Above (Dead Oceans)
Fulborn Teversham, Count Herbert II (Pickled Egg)
Fujiya & Miyagi, Transparent Things (Deaf Dumb and Blind Communications)
The Glimmers, Fabriclive.31
RVNG Prsents MXs Justine D
Naphta, Long Time Burning and Grande Illusions (The Fear Recordings)
James Murphy & Pat Mahoney, Fabriclive.36
Ghedalia Tazartes, Hysterie Off Music (Jardin Au Fou)
Alog, Amateur
Various, 200 (Planet Mu) review

short
Shackleton, "Blood on My Hands" and “Blood On My Hands (Villalobos Remix)
Dusk and Blackdown featuring Trim, “The Bits”
Timbaland, “The Way I Are”
Gang Gang Dance, Rawwar EP(The Social Registry)
Dizzee Rascal, "Pussyole" and "Sirens"
Subzero featuring Sasha, "Be With Me (VIP Remix)"


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


really felt (newly available)

Daphne Oram, Oramics (Paradigm)
Harmonia, Harmonia Live 1974 (Crowland)
Various, Now We Are Ten (Trunk) reviewed
Nico, The Frozen Borderline: 1968-1970 (Rhino)reviewed
The Black Dog, The Book of Dogma (Soma)reviewed
Fire Engines, Hungry Beat (Acute) reviewed
White Noise, An Electric Storm (Island)reviewed
Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth (Domino)
Sun Ra, Disco 3000: The Complete Concert (Art Yard)
Dinosaur L, 24/24 Music (Sleeping Bag)
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures: Collector’s Edition and Closer: Collector's Edition (Rhino)
Seefeel, Quique: Redux Edition (Too Pure)reviewed
Naphta, Sovereign Rhythms Vol. 1: A 1993-1995 Hardcore & Jungle Selection and Sovereign Rhythms Vol. 2 (www.weareie.com)
Droid & Slug, Timestretch Vol. 1: 92-93 (www.weareie.com)
Luigi Nono, Complete Works for Solo Tape (Ricordi Oggi)
Creel Pones


felt (newly available)

Annea Lockwood, Early Works 1967 to 1982 (EM)
Max Goldt, There Are Grapefruits To Be A Squeezed in the Dark (Grob / A-Musik)
Various, Mute Audio Documents (Mute)reviewed
Betty Davis, Betty Davis and They Say I'm Different (Lights in the Attic)
Vernon Elliott and the Vernon Elliott Ensemble, Ivor the Engine and Pogles Wood: the Original Television Music (Trunk)
Mount Vernon Arts Lab, The Séance At Hobs Lane (Ghostbox)
Alizera Mashayekhi/Ata Ebtekar aka Sote, Persian Electronic Music: Yesterday & Today 1966-2006 (SubRosa)
The Slits, Return of the Giant Slits (PYTT)
Cultural Amnesia, Press My Hungry Button (VOD-Records)

^^^^^^^^


really felt (oldly available)

Gas, track 5, Konigsforst
Kraftwerk, "Autobahn", Autobahn
Harrison Birtwistle, "Chronometer"
Add N To (X), "Fyuz"
The Smiths, "Stretch Out and Wait", "Asleep", "Half A Person", "Rubber Ring", "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby"
Henri Suguet, "Aspect Sentimental"
Basil Kirchin, "I Start Counting (Demo)"
Bulent Arel and Daria Semegen, Electronic Music For Dance
Trevor Wishart, Red Bird and Journey Into Space
Pierre Henry, "Granulometrie"
The Kinks, The Kinks Are The Village Preservation Society



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


not really felt

Von Sudenfed, Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)
Justice, (Ed Banger)
LCD Sound System, Sound of Silver (DFA)
Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam (Domino)*

really not felt

Avenged Sevenfold, s/t (Rethug)reviewed


felt confused

Cosmic Dennis Greenidge, Giant Man, Giant Plan (Mordant Music)

Om, Pilgrimage (Southern Lord)**

Studio, West Coast ***

Pram, The Moving Frontier ****

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


felt (music-words)

Julian Cope, Japrocksampler (Bloomsbury)reviewed
Carl Wilson, Let's Talk About Love (Continuum 33 1/3)*****


felt (music-pictures)

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten reviewed
Scott Walker: 30th Century Man reviewed
Feiern: Don't Forget to Go Home, reviewed
Control


^^^^^^^^^^^

thrills

meeting Robert Wyatt at Hay

seeing Young Marble Giants play together for the first time in 20-plus at Hay

participating in the world won't listen by Phil Collins

meeting Malcolm McLaren after his British Consulate sponsored speech ("never trust a policeman... you must fail, fail brilliantly... etc") to UK record industry folk in NYC on their way to South By South West


^^^^^^^^^^^

* should probably give it another chance but offput by for the first time suddenly seeing why AC sometimes get compared to XTC...

* * hypnotic and mystical? or monotonous and hokey?

* * * S'nice. Niiiiice. Except, hmmm, rather a lot it sounds quite a lot like... World Party.

* * * * S'nice. Pleasant. Listenable, in a Band of Holy Joy dubstrumental meets Dammers circa In the Studio kinda way. But it's like some kind of memo went around the international hipsterati: Pram, massively relevant again. I mean, it's not like this decade's output is so vastly superior to the 93-96releases. If anything, the reverse.

* * * * *by the end of it though I was starting to think it's high time for a thorough-going critique of Bourdieu

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A piece by me on The Brit Box and the last twenty-plus years of UK guitarpop.

Edited down brutally by the missus and much the better for it I'm sure; I'll post the baggy, rambling, director's cut at the other place in due course.

UPDATE: original mega-long director's cut now up at ReynoldsRetro

Friday, December 07, 2007





RIP

KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN









into the unknown...




Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dirty North

Martin Clark and Alex Sushon separately chide me for not knowing that "showa" has been grime slang for a good few years now. Apparently it originally comes from an infamous Jamaican gang who like to boast about showering their enemies with bullets. (And there was I half-hoping "showa" had something to do with precipitation, or personal cleanliness, or strong water pressure). So "showa", it's a twist on "killer", as in "that tune's killer".

It's also ruthless-meaning-good. As in this track--

KMZ, "Showa Man Dub feat. As it is TV"

where the MC boasts: "I walk with my stick every day, I make it rain"

Listening to all these darkbass-roiling 4/4 tracks with MC-ing on, it's a bit like a rewind to the summer of 2002, being in London and hearing outfits like Black Ops and Horra Squad on the pirates. There's that same odd feeling of being simultaneously repelled and rapt, appalled and attracted. The rapping, fairly crappy; lyrics ugly with misogny and carnographic doggerel; beats thin and cheap, murda muzak. That summer it wasn't at all clear whether this was the absolute nadir of UKG (i.e. So Solid's afterbirth) or the start of Something New. As it turned out, all that proto-grime submusic turned out to be the No Limit to Dizzee/Wiley/etc's Cash Money. The shit out of which greatness grew.

Remember Sublo inventor Jon E. Cash and "Swallow"? C.f. this.

And oh look at this: KMZ, "Batty Man Dub feat. As it is TV". Horrible (at least T.O.K. had a great beat).

Meanwhile, the other strand of bassline--the poptastic R&B hyperdiva strand, now that is actually the drastic pendulum swing from yang to yin, testosterone to oestrogen, that I had always imagined would happen in reaction to grime, except it took so long to happen I gave up on it and just forgot. But here it is: the return to dance energy, groove, amorous vibes, "girls like this/this one's for the ladies massive/feminine pressure". I'd imagined it would happen as a some kind of resurgence of 2step. Well, on the rhythmic substructure level bassline is
4/4, but its whole upper chassis pretty much is 2step. Bassline of the ‘Heartbroken’/’Smile’/’Bed’/’Never Rush’/’Why Can’t I Find Love’ stripe is pure ‘Flowers’/’Destiny’/’My Desire’/’Sorry’. And as much as it's called "bassline", it's got that extreme treble thing that 2step had, that fizzy ultrabrite sound.

Back on the hard’n’dark tip:

Cool bass-riff on this track, sMoKio "Janno", it's like bassline, screwed

From the West Midlands, this sMoKio fellow is kinda like Pitman, but for real.

Or perhaps at one point he wanted to be the next Mike Skinner, judging by "Hooligan House"

But then check out this JTJ-produced track "Is You" ,with a proper video

Then there's MC Murkz, the guy who did "Night Showa". Check out his tune "Manny Man"--he's from Manchester (lyrical references to Gunchester)--and his mixtape Do the Maths Vol 1 via Smugpolice

You know what it is, all this MCs-over-4/4, bassline rap... It's the Dirty North. Like with rap starting in New York, grime started in London. But it diffused itself into the provinces, then mutated. The results sound backward to the originators, just like crunk and other Dirty South regional sounds seemed retarded and crude to rap custodians. But...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

hauntological vibes in the area!

1/ Via Sit Down Man, a link to a blog that has an amazing docu-poem depiction of
the building of the BBC Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush,
soundtracked marvelously by our friends in the Radiophonic Workshop

2/ Now, when I first saw this place I thought they'd got to be either ripping off, or ripping the piss out of, Ghostbox.

But apparently the chap behind The Blank Workshop, Ian Hodgson, came up with the Belbury-like idea of Clinkskell (tourist board here) independently of and in parallel with Jules et Jim. And Ghostbox are not only aware, they approve and appreciate.

The music by “Gecophonic Productions” aka Moon Wiring Club, is actually excellent: midway between the "proper tunes"/discernible style pasticherie of Belbury Poly/Advisory Circle and the disintegrated oneiroscapes of The Focus Group and Eric Zann.

Check out the track “Ghost Radio” here

under the willow.. under the oak… under the elm, the treacherous elm

Love it!

Actually that is a track from the debut album by Moon Wiring Club, An Audience of Art Deco Eyes, which is orderable here and previewable in its entirety here

Elsewhere
the single “My Churchwarden” by Jane Bribham made me titter!

As did the hermetic ornithology book Today Bread, Tomorrow Secrets by J.G. Mallard (four and six in the old money)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

nice little nuumological echo here:

T2's name comes from his childhood passion for Terminator 2

more in Prancehall's Vice micro-interview

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

Dissensus member Continuum (teeheehee) does a blog called Smugpolice with a steady stream of bassline mixes he's uploaded, most recently an auteurist series scooping up trax by producers JTJ, TRC, TS7, and the bizarrely named Warbus Tourbus...

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

when i saw in Hattie Collins's Guardian piece this quote:

"Shaun Banger Scott... agrees. '... The atmosphere, 99% of the time, is exactly what you would want it to be in any rave - shower [brilliant].'"

i did half-wonder if she'd been cob-nobbled, i.e. fed some fake slang like that spoof grunge lexicon someone at Sub Pop gave the New York Times

but on one of the two Warbus Tourbus mixes Smugpolice links to, there's a track called "Showa Riddim"

and then on the Jamie Duggan Flavas November 2007 mixcd (very first bassline product i've mailordered; hmmm they don't go a bundle on presentation, these bassline guys, cd-r plus the most desultorily designed of cd inserts!; good mix though) the last track is "Night Showaa" by Murkz (basically a grime MC rapping over Coki & Benga's celebrated fastdubstep riddim "Nite"--'doublestep' perhaps, ie. opposite of half-step).

so it's for real then! "showa"... i wonder what the etymology of that is then?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

yay, bassline house at the top (almost, give it another week)of the UK pop charts

a piece by hattie collins in the guardian on the scene

here's a much earlier piece (“is 2004 really going to be the year of bassline house?”) from which it's easily gleanable that the genre honestly weren't up to much
when it started...

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

ardkore archivalism: Celler Dweller, an old skool rave blog with ace MP3s ranging from the obviously canonical to the ruddy recondite (2 Boasters, A Digestive & A Jammy Dodger's 'Large Southend Donut (1600cc Remix)'). Nicely illustrated too, plus the occasional trainspotter-pleasing factoid about where the samples come from and so forth.

(His blogpal Dilated Choonz seems to have fairly regular doses of cheesyrave amidst the Moodymann and Pavel Kostiuk mp3s)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Emerging from the miasma of work, excursion, disruption, and illness to present a round-up of recent-ish reading... Catching us off-guard yet again, bloggworld draws another breath and refuses to expire!

Impostume, on the Blue Orchids's The Greatest Hit and (don't want to do a spoiler) another product of Manchester

Thence, head immediately to sign Carl's petition for Bramah, Baines and full original crew to reform to perform the album in its entirety in sequence, ideally zonked on the same extraneous influences it was made on

^^^^^^^^

Owen on grim/glam, and especially his remark about Saturday Night Fever. Finally seeing a few years ago I was struck by how it's basically a gritty social realist movie (surprisingly little of it takes place on the discotheque floor), acute on class (e.g. the status jostling between Travolta's character and the thinks-higher-of-herself older woman dance partner).

Also belated shout for Sit Down Man's riff on Black Box Recorder/Daily Mail/Anglo-fascism. The Auteurs really got on my wick when they arrived on the scene--so not what my mid-90s was about, "wryness and dryness" was Haines manifesto I recall--but this makes me want to reconsider.

I always thought the pop sound of the Daily Mail, its true soul-voice, was the nasal blare of Elaine Paige. Which is not so unconnected with the paper being Hitler enthusiasts in the 1930s, in so far as Evita's popularity suggests it tapped into a deep yearning for authoritarianism, a salvation fantasy in which a blonde dominatrix comes to lead the nation out of darkness; a mid-Seventies ‘this country’s gone to pot’ dream which comes true by decade’s end with Mrs T. Lloyd Weber circulated in a right-wing milieu where the idea of a coup d'etat, the Army stepping in to sort out the union and other enemies-within, was more than idly entertained.

^^^^^

"We need some discipline in here". So argues K-punk, sort of, in a post that starts with Supernanny and just… goes

See also this month’s The Wire, practically taken over by Mark--a Burial profile (oo-er, facialized metaphor!), Epiphany on Rufige Kru/Japan hauntological wrinkles through time, and lead review on Miles Davis’s On the Corner six-box.

(It's a meaty read,the new Wire, with Pram on the cover--giving me the hauntological willies for a good while as one of them looks uncannily like someone I used to know at university--and a Harry Partch primer, plus Michael Bracewell on Roxy's music...)

^^^^^^^

And more Burial: Fangirl's Emmy Hennings interviews him for Cyclic Defrost

Unnerving how eloquent, how insightful, Mr Burial is--here, in Mark’s piece, in all the interviews--how he "reviews" his own music better than the lot of us!

I do sometimes get that queer feeling that Man Like Burial is almost too good to be exactly true.... as if he’s somehow been hallucinated into being by the sheer yearning power of discourse… lack given form...

Yet equally--contradictorily--I wonder also if he’s blown it ever so slightly… By this time round talking so readily, candidly… Okay, the face still remains blurry in those coyly obscured photographs. But the contours of an actual breath-and-blood person, a solid biography grounded in familial reality (references to mums and cups of teas, elder brother who hips him to rave) have emerged. He talks poetically
about wanting to make the sort of mystery pirate tracks that seemed authorless and originless, but he's already let himself be situated much more in an Aphex-style auteur-career trajectory.

Doesn’t detract from the marvellous music, though… Yet…


^^^^^^^^^^

Still digging the bassline house. Out of curiosity I dug out an old speed garage tape I made in 1997, the very first one I compiled, using on the real motley bunch of 12 inches that turned up in Satellite )the New York dance store that now seems to have shuffled off this retail coil judging by its Bowery storefront--although maybe it's relocated) back in the winter of 1997-98. So the tape is a total hodge podge of classics like "Ripgroove" and 187 Lockdown and "Soundbwoy Burial" with of-the-moment chaff and period curios. Anyway I took it with me along with these tapes I'd made of Q's 1xtra show, to listen and compare on the flight (Yes, tapes, being a bit sad-like I've not worked out how to record audio streams on a PC and so I just stuck the Walkman in front of the computer speakers, and you know what it sounded surprisingly good, bass response a little weaker than you'd want, but loud and clear and bright and in your face, albeit interrupted regularly by the ping of an email entering my inbox). So: comparing speed garage 97 with bassline 07, the difference is quite striking. There's a lot less swing and syncopation in the drums nowadays. Above all, the whole aspect of "deep" you got with garage, signposted with song titles both in proper US garage like Hardrive's "Deep Inside" and in improper UK garage like Lady Penelope and Abstrac's "Deeper", the way there's a recession of space within the mix, layers of depth, with dubby sounds flickering at different levels--all that seems to be squeezed out in the bassline house. Bassline seems much more in your face and to my ears has something of the "flat" sound I associate with Justice and all those French disko-roque type outfits (which really leap out at you through computer speakers but I can only imagine is supremely grating through a big system). Perhaps the depth in bassline house comes across more in club situ, but I doubt it somehow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nuum moves North

A few years back someone kindly sent me some CD burns of bassline house dj sets. I wasn’t especially swayed: at best it sounded like speed garage frozen circa 97, but with much of the US garage derived swing squeezed out while the UK Xtra-factor of junglized brock-out residues was toned down. A lot of it, corresponding I think to the subgenre “organ house”, just felt thin-sounding and tepid.

The other week, though, my friend Paul Kennedy urged me to check out 1xtra
and I had to admit bassline has come on a lot. Cameo has been championing the sound, in the processing shunting grime to the sidelines of his sets, and there’s a whole show, by DJ Q, more or less devoted to the Northern sound. I was particularly struck by the tunes and remixes by a DJ/producer called Mr V a.k.a. Virgo,
who belongs to Nottingham crew Bassline Allstars, and and anything either made by or remixed by T2. (And what’s with all the one letter-based--Q, V, T--names in the genre!?)

As you’d expect, bass-science is the core of the sound, descended from the wah-wah/dread-bass 1997 sound of 187 Lockdown and Gant, but assimilating subsequent low-end innovations and bass-gimmickry (Flat Bass, Azzido Da Bass-style wub-wub-wub, the kind of inorganic, oil-slick wet-black-gleaming timbres associated with the dark 4/4 garage made by DJ Narrows--seemingly something of a pivotal figure in Bassline’s emergence--a classic example of how what seems marginal and vestigial in one genre--2step in this case--can be foundational/seminal in terms of another). But bassline takes it to a whole nother level with the ridiculously intricate sculpting of the B-lines and its
interweaving of multiple basslines--the result resembling a writhing pit of snakes. Sometimes the corrugated convolution recalls the baroque bass-riffs you get in modern drum’n’bass, but less angular; there’s always a slinky sinuosity that’s pure UKG. There's pure instrumental bassline and then (usually more enjoyable) tunes topped with R&G (rhythm-and-grime, the UK's characteristically thin-vocalled but ecstastically horny and/or plaintively wistful cut-price Happy Shopper version of American R&B). And you also get what you might call B&G--bassline plus grime, tunes topped with MC-ing.

Some things that stood out on recent Cameo and Q shows:

* Mr V, “Hey Remix”: madly rotating treadmill of bassage, the tune that
sold me on the sound. See also his “Jack In the Box”
* J Holidays Vs T2, “Bed”: a wetly-iridescent rapturous quality redolent of Daft Punk
* Addictive feat T2, “Gonna Be Mine”: mad carousel-like churner
* Aaron, “Never Rush”: amorous R&G flavored, with what seems like a Pointer Sisters-eque “Slow Hand” wham-bam?-no-thankyou-man! lyric albeit from the male point of view.
* Mr V feat Willis Rose, “What's Your Name”: barmy bubbly-squirmer of bass-goo like foaming sex secretions, topped with ace male-vocalled R&G
* DJ Denver, “This Is Sick”: fractal roil of faecal flatulo-bass
* TRC featuring Zoe, “Why Can’t I Find Love”: a female Monsta Boy, distraught with loneliness
*TS7 & T Dot, “Ding Dong”: the Lady Sov of bassline?
* N-Dubz, “Better Not Waist My Time (Wide Boys RMX): rococo-levels of frilly bass-curvature
* TS7, “Smile”: obscenely quivering, lubricious'n' delicious
* DJ Q feat MC Bonez’s “You Wot”: it's grime, ooop North.


The bassline sound is full of neat echoes for the nuum-ological scholar. Some of the sour synth-tones and wincing electronic timbres recall bleep and bass (West Yorks and South Yorks, bleep’s heartland, is a stronghold for bassline), as does the obsession with sub-low frequencies. You get some really weird’n’woogly ooh-oohing squeaky-voiced tracks that flash on hardcore ’92 but also the sugar-rush diva-warble of prime 2step. But unlike dubstep’s nuum preservation society, there’s a rude’n’cheesy instantness, a nowness to bassline; it’s rampant floor fodder churned out with minimal preciousness in vast quantities (shops typically sell the stuff in 9 or 10 CD packs! Which initially I thought would be unbearable, seeing the stuff as best in small sugar-rush doses, but it's starting to seem more alluring. And value for money, since these packs go for about 18 quid). But for all the pulpy, trashy, fast-money-music aspect to bassline, the genre doesn't neglect the "avant" in avant-lumpen. At its most full-on, the delirium of wriggling, slimy bass-tendrils recalls acid house, the slippery involutions of the bass-warpage redolent of the role of slide/portamento in the Roland 303 bass-riff. When the bright, treble-upper element of divas and ersatz strings gets stripped way, what’s left can get pretty dark and deranged, in a Fingers Inc “Washing Machine” meets KMA “Cape Fear” kind of way. “Speed garage is sikkk!” sez a female bassline fan on one DJ myspaces, and that’s the vibe: a febrile hypersexuality that’s nauseously unreal, perversely porno-delic.

On the rhythm front, although descended from speed garage, the beats feel more linear, as though moving North has brought speed garage more in line with the kind of boshing and banging dance music that’s always been big up there, a hi-energy bias that goes back to Northern Soul (whereas the South of England preferred the slower, funkier music coming out of Black America). Bassline often gets compared to happy hardcore, which fits its full-tilt propulsion and fixated feel. Certain drum mannerisms echo speed garage but the actual beat feels more quantized (the hallmark of hard house). Most of garage’s swing has migrated into the bass, where the inventiveness has gotten so infolded the B-lines sometimes feel almost lateral in relation to the drums, or like they’re running backwards simultaneous with moving forward.

Being rude ‘n’ cheesy as opposed to “deep” and spacy/spacious has made some tout bassline as, if not a riposte to dubstep (which it couldn’t be, since its emergence, many years back, coincided with dubstep’s, plus I imagine most on the scene are blissfully unaware of DMZ and FWD et al), then some kind of remedy or respite from dubstep’s sloth and rootical reverence. But the more interesting relationship to me is bassline’s (actual and potential) one with grime. There’s a strand of tracks featuring MC-ing, like DJ Q feat MC Bonez’s “You Wot” and JTJ Productions “Stand Up” (included on this Niche Vol 1 Bonus Tracks CD which someone at this Dissensus thread made available and maybe it still is).

The rapping on JTJ Productions
“Stand Up” is more like ”garage rap” than today’s grime, but all the better for that as far as I’m concerned--a reversion to the bouncy flow and hype-the-dancefloor energy of K2 Family, Genius Cru and GK Allstars. The track admonishes scowling guys in the club for not getting down but having their "arses on seats", for clinging to the wall and acting “dark”. A female MC takes the
chorus--

“Stand up
You’ve come here to get down
So don’t be a pose or a let down
Don’t act like a waste guy
I wanna see you SHOCK to the bassline”

--sending little thrills shivering through me when her Yorkshire vowel sounds ring out through the otherwise grimy parlance.

Although "Stand Up" is clearly designed as a catalyst for that critical point in the night when the club really needs to ignite, that little extra push to coax the bystanders onto the floor--you could almost imagine it as addressed to grime as a whole. Bassline puts the MC back in his place, as an ancillary figure, an adjunct to the DJ and the dancefloor, a vibe-enhancer rather than a star in his own right. And if bassline swallowed grime whole, that could be the jolt of dance energy the London scene needs to actually involve the outside world again.

The role of MCing suggests bassline is a blacker sound than I’d initially imagined. The slanguage on the V and JTJ Productions’s myspaces is totally grime-atized: “Nottz man reppin’”, “Lesta Man Dem”, “It’s goin on weighty brrrap”, “Big Bad Birmz”, “Tunes r smashin it”, to the point of inadvertent, Ali G-esque comedy (“It’s a Rugby Thing”). But while it’s initially bizarre to hear Cameo calling out to the massives in Sheffield, Leeds, Stafford, Barnsley, Liverpool, Wakefield, just like the shout-outs to London Ends a few years back, perhaps it’s not so surprising. The big cities in the North of England have long been multitracial places (I read somewhere that Leicester is on course to the first city in Britain where whites are the minority). And the hardcore continuum was never quite as Londoncentric as made out by us Londoners. There were strongholds of breakbeat and jungle tekno in the Midlands and Bristol, obviously, and prime movers based out of certain cities in the North: DJ SS and Formation Records in Leicester, L Double and Flex out of Huddersfield. Not forgetting Leeds with its Chapeltown and bleep history.

(I was always puzzled by Manchester’s failure to embrace or contribute to jungle (A Guy Called Gerald excepted, but then he had to move to London eventually), given the jump the city had on everybody else in terms of “gangsta rave”. But then no less an authority than Tony Wilson said, not long before his death, that “nothing has ever come out of Manchester in terms of black music and that's a tragedy”, a bitter remark inspired by his failure with Manchester grime crew Raw-T but equally applicable to fabulous Factory electrofunk act 52nd Street back in the Eighties. Then again, has anything, white or black, come out of Manchester in terms of innovative dance music since 808 State?)

But looking at the myspaces, at the way people dress and the things they say, what’s striking to me isn’t so much the North Will Rise Again/Nuum migrating beyond London thing, but the fact that what some people call “chav” is proven yet again to be the most fertile and vibe-generative sector of UK pop culture. Indie may be a white-out, but this is the forward sector, the class, that maintains the great British tradition of being plugged into black music and bringing something to it.

^^^^^^^^^^

It’s UK garage’s 10th birthday–-not this week, obviously, but this year, and looking back at its decade so far, the legacy seems remarkably rich.
Compare it to where jungle was by its tenth birthday (let's say, for the sake of argument, 2003) and the progeny it had spawned (drum’n’bass… long before 2003, nothing to be particularly proud of; erm…. does breakcore count?), compared with UKG’s incarnations and offshoots (2step, dubstep, grime, bassline). There’s no contest, really. And UK Garage is in surprisingly fine fettle in its tenth (or is it eleventh?) year. Dubstep, getting a bit formulaic perhaps, but still throwing out fabulous records like the new Burial and Pinch’s debut. Grime, ticking along, probably in better shape than bruised believers like myself would want to acknowledge. And then bassline, throbbing with obscene life. It’s silly and artificial to separate jungle and UK garage since they’re mutually enwebbed and part of the same grander formation, but still, presenting the Nuum as "a game of two halves", might be instructive. Where jungle beat UK garage is its success in globalizing itself, spawning undergrounds across the world, and filtering into the mainstream (albeit, humiliatingly, as muzak). UKG seems to instinctively close off those possibilities for itself and stay local (the very prefix UK highlighting that correction of jungle's "mistake"). A trade off: limiting the spread of impact versus protecting and nurturing the vibe.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Creel-worthy obscurity--Nicolas Schoffer's Hommage A Bartok. I scooped this 1979 album on the Hungaroton label up a few months back because it looked so odd, plus it was only 8 bucks. The sleevenotes suggested he was actually some kind of visual artist attempting to translate his plastic arts oriented theories about color and structure and space into sound, or in his words, "to construct trapped time--in the same way as trapped space or trapped light information." The austere pulses and pure poised tones of pieces like "Chronosonor 5" do seem to be striving for a kind of stasis, they're not so much music as sonic mobiles hanging there in space.
Imagine Disco 3000 if Sun Ra had been lobotomized, or a Martin Rev solo album recorded in a K-hole.

In semi-related news, Tasmin was recently gifted with a new doll and for some reason she decided to call it Nono. So all that early exposure to La Fabbricia Illuminata and Non consumiamo Marx had an effect!
Next week I'm going to be in Dallas, Texas, to participate in a panel discussion about the British artist Phil Collins's video installation the world won't listen (for whose exhibition catalogue I contributed an essay on Morrissey). The panel, featuring Collins, Bruce Hainley and myself, takes place at the Dallas Museum of Art, in the Seventeen Seventeen Restaurant, at 7 pm, Wednesday 7th November.

The following evening, Thursday 8th, I'll be giving a talk at the Museum about the history of art-into-rock , same location and also starting 7pm.

More info about the world won't listen and Phil Collins.

Monday, October 29, 2007

G


L


O


O


M



Dismayed to learn that Stylus is shutting up shop...

I suppose I can see the logic of quitting while you’re ahead, exiting before the inevitable dwindle of passion and drive sets in....

Still it's always disheartening (but particularly so in the current context) when a discursive energy-center, a cluster of talent and vibe, disappears....

And for purely selfish readerly reasons I’ll miss Stylus's off-kilter approach, which I’ve often fancied sorta made it vis-a-vis Pitchfork what the [late Eighties] Melody Maker was to the [late Eighties} NME. Except that’s quite unfair to Pitchfork which is way better than NME was then... but the analogy nonetheless has something to it: P-fork as the Accepted Authority, saddled with a certain responsibility, and Stylus thereby freed up to be the younger brother/maverick/underdog

Stylus also has the best name...

Catch up with five years of the magazine’s exploits

And here's a recent lovely piece that it's hard to imagine many other places running

Big up to Todd Burns and cru, and may all involved prosper in their future ventures.

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

And now

at last

some

long

overdue

anti-GLOOM

* Carl Impostume, brilliant, on Withnail and I, a movie that must admit never made much impression on me but clearly I've missed A LOT

* Matt Woebot, on records worthy of Creel Pone-isation. Usual chastening experience of only having one of the dozen or so things he lists (the Richard Maxfield/Pauline Oliveros/Steve Reich thing, which I've seen floating around New York a few times since.) Still I was quite chuffed when Creel Pone recently put out a record I had found on vinyl for myself last year, this one, made by by people associated with the Catholic University of America.
In truth, not astounding, but still… musique concrete from the Catholic University of America! If I was to nominate some future Creel Pone-isation candidates, I'd suggest a repro of the original album (which i found for a dollar in the apartment block residents jumble sale over the road from us) by avant-garde choreographer/synth-dabbler Alwin Nikolais (as opposed to this CD) on account of its fantastic cover which I can't find on the web and can't be arsed to scan but if you look at this image from one of his ballets and also this one gives you some of the flavour. And perhapssomething by John Eaton like this...

* Heartened, walking back from Whole Foods on Houston Street, and having had my eye assaulted on previous excursions by the giant American Apparel billboard at 1st Avenue, to see that some plucky feminist street guerrilla team had defaced this in the grand tradition of ”if this car was a woman it would run you over”. And now it's been taken down, yay.

* not really anti-gloom but just mildly boggling to stumble on this Icelandic metal-not-metal blog and seeing the "label cloud" on the side:

• alpine folk
• alternative
• ambient
• ambient avantgarde
• apocalyptic folk
• black metal
• dark ambient
• dark folk
• dark metal
• Dark Symphonic Folk Metal
• darkwave
• death industrial
• Death Metal
• doom metal
• drone ambient
• electronica
• experimental
• folk
• folk metal
• industrial
• martial
• melodic death metal
• neoclassical
• neofolk
• noise
• nordic folk
• pagan metal
• power electronics
• ritual
• viking metal
• vikingarock


... and be freshly struck by what the likes of chuck eddy and dj martian have banged on about forever which is how metal has just swallowed whole goth (especially 4AD goth-lite), industrial, post-rock, shoegaze, techno, isolationism, folk.... to the point where what defines metal as metal these days is nothing sonic but really just the bombastic and verbose band names/song titles (and also contextual/institutional stuff like where you're likely to read about it) (and perhaps the clothes the bands wear). A lot of metal's outer fringe doesn't even seem to be band music anymore, particularly, it's not made for live performance, the perpetrators often seem to be reclusive misanthrope bedroom types.

So what gives it any coherence as a musical field might more be what it excludes than what it includes. And (echo of previous week's debates) what it excludes seems to be by and large, black music. Which is not necessarily problematic, of course.

Then again, look at Blodvarg's avatar/ident videoloop. Erm, are those jackbooted feet doing, ooer, the goosestep?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

GLOOOOOOOM!!!

poptimist turned pessimist:

keyquote:
“Thirty years on from punk, music in the UK has reached a settlement, with most aesthetic questions presumed answered, like Francis Fukuyama's end of history applied to pop. Though when you think about it, what does "end of history" mean but "no future"?”

nuances to Mr Ewing's glooooooooom

There are times I feel intensely homesick for the motherland and then there are times when I give praise to the Almighty that I’m here on the other side of the Atlantic. Reading that column was one of the latter times.

Not that it’s any better over here, really....

Case in point:

another fat dose of GLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!

strangely I never ever come into contact with these hype blogs, the paths i routinely trudge across the web take me through totally different scenery.

and finally one more speck o' gloooooooooooooooooooooom

in its total-ness almost a form of gloomupmanship

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

gloom!

keyquote: "after much consideration and conversation, I can scientifically conclude that 2007 has been a stinker for rock music… 'indie' is a thriving lifestyle concept perfect for selling [products] and therefore artistically long dead and more discernibly derivative than ever…. my own pessimistic feelings towards music in 2007 are not because I'm a boring, out of touch fart. Rather, it's my enthusiasm for music that makes me so frustrated."

gloom!!

keyquote: "I think if Aly & AJ 'Potential Breakup Song' can't be a big hit, nothing of its ilk can, and the UK can officially be declared a pop wilderness."
and
(loonies getting even loner)

even more gloom!!!

keyquote: "It's safe to say, at least for the time being, that electronic music's futurist impulse has run its course."
also
this Guardian piece from a month or so back that subtly indicts the stasis quo of trendy dancefloors still being dominated by a style of music five years old

gloom and doom, moan and drone everywhere!!!!!!

Sufjan Stevens in this week's New York: "Rock and roll is dead. Rock and rock is a museum piece. It has no viability anymore. There are great rock bands today--I love the White Stripes, I love the Raconteurs. But it’s a museum piece. You’re watching the History Channel when you go to these clubs. They’re just reenacting an old sentiment. They’re channeling the ghosts of that era--the Who, punk rock, the Sex Pistols, whatever. It’s been done. The rebellion’s over.”


(Hey don’t look to me for cheer and good tidings. My most listened to “new” album this past season is the Daphne Oram anthology Oramics. Most played tune all year: Gas, track #5, Konigforst (no idea why either). Favourite album of 2007, Black Moth Super Rainbow, is glorious and enchanting, but is not groundbreaking in any readily quantifiable or arguable sense.)

Still peckish? Fancy some more gloom? How about this?

Sasha Frere-Jones on how indie rock lost its soul (and its funk)

Sasha has been banging on about this as long I can remember. I interviewed him for the 1995 piece I did in the Wire on Post Rock in America, and there were complaints (astute, acerbic, righteous) about the lack of funk/groove/swing in Amerindie, pinings for the lost NYC polyracial/polyrhythmic mutantopia of the early Eighties (ESG, Liquid Liquid, etc). Then again I banged on about it, at a slightly different angle, two years before that. And really, people have been banging on about this almost as soon as the postpunk mutantopia came to an end circa 1985, banging on about it journalistically and music-rhetorically (Age of Chance covering "Kiss" frinstance). So the "in recent years indie's gotten awful white" angle is a little bit of false peg. Indie rock on both sides of the Atlantic has been, exceptions and occasional periodic rediscoveries that dancing is fun yknow, on this rhythmically inert, mumbly and pallid-tone vocalled tip since C86 took the Chic and the Al Green out of Orange Juice.

In a way though that's just further reason for gloom--extra salt in the wound--just the fact that these things have been bemoaned before; that nothing changes, these socially determined patterns reconstitute themselves again and again. So that it gets to seem like complaining about them is futile, but then equally to not be frustrated and angered by the self-segregation in music is just as bad, because it results in a kind of fatalism, the racial counterpart to the "poor will always be with us"/"rich will always be with us" kind that is so prevalent today.

Then again, if Arcade Fire’s true rhythm that they feel in the fibre of their beings, is that shuffly canter thing, then perhaps.... good luck to them? Trouble is indie rock is nothing if not about being authentic, and what’s authentic to most white middle class collegiate types is still (amazingly, really, given 50 years of rock'n'roll/funk/hip hop suffusing the culture) a lack of "soul", exuberance, shouty demonstrativeness. If their true essence is diffidence, uptightness and all the rest of the things SFJ identifies in indie rock, that's going to come out in the music.

The best bit in the piece is the candid stuff about his own struggles to find a way of of singing in Ui that wasn’t faux-black.
(Hot Chip and Flight of the Conchords is one solution to that problem.
And talking about the white negro syndrome, I'm struck by Jemaine's uncanny facial resemblance to Mick Jagger. Which seems to highlight the fact that such transracial (im)posture can only be got away with today under the guise of comedy. e.g. this song "Business Time" )

But faux-black was once no problem at all; it was what you did, as a matter of course, to be pop, if you were white; the terms of entry. (Okay, there's exceptions, country/folk/showbiz sources, and "that voice", but by and large, it's true, for the 1960s at least, Pop in the moving-forward sense was black voices/moves/rhythms and white people putting on black voices/moves/rhythms, seemingly without a pang or a doubt that this was anything but the most natural thing in the world to do.)

So what SFJ is mourning here really is the loss of nerve--of gall, even--that enabled white rockers and poppers in the 60s to front. That white negro leap of courage. Faking it, basically, but in the process creating a new self that became your authentic self; a postracial superself.

No answers, no solutions... just further-gloom-inducing inconclusions that all point towards to that bigger sense of impasse and social/cultural deadlock.

(Still at least it has inspired the best ILM thread in many, many a moon)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hats off to the mighty Woebot for his sterling and scan-tastic archaelogy of Žerjavic's musical back pages. (And red face in this corner for not twigging sooner that DMZ and Stepinac are one and the same...) Shoulda known Matt would have been tracking this stuff from way way back!

Let me recover my pride with a some hot-off-the-press news. DMZ's debut album Fur Ilija Garašanin has been bumped back owing to problems with sample clearances, most likely it will come out spring 2008 now. In the meantime Black Hand are putting out a stop-gap release, a covers EP (crafty way to sidestep the sample issue eh?)which pays tribute to DMZ's influences. There's five covers versions, but they're also collaborations with five of DMZ's heroes, making for ten homages in total.

Tracklist for the EP, Blows Against the Empire

1/ "Funk Gadaffi", original by Front 242 ; new version in collaboration with Borghesia (EBM legends from Slovenia)

2/ “Fists of Pride”, original by Temper Tantrum; new version in collaboration with Oliver Chesler (= Chesler covering himself, cos Temper Tantrum = him!)

3/ “Keep ‘Em Separated”, original by Offspring; new version in collaboration with Rammstein (German industrial-rock band)

4/ "Bafflin’ Smoke Signals”, original by Lee Perry; new version in collaboration with Afrikaans Boy (MC from Orania, South Africa)

5/ “No Woman Allowed”, original by Sperminator; new version in collaboration with Void Kampf (French nu-EBM outfit)

Of the Front 242 cover, DMZ told Moving Hands webzine: “Electronic Body Music is a big part of my musical DNA. Everybody knows that without EBM there’d be no gabba. But not a lot of people know about EBM’s influence on the early turbo. A lot of those early producers like Dreaptă Pavelić and Zelea Codreanu came up on A:grumh, Pankow, KMFDM. One of my uncles roadied for Borghesia and their live tapes were this constant background thing for me growing up. That stompy beat gets in your blood! I was gonna do something off Tyranny For You, like "Moldavia" or “Neuro Bashing”, cos I think that album is underrated. But it had to be "Funk Gadaffi." That is the TUUUUNE! The other reason is that it's a salute to Muammar al-Gaddafi--not the NATO arse-licker he is nowadays, but the young Gaddafi, who was like the Muhammad Ali of geopolitics or something! He kicked out all the foreign money, the Western companies, and got back control over the national resources, and then he used that oil money to build up a strong nation, with welfare from cradle to grave. Most important to me, he was a secularist. When you've seen the poisonous effects of clerical-fascism on your region, that's really a shining light. Strong secularist leaders is what we need now. Cos Empire is getting stronger and stronger."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's hardly news that there's a big buzz building across the blogosphere about the mixtape by London-based MC/producer DMZ. Credited to DMZ versus DJ Stepinac, This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll, It's… mix'n'mashes DMZ’s own tunes with
underground anthems from across Europe’s post-gabba underground. If there's a dominant flavour to the mix, it's jumpstyle, the new-ish genre that's gotten hipsters chattering excitedly these last few months. Originally from the Flemish north of Belgium, jumpstyle is starting to establish footholds across Northern Europe. Associated with working class teenagers from the poorer districts of Antwerp and Leuven, jumpstyle has developed its own look, slang, and most crucially, dancing (imagine speedfreaks Morris Dancing on a freshly buttered sidewalk). Jumpstyle's stompy vibe is plastered all over DMZ’s first single “Proud and Loud,” a lo-budget self-directed affair which has already chalked up over half a million views on YouTube.

DMZ's own tracks, many co-produced with Stepinac, offer a rampaging, rude'n'rowdy blend of gabber, happybass, bouncy Scots rave, and turbofolk. Most of the tunes on This Ain't Rock'n'Roll, It's... blur the line between sampladelia and mash-up, pivoting around chunky samples heisted from all across the music spectrum: Cockney Rejects’ “Flares and Slippers” (on “NeedaBass”), Albion Dance Band’s “Hopping Down In Kent” (on “Flying Feet”), Marshall Masters’ “I Like It Loud” (on “Proud and Loud” ), The Skids’s “Into the Valley” (on “Euro Trashed”), and Dropkick Murphys’s "The Legend of Finn MacCumhail" (on “Walking In Antwerp”).

Just twenty years old, DMZ’s real name is Dragomir Žerjavic. He arrived in London as an eight year old in 1995 with his father and three sisters, refugees from Operacija Oluja (Operation Storm), the Croatian army’s onslaught against the Serbian rebel minority in Croatia, during which 200 thousand Croation Serbs were driven out of a region ostensibly under UN protection. As asylum seekers the Žerjavic family were initially housed in the notorious Clichy Estate in Tower Hamlets, but eventually settled permanently in Kilburn. The whereabouts of Žerjavic’s mother are unknown: tragically, DMZ hasn’t seen her since his seventh birthday party. But she is very much present in spirit on the debut album due out early next year on Black Hand, an imprint launched as part of a deal with Perfecto. Black Hand will cater for DMZ and DJ Stepinac's’s joint and separate projects plus acts they sign (the first is set to be a MC collective from Zagreb called Alkan Warriors.

First up though is DMZ's proper debut album. Titled Fur Ilija Garašanin after his mother's maiden name, the album is already stirring controversy owing to its apparent homage to his mother, the commander of a paramilitary squadron implicated in various incidents of ethnic cleansing,
most notoriously the expulsion of 78,000 ethnic Croatians from Krajina, which in turn provoked the retaliation of Operation Storm. Some believe that she's in hiding, having changed her identity and quite possibly surgically altered her appearance, living in fear of being hunted down for war crime prosecution or even assassination by Croat secret police. Challenged by interviewers, DMZ has refused to condemn his mother outright, saying only that she was "misguided" and that the Croatian Serb cause was "misunderstood".

The DMZ hype ball got rolling when respected music writer Anton Hatton-Smooker II, resident pop critic at the National Review, heralded DMZ’s music as "an authentic example of modern day volk music, imbued with the true and abiding values of fraternalism and shared destinty". Soon, music blogs and message boards were all twittering with excitement about the MC’s feisty flow, ruffneck beats and politicized lyrics.

Inevitably, there's been nay-sayers too. Skeptics have pointed out that the hybrid nature of DMZ's sound (which smash-and-grabs elements as far afield as polka, North African Rai and even--on one song--bhangra) actually undermines its volkist credentials, and that any rate his sound owes far more to the Nordic gabber continuum than his own East European roots. There have been murmurings that the whole thing is an art project in the tradition of Laibach. Venerable rock critic Robyn Crisco accused DMZ of jumping on the Balkan dance music bandwagon, as represented by outfits like Gogol Bordello, that she’s championed over the last few years: “Don’t let the hard-to-pronounce Slavic nomenclature throw you off, DMZ has no more connection to Balkan beat than Timbaland does”.

DMZ's credibility has also been undermined by accusations of fad hopping (in the early Noughties he was a minor player on the broken beats scene, MC-ing on tracks by Bugz in the Attic, I.G. Culture and 4 Hero) and by the involvement in the early days of his career of faded Britpop star Crispian Mills of Kula Shaker. Žerjavic even lived in the summer house at the bottom of Mills’s garden for a couple of years. The association has continued with Kula bassist Alonza Bevan’s co-production of “They Walked In Line”, one of the standout tracks on Fur Ilija Garašanin. (Other producers involved on the debut include Scott Brown, Oliver Chesler and, naturally, Stepinac).

DMZ shrugs off the sniggering aspersions and the more considered critiques alike, arguing that he’s not so much a pure volkist as someone looking to expand the pan-Slavic principle to all of humanity. “It’s like I put it on 'Marchin' into Gladness': 'every people need a homeland, a place to call their own'. As far as I'm concerned, we’re all Slavs under the skin."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

great Fangirl piece on Joy Division and the "here are the young men" weighted-with-Weltschmerz/deathwish syndrome
Carl's back! With a report on the trials of daily existence in Caracas capital of the People's Republic of Venezuela, and an appreciation of the comforts of consumerism
me on Joy Division in the New York Times

and Dennis Lim's feature on Control from same

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

i participated in a symposium on the state of blogging, instigated by Scott Woods at Rockcritics.com. Well, not quite a symposium cos we couldn't respond to the other's commments, but a sort of collective/simulcast Q & A. General outlook/consensus mood appears to be: disillusioned but determined.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Well I was saying I got more tingles from the Landstrumm ravestep sound than most dubstep I'd heard this year but there were tingles a-plenty at Dub War versus DMZ on Saturday. Intriguingly most of the tingles were during the early sets by Dave Quintiliani and Joe Nice, rather than the peak hour Mala and Loefah back-to-back session. Dave Q especially was dropping a lot of nonformulaic stuff, some of it on the outer periphery of the genre, including a mad squelchy 'n' skittery tune that sounded a bit like Basic Channel meets breakcore, these smeary thickly textured beats skidding and slipping all over the shop, a tune if I'd heard it in a different context I'd never have thought "dubstep" in a million years. (Dave tells me it's by an artist called 2562 and it's called "Channel two," boomkat are selling it as a download at http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=49340).

The two resident deejays were dropping loads of good stuff, some quite gloomcore in vibe, elsewhere you could really hear the mid/late drum'n'bass ancestry (there was a tune that sampled a very familar chopped up vocal lick that goes D-U-B, P-L-A etc etc then DUB-PLATE-BIZZ-NIZZ, I was trying to place it, thought it was some old DJ SS thing, Dave says it's "VIP" by Mark Omen and it actually a remix of Shy FX) [UPDATE: sez Droid is it "very cheeky" remix of DJSS's Black remix on Formation. And you can check it out here http://www.subvertcentral.com/forum/viewtopic.php?highlight=black&t=39600 . Ha, vindicated! That's like 96, 97?]
Generally Nice and Q walked a fine line between educational and rocking the crowd.

Conversely Loefah and Mala played it rather safe, it was that peak hours logic of banger after banger after banger, which in dubstep's case seems to mean tracks based on a tight verging on constrictive formula: juddering bass riff and then running almost at a right angle across the bass/drums this sort of horizontal synth riff, a kind of grating bleat or mechanical quacking sound. They played about eight tunes on that formula, leavened with more digi-dubby stuff. And don't get me wrong, it was vibey, those juddering bass-dirges with the sub-lo impacts as heard through Love's amazing sound system drive the crowd absolutely bonkers, you got the whole drill of shouts for rewinds, lighters in air, brocking out. But stacked together in a row it makes for a bit of a changeless same.(Apparently Mala played his more adventurous material a few nights later at Cielo).

Anyway it struck me that the peak hours stuff corresponded to jump-up and the
stretching-out, varies wildly in tempo approach of the earlier deejays was equivalent to... not exactly "intelligent", cos it wasn't wishy-washy or coffee table, some of it was mad, but maybe the stuff Reinforced were doing by the mid-90s that hardly every got played out by djs at raves or on pirates. I thought it interesting that this populist/cerebral divide would get reconstituted within dubstep, when most
people outside the scene would view dubstep in its entirety as left-field, atmospheric, "deep", Wire-friendly, perhaps in opposition to the
the "shallower" (literally flatter, in terms of the sound design) and rowdier grime.

Speaking to Dave Q later that the night, he said the scene had become "conservative" and that he was keen to showcase the kind of forward-pushing, genre-stretching tunes. And in fact as well as playing them at Dub War he's going to be doing podcasts of that kind of stuff, the first one is accessible through the iTunes music store, if you search "Dub War NYC" you'll get it.

BTW the next Dub War is October 20, headliner is Vex'd doing a live set; I shall go early to catch the non-typical tunes.

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Talking of the more atmospheric end of dubstep I did get a good tingle off
the latest release from Keysound Recordings, Dusk & Blackdown featuring Trim's "The Bits" b/w/ Blackdown "Northside Cheng Dub", excellent attention to the higher frequencies on both of these with a cobwebby skein of reverbed plinky patterns that's not a million miles from the where-idyllic-meets-eerie doilies of sound spun by The Focus Group. I thought it might be a hammered dulcimer, but Man like Martin tells me it's "a Chinese zither called the Cheng". Also hitting me where I live for different (nuum-ological not hauntological) reasons is Trim's interpolation of the vintage lick "it's a London thing" from the Scott Garcia/MC Styles classic.

Goodness gracious dearie me, is it really 10 YEARS since speed garage?

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Gutterbreakz chips in on Neil Landstruum. He's right you know, it hasn't got that much empty space in it, it is cluttered. I think that's what I like about it actually, that "get busy cru" feeling. There's stuff on the record that reminds me a bit of Code 071, e.g. "London sumting": all three versions, from h-core to d&B. Elsewhere there's moments that remind me a tiny bit of Groove Chronicles circa "Black Puppet/1999" or Dem 2's "Bad Funk", again a busy, congested sound, 2step going dark and febrile. A sound that within the relentless forward-rush of the nuum could only exist for a moment, probably less than six months, so it never had a chance to spawn its albums, never had a chance to exhaust its possibilities. So what people like Landstruum can do now, at a time when the fwd-drive has slowed to a virtual halt, is go back and thoroughly explore/exploit these passed-over-too-quickly seams of sound. History has placed him in a position where he is able (and i think dubstep is doing this also; and in a different way, breakcore is too) to survey the whole length and breadth of the nuum's 15 years--1989 to 2003*--of full-tilt surge and combine this and that. In a way what happened with the nuum mirrors on a smaller scale what happened with rock, which is that at a certain point the sheer mass of the past as it accumulated behind the genre begins to exert a kind of gravitational pull; the sensation of movement, of going somewhere, can be satisfied as easily (well, in fact, more easily) by going backwards within that vastness than by going forward. It's still the exploratory impulse but it's like an archaeology of the recent past.


* yeah i would say the surge slows at 2003; that's when grime arrives at itself, as a style; 2004-2005 are the consolidation, the attempt to break through...

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talking of archaeology and nuum-tangents (who remembers splatterbreaks? sort of breakcore w/ politics instead of parodics) here is a Neil at History Is Made At Night on the ultra-underground Brixton club Dead By Dawn. I get me knuckles rapped for getting the name wrong in Energy Flash!
more on the eno/ballard connection over at Ballardian

this Silas chap's music sounds a wee bit, dare I say it, hauntological:

"There’s material there that’s been inspired by unidentified underwater objects, objects landing in remote woods, Borley Rectory, poltergeists, strange sounds... . I’m inspired by the strangeness, the mystery, and the downright weirdness of all these unexplained and odd happenings.... things like Electronic Voice Phenomena, strange moorland lights, places where ill feelings occur, anomalous artefacts."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Big up to John Eden and Paul Meme for Woofah, their reggae-grime-dubstep zine (an old skool hard copy hold in your hand made of paper and ink zine it is too). Highlight for me of Issue #1 is the interview with Mark Iration who, before digi-dubbing it as Iration Steppas, was the lynchpin of Ital Rockers, a legendary bleep’n’bass outfit/sound-system who were right there at the very dawn of the North Eastern sound, alongside Unique 3/Nightmares on Wax/Forgemasters, and maybe even a little ahead of everyone else.

Says Mark when quizzed about how Manchester/Hacienda/baggy gets all the attention historically:

“People forget about the Warehouse--the Warehouse was the groundation for Leeds--LFO, Nightmares on Wax, Unique 3 and Ital Rockers was like the main format for Leeds and the Warehouse was our Hacienda”

Talking of Leeds, “Big in Chapeltown” is the title of a track on the recent album by Neil Landstrumm, Restaurant of Assassins (Planet Mu). Really feeling this record: retro-rave, but not total time travel a la Soundmurderer and not with that kind of half-in-jest caricature aspect you get sometimes with breakcore bods such as Shitmat or Kid 606 (e.g. the latter's “You’re Inside the Smallest Rave on Earth”). Nor is there that misty-with-tears elegaic thing that Burial has. Assassins is sluiced in bleep influences; there’s some ardkore in there too (one track samples a chunk of a House Crew tune); but the production is modern, exploiting all the sound-design and subtlety-riddling potential of the sort of up-to-date gear used by microhouse and dubstep producers. Landstrumm's nickname for the sound is “ravestep” , the -step to drawing a line from dubstep back to its one strand of its family tree in all that early 90s reggaematic house and ragga-tekno (on “Reverse Rebel” there's guest patois courtesy the Ragga Twins). Indeed he is using many of the same elements that dubstep is built out of--the sub-low bass, icy splinters of synth-melody, empty space. But for whatever reasons, the result gives me much more of a tingle than most dubstep I've heard recently, and I don't think it's entirely nostalgia, the memory-rush syndrome. It's not so much a reinvocation of forever-lost-in-time elements as a reactivation of dormant potentials.

Landstrumm has been on this going-back-to-go-forward tip for some while: in 1999 or so I saw him deejay at a party in New York (where i gather he was living for some while)and he played all this bleep-and-bassy stuff which naturally got me curious, i went up and he said something to the effect that's how he believed techno should have stayed, or at least that the Northern UK tekno sound was his heartcore music. The thing that actually made me go up and speak to him though was when he played the Horrorist's “Dark Invader”, a tune that was actually ahead of its time in being behind of its time (made and released in 97 i think but sounding 90/91, a EBM-tinged Belgian Resistance stomper).

Here’s a interview with Neil (i wonder what his Life of Grime EP sounds like?) and a ravestep mix
we don’t care about the rich folks
talkin' bout the rich style


heard this week in two different brand new glitzy TV dramas based on the notion that there is something intrinsically fascinating and sexy about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, Gossip Girls and Dirty Sexy Money:

the just re-released "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John and Victoria
but, but, but... we like your voice, Matt




[and extremely belated response]

but, but, but Matt... "Cortez the Killer" is the BEST THING HE EVER DID. (That and "Powderfinger").

(but okay yeah fair enough the rest of Zuma's quite forgettable so maybe "not too bad" is a sound assessment)
Queenie Watts!

That's the woman who belts out a tradjazzed-up version of gorblimeyguvnor cockney music hall standard “Goodbye Dolly Grey” (a Boer War era ditty) in the pub ruckus scene in Alfie (on TV for the umpteenth time earlier this week)

surely ripe for insertion into one canon or other of Anglo-antiquarian esoterica...

googling her name I came across a reference to her being John Entwhistle's mum, which can't be right, surely? but oddly would fit into some kind of trans-generational Brits-projecting-towards-Black-America continuum...

on the white-on-black theme: almost too obvious to say but Flight of the Concords = Hot Chip with non-musical interludes

and still on theme: seemingly shown on American TV every week at the moment
The Blues Brothers. I imagine this was regarded by most rock critics at the time as some kind of travesty of soul music, I'm sure the likes of Dave Marsh say would probably have fulminated against it.... nowadays it seems faintly poignant on some level, Belushi and Akroyd's earnest reverence for Sixties soul not far beneath the parodic surface... c.f. Flight of the Conchords, these schlumpy white guys who want to become the elegant frenzy of the black performers they venerate but can't make it so they make a joke of themselves (while still pulling off some under the goofiness actually quite slick and physically impressive moves)
i have never managed to make watch more than 1/4 of it--usually a chunk in the middle--before giving up though... there's a bit that portrays country music fans as Nazi thugs more or less which you could never get away with now...
another morsel of Quirk from the Kid, this time on Klaus Nomi
(whose teutonic-operatic-kabuki thing adds weight to the idea of Quirk as unAmerican rock--anti-roots, anti-groove, anti-funk, anti-swing)

(mmm, to bring another Axis power into it, were the Plastics quirk? Not sure as I think I only ever heard one track by 'em. Image wise though they were the three-way lovechild of B52s, Devo and Cheap Trick.)
more poignant than you'd think -- the story of a man who develops a kink in his cock

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A few weeks back Kid Shirt identified a lost genre both historical and he believes coming back (shudder)-- QUIRK. Where glam meets prog meets New Wave.

Here he elaborates , zooming in on Split Enz and Lene Lovich

Now did he mention Duffo of "give me back my brain" not-quite-fame?

Punilux--the single I liked was "Jellyfish". As I recall from Rip-research they were drama students, background in radical theater. There was a big fringe drama/experimental theater thing percolating through the '70s--it was actually this vibrant, edgy area of the culture, believe it or not--and that seeped through into rock a fair bit
pre-punk and post-punk.

Re. the secret connections between New Wave and progressive/pre-punk underground music, I once saw a Cardiacs show --by accident I swiftly add!--at a free festival. It was on Port Meadow in Oxford, 1985 I think. We didn't even know it was on, were just going for an after-dark stroll across the meadow (the Monitor crew alllived within a few hundred yards of it). Tents everywhere, bonfires, a bad tripping hippie-chick staggering through the murk and stumbling over the tent cables... And the Cardiacs were onstage. If they hadn't been, we'd probably have stuck around longer. Who knows, I might have become a crusty! Probably not. I don't get the sense that free festival music was terribly hot in the Eighties. Has it ever been, though? Ozric Tentacles. (Who I have to thank for the revelation that hallucinogens can't actually make music any better than it already is; if it is, lame then the lameness just get magnified, it becomes cosmically lame)

In 1978 NME writer Miles wrote about a New Wave sub-style he dubbed "geometric, jerky quickstep"--exponents included XTC, Devo, Ultravox, with tinges in Talking Heads and Pere Ubu. The herky-jerkiness overlaps with Quirk ("geometric jerky quirkstep" perhaps) but with Quirk as Kid Shirt defined the ancestry's more in Genesis than in the cooler things Miles sources his thing in (Eno, Kraftwerk, Cluster).

Then there's The Tubes, who semi-passed as New Wave despite being horrible muso AOR dullards underneath the rock theatre / satire thing they had going on. (Amazingly there's a track by them, "Drums", on the Booka Shade DJ Kicks mix-CD, a drum solo with screams, some filler interlude from one of their atrocious albums no doubt... A mixed bag, that Booka mix, frequently making me wonder how "anodyne" has become a positive aesthetic in modern dance music, "anodyne" and "dinky" seem to be what people are aiming for. But there's a great track by Brigitte Bardot of all people, which sounds she was trying to be like Lizzy Mercier Descloux). The Tubes, though, didn't really have the herky-jerky thing.

Ah, but what about Kate Bush? Now surely she is in some ways the godmother of Quirk? Or at least a fellow traveler. Think of the mannered vocals, the theatricality of her performances and videos, stilted movements and Lene Lovich-y stark staring eyes... Bush was mentored by mime artist/choreographer Lindsay Kemp (who also taught Bowie)

What was that Russian--actually Soviet, it's so far back--band that they tried to launch over here? Zvuki Mu?!? Saw them once at a festival in Warsaw. 1987. Polish police with machine guns at the back of the venue. They were hardcore quirk. There's a Mittel Europa aspect to Quirk (Lene Lovich, again) that makes me think it's in some ways an anti-rock'n'roll tendency, even an attempt to de-Americanize rock. (The only real American contributor to all this I can think of is Sparks who failed abjectly in their native land.)
heart and sole

seen these sneakers?

and trawling ebay the missus spotted these

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

it had to happen, i knew it was coming, any day now--and here it is: official confirmation of my Mercury Prize triumph.

presumably i had a hand in this too, in fact i think you really see my imprint coming through on disc 2, especially the THAT VOICE meets SUAVE PUNK meld of United States of America's "Garden of Earthly Delights" into Josef K's "Sorry for Laughing"...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Is England---what a load of tripe!

really

tripe

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

When Ghost Box announced a while back they were going to be doing their own periodical, Folklore and Mathematics, I imagined something scientific-looking, with that sort of heavy white semi-gloss paper and black-and-white photographic plates you associate with journals of a certain vintage, and full of long articles, with footnotes, written in that clear, layman-oriented
but slightly stiff and somber pedagogical prose you associate with prime period Pelican. Just when I'd forgotten all about it, Folkmore and Mathematics materialised in my mail box the other day and while gratifyingly the illustrations are all identified with things like Fig 1.3 Graph representing reverberation exp. and Fig : 3 Hocusing mask, Coldwell, the publication actually looks more like a community newsletter crossed with a twilight-zone version of the Radio Times. Beautiful to look at, of course, and with plenty of that trademark poker-faced humour. However when I went to check the site just now I could find no mention of it so I don't know when this is going to be generally available.

In the meanwhile, here's a nice little One Touch Football thread on Ghostbox et al. Pleased to see that Taylor Parkes is so into their music. It figures from what I know of his sensiblity.

One dissenting voice on the thread, though, complains (and it's a complaint I've seen aired elsewhere) that the Ghost Box aesthetic is too contrived, too mapped out, too neat and tidy. And the rejoinder I've always formulated in my head in the past goes something like this:

A/ What does it matter if something is "contrived" if what the artist in question is contriving is really splendid and special?

B/ Where is all this less contrived and non-contrived stuff you're in favour of lurking if you don't mind my asking? Do you really believe it is even possible for spontaneity, intuition, to exist anymore, given the nature of the business, the media, etc etc these days? Just look at people who are considered dangerously random, rogue elements, unpredictable, sowers of chaos, eg. Pete Doherty, and it's like they're operating from a script! Nothing could be more contrived than the faux-sloppy fuck-up, the out-of-control, the straight-from-the-heart, Momus's fake-primal (Grinderman for fuck's sake)... The Fall into knowingness has happened. Self-consciousness entered music's water table long ago, it's ineradicable, the tainted element we must move within, thrive within if we can.
Before the web--or at least before the web got so jam-packed with stuff, stuff of interest to me--my favourite method of workday procrastination was flicking through music books, especially reference books. See, it feels less blatantly nonproductive than sloping off to watch TV (back in the day MTV was a grey area--keeping up with stuff, that was the rationale--but that was way back in the day, when MTV actually showed videos) but was still essentially a form of work avoidance, putting off the task at hand. Webzines, blogs (reading and writing), the sharity bonanza, youtube etc, have pretty much phased out any need for recourse to the tomes (now you can bunk off without even leaving your chair). But occassionally I'll get an urge for some retro skiving and head for those well-thumbed tomes. So it was that flicking through The First Rock & Roll Confidential Report my eye slowed at the book review section (amazed at just how many rock-etc books were being published annually even in 1984) and then came to rest on a little known fact: Nick Tosches actually wrote a book about Hall & Oates! Dangerous Dances: The Authorized Biography, by Nick Tosches with Daryl Hall and John Oates (St Martin's Press)... Now I bet that's something that doesn't appear too often in the dust-jacket flap copy of his subsequent tomes, eh?