Wednesday, February 28, 2007

K-punk (dramatically expanding his guest worker program I see!) chips in again. I think he's
misunderstood the comparison between hipster metal and intelligent drum’n’bass*. I wasn’t making a musical comparison so much as a structural and sociological (Bourdieu-stylee) one. There is something analogous between drum’n’bass’s “downplaying rave's 'silliness'” (Mark's words) and Sunn O))) & co's “subtracting metal's residual rock and roll dynamics and sonic pallette in favour of an exploration of forbiddingly featureless anti-climactic drone-plateaus” (ditto). In both cases. there’s a sublimation (or sublime-ation?) of the original music, a shedding of its coarse, rowdy, plebeian trappings and a distilling away of it generic impurities to reveal an essence (an essence, though, not the essence--rich genres are multi-essenced, capable of mutating in multiple directions, seeding entire family trees of successor genres). The motivation for doing this is most likely entirely aesthetic and "pure", ie. the extrapolation/refinement/intensification of a sonic logic immanent to the parent genre (rave/jungle in d&b's case, metal in Sunn O et al's). It just so happens to conveniently open up a whole new niche market of listeners--people who would never have been caught dead at a rave (in the case of Bukem/Photek-style d&B), people until recently who would never have been caught dead at a metal gig (in the case of Sunn 0)))/Boris et al) .

(Now we’re well into the second stage of the hipster uptake which is where the converts to the “subtle”-ized offshoot play catch-up with the music’s prehistory. With D&B that meant people scrabbling to inform themselves about 'ardkore, retroactively buying into the whole rave thing they'd once shied away from. And you can see that process already happening with hipsters moving beyond the Wire-approved artists to black metal, death, thrash, grindcore etc) Eventually some tof hese hipsters will progress to the point of disdaining the hipster-oriented stuff as "lightweight" bizniz and celebrating the real thing--c.f. d&B converts who dropped their gateway drugs (Speeed/Logical Progression/etc) for the harder hit of jump-up or techstep. I’m not judging or mocking any of this people, honest. I just enjoy these games, watching them and participating in them. It’s amusing to see these syndromes play themselves out, the patterns recur!)

Must also beg to differ with Mark re. the KLF analogy. I had loathed JAMMS and Timelords for precisely their "pomo japery" (as Mark puts it) but the KLF tunes actually worked as great techno-rave. I interviewed Bill Drummond in 1990 or 91 and was surprised by how serious he was. He said that it was the religiosity of rave, that whole aspect of collective ritual, being part of a mass of people lost in music, the element of communion and transcendence, that attracted him to rave culture**. Hence "Church Of The KLF" and songs like "3 AM Eternal", a pop take on rave's thing of transcending Time via non-stop trance-dancing. Indeed there's an un-ironic love of music’s religiosity running through Drummond's entire life-in-music, the ardour for soul and country (Tammy Wynette appearing on their record was not a camp joke, or not entirely), the involvement with Echo & The Bunnymen and their quest for a “glory beyond glories”***. So there’s a battle there in Drummond between the impulse to be lost in music, overwhelmed and transported by sound, and the knowingness that is our cultural burden, our blighted inheritance. At any rate I think c.f. Sunn O))) the costumes were KLF’s attempt to bring to the surface and literalise this latent ritualistic and ceremonial aspect to rave. And you’ve got to be on some level serious I think to go to the trouble of schlepping to the remote Scottish island of Jura to hold a Summer Solstice rave, where the KLF and their guests dressed in yellow robes and burned a giant wicker man Druid-style. If I was feeling pretentious this morning, I might even compare the KLF to a pop Acephale (what could be more Bataillean, more Accursed Share-y than burning a million quid? That also took place on the isle of Jura, making it a sacrificial rite). Even Drummond's recent**** No Music Day gesture
is born of a love of and awe for music, a resentment of the way it has been de-sacralised through saturation and repetition and ubiquity. An ascetic gesture, the equivalent of those early Christian hermit flaggelant types who climbed up pillars (eremites?)

Anyway this James Cowdery fellow at BBC Collective agrees with me re. KLF comparison, he filmed Sunn O))) last year.



* the comparison was not meant as a diss, since it’s not as though intelligent drum’n’bass was uniformly rubbish, some great music was made under that banner, it's just that it was distinctly out-numbered by wish-washy drivel.

** the KLF talked about "stadium house" didn't they -- which makes the connection with rock -- hard and heavy bands playing to massive arenas. Course people who hated hardcore techno in 91 used to call it "headbanger house", "heavy metal house". It all fits.

*** the KLF analogy is weirdly strengthened for me by the fact Drummond's old management client Julian Cope is a prominent supporter of the new mystic metal. Cope's whole Head Heritage concept is a classic example of the rock-my-religion impulse tinged with irony and knowingness.

****
actually it seems he launched No Music Day not last year, when it got all the press, but the year before that, according to this Independent piece. Ah, another interesting fact: Drummond's the son of a Presbyterian Minister....

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