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?
Rick Rubin, who--as this New York Times Magazine profile relates--has been hired by Sony as co-head of Columbia Records with a brief to totally reinvent the company--thinks he knows what will save the music business at this time of total freefall. It’s MUSIC. If the industry would just start thinking of music as art again rather than product, then people will be stampeding to the record stores eager to shell out their hard-earned dough.... It's touching really. Endearing. Still, I can’t help liking Rick Rubin. In the same way and for similar reasons that I like Tommy Saxondale.