Monday, October 29, 2007






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





* 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


poptimist turned pessimist:

“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


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."


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."
(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."
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 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

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 . 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.


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?


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...


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."