Saturday, December 05, 2009

really interesting post on Burial at Rouge's Foam, celebrating other facets of the art(ist) than the requiem-for-rave-dream aspect

it's part 2 of an epic 4-part series that started with this also really interesting post on hauntology (be warned though that one is long -- pack some Kendal's Mint Cake, the ascent is one thing, but you'll be jellylegged on the way down) (it rather skirts around what I'd consider to be the central H-ologists but is great on precursors Boards of Canada and also the freakily large number of parallels in the art world)

I'm never quite sure what I think of the musicological-analysis approach. Well, for a start I have to take it completely on faith, just as I would if I took a broken appliance into the repair shop and the problem was diagnosed. Indeed reading I tend to glide through those bits rather quickly to get to the analogies with modern art or the more general, non-technical stuff to do with the history of music or philosophical issues. Of course it feels wonderfully validating when, as in the first essay in this series, my favourite Belbury Poly tune "The Willows" is broken down and it's gosh-darn proved that its uneasy-queasy atmosphere stems from the unstable, drifting key the tune is in (that's brutally simplified BTW, the analysis is intricate). But equally when the method is applied to something that doesn't particularly captivate or impress, then it's unconvincing; it's not like you can be argued out of your primary musical/emotional response.

But then the same probably applies to every kind of analysis/exegesis, every critical angle brought to bear; we'll go along with it happily when it aggrandises something we rate or diminishes something we don't like; when it doesn't gel with our opinion, it may well make us judge the methodology unfavorably, rather than the other way around. Certainly it's not going to alter your gut-feeling.

So for instance the hauntological reading laid on Burial by K-punk went down a treat in part because I was already well-disposed to the music; but when Mark used the same lens re. a blues-influenced record by Little Axe, it didn't make that record sound any more appealing to me. A good example of this in Rouge-ian terms would be Zomby: "magnified listen" of the "Kaliko" Kaleidscope = yes yes guvnor; same focus applied to the rather cursory and unrealised One Foot Ahead of the Other = nah, not having it mate...

In Burial's case, the machinery of emotion is fascinating, but the emotion itself--the mood and atmosphere--and the question of why the artist is so obsessively drawn to it, what its appeal is to listeners, why its found such a surprisingly substantial audience at this juncture in time, etc--seem more crucial. It can be agreed I think that the mood-palette of Burial is uncommonly desolate, dejected, yearning, bereft, bereaved... the phrase I keep coming back to is "orphaned drift" (and not just for the CCRU ghost-echo), which chimes with the title of the new song "Fostercare"... Whether those emotions register with you in terms of living in London (or any metropolis) in the Noughties or whether they bear an extra freight of loss ("after the Luvdupness has gone" a la "Weak Become Heroes" *) is bound to be generational **. I think what's going on in the music surely relates also to the syndromes of pandemic stress and depression Mark writes about in Capitalist Realism.

* never struck me before that a "Night Bus" is a perfect figure for the latter: it's what you get on after leaving the bright-lights/noise/collectivity of the club-rave space and head back to atomised anomie... the postmillenial nocturne of Burial's music as a Night Bus after the Nineties?

** Burial, although not actually of the generation that would feel this way as first-hand experience, seems to invite this reading with "Gutted": the sampled voice muttering "me and him, we're from different, ancient tribes... now we're both almost extinct... sometimes... you gotta stick with the ancient ways... old skool ways" (from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai)... to an old raver that's bound to seem like The Key...