Wednesday, September 30, 2009

really loving this tune

the album doesn't have the same jewel-like perfection, but it's enjoyably disorienting, bit like a collision of the aesthetics of Hot Chip and Ariel Pink, with the erratic, pitch-unfixed vocals of Rings or Pocahaunted...
A new online publication: Dancecult: the Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture

Lots of interesting looking articles, but of special interest to parishioners, two reports on the UEL Hardcore Continuum symposium, by Jeremy Gilbert and Mark Fisher

Re. Mark's points about the abstract reality of the hardcore continuum:

I think one place to look where this seeming empirical/theoretical clash is resolved is in History. They are plenty of examples of material/social phenomena that are real and concrete but are not necessarily consciously apprehended in their systemic totality by the subjects who constitute and sustain them. Imperialism might be one example, although in that case words like "empire" and "imperial" were used by both the dominators and dominated. A better analogy for the HCC would be what historians used to call feudalism but is now known more precisely as manorialism (a/k/a serfdom). With manorialism, I don't think people inside that system necessarily went around thinking of it as a system, but just as the ways thing were done, in the same way that it's unlikely that any peasant declared, a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "Now we see the violence inherent in the system!". But that doesn't mean that the systemic-ness wasn't there, or that there wasn't violence inherent in the etc etc. Manorialism/serfdom is a specialist term, conceived retrospectively, and never used by the actual inhabitants of what it describes; but that system (relations of fealty, property rights, division of land, farming methods, inheritance customs, etc) existed as both an abstract structure and a lived reality. It evolved through time, rising and declining; it co-existed with other kinds of socio-economic activity, like the guild system and merchant trade, which evolved into the early forms of capitalism, gradually eclipsing the manorial system but not extinguishing it for a long time, indeed the latter lingered long, long after its prime. The analogy here would be the HCC's coexistence with emerging delocalised and web-enabled forms of music culture which look set to eclipse its own particular system, which increasingly seems like an aberration, something swimming against the tide of the Nineties.

What is the systemic core of the nuum then? It's a particular set of relations based around pirate radio, dubplates, raves and rave-style clubs, along with certain kinds of music-making technology, also various customs and rituals. I've argued that the nuum is a UK adaption of the Jamaican system. Instead of sound systems mutating into raves or clubs (the obvious adaption, you might have thought), I think what happened was that pirate radio stations took the place of sound systems: they were sounds on the air. Another major UK mutation of the Jamaican approach was with dubplates. In Jamaica and in the direct UK transplant of the Jamaican approach in the form of UK reggae systems, dubplates specials were the unique property of a single sound system. In the UK hardcore raves scene, a more complicated system developed because of the guest DJ circuit that sprang up from the late Eighties onwards as a result of house music. That meant that deejays, instead of being tied to a sound system or a club residency, became independent operators playing at different raves and clubs. Dubplates then became a kind of patronage system or symbiotic exchange relationship between a DJ and a loose stable of producers. Sometimes, with a really powerful deejay, that becomes an exclusive relationship (Grooverider's boys would give only him their tracks; he would choose which ones out of many offered to make up as dubplates). Sometimes it would be semi-exclusive (a name producer giving dubs to a select group of deejays). And you had DJs who were producers themselves and cut dubs of their own music. This particular system is eroding as terrestrial broadcast pirate radio wanes in importance, while DJs increasingly move to digital formats and make a name for themselves with give-away mixes on the web. Similar to the emergence of merchant trade and early capitalism in parallel with a waning feudalism, you can see a new system, fully integrated with the web, eclipsing the older one.

If you only consider this music in terms of sonics, its genre characteristics, rather than as an element within a socioeconomic system, the dimension of continuity becomes fuzzier. You might hear its proximity at certain point to other sounds and imagine that there's a link there, when in practical terms--as scene rather than genre--these are two distinct subcultures. A good example of this is Big Beat. A genre I happen to like a lot. In its prime, it produced some fantastic records and some of the best dancing nights of my life. Now Big Beat actually had some resemblances to hardcore: the collision of hip hop and house, the riffy-ness, the hell-for-leather drugginess. But from a historical perspective, there is very little link between Big Beat and the hardcore continuum. All those people like Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim came out of the Balearic/Madchester/indie-dance lineage. Big Beat was organized around a completely different systemic infrastructure to the nuum. There were no Big Beat pirate stations. Big Beat was much more intimately connected with the mainstream record industry, there were relationships to certain major-league indie-rock bands (which as Britpop took off became the biggest rock bands in the land), there was the connection with the power nexus of Heavenly (the label/publicity/management organization), and so forth. It was based around a different circuit of clubs and had a markedly different audience composition.

Now, as I say, I have great affection for Big Beat as a moment, so it's no slight to say it has little to do with the nuum (even though later on you had a breakbeat-y strain of garage was that was oddly close to big beat, sonically). But equally, as fond as I am of the records, I would have to say that the reason that Big Beat didn't lead to anything (in terms of subsequent genres or a legacy beyond itself) has everything to do with it's not being based around as radical and fertile a systemic structure as the econo-cultural engine that sustained and--even now--sustains hardcore/jungle/UKG/grime/dubstep/funky.

I suggested that the inhabitants of the HCC are unconscious of it. Well, they don't use the term, and probably that's for the better! But it seems to me they are actually perfectly aware of what they're participating in, as indicated by quotes like this one from Geeneus in the much-discussed XLR8 piece on (cough) "funkstep":

Things come back around, and even though funky is called funky, really you could say it's not that much different from garage. It's just another full circle. With America, hip-hop is hip-hop, and even though the music changes and new sounds and people come into it, the flow remains hip-hop. But in the U.K., as soon as something new comes along, it’s like, “Oh, that's new music—let's call it a new name!” when really, it's all the same thing. We just progress along. So I'm doing funky, Skream's doing dubstep, Wiley's doing grime, but we're all together. We're all on the same radio station, we all come from the same place, and we've all got the same influences. It's really all part of the same continual flow.

That's the horse's mouth.
"here comes the lick again"--Blackdown on a fresh spasm of collective memory within the nuum : namely a flood of funky refixes of 2step garage tunes

what's interesting to me is that -- despite other flavas indisputably having entered funky's influence-mix like us house/broken beat/soca -- you never get memory-activating refixes of broken beat tunes... there's no funky revamp of "Loose Lips" is there? because that tune was never an anthem in the scene, it was an anthem (and a vomitous one: "loose lips sink ships" = we are the beautiful people,so keep it discreet, keep it elite)on an adjacent but separate scene.... so as far as the nuum is concerned there are no collective memories to be triggered...

as with UK garage remaking jungle and ardkore tunes, here once again you see the tradition constructing itself, writing its own history as it goes along

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

and of course, as already noted, the godfather of h****ology, Position Normal, is back

keenly awaiting the arrival of the cassette (first prerecorded tape I've bought in at least a decade) but a sneak digital preview of the album indicates it's extremely fine
taster for next Moon Wiring Club album

taster for previous Moon Wiring Club album

advert for previous Moon Wiring Club album

launch party for Moon Wiring Club album

taster for Moon Wiring Club album before that

advert for Moon Wiring Club album before that

teaser for Moon Wiring Club album before that

teaser for Moon Wiring Club

false memorydelic spore for Moon Wiring Club

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the mighty Ghost Box, running tings this season, again

well the first one is technically on Warp but still it's Ghost Box to all intents

Transactional Dharma: got to be honest, didn't have high expectations for this one, "former keyboard player of Broadcast", it has a bit of a Mick Talbot solo album ring to it... BUT, you know what, it's excellent -- totally Ghostbox-aligned yet completely distinctive as a musical voice, like The Advisory Circle... such an intricate eerieness to the production

As for Witch Cults of the Radio Age: it's Focus Group playing Unit Delta Plus to Broadcast's the-other-ones-in-White-Noise

With Belbury's From An Ancient Star kicking off 2009 with a sparkling return to full form after the slightly too pastiche-y Owl's Map, Ghost Box have had a very good year... I'm quietly chuffed that this label (and this entire soundzone of whatever-you-wanna-call-it: see also Leyland Kirby's epic 3cd sadly, the future is no longer what it was - harold budd meets fredric jameson in a barbiturate fog -- and the forthcoming Mordant Music lp SyMptoMs) are marking their half-decade in such fine style... Eat dung, naysayers!

i'll be participating in this Arthur Russell conference coming up in October in synch with Tim Lawrence's book, and organised by Tim, Sukhdev Sandu and Peter Gordon

it's called KISS ME AGAIN: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF ARTHUR RUSSELL, it's taking place on Saturday October 10th at at NYU Tisch Performance Studies, 721 Broadway (Waverly Pl.), Suite 612, New York.

i'll be moderating a panel at 2:00-3:15 called Arthur and the World, with papers from Joyce Bowden, James Thomas, Ernie Brooks and Daniel Portland.

there's three other panels, a screening of Wild Combination, and a keynote talk from Tim, plus various satellite music events on the Friday night beforehand and the Saturday evening thereafter

full information on the conference here here

and the music events here

stop press: meant to link to this interesting piece on arthur and is there anything else left in the vaults by gamall awad

latest instalment in an irregular series occasioned by the large number of friends who've got books out this year

Haven't read this yet but you know it's going to be good: Geeta on Eno, out in a few weeks.
i should have called it:

Writing Under the Influence: the Thrills, and Perils, of Theory

and perhaps made it clear that it was written from the p.o.v. of an addict in recovery

unlike your AA and NA types who are supposed to avoid the company of users, though, even though i'm clean now i can get a vicarious buzz off people who are still fiends

that reminds me: one of my fiend heros (ex this parish) is said to have said that deconstruction did more damage to him than the drink and the drugs ever did

further reminds me: this particular hero i first met at the xmas party of a magazine you'd probably associate with the utmost sobriety... which maybe explains why there were a fair few half-drunk wine bottles left at the end... we were the last to leave and said hero gathered up as many unfinished bottles as he could (a bottle neck between each finger of both hands, one clasped between each armpit, others wedged precariously into trouser and jacket pockets) and was last seen staggering up the Holloway Road clearly intent on continuing the party on his tod

i'd lump myself in with the autodidacts actually, because all my theory consumption was extracurricular and unsystematic... History, at Oxford then and most likely still, had no tolerance or application for Foucault, let alone the rest of the French lot... I'd actually applied to do Politics & Philosophy, a close shave all things considered given that they don't like the Continentals at all at Oxford... I'd probably have foundered in logic and AJ Ayers and possibly had a nervous breakdown and left after one term... as it is I specialised in America and learned lots of surprisingly-useful-later stuff about Reconstruction and the Populist movement...

Friday, September 18, 2009

"There is also a subliminal equation of cerebration and masturbation: the thinkpiece as a massive wank, a sterile squandering of life-force."

the missing sentence from my Frieze survey of theory's influence on music criticism over the last forty years

some things that slipped my mind: Carducci (although perhaps he's more of a theory-maker than a theory-reader)... the influence (direct and filtered-down)of Bourdieu on popism (especially with Carl Wilson's Celine Dion book)...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

another article about zines -- this time by Karren Ablaze of Ablaze! fame
(also via hollow earth)
seven years after the last peep from them -- a new Position Normal album!

can't wait to hear this
Matt misses the MCs -- Terror Danjah's Gremlinz assessed at Hollow Earth

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pink singing on a trapeze--proof if it were needed that there is no real difference between pop 2009 and Siegfried & Roy

See also: Lady Gaga, the Danny La Rue of simulation pop

Fitting that VMA should be book-ended with tributes to MJ, because all the dazzling razzmatazz, the cast-of-scores choreography and stunts--that really is his legacy, pop's final transition to an audiovisual entertainment... pure spectacle

it's like Beyonce's ass has got a life of its own

there's a "who's dancing who" quality that reminds me of that story, The Red Shoes
interesting interview with marcus nasty about funky over at blackdown

the most interesting bit, on the relationship between/transition from grime to funky:

Blackdown: So when did you start getting interested in house?

Marcus Nasty: "Well basically, when the grime scene died there was nothing for no one to do, everyone started playing old school garage and stuff. People were playing house but it was taking ages for everyone to get into it. I thought, ‘hang on, this ain’t us, this aint our music,’ because we came from grime, jungle, garage. So to go to house it was like ‘whoah, this is a bit too, erm, soft.’

"So I started asking all the UK producers, ‘have you started to make house?’ and they said, ‘we have but it don’t sound like house.’ So I said ‘just send it to me, let me see what it sounds like and I’ll see where you’re going wrong.’ So they sent me all their stuff and bit by bit I started playing it all and I ain’t looked back since."

interesting... on so many levels...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

k-punk and zone styx deftly skewer that jude rogers piece
was this the soft-rock Woodstock?

long been oddly fascinated by Bob Welch's fruity image

see also promo clip for "Ebony Eyes"
(whatsup with the bloke at the back seemingly plucked from the cover of The Man-Machine)

or e.g. his two big solo album covers

another figure whose look captures the essence of the era: Waddy Watchtel, axe-for-hire sideman to Ronstadt, Zevon, et al

revealed: how Oasis almost went post-rock

see, a Straight Outta Compton drumloop almost provided the backing track for "D’You Know What I Mean?"

almost... trouble was the Other Four, about whom Noel complained "It's difficult when you're in a band with four other people who've got no concept of black music, who just can't see anything further than the Beatles." Making you wonder why, since he wrote the tunes and ran the show, he didn't just get some less closed-off people to work with? Of course the problem was not the Other Four, but the Other One: knowing that he needed Liam's voice and star power to put his songs across... an almost Faustian pact

not convinced by the argument in the Quietus piece to watch out for a now freed-up Noel to stretch his wings and soar... teaming up with FSOL/Amorphous Androgynous would have been a pretty pedestrian move in 1993 (didn't Chapterhouse do precisely that?)... but in 2009...
fuzzy nuum thoughts from Matthew

fuzzy's a good word... cultural phenomena are fuzzy at the edges, and fuzzy at both ends of their temporal span (they coalesce imperceptibly, disintegrate and decay gradually). but as Matt puts it nicely, "we call the Thames the Thames even when its source and mouth are difficult to pinpoint and when it is fed by many other rivers"

not sure about his point re. nuum self-quoting and looking for examples "whereby an entire tune was lifted wholesale from one era to another to make a musical point of continuity but actually there were slim pickings"... aren't there rather a lot of them? There certainly were a bunch during the speed garage and 2step era. but his point that such echoes "form a musical vernacular, and are not wheeled out to prove lineage" is crucial; it's rarely done out of piety but because a good tune (or a good riff) is a good tune (or good riff). perhaps the distinction is that while for the nuumological scholar these echoes/recyclings prove the continu(um)ity of the macrogenre/macroscene, that isn't actually the primary motivation or point of them for the scene itself; they just occur.

what's most intriguing is that this kind of scene-reflexive recyling--whether pragmatic cannibalisation of parts or roots'n'future homage--doesn't go on to anything like the same extent in other forms of dance music (you don't get it in techno, or trance, or progressive, or house, do you?). (i have speculated before about there being a peculiar time-consciousness operative within the nuum but why that should be c.f. other dance musics I don't know -- the Jamaican influence? Reggae and hip hop have similar things going on and a similar unprecious, non-pious relationship with their musical pasts). In techno/trance/house etc obviously you get remixes of classic tunes being brought out, remade/remodelled for the current dancefloor's requirements. (Drum'n'bass, as it got more poncified, developed its own sort of arty-auteur version of this with e.g. doc scott doing "drumz 95" or goldie with his endless sequels to "terminator"). but these come out under the name of the original artist, whereas in nuum it's about collective memory and scenius; so it's not LFO getting some 2step (or funky) producer to do a paid remix of "LFO" that comes out on Warp, it's about some 2step (or funky ) producer doing a white label that's in some senses closer in spirit to the scene's bootleg of a contemporary R&B tune; there's a cheeky, appropriative, fast-money-music aspect as much as there is ancestor-honoring or this-is-our-roots.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

terror danjah interviewed @ FACT -- an "expanded extract" from my sleevenotes to the anthology gremlinz imminent on planet mu