Saturday, April 22, 2017
[pic by Maria Aua]
Several artists at the Tallinn Music Week drew on these traditions, working vaguely Medieval / liturgical or rustic folk vocals (with a tinge of the country's pagan past - it was Christianized as late as the 13th Century) into soundscapes influenced by industrial / ambient /electroacoustic techniques and atmospheres. The result is a distinctively Estonian contribution to the tradition of "ethereal girl" music. The most mesmerising of the ones I saw was Eeter - which as it happens, is the Estonian word for "ether". But it's also quite close to Eesti, the Estonian for, well, Estonia the country and Estonian the language. Thereby - intentionally? - suggesting a native ethereality to this densely forested country, with its countless lakes, its bogs and fens, and indeed the exterior locations it provided for Tarkosvky's wondrously eerie Stalker.
The trio of Anna Hints, Marja-Liisa Plats and Ann Reimann use their pipes in a variety of ways - ranging from mouth-music / text-sound / voice-scape effects through to much more diva-like Gothic grandeur reminiscent of Lisa Gerrard - and then mesh that with a mixture of acoustic textures (cawing violin, dulcimer-like glints and tingles, piano) and electronic scrapes, drones, glitches etc. Sometimes you're put in mind of Dead Can Dance; sometimes there's a faint flavour of Nico's The Marble Index. But the setting through which the voices float is much more ambient and IDM in feel and provenance.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Probably the most pure entertainment-!wow! of the groups I saw at Tallinn Music Week was this Russian outfit Glintshake.
The video above is the best of the ones I could find on YouTube and it doesn't really convey their force-of-personality live - although you do get a glimpse of singer / guitarist Kate Shilonosova's charisma and her repertoire of facial expressions and hand gestures.
Live, Glintshake was obviously a lot louder and in your face (it was a small space in Old Town Tallinn, astonishingly crammed - there's a big buzz about the group - and hot, steamy, and actually a bit smelly). But also the band's wiry punk-funk sound just jumped and writhed and swerved and sparked so much more. Shilonosova's arch "startled" expressions and steadying-my-balance body-moves conveyed perfectly the feeling of being jolted and tumbled by the music. It looked like she was perpetually skidding on an icy pavement and only just managing to stay upright. (You get a sense of this in the middle bit of the song/video above).
The name "Glintshake" puzzled me a bit and that minor mystery wasrevealed when I went back to check out their earlier material from 2014, which is shoegaze-derivative both sound-wise and image-wise. Thankfully they seem to have chucked all that in the bin and embarked upon intensive studies of the works of the Fire Engines, Contortions, possibly Big Flame, maybe even Stump. But all that antipop angularity and friction is sluiced through New Wave aesthetics (little bit of Lene Lovich in the mix, maybe, but without the operatics) and the result ends up very pop: catchy, boppy, fun.
Kate Shilonosova also has a solo career bubbling away and was given a mini-profile in the New Yorker recently, would you believe.
The approach couldn't be further from Glintshake - 21st Century hip eclectronica with a pop finish.
The dainty/dinky/airy quality is almost Japanese in sensibility. Those breathy buttery Sarah Cracknell/Sally Shapiro vocals. Nice, but I much prefer her rolled r's and more jagged delivery in Glintshake.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
An intriguing performer I saw - twice! - at TMW 2017 was Mart Avi.
Avi's live presence doesn't fully come across from the available YouTube videos, but you do get a flavour of his thing, which - crudely - I would situate as Billy Mackenzie meets Thomas Leer (but if Leer was using today's technology, including voice-processing software).
In some ways it could be a missing "aftershock" from the end-part of Shock and Awe - Euro Eighties neo-glam aesthetics meets modern R&B. I also felt the occasional memory-frisson of Scott Walker circa Climate of Hunter.
The live performances involved backing tapes (shades of Cabaret Futura) and stylized movements from Avi, who was clad in a vaguely Comintern-era raincoat - evocative of private eyes or spies. For one song he had a whole routine involving an umbrella. The voice is big - really big - to the point where it feels unlikely that such a billowing gaseous sound could emanate from such a willowy frame.
This is Mart Avi's most recent album Rogue Wave, from late last year.
Chatting with Mart in person (briefly) and via email (less briefly) I came away with the impression of a chap with a lot of ideas behind what's he doing. The promo for "Blind Wall," for instance, is inspired by his "obsession with rapidity, overwhelming force, "Crash" n glamour, going much too fast - the manifestation of such themes in exquisitely designed vehicles to be precise". The video is conceived as a response (or "potential aftermath") to Future's "Poppin' Tags", with a lyrical nod to Gloria Jones (as in she who was at the wheel when Bolan smashed into that tree), all encased in a production-vibe that aims for a "plastic covered in chrome" sound-texture suggestive of "hyper-yuppie-mutant-soul". But unlike with a lot of conceptronica, the thoughtful thoughts don't get in the way of - nor are they necessary to activate - the seduction effect.
Here is some of Mart Avi's earlier music.
More to explore at https://martavi.bandcamp.com/
Sunday, April 16, 2017
The event is free and open to the public.
THE COLLOQUIUM FOR UNPOPULAR CULTURE
GLAM!! - A CELEBRATION OF GLITTER ROCK AND ART POP
Date: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Time: 2:00pm - 9:30pm
Location: 721 Broadway (at Waverly Place), New York. Room: 674
2:00 – introduction from Simon Reynolds
2:15 - So Many Ways To Hurt You (Jeremy Deller's film about glam wrestler Adrian Street, 2010)
3:10 - Punk Before Punk: Stomp Rock and Junkshop Glam - conversation between Johan Kugelberg & Simon Reynolds.
4 - Roxette (John McManus's film about Roxy Music fans, 1977) + other short films
4:55 - “I Felt Like An Actor”: Glam and the Authentically Inauthentic - conversation between Dan Fox and Mark Dery.
5:45 - All That Glitters (Julian Aston's film about The Sweet, 1974) + Gary Glitter: Did You Miss Me…? (directed by Nigel Finch, 1981)
6:45 - ‘Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacies from the 70s to the 21st century’ – conversation between Simon Reynolds, Vivien Goldman & Sukhdev Sandhu
7:45 - Slade In Flame (directed by Richard Loncraine, 1975).
More information about the event and the participants
Monday, March 27, 2017
In the current issue of the Wire, there's a write-up by yours truly of When It's Time To Let Go by Lo Five, a review that doubles up as a sort of quasi-profile of Patterned Air Recordings. As you're probably aware they put out three of my favorite long-players of 2016 (not bad going considering they were the label's first three releases and the sum total of their releases at that point!). The review explores the mystery of hauntology's uncanny persistence and also allowed me to think aloud about the issue of framing - how release-rationales and the conceptronica trend (which extends way beyond the H-zone) can be at once catalytic for creators, experience-expanding for listeners, but also runs the risk sometimes of confining the music's meaning-potential. Tricky one that, and something I have yet to resolve in my mind - I tend to take it on a case by case basis. But it does seem like there has been a bunch of music these last five or so years where the spiel surpasses the feel.
The Lo Five album - another fine addition to the Patterned discography, and an unusual listen - is out on April 14. But you can hear it now and pre-order
Also out in mid-April is the latest album from Keith Seatman - all hold hands and off we go.
Excellent stuff from Mr Keith - darker and more woozily abstract than his previous releases.
Perhaps the most prolific of hauntology's second-wave labels, A Year In the Country has a new themed album, The Restless Field, for release on May 2nd: another exquisitely packaged affair with audio contributions from Patterned Air's Assembled Minds, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Bare Bones, Grey Frequency, Endurance, Listening Center, Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, Polypores, Depatterning, Time Attendant, and David Colohan.
One of their best efforts so far, I think - murky and ominous as befits the guiding thematic: places that are spectrally imprinted with past conflicts and struggles. Particularly enjoyed the blackly buzzing pulsescape of "Congested District" by Listening Center.
Word reaches me of a very special event this summer organised by Buried Treasure.
The Delaware Road takes place on July 28th at the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker - the lineup includes many well-known faces from around the parish (Robin the Fog's Howlround project, Britronica archaeologist Ian Helliwell, Concretism, Dolly Dolly, DJ Food) along with a number of names new to me (Telplasmiste, Loose Capacitor, The Mummers & the Pappers, Radionics Radio, The Twelve Hour Foundation, Glitch, Saunders & Hill).
Tickets available here
Buried Treasure - founded by Alan Gubby - is also a label. Past releases include John Baker: The Vendetta Tapes - Incidental Music from the 1960s BBC TV Series and Other Radiphonics and The Delaware Road, a compilation based around a narrative devised by Gubby and Dolly Dolly's David Yates that concerns a pair of Radiophonic-style pioneering electronic composers who "discover a recording that leads to a startling revelation about their employer. Fascinated by the occult nature of the tape they conduct a studio ritual that will alter their lives forever."
Buried Treasure have released a whole bunch of stuff, it seems - including an anthology of works by Soviet psychotronic musician Yuri Morozov and a pair of remixes of Groundhogs mainman Tony McPhee's 1973 electrono-bluesrock stampede "The Hunt"
At the end of this month Buried Treasure are also releasing the new album by REVBJELDE, a foray through hinterzones of "industrial noise, motorik folk + jazz psych"
Uncanny persistence indeed...
Monday, March 13, 2017
Verily a holy grail for electronic / tape-music collectors, but oddly unCreeled as yet: Electronic Music From York, a 1973 triple LP box of pieces made at the University of York Electronic Music Studio.
I had a bash at virtually reconstructing it in its entirety, using the riches of the internet - and didn't get very far.
Electronic Music From York tracklist
|A2||–Martin Gellhorn||Compression ICES '72|
|B2||–Richard Orton (2)|
|C1||–Richard Orton (2)||For The Time Being|
|C2||–Richard Orton (2)||Clock Farm|
however I do own a copy of this, so that's
something I s'pose
|D1||– Martin Wesley-Smith||Media Music|
|D2||–Richard Pickett||Light Black|
|E||–Trevor Wishart||Machine Part 1|
|F1||–Trevor Wishart||Machine Part 2|
|F2||–Trevor Wishart||Machine Part 3|
The whole of Machine at the Other Minds
So that is - Wishart aside - a complete bust. (And in fact I already had the
Paradigm reissue of Machine, so it's an even total-er fail)
If you've got one (wheedling tone) do us a burn will ya?
However bits 'n' bobs from Electronic Music from York are said to be part of
this long mix (in two parts) called Epsilonia Mix: Trevor Wishart and Friends.
It's an excellent listen (includes things from Trev's Journey Into Space, Red Bird,
Mouth Music, Sing Circle, Beach Singularity, etc + stuff from another incredibly
rare release from York Electronic Studios, the more song-oriented
All Day - York Pop Music Project.
But be warned: nothing is identified or in discernible sequence so who knows
how much or which components of the elusive triple LP are in here.
In my questings for properly tagged and identified Electronic Music From York
tune-age I did find a few other Wishart odds 'n' sods that I'm not certain I've got
(got a lot - on CD too - plus various stray internet gleanings).
This tune is from Intregration, a cassette compilation from the early Eighties
that minimal synth and DIY Anglotronica fiends regard highly.
Now I think about it, I believe I do have this next one on disc, but what the hey,
it's mad stuff, do give it a listen.
I also came across an an extensive obituary of Richard Orton.
However the other chaps on Electronic Music From York - Andrew Bentley, Martin Gelhorn, John Cardale, Richard Pickett and Martin Wesley-Smith - appear to be so obscure that they don't even have entries in Tape Leaders, last year's indispensable book about early Brit electronic and concrete composers by Ian Helliwell - and that's a man who does love him some obscurity.
In fact most of that lot don't seem to have composed anything else at all apart from the pieces on E.M.F.Y.
Martin Wesley-Smith has left the most traceable spoor.
Now Martin Gellhorn's piece "Compression ICES '72" derives part of its name from
International Carnival of Experimental Sound aka "ICES 72", an August 1972 avant-garde music
festival held at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London...
Poster design is by Gee Vaucher - yes, as in Crass.
Oh, for a time machine!
The festival is discussed at Other Minds - that's the audio of an interview with ICES organiser Harvey Matusow done in the early 1970s, by Charles Amirkhanian:
"Featuring 46 concerts in 14 days, including marathon performances in an refurbished railroad roundhouse, a music train to Edinburgh, films, happenings, and performances by avant-garde artists, dancers, and musicians from around the world, ICES ‘72 could be considered as a spiritual progenitor of such extravagances as Burning Man. That it was the brain child of Matusow, (with help from John LIfton and the editors of “Source Magazine”), is of little surprise as the man was part clown, part con man, and full time promoter of all things weird and wonderful. Once known as the “most hated man in America” for his role in informing, or misinforming, on Communists, including Pete Seeger, during the McCarthy Era, Matusow was a consummate show man and artistic visionary. In this interview he describes the Carnival, and introduces a number of recordings from it, including two works featuring the electronic music of Takehisa Kosugi as well as a sort of classical muddley by the Portsmouth Sinfonia. The Sinfonia was formed by group of students at Portsmouth School of Art in Portsmouth, England, however, unlike most student orchestras this one required that all the participants either be untrained or at least playing an instrument with which they were unfamiliar, all with very predictable results. A further description of ICES ‘72 and a recording of many of the pieces performed at the Festival can be found at http://www.pogus.com/ICES01.html."
(There's an album of AMM's performance at ICES but that appears to be as far as Pogus got with releasing archival stuff from the festival - there's no ICES02 on their catalogue online at any rate.)
Here's a thorough non-audio account of the event and its participant performers by Dave Thompson
And here's a 1972 Rolling Stone piece .
Now The Wire had a large feature by Julian Cowley on this festival and the improbable Mr Matusow several years ago, but I don't believe it is online. However they do have a little treasury of links.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
(The streamcast also features a nice item on legendary grimestrumental "Pulse X")
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Ekoplekz and Farmer Glitch team up for a project titled Pharmerz, based around acid house and the Roland 303. Which thought initially, I confess, made the old soul yawn a bit, but turns out the pair have managed to extract some different gloopy sound-shapes out of that seemingly exhausted icon of a machine. 20 Acid Glonk Greats is very worth checking out.
Update 3/11: Nick Ekoplekz pops by to point out that there are actually zero "genuine 303 sounds" on Pharmerz. "We use a Korg Volca Bass for the acid impersonations. The only 303 involved was a two mile stretch of the A303 I drove down on my way to Yeovil for the session!". The goal though was to reclaim "some of lost potential of 'acid house' from that brief period before 303-orthodoxy set in".
Sunday, February 19, 2017
It's part of the Happy Accidents salon series started by LA publisher Hat & Beard, in collaboration with LA venue No Name. Copies of Shock and Awe and Jones's memoir Lonely Boy available to buy signed, courtesy Skylight Books.
Address is 432 N. Fairfax Avenue, LA.
Admission is free with RSVP to email@example.com.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Thursday, February 09, 2017
Like many of you I'm sure, I have been dipping into the online Markhive - rereading favorite pieces and posts. Below are just a handful - well, a couple of handfuls - really an armful - of Fisher classics. Along with the fully-realised long-form work, there's a few more fragmentary things too - in some ways even more enjoyable and characteristic. Mark was in his element when pitching into the fray - arguing, agreeing (but always building on his interlocutor's point, pushing it further along). Some of his best insights and lines emerged out of the back-and-forth of these fractious spaces - Dissensus threads, the K-punk comments box. Jewels, exuberant with the sheer sport of thought, that are hard to disentangle from the discursive thicket of their moment. But in a way it was in these innumerable brief exchanges and interactions that Mark's mind flexed itself most fruitfully - and merrily.
From the CCRU era, an early classic tirade against postmodernism, co-written with Robin Mackay - "Pomophobia".
"Isn't hip hop the problem these days?" - a short thought from 2004
Far more K-punk kanonical - an appreciation of Japan's Tin Drum.
Literally the K-punk kanon - his Top 100 British Albums
The klassic piece on Burial - "London After the Rave"
And the unedited transcript of the Burial dialogue.
On Fleetwood Mac
Photo-illustrated posts on hauntology and landscape - Suffolk + Norfolk
Quick riff on the UK music press and their long-gone power to "dream alternatives". And one on the emerging blog network as its replacement / fruition in exile.
Pomophobia, Pt 2 (via Robbie Williams)
On Picnic At Hanging Rock
Posts on the wounds of class
On Michael Jackson
"Ontological rot" - a piece on the artist Nigel Cooke
Mark returns to this theme - the relationship between political dissent and pop - against the backdrop the student protests and riots of 2011 - in this Wire end-of-year piece. (I always felt he was trying desperately here to avoid the utterly bleak conclusion that the mechanism that once connected music and the real world, social energy, issues, etc, had now broken down irrevocably).
His controversial intervention "Exiting the Vampire Castle" (containing a celebration / defense of Russell Brand)
"The Secret Sadness of the 21st Century" - a piece on James Blake for Electronic Beats.
"leaving some signs / now a legend"
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
As with the ambient list, there's lots of things I've never heard, and even a few names I've never heard of.
Surprised at the non-appearance of Luke Vibert, though.
If the electorate has been restricted to a single voter - me! - then Throbbing Pouch would be Top Five and Tally Ho! would have placed somewhere too. There'd be even more Aphex Twin (Analogue Bubblebath 3.... that old tracks for free megadump bonanza of a few years ago) and even more Boards of Canada. Those exquisite early Black Dog EPs would have got a nod.
Yes, I would incline to a narrower and somewhat Britcentric conception of IDM.... Do Detroit-aligned or German-minimal things really count? IDM fans might like them, but....
You'd also have seen this lovely record in there too.
An album inspired by bereavement, as it happens.
Also grief-releasing is this first-phase IDM classic - by the overlooked Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard.
I did not know this existed. Like a beloved face, seen from a different angle.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Scoring 9.8 on the Motorikhter Scale
Five bodies, one mind.
Here, though, they come over not so very distant from Deep Purple
Back to the worship...
The Meters of Mittel Europa
Postpunkfunk should have just not even bothered - game over, six years previous
Cooking up your bodybrain
The politics of trancing
And last but perhaps most - my favorites, I think
(Is this a tango?)
The unstoppable pulse
Liebezeit - translates literally as Lovetime.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
The words came easy, although it was somewhat disorienting to be assessing the achievements and legacy of a friend who was also a public figure.
That was his achievement, though - he was out there, making a difference in the world.
Only real problem was struggling to fit all that Mark had done into the word-count. He was active on so many various fronts, came up with so many concepts and provocations.
There's an increasing number of remembrances out there, with more promised.
Below are just some of the testimonials so far from friends and colleagues - touchingly personal, or touching on other facets of his work than I could cover.
David Stubbs's (+ and unpublished 2010 interview with Mark by Agata Pyzik)
Dan Fox at Frieze's
Sam Davies at Sight & Sound's
Maria Minerva's memories of being Mark's student at Goldsmiths
Also a proper long study of his life and work from Alex Niven at Jacobin
There is also a fund now that's been set up to support Zoë and George. Please give if you're able. In a little over a day, it reached its target amount and now has a new target amount. That's a lot of love there. (Update 1/24: it's now reached the revised target amount and is steadily ascending to yet another target amount - amazing!)
Later on I will pull together some links to favorite or epochal pieces by Mark. There's so many, though!
Oh and this is lovely - Magz Hall dug out a Resonance radio doc she did in 2004 on the early blogscene - you can hear Mark's voice, along with Woebot, Geeta Dayal, Luke Davis and myself. Happy days...
Saturday, January 14, 2017
My first encounter with Mark was actually unawares – in 1994 I wrote a piece for Melody Maker about a group he was in called D-Generation, in which many of the ideas and themes that would obsess him in his later writing were rehearsed. But the phone interview was with another member of the group, Simon Biddell. Years later Mark shyly revealed that I had actually written about him, in effect, and I went back and checked the piece and there he was, in the photo. With long hair! But then we all had long hair in the early Nineties.
I first met Mark when doing a profile of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, aka CCRU, in the late Nineties. He stood out - even in a milieu crackling with intellectual energy – for his eloquence and urgency. Already the hallmarks of his work were evident in his conversation and in the tracts he penned for CCRU publications: the lucidity, the rigour, the exuberance, the capacity and the compulsion to connect things across far-flung fields, the ability to focus in with vivid attention to aesthetic particulars and zoom out to the widest possible scope.
Then we became proper friends – and comrades – during the early blogging days of the 2000s. K-punk was the hub of the community, fizzing with fervour and argument; Mark was a dynamo, hurling out provocations, ideas that demanded engagement. He became a cult figure. A catalyst.
With Matthew Ingram aka Woebot - the community's other hub, with a similarly effervescing comments box - Mark co-founded Dissensus.
That era then led onto to Mark’s brilliant books for Zero and Repeater - Capitalist Realism, Ghosts of My Life, the collections he edited and co-edited on Michael Jackson and Postpunk. And now his new book The Weird and The Eerie. Books that have cemented his standing as the most original and provocative writer about popular culture - and its interface with the political - of the last fifteen years.
The exciting thing about Mark's writing - CCRU era, K-punk era, in magazines like FACT and The Wire, the books - was the feeling that he was on a journey: the ideas were going somewhere, a gigantic edifice of thought was in the process of construction. That Mark was thinking big, building a system, always aiming for the largest scale. And finally that this work, rigorous and deeply informed as it was, was not academic, in the sense of being done purely for its own sake: its urgency came from his faith that words really could change things. Reading Mark's writing made everything feel more meaningful, supercharged with significance. It was a rush. An addiction.
The last time I saw Mark in the flesh was at the Incubate music festival in Tilburg, Holland, in 2012. We had a long chat, intermittently soundtracked by a live performance by Raime. He talked about his plans for future books, and passingly mentioned – in a completely unassuming way – that Capitalist Realism had sold ten thousand copies. I’m not sure he fully grasped what an extraordinary achievement this was, for a theoretical book about politics and mental health on a small publisher. This was down to word of mouth, his own charismatic public appearances, the originality and timeliness of his ideas combined with the clarity and passion of the writing.
At the festival I gave a talk, relying as always largely on a pre-written text; Mark followed and spoke off the cuff, riffing away, leaping from subject to subject, making electric connections, in a performance that he later likened to a stand-up routine.
On page and in person alike, Mark was a brilliant communicator.
I can imagine he must have been an inspiring teacher.
The last time I communicated with Mark, a few months ago - during which he alluded to his struggles - I told him I had been wanting badly to hear what he had to say about Corbyn, about so many things at this present critical time – musical, cultural, political.
I shall miss all the writing that Mark would have done, the penetrating insights and surprising connections, always that sense of the big picture. The wit and the style too: his writing was always an entertainment as well as a challenge.
But I shall miss Mark the person more. He was kind, generous, sweet, funny – these are not always things that go hand in hand with genius.
Our hearts go out to his wife Zoë and little boy George; to his family and friends; his colleagues and students; and to his fans and readers.
Below is a photo from a party Joy and I (and Kieran) held during the summer of 2002, which was the last period we lived in England for any length of time. There’s Mark, and Kodwo Eshun, and Anjalika Sagar, and Steve Goodman aka Kode 9. A clusterfuck of genius!
A couple of Mark's favorite songs.