Monday, September 17, 2018

Futuremania

Here's a piece I wrote for Pitchfork about 20 years of Auto-Tune - and the whole related realm of pitch-correction and "vocal design" technologies. It spans from from Cher's "Believe" to  Migos's "Slippery," via Britney, Kanye, Ke$ha,  Keef, Flavour N'abania, Man like Nayvadius, and more. Detractors dispatched; digital existence dissected; defining sound of the 21st Century delineated.














Sunday, September 02, 2018

Writing in Reading ( x 2)

Next week I arrive in Reading for the conference Writing the Noise: the Politics and History of Subcultural Music, organised by the Subcultures Network at the University of Reading.

On Thursday 6th September, I'm delivering the opening keynote, a talk titled "Writing About Music: Then, Now and Tomorrow", followed by Q+A. That's at 11 am, in the Henley Business School Room  G11.

On Friday 7th September, I join fellow Melody Maker vets David Stubbs and Cathi Unsworth for the closing session of the conference: a panel discussion about the UK weekly music press and rock journalism moderated by Matt Worley (the man behind the whole conference). That's at  5: 15 pm in the Henley Business School Room G11.

In between there are tons of other interesting talks and discussions about subcultures, music genres, sonic formations, and the politics of fandom and tribal identity - everything from the Bristol Sound to John Maus via Italian punk, skiffle, female skinheads and the Meatwhistle.

More information about Writing the Noise here.

Bizarrely - having never been to Reading in my life before, not even for the Reading Festival - I return to the city a little over a fortnight later for another conference at the University, this one organised by Pil and Galia Kollectiv.

EuroNoize: Art Bands, DiY Music and Cultural Identity takes place on  Friday 21st September.  My talk is at 4.30 p.m. and is titled "DIY - then, now, tomorrow." Location for the conference is Madjieski Lecture Theatre, Room RGL04, Agriculture Building, University of Reading.

Loads of other interesting talks and speakers that day including glam scholar Philip Auslander, critic Sarah Lowndes and Chris Bohn of The Wire / NME renown. And that chap Matt Worley pops up again talking about the Marquis de Sade with a paper titled "Whip In My Valise" !

More information about EuroNoize and full schedule here. Tickets available here.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

prayers and thoughts - soul and meta-soul



One of the first pop songs I noticed as a child - and liked.

Aretha had a comeback in the early Eighties  with a more contemporary club-friendly sound - this was one Stubbs used to play as a deejay.  Bass and synth from Marcus Miller.



And she was around in the culture then as inspiration and talisman



Michael Clarke providing the "dance deficit" left by Green (check out other Scritti videos for artful compensations and evasions - lots of sitting down - rivaled only by Whitney Houston's  craftily edited vids!)

Oh and there's a subtle Aretha nod in "The Word Girl" too -  "She found a place for you / Along her chain of fools"





Wrote about the whiteBrit thing for blackAmerican soul, with specific reference to Green, here

"Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" prefigured in many ways by these meta-soul beauties:





And this too, where the explicit citation is Percy Sledge



"A Slow Soul" though was a duff track on Songs To Remember - a song to forget!

"Soul" - alongside "funk" - was very much a highly libidinized term in the post-postpunk / early new pop discourse (from Dexys onward, if not earlier). So I had already been listening to Stax and JB (could only find a live-in-Japan-circa-79 album, everything else was out of print!) and other things (including an Aretha Greatest, naturally) for a while by the time I read this beautiful testimonial to "lost soul" by Barney Hoskyns  in June '82 - but it certainly propelled me deeper. Peaking really with buying into the whole Bobby Womack as "Last Soul Man Standing" oversell (see also this great BH profile from '84).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Departing Pitchfork editor Mark Richardson signs off with the final edition of his long-running Resonant Frequency column - a meditation about sound-cocooning, listening-in-motion, and silence.

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Never was that big a fan of the "walk" bit in Walkman - I like to hear the sounds of the city, or Nature, not be sealed off or shielded from them. But I have enjoyed static outdoor listening (the beach - one vivid memory to match Mark's many examples would be listening to "Gesture Without Motion" by Neil Trix by the shore of Shelter Island). And I do love cocooned-listening while travelling, particularly trains and planes.

One problem with this private-yet-public listening, though, is that you can be so immersively  wrapped up in / rapt by the music, so affected, that some kind of physical response is demanded.  A facial expression, a gesture, a flourish of "air" instrumentation - guitar lick, drum roll - or some kind of sitting-down-version of dancing.  Perhaps even singing along or an MC / ad lib style outburst. But you are surrounded on all sides by strangers!  You can either allow yourself to be inhibited by their presence and listen in this sort of "internally turbulent", externally impassive, expressionless / motionless way -  which is  frustrating, possibly unhealthy even. Or you can go "fuck it, it's highly unlikely I will ever see any of these fellow passengers again" and allow yourself the odd physically demonstrative  reaction to the sonic peak experiences you are undergoing. Increasingly, I find myself going for the second of these options. This is a roundabout way of apologising to anybody who has ever sat in my vicinity on a train or a plane.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Three electronica conversion experiences + raptures of mine appear in this collective list-making effort (contributors include Scanner, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Jon Savage, Bobby Gillespie, Stephen Mallinder, Chris Frantz....) convened by Faber Social upon the occasion of David Stubbs's electronochronicle MARS BY 1980.

This is one that could easily have made the cut - from an album which, now I think about it, I probably taped off Stubbsy when we were students.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Here's a playlist  + commentary I did for 4:3 (Boiler Room's platform for underground film + video + docs) on the subject of anti-drug films and commercials. I particularly commend to your eyeballs + eardrums "Curious Alice", "The Maggot", and "Illusions", but the whole thing is worth a peruse, as indeed is the rest of the stuff up at the site.

Here are some extra drug-scare films that didn't make the cut.




[A history of drugs] from I•HATE•THIS•FILM on Vimeo.







Monday, July 16, 2018

"visual music" talk at Tate Modern July 27 ++++ Post Punk events in Italy - Locorotondo (July 21-22), Milan (23), Rome (24)

Presented by 4:3 as part of the Uniqlo Tate Late series, on July 27 I'm giving a YouTube illustrated talk about "visual music" - a subset of 20th Century experimental animation - with particular focus on alliances between film makers and musique concrete composers, and on animators who created their own electronic scores.  

The event is free, but requires a ticket - these can be picked up from 17.00 hrs onwards on  the day of the event at the Level 0 Ticket Desk at the Tate Modern.


UNIQLO TATE LATE

TATE MODERN - FRIDAY 27 JULY 2018
Visual Music
Starr Cinema, Boiler House Level 1
19:10: doors open
19:30 - 21:00 talk + films 

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Before arriving in London, I'm participating in the LOCUS FESTIVAL in Locorotondo (near Bari, in the Apulia region of S.E. Italy) and doing events in Milan and Rome based around the minimum fax republication of Postpunk 1978-1984 (aka Rip It Up and Start Again)


LOCOROTONDO


Saturday July 21

19:00 hrs, Largo Mazzini
POST-PUNK 1978-2018: 40 anni di musiche, cultura e società.
Gli ultimi decenni di musica negli scritti di Simon Reynolds.
Con Simon Reynolds, Vittorio Bongiorno, Nicola Gaeta ed Enzo Mansueto

Sunday July 22
18:00 hrs,  Casa Locus, Locorotondo (Ba)
WRITING MUSIC: scrivere la musica
Workshop con Simon Reynolds. Incontro esclusivo ravvicinato su tecniche e metodi del giornalismo musicale.
Posti limitati, prenotazione gratuita RSVP su 
http://bit.ly/scriverelamusica



MILAN


July 23

7 pm Post Punk event at Verso libri bookshop

In conversation with Giulia Vavaliere

Translator Michele Piumini




July 24

11 - 12.30 - playing records on  Radio Raheem



ROME

July 24

8 pm - Post Punk event at Monk 

In conversation with Chiara Colli

Translator Michele Piumini



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

When Mates Make Books - summer book bonanza


The first time I met David Stubbs - I cold-called at his digs after spotting his flamboyant and acerbic prose in the Hertford college paper -  was to recruit him for our fledgling magazine Margin. But all the while I was pitching the idea of him contributing, one eye was greedily scanning the row of LPs that took up most of a wall  - easily the largest and coolest collection I'd ever seen - and mentally filing records to borrow, once a decent period of acquaintance had elapsed. I could see names on the LP spines that I'd only read about then - like Faust and Can and Sun Ra. Names I'd never heard of.  Releases in strange and elaborate packaging.

As I got to know Stubbsy over the ensuing months, I realised that this was one precociously hip cat.  When I had been buying Tubeway Army singles at WHSmith and listening to Kid Jensen's homework-hours slot on Radio One, Stubbs was mail-ordering items from the Recommended Records catalogue and taping Stockhausen concerts off Radio 3. Indeed my first real exposure to  avant-garde electronic music was borrowing a cassette of something like Hymnen that he'd recorded off the radio - I can still picture Stubbs's left-hand scribble on the inlay card. I couldn't make head nor tail of it, but for David this was terra cognita, just one of several regions of outermost sound he'd explored while still in his teens.


Even more than his Krautrock epic Future Days, Stubbs's new tome Mars By 1980 (great title!) is the book he was born to write. The scope runs from the Italian Futurists to the digital maximalist everyday of the 21st Century - the journey of electronic sound from heroic vanguard to current omnipresence - via Pierres Henry and Schaeffer, David's teenage fave Stevie Wonder, Suicide and synthpop, Delia D and J Dilla, and much more besides.


The preface hooks you straight off with a flashback to the flash-forward of "I Feel Love" in 1977. Evoking the future-rush of hearing the Moroder-Bellote-Summer track -  Number One in the UK for a whole month - Stubbs remembers the feeling as -


"like first contact: the slow opening of the spacecraft door, the blinding shaft of green light.... Pure, silver, shimmering, arcing, perfectly puttering hover-car brilliance... Keyboards are played with unheard-of, bionic, rotor-blade capability. It glides the way scissors do when you achieve that perfect synergy between mind, hand and blade, cutting through the dreary brown curtain of 1970s entertainment and revealing space. Space 1977. No exhaust, no vapour trails, no strings, no frills, this is take-off. People will be left behind, people will be laid off. May you never hear rock music again...  There is something coolly indifferent about this sonic craft, indifferent even to Donna Summer as it glides onwards and upwards, for minute after minute, powered on something far more durable than mere human stamina. Even as the record fades away, you sense it is still out there, puttering pneumatically away, cruising at cirrus level." 


Sentences that give me the same electric tingle as when I first encountered David's prose in the Hertford college paper  - most likely a dandyish disdainful diatribe about the conservative musical fare 
on offer at student parties, where there was a distinct deficit of DAF and Thomas Leer!

Mars by 1980 is out in a month's time.






Slick segue ahoy - there is a character in the new novel by Bethan Cole (old mate from the glorious  2-step dayz at the turn of the millennium) who is writing a book about the early development of electronic music in the decades after World War 2 -  musique concrete,  Oram & Derbyshire, etc - and another who soundtracks run-way shows using Ligeti and Cornelius Cardew. Bethan tells me it is a  modern morality tale, set in the early 2000s - a critique of celebrity culture and fashion, centred around the rivalry between two designers.  The Glide of Swans is available from Barnes & Noble and other online retailers. 


"Mate" is probably stretching it  - we've never met, we've also sparred a few times - but cordial email acquaintance Dan Hancox has written a vivid and serious study of grime, stretching from its earliest stirrings through to its unexpected love-fest clinch with Corbyn, and making all the right (i.e. Left) connections to urban politics, race, class, gentrification as social cleansing etc.  While I can't resist wryly noting the Nuum-iness of using a lyric from a jungle classic to title a grime tome, Inner City Pressure is the perfect title: as Goldie recently commented at a deejay event, "what we did with beats and sounds, the grime kids are doing with words.”  Or to put it less snappily, grime is the product of the same long-running political impasses and social blockages that shaped jungle, and it's powered by the same rage to live.  And, as we approach the end of this century's second decade, grime  seems to me unchallenged in its stature as the most impressive thing that the U.K. has come up with during the 21st Century, in terms of sono-social energy - just as jungle was the most impressive Britmusic phenomenon of the Nineties.  Inner City Pressure is out in a couple of weeks




Another cordial email acquaintance. So far I have just skimmed Will Ashon's Chamber Music but I hear very good things about this experimentally structured celebration-analysis of the Wu-Tang Clan debut, which evokes the world that produced the album, the world that is the album, and the ways the album changed the world.  Out this autumn on Granta.




Another book by an Oxford friend from the early Eighties. (Indeed this features an introduction from one David Stubbs). Back then, Steve Micalef never used to talk much about his days at the epicentre of punk (as Steve Mick of Sniffin' Glue, inventor of the Bin-Liner etc), which frustrated those of us for whom 76-and-all-that was legendary if recent history. Indeed Micalef liked to say that punk got boring very quickly and boasted of having been the first  front-line punk to depart the scene.  Still, nostalgia claims us all eventually... A collection of verse reminiscences and what looks like original diary entries in scribbled handwriting, The Punk Kings of Dyslexia is an appetiser for a full-blown memoir of his mid-Seventies youth that Micalef - nowadays a poet, still a wit and bon vivant non pareil - is hatching... advance glimpses of which are wonderfully vivid and funny.



I've yet to clap eyes on a copy of All Gates Open, but looking forward very much to reading Rob Young's new Can chronicle, written with the close involvement of Irmin Schmidt.





An acquaintance... but one, uniquely, that I've rubbed shoulders with in two different hemispheres, James Bridle - coiner of the optimistic-aspiring, looking-for-future concept The New Aesthetic - comes with an unexpectedly ominous and glass-nearly-empty view of  the Information Age (just check that subtitle "Technology, Knowledge and the End of the Future") in New Dark Age, on Verso - which I am looking forward to reading.






Talking of dark futures and sad presents... not out until November but advance notice of this huge compendium via Repeater of our late friend and much-missed colleague's work - K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher 2004-2016, which is edited by Darren Ambrose and for which I wrote the foreword. If anybody in the UK or US (or indeed elsewhere) wants to host an event celebrating Mark's life and work, now would be the time to start getting things in motion.




Another friend and colleague, but thankfully a far from late mate  (well, except for rendez-vous and appointments maybe ;) ). The republication by Verso in rebooted / expanded / updated form of  More Brilliant Than The Sun, the masterwork by Kodwo Eshun, was already once prematurely flagged up in this blog about a year ago. But now it appears to be definitely coming out in October. A completely different vision of music and cultural temporality, proposing a discontinuum rather than the roots 'n future / "neither vanguard nor tradition but both" way I see and hear things - but seductive and mind-shaking nonetheless. (Re)read it with or against the sociohistorical Inner City Pressure  (I've long thought grime was the Problem for the More Brilliant viewpoint, the upshot it couldn't explain or assimilate to its system without misrepresenting - and trap may pose similar difficulties and challenges). Or indeed (re)read it with or against Chamber Music.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - June 2018 : Moon Wiring Club stuff 'n' nonsense; Bloxham Tapes; new A Year in the Country themed album The Shildam Hall Tapes; Andrew Pekler's Phantom Islands

Celebrating the Summer Solstice tomorrow, here's a new Moon Wiring Club mix! 


Mr. Hodgson describes it as starting out as your "pretty standard hyper-soup of the usual 70s/80s audio synth nonsense with added vocal bitsy" that then veers into an unexpected "Industrial dance selection... everyone needs to have heard Soma Holiday at least once."

Mr. Hodgson also points out some related MWC action:


- a MWC interview that features in new "folk horror" book  Harvest Hymns. Volume II - Sweet Fruits

-  MWC track contributed to "3rd Wave" hauntology compilation, Present At The Terminal, on the  Modern Aviation label


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Mr. Hodgson mentions in passing a new 3rd Wave hauntology entity possibly worth checking out -  Bloxham Tapes.  





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A Year In the Country have a new themed album involving multiple contributors out next month, The Shildam Hall Tapes, which sounds excellently eerie on a first listen. 

Release rationale: 

 “Reflections on an imaginary film.” 

In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate. 

Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults. 

Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set. 

A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film's collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences. 

Little is known of the film's plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old film stock sold as a job lot at auction - although how they came to be there is unknown. 

The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld. 

The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was. 

My memory is getting foggier as the years advance, but I think - I think - that I forgot to flag up this recent A Year in the Country release from just last month, Audio Albion


release rationale: 

Audio Albion is a music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas. 

Each track contains field recordings from locations throughout the land and is accompanied by notes on the recordings by the contributors. 

The tracks record the sounds found and heard when wandering down pathways, over fields, through marshes, alongside rivers, down into caves and caverns, climbing hills, along coastlands, through remote mountain forestland, amongst the signs of industry and infrastructure and its discarded debris. 

Intertwined with the literal recording of locations, the album explores the history, myths and beliefs of the places, their atmospheres and undercurrents, personal and cultural connections - the layered stories that lie amongst, alongside and beneath the earth, plants and wildlife. 


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News from the parish's twinned town in West Germany - Andrew Pekler invents a new genre - hauntonautology - with the announcement of  Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas  - "an interactive online map that charts the sounds and histories of islands that were once found on nautical maps but have since disappeared." Part of the larger Fourth Worlds online project /  real-world exhibition + conference for "l'ethnographie imaginaire dans l'experimentation musicale et sonore". 

Release rationale: 


"Phantom Islands are artifacts of the age of maritime discovery and colonial expansion. During centuries of ocean exploration these islands were sighted, charted, described and even landed on – but their existence was never ultimately verified. Poised between cartographic fact and maritime fiction, they haunted seafarers’ maps for hundreds of years, providing inspiration for legend, fantasy, and counterfactual histories. Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas interprets these imaginations in the form of a map of speculative sounds from 27 phantom islands around the world.

"Explore the map by clicking on the names of phantom islands to learn the histories of their discoveries and the dates of their cartographical existence. Zoom in on individual islands to hear their musical, biophonic and geophonic soundscapes. Or, engage Cruise mode to be taken on an audio tour of all the Phantom Islands – ideal for passive listening in a separate browser window or tab. (In this mode, all the sounds, played in sequence, amount to something like my new album.) Recommended browsers: Chrome (version 67+), Firefox (version 60+ ), Safari (version 11+). Not usable on mobile devices. 

"Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas was commissioned by Jeu de Paume for the exhibition Fourth Worlds: Imaginary Ethnography in Music and Sound and was produced with the support of DICRéAM, CNC. "


Friday, June 08, 2018

s.f and rock

Here's my review for 4Columns of Jason Heller's book about the interface between pop music and science fiction in the 1970s - Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded.




Along with the many cross-contaminations between rock-etc and s.f., one thing that Heller's book reminded me of was that many of the very earliest rock criticism publications were started by people who had previously done science fiction fanzines. Crawdaddy’s Paul Williams had earlier published Within; Greg Shaw, founder of Who Put the Bomp, attended s.f. conventions and made mimeographed zines; Lenny Kaye self-published periodicals like Sadistic Sphinx long before he became a rock critic and Patti Smith guitarist. 

Intensely self-reflexive fields, rock criticism and science fiction share a strange mix of inferiority and superiority complexes.  Painfully aware of their marginal position vis-à-vis “proper” journalism and “respectable” literature, they nonetheless  believe that they are doing the  Most Crucial Writing of Our Time. I can remember from my own days as an adolescent s.f. fanatic being struck by the s.f. writer's culture of workshops and conventions  - by how the writers loved to write essays defining s.f. as a genre, proclaiming its unique contribution to literature. There were even a few volumes of essays by s.f. writers debating s.f. that I remember reading. 

S.f. was what I was into immediately before getting into music; writing s.f. and in particular alternative history, a special passion of mine, was what I imagined I might do in life, until I discovered the music press. During this mid-teens enthusiasm for s.f., I thought that I would never ever be one of those who grew out of the genre. But sure enough, the zeal for s.f. got displaced abruptly and entirely by a different fanatical focus, once I heard Sex Pistols and Ian Dury. Aged sixteen, I swapped one New Wave (the Sixties-onward school of experimental and inner-spacey s.f.) for another New Wave.  

But then I came back to the genre in middle age - did some catch-up with cyberpunk, which I'd missed as it was happening in the Eighties... reread old favorites...  caught up with a few that I'd somehow missed (like Lem) even during the days of taking four paperbacks a week out of Berkhamsted Library as well as buying as many as I could on my slender means...  But I never got round to any of the post-1990 giants (if giants there be). To me, it's still Pohl and Bester and Brunner who loom largest in my mind. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

visual music + colour in rhythm

Boiler Room has launched a new platform -  4:3 - dedicated to a wide range of underground film, video art, documentary, and found footage, connected by themes of "performance, identity, youth culture and anti-establishment."

For the launch, I've contributed a playlist of Experimental Animation - ten clips that provide a swift survey of the art from its dawn shortly after World War I through to the waning of the analogue era in the late Nineties. Digital, for various reasons later to be explored, is a whole other zeit I feel, and possibly a geist-less one.

The playlist is the fruit of the unexpected eruption of a long dormant obsession, one that dates back to adolescence, when for a while I fancied the career of cartoonist as a life path. The slant of my selection is less on laughs, though, and more about abstract beauty, geometries-in-motion, macabre whimsy, zany mania, psychotic Pop Art,  and a uniquely East European absurdism.

Do check out the other cool stuff in this debut edition of 4:3,  which includes curation from Ryuichi Sakomoto, Peaches, and Elijah Wood, and playlists devoted to archival rave footage,  legendary concert films, vintage grime, the early days of house club culture. queer video art, UK garage, and more, including original content.  Access is free with registration.

Here's a handful of the scores and scores of animations that easily could have made the cut..













Monday, May 28, 2018

"I think he might take us to the Moon"



My favorite film theme

My equal-first favorite film







"Somebody I never met 
But in a way I know
Didn't think that you could get
So much from a picture show"

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

burying the Hatchet - the Seventies in the Nineties



At the first Lollapalooza, in the summer of '91, Butthole Surfers played. And during one particularly raging slab of groiny boogie heaviosity  -  whose precise rock-history coordinates  I couldn't quite establish - I turned to one in our party who might know such things.

"Who does this sound like?" I entreated.

"Molly Hatchet?" he shot back sharply, in a tone I later realised had been scornful (Butthole's rehab of pre-punk not appealing to his college rock sensibilities at all) and subtly ridiculing of my very desire to know.

Unfortunately this created in my mind the possibility that Molly Hatchet might actually be worth hearing.  A fallacy cleared up for me as soon as I got the $4 dollar copy of Flirtin' With Disaster home from the used record store and dropped the needle in the groove. Sounded so puny. Nothing like the Buttholes.



This was a time - 91, 92, 93 - when I was checking out a LOT of stuff from the heavy 'n' hard early 70s. The catalyst was in large part reading (and reviewing) two books that came out around the same time: Joe Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic and Chuck Eddy's Stairway to Hell. Both books cracked open the crust on a whole unknown-to-me seam of mostly American (but occasionally U.K. - Budgie!) rock that filled in the considerable gaps in my pre-punk knowledge: all the secondary-level stuff surrounding the things I already knew and loved like Sabbath, Zep, Skynyrd, ZZ Top.

The third section of Carducci's book was particularly useful, with its decade by decade surveys of rock action in North America, UK, Europe and beyond. In the Seventies subsection, Joe's rapid-fire succession of incredibly pithy and cogent descriptions of obscure rock groups  nailed the essence of a band's sound and the scope of its generally minor but still worth-noting achievement in just one or two sentences (sometimes even a half-sentence!). That aroused the curiosity mightily. But Eddy's book - a guide to heavy metal greatness heavily biased towards the first half of the Seventies - also sent me off searching the used stores in my new half-the-year home town NYC and other U.S. cities I visited. And, in those days - with people still emptying vinyl collections in favor of CDs and ebay/Gemm/popsike/discogs yet to exist - I would find things going for $1 to $8.

The other factor that made it feel timely and urgent was that grunge was in the ascendant and bringing back a lot of the heavy 'n'  hard, boogie / raunch feel of the early Seventies.  An era exactly 20 years previous, which as is well established is the optimum time interval for revivalism and revisionism to set in and take off. So drawing the dots between Soundgarden / Alice in Chains / Kyuss (but not just MTV fodder - in the lo-fi zone there was the direction Royal Trux had headed by the time of Cats and Dogs and Thank You, and there'd also been Tad and Melvins) and the source music of the Seventies seemed educational, as well as appealing for the taste-boundary-transgressing buzz factor.

The very word "boogie" had a strange allure to me at that time - those six letters crystallised the essence of a bygone era. Exploring this forbidden zone was the next logical step in contravening postpunk / new wave aesthetics from what had been mooted and mounted during the bliss-rock / wig-out years (more late-Sixties aligned).

Found plenty of things I loved and still love on these Carducci/Eddy-informed expeditions into the dusty reaches of the rock past -  Budgie! Mountain! (well, just two tracks, and one of those largely because a section of it had served as a theme tune to Weekend World), James Gang (well, just one track really), Steppenwolf....












But in truth rather a lot of these platters I brought back got played just the once or twice.







Sir Lord B actually one of the better things I checked out - this next one's a ridiculously over the top thriller















White Witch were a Lester Bangs enthusiasm - in his description, as reprinted in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, they sounded a bit like the Crazy World of Arthur Brown of the Southern USA. In fact I believe I bought one or both of their albums before the Carducci / Eddy phase, after reading about them in the anthology.  But they didn't quite live up to his evocations.

Another Bangs fave that was even more disappointing  - Black Oak Arkansas.





Southern Rock was probably the least productive of my explorations. Beyond Lynyrd, there's really not much to entice.

Take Wet Willie  - again, a personal touchstone for Bangs during the slack mid-70s, for similar reasons to why he loved Slade:  the people's rock, smokin' live band etc etc....



Got a tingle off the clavinet fonk of Elvin Bishop - this one's pretty darn nifty



Never got into the Allmans bar this: theme tune to Top Gear (and a girl's name I'm fond of)



Grinderswitch - the name seemed very promising. Little did I know I'd heard them already, countless times, tuning into the Peel show, where a tune of theirs was as the decidedly-not-postpunky intro theme.



The UK end of this zone I tapped into (and taped into) a little bit thanks to a Melody Maker reader I got friendly with and who lent me great wodges of vinyl. Big up ya chest Keith!





As well as old vinyl that I found or borrowed, the odd thing would turn up in the mail. For some reason Sony Columbia had me on their mailing list for box sets - the record industry was generous in those days, they could afford to be profligate I guess - and I actually received among many other inappropriate and unlikely things a box set of Jeff Beck. This Beck Bogert Appice track is just about the only thing on it I even slightly liked:



I also got an Aerosmith box - which I have a feeling I never even listened to all the way through, despite loving tunes like this.



During the later phase of this hard 'n' heavy catch-up / postpunk deconditioning project, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused  - which ends with the kids heading out at dawn in their car to the big city to get tickets for Aerosmith - came out. With a great soundtrack almost entirely from this era. Played the shit out of that CD. Including this triffic tune:



Oh and this of course



Fond, vivid memories of playing this CD at  a friend's house in London just before we went out raving. Hearing this tune below stoned there and then is why I can never quite fully renounce the odious Nuge.



There's a fair few Carducci / Eddy heavy 'n' hard groups I never got to.

Could never face Montrose, on account of orrible Hagar being the singer.



Actually that's a good riff. But yeah, Sammy, can't go for that.

Never got to Bloodrock - not sure why (really like the name - and the record artwork alone ought to have pulled me over the line)







Nor this lot



Nor these fellows  - despite the lure of a Sweet cover



Actually flicking through Stairway, there's a lot I didn't get to from the first half of the Seventies - I guess combo of limited funds / diminishing returns setting in (and other rival interests - rave rave rave would have been demanding my dollars, as expensive imports).

Listening again to some of this stuff - where the samey-ness asserts itself - I'm freshly amazed at Carducci's diligence in wading through acres and acres of it and pinpointing the tiny differences in a band's attack and feel.

Budgie / Groundhogs / UFO / + a few others aside, the British end of it I got to later - in the 2000s, as a side thing to the prog explorations as blogged about then

Like this lot, who fascinate me



Supported by a lot of rock journalists in the Seventies, Man -  they liked and approved of the group's populist, down-to-earth, kicking out the jams vibe.

Generally, with a lot of these group, they did probably smoke stages and rock crowds (liberation through energy, post-Sixties overhang etc) but couldn't necessarily capture it on vinyl. The records are often a tad under-produced.  The texture palette tends towards brown and grey.

Still, one thing they pretty much all having going for them - great drumming.

This whole era seems to be getting a smidgeon of hipster interest again, with things like the Brown Acid compilations - but typically for reissue projects, they seem to be going for the obscure, self-released and let's be honest third-division, rather than the hiding-in-plain-sight major label fare of the era (most of which is second division anyway).



See also this reissue project for "hard rock / hairy funk" from NW England - Man Chest Hair



Revisiting this long moment of Seventies-in-the-Nineties stirs some pleasant wistfulness about my days frequenting used record stores on a several-times-weekly basis.

Nowadays I frequent YouTube, which certainly serves some of the archival-dredging purpose and does provide regular "what the ????" epiphanies.

But there's something about finding the things cheap, after having gone through that physical and tactile process of sifting and rummaging...

Paying, in itself, creates a bigger libidinal pay-off.

And then you have the thing itself to drag home, with the cover and misconceived or bizarre artwork, the yellowing inner sleeve....


Further reading:

Me on the genealogy of boogie as a word and a feel

Me on beard rock (92 / 2009)

Woebot's e-book 100 Lost Rock Albums from the 1970s


Further listening:

YouTube playlist of boogie 'n ' raunch / hard 'n' heavy

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Synthedelia!

My piece for Red Bull Music Academy Daily on "Synthedelia: Psychedelic Electronic Music in the 1960s".

Focused on North America, it features interviews with Cork Marcheschi of Fifty Foot Hose, John Mills-Cockell of Intersystems and Syrinx, and Joseph Byrd of United States of America.  Other groups covered include Beaver & Krause, Tonto's Expanding Head Band, Lothar and the Hand People, Nik Pascal, and Silver Apples.

Congrats to Bernie  Krause for winning the 2018 Moog Innovation Award, which has occasioned the release of this ancient 1971 footage of him and Paul Beaver at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.



Some edge cases that didn't make it into the piece.








Check out also the related pieces in this "Synthedelia" package on Bruce Haack and on The Birth of Psychedelic London



Friday, April 27, 2018

See you in 2018!



Here's my Village Voice piece  about the return (just one year off schedule!) of The Mover, which includes an interview with Marc Acardipane.





Wednesday, April 25, 2018

EUROPE TOUR APRIL 28 - MAY 12 : AUSTRIA, GERMANY, POLAND, U.K., SPAIN



SATURDAY APRIL 28  - KREMS an der DONAU, AUSTRIA

Donaufestival: endlose Gegenwart (endless now)
2pm - "Absent Futures, Present Past: Temporalities in Today’s Music" - panel discussion with Jens Balzer and Christian Höller 
Location: Kino im Kesselhaus 
information




THURSDAY MAY 3 – , WEIL am RHEIN, GERMANY / BASEL, SWITZERLAND

Vitra Design Museum

6.30 pm - talk about techno, rave, and electronic dance music
Location: Depot Deli, next to the Schaudepot 
Information




SATURDAY MAY 5  / SUNDAY MAY 6 - OBERHAUSEN, GERMANY

Internationale Kurzfilmtage 


Saturday 5th – 10 pm - jury member for announcement of prize-winning music videos at Muvi Screening & Award Ceremony 

Location;  Lichtburg Cinema


Sunday 6th - 10 AM - "After YouTube: Music Video after the Internet" - panel discussion with Marisa Olsen and Christian Höller
Location: Festival Space, Langemarkstr. 22, 46045 Oberhausen
Admission: Free


MONDAY MAY 7TH – WARSZAWA, POLAND

publication of Retromania: ak popkultura żywi się własną przeszłością by Kosmos Kosmos

Launch event -  "a meeting with readers": discussion led by Jarek Szubrycht, with Filip Łobodziński (translator of Retromania), followed by Q+A
Time: 7pm
Location: Plac Zbawiciela (podium in front of Plan B Café


WEDNESDAY MAY 9 - WALTHAMSTOW, LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Rock 'n' Roll Book Club "My Life in Pop": video-illustrated talk on TV epiphanies + Q+ A. 

Time: 6pm to 8 pm
Location: Walthamstow Library
Tickets:  Eventbrite. 




Spain mini-tour for Como Un Golpe de Rayo (published by Caja Negra)



THURSDAY MAY 10 – MADRID, SPAIN 

Primera Persona Festival 

21.00 horas - talk about glam rock and its legacy with videos + Q+A
Location: La Casa Encendida 
Information



FRIDAY MAY 11 –  Málaga, Spain  

451: La Noche De Los Libros Festival 

21:00 horas | talk about glam rock and its legacy with videos + Q+A
Sala 001
La Térmica
Avda. de los Guindos, 48


SATURDAY MAY 12 – BARCELONA, SPAIN  

Primera Persona Festival

21:00 horas | talk about glam rock and its legacy with videos + Q+A
Location: El Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona 
Information