Sunday, August 18, 2019

WHEN MATES MAKE SOUNDSCAPES

                                                  

Late mate Mark Fisher's audio-essay On Vanishing Land - a collaboration with Justin Barton - has been given enduring material form by Hyperdub as a vinyl release through its new imprint Flatlines, which is dedicated to spoken word and text-sound projects.

You can find out more about the original release (ir)rationale for this project, and its makers, over here.  Here's  a snippet:

"OVL evokes a walk along the Suffolk coastline in 2006, from Felixstowe container port... to the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo. A walk under immense skies, through zones of deep time and within sunlit, liminal terrains, into the eerie. Everywhere there are charged atmospheres, shadowy incursions, enigmatic departures. A derelict radar base, coastal heathland, drifting thistledown, towers of overgrown shipping containers - music haunted by wider levels of reality, narrations about rarely visited zones and potentials, voices of dreams and stories. Newly composed tracks by John Foxx, Gazelle Twin, Baron Mordant, Raime, Pete Wiseman, Farmers of Vega, Skjolbrot, Eerie Anglia, Ekoplekz and Dolly Dolly; and, alongside these, views toward M.R. James’s Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad (1904), Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), and Brian Eno’s On Land (1982). Beyond the surface of the day something becomes visible, a way forward, an escape-path from capitalist reality. On Vanishing Land is about following the lines of terrains and dreams. It is about a micropolitics of escape, of disappearance."

2013 interview with Justin Barton about the project.

Frieze's Charlie Fox reviews it.

A blog - largely photography based - about On Vanishing Land done at the time of its making.

And Mark & Justin's first collaboration, LondonunderLondon




Friday, August 16, 2019

WHEN MATES MAKE BOOKS

Matthew Worley is an old mate who's now a professor of punk. He authored 2017's excellent No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976–1984 (previously given the when-mates-make treatment here). Currently, he's working on a magnum opus about the history of fanzines. In the meantime, he's one of the collective behind The Subcultures Network anthology Ripped, Torn and Cut: Pop, Politics and Punk Fanzines from 1976.




Ripped is a ripping read, its contents ranging from trip-down-memory-lane pieces from old skool zine-makers like Tom Vague and Richard Cabut (a/k/a positive-punk genre-definer Richard North), to contributions from scholars of DIY culture like Pete Dale and Lucy Robinson. Goth, anarcho, industrial, C86 and Riot Grrrl are among the subsets of fanzine action historicized and celebrated.

One title particularly tickled me:  "'Pam ponders Paul Morley's cat': City Fun and the politics of post-punk" . That's David Wilkinson's essay about the legendary postpunk Manczine City Fun.

More information about the Ripped, Torn and Cut  can be found here. You can buy it via Rough Trade or direct from Manchester University Press.









Tuesday, August 13, 2019

maxed out


The theme of the new issue of The Wire is maximalism. It's a really enjoyable read that explores the appeal (or repulsion-edging-into-fascination) of musical manifestations of aesthetic excess and sonic surplus.

There's Greg Tate on P-Funk, Michaelangelo Matos on psy-trance (complete with ultra-garish photo of Shpongle and their audience!), Daniel Wilson on the history of explosives in music, David Toop on syrupy strings in countrypolitan and soul,  and many other treats. There's also me with a piece about overcoming postpunk less-is-more conditioning and learning to take pleasure in guitar solos.

Now that was a really fun piece to write. Not least because I remade the acquaintance of some overloaded and obese tracks that I hadn't listened to in many a year. I couldn't quite put back on the head that wigged out to Butthole Surfers and ransacked Bataille's Visions of Excess for a conceptual language adequate to the soiling immensity torrenting out of Paul Leary's axe. But Royal Trux's ruined majesty sounds as glorious as ever.








Saturday, July 06, 2019

1979, again!

                                     

On the subject of 1979 and DIY... I enjoyed writing the liner note for Superior Viaduct's reissue of The Mekons debut album The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen. Got some good stories from Jon Langford and Mark White about the making of the record at Virgin's luxury residential studio in the countryside, the Manor - an incongruous setting for this radically anti-rock star rabble to do their work - and where their collective heads were at in those heady days.



This is actually the fourth time I've interviewed The Mekons. The first was in in 1986, for Melody Maker, during that string of wonderful country 'n' folk infused records they were then making. Second time was in New York in the offices of A&M - briefly their record company - around the F.U.N. 90 EP - that was for Spin, but I'm really not sure if it ever got published. Third time was for Rip It Up and Start Again, in the summer of 2002.



The first and third times were both at Tom Greenhalgh's Brixton gaff, with just him speaking for the band. It was in a little block / crescent, directly off of the High Street;  the flats had been taken over by some kind of a cooperative, which -  if I recall right - was involved in a endless drawn-out Bleak House-ian battle with the council. On each occasion I spoke with Tom in the kitchen, which looked the same in 2002 as in 1986 - as indeed did he. This created an eerie feeling of suspension from time, as though he had been sitting there - same chair, same kitchen table - for sixteen years, waiting for the return of the Interviewer.



Talking of cooperatives,  squatting, Leeds postpunk bands...  about that Grapevine guide to DIY that Scritti Politti made for the BBC and the How To Make A Record booklet. I've seen it suggested that these were both made by the other three Scrits - Morley, Jinks, Kay - in early 1980, while Green was spending months in a cottage in Wales recuperating from his illness. (Which would explain why Green doesn't appear in the program).  This raises an intriguing thought: could it be that while the three comrades were loyally continuing the Scritti Mark 1 program and disseminating these radical do-it-yourself ideas via state media...  Green,  frail and pale, was busily and determinedly obsolescing that entire set of ideas...  deconstructing concepts like the marginal, demystification, "anyone can do it", etc.... scribbling from his sick bed the famous book's worth of notes that laid out the program for Scritti Mark 2. I wonder if the Other Three felt a wee bit put out when they turned up the Welsh cottage, perhaps even bearing glad tidings of Grapevine triumphs, only to be informed of the New Pop Direction? How long did it take them to come around? And did they still secretly worry, "What the fuck are we going to tell The Door and the Window, the Desps and Methodishca Tune when we get back to Camden?!?".



I'm not sure if they ever committed it to paper, but The Mekons had their own program / manifesto, a statement of principles that they collectively laid out during the group's inaugural stage. As I write in the Quality of Mercy liner note:

"Among its tenets, interdictions and vows were things like: we don’t want to be stars;  we are nobody special; there is no set group as such; instruments will be swapped around to keep roles fluid; there will be no distance between the audience and the band; anyone can get up and join in; we will never make a record; we will never have our photograph taken; we will only be the support band; we will the punk band that plays slow songs, not fast songs… All of these principles would be very quickly broken or abandoned, as the band’s career unexpectedly took off, resulting in features (and photographs) in the music press, headlining concerts, and offers to make records. For a couple of years at the peak of postpunk, Mekons became “anti-star stars,”  unheroic heroes."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

1980!



Double crikey, here's a film actually made by Scritti Politti for the BBC program Grapevine,  explaining how to make your own record. Featuring members of The Door and the Window, Desperate Bicycles, and lesser known DIY outfits of the era, as well as Sue Scott from Rough Trade, record engineer and mastering maestro George Peckham of "Porky Prime Cuts" renown. And various Scrits, including a rare sighting of fourth member / organiser Matthew Kay.

Seemingly the "promo" for "P.A.s" in the previous post was made from out-takes from this production. So filmed in 1979, but apparently broadcast in 1980.

There's tantalising references to the guide-to-DIY booklet How To Make A Record that Scritti published and circulated, which the Grapevine presenter invites viewers to write in for. Has anyone got a copy of that?

Stop press 27/06/19:

Found pages from How To Make A Record at this tumblr stillunusual.  It even had a catalogue number - SCRIT 3.




 



                 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

1979!



Crikey, look at this - a time capsule of 1979. And a sort of "pop promo", albeit never shown anywhere until now, for "P.A.s" - my favorite tune on 4 A Sides - using a 'single edit' shorter version of the song.

(Tip off from the ever-alert Jon Dale)

A proper good glimpse of the Carol St squat squalor - including a kitchen area that looks manky and mingin.

Means-of-production demystified with scenes of the recording sessions, record pressing, and record packaging (although it looks like they are sleeving the Peel Sessions EP, as opposed to 4 A Sides, which would be the perfectly circular and self-reflexive thing to do. But then in the record store, the young lad flicks 'n' picks a copy of 4 A Sides. Confusing!)

Although the record by itself abundantly demonstrates this, the glimpse of  the three playing together reinforces the sense that Scritti had gone way beyond messthetics by this point - that is some tight white funk.

I wonder if the mysterious Denis Cullum, who posted this on YouTube, but nothing else as yet,  has even more footage of the era up his sleeve.



Said to be the melody source for "Hegemony."


If so, derived most likely from this 1979 release featuring Green's hero Martin Carthy.

Friday, June 14, 2019

going underground

Here's my review for 4Columns of Robert Macfarlane's new book Underland: A Deep Time Journey - in which the renowned landscape and nature writer ventures below the surface in search of a new sublime - experiences so intensely alien they defeat his own eloquence.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

RIP Andy Gill

I was really saddened to hear about the recent death of Andy Gill, who wrote superbly about postpunk, electropop and weirdo music of all sorts for NME during the postpunk era, and later became resident popular music critic at The Independent.  It was for Q, though, that he came to New York in 1993 to interview Donald Fagen, whom as it happened I was covering for The Observer. We met at the album playback for Kamakiriad and had a long and very pleasant conversation.

Sadly we never met again, but in 2003 I did interview Andy by telephone for Rip It Up and Start Again about his time as the Sheffield correspondent for the New Musical ExpressHere is a tidied-up transcript of our conversation, with Andy providing a richly detailed lowdown on Sheffield subculture. He talked about the early days of Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Vice Versa / ABC, as well as a number of lesser-knowns and curios from the after-punk era (including I'm So Hollow, Artery, Molodoy, The Extras, 2.3). I also asked Andy about his experiences working at the NME - heady, boozy, conflictual - during its last golden age.




EVP MVP mix by MWC

A tasty and unusual mix from Moon Wiring Club



The flavour here is "mainly 90s off-kilter instrumental hip-hop and electronica tracks" featuring the likes of Tek 9 and Luke Vibert, and generally echoing Ian Hodgson's formative love of illbient, Wordsound and Skam. MWC in head-nod, boom-bap mode - loping, lurching, swampy, spacey, texture-dolloped and droopy-lidded. 

But draped also with lots and lots of the vintage telly-derived voice-snippets that you expect and love from MWC.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

linkage thinkage

Typical really - you declare your intention to revive the long-lapsed custom of inter-blog conviviality. Only to (almost) immediately lapse back again into unlinking entropy.

Here goes with another effort. Starting with an interesting piece on the pop hologram phenom by Owen Myers at The Guardian. Featuring a few quotes from me about the exploitation of dead stars. Here also is the full batch of thoughts I sent Owen a week or two ago.

Also quoted in the pop hologram piece is Professor Robin James, who's been on a little tear of posts recently at It's Her Factory. Here's an analysis of Panic! At The Disco's "High Hopes" (oh how I loathe that song) in terms of the financial logic of the derivative, and a related post about Panic! singer Brendon Urine's team-up with Taylor Swift for the even more putridly self-empowered "ME!" and its promo atrocity. (And to think I once hailed "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" as the "Party Fears Two" of emo). Robin also identifies a mini-trend for "Brexit Techno."

Carl the Impostume with a short sweet paean to the Cocteaus and Felt's Liz-powered "Primitive Painters".  I never got on with Treasure myself - too frou frou and frilly -but loved the Cocteaus on either side of that. Like Carl, I feel that, with Felt, "Primitive Painters" is the One - a pearly peal of  heroic inadequacy from the howling heart of those Years of Exile - although there are a few other high moments in the discography, amid much over-exquisite filigree. (How right somehow that the primary instrumentalist in the group should be called Maurice - not your run-of-the-mill British rock name).  Seems to be something Lawrentian in the air, what with this appreciation (Quinn Moreland on Forever Breathes the Lonely Word) that appeared only days ago in Pitchfork....



"and in the Eighties, there were wide-brim hats, there were...  lots of wide-brim hats, there were.... lots of large wide-brim hats - indie-wear, indie-wear - everywhere"

"When the Owls Cry in the Night" is the peculiar Belbury Poly-ish title  - never actually unpacked or even referenced during the piece itself, as I recall - of an interesting column by Rob Horning that recounts listening strategies he's developed in order to make music compelling in the face of the curiosity-killing overload.  Tasks he sets himself to reenchant, or renarrativize, the vast accumulated past (a past that nonetheless seems way more alluring than the vast sprawling present). Always enjoyed Horning's meditations at The New Inquiry on the effects of social media, the internet, smartphones, etc etc on life, culture, mentality, mood, etc etc. Now he and some of the same Inquiring minds  seem to be doing similar sort of  now-analysis at a new-ish location:  Real Life.




The idea of rationing one's exposure to music, keeping a distance from it, as a passion-protection strategy actually comes up over 35 years ago in this ancient radio interview with Sounds's Dave McCullough - a lost legend of the punk / postpunk / postpostpunk music press. He appears to have disappeared - nobody from that era seems to know for sure where he went after London or what he went on to do after quitting the rock press, most likely in a state of  savage disillusion. I have written on one of my  less-frequented blogs about how beguiling I find this unexpected discovery, this seemingly sole document of  McCullough in the audio flesh.


McCullough in the photo flesh, strolling through Leicester Sq with the Clash

Must have listened to the show about four times now, entranced by his spiky yet silver-tongued patter, by the brittle and impetuous movements of his mind, by the texture of a different age - 1983. Even grown fond of McCullough's odd and motley selection of favorite records from his collection, which include Hall & Oates, Dory Previn, and contemporaneous releases by the Pastels, Microdisney, Hurrah, Peter Hammill.



One thing McCullough said that struck me as true is that reviewers  - at least those with keen instincts and sharp sensibility - can tell by the first playing of the first track whether an album is any good or not. Which reminds me that I still haven't listened to Vampire Weekend's Father of the Bride all the way through - and that's because the memory of the first few tracks as heard several weeks back left an indelibly unappetizing after-aroma. This review by Lucas Fagen at Hyperallergic has the ring of truth: earnest maturity and emotional "depth" has turned to stodge all that was spring-heeled sprightly sparkly in Vampire's blithe and ravishingly superficial soundspirit. But it could be that I "agree" in large part because that gives me permission to shirk the chore of listening to all four sides of it.



Talking of the postpunk era, here's an interview with David Wilkinson, the author of Post-Punk, Politics and Pleasure in Britain. Which I confess - scared off by the academic publisher price - I have not actually read, but I've seen Wilkinson give a conference talk and he has a lot of interesting stuff to say about the era.

                                                       

Another book of note published relatively recently is Low End Theory: Bass, Bodies and the Materiality of Sonic Experience by Paul C. Jasen, who some in this parish will remember as the man behind this . With subsections bearing titles like "Spectral Catalysis", "Numinous Strategies", "Baroque Affect Engineering" and "Three Physio-Logics", it's some heady stuff ranging far beyond obvious compatibles like roots reggae and jungle and dubstep. More information and favorable appraisals can be checked out here.


Also notable are two books just out or imminent from old pals of mine, Erik "Techgnosis" Davis with High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies (US release info here, UK release info here) and the legendary Vivien Goldman with Revenge of the She-Punks
A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot



Oh yes and I'm looking forward to reading the new book by Richard King,  The Lark Ascending: The Music of the British Landscape - which looks to be the holloway connecting the two Robs (Young's Electric Eden, Macfarlane's  Landmarks).



Oh yes, and erm,  - going back to the joint counter-entropy campaign -  I'm hatching a post about the Noughties for the collective (if as yet only potential) blog -  honest I am. Coming soon... ish

Friday, May 17, 2019

Hauntology Parish Newsletter spring 2019 - Moon Wiring Club, Baron Mordant,The Caretaker

In the new edition of The Wire, I have an extended essay-review about the career-closing releases from The Caretaker and Mordant Music: the sixth and final installment of James Kirby's gargantuan Everywhere at the end of Time project, which started three years ago, and Baron Mordant's last blast, Mark of the Mould. The latter is an unmissable emission - like eMMplekz if the Baron handled the backing tracks as well as the verbals... the latter proving once again that Ian Hicks is simultaneously the Robert Macfarlane of built-up Britain and the Chris Morris of BoomkatKultur.



Also ruffling the parish this month - and making this newsletter a tale of two Ians - is the announcement of an unexpected, non-wintertime release from Moon Wiring Club aka Ian Hodgson






Ghastly Garden Centres is a timely swerve from the ambient-amorphous direction of recent MWC releases and a jaunty step into brisk concision. In fact, the guiding concept here is that every track is a single - making the assemblage perhaps a Now! style compilation of hits, or a chart countdown. It's MWC - so it's still creepy and manky - but it's also catchy and bouncy.

As for the ghostly-ghastly gardening theme - well, apparently this is a real thing, a subject of internet obsession: abandoned, overgrown plant nurseries and derelict garden centres.



Further raising the pulse of parishioners is the parallel release of Catmask, a collection -  styled as issue no. 1 of a glossy magazine - of Ian Hodgson's artwork: some already released, on the records or at the Blank Workshop website, but much unfamiliar and never seen. There are images from Ian's abandoned children's book project, for instance, which if I recall correctly, was the acorn from which grew the mighty oak of Clinkskell and the 21 - or 23, depending on how you count -  releases to date, including collaborations and side projects.


                                                   


Catmask is a gorgeous slinky looking and feeling object to peruse and fondle. It completes the sense of Moon Wiring Club as a project of.... I won't say, world-building, as that's a cliche now... but place-making, maybe.


                                                    











UK customers can buy Ghastly Garden Centres and Catmask here 

European customers can buy Ghastly Garden Centres and Catmask here 

Rest of world customers can buy Ghastly Garden Centres and Catmask here 








Thursday, May 16, 2019

linked think

Moving rapidly in our joint anti-entropy campaign Carl Neville aka The Impostume launches a collective blog along the lines of the earlier decades-blogs:  A Place in the Sun is for mulling over the Noughties, now that it has receded enough in the rear-view mirror to take on the shape of an era. Here's his inaugural announcement. Anyone can join and contribute.

Despite the convention, numeric decades rarely (perhaps never?) correspond to distinct cultural periods . Usually it takes a while for a "decade" to get going, to take on its feel, and that vibe may endure for less than ten years or more than ten years. They certainly don't end punctually with the numeric switch. Some historians talk of a Long Sixties that ended in 1973, with the oil crisis. Someone I recently interviewed (for a looking back at the 2010s article, as it happens!) argued that there was an inflection point in 2007, with various forms of technology and online / social media developments taking off, launching us into the present era in which currently languish. Or perhaps into an era whose relative blitheness ended with 2016 and Trump / Brexit epistemic traumashock.

Culture-time and chronological-time don't necessarily match up, then. And then there's personal-time, in the sense of an individual's life arc, which issomething else altogether - it might be completely out of synch with the times.  There are people who participate intensely in a decade-vibe, get right in the thick of the action. Other do so in a partial way - they join in weakly, sporadically, intermittently. Others still are actively at odds with the geist. Either out of laggardly inertia, or through a concerted stand against, they effectively inhabit a different (usually earlier) epoch than the one they happen to have been plopped into.
 
But all this is stuff to delve into at the collective blog. I wonder if it will turn out that we were living through different Noughties, or whether there'll be a fair amount of consensus owing to the self-selecting nature of the blog. Perhaps we'll discover there wasn't even a Noughties as such to have lived through together.

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While I'm think-linking, a thought from blogger pal Aaron at Airport Through The Trees

"It may be foolish to be foolish, but, somehow, even more so, to not be."

Words to live by!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

link think

I have fallen out of the habit of linking to things.

I guess we all have.

Which makes the "we" in that sentence even more tenuous.

But I'm thinking about mounting a counter-entropic tendency. Considering getting back into the habit of linking to things I've read and liked, or read and disagreed with. Quoting them - perhaps even commenting on them, if I can muster the energy.

And here's a good place to start. The Impostume - aka Carl Neville - musing about blog nostalgia:

"On some level I am bored of and by Internet 2.0 though I am not quite sure what that means. I don't think I am nostalgic for pre- or early internet days, though some of the reflections in Alex Niven's upcoming New Model Island, on the early days of blogging, has chimed in with a way my thoughts and feelings, possibly my needs and desires have been tending for a while. I think a return to blogging, precisely because it has fallen into desuetude, precisely because no-one now is really listening or reading, appeals. What was always nice about it was partly the a-sociallity, you wrote something and then had no idea who had read it, or what anyone thought and nor did you have to care particularly. It was/is both public and private but somehow it could command an intimacy, an invisible meeting of minds, lives, semi or totally anonymously. what you wrote was out there somehow working away in the world and you never knew how. You had connected but without any of the burdens of sociality, without the need for an exchange.

"It's that particular mode of non-exchange, the lack of reaction, the idea of something going quietly out there, the message in a bottle, a misdirected letter, sender unknown that I like. a certain distance is needed for people to really meet, a certain hiddenness needed before you can really speak."

Hmm, interesting thoughtage, as always, from Carl there - although personally I feel the opposite: I miss the sociality of blogging - the remote collectivity. As exemplified by the decades blogs that Carl set up: joint projects, people taking turns to do a post, but also a lot of stimulating chit-chat in the comments. Another example would be the inter-blog and guest-contributed  commentary on "themes" that I or others would host, on things like guitar riffs, or drummige, or solos, or bass bits. And many other forms of conversation-building and ideas-pooling that took place at shared-blogs or within blog-clusters, including those from opposed camps back in those days when there was ideological friction enough for sides to be taken.

Meanwhile, Carl is taking a break from finishing up his new novel Eminent Domain - the follow-up but not sequel to the splendid Resolution Way - in an unusual way. By starting another novel, The Fullfillment* Centre,  micro-excerpts of which are being previewed at the blog, starting here. I'm already gripped, it's like reading a serial.

In the course of one chapter, Carl, or his character/proxy, drops this nice thought:

"There’s an old quote about buying books: we think we are buying the time to read them, but having been a hoarder myself when I was younger I understand it differently, we were buying the selves we imagined we would become after we had read them, the great works, the great thoughts and each one bought was a new possible self, our own future greatness, claimed, set aside, each one sold on a small grief for that self’s loss, our future diminished. The dizziness in libraries or bookshops, the circling of souls, selves, worlds. It was easy to get trapped there, enchanted, enchained."

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Another online thought-bunker  I've come across recently is Modernism Unbound, which looks like a webzine but appears to be a one-man enterprise, the work of Jon Lindblom.  Here's an essay on the drug-tech interface and rave culture of the Nineties. And here's one on the drug-tech interface in more recent years, looking at anti-depression and anti-anxiety meds and late capitalist culture. There doesn't seem to be a musical angle to that essay, though, which I think misses a trick - or at least, the essay I am really waiting and wanting to read is about the sonic interface between trap / mumble rap production and drugs like Percoset, Xanax, etc. What kind of subjectivity is produced by the leisure abuse of prescription drugs like these -  and how has this manifested sonically, and in terms of vocal styling? I have yet to come across a piece that even describes from inside the specific high induced by improper, non-medicinal use of these drugs and their polydrug combination with various other substances, like cough syrup or the traditional illegal buzzes... let alone explore deeply the potentiating synergy with particular sound-textures, Auto-Tune, etc.

(This is my own contribution, but it lacks the er field research element that would really be required, if you get me).

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Also on rave and the drug-tech interface (well, kinda) is this essay about the Eurohardcore continuum and gabber, by Jeppe Ugelvig at NERO Editions, which I have annotated and commentated upon already at the other place.

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A nice tribute by Richard Williams at The Blue Moment to Peter Hammill, now 70 years old but  not about to stop any time soon. Indeed he has just released  In Amazonia, a collaboration with  Swedish group Isildurs Bane. Writes Williams:

"Listening to it the first time, my first thought was that this was how progressive rock should have turned out. The music is characterised by a sense of inquiry and a delight in exploring resources... while the lyrics strive for the effect of poetry.... It arrives at a place where European rock music seemed to be heading when it veered away from American influences 50 years ago."


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Odds and sods:

A piece by Rosie Spinks at Quartzy arguing that the age of the influencer is dead (or should be) and that it's high time for the return of the slacker

Always a pleasure to read Mike Powell on Vampire Weekend - love the description of Rostam as the band's "Swiss Army knife" - but just like with his write-up of their previous album, it really doesn't sound like an album I'd extract pleasure listening to. But I've had that reaction with every Father of the Bride review I've come across.

Finally here's a Resonance FM show about postpunk-era Australian experimental label M-Squared - the program is the work of Superfluid, a monthly radio show and events organisation based in London.





Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Freaky Dancing



Here's a really cool thing that I've been meaning to do a post about for a while: The Quietus's new publishing arm, TQLC, has pulled together as a single volume every issue of the ravezine Freaky Dancing, which as the Happy Mondays-derived title suggests was the unofficial house organ of the Haçienda.  You can get it here.




Created by Ste Pickford and Paul Gill, the zine consisted almost entirely of comic strips, cartoons, illustrations and visual-led spoofs 'n' satires.

                                                  


Starting July 1989, the duo gave it away free to punters queuing outside the Haçienda on a Friday.




It ran for 12 issues.


The eleventh issue came out in August 1990, by which point the Haçienda scene was souring in a miasma of drug excess and paranoia, gangs and guns. Which brought the hostile attention of the authorities - such as "God's Cop" James Anderton, the chief constable of Greater Manchester -  and ultimately led to the club's demise.


There was one final issue, in May 1994, when the Haçienda had a re-opening night, but that consisted of reprinted highlights from the original run of issues.


unfinished strip for abandoned Freaky Dancing revival issue, circa 1994 


Freaky Dancing: The Complete Collection is a marvelous document of a cultural moment happening in real-time - hats off to The Quietus for putting it out and Ste & Paul for doing it in the first place.


Oh and A Guy Called Gerald wrote the foreword.




Thursday, April 11, 2019

a fighter and a lover

                                        

Here's something I really enjoyed researching and writing - a feature for RBMA on Luigi Nono, the great "militant modernist" composer of the late 20th Century. It focuses on his electronic and tape works of the 1960s, his exploration of vocal extremes, his support for liberation movements around the world, and the surrounding context of Italian Communism in the post-war era.

The twin pegs for this piece are the fiftieth-anniversary vinyl reissue of Musica-Manifesto N. 1 by Die Schachtel and the publication of Nostalgia for the Future: Luigi Nono's Selected Writings and Interviews by the University of California Press.











     Nono at work with his prime collaborator, the sound engineer 
  Marino Zuccheri, at the Studio di Fonologia in Milan






Monday, March 18, 2019

BARCELONA - BERLIN - LISBON - March tour

I'm off on a brisk traipse across Europe -  to chat about hauntology, ArchivFieber, the art of music criticism -  in three wonderful cities. 


BARCELONA - FRIDAY MARCH 22

Sons de la memòriaEl Born Centre de Cultura i Memòri

18.30 hrs - Conversation about hauntology with Arnau Horta

More information about Sons de la memòria events, including a live performance by Philip Jeck and Janek Schaeffer on March 23. 



BERLIN - SATURDAY MARCH 23

Find the FileHaus der Kulturen der Welt 

16:30-18:00  "Piles of Files: The Infinite Archive" - panel discussion with Elodie A. RoyPelle Snickars, and Florian Sievers

More information about Find the File events



LISBON - FRIDAY MARCH 29 

MIL - Lisbon International Music Network

10.00 am to 11.30 am - Masterclass: Music Journalism

Main Hall, Palacete do Marqueses de Pombal, Rua das Janelas Verdes, 37, Lisbon

information about the class and about MIL - and a preview interview 


Monday, March 04, 2019

extinguished

Went to bed, after watching Leaving Neverland, feeling troubled...

Woke up uneasy, to find out that Keith Flint has died.

Every week there seems to be some new sickening blow (as if the actual news-news wasn't sufficiently distressing).

What a performer, an energy force.



As Andrew Harrison noted in  New Statesman, "the best pop stars are cartoons – instantly recognisable, bright, bold and primary-coloured, and in their simplicity far larger and more thrilling than life."

Keith Flint's commitment to his 2D role gave it an electrifying conviction. 



I always liked to compare the cross-over era Prodigy with The Sweet - pure excitement for its own sake, a perfectly wrought storm of hooks and hysteria.

That analogy doesn't quite work because Howlett and crew were an autonomous unit, rather than puppets - writing and producing their own material, fully in control of the hit factory.

But perhaps another punk-before-punk parallel does fit: Alice Cooper. A band that worked perfectly as pop-with-edge for teenagers, while grown-ups might enjoy them without being able to take it seriously. And yet, and yet... for all the vaudeville aspect, a band that in moments actually conjured - purely through sound and structured frenzy  - a sense of apocalyptic drama and danger.



Another in that lineage would be Adam and the Ants.




Thursday, February 28, 2019

double sorrow

Here is my NPR Music tribute to the late great Mark Hollis of Talk Talk.

In a further blow to late-Eighties Melody Maker headz, the sad news has come through that Steve Jameson, the mighty bassist in World Domination Entreprises, has also died. 

Here are some things I wrote back in the day about World Dom - one of the supremely exciting live experiences of their time.





Two different directions, two different post-postpunk outcomes - but more in common than immediately meets the ear.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

you know the score

I really enjoyed contributing to the Pitchfork lists of The 50 Best Movie Scores of All Time and  The 50 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time. The original plan was for a single unified list but there were so many suggestions from the electorate that it got split into two, although the distinction between score and soundtrack can get blurry with some films having a mixture of all-new and preexisting musical elements.

For Scores, I wrote about Blade Runner, Walkabout, and Solaris.

For Soundtracks, I wrote about Performance and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

In these lists, there are lots of films with great scores and soundtracks I'd forgotten about, and  many that I didn't know at all -  loads here to investigate and read about.

Quite a few of the ones I voted for didn't make the cut - below are some faves that did not get ratified by the electorate.


BEDAZZLED – Dudley Moore
As well as starring as the hapless Stanley Moon, who sells his soul to the devil for seven wishes, Dudley Moore -  being a jazz pianist, songwriter and arranger of considerable talent -  wrote the score to this Sixties Brit caper, variations on a theme that are rendered by turns insouciant, idyllic, poignant, and snazzy. There’s also a pair of brilliant Sixties pop parodies: “Love Me” (performed by Moore with moist passion) and “Bedazzled”, on which Peter Cook deadpans his disdain and indifference to all amorous advances - ‘you fill me with INERTIA”.

RIP Stanley Donen, the director.




FORBIDDEN PLANET – Louis and Bebe Barron
For one of the superior science fiction movies of the 1950s, this husband and wife team created the first entirely electronic score in movie history: an abstract, virtually atonal sequence of drones, shrieks, groans and pulsations that seem to reverberate from the coldest, blackest recesses of deep space. But because the Barrons were credited ambiguously with "electronic tonalities", they were cheated of a chance to contend for an Oscar for Best Soundtrack.


THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN – Gil Melle
A sci-fi thriller about scientists investigating a lethal super-virus of extraterrestrial origin in an isolated white-walled underground laboratory gets an appropriately chilly and sterile-sounding score from jazzer turned instrument-inventor. Melle used found industrial sounds like jet propulsion lab blasts and roars and  transformed them by tape-editing. 


ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK  - John Carpenter
One of the director/composer's best, ranging from bloodcurdling, borderline-abstract sequences like "The Crazies Come Out" to more melodic synth-pulse propelled tunes like "Orientation #2," which glides along like an empty monorail car coldly surveying the ravaged city below.





BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS – Stu Philips & Bob Stone, et al

Russ Meyer’s mischievously over-the-top camp satire of the rock biz and Los Angeles decadence gets an equally ersatz superb set of songs. Performed in the movie by the fictitious all-girl group The Carrie Nations, the vocals actually came from the off-screen session singer Lynn Carey, a blue-eyed soul powerhouse. There’s also contributions by “real” psych pop group Strawberry Alarm Clock and a kitschy theme song by The Sandpipers,


LOGAN’S RUN – Jerry Goldsmith
Partly orchestral, partly synth, the veteran movie composer’s O/S/T is particularly stunning on the icy electronica of “Flameout” and “Fatal Games” and the pulsating pornodelia of  "Love Shop," which scores a sequence in which the hero and heroine's escape through a strobe-blitzed brothel of the future.



THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY – Francis Monkman
Formerly of prog rock group Curved Air, Monkman whips together an unexpectedly jazzy and funky OST for this Brit gangland thriller – at its most strutting and flamboyant on the main theme, which bookends the movie and accompanies the abrupt downfall of Bob Hoskins’s East London mobster to make for one of cinema’s most exhilarating outro sequences.


THX 1138  - OST by Lalo Schifrin; “sound montages” by Walter Murch
Schifrin’s orchestral score for George Lucas’s dystopian movie is somber and impressive in its own right. But what really makes THX such a compellingly total audio-visual experience are Murch’s sound design, effects and underscores: sourceless shudders and judders, abject squelches, android death-rattles, shearing-metal groans, and, not least,  the electronic garbling and distortion applied to the voices of the bureaucrats who surveil every citizen constantly.



Here's some other faves that did not get the nod.

Stalker
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
Rosemary’s Baby
Liquid Sky
Dark Star
Zardoz
Barbarella
Klute 
Gregory’s Girl
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Parallax View


And these are ones I voted for that did get ratified 

Under the Skin
Dazed and Confused
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Taxi Driver
2001, A Space Odyssey
The Wicker Man
Suspiria
Midnight Cowboy