Sunday, December 22, 2019

Xmas Books Bonanza #2 The Song of the Machine, Agnès Gayraud's The Dialectic of Pop, Nate Sloan & Charlie Harding's Switched On Pop, Kevin Ayers lyrics miscellany, Mark Leckey

Another batch of last-minute stocking-stuffing candidates - or, more realistically, "what to spend your book tokens on"

Originally published in 2000 in France, now updated for the first English edition on Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, The Song of the Machine is a graphic novel that tells the story of electronic music and DJ culture from disco to techno.  It's by David Blot & Mathias Cousin - the former is a radio host at Paris's Radio Nova and co-founder of the Nineties house party Respect, the latter sadly no longer with us. It's a great read - and a great look.


Keeping it French, here's a very interesting book  -  Dialectic of Pop, by Agnès Gayraud, on Urbanomic Press.

Gayraud is a scholar and admirer of Adorno, infamous anti-pop grump and scourge of the "distraction factory."  An unusual place to embark upon "the first major philosophical treatise" about pop as a "constitutively impure form," you might think and you'd be right. (I feel there might be a few other contenders for that first-treatise title though, including the "constitutively impure" bit. That sounds close to the angle of one of the earliest candidates: Richard Meltzer's The Aesthetics of Rock, published 1970, written a few years earlier while its author was in postgraduate academia studying philosophy, if I recall right. But then again, I've never managed to get very deep into its thickets of turgiosity, which had some readers at the time taking it as a parody of academia). Gayraud is also a pop singer - somewhat paralleling Adorno, himself a practitioner as well as theorist, composing works in the severe serialist mode. The approach in Dialectic of Pop is a bit like Adorno reborno for the era of  Daft Punk and Drake: the outlook pop-positive from the outset, the analysis penetrating, rigorous, elegant. Gayraud asks lot of interesting and pertinent questions - and answers them!

An in-depth Quietus interview with the author.

Another academic-ish book with "Pop" in the title - 

Published by Oxford University Press, Switched On Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters is a development out of musicologist Nate Sloan and musician / songsmith Charlie Harding's excellent podcast  of the same name (I guested for the Auto-Tune episode). But where Gayraud's book approaches the aesthetics of pop from a philosophical angle, Switched On Pop is more about the nuts and bolts of pop as music, the mechanics of song-construction and record-making:  "how popular music works" as the first part of the subtitle has it.  Illustrations and diagrams by Iris Gottlieb help the reader grasp the technical stuff - and add a really fun and attractive element to the text.


He had the looks, he had the tunes, he had the wit, but he never had the hits - Kevin Ayers, almost a pop star. 

Lovingly assembled by daughter Galen Ayers, Shooting At the Moon: The Collected Lyrics of Kevin Ayers is a sweet medley of handwritten lyrics (including early drafts), fish recipes, intimate photos...

The wonderfully named Mitch Speed has written a whole book about Mark Leckey's Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, part of Afterall Books / One Work series of works about, well, a single work of art.  Which in this case may well be my favorite work of art of the last twenty years. Hits me where I live, obviously.

It looks like an interesting series - I spy a tome by book-making mate Kodwo Eshun in there, on Dan Graham.

(Which reminds me - whatever happened to the Verso reissue of More Brilliant Than the Sun, which I have announced twice before in the When Mates Make Books series).

Incidentally, my own brief paean to Fiorucci reappears in Tate Publishing's O' Magic Power of Bleakness book for the recent Leckey exhibition.