Thursday, November 26, 2020

Hauntology(+outernational) Parish Newsletter Xmas 2020

(I don't know what's up with Blogger but since they changed the user-interface, I've not been able to embed things from Bandcamp Soundcloud et al. So pardon me for just linking)

A new release from Lo Five - TONIC - reminds me that I most remissly omitted to mention here his July release The Art of Living. Both that and the new batch are chips off the same lustrous-grey block as Geography of the Abyss, which became one of my favorite releases of 2019, and one I've returned to regularly since. Its rain-streaking-down-the-windowpane feel seems to fit this glum, withdrawn year, offering solace and calm. This year's releases build on this special sound Neil Grant has found, which pulls off the same trick as prime Ekoplekz in so far as you sense the coordinates (in Lo Five's case, BoC, Bush of Ghosts etc) but the mood and palette is distinctive - belongs to him alone. 



release(s) rationale(s)

'The Art of Living' is a collection of music I made between the summer of 2019 up to the month of release.

Without going into detail this has been an intense period of personal turmoil due to multiple family health crises and bereavements, plus of course the halting consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During this period I have found comfort and perspective in the writings of the Stoic Philosophers, which has inevitably influenced the sounds. Hopefully these philosophies and sounds can offer some comfort to you too.

Stay safe X

^^^

Presenting TONIC: a collection of jams and experiments with no real cohesion or grand unifying concept.

These tracks were, for the most part, recorded straight out of the mixer to a stereo recorder. I did this so I could concentrate on the more enjoyable, spontaneous, creative side of making music, but it also left me in a situation where I couldn't do much to polish them up afterwards - not that I particularly wanted to anyway.

I wasn't sure what to do with these tracks and I wanted to draw a line under them, mainly so i could stop thinking about what to do with them and just get on with my life.

So for what it's worth, here it is - some music I made that soundtracked drizzly lockdown walks on a desolate Wirral beach. Maybe they can accompany your lockdown excursions too. Take care x


Twin town exchange student Mart Avi has a new album of Estonian / Esperanto never-neverpop out in a few weeks time, Vega Never Sets, on Porridge Bullet  - trailed by the gorgeous single "Feather". (You might remember his single from earlier in the year, "Soul Reaver")



release rationale: 

Like a sheet of paper folded into a cylinder holds up to dozens of kilograms, and animated characters defy gravity, ‘Feather’ presents its physique in a gentle manner.

Accompanying the main track are two alternative versions with warped phasing as well as “an ocular version” – that is, a video made using the game creation system ‘Dreams’ on PlayStation 4. Created by Avi and Ivar Murd, the visual saturates the single’s elusive charge with surrealist horizons, serene vistas, and encounters with Jungian dream figures.
 

There's an excellent new album from Fifth World mischief makers Artetetra, in their Babau guise and titled Stock Fantasy Zone.



release rationale:

"Stock Fantasy Zone is a new album by Babau dedicated to the unearthly delights of unconscious reticular motion, wacky 2D shredding and daily side quests. Directly from inside the Stack, finally imagine a zone where all activities are possible but purposeless, all primary objectives are achieved without even moving and the game-logic has finally disappeared leaving back a virtual fauna of forsaken babbling Npc’s and uncharted, yet to be tested stockpiles of maps and levels.
Lofty low poly structures, tentacular mickey-mousing gesticulations, already obsolete sonic ontologies and the unsung age of Dreamcast workfantasy frenzy. All and all, just another day spent testing the margins and edges of the simulation without leaving your Sofa. Don’t wait! Enter the Stock Fantasy Zone!"

A new Artetetra label compilation, Exotic ésotérique Vol.3, is due in December, and there's a beyond-music project being launched involving many contributors, myself among them. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

When Mates Make Books Xmas stocking-filler round-up: 1984 x 2; transnational club culture; hauntology; postcapitalist desire; Hawkwind and the Underground.

                                                          

The only proper (living - there's one RIP) mate in this round-up - the rest are more like internet acquaintances -  Michaelangelo Matos has a new book: a long-fermented and richly researched appreciation of the year 1984. Like similar year-focused tomes by other, older writers (Jon Savage's 1966, David Hepworth's 1971), pop's annus mirabilis just so happens to coincide with the author's youthful peak point in terms of excitement-capacity and impressionability / ability to be impressed.  (So if I was to do one, the title would be 1979, or 1981 - when I was sixteen and eighteen respectively... but then again I was also blessed improbably with a second adolescence at the cusp of late twenties into early thirties, a proper one in which I actually went out and had wild fun rather than stayed in reading -  so 1992, or 1993, or 1994, would also be strong contenders). But back to Matos's wonder year.. well of course, from the Brit perspective, '84 was the year the bloom went right off New Pop, although we did have the whole Frankie commotion... but it was definitely slipping into the Bad Music Era...   but from a young American's perspective it must have indeed been a supremely exciting year,  especially on the MTV and mainstream radio front, with the Brit invaders still coming through but starting to get out-done by Americans who'd cottoned on to the power of video (Prince, ZZ Top, Springsteen, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, M. Jackson et al). But as Matos amply demonstrates, there was a whole lot more going on.  Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year is out in a couple of weeks. 

Release rationale: 

Everybody knows the hits of 1984 - pop music's greatest year. From "Thriller" to "Purple Rain," "Hello" to "Against All Odds," "What's Love Got to Do with It" to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," these iconic songs continue to dominate advertising, karaoke nights, and the soundtracks for film classics (Boogie Nights) and TV hits (Stranger Things). But the story of that thrilling, turbulent time, an era when Top 40 radio was both the leading edge of popular culture and a moral battleground, has never been told with the full detail it deserves - until now. Can't Slow Down is the definitive portrait of the exploding world of mid-eighties pop and the time it defined, from Cold War anxiety to the home-computer revolution. Big acts like Michael Jackson (Thriller), Prince (Purple Rain), Madonna (Like a Virgin), Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.), and George Michael (Wham!'s Make It Big) rubbed shoulders with the stars of the fermenting scenes of hip-hop, indie rock, and club music. Rigorously researched, mapping the entire terrain of American pop, with crucial side trips to the UK and Jamaica, from the biz to the stars to the upstarts and beyond, Can't Slow Down is a vivid journey to the very moment when pop was remaking itself, and the culture at large - one hit at a time.

More information about the book here


update 11/24/2020 - I forgot, there's another book about 1984 as pop wonderyear coming out, at almost the same time bizarrely  -  but this one is from the UK perspective: David Elliott's 1984: British Pop's Dividing Year.  Read Elliott's piece on it at The Quietus. Information about the book and its scope here. 



                                                 

Ten Cities tells a transnational tale of club culture across six decades, 1960-2020, focusing on five European and five African cities: Lagos, Luanda, Berlin, Bristol, Johannesburg, Kiyv, Nairobi, Lisbon, Naples, and Cairo.  Edited by Johannes Hossfeld, Joyce Nyairo and Florian Sievers and published by the art book imprint Spector Books, it weaves together contributions from 20 writers and 19 photographers from those ten cities. 

Release rationale: 

In Africa as well as in Europe, club cultures create free spaces that can function as nocturnal laboratories for societies. Nightclubs are hubs in a complex global network – and at the same time they are manifestations of very local and specific practices. This book tells the story of club music and club cultures from 1960 to the present in ten cities in Africa and Europe: Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin,Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon. It expands the focus beyond the usual North Atlantic narrative of centres and periphery and instead aims at a coeval narrative. In 21 essays, playlists and photo sequences the book draws intimate portraits of these cities’ subcultures, their transnational flows, as well as the societies from which they evolve and which they, in turn, influence. An urban and political rhythm-analysis from the viewpoint of sound and night. 

                                    


More information about Ten Cities here at the Spector Books website.  

An earlier blogpost of mine about Ten Cities and "xenotronica".  


                                                 

I don't know if this is the very first book wholly dedicated to hauntology (there's been a couple of tomes from A Year in the Country that cover that terrain where it particularly overlaps with the pastoral horror / rural uncanny). But Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past is a notably thorough and probing survey of the field from the marvelously monikered Merlin Coverley (and that's his birthname, not an assumed alias), whose prior works include the adjacently-themed Psychogeography  and Occult London. Mark Fisher comes up rather often (and yours truly makes the odd appearance too) along with expected suspects like Derrida and M.R. James. 

Release rationale:

"Ghosts and spectres, the eerie and the occult. Why is contemporary culture so preoccupied by the supernatural, so captivated by the revenants of an earlier age, so haunted? The concept of Hauntology has evolved since first emerging in the 1990s, and has now entered the cultural mainstream as a shorthand for our new-found obsession with the recent past. But where does this term come from and what exactly does it mean? This book seeks to answer these questions by examining the history of our fascination with the uncanny from the golden age of the Victorian ghost story to the present day... Moving between the literary and the theoretical, the visual and the political, Hauntology explores our nostalgia for the cultural artefacts of a past from which we seem unable to break free."

More information about Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past can be found at the Oldcastle Books website. You can check out the introduction in pdf form here

The front cover photograph of long shadows gave me a little haunty shiver as it recalled "Ghosts of NYC": a family self-portrait we took in the golden hour of the day before we left Manhattan and moved to Los Angeles, about ten and a half years ago now. 

                                     

                                                  

Talking of Mark Fisher (and of ghosts of my life), I've been remiss in not mentioning here a new Repeater collection, edited and introduced by Matt Colquhoun aka xenogothic (whose own contribution to Fisher Studies, Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy, and Mark Fisher nestles at the top of the pile of books awaiting my attention, which has been at its most attenuated and eroded this past year). This new Fishertome, available now in digital form but you'll have wait until January for the analogue object itself, collates Mark's lectures from his final year of teaching at Goldsmiths. I assumed that meant written or mostly-written texts that he delivered, but the book consists of transcripts of the actual classes themselves and rather movingly captures the back-and-forth between Mark and his students. 

Release rationale: 

Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture in the 1970s to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so.  For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…

More information at Repeater Books.


                                                  


Talking of remissness (and obliquely acid communism) I have been culpably remiss in not earlier bigging up this tome from Joe Banks about Hawkwind and the UK Underground, an era that I am most fascinated by and indeed may one day take a pass at. This makes a good case for Hawkwind as a revolutionary band and a precursor to both punk and rave, or perhaps more accurately, a bridge between the original counterculture and these later assaults on  commonsensical reality. For a taste of Banks's approach,  check out his Guardian feature  and this musical tour of reasons why Hawkwind musically matter for The Quietus

More information about Days of the Underground: Radical Escapism in the Age of Paranoia at the Strange Attractor website.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Futur choc

 Excited to announce the publication of two books in translation!

       
 

On November 16th, Audimat publish Le choc du glam, the French version of Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, translated by Hervé LoncanMore information here

On November 19th, Minimum Fax publish Futuromania, a collection of my writing about electronic music (dance + non-dance), translated into Italian by Michele Piumini. More information here





 


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Spirit of Rave

Election Eve anxiety was momentarily alleviated last Monday when I got to moderate a really fun discussion about rave culture's visual aesthetics and its ongoing legacy in graphics, fashion, music and pop culture. Involving Jeremy DellerMartine Rose, and Trevor Jackson, the conversation - convened by The Design Museum as part of its current exhibition Electronic: From Kraftwerk to the Chemical Brothers - goes out live on  Thursday, November 12th, at 7pm UK time.  Information about tickets can be found here

from The Design Museum's announcement for The Spirit of Rave:

Rave was a defining counterculture movement in Britain. Responding to the social, political and economic conditions of the 1980s and 90s, it joyfully disregarded design convention from cut-n-paste techniques to neon colours and brash imagery.

Join artist Jeremy Deller, fashion designer Martine Rose and graphic designer / deejay / producer Trevor Jackson and music author Simon Reynolds for a talk exploring the legacy 90’s British rave culture has left in art and design today.

Please note that this event includes strong language and references to drug culture.














Sunday, November 08, 2020

Landslidin' with Biden

Tried to put down some thoughts on the events of the past week, but I don't really have thoughts, just feelings. Relief, joy, hope, elevation...  a sensation of lightness, the lifting off and away of an immense heavy shadow. All the things everyone else is feeling. Well, except for the people who are feeling the opposite -  and who are still with us, still alarmingly numerous, still implacably lost. But let's not dwell on that right now... let's stay in the glow as long as we can.

What songs are large enough for this moment?  This is no time for subtle or emotionally complex or artfully ambivalent; only simple, direct, uplifting will do. 















Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Neon Hospice presents...

 Halloween entertainment for the mind, ears and eyes from Repeater Books





Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Boy oh Boy

 Here's a piece I did for Tidal on the early days of U2, when they were just another New Wave band jostling for attention, timed for the 40th anniversary of Boy

I could have sworn the first time I saw / heard U2 was them playing "A Day Without Me" on TV, but deduction led me to this performance  of "I Will Follow" on the after-school kids show Get It Together



Stop press: History Is Made At Night finds a 1980 TV performance of "A Day Without Me" that must be the one I remember - on the youth TV program White Light, presented by Gary Crowley 



                                                   The promo - with video FX mirroring the delay on the guitar 


Back when the singer went as Bono Vox 




Deluges of grandeur. 





Friday, October 09, 2020

cornucopious

Here's my 4Columns review of the Super Deluxe Edition of Sign O' The Times and ever-so-slightly ambivalent paean to the uncontrollable copiousness of Prince

Listening to the Super Deluxe Sign in a single sitting did remind me of the episode of Louie where now-disgraced Louis C.K. and an equally greedy comedian buddy do a “Bang Bang”: eat two slap-up meals in quick succession at different restaurants. As gross and health-endangering as this was, at least the sad-sack duo gorged on different cuisines.  Listening to the new supersized Sign all the way through is like eating at the best Italian restaurant in town (the original Sign, which takes up the first two discs) and then immediately repairing to a mediocre Italian restaurant for rounds two, three, four…  Not only has the edge been taken off your appetite, but you have the fresh memory of something superior and delicious with which to compare. 

Too-muchness is Prince's essence. He seemed afflicted with a sort of erotomania of sound. Just couldn't stop playing - with himself (literally, in the studio - playing nearly all the instruments, multitracking his own voice), with others.  The compulsive, almost involuntary creativity caused him to record while on tour, both before the concert using a mobile studio  truck or after the gig at a local studio.

Where did he get the energy from? Especially as these concerts were bloody long. In August 1988, I saw Prince twice in a single night: first at Wembley Arena, where he and his band blazed through 41 songs over the course of a couple of hours (there were three sets of encores!), and then again at a smaller venue a couple of hours later, where the Purple One’s idea of post-show relaxation was to play another lengthy concert to a more intimate  audience.  Don’t stop ‘till you get enough, as Michael Jackson -  the only Black American artist of the Eighties to eclipse Prince in popular impact – put it. But also "enough" is as a good as a feast, as the old maxim goes –once you’re replete, even the sight of a banquet brings on nausea. 

Talking of maxims... Prince's music turns around the contrast of maximalism and minimalism. Across whole albums, but also within individual tracks sometimes. 

I always dug the maximalist tendencies, and certainly "approved" of the excess, then and now. Harped on about it at a time (late Eighties) when me and my Melody Make crew were calling for an unpunking of the discourse...  when we were rejecting the truism "less is more" and proposing that more might actually be MORE. (The sheer obesity of the Buttholes sound -  spare tyres of sound flopping free from the girdle of postpunk inhibition and restraint)

But in practice the minimal Prince holds me more as a listener. 

The nubile perfection of Dirty Mind, a sound that is barely there (those translucent keyboards), all suggestion and implication. His only truly flawless statement, as an album? 


"Kiss", worn out by over-exposure, but so fleet and fresh to hear after the baroque folly Around the World In A Day

(Although the sublime loping simplicity of "Pop Life" ...)

And on Sign itself, the tracks that are faraway my faves are the most mechanistic and monolithic  - "Hot Thing", "It." 
 

Well, there's also "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" - ripe, humid, detuned. 


And "If I Was Your Girlfriend" 

"I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" is a particularly striking example of the minimal / maximal tension.

The first half is this perfect pearl of power pop.

But then it goes off into a completely different direction / aesthetic universe, that barely seems connected to the first part - more to do with Santana than the Bangles. And which I like even more...


That unexpected detour / split-song structure always reminded me of what happens in the Stones's "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" - the shift from taut raunch to jazzy meander


The bluesy funk of "Sign O' The Times" the title track / lead single reminds me a tiny bit of the biting blues-funk and bitter “hard times” lyrics of Johnny Guitar Watson songs like “Ain’t That A Bitch” and "A Real Mutha For Ya" -  updated with a late Eighties drum machine feel. 


This is my favorite thing on the Supersize Deluxe and it turns very much around the minimal-maximal contrast - stark, almost Mantronix like drum machine versus florid multi-tracked vocals 


At one minute long, more a splinter than a song, “Colors” is an exquisite fragment of jazzed guitar chords that could be off an ECM album by Bill Frisell or John Abercrombie.

On the disc B-sides and extended mixes of singles off the original dubble, I enjoyed  “La, La, La, He, He, Hee,”  which mimics George Clinton’s cartoon heterosex allegory in “Atomic Dog” of canines chasing felines, and pivots around an astonishingly funky vocal lick like a hound yowling (plus  wonderfully horny horns).  


And there's other delights but boy do you have to pick through a lot of lesser material

There isn’t a neat parallel with other art forms, because pop albums rarely have a narrative structure, but let’s imagine the ‘super deluxe edition" template applied to film. You might dream of seeing the original director’s edit of Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons before the studio butchered it (and lost forever the offcuts). But sensibly you might flinch at a 9-hour version of Citizen Kane

In this case, Sign doesn’t restore what Prince originally intended, it’s more like a series of extensions to a house that partially obscure the original construction without actually rebuilding it. The pristine thing is still in there but there’s all this stuff in the way now.

In one sense, the Deluxe Edition is beautifully curated – the sound is fabulous, the packaging exquisite, right down to the peace symbol stencil on the cardboard box that arrives at your front door. Yet in another sense, it’s a feat of anti-curation that overrides the original curation of the artist (and the record company, who held in check Prince's own more-IS-more impulses). 

In some ways, it would have been more intriguing to reconstruct the original planned but abandoned albums – Dream Factory, Camille and Crystal Ball – that preceded Sign and supplied much of its originally released content.  Like all those music nerd bloggers out there who create counterfactual albums - sometimes records that were planned and put on the schedule but withdrawn, or that were started but abandoned, and in other cases, were never conceived by the artist but fit alternate-history timelines (Beatles albums if they didn't split in 1970 but pooled songs from what in our world went into the solo albums). 

Friday, September 18, 2020

champion son

Kieran Press-Reynolds, a.k.a the other genre taxonomist living under this roof, has won the award for Best Work of Music Journalism: Text-English at the Reeperbahn Festival, for his piece on "How Tik Tok Is Taking the Tunes Out of Pop."  Kieran saw off competition from the illustrious likes of Laura Snapes, Roxanne Gay, Ed Gillett, and my friends Tariq Goddard and Carl Neville. Check out the list of winners here and K's  acceptance speech video here!



Thursday, August 13, 2020

the next genre-ation takes over

In olden times, children carried on the family business - bakers beget bakers. Even today it's still quite common that a kid will go into the same or similar profession as the parents - hence multiple generations of actors, musicians, doctors, teachers - or soldiers, builders, farmers, whatever.  Still, it has taken me quite by surprise that my son has grown up to be a genre taxonomist - this is not stuff that we sat discussing around the dinner table, believe you me. He's yet to coin a genre name, but he's still only twenty and that dastardly streak of DNA - neologine - will doubtless manifest itself soon enough.

Here is Kieran Press-Reynolds's latest feature, for Pigeons & Planes / Complex - titled "Gorgeous Glitches and Nightcored Melodies: The New Generation of SoundCloud Music is Here".

Stop Press: !!!!! Kieran nominated for a Music Journalism award -  his "How Tik Tok Is Taking the Tunes Out of Pop"  piece makes the shortlist for "Best Work of Music Journalism (text - English)" at the Reeberbahn Festival !!!!!!










Thursday, July 23, 2020

adventures close to home

Here's my son Kieran Press-Reynolds with a fascinating deep dive into the world of virtual raves, virtual clubbing, and virtual fashion (and it's that last one that got me feeling like a befuddled fuddy-duddy - "how's that work then?!?", "what will these youngsters think of next?!" etc) for Highsnobiety.












Tuesday, July 14, 2020



Relieving the gloom of this indoorsy, inside-out summer, an unexpected treat from Moon Wiring Club - a dose of unseasonal dank in the shivery shape of  Tabitha Reverb: a "re-re-remix album" of  A Spare Tabby at the Cat’s Wedding to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.



Release rationale:

"The tunes on TABITHA REVERB have been coaxed together using original MWC archive material from ASTATCW (and beyond) to include extended overhauls, exhumation of abandoned tracks, intricate reinterpretations and deftly-sinister manifestations of musickal intentions originally unfulfilled."

Ian Hodgson clarifies the concept and the constituents:  "A mixture of long-form 'dance remix' interpretations of original Tabby tracks, tunes composed at the time but unused and subsequently modified, tracks that feature elements of MWC tunes ‘across the ages’ but which originated out of  ASTATCW programming and stuff that was composed in the mind-set of the time but using better production methods..." 

He adds that "the original idea was to have them as a Nineties style 2 x 12-inch set" but regrettably the realities of the current moment in terms of production / distribution / costs etc mean that Tabitha Reverb is a digital-only release. 

This got me trying to think of 2 x 12-inch sets of the Nineties as described by Ian as his model for remix project. Mostly what came to mind was the vogue in the Eighties for putting your album out as two or three 45 rpm 12-inches (PiL, Cabs, Spands yeeuch). But then I thought of this great double-12 inch by DHS, containing the immortal "House of God".



That, however, was just two discs crammed into a normal sleeve, as I recall. But I'm sure there were others in that moment of  dance culture's apogee of design awareness / packaging excess -  releases comprising two 12-inches in a gatefold sleeve in the double-album style. In particular, I have a sense memory of a gatefold double-10-inch single in pic sleeve. 

In other Moon Wiring Club news, the old BlankWorkshop website (which dates back to 2004) had to be demolished for health and safety reasons. Check out its replacement here. 



Thursday, July 09, 2020

Electronic Folkways

Here's a piece I enjoyed doing for NPR Music - a piece I had been wanting to do for a while - on the  streak of electronic, experimental, and unclassifiably oddball records released by Folkways alongside its much larger and image-defining output of American traditional music and field recordings from around the world. The peg is Smithsonian Folkways's recent vinyl reissues of Craig Kupka's New Age classic Crystals: Music for Relaxation 2 and Ann McMillan's musique concrète gem Gateway Summer Sound: Abstracted Animal & Other Sounds.  McMillan is sadly no longer with us but I interviewed Kupka and Richard Carlin, who worked alongside Folkways founder Moe Asch in the later years of the label.






                                           















Tuesday, July 07, 2020

"living in division"

Here's my piece for Tidal on Fun House by The Stooges - came out fifty years ago today, remains the greatest rock album ever - and also on the Iggy Pop box The Bowie Years, when David persuaded his friend-hero-protégé to "sing like Mae West" but he sounded more like Jim Morrison crooning through a belch.

Not a fan of live albums generally, but the unexpected highlights of this 7-disc package turned out to be the four concerts from a single month in 1977 - the UK / North America tour Iggy (with David in the backing band) did between the release of The Idiot and recording Lust for Life.



This is an oddly slick rendition of "Dirt" (no Stooges in the backing band) but actually brings out the majesty of the song.



Even a flashy, very un-Asheton-like geetarsolo cannot mar this

Thursday, July 02, 2020

WHEN MATTS MAKE BOOKS

                                     


In a couple of weeks, an old and very good mate is publishing a book that has been a passion project for the last several years, involving an astonishing amount of research and trips to far corners of the world. 

That mate is Matthew Ingram, a.k.a Woebot - and although he's put out a pair of compendiums of brilliant bloggage, and a tasty monograph, it would be fair to describe Retreat: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness as Matt's first book proper. Published by Repeater on July 14, the debut does not disappoint. Here is my blurb: 

“This richly researched archaeology of the counterculture places health at its core, showing how ideas of healing and therapy were inextricably bound up with the era’s spiritual longings and erotic politics. Each chapter scintillates with surprising revelations, unexpected connections and startling insights”

More info about Retreat and further endorsements can be found at the Repeater website

As part of the build-up to publication, Matt has broken out of blog retirement to post a long and probing essay on Woebot, not so much a preview of the book as a side-bar to it - on the relationship between music, Eastern philosophy, spiritual equilibrium, cosmic vibrations, "bliss consciousness" etc. 

Read it here while also listening to this fabulous 2-hour mix of astral sounds Matt has especially prepared for your elevation. Tracklist here





Lots of revelations in the mix, here's a couple of that particularly glisked my third eye: 





Not on the mix, but the tune-writer's own version:




Met Mr. Budd a year or two ago, on the streets of South Pasadena (Geeta knows everybody)


                                         

                                                                   The author holds forth...

Friday, June 26, 2020

hauntología

The favorite things I've heard this year are not from this year





The first track, "Echos" is  hauntología far ahead of its time (made 1978). "In Memoriam Of Mercedes Cornu," it's a sonic equivalent to those little roadside shrines of flowers and candles and photographs that are so poignant to stumble upon. Ferreyra wove it entirely out of the voice of her niece, who died in a car accident. 

The creator's account of the track sticks to technicalities, perhaps as a form of emotional self-defense: "This work has been composed by reconstructing four Latin-American popular songs – 2 Argentinian and 2 Brazilian – which were sung a capella by Mercedes Cornu. These songs were broken down into short and long sounds, syllables, breathings, coughs, etc and then rearranged using techniques of tape cutting, mixing and manual shakes."

About the second piece, from 1987, L'autre ... Ou Le Chant Des Marecages /The• Doubue • Or The Swamp's, Ferreyra talks of the inspiration in more vivid and animated terms: "I was deeply impressed with Blaise Cendrars’s paradoxal personnality, his terrifying « Double » which strips itself with an naked  extrem and sadic cruelty in his book « Moravagine, It was impossible for me not to record the depth of my feelings in a brutal and wild vocal composition. The « Sacow » of Moravagine, lurks behind it. The work’s onomatopeia was inpired by the short « black poems » from Cendrars’s story : « the white were black » (Les blacs étaint des noirs)."


Saturday, June 20, 2020

"Webster's set me free"



Released on my birthday, Green's first new release in fourteen years!

I've been listening to his music for over forty years now  and - apart from a couple of lulls - it's continuously delighted and fascinated.

Part of the gift of "Tangled Man" is the impetus it's given me to listen finally to Anne Briggs. Just never got around to it somehow.



Gorgeous...

(I have a record-fiend friend who happily coughed up $600 for an original copy of one of Briggs's albums. I gasped when he told me - but couldn't help admiring how he brooked no obstacles to his wants and needs.)


On "the flipside", Green covers another Briggs tune



The original




Here's Green talking about how he was a folkie before he was a punkie:

“Recently, in an interview for a forthcoming book about art and music in Leeds in the 70’s and 80’s, the author asked me, as an aside, if it were true that I was wearing Morris Dancer’s leg bells at the 1976 gig there by the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned and Heartbreakers as other interviewees present that night had reported. My DNA was reconfigured that evening so my memory is hazy but it is very likely that I was wearing the leg bell pads made for me by a school friend some years before. In fact I may well have gone to the gig straight from the evening Morris dancing lessons I attended at Leeds university.

"Because before punk gave me the liberty and license to make my own music I was geekily obsessed with ‘folk’. When I was fourteen I was enraptured by the Fairport Convention album Liege and Lief and became an underage regular at Dublin Moran’s folk club at the Castle, a very insalubrious pub down Newport docks. It’s there I was made aware of the Topic record label and the music of the Watersons, Martin Carthy (who I subsequently stalked . . . ask him) and Anne Briggs. The beautiful melodies Anne sang unaccompanied were profoundly affecting, her unornamented voice a precursor to the anti-professionalism of DIY. For a long while I walked about dressed like a 19th century farm labourer (with a bit of eyeliner) in a kind of hypnagogic reverie to an inner soundtrack of Northumbrian pipe tunes, Wassailing songs and Morris dances. Jesus.

Forward some 40 odd years and my friend and Scritti Politti bandmate Rhodri Marsden had been contacted to do an arrangement of an Anne Briggs song for a project with which he was involved. Knowing I was a fan he suggested maybe I’d like to take on the task. I was dead keen and recorded myself at home playing and singing my versions of a couple of the very few songs Annie had written many years ago...."

Interesting that Green here pinpoints Briggs's naturalistic, "unornamented" singing... because his own vocals on "Tangled" and "Wishing" have never sounded so synthetic and stylized, a quality shared by  the denatured setting for the songs (bar the guitar part on "Tangled"). Far far from folk (indeed he sings, as he has since Songs To Remember, in an American accent.... rippling strands of liquid sugar spooling from his lips).

The title of this post? When I listen to "Tangled Man," I hear the lyric  as "Webster's set me free".  Which would fit the logophile bibbly-o-maniac Green, evoking all the places that reading has taken him...  (Even the Americanized reference would be the kind of thing he'd pop into a lyric, rather than the OED).

Green's words, in song and interview, have been among the "ways to set me free", the select number of mind-expanding things that set me on my present course.

Now, how about an album, you lazy sod?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

UTOPIA NOW: Music & Utopia – Carl Neville & Simon Reynolds in conversation

Tomorrow, Wednesday June 17th, at 7pm UK / 2pm East Coast / 11 am West Coast - a YouTube live discussion between Simon Reynolds and Carl Neville on the subject of utopia and music.  Part of a series of virtual events on Utopia, to celebrate a novel of Utopian speculation -Eminent Domain, Carl's new novel for Repeater Books. Questions and comments from viewers welcomed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

WHEN MATES MAKE BOOKS



The present flickers on a knife edge between the dystopian and the utopian - and here's Carl Neville with a new novel for Repeater that hurls the reader into a counterfactual world circa now that in some ways is close-to-utopian, but also contains within it dystopian aspects - or regions - far worse even than the worst that last week momentarily seemed to herald.

Here's how I blurbed it:

“Alternative history usually involves dystopian scenarios – counterfactual realities in which the Nazis conquered the world, the South won the Civil War, the Reformation never happened. Eminent Domain is that rare thing — a near-utopian version of the present more advanced and progressive than our own, rendered with a level of vivid and intricate detail comparable with William Gibson at his most disorienting. But where speculative fiction typically presents a warped mirror image of our own era, Carl Neville’s enthralling and immersive novel does something different – it makes you aware of the radical potentials, the different way things could be, that lurk latent in the world as it stands. Eminent Domain makes this present in which we currently languish feel like the impostor reality.”

More information and how to purchase Eminent Domain at the Repeater Books site.

Carl has started a series of blog essays that detail his journey through life, art, writing and thought that led to where he is now and the work he is doing. Here is the first installment.  He's also just blogged a couple of Spotify playlists related to Eminent Domain and its precursor-sibling novel Resolution Way.

Carl will also be convening a series of discussions on the theme of utopia to take place live on YouTube -  including one next week on music and the utopian in which I will be participating. More details on that to come.

Music and the utopian, eh? It's such an open-ended term and if you're not careful you can start thinking of any music that is vaguely suggestive of paradise or heaven. But in terms of music that actually proposes or enacts a model society, for months now - since doing the memorial lecture in fact - I have been obsessed with this song.












Thursday, May 21, 2020

"I had tightened it, I had brightened it"

Some interesting reflections on what blogging is / was, from Bruce Sterling as he announces the closing down of his own long-running (17 years) blog Beyond the Beyond (c/o Wired magazine) ...

Bruce describes it as "a form of psychic relief...  by blogging, I removed things from the fog of vague interest and I oriented them toward possible creative use"

That chimed with my own feelings about the value of unpaid labour: writing as freeform fun, as mental calisthenics, as intellectual hygiene... the blog as public notepad, a testing space or site for the construction of thought-probes

This comment also struck a chord:

"I’m even proud and happy that I managed to spare the readers so much of my own mental compost in this blog. The chosen, curated material that made it on to this blog was maybe one percent of the vast heaps of rubbish I was overturning. I could have stuffed this blog with two hundred times as much “content”..."

One of the problems with having a blog (or blogs multiple) is that you start thinking bloggy  -  everything becomes potential "material", something that could be turned into a riff with only a smidgeon of effort, given the lax standards of the format and the tolerance of the readership.  The incontinence you see (not here these days, but still on the other blogs) is a fraction of the stuff that I have in bulging folders of scrawled notes... and there is more that never even reached paper at all. 

(Perhaps this level of mind-churn was always going on - and getting emitted in letters and later in emails - both of which tend to go copious -  or in conversations in pubs and elsewhere. I don't know. But there's something about the itch caused by having a blog outlet that is generative, for good and for bad).

So here I am in the 18th year of blogging - a little bit longer than Bruce lasted - and although most everybody on the original scene has stopped, a few haven't...  there are newer names who are prolific and copious... and now and then a brannew one gets started.

To adapt the Ivor Cutler ditty, I believe in blogs. I truly believe in blogs.

Still.

Besides, it feels like I couldn't cease operations, even if I wanted to... it's too late to stop now.

But something might have to change.



Monday, May 18, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020

some things



!!!! Foul Play's first two EPs + "Finest Illusion" b/w "Skrewface" get reissued by Sneaker Social Club in a pristine remastered vinyl set titled Origins  !!!!

Here's the blurb I supplied:

"From the slamming science of “Ricochet,” through the jittery ghost-rave of “Survival” and the outer-space lover’s rock of “Dubbing You,” to the manic magic of “Finest Illusion,” this collection of early EPs by rave legends Foul Play tracks an astonishing evolution across barely more than a year. Some of the top tunes to come out of the hardcore > jungle > drum & bass journey? Yes, but also some of the most thrilling and gorgeous music of the entire ‘90s"



Well, it seems the vinyl is already sold out in advance, but the digital album goes on sale on the 22nd of May - and hopefully there will be a repress.




Mexican Summer's Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti reissue program, aka the Ariel Archives, reaches Cycle 2 : The Doldrums, Worn Copy, House Arrest. Each of these retransferred / remastered and deluxely repackaged vinyl double-LPs is accompanied by a liner note essay by yours truly.based on new interviews.




A few years ago I had the pleasure of participating in Donaufestival in Krems, Austria. This year's festival had to be cancelled, like all the others. But a festival reader based on the 2020 leitmotiv, Machines Like Us, has come out with a mixture of essays in German and English. I contributed a piece entitled "Desiring the machine / Machining the desire" which compares the Deleuze-delirious discourse around technorave in the '90s (perped by such as Kodwo, ccru-kru, Kroker and truly yours) with the notably less exultant way that electronic musicians and their critical champions evoke digital technology in the 21st Century: no longer as a Promethean power trip, something exterior to the self that can be harnessed, but as a insidious soft technology worming its way into our interior life, abjecting the self from within.