Monday, March 16, 2020

stuff to read while cooped up for the foreseeable

For starters - a piece by my son Kieran Press-Reynolds on how TikTok is changing pop and the rise of no-melody rap

A little thing I did for Tidal on David Bowie's second album Space Oddity, which they now have up there in "360 Reality Audio"

Stuff to read and stuff to listen to too - for here's a radio show / podcast about The Sex Revolts - which is about to come out in Germany for the first time - produced and hosted by Klaus Walter, featuring interviews with me and Joy Press.

Quite a family affair, this blogpost!

Outside the immediate clan, here's some things worth a peruse:

From a few weeks ago, an interesting piece by Chal Ravens about a sound that has emerged in recent years on the UK club scene based in a transnational eclecticism that coheres through its vibe (percussive, jolting, lots of flashy deejay tricks) and by its relative lack of relationship to either the sound system / hardcore  continuum lineage or to 4/4 house / techno (it'll use elements from both here and there, but the groove feel is different - drawing more on gqom, Jersey club, etc).

major points: 

"sideways not forwards" is the axis on which this music moves i.e. it doesn't have a romance of the future, it has a romance of the exotic

"It’s music to stay on top of rather than music to get lost in" (a sharp description of how the juddering beats put you on edge, you don't trance out)

But unlike it's sort-of precursor deconstructed club, it's very much banging, slamming, hedonistic, exuberant, physical

Enjoyed also Chal's swipe at "the fusty-seeming legacy of the hardcore continuum," something the      nu-generation producers in the UK are keen to leave behind 

If there's a philosophical wrinkle in the project, it's the fact that the style is dependent on the kind of regional sounds that the UK itself is not able to generate anymore - all those African or US-city based genres it draws from

Another interesting piece is this one by Ryan Alexander Diduck (author of Mad Skills: Music and Technology in the 20th Century) in which he attempts to identify what sonically defined the 2010s.  Starting with the observation that "the sound of the decade was … processed...  The electrical signal of almost every recording...  was to some extent rendered synthetic. Pop music of the 2010s was dripping wet with all manner of effects, plug-ins, pitch correction, equalization, delay, reverb, time manipulation... " Diduck suggests that although Auto-Tune is the most well-known and ubiquitous form of this plastic-fantastication of pop, side-chain compression was "equally omnipresent," if less easily apprehended by the layperson listener.  You're hearing it constantly, but you don't necessarily know that you're hearing it.  Diduck further argues that side-chain compression constitutes not just a recording technique (squeezing "the volume of a.... specific instrument or track [let’s say, the bass guitar] to the input of another instrument or track [say, the kick drum]") but that it carries with it and imbues a techno-politics. "Technologies enact, technically, analogous cultural logics.... [they] act out our shared understandings and expectations about how things could or should be in the world." 

The argument is quite intricate, but the gist is that sidechain compression represents a kind of regulation of noise, allowing for disruption but channeling and constraining it. "Each time any sound too aggressively enters into the sonic field, other sounds drop out to absorb the potential trauma of a distorted signal."  This happens automatically. "Side-chain compression can therefore be read as a kind of sonic risk management system" - one that parallels the "algorithmic, artificially intelligent, and ideally automated functioning of global capitalism. Our system is built to absorb, redistribute and even to foresee shocks of all stripes: economic, political, social, environmental..."

Towards the end, Diduck - writing some weeks ago, before the current crisis - wonders whether there could be a "a shock that cannot be conceived, much less compressed, yet to come?" Well, events overtake: it could be that it is now upon us, a catastrophic shock to the system that can't be assimilated, absorbed, and turned to profit....  an abyss of pure loss.  

(Incidentally, Diduck starts the piece referring to my series of end-of-decade pieces on conceptronica, the resurgence of ambient and new age, and streaming in music and TV' , which he describes as "each more contentious than the last". [He missed one, though - the feature on trap and its globalisation].  Weird -  I don't feel there's anything hugely contentious about any of those pieces - I mean, they each have an argument, but they're hardly inflammatory or willfully contrarian. If people's tolerance for "opinionated" has weakened that much.... ooer missus)