Monday, September 17, 2018


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

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Writing in Reading ( x 2)

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

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

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

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

More information about Writing the Noise here.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

prayers and thoughts - soul and meta-soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this too, where the explicit citation is Percy Sledge

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

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