Monday, March 31, 2003

Normal service will be resumed soonish. Must admit blogging seems pretty trivial at the moment (no offence to the blogging massive, keep on keepin' on, etc etc). But as the war takes on more and more of a prolonged, verging on perpetual, appearance, it's starting to seem necessary to embrace trivia for its life-affirming aspects, in the face of the deathly seriousness running amok in the world right now. Plus the home front needs its garridge goss and infolded meta-critical dissensions, right?

Talking of near-perpetual wars and extended occuptations, there was some military expert on CNN an hour ago who suggested the American troops had much to learn from their British colleagues, what with the latter's experience in Northern Ireland with street to street fighting (and "winning the hearts and minds of the local population"--cue hollow, poisoned laughter). What a ghastly analogy! British troops were over there for, like 30 years---in fact they're still there, right? It summons to mind a nightmare scenario of underground terrorist organisations wreaking retribution against anyone-and-their-families who collaborates with the protectorate's administrators, collaborating possibly meaning the most minor bureaucratic job like running water & sanitation or organising refuse collection.

I know jackshit about military strategy or the Middle East, of course, but any idiot can see now that the only outcome awaiting either side is an empty victory. It's a lose-lose situation, whose Pyrrhic aftermath will extend for generations. This massive geopolitical experiment, embarked upon with an almost exuberant nonchalance about the consequences, defies belief.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Talking of voices, how come there isn't a compilation or even a box-set (and maybe there is and I just don't know about it) of free vocal music, extremists of the human voice? Ideally vocal performances unaccompanied by music, or at least not mediated by technology and studio techniques (you could have a whole other compilation of that stuff: "Starsailor"). You could have one disc for the avant-classical lineage: the Dadaists and bruitism, Ligeti's choral stuff (as per 2001: A Space Odyssey), Cathy Berberian singing Berio, Stockhausen's Stimmung, Meredith Monk. Another disc for out-jazz: Patty Waters, there must be shitloads of other freeform vocalese types I don't know about. (Question: why does most free jazz leave me cold when it's instruments but is totally enthralling when it's the larynx?). A third disc for edge-of-rock: Diamanda Galas, Yoko Ono, live tapes of Buckley disastrously touring the Starsailor material, Furious Pig (this great Rough Trade vocals-only outfit, did one EP for the label, had a track on C81--lsounded a bit like the Pop Group as barbershop quartet, grunts and howls and infra-human mewlings, they were inspired by pygmy music), Arto Lindsay's Christmas Rose Choir. And disc four would be like world music: Inuit plainsong (there was a disappointing CD of this stuff out on Sub Rosa i think it was a few years ago, but i remember an Eskimo field-recording lp a friend had in the early Eighties, amazing breath-pulse duets that sounded like DAF or something, then they'd burst out giggling after two minutes), Tuvan throat-singing, pygmy monkey-chant.... This is all just scratching the surface I'm sure, suggestions welcome.
House of God. My friend Tobias Rapp tells me that in German, the word for DJ booth--
DJ Kanzel---translates literally as DJ pulpit.

Incantation. That's the word I was struggling for re. the Eno My Life In the Bush/pirate MC connection and fired-up voices that become melodic and highly-contoured. Isn't there a German word for this too -- sprechstimme or something?

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Two more:
Madness versus Reason---there's a thin line between being mad-for-it and being plain loony-tunes, between commitment and being committed (to the nuthouse).

Patriotism/chauvinism versus cosmopolitanism/multiculturalism.

The primal scene below of me, horrified yet compelled, being confronted by Rapturous Belief for the first time in the form of those girls in the Oxford church is a weird pre-echo of my first proper rave, Progeny, in Brixton autumn '91, where the kids looked like adepts of some modern Dionysian cult religion, blissed girls with eyes shut carved strange geometric patterns in the air with their hands, and the lights "conjured frescoes in the air". I wonder what a French feminist would say of the persistent trope of the "maenad" which crops up repeatedly in my writing about techno, from Castlemorton to that psy-trance rave in Puerto Rico: the ecstatic born-again girl, possessed by the sacred frenzy. Gender tourism? Clitoris envy? Helene Cixous, Luce Irigray, if you're reading this, drop me a line, yeah?

Monday, March 10, 2003


(which may, as Sterling Clover argues, just be rewording the same binary, but then again: isn’t that what most criticism entails? Translating things into different terms, in the process altering the angle at which you look at things, shedding slightly differently light?

I think of all of them this is the one that makes the dilettante look the most civilised and attractive actually. For sure, monotheism has certain appealing attributes: it accesses and enables will-to-power, a certain fieriness and urgency of rhetoric) but these are outweighed by the bad stuff: blinkeredness, intolerance, an excessively polarized worldview-- godly versus ungodly, chosen few versus the hellbound heathens. Polytheism, by contrast, has a lot going for it: it tends to be syncretic (sort of spiritual sampladelia) painlessly incorporating other beliefs, and it's not nearly as moralistic. Generally it’s much more Deleuzian, rhizomatic, multi-plateaued, non-hierarchic. And it has greater proximity to everyday life (household gods etc). Where monotheist religions are usually extremely successful at propagating themselves, polytheism is more laidback, it’s not looking to make converts to anything like the same extent. Off the top of my head I can't think of any polytheist religions that have dealt in jihads, crusades, holy wars, inquisitions, witch-burning. Of course there are lots of different polytheisms, from Hinduism to the Ancient Greeks and Romans to all sorts of pagan creeds. They’re not always particularly cuddly, often entailing sacrifices and unpleasant rituals. Still, it seems like there’s a good case for pop as innately pagan and polytheistic (that’s what Camille Paglia would say, although she’d also say it was Roman Catholic, all about incense and ritual and iconicity). Seems to me that the Pop-ist view of the world is actually animist (spirit-gods and mini-deities everywhere) or even pantheistic. As per Meltzer’s Aesthetics of Rock, all pop--the bad and the good, the trivial and the immortal, Herman’s Hermits and The Archies as much as the Stones and Dylan--is a manifestation of the divine, is made of the same god-stuff. And I actually feel like that fairly often: that I love it ALL, even the crap; even the stuff I don’t like, I like, if you get me. Hence the appeal of VH1 Classic: the rubbish, the absurdity, the dismal failure, is all part of THE GREATER GLORY. (This may however just be a corrupting side-effect of doing “this” for a long time: after a certain point you almost get more of a buzz out of bad music than good music, the defective stuff is more thought-provoking somehow, and ‘good music’ is too easy, there’s way too much of it for a start).

Winner: Dilettantism.


It must have been 1982, and for some reason I went to Church. This was Oxford and I think me and my friends were on some anti-clericalist kick at the time, there were a lot of Christian evangelical groups preying on lost and lonely students, we used to attend and ask difficult questions, the obnoxious know-it-all fuckers that we were; this attending a Sunday service must have been some kind of field-research, I can’t think why else I would be there, since I don't believe (ha, ironic). It was your typical C of E vibe, middle aged ladies with nice hats, everyone trying to sing as quietly as they could get away with. But in the pew next to us were these girls, they must have been in some Anglican fringe group, maybe one of the Christian outreach groups had freshly converted them, at any rate they were HARDCORE. Beseeching and clasping hand gestures, supplicant arms reaching out and aloft to Jesus as if to pull him to their breasts, looks of rapture and gratitude, shining eyes, only a few notches below St Theresa. You could tell the other parishioners disapproved of how unseemly, how un C of E it was (Anglicanism: as close to agnosticism as you can away with, without pissing God off). For me it was embarrassing yet fascinating, I couldn't stop peeking round at them.

So that’s me innit: the non-believer fascinated by the believers. And on this tip, this very morn I stumbled upon an old Brian Eno quote from 1981, circa My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, where he talks about how during the making of the record he and Byrne found themselves gradually, unconsciously drawn towards preachers as sample sources for that record, ‘cos they were more exciting than the tempered, even-toned voices of newscasters. “When people speak passionately they speak in melodies, [their voices become] highly contoured and melodic”. And through pondering .”why do preachers sound the best?”, Eno and Byrne concluded it was because: “They convey a sense of energy and commitment to some belief or other.” So here the ultimate dilettante sensualist-sceptic Englishman confronts his Other: the Devout All Fired-Up Believer. Moreover, he started to understand the appeal of fundamentalist Christianity in the context of Carter’s America, as a sort of rock’n’roll for the godly: “in such a bland situation such an energy is suddenly very attractive." Of course when I read the quote, esp the bit about speaking in melodies and highly contoured voices, I immediately thought that Eno was describing my own feelings about garage rap/dancehall-influenced MC-ing in the pirate radio tradition. And there’s a real connection there, a thread connecting Pentecostalism and Baptism and Afro-Protestant religions in Jamaica (of which there were several others apart from Rasta) as they filtered into the vocal stylings of house, rap, roots reggae, dancehall…. Modes of utterance and cadence as well as actual concepts (redemption, salvation, being born again, trance, possession, testifying, speaking in tongues, glossalalia etc etc etc). So there really is a sense that religion can be like rock’n’roll and rock’n’roll can be like religion.

Winner: Fanaticism

3/ LOVE SEX ROMANCE: Monogamy versus Playing the Field.
This wasn’t a big hit with the ILM cru but I think it has some applications. I’ve got a bit of a roving ear but I do feel kinda matrimonial towards the ol’ pirate-radio hardcore-continuum. We’ve been through some rough patches, mind, we weren’t getting along at all well in 2001. But at the moment it’s like a second honeymoon. (In a bizarre synchrony, the year Joy and I got married: 1992). By comparison, the dilettantism thing really is like being a swinging bachelor or bachelorette. Actually I think in the age of MP3’s and filesharing it’s much more like cruising, actually: Soulseek and Kazaa as the modern audio equivalent of the bathhouse. Music as a series of ultra-intense but transient encounters. Where it’s almost like the scene, the infrastructure, the milieu, the process, itself that is erotic rather than any specific sexual/musical act or partner. The buzzthrill of pure connectivity rather than actual connection. (I’m speculating here, the only downloads I’ve ever down are the mash-ups when they were first out. Already got WAY too much music).

Winner: a tie.

Can’t think of a conceptual way of framing this polarity, but it’s like the difference between going to different ethnic restaurants all the time or sticking to your native-born or one chosen cuisine. The fanatic stance is a bit like eating just pizza all your life: the toppings may vary a lot, you could maybe stretch to piadini or some garlic knots now and then, but you’d basically be eating the same thing over and over. The only advantage is the Zen possibilities this would afford: you might learn to experience infinities in the subtle variations of crust and sauce. But overall, the dilettante option wins hands down here. That said, my music preferences would translate to the following: likes to eat at different ethnic restaurants, but generally thinks fusion cuisine is a bad idea. (Which doesn't correlate with my actual gustatory preferences at all really).

Winner: Dilettantism

So, overall, dilettantism wins, 2 and a half to one and a half. I would add finally that by and large, when it comes to being a good read, dilettantes---or to call 'em by their respectable rockcrit name, “generalists"--win hands down over the genre-ists/fanatics. Specialist writers are almost uniformly dreary, incapable of standing outside their own passion (which is often oddly muted anyway, more churchy/dogmatic/doctrinal than evangelical/ecstatic) and unable/unwilling to make a case for it or explain it in terms that mean anything to outsiders. Generalists have multiple perspectives and a lot more angles and contrasts to work with; they also tend to be more jolly and cheerful perhaps because they don't have to listen to such an inordinate amount of shit music as the stick-to-one-genre types. With genre-ists at best you get meticulously researched, factually informative archivalism (all those Steve Barrow types); at worst, you get the UK dance press, or undie hip hop writers writing crypticisms for the amusement of six friends (the non-black ones seem to be the worst offenders here) or your average indie-rock/lo-fi/emo/garage-punk fanzine where the righteousness of Da Cause is taken for granted and all they do is stamp their feet and state their druthers (I told you I was naturalized! Actually that’s cheating, it’s a sample from Christgau). So I guess I am a kind of genre-ist/generalist hybrid, or a generalist who prefers music made by genre-ists and tries to cream off the best of each tunnel-visioned creed.

And the welcome return of Jess Harvell--the crazily mixed up kid who may one day surprise us all and breed/rear/ride his own horse. But only if he EMBRACES THE INSANITY. A "sane" relationship with music is fine, if you're happy with remaining a civilian.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

The welcome return of Tim Finney, who hasn't been posting but has clearly not stopped thinking. I love the idea of him caffeinated to the gills knocking out that piece in the internet cafe! Time to get a proper internet connection Tim. Here he's writing on that funk vs funklessness dialectic which is so crucial in dance music and black music generally. The paradox that funky music can sometimes get so funkily looselimbed it's not that funky anymore, and that it's actually funkier to have stiff beats (hence 'Pulse X' after 2step's excessively frisky multi-accented nimbleness). Until the beats get too stiff and you have to go the other way again. (Which is why 'Made You Look's apache break is so refreshing after all the neo-electro beats in hip hop -- it's the anti-Grindin').

Maybe the solution is to have both going on at the same time? For instance in house, you often get a totally monolithic kick-drum but these real frisky, hyper-syncopated hi-hat patterns. Seems like the history of dance music involves the shifting back and forth across "the drum kit" (which obviously in programmed rhythm is increasingly fantastical and not based on a real-world analogue) of where the loose funky bits and where the rigid inflexible strands of the rhythm are located. If only one had some real drumming knowledge, then it might be possible to do a grand historical breakdown of the various forms and see how that applies to James Brown, or skank, or garage, or___.

Actually the definition of funk itself might be the play of mechanistic/inflexible rhythmic elements with more fluent elements, the whole matrix becoming a metaphor for freedom-within-discipline, or liberation-through-work/commitment, or self-realisation achieved through participation/communality.

Oops, there I go attributing social weight/resonance to musical forms again! I just can't adjust to this weightless world we now apparently live in.

Friday, March 07, 2003

And Tom has a very well-argued response to the below at NYLPM. And there is also an ILM thread worrying at fanaticism versus dilettantism and related issues: starts off somewhat bogged in people being defensive about having very eclectic record collections (well, guess what folks, so do I--that’s not really what I was getting at), survives the hiccup of a classic Frank Kogan intervention ("I’ve barely read the thread and haven’t read the original article but I’m going to offer my opinions anyway, voluminously") then opens out a bit and becomes very interesting. Needless to say it's all stirring up a shitload of further thoughts at this end which I will be depositing here in days to come. Oops, went a bit Viz with that last mixed metaphor--sorry.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Cos we don’t play games yunno. Marc Arcadipane has a new LP out. Not a mix-CD, a full length single-artist album. The Mover’s Frontal Frustration is released by Tresor, the first time he’s put out all-new stuff on a label that wasn’t PCP-clan or his own label since R&S way back in ’92. When I first learned he was recording for Tresor, I was a bit worried that Acardipane would be subconsciously affected by being accepted back into the fold of respectability, Tresor being the home of serious techno (Berlin-Detroit alliance and all that). That coming in from the cold, metaphorically, he might be tempted to come in from the cold, literally: thaw out his sound, subtlety it up a bit. But no, Frontal Frustration is a glorious slab of doomcore, a wintry blast from the outer regions.

Acardipane is one of those figures I class as “culture warriors”. The stick-to-their-guns sort, who follow their own path regardless of fashion-cycles and fads. Unswayable, chasing their own vision, fixated to the exclusion of all other stylistic possibilities, a bit blinkered. To quote Joe Carducci (on Robin Trower!!!) you might say of Acardipane: “his colors don’t vary much but he is their master”. You are not suddenly going to get Acardipane dabbling with rhumba rhythms, or making a little foray into Eighties nu-wave.

The culture warrior is the opposite of the dilettante.
Recently in a survey of 2002’s manifold disparate pleasures
Tom Ewing suggested that “we are all dilettantes now.”
2002 was “a very, very good year to be a dilettante” and an awful one for believers, crusaders, culture-warrior appreciators. Basically reprising his founding Freakytrigger anti-manifesto, No Revolution, the idea is sorta “here’s to the small things, the small things in pop life that give pleasure” (that’s me slightly misquoting a Pere Ubu lyric, not Tom), 2002 being a year full of small delights but no Next Big Thing worth rallying around. I actually find Tom’s argument quite persuasive but more in a proof-of-the-pudding way: the grace and humor of the writing as he goes through his fave tracks of last year--sorta, if this be the fruit of dilettantism then bring it on, bring it on.

There’s no doubt that dabbling and darting all over the shop is a painless, risk-free way to engage with music. You are protected from disappointment or heartbreak, because you’ve not invested that much of yourself, and you can nimbly sidestep the cycles of dearth and famine that afflict all genres, because you’re free to flit off to some other area that’s currently coming up with the goods (as per the Theory of Vibe Migration). Which makes good pragmatic sense in a way: I remember a slightly late convert to drum’n’bass of my acquaintance writing in ’98 about how the anthem-devoid d&b scene at that moment was all about “sticking together through the dry spell”, and I thought to myself: what’s the point? If the well’s run dry, go quench thyself elsewhere, like frinstance the succulent springs of 2step garage, in ’98 at its most bubblicious.

For me there’s a big flaw in the pro-dilettantism argument, though, and it’s that while the approach works fine as a consumer aesthetic, it doesn’t generate strong work when the creator is a dabbler too. I can only think of two consistently compelling dilettantes in rock, David Bowie and Brian Eno. (And even Eno, as much as his rhetoric and theories provide a highly sophisticated validation of dilettantism, is actually quite aesthetically fixated: the same sounds, the same preoccupations, run through his work). Even Saint Etienne, who seem to fit the profile, are quite monomaniacal about chasing their pop dream. (I would class them as culture-warriors actually--see, being a warrior ain’t nececessarily anything to do with making hard-sounding music). Who else have we got? Momus? He makes a good argument for rootless cosmopolitanism, in his writing and maybe in his music too. But in a Mover versus Momus square-off, I think you know whose side I’d be on.

Actually, I think all truly great pop is made from a fanatical place. I recall Paddy MacAloon in one of the earliest Prefab interviews talking with admiration and envy about the “fanaticism” that Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones brought to the making of Off The Wall and Thriller, and how he, Paddy, was in a different, lesser league by comparison. You don’t think Max Martin or Timbaland or Pharrell Williams or -------- [insert fave pop-ist auteur] aren’t absolute fanatics about what they’re doing? That Martin Rushent or Trevor Horn weren’t utterly driven individuals?

There was another bit in Ewing’s Download This/2002. Best. Year. Ever. piece that made me go ‘hang on a minute, mate’. In the closing peroration, he says: “I think the pop writer's job is to take fads seriously, to pretend there's something important about bootlegs, or the new rock, or gutter-garridge, or whatever else you fancy, just like the people we read pretended there was something important about Romo and Elvis Presley.” The idea here reminds me of the philosopher Richard Rorty (a big fave of Eno’s, come to think of it) and his notion of “language games”; we step in and out of different discourses, and the civilised liberal-relativist thing to do is suspend believe in their ultimate truth-value; also important is to recognise that the different discourses are radically incommensurate (so you can read Bataille, but vote Liberal Democrat, listen to gangsta rap but deplore real-world violence: there’s no need to have your values all perfectly consistent and congruent across the entire surface of your life.) Rorty claims some lineage from Nietzche, if my hazy memory of his books still serves. But compared with Friedrich, ol’ Rich is such a milquetoast (awesome American rockwriter word, you can tell I’m fully naturalized now, I’ll be using ‘druthers’ and ‘savvy’ next). On a prose level, Nietzche versus Rorty is like Mover versus Momus.

The way I take the comment about “pretending” to take things seriously is not the as-intended liberating proposition that all things are equally capable of being made to seem important, but the reverse:
“all things are equally trivial”, until we decide otherwise. But fact is, the Romo-crusaders, by this point, would appear to be quite mistaken while those who think Elvis was world-historically important would so far seem to be correct. (Notwithstanding the fact that I’d rather read Price & Parkes’s Romanifesto, however delusory, than Guralnick’s two-volume Presley book, however meticulously accurate). As for the nu garage punk versus punk-garridge, the jury’s still out, but trus me blud when I say one’s trivial and the other’s crucial, that one is a waste of your time/life-force and the other’s not, I may be totally wrong but I mean it maaaan.

See, a big part of being into music entails not being into all of it but believing that certain bits of it are almost infinitely more exciting/important/urgent than other bits (In other words, that things have intrinsic qualities). That’s been part of it since at least rock’n’roll. The open-to-everything stance flattens the landscape-- turning a cultural battleground into a harvest festival.

I was reminded of Rorty and his “language games” when listening to some garage rap and realising there was a Stock Garage Rap Theme I’d forgotten to include in the inventory. Again and again, you get variations on “we don’t play games yunno”, “life is not a game to play”, “we don’t walk and we don’t play”. Like in Sharky Major’s song as reffed by Luke last week, “life ain't a game/nah, it's too real to be a game.” You get the same thing in hip hop: talking about his new album, DMX said "Motherf*ckers get it twisted now- it's not a game, dog. My next album is not a game, it’s my last album”. This strident insistence that something is at stake is worth taking seriously, or at least not ridiculing instantly, knee-jerk style. We’ve all learned to be embarrassed by the A-words (“authentic”, ”authenticity”), to wince inside when people use expressions like “keep it real” or “the streets”. And as an ex-postmodernist (I’m ex-pomo like some are lapsed Catholics or apostate Marxists, this stuff never really leaves you), I too used to feel reflexively squeamish about this kind of talk. But I came round to it, pragmatically rather than through theoretic readjustment, when I couldn’t help noticing that all the music that most excited me was full of these sort of utterances---“fi real’, “trus me”, “believe it’--and was underpinned by concepts like “the streets,” “hardcore,” “underground”. Not only was the music that came from this mindset approximately ten times more fired-up than your properly pomo “passionate irony” dabble-stuff with its double-quotes and concealed smirk, but those atavistic utterances themselves fair burned your ear with their intensity and conviction. So clearly the discourse of "the streets" and "the real" is not only surprisingly persistent, it still marshals massive emotive power and resonance; people believe in it. It’s something you snigger at or feel superior to, not exactly at your peril, but at your loss. For a surprisingly large number of people music is still a matter of urgency; listening to it, making it, is almost a biological need. This is even more the case with UKG/dancehall/rap, where music-making and economic livelihood are so inextricably bound together. (By contrast, dilettanteeism, is essentially, even if only in aspiration rather than actuality, an aristocratic sensibility, a form of dandyism; those who dabble are those who can afford to).

I still don’t know if I believe in any of the A-words but I believe in belief. And I think I can spot a fake (or to put it more finely, an artist who is not fully invested in whatever is their particular fantasy/delusion/performance/role). All good things in life come from seriousness--a seriousness that doesn’t preclude laughter or play, fooling around or making a fool yourself (indeed the risk of that is intrinsic to taking things/yourself [too] seriously) but equally doesn’t leave much room for semi-detachment, standing slightly outside one’s own utterances. Because life’s too short. So big up alla the culture warriors---from Marc Arcadipane to Martin Bramah, “no compromise in the name of truth”. Fi real. As the expression goes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I mean to say, that must be about as far into the heart of the mainstream anyone even remotely connected with the hardcore-continuum's got, right? Goldie on Eastenders and in the window of Top Man doesn't count 'cos that's just the U.K, plus he's not repping himself as musician, which Craig D still notionally is. Goldie has ascended to the level of pure causeless originless freefloating celebrityhood (That Lyn Barber profile last year simply left out the entire hardcore/drum'n'bass phase of his career). Who else is there? Prodigy maybe.

On the more subliminal insidious cultural-virus tip, they use Boogie Times Tribe's "The Dark Stranger", that scared-out-your-wits, heart-palpitation beat, as interstitial music on BET.
Overheard at K-Mart. So I'm waiting at the check-out with me Brita Water Filters and disposable razors and an increasingly restless Kieran, and this familiar British voice, dulcet verging on oily, comes over the tannoy. "Hi, I'm Craig David, don't forget to check out K-Mart's complete collection of Grammy-nominated albums in the CD section, where you can pick up my album Born To Do It featuring the Grammy-nominated single "Seven Days". And while you're there don't forget to check out my new CD Slicker Than Your Average." Blimey, he's come a long way from doing station idents on Mack FM.
1/ First off, at Stylus blog, if you scroll down a bit you get to Matthew Wiener’s entry of Feb 24, an eulogy to Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler. And true, it is a fantastic book. A real fetish object, for a start: pocket-sized, a sort of psychedelic version of the Observer Book of Birds, all those full color repros of the triptastic sleeves, yum!. As for JC's gloriously over-the-top prose-poem evocations of the music, there's a case for thinking of Cope as the Great Rockwriter Should Have Been (he did a fabulous article on garage punk in NME in 83 or so; maybe he missed his true calling, ‘Treason’ and Peggy Suicide notwithstanding). BUT I fear Mr. Wiener is distinctly mistaken when he claims that Joolz singlhandedly started the Krautrock revival. Far from KrautR bands being dismissed as longhaired loon-panted guitarwanking hippies until JC opened our eyes, I can hardly remember a time when Krautrock wasn’t hip. Maybe for a little bit in the early-mid Eighties when New Pop was all the rage it kind of dipped off the radar of cool. But otherwise from the Can/Neu!-indebted postpunk of Metal Box, Remain In Light, and Fall albums too numerous to list (remember ‘I am Damo Suzuki’?) through to late Eighties stuff like Sonic Youth (Ciccone Youth’s “Two Cool Chicks Listening to Neu!”), Loop (1988’s cover of ‘Mother Sky’) and Spacemen 3/Spiritualized (all up in that Cluster/Harmonia/Neu/Faust zone). Over in New Zealand you had The Clean drawing on the Neu! blueprint, and back in Blighty, from 1988’s Bummed through the early 90s ravey stuff Happy Mondays were churning out some dead-ringer Tago Mago/Landed type mantra-funk-with-gibbering-loon-on-vox. Critically speaking, all through the late Eighties and early Nineties, from the pages of zines like Forced Exposure to inkies like Melody Maker, Krautrock was a perennial reference point. And what about Pavement ripping off The Fall and the Krauts equally from '91 onwards? Stereolab were on the Neu! motorik route several years before Krautrocksampler came out. So, the more you think about it, the more Joolz seems to have been a bit slow off the mark. In fact, that's what I remember thinking at the time: triffic book, not exactly a timely intervention.

2/ There I was, feeling a bit guilty about taking the piss out of David Keenan a few weeks back, but what d’yaknow, in his Wire magazine Faust cover story, he only goes and dumps all over my absolute favorite Faust album! Keenan dismisses Faust IV, with the sole exception of the opening “Krautrock” (which, immense-sounding as it is, I’d always been told was their genre pisstake/parody) as consisting “of slight pop songs and distressing reggae workouts”. Slight pop songs! Can he be talking about “Jennifer,” one of the most eerily beautiful psychedelic love-songs ever recorded, and named after my mum to boot? The lopsided frenzy of “Giggy Smile”? “It’s A Bit of A Pain”, which could be a great lost track off the third Velvet Underground album? In fact the whole of Side 2 is amazing. As for the “distressing reggae workouts”, there’s just one--“The Sad Skinhead”, whimsical and off-kilter quasi-skank for sure, but you’d have to be pretty stern of heart not to be amused by it. See, this is where J.Cope’s book is invaluable, he concedes that Faust IV is not as “brave’ or “experimental” as The Faust Tapes or the first album, but he still loves it and rates several of the songs among Faust's very greatest. To me Keenan’s brusque dismissal of this wondrous album is part of a general Wire bias which over-values innovation above all other criteria. For me innovation is only ever about 20 percent of why a record’s any good, there’s got to be emotion, sheer beauty, a bit of ‘social energy’ doesn’t hurt either. Because the quality of innovativeness is not something that lasts. By definition it’s not timeless; the world catches up, everybody starts doing it, it’s very hard to recapture that shock-of-the-new sensation. (C.f. Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel). So there have to be other things to recommend a work. Not that The Faust Tapes hasn’t got them in spades but the difference in radicalism between the first three albums and Faust IV doesn’t seem all that striking now.
Job I wish I had. Whoever at VH1 Classic it is who has to descend into the stacks that I love to imagine burrow deep and far under the MTV/VH1 Tower, and dig out the glorious ancient crap with which they delight us. One-miss artists you never even heard of from the mid-Eighties. Twilight Byrds on some German TV show circa 1970, McGuinn's eyes black lost and fucked. Eddie Money's disturbing facial movements and hand gestures in the video for "Shaking". Synth-sellout era Psych Furs w/ Richard Butler dressed in a strange big-shouldered, tight-at-the-waist garment like a cross between Mikado get-up and a middle-aged lady's housecoat. Nitzer Ebb's preposterous promo for "Control I'm Here". A Greg Allmann solo single, the Wild West video featuring a posse of badge-wearing and gun-toting chicks hunting down outlaw lovermen. Heavy-rock pioneers Vanilla Fudge descerating "You Keep Me Hangin' On", every band member furiously mugging and over-projecting, like Eric Clapton in Cream to the power of a hundred. Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You", an audio-visual lame-fest, with tiny Buck Dharma's marvellously misconceived silver lame chest-hair exposing outfit, hairdo, moustache, face. I could go on, and on, and on....
Slow on the uptake. Sean Paul is, like, a white guy!!?!! It's not like you can tell from the records.
Call that a rock star?!?. Remove the nu-metal dreads and snitty little goatee, and Korn's Jonathan Davis looks a lot like Dame Edna Everage.
Dizzy Rascal interview at Hyperdub, My,
there’s a lot of new slang.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Stop Press: Man Like Bob Zemko says mystery tune "Strings of Death" is "Scarface" by Blackjack.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Seems like a decent enough interval has elapsed since the G-Rap Footnotes Binge. Time for some UKG+MC brief notes...
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First up, the legendary Man like Luke’s gotta blog, with the mysterious name Heronbone. . And his mind’s crackling like a supercharged circuit. Your new first stop for all the garridge goss hot off the press, or pirates rather.
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Talking of Luke, all over his tapes is this killer tune ‘Vice Versa’ by Kano (of Nasty Crew). This must be the first post-“I Love You” track, with a sing-song robo-psycho chorus that goes “girls love boys love girls/boys love girls love boys” (echo--intentional?--of Blur’s one hot moment there) and the same sour-cynical seventeen year old boy tryna act all hardhearted to the chix vibe as Dizzee Rascal: “it’s a shame/I know the game/but every girl’s the same”. On Locked On, Luke reckons.
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Talking of Dizzee, he’s signed to XL apparently, although I heard he was being chased by even bigger fish (or maybe that’s Roll Deep--million dollar deals, Warners in the running, so the rumors go). Still, XL seems a shrewd move in terms of staying hardcore but having the muscle to go Top 5 (Prodigy, Base Jaxx etc). Over on this side of the Atlantic, Vice Recordings were looking to debut their new 7 inch single series with “I Love You” paired with More Fire’s “Oi!”, but apparently got priced out of the market.
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And talking of Roll Deep cru, finally got to hear the Wiley presents Icerink EP (courtesy of the Man Like Luke), quite possibly UKG’s very first riddim album: one groove versioned by 12 different MCS, including Dizzee, Kano, Sharky Major and Wiley himself. Shattering stuff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, riddimologically speaking this music has NOTHING to do with garage anymore. It’s like they’ve taken the most dementedly asymmetric elements of dancehall and bounce drum programming and merged them into this limb-dislocating robo-palsy. It’s totally denatured music, nothing in it is trying to parallel the way an acoustic drum kit is organised or sound, to give any impression of percussive events occurring in a real acoustic space. These are kids whose genetic drumcode was forged with ‘Terminator’, ‘Timestretch,’ Buju’s ‘Big It Up’, who probably aren’t even old enough to remember those tunes. They’re never known any other way beats should be. Biorhythmically speaking, there’s something real unhealthy about this music; you get the feeling that it’s made by people who inhabit an environment that’s both physically and culturally toxic, their nervous systems jangled and fogged from videogames and cable TV, high-grade hydro and sugar-choked beverages, fast food and faster beats. Chronic hyperstimulation. Air stale and thick with ions and the emissions of computers and leisure technology. So, in a sense, it’s folk music, the product of its environment. Folk, fucked.

Side note: what I’ve got on this tape is the record being aired on a pirate for the first time, in its entirety, and Wiley keeps talking over the record to discourage people from “thiefing it”. Apparently there’s scoundrels out there who will tape prerelease tunes off the pirate airwaves, burn ‘em up on CD or DAT, and then press them up as their own bootleg dubplates and DJ them. Which can’t be the best sound quality, but is appropriately dog-eat-dog.
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Elswhere on the unofficial gutter-garridge webring, Ingram notes (an entry or two back) the current prevalence of a tracky Chicago house/Detroit techno flavor in some of the 4-beat/8-bar backing tuneage on the pirates. This made me think of this pirate tape track I’ve nicknamed “Strings of Death”. Following an Al Pacino/Scarface sample, pizzicato synth-strings twitch tensely, instilling a real cold-fever foreboding, the icicle-stab pattern is swathed with yet more Detroit-like pseudo-strings. Then the track stops dead and there’s the most most hair-raising darkness-beckons string-glissando threnody-effect, a kind of ghastly mystic shudder rises up inside you, like your spine's turning to ice. Then it drops into more par-for-the-course Swizz/Ludacris dirgey horn-fanfare groove. A great ominous tune. Help me ID it please!