Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mike Powell chips in. re. the Klaxons--likes the record, hates "the rhetoric"

See, if he means the stuff the band themselves spout, well I kinda think that's how UK bands should be--mouthy but confused, fired up by having read a lot of stuff they've not properly digested. In that respect they do remind me a bit of Manic Street Preachers, who very early on I did kind of fall for as rhetoricians (only to become increasingly aghast at, as actual music makers).

The current (jan/feb) issue of XLR8R is well worth checking out: various pieces on things going on in current art and design that draw inspiration from rave and/or psychedelia, a piece on Myths of the Near Future producers Simian Mobile Disco, and the Klaxons as the cover story, an interview done a little while back before they started to concertedly disown the Nu-Rave concept. And it's a good piece with plenty of that sort of garbled autodidact stuff, e.g. on “Atlantis to Interzone”, an explanation from Simon Taylor:

“It’s about two kinds of weird non-spaces. There’s Atlantis the lost city, and Interzone, which is like a William Burroughs mind-space. I guess it’s kind of like trekking through your head from place to place. The idea of young kids singing along between these two places that didn't really exist was kind of funny.”

And a useful musical self-definition from Jamie Reynolds*

“We wanted to make organic dance music. All the dance bands relied on electronic programming and drum machines. We wanted to take that and give it a human element. The sort of breakbeats that were used in tunes in the early ‘90s, we take those beats and recreate them on drums… It’s about taking an early-90s approach but making that into apocalyptic pop songs”.

Taylor adds:

“We’re looking for that sort of early-90s euphoric feeling, but not necessarily that sound.”

* eerie isn't it how if you combine the names of the two main people in the band it becomes my name...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

History Is Made At Night--a blog concerned with "the politics of dancing and musicking"--with some useful background on the nu-rave

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

RIP Uwe Nettelbeck

one of the original music-journalist-as-music-catalysts

plus a rather belated

RIP Alice Coltrane

jeez they're dropping off like flies aren't they... i dread to think who's next really i do
oh and c.f. the Klaxons and the KLF comparision below, well Philip Sherburne says that the band's Jamie Reynolds told him that "they followed The Manual step by step!!!"
synchron-E -- excellent and detailed piece by Philip Sherburne on Nu-Rave and its German counterpart Rave Strikes Back

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Me on the Klaxons album*

And apparently their name isn't a play on the raver’s air-horn (i'm sure i read that somewhere) but from a line in the Futurist Manifesto

That Ballardian album title--Myths of the Near Future--it’s almost like they’re angling for the crucial K-punk endorsement!

Of course it should really be called Myths of the Recent Past

The myth in question being the Myth of Rave.

The group seem to be already backing away from the term “nu rave”, their coinage apparently, clearly in the hope of making it as a Big Band that transcends the fad-scene that served as mere launch-pad. Still, the idea of rave–blurrily grasped, based on pre-teen memories of N-Joi on TOTP, hearsay, some reading maybe–has clearly been a prime catalyst. You only have to look at their early (meaning six months ago!) interviews, where they talk of 91-92 as a real touchstone, a spur, an instigating ideal.

Even if their coinage of nu-rave was just "a joke", as is now claimed, it's a joke that struck a chord, lit a spark--judging by the earnest testimony in this New York Times article.

Now how do those of us who actually lived through and participated in this mass eruption of gladness-as-madness--the last full-on movement in UK youth culture, a complete subculture package with its own style and slang and dance-moves and rituals--how do we respond to this development, very different from the various retro-rave currents that have been generated internally by dance culture? For this is the Enemy (or should i say NME) hijacking our memories, the hegemonic indie-rock culture despoiling our myth for its own ends. Yet it's too easy to take shelter in that old Marx 18th Brumaire line about revolutions returning "the second time as farce" . The fact that the Ghost of Rave, in however mis-shapen a state, stalks the culture again signifies something, surely. It announces a lack, speaks of a yearning.

K-Punk’s recent wrap-up of "h***tology: the state of play" included a passing reference to a V/vm project that had bypassed me, a massive sequence of thematically linked work entitled "The Death of Rave". So gargantuan that I've only made slight in-roads into it, but what I've heard so far is magnificent, even better than the Caretaker anterogade amnesia work. More than "the death of rave", though, listening I thought of "the death of a raver". Those wisps of barely identifiable vamp and stab and melody-riff that materialise out of the miasma, discernibly "classic" and "anthemic" yet eluding your memory's grasp: this perhaps is what ardkore would sound like to someone who'd had a major whitey and collapsed on the dancefloor, the mentasm stab dilating to infinity through the ears of someone in the final throes of heat-stroke.

When I first read the title "The Death of Rave" chez K, I did however
momentarily think "Ooer". Like, is this the point at which H-ology reaches self-parody?’ There is always a fatal point, in any music culture in which discourse plays a strong role,where the criticism ceases to be a game of catch-up with the music, and the music starts to seem like it’s responding to the criticism (ie. as if this project was a response to Mark’s reading of the Burial record as a requiem for rave). (And I know that V/vm was working on this way back and has done similar excavations for a long time previous viz. the New Beat homages and mutations. Nonetheless, it's something to think about. )

So I wonder … what actually would be a "true ghost" of rave? If (as I’ve claimed) rave was fundamentally impurist, if its defining modus operandi was bastardization... then perhaps even an enthused travesty of rave is preferable to yet another wanly exquisite melancholy memorial to the Lost Moment? (Can there even be a second Burial album?). Or to put it in more positive terms: if some young people can take their barely-remembered and misrecognised version of rave and reactivate even a fraction of the original euphoria and frenzy then... perhaps a tentative thumbs-up is in order. If they can derive nourishment from this still widely scorned corner of pop history--extract milk from our sacred cow--then good luck to them.

Just a thought...

* The record, at any rate, is perplexingly entertaining–tuneful as hell, spirited, but also with this disconcerting quality midway between surreal and defective (the vocals often cross-hatch in strange jutting patterns) that makes me think of a stool or a desk you might have might have made your first year in woodwork class-- the joints skew-wiff, one leg wobbly. ...The kind of odd bodge that only the UK music scene produces. Sounding variously like Bizarre Inc buggered by Age of Chance, Aha mugged by Lo-Fidelity Allstars, World of Twist in a scrum with Manic Street Preachers. Their real spiritual forbear, though, now I think of it, is the KLF. Especially on the lyrical front, all over-ripe vision-quest and epic adventure imagery: “Forgotten Works” declares “light the bridges with the lanterns… we’ll meet at the mirrored statue”, “Two Receivers” urges “run through the glow,” and then my favourite, “Isle of Her”, with its Ancient Grecian oarsmen odyssey-ing across the Meditteranean, palms blistering as they chant with a sort of onerous stateliness: “seven more miles today… we’ll find peacocks there… just keep on going.” Check your kneejerk, check it out.
the impostume chips in re. the Good, the Bad & the Queen

Friday, January 19, 2007

oh the saintly patience of the Rolling Stone staff as they deal with the spoilt and delusional morons in their midst!

i mean at least on the White Rapper* show the contestants have a decent amount of knowledge and reverence about the craft in question, even a little humility... just some basic sense of what's entailed in order to be good...

but these kids!

the brat who, receiving a phone call from the magazine's founder telling her she's made the final cut for the competition, says "did you say your name was Ian Wenner?"

the twit who, asking Ghostface about a rumored Wu-Tang reunion tour, enquires "who's standing in for ODB?"

one flinches from imagining what the "thousands" of applicants who were turned away can have been like...

* putting to one side for now the contestants skillz, street cred, etc, it feels like the selectees got chosen in part because they are truly the whitest people on earth. one of the guys actually looks partially erased, like someone took the squidgy end of the pencil and rubbed all the color and shading out of his face. and the short-arse girl with dreads looks like she's made of veal.
Owen Hatherly points out another Robin Hood-referencing postpunk song: The Pop Group's "Rob A Bank", last tune on For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder, a cover of the Robin Hood TV series theme, he says.

In Green's case, what Robin Hood represents is obviously connected to the lines that come after the ones I quoted from "Robin Hood", ie.

"a flag of blood and lipstick
will be unfurled"

Talking of "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", it's a jolt to remember that I was actually alive during a period when the Labour government taxed the higher income brackets at 93 percent .

Was it Harold Wilson or Dennis Healey who promised to make the rich squeal with pain during one election campaign? And Labour got elected on that platform! Not even progressive taxation, this was punitive taxation. Class war taxation.

Come the late 1980s though and even Stephen "Margaret on the Guillotine, I would carry out the execution myself" Morrissey was complaining about how much of his income he was having to give to the state.
Alex Petridis on The Good, the Band & The Queen:

"There are a lot of what you might call Britpop signifiers here - sounds immediately evocative of a time when football was held to be coming home - but they all appear twisted and warped, or in a kind of ghostly negative. "

and on the role of Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen in Albarn's supagroop:

"The prevailing sense is of gloom and foreboding replacing twinkly optimism, of things not being quite right. It's abetted by Allen's fabulous drumming, which the album could have done with more of. When he shows up, his slippery Afrobeat syncopations - the emphasis never landing where rock-accustomed ears might expect it to - lend a sense of uncertainty to the music. "

Having erm acquired the album and being actually in the middle of listening, I'd say much of it is kinda "Waterloo Sunset" Kinks in dub... Other bits are like The Clash if their entire oeuvre was grafted from "Lost In the Supermarket"/"The Call Up"...

Ach, it's pretty good, you know... Most ear-engaging track so far "Three Changes"...

It was so much easier when you could happily all-out abhor and ignore Damon Albarn, wasn't it! But then he went and reinvented himself as this vaguely honorable sort of figure.... a sort of Britpop equivalent to David Byrne maybe ... Honest Jon's archival nuggetry c.f. Luaka Bop.... and then Gorillaz (and hey I bet i secretly-liked them before you secretly-liked them, I thought that very first single was rather winning and kinda surprisingly rootical and dubby and packed an unusual degree of bass-weight for a pop single, plus there was a great perky 2step remix of it doing the rounds on the pirates).

Then again "Tender", Blur's "gospel" song, remains a stain that can never be washed away...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Trick or treat niggaz wit hoods want the goods
I feel like Robin Hood when I share it wit my hood"
-- Malice, Clipse, "Chinese New Year", Hell Hath No Fury

"Been wishing my life away
For Robin Hood to be King
One day
We'll share
The treasures of the world
Oh yeah,
And I will get the girl"
--Green Gartside, Scritti Politti, "Robin Hood", White Bread Black Beer

Now that's quite odd--two references to Robin Hood in albums that made my personal top 10 of 2006.

"Robin Hood" has signified something to Green since the earliest days of Scritti. In one of the first interviews the group did he referred to The Clash as an initital catalyst/inspiration that was rapidly renounced/denounced, alluding specifically to the Westway boys conception of themselves as rockin' Robin Hoods, a sort of guitar-toting Magnificent Seven coming into town to set everything to rights. Which notion of Green's surely partly triggered by the lyric in "White Man In Hammersmith Palais":

"White youth, black youth
Better find another solution
Why not phone up Robin Hood
And ask him for some wealth distribution?"

There's an EMP abstract, if not actual talk, to be spun out of this I'm sure....
I could be completely off-base here, having not actually heard the record, but doesn't Damon Albarn's The Good, The Bad & The Queen supergroup project sound just a tiny bit like a middlebrow take on h****ology? A sort of Mike Skinner-esque knock-off of Burial, even? Well, that's the vibe I get via Stephen Trousse's lead review of The Good, the Bad & The Queen in the new issue Uncut. He notes that the album has been hyped as a "tangential successor to Blur's Parklife, with all the chirpy Parkway comedy soured to dreamy Westway dolour", then says that it could equally be imagined as "a sequel to The Specials "Ghost Town", Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town" or even The Clash's "London Calling": there are spooks and echoes of them all in this cityscape of gasworks and canals, rising rivers and looming dread". And he quotes Albarn cohort Paul Simonon's description of the album as "the record Peter Ackroyd might have made". In songs like "History Song" and "Green Fields" there's imagery of storms, tsunamis, and London being flooded ("the tidal wave... engulfed us all")... echoes of the mockalyptic hysteria of "London Calling" perhaps, but also bizarrely close parallels to the Burial album's mise-en-scene. They also, notes Trousse, parallel the Stanley Donwood artwork for Thom Yorke's The Eraser, "an updated apocalyptic panorama stretching from the Thames estuary upstream to the Gherkin, depicting the NatWest tower, Big Ben and Battersea Power Station awash in a modern day deluge, with a lonely Canute powerless to turn back the waves".

So what's all this imagery of malaise and moistness signify, then? And did I dream this, or are there actually plans to make a movie of Ballard's The Drowned World?

"Percussion music is revolution"--John Cage, "Goal: New Music, New Dance", 1939.

I bought a record recently: Persephassa by Xenakis, as performed "par Les Percussions De Strasbourg". Must admit I got it as much for the gorgeous metallic patterned cover--part of the illustrious/lustrous Silver Record series put out by Philips under the series name Prospective 21 siecle, as documented by Woebot a while back*--as much as for the sounds in the grooves. Percussion-only composition is an odd and slightly unloveable subgenre of 20th Century avant-classical. I have a bunch of them but they don't get nearly as much play as the all-electronic/tape records, or indeed the vocal-oriented stuff. Now why is that? The 90s boom of interest in post-War electronic classical and musique concrete was in part a knock-on effect of the explosion of electronic dance (and non-dance) musics (who remembers the hilarious Wire piece where Stockhausen gets played pieces by Aphex Twin and the like, his sniffy reactions and condescending advice?). But as much as the post-rave diaspora awakened an ardour for electronic sonorities, that culture was equally about drums--so many dance records of this time consisted of just beats and percussive timbres and nothing else. So why no equivalent surge of interest in the percussion-only work by these composers? (They sell much cheaper than the electronic stuff, that's for sure). I think one reason is that is as poundingly and imposingly rhythmic as this stuff is, it's totally lacking groove. The other is that it's far less minds-eye-imagery activating. When you listen to Subotnik or Bayle, or Xenakis' own electronic work, you get all kinds of alien colour-shapes and impossible geometries reeling in your head. When you listen to the percussion ensemble works, you tend to just picture a bunch of guys in suits looking slightly ruffled and sweaty, clutching mallets.

Still, it's the exact same composers that do the mind-rending hallucinatory stuff with tape and computers and ring modulators, so there must be something to be extracted from their excursions into bing-bong-tinkle-plash-gdunngggg, right? Maybe I should jump in the deep end and buy this new 3-CD job of Xenakis' percussion pieces....

* here's another inventory of the Silver series, with more cover pix. Annoyingly they don't have the French version of Persephassa, which is what I picked up. But this is the Japanese edition's cover.
the weird thing about the video for Sir Mixalot "Baby Got Back" is that the butts on display are uniformly small, tight, hard, bony. Minimal flesh, zero heft. So, if only on a single axis of measurement, it could be said that rap music has made giant strides towards feminism since '92.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

So whatever happened to the Rip it Up footnotes? Well, I finished them ages ago--the ones for Part One anyway--but have basically been in limbo on account of my web guy's extensive commitments. Recently he disappeared into complete radio silence. So I decided to do them as a blog. Not as easy-on-the-eye or as user-friendly as the old Rip It Up site, but the material is there, and reasonably easy to navigate.

Rip-notes for Part Two to follow... at some point.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

a great second instalment of Woebot TV

loadsa loadsa top tens of the year but how often do you see the perpetrators dancing to their choices!

Friday, January 05, 2007

another choice bit from this week's Voice

Greg Tate on JB

compare and contrast this african-american funkateer's eulogy
with a white brit avant-funkateer's appreciation, viz
my review of the Star Time box set from 1991

James Brown
Star Time

This four-CD mega-anthology reveals that there are actually two James Browns. The first is JB the patrician and patriarch: the disciplinarian who fined his musicians for the most miniscule misdemeanors; the black Statesman whose august presence could quell a ghetto riot; the black capitalist who monitored every last minutiae of his business affairs; the righteous role model with his anti-drug, pro-education songs ('King Heroin', 'Don't Be A Drop-Out').

This "hardest working man in showbiz"/"Say it Loud I'm Black And I'm Proud" JB is possibly the single biggest factor behind that particularly white/male version of soul that sees it as the music of spiritual fortitude. I recall one NME soulboy scribe declaring (having just slagged off some 'decadent' Goth group) that if he ever got to be Prime Minister, he'd make it compulsory for schoolkids to listen to JB for 3 hours a day, so that they could learn all about pride, passion and dignity. Totalitarian of passion, or what?!

But there's another JB that's worth digging through the R&B Reaganisms to recover: the JB that wasn't about being a control freak, but about freaked-out loss-of-control, voodoo possession, delirium, enslavement by the rhythm. The first disc, Mr. Dynamite, is unsalvageably antiquated, all huff'n'puff, horn vamps, hoary old showbiz dynamics. But from about 1966's "Bring It Up" onwards, Brown's music gets progressively more African and 'avant-garde': songs devolve into closed grooves, minimal, mantric, mind-exterminating and interminable. 'Cold Sweat' remains the definitive JB title, capturing the frigid feverishness of the sound. Tracks like 'I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)' and 'Ain't It Funky Now' are coition-combustion engines, "desiring machines", offering a stern, oppressive, exhausting brand of bliss.

On Seventies trax like 'Funky Drummer', 'Sex Machine', 'Superbad', 'I Got Ants In My Pants', 'Doing It To Death' and 'Hot' , almost every other guitar tic, bass palpitation and drum lick sounds déjà vu. But that's because they've been sampled by a thousand rap groups. If JB and Kraftwerk were the twin godfathers of hip hop, it's because there's an affinity between the coldblooded Teutonic technocrats and the fiery human volcano that would scandalize many a soulboy: a certain arid, clinical, maniacal precision of sound. Afrika Bambaata understood the 'Man Machine'/'Sex Machine' connection; that's why the Pharoah Of Electro persuaded the King Of Soul to collaborate on the 1984 single 'Unity'.

Madness, machismo, magnificent monotony: get up, get into it, and get involved.

(Melody Maker, 15 June 1991)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ah but Owen, I think what Carl is really saying is: "I would like h-ological music just fine--if only it was completely unlike itself."

Bit like saying, "if only reggae sounded more like heavy metal, then it'd be good"

I don't think these are serious demands -- he isn't really calling for dance-able* or Dionysian h-ology -- really he's just expressing his primalist/visceralist preference.

It's not like there's exactly a dearth of full-blooded or physically-involving music out there in the world, though
-- quite the opposite.

Music that chills the blood,
slows the pulse,
depresses the vital(ist) signs,
might actually be a respite or remedy,
a haven from the forced and false energy of most pop/rock.

Ecstasy doesn't always have to take the form of frenzy.

* Anyway you could dance to it, or some of it, if you had a mind to: much of Mordant Music's album is faceless tekkno bollocks, and Belbury Poly's "Insect Prospectus" could rock a dancefloor, in a kitschy-eldritchy , queasily ceremonial sort of way, like a cross between Bentley Rhythm Ace and the Last Emperor.
on the back cover of the Christmas issue of Record Collector magazine, a full page ad for ABBA's Number Ones anthology

fulsome testimonials from pop stars galore -- Richard Ashcroft ("Dancing Queen makes a chemical react in my brain"), Jake Shears, Brian May ("ABBA have written some of the best pop music of all time"), Noel Gallagher, Peter Townsend ("SOS is the best pop song ever written").

And there's one from Madonna too.

It reads:

"Standing still when you hear Madonna is impossible"

Say what?!?!?!?

Am I missing something here? Is there, like, an Abba song titled "Madonna" tucked away on side two of one of the albums?

Or could it be the work of some Madonna-hater at the ad agency or working in Record Collector's ad department? Or even an unconscious typo, a kind of projected Freudian slip if you will, revealing true penetrates-to-the-core psychological insight.

Because you can imagine Madonna saying something that conceited, can't you -- blowing her own trumpet at someone else's tribute.
two entertaining pieces in the missus' book section
-- Musto on Musto
-- Butt editors prowl Manhattan

and belated link to last week's piece on a fascinating and marvellous-sounding "temporary museum" in SoHo where street artists were allowed to take over a vacant building they'd been bombing for years just prior to its being turned into luxury condos -- two "it's the new rock'n 'roll"'s (real estate and art) colliding and fusing

missus conceived/edited, this piece, but come the weekend in question she only goes and forgets that it's taking place, meaning we miss it completely. For fuck's sake woman!

consolation prize: this slide-show of the 11 Spring Street interior
S-O-V on M-T-V at N-Y-E!

ah the power of the mighty Jay-Z

you could have knocked me down with a feather --- there she was, along with Chamillionaire, and some emo band

didn't actually see her performance though -- but caught her being quizzed on what she thought of the festive throng down below in Times Square -- "bloody great" she said, but also noted "this is the first time I've been away from home on New Year's Eve" with a hint of rueful homesickness that was quite touching.
belatedly compensating for lack of substantive comment, i added some links to the 'faves of 2006' connecting to those i actually got to write about some place-- or at least, what i could find on the web. strangely the uncut site has the jarvis review but not thom yorke, faust or byrne & eno. maybe i'll just put them up here at some point.