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.

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