Thursday, March 29, 2007

uk pressure 90-91 = fabulous gutterbreakz mix of bleepNbass... uk teknno finding its true voice for the first time. Sounds so fresh still. A lost moment when the E-rave/hardcore and intelligent/pure/minimal strands were indivisible, it was just "techno"--or even just "house" according to LFO in "What Is House"

meanwhile in his controversial "funky house" post Woebot argues that the lineage from rave is over, exhausted (says it reached its end/culmination with bruza's "get me"--i'd have thought grime itself was the end, anti-rave on so many levels, but maybe that still makes it part of the dialectic, and it's still nuuum/MCs-as-ephemeral-pirate-artform-on-the-fly, perhaps where grime should have stayed, rather than having album/career fantasies), further implying that dubstep is just a protracted act of (failed) mourning, a kind of audio-memorial

trouble with invoking "funky house", Matt, is that people think you're referring to this kind of thing (Louie Latino on bongos!)

ie. a sort of default-option vaguely classy soundtrack to a dressy crowd into getting expensively drunk and chatting up the opposite sex

still Matt does make the specific funky house creme de la creme trax he's talking about sound e attractive -- almost like the answer to my prayer a few years ago for the arrival of a MACROhaus (rough coordinates: "Felix 'Don't You Want My Love' meets Giselle Jackson 'Love Commandments' meets The Mover meets Energy 52 'Cafe Del Mar' ") to defeat and drive away microhouse's detail-oriented audio-decor with some full-on banging, boshing, diva-tastic NRG.

the appeal to the pleasure-principle though doesn't seem enough in itself to generate interesting cultural action (it's a kind of replay of what happened at the end of the 90s, the return of house in various forms -- also the song, the voice--across the spectrum, in response to the self-dessicating/anorectic/overly technical dead ends that minimal techno and drum'n'bass drove themselves down)

also microhouse--which Woebot sets alongside dubstep on the other side of the divide from
funky house--was surely part of this return to the pleasure principle. as tasteful and well-designed as it is sonically, that finessing of texture and detail is part of its hedonism, its exaltation of pleasure as supreme value. for the Sight and Sound music documentary piece I recently watched Maja Classen's vivid and insightful film about Berlin's underground club culture, Feiern: Don’t Forget to Go Home, and the people on that scene are serious hedonists, no doubt about it--in fact "feiern" means party, with more than a hint of "hard" to it

but specificially with the nuum.... historically, there's been an internal pendulum between pleasure and the more-than-pleasure X-Factor/Edge-Factor (difficulty, danger, militancy, spirituality, complexity, darkness/apocalypticness). This pendulum swings back and forth between pure-pleasure-and-nothing-else versus the ascesis/punitiveness of Edge Factor pursued to the exclusion of entertainment. It's a self-correcting mechanism (similar mechanisms function on other other axes too, ones that roughly align with pleasure/un-pleasure, but are not precisely the same -- light/dark, treble/bass, yin/yang, song/track, etc etc). These mechanisms are activated (deejays, producers, promoters responding to the desertion of the dancefloor, or deterioration of the vibe) whenever the music goes too far in one direction... techstep leading to speed garage was the classic landslide election "swing" (punters voting with their dancing feet).... funky house seems to have been activated by the doubled upshot of grime and dubstep, indeed there was a trial run of it a few years ago called "urban house" (timmi magic talking about getting rid of the MC and the rewind and restoring "live percussion"--clearly the latter is the hallmark of funky house!), but perhaps has swung back too far in the opposite direction, to the nullity of pure pleasure, with dubstep representing an opposed swing too far towards meditational/innovative (although to be honest I've never read a piece where anyone has explained exactly what is the defining Big New Idea in dubstep...)

the diagonal to follow -- or to hope for/pine for in absentia (and it's the one attained by all the "crest" moments in the nuum: hardcore, jungle 94, speed garage, 2step) --is where the pendulum wavers in the middle zone where pleasure/entertainment and challenge/menace tussle it out rather than have uncontested dominion over the other

like a hung parliament or gridlocked congress maybe

Sunday, March 25, 2007

this being New York City, we regularly get cars with booming systems passing by, shaking the walls with shockwaves of sub-bass. But I really never expected to hear a car go by blasting
"Comfy in Nautica" from the new Panda Bear at top volume...
make that six...

really feeling: stop press

Rufige Kru, Malice in Wonderland (Metalheadz)
Every bit as good as the Man like K-punk sez, this preserves the near-inviolate repute of the Rufige brand.
This is not so much an exercise in auto-retro as a invocation of lost powers, a going-back to bring-forward: death-ray riffs and menacing treated vocals (think "this is a bad", "jim skreech" ) conjure the classic "Darkrider"/Rage-late-92-on-the-cusp-of-bliss-2-dark mood-meld of manic and macabre, but the beats are absolutely contemporary in d&b terms. Which would normally be a negative but here the sheer size of sound (the ear pictures this massive virtual drum kit) and the bounding cyborg-cheetah propulsiveness are thrilling plus there's all kinds of exuberantly wayward drumfunk-style fills and flourishes richoteting off the basic jacknife-groove to divert the ear.
bethan cole on hauntology in today's sunday times!

Friday, March 23, 2007

feeling/really feeling/not really feeling

almost a quarter the way through the year already, and having heard five albums I adore (OK, one of them a 2006 release, from a UK perspective, but "new" over here and to me) plus a bunch of others I like lots, I’d say 2007 so far 's been.... decent


gotta love a mix-cd that starts with Fripp/Eno’s “Swastika Girls”, swoops through Shocking Blue and Nitzer Ebb, then hits the home stretch with Death In June, Goblin’s “Suspiria” and Syd Barrett. biggest epiphany for me though was hearing “Walls” by Crass for the first time in 26 years (my younger brother was a fan, had all the fold-out poster sleeves), this was the group’s “Fodderstompf” moment, disco-punk with a guitar crunch that now reminds me of Lennon on Ono's Fly, the shrill soprano of Eve Libertine or maybe Joy De Vivre twittering “desire desire desire desire desire” over a walking bassline. Biggest revelation: discovering that early on at least Christian Death found the exact median point tween Buzzcocks and Bauhaus, and that's actually a pretty fun place.

The Glimmers, FabricLive31
another enjoyable mix-CD kicking off with their great re-edit of Roxy’s “Same Old Scene” (great cos you can hear all of the original) and along the way reminding me of the majesty of League Unlimited Orchestra’s dub of “Things that Dreams Are Made of” and the mischief of LCD’s “Disco Infiltrator”.

Jesu, Conqueror
listenable, likeable, at times almost glorious, but it’s like Broadrick’s immersed himself in shoegaze with a scholarly intensity, working out the genre’s idiomatic chord patterns and harmonic intervals and guitar-glaze textures, such that after a bit it starts to feel like the tunes are anagrams of each other, the same melodic coordinates reshuffled. indeeed by track 6 “Bright Eyes” I was convinced I was hearing a remix of the first tune, “Conqueror”.

The Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future
now, apparently -- perhaps inevitably--i am a
ctually in this band.

Infinite Livez vs Stade, Unbiased Reductionism in 21st Century Music Practices

WZT Hearts, Heat Chief
been lurking in my promo stack for a while so might be ancient, reprieved thanks to its wazzily psychedelic cover (some kind of Op Art/ethnic rug art installation, you can see it here )
but on finally playing it I enjoyed the lambent-ambient wooze of it all and especially the short final track which has a nice ghostified waver to it

Battles, Mirrored
at its least, a grotesque merger of Henry Cow, Michael Nyman and Primus, ie. still pretty fun. at its most, virtually indescribable—Sung Tongs AC goes math-metal?-- close to that giddy edge where sublime and ridiculous become indivisible. just when you’re thinking it’s aall bit jizz-whizz tech-flashy Mahavishnu-verging-Satriani, in come the helium voices, the whistling.

Subtle Audio compilation
featuring Alpha Omega, Equinox, Senses, Fracture & Neptune, Polska, Sileni, Fanu, Cloak and Dagger, Macc…. Offshore/Inperspective-style artcore d&b: exciting, inventive

Fujiya & Miyagi , Transparent Things
Kieran is obsessed with Pokemon cards so a couple of weekends back we went to 6th Street between 2nd and Bowery where there are a bunch of Japanese adult-toy type stores clustered together, like specialist stores sometimes do… and the first one, it really was like stepping into a store in Tokyo, absolutely nothing non-Japanese in the store, EXCEPT they were playing this album, and I did wonder, “perhaps they don’t realize that Fujiya & Miyagi aren’t actually Japanese” and almost asked the dainty Japanese waif-ette at the counter but refrained. Really like this record but don’t really know what’s good about it--there’s a sense that it ought to be faintly deplorable, this business of superimposing Damo over Dinger--yet it’s compelling, especially the first two tracks, and that’s got something to do with the way the hypno-groove aesthetic with its streamlined restraint dovetails with the perceptual acuity of those concrete-detail-attuned lyrics (this review goes some ways to tagging the sensibility,
which is foreign to me to the point where they might as well be from Japan). Elsewhere you sometimes think of Happy Mondays meets Stereolab (which in its way confirms the Can-vocal spliced to Neu!- groove breakdown and even doubles its redundancy).
They didn’t have any Pokemon cards, strangely. The hunt continues. Oh yes.

Wiley, Playtime Is Over

That Wiley’s on Big Dada nowadays confirms the sense that grime, its crossover dreams dashed, is going to settle into being the Other Britrap. Disappointing for those who hoped for so much more for it, but not that ignominous a fate I suppose. And Wiley sounds as cocky as ever here. Better than Treddin’.

retro feeling

The Black Dog, Book of Dogma

the first three EPs on one disc, the next three EPS on the second one.

The Camberwell Now, All’s Well

The Knife, Deep Cuts
, self titled

Andre Almuro, Musiques Experimentales
Anestis Logothetis, Hor!-spielNEKROLOGLOG 1961/FANTASMATA 1960
Edward M. Zajda, independent electronic music composer
Jacques Lejeune, Blanche Neige: suite musicale en 14 tableaux pour dire le conte et danser avec les enfants
Various, Creelpolation 1,2, 3
Various, Electronic Music: Experimental Studios in Prague, Bratislava, Munich, University of Illinois, Warsaw, Paris
Various, Musiques de L’O.N.F./Music of the N.F.B
Various , Elektronische Produktie Van I.P.E.M
(all Creel Pone)
Various, Electronic Music (Folkways )
Elektroakustická Hudba 1 (Slovak Electroacoustic Music #1)
Various, Siemens - Studio für Elektronische Musik.
Alireza Mashayekhi

Ilhan Mimaroglu, Tract
Trevor Wishart, Red Birds
Bernard Parmegiani, De Natura Sonorum

You’d think it was all extreme metal round these parts judging by the recent blogg output but apart from Khanate and Blut Aus Nord and a few other things I’m forgetting I’ve not been that slayed by what I’m hearing. (Still pretty much at the “it all sounds the same” stage, which of course really means “I’m not prepared to get so utterly immersed that it ceases to sound the same”. Then again, you can turn that back on the genre, because if the basic thing of what the genre offers isn’t enough to extract that compelled immersion from you then… Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the point where I can make distinctions of signature and rank within blastbeat science the way I did with breakbeat science.) No, round here, the recreational listening soundtrack is largely avant-classical (the kids don’t seem to mind, really). I’m just starting to realize that this stuff could consume a lifetime, like being into the blues or into reggae, there’s no bottom to it. Every bleedin’ university and government in the developed world seemed to have an electronic and tape music laboratory during the Sixties and much of the Seventies, and a lot of them still do. Like Creel Pone though whose releases have this gold seal thing saying 'Unheralded Classics of Electronic Music: 1952 to 1984" i have an arbitrary cut-off point at the start of the Eighties, although it's not arbitrary, because as Mr Pone argues that was when the analog era was definitively eclipsed by digital and it became a whole different game and in some ways no longer quite such a heroic one. The fellow who sorted me with the Slovak/Siemens/Iranian composer stuff describes Creel Pone as “avant-crack” and he’s not wrong there. In addition to the utterly obscure but surprisingly high rate of "true lost treasure" sonic aspect, what’s intensely fetishisable about these non-official

CD-R reissues is the loving care with which the original vinyl sleeves have been miniaturized, including all the sleeve insert stuff with their somber technical and musicological descriptions of the pieces (the Creelpolation 3 cd anthology--which collates sundry one-off pieces from albums that aren’t worth salvaging in their entirety--has the album covers of each source record reduced to postage stamp size and comes with a neat little translucent plastic magnifying sheet thingy so you can sorta read them).

Nico, The Frozen Borderline 1968-1970
the sonic mise en scene of Marble Index tracks like “No One Is There” and “Lawn of Dawns” conjures a dank, draughty castle in Bavaria or Bohemia, with shadows, cast from guttering candles, flickering against the walls. You picture cowled figures chanting canticles, or a pale noblewoman cloistered in her chamber, black-clad and grieving, a falcon her only companion. The title comes from a passage in a Wordsworth poem inspired by a statue of Isaac Newton: “Newton with his prism and silent face/ The marble index of a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.” The significance for Nico of the lines most likely lay in the word “alone”. Her words do occasionally resemble Jim Morrison’s more cinema student (as opposed to blues stud) lyrics. The style is at once hieroglyphic and hieratic: “Julius Caesar (Memento Hodié)” is all pillars and stone altars, water lily fields and doves, while “Frozen Warnings” depicts a “friar hermit” stumbling over “the cloudy borderline”. With its imagery of “midnight winds… landing at the end of time”, “Evenings of Light” could be a portentous Teutonic rendering of Emily Dickinson’s “There’s A Certain Slant of Light”, a poem that glimpses the face of Death in a winter landscape as dusk approaches. Marble Index is the Achievement, the more extreme statement, for sure. I think I might actually prefer Desertshore, though....

really feeling

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Triumphs through sheer force of sound, through the bright, brash confidence and vigour of the playing and (naturally) through its embarrassment of melodic riches… that said, lyrically/emotionally it doesn’t quite connect to the extent that the debut did. (incidentally I’d made that slightly-daft seeming Alex Turner/Dizzee Rascal comparison on the blog last year when the debut came out, and then whaddya know, they’ve only become pals and Dizzee collaborated with the Arctics on a track)

Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum

not sure I can claim much for this in terms of innovation or originality or challenging the listener, it’s just one of those near-perfect record that enchants and transports, the kind that actually gets listened to far more often than records you “admire”… it’s a bit like some American indie-rock band heard Boards of Canada and that one great Royskopp tune and maybe some Chemical Bros in their psychedelic-rock mode and just had their heads totally flipped around. Analog-electronic but songful in a non-obtrusive sort of way; lots of vocoderized and electronically processed vocals that aren’t cheesy, but fit the sunlight-dappling-through-leafy-canopy-overhead summer-blissed vibe (“sun”-words recur to an almost fixated degree in the lyrics, as much as you can discern them through the FX). Now and then a bit like the Blue Orchids if they’d formed in a post-Daft Punk universe. One tune has a synth-sound exactly like the that great kosmik one in the end-phase of Scritti's "Absolute".

Panda Bear, Person Pitch
the religious aura of this wondrous record (the best album from the AC camp, some are saying, and they could be right) obviously owes a lot to the whole Beach Boys/”God Only Knows” area that Lennox is deep into. But the choral effect of multitracked Panda-vox also sometimes makes me think of that 1960s craze for “Missa” records, Africanized versions of Catholic masses (as heard most famously in If-- y’know, the scenes where Malcolm McDowell and fellow boarding school dissidents lurk in their dorm room sullenly plotting revolution, Missa Luba on their record player). There’s also a track—“Take Pills”—that’s framed with splashy aquatic sounds and purposefully or not creates this vibe of tribal people in a row-boat or giant canoe (I picture Maori settlers voyaging into the Pacific unknown in quest of some Polynesian island), which makes it a bizarrely synchronous counterpart to Klaxons’ “Isle of Her”.

Lily Allen, Alright, Still
I’d managed to avoid hearing this album, not precisely on purpose but certainly
encouraged by the feeling that she was verily devil-spawn.* Then the CD arrived in the mail unexpectedly and I thought, “well, why not see what the fuss is about”. Five or six songs in, the thought, perfectly formed, popped into my head: “anybody who could dislike this record would have to be sick in the head”. I had to revise that opinion when it occurred that probably most people I know probably have reasonably well-thought or honorably-felt objections to it, but still, I think to dislike this album on the basis on some kind of ideological principle, because you’re opposed to “this kind of record”—that’s deranged. Apart from the tunes and the spirit of it, what grabbed me was how it illustrates beautifully how reggae runs through UK pop music like jam in a Swiss roll--from Desmond Dekker "Israelites" at #1 in the charts to the skank feel in 2step like Doolally ‘straight to the heart,’ via the Police's “Walking on the Moon”, Specials “Ghost Town”, Madness’ “Grey Day” , Musical Youth and all those one-off reggae crossover chart-toppers that seem to happen every couple of years at least when i was a youth--such that Jamaican music is simply part of any British person’s pop birthright. (Has America ever had a reggae song at Billboard #1?). Alright, Still is basically a lover’s rock album, the missing link between Janet Kay and Kirsty MacColl, between “Uptown Ranking” and “Dry Your Eyes mate". It’s lover’s rock, with all the yearning, resilience, femininity, autonomy--but contemporarized for an age where young women are less lady-like (I won’t say ladette-like) in the way they carry themselves and express their feelings. Top tune: "Not Big", although the cookie-crumbles, can't-get-mortgage one is close behind.

*actually I’d started coming round to the idea that Allen pere had turned intoa pretty decent character actor, specializing in pompous/repellent/obnoxious types, but then the other night saw his mincingly mannered and positively vaude-villainly Sheriff of Nottingham in the new Robin Hood**.
** a delicious anachronism in this episode—when Robin decries the Sheriff’s “sadistic treatment” of villagers—cutting out tongues to encourage them to offer up information re. his whereabouts. De Sade was a good four hundred years or so from being born at this point, let alone become the name of a perversion.

The Good the Bad and the Queen, The Good the Bad and the Queen
inching ahead of Panda Bear as my favourite album of the year so far and I’m as surprised as you are, having not been a particular fan of Albarn’s work hitherto. This is a really rich record, melodically, texturally, emotionally, and even the occasional lyric sets off some ripples. Makes a good counterpart with the Lily Allen lp, in terms of the subliminal reggae thing running through it: Paul Simonon’s rootical bass, but also the generally psychedelia-as-dub-as-psychedelia organization of sound approach. I’d described it here before as “Waterloo Sunset” in dub, but the implications of that didn’t occur to me later, which is that this is Britpop corrected, its narrow understanding of musical Englishness now opened wide. (Tony Allen’s presence adds a further element of post-colonial chickens coming home to roost, and to those who say he’s under-used, I say it’s all about the ensemble, from each according to what the song needs, and if he was any more prominent the whole project maybe would take on a more world-y/wanky vibe , who knows. Plus the amazing things he does with the beat on “Three Changes” make up for any low-profile elsewhere). The other parallel with Alright, Still is that they’re both LDN records, but Allen’s is a young person’s metropolis, much more alive to the possibilities and pleasures of city life, whereas Good the Bad and the Queen is an older person’s London, attuned to the sadness, the defeats. The contrast--that journey between then and now--becomes vivid to me when you think about how Albarn carried himself circa 1995 e.g. the “Parklife” video--cocky, perky, irritatingly upright--and the figure seen in more recent years (as in the Britpop documentary Live Forever), with his slumped posture and semi-unshaven stubble and mumbling voice, and most of all that depressive aura of stale weed-smoke, the kind that certain people (think of Mezzanine period Massive Attack, the front man in Stereo MCs) carry around them.

not really feeling

LCD Sound System, Sound of Silver
just can’t get into it for some reason. Preferred how his voice used to sound before, that itchy-techy dry sound.

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan, Pullhair Rubeye

Not to play favourites with Animal solo jobs, but what were Avey and mum-friend thinking of, all the backwards voice stuff. As vocal science efforts goes, Panda’s is light-years ahead.

Wake Up! (Uncut free cd of the New Amerindie)
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
listening to the Uncut giveaway CD, with the exception of Final Fantasy (a hoot), Broken Social Scene (pleasant enough) and TV on the Radio (who don’t belong in this company at all), I had to conclude that, nah, not really feeling this New(ish) Sound of North American indie. (But then I never cared for Elephant 6/Olivia Tremor Control/Neutral Milk et al either, the nu-AmeriIndie's ancestry). All these groups -- Shins, Decembrists (what terrible names for bands!), Dears--they’ve got this non-killer combination of overblown/thin and overwrought/scrawny. A proggish expansive impulse crippled by indie frugality. Textures that remind me of the scaly skin on elbows for some reason. Meagre fare, gussied up, like Violent Femmes' yeeeuchy “American Music.”

On the third play I started to half-like a few songs on Neon Bible but overall the same reservations apply to Arcade Fire. It’s all a bit windy, sonically and especially lyrically. Epic yet skiffle-y. Like they’ve aiming for the Bigness of rock without the actual rhythm mechanics of rocking (which is why Springsteen circa Born comes up as a reference I expect--that record's heft-less guitars, thin keybs, the choppy unrocking rhythm of “Glory Days”). Talking of Bigness, i'm specifically reminded of the Big Music genre--there’s moments here that recall the Waterboys , the Bunnymen of “Never Stop” and Ocean Rain (and I love Ocean Rain but I’d rather it stayed a record as opposed to a genre). I’ll give it one more go but I’m not hopeful.
proof official (thanks to mike powell for alerting me to this story) that extreme metal really is the brainiac's music of choice

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The acrimonious debate here (alluded to in this K-punk post ) prompted by the animated movie 300 based on Frank Miller's comic book--both of which have been accused of having a proto-fascist fantasy structure that chimes unsavorily with the current geopolitical situation--reminded me of a novel I read as a teenage science fiction nut: Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream. It's an example of my favourite s.f. subgenre, alternative history, and the premise in this case is that Adolf Hitler, the aspiring painter, didn't found the Nazi Party and establish the Third Reich, but instead emigrated to America in the 1920s., where he is drawn into the early s.f. milieu of pulp magazines like Astounding Stories etc and becomes first an illustrator and then a successful novelist. His best seller is The Lord of the Swastika, a thinly veiled allegory of the political present in this alternative history world, where, in the absence of a strong Germany, Soviet Communism gradually over-runs Europe. In Hitler's potboiler, the scenario is a post-nuclear world where racially pure warriors from the land of Heldon fight back against an monstrous Mega-State of degenerate mutants.

Spinrad's premise is inspired, but I don't remember actually enjoying the book that much, mainly because the bulk of it consists of Lord of the Swastika, a parody of an atrocious pulp fantasy novel that is only too successfully executed. Still, that basic proto-fascist fantasy structure--pure-hearted knights versus Evil Empire--underpins an awful lot of pulpy s.f., including Star Wars (which was criticized by some when it first came out for having a fascist-y tinge--the exaltation of the Force, that mercantile/scavenger desert-dwelling race that begins with J- on Luke Skywalker's planet and who are untrustworthy, abjectly money-grubbing, and so forth) and arguably Lord of the Rings too.

The fact that 300 is about Sparta versus Persia also reminded me of Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers, who wrote a Mishima inspired song "Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)" that includes the lines:

When I saw that Sparta in his eyes
Young death is good
And we decided that to die there was no greater love

and also

I was attracted to a night torchlight parade
And there I came
Home is a black leather jacket fitting sweetly to my brain

Supposedly he did flirt with the extreme right as a youth, did a magazine at school called The Gubernator, Latin for helmsman.

Talking of alternate history, I just re-read Philip K. Dick's The Man In the High Castle, my favourite novel in this mini-genre (well, equal #1 with Ward Moore's if-the-South-had-won-the-Civil-War classic Bring the Jubilee, and Keith Roberts' world-where-the-Protestant-Reformation-was-defeated Pavane not too far behind) It's been reissued in a canon-ising volume titled Four Novels of the 1960s by the Library of America, the others being Ubik, Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream... Jonathan Lethem edits the volume and presumably provided the excellent footnotes to The Man in the High Castle, which explain some of the more obscure references and what really happened in our world to the historical figures that stalk across the pages of High Castle. The premise is the most over-used one in all of alternate history, "what if the Axis powers won World War 2?", but Dick's version wipes the floor with all other imaginings on this theme, such as the Sound of His Horn or that BBC series of the Eighties whose name I forget. I must have read this one Dick novel about five or six times before the age of 17 (which is when music and the music press definitively eclipsed s.f. as my obsession) and in the storage unit in London have a Gollancz hardback of it with the trademark bright yellow dust jacket that I got much later at a jumble sale. I hadn't re-read it in about 15 years. It's always enjoyable and interesting to re-read something that you loved as a youth, rediscovering aspects you'd clean forgotten about (the entire running theme of the I Ching, in this case), appreciating nuances that you missed, finding other bits less convincing. The alternate historical details are brilliant conceived, detailed and often grimly witty, but what makes this book Dick's finest achievement in conventional literary terms are its characters and dialogue (another thing it has in common with Bring the Jubilee). The cleverest thing about Man in the High Castle, though--and here it resembles Spinrad's Iron Dream--is the book within the book. In the world of High Castle--where the USA is partioned into Japan and Nazi controlled areas with the neutral, cultural-backwater-of-the-world Rocky Mountain States as the buffer zone--the best-seller that everyone is reading and talking about (even in the Reich-controlled territories, where it's banned) is a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, an alternative history about a world where the Allies won. The passages from this novel-within-the-novel are hilariously misconceived: America and Great Britain divided the world, with the Brits not only keeping hold of the pink bits of the globe after the war but extending their benign dominion across Europe and into Russia (red telephone boxes and bobbies on the Volga), and Churchill still the Prime Minister in 1962 (when High Castle and Grasshopper are both set).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

me on Nico's Marble Index/Desertshore/The End trilogy

me on Panda Bear's Person Pitch
K-punk whets appetites for the new album by Goldie of all people, and i must say i am salivating to hear this, just the fact that it's done as Rufige Cru sets off all kinds of reverberations through me

juxtaposed with a big up for last year's Sunn O)))/Boris collab Altar --but even though it's staring him in the face Mark doesn't make the metalheads/metalheadz pun!

and then his reference to "liquid metal" in re. Altar -- well, Goldie-as-Rufige did "Terminator 2" for Reinforced didn't he (the original version came out on a different label, as Metalheads).
awesome paean to the Young Gods by Carl, inflamed and engorged by the world-will

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not a moment too soon -- the return of Mr Agreeable!


Bethan Cole--back in the day one of the UK's finest dance music journalists, these days writing mostly about fashion and beauty--has started a blog

Monday, March 12, 2007

it's not often you get an email that starts like this:

Her Majesty's Consul-General, New York
Sir Alan Collins, KCVO CMG
In partnership with
Creative London and UK Trade & Investment

Requests the pleasure of your company for a

London Music Industry Masterclass
With Guest Speaker
Malcolm McLaren
(Part of the Live from London Showcase)

Followed by a networking reception with representatives
from the British music industry

Tuesday 13th March 2007
5:30pm to 7:30pm

I totally forgot about this, and shit, it's tomorrow... I should go though shouldn't I? Not only is Malcy an old hero (no really, despite the drubbing in Rip It Up, I used to follow everything he did--read all the interviews avidly, cut them out and kept them--right up until "Madame Butterfly" whereupon I totally lost interest; it was really him and Lydon that were the ex-Pistols (and Malcom was in the band, really, let's be honest) whose trajectories grabbed the imagination) but he's bound to be entertaining, and it'll just be weird, won't it?

Talking of joining the Establishment, check out this article by Malcolm in the New York Times on his love of fine wine.

Oh and talking of old punkies, just caught a bit of Patti Smith performing as part of her induction into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, doing "Rock'n'Roll Nigger"... when you're being installed into a museum-pantheon, can you really sing the lines "outside of society/is where I wanna be" with conviction? Apparently.
metal -- tiny bit more from the mailbag

phil freeman sez:

"Here's a link to my paper from the 2005 EMP Conference, which relates to part of what Ari Abromowitz was talking about w/r/t hipster metal and how these new fans are seen as not having "earned it" - the paper was called "It's Not Just A T-Shirt."


carl holmes points to some "random 'hipster metal' stuff"
and here>

This last one particularly speaks to the T-shirt issue!

Reminds me of one of those blogposts I never got to (one of hundreds), about rock T-shirts and the dilemmas of emblazoning your music preferences on your chest --the jist being that it always seems vaguely undignified somehow, or at least problematic... for what single band could stand in for and represent your music-fan essence, such that you'd want strangers and passers-by to judge you by it ... Can't totally remember what prompted the train of thought, possibly seeing a young boy. .. he looked about 16... wearing a Jaco Pastorious T-shirt., or maybe it was the young guy in a really yukky looking Tago Mago T-shirt.. at any rate, David Stubbs used to have this thing that you should wear T-shirts of bands you only half-liked or thought were a little mediocre (i think the example at that time was Orange Juice circa Texas Fever), the idea being something like semiological disinformation, "jamming the codes" ... that might be one justification for the dilettante approach to T-shirt wearing!


Matthew Moore:

"Ari is onto something: "Metal deals with strength, power, and either the heroic or the foreboding. This is the essence that carries through the most archetypal and influential Metal bands: Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Metallica, Slayer." Which links in with the survivalist ethos of Techstep & certain strains of hip hop (The Five-Percent Nation, Public Enemy, Buster Rhymes) - even the dread aspects of Dub music. And going back to gender - these are very male concerns. Wanting to be a warrior. Craving the destruction of the world (well, it's one way of getting rid of the acne). Worlds away from relationships & family life. Or even the cosmic mysticism of a Joanna Newsom. Steve Kode9 Goodman is supposed to be writing a book on Sonic Warfare - wonder if there will be any metal in there..."

This, and Ari's talk of heroic archetypes, suddenly make me think--oooer--of Robert Bly, Iron John, the Men's Movement, drumming circles... A secret Junglist/Jungian connection! This unsettling way of suddenly seeing a lot of my favourite musics--playing at soldiers, basically-- was further exacerbated by Matthew's subsequent comment in response, which sounds quite a Bly-like note:

"What I find interesting is that with the professionalisation of soldiering and reduction in conflicts fought on Western soil - very few men in Western societies actually get to be soldiers these days. So there has to be somewhere for guys to play at war - paint-balling, competitive sports, Men's Movement - and music. All this stuff is a psychic version of National Service (which still exists in parts of mainland Europe, Singapore, China & Israel). But most of the music remains at the level of fantasy.

"Of course the US is actually involved in a real war right now..."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

a few final (well, most likely) disorganized thoughts on the subject (Metal Week is in danger of turning into Metal Month )

it occurred to me that in addition to the hipster metal as separate defined category there were two other ways that people who aren’t patriots for metal “engage” with the genre:

1/ ironic affection/attraction

the missus was an early practitioner here, she was a 80s New York club kid, sorta New Romantic-blurring-into-Goth Anglophile, but she and her friends developed an ironic fandom for Ratt, wearing the T-shirts, etc, no doubt genuinely enjoying the band's one Good Song "Round and Round" and the cuteness of the singer, but with a non-reverence that would have scandalised true fans of their Artistry out there in the rock heartland such as Chuck Klostermann

also, my friend Mike Rubin of Motorbooty magazine went further still: he and his ‘Booty cohorts out in Ann Arbor had some kind of parody metal band called Motorhome (umlauts on both O’s I think) back in the late Eighties, sufficiently convincing to earn a place in fellow Michiganite Chuck Eddy’s Stairway To Hell book on the Top 500 Metal Albums of All Time (I think they place in the 300s, not bad at all for a not-fully-serious proposition, especially since Iron Maiden don’t even make the 500). Having heard the Motorhome tape I can say that Mike has got a set of Ian Astbury gale-force lungs on him.

There’s plenty other examples of irony-tinged enjoyment crossing the line into irony-clad practice, e.g. Zodiac Mindwarp (didn’t that guy later have some kind of association with Bill Drummond? The plot thickens…)

2/ exceptions that prove the rule

i.e. groups felt to transcend the hipster-perceived irredeemable shitness of the genre by some exceptional quality (literacy or artiness, a pop sensibility, sense of humour, personality/charisma/eccentricity). Examples:

i/ Blue Oyster Cult. Seem to have gotten respect from non-metalheads from the git-go for their clever lyrics, that admiration waning rapidly as the group “sell out” from the late 70s onwards. There’s no denying “Don’t Fear the Reaper” though is there…

ii/ Thin Lizzy. Lithe and limber, Hendrixy-tinged raunch'n'roll, lots of gappy bits where the sound strips down, terrific rhythm; a series of great rock-goes-pop hit singles; rogueish charm of singer-as-character; "intelligent bad boy" lyrics tinged with Van Morrison-ish romanticism. In 1976, the year of punk, Jailbreak was NME's Album of the Year.

iii/ Motorhead. For the affinities with punk; Lemmy’s “integrity” and piss 'n 'vinegar character; his
intelligence, being well-read (admittedly mostly re, the Third Reich), opinionated; relative lack of self-indulgence on the gtr solo front; the drummer; doing great pop singles like “Ace of Spades” and “Leaving Here”.

iv/ AC/DC. Ramones-like sublime simplicity and unchanging sameyness, plus sense of humor. That killer groove thang. Angus Young's school tie and shorts thing goes down well with non-metalheads for dramatising the retardation/puerility of the genre as they see it.

v/ ZZ Top, another great singles band (well for a couple of years there anywhere), great videos; another group who seem to be in on the joke. One of the Gibbons is really smart and erudite, into surrealism, etc.

vi/ Rush. Their incredible earnestness and flashy musicianship (oh my lord the size of the drummer's kit), the weedy thin screech of Geddy Lee's voice (and keyboards for that matter) would seem to make them pure-metal in the way that most hipsters cannot stomach, not to mention the proggy conceptualism and right-leaning Ayn Rand-influenced lyrics. Nonetheless there was a definite phase when hipster types were giving them props—in the early 90s, for some reason (certainly not the records they were putting out at that point). Never quite got around to their albums myself but I did love “Spirit of Radio” when it originally came out: that proto-Husker Du glancing powerchord drive thing that I don’t know enough about guitar-playing to describe adequately, the lyric about “all the machinery making modern music/can it still be open-hearted?”, those thrilling guitar runs that are actually a bit like the ones in "Skank Bloc Bologna" . Talking of skank, I heard it again recently on car radio and had completely forgotten it goes into this bizarre reggae coda, cutting back and forth between leisurely skank and blistering power trio sprint.

vii/ Guns N’Roses. See earlier post below.

viii/ Faith No More. Erudition (several members of the band into Nietzche), eclecticism/fusion-ism, misanthropy. Must admit I succumbed to their dubious charms circa Angel Dust, wrote a favourable review which described FNM’s music as being like a scab you couldn’t stop returning to pick at. Imagine my surprise when the record company turned that into a pull quote and made it the slogan for their double-page spread adverts in the music papers.

ix/ Jane’s Addiction. Artiness adding a perceived patina of bohemian cool to the decadence (c.f. mere oafishness of regular metal band indulgence); eclecticism-fusionism factor as per FNM, but more Goth-meets-tribal-percussion-meets-funk than FNM’s Zappa-meets-Stranglers-meets-Stanley-Clarke-meets-Beasties. I was a big big Jane’s fan, they seemed really special, and potentially important. They are one of those groups where I’m a little scared to go back and listen to the albums again, for fear it’ll all seem a lot less magical. Still they regularly show “Stop” from Ritual as a video on VH1-Classic, and it still sounds amazing, and of course the shoplifting one, their one pop moment. The reunion of a few years, a concert from which I saw on TV, was perfectly ghastly (oh those clothes Perry was wearing) (the theme tune to Entourage grows on you, however). I had an unsettling moment the last time I listened to Ys where one song I suddenly thought Joanna's voice sounded like Perry's on Porno For Pyros's "We'd Make Good Pets"--that Tinkerbell quality--but luckily it faded fast.

x/ Napalm Death. Seem to recall them getting some attention and love outside the metal realm (big pieces in NME perhaps) on account of the extremity, the 1 second song, plus didn’t they have sorta Discharge/Chumbawumba-like anarcho-punxy politics?

xi/ Voivod. Lyrical intellect (all songs relating to some complex sci-fi on-going saga type thing if I recall right), a lean-and-clean vaguely futuristic sound (missing link between Chrome, Killing Joke and Young Gods? it’s been a long time since I heard them). At any rate they were sufficiently buzz-worthy outside the metal domain at one point that I bought a couple of their albums, about which I remember almost nothing, as you can tell.

There’s probably more examples but the above all seem to belong to a lineage of hipster-embraced "transcends the genre's inherent inanity and repellentness" bands. Its negative mirror-image would be the lineage of true-school metal that would never get an ounce of respect from hipsterland and that would run something like Judas Priest/Iron Maiden/Scorpions/Dio/W.A.S.P…

yet more from the metal mailbag

Ari Abramowitz of takes issue:

1) Metal/Hard Rock: I think you and Woebot are barking up the wrong tree here. The distinction between hard/heavy music with black influences versus hard/heavy music without those influences is more of a function of time period than genre classification. Basically, most rock of all kinds had strong black influences in the 70s (the rock was funky and the funk was often rocky), while almost no rock--metal or otherwise--had much black influence in the 80s (or even the 90s). I personally feel that the difference between hard rock and Metal resides in the essence/drive/core of the music. That's vague, so let me be clearer: hard rock, just like rock but harder, deals with sex, drugs, and, yes, rock and roll. This is the central reason why Zeppelin is *primarily* a hard rock band (except for tracks like "Immigrant Song") and why AC/DC and Motorhead (except on tracks like "Iron Fist"), are almost entirely hard rock bands. This is why "cock rock" is totally Rock, not metal. Metal deals with strength, power, and either the heroic or the foreboding. This is the essence that carries through the most archetypal and influential Metal bands: Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Metallica, Slayer. You are correct to notice the non-sexual aspect of Metal, but it is not due to the absence/presence of blues or any other black influence, but to the essential characteristic of Metal being largely about Life & Death, itself. That's why Sabbath is a Metal band, despite its blues roots (I personally think their bluesiness is overplayed by the press. I still haven't heard any blues lines that sound like "Into the Void" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". Even when they do get bluesier, their consistent emphasis on the "tritone" warps the blues sound into something different, something almost medieval).

2) Hipster Metal: Suffering, endurance, battling the world are all elements of the Metal essence. Hipsterism tends to fly in the face of all that. For the metal faithful, you have to have put in your work, paid your dues, and proven true solidarity. No one likes a tourist, a poseur--especially not an ethos infused with the life and death struggle. A hipster will be there for you one day and mocking you the next (maybe both simultaneously, if given the right crowd). The major bone of contention is that hipsters do not actually *like* Metal, its essence, its spirit, and likely not even its sound. Rather, the appearance is often that Metal is a mere pawn in the hipsters' arms race for coolness. That's why literary attributes must be ascribed to Mastodon to make them acceptable (as if their compositions were not sufficient), or references made to Tony Conrad and Terry Riley for Sunn O))), or overexaggerated claims to experimentalism on the part of Boris (neither of whom I would classify as Metal) (as for the Sword and Wolfmother, etc the problem is less with pretentious/pandering packaging as much as with stultifyingly unimaginitive derivativeness. Sleep and Kyuss showed that "retro" elements can be explored very effectively). If people could somehow experience music *as music* more than as a social badge/signifier, this probably wouldn't be as much of a problem and critique would be much easier (though, to your point, the critiques would not necessarily be longer or more interesting).


Ted Hill from Houston, Texas notes:

“I remember when Guns and Roses came out, many black kids I knew who hated most rock really liked them...they had this sort of "groove" behind them, they didn't seem phony. I was heart broken when that "One in a Million" song came out. They were on the verge of being a huge crossover band with a lot of respect from black rap fans, at least here in Houston. Nirvana ended up with that honor. “

Yeah the thing about GnR is that they did have that undeniable groove thang going for them, especially “Welcome to the Jungle”, and especially the funk freak-out fast bass-run helter-skelter haywire bit two-thirds the way through. It wasn’t all rehash, there was something fresh there.

On the rave/metal overlap, Ted-- who deejayed (still deejays?) on the Texas drum’n’bass scene says also that D&B in the Houston area went downhill when “a new crop of kids came in who were into nu-metal and maybe industrial, and they worshipped Andy C/Ed Rush and Optical/Dieselboy/Bad Company.They were white kids who talked faux gangsta slang, and tried to look real hard and tough at shows while punching the air and stomping around the dance floor, yelling at each breakdown.” I think I once described Bad Company (which is a hard rock if not quite metal name, after all) as the Motorhead of D&B, which was meant as a compliment, but also as a diss on everyone else in D&B circa 98/99 (the analogy being Motorhead versus NWOBHM).

Someone told me that Photek of all people is now peddling an ultra-fast ultra-hard nu-skool D&B sound that is equal parts metal and gangsta--he calls it "thugfunk" or something like that. Rupert Parkes, the last time I checked, wasn't he making house music?! What happened? Did he need dough to buy another Ferrari?


On the metal/gabba overlap, Marcus Scott notes:

“Jason Medonica - the lead singer of satanic metal group Akercocke --was responsible for the Disciples of Belial project and also the Dead by Dawn parties”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

more from the metal mailbag

Provocative thoughts from Carl the Impostume on the New Solemnity


Neil who does the great night life/clubbing culture blog History is Made at Night (look for the recent post on trad jazz) mentions the gabba/metal nexus in re. the 90s Brixton club Dead By Dawn, which was part of that whole Praxis/Alien Underground speedcore under-underground:

“I remember the last night at Dead by Dawn (1996) featured the satanic speedcore The Disciples of Belial complete with black hoods whose whole vibe was very black metal”.

And of course Earache had that whole little moment there of putting out gabber records, I went to a really punishing gabber night in London that was the launch for that first big gabba comp they put out....

Neil also wonders about the gender question:

“is there an overlap between bloggers, dubsteppers and metallists as primarily (but not exclusively) fraternities?”

Hmmm, well it's true, 'blog' is uncomfortably close to the word 'bloke' but… there’s always girls who are attracted by these harder sounds, who get involved as fans, but also musicians and deejays.. Actually the last time I went to Dub War, the NYC dubsteppa nite, I was pleasantly surprised how many women there were there.


Bruce Levenstein notes there’s even more of a KLF/extreme metal connection:

“That mention of the KLF/Extreme Noise Terror performance reminded me that KLF attempted to release a metal album tof follow-up The White Room: "


Robin Carmody contributes to the periodisation of “hipster metal,” noting that as late as March 1984 NME devoted an entire issue to heavy metal that was “overwhelmingly negative and critical in tone”, centered around a piece by Charles Shaar Murray that slagged it off for its gross exaggeration of blues machismo and hyperphallic sexism. I’m pretty sure Barney Hoskyns metal-appreciative remarks predated that issue by a year or so, but then (in his typical renegade style) they would have been totally against the general grain, that lingering postpunk mindset which treated metal as degenerate culture, even proto-fascist. The first time I can recall any one in postpunk culture saying anything remotely positive about metal is Mark E. Smith (actually in an NME profile by Hoskyns, circa Slates). Smith spoke appreciatively of the robustly Teutonic way metal kids carried themselves and described the scene as “healthy", because metal kids got all the typical postpunk/NME-reader bollocks of analyzing and over-thinking and discoursing out of the way and didn't make such a big thing about music. Presumably most Fall fans would have filed this pro-metal comment along with Smith's other loopy opinions of the era like the idea that the nuclear bomb was a good thing because it mean that conscription was no longer required.

A fellow rejoicing in the name Vas Djifrens declares:

“there iss only one way to true metal knowledge of the scene and scratchening of its surface: "




Matthew Moore from down under with an Australian perspective on the Goth/metal nexus. He observes that while there is a black metal record store in Newtown (“Sydney’s rock central) there are three stores “selling Goth couture”:

“We seem to be big on Goth (& Emo also) and we have the big hairy slices of Trad Rock (as Aussie as meat pies) such as Grinspoon, Powderfinger & You Am I - but little Metal per se. And I think part of this is due to gender. Put bluntly, chicks gravitate more towards the Goth scene than the Metal. And if they are into Metal then their signifiers are often Goth (bondage gear, flouncy dresses, make-up). And the dudes follow the chicks. Or make a definite decision not to. In a sense, Goth is Speed Garage to Metal's Techstep. What strikes me about most post-blues Metal is the extent to which recognisable human emotion is eliminated. The Will To Posthumanity (to be free of these messy, horrible bodies) can be found in Techno AND Metal. Except that one chooses The Plateau and one The Abyss. Or summat. Whereas Goth takes body mortification and amplifies it into exhibitionism. "This Horrible Body" becomes "This Horrible Beautiful Body". And emotion in the music leaks back in (or refuses to dissipate) through this drama of display. That said the extent to which Goth remains a style culture more than a music culture here in Sydney is debatable.”

Phinally, p H i n n with a spelling correction:

'Finland is in Finnish "Suomi", not "Soumi".'

Friday, March 02, 2007

Blimey, who'd have thought it, Metal Week has proved to be the most email-inciting topic since the heady days of Alt-Rock Slow Jams, Prog and find-a-name-for-me-postpunk-book-please. A lot of people out there turn out to have had a phase of metal-love in their backgrounds. (Quite a few of them rave/techno/dance types, intriguingly. Perhaps there is some connection there: the tribal undergroundism, the extremism, the fact that the musics aren't song-based so much as riff-based, the orientation towards sensation, sensory overload, volume, noise, the euphoric aggression/aggressive euphoria, the going mental, even the uniformity aspect of the style. Plus rave music like metal can be quite dark and apocalyptic. There is certainly a thread of comparisons with metal running through much of Energy Flash, starting with the title itself--made by a guy, joey beltram, who loved zep and sabs and when i met him in early 92 claimed there was talk of him producing the next metallica album!) As a result the mailbag's so bulging I've been forced to start my own equivalent to K-punk's guest worker program...


Bruce Adams (formerly of Kranky; now doing this remembers Gore very well:

"When it came out Mean Man's Dream was IT. I was working at a questionable distributor in the Chicago suburbs... when the Gore album was licensed for the U.S. I had it on LP and tape - 'cause I had to have it in the car, too. The album was heavy, it also had a rhythmic swing to it kinda like the Bad Brain's "I Against I". Fit nicely into what was happening then in the US with the afore-mentioned Bad Brains, Blind Idiot God and the first Helmet records. In Yurp Gore were aligned with Caspar Brotzmann Massaker (and Gore drummer Danny Arnold Lommen later joined CBM). A couple of years later I was working at Touch & Go and heard a little Gore in The Jesus Lizard (who toured with Caspar Brotzmann), and band members fessed up to being in possession of the record. It took forever for Wrede to follow MMD and it was a major disappointment. The economy and umph had been totally lost. Maybe Danny Lommen really was the heart of the band. I remember around then Gore FINALLY came to Chicago to play and the leader/bassist of the band was a real dink."


I was asking what the hell Soumi Metal was and Nichoals Katranis obliges:

"SOUMI is Finnish for FINLAND"


K-punk and I'll just have to agree to disagree re. KLF but Stephen Stamper did remind me that
KLF had their own metal moment:

"Lest we forget they recorded a version of "What Time Is Love" (retitled "America: What Time Is Love?") with the 'Voice of Rock' Glenn Hughes... AND there was their appearance at the Brit Awards with Extreme Noise Terror (and the notorious incident with the dead sheep afterwards)!"

And then later recalled an even more bizarre KLF/Sunn O))) connection, viz.

"....I just remembered late last night that Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley recently performed a live electronic accompaniment to the K-Foundation's "Watch the K-Foundation Burn a Million Quid"! You can find details somewhere on his website:"

I’m sure Mark and Alex Williams and others who have suggested that Sunn O))) are deadly earnest about the robes are right, it's more my own in ability to suspend disbelief (a common problem with metal generally, and Goth too), such that i can't imagine how they could enter into ritual w/o some kind of self-consciousness about it

then again the fact that they named themselves after a make of amplifier Earth used (that's right isn't it?) seems quite... not exactly pomo, but the sort of thing Primal Scream or Stereolab would do. (And Earth themselves were named after the original name that Black Sabbath used, right).


Wallace Winfrey offered a bunch of suggestions:

1/ "be sure and check out Leviathan (aka Wrest). He contributed vocals on "It Took The Night To Believe" on Sunn-O's Black One and is the best of the"one-man-playing-all-instruments" black metal artists. He puts out pure guitar ambience albums ("Silouhette In Splinters" on Profound Lore), does oil paintingsfor his covers, and released like 20 demos in 4 years, and hardly any of them are shit. Start with the Verrater double-CD released on Tumult. He makes his living as a tattoo artist in San Francisco, and used to play in a "math rock" band called Gift Horse. He produced his first 10 or so demos/self-releases using only a Roland digital drumkit, a microphone, a guitar, a bass, a Line 6 Pod (one of those all-in-one amp modeler/FX/preamp deals) and a 4-track cassette tape. It's like Djay says in Hustle n Flow: "It aint just climbing Mt. Everest, it's climbing it with as few tools as possible." He doesn't have a web page, or a MySpace site. He is, as the black metallers say, TRVE GRIM KVLT. Keep in mind that obscurity is highly-regarded in the black metal scene. Here's his metal archives profile:"

2/ "Also worthy of note is Judas Iscariot, Wolves In The Throne Room (google for interviews with these guys -- not your standard black metal fare),Wolfmangler/Dead Ravens Choir, and of course, the almighty Ulver. "

(What's with all the Wolf names?! cf Wolfmother)

3/ "Also, there's some interesting metal stuff happening in the breakcore scene. Hecate's recent 'Brew Hideous' release is black metal IDM breakcore and Drumcorps' Grist is a very nice mutation of breakcore and death metal. I know some of those guys, and from what I hear, a lot of them are currently working on metal-influenced stuff.

4/ You might enjoy this article - "False Metal: The Financial And Farcical Return of Heavy Metal" It goes into a lot of detail about recent media interest in metal, and in particular, takes it's time to dismember the Sword.

5/ "check out the black metal zine Oaken Throne. One of the best zines I've read in a long time. Kind of hard to find, I order mine through Aquarius Records in SF. Nice reviews and a great overview of blackmetal+. Very, very nice looking too."

Oaken Throne!! Ah Aquarius -- Jon Dale said that he thought they had been the force behind turning the hipster massive onto metal these last several years.


Bruce Levenstein pinpoints the Goth/Metal overlap as key, elaborating further on the below at his blog

"is Goth the missing link between hauntology and hipster metal? ... When i hear Sunn O))) it reminds me of the dark ambient/goth experimentalism of Lustmord or maybe Hafler Trio. and then i was thinking about Sisters of Mercy, a band that began and ended with a very metal sound (Vision Thing is loaded with metal riffs). It seems like goth is planted right between metal and the dark ambient aesthetic that leads to hauntology."

Black metal obviously has a Gothic aspect but actually, it's the Goth influx of influence into NON-hipster metal that is equally striking: everything from Evanescence with their floaty Cocteaus/goth lite thing to Avenged Sevenfold with the Alien Sex Fiend fun-Goth aspect to AFI i think it was who covered the Cure's "Hanging garden" . That leakage of Goth imagery and guitar sounds too into metal adds another aspect to what I was arguing about how metal is where the ideals of postpunk live largest today, in so far as Goth is one branch of postpunk.


Cosmo Lee illustrates the metal/dance overlap/affinity--he is giving a talk on Berlin techno on the same dance music-dedicated EMP panel as me and Geeta this April, but he also runs a metal-dedicated Mp3 blog which looks to be a useful way of checking stuff out. He also does stuff c/o Metal Injection and c/o Stylus.


Ben Squires nominates Celtic Frost as

"the first hipster metal outfit as the term is currently being used. After three increasingly avant, but popular in underground terms LPs, they went totally crazy with 'Into the Pandemonium' with hip-hop instrumentals, a Wall of Voodoo cover, opera singers and other strange moves. Cries of sell-out from the underground and huge critical acclaim - then came their 'hair metal' LP - again quite popular with some critics - I even remember a comment about them being more intelligent than their fans in one review - but even more hated by the underground. May be I'm making this up because they are from the same country as the Young Gods. still they are back with a new LP and a slightly muted critic reaction - although as you know it was in the top 50 LPs of 2006 in The Wire. which may or may not prove my point."



i was talking about Lime Lizard/the Lizard's metal-love and actually trying to remember this band they always used to interview at enormous length, treating the singer like he was some kind of seer with amazing insights into the human condition. Well it came back to me:


Okay back to the mailbag...


Terence J. McGaughey informs of the activities of Karl Blake of Sabbath-rehabilating Shock Headed Peters:

"he's actually working on a project now called "blake sabbath"!!"

and reminds of the Blake side project for el records not long after shock head peters 'i blood brother be':

"there's an album he recorded as the Underneath called "lunatic dawn of the dismantler" (!!?), which is absolutely astonishing.... apparently mike alway wasn't keen on blake's cerebral-metal approach (or ashley wales' electro & hip-hop influences [that's ashley wales as in spring heel jack, i believe--ed.] so he would give karl all these odd projects to do until the peters 'became' a bit more of what he wanted (i.e. frivolous and contintental, judging by el records roster), which of course they never became. "

not to be confused, the Underneath, with Underneath What, a neo-raunch/glam band for which i floated the unfortunate rubric, "crotchquake". yeeeees ah weeell....


Dominic at Poetix has some more good stuff on Xasthur and ambient black metal, here

All his imagery of "toxic womb environments" and “an evil cradling” -- love it. I’m sure somewhere along the way I used a similar trope, to do with the dead womb, the oceanic rock impulse turned morbid and necrotic... about that Isolationist comp? or EAR?

Before we get carried away with the Xasthur love though original metalhead Francesco Brunetti notes wryly:

"speaking of lifeless music, well Xasthur itself would admit, since he covered them often, to be a not so really great copyist of the ultra obscure depressive metal of mid '90 Les Légions Noires
and Mutilation."


Woebot, talking about the inspiration and copious research (that geezer's a nutter i'm telling ya) behind his latest, terrific animated episode of Woebot TV, makes the distinction between hard rock (what his fictional rock monsters Methuselah are) and heavy metal--and a good distinction, saying that hard rock retains the connection to the blues (and i'd say black music in general--r&b, funk, etc). whereas metal proper starts to leave black music behind--from judas priest and iron maiden onwards, the groove starts to go. and when the groove goes, the sex goes, as subject matter for song and as a feel transmitted by the music. Was AC/DC the last "metal" band whose songs could play in a disco? Well, I suppose there was funk-metal, and then later nu-metal, but neither of these seem like organic development so much as contrived re-infusions to compensate for the blackness/grooveness that had been erased. Especially in the case of nu-metal, where you had a feel taken from a sampled/looped/programmed genre (hip hop) transplanted into a live/played band-based music. i.e. that lumpen House of Pain type pogo-funk that was picked up by limp bizkit. (Although i guess that
last big Korn single was quite groovy in feel-- you know the one with the rich cultural studies text of the video where the band are played by hip hop stars like Snoop, the video seemingly being Korn arguing that their music was in some sense black music.) Oh and then there was grunge too I suppose, although again that had to be a retro move, a Seventies flashback to boogie and to precisely the sort of hard rock/heavy rock Woebot's talking about (I remember a piece by Greg Tate in the Voice saying he loved grunge for exactly that reason, soundgarden and pearl jam, for flashing him back to being a child listening to the radio at a time when hard rock and black music had greater proximity, ie. James Gang "funk #49", aerosmith, Free etc etc .) But yeah I'd have to say I much prefer hard rock, as Woebot defines it, to metal.

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and that's just some of the emails!

so: how come all this interest in metal --- meaning the K-punk and Blissblog guest worker programmes and associated blog activity, but also the last two-three years of hipster uptake? Well there was something I pursued in an early version of the Pazz essay but had to leave out for space/straying off topic, but which has more than a grain of truth to it i think. It relates to the dubstep/noise/metal axis as representing uber-rockist values of danger/darkness/difficulty. And specifically to the third one, difficulty as a value, a desirable thing. Difficult to listen to, in the sense of presenting obstacles to instant enjoyment; difficult in the sense of being fields of music that are dense and highly differentiated and as such a challenge to master. The point I would extrapolate from this is that this makes them stimulating and alluring to a certain kind of person.

At the height of the pro-pop delirium a couple of years back one proponent declared that “popism is about eliminating barriers to pleasure” while another poptimist argued “importance and relevance is a scam and a trap. Don't bother with it…. Once you stop thinking about things in those terms, all of music and art becomes far more enjoyable.” The trouble with this quasi-virtuous elevation of pleasure/enjoyment to supreme value and sole criteria is that, for critics and the critically-minded (the bloggerati, “serious” fans) enjoyment in itself is not that interesting. It doesn't take you anywhere. Actually it's bloody hard to write about pleasure alone. Go on, try reviewing a record entirely in terms of its pleasurability. I guarantee by the middle of the second paragraph you’ll be reaching for some kind of measure of significance or relevance. So it makes sense that critics, whose job it is to generate thought-provoking words, are being drawn to the harder stuff. Extreme metal is not only a music that lends itself to intellectualisation by outsiders, it is a subculture that--strangely, given the reputation metal has generally had historically of being kinda moronic--prizes intellectualism and learning and profundity. Just look at the song-titles, so verbose they're often comically over-ripe with lofty words and laboured cadences. Just read the interviews, the groups typically grappling with the grandest questions of the human condition, the mystery and horror of death etc etc.

The real problem with the poptimistic notion of enjoyment as be all and end all is that it is too narrow a definition of “pleasure”. Having demands made on you is rewarding, can even be fun, and at the moment metal is one of the few musics around that offers a winning combination of visceral release/catharsis/sensory impact with the work ethic of the engaged listener, grappling with a music based around density of sonics, complex structures, and in some cases lyrics/concepts/authorial intent that require interpretive exertions.


well i'm feeling pretty metal-led out right now, maybe there's one more post in me left to catch up a few stray threads... and of course further missives from the massive are welcomed. to close for now, some light relief. Seeing as we're talking about ROCK here's a piece I "wrote" for a Geology magazine. For real. Actually what it is, my dad is journalist, he writes for a real wide array of places and for a while back there he was writing for this Geologist journal and had an idea for a whimsical piece on geology and rock music. He asked for some pointers and I emailed a whole bunch off-the-top-of-me-head. Next thing I hear he's gone and got it printed slighty rewritten but more or less intact in the mag, and under my name! It was only meant to be raw material for him to use. Anyway most of the groups are metal so it's kinda relevant.