Thursday, June 26, 2008

who knew?! -- Jeff Chang on the global preeminence of South Korean break-dancing

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some people had issues with this piece, i'm not entirely sure why, OK quibbles can be made here and there, but the overall argument seems pretty undeniable. But, if one final piece of evidence needed to be marshalled to close the case it sought to make, then it's surely arrived with this single and things it's inspired such as this

Ninny rap!

Elsewhere in beyond-self-parodyland, the video for Ace Hood's "Cash Flow" (is that a protection racket they're running?), where I was struck by the "Money Never Sleeps" T-shirt. The slogan seemed almost like a vernacular version of Fredric Jameson's idea of finance capital as our new version of the Sublime: monstrous and abstract, indifferent to humanity, this remorseless, rampaging force of shark-like voraciousness... (I've been rereading Postmodernism, Or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism). Then I realised it's one of Gordon Gecko's catchphrases. Indeed it's the title of the Wall Street sequel due out next year. Does this mean the Eighties never ended?

kinnel, even I draw the line at hard house!

always did wonder about the dominatrixy vibe of names like Lisa Lashes and Anne Savage

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Taylor Parkes comes back with a clarification/elaboration upon his claim that MBV poisoned the Britrock pond for half-a-decade

"I was thinking more generally of the shift from the clean sounds of the 1980s (where the interplay between instruments was crucial) to the early-90s thing of massed, ultra-distorted guitars - which I remember extending way beyond shoegaze - encouraging laziness in playing and arrangement. In other words, MBV used that sound, subtly and with great skill, to create new atmospheres, while a thousand bands that emerged in the next few years just blasted away with a bunch of effects pedals and hoped for the best, and it wasn't just the shoegazers. That messy sound hung on as far as Oasis - very much a post-Valentines band, but with all the avant-garde stuff stripped away. They very definitely stole the big billowing guitar sound from "Isn't Anything" while missing the point. They played neat Beatley songs which were too slight to stand up by themselves, so they reached for the blizzard-of-noise to give themselves a lift - and the result was a sort of sludge that stopped them developing as a band (although I doubt that would have happened anyway), and was a million miles from the kind of skilful two-guitar pop their songwriting drew on. That bleary sound wouldn't have existed without "Isn't Anything" and "Loveless". I just seem to remember almost every group for the best part of a decade featuring two guitarists thrashing away with lazy strumming, amplified and distorted to hell. No subtlety, no push-and-pull, just an almighty racket that really had nothing in common with MBV's sculpted noise, but was clearly drawn from it. It was what made most indie rock gigs so miserable throughout the 90s."

Ah, that makes a lot of sense, actually. Almost like the bands were aiming for the same sound-cloud effect but the spirit animating it being not Ecstasy-induced/aligned alchemical-and-androgynous, but more boozy-woozy and bleary-beery, a ladsy-sudsy blether of all-together-now emotion... Shoegaze crossed with the Farm...

More generally, thinking about the Brit bands of the last 14 years or so, a period I was in America so in a lot of cases my sole access to the inkie-touted bands has been retrospectively via Jools Holland (Later With... is on here but in this kind of anachronic endless rotation way that draws on shows from across the programme's entire life-span, shows that in some cases look to be from about ten years ago, but as a result it has a real educative function for me, finally getting to hear things like Travis and--with mounting disbelief as the song proceeded--that "more life in a tramp's coat" ditty), but yeah, it's very often this indistinct mush of sound that you get from British post-indie, given further dismal amorphitude by the listless non-assertive drumming.

(Perhaps Coldplay are one logical extension of shoegaze but then I read that in a bizarre returns-a-second-time-as-farce repeat of U2's Eno-assisted self-reinvention circa Achtung Baby, for their new album Coldplay have been steeping themselves in a whole range of "edgy" music, including some of the exact same things U2-circa-Achtung were checking out and drawing from, among them My Bloody Valentine--which further makes you wonder how any reasonably sentient UK-based rock musician growing up in the 90s could have avoided hearing Loveless etc... But then even before hooking up with him, Coldplay already were something like the dystopian version of Eno's famous "vaguest piece of music ever to have been a hit" tribute to "Soon", music so textured it actually has no texture, paradoxically). Later with Jools has a peculiar effect, doesn't it, even bands you like seemed to get turned to shit by being on the show, e.g. The Beta Band.

Tangentially this has reminded me of a juxtaposition I saw recently on Later that seemed to speak volumes... There was one show where they had Bobby Womack on. I don't think anyone nowadays would place him in the first rank of Soul Men (the Eighties soul boys had a valiant try, they were looking around for anybody to rally around who was actually active, and, with The Poet and Poet II, there was really just Womack; I was actually swayed enough by the hype to go and see him do the full soul-revue thing at Oxford Apollo in must-have-been 1984). Anyway Womack was on Later, doing a cover of "California Dreaming", just him singing and strumming an acoustic guitar. And, minor legend perhaps, but in that context he came over like a colossus--such presence, such poise, just the sheer magnificence of his physical being. And then immediately after... Graham Coxon! Looking like a spotty, speccy fifteen year old too shy to meet anyone's eye, sheepishly scrabbling out this knobbly indie-guitar semi-song so shaky and self-effaced it wouldn't even have made it onto C86 (This might be the very performance in fact). Once upon a long-ago time British rock would have routinely aspired to Womack level... the Stones covered his "It's All Over Now", right?)but since indie onwards it's too often been about being smaller-than-life.
(Well, then again, I suppose "Tender" was Blur aspiring, horribly, to Womack-type Expressive Size, but the impetus I expect for that came from Albarn rather than lo-fi fan Coxon. C.f. Spiritualized, also on Later, Albarn couldn't do it with his own voice, but had to go the Hired Gospel Choir route). It also made me think how utterly mystifying to Bobby Womack the mousy modesty of Coxon's song and performance must have been, and many others on the show too, if he'd stuck around, which he probably had to, cos they all do two songs, right?

While we're on Jools and also on Melody Maker journalists, I must share a bizarre ghosts-of-my-life type experience I had last week. I was watching one show, from 2002 or thereabouts, and they had David Bowie on, sitting at the piano with Holland, doing this kind of droney-Lunndunn-voiced semi-comic Pete and Dud routine with him. And I thought, not for the first time, how much Bowie and Chris Roberts* resembled each other. And whether there was an element of narcissism to Chris's rabid Bowie fandom (he's a guy, after all, who publically wrote an appreciation of the Glass Spider tour). Or was it in fact the other way around, and as per Talking Heads's "Seen and Not Seen", he'd gradually changed his facial features by force of will? And then, amid these idle ponderings, I suddenly became aware of this blurry face-portion darting into view behind Bowie's head every so often. No, it couldn't be... But yes, to my utter amazement, like the materialisation of my thoughts, the features resolved into the face of Chris Roberts, sitting in the front row of the audience immediately behind his idol and looking appropriately amused. At one point Roberts head seemed to settle on Bowie's shoulder/neck like some monstrous growth, like How To Get Ahead in Advertising remade by Fred "Starlust" Vermorel. I press 'pause', go get Joy from the other room , rewind, we have a good chuckle. And then,continuing to watch, suddenly, another unnervingly familiar face starts to play peek-and-boo with me using the wrinkled glam god's head-and-shoulders, before finally settling into full view: Ian Gittins!!!

Here's the entire sequence, on youtube.

* both in turn having a bizarre resemblance to Wolfgang Voigt, viz

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

yes, he's a genius; no, it's not a masterpiece

jess harvell on lil wayne and tha carter III

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Scott of Celler Dweller, long since mutated from mp3 blog to subscriber-only mail-out, just let loose "a slab of proper nosebleed biznezz from Wishdokta"--"M.A.D (Massive Audio Disturbance)", Kickin, 1992--along with some information I didn't know: that Wishdokta was "an early alias of garage don Grant Nelson" aka Bump N' Flex, N'n'G, and a dozen other identities. Scott further points out that Nelson had an 'ardkore side-outlet called Naughty Naughty.
Judging by this Nelson seems to have kept on producing H-core (often in tandem with ultimate cheddarmeister DJ Vibes) right up to the very eve of speed garridge, in fact.

So let's get this straight--the bloke who co-created nuttE wobbler "Rushing the House" in '92 and happy-dark stomper "Obsession (Music's So Wonderful)" in '93 is the exact same bloke who made sublimely nubile
2steppa "Step 2 Me" in 1998 and incomparably slinky garage glide "Liferide" in 1999? And to think there are actually people out there who don't believe in the existence of the hardcore continuum!

RIP Nick Sanderson

Monday, June 16, 2008


Hot on the studded heels of K-Punk's splendid post on David Peace's The Damned Utd (a novel I devoured, some nights cutting into my precious parent-of-tiny-infant sleeptime, despite caring not much for football and knowing even less)in which Mark compares Brian Clough with M.E. Smith as husbander of talents and conjuror of esprit de corps, arrives the galley of a forthcoming book called The Fallen, in which ex-Melody Maker writer Dave Simpson tracks down and interviews every single former member of Team Fall. On a quick skim it looks like a right riveting read, all the different perspectives on the man(ager) of mystery, typically filtered through a murky prism of bitterness, grudging but unbudging affection, and abiding awe.

And as it happens, a third of the way through Simpson, looking around for Smith precedents, alights briefly on James Brown, decides "the more I find out about him, the more he brings to mind a great football manager than a director of musicians", and concludes that the best parallel is "1970s Nottingham Forest and Derby County manager Brian Clough" and his extreme version of "carrot and stick".
Geeta reactivates The Original Soundtrack (cool new design too) with a progress report on her book on Another Green World soon-come via Continuum's 33 1/3 series, a right riveting read it looks to be
some recent output:

director's cut of review of the new DVD of Radio On, Chris Petit's postpunk road movie

profile of Nico Muhly

review of the Ting Tings album

director's cut of the Frieze Gas piece + Q & A with Wolfgang Voigt

an interview with me at ReadySteadyBook

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

feed me with your bliss

What does it say about pop in 2008 that one of the best pieces of music writing I've read this year is about records released almost seventeen years and twenty years ago respectively? For inspired music-writing you first need inspired and inspiring music?

Not that I totally agree with Taylor. He's dead right that the sonically-clotted Loveless isn't overall as thrilling an album-length experience as Isn't Anything, is somewhat "overcooked" and at times "suffocating". (Indeed the four Creation EPs, merged, would make for the ultimate MBV album, I think, knocking the two proper ones way out of the park... apart from "Soon" and "To Here Knows When" (EP A-Sides as well as Loveless pinnacles) there's nothing on either album that matches the first two EPs's "Slow" and "I Believe" (although Isn't's "All I Need" comes close).

But then this claim--"it was MBV who poisoned British guitar rock for more than half a decade... left a legacy of laziness from which it’s never really recovered... these bright, intrepid records sired a generation of sludge" --seems a bit over the top. Who exactly does he have in mind? Shoegaze only lasted a couple of years, and even that had its moments, wasn't completely null and devoid.

The Moral Minority

"The people who are known today as 'conservatives' are better described as counterrevolutionaries'. They didn't just want to stop the clock. They wanted to turn it back.... And they failed. On every front conservatives have failed, completely, undeniably and irreversibly."

I hope he's right...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gutterbreakz's new "attic tapes" netlabel Bleepfiend off to a flying start with formative noises emitted by Data 70's Bob Bhamra!

Monday, June 09, 2008

hauntology in The Guardian, albeit rebranded as "psychogeographic rock"

this bit is almost too perfect to be true!

"By day... Harding is a town planner in Solihull; by night and weekend he makes music that is inspired... by "municipal parks at dusk", "concrete precincts" and "old ordnance survey maps."

Along with July Skies (top songtitle: "The Ruined And Disused Churches Of Norfolk") and Avrocar, Harding is also semi-member of Epic45, whose Hood-like May Your Heart Be the Map is a kind of ex-concept album: it started out inspired by the post-plague depopulated Britain reclaimed by wilderness of Seventies TV series The Survivors but then evolved in a different direction, with only ghostly residues of the original concept still clinging...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

ooh you lucky Londoners

unheard music!

and there's also this

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tagged by the Man Like Dan:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

Okay then. Might have to be albums not songs some of the time though.

Vintage Radiophonia from one of the core Workshoppers, the late John Baker, two separately sold CDs of radio themes, commercial jingles and assorted whatknot, forthcoming on Trunk. At its best the missing link between the Goons and Gesang der Jünglinge. For sheer in-advance-of-its-era-ness you'd have to pick something like "Electro-Rhythm MQ LP1/3" from 1965, which momentarily makes you wonder why Art of Noise even needed to exist (or indeed why the Fairlight needed to be invented at all). But for amusement value nothing beats "Woman's Hour (reading your letters)" where at a listener's mailed-in request Baker explains in earnest detail the intricate concrete-y snip-'n'splicerie that went into the 20 second jingle that introduced the BBC radio show's 'letters from our readers' segment.

Wonderfully exuberant and lunatically ludic sampladelic post-everything beat-mischief infused with songfulness: kinda Wagon Christ meets SuperCollider/Lidell meets Junior Boys meets "Hey Ya" meets New Radicals meets Prince meets Robin Thicke meets Hot Chip... and there does seem to be some sort of neu whiteboy faux/fey soul thing germinating (e.g. Simian offshoots Black Ghosts and Lord Skywave; Caspa Codina).So many great tracks here but I'd have to go with one of the most straighforward, "My Beau", a kind of semi-cover of Ghost Town DJs' "My Boo", that yearning-girl-vocalled, incongruously idyllic/innocent R&B-meets-bootybass tune big on MTV for a moment in the late 90s.

"Is this Can?" asked Joy, meaning "this is good". And the missus is on the money:
4th World funk with a goofy vocal intoning the title phrase, "Brown Rice" could be one of the better tracks on Landed. Dunno bout the vaguely macrobiotic period evocations of the title and LP cover slogan "organic music"--that crisp wah-wah gtr is succulent like pork crackling.

Title "track" Totentanz, a late Sixties ballet score by this mavericktronic composer, was reissued by Creel Pone, then withdrawn when an official reissue announced. This is it, except it's swollen into a double-disc anthology, with roughly four times as much material. If I had to pick from out of such Ponetastic bounty, I'd go for his other ballet score, "The Awakening."

From one synth-wizard to another, Joe Zawinul, RIP, who never gets much credit for his electronics. Mr Gone, from 1978, is very much his record; jazz critics, who regard this as the 'Port's nadir, joked that Mr. Gone was Wayne Shorter, inaudible for great stretches of this album, which is dominated by Zawinul's electronic keyboards, Pastorius' almost sequenced basslines, and disco-ish beats by a variety of drummers. Much of this is pretty putrid, admittedly, as you can just tell from titles like "The Pursuit of the Woman With the Feathered Hat", while "Punk Jazz" is definitely not what it says on the tin (even as Contortions and Prime Time and Ulmer were raging full-tilt on the opposite coast to where this was recorded, Los Angeles). Still, "River People" is snazzy strutting monster funk that always makes me think of an elephant doing Travolta's dance on the discotheque's light square floor; the long intro of shimmering, glistening, globular synth-and-bass is one of the most thrilling sequences in the Weather Report discography. The pick here, though, is "The Elders"-- ironically, Shorter's one true "moment" on the record, a gorgeously wistful and haunting tone-poem, with Zawinul daubing eldritchy textures but for once giving the saxophonist some space, no drums but a strange subdued subcurrent of choppy texture-rhythm (Pastorius slapping his bass percussively, but nothing like slap bass), the feel midway between Can's "Come Sta La Luna" and the wah-wah pulse of "Brown Rice". It really does make you think of some fey (in the original sense), infinitely wise and kindly people from the Olden Times, or maybe from a distant, dying planet like the one in The Man Who Fell to Earth. The liner notes chap on the Columbia CD reish of Mr. Gone keeps momentarily forgetting his job is to make the purchaser feel pleased with their decision and although he highlights "The Elders" as the high point of this not-really-proper-jazz-tut-tut album, chides Shorter for not taking his poignant melody anywhere, not improvising around the line. But I like it as a moodpiece, a looped moment-in-time. Which further reminds me of how I come to jazz with a rock-bred (and then techno-intensified) inclination towards groove/timbre/riff/space, and not so much investment in the core jazz thing of improvising around the melody; I mean, I like it just fine but I'd rather it was in conjuction with texturology and groove attack (hence my historically ass-about-tit belief that the 70s = jazz's best decade, like those people who only listen to/rate rock music from punk onwards), and the abscence of improvisation doesn't particularly pain me. That's how you end up with an album that most jazz afficianodos barely deem to be jazz as one of yer favourite jazz albums (well, bits of it, anyway).

Hated this on first idle listen, having got the idea that it was something to do with nu-Balearic (why on Earth would anyone go back to that...). A friend's warm recommendation sent me back to it and yes, love it, in a sort of utter decadent wallowing in pleasure/pleasantness, Kruder & Dorfmeister kind of way; it taps into the latent utopianism buried within the Seventies black pop fetish for luxury(think Tom Bell, Barry White, Gamble & Huff, Isaac Hayes, EW&F... well, everybody really, at that time). Music that goes so deep into relaxation, opulence, poise, it verges on transcendental. The sashaying brass and reggae blend of "Pacific Rhythm" is audacious, but "Broken Promises" clinches it with its regal mesh of strings and horns.

Gifted by a dear friend, an overlooked gem.

Okay, look, let's just turn this into an impromptu Feeling/Really Feeling/Not Really Feeling, eh?


Trevor Wishart, Machine

Flying Lotus, Los Angeles

Oskar Sala & Herald Genzmer, Electronique et Stereophonie: Musique Spatial

Morris Knight, After Guernica

Sozialistische Musiker Initiative: Max E. Keller/Martin Schwarzenlander

Harry Sparnaay/Lucien Goethals/Louis De Meester

Paul Boisselet, Symphonie Jaune

(last five = creel pones)

Dusk + Blacksound, Margins Music

The Black Ghosts, s/t

Philip Sherburne, Salt and Vinegar EP

Trimski, Soulfood Vol 3

Really Feeling

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III

Haruomi Hosono, Cochin Moon

Really Really Feeling

My Bloody Valentine, "Feed Me With Your Kiss"

Not Really Feeling

2562, Aerial.
(Just a bit underwhelmed: had HIGH hopes on account of being blown away hearing unawares a track by this guy at Dub War months back but this mostly seems rather close to your standard Basic Channelly end of dubstep, just marginally more frisky and nimble on the beats. Expected it to be a bit wilder.).

And now I'm supposed to tag some people, right? Seven of them.


History Is Made At Night.

Click Opera

Warren Ellis

Quiet Talks and Summer Walks

Attic Plan

Running the Voodoo Down

The Mire (any or all)

Some further thoughts on the discreet charm of the humble cassette from Gutter and Man Like Derek.

They've got a bunch of things going for them (the analogue sound; the surprising durability if treated well--I've got tapes from 26 years ago that still sound fine) but I suppose the big downside with cassettes is storage. The LP is just the perfect shape and size for shelving, and you can just about read the spines most of the time; a row of LPs just looks nice, and even wear-and-tear on cardboard sleeves has a shabby attractiveness (like yellowing,scuffed-spined, dog-eared-from-rereading books) compared with the cracked plastic hard-shells of cassettes and compact discs.

Cassettes, though--what were you supposed to do with them? You could stow them in special cases that could be rolled under beds or shoved inside drawers in a chest. And some people used to buy or get specially made teensy shelving. But the results--an irregular tesselation effect from all the different colored and font-ed spines--looked crap. (CDs aren't that much less irritating to stack, or ugly to look at en masse, but are significantly better in that respect to tapes). So my tapes, and there's a vast amount of them, are either in cardboard boxes stashed away, or they're in teetering vertical stacks that are then tightly crammed together into the compartments of this distressed gray-painted metal locker we found that looks like it might have once belonged to a police department. Of course, inevitably, the thing I'm looking for is right at the back which entails taking every wobbly tower of tapes out, one hand on the bottom and the other shakily squeezing the top to stop it collapsing in a clattering splintery heap on the floor (which they frequently do), and then replacing each stack one by one. Still, that brings up another virtue of the cassette, they are quite robust--not the cases, but the thing itself, which often has a surprising quality of density and heft in the hand; all that sound tautly rolled up on the spindles, perhaps.

Which also reminds me: I do not honestly understand how tape recording works (I know how it is supposed to work, technically, but I don't really get it), deep down I find it almost as miraculous as vinyl recordings, which I really don't understand, all that detail and spatiality extracted by the scraping of a needle in a groove (and how on Earth does it get put in there in the first place?). Whereas the encoding of sound digitally in zeroes and ones, which ought to be just as marvellous to consider really, seems quite logical and straightforward to me, is utterly stripped of mystery and mystique.

"a riff so tinny it wouldn’t fell a gerbil... flashing between a howl and a horse-laugh": Taylor Parkes on the cult of Chris Needham, nu-rockist icon

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I've been tagged

Will everybody stop getting tagged?






okay, i'll be back to deal with this tomorrow, and--naturally--tag some other unfortunates, if there's anybody left to tag

Monday, June 02, 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

Steve Beeho sent me this great Steve Albini quote on jazz -- don't let the fact that it's utter bunk interfere with your enjoyment of it! -- that he found somewhere on the web and which parallels my analogy between improv and anarchism:

"Jazz serves a cultural function in the music scene. It is a signifier for musical 'adulthood'. To embrace jazz is to don a kind of graduation cap, signifying a broadening of tastes outside 'mere' rock music. This ostentatious display of 'sophistication' is an insult, and I find the graduation cappers transparent and tedious. Certainly there must be interesting music one could call 'jazz'. There must be. I've never heard it, but I grant that it is out there somewhere.

"Jazz has a non-musical parallel: Christiania, the 'free' zone in Copenhagen. In Christiania, like in jazz, there is no law. People are left to their own inventions to create and act as they see fit. In Jazz, the musicians are allowed to improvise over and beside structural elements that may themselves be extemporaneous. Sounds good, doesn't it? Freedom — sounds good.

"The reality is much bleaker. Christiania is a squalid, trashy string of alleys with rag-and-bone men selling drugs, tie-dye and wretched food. Granted Total Freedom, and this is what they've chosen to do with it, sell hash and lentil soup? Jazz is similar. The results are so far beneath the conception that there is no English word for the disappointment one feels when forced to confront it. Granted Total Freedom, you've chosen to play II V I and blow a goddamn trill on the saxophone? Only by willfully ignoring its failings can one pretend to appreciate it as an idiom and don the cap".

Reminded me of Stubbs interviewing Big Black in '87 and the name "Jimi Hendrix" coming up and Albini being utterly scornful of "all that addle daddle shit". I've never forgotten that expression--"addle daddle"--which I guess shows that it's better to be idiotically wrong but with style than to be conscientiously correct without it.