Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blimey, it's all going off in the comments box for Impostume's (great) demolition job on Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, it's like a return to the glory days of K-punks comments box, hard clashing egos armed to the teeth with knowledge. Having seen the supremely irritating trailer for Happy-Go-Luck last week (only just coming out here in America) I was in total concurrence with Carl's view and all set to give Leigh's latest a wide berth, but reading the eloquent counter-arguments now feel obliged to check it out and make up my own mind. Plus I blow hot and cold with Leigh. Not sure I'd ever describe myself as a fan, but he's done some movies I admire: Career Girls, while modest in ambition and definitely a minor work, is very good on female friendship; Topsy Turvy deals with the craft and collegiality of collective artistic endeavour in a way I've not seen another movie attempt, and actually managed to get me slightly interested in Gilbert & Sullivan, something I could never have imagined; I can't help thinking that some people would feel more comfortable loving Life Is Sweet if it wasn't called Life Is Sweet (I don't think that that is the message of the film, anyway--not in such a simplistic, heartwarming way, at least). (Naked, as it happens, is not one of my favourites--too much of a self-consciously Major Work--although sections of it are brilliant, and the ending is a stunning twist of the knife). It's true Alison Steadman has been playing the same character for decades (viz, Gavin and Stacy which has just started here in the USA) and there's a tendency with Leigh, character-wise, to go for grotesques. But there's also people who seem totally recognisable, real English types that you've met along the way of your life.

Re. Carl's most interesting point, about how the women in Leigh's films are always grounded and sensible and stolidly supportive, how they're "stoical and conservative, making do and getting by," whereas the men are "tortured" by ideals and obsessions. That's a very perceptive point, but then again, thinking about the men and women I've known in my life, by and large, the women do seem more grounded. Oh, I can think of particular women who are total cranks or went off on strange life-paths, who refused to compromise their ideals even though it's made life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. But on the whole that does seems to be male territory. Surveying the whole gamut of men and women and the relationships between them that I've witnessed, from the very close at home out to people I'm only passingly acquainted with.... what Leigh is depicting just seems empirically accurate. Examples spring to mind of situations where the whole thing is basically held together by the woman; at the extreme there's a co-dependency/enabling syndrome in terms of the woman propping up the man's self-delusions. Doubtless there are examples of the roles being reversed--an artistically or ideologically driven-to-the-point-of-delirium woman, a highly-strung female genius with no life skills, with the man taking up the supportive/stabilising role. But they are vastly outnumbered by the other set-up, so common as to be a cliche.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

meanwhile, in yet another parallel universe, a third Donk

(courtesy p. sherburne)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

amazing, the virulence of the chav-phobia that erupts here and there amid otherwise gushingly praiseful ("fukin mint, that track" etc etc) comments (approaching seven thousand!) re. "Put A Donk On It" at youtube.

in between the references to "pikey scum" and "inferior brains", a useful definition provided by one scanlon69r:

a donk, it seems, is "a pipe/plank-sound... most commonly placed midway between beats, in the same place as hi-hats, but can be put in other places for different effects and such."

To me it sounds a bit like what I've elsewhere called the "butt-bumping bass-twang" in Hi-NRG of the 80s (does that make Pete Burns the original Scouse Houser?!), which gives an odd emphasis to the four-four, almost polka-like. Decidedly Euro in feel, very much anti-funk. Indeed it's tempting to posit Donk as the absolute polar opposite to funky house (even though both ultimately trace back to rave).

It's not just big in the North West -- the North East is a stronghold too, with this club being the donk equivalent of Niche maybe.

On Dissensus it's been pointed out that these parts of the UK just happen to be regions where there's never been much of a black population or a black music scene. And while Liverpool (as discussed in Rip It Up) does have a black population, for some reason musically it's very segregated. (Then again Wigan Pier, often mentioned as a donk stronghold, was surely an epicentre of the black music cult Northern Soul?).

Some raw discourse triggered by this from one woodsidetongz:

"glasgow (glezga 2 me) fuckin brill ere we fuckin go, h.t.i.d glasgow nut jobs lets go raven n batter a few cunts whahahahaha woodside tongz numba 1 in yer fanny . pulsator numba wan yeeeee haaaa 08 style gabba troopz fae ghell whahahahahahahahaahahahaa"

"lets go raven n batter a few cunts".... as innocuous as the sound seems and "nice lads"-y as the Crew come across in that video, when I first saw the Blackout boys' white-like-Dairylea faces and cropped hair and clocked lyrics
like the one promising to show you "what life is like on a life support machine" and like "one two one two/your face my shoe", i must admit I did momentarily flash on the Bacup Terror Group

Now if donk and jumpstyle could somehow join forces, that really would be sikk

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

yeah, it's like

if jungle MCing ultimately spawned grime

then happy hardcore MCing (such as it was) ultimately spawned Blackout Crew

could there be a whole genre of this stuff coming up behind them?

apparently there is!

yeah I remember kids at Rezerection, Scotland's big happy-gabber rave, in '96, heading back to the dancefloor with a "I'm just off for a wee bounce"

it's a hardbounce continuum

"scouse house" -- the sound of the phrase alone makes your blood run cold, eh

on a different tangent, maybe this chap was the grandfather of North West rap?

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe: a totally different Donk.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bassline's So Solid Crew?

Like the way this one, "Put a Donk On It" reduces the techno-house-rave pantheon of classic sounds to a series of presets...

Except it's not really bassline, the music, it's closer to Scooter than T2. Sort of happyhardhousegabbatrance… A different nuum altogether: the EuroCore Nuum.

Check out "Unpa Lumpa" for a hint of Marshall Masters/"I Like It Loud" volk-stomp.

Then there's the promisingly titled "Ravers Binge"

"No moaning/No whinging/Wanna see all the ravers binging"

And still more from Bolton's finest:

"Heaven Is A Place on Earth"

(posted by one ArdCoreChav)


"Four Face Man"

And check this, the Blackout Crew's myspace self-description:

Hard House / Happy Hardcre / Experimental

That's sic, that.

[shout to Bat for alerting me to this lot]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Re. how the name "Bilinda Jane Butcher" mirrors "My Bloody Valentine" for girly/gory collision, Steven Schuldt brought this photograph to my attention:

RIP Isaac Hayes

Thursday, August 07, 2008

in this New York Times Magazine piece about the subculture of hardcore trolls, online prankster-bullies who perpetrate often strategically complex and prolonged campaigns of "malwebolence" ranging from the puerile to the staggeringly callous, I liked writer Mattathias Schwartz's trope of "a panopticon in reverse". He's talking about message boards and online forums where most people who post have pseudonyms or go as "anonymous". The result, "a panopticon in reverse -- nobody can see anybody, and everybody can claim to speak from the center".

It made me wonder what Michel Foucault, for whom the panopticon was such a central concept, especially in his earlier writing, would have made of web culture if he'd lived to see it blossom.

Presumably Jean "Forget Foucault" Baudrillard must have written some stuff about the internet, given that so much of what goes on there (especially all the display-oriented, ego-costuming activity) aligns with and exemplifies his ideas of the implosion of the social, obscenity, simulation, etc. Then again, perhaps he didn't need to directly address the web/myspace/Google Earth etc etc, cellphone culture and the totally wired existence; he'd already effectively dealt with it, wrote about it in advance, long before it existed, in Simulations (1981) or "The Ecstasy of Communication" (1983). e.g. "all secrets, spaces and scenes abolished in a single dimension of information. That's obscenity. The hot, sexual obscenity of former times is succeeded by the cold and communicational, contactual and motivational obscenity of today... He is now only a pure screen, a switching center for all the networks of influence"

the lamest music on the planet

not in terms of execution, of course, but philosophically

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

my piece on My Bloody Valentine in the new issue of Spin

never occurred to me before, but the name "Bilinda Jane Butcher" totally mirrors the girly-romantic/brutal-gory oxymoron-clash of "My Bloody Valentine" itself...

Burial unmasks in a preemptive strike against those spoilsport scum at the Sun

he looks exactly - exactly -- how I pictured him!

(when i went to his Myspace "Unite" came on and slotted under what I was already playing, which just so happened to be the new solo LP by Robert Haigh. Burial's beat and sample-diva meshing (almost but not quite) with Haigh's plinky-plangent piano-loop cascades made for a hauntonuumological shiver of a moment, believe)

time to rebuild your serotonin levels, young man!

an evocative and poignant bit of writing... and ronan makes the zero-affect battle-weary-techno-soldier music in question sound appealing, glorious even...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Chiming with observations made at the end of this recent post--about "creatives" as a new cosmopolitan class, bohemia remodelled for the era of branding and blogging--an article lambasting hipsterdom riles up a huge number of folk (23 pages of comments, not all hostile) and provokes a typically interesting rebuttal from Momus, who, with his nomadic lifestyle (Tokyo>Berlin>Williamsburg>London>Edinburgh>Tokyo>) and restlessly mobile aesthetic, his Japanophilia and his privileging of the faux/unrooted/"superflat", was very much a pioneer, an early settler on this post-geographical "terrain".

Friday, August 01, 2008


Early on I did think this post should take the form of





of nothing

(the idea being, "if you've not got something nice to say, don't say anything at all")

then the permafrost of skepticism and gut-level aversion thawed ever so slightly.

So, first, the damning with faint abuse:

On the neg side

Percussion really is the last resort of the dance music scoundrel, isn't it? "Let's spice things up"*.


Judging my their myspace offerings, Apple, Roska, and Crazy Cousinz sound like Musical Mobb and Jon E Cash if they'd tried to do broken beats. Playstation-grime/8bar cheap'nasty meets aspirations to sophisticated/sultry = horrid combo.


I just wish I liked the basic rhythm-template more: that loping, clattery, bumpety-bumpety groove, unpleasantly redolent of reggaeton, and managing to retain the repetitiousness of house without its monolithic pump 'n' pound. The peculiar beat-emphasis (1st and 4th in the bar, is that right?) reminds me a bit of a pantomime horse trying to gallop. I swear to God on one of those Marcus Nasty sets the MC says "giddy up!"...


Waving my rave inspector's Nuum-ometer over a reasonably substantial swathe of the genre, I detect an overall deficit of "rude" and "cheesy" that's distinctly disappointing given the sound's ancestry and demographics.

EXCEPT, of course, for "Bongo Jam", which is cheesy like a gold medallion laying in a nest of chest hair.


On the strictly theoretical level, what's interesting about "funky" relates to precisely this deficit of rudeness, in so far as "rude" has generally signified the Jamaican influence in U.K. rave: sub-bass, rewinds, MC chat, etc. The funky house sound is constructed around the absenting of the Jamaican factor (perhaps dubstep's whiteboy curators have effectively taken "roots'n'dub" off the table, while grime has equally encouraged funky folks to actively deplete anything smacking of dancehall and that therefore might attract actual rude boys to turn up to the club). Instead "funky" looks to the non-Jamaican Caribbean (soca, primarily) and to Africa. Looking at their myspaces, it's really intriguing how so many funky DJs and producers put "Afro-beat" in the list of genres they do, right next to "garage" and in some cases "grime" and "jungle"; how the track "African Warrior" is such a massive anthem on the scene. This reinforces the claims made on Dissensus a couple of years back that there was a really strong rhythmic influence within grime from Londoners of African descent, who had a whole different immigrant experience than those from families of Caribbean origin(for instance, they'd have no real connection to the whole Rasta/"repatriation is a must"/exodus-from-Babylon/Africa-as-Zion cultural narrative, since they'd have voluntarily left Africa).

The interest of this demotion of Jamaica in favour of the other-Caribbean and African influences is rather theoretical, though, because few things irritate me more than soca. The African music influence could be really exciting, although I do wonder sometimes if funky is affected more by a hazy fantasy idea of "Africa" (lotsa percussion!)than actual influences from the myriad forms of African music past and present. (C.f. the cliche-ridden idea of "Brazil" in house culture).


On which subject, it's hard to think of anything less "carnivalesque" (in the Bakhtinian sense) than the carnival vibe in dance music. (I always disliked that side of Basement Jaxx).


If "funky" dominates the Notting Hill Carnival this year, then the music on the sound systems will be closer than it's ever been to the music on the carnival floats.


And where next after bongomania? Steel drum sounds?!?


It is possible, y'know, it is just conceivable, that London could simply be lame, for a season or two. Tread water. Funky house, then, could in fact just be a pause for breath, a placeholder sound, a way of carrying on/not giving up while avoiding exerting oneself too much.

On the poz side

It's more lively and vibely than bassline is at the moment, that's for sure. (What happened there?!?!? The North will sag again...)


You can't not like that Kyla "Do You Mind" tune, it's got the exact same plaintive yearning tinged with sensual sadness that you got last year with the lover's rock flavoured subset of bassline. Indeed it's funky's equivalent to "Heartbroken" and when it gets the licensed-by-a-big-label megapush will assuredly go to Number 2 in the UK chart.
There'll be at least one other similar-sized funky hit and then that'll be it, I think. Can't really see a repeat of 1999/2000 happening.


Every so... not-so-often, you'll see glimpses of a future worth keeping half an ear peeled for…. On the Footloose 1xtra sets from July (links to uploads secreted here), Roska's "Feeline VIP RMX", Unknown's "Darqueness", and especially MC Let's "Take It Low" raised my pulse. And on a Marcus Nasty set from back in April, I heard one track I absolutely adore. Don’t know what it's called or who it's by, but it's about half way through the track entitled "audio 1 unknown 4". For once the choppy, broken beats create a feeling of mounting ecstasy, like a classic house drum roll build but ultra-syncopated and kinda slipping around in the groove like your feet when you're trying to run up a sand dune; there's this chugging almost tango-ish keyboard vamp with an accordion/musette-type timbre,
and all this filtered silverhaze of sound wooshing around like a total champagne rush. And (tickling the Nuumological memory-rush centres) there's an almost-buried quote-loop from Double 99's "Ripgroove" (that Tina Moore "Never Let You Go" vocal-as-siren effect) plus a stringsy sort of sound that resembles the Onedin Line orchestral refrain from Orbital's "Chime". But even without those tingle-inducing nuum-signifiers, this is very very nice indeed and rather sticks out like a sore thumb in such otherwise tepid company. And the MC gets noticeably more "ooh, gosh" than on the rest of the set: "imagine this one in a club. Imagine this one in a CLUB, a big set, like Ministry." Yes, I imagine when this one drops the place does go off.


That's one of the likeable things about funky, actually, that it's allowed for the return of a more jungle/UK garage approach to MC-ing, the pre-grime style where the MC isn't the focus but someone who enhances the music, ad-libbing rather than spitting pre-written verses.


And I imagine that all of it sounds a LOT more vibey in a club.

(Trouble is, I'm not in a club. I'm listening to MP3s through computer speakers. But then so are funky's blogospheric boosters too).

in theory

To my mind the obvious comparison is with dubstep and microhouse (and indeed broken beat). The genre as an empty space, where particles from the earlier Big Genres of dance music circulate, come into friction but never quite ignite the firestorm of the New. As with dubstep and micro/minimal, I do wonder: what is the Big New Idea here, the genre-defining innovation, the motor propelling it and us into the zone of the unforeheard? To me, a "possibility space" involves the opening up of a virgin expanse out of which new genres form, not a gently simmering limbo where choice morsels from earlier genres bob about, maintaining a moderately energized half-life.

It's all a matter of perspective, of course. It all depends on how much you're prepared to squint for those microbial flickers of novelty. One person's possibility space could be another's "entropy space": not so much open and fertile, but inbetweeny, disparate, slack.

What I wonder with dubstep, microhouse and now "funky" is not so much whether they've managed to create a decent number of attractive and fresh-enough-for-now shapes using elements bequeathed by the Big Genres of yesteryear (jungle, acid, trance, dub, electro, etc etc). Dubstep and micro have done that at certain points, and funky looks promising in that area. What I wonder is what future genres will be able to draw on from these styles once they're over and gone, where are the elements that are unique to them and can rank with the Giant Steps made by the Big Genres of yore? In other words, what is their contribution?

The invocation by Tim Finney of Basement Jaxx in his latest Skykicking survey is telling, I think. Because in the end, for all their energy and inventiveness, the Jaxx boys were consummate mélange-ists; they rose to glory precisely at the cusp of an epochal shift in dance culture: 1999, the hinge year between the surge-phase of techno-rave's first decade and the recombinant plateau of the past ten years. (I haven't felt the urge to listen to the Jaxx's records for ages now, but who knows, maybe their time will come again for me. I've long felt the same about their hero and role model Prince, another figure I rated immensely in the Eighties and gorged on as a listener; but that lack-of-interest is actually starting to fade, I might be ready to dig out Sign O'The Times et al soon).

in (in)conclusion

The name, the lame name! Jon's right, it's a real stumbling block, there's no getting round that.
Or is there? I've got an idea, actually. How about "bongle"? In reference and deference to the genre's fetish for all things hand-percussive and tribal-vibal. With all the permutations: "Big up all bonglist crew!" "Absolutely bonglistic!", etc. What do you reckon, chaps?

* My percussion-aversion partly stems from negative associations I have with the whole "live percussionist" as flyer-heralded attraction and alleged vibe-booster, going back to the early raving days when I'd often defer to my crew's desire to go to house clubs rather than--my growing preference--ardkore ones. in those golden early days, it was more about having adventures as a gang, getting off our faces. But as a result I associate bongos and congas with faux-classy vibes and the frittering away of fierce drug sensations on mild music.