Monday, December 29, 2008

2008, BY GENRE

A couple of years ago Anthony Easton embarked on this project--all trace of which seems to have disappeared from the web--where he asked people to tabulate what they'd listened to most frequently that year (as opposed to their official critic-minded round-up of what they believed were the Best Records) and therefore including not just stuff recorded in 2006 and things reissued that year, but also all the music from the past you either discovered or rediscovered, dug out and played to death. Naturally the Top 10 I came up with (the Doors featured rather prominently I recall) involved a fair amount of guesstimation and groping about in the dim attic of recent memory. Anthony was asking for specific records and songs, which I doubt I'd be able to manage for this year, so much of which is blotted out by the election. But I do have a pretty decent idea of how it would break down by genre (although some of these "genres" turn out to be disguised specifics, since they are actually genres-of-one). So:

Top 10 Most Listened Genres

1. Electronic / musique concrete composition(circa 1950 to circa 1980) *

2/ "African-American" **

3/ Donk ***

4/ Children's TV ****

5/ South London gangsta *****

6/ Ardkore *******

7/ Funky *******

8/ Pubfunky ********

9/ Pubadelic *********

10/ "Ecstatic Experimental" **********

This genre would win handsomely even if it left out the subgenre "Radiophonia"; including the latter makes for a landslide. Adding "text-sound", which includes a bunch of things, but mostly = Lily Greenham's Lingual Music, makes for an

Vampire Weekend innit.

A genre of one, except not a single artist so much as a single single. i.e. "Put A Donk On It" the video phenomenon. Everything else in the genre, and in the Blackout boys's output, seems pretty pitiful, with the possible exception of "Ravers Binge". (What I really want to know though is: what's that gorgeous fromage-trance playing at the start of the "Put A Donk" video, before the song starts, when the tattooed lad opens the front door in his shorts and signs for a delivery (presumably his brand-spanking-new Donk Generator)?

The three Backyardigans CD: rarely by choice, but always with immense pleasure.

Giggs innit.

Blame it all on the old skool blogs, although I've downloaded approximately 30 times more than I've had time to unzip.

Only to work out what people see in it. Not with a great deal of success, I must admit.

"Pubfunk" = not really an accurate or fair term for this genre-of-one: Ian Dury & the Blockheads. Mostly to Juke Box Dury the A-sides/B-sides compilation, getting stuck first on ace B's like "Razzle in My Pocket" and "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", then fixated totally on "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and "Reasons to Be Cheerful (Part 3)". The Blockheads must surely have been the most accomplished group of musicians playing in the U.K. during the late Seventies--so tight, so bright, discofunking on a par with Earth Wind & Fire or the Off The Wall squad. Everybody knows the superlativeness of "Rhythm" (Norman Watt-Roy's bassline! Davy Payne's Kirk-esque twin sax solo!)but "Reasons" is undervalued: indeed at the time I didn't care for it much, I went along with the "lazy list song" verdict. Now though… well, it's a really good list, was probably harder to write than it looked; Dury's delivery is amazing, it really does have a proto-rap quality, not just pipping to the post but beating at their own game the Sugarhill Gang... and ooh the groove, the playing (dazzle, in the pocket). Strange to listen with "grown up" ears--things I'd not have noticed, had any feeling for, or most likely have found an excrescence, an affront to postpunk ears, are now deliriously enjoyable: John Turnbull's guitar solo!

"Pubadelia"--not quite the right term here, either, but a stab in the right direction for the sound Elvis Costello and the Attractions developed over their three best albums (with Get Happy! a backwards step in between), namely Armed Forces, Trust, and the most -edelic deserving of the three, Imperial Bedroom; which trio of masterworks I revisisted--after years and years of non-interest--along with everything else by him I've still got, in an odd little jag of compulsive listening a few months ago. The -edelic refers not to trippiness but to a steadily mounting delirium of over-arrangement culminating in Imperial Bedroom (produced of course by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick). I was trying to work out what was the appeal of this over-worked sound and its correlate, Costello's signature lyric-style of tripwire tropes, burnished puns, elaborately wrought ironies. There's a curious effect, I think, of passing right through Barthes's plaisir (although Roland's near-synonym "studium" is actually more evocative here, conveying Costello's studiousness, his learned immersion in rock'n'pop history, all that diligent toil in the word-smithy)... through plaisir and into jouissance. The labored word-play and labyrinthine intertextual allusions, which are mirrored throughout by Steve Nieve's meretriciously tricked-out keyboards, transcend themselves through excess, achieving a sterile splendour. If Imperial is the peak of this upward spiral of onanistic oramentalism, "Beyond Belief" is the zenith's zenith, where the aspiration to some kind of ultimate songwriterly profundity/subtlety, the quest to bring into pop some ultimate un-pop reality, voids itself out in the sheer sport and frolic of language. Costello's voice and melody chime and ripple as he finally becomes purely musical, another instrument. I've no real idea what the song is about; never have, never will, don't care.

Gang Gang Dance and High Places.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a really excellent piece by Nick Sylvester and W. David Marx
on Girl Talk, wittily dissecting "the phenomenon" and demonstrating beyond doubt that placing Feed the Animals high on one's 2008 Picks is the Pseud move of the year…

(or even Pseudo-Poptimist move -- an example maybe of how the Pleasure Principle can be turned into a Big Other, "I must not fail in my duty to be pleasured and nonsnobby and perpetually sunnyside-upful about the state-of-pop")

too many good bits in the piece to quote ("legomaniac" ; Kanye's "Stronger" as "a dead-end, a cultural vasectomy"), nifty use of Adorno...

course i did say it rather more pithily earlier in the year

and less pithily but rather precociously earlier in the decade (the section called "Lameness on the Horizon")

Friday, December 19, 2008


8 for 08

Vampire Weekend
Giggs, Walk In Da Park
Portishead, Third
Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak
Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna
Crystal Castles
Backyardigans/Evan Lurie & Doug Wieselman, Born To Play
High Places

the next 8

Beck, Modern Guilt
Dusk + Blackdown, Margins Music
Moon Wiring Club, Shoes Off and Chairs Away
Data 70, Space Loops Volume One/Volume Two/Volume Three
Rings, Black Habit
Quiet Village, Silent Movie
Skull Disco, Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals
The Advisory Circle, Other Channels

another 8

Zomby, Where Were U in '92?
High Places, 03-07- 09-07
Andrew Poppy, ... And the Shuffle of Things
Daedelus, Love To make Music To
Juana Molina, Un Dia
Tobacco, F***ed Up Friends
The Stranger, Bleaklow
Neil Landstrumm, lord for £39

8 not made in 08

Lily Greenham, Lingual Music
John Baker, The John Baker Tapes, Volume 1/Volume 2
Gas, Nah und Fern
Warner Jepson, Totentanz and Other Electronic Works 1958-1973
Bernard Parmegiani, L'Oeuvre Musicale
The Lines, Flood Bank
The Lines, Memory Span
Kevin Ayers, Songs for Insane Times: An Anthology 1969-1980

38 tunes from 08

The Blackout Crew, "Put a Donk On It"
Vampire Weekend, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
Vampire Weekend, "The Kids Don't Stand A Chance"
Vampire Weekend, "M79"
Vampire Weekend, "Campus"
Giggs feat Kyze, "Rat A-Tat Tat"
Giggs, "Open Up"
Giggs, "Tempa Tempa"
Portishead, "Silence"
Portishead, "The Rip"
Portishead, "Threads"
Backyardigans feat Alicia Keys, "Almost Everything is Boinga"
Backyardigans, "Go Go Go"
Backyardigans, "Into the Deep"
Backyardigans, "Call of the Mermaid"
Crystal Castles, "Courtship Dating"
Crystal Castles, "Magic Spells"
Crystal Castles, "Crimewave"
Gang Gang Dance, "House Jam"
Gang Gang Dance, "Dust"
High Places, "Namer"
High Places, "From Stardust to Sentience"
Kanye West, "Love Lockdown"
Kanye West, "Welcome to Heartbreak"
Beck, "Gamma Ray"
Beck, "Replica"
Belong, "Beeside"
Lil Wayne, "A Millie"
Erykah Badu, "The Healer"
Paleface feat Kyla, "Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix)"
Tricky, "Council Estate"
Wiley, "Wearing My Rolex"
MGMT, "Time To Pretend"
Peacemakers feat Danelle Senior, "Take it to the Dancefloor"
Pink, "So What"
T.I.feat Kanye West,Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, "Swagger Like Us"
Nico Muhly, "The Only Song"
Ting Tings, "Great DJ"
Solange, "I Told You So"

bars of 08

I'm like Superman without kryptonite
Phat as hell without cellulite
And I look well sick in the UV light


When I'm coming
You better get running,
You better get gone
Or you're gonna get done in

--MC Cover, Blackout Crew

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

archive fever (nuum division) [slight return #4]

my old junglist comrade Rupert Howe directed me to this... mash-up, would you call it? A stunning piece of editing and audio-visual synching, at any rate. It actually brought tears to my eyes--for the holy rollers brocking out in the aisles, for the drum & bass true believers still whooping it up for Andy C and GQ (and Ray Keith) in 2007, or for myself, I'm not really sure.
archive fever (nuum division) [not so slight return]

ZOMBY, Where Were U in '92?
Ghost flickers of Incs Holy Ghost and Bizarre flit through this loving pastiche, but most of all the album sounds like it's made out of, or inside, a handful of crucial 2 Bad Mice tunes--as though Zomby's hollowing out a catacomb-like labyrinth within the template (retriggered breaks, muddy sub-low, reverb-y pianos, chipmunk soul)forged on "Bombscare", "Waremouse", "Drum Trip II," "Music Takes You," an entire underworld of passed-over-too-quickly-at-the-time possibilities. Music takes you right back: only a certain bass-weight sluggishness betrays that this actually emanates from a post-dubstep universe.

NEIL LANDSTRUMM, lord for £39
Excellent--the bendy-twisty groove-involutions recall Schematic's Phoenicia at their most inventive--but for some reason the original ravestepper's new one hasn't quite gripped me as fiercely as last year's Restaurant of the Assassins, perhaps because (to its credit, I spose) it less frequently plays the memory-rush card.

THE PRODIGY, Invaders Must Die
The Prodge return as their own tribute band, with an absolutely pummeling set--ten songs in a little over forty minutes--that splits the difference between Experience and Fat of the Land and nearly splits your cranium in the process.

HARMONIC 313, When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence
The Nuumological aspect gets more tenuous with this new project from Mark Pritchard, although it avowedly draws equal inspiration from Detroit techno (hence the 313) and what Mark P calls "UK bass music", "a common thread that runs through UK dance music in attitude to bass and rhythm as heard in jungle, broken beat, dub step, house and garage". "UK bass music" eh? Why not just say... Nuum? Then again, there's actually not much evidence that this music's been made by ears acquainted with Bizzy B or Bump n'Flex or any of the several incarnations of S.Gurley and C.Mac; what it sounds like is a set of missing links between bleep, gloomcore and dubstep: dank ambiences, gloopy textures, subdued grooves, trudging beats. "Galag-A" could be a great lost Boards of Canada tune and it's not the only time the IDM true colours shine through. It's on Warp, after all.

Even more tenuous--his previous one was described to me as "ravey" which I could see but on this due-in-March new one there's little evidence that the guy is nuum-aware let alone nuum-reverent. And yet on first listen the notion did spring unforcedly into my mind that parts of it sound like a cross between Hyper-On Experience circa "Imajicka"/"Assention"
and Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. The euphoria-whooshing serotonin-overload atmosphere recalls both The Avalanches and that not-really-a-genre-but-definitely-a-mood thing that encompasses The Octopus Project, Los Campesinos,They Came From the Stars I Saw Them, Islands and a number of other glad-all-over combos, a shared sensibility that for some reason I connect with The Flaming Lips (thousands of balloons onstage, etc) even though there's probably no real influence-link or sonic commonality whatsoever.
archive fever (nuum division) [slight return #3]

sheer luna-c : kniteforce gives away its entire discography for free

(via blog to the old skool)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

archive fever (nuum division) [slight return #2]

new blog specialising in Bristol pirate radio transmissions --

Friday, December 05, 2008

archive fever (nuum division) [slight return]

forgot these two:

Sublogic Recordings : label specialising in limited-run represses on 180 gram vinyl (!) of vintage old skool even-more-limited-run/barely-ever-released-really 12 inches, by such micro-legends as Potential Bad Boy (out of stock, dammit), Skanna, The Invisible Man, Babylon Timewarp, Q Project, The Untouchables. Bit pricey, mind.

Hate : mysterious label seemingly with no web presence putting out fictitious(-or-are-they?) reissues of barely-ever-released-really or utterly-unreleased darkcore from backintheday. first two releases reviewed here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

archive fever (nuum division)

excellent new ardkore blog with mp3 obscurities :

(sadly the don dada of old skool ardkore music blogs Strictly Old Skool went private recently but its sister blog specialising in vintage-era compilations is still public : )

goldmine of ardkore/jungle pirate sessions and dj mixtape :

silvermine of nuum-spanning pirate sets and other goodstuff :

noughties nuum :

rave zines and other archival arcana :


director's cut of my Wire piece on vintage pirate tapes complete with list at the end of even more sites/blogs with caches of cassette

That Kanye at the American Music Awards quote in full:

"I wake up in the morning just thinking about which stereotypes I want to break … I see artists like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Chris Martin all in the same room, and we're going to push this music to the point where it was like in the sixties, in the seventies, where you talk about Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and the Beatles. We will be the new Beatles, the new Hendrix."

Good luck with that pipe dream Kanye--if that's your peer group, you're gonna need it!

Some facts and figures I shoulda included in the piece:

Where Axl took 633 weeks (guesstimate) to make his album, Kanye took 3 and a half...

Apparently there's six people credited for "additional Pro Tools" on Chinese Democracy (which suggests that there's at least one other figure responsible for primary Pro Tools work on the album...) Talk about too many cocks spoiling the broth!

Jeremy Gilbert draws my attention to the odd echo of New Order's Power Corruption and Lies in the colour strip down the side of 808s & Heartbreak 's cover:

Wouldn't surprise me at all if he'd been listening to New Order; the influence-palette of the record is very white (there's a Tears for Fears sample in one tune) and the vibe is very very emo (emotionally immature young man berates woman who's evilly broken his heart). It's quite an undignified record really, but interesting enough to get me interested in him again (completely didn't bother with Graduation).

Friday, November 28, 2008

axl vs kanye
piece by me comparing Chinese Democracy and 808s & Heartbreak

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

RIP Mitch Mitchell

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

ecstatic with relief

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

normal service will be resumed

once the election is over

and the gigantic pause button

that's been pressed down on my life

these past few months

is finally


Friday, October 10, 2008

the blog for a book of lists, Hang the DJ, i made a couple of contributions to

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Two weeks from today I'll be in London to moderate a panel at the Frieze Art Fair.

The title is Is The Underground Over? - Considering Alternatives to 'Alternative'; the subject is the obsolescence of the concept of subculture/alternative/marginal versus the surprisingly persistent and vibrant praxis of same in the form of a diverse array of music undergrounds including free folk, noise, extreme metal, the usual Nuum suspects et al; how the web has changed things; the history and evolution of the idea of "underground" in popular culture from the 1960s onwards, and much, much more.

The panelists are Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle), Penny Martin (Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Fashion Imagery at the London College of Fashion) and Claire Titley (from London-based independent live music promoter/record label Upset the Rhythm).

Location: the Auditorium at the Frieze Art Fair (South East corner of Regent's Park, near Regent's Park tube station).

Time/date: 12 PM noon Sunday 19th October.

Tickets: entrance to talks is included in daily Fair admission, but tickets for individual talks can also be bought on the day from 11-AM onwards.
the director's cut, detail-undepleted version of my Guardian piece on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop from a fortnight ago

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

no, i don't feel "sorry" for her either

Thursday, September 25, 2008

moving and revealing - the story of David Foster Wallace's last weeks

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

artkore you know the score

spotted in this coffee table book of Rotterdam flyer art!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

RIP Norman Whitfield

Monday, September 15, 2008

RIP Rick Wright

Sunday, September 14, 2008