Saturday, February 28, 2009

here's the text version of my FACT talk on the hardcore continuum + notes for points to be addressed in the dialogue with k-punk but not brought up owing to time running out + afterthoughts on the past, present and future of the Nuum.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

my latest blog post at The Guardian, about "the sample-epiphany", cueing off this new compilation Protected: Massive Samples which reveals the sources for all those Blue Lines et al beauties

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

fanzines (slight return)

something in the air - two recent pieces on zines:

on the resurgence

on the archiving of zines


a bloke called Matt Wobensmith tells me he's planning to open a "vintage fanzine store" in San Francisco in the near-ish future; for now he buys collections (mostly early punk and related but also riot grrrl and indie rock) and sells zines via his online business

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

c/o FACT TV here's the podcast of my talk about the hardcore continuum plus onstage dialogue with Mark Fisher


the nub, or one of the nubs, here addressing counter-theories based around notions of deterritorialisation and unrootedness:

"I do try hard to be fair so I'm going to attempt to see why those theories and the artistic practice that accompanies them might appeal, where its element of idealism is. And I would say that it relates to a utopianism of space--that's really what makes it so 1990s, so early days of the web--the idea of connectivity, of postgeographical flows, of things that are remote being brought close, the separate and far-flung become one in the mix.

"Now the hardcore continuum operates through a different kind of utopianism, not constituted through space but through time. Oh, it does have a romance of place--the Just 4 U London thing. But I think time is the crucial axis. I always come back to this phrase I use a lot, the title of a track by a hardcore outfit called Phuture Assassins: "roots 'n' future". If you look at the hardcore continuum you can see a consistent impulse running through it that simultaneously casts backward to the past and forward to the unreachable horizon of the future.... It's like people in the scene having a heightened and highly charged sense of temporality... This utopianism of time is something that threads through the culture in strange loops because when you listen, as a fan, to stuff from all across its breadth and length, you get these uncanny timewarp sensations--you hear things in 1990 bleep tune that are future-ghosts of sounds in grime or dubstep or bassline. It's almost like any track from any point in the continuum contains all the past and all the future of this music inside it. Like DNA or something."


Talking of time, for those who don't have a spare 1 hr 52 mins, later in the week I'm going to be putting the text of the talk up here (or maybe here as it's a bit um long) plus preprepared riffs addressing various points, which i'd meant to use during the dialogue part but time ran out

Sunday, February 22, 2009

i forgot to say re. phil smith's donkpost,the bit about steroid abuse on the scene. crikey!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

here's my piece for FACT looking at the state of music and
its (non?)relationship to the state of the economy
really interesting local's eye view of Donk and the North West scene

written in response to this Vice/VBS five-part documentary on donk which I've yet to snatch a moment to watch

Friday, February 20, 2009


And I suppose my reaction is: what of it?

That's not a reaction to the music per se, which makes for perfectly absorbing listening. The Joker Purple Wow mix and the Vex'd Sundaywalkmanmix both get the thumbs-up from my chairbound ears; the Zomby EP at its best is like Isolee-goes-dubstep. Listening I can't quite imagine real bodies moving in real space (to borrow a phrase) to this music though. At its most writhingly omnivorous and deliquescent (the Vex'd mix, "Aquafresh" ) it would seem to require the kind of moves you associate with avant-garde ballet ensembles; elsewhere the vibe is more headnodding and stoner-y (Purple Wow). But putting its attractions and applications aside for a moment, what does the existence of Wonky prove vis-à-vis the Hardcore Continuum? The fact that a bunch of producers are making music that draws on some Nuum elements but adds influences from elsewhere? That does appear to be what a lot of the pro arguments boil down to: it don't just borrow from the Nuum, it borrows from all over. But that's happened before (sometimes excellently: Luke Vibert; sometimes not so…) and will happen again. It's perfectly possible and quite likely that Wonky will establish its own autonomous significance without having the slightest impact on the Nuum (which will flourish or wither for its own internally-driven reasons).

Wonky does have a vestigial link to the Nuum, of course, in so far as it's a name somebody [Martin Clark in fact] came up with to describe five or six producers on the periphery of dubstep who became increasingly (and understandably) bored with its constraints and accordingly worked in other flavours and feels: crunk, G-funk, Eighties videogame muzik, J Dilla/Flying Lotus kosmi-hop… Sometimes it sounds a bit like how you always hoped hyphy would; sometimes it recalls Schematic acts like Phoenicia but even more bendy-limbed, double-jointed and superlubed; sometimes it has the same relation to Ruff Sqwad that Squarepusher had to Remarc; sometimes it's like John Carpenter jamming with Zapp; sometimes it's almost like trip hop but with an Eighties digi-synth rather than Seventies analogue sound-palette. Today for all kinds of technological reasons it's more easy than ever to be polymorphously magpie-like. But it was never that difficult, which is why you had people making similar eclectronic moves from the mid-Nineties onwards, albeit with different sets of reference points.

Wonky is situated structurally in a similar place to breakcore, drill'n'bass, illbient. It's the latest in a(dis)continuum of post-everything genres. Or perhaps that should be genre-not-genres, since the definition of a genre depends as much on what's left out as what's included. Breakcore, drill'n'bass, illbient, all occupied the space-between, the peripheral hinterland surrounding the established genres, which are stable (yet evolving) and distinct (yet porous, allowing new influences in it). Now if you've read Energy Flash and specifically the chapter on art-tekno (what would later be called IDM), you'll understand my skepticism about the post-everything interzone--the feeling that this is a weak place from which to make music if you are looking to have any kind of cultural repercussions. Oh, good sounds can come out of it but…. Does anyone listen to the illbient records now? Are they talked about? The Nuum, though, has literally thousands of tracks up on Youtube. A vast tranche of discourse trailing behind it, of which the stuff that actually refers to the concept of the Nuum is just a thread.

I think this relates to the greater motivating and mobilizing power of the Nuum in all its phases (see also: equivalents in other areas of dance music, like gabba… or other sorts of music altogether, such as hip hop, or metal, or reggae…). There is something about the Nuum sounds that inspires fervor. The feverish generation of histories and theories (or rather the activation of theories that are latent and immanent within the music itself). And the Nuum catalyses not just theorisation but a testifying discourse.

This is related to the intrinsic power of the music in all its successive stages, for sure, but also I think to its being grounded: socially, geographically, in terms of material infrastructure. A music whose demographic is the hyper-hipsterati (hipsters sharp enough to disdain the stereotypical hipster), a music whose infrastructure consists primarily of the web* ... could that really have sufficient tenacity to stick around, to not be blown hither and thither by the winds of fashion? Music molded entirely according to the logic of online culture--drifting, distraction, intertextuality run rife, the additive logic of audio-greed (I'll 'ave that, and that, and that, and…). It might end up sounding how Buggy G. Riphead artwork looks**.

* For sure, grime uses the web much more than it did even four years ago. But (Martin Clark tells me) the "road" audience for grime and for funky still primarily look to the pirates, for terrestrial broadcasts in real-time (partly because that's compatible with in-car listening). In other words, they are still "locked on". When they cease to be…

** One of the emerging lines on Wonky is the shades-of-FSOL argument that it works by loosening up the strictures of the established genres, which are staid and monochrome. Alex Splintering's take seems to me a theoretically sophisticated and vividly phrased version of that e.g. it's not a genre it's a process (of wonkification)applied to various styles. Now dubstep could certainly use some wonkification, some irrigating colour-juice. But I'm generally suspicious of this kind of talk because it seems to imply that Nuum genres are constrained and restrained. But a huge aspect of Nuum music in all its phases is precisely that it sounds out of proportion, lopsided, de trop. Darkside is the paragon example of this wrongness-as-rightness. But let's take more recent examples: what could be more aberrant than Wiley's beats on "Ice Rink" or pretty much any Terror Danjah groove? And then there's bassline, whose arpeggiated B-lines are garish, rococo, ludicrously lubricious, obscene in their Rabelaisian ripples of flatulence. Nuum music has never been afraid to be daft. You might say it is always already wonky.


What is going on that the three ukdance genres of 2008-09 (almost) rhyme: wonky, funky, donk(y)?!?!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ardchive fever (like ghosts you've come to love)

Mark Leckey's incredible Fiorruci Made Me Harcore, a 1999 videowork that weaves together and processes found footage of Northern Soulies, Eighties casuals, and ravers, along with an astonishing hauntonuumological audio track, is now given a permanent home at UbuWeb

link courtesy Sherburne who discusses it here and here (the latter including an interview with Leckey)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the fires of dissension re. the hardcore continuum continue to rage!

quick recap of the last week and a half:

On the eve of the FACT talk K-punk gets in a quick preemptive strike at, erm FACT (no relation, the mag not the arts organisation)

A Man Like Dan (hancox) comes back swift with a counter-salvo

(call that armshouse?!?!)

Alex aka Gekopel at Splintering Bone Ashes (how anti-vitalist is that name eh?) chips in with some interesting thoughts

Which prompts expansionist elaboration from K-punk

(Now this idea of an ecological crisis for music, the exhaustion of resources, is one I've toyed with at various points, there is something to it, but I suppose the doubts I have with it is that it is ultimately metaphor--"culture" isn't really like global reserves of tin or fossil fuels or whatever. There might well be links between the state of culture and the state of the economy, or rather, there have been in the past, since I'm not sure they still operate in any simple and direct way anymore (and as it happens I have a FACT--magazine not arts org--essay going up soon exploring my doubts about this, cueing off that hoary chestnut you are hearing again at the moment about how the recession will lead to good music, yeah right, dream on...)

And, coming thick and fast,more thoughts from Alex here

Swiftly countered by K-punk! - at which point you'll be getting theory-whiplash...

(I have to agree with Man like Mark: "transversal rave" and Alexian characterisations such as its relative looseness and inclusiveness to a proper diversity of disparate aesthetics" ... it does all seem a bit like a poncy way of say "eclectronica". And this bit--"a transversal analysis in-itself operating beyond merely a postmodern genre-game... rather than a pick and mix approach to generic materials, wonky is strategically applied to pre-existent genres, not as an adhesive but as a liquefying agent" ... that sounds rather like what Mille Plateaux did vis-à-vis a series of established [and often nuum-y] genres [they even did a "response" to speed garage! at which point you realised that's all they did, wait for somebody to come up with a new genre and then do a "deconstructive twist" on it]. Right down to the Deleuzo-Guattarian rhetoric in the sleevenotes and press releases by label boss Achim!)(I enjoyed it all, the sounds and auto-theory, at the time, of course).

Hold tight for a proper post by me on Wonky. Thesis in a nutshell: wonky = illbient X internet
I'm going to be on Resonance FM this weekend, on Jonny Mugwump's show The Exotic Pylon. We'll be talking about Totally Wired, I'll be playing a real postpunk obscurity of a tune; we'll also be discussing the post-WW2 electronic vanguard and spinning some second-tier concrete/etc gems I brought in plus Jonny's Creel Pone favourites. Show goes out 9.30 pm to 11, Saturday 21st February, via It will also be made available a few days later (and ever after) at Jonny's site
Here's my second blogpost for The Guardian, on whether the mid-Eighties will ever be embraced by rock's recycling industry or is it just terminally barren and charmless, the concept of "late postpunk" and so forth.

I suppose the idea I was reaching for but didn't quite get to (and just as well with a word count of over 1500--someday I will write something for the Grauniad that's actually blog-size) is just how much musical activity at any given time is different from what the period will be officially remembered for, e.g. in official histories of 1980s indie-rock, the cast is things like SST, Replacements, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jnr, Buttholes (i.e. Our Band Could Be Your Life type stuff, the music that paved the way for grunge) or it is C86/Creation/Spacemen 3/My Bloody Valentine (the UK equivalent, paving the way for... um, well, shoegaze I suppose).... essentially stuff that comes from punk but takes on the Sixties influence (which is varied, there are many "Sixties"). BUT in any given period there's always a lot of anomalous activity, sometimes "straggler" type stuff from earlier phases, although if you tilt your head to a different angle it can be re-seen as anticipating the Next Big Phase. So some of the mid-late Eighties non-Sixties pillaging independent sector stuff--your Renegade Soundwaves, Meat Beat Manifestos, On U to an extent, also the Electronic Body Music stuff which I clean forgot to mention--that was bods messing with beats and samples and sequencers, some of these bods would resurface with the early 90s techno/rave moment, be "timely" again. And sometimes people you wouldn't necessarily have expected leaped into that milieu, e.g. Rolo from The Woodentops, becoming Pluto I think was his nom de production.

Paddy Forwood sent me details of a compilation he put out a few years ago that overlaps with the period I'm discussing and is quite "late postpunk", albeit not the industrial funk end of it but more the Ron Johnson-y sector:

COMMERCIALLY UNFRIENDLY: A History Of The British Underground 1983–1989
1. Wings – The Fall
2. Urban Ospreys – The Nightingales
3. I Love You Mr. Disposable Razors – A Witness
4. The Judge – Inca Babies
5. Debra – Big Flame
6. Warfood – Pigbros
7. Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder – The Membranes
8. Give Me The Keys – Noseflutes
9. Blackmailer’s Heartache – The Shrubs
10. Incineration – Dog Faced Hermans
11. Cold In Summer – The Great Leap Forward
12. Gonna Rob The Spermbank – The Ex
13. Fuck America – Jackdaw With Crowbar

Finally, on the subject of "late postpunk" (or should that be "belated postpunk"?) and specifically the second-wave of avant-funk, this Monitor piece from early 1985 is relevant.

a couple of Totally Wired related articles at The Quietus:

a conversation between me and John Doran

a quasi-extract from the book: a sort of runner-up transcript that almost made the TW's final cut, an interview with Charles Hayward of This Heat

Friday, February 06, 2009

the seventh (and final) piece in the Nuum series c/o The Wire, on Grime (and a little bit of Dubstep), published April 2005

the debut post at my Guardian blog: on Animal Collective and middlebrow

Thursday, February 05, 2009

stuff to read

* at FACT, K-punk interviews Belbury Poly

* at Perfect Sound Forever, Johan Kugelberg on the The Psycho-Geography of Record Fairs

* at The Quietus, Taylor Parkes on the Pink Floyd platters that matter

here's the sixth in the Nuum series c/o The Wire, "Adult Hardcore" a/k/a "Feminine Pressure", about 2step Garage, from April 1999...

... and here are the infamously long footnotes to the piece as originally appeared at the Blissout website

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

nice tribute to john martyn by richard king, concentrating on some of the less-focused-on albums like inside out (one that's never quite clicked for me, never quite lodged in my heart, although i've always wanted it to, cos it's so obviously awry, off the rails... starting with the cover itself)

the fifth in the Nuum series c/o The Wire, on Neurofunk versus Speed Garage, published December 1997

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

the fourth in the Nuum series c/o The Wire, titled "Slipping Into Darkness" and about Hardstep, Jump Up, and Techstep, June 1996

Monday, February 02, 2009

Here's a piece by me on Fanzines versus Blogs in The Guardian, for whom I'll be blogging on a regular basis, starting this Friday.

As a bonus, seeing how the interviews with zinesters (some of whose names will be familiar to frequenters of this bloghood) were so interesting and informative, I've put the full Q&As up here.

As a bonus bonus, some juvenilia of mine: two early pieces on fanzines in the Eighties. As mentioned in the Guardian piece, the "critique of fanzine culture by yours truly" that appeared in the debut issue of Monitor in 1984 (that one to be read with a kindly, indulgent eye). (Chris Scott wrote a superb riposte to that piece for the next issue of Monitor, defending fanzines's ethos and aesthetic of non-professionalism, so I might ask him I can scan that up, although it's vast, about twice the length of mine). And then there's a much better-written and more balanced feature on fanzines I did for Melody Maker in early 1987, featuring micro-interviews with The Legend and John Robb of The Rox. (Chris Scott, by that point a cutie/C86 godstar in Talulah Gosh, actually pops up as an interviewee too).

As a extra bonus bonus, if you go to the very end of this Rip It Up footnote, there's a Face profile from 1980 of Joly and his Better Badges empire.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

[info updated feb 4]

The week after next I'll be in the UK for events in Manchester and London to tie in
with the publication of Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews.

The first is the day after the FACT/Hardcore Continuum event and takes place at the Waterstone's on Deansgate, Manchester, a public conversation with guests Una Baines (The Fall/Blue Orchids) and Mick Middles (Sounds Manchester correspondent during postpunk/author).

Date: Thursday 12th February
Time: starting 6-30pm
Location: Waterstone's, 91 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BW
Tickets: £3 (redeemable against the book on the night) via 0161 839 1248

Then on the Sunday there's a similar event at The Roundhouse in Camden, in the
Dr. Martens FREEDM Studio: an onstage conversation/panel with guests Colin Newman (Wire/Githead), Viv Albertine (The Slits), and Tom Morley (Scritti Politti).

Date: Sunday 15th February
Time: 7.30 for 8pm start
Location: Dr. Martens FREEDM Studio, The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH
Tickets: £6 from the Roundhouse website

Further information about Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews