Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Imagine Marc Bolan if he'd joined Monty Python" -- the missus interviews the Mighty Boosh

Noel & Julian's US live debut last Tuesday at Bowery Ballroom was a bit like T. Rextasy

Friday, July 24, 2009

Anybody know anything about a band called The Catburgers? Eighties. From Scotland, I think.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

hipstergogic pop

Interesting article by David Keenan, in the latest issue of The Wire, on what he's calling "hypnagogic pop" .

Basically it's some American ltd-edition cassette/CD-R noiseniks who've realized that noise is a bit of a dead end (better late than never eh?) and have been making this oneiric no-fi wooze, through which flicker memory-mangled traces of Eighties music: overbrite and clinically-tight mainstream pop and rock (Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" gets a special mention); sequencer-chattering and digi-synthy themes from movies and TV; New Age, and so forth. All of which apparently seeped into the consciousness of these young twentysomething musicians when they were toddlers.

With words like "spectral" and "revenant" appearing before we're half way through the first paragraph, I started to get the distinct impression, as I read further, that yer man Keenan was struggling to avoid using the word "hauntology."

Also immediately thought, "well--this sounds very Ariel Pink" (the collision of formalist pastiche and reverb-hazy abstraction; the way Ariel talks about being brought up by MTV, it being his child-minder almost). Sure enough, Pink soon pops up as a reference point and an ally of a few of these musicians.

The New Age thing (one of the main imprints, run by the Skaters, is actually called New Age Tapes) cracked me up initially, in a "hipsters! whatever will they think of next!" sort of way. But thinking about it, it struck me as actually perfectly plausible and indeed fitting that New Age would occupy a similar position in the memoradelic unconscious of a particular American generation as BBC Radiophonic Workshop/schools TV muzak does for its older British counterpart. Windham Hill-type music was really big in America in the Eighties and doubtless a lot of these noiseniks had parents who played it.

One aspect to the uptake of New Age is the cultural economics of hipsterdom, the way that margin-walking creatives seek out music that is discarded and disregarded, and therefore susceptible to transvaluation. There's a literally economic aspect to this subliming of kitsch: whatever can be found cheaply in yard sales and thrift stores (few things could be less covetable/collectable than than a pre-recorded cassette of New Age music). But there's a kind of aesthetic logic to the interest in New Age too. Maligned as it is, New Age music has a fairly respectable ancestry: many analog synth epic artists and kosmische Krauts (Ash Ra, Deuter etc) were making wishy-(synth)washy, meditational sounds by the Eighties. And it's a thin blurry line between Ambient and New Age at the best of times. Take Laraaji, who uses hammered dulcimer and zither to weave blisscapes of pulsing chimes. His Day of Radiance was third in the Ambient Series, sandwiched between The Plateaux of Mirrors and On Land, but his latterday albums have windchime-and-incense titles like Celestial Reiki and Enlighten.

Reading the interviewees's accounts of what they're trying to do (especially James Ferraro* and Spencer Clark of The Skaters) and listening to bits and bobs of "hypnagogic," I got to thinking about the difference between this music and its older British cousin. The word that sprang to mind was "half-baked". Compared to the UK stuff, it has an off-hand, even tossed-off quality (and would almost have to be, given the insane output of releases that's the norm in this zone; Ferraro's done something like forty under an array of pseudonyms in just a few years). But "half-baked" isn't necessarily a pejorative. One angle of critique with the British hauntologists that's been voiced by some is that it's over-baked: just a little too neatly wrapped up as a conceptual package of sound and artwork and mapped-out reference points, with little scope for imaginative drift on the part of the listener. (I don't find this a problem myself, or at least rarely, but I can see the argument). Less overtly footnoted, the American stuff has more of a Rorschach ink-blot aspect. "Half-baked" would also be characteristic (hauntology is very much bound up with nationality I think) in so far as hypnagogic plugs into that perennial alt-American slackerdelic sensibility that goes back via Nineties lo-fi and Eighties goofballs like Butthole Surfers and Happy Flowers, to things like the LAFMS.

One question raised for me by the piece was: does this mean that every generation from now on will come up with its own equivalent of hauntology/hypnagogic, a working-through of the music/popcult assimilated during infancy and early childhood? You can see something like this process happening with wonky maybe, in the way that games music is such a strong influence… that palette of day-glo synth-tones seem to be heavily coded as "halcyon", presumably because for an entire generation, a high percentage of the total amount of music they heard as children would have been via video and computer games…

* Ferraro's KFC as example of "dark energy temples" that "alter people's reality in a psychotic way" surely takes the half-baked biscuit. (Or perhaps it's just completely baked, in the other sense?)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The third line of Lynn Barber's profile of Goldie in The Guardian:

"A few weeks ago, he was standing at the fish counter in Waitrose, Berkhamsted, when an elderly couple came up and said: 'You were magnificent!'"

That Hertfordshire-as-hardcore-continuum-stronghold syndrome in full effect, again.

It can only be a matter of time before he runs into my mum and dad....


Even more Goldie, here interviewed by Paul Morley re. their parallel plunges into the world of classical music.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


a few things that have been caressing my cochlea recently, in ascending order


Ludic(rous). There's a sort of abject intellect involved in this meticulous mess that makes it something like wobble's "Windowlicker". See also Raffertie's "Antisocial", an even more intricate splatterfest. Proof that there is an upside to "glutted/clotted."

"The Hauntological Song", teehee. Still can't find the Supertramp sample buried in here. Wrapping up recent ace output from Mordant & pals, this is a more than solid holding action until MM's SyMptoMs (very much the non-sequel to Dead Air) drops roundabout when the leaves start turning yellowy-brown.

Loathe to like, but this duo's (a M.I.A. ex-wives club?) remorseless--almost unscrupulous--will-to-entertain crushes all resistance.

The upside of "glutted/clotted," part 2. A collaboration between Vas Deferens Organisation and Ariel Pink, wazzing in the inter(outer)zone between Der Osten Ist Rot, Hairway to Steven, and other elsewheres.

Splendid, yet… disconcerting. It's like Neil Landstrumm decided to enter the race to produce the Debut Zomby Album and has actually beaten Zomby to the finishing line. Like he got together with Rouge's Foam, made a close study of the metrical deviancies and super-saturated electro-glow-tones, and mastered the style. Hard to think of another case where an established artist's submerged their identity within another's signature to this extent. (There's loads of cases where it's impressionable youths embarking on their careers, but someone who's been around the block, got an extensive discography under the belt?). Just about the only clue it's been made by someone much older than Zomby: a sample from Spacemen 3's Playing With Fire, Pete Kember intoning "tell me, how does it feel?"

Paul Thomsen Kirk picking up where his Akatombo album for Swim a few years back left off: dead-television-gray gtr-drones swirling and scouring somewhere between the becoming-postrock of "The Overload" (by Talking Heads) and the becoming-postrock of Hydra-Calm (by Main). Excellent.

"Narst"'s a bit arse, but "Love Dub"'s luvly, cutting an odd, unexpected line across the nuum by tapping into its tradition of the long-drawn-out intro: think Dillinja "Sovereign Melody", Higher Sense "Cold Fresh Air," Da Intalex "What Ya Gonna Do"... glancingly delicate jazz-keys, limpid pads, synth washes, reverb-rippled bongos, soul-chanteuse murmurs and coos. Cooly G spins an entire song out of this kind of lull-before-the-breakbeat-storm.

Set to inspire more overwraught prose (pro and anti) this year than any other recording. Can I refrain from contributing? I'm helped by having no idea really what this group is trying to do. All I know for sure is that the four-song sequence from "Stillness" to "No Intention" is the most rapture-inducing music I've heard in an age. Elsewhere it's never boring but sometimes a little… overwraught. Or even over-wrought, like Art Nouveau metalwork. Jon Dale cites Cupid-era Scritti as a parallel, for the "knowingness" and the "desire to interface with urban music", which I can see with the R&B vocalization and Rihanna-like sentiments of "Stillness". But I'm actually struck by a faint resemblance to the Early Scritti---the springing-apart structures and odd chordings, the highly-strung tones and clashing multiple melodies---with songs like "Cannibal Resources" [i actually meant "Temecula Sunrise"] sounding a bit like Pretzel Logic meets "Bibbly-O-Tek". Certainly you do get a Green-like sense of it all having been thought-through to an excessive degree, and yet (as with Scritti)there's an inkling that somehow all the cerebral contortions and historical hyper-consciousness don't in the end have much to do with where the music comes from, a mysterious gift that bypasses all rationalisations.

The best Jewish-British pop androgyne since Justine Frischmann. Maybe even Marc Bolan.

I've been trying to work out why this kind of noise-pop, or pop-noise, is… I won't say "better"… but why it's so much more enjoyable (for me) than your regular chart pop. And wondering if it's got something to do with how "personally, I'm more of a savories man" (to quote World of Twist). Compared with all the Antaras/Aspartame enhanced chartcandy, Micachu and the Shapes's music is like Twiglets or something. It's a small voice, Mica's, quite plain in texture, yet it's delicious in a way that reminds me of digestives, where the salt is more important than the sugar. More-ish too: like opening a packet of McVities and finding it hard to stop, Jewellery's by far my most listened-to album of the year.


My actual period-piece review of Let's Play Domination can be found here while a fulsome appreciation of a World Domination Enterprises performance in Croydon in early 1987 is reproduced in the CD booklet of this reissue.

Several years ago I started something I couldn't finish: a countdown of the Top 300 Hardcore Tunes of All Time. More like started something I could barely start, actually: the #300 entry (Acen's "Window in the Sky") was the only one I completed. Partly because soon after doing it I released it needed to be, at bare minimum, a Top 500. Anyway, #299 was going to be A Guy Called Gerald's "28 Gun Bad Boy" and #288 was going to be the very first track on this here Bizzy B auteur-producer anthology, Warped Kore's "The Power." (I had a sweet conceit planned, incidentally, where the #1 would be Acen's "Trip to the Moon, Part 1", forming a cute circle). Listening to Retrospective I realise that several other cuts (the rampaging Amens and lazer-like Mentasms of "Slow Jam" and "Bad Boy", for starters) would also make this chart, which clearly would have just kept on expanding in scale, passing the four figure mark with ease…

Planet µ continue their sterling nuum-curatorial work with this career-survey of grime's most inventive and accomplished producer. Got a ton of Terror Danjah vinyl so was surprised/pleased yet also alarmed/made anxious by how many tunes I'd not heard/not even knew about in this compilation of mostly (but not entirely) previously released tunes. (Gremlinz was selected, I gather, from out of EIGHTY Danjah instrumentals!). Look out also for Industry Standard Vol 4 due on Planet µ soonish.

Apropos of almost nothing: I was struck a few months back when Danjah--on the eve of making his return to deejaying--talked about wanting to "smell and feel the emotion first hand like I used to when I was a Jungle/Drum & Bass DJ" (he and Bruza were in Reckless Crew) and anticipated his upcoming set would include "grime, a lil Dubstep, maybe a lil Funky, and even some old school Jungle!". That, right there, is your nuum! If you actually attended that particular Night Slugs, those audio brockwaves impacting your body, that was the living history of the nuum. You were in it.

Also struck by how freakily the Aftershock label's waning rate of activity (after 2005, just a couple of flickers) mirrored my own fading interest, as if Terror Danjah was somehow grime's secret bellwether! Does that mean, if he rekindles, I will too?


Sensational Alex Harvey Band, "Faith Healer"

I'm sure there must be a few but right now I can't think of a rock song with a structure--all build, no climax--quite like this.
oh my

dearie me

the years -- and the ten hour sets -- have really taken their toll eh

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"on the pleasure of hating"--an exhibition

its namesake essay

relevant to recent discussions (and recent RIP's too)
the blog of admiral greyscale
c/o FACT an interview with new recording artist Woebot

also Matt musing on Dirty Projectors and Bitte Orca (equal-first lp of 2009, alongside Micachu's Jewellery.... admittedly, a far from densely packed field, but these would shine hard in any year)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"what sandblasted jeans would say if they could talk"

mike powell damns wilco with faint--very faint--praise