Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rankin Bass Productions

It sounds like a sound system.

Or a German dub-techno alias.

But it's the people behind Christmas kiddy classics like this

Arthur Rankin Jnr and Jules Bass

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

9 from 09

Micachu and the Shapes, Jewellery
Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
Moon Wiring Club, Striped Paint for the Last Post
Dolphins Into The Future, …On Sea Faring Isolation
Oneohtrix Point Never, Russian Mind
Belbury Poly, From An Ancient Star
Mordant Music, SyMptoMs
Broadcast & The Focus Group, Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
Woebot, East One Central EP

the next 9

Ducktails, Backyard
Roj, The Transactional Dharma of Roj
Martyn, Great Lengths
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
Gary War, Horribles Parade
Position Normal,s/t
Oneohtrix Point Never, Rifts
Leyland James Kirby, Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was
King Midas Sound, Waiting For You

another 9

Dizzee Rascal, Tongue 'n' Cheek
Telepathe, Dance Mother
2562, Unbalance
Blobs, Hey Hello
Woebot, s/t
Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms
Animal Collective, Fall Be Kind EP
Ducktails, Landscapes
Demdike Stare, Symbiosis

belated 1 from 09 loved in 10
The xx - xx

19 more admired in whole or part
Matias Aguayo, Ay Ay Ay; Woebot, Automat EP; Sa Ra, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love; James Ferraro, Multitopia; Akatombo, Unconfirmed Reports; Various/Skull Disco, Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated by Vandals; Dusk & Blackdown versus Grievous Angel, Margins Music Redux; Shits and Giggles, Trick or Treat; Discovery, LP; Atlas Sound, Logos; J Dilla, Jay Stay Paid; Alexander Nut Nut, Rinse: 08; Caspa, Everybody's Talking Nobody's Listening; Lady Sovereign, Jigsaw; DJ Hell, Teufelswerk; Various/Mordant Music, Picking O'er the Bones; Neil Landstrumm, Bambaataa Eats His Breakfast; Tory Y Moi, Causers of This; Zelienople, Give It Up

9 short ones for 09

Dizzee Rascal, "Bonkers"
Cooly G, "Love Dub"
Joker, "Digidesign"
Raffertie, "Antisocial" b/w "Wobble Horror"
Zomby, "Mercury Rainbow"
Calvin Harris, "I'm Not Alone"
Discovery, "I Want You Back"
Scratcha DVA,"Natty"
Stush/Hard House Banton, "We Nuh Run (Sirens)"

9 old ones resurrected in 09

G Spots: the Spacy Folk Electro-Horror Sounds of the Studio G Library
Neil Ardley, Harmony of the Spheres
Terror Danjah, Gremlinz
Bernard Sjazner, Superficial Music
World Domination Enterprises, Let's Play Domination
Dillanthology 1 to 3 (productions for various artists/remixes for various artists/dilla's productions)
Bizzy B, Retrospective

live thrills

GAS (Wolfgang Voigt + Petra Hollenbach), Miller Theatre, NYC
Joker, Santos Party House, NYC
Jad Fair & Lumberob, The Gramercy Theater, NYC
Neon Indian, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn
Mighty Boosh, Bowery Ballroom

last year, loved this year

Nite Jewel, "Artifical Intelligence"
Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris, "Dance Wiv Me"
Dolphins into the Future, almost everything

next year, nice now

Pantha du Prince, Black Noise
Raffertie, "7th Dimension"

Special Award for Chronic Gluttage/Clottage

Hudson Mohawke, Butter
swayed by this

wonder what these Hilburn-esque POPulists-"the only publication recommended by Rage Against the Machine"--make of it?
Notes on the Noughties #5 @ Guardian looks at the concept of "the underground" and how it seemed to simultaneously wither away and flourish in the first decade of the 21st Century

writing this, at certain points the notion of "underground" started to seem like a spatial abstraction... like the centre vs. margins / overground vs. underground was just this peculiar topographical figment that groups and labels positioned themselves in relation to... i had to concentrate hard to fix in my mind that it once actually signified something in material terms (and maybe still does, for some... that's the question posed by the piece i guess)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If you're looking for a stocking filler for the middle-aged B-boy/fly girl in your extended family, how about this fascinating photo-book by Beezer? Wild Dayz collects picture taken by Andy Beese, then just a teenage amateur photographer, of the early Bristol hip hop scene 1983-1987. So there's shots of the Wild Bunch deejaying at clubs like the Dug Out and the Crypt, pix of kids breakdancing on the streets of St Paul's, snaps of graffiti (some by 3D later of Massive Attack), photos of various sound systems in action. Plus some odds 'n' sods: Ari Up and Mark Stewart and, unexpectedly, a very young, lightly bearded Jarvis Cocker performing with Pulp at the Thekla.

What struck me, looking at the book, and in light of recent arguments, is how rapidly and how absolutely hip hop seized the imagination of the youth of Bristol, black and white. From about 1982--the year of "The Message", "Planet Rock", "Buffalo Gals"--they, like others in Britain's big cities, embraced wholesale the culture of deejaying/graffiti/breakdancing/MCing. They adopted the look and the language. They saw something fresher than anything else around, something that looked like the future, and threw themselves into it unreservedly, without hesitation. Now hip hop didn't utterly supplant and erase what they'd been into previously (reggae and funk/soul for most, postpunk/2-Tone for some) but it did assimilate those things into a new framework.

This obviously relates to my point here about things emerging out of nowhere. It's happened before. Acid house/rave is another example--an entire cultural economy of new sounds, new rituals, new clothes, new slang, assembling itself with incredible rapidity, and so completely that (as with hip hop) whatever historical materials were elements in the music/culture's make-up seemed to lose any reference to a before-time... a movement so compellingly new and total that people became converts overnight, abandoned whatever else they'd been into up until then...

Now a photobook of ye olde B-boy dayz might on the surface seem to be contributing to the retrospection that hampers new formations of this scale and intensity... contributes to making them seem inconceivable, a thing of the past. But I don't think so. Looked at in the right way, a book like Wild Dayz is a salutary reminder: emergence is a possibility.

buy Wild Dayz here

read an interview with Beezer

Beezer photo gallery

Saturday, December 19, 2009

nu-rockism has yet to take a position on the battle between olde-rockisme and now-PAPism for the UK Xmas #1...

still ruminating

food for thought here and here
Ah well that backfired, didn't it, my attempt to be subtle. Now everyone seems to think I'm championing M.I.A.! (Amazing how many people just read the headline, and maybe the bit of a text at the top written by the editor…). Nothing could be further from, actually. Still find her music largely irritating, the lyrics generally garbled and resolutely non-resonant. As for what she says in interviews....

Still I did think it should be acknowledged that she made the decade more interesting, by giving us all something to talk about. There really have been only a few other figures who got such ferocious arguments going, arguments in which something actually seemed to be at stake. So for that alone, I doff my woolly winter hat. Also, she had a bash at bringing something Other-ly /"london in the 2000s" into the American mainstream and--fair play--pulled it off, which is more than Dizzee or Lady Sov managed.

As a rebel-rocker in the Hilburnian mode, she was a bit half-assed,a bit ersatz, but then that's been the decade, hasn't it? But mainly the way music culture works now means that it's hard do anything really subversive within it.

From my p.o.v. the critical/bloggy support for M.I.A. was like an alliance between ye olde rockisme (looking for redeeming social value, populist hero etc) and the most anti-earnest, pro-frivolousness people around(whose angle on MIA was "pure pop pleasure", "jump-rope rhymes" etc). An alliance that made no sense: they couldn't both be right!

My sense about the rebel-rockist half of her constituency is that it's the same kind of people (in some, older cases, the exact same people) that thought London Calling was the Best Album of the Eighties (which is what Rolling Stone actually decreed it to be). A very American view: I can't imagine anyone in the U.K. sharing it, for starters the album came out in 1979 in Britain (okay, it was December 1979, but still, London Calling feels like a very Seventies record… punk reaching back to pre-punk, to rock's American roots… ).

The Clash/ M.I.A. parallel stands up well in lots of ways if only because the Clash were rather a lot of the time a rather silly band. Lyrics more often than not garbled, blustery, histrionic (what is "London Calling" the single about exactly?). They were always a band I liked certain songs by but could never buy into as a whole, as a cause/belief-system.

Which reminds me, the "sample-stain" concept originally came up because of this incident about a year ago with one of those certain songs. I'm going into a local café and pass through the door right just at that moment--the "Straight To Hell" sample. And kinda clench internally in the expectation of "Paper Planes". But, knock me down with a feather, it just carries on as "Straight To Hell". A wave of relief goes through my body. Wasn't a sample at all. But it was a
sample-stain--that little patch of sound forever and always linked to "Paper Planes". That's the downside of living in a sampladelic, intertextual pop world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Notes on the Noughties #4 at the Guardian looks at the case for M.I.A. as Artist of the Decade

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

another great Spectral Cassettes mix from Pontone
via blog to the old skool

a late 1994 BBC 2 documentary on jungle!

part one
part two
part three

what's more, it's a masterclass in rockist ideology virtually from start to finish

not from the doc-makers or presenters, oh no

from the djs, producers, and scene-makers
two recent critpolls confirming what i detected in the pitchfork top 10 o' decade:

Rolling Stone

1 | Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
2 | The Strokes: Is This It (2001)
3 | Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
4 | Jay-Z: The Blueprint (2001)
5 | The White Stripes: Elephant (2003)
6 | Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
7 | Eminem: The Marshal Mathers LP (2000)
8 | Bob Dylan: Modern Times (2006)
9 | M.I.A.: Kala (2007)
10 | Kanye West: The College Dropout (2004)

The Onion's A.V. Club
1. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (2001)
2. Kanye West, The College Dropout (2004)
3. Radiohead, Kid A (2000)
4. OutKast, Stankonia (2000)
5. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
6. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (2005)
7. Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica (2000)
8. Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)
9. Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)
10. The National, Alligator (2005)

a preponderance of consensus/canonical in the first three to four years of the noughties ... and hardly anything from after 2005

i don't buy the "takes time for the dust to settle" argument, okay it might serve to slight 2009,maybe 2008 stuff in the tally.... but you could equally make the argument that more recently released stuff is fresher in the memory (after all, that seems to happen with end-of-year polls, stuff from early in the year fades a bit and suffers for it)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

Notes on the Noughties #3 at the Guardian looks at the fragmentation of the decade via the prism of Pitchfork's top 200 albums of the 2000s poll

(I should have probably pointed out that Arcade Fire's Funeral don't mean shit to me, if only because that would be further evidence for the center not holding... whatever "unifying force" it's supposed to have mustered certainly didn't sweep me up in it... more to the point, though, i don't have an opinion on it either, it wasn't even an agree-to-disagree axis of contention like, somehow swimming against the entropic tide, Animal Collective amazingly are)
face-fuzz flashback: I thought the Fleet Foxes video was the ultimate pogonopromo but this one for New Pornographers's "Myriad Harbour" is positively beardodelic.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

re. Burial as a response to the urban environment... it's as much about an emotional environment as the physical one, being sensitised to hurt, sorrow, loss, the lost... in that sense his music could be seen as an ambient beatstrumental equivalent to "Eleanor Rigby"...
oh dear

Andy Serkis doing for Ian Dury what he did for Martin Hannett...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

really interesting post on Burial at Rouge's Foam, celebrating other facets of the art(ist) than the requiem-for-rave-dream aspect

it's part 2 of an epic 4-part series that started with this also really interesting post on hauntology (be warned though that one is long -- pack some Kendal's Mint Cake, the ascent is one thing, but you'll be jellylegged on the way down) (it rather skirts around what I'd consider to be the central H-ologists but is great on precursors Boards of Canada and also the freakily large number of parallels in the art world)

I'm never quite sure what I think of the musicological-analysis approach. Well, for a start I have to take it completely on faith, just as I would if I took a broken appliance into the repair shop and the problem was diagnosed. Indeed reading I tend to glide through those bits rather quickly to get to the analogies with modern art or the more general, non-technical stuff to do with the history of music or philosophical issues. Of course it feels wonderfully validating when, as in the first essay in this series, my favourite Belbury Poly tune "The Willows" is broken down and it's gosh-darn proved that its uneasy-queasy atmosphere stems from the unstable, drifting key the tune is in (that's brutally simplified BTW, the analysis is intricate). But equally when the method is applied to something that doesn't particularly captivate or impress, then it's unconvincing; it's not like you can be argued out of your primary musical/emotional response.

But then the same probably applies to every kind of analysis/exegesis, every critical angle brought to bear; we'll go along with it happily when it aggrandises something we rate or diminishes something we don't like; when it doesn't gel with our opinion, it may well make us judge the methodology unfavorably, rather than the other way around. Certainly it's not going to alter your gut-feeling.

So for instance the hauntological reading laid on Burial by K-punk went down a treat in part because I was already well-disposed to the music; but when Mark used the same lens re. a blues-influenced record by Little Axe, it didn't make that record sound any more appealing to me. A good example of this in Rouge-ian terms would be Zomby: "magnified listen" of the "Kaliko" Kaleidscope = yes yes guvnor; same focus applied to the rather cursory and unrealised One Foot Ahead of the Other = nah, not having it mate...

In Burial's case, the machinery of emotion is fascinating, but the emotion itself--the mood and atmosphere--and the question of why the artist is so obsessively drawn to it, what its appeal is to listeners, why its found such a surprisingly substantial audience at this juncture in time, etc--seem more crucial. It can be agreed I think that the mood-palette of Burial is uncommonly desolate, dejected, yearning, bereft, bereaved... the phrase I keep coming back to is "orphaned drift" (and not just for the CCRU ghost-echo), which chimes with the title of the new song "Fostercare"... Whether those emotions register with you in terms of living in London (or any metropolis) in the Noughties or whether they bear an extra freight of loss ("after the Luvdupness has gone" a la "Weak Become Heroes" *) is bound to be generational **. I think what's going on in the music surely relates also to the syndromes of pandemic stress and depression Mark writes about in Capitalist Realism.

* never struck me before that a "Night Bus" is a perfect figure for the latter: it's what you get on after leaving the bright-lights/noise/collectivity of the club-rave space and head back to atomised anomie... the postmillenial nocturne of Burial's music as a Night Bus after the Nineties?

** Burial, although not actually of the generation that would feel this way as first-hand experience, seems to invite this reading with "Gutted": the sampled voice muttering "me and him, we're from different, ancient tribes... now we're both almost extinct... sometimes... you gotta stick with the ancient ways... old skool ways" (from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai)... to an old raver that's bound to seem like The Key...

Friday, December 04, 2009

she's back! by popular demand!

anwyn crawford of fan girl/aloof from inspiration renown(both of which bloggs mysteriously self-destructed this summer) is blogging again, here, with a tres selectif run-down (now up to number 5 of 10) of songs that meant something to her from this decade...

and also here, more belle-lettristic but still brutal, her assault on Nick Cave, Aussie Mittelbrau Institution
just had a preview peek at woebot's stunning mix for the exotic pylon/jonny mugwump show tomorrow night, info here ... ; also playing are west norwood cassette library who were superb last time (archived here)

also, woebot, at hollow earth, with very interesting post sparking off k-punk's acclaim-worthy Capitalist Realism

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

life after "death"

Amazing that so many (90 percent maybe) of the negative responses to my piece on the stagnation of rap were exactly the sort I deliberately parried/piss-took in advance (prolepsis can work, sometimes), i.e. running up frantically brandishing some
half-decent recent rap CDs and spluttering indignantly "look, LOOK how can it be dead?!" As if a smatter of fairly-good records could actually out-weigh the larger argument about a music formation passing its prime/time...

Not one person stepped up with an example of an actual sonic innovation the last half-decade of rap could claim for itself… nor a compellingly original personality who'd emerged from rap's ranks in recent years… (well okay Tom Breihan suggested that Gucci Mane was what I was looking for--can't say he's grabbed me really… but even if… one swallow does not a summer make).

Here's a genre defined in its prime-time by refreshment through constant innovation, by huge personalities with originality of style. A genre further defined by world-conquering/can't-hold-us-back ambition. How can it withdraw back into being a kind of sub-mainstream? There's already one undieground hip hop.

The other 10 percent of the negative responses boiled down to the familiar argument: if you just scale down your expectations, take a small-picture view of things, then everything's fine. (Genre patriots often seem like people locked in bad marriages, hoping things will improve, grateful for small mercies, settling for less and less, because they've made that "for better or worse" pledge).

I prefer my bi-polar view of music history--ups and downs--to the steady-state flatline that many seem to have grown (up) accustomed to. It creates the kind of affects I enjoy.


There is actually an interesting book devoted to the subject of whether musical styles can be said to die or not: Is Rock Dead? by Kevin J.H. Dettmar, from 2005. It's about the discourse of rock's death, but the ideas are applicable to anything--rap, electronic dance music, whatever. There is a large aporia in the book, though, in so far as Dettmar can never for a second countenance the possibility that a music could actually die (in the sense of becoming irrelevant, uncoupled from the Zeitgeist, etc). So the book quickly becomes a series of ripostes to critics and academics who have at various junctures advanced the argument that rock was dead or dying, from Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer to James Miller and Lawrence Grossberg. The angle pursued much of the time is the "projecting own fading life-force onto the music" one. So e.g. with James Miller and his 2000 book Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Rolll, 1947-1977 (which argues that rock completed its arc with punk and thereafter was just a series of variations on established themes) Dettmar argues that Miller's "eulogy for rock & roll is throughout, and transparently, a requiem for his own youth". Dettmar further points the finger at babyboomer triumphalism, "a kind of generational ethnocentrism" (he sees punk as a late boomer invention, as it happens, its last blast). And yet Miller's remark that "rock now belongs to the past as much as to the future" seems fairly on the ball, and quite fair: I don't know if I'd take the turning point to be as early as 1977, but generally the notion seems pretty incontestable, and the "as much as to" is probably quite generous.

The truth (which Dettmar acknowledges) is that the prospect of rock's death has been a thread of anxiety running all the way through the music's history--voiced not just by critics and academics, but by musicians and fans too. It's the very excessive life-force of the music/culture--the energy, currency, newness, collective self-confidence, and sheer command over its own era--that unavoidably and inherently raises the possibility of a fading away, and raises that prospect remarkably early too. That fade can be characterized in lots of different ways, depending on the ideology-of-rock that's adhered to, what you consider to be the essence of the music, why it mattered in the first place. A commonly-held one would be the relapse of rock back into what it once defined itself against (showbiz/MOR/mere entertainment). But whatever the deemed essence is, the insistence on the possibility of a music form's death/betrayal is actually a form of fidelity towards its vitality. Dettmar acknowledges this, writing that "the birth and death of rock aren't just coincident… they are, in fact, two different ways to talk about the very same thing."

Here, ironically, he finds himself in agreement with Lawrence Grossberg (otherwise relentlessly excoriated throughout) who wrote about the possibility of rock's death as "a discursive haunting within [rock] and, of course, a possible eventual reality"... "the becoming-residual" of "the rock formation" (i.e. not just the music but the whole culture and discourse surrounding it). In an early essay from 1984 Grossberg talks about how rock is a historical phenomenon and therefore has to end at some point; he picked up the theme a decade later in another essay, "if the rock formation had a beginning, it is also possible that it has an end," noting further that the music might not disappear but it might be so drastically altered by changes in the context surrounding it and the uses made of it that it was to all intents and purposes no longer itself (a kind of death).

Oddly absent from Dettmar's book is any reference to the best ever piece of writing on this subject, Greil Marcus's 1992 essay "Notes on the Life and Death and Incandescent Banality of Rock'n'Roll". It's a wide-ranging, really rich piece (one of the evidences presented for "rock"--in the largest sense--having life in it yet is actually the Geto Boys song "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"). But the nub of the essay--or at least one of the nubs, the nub relevant here, is this: after quoting some French critics describing the 1950s art world in terms of "pointlessness surrounded by repetition" and "a dismal yet profitable carnival", Marcus suggests "it's as if the source of the depression is not that rock is dead but that it refuses to die".

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

a Boom Bap Continuum - tastymix of wonkyish wotknot... maggot-brain mind-slurry... hip hop's afterlife maybe, or afterbirth... a hauntology bassed around kosmigroove not radiophonia...
a remarkably accurate review of the new Moon Wiring Club by... Belbury Poly
"a certain beige perma-blandness, neither soulful or soulless, semi-tasteful, efficient pop fare made by capable, acceptable sorts... the science of marketing, of calculated and tasteful risk aversion overtook the wayward, flamboyant, the decadent, the inspired, the stupid, the romantically super-intense"

David Stubbs OTfuckingM about pop in the Noughties at Quietus