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

Monday, November 30, 2009

impostume back after long silence with lovely appreciation of roy harper's stormcock

Saturday, November 28, 2009

next instalment of my Notes on the Noughties at the Guardian -- when will hip hop hurry up and die?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

amazingly, Joker wasn't even the most amazing thing i saw at the weekend

even more amazing was the performance by... Jad Fair and Lumberob

there was this two-day festival A Fantastic World Superimposed on Reality: A Select History of Experimental Music, curated by Mike Kelley & Mark Beasley - went to the first night, lots of good stuff... others more like "concept sound" e.g. the strange Fluxus-type piece called "Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong" which involved, ah, Kelley hurling spuds at a large gong... or Fred Frith's "Stick Figures", which involved two guys pulling threads of wool through the strings of a pair of electric guitars... so yeah "interesting"... BUT there was also Z'ev (who apparently did his first paid performance in 1962!) bashing and stroking metal... Thurston Moore's trio with Ryan Sawyer and Daniel Carter, improv fury, very exciting, especially the drumming... Genesis P finding a diagonal between the sublime and the ridiculous with Thee Majesty (probably the only genuinely "challenging" thing on the night in the sense that the audience didn't know what to make of it and responded rather lukewarmly to P's recitations and the sproingy spurts of processed gtr), Arto Lindsay's gloriously goofy, bendylimbed noise-guitar shimmy... a long, long, and deafening duet for gongs composed by Rhys Chatham.... oh yes, and they had reconstructed Intonarumori for a very brief Russolo piece

but the stand-out performance was Jad Fair and Lumberob, doing this very peculiar but entertaining human beatboxing fed through delays/loops/FX, "phrase-sampling" i think they call it... at certain points they seemed to be doing jungle tracks using just their voices, real rumblistic B-lines a la "The Helicopter Tune"... elsewhere it was like the vocal weirdness Gibby used to do in Butthole Surfers meets i dunno Mighty Boosh crimping, but, um, a lot more enjoyable and dynamic and just mighty than that possibly sounds.... strangely though the one track at their Myspace isn't nearly as impressive as what they did on Friday, perhaps it's something that only works at top volume and onstage with them doing their nutty dance routines
i wondered early this year whether mid-Eighties indie would ever become hip...

well with his new book Death To Trad Rock: The Postpunk Fanzine Scene 1982-87, insane-in-the-Membranes John Robb launches a bid to write the Bogshed/Big Flame era into History

extract here at the Quietus

Monday, November 23, 2009

Joker, New York, Saturday
more in-depth beardology

Friday, November 20, 2009

America, cut it out!

Stop saying




when you mean to say


Really, it's become very grating.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

feeling extra

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


(a quick and rather perfunctory round-up, before all the end of year/end of decade palaver gets underway)

More TV themes and underscores that haunted the child-mind of Jonathan Benton-Hughes.

3 discs of doings by Shut Up and Dance the label.

Ace Aussie postpunk, shading into New Wave but none the worse for it.

Making effective use of Viv's soft small voice especially on "I Don't Believe/In Love".

The most welcome (and unexpected) reactivation of the year. Get it here.

Like London Zoo turned inside out. Lowdown from Kevin and Roger here.

Picking up where these guys left off. Halcyon and on and on...

final instalment (for the time being) in an irregular series prompted by the bizarrely large number of friends who've got books out this year

A work of unbridled genius. (Or so I assume).

Loads of mates in this one. A work of unbridled scenius. (Or so I assume).

Just one mate in this one. Discographisme récréatif (assemblage de Patrice Caillet) is a very attractive, fascinating and covetable collection of homemade/customised/defaced/doodled-upon record sleeves and CD covers, mostly the work of unknowns found at flea markets, but in some cases done special-like by artist contributors like Matt (page 41). More info here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Zone Styx with a gallery of electronica beards (kicking myself for not remembering that Richie Hawtin image)

And a few hauntological ones too.

However he missed this guy:

That's Baron Mordant, that is

Also Ian Hodgson the man behind Moon Wiring Club is magnificently thatched.

MWC's new album Striped Paint For The Last Post is out in a week's time and I cannot wait to hear it.

Here's a taster for it.

Love his way with a reverbed bassline.

Like the missing link between Dillinja "Deadly Deep Subs" and Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected
Spectral Cassettes mix at Pontone
The Belbury Parish Magazine

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a reminder: Position Normal are guesting on Jonny Mugwump's Exotic Pylon show on Resonance FM this Saturday night 9-30 to 11 PM -- more info here--apparently he's going to be playing some of his pre-PosNorm stuff as Bugger Sod...
more on beards

wouldyabelieve it, another article on iconic beards that came out on exactly the same morning as mine

who knew it was National Beard Month and/or (are they the same thing?) No Shave November?

here (from a few years ago) a female pogonophobe perspective

Matt on "the Shoreditch Moustache"


In the comments my old colleague Jonh Wilde had a funny story about his time at Sounds (just before he jumped ship for Melody Maker in '87) and how alarmed his colleague Andy Hurt was when "a band with beards, namely Zodiac Mindwarp, were about to appear" on Sounds's front cover. "Andy voiced his concerns at the weekly meeting, even going so far as to suggest that nobody sporting a beard should be rewarded with coverage in Sounds. "We didn't fight the punk wars for THIS!" he exclaimed."

That rang true to me: as I remember it there had been this entire era of music--1977 to 1985, i.e. coterminous with my youth, with my getting into music and then getting into the music press--during which you virtually never saw a young group with facial hair. There was Dave Greenfield the keyboard whiz in the Stranglers (who had a raven's-wing-oily and vaguely menacing tache) and also the drummer Jet Black, who was another generation entirely, and there was Peter Hook, and that was it, pretty much.

Thought I might be misremembering this, though, so I had a flick through these two densely pictorial books, Roger Crimlis & Alwyn W. Turner's Cult Rock Posters (which starts with glam but goes through punk, New Wave, New Romance, Goth, and includes all kinds of flyers, posters, album inserts etc) and Chris Sullivan & Stephen Colegrave's Punk (tons of photographs, follows the after-punk diaspora well into the Eighties) and sure enough, it was a virtually fuzz-free period. Punk rejected them as hippie and Virgin Records-y; postpunks and Goths didn't want to hide their pallor; New Popsters were supposed to be fresh-faced. In those days the only furry faces in NME were the roots reggae bands (or the very occasional Black American funk/soul band like EWF or Gap Band--generally speaking the semiotics of beards have a completely different valence in black music). Or it'd be someone like John Martyn or Richard Thompson, i.e. survivors of a different era, folk-rockers and such.

Same applied to the general youth populace. At my college the only beard-wearers were a bunch of hippies, same age as me but utterly dedicated to living in 1968 (they listened to The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter). Apart from these committed anachronists, the only other occurrences of facial hair among the young were rare and fell into precise categories. The guy who was short and slight and sick of being offered half-price on buses. An expression of radical self-neglect (often accompanied by body-odour or scurvy). The insignia of born-again Christianity (beard expressive of both Jesus-identification and a lack of vanity). Being a geology student (possibly a totally unfair stereotype, but a widespread and indelible one).

By the mid-to-late Eighties, as Jonh noted, beards started to creep back into rock as a daring, semiotically-freighted gesture. You had the vaguely-Satanic, "R-U-ready-to-rock?" beard, worn ironically by Zodiac Mindwarp and then in deadly earnest by Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. By the Nineties there were soul-patches and goatees and the "hemp beard" (Cypress Hill). And there was weirdy-beardy electronica (Richard D. James, Luke Vibert), perhaps indicating "too busy twiddling me knobs" to bother shaving, or being a variant of the stoner hemp/hair connection (Vibert's chin-carpet always seemed vaguely resinous).

Somewhere in there you'd also get instances of the I-am-above-such-trifling-things-as-image beard, e.g. the brambles that over-ran the face of Elvis Costello circa Mighty Like A Rose, seemingly an act of pique at the fact that he wasn't getting chart hits anymore.

(Paddy MacAloon's present look is an extreme version of this ex-popstar, just-don't-care-anymore beard; originally his neat'n'tidy bieard signified a kind of hip-to-be-square, cooler-than-the-cool stance that paralleled what Prefab were doing musically and was a bit like that soft-rock-redolent/Andrew Gold-esque beard that you see with your French electronic types nowadays and also on Jarvis Cocker, a style move which I must say really surprised me).

Like black music, metal is a whole other zone really, there's always been a hairy undercurrent, people like Lemmy. But certainly facial hair of ever-increasing complexity did seem to surge in metal during the Nineties both on the underground (thrash, black, doom, etc) and mainstream (nu-metal), perhaps signifying the resurgence of "real" metal that brought to an end the Eighties hair metal era (when pretty-boy rockers's faces were as smooth as their long locks were silky)... bristles signifying virility, and various shadings of i-am-sinister-me, paganism/barbarianism, biker-echoes...

Then acoustic guitars and folk came back... facial hair took over indie, which in C86-era was totally beardless and boy-man oriented.


I've never really got on with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy/Palace Bros/etc (now Fleet Foxes, I was surprised to find myself enjoying quite a bit) but I must say as an actor Will Oldham was very good as a sort of gone-to-seed, lost-his-way slacker/hippie type in Old Joy, which I saw a few weeks ago and which still vaguely haunts and disquiets me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

my Guardian blog reactivates for some Notes on the Noughties, a series of oblique angles on the decade--first one is on beard-rock

Saturday, November 07, 2009

That Infernal Machine

Enlightenment arrives from multiple quarters about the mysterious device Hurby Luv Bug mentioned to me

It's not "poublaison" or "publason" but this baby:

The Publison Infernal Machine, made by a French outboard gear manufacturer, and for some years the connoisseur-preferred, state-of-the-art sampler/effects unit

Stuart Argabright of Ike Yard/Dominatrix legend says "Publison made early sampling delays, you could get these great looping effects"

Christopher Halcrow says "Their best known effects unit was the Infernal Machine which if I remember correctly did pitch shifting and some other stuff a la Eventide harmonizers"

Matthew McKinnon dug up a good quote from here on its particular attributes: "The Publison Infernal Machine 90 is an amazing digital processing unit that has sampling, time stretching, reverberating, phasing, and delay effects.... offers 30 seconds of stereo sampling [this at a time when sample-time of 10 seconds was the norm] rich and endless reverb options and has a distinctive character all its own."

Chemical Brother Tom Rowland notes "it was a favorite machine of Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez who worked on Boogie Down Productions, Grandmaster Flash, Spoonie G, T-LaRock, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, LL Cool J and others" [including Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full and records by EPMD].But he says they were used widely beyond hip hop (Prince was apparently a fan)despite being "notoriously unreliable and tricky to fix."

Monday, November 02, 2009

anyone out there heard of something called a "publason effect"?

(not sure about the spelling, might be "poublaison" -- the word sounds vaguely French, as said)

come across it only twice:

-- in 87 or '88 when interviewing hurby luv bug (producer of salt n pepa), he was talking about his sampling techniques and used that word to describe a special kind of loop

-- a few weeks ago at the arthur russell conference someone on a panel used it talking about the recording sessions for a particular project

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mordant Music are Jonny Mugwump's special guests playing nonstop exclusives on this week's Exotic Pylon (Saturday night on Resonance FM, 9.30 to 11 PM --also appearing is Joel from Quiet Village celebrating the centenary of De Wolfe)

Tis the season to be hauntological, cos two weeks after that the guest is Position Normal, and two weeks after that it's Moon Wiring Club... more info here on the Pylon schedule for the next few months

(Check out the archive for woebot, stubbs, west norwood cassette library, etc)

Very good, actually: Shackleton zone for the most part, but "Regressor" and "Ghostly Hardware" recall also the meteorite-scarred lunar bleakness of Marc Acardipane's ambient gabba mode ("Jupiter Pulse" etc).

I've succumbed to the charms of "Dance Wiv Me". It's a textbook example of that popist precept/procedure, whereby “'importance' and 'relevance' is a scam and a trap" and if you can only "stop thinking about things in those terms, all of music and art becomes far more enjoyable" (Matthew Perpetua). Once you stop thinking about who Dizzee was, what he (and grime) represented--once you let all that go--he suddenly emerges as a top-class entertainer, and "Dance Wiv Me" is revealed as a supremely nifty tune. Actually my favourite bit of that song is not Dizzee's hard chat but the Calvin Harris part: Terry Hall without the scowl.

Much superior to that disappointingly milky, washed-out last album. Mystery with muscle.

Easily my favourite Sun Ra, something I originally taped off Stubbs's vinyl copy in the early Eighties. But wasn't this spacey-keyboards dominated record (recorded live in Milan in the late Seventies, something I never knew) already reissued last year, and as a double CD that time? I'm confused.

Different but holding: feathery songscapes woven largely out of human breath (Aguayo's multi-tracked, vaguely African vocals), the effect is like TV On the Radio both a cappella and in severe dub... or Furious Pig meets the Lyndsey Buckingham of "Trouble".

really feeling

Superb and something of a coup: evenly divided between songs and pure electronic music, largely devoid of samples, this sounds nothing like Dead Air and yet it's still totally Mordant Music. Who else could turn lines like "Norfolk and Surrey/ Estuarial slurry" into a haunting neo-psychedelic ballad?

A fraction of the tapeography of Dolphins Into The Future, my new favourite group. Balearic noise/nu-New Age blissdrone: a smoothie of Boards of Canada and Seefeel , with a booster thimble of Songs of the Humpback Whale thrown in.

A fragment of the tapeography of my new second-favorite group, Ducktails. This, the latest (I think it's the latest, stuff is popping out constantly) is actually a vinyl LP, titled Landscapes and released on the Old English Spelling Bee label. Like most Ducktails, it's largely blissy guitar instrumentals, somewhere between Ariel Pink's more laidback,sundazed moments and a beach bum Galaxie 500, with here and there a glimmer of Durutti. But every so often there'll be a foray into electronic nu-New Age: here, the wondrous light-dance that is "Seagull's Flight"…. check out also, on the Backyard LP, the equally wondrous "Neptune City, NJ".

Ariel Pink has turned out to be one of the most influential underground musicians of the decade, hasn't he?

Friday, October 23, 2009

the thing that struck me about this (snd I'm all for hype, so that wasn't it) is that the voice of the journalist (Kiran Sande) and the voice of the artist (Jam City a/k/a Jack Latham) are virtually indistinguishable.... thoughtful, super-informed about music history, eloquent.... this seems to be the norm with the nu skool producers coming out of the Garage Continuum (copyright Pitchfork, no comment), they really do know their history and are incredibly articulate and precise about placing what they do in some macro-context, mapping out the flow of influences... which in this case (and increasingly) extends beyond nuum to other zones of the past (other nuums) as well as other zones of the globe (kwaito in Jam City's case) ...

this virtual indistinguishability of tone and discursive mode, it feels like a pretty new development. maybe it's exacerbated by interviews being done by email, therefore thought-about-over-time, written up nice and proper, not having the chattiness and fumbling of a spoken interview, but i don't think that's really it... interviewing artists from the nuum in my experience (which is grime and all stages prior to that), even or especially in written form... there's generally something of a idiolect gap, a marked difference in ways of talking ... this nu-skool of producers in lots of ways is the real blog-house, or blogger-house...

There's a whole axis that's emerged in the last several years, coalescing to some extent out of and to some extent off the back of, the nuum .... postdubstep some call it (ugh) although it's also (as with Jam City) postgrime and post some other things too... but what it really is, this fuzzy region that's sort of blurring the edges of, overlapping and encroaching,the nuum... it's the nu-IDM, i think. (The give-away: Brainfeeder, which virtually is Braindance, as per RePhlex's slogan)(Hyperdub as the new RePhlex? Planet Mu as the bridge between RePhlex and Hyperdub?). But crucially it's IDM, reformed. IDM, with most, if not all, of the blindspots removed. IDM, if it actually was serious about the "dance" bit of Intelligent Dance Music. IDM, hip (acutely hip) to where the real energy centers are. IDM, with none of the parody-it snark/goofiness of drill'n'bass/squarepusher/kid606 (if anything, gone the other way and a wee bit too earnest and reverent). So many of the right moves are made, and so many of IDM's faults reformed, that you can't fault this zone of music really. And I don't. I enjoy a lot it (Jam City mix, very nice). Besides, this is my class,isn't it... where I belong.

And yet...

One of the places where a difference comes through, persists, is actually in the names. "Jam City", it just doesn't quite cut it. (As for Joy Orbison...*) Whereas Ill Blu, or Roska, or Crazy Cousinz, or Perempay, these monikers are in the tradition of Rufige Kru and Boogie Times Tribe and Masterstepz and Dem 2... It is now probably pretty easy to get the music right, you can break down and isolate the formal features of all kinds of real-energy-center type musics and come up with nifty rearrangements of them. But it's the peripheral stuff (names, titles, etc) that is actually where that sort of scene-genealogical transmission of vibe still occurs.

* "Joker" (which has pedigree as slighty used jungle producer alias) and "Cooly G" are right on the edge, name-wise. And right on the edge, musically, come to think of it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guardian piece by me on Numero Group and issues raised by their grand project of sonic reclamation

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lots of food for thought in K-punk's Towards a New Orthodoxy post

Which is the lastest instalment of Mark's fasc-i-nat-ing web-demonology-in-progress of "grey vampires" and "trolls", as developed with this chap Graham Harman who cogently expresses the Problem with Comments Boxes here

As Graham outlines so sharply, there is something structural about the channels through which net-discourse organises itself that makes the web into a training ground for world-class nitpickers... the people who thrive there, who become stars, are the rapid-response units whose self-worth is bound up with their ability to spot holes and weaknesses rather than respond productively to wholes and strengths (c.f. those book reviewers, rife in academia, who spend the whole review listing the things omitted or not covered, rather than grappling with the actual argument and substance of the book)... People who find it humiliating--even disturbing--should they ever happen to find themselves in agreement with someone else's position...

(Thinking of a recent, rather fierce discussion I got embroiled in, you really get the sense, after a while, that there are certain individuals so desperate not to be seen to be, or feel inside like they are, in accord with A.N. Other's Truth, that they'd actually rather embrace untruth)

But part of the point of reading, surely, is the possibility that you might actually have your mind changed?

Might there even be an ethic of reading to be found here: the good reader as someone who--rather than approach the text in a defensive crouch of wary vigilance--comes to it open to persuasion...
in further proof of its unexpected (by some--keeping munching that dung, chaps) durability, hauntology becomes a marketing tool

good selection there actually (but who unearth are Kreng and Demdike Stare?!)and nice to see satisfied comments from the punters who took them up on the 14 tracks for 7 quid special offer

actually now i think about it they tried this a while back with the nuum but didn't get the selection quite right

stop press: get round to opening yesterday's mail and what do i find, but a cd from Demdike Stare - i shall report in due course, but here's the cover:

a companion volume for, or even the amputated Siamese twin of

might be this deluxe tome--kinda like an index without a book in front of it-- that contains barely more than an alphabetical list of 51 thousand metal bands

more information here and here and interview with conceptualist Dan Nelson in the current issue of The Word

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The first paragraph's gotten garbled, not sure how and the man who could fix it is in Pakistan, but here's my piece on the golden age of UK synthpop for the Guardian Guide. It's pegged to the forthcoming BBC 4 documentary Synth Britannia, which airs for the first time next Friday (October 16th) at 9PM (plus some other times) and features a fair amount of pontification from yours truly.

Friday, October 09, 2009

amazing to think that this was a/ released as a single b/ actually a Billboard hit

Saturday, October 03, 2009


latest instalments in an irregular series occasioned by the large number of friends who've got books out this year

I like to think we're all mates at The Wire. But at least two of the contributors here have been round my gaff, others I've quaffed with, and another did me a favour many years ago... but I better say no more in case either of us plans to run for political office in the future. I'm in here too with a primer on grime.

I couldn't honestly say any of the participants here are mates, as such. But Paul Morley's long piece on postpunk Manchester is a real treat, the other texts look interesting (don't envy the poor sod who had to make a case for Manchester after the second 808 State album--i.e. last eighteen years--though!) and Kevin Cummins's pix are ace.
well ideologically i'm with the Finney position on the "intelligent funky" aka funkstep direction, of course i am

embarrassingly though i find this as a listening experience much more exciting than e.g. this

the latter is pumping house with a slightly odd-angled groove, whereas "Natty Dub" takes the odd angles and builds a whole track out of them.

i know, i know, it's all about "the full circumference"; in the scene itself there's loads of things in between these two poles

just saying: one sounds not that different from what we've heard before, from things that have the whiff of bottle-service-only about them; one points towards something we've not heard before

also, in terms of playing beyond the pre-converted/following-this-zone-for-years bods and the lundunmassive home crowd (significantly funky is so far the first nuum sound not to have established even the smallest beach head outside the UK) the abstract/darker/tech-ier stuff is going to do it, if anything does

cos they already have sexy party house music, everywhere on earth, they don't need some slightly kooky yookay variant of it
interesting series of posts (and ensuing discussions inter alia) chez wayne marshall of wayne'n'wax on what he calls "treble culture" and a corresponding decline in the cult of bass - one, two, and three

i was really struck the first time i saw a 14 year old kid listening to music via a cellphone cupped to his ear, just like a 70s transistor radio in the 70s, while walking full speed up the street. this was london a few years ago and the squawk of top-volume distorted mp3 treble sounded awful, i dread to think the damage he was doing to his ears