Friday, April 30, 2010

gritty versus clinical

three from Ohio funkateer Joe Walsh

seems apt somehow that at Kent State Walsh majored in an "odd conglomerate" of "electronics, music theory and welding"

and now for the clinical -- one of the greatest hard rock productions ever, surely

Scorpions are the kind of band that was anathema to me as metal-despising postpunk youth, and in truth i almost didn't post this when i landed on one of those YouTubes that has the lyrics scrolling across it

sleeker and more clinical still:

(that one actually nominated by Craig Allen [who also mentions "Money For Nothing", which i suppose is a riff and a half yet curiously muddy and shapeless--always wondered how technically that riff/sound was achieved])


Carl always has a surprise up his sleeve--I'd never have taken him for a Ron Johnson-type shambling band fan. Most of that stuff I think suffers for taking the blues out of Beefheart, resulting in a rather stubby sound. He's right about Big Flame though.


Riffs Mailbag

Stuart Argabright suggests UFO's "RockBottom" or "Doctor Doctor" . "Also they had nice Hypnosis album covers ...:

AJ Ramirez avers that as regards alt-rock riffage, "aside from the grunge boys and Smashing Pumpkins ("1979" is the best riff Peter Hook never wrote, while I have a personal soft spot for "Rocket" and "Siva"), R.E.M. definitely sprang to mind early on. "Driver 8", "Harborcoat", "The One I Love" (admittedly "Driver 8" rewritten), "Talk About the Passion", etc. Peter Buck may has shied away from beng cast as a tradtional guitar hero, but he certainly grew up with classic rock, and no one who grew up on classic rock can quell the desire to build a song around a killer riff. Also let's not forget: Violent Femmes - "Blister on the Sun" Beck - "Loser"
Weezer - "Say It Ain't So" Husker Du - "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" Stone Roses - Mani's bass riff in "I Wanna be Adored" Sleater-Kinney - "Dig Me Out"
Blur - "There's No Other Way" Suede - "The Beautiful Ones" (hey, I like it . . .)
Modest Mouse - "Float On" (definitely very annoying after a while, though)
Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out" (the great thing here is you have two riffs playing together simultaneously) White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army

Thursday, April 29, 2010

do any of these US hardcore songs have riffs, as such, in the "Smoke On the Water" sense? Too fast, too flailed? Ach who cares, some of the rockingest rock ever rocked.

that one closer to a "lick" maybe, but crunching mightily in parts

now what is the difference between a riff, a lick, a vamp, a chord progression, and a, i dunno, guitar part? Eh?
less talk, more riffs

another example of Drops Away Syndrome, is how the distinction between Seventies punk and Seventies hard rock seems to fade to near-nothing as time goes by

e.g. compare these groovy bruisers

with these low-slung lean n mean anthems from the album that topped NME's Critics Poll in 1976


answering the call for alt-rock to get its due, plus long overdue appearance of womankind

is this a riff, or a groove? Whatever, pummeling, and reminds me of Led Zep's "Four Sticks"

also this, not quite a riff but more like a spasm, or a stab

heavy band, Throwing Muses


good riffological thoughts from Seb at And You May Find Yourself...

good Rockological thoughts from Cybore

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The world of late-period electronic music is a diffuse and diverse place. Predominantly based in London, but with satellite centres in such multicultural provincial cities as Bristol and Manchester, Britain is, however, its fastest-moving and most influential outpost. From breakbeat hardcore through drum and bass, UK garage, grime and dubstep, its changing genre names, fluctuating tempos, and associated cultural tropes are endless, not to mention endlessly fascinating. One thing all these forms share, though, is a gift for absorbing sonic ideas from far afield, incubating them, and eventually exporting them back to the rest of the globe."

As clear and succinct an exposition of the hardcore continuum as you could ask for. So doctrinally correct, and patriotic in tone, you could almost believe it was by yours truly. But it's not. It's by this chap.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Looking at the April 17 Malcolm McLaren issue of NME (and I must say the redesign is a vast improvement--although in its clarity and black-and-whiteness it's now oddly redolent of, I dunno, The Spectactor or something) my eye was caught by a piece on James Blake. At the end of the one page featurette he says "Some girl came up to me once and said she was at a club with her friends, then heard [my] Untold remix and was in tears. That's the best thing anyone's ever said to me."

This is the meme of the season, isn't it? I've lost count of the number of times I've read Ikonika say in interviews that her ambition is to make people cry on the dancefloor. And when Blake ("the new crown prince of electronic soul" according to NME) says "dance music has more to offer emotionally than just euphoria", he's chiming in with similar statements like one I came across the other day ("dancing is overrated. It takes more thought and effort to move people's emotions than it does their bodies on the dancefloor").

What I'm wondering though is, what kind of MC-ing would go with this new approach to nuum-not-nuum DJing?

This one going out to the long face massive

And we're feeling absolutely glum and pensive in the place tonight

Big up ya chess

Get depress

Pull out yer hankie in the air

Biggin up the sniffles crew

The Kleenex crew

Wipe it on your sleeve crew

Get mizzy crew

The boo hoo crew

You know the coo

Absolutely rollin

Tears down your face

X-Amount of Snot

Boo hoo selecta! Reeeeeeeegret, weep and come again



No but seriously--imagine, you're heading off for a night out, it's been a hard week's work, you're really looking for release. And then some deejay forces you to confront your, like, buried emotions...

I'd ask for my money back, I would.


No but seriously seriously, I do have some points to make

1/ Way folks are carrying on, it's like emotion in your electronic music is some staggering unprecedented breakthrough into terra incognita. Erm, actually, there is a fairly, um, substantial tradition of the stuff you know! Electronic listening music, IDM, "machine soul"… Carl Craig, The Black Dog, the A.R.T. label, Global Communications, Aphex, that whole vein of Nineties-into-Noughties idyllictronica (Casino Versus Japan, Takagi Masakatsu, Morr music etc etc), in all honesty there's a surfeit of the stuff.

2/ It's not like the dancefloor end of things is devoid of human feeling either. Blake looks down on mere "euphoria", but last time I checked, euphoria was actually an emotion, and nothing to be sniffed at. For sure, dance music's about primary colours, not subtle shades. But its palette is wide, from euphoria to amorousness to exuberance to aggression to darkness (the last two are emotions, believe it or not). When Rouge's Foam contrasts the "emotionality" of Ikonika/Starkey/Joker/Zombey/Hudson Mohawke/Darkstar with "the coldness of most jungle, garage and old dubstep", you have to wonder if he has actually heard any jungle or garage. (UK garage--cold?! It's some of the most delirously sexed-up, ardently amorous, yearning music that the global dance culture has ever produced). Oh but you're wanting pensive, introspective emotions from your dance music? Well, Blake, who in NME says "I was never a scene kid, my whole musical existence has been playing on my own" is your man then. (Alternatively you could dig out some albums by The Cure). But actually even this kind of sadness and longing has had its place in dance: 10 years before Darkstar's "Aidy's Girl", Dem 2 described their "Don't Cry Dub" of Groove Connektion 2's "Club Lonely" in these terms: "whimpering, wounded droids crying out in desolation"

3/ Finally… well the funny thing is, if you had asked me to pinpoint a deficiency in the New Music, it would be precisely in the area of emotion. Rather a lot of it strikes me as affectless. All those blankly whimsical song titles about kestrels and shrews, all those Autechre-like encryptions, give the game away rather. Either that or you get references to earlier eras of music, indicating that it's meta-music, music whose emotion is towards other music (and nothing wrong with that, particularly--it's the general condition of much musical production today). Joker, for instance, is great to listen to, but the dominant mood is a kind of snazzy insouciance that's vaguely evocative of some bygone groovadelic funk era. Emotion, in the sense of stuff that comes from your life, does not honestly strike me as this music's strong suit. Texture, yes, indubitably. Hyperspatialised production (especially in Blake's case), yes, sure. Rhythm--often, albeit in a sort of edge-of-grooveless, test-the-dancer manner. Melody--if you're into games I suppose. (I've often heard things streaming out of my son's Nintendo DS that sound like if you stuck one those staggering lurch-beats underneath it you'd be Boomkat-ready). But emotion? Really?
this riff seems to be coming from the same psychedelic yet proto-Wire place as Groundhogs's "You Had A Lesson"....

... yet there's a mechanistic quality too that's like a faintly discernible future-ghost of techno

Carl graciously relinquishes AC/DC to me, but from that vast territory, which could singlebandedly take up an entire Riffs Week--nay, a Riffs Month--I had actually only been of a mind to nominate this early tune:just about as minimal as a riff can get and still function as a riff.


I agree with Carl about preferring Clear Spot to Trout Mask.


Riffs Week Mailbag

On the subject of the Groundhogs, Baron Mordant advises "Check out Tony McPhee's stunning 'The Hunt' which joins some Kingdom Come, Visage and early Detroit dots...armed with a couple of ARP 2600s and a Bentley Rhythm Ace in his garage this really was D.I.V.O.R.C.E territory"

Michael Bott points out that at approximately 5:55 to 6:10 on "Stranglehold", and again at 6:31, there's an interpolation of the motif from Ravel's "Bolero" ("itself built upon a riff from Spanish folk music") and adds that "Nugent isn't/wasn't alone in his use of this device; Zeppelin and the Smashing Pumpkins both used it as a bridge at some point or other"

Robert Dansby righteously nominates "Roy Harper/Chris Spedding's work on Roy Harper's HQ"

Andrew Parker brandishes a bunch of opening riffs (Aerosmith. "Combination", Van Halen "Little Dreamer", Voivod "Brain Scan", Pentagram "Be Forewarned"), then wonders if it's just guitar-riffs or whether keyboard riffs and bass-riffs are under consideration here, and further "opens the can of worms" that is alternative-rock and indie-pop. Specifically REM "Begin the Begin" and The Smiths "What Differences Does It Make?" , but also Killing Joke (who I guess are somewhere in the interzone between postpunk/alt-rock and metal proper, and riff-monsters indeed).

Well "What Difference" is just B-52s "My Own Private Idaho" innit. REM don't seem on the face of it like the first port of call for riffage, but then I remembered listening to Murmur for the first time in an aeon the other week (off the back of Lonelady) and being struck by this tune "9-9"--the slashing riffs that first occur at 0-23ish, and are quite Gang of Four (themselves a formidable riff-generative engine).

But generally there seems to be a tacit agreement to stick to rock's hairier and heavier region.

Re. an alleged 80s drought, Andrew suggests that riffage just changed in nature, it got faster but it also had a different feel because thrash etc bands moved away from the blues scale (he says that Scott Ian of Anthrax pointed to Judas Priest’s British Steel LP of 1980 as the first metal album that wasn’t blues based). "So the 70s will always be the decade for slow, blues-based riffs."

BTW a few years back The Wire did their own esotericist take on Great Riffs--with virtually nothing from the hard'n'heavy zone; these were my contributions to it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Drat! I had Groundhogs "Cherry Red" lined up you bastard!

There is actually a Groundhogs riff I like even better.

While we're keeping it bluesy and low-slung, how about this, an example of that contradiction in terms, the "free riff"?

Captain beefheart and the magic band, booglarise you baby

The recorded version is better--at once tighter and looser--but how great to see the Capn and the Magic Band on teevee!

Clear Spot is crawling with killer riffs. Well even Trout Mask is, in its way.

Beefheart is an example of the "drops away" syndrome, which is this thing where the weirdness of an artist, in their own time, stands out in stark relief against the norms of their time... it's a figure/ground kind of effect... but then as more and more time goes by the maverick aspect drops away and the eccentric artist kinda falls back into the context against which they were once so starkly defined as aberrant. So in Beefheart's case, the grounding in blues, and the proximity to more conventional hard rock groove bands like ZZ Top and Foghat, becomes more striking as the years go by. (The Beatles are a paradigm of "drops away"--listening with adult ears, I often have this disconcerting sense of "oh, they're a rock band", whereas as a kid they seemed like this category apart, their own genre, total music, almost outside pop... so it's weird now to hear their music as built out of riff-components, little solo-y bits, middle eights, basslines, etc... on the one hand, demystifying, de-Myth-ifying, on the other hand a different way of gauging their excellence, precisely as a superb rock'n'roll band rather than SuperPop Sensation)

Carl says the 80s were something of a dry spell for riffs, which is what I'd been thinking too, but then it occurred to me that maybe where they still flourished a bit during that decade wasn't the hard/heavy underground (give or take a "Master of Puppets" monster or a Saint Vitus-style throwback) so much as in hair metal...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

cannot resist Carl's challenge to a friendly duel of riffs (do check out his penetrating insights on the nature of riffage, yes the riff should clench you inside, anticipating how it resolves)

now I'm really NOT a fan of the Nuge but this one has stayed with me every since an encounter with the CD soundtrack to Dazed and Confused and a strong spliff in the summer of 1994 (the prequel to an expedition to the Labrynth if memory serves)

actually though the riff is ace what really sends me is the rolling, gluey bassline, the processed sounding hi-hat/cymbal and the whole section of lead playing that starts around 2.15, which i venture to suggest is quite psychedelic

now i wonder is there a relation between great riffage and slower tempos (cos 'stranglehold' is quite sluggish really).... relating to what Carl says about timing... you need time for the riff to unfold, for the spacing within the riff-note sequence to take effect, the faster the tune is the more that is going to be hampered, flustered out of existence....

please ignore the lyrics if you can (this is going to be a consistent problem with Riff Week unfortunately--just wait til we get to the Scorpions....)

Friday, April 23, 2010

friends of the Quietus pay tribute to Carol Clerk
personally I think riffs-wise this one has a slight edge over "Breadfan", Carl's pick

which albums also features this t-riff-ic cowbell-rocker


Thursday, April 22, 2010

scan-tastic new old skool blog

(tip off courtesy Droid)
Malcolm going out in style

quite touching really, the comments from his former collaborators
"Aladdin Sane Called. He Wants His Lightning Bolt Back"

Mark Dery on Lady Gaga
"Charlotte Church, the new Kevin Shields"

every column, he just gets barmier

it must all be a wind up, surely?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

apocalypse then

fascinating article by Dave Mothersole (Ben Stud Brother's actual real life brother and the "somebody" quoted on page 186 of Blissed Out) on the Eighties roots of Goa trance, focusing on scene-shaping deejay Laurent, who mixed using cassettes not vinyl. Includes ultra-rare footage of Eighties Goa plus Dave's tribute mix to the Laurent style (EBM, Italo, synthpop with the vocals edited out, Hi-NRG slowed to 100 bpm etc)

(cheers to Jeremy Gilbert for the tip-off)

Monday, April 19, 2010

triffic record

Thursday, April 15, 2010


vinyl version w/o the MC, so you can hear the artistry

bonus beats for this glorious morning

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ooh gosh

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

here's a mix of noughties goodstuff i selectored for Pontone, loosely organised around the concept "eldritchtronic"/"eerie bliss"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friday, April 09, 2010

"beautiful ear, he should have been a singer"

Thursday, April 08, 2010

summer's here

guaranteed day-brightener

not that the day needs any brightening
a different side to Millie Small

(tip courtesy Kevin Pearce)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

orrible little man isn't he, timbaland

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

"we were just into a Space trip"

Disco Discharge is a rather offputting title as compilation series go, but only seconds into the first track on Disco Discharge.European Connection (one of four CDs * that just arrived in the mail) it's sample epiphany time...



cute that they signpost the borrowing with the "we were just into a space trip" sample

* i guess this is the second batch (European Connection, Disco Boogie, Pink Pounders,Diggin' Deeper), and there were another four that came out several months ago...

the thing i find slightly off about these kind of genre-archaeology anthologies is that their inevitable slant to the obscure means that,in this case, disco = the tunes here by Constellation Orchestra or Vin Zee, as opposed to The Whispers's "And the Beat Goes On" or Heatwave's "Boogie Nights". Perhaps this comes from budgetary considerations (the obscure stuff can be licensed far cheaper) as well as the underground-ist/anti-obviousness bias of compilers and DJs. But the result (e.g. the line-up for the Classic Disco double-CD) is a kind of effective bias against commercial success. Which makes little sense in disco, where more often than not the best stuff rose to the top.

(both these songs reached #2 in the UK pop chart)
another example of the release-another-single-just-like-your-big-hit c.f. George Jones, Pete Frampton

the would-be hit almost-kinda samples Millie's earlier megahit by turning its sublime wordplay "sugar dandy" into the title/hook of a new song

Monday, April 05, 2010


really feeling

really really feeling

Thursday, April 01, 2010

listings xtra

New Yorkers interested in postpunk may want to check out:
Friday April 2nd 8PM-9PM
FROM JOY DIVISION TO NEW ORDER: A Discussion With Dave Haslam (author of Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City) @ Angels and Kings, 500 East 11th Street, between Avenue A and B
FREE (more info here)

also: for a current look at Manchester watch urbanist-at-large Owen Hatherley on Guardian TV
Dreadful news on the eve of the Hauntology Salon!

The ontology of hauntology has been deemed too tenuous and tenebrous for Wikipedia's scrupulous standards. A committee of experts headed, unbelievably, by someone who goes by the name PhantomSteve, decided earlier this month to delete the entry on Hauntology (Musical Genre)

It is now an ungenre

(ta to pete diaper for the tip-off)