Friday, December 30, 2011

this tune, which i heard for the first time only the other day, sums up pop music in 2011

the king of crunk hooks up with the clown princes of party-rocking

result: a track that brings out the latent gabber i always heard in crunk

damn near just-drums and that bugle-like sax parp calling the assembled to attention

Lil Jon mad-barking like a drill sergeant of reckless getting-wrecked-ness

an anthem of concussive hedonism

kickdrum beat like a battery of shots to the dome

have a wicked New Year's Eve

and a happy 2012

Sunday, December 25, 2011

christmas rapping

canine rapper, made by Tasmin
RIP Sean Bonniwell

Thursday, December 22, 2011

one of my earliest epiphanies with pop involved the disjuncture between


i could not get my child-head around the fact that the Beatles could contradict themselves between songs

talking of "Money", recently remembered that another song that made an impression on me as a child was this

i loved the cash-clinky sound effects, the clockwork-treadmill groove, and the lyric's bleakness /feigned-or-genuine cynicism ("a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing"--who said that then?)

as an adult, though, what I listen for now is the bit where it takes off with the solo and the abrupt spike in tempo

a measure of listener "maturity": finally learning to appreciate the guitar solos of David Gilmour

like the blistering lickmanship of this one (starts around the seven minute mark)

Nineties and Newness

Kulkarni continues his New Nineties series at Quietus with a paean to Pram, perpetrators (sez Neil) of the Best Album of that decade

in the interview part, Pram's Matt Eaton says this:

"The whole ethic of the band, though it was unwritten and rarely spoken, was to create new music, so if a piece had a similarity/reminded someone of another work it was generally rejected. The emphasis was on new... It was all about new sounds and new ways of writing a song.... Even now, making a new sound is still our first impulse, and that includes not repeating previous Pram recordings...To repeat ourselves or someone else would be boring and not really worth the effort.... My working life is ten times harder than it needs to be because I hate repeating what’s gone before.“

There's people - quite a lot of people, I've discovered this year - who'll tell you that's an old-fashioned attitude, an outmoded approach.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

11 for ‘11

Metronomy, The English Riviera
Rustie, Glass Swords
Oneohtrix Point Never, Replica
James Ferraro, Far Side Virtual
Woebot, Chunks
Maria Minerva, Tallinn At Dawn
Ekoplekz, Intrusive Incidentalz Vol 1
KWJAZ, s/t
The Horrorist, Joyless Pleasure
Ursula Bogner, Sonne = Black Box
Moon Wiring Club, Clutch It Like A Gonk

the next 11

Kuedo, Severant
Jon Brooks, Music for Thomas Carnacki
Rangers, Pan Am Stories
Julia Holter, Tragedy
Various, Bangs & Works Vol 2
Kangding Ray, Or
Peaking lights, 936
tUnE-yArDs, whokill
Ford & Lopatin, Channel Pressure
Toro Y Moi, Underneath the Pine
Hacker Farm, Poundland

another 11

Tim Hecker, ravedeath 1972
Laurel Halo, Hour Logic
Andrew Pekler, Sentimental Favourites
The Deeep, Life Light
Maria Minerva, Cabaret Cixous
2562, Fever
Prince Rama, Trust Now
Charles Vaughan, Documenting the Decay
Destroyer, Kaputt
Bee Mask, Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico
Clams Casino, Rainforest

tunes of '11

Dev, “In the Dark”
Maria Minerva, “A Little Lonely”
Ke$ha, “We R Who We R”
Rihanna, “Cheers (Drink to That)”
Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends”
Martin Solveig & Dragonette, “Hello”
Etta James featuring Flo Rida, “Good Feeling”
Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”
New Boyz featuring The Cataracts & Dev’s “Backseat Driver”
Afrojack featuring Eva Simons, “Take Over Control”
LMFAO, “Party Rock Anthem”
LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It”
Toro Y Moi, “Still Sound”
Scritti Politti, “A Day Late and a Dollar Short (unreleased new-ish track on Absolute comp)
Maria Minerva, “Hagasuxzzavol”
Rustie, “Ultra Thizz”
Lil Wayne, “How To Love”
Y.G., "Toot It and Boot It"
Joker featuring Buggsy & Otis Brown, “Lost”
Big Sean featuring Nicki Minaj, “Dance (A$$)”
Chris Brown not featuring Chris Brown, “Look at Me Now (INSTRUMENTAL)”
Laurel Halo, "Head"
Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kids"
Lana Del Ray, "Video Games"
Poolside, "Harvest Moon"
Kreayshawn, “Gucci Gucci”
Lil Jon featuring LMFAo, "Drink"
Pitbull featuring T-Pain, "Hey Baby"
Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer, "Give Me Everything"
Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg + Akon, "Kush"
Ke$ha, "Blow"
Maria Minerva, “Ruff Trade”

inexplicably uninvolved by

PJ Harvey
John Maus
Panda Bear
Hype Williams
James Blake

transfixed at the border twixt rapture and revulsion

Katy Perry
a selection of faves

Steven Hyden of A.V. Club argues it was a year profuse with Good Albums but devoid of Important Albums

here's something I wrote a couple of years back about Importance as an increasingly less relevant criteria for evaluation, or a decreasingly frequent occurrence, or... either way, on the way out... an old-fashioned thing to concern yourself with

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

porpoises into the past, lambs casino, teehee

trenchant (yet also cloudy) thoughts on EOY lists and cool, from mnml sggs
couple of good personal end-of-year faves:

scott seward's

alex niven's

mine'll be along in a sec

Monday, December 19, 2011

... talking of stocking-fillers, this isn't out officially until next year but, in that peculiar publishing-world jumping-the-gun way, can already be found in some UK book stores such as Waterstones: the B-format edition of Retromania, more economically-priced and portable than the original heavy-paper-stock quasi-hardback edition (now sold out). It comes with a new nifty bas-relief cover and is compact enough to actually fit into a Christmas stocking without undue distension.
Gonk's Coming /Clonk's Coming (Again)

a long crammed-with-tracks mix by Moon Wiring Club for FACT

like Advent calendars, Moon Wiring Club albums come around every year around this time of year... the new one Clutch It Like A Gonk is dependably splendid while also working in a whole bunch of fresh tricks and shapes

an ideal stocking stuffer

as is this pretty package RetroActivity: basically the Best of Sweet Exorcist on two discs.

almost the All of Sweet Exorcist, actually... well, there was this later album Spirit Guide To Low Tech on Touch (when Kirk & Parrot had moved into the post-Artificial Intelligence zone and accordingly sound closer to R.H.K's work as Sandoz, also for Touch) but RetroActivity scoops up the bleep/clonk era material for Warp

here's a fave Sweet Exorcist tune, minimalism getting maximal - the title track of the C.C. EP and C.C.C.D.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Must cosign Tom Ewing's mild amazement at this piece that argues for Donna Summer's worthiness for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall Fame but doesn't even mention the world-historical recording "I Feel Love"

Lots that was news to me in the piece, but the general gist - the idea of Donna-as-rocker; like some girl in a Stones song come to defiant life, or a female Rick James - actually seemed familiar. Then I remembered that Summer makes it into Marcus's List of Canonic Records at the end of Stranded... but for "Hot Stuff". The first time I read that I was like "why not 'I Feel Love'?! Or Once Upon A Time!". But then realised that it figured, given that Kraftwerk are noticeably absent from the List as is indeed pretty much anything European or electronic.

Another example of the Stranded generation's deaf spot in terms of disco came into my ken recently when I acquired the 1981 book Lester Bangs wrote with Paul Nelson about Rod Stewart. (For years I'd labored under the false impression that this was rare, on account of never seeing it in second-hand book shops but you can find it perfectly reasonably priced online). Until really quite recently I had never realised just how much of a touchstone figure the Classic Rod of the Faces and those early solo albums was for American rock critics: someone they held in the same company of esteem as Van Morrison and Neil Young and Randy Newman and The Band; someone they had a lot invested in emotionally in terms of a future for a populist rock rooted in American music that avoided the paths of either Heavy or Progressive; someone who kept them keeping their faith all through the pre-punk/pre-Clash'n'Costello Seventies, only to leave them feeling jilted and aghast when Rod "went Hollywood".

I haven't got far into Rod Stewart but there's a good verbatim-style shooting-the-shit dialogue between Nelson and Bangs, during which Nelson, who'd interviewed the singer fairly recently, talks about how Stewart can't even conceive that he "might have lost anything"

Bangs asks:

"Do you think he really feels that 'D'ya Think I'm Sexy?' is as good as 'Maggie Mae?'"

What struck me was how it was inconceivable to those guys and their peer generation that someone might actually prefer "D'ya Think I'm Sexy?" to "Maggie Mae". (Someone, in fact, like me).

Inconceivable, also, that Stewart might actually have dug disco, not just as social scene (the glitz, the sex), but as a musical form.

But there's a perfect logic to the way all those Brit Sixties cats evolved: what they started with was a passion for contemporary black music and that's what they stayed with, right through into the Eighties, when they were making records using the same machines that state-of-art black pop was using, drawing on the same ideas to do with beats and sounds and arrangement. The Stones doing funk and disco (and reggae) in the 70s, Pink Floyd going disco with "Another Brick in the Wall", P. Collins and P. Gabriel using EW&F style horns and discofunk grooves, Steve Winwood making slick post-Jam & Lewis records in the late Eighties... it all makes perfect sense. They actually followed through the trajectory of rhythm-and-blues into the early days of R&B as we currently know it (ie. a studio-concocted, producer + machines, non-performance oriented music).*

Of course they all wanted to get on the radio and make money too. Got to keep the mortgage payments up on their mansions.

* a few American equivalents did too, but less convincingly, and with more of a sense of desperation. E.g. that other Lester Bangs talismanic fave Bob Seger, who did "Shakedown" for the Beverley Hills Cop II soundtrack in 1987 (c.f.Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" on the Running Scared soundtrack). Seger doesn't look or sound very comfortable amid the new sound.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

amen to that

superb archaeology of the most famous break in jungle by Tom Nuttall for The Economist (although in Economist style he's not given a byline)

at the Economist blog T.N. has further thoughts on classic instances of Amentalism + soundclips

here's my vote for the mightiest of the mighty - Renegade, a/k/a Ray Keith, "Terrorist" - an amen army

immortal, invincible

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

excellent piece by Andy Battalgia comparing James Ferraro and the video artist Ryan Trecartin

little thing on my year in music for The Thoughtfox, the Faber & Faber blog

more extensive inventory of the year's faves to be posted here shortly

Thursday, December 08, 2011

there's exoticism and then there's exotica

as in the Polynesia and Oceania allusions of Dolphins Into the Future

Lieven Martens has been putting out a steady stream of releases since Music of Belief

mostly in the "nature sounds tapes" / ethnological field recording vein

all good audio-idyll background listening

(the track "The Mirning Heart" is dedicated to the Mirning, an indigenous tribe from South West Australia)

("Ko'okika Moku'aina" here is described as "an evocative sound postcard from Hawaii's Big Island, the Orchid Isle", while the title track uses recordings of Pacific Ocean waves, Polynesian choirs and "site specific bird sounds")

there's also been the odd side project like this--L.R.J. Martens And Ada Van Hoorebeke's Eternal Landscapes--which is a collaboration with a visual artist and consists of two long tracks each taking up a side of vinyl ("Eternal Hunting Grounds" and "Spirits and Landscapes") wrapped in a gatefold

early next year though there's going to be a more Album-like release on Underwater Peoples entitled Canto Arquiplelago

a couple of listens suggest this could be his best since ...On Sea-Faring Isolation

Lieven's fellow-traveler in nu-exotica Spencer Clark is back with the evocatively named Fourth World Magazine present The Spectacle of Light Abductions on Pacific City Sound Visions

now I could swear this turned up in the mail but for the life of me I can't find it in the house, despite a recent de-cluttering initiatve

did i dream its arrival? (I know I met Spencer in Portland)

here's a taster

the Dolphins and Fourth World Magazine nu-exotica thing reminds me a tiny bit of this moment in electronic music

and of course 808 not only had "Pacific State" but they did the team-up with Mr Fourth World Music himself, Jon Hassell


maybe it's because Lieven is from Antwerp but for some reason I got to thinking about a much earlier example of religious exotica, the work of the Belgian priest
Father Guido Haazen, a missionary who went to the Congo, where he formed Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin, a choir of about 45 boys aged nine to fourteen, plus percussion section. In 1958 they toured Europe for six months and there was an album, Missa Luba, one of whose songs, "Sanctus", became famous a decade later because of the way it threads through a certain notorious British movie of the late Sixties.

I haven't been able to find much about how the album was received at the time of its original release, but there definitely seems to have been a questionable aspect to the framing of the record.

The choir, I fear, is posited as doubly "pure", doubly "innocent", on account of not just being boy-children but colonial subjects whose hearts and souls have been filled by the white man's religion.

At the same time the merger of West African music with Western ecclesiastical music is undeniably lovely.

The mini-craze for this kind of record (there were imitator releases: others from Africa and some from Latin America too I think) is an early form of world music but it's hardly ever mentioned, perhaps because it's so blatantly colonial.


"But we’d like to position Paradise of Bachelors as more than a reissue label—introspective, rather than retrospective, and opposed to the fetishized nostalgia peddled by lesser labels... We’re interested in releasing music, historical or futuristic or otherwise, with contemporary relevance and resonance—the music’s rarity matters far less than strong curatorial and aesthetic coherence, compelling narratives, and our ability to articulate untold histories through engagement with the artists, through interviews, oral histories, photography, and friendships. For us, that means looking backwards, to heavy American Indian psych, to Vietnam vet laments, to Carolina soul and gospel, to coastal honky-conch country, to Communist disco (some of our intended future subjects), but also to the contemporary iterations in and out of the infinitely mutable, mercurial traditions of American vernacular music. It’s the dialogue between those modes, and through those years and artifacts, that we find interesting."

Communist Disco!

Native American psychedelia!

That's from "Dem Bones", an interesting essay for Shuffle by Brendan Greaves, one of the people behind the label Paradise of Bachelors

Also liked the sign-off

"Don’t sweat those ghosts, because they aren’t going anywhere, and without them, there’s nothing new anyway. These are the days of the dead"

An echo there maybe of Prince Rama's "ghost modernism"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

RIP Dobie Gray

one of the greatest songs about dancing ever

the mod manifesto

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

looking-back-at-2011 piece by me on Digital Maximalism - Rustie, James Ferraro, Grimes and others - for Pitchfork

slike Terror Danjah turned into a bouncy castle

more and more I think James Ferraro is our Jeff Koons

Grimes against Nature

yer a dirrty wee radge Russ - a dirrrty dirrty wee radge

Monday, December 05, 2011

happy haunting grounds

Prince Rama would have been a good one to discuss in the context of xenomania

post-everything Fifth Worldism in full effect

v.interesting interview with them at Altered Zones (RIP Altered Zones, sorry to see that shut down)

their concept of "ghost modernism" sounds a bit hauntological

"The core concept of now age is we're living in “ghost-modernism.” It's not really like post-modernism; it's beyond that now. It's gotten to a point where the past is just recapitulating itself through kitschh and nostalgia. Every new gesture is just an imprint of an old gesture. We're haunted by so many other past styles and tastes in so many ways..."

hauntology without the melancholy

the interweb-as-archive-as-cultural-unconscious = happy haunting grounds for modern spiritual seekers

check out their manifesto The Now Age: Meditations on Sound and the Architecture of Utopia

more bands should do manifestos

they're on Paw Tracks which fits as certain aspects of the music (loops, ecstasy, percussion) seem to take off from AC or Person Pitch but go much further into the 5th World

all these currents seem to be related at some level to an attempt to magically reconcile the desire for ethnos/communality/ritual/grounded-and-bounded-being with the very contemporary forces that work against that (cosmopolitanism/telecommunications/always-on connectivity/knowledge-overload/relativism/etc)

a postmodern tribalism reconciling roots and wi-fi
cos everybody hates a tourist

It's Her Factory has some thoughts on xenomania

Orientalism was at the back of my mind

The thing about Orientalism/xenomania/tourism, there's plenty to critique about it for sure, but it's better than
West-is-best-chauvinism/xenophobia/insularity, I'd have thought, on balance, at the end of the day...

talking of Orientalism: check out this dude Onra and his Chinoiseries -- beats made using samples from Chinese and Vietnamese vinyl crate-digged on a visit to Vietnam

Onra reminded me of Holger Czukay and Rolf Dammers 1969 Canaxis project, which involved creating tape-loops out of Vietnamese traditional songs

in the piece there's a brief mention of Can (as in their "Ethnological Forgeries Series") but I didn't have the space to get into how Holger Czukay preempted Sublime Frequencies with “Persian Love” on his 1979 solo album Movies, based around a romantic duet he recorded off an Iranian "pop" station via short-wave....

or how the Canaxis/"Boat-Woman Song" idea probably was influenced by Stockhausen, whom Czuaky studied under... works like Telemusik, which combined electronic sounds with ethnic music and forged strange hybrids (the chants of Japanese monks merged with music from the Shipibo Indians of Amazonian Peru), or Hymnen, based around national anthems from all around the world....

which is basically the concept/method on this later Czukay piece, right, which is based around the anthem of the People's Republic of China?

oh there's loads more instances of Otherly-projecting tendencies in the past century of music... various currents in jazz and fusion (ECM, any number of examples there - Stephan Micus's unusual instruments, Oregon) to 90s ethnotechno (Transglobal Underground, Loop Guru) to Bill Laswellism to...

it's not all marginal-experimental dudes either, think the Sixties craze for Indian raga that influenced The Byrds and the Beatles... or composers like Debussy who was inspired by non-Western tonalities he encountered at the 1889 Paris World Exhibition

conversely, you then get actual denizens of "the Orient" who do the 4th World cosmopolitan thing themselves, otherizing the West and other parts of the Non-East globe too -- that's what a lot of YMO/Haruomi Hosono is about, as well aas obviously Ryuichi "Neo Geo" Sakomoto (who cited Debussy as one of his biggest influences)

clean forgot that Ryuichi did an album in 1985 actually called Esperanto . (Woebot's fave Sakomoto record as it happens)

finally found a vinyl copy of B-2 Unit this year

Friday, December 02, 2011

I was shocked and saddened to learn about the death of David Sanjek a few days ago. I didn't know David well but I really enjoyed chatting with him at EMP conferences over the years. We were on the same panel at the most recent EMP in Los Angeles early this year and he delivered a brilliant talk addressing the need for scholars and historians to pay more attention to the business side of music, the roles played by record executives, A&R, management, promotion etc, in the actual mechanics of culture-making... that blurry zone between aesthetics and business... not exactly "let's hear it for The Man" but definitely agitating against reflexive anti-corporation-ism in the academy. (I didn't realise until looking just now that he was continuing his father's interest in this area). Apparently this year David was readying for publication a book--Always On My Mind: Music, Memory and Money--that appears to partly concern this very topic so I'm hoping this was completed and will be out presently. Again, very sad to hear about his untimely passing and my thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and students.

here's an IASPM page of tributes and memories

and here's a memorial facebook page