Tuesday, January 31, 2012

tickling my fancy

got a piece on the Fred Judd and Daph Oram archival issues in the next Frieze

would have bunged this solo project by Radiophonic mainstay David Cain in the Frieze-r if i'd known it was coming -- sterling archeology by the indefatigible Jonathan Trunk Esq

and this one too ( although it doesn't quite fit, being American, plus Suzanne Ciani shortly after the bleepy early phase captured on this CD headed into outright New Age)

new collection of essays by the great Mark Dery, out April on University of Minnesota Press, foreword by the great Bruce Sterling

last year was the first year in years when i didn't have a Ghost Box LP in my end-of-year... that Advisory Circle album never quite clicked me with i must admit... wondered sometimes if maybe just maybe JB done spread himself too thin (three great Cafe Kaput releases in rapid succession end-of-2010/early-2011) but in truth As the Crow Flies probably just hit me at the wrong time... i will go back to it.. at any rate this new Belbury P gets me back on the GBox program... a new, "live"-r sound, with guitar and what sounds like real drums and a real-seeming sense of space. yet also quite techno-y in places

and here's an interview with Jim Jupp at FACT on the "mood board" that makes up the new record (think ploughman's lunch meets Turkish psych) plus a Belbury Poly mix

got a piece on legendary photographer/Basement 5-er Dennis Morris and John Lydon's Jamaican Holiday in early 1978 in the next issue of Another Man magazine -- this is a photobook from his days as court photographer at Gunter Grove

often thought how striking it is that so many of the great "British" singers and musicians -- John Lydon, Lennon/McCartney, Morrissey/Marr, Van Morrison, Kevin Rowland, Elvis Costello, Ian McCulloch -- are actually Irish. Well here's an interesting book on this very topic and the "double consciousness" that Morrissey caught so plangently with the title "Irish Blood, English Heart" (if not the actual song, which is pretty nothing-y)

The Bad Music Era gets its day! Let's get down to Work (to borrow a genre-coinage off Mr Kid Shirt). Trevor "Playgroup" Jackson inches into the mid-to-late Eighties with this double comp of Goth-dance, Cold Wave, EBM and dancefloor oriented second-wave Industrial. (And he's not alone, not at all: Blackest Ever Black/Raime, Prurient/Vatican Shadow, Gatekeeper, Perc, et al). How weird to find oneself, in 2012, grooving to the Executive Slacks!

Monday, January 30, 2012

"why so glum, chums?"--interesting piece by Ryan Diduck for The Quietus on "The New Bleak" aka "hypnagothica" and its relation to recent political/economic/environmental traumas

talking of dark things, Valerio Mattioli, who writes for LaRepubblica tells me that there is an Italian counterpart to hauntology that was recently covered as part of an article in Blow Up (sort of Italy's The Wire) on contemporary Italian occult psychedelia. The journalist Antonio Ciarletta, says Mattioli, enumerates its ingredients as: "local folklore, the popular spaghetti cinema of the 60s/70s (especially mondo movies, giallo, spaghetti westerns, cannibal movies etc), even Catholicism, and a typical 'Italian vibe' all around.... Many of the musicians openly mention composers such as Piero Umiliani, Ennio Morricone and basically the whole Italian soundtracks/library music school".

"To me," continues Mattioli, "what’s interesting in these bands, is that their kind of hauntology avoids the eerie and pastoral feeling of the English counterpart, as well as the pop-cheesy attitude of the American hypnagogic pop. On the contrary, their music is blatantly dark, esoteric and sometimes bloody, actually reflecting the 'sun & violence' culture which – despite the clichés – is a commonplace here. Of course, there’s the homage to a popular imagery which is deeply rooted here, and that somehow reflects the Italian identity better than your typical Venice postcard. But it’s also like saying that memories often can be nightmares, especially if you live in a country which is half Europe/half... well, Italy. Kind of Sergio Leone/Lucio Fulci induced nostalgia...

"When you go back with your memories to the contemporary Italian golden age – to say, the 60s of the Dolce Vita etc – you can’t escape the ghosts of that same era: terrorism, urban favelas, corruption and so on. Even the big masterpieces of the Italian literature, TV and cinema typically deal with such atmospheres - they're always bloody, violent, excessive. Somehow, the bands analyzed by Ciarletta are here to remind us that the Italian good old days (when future seemed possible) were a very depressed place, and that the present is filled with those ghosts.

"It also comes quite natural to understand this trend as a reflection of the current feelings among many Italians: we perceive our country as a declining glory with no future at all; and economic crisis, crime and political warfare create a sort of Late Empire atmosphere..."

Bands operating in this zone include Cannibal Movie, Donato Epiro, In Zaire, Orfanado, Spettro Family, Heroin In Tahiti [Mattioli's own band], and on the "more 'pagan-catholic folklore' tip", Mamuthones and Father Murphy . TheAwayTeam/Polysick are "a sort of modern Piero Umiliani" with projects lined up for 100% Silk, and Planet Mu. "Needless to say: all these artists form a sort of family, they’re all friends and do stuff together, they share projects and labels etc."

An example of what Mattioli dubs "Mondo-cannibals":

Mattioli calls this sub-category "spaghetti wastelands" (love it!)

This is an example of "Italian gothic":

(Spettro is Italian for "spectres", right?)

"Exotic libraries":


DONATO EPIRO - La Vita Acquatica from Planeta on Vimeo.

"Bloody folklore":

and this is Father Murphy, who I saw in Pistoia last year

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

terrific controlled rant from mnml sggs's PC on "comfort house" (and by implication all music-as-comfort-food* scenarios), inspired by two mixes suffocated by politesse and the feeling of having "heard it all before’":

"it could have been mixed 12 years ago and not sounded any different. In fact, if it were mixed 12 years ago, it would be very likely to sound exactly like it does. I've been thinking about this for some time, and I've decided that it really matters. Making a mix from 2000 in 2012... it matters. Well, it may not matter to you. But it matters to me... For me there is something unbearably complacent at work in the decision to make this mix in 2012... This weird over-reverence that makes you want to desecrate things you love and care about... is this how punks felt?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

matthew ingram pointed me towards this lot

like it, lots

not really similar, but has a similar effect on me as Metronomy -- evocative but (mostly) unplaceable

the upside of atemporality

whole album stream:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? was a long running BBC children's TV show that, from the early 70s onwards, showed all kinds of pastimes, games, hobbies, projects, and other non-passivities that kids could be doing rather than staying sat in front of the goggle box. It's hard to imagine a commercial TV station going against its own interests in this way.

Fascinating post from Carl at the Eighties blog on the expansion of TV channels focusing on i/ the construction of children as hyper-consumers 2/ the superabundance of choice, which prefigures the internet:

"It is of course during the Eighties that two phrases develop to reflect the numbing, paralysing effect of the increasing vastness of the mediascape, of the impossibility of settling for any one thing, the burden of an overabundance of choice: “channel surfing” and “couch potato”.As Bruce Springsteen put it, there are “57 Channels and nothing on”. Whereas before you might have flicked through four or five stations and then gone and done something else, in Springsteen’s song, “got friendly upstairs”, now the search becomes the activity in itself, (this is something magnified on the Internet, of course, with its low-grade, endless, questing and grazing) and there was an early transfer of the verb “to surf” from TV to Net-based activity that has fallen into disuse. “Surfing” implies a restless, depthless forward momentum, indeed an impelled momentum; the shift from the earlier use “channel hopping” to channel/web “surfing” well captures the degree of volition and the scale and force implied by the burgeoning swell of media. TV then becomes less an event, a family gathering point, a moment running to a schedule, and more of a resource or an arena to be navigated but one which is in a sense cognitively unmappable, an open terrain to wander about in, filled with unrealizable promise. You could always be missing something better elsewhere, angst and dissatisfaction are built into the system, yet it also induces a kind of half-fascinated torpor. Vegging out."

Of course the difference between TV and Internet is that while day to day use of the latter does still involve a lot of aimless idle flitting hither and thither, it also incorporates elements of activity -- reacting, commenting, answering back, reblogging, linking, etc etc... just enough of an element of dopamine-achievement-buzz to ensnare users even more effectively ... it's not the Spectacle as was, but a new improved (in)version of it...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

at the Los Angeles Review of Books: the podcast of a really enjoyable conversation about retroculture I had with Andy Zax in the summer, with audio-clips expertly woven in by Oliver Wang

Monday, January 09, 2012

bonus bit: at FACT, Matt Woebot's gallery of his fave 70s gatefold sleeves
Older readers may remember a blog from the early "golden" years of blogging called TWANBOC*. One of its specialties was enormously long posts about particular genres or lineages of music, often listing outstanding records in the area and commenting on them with a uniquely characterful blend of enthusiasm, informativeness, and good humour, and always illustrated with high-quality scans of artwork.

The blog was renamed Woebot at a certain point and went through various incarnations (including a web-TV format) before the owner decided to jack it all in ** and focus his energies on music-making.

Well, guess what: Woebot, also known as Matthew Ingram, has had a writing-relapse. And how! The mother of mega-posts--18 thousand words long, heavily illustrated--can be found not on a new blog but in the form of an e-book.

Long-time record-digger Ingram has lost interest in esoterica, being largely unimpressed by the sort of stuff that the salvage operators have been dredging up in recent years, and has instead directed his attention to music that is "hiding in plain sight": 1970s rock albums that were mostly released on major labels and, in aspiration at least, were mainstream. Some of the names in his Lost list are well-known but are often considered "beneath consideration"; others really have been lost to history despite being the kind of record that might have been promoted with full page adverts in the music papers in its own brief moment.

100 Lost Rock Albums From the 1970s is available from Amazon and Amazon UK at a very modest price. You don't need a Kindle to read it, only the freely downloadable Kindle software, which works on PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets.

* TWANBOC, if I recall correctly, stood for "That Was A Naughty Bit of Crap", a saying of Matt's father.

** I'm not sure what the status of TWANBOC/Woebot's archives are: they don't seem to be readily accessible, which is a pity.

Friday, January 06, 2012

random thoughts on the end-of-year faves

* Nearly everything in my fave album list is electronic... but little is electronic in the Electronic Dance Music sense (the little that is, is so in a rather notional way, as with Glass Swords, most of which I find hard to imagine rocking clubfloors, or Maria Minerva, more like a private interior homebody dream/memory of dance than actual functional bodymusic for gregarious spaces) (and then you have footwork, which bangs-and-works for those only for whom it was originally and specifically made and is highly dysfunctional for everybody else, making it much more of a headtrip contemplative experience). But equally the electronic music on my list isn’t anything much to do with the IDM tradition either. It’s coming out of post-noise, or 5th wave industrial esoterica...

but no, there’s hardly a guitar in there, and when they show up they’re not particularly rocking uses of guitar. Is rock finally over, in both the underground and the overground? (Ignoring all the living dead still walking among us such as The Black Keys). Is all this underground stuff in some sense literally post-rock? Dunno, but even in the indie-ish stuff I don't care for much, the guitar seems to have lost its privileged status as an instrument. It’s just one of many sound-generating implements available.

* That said, must confess to a certain fatigue with the electronic overload. Got sent so much of the stuff and downloaded even more. Whether this is all in the wake of Oneohtrix’s deservedly immense influence, i don't know, but there is a surfeit of music coming out that’s using either real synths or soft synth replicas. A kind of analogue maximalism, since the tracks tend to be on the long side, and if there’s not a proggy busy-busy-fingers ornateness there’s often a certain epic sweep and scale to the music, as well as vaguely conceptual-conceit vibe. Heard rather too many albums where the sound palette presses all the right buttons {in both senses!) on an idle, distracted listen, but if you actually pay attention, a certain compositional weakness becomes apparent... and where it’s not at all obvious or clear what the purpose of the music really is. (There’s people who release several lengthy records per year who might do better to release just the one. But then that increasingly applies across the board in the Zones).

Another downside aspect to the electronic listening deluge: a lot of this stuff strikes me as part of the syndrome of "arrested futurism". Which is to say that while there's nothing that particularly retro or nostalgic about this synth music's intent or vibe, it's not particularly innovative either... it is resuming approaches developed by Berlin School/New Age/Space Music/Subotnik-era/etc that were once exploratory but can now only be considered a settled tradition ... contributing to areas of activity that were already rather crowded in their own heyday (Seventies, Eighties).... so there's a sense of, at worst, redundancy, and even in the better exponents, the nagging doubt, "what is actually being added here, or taken further?"

* As I suggested in the NNF profile for the Wire, this is the time of the concept-musician, where the framing of projects is essential. A certain kind of music-journalist and blogger loves this kind of thing, because it gives them something to riff on and riff off (the musician generates a stream of fully rationalized, eloquently expressed explanations of what they’re doing, and knows very clearly what they’re trying to achieve, and at that extreme verges on obviating any kind of role for the external commentator). The leading exponents of this state-of-art (Lopatin, Ferraro) operate at a very high level, but as with any genre when you get into the second-division there’s a steadily rising quotient of bullshit. Increasingly with the post-hynagoggy/post-haunty underground I’m minded a little of Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word... the danger zone where music can’t actually be enjoyed or even felt without the intervention of a concept. (Read Tiny Mix Tapes and sometimes it's a bit like how reading October or early Seventies Artforum must have been).

* Another tendency, seemingly countering the music-for-concept’s sake/music-as-text tendency, is towards a kind of pure aestheticism: what you might call the New Exquisite... releases by Balam Acab, Water Borders, the Deeep, etc that are very attractive listens but leave you with a disquieting inkling sense of “why?”... and in that sense remind me a little of certain late Eighties moment of vaguely alternative, atmospheric, well-produced to the point of being slightly prissy music (the 4AD of Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Wolfgang Press... Cindytalk... Talk Talk even). The New Exquisite blends somewhat with the New Religiose: a sort of vague, muffled gesturing at the sacred, the transcendent, that you get in the vocal stylings or vocal science of such as Julianna Barwick or Clams Casino (trip hop meets Burial innit)

* couldn't be bothered with doing Reissues this year: barely remembered any notable ones (exceptions: LFO’s Frequencies and the Sweet Exorcist RetroActivity package; Those Shocking Shaking Days: : Indonesian Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk 1970-1978; T.C.M. / The Criminal Minds; a few African things earlier in the year...). The well of the past getting dry, finally?

* Sam Macklin expressed surprise at my singles/tunes-of-2011 list's being over-run by Top 40, since he'd argued in his own end of year thing that the pop mainstream was at its lowest ever ebb! Well no doubt contingency plays its part, being in the car a lot in L.A., the banging beats suit the sensation of motion. I think by certain axes of measurement you could indeed say the pop mainstream is at its lowest ebb (philosophically, lyrically, songcraft in the mature sense of what that can be, musicianship in the conventional played sense... the dearth of characters and real stars, with singers reduced to depersonalised components in the blare of faceless clubpop bollocks). But in terms of catchiness, upfulness, danceability, crafty thrills-per-minute programming of pleasure-machinery, and sheer antirockism (rock has just disappeared from the mainstream – we are in a post rock universe now – real ordinary people do not give a shit about electric guitars – Jersey Shore types prefer Roland 303 riffs!) it’s definitely something of a high point for chartpop.

at the same time, it's rather striking how "rock’n’roll" -- not in any musical sense but as an abstract spirit ("rockstar"-ness: heedless hedonism, hard partying, not giving a fuck about the cost or consequences, inordinate self-regard) is draped all over current pop.(Hence the various songs referring to “Jagger”). Particularly with the endless stream of songs that espouse a kind of apocalyptic hedonism, hit after hit about how this could be my last night my last cup, gonna drink like it’s my last night, baby we don’t have tomorrow, Britney's "Till the World Ends" (co-written by Ke$ha)... and then you think of Rihanna's cheerless "Cheers" – Dionysian Keith Richards/Guns N'Roses darkside thrillseeking with some recession precarity desperation chucked in (max out those credit cards, live like there's no tomorrow just like those fuckers in Wall Street). After a few drinks too many myself I tweeted that Ke$ha is our Jim Morrison but I kind of meant it–she is responsible for a lot of the new reckless get-wrecked spirit in music. (The word "fight" appears obsessively in her songs, a deliberate echo of her heroes the Beastie Boys and "fight for your right to party"). There were moments last year when most of the Top 40 seemed to be singing variations on: "well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer/the future's uncertain, and the end is always near."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

wise and pertinent New Year's Music Resolutions from Maura Johnston at the Village Voice


i would adopt them all myself but the will power is lacking
"pop music becomes a sort of bourgeois heirloom" - Alex Niven with further thoughts on the disappearing generation gap / parents and kids loving, and making, the exact same kind of music

this Nevermind-Anniversary-annoyed post from Leaving Earth is a fun argument as to "why techno – and not grunge – ruled the world in 1991, and blasted open the gates to the future"... and lists quite a few records whose existence I'd never suspected


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

been thinking recently about the breakdown of the generation gap, of the patricidal impulse as a generator of the New within music / culture....

i mean, what do you do, if you're a young person growing into music and thinking about making some yourself, if your parents are... cool? what if they have really good, hip, broadminded / edgy taste in music? makes no sense to reject all that great old music, and it'd be hard not to be influenced by being exposed to it from an early age (example: Maria Minerva's dad, who's a well-known Estonian music critic / TV personality (the Paul Morley of Estonia, someone said!), played her things like The Marble Index at a tender age... and then I think of some of my younger blogworld friends, who growing up heard stuff like the Cure or Japan because their parents were into bands like that

in such circumstances the only actual generational rebellion is to have zero interest in music, or minimal investment in music (opting not to see it as anything more than background enhancement to other activities, a tool for socialisation/decor for life, certainly not any kind of grand project or zone for identity formation / emancipation)... to look elsewhere altogether for things around which identity formation can take place...

but going back to the problem of having cool parents who turn you onto great music... or, worse, a dad or mum who continue to take an interest in current music, cutting edge music... who might want to go to gigs with you... or take you to a festival in the summer, the family sharing a tent...

reading this Quietus piece about hot new band S.C.U.M. this line leaped out at me:

"Between shows, the Quietus managed to net [S.C.U.M.] keyboard player and sound specialist Sam Kilcoyne, son of Add N to X's Barry 7"

say waaaaaa? Add N To X was so long ago such that the children are now of an age to form bands?!?!?

weirdly S.C.U.M. are signed to Add N To X's label Mute

Kilcoyne Jnr says "When we were making Again Into Eyes I asked dad if he wanted to produce it, but he wanted me to do it by myself. He was there for a lot of it, and gave his advice when he thought something wasn't working, but essentially he wanted me to do this on my own. I think if you take away Tom's vocals and listen to the synths, we really do sound similar to my dad."

unfortunately it appears they also sound quite a bit like My Bloody Valentine and Suede and Echo & the Bunnymen... seemingly mediated by (the horror! the horror!) The Horrors

just the thought that bands are coming through influenced by the Horrors (Kilcoyne: "I'd never listened to My Bloody Valentine until after the Horrors' second record Primary Colours came out")

anyway here's a song by S.C.U.M.

and here's another one

and another one

that one's alright - dank and brutish. bit like Bauhaus meets Dr Mix and the Remix (J&MC's heroes/template) meets Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

the more buried the vocals, the better

Monday, January 02, 2012

Neil Kulkarni ends his New Nineties series with
an epic rant of an epilogue

(i sensed from the off though that it would end with a list of UK hip hop--can a leopard change its spots? not likely!)

but wait, there's more - Neil's started a blog, F.U.N.K., have a guess what that stands for