Tuesday, July 31, 2012

His Life in the Ghosts of Bush

"A hauntological last hurrah"--The Quietus reports on The Ghosts of Bush House, a project by a chap who usually goes by the moniker Robin the Fog but here ops for the artist name The Fog Signals.

This Robin fellow worked as a studio manager at the BBC World Service, which is being decimated by huge cuts. In an act of advance audio mourning/"memory work", he went around the World Service's soon-to-be-closed HQ at Bush House on the Strand, recording nocturnal atmospheres and reverberations. Working in elements taken from "the World Service’s ancient reel-to-reels" (an echo there perhaps of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts), he wove his indoor field recordings into what may well be the ultimate hauntological artifact.

Ghosts of Bush obviously chimes with the Ghost Box/Cafe Kaput/et al preoccupation with the Public Sphere as something that's faded away, something to mourn (but also to celebrate/cherish/protect as per Danny Boyle's Olympics ceremony). Says Mr Fog, "I’m an ardent believer in the World Service and in public service broadcasting in general. It’s an incredible ambassador for British affairs and is renowned for its integrity and trusted the world over." But Robin also references that ultimate H-ological icon of public broadcasting, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: "The nicest compliments of all have been those who compared [Ghosts of Bush] to the produce of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, an organization which has been a huge influence on my work and which I always used to fantasize about joining, despite its closing almost a decade before I joined the BBC."

More on how the project came about:

"I was working a lot of nightshifts... and as a result would often have the place largely to myself during the small hours of the morning. On my journeys around Bush House...  I used to love listening to all the sounds around me: the creaks and rumbles of the old building echoed up and down the stairwells and through the corridors, even the most mundane of noises suddenly taking on a new significance in the half-light. Like so many historic buildings around London, Bush House is constructed of Portland Stone, which is a wonderfully resonant material to work with... the stone construction of the walls coupled with the high ceilings gave you this extraordinary reverb. I would whistle to myself on the landings and then listen as the whistle fluttered round the space for what seemed like an eternity, transforming as it did so into something much stranger, as if the building was adding a few tones of its own. I liked to think these were the sounds Bush House made when it thought nobody was listening!

"No artificial echo or electronic effects were used in the making of the album... These are genuinely the sounds of the space."

You can listen to and name-your-price purchase The Ghosts of Bush House here.

"All proceeds will be donated to BBC Media Action (formerly The World Service Trust), helping in their mission to 'harness the power of media and communication to help reduce poverty and assist women, children and men to claim their rights'."


Pure word association reminded me of the composer Ingram Marshall, whose Fog Tropes was inspired by "the sounds of the maritime environment around San Francisco Bay"

Marshall also recorded an album based around "the soundscape" surrounding and inside the Bay's infamous island prison Alcatraz (another public institutional building fallen into disuse, but with less edifying assocations than Bush House). Marshall recalled going on expeditions with his photographer collaborator Jim Bengston and recording "the sounds of buoys, birds and fog horns as well as singing and gambuh flute playing in some of the resonant spaces of the prison. I also captured the famous roar of the cell doors's mechanized closings--this chorus of metal echoing through the wildly reverberant spaces of Alcatraz is probably the perfect sound print of the desolation and utter finality of the place." I reviewed Alcatraz along with other resonant music/New Age releases here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012


sound and vibe wise, one of the templates for that could be this  (not so much the video though)

we're sons and daughters of a loop da loop era in a different sense now ... time circles, retrochronia, deja voodoo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

(also via dissensus)

another jackin  relick of 9ties house classic

yes it's

that nick hannam track got me thinking about owls in dance music

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Double 99 meets Vanilla Ice = brit-parochical gelato joke

Oh yeah and it was on Ice Cream Records, wasn't it, "Ripgroove"?

 That endlessly spiraling bliss-diva loop is from Tina Moore

This rmx attempts to re-stitch together the two surgically separated Siamese Twins, or something, with only partial success

file under "that's why they call it a continuum folks part 973"...

back to the jackin', another sultry 'n' moody warper (also via dissensus)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

We value authenticity (consistency, integrity, etc) in politics.

And abhor those without core.

But in intellectual / theoretical / critical circles, flexibility is generally a positive term;  open-mindedness and adaptability are deemed virtues and advantages.

And in pop music, all right-thinking people regard authenticity as an irrelevant concept and an obsolete criterion for judgement...  a quaint throwback thing to concern yourself with.

In pop, reinventing yourself is considered not just clever and artistic, but the essence of what pop is about.

Pop is the art of the "true lie". Even apparent real-ness is a pose and an act, to be judged according to how convincingly it's executed rather than whether it correlates with the artist's lived reality.

So how come there's this discrepancy, this fissure, between what's valued in politics and what's valued in culture?

I guess you could say that art/culture/pop is altogether less consequential; it doesn't matter if an artist or performer is pretending to be something they're not....

Still, it's quite a gulf...  I wonder how it came about.
(It's true that politics, or in political commentary at least, there's been a lot of pomo-tinged, Rorty-esque talk in recent years of "optics" and "narratives"...  even Obama talked openly last week about his having failed to "tell a story" to the American people about what's been going down these last three-four years... but generally that kind of thing is about the successful or not-so-successful presentation of what's essential and actual, as opposed to outright fiction...  overall, in the public political domain, people still tend to talk in the language of Truth and Right).

bummer -- mnml ssgs terminates its mission

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

"In With The Old" -- Phil at, er, The Phil Zone, on the catalogue records outselling current releases phenomenon.

Which he argues is really down to the fact that "music is no longer the driver of a youth culture which in itself no longer seems to have any inherent, coherent sense of direction", which he further relates to "the process that affects all physical and biological phenomena on Planet Earth, which is the process of entropification - the natural movement to a state of randomness and disorder."

He wonders if the concept of entropy figures in Retromania, and it does, if somewhat shifted in emphasis, as hyper-stasis. But unlike Phil's great description of cultural entropy as "a voidal stasis in which endless diversity is experienced as uniform blandness" the difference here is the hyper-ness: the restless roil of micro-genres that keep emerging but never quite take-off (but equally, never go away  completely... instead they rise and dip away and rise again -- look at black metal's serial ascents to prominence across 20 years of existence, or the strange trajectory of grime).


One of the few 21st Century candidates when it comes to linearity in the old fashioned sense (musical evolution, audience expansion, crossover into unconquered territories) is dubstep. The original fans, of course, see the path taken by the sound -  through wobble into brostep - as a devolution. But (c.f. rave>jungle and techno>gabba in the 90s, or indeed the history of metal itself), devolution is still a form of linearity; there's a kind of forward-logic (as opposed to the endless recursive involutions of hyperstatic genre-not-genres like postdubstep or post-mnml). Bass-tardisation is a direction. In this case (brostep), it is also -- as a centripetal, scene-forming/genre-conforming drive -- a force working against entropy. In favour of massification. Just look at the scale of the raves in America now.

This is a New Thing that is selling (but it's selling tickets, not records). (Bassnectar grossed $3.5 million this year so far. Bassnectar!)

It also seems to be serving as the locus of generational identity.  Whether any content will emerge beyond "let's go crazy" and "the parents are gonna find this incomprehensible" is yet to be seen.

Keep stompin' you bass-tardisers!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Old Records Outselling New Records"

according to LA Weekly's Chris Kornelis

Hey, I predicted that in Retromania!  Or rather, speculated about it as a possible future scenario, extrapolating from current trends (i.e. where things were at in 2009-2010).

Judging by Kornelis's piece, it's happened much quicker than I imagined: 

"The first six months of the year saw sales of 76.6 million catalog records -- industry-speak for albums released more than 18 months ago -- compared to 73.9 million current albums"

According to Nielsen Soundscan-watcher David Bakula, this has happened because of two factors:
"not having the big blockbuster new releases in the first half, and having very, very strong catalog".
The latter category includes Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits and  four Whitney Houston albums.

Admittedly, the past has an advantage over the present, because catalogue LP and greatest hits collections are generally budget-priced, compared with full-price new releases. In penny-pinching times, that will incline punters to avoid new albums, or just opt for the track rather than take a punt on the whole LP (see the 10-fold disparity between the five million who downloaded "Somebody I Used To Know" versus the half-million who bought the Gotye album).

It could also be that the kind of people who still bother to buy music at all (either as physical CDs or legal downloads) are older, and thus skew away from buying new releases in favour of familiar favourites.


update: Maura Johnston at Village Voice has further thoughts on this topic:

1. Radio and other mass outlets are becoming way more conservative and focusing more on the past.  She notes that places like Target  give prominent display space to greatest-hits collections, big albums from established stars, while new releases get "comparatively puny" exposure. And radio, as

explained by Kornelis in a piece for the Seattle Weekly , is "becoming more cautious with their playlists because of the Personal People Meter, Nielsen's new device for measuring ratings. Its data shows that people are more likely to switch channels when unfamiliar songs come on; the incentive to play new songs is, therefore, diminished from a business-side perspective."

2. The design of digital-music stores encourages people to stick with the familiar. "What with "personalization," spotlighting of the already-popular in order to assist people who might be interested in checking out that Adele lady, and having to cram a lot of information about new releases into a small space... finding truly new music is a tough row for people who aren't completely immersed in music....  Incentives like Amazon's crazy-deep discounting of certain releases only encourage this type of cocooning".

3. News has more of an effect on album sales than almost any music-centric promotional outlet these days. "Two of the five top catalog albums of 2012's first six months had Whitney Houston, who died in February, at their core; her greatest-hits collection sold 818,000 copies, making it the fourth-best-selling album of the year so far (behind Adele, Lionel Richie, and One Direction), and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard sold 202,000 copies....  just look at how record sales for Richie's new album Tuskegee, which is itself a record full of him remaking his old hits with current country stars, were boosted by a special reminding people of its existence airing on broadcast TV"

Maura also points out that Adele's 21, which is 2012's best-selling album even though it came out in 2011, has just flipped over into the "catalogue" category (18 months since release, which in its case was Jan 11 last year). That means that as it continues to sell and sell, the catalogue > current effect will only get worse during the second half of 2012.

David Toop's tribute to and personal recollections of Lol Coxhill

Monday, July 02, 2012

life's a beach

"If there's one thing practically all futurologists once agreed on, it's that in the 21st century there would be a lot less work..."  Owen H's Guardian piece on how technological progress has not led, as was once expected, to the abolition of work reminded me of  Bow Wow Wow's "W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah NO! NO! My Daddy Don't)"

If you don't feel like twisting your neck around and squinting to read, the kernel of the lyric is "'T.E.K. technology /Is DEMOLITION of DADDY / Is A.U.T. Autonomy". That's Malcolm McLaren taking the Situationist idea that automation would lead to a world liberated from labour and adapting it for the age of Thatcher-imposed mass doledrums.  Demolishing Daddy would good for everybody, including Daddies (here doubly signifying as wage-slaves and bosses), because everybody would be freed up to live like children, dedicated only to play and imagination. Or, as per the other key line "demolition of the work ethic takes us to the age of the primitive", like tribal societies,  naively imagined to live without alienation.  Paradise regained.

I was thinking of the Situationists and  this idea that "no work = paradise" yesterday afternoon. We were at the beach and I remembered their slogan "under the pavement lies the beach".  For a second, I wondered what was so good about beaches, compared with sidewalks? (As well as expediting you through the world of business and commerce, paved urban walkways lead to all kinds of cool places... they are also better surfaces for aimless dérive and "kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness" artist-as-flaneur-ism).  But that's because I was going through this phase I often go through immediately after arriving at the beach, which is feeling restless and trapped: cut off from my usual networks of stimulation. "There's nothing to do here!" Then I capitulate, remember that the point of the beach is to do nothing, in a variety of enjoyably pointless ways.  Splashing about, getting bowled over by waves.  The building of castles or networks of canals in the sand teaching you, in the most kindly and pleasing-to-look-at way, certain things about Time and futility and "all this too must pass away."

It's the same with vacations: I kinda dread them at first... then slowly succumb. At first I don't want to give up my habitual state of nervous unrest.  But slowly and steadily, Life reduces to absolute simplicity. Extremes of temperature and sensation. Hot, cool. Dry, wet. Exercise, rest. It reduces to the basic functions of  life. "What shall we eat?".  You can feel your mind gradually emptying.  The books and magazines you brought (in order to make productive use of all that free time) go unread. It's genuinely therapeutic, totally necessary.  A tonic. But then it's time to go back. Back to work. And I'm always more than ready.

A permament vacation would be a hellish existence. Likewise the beach... A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. (People who do live at the beach full-time often seem a little cracked. Either that, or they've retired, given up on work).

And now I recall, one of McLaren's early slogans with Bow Wow Wow was "sun, sea and piracy", they were meant to be playing tropical rhythms...  in one interview I remember he unfurled this endearingly barmy fantasy of  a man-made sun that would be tethered above the U.K. and would turn this grey-skied country into an endless summer paradise...


See also: the Parrotheads and Margaritaville and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" - a similar fantasy of getting away from it all and never coming back...

Interviewer: In one word, what's this all about?

Parrothead #1: Non-work.

Parrothead #2: Living.... This is what we work for, 364 days a year, is one day, to really do what we want to do.