Sunday, February 20, 2022

I had fun compiling this mix for Herb Sundays, a series of guest mixes curated by Sam Valenti IV of Ghostly International. The only thing that connects the selection is that they are songs and tracks I've played over and over and over again. I love that sensation when desire gets stuck. Which in a way goes against the logic of the mix - if the same thing happens to the listener as me (playing each tune repeatedly, fixatedly, half-a-dozen or a dozen times in succession) then listening to the assemblage all the way through might take hours, even days.   

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Trent’anni di Selected Ambient Works 85-92 - "it's worth a mental talk"

Here's me and Exmachina author Valerio Mattioli talking - separately - with Luigi Lupo of  Sentireascoltare magazine about Aphex Twin's masterpiece thirty years on. 

It's in Italian but you can prod the internet into turning it into not-awful English. For some reason - Google  or original translator? - R&S Records has become R&D. And "Heliosphan" has been substituted for "Hedphelym" as my example of Aphex's darker side. 

Here's a good bit where Mattioli lays out his kernel argument in Exmachina of the differences between Aphex, Autechre and Boards of Canada:

"Aphex Twin is the trickster, the histrionic clown from whom you never know what to expect, the idiot savant, the builder of bridges between the Inside and the Outside. The Autechre are the obsessive, icy, relentless scientists, ruthless in their icy maniacality, the algorithm that grinds differential calculations, the Outside that demolishes the Inside. The Boards of Canada are the hermits out of time, the mystery cult, the memory of a humanity now extinct and replaced by the representation of mankind that has remained preserved in the Machine, the Outside that reminds us by reconstructing our passage on earth."

In another English-to-Italian-to-English-again glitch, my description of how BoC's rhythms work as "headnod" rather than move-your-body comes out as "you can imagine dancing most of [Richard D.James's] music, while for the BoC it's worth a mental talk".

Sunday, February 13, 2022


Underway at Aloysius, a thoughtful series of posts exploring the sorts of spaces and ^scape routes that electronic music opens up (electronic music taken as everything from Luc Ferrari and Francois Bayle to Aphex Twin and Psyche). The series starts with Creative Mode On,  establishes Music As Diegesis,  enters Zones Without People,  gets Super Hostile vs Super Docile , traces Palimpsestscapes, and today contemplates Vanishing Visions and Unknown Memories.  (And here, already is another episode: Transfigured States).

Opening statement lays out the terrain -  "the internet makes a sort of engagement with music possible that’s incredibly expansive in its reach yet utterly introverted in its nature" - and subsequent posts unravel the implications of this tendency toward sonic solipsism combined with infinite extension of the listening self, examining different modes of listener projection (embodied performance versus nonhuman expanses) and so on. As well as analysis and speculation, there's also some terrific synesthetic evocations, e.g.

"Right out the gate you’re assailed by an industrial-machine drone of suffocating pressure. Layers constantly fade in and out, but through these changes in color and intensity this force never dissipates; at times it disconcertingly resembles the human voice. At intervals it lets up for just long enough to allow various species of feral mechanical creatures to burst in, snapping and barking in their own dialects. You soon find that these chrome and gunmetal hell-creatures are capable of accelerating into near-unfollowable flashes of violent, unpredictable movement.... Through all the fluctuations that follow, you never get more than a few seconds to relax; even at its most subdued the piece bristles with tension and inhuman malevolence. On three occasions, descending swarms of nanobots envelope you then evaporate into trails of steam.

More tasty bloggige - Woebot with an appreciation of Neil Young that takes issue with the widespread viewpoint that "his bruising, ragged, noisy rock music" in the Crazy Horse mode is the good stuff and the more tender, plaintive side is sappy and commercially pandering. There's fascinating stuff about Young's medical history and psychology I didn't know... as you'd expect Matt folds ol' Neil into his ongoing preoccupations with health, spirituality and the counterculture, acclaiming him as "the pre-eminent psychic and spiritual musician of our times". 

Because he's been in the news as a culture-warrior of late, I recently found myself playing Young for the first time in.... quite possibly a couple of decades actually. And I think I largely agree with Matt's take. The full-blast Neil w/ Crazy Horse live experience was one of the most purely powerful rock shows I've ever experienced. But I've never once returned to Arc-Weld after the first and only play. While excited to pick up Live Rust on vinyl cheapish back in the '90s, it never became a regular listen like Rust Never Sleeps itself. That said, probably my faves, the songs I would go back to over and over, combine the pained plaintiveness and the ragged rawness: "Powderfinger", "Cortez the Killer", "Southern Man". 

Friday, February 04, 2022

Social Discipline / Exmachina

I had a really fun time chatting with Miguel Prado and Mattin for their podcast Social Discipline, in a wide-ranging conversation that took in depressive hedonism, the surprising longing of 25% of the American population for a king, analogue-era electronic music, streaming versus vinyl, CCRU, Dry Cleaning, Bowie, Rae Sremmurd, The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, and... musique concrete composer / sandal-maker Roberta Settels.

Check out M+M's earlier Social Discipline conversations with the likes of  Mark Leckey, Claire Rousay, Mat Dryhurst, Alex Williams...

I really enjoyed reading Exmachina. Storia musicale della nostra estinzione 1992 → ∞, the new book by Valerio Mattioli, and then writing the foreword. The author previously of Superonda, a book about Italy's 1970s edge-of-rock vanguard (Battiato et al), Mattioli here considers the 1990s and U.K. electronica, using  the works of Richard D. James, Autechre, and Boards of Canada as a prism for writing about the future-now we currently inhabit.  Cocooned in a lockdown bubble, Mattioli plunged into a state of "ecstastic paranoia", a mode of hyper-interpretation and audio-intoxication (some other kinds of intoxication played a role too) that encouraged his mind to trace and chase the ideas and implications spiraling out of the sounds and follow them wherever they seemed to want to go. Exmachina works as both a flashback to the '90s mindset (ccru and other technosophers of that euphoric-dysphoric moment appear) and an anatomy of now, with Aphex, Autechre and BoC figuring as prophets of our present. 

The book is out now in Italy on Minimum Fax and I expect will come out in translation in English and other languages soon enough. It certainly deserves to propagate widely. 

You can read my foreword at Il Tascabile.