Friday, May 27, 2022

Down with the Drain

In a new piece for No Bells, Kieran Press-Reynolds take a deep dive into the meme-mythos of Drain Gang and the collective's most prominent member Bladee.  Readers of this blog may well be unfamiliar with either but Kieran makes an intricately supported and vivid case for DG + B as the most influential and pervasive entity in the last decade's ever-more-chaotic genrescape of online sounds - a common denominator through-line cutting across an entropic field of endlessly splintering, recombining, and border-blurring micro-genres and nano-scenes. And it's more than just warped weirdo sounds, emo lyrics, and ultra-processed vocals - as K writes, "Drain culture" = "an abyss of in-jokes, slang, visuals, and fashion". The piece is a kind of archaeology of knowledge connecting the evanescent drifts of online fan energy and excitement. As K, writes "the way chatter is scattered across myriad forums, platforms, and private chats, and the inescapable fact that so many pivotal videos and memes and myth-building conversations get deleted or lost in the digital void—makes it almost impossible to fully delineate how a cultish fanbase forms online....  Underground internet musicians accrue fame and myth through the steady buildup of Instagram stories and lives, loosies, TikTok edits, micro-viral fan tweets that gain 1,000 or so likes and become an inside joke.. This kind of mercurial legend-construction can result in knowledge gaps when an artist rises up....  it has also bred more ghosts—artists who grow successful but whose musical past is dotted with elisions, breaks, erasures, mysteries. Luckily, by traveling back in time through ancient Reddit posts and panoramically viewing today’s music landscape, it’s possible to glimpse how this unit has grown." 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

speak-sing / print-head

Here's a piece I did for Tidal looking at the roots - in postpunk, New Wave and Britrap - of the current speak-sing wave (which includes some of the most entertaining music of recent times and some of the most irritating).  I also made a playlist tracing the lineage from M.E.S. to Legss, mostly Brit but with  occasional dishonorary Americans included. 

I was invited by Pierluigi Ledda, co-founder with his wife Francesca of Reading Room, a bookshop and cultural space in Milan, to contribute to their website feature Love At First Browse - in which guest writers and culture-workers talk about 3 magazines that have meant the most to them. Didn't seem quite right to include Melody Maker during my era, but two others I've contributed to made the cut and I doubt you'll have much difficulty guessing the other one. Here's my choices

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Bob 'n' Barry

Bob Stanley has a new book just out (Let's Do It - about the prehistory of pop, it looks really interesting). But he also has a new compilation out - or perhaps I should say collection, as it's focused on a single artist: John Barry. The More Things Change: Film, TV & Studio Work 1968-1972 is a great-sounding slab of peak JB. 

Reading Bob's liner note, I was fascinated to learn that the teenage Barry's love of soundtracks was ignited through his dad's being the owner of a chain of cinemas. He'd sit in the projection room of the York Rialto, assimilating the emotional grammar of film music through exposure to scores and scores of scores. 

Another thing that caught my eye was Bob's reference to Walkabout as "possibly the most beautiful John Barry score of all."   Now this happens to be my fervent belief, but it's a conviction based mostly on pure faith, since I've not done the exhaustive study of  the JB uuurv that Bob's done. So that was reassuring! 

The More Things Change includes two selections from the Walkabout OST (mystifyingly never released at the time, it existed briefly as a bootleg some years after the event, then came out as proper reissue in 2016) and they are "Theme from Walkabout," a shatteringly poignant piece that can reduce me to a blubbering mess, and "The Children", stirring and pure-hearted.   Here's what I wrote about Walkabout for Pitchfork's best soundtracks / best scores lists of a few years ago: 

In Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film, two British children stranded in the outback are rescued and guided back to “civilization”  by an indigenous Australian boy. Scare quotes around the C-word, for Walkabout is a rhapsodic elegy for Nature and our lost innocence.  Because there’s only sporadic dialogue (Roeg described the script as “a fourteen-page prose poem”) and the 6-year-old brother and his teenage sister have been brought up in typically post-Empire stiff-upper-lip fashion, nearly all the emotional eloquence in the movie is supplied by the score.  Waltjinju Bandilil’s eerie didgeridoo and Stockhausen’s disorienting tape-piece Hymnen conjure the unknowable majesty of the arid landscape and its scorching extremes of weather. But it’s veteran film composer John Barry who establishes the prevailing mood with his piercingly poignant orchestrations.   A stirring choral theme redolent of a school song, “The Children” evokes the simple-hearted hope and accepting obedience with which kids face the world. The horn fanfares of  “The Journey”  conjure a storybook adventure air, mirroring the way that the youngest child in particular processes their predicament.  Above all, there’s the recurring main theme, a patient pulse of plinky harpsichord over which wistful woodwinds pipe and tender violins soar and swoop, like a kite whose strings are tugging at your heart not your hands.

Here are the other blurbs - in their original director's cut form - that I did for the movies Performance, Solaris, Blade Runner, and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.