Saturday, April 29, 2023

new shoots

The blogscene seems more dormant than it's ever been. Heartening, then, to see a burst of discursive energy over at Aloysius, breaking a long silence with a model display of  close listening. In this case, listening to "banging unintelligent techno" by The Advent and Joey Beltram (highlighting JB's "ear for choosing sounds with strong phonetic properties"), Model 500's Deep Space ("science fiction as it seemed when I was a kid: not cheesy and man-childish, but mysterious, vast, and wise"), Francois Bayle's Grande Polyphonie ("a series of sound-character studies....  a comprehensible chaos"), and Baby Ford & Ian B's "Dead Eye" ("submersion in complete darkness... awed apprehensiveness of moving forward through an unknown and dangerous-seeming environment").

Aloysius's post ends, incidentally, with one of the best "bloggaz 4 life" sign-offs ever. 

Over here, things have been quiet too - I have a heap of posts waiting to be written up, but been busy with various developments.  

Most substantial of recent postige is this Hardly Baked 2 megasplat on the nexus of late glam, prog and incipient New Wave, which started with me stumbling on a Split Enz promo which is mindblowingly godawful except for about 30 seconds in the middle when it's mindblowing, and then swelled into a sprawling video and jpeg-illustrated tour of similar cusp-straddling middle-Seventies monstrosities. Indeed, I keep adding new clips 'n' pix 'n' dollops of data.  

At Energy Flash, I also look into an unlikely source of the words "rave" and "raver" in the Brit Sixties.  

But here at the hub blog, it's mostly been a grim, endless procession of RIPs. Perhaps I should just go ahead and rename it Griefblog...

A couple of extracurricular activities:

In Taiwan last month I did an interview with Brian Hioe and Florence Yi-Hsun Huang for the webzine No Man Is An Island, which is connected to a publication called New Bloom - touching mostly on ideas related to Energy Flash and Retromania as well as the politics of music in general, my career to date, etc.

Just out now is a new installment of Sombrero Fallout, a podcast created by Ian Forth, an old college associate and early contributor to Margin, the zine that preceded Monitor.  This episode features me chatting with Ian about  a bunch of my favorite records, from Ian Dury and the Slits via  Jan Garbarek and World Domination Enterprises to Migos and June Tabor.  

Friday, April 21, 2023

RIP Mark Stewart

Well, that is gutting news about Mark Stewart, going way too early. 

I always really enjoyed talking with Mark - and unusually, for a musician, he said that he really enjoyed talking to journalists. Even, or especially, journos who challenged him (as with a famous face-off between I Punman and Pop Group / Slits / Y tribe in 1980). He thrived on the exchange of ideas. 

The pic above is by Richard Bellia and was taken in November 1987 when I first met Mark. It was a Melody Maker interview about his great self-titled album of that year. We chatted in this canal-side pub down the road from Mute Records. No idea who this old bloke in the photo is - someone on the street that Mark roped into the shot!  

Apart from the thrilling sounds he made in The Pop Group and solo (not forgetting his collaborative role with Tricky and others), his never-ending enthusiasm for new things in music, the West Country accent he kept all his life, the main thing that springs to mind thinking of Mark Stewart is how fucking tall he was. Literally - as well as postpunk historically - a giant.

Elsewhere - xenogothic pays tribute and helpfully samples / links to other people's tributes

The above is the first Pop Group record I bought (double A-side with The Slits's fabulous "In the Beginning There Was Rhythm").  Chic meets Gramsci's "pessimism of the intellect / optimism of the will".

"Don't Sell  Your Dreams" came close to being the title of the postpunk book but was pipped at the post when a chap called Jonathan O'Brien suggested Rip It Up and Start Again (in this book-naming competition I did on this blog - scroll down a bit here). But it would have made a fine and era-emblematic title, I think. 

Now I think about, Mark's song on the first New Age Steppers album, "Crazy Dreams and High Ideals"  would also have made a great title for the book-that-would-be-Rip-It-Up.

As indeed would have the title of the dub version, which has the words the other round: "High Ideals and Crazy Dreams" 

Now I do not agree with the sentiment in this song (we are not equally culpable and complicit in the Shitstem) but I love the ferocity with which The Pop Group put it across. 

The first time I heard "Thief of Fire" it was actually Loop's terrific (differently terrific) version.

Robert Hampson had that whole pre-Loop life as a postpunk experimentalist, into 23 Skidoo and that kind of thing. Which he semi-reverted to with Main. 

Another group who early on were audibly scarred by The Pop Group, also Pere Ubu, was The Birthday Party. Famously they came to the UK expecting all groups to sound as intense as "She Is Beyond Good and Evil"....

You can hear it in the screech-squawk vocals, the paroxysmic punk-funk

Even the title Prayers On Fire is very Pop Group 

Sunday, April 02, 2023

RIP Ryuichi Sakamoto

 Here's my Pitchfork tribute to world citizen Ryuichi Sakamoto, who died a few days ago.

YMO lay claim to "techno" in 1983

And here's a playlist I pulled together, a highlights and landmarks guided tour through his prolific genius, from Yellow Magic Orchestra, through solo albums like the still-astonishing B-2 Unit and Esperanto, to collaborations like the gorgeous strangeness of "Bamboo Houses / Bamboo Music" (with David Sylvian) and his wonderful string of albums with Alva Noto

Here's a really interesting piece by Dan Barrow on Sakamoto's work and the background to it in terms of Japanese politics + culture, at Jacobin

A piece by David Hudson at the Criterion Daily about Sakamoto: "It All Seems Limitless" 

Geeta Dayal has made available for free inspection a piece she wrote about Yellow Magic Orchestra for Groove magazine in 2006, including an interview with Sakamoto. And just a few months ago she wrote this piece about Sakamoto's 12 for 4Columns

Reminding me that a few years ago I wrote for 4Columns about this compilation of Japanese "interior music" and 4th World sounds, Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990, in which Sakamoto (and Hosono) are both mentioned. 

Toop x 2

- a tribute penned for The Wire. 

-  Sakamoto and "outernationalism", from Ocean of Sound

Check out RS's film Adelic Penguins from 1985

And this I dreamt, and this I dream
And some time this I will dream again
And all will be repeated, all be re-embodied
You will dream everything I have seen in dream

To one side from ourselves, to one side from the world
Wave follows wave to break on the shore
On each wave is a star, a person, a bird
Dreams, reality, death - on wave after wave

No need for a date; I was, I am, and I will be
Life is a wonder of wonders, and to wonder
I dedicate myself, on my knees, like an orphan
Alone - among mirrors - fenced in by reflections
Cities and seas, iridescent, intensified
A mother in tears takes a child on her lap