Tuesday, December 26, 2023

ou sont les blogs d'antan?

The Guardian asked me to write about blogging. 

One thing I observe is that although the freedom and fun offered by the format endures, the inter-blog communication of the heyday has faded away.  At least, in this particular corner of the 'sphere. 

Blogging has become more of a solitary activity. A blogpost will be sparked by something "out there," or by something within, but rarely in response to another blog. 

This reminded me that the last time I did a bit of meta-blogging -  the 20th anniversary rumination of a year ago -  I'd intended to do a follow up: a tribute to the blogs of yesteryear, nodes in a network that once crackled like the synapses of an ever-growing mega-brain. Here, belatedly, is a sketch towards such a memorial. 

In the beginning... what sparked my interest was a bunch of blogs and blog-like entities whose existence I noticed around 2000 or so. There was Tom Ewing's outlets New York London Paris Munich and Freaky Trigger, Tim Finney's Skykicking,  Jess Harvell's blogs (Let's Build A Car, TechnicolorRebellious Jukebox, others still?). Then there was Alastair Fitchett's webzine Tangents, featuring contributors like Kevin Pearce (under the name John Carney, for reasons unknown). And Robin Carmody's website Elidor (later on he blogged at House At World's End and Sea Songs and also here). 

All sorts of oddball characters sprouted up around then, offering skewed perspectives and obsessive accumulations of knowledge.  There was Josh Kortbein (who still maintains Joshblog). Scott of SomediscoDavid Howie aka I Have Zero Money. Others still. 

So the scene was bubbling before I jumped into the fray in October 2002. Still, it's fair to say that the launch of Blissblog had an accelerant effect. I must have been one of the first pros to start a music blog, although I'd had a website since 1996. 

Another accelerant was the excitement about grime - at that point such an emergent sound it wasn't even known as grime yet.  Wot-U-Call-It represented probably around 70% of the spur for me to start the blog - at the time I was largely taken out of journalistic commission by Rip It Up and Start Again and I desperately wanted to shout about this latest insurgency from the nuum zone. But I also just fancied having an opinions outlet - fancied joining in the arguments. Skiving off work while staying sat in front of the screen, in those first three years of blogging I generated probably a book's worth of text even while writing a not-short book on postpunk. 

Everyone knows about K-punk and Woebot (at the start known as That Was A Naughty Bit of Crap) (and which went away, then came back, then went away, came back and then went away yet again - but currently still exists). (And who remembers woebot.tv?)

There was also Luke Davis's heronbone (urgent dispatches from the frontlines of grime, but also poetry and psychogeography), Silverdollarcircle (similarly pirate radio focused),  Martin Clark's Blackdown, John Eden at UncarvedPaul Meme's Grievous Angel....

(A precursor to this kind of nuum-oriented bloggige was turn-of-millennium webzine Hyperdub, launched by Kode9 well before the label of the same name, and a place where Mark Fisher did some of his earliest public writing about music (under the name Mark De' Rosario) alongside UKdance forum stalwart Bat, Kevin Martin,  Kodwo Eshun, and indeed myself. The Hyperdub archives used to be maintained by bloggish entity Riddim.ca, but have now sadly disappeared. A couple of the proto-K-punk's pieces can be found here, though.)

Adjacent to this cluster but pursuing his own obsessions (Cabaret Voltaire, bleep, etc) and probably more aligned with dubstep than grime, there was Nick Edwards's once-prolific, long-shuttered Gutterbreaks.   Then there was History Is Made At Night, an archaeology of rave and club lore - and the interface between dance culture and politics -  maintained by Neil Transpontine to this day. And the bashmentological analyses of scholar Wayne Marshall at Wayne & Wax.

Getting deeper into the 2000s, the sporadic but extensive posts of Leaving Earth, by the enigmatic Taninian, claimed treasure in underappreciated genres like wobble and skwee, reassessed The Rave LP, and lost me a little with the paeans to postdubstep-as-revolution.  Other electronic-music slanted blogs came and went - Acid Nouveaux, MentasmsSonic Truth, Mutant Technology, Drumtrip, Musings of a Socialist Japanologist, Tufluv, World of StelfoxMNML SSGS - saying interesting things for a year or two before going silent. Probably the most impressive of the second wave of electronic music oriented blogz was Adam Harper's Rouge's Foam.

Rewind a bit: by the mid-2000s, the scene was cleaving between the grimy nuum end of things and the poptimistic cru, each represented by a forum, although neither was as monolithically committed in stance or subject matter as the other might like to make out.  Still, you could have good arguments about these kinds of issues with the likes of Zoilus (aka Carl Wilson), Utopian TurtleTop. Koganbot, Nick Southall's Auspicious Fish, Jane Dark's Sugarhigh. Less-good arguments with others.  

Anti-rockist (OG anti-rockist 4 life) but in an orbit of his own: Momus, elegant and incisive public essayist rather than blogger per se, but hosting a lot of action in the comments. The blog was once called Click Opera, I believe.

When grime faded as a conversation-starter and centripetal agent,  hauntology - for a while, for some -  provided a new focus....   

Now there was a bunch of blogs whose preexisting obsessions with retro design, vintage TV, bygone modernist aesthetics, and sundry musty esoterica placed them in proximity to the H-zone, among them Toys and Techniques, Feuilleton, Rockets and Rayguns, Dispokino, I Hate This Film, and The Sound of Eye.  Then there was collective blog Found Objects.

There was another and quite separate gaggle that included Kid Shirt  (aka Kek-W), An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming  (aka Loki aka Saxon Roach) and Farmer-Glitch  (aka Stephen Ives) who could be considered fellow-travelers, albeit approaching the H-zone from a different angle: that esoterrorist thread running from Coil-y industrial to the eldritch fringes of rave and UK techno (The Black Dog and that sort of thing).  Funnily enough, their very proximity made them sniffy about the H-word -  both as concept and in terms of the output getting bigged up. Some of this blog cluster generated its own wyrdtronic output, via alter-egos like IX-Tab, Hacker Farm, Kemper Norton.... 

Other bloggers stepped into the sonic fray: Gutterbreaks became Ekoplekz and half of eMMplekz, Woebot became a musical as well as textual entity, and K-punk created a bunch of audio essays/ sound artworks

While Mark Fisher was a pillar of our end of the scene, K-punk also played a central role in a separate circuit of renegade-academic and philosophy-politics blogs. Not a neighbourhood I frequented much, but Alex Williams at Splintering Bone Ashes had some things to say while Steven Shaviro still does The Pinocchio Theory

Quite a lot of people on this circuit became authors (and /or fulfilled other functions) within the Zer0 / Repeater empire: Xenogothic's Matt ColquhounRobin James of  It's Her Factory, Dominic Fox of Poetix. 

Others came to  the imprints via different paths: Carl Neville aka the Impostume, Phil Knight with his mystifyingly closed-and-erased The Phil Zone and later ceased-but-not-deleted The Interregnum Navigation ServiceOwen Hatherley of Sit Down Man, You're a Bloody Tragedy and The Measures Taken, Alex Niven of The Fantastic Hope, Rhian E. Jones with Velvet Coalmine. There was a cluster of collective blogs oriented around decades - the '70s, '80s, '90s - that involved many of these people and lively places they were for a while.

And then there were those who pursued their own completely personal path into the scene (and out again), helped in some cases by geographical distance - operating in a completely different hemisphere. Anwen Crawford (another who mystifyingly deleted their back pages - in this case fangirl),  Sam Macklin a.k.a connect_icut with Bubblegum Cage III, Geeta Dayal with The Original Soundtrack (now she has a Patreon), Jon Dale with Worlds of Possibility and Attic Plan and  Astronauts Notepad, Sam Davies's Zone Styx Travelcard, Aaron Grossman's Airport Through the TreesGraham Sanford's Our God Is SpeedTim 'Space' Debris's Cardrossmaniac2W. David Marx's Néojaponisme, Oliver Craner, Beyond the Implode, Baal at Erase the World, Tom May's Where Shingle Meets Raincoat, Seb's And You May Find Yourself... , Dan Barrow's porridge-free zones The End Times and A Scarlet Tracery....   

Some of these bloggers were already writing in "proper" publications; some started after blogging....

It was interesting to see who out of the already-renowned professionals jumped into the fray and those who stayed aloof. For a virtuoso ranter like Neil Kulkarni, blogging was a natural playpenIan Penman seemed unleashed by the format, frothing torrentially at The Pill Box - until he stopped, abruptly, for "reasons unknown". Chuck Eddy is a copious blogger at Eliminated For Reasons of SpaceDavid Stubbs has blogged sporadically over the years;  Richard Williams does it more regularly at The Blue Moment. Both these Melody Maker legends, though, are more like online essayists; they don't display that driveling incontinence that is the hallmark of the born-to-blog. 

But there were other pros who seemed to disdain the thought of writing for free.  One or two seemed faintly threatened by the blogs, the jabbering panoply of amateurs crowding out the main signal. 

There were various alternatives to blogs that went through vogues - livejournals and tumblrs  - but I never really cathected with  either of these mode-zones, couldn't see what they brought that was a bonus.

And today...  As I say in the column, there's still loads of blogs -  loads of specifically music blogs or mostly-music blogs. Some started relatively recently, like the sporadic but very interesting Aloysius,  the work of Dissensus bod Mvuent, and Infinite Speeds, a Substack by Vincent Jenewein exploring interfaces between philosophical concepts and the materialities of electronic sound + rhythm. Others, I'm unclear when they started but they have entered my ken only recently, like Lost Tempo (another Substack), the work of regular commenter Matt M.  And I see that ex-editor of The Wire Derek Walmsley, who used to have a blog back in the 2000s, recently started a new one: Slow Motion.

There are generation-or-two-below-me oriented entities somewhere between a one-person magazine and a collective blog. Like Joshua Minsoo Kim's Toneglow (another Substack). Like No Bells. To which my own flesh-and-blood contributes, while also operating his own KPRblog (currently surveying 2023 in music). 

So I wind to a close, with so many names unmentioned. 

Forgive me - it's almost certainly by accident. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

prolific progeny

A round-up of write-ups from Kieran Press-Reynolds - who's been on a bit of a tear recently.

Sweet piece on growing up as a digital native and discovering a cache of Gchat and Buzz scribblings from when he was 11 years old (for Insider)

Fun run-down of his most enjoyable nightlife experiences of 2023.

Countdown of top tunes from the past year, starting with this entry on Bar Italia. 

And here's the whole chart rundown plus honorable mentions in one spot.

Sharp analysis of the online-discourse life and entropic death of the micro-genre sigilkore (for No Bells)

Spicy take on the Snow Strippers tape (what do you mean, you've never heard of Snow Strippers?) (for Pitchfork)

Snapshot of concert by Babyxsosa (what do you mean, you've never etc etc) (for No Bells)

Rave about Jane Remover (going back a bit, now) (for Pitchfork)

Oh and soon, very soon,  there'll be a mega-thinkpiece on internetty music-etc culture - update to come with that.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Yuletide Edition : Moon Wiring Club; The Focus Group; Jabu; Do You Have Peace? compilation; Gespensterland compilation; Prends Le Temps D'Ecouter musique d'expression libre des enfants

Christmas is coming and that can only mean one thing -  new stocking stuffers from Moon Wiring Club!

These comprise excellent new album Sepia Cat City, a new issue of Catmask, a calendar, a T-shirt, an array of badges, and a selection of seasonal greeting cards.

Sepia Cat City is the final instalment of MWC's Cat Location trilogy (see The Most Unusual Cat in the Village + The Only Cat Left in Town). It's one of Ian Hodgson's excursions into the entropic, possibly my favorite of his modes (although I do love the classic reverb-bassline, dankly dancey mode too).  If anything, this is more delirious-sounding than some of his boggy seepage of recent years. Minded me of nothing else at all really, except just maybe some of the more disintegrated moments on 23 Skidoo's Seven Songs. Particularly enjoyed the skidding scumbles of the aptly named "Scatterbrain 9" and the whiplash churns of "Boarded Up House Musicke".

Ian Hodgson holds forth about inspirations and orientations: 

"For quite a few years I’d vaguely wanted to do something with Punk aesthetics....  A lot of the Punk visuals I recalled were (despite the fluorescent hair) monochromatic, undoubtably this was absorbed via exposure to the photocopied zine scene. So from an early age Punk seemed a bit ancient and gelled in my mind with similarly monochromatic Victorian sepia daguerreotypes... As long as I can remember I’ve had Sepia Punk as an unfocused aesthetic floating around my noggin. In my favourite series of Sapphire & Steel (Assignment 4), the opening episode, which is set circa 1980, has a group of children playing in the back yard of a shared house ~ they’ve all been taken out of a Victorian photograph and have sepia toned skin & clothes. There’s something about the studio setting + ‘off’ videotape telly colour of it all that makes it really appealing. From this I’ve always liked the specific idea of a Sepia Ghost Gang...  

"Over the past couple of years, I’ve also been watching quite a lot of grimy New York films. There’s something about the 'decaying city as movie backdrop' that I find really appealing, and it really fits with the current state of the UK ~ collapsing deregulated infrastructure. I’d say the less-obvious ones that stuck in my mind were Smithereens, Cruising, Wolfen (bit daft + so good) and Desperately Seeking Susan.... In pretty much every film there’s some kind of gang activity going on, and most of them are wearing leather jackets. I also really like the mixture of musical styles... often a default excellent funky post-Shaft score would be underpinning everything. 

"This fed into my long-term Punk rumination ~ how can you make a Punk album if you don’t really like punk rock music? If you set out to make an ‘authentic’ Punk record it would be totally boring even if you succeeded... The solution I came to was that you could make a Punk album inspired by what may have influenced the musicians of the time, rather than the specific music that was actually made. 

"I also read Cathi Unsworth’s excellent Season of the Witch Goth book... one snippet that really stuck in my mind was that Magazine wanted John Barry to produce their second album.... It really got me thinking ~ 'what if you took a load of the more arty Punk inspirations (John Barry, Avengers, Vivienne Westwood, 2000AD comic, Herzog, even something contemporaneous like Cindy Sherman) and made something with an attempt to emulate that mindset?'. 

"... I started gluing everything together with Sepia Punk in mind. I’m strongly in favour of recycling audio, so along with a large variety of newly conjured bits n bobs, I went through the MWC archive ov tat and pulled out stuff that I thought might fit with the style. What I found was that certain fragments that had already been used on specific MWC releases could be nicely repurposed ~ especially once combined / glued together / looped into oblivion with a freshly composed segment. So it was as if the defining characteristics (or the potential) of the overriding Sepia Punk idea had latently existed within the original material... 

"The Cat Location LP format - 4x10min tracks - suited this composition mix, and from a narrative perspective the idea that you move from a cozy but unsettling village, to a deserted echoing town to eventually ending up joining a stylish ghost gang in a corroded city was exactly right. 

"The artwork allowed the fashionable Punk / alternative characters to manifest naturally, but one thing I always wanted was not to have a uniform style of city architecture ~ most cities are a mishmash of styles so it was important to include that crumbling Victorian warehouse vibe rather than just ‘can’t-we-have-something-else-please default Hauntology setting’ 70s concrete. 

"The first track "Ghosts of the Underground Market" - I’ve always been fascinated by Underground Markets, specifically this one which used to have a few alternative / weird shops before the '92 IRA bomb allowed mass homogenisation / insidious gentrification to creep in. If you walk over the concreted street site now, I reckon on a rainy Sunday morning you can still hear the dusty ghosts of the market shops, sedimented inside rusty escalators and echoing with the patchouli oil-scented sounds of grotty ’78 records + bootleg post-punk cassette tapes."  

"The third track 'Boarded Up House Musike' is a combination of two interests ~ in those 70s NYC films there would often be a grot disco scene and I wanted a representation of a dodgy svengali / hippy cult leader style figure that always features in squat / commune dwelling telly." 

"After I’d sent the LP off for manufacture, I deliberately didn’t listen to it for about 4 months... The main thing that it reminded me of was 20 Jazz Funk Greats ~ which sort of makes sense going by the inspirations. I’m happy with that because it would have been completely impossible for me to make a record that sounded (a bit) like Throbbing Gristle intentionally."

Ah, so I wasn't a million miles off course with my 23 Skidoo thought.

As for Catmask No. 2 - this ultra-vividly designed publication lurks somewhere undecidable between a pop annual, a hard-spined comic book in the Tintin tradition, and Radio Times (albeit with dramatically upscaled paper stock and color reproduction). 

Must say I do really like the new 'punkified' twist on the Moon Wiring Girl, as seen on the postcard below. 

With the vinyl LP, there is a fold out poster that features a bunch of alterna-girls and sepia punkettes - it reminded me just a teensy bit of the Gee Vaucher fold-out for Crass ("Bloody Revolutions" I think) with Margaret Thatcher all anarchopunxified. 


Apart from that... it's pretty quiet in the parish. 

But hey let loose your credit card, as there's a notable reissue - The Focus Group's classic mini-LP Hey Let Loose Your Love, originally released in 2005, is out again on 10-inch vinyl, compact disc, and the various digital formats and avenues. 

Part of that originating starburst of hauntology landmarks - alongside Dead AirThe WillowsAn Audience of Art Deco EyesOther Channels, The Death of Rave-  Hey Let Loose is one of my Top 5 albums of the 2000s.  Something I've never stopped playing, in fact. 


But yes here in the parish, there's a hibernating feeling

In a neighbouring village, though, stirrings of note - a Bristol-aligned, if not always Bristol-located sound that is sparse but sensual...  bewitching twists on time-and-place rooted traits....  soulful, sombre, spacey, desolated, dubbily reduced and not-all-there. 

Via the label Do You Have Peace?, an album by Jabu, Boiling Wells, and a compilation, Always + Forever.

There's also a vinyl version of the Jabu album available via Six of Swords, the Bristol label started by Dave Howell of FatCat and before that Obsessive Eye renown.

Release rationale - Various Artists, Always + Forever  

‘Always + Forever’ is the first compilation to be released on Do You Have Peace?, the Bristol-based label run by Jabu. Collecting thirteen unreleased tracks from artists both new and familiar to the label, the album weaves an unorthodox collaborative web.... Originally conceived as a project to link together the dream-pop oriented leanings of a disparate group of artists, as the project grew it became more amorphous and developed its own narrative, held by a strange, half-awake quality throughout. The pop leanings are still there, although often buried under clouds of reverb, and they take their place among less heavy-lidded bedroom confessionals, DIY chamber pieces, and teary-eyed instrumental passages.   The majority of the vocal-led tracks occur on the first half of the album, leaving the second section to drift into more sedative, hypnagogic terrain. Where further voices do reappear, they feel more like half-remembered fragments of dream-speech. As the words eventually leave us completely, the album closes out through three chamber pieces, transposing classical instrumentation from the lofty heights of concert halls to more intimate and familiar settings: a box room in a flat, a bedroom, a memory of lying awake staring at the ceiling and trying to go to sleep again.   

An essential addition to Do You Have Peace?'s  catalogue, the record serves as another example of the label’s continual reframing / recontextualising of their music and influences. Like Jabu’s gradual shift from their post-dubstep / hip-hop roots to a more ethereal dream-pop sound, or the continual shift and sprawl of their NTS show with Andy Payback (one of the very best shows on the platform), it foregrounds an impeccable taste and a masterful grasp of context and connectivity. Wonderfully zoned-out and immersive, it’s a meticulously programmed, fully cohesive compilation that leads the listener on a journey ever deeper into the night. 

Featuring Equiknoxx's Time Cow, HTRK's Jonnine, and Jabu's Guest (appearing both solo and in collaborative mode with Birthmark), there are solo outings from Tarquin Manek (aka Silzedrek / Static Cleaner Lost Reward) and his sometime collaborator YL Hooi. Young Echo's Vessel contributes both solo and in tandem with Rakhi Singh (Manchester Collective), Zaumne appears with relative newcomer Hermeneia. Teresa Winter's 'Juniper' offers a sweet bridge to the tracks it's bookended by, and a counterpoint to the two consecutive offerings from the mysterious Laughter of Saints.     

'Always & Forever' is set for release on December 8th on digital formats and a limited vinyl edition of 300 copies. Featuring cover artwork from Skkinz, the record is pressed on black vinyl with full download coupon. 

Release rationale - Jabu, Boiling Wells 

Demos/sketches/interludes from the hinterland between records. Drum machines and single take vocal sketches tied together with downtime synth experiments and recordings of local disappearing areas.’ 
True as it is, Jabu’s strapline is a somewhat understated take on what also proved to be a transformative experience for them. The follow-up record to their 2020 sophomore LP ‘Sweet Company’ (and the ensuing ‘Versions’), ‘Boiling Wells’ sees tracks stitched together in one long, seamless flow and weaves a smudged, group-mind spell. Originally released earlier this year without fanfare as a ltd. cassette and digital release, it now receives the proper release attention it deserves, issued in a neatly packaged vinyl edition of 300 copies. Dreamlike, woozy, raw and in dub, the album documents a blossoming process, and encapsulates a fragment in time - holed up in the country, soaking up the atmosphere in collective isolation, creatively embracing the limitations of a small recording set-up, and finding a new way to work as a band...
Jabu’s debut album proper, ‘Sleep Heavy’, arrived in 2017 courtesy of Blackest Ever Black. A sublime, focused meditation on grief and loss written largely by Amos and Al, it marked the debut of Jasmine Butt (aka Guest), adding a further layer of vocal texture to their palette. ‘Sweet Company’, their first album written as a trio (released via their own Do You Have Peace? label), drifted into lighter, more ethereal introspection....

. A celebration of the endless tapestry of interrelated musical connections, it runs parallel to Jabu’s own reinterpretation of their influences. For ‘Boiling Wells’, Amos remembers a diet of “A.R. Kane, Cocteau Twins, DJ Screw, Southern/Memphis rap mixtapes, early 90’s jungle, Karen Dalton, Sybille Baier, Vashti Bunyan, Svitlana Nianio, a lot of soul, Armand Hammer & Alchemist, Grouper, Bobby Caldwell. Jazz was a constant, Japanese, Polish, Latin, American…”. And from those diverse strands, something new and singular has formed, to line up alongside them. 

Some slightly earlier stuff - like a lover's rock Maria Minerva

Affiliated once, or maybe still, with the Young Echo cru 

Neatly, sweetly, described by a Bandcamp commentator: 

It's like if Tricky ran a orphanage and had all of the foster kids from many different backgrounds learn how to make trip hop tunes...but with their own experiences with Punk, reggae, Hip hop, etc...i love this collective.  

Well, of course, now I think about it, Tricky was one of the first artists to get the word "hauntology" affixed to him, right... 

Did really like this first Young Echo album 

Inna GRM stylee 



Stirrings even further afield - in our twin town in Germany, Gespensterland

Local reporter Louis Pattison tells of a compilation on the Bureau B label of spektral sonification: 
"The sound they make blends the contemporary and the traditional, stitching-together archaic instrumentation and modern electronic production techniques, all wrapped up in the influence of folk songs and nursery rhymes, fantasy, and myth. Its makers—who release their surreal and dreamlike music under names like Brannten Schnüre, Kirschstein, and Freundliche Kreisel—sing in their native German about strange and eerie things: hauntings and silences and absences. This sense of mystery is further cultivated by the fact that the people who make this music prefer not to speak publicly about it, refusing conventional press interviews. Perhaps they fear that added context will weaken the unusual energies that move through their music. Ghosts, after all, can’t thrive under the cold light of scrutiny....

"This is meticulous, occasionally mischievous music, dotted with distinctly German cultural reference points. Schoppik’s self-titled debut solo album under the name Läuten der Seele, released in 2002, took samples of Heimatfilme—a post-war genre of German cinema consisting of sentimental morality tales—and gently twisted them into something distinctly unheimlich. There are scattered references to the supernatural and occult. Writing of the experimental sound manipulations he performs as Baldruin, Schebler invokes the psychokinetic activity of the poltergeist, a German term that translates as “noisy spirit.”

Teutonic rendering of "Scarborough Fair" there - cross-contamination of volkisch traditions.

                                                The whole compilation is also audible here

Mr. Pattison notes that the Gespensterland compilation cover is a "blurry image" that appears to capture "a scene from some pagan festival: a flower-wreathed Green Man transplanted onto the streets of suburban West Germany."

Gespensterland, if you are wondering, translates as Ghostland.

All this reminded me of the German on the roster of Ghost Box - ToiToiToi, whose Vaganten I particularly enjoyed, making me think of "Der Plan if they'd formed in 16th Century Swabia


update 12/15 

From our twin town in France - a late addition, via a tip off from Dave Howell:

 PRENDS LE TEMPS D'ECOUTER - Musique d'expression libre dans les classes Freinet / Tape Music, Sound Experiments and free folk songs from Freinet Classes - 1962​/​1982

Before listening I wondered if this was real or whether it was one of those fictitious 'avant music made by schoolkids' releases like D.D. Denham's Electronic Music In the Classroom

After listening... well, I'm still not sure

An earlier release by the same label, Lancepierre, also seems like a prime slice of French hauntology, or at least the kind of thing that would inspire a French hauntology: a reissue titled Outremusique pour enfants 1974​-​1985

Just look at the set-up for the rerelease-rationale:

"In the land of Presidents Giscard and Mitterand, thermal clothing and elbow pads, Sautet films and Sunday roasts, the carpeting of a nursery is strewn with a handful of 7-inches. There, exotic birds and courteous elephants guarding a castle built with cakes form a Front for the Liberation of the Imaginary: colourful, systematically framed illustrations standing out against the cream background of gatefold sleeves… doorways to a maze of sounds at the crossroads between the neatest form of chanson and the most prospective jazz.

"Founded in the course of the 1970s by Philippe Gavardin, the small collection named Chevance is above all the story of buddies who were out and about between the twilight of the Trente Glorieuses and the disenchantment that followed the socialists’ rise to power, gravitating around this mentor known for his kindness and curiosity. Originally a linguist, Gavardin was one of these open-minded intellectuals, with one foot in the Contrescarpe cabarets and the other in step with the avant-garde, combining his apparently classical tastes with a keen interest in the novelties of his time. It is notably with Jean-Louis Méchali—a drummer from the free jazz scene who became Gavardin’s team-mate and arranged a good deal of the releases—that he forged the identity of this series of recordings for the younger generations: musically janus-faced, definitely literary, impregnated with a surrealism that echoed the decade’s psychedelic and libertarian experiments. The label developed a real editorial policy disregarding commercial constraints. Each record took a clear direction: modern fables, bestiaries, musical tales, cookbooks… Words were the backbone and every release was both carefully designed and perfectly manufacture..."

Sunday, November 26, 2023

RIP Geordie


A guitar anti-hero, scalding ears with that sulphuric sound.

Revelations is the peak, for Killing Joke and for Kevin "Geordie" Walker.

"Forbidden was bidden..."

"We were drunk, intoxicate

Revelations is where Killing Joke arrives at itself, brutally shearing off  precursor-traces and exterior inputs.

Which is not to say the journey to absolute individuality is without excitements. 

But they funked more when they stopped trying to be funky.

My favorite of first-phase KJ, a B-side that Peel played incessantly, preferring it to the A-side seemingly.

I did also really like this first EP, especially "Turn To Red"

Levene-isms still very much present (and Wobble-isms for that matter - this tune could be off The Legend Lives On... Jah Wobble in 'Betrayal', if purged of all mirth) 

Alone of any of the other postpunk bands that I saw live in those days, Killing Joke I saw twice.

First time was December 1980, at Friars Aylesbury. (Which means I must have seen The Passions as well - no recollection of that, but I do recall the other support band, UK Decay, as being really good. A bit of an odd "band sandwich", the glassy delicacy of the P's between two proto-Goth outfits).

Second time, just as exciting, was around the Fire Dances tour -  Dunstable, July 1983. 

Loved Fire Dances at the time but it's not one I ever go back to. In fact, I can't remember a single tune off it. Listening again for the first time in decades, it sounds tinny and toned-down compared with Revelations. Geordie's sound doesn't foam out of the speakers...

There's even a slight resemblance to Big Country at moments. While Jaz is getting a bit too Classix Nouveau-y for discomfort. 

By Night Time, I was off the bus completely and their '90s returns-to-fierce-form did not return me to the fold of the faithful. I was more like, "oh, okay - that's nice".  Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions is too try-hard as titles go.  Also, around about this point, Jaz started to come across like a regular sort of socially concerned liberal, aghast at endless Tory rule - "Money Is Not Our God," "Age of Greed". Whereas the actual energies in their music seem far more predatorial and ravenously raptor-like.... 

No, remember them - and remember him -  this way... 

Monday, November 20, 2023

RIP Catherine Christer Hennix


Spinner of one of my favorite sound-spaces of recent times - "The Well-Tuned Marimba".  From Selected Early Keyboard Works

An interview with the composer-performer-poet-mathematician. From 2020, at Tone Glow, conducted by Joshua Minsoo Kim.

Another interview with the composer-performer-poet-mathematician. From earlier this year, at o bo,  conducted by Nora Fulton. 

Catherine Christer Hennix's most recent - possibly final - release, on Blank Forms Editions

Release rationale / bio:

The fourth release in Blank Forms Editions’s initiative to chart the ever-expanding musical practice of Catherine Christer Hennix, Solo for Tamburium captures the composer’s most recent major work. Hennix plays an instrument of her own creation, a keyboard interface controlling a suite of eighty-eight recordings of precision-tuned tambura, creating a sweeping and continuous flow of rich harmonic interplay. This piece, documented in Berlin at MaerzMusik 2017, carefully draws upon the fundamental perceptual effects of sound, forming an exacting and cathartic electronic drone. Densely-layered timbral textures and continuous overtone collisions create a maze-like sonic landscape, thrusting the listener into what Hennix calls divine equilibrium or a distinctionless state of being.

Since the late 1960s, Hennix has created a massive and innovative body of work spanning minimal music, computer programming, poetry, sculpture, and light art—pushing the technical and conceptual boundaries of these media toward singular ends. She was part of the downtown music school in New York and has worked extensively with some of its key figures, including Henry Flynt and La Monte Young. In the ’70s, Hennix studied the nature and use of harmonic sound as a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath, a master of the Kirana tradition of classical Hindustani music. The exceptionally designed tamburas of Pran Nath were central to her intensive investigations, as was the devotional practice of carefully tuning and sounding the instruments in a continuous and even flow—both have guided her work with sound ever since.

In 1976, at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, Hennix presented a pair of groundbreaking works that came to define her ensuing practice. With the Deontic Miracle—a group composed of Hennix, her brother Peter, and the Swedish percussionist Hans Isgren—she performed a series of modal compositions for Renaissance oboes, sheng, and harmonic feedback distortion. On this same occasion she premiered an equally significant body of solo work for keyboard, including the only public presentation of The Electric Harpsichord (1976), a piece that marks the beginning of Hennix’s characteristic style of playing, where dense sonic textures gradually emerge from the multilayered interplay of harmonic construction and dissolution.

Solo for Tamburium represents a pointed revisitation of her endeavor to map the non-gravitational harmonics of modal musics—among them raga, maqam, and the blues—onto a tuned keyboard. Since the debut of this piece in 2017 she has continued to develop the work, reshaping and presenting it in a variety of contexts, including at Blank Forms in New York and the Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection in Paris in 2022. For Hennix, to approach modality as a dynamic process is ultimately a contemplative practice. Through it, embodied attunement to harmonic vibration gives rise to epistemically transformative states, opening new ways of knowing and being.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Biennale for now

 I'm off to Italy for La Biennale di Venezia, where I will be on the panel Futurhythmachine, chatting with McKenzie Wark, Steve Goodman aka Kode9,  and Valerio Mattioli + Valerio Mannucci of Nero Editions.

If you happen to be in town, it's at 11 am on Friday 27th October, at Biblioteca ASAC.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Dream daze

Lovely to speak with Rudy Tambala for the first time in 34 years about A.R. Kane and the wonderful new A.R Kive box of their kore kreation.  The distillate of our 3-hour conversation appears at Pitchfork as this Q+A

Chatting with Rudy by Zoom, I learned a surprisingly large number of things I never knew about the group, which is perhaps odd given how many times I interviewed A.R. Kane back in the day. But then again, in those days I wasn't really a journalist in the conventionally understood sense. I conducted colloquies with musicians that got pretty lofty pretty quickly - and generally gave a wide berth to the nitty-gritty stuff about band formation, biography, etc. The conversations would be written up with no reference to where the interview took place, what the artists looked like or how they dressed, their manner or gestures. A disembodied encounter between spirit-beings. 

Hey, the approach got results! And it suited the sort of ethereal, leave-and-let-loose-the-real-world music I was exalting.  Features that were mutually dreamed between the writer and the group,  rather than reported.  

Nowadays I find it all interesting and all potentially revealing. The facty backgroundy stuff, the recording process, the business side of being a band, almost every aspect pertaining to and surrounding music: it can enrich and, if handled right, it doesn't necessarily have to encumber and deplete the "we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams" element.   


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Harvest Festival edition - Elizabeth Parker, The Stone Tape, Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan, Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology Vol. 2

 Trunk Records recently put out a very nice compendium of short spooky works by long-term local resident Elizabeth Parkerwho'll be familiar to many parishioners from her volunteer work for the Radiophonic Workshop.  The vinyl long-player is called Future Perfect. And what an attractive cover! 

This piece in particular struck me as Caretaker-adjacent in theme and vibe if not texture and method

Release rationale 

Elizabeth Parker is a composer you may not have heard of until now. Well here she is, in all her musical glory, having worked for decades at the front line of British electronics, radiophonics, soundracks and more. This is an album full of musical ideas ahead of the curve, with contemporary technology that was to go on and very much shape the future of sound we know now. From classic tape loop techniques to modern sampling concepts you will find dark ambience, drones, beer adverts and drifts into space. This is the first ever Elizabeth Parker LP and represents (with 26 tracks) a very small retrospective of her extraordinarily prolific and commercial output. Not to be missed.

Ms. Parker back in the day being interviewed about soundtracking The Living Planet

An Electronic Sound interview with Parker, in which she talks about being "the last" Radiophonic composer and also her encounters with Delia Derbyshire. 

Sound on Sound interview about Parker's post-Workshop career 

Underscores and FX that aren't on the Trunk comp 


Something else BBC-vibed... 

Release rationale via Bandcamp:

Christmas Day 2022 marked 50 years since the original broadcast of the ground-breaking BBC supernatural thriller, 'The Stone Tape', written by Nigel Kneale.

In early 2023 Hidden Britain commissioned a group of UK based musicians to produce a new piece of work inspired by this extraordinary 1972 TV film.

The result is a 16 track tape compilation which blends reimagined theme tunes and Radiophonic incidental motifs with dark ambience and hauntological synth explorations.

The artists involved in this release come from some of the finest electronic and experimental labels currently operating in the UK, such as Wayside & Woodland, Clay Pipe, Castles in Space & Spun Out Of Control.

Out in late October, in an edition of 50. 

Limited edition C90 transparent cassette tape with foldout artwork inlay and exclusive sleeve notes by writer and comedian Stewart Lee. Also ships with an exclusive A3 Risograph print on 270gsm Colourset paper.


1. The British Stereo Collective - Written In Stone

2.The Hardy Tree - Chuffy

3.The Heartwood Institute - Taskerlands

4.The Night Monitor - It's In The Computer 02:57

5. Mike Dickinson - Brock's Prayer

6. SWLLWS - There Are Words

7. The Lost Past Society - We're Getting Data All The Time

8. Charles Vaughan - The Summoning

9. Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan - Comparing The Properties Of Stone, Brick And Concrete 03:52

10. Drew Mulholland - The Strange Beyond

11. E.L. Heath - Whiston

12. The Soulless Party - Vigilamus

13. The Metamorph - The Uncertainty Principle

14. The Toy Library - Lethbridge

15. Nicholas Bullen - When They Return

16. The Twelve Hour Foundation - Time's Patina

Now one doesn't want to be a wet blanket - but isn't this kind of thing a teensy bit on the late side? 

Still, perhaps to expect hauntology to be timely, or to evolve, is to misunderstand the genre... ... it wouldn't shuffle off the scene punctually... it would malinger on, fixated on the same totems and  talismans... 

This appears to be Hidden Britain's first audio release - they are a company that sells "handmade signs and print from British Folk Horror and unsettling TV. Film and literature" [sic]. Again, can't help  wondering, looking over their product range, how such a settled canon could still unsettle... 


One of the contributors to The Stone Tape  - Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan -  had a new record out last month, Building a New Town, on Castles in Space.

Release rationale:

"Recently found during the closure of New Town House, Warrington, these tapes formed part of the advertising by the Development Corporation in the early 1970s. Showcasing a more pastoral, rural idyll than the architecture might imply, this represented an opportunity for people from smoke grimed cities to escape into a greener, healthier setting."

The new towns claimed the perfect suburban life in a green paradise with spacious parks and tree-lined boulevards. This chimed with post-hippy ideals of returning to nature and living The Good Life. The music filters through period inspirations such as Pentangle, Mike Oldfield and early Tangerine Dream."

There was also this from earlier in the summer

Artwork for the previous releases:


A last minute addition to the newsletter  - the announcement of Vol. 2 of the Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology! It's out on October 6th. 

Check it out here

Release rationale: 

Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology Vol. 2 – Raidió na hEorpa

This is the second volume of the Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory Anthology, which is a music compilation anthology attempting to preserve the fictional history of a small composer community based in rural Ireland existing from the late 60’s until the late 80’s. The project is written by the Irish composer and artist Neil Quigley.

This second volume in the series is released as a compact disc and  an accompanying 50-page booklet contextualising the organisation and each of the selected tracks in probably too much detail. It is released on the record label Miúin.

Volume 2 of the anthology was influenced by a variety of Irish news stories and cultural ephemera, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, Garry Shandling, and post-war electronic music of the U.S., U.K and Europe.


No videos as yet for the new compilation but here's some reminders of Vol. 1