Saturday, January 19, 2019

collect your self

"Many collectors feel synonymous with the objects they collect and use them to derive or define a sense of self. Though they may not have any objective value, objects collected are seen as uniquely interesting or valuable to the individual collector. Thus as collectors accumulate large numbers of valuable items, they construct the sense that they, too, are valuable by association, i.e., 'The more of this great stuff I accumulate, the more I matter.... [Obsessive collecting] tends to arise out of one (or a combination) of the following three basic human needs: the need for a personal self- definition of worth, the need for a sense of life purpose (or meaning), and the desire for immortality."
psychotherapist Gaelen Billingsley, quoted in this piece by music critic Dave Segal about the trauma of the loss of most of his record collection owing to dodgy removals company 
I have often wondered what would I would feel if by some calamity or other - fire, earthquake, etc - I lost all my records
I would be traumatized, but ultimately I think I would feel strangely liberated
the gift of existential weightlessness bestowed by chance

because right now, all that cumbering lumber of vinyl - painstakingly accumulated, chased, 1000s of man-hours of pursuit invested and embedded in it, the sunk costs of time and libido and life-force pulsating dimly - it is all just sitting there, unused
it is hardly ever played (same goes for the similarly vast accrual of CDs, the cassette tapes also)
because if i want to hear something, it's so much vastly easier to go to Spotify, YouTube, a sharing blog (how often have I downloaded things I already own, simply because it's quicker than trying to find the bloody record or compact disc!), Bandcamp, Soundcloud, et al
so what is the point of keeping all this stuff?

(50 percent of which isn't even here, directly accessible, but in storage, in New York)
since i don't have the will, or the time, to part with it voluntarily - to convert it into useful cash, or even to just have it hauled off by some charity
an act of Fate would do the job, and perhaps do me a favor
not that i'm asking for it, not at all  -  i still am fatally attached to these things, to the delusion of ownership and the counter-factual delusion that "you can take it with you oh yes you can"
the lady therapist is right in implying that to collect and to hold on to things (which chronic obsessive downloading is still an extension of, and in which OCD patterns I'm still enmeshed, hunter-gathering, turning YouTube and Vimeo into audio files - a new frontier of exploration, new vistas of long out of print or never even properly issued in the first place - e.g. soundtracks to experimental films and animations) - to do that is a vote of confidence in the idea that you have enough time left in your life to listen to these things
to download - as I might well do in a particularly OCD day - more hours of listening than would actually fit into that day, in excess of 24 hours of listening  - is a reality-denying, finitude-refusing act of faith in an infinitely prolonged and expansive future for the listening self
as said much more pithily by Schopenhauer:

"We love to buy books because we think we’re buying the time to read them.”

Another piece by Segal, on the theme of "I Collect, Therefore I Am"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

the dream of the Nineties is alive in... Chelmsford?

well, a dream of a Nineties

from Jon Caramanica's New York Times profile of the Angloid emo-rapper Ratboy

"A couple of months ago, the 22-year-old musician who records as Rat Boy rented a huge empty warehouse a short walk to a lovely little stream and a slightly longer walk to a small black sign leaning against a decayed wall that reads FARM TOILET. Here, slowly, he, his father, and brother have been building out the raw space into a place — inspired by the Beastie Boys’ old G-Son Studios in Los Angeles — where he can work, and also play.

A few days before Christmas, it was mostly empty save for a roughly fashioned studio. On one wall was a Public Enemy “Fear of a Black Planet” poster. On a shelf was an autographed vinyl copy of the Beastie Boys’ “Hello Nasty.” On the center table, an old issue of the Beasties’ publication Grand Royal and some obscure graffiti magazines. Up against the wall, a small-scale screen printing rig and several of Cardy’s ghoulishly realistic illustrations. Sitting on a pallet under a blanket was an Amek Einstein console, the same kind that the Dust Brothers used to work on, that Cardy bought for about 6,000 pounds on the internet from Peru. It’s the most money he’s ever spent on anything, he said, but he still wasn’t sure it worked....

The 1990s are the leading touchstone for Cardy, who has studied the era with loving devotion and built a specific, refined aesthetic from it: “It’s a bunch of people that are around my age making something for themselves. I love the way stuff looks — making their own magazines, the music, being motivated to put stuff out,” he said, slumped in a chair wearing a Supreme bottle cap T-shirt, his hair pink and scraggly. “They did everything right, but did they know they were doing it right?”

“I kind of see Jordan as the nexus of what was happening in the ’90s when punk and hip-hop were blowing up,” said Brett Gurewitz, the founder and chief executive of Epitaph Records, which is releasing “Internationally Unknown” via its Hellcat imprint. “Rat Boy is the embodiment of that time.”

... When he became curious about music, YouTube was his university. “I used to watch thousands of videos,” he said.

Cardy’s natural artistic curiosity was buttressed by a creeping sense of outsiderness. “When I was in school when I was a kid, I did feel like there were not, like, people that were into the same stuff,” he said. “Everyone was into what was happening around here, and I’m just liking [expletive] that happened 20 years ago.”

...  One of the first people in the music business he met was Drew McConnell, who plays bass in the British band Babyshambles (which is fronted by Pete Doherty) and was introduced to Cardy’s music by an intern at his publishing company. Before long, McConnell was setting up management and label meetings for Cardy, who was sleeping on his sofa.

“He had obviously listened to a lot of records,” McConnell said. “The way he would sing would remind me of Elvis Costello, or Robert Smith from the Cure. But at the same time he’s a huge hip-hop fan.”

Wait a minute, I'm confused here - he's 90s-redux and 90s-obsessed, but he sounds like New Wave?

And elsewhere in the piece as Caramanica does his breakdown of constituent parts, it sounds even more atemporal and mish-mashed:

"This month Cardy will release the second Rat Boy album, “Internationally Unknown,” a high-energy collision of punk convulsion and hip-hop storytelling full of raucously fun, sharp-tongued songs about slackerdom, resistance and disorderly joy. It’s shaped by late 1970s punk with flickers of dub, nods to 1990s hip-hop (and also the early 2000s English rapper the Streets), and embraces the musical exuberance of 2000s pop-punk.

Which is to say, it is an extremely of-the-moment amalgam, refusing to draw distinctions between genres. It’s also part of a long continuum of British punk that looks for kinship in black music and part of a wider re-engagement with the 1990s as source material."

Further confusing me

"In person, Cardy is gentle and soft-edged. But on both his first and second records, his attitude is consistent: a permanently extended middle finger to authority, and a robust sense of working class agitation."

What working class kid in his very early twenties can afford to drop 6000 quid on a vintage studio console? Because it was used by the Dust Bros?

He's certainly obsessed with the Dust Bros, whose claim to fame eludes me (Pauls Boutique? that Urge Overkill album?)

"Cardy went to Los Angeles and spent six weeks working with Armstrong at the Boat, once the studio of the Dust Brothers. (John King of the Dust Brothers also worked on the new album.)

This stuff about his dad Brett also puzzles me - 

"Cardy recalled how Brett never pushed him to pursue things he didn’t feel strongly about, like schoolwork: “It’s always been, like, do what you want to do.” They spoke about Cardy’s music and the unlikeliness of his performance intensity, joked about living in close quarters and celebrated hating authority. Recalling when Cardy was first learning to race cars, Brett explained his hands-off parenting philosophy, which felt like the foundation for all of Cardy’s subsequent life choices. “Just let him crash,” Brett said. “He ain’t going to do it twice."

Is it rebellion / slackerdom / DIY if you learn it from your dad? Or am I being old fashioned here, myself?


also on the topic of different kinds of Nineties, a Nineties you might have barely intersected with, and "is this even the Nineties we're talking about here"? -  just got this press release through the mail, for a Hip Hop Brunch thrown by an organisation called  -

Whether you’re the ultimate ’90s fan or you just really like gettin’ jiggy wit it, this affair isn’t to be missed. The 90s Brunch’s entertainment this weekend has been seasoned with the spiciest nostalgic flavourings in the cupboard. We're talking glitter, transfer tattoos, lip-sync battles, dance-offs, and a full soundtrack that pays homage to the best decade ever. Now how’s that for 90’s nostalgia?

And you can’t forget the best part – a lip smackin’ three-course meal and an hour (yes, an hour) of bottomless cocktails – that should really get you in the mood to dance (or roller skate) like it's 1990.
Held on Saturday, Jan 19th from 12-5pm at a secret London venue, this brunch is guaranteed to be the best day-party out there.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

the Ice age

“I call it the lost generation, because from 2000 to 2017, nothing really defines that whole generation in pop culture. Like, how would you look back at 2000 to 2017 and remember anything? How would you see somebody wearing some gear and say, ‘Hey, that’s gotta be from 2014?’ There’s no music there, there’s no pop culture, there’s no fashion that defines the generation. I look at the Nineties like it’s the last truly great decade." -  Vanilla Ice

That's like a vernacular version of the Gospel according to K-Punk and Simonretromania being ventriloquized through Vanilla Ice's mouth there!

Ice is quoted in this piece by Rob Sheffield for Rolling Stone about Nineties revivalism, the Nineties nostalgia circuit that Ice and others are doing very nice business on, and decade-consciousness.

Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray also quoted on the Nineties:

“It was the last heyday of the music business. When you were a kid in your garage, you could pick up a guitar and dream of being part of that. I compare it to these young kids playing basketball, wanting to be in the NBA – then all of a sudden the NBA disappears, and the NFL disappears. Now people are still playing basketball, but it’s the local rec league; people are still playing football, but you gotta go find some guys and get some games together. The infrastructure of stardom is gone. So you look back on that – not just as a business, but romantically. ‘Boy, that was fun, going to Tower Records to see what’s new, watching MTV for a world premiere.'”

Sheffield lays on McGrath this idea of Nineties as the last proper Decade with a sense of itself c.f. first two decades of the 21st Century being Zeigeist-ly amorphous:
 “Right – what would you call it, the Noughties? The 2000s? No one knows what to call it. No one knows when it started or ended. It took a while for the stink of the Nineties to go away, because nothing replaced it. The industry imploded, so there weren’t new bands coming up. Name the last rock star. The top ten touring bands in Pollstar – it was still the Chili Peppers, it was still Soundgarden – God rest his soul, Chris Cornell – it was still the Dave Matthews Band. Nothing replaced the Nineties, even though the decade was over.”
This doesn't seem true to me, seems a bit of a self-serving fiction - there are plenty of definitively 21st Century pop stars, some of whom have taken on and taken over the old functions of rockstardom (excess, outrage, political statements, being taken seriously / taking themselves very seriously) ....  indeed Rockism is alive and well in pop itself, ironically (and boringly)... rock anthems of the 21st Century is a shrinking category, true... guitars are rarely heard in the Top 40, for sure....

As for the no-feel-to-2000s/2010s ... I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer to see if early-Noughties nostalgia kicks in. Won't be long now, if the 'stalgia is already settling in on the late Nineties, eve of Y2K moment.

YeahI wouldn't be surprised if a certain look (to clothes, hair) and feel 'n' finish to entertainment products will start to become apparent as we move into the future - something we couldn't put our finger on at the time, what with the welter of revivalism and pastiche

the clunkiness of an era becomes its charm

(although films and TV of the late Eighties and early Nineties often look really shit)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

retro, you know the scores (running with the Pakula)

Watching Homecoming - an addictive new podcast-sourced show - I really enjoyed the Pakula / 1970s paranoid thriller vibe to the camera work: the aerial, hovering, Panopticon / surveillance-vibe shots,  the decor and locations (sterile office interiors of huge looming scale, with that cold strip-lighting look - cf. newsrooms of All the President's Men),  the new-built buildings and soul-less exurban perimeter zones.

There even seemed to be a deliberately Pakula-esque vibe to the music, with certain motifs redolent of the eerie-voice refrains in Klute.

Well it turns out that was even more the case than I thought.

Via Bruce Levenstein, this piece explains how director Sam Esmail deliberately repurposed underscores and motifs from 1970s thrillers (and some later films in a similar vein), despite the enormous cost of doing so.

After learning that, with the later episodes I've spotted a recycled swathe of ruminative, melancholy jazz used in The Conversation (that bit at the end when the Gene Hackman character is thoroughly defeated, hoist by his own surveillance-expert petard etc) and an imposing, stately fanfare (evocative of power and its untouchability) that I'm pretty certain is from All the Presidents's Men or The Parallax View.

But the rest have been more elusive, vaguely redolent of Carpenter or Michael Small but hard to pin to specific.

Ah, stop press - also via Bruce Levenstein - a piece at Indiewire that gives  a detailed breakdown of what soundtrack motifs were recycled in Homecoming - turns out I'm right about The Conversation, Klute and All the President's Men. Lots of good-taste choices, including The Andromeda Strain OST by Gil Melle


Friday, November 2, 2018

haunted haystacks and ghosts in the garden

Anybody seen this? Any cop?

At Pop Matters, John A. Riley writes:

"Arcadia compiles footage from the British Film Institute's sprawling national archive to create an impressionistic collage film about rural Britain...

"... Paul Wright's film is primed to be received in the context of two related phenomena: Hauntology and Folk Horror. Both represent new ways of thinking about our relationship to time and place, and of finding the sinister within the everyday, the former by emphasizing repressed pasts and failed futures, the latter by emphasizing sinister textures and themes lurking below the surface of Britain's rural communities. However, it may be equally if not more helpful to think of Arcadia as a sculpture done in paracinema: countless hours of public service announcements, promotional and instructional videos, and amateur-shot footage, are here given an unruly second lease of life....

"...  a dizzying assemblage of bucolic, folkloric footage; maypole dancing and sundry village festivities that wouldn't look out of place in The Wicker Man, harvesting crops, hunting, bucolic landscapes. Occasionally footage from a well-known narrative film, such as an unmistakable glimpse of Helen Mirren from Herostratus, is thrown into the mix.... 

".... The film doesn't present the archive footage chronologically, which means that a variety of formats, from badly damaged silent-era film to pristine 35mm, to home formats such as VHS and Super 8, all brush up against each other to dizzying, sometimes foreboding effect. The film works by associating, linking things in a montage chain that, in one example, goes from the pageantry of traditional village celebrations such as Morris dancing and 'Obby 'Oss festivals, to the '60s counterculture, exemplified by a patronizingly interviewed hippy who says he celebrates love "by doing psychedelic freakouts every now and again" to more recent times, through images of the kind of barnyard raves beloved by the '80s/'90s rave generation, as the soundtrack works itself up into a relentless pulse.... 

" Arcadia is a frequently fascinating, often unsettling look at traditions and places that can often feel like they are vanishing before our eyes."

Feel both allured and also faintly fatigued by the prospect - like this really should be the absolute last word on terrain that is well ploughed by this point... 
- perhaps even whatever comes after the last word.... 

Riley also praises the score by Portishead's Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp's Will Gregory.... 

"The eclectic score, at times evoking Debussy, at other times sounding like '90s lounge music revival (not surprising given its composers), and at one point breaking out into an ominously-tinged '70s bovver rock stomp, is worthy of serious standalone consideration..."

Anything even slightly connected to the stench of Goldfrapp I'm a bit sceptical about....