Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"When hell is full the dead will dance on your iPhone" -   really interesting review of Retromania at Datacide by lfo demon aka Hans-Christian Psaar -- lots of issues and questions raised, and many great sentences

just one of the points, from the footnotes:

"If you are searching for a sphere where the past is still fading away – it is software. There are niches like Retro gaming, but in the mainstream there is still a clear model of historic progress. And everything outside this ends at the digital junkyard"

- that is very true and it relates to things some other folk have suggested to me, e.g. this young man Ashley Bodenham who, talking about feeling an exhaustion with music, said that he'd "turned away from hoping for a really new music and turned to videogames because I think they manage to avoid both the retro and content overload culture; there is a retro tendency in videogames but I think that runs parallel with pretty exciting never seen before things and I also think most people still buy games and they are quite expensive so you tend to commit yourself to them, which is what turned me off seeking out new music, the endless options and easy access"

This got me thinking about my 13 year old, who has minimal affect as regards music (he likes it;  I don't think he would ever buy it) but who is a fanatic for games (and for anything to do with computers - apps, social media, etc). What I find faintly heartening is that, despite the non-interest in music, there's still a chip-off-the-old-block aspect at work, in so far as he's still caught up in that same psychology of obsession, which is inseparably coupled with obsolescence.

So there's that quasi-modernist linearity within which he exists, like I did as a teenager (and subsequently continued to do during my unnaturally extended adolescence, which still isn't fully ended, for better or worse).  A linear propulsion driven by the superceding and discarding of the passé;  a constant moving on, fueled by a restless insatiable desirousness for the "new". This lends his life  a sense of acceleration, that irritable excitement based in the double-sided syndrome of  anticipation / impatience. However the units of obsession and neophiliac fixation are much more expensive than records.... and whereas a certain percentage of music bought tends to survive as abiding favorites, joining the permanent collection, the stockpile of future nostalgia... with the games and other digital pleasure tech, in most cases it does seem to get outmoded rapidly and ruthlessly  (e.g. his Wii, which  sits idle and dust-covered in the bedroom upstairs,bereft and wholly abandoned).  So while he and I can both be accurately and fairly described as dupes of the capitalist entertainment complex, in his case the cost is quite a bit higher and the losses less recoupable.  (I also, of course, feel that music is emotionally and spiritually richer than games;  that music points to things outside itself - the portal syndrome -- much more than the gameworld does. But that is doubtless me being trapped inside my generational biases, being someone who simply missed the whole games thing altogether). 

What is really interesting, though, is that for my son (and his generation?), while he stills lives inside this propulsive linearity of chasing the new and the latest, the concept of "the future" doesn't seem to exist for him. Nor in fact does "space", as in "outer space", the Beyond.  (Like "future", space = Jameson's "desire called utopia").  

Everything that is happening, all the action, is going on inside -- literally indoors, but also inside the non-space or post-space in which things like Minecraft (his big obsession - I should say, current obsession) take place.  I observe in him, with fascination but also concern, a non-cathexis towards the Outer, the Outside as a phenomenological category. The sky seems to hold no special fascination for him. But then perhaps that makes sense: what after all would be the point in projecting out towards something that will remain unreachable in our lifetimes?  


and here's some nostalgia for the phuture that Datacide crew might find acceptable

Saturday, April 27, 2013

the frozen frontier

"There’s a sense in which Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 argument about how the idea of the frontier shaped American history can apply to the entire modern project. Exploration, expansion, the promise that a better life was just a long voyage away — all of these helped fuel the sense of historical mission, the assumption of perpetual progress, which shaped and defined the modern age. Go back and read the science fiction of the 1940s and ’50s, and you’ll be struck by the vaulting confidence that this expansion would continue upward and outward, and that a new age of exploration was just waiting to be born.Today that confidence has vanished. Our Mars rovers are impressive and our billionaires keep pouring money into private spaceflight, but neither project captures the public’s imagination, and the very term “Space Age” seems antique. "

from a NYT column by Ross Douthat about the discovery this month of not one but two Earth-like planets circling the star Kepler 62

"The Kepler 62 discovery might have earned more headlines at a less horrific moment [i.e. the week of the Boston marathon bombing and the Texas explosion] but it would have fallen out of the news soon enough. It’s possible that we’re less interested in space travel because we feel that it’s a luxury good at a time when we have bigger problems here on Earth. But it’s also possible that we’ve gradually turned inward, to our smartphone screens and Facebook profiles, because we know that spaceflight isn’t going to get us to another world anytime soon

"Obviously exploration is not a cure for unhappiness or evil. But it can be an antidote to the mix of anxiety and exhaustion that seems to permeate the developed world these days.And after a week as grimly claustrophobic as this one... it seems worth hoping that the human desire for wider horizons — for new worlds to wonder at, reach for and understand — will someday be fulfilled again. 

"Time to get to work on that warp drive."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Debt-dude David Graeber speaks at length:  On Bureaucratic Technologies & The Future as Dream-Time

Blurb - "The twentieth century produced a very clear sense of what the future was to be, but we now seem unable to imagine any sort of redemptive future. How did this happen? One reason is the replacement of what might be called poetic technologies with bureaucratic technologies. Another is the terminal perturbations of capitalism, which is increasingly unable to envision any future at all."

(via Carl Neville)

Reminded me I meant to link to this Frieze dialogue between Franco 'Bifo' Berardi,  author of After the Future, and Mark Fisher, author of forthcoming Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures

Thursday, April 18, 2013

interesting post by Ian Hogarth on hip hop's changing relationship with its own past

he sees it as having become (lyrically) less allusive, with MCs much less likely to made an interpolative quote-nod to hallowed ancestors....

has hip hop been claimed perhaps by atemporality / "the endless digital now"?

certainly trap, ratchet, radio rap etc seem pretty line with the NOW!ism of EDM and Top 40 dancepop alike

Ian offers various speculations as to why...

one thought: the loss  of a sense of the past, while it seems like ought to free you from History's burdens and open the way for the future ... it doesn't really seem to work like that

in fact having a sense of history seems to be essential in order to move forwards -- without a sense of the past-ness of the past, it seems you can't project into the future (science fiction, true science fiction as opposed to space fantasy, is the historical method flipped around and projected forwards)

NOW!-ism / atemporality is really the uncoupling of the present from the dialectical chain that carries music/culture/civilisation from the past to the future

c.f. the hardcore continuum, where "roots n' future" consciousness is precisely what enabled the music to keep pushing forward... it's as if the past, tradition, etc served as steps in a stairway that you climbed onwards and upwards -- you pushed down on the past, and that pushed you forwards...

roots 'n' future = defining temporality of black music of all kinds (funk/soul/R&B, hip hop, reggae too obviously   -- where the past is recycled, pragmatically, put to service in the present -- old riddims, anthemic refrains, etc)

until now?

noticeable that in the last ten years we've not heard much from dancehall -- it hasn't thrown anything much our way, as it were...   has its R 'n' F dialectic disintegrated too? is it stuck on a gym treadmill, going around and around...


unconnected,  really, except that a parallel quest for something else while reading Ian's post, checking emails, led me to it ....

Monday, April 15, 2013

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - # 43

"... and everybody knows the ‘web’ as it used, quaintly, to be called, exists to contain obscenities or excesses of feeling we don’t know what else to do with.  An accumulation of problems that cannot be solved, of things from the past and undead things with which we live, in these times, perhaps more intimately than any age has ever lived with what is no longer contemporary, what is no longer merely alive, and with what has finally become, more than ever, truly timeless"--Ariana Reines

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Creative technology has slowed while social and information distribution technology has swelled. Everyone is making music on similar devices and pirated software at this point (the days of scrounging up whatever drum machines that fell off of the back of a truck are behind us). And everyone is studying the same YouTube tutorials to achieve the same tone of high-brow refinement. Whereas artists once worked blindly in their individual bubbles, they’re now equipped with the same instruction manuals and a uniform set of tools. Thus, replication and refinement are the mottos of the day, at the expense of all the amazing mistakes that used to come with the act of simply getting in there and figuring it out. Now that it's theoretically as easy to make something that's pretty as it is to make something that's not, how will rap ever be ugly again?

-- interesting, vaguely retromania / "innovation-drought" related thought in a recent Pitchfork piece by Andrew Nosnitsky that mostly concerns the sonics of recent hip hop and how creative error and aestheticized mistakes have largely disappeared from the genre

that chimes, albeit dissonantly, with a point I made in this interview (flagging an upcoming lecture at the Corcoran art college in Washington, D.C.) about how  digiculture had rendered the aesthetic of DIY irrelevant, just a style to be adopted as a retro choice rather than as the "natural" byproduct of trying to express oneself through limited means:

"I’m.. not sure that the equation between “do it yourself” and “untrained” holds anymore, if “untrained” is meant to signify amateurish, messy, raw, etc. Because digital facilitation software means that you can produce really glossy, polished, professional sounding and looking stuff at minimal cost. To be lo-fi, ragged, etc. is a deliberate aesthetic choice, a refusal of professionalism—in some ways more contrived than just letting your progams tidy up your work. The kind of “brut”-like authenticity or raw power that was once attributed to unfinished or messy, defective music/art/etc.—that equation no longer works, I don’t think. If you listen to a lot of “underground” (another word that is increasingly vaporous and unstable these days) music, it’s actually pretty slick and shiny."

(first part of the interview here)

 in other words, "ugly" doesn't signify what it once used to, what N seems to half-hope it still could if we all refused the sterilising and standardising software i.e. gritty, realness, underground, authentic, street, subaltern

then again, while an "insufferable plasticine cleanness" could be said to be ubiquitous in pop from top to bottom, a high-definition sharpness brightness crispness....   there are also clearly new forms of digital-specific "ugly" that have emerged -- particular kinds of distortion and overload due to compression (sidechain, brickwall limiting, etc), clipping, AutoTune fuckery, the maxed out / "crest of burn out" aesthetic as dissected by It's Her Factory...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chiming with the previous post about science-as-religion, cultural theorist Nick Katranis pops up in my in-box with  some "random thoughts stimulated" by one of the Retromania footnotes, specifically the bit about rock being neither modernist nor postmodernist but both at the same time...  Footnote bits in bold, NK in italics:

--And because of its lack of rigour, its intellectual laxness, rock artists can hold both sets of values simultaneously, without feeling any sense of contradiction.

....as well they should!  As a painter for 30 years I've always resented the Timeline. Post-Modernism's conceit is that it is not just post-Modern but post-historical is just that: nonsense. The same game is engaged.  Science (logical exegesis) forces intellectuals out of the business of "eternals", the domain of art.  Art schools are full of  self-loathing linguists, politically-inclined psychotherapists, but few artists.  "Craft" is considered an anachronism.  The hand-eye connection is an anachronism?  Something has to break here.  The body has been kicked out except as a concept.

How about "Post-Science"? Science (logic, space-time) is a religion, and it's not adequate. Industrialization, its product, is showing the first few signs of the end of its "empire" in those who now resist the obviation of technologies: the revival of emulsion-based film making, organic farming, etc.  "Retromania" is at least partly a resistance to a morbid acceleration: the cancer of endlessly updated tools.  Seriously: If all the technological tools we had now were all we would have for the next 100 years, would that be some disaster? Would civilization stagnate and rot? Accelerating "Progress" of the sort we've witnessed from the '50's to now has become cancerous, out-of-control metastacy displacing all else.

--Did my generational cohort pin all its hopes for changes on music, in a fatal displacement, a terrible evasion?  Music became indexed in an intense libidinal way with all those impulses and desires for progress, the Future, upheaval, revolution...

Well I think consumerism displaced that through co-option....but I don't think it died.  This smarter end of this generation of kids instinctively feel that. 

I truly feel that the "Sixties" (1962-1973, or something like that) was a dry-run. It was not "successful".  It was the first iteration of a wave, the next wave to come--I think inevitable--given the dire economic situation world-wide currently being dangerously delayed by banks (Etc.)  I believe that the Occupy movement was global information-infrastructure-building---which could be egaged in a flash, given the right spark (the intolerable action).  Most past revolutions have taken about 10 years to bloom from seed-days, but with info acceleration I'm sure that timeline is shortened.  My 20-something friends are wildly informed and self-deprogrammed (aware of propaganda forms), so much more than I in my 20's.

Eno said something in an interview (on a Crepuscule compilation you prob. have) about innovation being approx. 90% existing content, those elements which you do NOT want to discard as you move forward....could not Retromania be an instinctive stock-taking of that which we do not want to leave behind in this race to the future?  A kind of prudent fear?  Or rather, resentment? And not just by older folks?

The Phil Zone, acerbic, on Technological Progress and Science-as-Saviour as the "tattered gospel" preached by BBC's Horizon -- which is really "one of the UK's top religious programmes"-- focusing specifically on an episode that extols "data mining":

"From what I can glean, data mining can apparently help mitigate petty crime in a city awash with crime and close to social collapse. It can shave additional profit from a financial system that is almost entirely built on numerical fictions and abstractions. It can possibly do something useful with preventing genetic illness if our health system doesn't collapse. It can map out a cosmos we're never going to visit.

"This is not exactly hypersonic airliners and moon bases, is it? What isn't acknowledged here is just how low science and technology's sights have fallen. Data mining should really be called data scavenging, depending as it often does on figures recorded decades, perhaps centuries ago. It also reveals that science itself is well into the scavenging phase of its arc of decline, where, like an uninspired Indie band, it increasingly has to look into the overlooked or unexamined corners of the past in order to locate fruitful possibilities."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hauntologists taking the piss, or hauntologists having the piss taken out of them?

"Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. "Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay." For more information please reread."

Jolly well done, either way:


 (via Our God Is Speed)

Ah, an interview with the creator Richard Littler indicates that in fact Scarfolk is in the sincerely-humorous spirit of imaginary towns like Ghost Box's Belbury or Moon Wiring Club's Clinksell, with  pedagogical/paternalistic imagery in the same vein as The Advisory Circle, D.D. Denham's electronic music for schools, etc

Still, as one commenter notes in the box at the bottom of that Creative Review interview, it's a wee bit disconcerting that neither Littler nor the interviewer acknowledges the precursors: "I  do very much enjoy Scarfolk, but I am surprised the questioning didn't ask how it related to earlier explorers of the same ideas (Look Around You, Ghost Box, Mordant Music's Disinformation remix of Public Information films for the BFI)...".  It is presented as if all this just occurred to Littler out of the blue.

But perhaps that's just a sign of our recursive / anterograde amnesia / Groundhog Day culture, that something that's already been around once or twice, can keep coming back again?

There is something appropriately undead about hauntology and its sister genre hypnagogic.

The dialectical march of music really ought to have superceded them by now (eight years on in the case of hauntology, even if we don't count precursors like Position Normal or Boards of Canada or Mount Vernon;  five or six years on in the case of hypnagogia). And yet they keep on coming: there's a new, excellent Focus Group album out next month;  vaporwave was hypnagogic 2.0;  Prince Rama's ghost modernism = hauntology merged with hypnagogic merged with stargaze...

The dialectic is precisely what has broken down in music, replaced by hyperstasis, or should that be hipsterstasis... 

Anyway, for now, feast your eyes....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

At the forefront of the concept-music trend, Prince Rama have announced Never Forever, a "Now Age psych-opera” movie based on songs from their Top Ten Hits of the End of World of late last year. On that "pseudo-compilation album" the Brooklyn sisters-duo "invented ten different pop bands that died during the apocalypse, channeling the ghosts of each one to perform the various songs", in order to explore "music’s relationship to memory, nostalgia, and the spirit world". A sort of future anterior / prospective hauntology, maybe: Prince Rama "filter[ing] each sound through the destroyed lens of a post-apocalyptic future looking back at the wonders of its sonic past....  a retrospective requiem of all pop albums ever made...  its residual echoes will continue to haunt this world and the next"

Conceptually, it's a gas, then, and any band that comes forth with a manifesto deserves a round of applause.

But in practice...

C.f. James Ferraro and the redundancy of his recent attempts at uncanny-fication of contemporary R&B and rap (superflous given that Rap / R&B are already the Simulacrum, abject psychological seepage from the Social Id, Baudillard's "ob-scene" etc), the thing about Prince R's articulation of the  ritualistic, pagan, psychotic, apocalyptic etc undercurrents in modern glitz-pop ("ghost-modern glam" as Prince R snappily dub it) is that these aren't actually undercurrents at all: they don't need exposing or amplifying or "bringing out" via some sort of of conceptual-parodic commentary.  This stuff is all right there on the surface, in plain view....  What could be more unsane, idolatrous, ceremonial, etc than a Beyonce spectactular *, a Britney/Will.i.am or Gaga video? 

It's all a bit redolent of how the art-world typically engages with pop, as if the simple re-presenting of pop within that context somehow supplies an extra layer of value, a whole other dimension.  Which covers over over the true facts of the matter: Art (however sincere in their motives and genuine in their pop-admiration the individual specific artists are) vampirically extracting surplus value for itself through associating itself with the vital, actively-out-there-in-the-world power of pop.

The other thing is that the underground literally can't compete with the overground, on a simple budgetary level...  it's like Guatamela's military trying to take on China. Never Forever does look to be a big step up from the amateur aesthetic of the video for the album's lead single "So Destroyed" (visually redolent of Miracles Club's "Church Song", sonically reminiscent of The Raincoats circa "Animal Rhapsody"). But even so, we're talking Fischerspooner circa 2002 really...

* ha, wrote this and I didn't even realise there was a whole Illuminati symbolism conspiracy theory out there about Beyonce's Superbowl extravaganza...