Sunday, August 4, 2013

chairs growing / VW as hip hop

What do you mean by hybrid theories? In press for Badlands, a lot of people were asking me if I’d read this book called Retromania which is talking about how our generation of musicians is just kind of useless and all based on references and not really creating anything new. I was reading this other book called The Utopia of Sound, which kind of counters that theory. It’s talking about how eventually, because it’s referencing so much, music will just encompass everything. It will embody all music. The more hybrids that we create, the more consolidated it becomes. The hip-hop music sample brought classic rock, jazz and classical music into this weird new thing, and then people who grew up listening to hip-hop, like me, [use sampling] to make music that’s not hip-hop. Like this new album I made, even though it doesn’t have any samples, the way I did it is very much like a hip-hop record. I make a loop, I play the drum machines, drum pads, and then a bass line, loop it, then have keyboards–stacking stuff, like a grid. Every record I’ve made is kind of like that. I think eventually I’ll create something new. 

When you say you’re working on creating a new language, are you saying that appropriating sounds from the past can actually be a way of looking toward the future? Yeah, I think in all fairness, Retromania, that book, has a lot of strong points, because there are bands that are like, Oh I want to look like a ’70s post-punk band, and they only dress like that. Those kinds of bands, they’re not bringing anything new. There’s no hybridity to it; it’s just copying something, formula by formula. I think that book is describing those bands. But there’s a lot of interesting musicians in this generation, like Hype Williams and Dean Blunt. Andy Stott—what a great musician. This weird electronic producer called Todd Terje. People are kind of taking out the parts they don’t like in a genre and then combining it or replacing that with genres that they like. I don’t think anything is original, it’s always building off of something that existed in the past. And chairs, too, I think. Is having a chair retro? Chairs have existed for so long, and what have we done with it? We’re just making it better and better, like more comfortable or more stylistic. That’s it.

(from Emilie Friedlander's interview with Dirty Beaches 's Alex Zhang Hungtai for The Fader)

Well of course "transtemporal hybridity" is one of the more hopeful ideas in Retromania, a strategy that mostly ends up with frenetic hyperstasis (a/k/a diversely derivative-ness) but occasionally pointing to the unforeheard ("Diplomat's Son", Oneohtrix Point Never,Gang Gang Dance's  "it's everything time"). Also the idea of sampling-without-samples is mentioned in re. the hip hop influence on Vampire Weekend.

Chairs! This argument cropped up, out of my own mouth, in the early interviews for Retromania, i.e.  "maybe rock music has reached the situation of chair, the most effective and efficient design for it having been settled upon some while ago, with only minimal scope for improvements"
Indeed I aired this idea at the ICA event for Retromania in June 2011. And got the most surprising response. A woman in the audience, hostile to the premise of the book, mentioned, as a sort of warming-up aside to her main angle of attack, that she knew some people who were working on growing chairs  (so, implicit resort: even the field of chair-manufacture is roaring with innovation, you aged fuckwit, let alone music!). I was so taken aback that I forgot to ask for more information about this experimental outfit who were attempting to grow a chair.  Anybody out there who can help with more info? It still intrigues me, in a vaguely disquieting, triffid-like way.

Back to sampling-without-sampling and the hip hop influence on Vampire Weekend, here's an exhaustive breakdown of hip hop references, influences and parallels in re. the oeuvre of VW from MoMilli, editor of Rap Genius.  Fascinating, although it could easily be used as the case for the prosecution.

Listened a bunch of time to Modern Vampires on a long car journey, and still not really feeling it.  Lots of good bits (a mad flustered drum beat here, a winsome twirl of vocal there). But overall, musically,  it's  exquisitely crafted nothing.  Same applies to the lyrics, minus the exquisitely.  I recall that Lloyd Cole claimed as his own special innovation the adjectival use of the proper noun in rock lyrics (e.g. from Rattlesnakes, "you look like Eva Marie Saint / in On the Waterfront" etc.  On Modern Vampires, Koenig does whatever the opposite of innovation is - the terminal inverse of it, the final wringing out and exhaustion of a lyrical technique. 
I wonder if it's true, though, what Cole said? Didn't Costello do it first? (Or even Bryan Ferry?)
Reminds me that the most interesting bit of the Rap Genius piece riffs off of Koenig's contention that UK New Wave artists like Costello  and Squeeze had their own sorta rap-like flow (non-mention of Ian Dury is a bit of an ommision though) 

"Koenig, who is said to have written his Columbia admissions essay about Nick Drake, has likened British New Wave artists like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and Nick Lowe to their own rap sub-genre. He seems to be referring to their dense internal rhyme about class scrappiness. Compare a verse Koenig once cited from Costello's "The Loved Ones" ("Don't get smart or sarcastic/He snaps back just like elastic/Spare us the theatrics and the verbal gymnastics/We break wise guys just like matchsticks") to "Check your handbook, it's no trick/Take the chapstick, put it on your lips/Crack a smile, adjust my tie" in "Oxford Comma," which otherwise recalls Costello's "This Year's Girl." He eschews popular Squeeze ("Tempted") for deeper cuts, but "Cool for Cats" is among their better known songs for the vibe he's talking about."

"I think eventually I’ll create something new."  I would say he's got a little way to go yet... the new album is laden with Suicide circa "Frankie Teardrop" pasticherie

This one is pointing in the right direction at least

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