Saturday, December 31, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #11

"This is a parable for every individual among us. He must organize the chaos in himself by recalling in himself his own real needs…. He begins then to grasp that culture can still be something other than a decoration of life"

-- Friedrich Nietzche contra the ETSY-ification of underground music, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, 1873

Friday, December 30, 2011

further to my "is rock finally dead then?" query here

jon caramanica states the obvious, but states it starkly and sharply, and it's a point well worth making:

mainstream rock (he means rock released on US major labels, regardless of whether it's from the US or not, played on mainstream radio) is

"a musical universe in crisis like no other, full of old bands spinning their wheels, praying for one more summer out under big-tour sheds, and their young reinforcements, not much more than a field of dullards who are the artistic equivalent of grocery store generic brands. 2011 may well be remembered as the most numbing year for mainstream rock music in history.The genre didn’t produce a single great album, and the best of the middling walked blindly in footprints laid out years, even decades, earlier. Plenty of juggernauts — U2 and Bruce Springsteen, among others — took the year off, but the genre’s failings are creative, not commercial. At this point rock is becoming a graveyard of aesthetic innovation and creativity, a lie perpetrated by major labels, radio conglomerates and touring concerns, all of whom need — or feel they need — the continued sustenance of this style of music. The fringes remain interesting, and regenerate constantly, but the center has been left to rot."

the only thing i disagree with is the word "regenerate" in the otherwise correct nod to the continued interesting-ness of the fringes... i don't think that word, with its biologistic connotations of renewal and growth and evolution ... of generation and generative-ness... i don't think it really applies to the way that the Zones of Alteration operate... Hyperstasis, being a fundamentally digital/inorganic rather than analogue/organic syndrome, works through replication, recycling and recirculation, techniques of recreativity such as pastiche, appropriation, citation -- in other words, forms of asexual reproduction. (Or perhaps that should be asocial production - art practice that is incapaable, through its mode of operation and dissemination, of letting "the social" leak into it)

Repro ( according to this dude )as opposed to retro in the strict sense of the term, maybe, but still something that very much falls under the sceptical and unforgiving gaze of Retromania.

(Hyperstasis is, after all, nothing if not a churlish concept, looking a gift horse in the mouth, looking past the immediate bounty to the long-term dearth).
listomania meets archive fever
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #10

"Eclectic is another word for shit"

--V/VM, date unknown

Thursday, December 29, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #9

"The really big news of the Eighties is the stampede to regurgitate mildly camouflaged musical styles of previous decades, in ever shrinking cycles of nostalgia. (It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice--there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork , and the other is nostalgia. When you compute the length of time between The Event and The Nostalgia for the Event, the span seems to be about a year less in each cycle. Eventually within the next quarter of a century, the nostalgia cycles will be so close together that people will not be able to take a step without being nostalgic for the one they just took. At that point, everything stops. Death by Nostalgia."

--Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1990
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #8

"Constantly losing more of this feeling of surprise and dislike, becoming excessively astonished no longer, or finally allowing oneself to enjoy everything—people really call that the historical sense, historical education"

--Friedrich Nietzche contra "generalism", On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, 1873
i had been thinking recently about the breakdown of the generation gap, of the patricidal impulse as a generator of the new within music / culture....

what to you do, if you're a young person growing into music and thinking about making it, if your parents are cool? if they have really good, hip, broadminded and edgy taste in music? it would be stupid to reject all that great old music, and hard not to be influenced by being exposed to it from an early age (example: Maria Minerva's dad, who is a very well-known Estonian music critic and also TV personality, played her things like Nico's The Marble Index at a tender age... and many of my younger blogworld friends, i find out their parents would play stuff like the Cure or Japan)

the only actual generational rebellion in that circumstance is to have no interest in music, or only minimal investment in it (something to listen to in the background, decor for life, not a grand project or zone for identity formation),,, to use something other activity or culture-zone as the place in which identity formation goes on

but talking of this problem of having cool parents who turn you onto great music... a dad or mum that still takes an interest in current music, who might want to go to gigs with you or take you to a festival in the summer, the family sharing a tent...

reading a Quietus piece about hot new band S.C.U.M. this line leaped out at me

"Between shows, the Quietus managed to net keyboard player and sound specialist Sam Kilcoyne, son of Add N to X's Barry 7"

Add N To X was long ago enough so that the children are now old enough to form bands?!?!?

(Or was Barry a late-bandstarter, early breeder?)

at any rate, wow

weirdly S.C.U.M. are signed to Add N To X's label Mute

young Kilcoyne says "When we were making Again Into Eyes I asked dad if he wanted to produce it, but he wanted me to do it by myself. He was there for a lot of it, and gave his advice when he thought something wasn't working, but essentially he wanted me to do this on my own. I think if you take away Tom's vocals and listen to the synths, we really do sound similar to my dad."

unfortunately it appears they also sound quite a bit like My Bloody Valentine and Suede and Echo & the Bunnymen... seemingly mediated by (and this horrified me a little) by The Horrors

just the thought that bands are coming through influenced by the Horrors (Kilcoyne: "I'd never listened to My Bloody Valentine until after the Horrors' second record Primary Colours came out")

dearie me

here's a song by them

here's another one

and another

that one's a bit better, dank and thuggish, bit like Bunnymen circa Porcupine meets Love and Rockets meets Dr & the Mix (Jesus & Mary Chain's heroes/models) with a bit of early Sisters of Mercy thrown in

the more buried the vocals, the better

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


You can see a similar alternation of surge-phases of innovation with periods of consolidation and eclecticism in other genres, like jazz and classical music. In 20th Century composition, the astringent and emotionally traumatic innovations of atonality and twelve-tone developed by Schoenberg were followed by a phase known as neo-classicism, which involved adopting and adapting the harmonic clarity of Mozart and Bach from almost two centuries earlier. According to Schoenberg-fanboy Adorno, Stravinsky--the most famous exponent of neo-classicism-- was guilty of "regressive eclecticism…. parasitism on the old " (the words here are Perry Anderson's gloss on Adorno's famously stern stance). Like a classical music equivalent to the Jesus & Mary Chain, Stravinsky even went in for direct or slightly distorted quotations from illustrious ancestors like Schubert, Pergolesi, and Tchaikosvky. After the second world war, though, there was a renewed push towards full-tilt innovation, both in orchestral music with the dominance of serialism as a compositional method and in electronic music with the adoption of new technological possibilities like tape editing and synthesizers.

What is different about the alternating rhythms of surge and slow-down within music's high culture is that they are relatively immune from fashion logic. Well, there certainly trends within the higher arts and as the great theorist of fashion Edward Sapir argued "there is nothing to prevent a thought, a type of morality or an art form from being the psychological equivalent of a costuming of the ego." But classical music is less tied to market forces than pop, and so less vulnerable to the economic pressures that create cycles of novelty and obsolescence.
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #7

"In the world of glut + bloat, the withheld work of art becomes the only meaningful object"

--Don DeLlillo, spiral notebook aphorism, Box 38, Folder 1, date unknown

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #6

"New mutations and combinations emerge and are destroyed; seen from the outside, the movement possesses a nervous vitality… intense, almost feverish… It resembles, it seems to me, a snakeskin full of ants. The snake itself is long since dead, eaten out from within, deprived of its poison; but the skin moves, filled with busy life"

--Ingmar Bergman,anticipating "hyperstasis" and "the zones of alteration", 1965

Monday, December 26, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #5

"As the present can't be transcended, or the future predicted, the past is the only place available to anticipate the 'not yet'. Retro doesn't repeat the past, it redeems it. And, in so doing, it provides a fleeting revelation of tomorrow's possibilities, of things to come…"

--Steven Brown (channeling Walter Benjamin) in Marketing: The Retro Revolution, 2001

Sunday, December 25, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #4

"The people who are hung up on the Beatles' and the Sixties' dream missed the whole point when the Beatles' and the Sixties' dream became the point. Carrying the Beatles' or the Sixties' dream around all your life is like carrying the Second World War and Glenn Miller around. That's not to say you can't enjoy Glenn Miller or the Beatles, but to live in that dream is the twilight zone. It's not living now. It's an illusion"

--John Lennon, Playboy interview January 1981

Friday, December 23, 2011

review by john calvert for Quietus finds proto-retromaniacal /end-of-history themes in the work of Gorillaz

"their debut is overlooked as a precursor to indie's mad rush to 'super-hybridity' throughout the past decade... The Japanese element – manifested in the animation, the cutesy instrumentation, the melodic e-numbers, Hatori's girly j-pop vocals, the Toyko-neon textures, and even just a general redolence - lent the futuristic sheen of hyperreality that Japanese culture had signified since the 80s. And because this was art-pop and therefore packed with subtext, the aesthetic also yielded a batch of secondary associations: thoughts of Japanese trash culture, Roxy-style distance, pop songs about pop, and even the trauma of Hiroshima. There is a whole tranche of Japanese art dealing with the notion that the tragedy had stripped the country of its history, leaving only the chintzy detritus of pop culture.... Together, these implied ideas created an atmosphere artist/sociologist Gerhard Richter called 'afterness' - a kind of mass cultural despondency that Albarn hit on with the Good, The Bad And The Queen; an album dank with the melancholic sentiment that everything had been done before ('modern life is rubbish' as Blur had declared years before). This wearied state-of mind that The Good, The Bad And The Queen embodied chimed with Gorillaz' aesthetic, for there’s surely a sadness implicit in the recycling of Western arcana that imbues so much of Japanese pop culture. The same air of lamentation and loss emanating from Albarn's other supergroup cut through Gorillaz tracks like 'Feel Good Inc' and 'On Melancholy Hill'."
michaelangelo matos in the guardian investigating the phenomenon of hipster house aka chillrave

they do seem awfully sincere and respectful

perhaps overly so

the question remaining for me though is:

if you wanted to dance, what's wrong with the existing, ongoing dance culture (in which house has undergone a resurgence across the board)

why is it based around dance / house as it was 20 to 25 years ago?

and so again it seems to fit that retro / vintage chic mentality of getting the period sounds right, the period styling (the record covers, the fonts, the flyers, the allusions) just right

there is this parallel thing going on with ex-noise/drone types getting into early techno and EBM /Cold Wave/ ate 80s dance-floor oriented industrial -- people like Prurient and Pete Swanson

in that case i suspect it's wanting somewhere to "go", musically -- noise-abstraction being a diminishing returns zone and also absolutely blanketed, choked with output
Nineties and Newness

Kulkarni continues his New Nineties series at Quietus with a paean to Pram, perpetrators (sez Neil) of the Best Album of that decade

in the interview part, Pram's Matt Eaton says this:

"The whole ethic of the band, though it was unwritten and rarely spoken, was to create new music, so if a piece had a similarity/reminded someone of another work it was generally rejected. The emphasis was on new... It was all about new sounds and new ways of writing a song.... Even now, making a new sound is still our first impulse, and that includes not repeating previous Pram recordings...To repeat ourselves or someone else would be boring and not really worth the effort.... My working life is ten times harder than it needs to be because I hate repeating what’s gone before.“

There's people - quite a lot of people, I've discovered this year - who'll tell you that's an old-fashioned attitude, an outmoded approach.
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #3

"Quotation is no longer an operative value. Quotation only submits one's work to the authority of History and its "masters." A DJ doesn't "quote," per se. He or she wanders into History and uses previous works according to his or her own needs. This method might be similar to past ones, but the set of values that organizes it has changed: Nobody cares anymore about signatures as authority markers, we now live in a cultural space of increasingly fluid circulations of signs"

-- Nicolas Bourriaud, interviewed in ArtForum, April, 2001
interesting quote from a Quietus interview with Skream, suggestive of how hyperstasis aka the archival overload of influences, affects the individual artist's ability to "move forward"

Q: So how do you go about finding a new sound then?

Skream: The thing is, I don’t know. Music is mongrel now. It’s rare to find straight techno or... Especially in this UK bass sort of thing, everything has merged. I love that though. But then, do you go back and do a straight one-influence track? Is that going back on yourself? My sets now consist of everything, everything influenced with everything. So how I’m going to find the new sound I’ll never know. Maybe it’s just finding a new sound for me, ‘cos trying to create a new sound at the minute is mental.

this tune is pants innit

Thursday, December 22, 2011

History Is Made At Night, the excellent blog about the past present and future of dancing and nightlife, has a post on a 1920s-style "wild party" staged in 1950s New York -- perhaps similar in spirit and sound to trad jazz revival raves happening at the same time in the U.K. but with a more self-conscious retro / time travel intent to it
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #2

"Antiquarian history itself degenerates in that moment when it no longer inspires and fills with enthusiasm the fresh life of the present. Then reverence withers away…. Then we get a glimpse of the wretched drama of a blind mania for collecting, a restless compiling together of everything that ever existed. The man envelops himself in a mouldy smell….. Often he sinks so deep that he is finally satisfied with that nourishment and takes pleasure in gobbling up for himself the dust of biographical rubbish"

--Friedrich Nietzche, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, 1873

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #1

"Why would you want to catalogue everything that exists? The idea of conservation, as the word suggests, has a conservative side to it. And there does come a point where that can step over to conservatism which is very anti the future, anti technology, anti this and anti that. This happens all because the past was supposed to be better. That comes out of desperately trying to preserve phenomenon, that in their nature, slip away, they have no permanence. In a way it’s a desperate quest. I’m not anti-conservation; I’m quite the opposite. I am just wary of some of the attitudes it can generate, which can be very oppressive, and very restrictive. If you are constantly thinking, this has to be documented, this mustn’t disappear, your not actually living in the present, you’re thinking about what you can keep from the past, to save in the future. You’re not actually where you really are"--David Toop (Leftlion interview, 2007)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

this isn't out officially until next year but, in that peculiar publishing-world jumping-the-gun way, can already be found in some UK book stores such as Waterstones: the B-format edition of Retromania, more economically-priced and portable than the original heavy-paper-stock quasi-hardback edition (now sold out). It comes with a new nifty bas-relief cover and is compact enough to actually fit into a Christmas stocking without unduly distending it

Monday, December 19, 2011

this paradox-riddled utterance caught my eye when reading a post at the science fiction webzine i09 about the Most Futuristic Music of 2011

"Sometimes the future can be found in the past. When you watch Blade Runner, it still looks like the future, even though it was made in 1982. Similarly, Arizona thrash band Vektor model their sound (and their dystopian/space-opera lyrics) on Canadian sci-fi thrashers Voivod, who did their best work in the late '80s, and yet they still have an undeniable spacy, forward-looking feel to their work."

the quote seemed indicative of our problems in imagining, let alone alone creating, Future Music when "the future" has become a set of idées fixes that we can't seem to get past

i've not checked out the other examples of Futuristic Music in the i09 piece but i fear i'll find further evidence of "arrested futurism"

for now hear's some deja entendu from Vektor,verily Voivod clones right down to the V-word-with-six-letters


is the name of this pretty package RetroActivity containing the Best of Sweet Exorcist (legendary early UK techno outfit from Sheffield) on two discs

almost the All of Sweet Exorcist, actually... well, there was this later album Spirit Guide To Low Tech on Touch(when Kirk & Parrot had moved into post-Artificial Intelligence zones and accordingly sounds closer to R.H.K's work as Sandoz, also for Touch) but RetroActivity scoops up the bleep/clonk era material for Warp

here's a fave Sweet Exorcist tune, minimalism getting maximal - the title track of the C.C. EP and C.C.C.D.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Public Information Materials-Mix by Public Information
this summer we went to see two exhibitions in Los Angeles – one was in nearby Pasadena (Clayton Brothers: Inside Out) and the other was in downtown at the MOCA and called Art in the Streets, a mammoth retrospective of graffiti and street art going back to the very beginnings...

Clayton Brothers do life-scale shacks and diorama-type things, lots of stuff based on old illustrative styles, newspaper fonts, etc – readymades either literally or in inspiration, but the overall agglomeration of it tinged towards the surreal-creepy-macabre-twisted... a sort of dayglo American-Gothic

At Art in the Streets, a lot of the more recent work involved very large pieces, real-size reproduction of actual real-world stuff – like a bodega, with cans of vegetables etc – or a shabby taxi hire office in a shady part of town, those band or advertising or prostitute type stickers stuck over every surface – one artist (Neckface, we used to see his graff in our old neighbourhood in the East village) did a thing that was literally street art -- the recreation of a dark, dank alley in a scary, grotty part of NYC, complete with a sleeping bum.

Anyway this got me thinking... about readymades and collage, the tradition that starts with Duchamp... with Schwitters with the merzbau and the merzhaus... then proceeds through Lichenstein, Warhol, Richard Hamilton.... Lari Pitman, whose work draws on decorative and kitschy-retro graphics and fonts... Jeff Koons.... and then into the post-graffiti/hip hop era with people the Alleged Art crew (heavily present at this exhibition)... some of whom were into stuff like the tags left by hobos on the side of railcars, or they were into tattoos... the late Margaret Kilgannen of Alleged used a lot of commercial imagery... hand-painted shop front signage, imagery from advertisements in old magazines... in the Alleged crew doc Beautiful Losers she says something about how "all this stuff becomes interesting to me when it's no longer selling anything to me"-- in other words, once it's divorced from commerce in the immediate here-and-now, it becomes capable of being aestheticized, which is a great description of how vintage chic works

but what struck me about all this in connection with Art in the Streets and Clayton Brothers is that underpinning the whole century-long thing was one idea – a REALLY BIG idea - which is treating the objects of manufactured modernity as if they were nature, as beautiful as a tree or landscape... (c.f. James Ferraro's description of Far Side Virtual as "the still life of now" - the audio and video landscape of our digitized, augmented daily surroundings)

but also it’s a move of taking the non-art, the infra-art, and just moving it across a line... commerce because culture, the mass produced aura-less product becomes the one-off, aura-full handcrafted object ready for the art market

And as the Ferraro comparison suggests, it's the same move being made by the hauntologists and the hypnagogics (a lot of post-Ferraro music is Pop Art meets psychedelia), with some psychedelics thrown in), you take what is deemed beneath or outside Proper Serious Rock-as-Art, so that would be ancient cheese pop or mainstream AOR or library music (in the case of hauntology) or with Ferraro now it's ringtones and computer start-up jingles and so forth i.e. today's equiv to library/Muzak... and ythen ou say well actually if you tilt your head this way slightly , it’s sublime – or even (upping the ante) in some cases it’s just better and more weird than self-conscious Arty art-rock.

And then the art work for a lot of those hypnagogic cassettes is chopped-up magazine images (eyes, lips etc) like a more grotesque and cack-handed version of what the British Pop Artists did... like the popcult unconscious throwing up all over the page (and that's no diss, i love all that artwork)

the low > high context-shift

Nicholas Katranis calls this artistic move "looking at what is right in front of you"

for most people now means that what they can find on the internet, what’s trawl-able on YouTube etc etc

e.g. oneohtrix scavenging for alchemy-susceptible materials on YouTube, the stuff that’s beneath consideration...

what I'm a-wonderin' is whether the BIG IDEA that i mentioned, whether that is so very very BIG -so fundamental and capacious in scope and potential - that it can just carry on and on and on... or is it a 20th Century idea that has just lingered a bit into the next century and hangs on while we all try to think of somewhere new to go?

post-script: what do you know, Aaron Rose, the guy who co-curated Art in the Streets and was owner and director of Alleged Art (and also directed the Beautiful Losers doc) has co-written a book called Collage Culture: Examining the 21st Century's Identity Crisis that looks to be a rather Retromaniac-al polemic ("why has the 21st century become an era of collage, in which creative works are made by combining elements from the former century?", "THE PAST MUST NO LONGER SERVE AS OUR MASTER") which sorta suggests that even as he was pulling together the exhibition he might have been having similar anxieties as i did looking at it

you can check it out here:

here's what he says in an interview with Oyster:

"Everything in this world is built on references. I don’t think that’s really such a problem, that’s part of the creative process. Although where the amount of original input is below 5%, that’s when I feel like there’s maybe a problem... I think the contemporary art world is horrible [as an offender]! And in music. Music, I think, is really bad. Music videos, especially — horrible — are like, basically just taking things frame for frame."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

i'm not the biggest fan of Northern Soul as music but through doing Retromania I got much more sympathetic towards it as a cultural project

if all Northern Soul was a sublime as these two songs, though, I'd be in my singlet and high-waisted pants doing backflips and twirls in a trice

one of the greatest songs about dancefloor-as-utopia ever

the mod manifesto

RIP Dobie Gray
xeno-retro, pt 136

"But we’d like to position Paradise of Bachelors as more than a reissue label—introspective, rather than retrospective, and opposed to the fetishized nostalgia peddled by lesser labels... We’re interested in releasing music, historical or futuristic or otherwise, with contemporary relevance and resonance—the music’s rarity matters far less than strong curatorial and aesthetic coherence, compelling narratives, and our ability to articulate untold histories through engagement with the artists, through interviews, oral histories, photography, and friendships. For us, that means looking backwards, to heavy American Indian psych, to Vietnam vet laments, to Carolina soul and gospel, to coastal honky-conch country, to Communist disco (some of our intended future subjects), but also to the contemporary iterations in and out of the infinitely mutable, mercurial traditions of American vernacular music. It’s the dialogue between those modes, and through those years and artifacts, that we find interesting."

Communist Disco! Native American psychedelia!

that's from an excellent essay for Shuffle by Brendan Greaves, one of the people behind the label Paradise of Bachelors

like also the sign-off

"Don’t sweat those ghosts, because they aren’t going anywhere, and without them, there’s nothing new anyway. These are the days of the dead"

an echo there of Prince Rama's "ghost modernism" perhaps

Monday, December 5, 2011

pierrot period

mesmerised by the repeats of My So-Called Life on Sundance

who knew the early-mid 90s had a period look

perhaps it's just that one show, that one set of production values

but the overlit, high contrast film makes faces and flesh look phosphorescent

in the night scenes, like those pierrot mime faces looming out of the dark

Brian and Angela especially look literally moony