Tuesday, January 31, 2012

form minus function

Kiran Sande on noise-ist turned "techno"-ist Pete Swanson as emblematic of a spate of "unique, outsider takes on techno" (and also house)


"If “proper” techno music is about function, then the Swanson, KPLR and Container records are about dysfunction – and their refusal to be useful to DJs and consumers feels like a quietly political statement. “I don’t really like the idea of music being produced for a functional purpose,” Swanson says. “I would be shocked if someone actually played Man With A Potential at a club and people were into it.”

it is a curious trend (see also Ital's Hive Mind), these replicas of analogue-era techno... that are absent -- in some hard to precisely pinpoint way-- of whatever vital attribute made the music work in their original context...

(cf Prurient dude rediscovering EBM/Cold Wave/dancefloor for Bermuda Drain as well as Vatican Shadow alter-ego, and producing music that would, if it had been sent as demos to Nettwerk or Play It Again Sam back in the day,would have been rejected as substandard)

the trend seems to be recursive in two ways

i/ a flashback to Throbbing Gristle's sideline in defective disco with "United", "Hot On the Heels of Love", "Adrenalin"

ii/ a strategy symptomatic of hyper-stasis -- Swanson like so many artists in the Zones wants to keep moving restlessly ever "onwards" ("I’m always chasing the next thing” he tells Sande). but since pushing forward in some absolute sense (advance into the genuine unknown) gets harder and harder with each passing years (for all kinds of reasons including the hyper-productivity of the Zones) that requires a sideways-and-backwards movement, i.e. into another genre/field from your usual one, but naturally into that genre's past (after all, you wouldn't want to get mistaken for an attempt to participate in the genre as currently constituted, or judged on its terms). if your model is things like Underground Resistance-type brutalist tekno (a style that electronic dance music left behind long ago) and your execution is deliberately rough-hewn.... not so much "deconstructed" as depurposed.... then the dread scenario of DJs playing it and dancers dancing to it becomes remote

but this leaves the work in a curious place, deriving its shape and existence in relation to something whose criteria it pointedly disregards
retrotech / ersatz-analogue

via http://www.psfk.com/2012/01/grammaphone-iphone-dock.html (via Daily Swarm):

"Retro Acoustic iPhone Docks Turn Your Device Into A Gramophone [Pics]
By Emma Hutchings on January 31, 2012

These impressive iPhone docks mix the old and the new to create a unique sound. Tunes from your device are sent from the speaker through a small hole in the base leading to the instrument, which acoustically amplifies the music.

These striking retro docks are made by Ryan Boase and available at his ReAcoustic Etsy shop. The bases are made from salvaged wood, and antique gramophone horns and old musical instruments like trumpets and trombones are reused as amplifiers. The docks, which range in price from around $60 to nearly $600, don’t need any batteries or power cords. Boase describes his project, saying:

ReAcoustic is a way for me to be surrounded by music again. It combines another hobby of mine, woodworking with the instruments I loved playing growing up. ReAcoustic was inspired by the “old school” phonographs and their distigushed, vintage sound. It started with brass instruments and has evolved into other areas of acoustic amplification.

more information and pictures of the things at


Monday, January 30, 2012

spoofing nostalgia and revivalism in the mid-70s

"why so glum, chums?"--intersecting with Retromania's concerns, an interesting piece by Ryan Diduck for The Quietus on "The New Bleak" aka "hypnagothica" and its relation to recent political/economic/environmental traumas

talking of dark things, Valerio Mattioli, who writes for LaRepubblica tells me that there is an Italian counterpart to hauntology that was recently covered as part of an article in Blow Up (sort of Italy's The Wire) on contemporary Italian occult psychedelia. The journalist Antonio Ciarletta, says Mattioli, enumerates its ingredients as: "local folklore, the popular spaghetti cinema of the 60s/70s (especially mondo movies, giallo, spaghetti westerns, cannibal movies etc), even Catholicism, and a typical 'Italian vibe' all around.... Many of the musicians openly mention composers such as Piero Umiliani, Ennio Morricone and basically the whole Italian soundtracks/library music school".

"To me," continues Mattioli, "what’s interesting in these bands, is that their kind of hauntology avoids the eerie and pastoral feeling of the English counterpart, as well as the pop-cheesy attitude of the American hypnagogic pop. On the contrary, their music is blatantly dark, esoteric and sometimes bloody, actually reflecting the 'sun & violence' culture which – despite the clichés – is a commonplace here. Of course, there’s the homage to a popular imagery which is deeply rooted here, and that somehow reflects the Italian identity better than your typical Venice postcard. But it’s also like saying that memories often can be nightmares, especially if you live in a country which is half Europe/half... well, Italy. Kind of Sergio Leone/Lucio Fulci induced nostalgia...

"When you go back with your memories to the contemporary Italian golden age – to say, the 60s of the Dolce Vita etc – you can’t escape the ghosts of that same era: terrorism, urban favelas, corruption and so on. Even the big masterpieces of the Italian literature, TV and cinema typically deal with such atmospheres - they're always bloody, violent, excessive. Somehow, the bands analyzed by Ciarletta are here to remind us that the Italian good old days (when future seemed possible) were a very depressed place, and that the present is filled with those ghosts.

"It also comes quite natural to understand this trend as a reflection of the current feelings among many Italians: we perceive our country as a declining glory with no future at all; and economic crisis, crime and political warfare create a sort of Late Empire atmosphere..."

Bands operating in this zone include Cannibal Movie, Donato Epiro, In Zaire, Orfanado, Spettro Family, Heroin In Tahiti [Mattioli's own band], and on the "more 'pagan-catholic folklore' tip", Mamuthones and Father Murphy . TheAwayTeam/Polysick are "a sort of modern Piero Umiliani" with projects lined up for 100% Silk, and Planet Mu. "Needless to say: all these artists form a sort of family, they’re all friends and do stuff together, they share projects and labels etc."

An example of what Mattioli dubs "Mondo-cannibals":

Mattioli calls this sub-category "spaghetti wastelands" (love it!)

This is an example of "Italian gothic":

"Exotic libraries":


DONATO EPIRO - La Vita Acquatica from Planeta on Vimeo.

"Bloody folklore":

and this is Father Murphy, who I saw in Pistoia last year

Friday, January 27, 2012

Toure on nostalgia as a cultural cop-out, but also on why it is, if not exactly forgivable, then understandable as a symptom at the present moment in time

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

terrific icily-controlled rant from mnml sggs on "comfort house" (and by implication all music-as-comfort-food scenarios), inspired by two mixes suffocated by politesse and the feeling of having "heard it all before’".

PC speaks my kind of language when he points out:

"it could have been mixed 12 years ago and not sounded any different. In fact, if it were mixed 12 years ago, it would be very likely to sound exactly like it does. I've been thinking about this for some time, and I've decided that it really matters. Making a mix from 2000 in 2012... it matters. Well, it may not matter to you. But it matters to me...

"For me there is something unbearably complacent at work in the decision to make this mix in 2012, and I find it affronting... It's a kind of complacency makes me want to set fire to my records... as if to prove some pyrrhic point about evanescence, memory, or forgetting. This weird over-reverence that makes you want to desecrate things you love and care about... is this how punks felt?" ...

"The worst thing about the previous decade has been our inability to bury it... The 10 year fucker is undead, monstrous, and keeps on rising, repetitively, to attack us - with a crate full of deep house records."

matthew ingram pointed these out to me

like it like it

not really similar, but has a similar effect on me as Metronomy -- evocative but (mostly) unplaceable

the upside of atemporality

whole album stream:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #19

"Any kind of popular trend is infinitely more wholesome than listening to old records. It’s more important that people know that some kind of pleasure can be derived from things that are around them—-rather than to catalogue more stuff-—you can do that forever; and if people aren’t going to have a reason to change, they’re never going to change"

--Harry Smith, interviewed in Sing Out! April & July 1969

Monday, January 23, 2012

further to the "whither generation gap?"/what happens when your parents have got cool taste and turn you onto stuff? question:

"It all started when I was 16 and I pulled out In the Court of the Crimson King from my Dad’s record collection. As soon as I put the needle on that thing, my life changed forever”--Christian Richer on how his project The Haiduk and its yet-to-be-released album 1968 came about

further to the Sixties-via-Eighties deadest of dead ends assertion, No Pain On Pop comment on The Haiduk and 1968

"Of course, you might ask if the world of 2011 needs an album that’s so hopelessly nostalgia-dripping and almost excessively true to original 60s psych pop. But on the other hand, in a way 1968 could even be considered the overdue complement to hypnagogic pop’s inner agenda to musically manifest the blurry memories of the music of our childhood... growing up in the 80s and 90s did not only mean "Boys of Summer" but also our parents’ collection of late 60s/early 70s psychedelia.... playing 1968 actually feels like putting on one of those dusty records we’ve just found in a box in the attic."

further to the what-happened-to-cultural-patricide/the kill-your-idols impulse, Richer says 1968 is “a modern piece containing an old school aesthetic, rather than an album trying to sound like it was made during that time. It’s more of an homage or a big ‘thank you’ to all the brilliant, inspired and beautiful music that’s been made during the 60s”

but judge for yerself [for pity's sake don't hear through my ears, whatever you do ;) eh?]

THE HAIDUKS - Use Up My Time from Moduli TV on Vimeo.

actually sounds more like PiL's "Low Life" than anything Sixties
Neil Young's anti-digitalsound gripe: "I'm finding that I have a little bit of trouble with the quality of the sound of music today," he said. "I don't like it. It just makes me angry. Not the quality of the music, but we're in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we've ever had. It's worse than a 78 [rpm record]. Where are our geniuses? What happened?... [consumers of music only hear ]5 percent [of the data of an original recording in an MP3 file... the warmth and the depth at the high end is gone] It's like Occupy Music — the 5 percent, that's who we are now"

Friday, January 20, 2012

this sixties-via-eighties thing must be the deadest of current dead ends surely

it weren't that much cop really in '86 let's be honest

Thursday, January 19, 2012

retrolectro, pt 176

another one for the synth-women canon

Suzanne Ciani's got a retrospective out on Finders Keepers soon, called Lixiviation

more info here http://b-music-collective.blogspot.com/2012/01/fkr053-suzanne-ciani-lixiviation.html

unfortunately all of the music on YouTube is her later New Age stuff which is a lot less synthetic-sounding and moistly melodious

but there's this

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #18

"Fashion is never having to decide who you are. Style is deciding who you are and being able to perpetuate it"

--Quentin Crisp, 1982
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #17

"Randomly and without principle but with gusto cannibalizes all the architectural styles of the past and combines them in overstimulating ensembles.... the 'historicism' of the new painting [enables] its secession from a genuine history or dialectic of stylistic evolution, 'frees' it to recover painting styles... as a sort of objet trouve... an omnipresent and indiscriminate appetite for all the styles and fashions of a dead past"

Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1991

Saturday, January 14, 2012

old gold dreams 54-56-62-64

sigh, the lost boyishness of young Jim Kerr

talking of glittering prizes and new gold dreams - worth 45 million, that Jim Kerr, so they say. Always a "canny investor", apparently.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Practical Electronica: A Trailer from Public Information on Vimeo.

Electronics Without Tears album out on Monday
sing if you're glad to be grey

the Dean celebrates 2011 as a year of Dad Rock:

"Even so, there's never been a year so chocked with comebacks and tributes, survivals and revivals -- with reaffirmations that blues-derived iterations of what it means to be human have plenty of life in them yet. Paul Simon's best recording since 1986, Eric Clapton's best recording since 1972, 67-year-old Garland Jeffreys justifying his next-big-thing 30s, Aaron Neville's cast-aside gospel set, and what I consider Merle Haggard's finest album-as-album. A scintillating minor-label Buddy Holly tribute making up for the bloviating major-label one, jazz bassist Rob Wasserman's addition to Nora Guthrie's reimaginings of her dad's lost lyrics, 70-year-old guitar icon Steve Cropper burnishing his and the Five Royales' rep simultaneously, 60-year-old guitar oddball Gurf Morlix doing the same for long-dead odderball Blaze Foley. A late-McGarrigles miscellany and the eternal Peter Stampfel."

which he prefers to the stuff on the Pitchfork list: "experimental electronics both dancey and arty as well as other outliers... most of them classifiable as what is sometimes called 'post-rock'."

made a similar point here

this point:
"For the second straight year -- and though I don't do trends, this might be one -- nothing felt momentous no matter how much venture capital Watch the Throne put into trying"

chimes with what Steve Hyden said here about it being the Year of No Important Albums (and many Good Records)"

which chimes with what i said here about how Importance gradually faded as a possiblity, an eventuality, a likelihood, during the Noughties... and may soon fade away as a criterion, a desire

which chimes with the Dean's oft-quoted quip about "I kind of miss the monoculture"

(although Hyden elsewhere challenges monoculture-nostalgia, says it was a myth)

myth or not, it made certain kinds of intensities and convergences of energy possible...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

uh oh it's starting already

[courtesy Job de Wit]

see also reissue of Avalanches's Since I Left You due soon
archive fever, pt 397

behold the madness of the Fugazi Live Series archive!

"In keeping with our plan, we uploaded an additional 25 concert downloads on January 1, 2012 and we'll continue doing this each month until we reach our goal of making every Fugazi concert recording in our collection available.... Between 1987 and 2003, Fugazi played over 1000 concerts in all 50 states and all over the world. Over 800 of these shows were recorded by the band's sound engineers. The goal of this project is to make each of these recordings available to download for a small fee...
The size and scope this archive dictates that it will remain a semi-permanent work-in-progress. We welcome visitors to contribute photos, recordings, corrections, and any additional info that may be missing from specific shows.... The standard suggested download price is $5 a show but we also offer a sliding scale option where you can set your own price, and an All Access site membership

an article about this madness i tell you MADNESS!

(i cannot think of ANY band, not one, not even my absolutest favouritest band ever in the whole wide world and ALL OF TIME, that i would want to listen to a recording of their every last show. i can't think of many i'd want to listen to more than one live recording of any given phase of their career/evolution. but never been a fan of the live album so...)g

[via TDK FE60 at Cassette Eater]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adult. entertainment

She and her rhythm box

Drexciya's Midnight Runners

yup that's right -- she's Ariel's missus


Guardian piece on fashion's rediscovery of punk

"Equally, in a recession worse than the one which spawned punk, one buyer for an upmarket fashion shop told the Observer there was disapproval at promoting a revival of a time "when it was all charity shops and ripping your own T-shirt and safety pins". She added: "The big designers think it's 'street' to sell punky clothes to the super-rich. Actually it's pretty irresponsible in tough times for anyone to encourage the DIY approach to fashion that punks had in 1977. No one spent any money."

i can think of plenty of reasons why the umpteenth recycling of punk sartorialisms in the fashion world is literally depressing, but that it's ill-advised because it might depress the economy -- what a wacky notion!

DIY = anti-consumerism = bad for business!
retrovision - damn, really should have had more on film in the book!

Steve Rose: "It's a new level of vintage: not just getting the period details right onscreen, but getting the whole mode of presentation correct, too … ideally so you can't tell the difference. Let's call it retrovision. Retrovision is more than just "doing" retro; it's being retro, it's seeing retro."

Michel "The Artist" Hazanavicius: "I watched and re-watched many silent films to try to assimilate the rules of the form"

Matthew "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" Holness: "Having the right sensibility is the main thing; knowing what looks too much or too little on screen. Darkplace was shot on 16mm film and preserved the 4:3 TV aspect ratio of the period. Sound was mixed through limited channels on to tape, then unspooled, crunched, trashed, kicked around the studio, re-spooled and transferred back."

******Retrofication-Technology Watch*******

from The Rundown email-newsletter, a report on Fuuvi's "The Bee"

Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and now: you.

These iconic directors still swear by the grainy look of the ultra-portable 8mm camera, and now you can, too.

The Bee by Japanese brand Fuuvi is just that — a Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Camera-sized simulacrum of an old Super 8, but digital.

You won't need any Instagram-esque apps or post-processing software to get the grainy, jerky look of old-school 8mm, of which you can shoot up to 100 minutes of video on a microSD card. (Check out a video sample here.)

Seeing as the Bee's more or less designed for the rough-around-the-edges retro set, don't expect 1080i video, or anything close.

The lo-fi specs: You can capture stills and video at 640x480 pixels with the 1.3-megapixel sensor at 30fps. The shutter speed varies from 1/6 to 1/2500 sec, and a ƒ2.8 aperture lens.

But of course, that's plenty of power to shoot your own home movie or no-budget film — or, hell, both at the same time.
at the Los Angeles Review of Books: the podcast of a really enjoyable conversation about retroculture I had with Andy Zax in the summer, with audio-clips expertly woven in by Oliver Wang

Monday, January 9, 2012

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #16

"My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. Nobody, to my knowledge, had ever written a serious book on the subject, so I had no exemplars to inhibit me. Nor did I have any reference books or research to hand. I simply wrote off the top of my head, whatever and however the spirit moved me. Accuracy didn't seem of prime importance (and the book, as a result, is rife with factual errors). What I was after was guts, and flash, and energy, and speed. Those were the things I'd treasured in the rock I'd loved"

--Nik Cohn, 2004 (introduction to reissue of Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom)
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #15

“The historical logic of modernism itself is that the newly liberated circulation of the token-sign always carries as its potential reverse an utterly devalued and empty currency”

--Rosalind E. Krauss, “Picasso / Pastiche,” The Picasso Papers

Friday, January 6, 2012

vinyl sales just keep on risin' and risin'

so is this the continuation of a ground-swell of anti-digital sentiment, a sort of defiant ghost-dance attempt to go back inside the Analogue System with its all its affects?

possibly - but here's a couple of things i learned recently from friends in the industry that lend themselves to a more cynical interpretation

a friend who releases music in the zones of alteration told me that, in all honesty, you would be better off hearing that kind of music -- including his own album of last year -- on CD. with stuff that is recording in home-studio circumstances, the sound in all its detail will come across better on a CD. evidently there is a real craft to mastering etc etc to vinyl, but this expertise is beyond the price range of labels who operate in a limited-run economy. so why not just put the records out on CD then? because of the fashionable fetish appeal of vinyl to this niche market, the old-timey authenticity of the tangible artifact. "The kids want vinyl and cassette, what can you do?" says the musician.

this chimes with my anecdotal sense that a lot of new vinyl releases coming out of these zones do sounds a bit shit... like they're been transferred from whatever medium they were recorded on in an uninformed rush, and quite possibly onto inferior quality vinyl...

same goes actually for much of the funky and dubstep vinyl that's come my way in recent years... i wonder if the pressing plants are cutting corners because there's so few of them (did i hear somewhere that a lot of dubstep records get made out of plants in Poland?) they are swamped with orders... it may also because it takes expertise to transfer something that was recorded digitally onto vinyl

related to that, the other thing i learned from a different friend
who does a lot of work in the reissue sector, etc.... it is pointless 99 times out of 100 to buy a reissue on vinyl, because it will have been mastered from digital sources. especially with smaller run, obscure reissues, nobody can be bothered to dig up up the original analogue master tapes and often nobody knows where they are located, they might be totally lost. So your expensive vinyl reissue is most likely taken from an earlier CD reissue with its all its deficiencies

Monday, January 2, 2012

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #14

"Somehow, the past has become more remote and less useful the more closely it is cited"

-- John Haber, "The Reusable Past", riffing off Rosalind E. Krauss's The Originality of the Avant Garde
retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #13

“The thing about music today is a lot of it is about reorganising the past: going back, plundering – which this technology allows you to do – it, reworking it… It’s a bit like those people who spend their evenings on Flickr naming photographs; there’s a sort of managerialism to the culture of our time, from people who want to preserve it to people who then want to rework it… and there is a sense that culture is like a terminus at a railway station now. Endlessly, railway trains from the past keep on coming in with stuff from the past, which is then reworked, and we’re stuck with that and we’re not moving forward. It could be a reflection, not of the technology, but of the fact that we’ve run out of ideas”

-- Adam Curtis, interview on 6 Music

Sunday, January 1, 2012

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #12

"Our mental model is that we look into the future; the past is behind us. I was told that the Chinese see things quite differently: they look at the past, and the future washes over them, which seems to me to be much more sensible. There's a kind of peacefulness in that attitude that I appreciate. You're standing in one place, or treading water in one place, and meanwhile the drift of things is coming past you from behind"

--Brian Eno, quoted in John Hutchinson's "From Music To Landscape: A Personal Reaction to Brian Eno's Video Installation", Place #13 exhibition brochure (Dublin: Douglas Hyde Gallery, 1986)