Friday, August 31, 2012


FACT's John Calvert on Animal Collective's congested and digi-maxed-out  Centipede Hz, a microcosm of the macrocosm that is netspace (a nonspace of absolute proximity)

"It’s as if by having every tool and style of every era and nation available to them at the press of a button has stripped AC’s world of its mystery; as if there’s nothing more to discover."

"the cost of such a dazzling feast of stimuli has been a certain element of romance.... there’s just no room for the listener’s own imagination, rendering it a difficult album to connect with"

 "with the American indie vanguard migrating over to electronica, a shrinking force in songwriting has been the spaces between guitar music’s adjoining parts. Spaces, or rather negative space, in which mystery burgeoned, where atmosphere and by extension a sense of place formed"

"...  Centipede Hz‘s overarching theme of enmeshed radio signals, spiralling intertwined through space. The hitch is, you never get a sense of that infinite space here, outer or otherwise, because space itself is in short supply... Centipede Hz plays out like another post-indie meditation on information overload in the net-age; where the music, packed and hyper eclectic, is pursuant to the concept. It carries the same tenor of anxious joy struck by ‘post-everything’ icons Gang Gang Dance"

a/k/a glutted and clotted

a/k/a Mourning "Becomes-Eclectic"

it's the Sound of Now (for a certain demographic / class / and it's the reason i can only hack about 20 minutes of KCRW before i have to flip to classic rock radio, flee to the clarity and punch of riff based Old Wave or New Wave

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


"Despite the circuitous route the genre took, the controversy and the metamorphoses, the promise of dubstep is still a bassline wobble implying something that feels absolutely true: The past is over.
All that matters now is what we do going forward. So let’s go." --  Joseph L. Flatley, in Beyond Lies the Wub - a piece on the history of dubstep / emergence of EDM at The Verge, featuring quotes from a bunch of people including Martin Clark, Joe Nice, and myself

Here's one of the things I said to Flatley:

 "I just went to the Hard Festival over the weekend. The thing I liked about it was that this was music that had absolutely no sense of the past being better. In house culture, or even dubstep in Britain, there's a lot of referencing of roots reggae, or the early days of house, or the early days of jungle. In dance culture, the purist stuff, there's sort of this in-built reverence to the past. And what I liked about the EDM vibe, there's none of that: it's just like 'now, now, NOW.' And if you happen to know about music you could hear things that harken back to [earlier dance music], but that really doesn't seem to be what the kids are into. I sensed [a vibe of] 'this is our music, this is our generation.'"

Friday, August 17, 2012

"The retro trend is present on all the runways. From the roaring twenties to the seventies, references of the past inspire the designers!"

Revival simultaneity -- Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, Twenties -- all being ransacked by today's leading designers. But no one retro era dominating the contemporary runway or streets.

In The Radicant, Nicolas Bourriaud talks about how fashion in the modern era is no longer about waves but about wavelets: you don’t have big fashion looks that everybody follows but instead an array of looks coexisting, all kinds of subcultural styles and vintage chics.  There is no uniformity, but there is also never a moment of definitive supercession, when a styles becomes démodé. The image I got from Bourriaud’s trope of waves versus wavelets was that childhood game when you’re in the swimming pool and you all cling to the side and move your bodies in synch. That creates a tsunami effect. As soon as you stop, though, the pool reverts to its normal omnidirectional chaos of ripples. That is a potent visual image for me of hyperstasis.  The analogy shows how unity and synchrony create a more dynamic and shapely cultural field.

Fashion was the first to get to this state (hyperstasis)...  it pioneered what later transpired in music.

 One of the defining attributes of hyperstasis is endless recursion...  the fact that the Sixties have already been revisited countless times in fashion before (starting when? in the Eighties? or even earlier?) doesn't prevent a designer from revisiting them again....   you just have to wait a reasonable interval, and then the archival resource is ripe for swiping again

C.f. the endless returns and re-runs of sixties garage within underground rock


Thursday, August 16, 2012


cross-reference this scintillating chat between Ship Canal's Daniel Baker and Zone Styx Travelcard, with this probing piece by Mark Fisher called "Time Wars"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RIP Harry Harrison

I'm not sure how many stories by Harry Harrison I read in my teen s.f. fiend phase but the two that made an impression were:

The first is a terrific bleak and gritty novel set in a near-future (our past, now: 1999) New York, when overpopulation and resource-depletion have made life pretty fucking miserable. That 1966 novel was then turned into a vastly inferior movie, Soylent Green, with absurd alterations to the plot. (In Make Room!, soylent is not "made of people", it's made of soya and lentils. That and krill and seaweed crackers make up the diet for 99 percent of the population).

The second is an entertaining alternative history set in a world dominated by the British Empire (which still controls North America - hence the NASA-level grandiosity of digging a railway tunnel to connect the motherland and the colonies).

Oddly this past year I bought and reread Make Room! Make Room! (still excellent, and it would lend itself to being made into a far more faithful movie in the current climate for dystopian and post-cataclysm film/TV: Hunger Games, Revolution, etc). And I bought but have yet to reread A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!. Odder still  I also recently wrote (briefly) about HH in an article that looks at a bunch of things including steampunk, arguing that that 1972's Hurrah! (also known as Tunnel Through the Deeps) is an unacknowledged precursor of that genre:

Harrison’s counterfactual world involves a British Empire that still rules all of North America because Washington’s revolutionary army was defeated and it  features such technological wonders as steam-powered airplanes fueled by the burning of coal dust.   

Describing the genesis of the novel, Harrison recalled that he realized his “parallel world... would be very much like a Victorian society with certain material changes. This would have to be, in some ways, a Victorian novel. [But] since, early on, I had decided it would be a light book, I did not dare even touch on the real condition of the Victorian working class, child prostitution and all the various ills of society at that period. I had to ignore them. So, true to the nature of the book but not true to my own beliefs, it did turn into a Tory's vision of glory for which I do apologise to my socialist friends.” 

That remark captures—and prophesies-a large element of the appeal of steampunk as a genre: the combination of quaint atmospherics and retro-reactionary formal properties (characterization, dialogue, plots, etc that all follow the adventure-hero model of pulp fiction genres or 19th Century popular story-telling) with all of the technological gizmo thrills and marvellousness of science fiction.   

With alternative history and steampunk alike, there’s still that sense of world-turned-upside-down estrangement and disorientation that science fiction supplies, but it’s not set in the future or on some distant alien planet: it’s our world seen in a distorting mirror, made unrecognizable and slightly grotesque. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

in this interview with New York jungle stalwart DJ Dara of Breakbeat Science shop fame, he discusses with Village Voice's Michaelangelo Matos, the problem of cultural overproduction in a digital era:

"I'm not necessarily crazy about this whole digital idea, and the fact that anything can be released. I'm firmly of the belief that just because you can release a tune doesn't mean you should. I do miss [having] A&R men to weed out the mediocre music. Because there's no overhead involved in releasing music anymore, the bar has been lowered substantially. There's a lot of music out there that's OK, but it wouldn't have been good enough to have been pressed on vinyl. 

"When people say, "[This track sold] 200 downloads on Beatport in two days," my question is always, "OK, you got 200 people paying $1.99 for your tune. How many of those people do you think would've paid $12 or $15 for it?" It's easy to get people to pay $2, but would they pay $12? Because that's what it would have been a few years ago—they would've had to if they wanted it. I think that the overhead barrier definitely made sure [there was] a certain standard. There's always been bad music. But I think there's less bad music when it costs money to put it out.

"People say, "This barrier's been broken, there's all this incredible music that can be discovered now that wouldn't be discovered before." But I see it the other way around. I see that the really incredible music is being buried in an avalanche of mediocre music. [laughs] And it gets harder and harder to find it.

"Often, I'll be on Beatport and I'll just give up: "I cannot listen to any more bad music that is right up there next to really quality stuff." What happens is, I just end up going to the same artists that I've known all the time, rather than trying to check out new people, because so much of the new stuff that I check out . . . I'm not saying it's terrible, but there's nothing that makes it stand out. It sounds like a million other people."

Yes, indeedy --  in the transition from the Analogue System to the Digital System, the DIY principle has run rife -- it is now almost completely unchecked and undaunted by any reality principle ie. the costs involved in the materiality of solid-form culture-objects that must be first manufactured, then physically transported, then physically stored both by stores (shelf space being limited) and by individual collectors who are limited both in terms of cash and their living space....   all that filtering that used to be involved, simply because releasing a record required investment either by label or by the release-it-yourself artist...  what seemed anti-aesthetic (a cold-hearted financial calculus weighing up outlay and outcome) actually had incalculable aesthetic side-benefits at every step of the process

without these filters, checks, impediments, disincentives, discouragements, and yes, gatekeepers too...  we are "free" to roam, increasingly confused and demoralised and with our appetite fading, through an impenetrably dense yet flattened cultural landscape, in which the great is buried by the good which is smothered by the pretty good which is flooded by the not really good which is engulfed by the really not good

Friday, August 10, 2012

"With my music I try to steal from the future"--Squarepusher, Electronic Beats Magazine, 2012 

A lovely and righteous sentiment. 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

old-ish artists outselling new-ish artists

heisted wholesale from Marathonpacks, some retromania-supportive parsing of data from about its top selling albums of 2012:

  • 7 artists released their first album in the 1960s: Bob Dylan (tribute album), Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Dr. John, Jethro Tull (reissue), The Chieftains, Ringo Starr
  • 6 artists released their first album in the 1970s: Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, Bonnie Raitt, Van Halen (plus two repeats of Springsteen and Richie)
  • 4 artists peaked in popularity and/or relevance in the 1980s or early 1990s: Madonna, Metallica, Wilson Phillips, Counting Crows
  • 8 artists make music in styles popularized in the 1960s/early 1970s and earlier: Alabama Shakes, Norah Jones, Jack White, Lyle Lovett, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Little Willies, Lana Del Rey, Rodrigo y Gabriela
  • 4 artists perform music that is much older: Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder, Chris Botti, and Il Volo
  • 5 artists/releases were made famous via mass media (television or film): Fresh Beat Band, Carrie Underwood, the Hunger Games, Midnight in Paris, Joyful Noise soundtracks
  • 3 releases are pop compilations: 2012 Grammy nominees, Kidz Bop, NOW 41
  • 2 artists are Rascal Flatts, and Tim McGraw
  • 9 artists are Gotye, Amaryllis, Jason Mraz, the David Crowder Band, One Direction, fun., Train, the Shins, and the Fray 

  • as repayment, a link to Eric Harvey's interview at Pitchfork with Jonathan Sterne about his MP3: the Meaning of A Format book - plus intw out-takes at Marathonpacks

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ex-Roxy chaps obsessing over the Sixties

there was a lot of it about 1975-78

even some punks got in on the Sixties ten years on nostalgia wave

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

it's a mod mod mod mod world

Indonesian mod revival band!

Japanese mods!

Swedish mods clash with Swedish rockers!

They do this every year apparently!

Apparently there's Mods in California today, or so someone told me, but all I could find was these things about the Eighties LA mod scene

and for dessert, the original revivalists, the class of 79

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Just what is it that makes today's cities so disjointed, so anomic?

-- Our God Is Speed aka Greyhoos raises a smile with the title to this picture-post of the architectural collages of Nils-Ole Lund


a sort of mute addendum to his "scattered and increasingly digressive" series of posts on collage in the visual arts


more Lund here 


 c.f. all the talk about vaporwave and the children of Ferraro & Lopatin, or indeed the endless commentary about Marclay's The Clock, the question is: will we ever get past Pop Art?


"Endless" indeed: that's three verdicts offered from a single magazine in a five month stretch this year!


Of the three, the Richard Brody take struck the loudest chord with me. After Clock-watching earlier this year when it came to LA, I concluded that  it was postmodernism's Sistine Chapel - an achievement of grand scale, at once about and in collusion with faithlessness and the desacralisation of art...  a testament to an ever-deteriorating inability to get lost in the work of art (the film, the long-playing record, or indeed the rave - having gone to one at the weekend and been startled by how many people were texting or phone-videoing or otherwise social-mediatising the experience they were only partial-immersed in)


in that sense, truly epochal, deserving of all the column inches


but, as Brody says, a love-less masterpiece...  a delightful disenchantment


a mash-up... the art world equivalent of "Intro Inspection" (and look how someone's labored to depict the appropriate record-covers for every appropriated intro)


enabled by, expressive of, the same digital facility 


the technology itself eloquently speaking its dark will to dis-integrate


Thursday, August 2, 2012

{via Tim H Gabriele}

"a note-for-note, sound-for-sound cover of Loveless"

"I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. I don’t particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it."-- Brian Eno, The Guardian, January 17 2010

Not surprised to see Eno subscribe to "inevitabilism"... as discussed in this review I did of A Year With Swollen Appendices, politically he does seem aligned with "a socially progressive, 'kinder' capitalism (long-term planning, improved design) insofar as he participates in the Global Business Network, a future-scenarios development group founded by Stewart Brand and Peter Schwartz." Inevitalism (a.k.a "sorry mate -- history's moving along") accords with the ethos of flexibility that Eno adheres to: he's a pioneer of "creative" as non-specialised, transdiciplinary career designation, always keeping your options open, staying mobile, evading commitment.  Adapt or die, because History is an unfolding catastrophe and there's no point in swimming against the current.

Still, that doesn't mean you need to be smugly fatalistic about the vagabond-isation of an entire of class of artists who once made a modest livelihood off the selling of recordings, along with the small companies and small stores who produced and sold those recordings...  Especially if you happen to be someone whose rise owed a huge amount to that recordings-based system...  a system that, in addition to subsidising or otherwise enabling him to to make a shitload of  not-obviously-commercial records of his own using expensive studios  and expensive musicians, but also provided a great number of lucrative production jobs (that in turn probably subsidised a lot of the more esoteric and experimental projects).  Where would Eno be now without the recordings-based industry? Probably somewhere pretty cool and fairly prosperous, given his multi-talents. But the equivalents of the pre-Roxy Eno today, what are their prospects?  Probably about as good as today's equivalents to the pre-signed-to-Island U2.... 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Quaint, innit? File under: Futurisms of the past, and Bright ideas from a bygone era" - Our God Is Speed digs up an amazing period-piece graphic titled "Man Reshapes Nature: What May Be Done" with all kinds of fanciful ideas of future forms of weather control and natural disaster management.