Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another highlight of Incubate -- but not the least bit industrial - was Buzzcocks, who headlined the final night.

Several people mocked me - Mr Retromania, the caustic critic of reunion tours -- for visibly enjoying their greatest hits and not-quite-hits revue. But what can I say? A favourite band, I never did see them at the time, they're pretty fucking tight and energetic considering how haggard they look, and - strangely -- they still sound quite modern.

In fact one of their recent albums is called Modern, isn't it?

The gig was just great, but this here performance of "Harmony In My Head" was decidedly off, not cos of the rendition but on account of this bizarre interlude mid-song where Steve Diggle does a kind of...  rap. Not rap as in rapping, but this stagey, overwraught soapbox-declamatory routine in which he inveighs against... well, your guess is as good as mine. As "Harmony" ended, Pete Shelley could be heard muttering "what the hell was that?"

Diggle has also got into doing these disconcerting guitar-heroics, lots of axe-brandishing and pointing of his arm and finger into the crowd as if to say "didn't I blow your mind?" -- dramatics that are way out of proportion to the very basic powerchords being struck.

One of my favourite Buzzcocks tunes, performed a long time ago.

Singles Going Steady, as immaculate an artifact as anything pop's produced in the last 100 years?

Friday, September 28, 2012

a great personal reminiscence / tribute  re. Coil from Jonny Mugwump at FACT

still have a bit of a deaf spot with them... in fact I reviewed the Macro Dub Infection CD Johnny starts with so must have played it many a time, and that Coil track made no impression on me then...

grown to dig 'em more in recent years, but of all their stuff this is still the one  that shivers my marrow

Coil-talk reminded me tangentially that the highlight for me at Incubate 2012 was the Chris & Cosey set: a sort of greatest hits revue, a bit like what I imagine seeing Sweet Exorcist in their prime would have been like (if they'd actually played live):  slamming yet eerie, sensual and dark, techno but veined with industrial (the famous Tutti cornet came out to play, great reverby gashes of sound from a headless guitar)

this YouTube (shot from someone's phone no doubt) doesn't capture it really

this one is slightly better

Incubate was full of industrial stuff, much of it from Legacy Artists

Laibach, obviously (as discussed)

Nurse With Wound (disappointing, a real flat souffle, a porridge of chuntering Meat Beat Manifesto type breakbeats that seemed to go on for hours + aimless scratching from the Man Himself - who's belatedly discovered turntablizm, it seems - + recited text from a black lady up front -- apparently at some NwW gigs, they actually have an MC!)

There was a rather touching documentary film shown about Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and his late lady love...

Not industrial exactly but industrial-tinged / industrial-and-Goth influenced were Raime, who were brilliant. The texture-play of their sound really comes out when played through a big system, and superb use of cinematic projections (mostly Tarkovsky I think)

Raime at Incubate was a live set, all their own music; this below is a DJ set at Boiler Room and talking of industrial one of the first things they play is Cabaret Voltaire...

Another Incubate highlight was not industrial  but it is Mugwump-related - Maria and the Mirrors. Despite, or perhaps because of technical difficulties that kept bringing the set to a halt and had the band almost tearing their hair out, it was terrifically tense and exciting. "Not industrial at all"-- well, the combination of pounding manual rhythm and sampled/electronic sound-smear did occasionally make me think of The Young Gods and of Cop Shoot Cop, who sometimes get loosely lumped in 'industrial' ...


In other TG news, they are stepping decidedly into Retromania territory with their cover of the whole of Nico's Desertshore.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saw Laibach for the first time in 24 years  at Incubate 2012 in Tilburg (and they've come a long way since those days, when their stage props consisted of a set of antlers; they've picked up some hi-tech tricks from their buddies-in-bombast Rammstein). And I found myself oscillating between "what a load of cobblers" and "imposingly preposterous".

What tipped me finally into the pro camp was when they wheeled out this cover version, which so drastically undoes the original artist's phrasing that it was only when the chorus came in that I realised who the victim was.

Another highlight was their version of "Warm Leatherette" --a nice tribute to Mute man Daniel Miller, who has been endlessly supportive to them as to his other artists.

They played some  things from their soundtrack to Iron Sky, which sounds a bit like the missing link between Propaganda circa "Mabuse" and a shite-y  Eighties-era James Bond score


Monday, September 24, 2012

the dream that died

The Space Shuttle Endeavour flew over Los Angeles on Friday. The other members of this family dashed out of their respective schools and office buildings to gawp at it, but they had neglected to mention its scheduled passage overhead to me (fresh off the plane from Netherlands / UK). So despite being the one person in the household with any kind of investment in space exploration I missed it, being occupied with catching up with emails and other digi-life dreariness. 

To be honest, I was never that engaged by the Shuttle. It lacked even the residual grandeur of the unmanned Mars mission, or the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, or the Voyager space probes. Squat and ungainly, the Shuttle seemed to just barely make it into Space.

But I certainly wouldn't have minded having a look at it on its final farewell tour. Right now it's resting at Los Angeles International Airport for a few weeks, before it gets transported on land to its retirement home, the California Science Center.

Missing the Shuttle reminded me of something I chanced upon in downtown LA a month ago. Heading on a regular journey through Little Tokyo towards the LA Times building, we veered off on a different route than usual, purely to find sheltering shade from the August scorch. And then stumbled on this:

It's a monument to the first Asian-American astronaut, Ellison S. Onizuka, who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

In fact the whole street is named in his honour. 

The monument had a gleaming, brand-new slickness -- and that's because the year before it had been carted off for repairs and restoration for 21 years of exposure to the elements.

January 28th 1986 -- the day the dream really died

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time - #37

"... That's an anxiety it’s hard to not have if you're making art, or writing or making music. It seems more of an acknowledgement that everything is a reference to something else – that everything is an amalgam of references to a certain extent. Everything that you present is either a continuation of something that already exists, or it's a refusal. The problem - or the opportunity - is how you negotiate those choices"--Sam Riviere, poet, interviewed at the Quietus

Saturday, September 22, 2012

the future that never arrived

Just a week left now for New Yorkers to visit Ghosts in the Machine, an exhibition at the New Museum of fifty years of work based around "the constantly shifting relationship between humans, machines, and art" and tracing "the complex historical passage from the mechanical to the optical to the virtual". It stretches from "Jacob Mohr’s influencing machines to Emery Blagdon’s healing constructions", to "reconstructions of lost works and realizations of dystopian mechanical devices invented by figures like Franz Kafka", to work based around "dismantling the mechanics of vision in order to conceive new possibilities for seeing" such as Op Art and Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome ("an immersive cinematic environment where the viewer is bathed in a constant stream of moving images"), to recent artists like Mark Leckey, Henrik Olesen, and Christopher Williams, whose works "display a fascination with earlier machines and the types of knowledge and experiences that are lost as we move from one era to the next, constantly dreaming up new futures that will never arrive."

Reminded me of this book I picked up recently:

 Published in 1973, written most likely in 1970-71, and, crucially, based on the 1960s.

As the contents pages indicate:


Like so many Zeitgeist-snapshot books (and there are loads of examples of this in terms of big-picture rock books - including a few of my own) it projects forward from what seem to be the most era-defining and progressive tendencies of the present (which by the time the book comes out is the immediate past). Except that by then, other and usually radically different tendencies have emerged. Art and the Future's "prophecy" doesn't envision things like body art, performance art, appropriation art, or indeed most of the major trends and directions that would transpire in the Seventies and thereafter.

But it's full of exciting photographs and reproductions of work by artists, mostly long forgotten, that impart a retro-future frisson - specimens of kinetic art, computer art, early video art, and some of the same people covered by the Ghosts in the Machine exhibition, such as Hans Haacke.  I've been meaning to scan some of them in here, but in the meantime, here's a few from the web.

This first one is from Art and the Future itself

The rest are pictures, or Youtubes, of works by artists covered in the book.


Nicolas Schöffer was a musician as well as a kinetic art pioneer, and some years ago I stumbled on this record (later to be Creel Pone-d)

Released in 1979 on the Hungaroton label, it's an attempt to translate his plastic arts oriented theories about color and structure and space into sound: "to construct trapped time--in the same way as trapped space or trapped light information." The austere pulses and pure poised tones of pieces like "Chronosonor 5" are not so much music as sonic mobiles hanging in space.

[via Marathonpacks, via Maura, via...]

Friday, September 21, 2012

David Byrne on the end of (pop) history:

"With pop music now, it sometimes feels like the end of history. You can shuffle and reconfigure continuously. But it's interesting that in the midst of all this technologically-driven creativity there is a surge towards performance. In a way, we're going back to how it was before there was recording technology, when the song or piece of music existed only in performance and reinterpretation. People seem to want the communality of the live experience. They want to get out and be together as opposed to sitting alone, looking at a screen. The neurologist, Oliver Sacks, says that music is something that is never an isolated thing. You can organise a group and play and it can make you feel better in all sorts of ways. It can spread out into your whole life. That's an incredible thing."

from an interview at the Guardian about his new book How Music Works

I have a review of it in the new edition of Bookforum and one of the threads I draw out of the book is a semi-buried one about the conditions that encourage innovation in music

That Jonathan Lethem book on Fear of Music is ruddy excellent, let me tell you.

Here's a podcast he did with Andy Zax for LA Review of Books

And another interview, in Pitchfork's Paper Trail series.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Live in John Peel Retro Timewarp Heaven, forever!

Well, not quite forever, but for 900 hours, which is about five weeks

assembled by some nutter, a Soundcloud archive of 458 Peel shows, from Perfumed Garden in 1967 through Top Gear and  the postpunk-era and on into the 90s and 2000s

Meanwhile the archive-fevered the Space are still documenting Peel's record collection here, adding new letters steadily. (Do they intend to actually upload the music at some point? That would be an insane undertaking surely). And they also have some radio show bits and bobs

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gotye on Retromania

The creator of 2012's biggest selling single speaks about Retromania:

Now Gotye is in a new phase of his career, musing about the way he got here, and taking time to reflect on the way he creates music. He said he had recently read Simon Reynolds’ book Retromania, which takes the view that the current music industry isn’t offering anything new or original, but rather constantly rehashing recent pop history, albeit in new forms.

Gotye said that reading Reynolds’ diatribe had made him think about the way he wrote songs, cobbling together bits and pieces of never-heard music that he discovers in vintage record stores. “Somebody That I Used To Know,” in fact, samples a guitar part from Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfá’s song “Seville,” from Bonfa’s 1967 album Luiz Bonfa Plays Great Songs. Gotye was intrigued with the album title and found a little musical bit that he twisted and turned into something brand new. And that, he has come to realize, is maybe his unique musical gift.

“I think maybe the stuff that I do that’s the most successful or the most interesting is the stuff that somehow finds the balance between those competing tensions [sampling the past versus creating something brand new] and something unique does come out of it. And maybe the stuff that I do that’s more of a stylistic homage or pastiche, recently I’ve decided I shouldn’t allow myself the license to do that as much because it’s not as interesting and I should challenge myself to try to distill something more unique out of those directions.

Well, if the book helps him come up with another song as fresh and original as "Somebody I Used To Know", and with as much staying power (okay, there was a moment back in June or thenabouts when having heard it approximately 1076 times on the radio I started feeling a tad tired of it, but I'm on my second wind of "SIUTK" love now) , I shall consider it a Job  Well Done. 

Did they ever even release a second single off  Making Mirrors? I suppose they are waiting for the first one to fade off the airwaves. Might still have a bit of a wait ahead.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Listomania, or, Gluttered (slight return)

(further to this)

Can you say "glutted/clotted"? - Spin list Animal Collective's most important influences, all 127 of them!

This reminded me of  Panda Bear's Person Pitch, where Noah Lennox actually lists his influences across one page of  the CD booklet - a cloud cluster of aesthetic coordinates, which are bizarrely wide-ranging, stretching from the already-audible like Beach Boys to less blatant ones like Fela Kuti....  But as well as "cool" and esoteric ones, there's supermainstream, unhip reference points like Duran Duran.

The obvious comparison would be with Nurse With Wound's famous List on their 1979 self-titled debut,which is also a kind of textual pictogram.  But that is a fantastically obscurantist array of experimental, freakadelic, and outsider musicians, clearly meant to be a challenge to the listener: chase these down, if you can.  A blend of evangelism and oneupmanship. Fans have been trying to track all the groups down for decades and there were even some blogs, in the early sharity days, dedicated entirely to making their way methodically through the NWW List.

Panda Bear's is much more 2000s in its spirit: open-hearted, not snobbish or exclusionary. It's a sharing with the fans and captures the mentality of the filesharing/Shuffle/Spotify/Youtube/etc generation.

Equally (back to the gluttered theme, and c.f. Grimes's "post-Internet" notion) it is quite hard to imagine the artistic sensibility that could comprehend and digest and synthesise such a disparate array of inputs. Whereas the NwW List has more coherence, a unifying slant (weird, extreme, surreal, "out" etc) that connects its choices and points to the commonality between pre-punk progressive and post-punk noise-industrial.