Thursday, November 29, 2012

James Parker at Tiny Mix Tapes on the new Emeralds (versus vaporwave)

Which is only "new" in the notional sense of  it's the latest Emeralds record (as in "yet another Emeralds record"). And in another sense it's very deliberately not-new, but the recapitulation of a style (Sky Records, late kosmische heading towards E2: E4) that in its own day signified an advance, or at least an evolution (Krautrockers engaging with the latest technology of guitar pedals, sequencers, synths etc), but more than thirty years later is, at very best, a strategic withdrawal from current possibilities. 

"Emeralds are doubly anachronistic. It’s not just that they’re retro. They aren’t even retro in a particularly contemporary way.... These weren’t exactly slavish recreations... [I dunno, my first thought on hearing Just To Feel Anything, was that it was like a Gottsching/Rother tribute band.. but enough interruptions, pray continue James!] ... It was as if Emeralds had simply decided to pick up and continue to explore a genre that had last touched base with the zeitgeist some 30 or so years previously..... The commitment is to the genre itself, to a catalogue of very particular sounds, effects, and techniques. It is these that provide the framework within which any further experimentation must be confined. The problem is that unless you’re already on board in this respect, unless you’re also a fanboy, equally committed to the rules of the game, equally happy to judge a record according to its micro-innovations, or in terms of its ability to successfully inhabit the genre, then it can all feel a little bit… well… pointless. So it turns out that there’s a little of the modernist in me yet. Not even vaporwave could put pay to it entirely. I’m more than happy with appropriation, it seems, a certain kind of totally overt relation with the past, but only so long as that relation feels new or refreshing somehow."

I'm a vaporwave agnostic myself...   a lot of it just sounds like bland music played at the wrong speed, to me, no more or less - vapidwave, more like!  From its textures and techniques to its rationalisation, it all feels like a coda to Ferraro/Onehotrix/Chuck Person...    the       Chapterhouse/Ride/Catherine Wheel to the former's MBV/AR KaneI don't quite see the conceptual leap beyond what was already proposed by Far Side Virtual/Eccojams that is being made here...  It feels less of a surprising extension than hipster house, for instance.  

I enjoy reading about it, very much, but when you get more pleasure and stimulation from the discourse around the music than the music itself, that's a warning sign...

A sign of what? Well, it's now approaching a half-decade of hypnagogic (Keenan's article was 2009, but the underground music currents he marshalled together under that conceptual rubric were in motion from 2008 onwards,  maybe earlier).  Five years is a long time in music (shoegaze, for instance, lasted about that long, 1988 to 1992: from the pioneer stage to the codifying exhaustion of the style, from "You Made Me Realise" to Going Blank Again). You would probably expect some kind of change-up at this point.

(Of course, hauntology has been going even longer (2005-6) than hypnagogic -  good things still seep out from the haunty zone, subtle twists and extensions... But the point perhaps is that, however good to listen to they may be, they cannot be the spur to new thoughts)

Then again, maybe the hallmark of an atemporal age (or not-age) is that genres never really die... the supercessive logic of linearity, of dialectical advances that entail the definitive abandonment of earlier styles and stages .... that doesn't apply anymore.

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