Sunday, November 30, 2014

bad listeners

An interesting piece by Tom Barnes on how how analogue formats have been scientifically proven to offer a richer cognitive payload than MP3s / streaming

Among the experts called upon are Poppy Crum, senior scientist at Dolby Laboratories and consulting professor at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, who avers that "True love or appreciation for a piece of music ... comes with depth of knowledge of that music," and that three elements crucial to in-depth experience / cathexis with music ("repeated exposure, iterations and intent") get diminished in a "taste and go, streaming environment.... Those sorts of heightened emotional responses of pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction come in a way that is counter to rapid, quick streaming and constant exposure to a lot of different things,"

That's both a familiar idea and one abundantly supported by many people's personal experience (including my own) when it comes to encountering music via the internet. We know from our own experience what Spotify has show with data analysis ("there's only about a 50% chance we'll actually make it to the end of a song"), ie. we become all too easily skittish, inattentive listeners.

More interesting is the  hard science stuff to do with compression and data-stripping :

"A recent study performed by audio researchers at DTS divided a group of listeners into two groups — one that watched a video accompanied by standard stereo 96-kbps sound (Spotify's default audio setting) and the other group listened in 256-kbps audio format. The responses in the brains of the group listening with the 256-kbps audio were 14% more powerful on metrics measuring memory creation and 66% higher on pleasure responses. And this was just 96 to 256 kbps.
Vinyl records are estimated to play at a whopping 1000 kbps. Music might not just have lost its revenue when it switched to digital; it may have lost its emotional power too."

Still, I must say,  most people have always done the bulk of their listening to in music non-ideal circumstances from the hi-fi point of view....  some of my most intense musical connections came through radio, listening to Peel and evening Radio One on a pretty tinny transistor radio.....  later on with pirate radio, it was a much better hi-fi set up but the signal itself was of variable quality, then recorded and played back on re-used tapes of advances releases ...  and then in the last four years or so, falling in love with a lot of mainstream pop and commercial / street rap through hearing it in the car - less than ideal listening circumstances (we're not rocking a great in-car stereo, believe me) and the radio transmission itself is usually compressed and thin. So far more than the actual audio quality, or analogue being intrinsically superior to digital,  I think it is the listening mode  that is most crucial in terms of receptivity, impact, and cathexis. Listening to the radio while doing your homework, or doing household tasks, seems like an "open" mode of listening  - true, you're not as focused and immersed as the reverent stereo hi  fi listener or person encased in high-end headphones - but it's a lot better than listening to music on your computer or your phone, where it is almost impossible not to engage in other browsing activity - social media, reading stuff on the internet, replying to emails, downloading more music, etc etc.

Listening to the radio in the car, or indeed your ipod or CDs or tapes, seems almost ideal in terms of receptivity - if driving, you're engaged in an activity that demands your attention but involves a lot of automatic processes, and engages different parts of your mind than the aesthetic;  if you're a passenger you're probably in a light trance as the streets and the landscape go by. Music also is entwined with everyday life in that classic way, as opposed to having to jostle for attention while you engage in info-hunter/gatherer activities on the web.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

retroTeeVee / "peak pop culture"

"Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age to the Closed Loop of Pop Culture?" asks Jason Bailey of Flavorwire

A piece which sets out right up front the journalistic rule of thumb, "two is a coincidence, three's a trend". Or at least a trend -piece.

1. Starz Television has announced a new, ten-episode series titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. Director/producer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell will reunite for the series, which is a spin-off/continuation of their long-dormant original iteration of the Evil Dead movie series.
2. The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films will re-team director Peter Berg with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for a feature film adaptation of the ‘70s television series The Six Million Dollar Man — retitled The Six Billion Dollar Man, because inflation.
3. Showtime has ordered a nine-episode continuation of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential Twin Peaks, a full 25 years after the series finale aired on ABC."
From this Bailey concludes that: 
"Pop culture is a closed loop.
"Movies based on comic books. Movies based on other movies. Movies based on Broadway musicals. Broadway musicals based on movies. Movies based on television shows. Television shows based on movies. Television shows based on other television shows. Popular culture has always, to some extent, existed within its own echo chamber, but in the current climate, it’s hard to find anything that’s genuinely original, that’s not based, to some extent, on some other thing."
He points out that the "the list of the top ten highest-grossing movies of the year thus far includes one sequel, two new installments of long-running movie series, a film based on a fairy tale, a film based on a toy line, a sequel to a film based on a toy line, a movie based on a comic book, and three sequels to movies based on comic books" and that next year will bring us "sequels to Taken, Hot Tub Time Machine, Divergent, Paranormal Activity, The Fast and the Furious, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Avengers, Pitch Perfect, Insidious, The Terminator, Ted, Magic Mike, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Maze Runner, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hotel Transylvania, The Hunger Games, Sinister, Kung Fu Panda, Mission: Impossible, Bond, and (of course) Star Wars. There will be remake/reboots of The Jungle Book, Frankenstein, The Fantastic Four, Point Break, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park, and Mad Max" and "have big-screen versions of television shows like Entourage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Jem and the Holograms. But the loop also flows from film back to television, with the surprise success of Fargo, Hannibal,and About a Boy prompting a new rash of movie-based TV shows, including the Ash vs. Evil Dead, 12 MonkeysUncle Buck (again),Marley & Me (what?), and Big (noooooo)".
"Everything is based on another thing, in other words, which prompts the pessimist in me to wonder when we’ll reach “peak pop culture,” and simply run out of preexisting things to adapt and remake. I guess we’ll just have to start re-adapting and re-remaking."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

empty Space

"His new picture is his biggest: biggest event, biggest spectacle, biggest pastiche, biggest disappointment. It’s a colossal science-fiction adventure avowedly in the high visionary-futurist style of Kubrick’s 2001, but sugared up with touches of M Night Shyamalan. Nolan takes on the idealism and yearning from 2001, but leaves behind the subversion, the disquiet and Kubrick’s real interest in imagining a post-human future. What interests Nolan more is looping back to a sentimentally reinforced present....
"... [The character] Cooper is furious at the world’s dreary earthbound dullness, and that his kids’ school teaches that the Apollo moon missions were a hoax designed to bankrupt the Soviets. He is rightly disgusted at this nonsense: I would have liked to have heard a more explicit speech attacking it, and incidentally making it clear that space exploration was not what did for the Soviet economy..... His crew....  get the regulation white suits, Nixon-era tech, long-sleep hibernation routines, flickery video messages from home and standard-issue talking robot called Tars, who is quirky but obedient – basically Hal2D2. ...

"....But all the rest is mannerism and starburst portentousness, underscored by Hans Zimmer’s score that toys playfully with Straussian themes but relies on heavy, wheezingly religiose, organ-type chords.
"The appearance of Interstellar is a moment to reflect that Kubrickian sci-fi, like Loachian social-realism of the same 60s period, was once rooted in the real world: social-realist films could change the law, and sci-fi reflected and even inspired a world in which the moon really was about to be conquered, and everyone assumed that manned space exploration would continue onwards at the same rate. Today, this is a lost futurism. What remains is style, and Nolan has got plenty of that. He gives us more of his signature universe-manipulations, in which the ground or sea will turn up 90 degrees, like a surreal cliff-face: huge, dreamlike and wrong. It’s exhilarating. But Interstellar’s deep space turns out to be shallower than we expected."

retroquotes # 2283928

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

"Imagine a great hall of fetishes where whatever you felt like fucking or being fucked by, however often your tastes might change, no matter what hardware or harnesses were required, you could open the gates and have at it on a comfy mattress at any time of day. That’s what the internet has become for music fans. Plus bleacher seats for a cheering section" - Steve Albini's vision of the music-lover's paradise that is now

The rest of Albini's sunny side up view of the post-Internet music culture is so far from my own perspective it is disorienting....  but then he's not interested in large formations or Events, he's all about micro-scenes and local communities

 I have doubts that DIY-ing it all yourself (not just the music, but the production process, the design, the promotion,  etc) rather than having it done by seasoned professionals with the machinery in place and year upon years experience (ie. record companies) is really that liberating for musicians, who might be great at the creative aspect but lousy at the putting-what-you've-created-across function.... it's a hugely increased work-load and stress-load... offset by the possiblity of an increased profit margin.... but an increased profit margin on not-a-lot might be no better than a smaller share of quite-a-bit-more.  Certainly for an author, DIY-ing is not a good option, unless perhaps you're achieved such superfame (through the old Major Publisher system, of course) that you have a large and loyal constituency / market. But even then you'd have to have employees, or hire the services of experienced hands... in effect reconstituting something rather like a publisher.

retroquotes #203947264628438389

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

What may emerge as the most important insight of the twenty-first century is that man was not designed to live at the speed of light. Without the countervailing balance of natural and physical laws, the new video-related media will make man implode upon himself. As he sits in the informational control room, whether at home or at work, receiving data at enormous speeds — imagistic, sound, or tactile — from all areas of the world, the results could be dangerously inflating and schizophrenic. His body will remain in one place but his mind will float out into the electronic void, being everywhere at once in the data bank. Discarnate man is as weightless as an astronaut but can move much faster. He loses his sense of private identity because electronic perceptions are not related to place. Caught up in the hybrid energy released by video technologies, he will be presented with a chimerical “reality” that involves all his senses at a distended pitch, a condition as addictive as any known drug. The mind, as figure, sinks back into ground and drifts somewhere between dream and fantasy. Dreams have some connection to the real world because they have a frame of actual time and place (usually in real time); fantasy has no such commitment.

— Marshall McLuhan, The Global Village, page 97 (via vagabondbohemia)

Monday, November 24, 2014

chatting about the H-word

An extract from a conversation  about Hauntology I had with  Richard J. Lockley Hobson, independent researcher into all things that are H-related.

Below, a taster for his taster for a book he's currently writing on H-ology

SR "The one thing that came through more clearly when doing the chapter in Retromania was the extent to which my idea of Hauntology-as-music-genre, and my affection for it, is based around nationality. And I make this opposition between nationality and nationalism. Nationalism is political and it’s an ideology of national greatness or exceptionality. Nationality is pre-political I think – it’s the things I share with all other Britons including so many I have nothing in common with politically or in terms of chosen allegiances (musical, artistic, etc). Nationality in that sense is the pre-chosen, the given rather than what you consciously seek out or align yourself with... the realm of customs, everyday life, accents, gestures, rituals, routines, habits, common sense, food etc... the common inheritance of phrase and fable, idiom, and also, the arbitrary stylistic and design quirks of the typography used on everyday articles, the look of shops and public institutions, etc.

"I was just in the UK last week and being an expatriate now I notice this stuff that I would not have noticed when I lived there and it was all I knew. Also I just learned to drive so I’m paying more attention, but you know, things like road signs – where my mum lives in west Hertfordshire, signs like “weak bridges” or “traffic calming area” (for a zone with bumps in the road to stop drivers going too fast and running over little kids, presumably!). It’s in that kind of thing that the soul of a nation resides....

"A lot of Hauntology taps into this kind of thing, and largely the elements of the nation-soul or lifeworld that are fading away. Although whenever I go back to England I am quite amazed by how unchanged it is, indistinguishable, in large part, from the 1970s or 80s Britain that I remember. Old people still look the same. The main differences between then and now seems to be mobile phones and coffee"

this was tomorrow (relapse #5)

and another one with Warner Jepson's Buchla music circa 1970

Saturday, November 22, 2014

this was tomorrow (flashback)

Put on your anaglyph glasses... 

Music by Michael McNabb and Bill Schottstaedt

Blurb at YouTube: 

"Mars in 3-D is a stereographic film of imagery taken by the NASA Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft from both Mars orbit and on the surface, from both lander locations, between 1976 and 1979. The original film was produced at Stanford University in 1979 using 16mm film. It is a valuable and unique historical presentation of the results of one of the United States' most important space achievements of the decade following the Apollo moon program. The film reels and related materials were eventually donated to the NASA archives at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.

The twin Viking spacecraft arrived at Mars in 1976 and operated for several years. In 1979, one member of the Viking Imaging Team, Dr. Elliott Levinthal, was by then working at the Stanford Medical School developing medical imaging technology. He received support from NASA and Stanford University to produce a scientific documentary based on the 3D imagery from the spacecraft.

Each spacecraft had both an orbiter and lander component. Each lander had two cameras separated by about 0.8 meters, which when used together could produce left/right stereo images. The original purpose of this was to determine precise distances to nearby features for programming the soil scoop arm, but it also proved useful in understanding the overall geology of the surrounding landscape. It also really brings home the tremendous human and technological achievement of seeing the surface of another planet up close for the first time in human history. And although the tests for life on Mars were then deemed inconclusive, the results are still debated by scientists today, with some arguing for a positive interpretation.

For the orbital views, two images taken by the moving spacecraft from slightly different locations were used to produce the stereo images. The exaggerated 3D that this provides dramatically reveals the topography of the large-scale surface features. The film also includes more conventional stereo images of the Viking test lander taken at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and some non-stereo scenes of the narrator on-screen.

In 1979, CCRMA was the leading center in the world for developing the use of computers for musical synthesis and composition (and arguably remains so). Dr. Levinthal approached Professor John Chowning, then the directory of CCRMA, for help in producing a stereo soundtrack for the film. Prof. Chowning turned to two of his graduate students, myself and William Schottstaedt, and we each produced about 15 minutes of music for the 32 minute film.
Restoration Project

In 2009, CCRMA proposed a concert to honor its founder and former director, Professor John Chowning, who proposed to present the concert in a movie theater and include the Mars in 3-D film. However, using 16mm projection with the original reels was out of the question due to the degraded quality of the film and soundtrack, and difficulty using outdated 16mm stereo technology. So, with the cooperation of NASA/Ames we began an effort to find, restore and convert the film to modern Digital Cinema format and 5.1 surround audio, for presentation using current 3D cinema projection technology. Several copies of the 16mm left and right film reels, as well as the original narration audio tapes, were located at NASA Ames. These were then scanned to HD video.

The original quadraphonic surround music has been re-synthesized using a software emulator, built by Mr. Schottstaedt, that exactly reproduces the functionality of the hardware synthesizer we used in 1979. This, along with digitized copies of the original narration recordings, were used to create a new 5.1 surround audio soundtrack.

For the restoration, each reel (left and right eyes), was first processed according to the following steps: Original 4x3 aspect 16mm film scanned to uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD (1440 x 1080). Converted to Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec. Imported into Final Cut Pro 7. SmoothCam filter applied to reduce film jitter. Neat Video noise reduction plugin applied to reduce very numerous scratches, dust, and tears. Some use also of CHV Repair Collection's Dropout Eliminator plugin. FCP's Sharpen, Brightness and Contrast, and Color Corrector 3-way effects variously applied for overall color correction and image quality improvements. Dashwood Stereo3D Toolbox plugin applied for final left-right alignment and color matching."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - November - eMMplekz, Advisory Circle, "Locomotion", and more

Ekoplekz continues his terrific 2014 (the recent Four Track Mind, his second album of the year on Planet Mu and even better than the first;  the Rock La Bibliotek EP on West Norwood Cassette Library) with the Influkz EP  and yet another ace eMMplekz collaboration with Mordant Music -  the C40 tape spool You Might Also Like , purchasable here

Also on Mordant Music, the vinyl reissue (or is it first time ever issue?) of Donald Fraser's OST to Geoffrey Jones's British Transport Film "Locomotion" (1975), electronic music involving playing by members of Steeleye Span would you believe.

On Ghost Box, a superb new record from The Advisory Circle - a return to sweetly creepy form after As The Crow Flies, which is a pleasant listen but never lingered in my memory. 

from the press release:
"The Advisory Circle (aka Jon Brooks) explores darker territory than on 2012’s more pastoral As The Crow Flies. This time Brooks hints at a Wyndham-esque science fiction story, where bucolic English scenery is being manipulated and maybe even artificially generated by bizarre multi-dimensional computer technology. Brooks’ strong sense of melody and composition is still evident as are his renowned sound design and production skills. Consequently the album is a rich and rewarding experience that subtly showcases a wealth of musical experience. The usual analogue synth sound palette is augmented with found-sound from antique tape reels and Brooks’ ever growing tangle of home built electronics."


There has also been alluring activity on those hauntology-outskirts known variously as West Country wyrdtronica / pastoral-industrial / Coil in green wellies

Kemper Norton's Loor

IX Tab's R.O.C. on Exotic Pylon

And this on Kek-W's label 19f3 - Concrete / Field's A Theory of Psychic Geography


Squarely back in the fold of Hauntology, this isn't a recent release  (May this year) but it's an enjoyable one

"On a day out at Pepperbox Hill in Wiltshire I watched my daughter and her friends playing and running about by the old folly. As I watched I wondered about all the things that this grand old building might have seen over the years; childrens' games, picnics, bonfires, fireworks, fights, fantastic freak outs, witches, warlocks, highwaymen, ladies watching for the hunt and the homeguard watching for an invasion. With these thoughts it was now time to record again" - Keith Seatman, blurb for Around the Folly and Down Hill.

Finally, judging by past form (i.e. the last seven years or so), there ought to be a Moon Wiring Club long-player any day now. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

scraps of life, scraps of self

Nicholas Carr suggests that" the scrapbook has become our essential cultural form, the artifact that defines the time", albeit not the paper-and-glue sort of scrapbook but "but the unbound, online variety" . Pinterest, obviously but also "all social networking platforms... Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Ello, YouTube, LinkedIn.. Blogs are scrapbooks. Medium’s a scrapbook. A tap of a Like button is nothing if not a quick scissoring."

"If we’re not arranging our own scraps, we’re rummaging through the scraps of others.“Cut-and-paste”: the scrapbooking metaphor has long suffused our experience of computers. Now, the scrapbook is the interface. The cloud is our great shared scrapbook."

The blogpost is titled "Desperate Scrapbookers" and Carr further suggests that "the scrapbook is a melancholy form", "inherently  retrospective - a means of preemptively packaging the present as memory".... "Pressed insistently forward, we spend our time arranging the bits and pieces of our lives into something we think looks something like us. If the material scrapbook of old was familial and semiprivate, the new scrapbook is social and altogether public. It’s still a melancholy form, but now it’s an anxious one, too. It’s one thing to construct an idealized life, a “best self,” for your own consumption; it’s another thing to construct one for all to see."
He quotes Tamar Katriel and Thomas Farrell's 1991 article “Scrapbooks as Cultural Texts”:  It appears, then, that scrapbook-making as a ritualized, order-inducing gesture is both an acknowledgement of and a response to the heightened sense of fragmentation which has attended the experience of modernity.” 
A connection between scrapbooking and modernist techniques of collage is one of the ideas that came up when Joy Press, a/k/a the missus interviewed Jessica Helfand, author of Scrapbooks: An American History, for eight years ago. The peg for the piece was the crafts-store-fueled fad for scrapbooking, an extension of the old paper-and-glue approach but utilising a vast array of kitschy-cute decorative accessories: "flair and foil, lace wraps and eyelets, glitter and “word fetti." -- which by 2008 had become "a nearly $3 billion industry with its own national holiday and a vast network of Web sites, groups and retreats". (Wonder how it's doing now, that industry -- whether it's been eroded hugely by the rise of Tumblr, Pinterest and the rest?).
From Joy's piece:
“It’s at once horrifying and fascinating to witness the degree to which design is being discussed online by people whose concept of innovation is measured by novel ways to tie bows,” Helfand confessed .... Helfand couldn’t dismiss scrapbooks altogether, however. Although they were often cheesy and sentimental and generic, this was also hands-on design as practiced by regular people rather than artists — an attempt to represent everyday experience through visual culture. Digging through archives, she was amazed by the medium’s rich pedigree....
 Helfand calls it “the original open-source technology, a unique form of self-expression that celebrated visual sampling, culture mixing, and the appropriation and redistribution of existing media.” 
[She is] interested in peeking at the historical shifts embedded in the way people recounted their lives: the episodes they chose to describe, the objects they included (newspaper clippings, gum wrappers, dance cards, dog tags, family photos), and even the way they laid out the pages (sophisticated modernist visual styles like collage had somehow already been absorbed by ordinary scrapbookers of the early and mid-20th century)....  These books are remarkable to look at — so individual and specific, each becomes a “repository of evidence” from someone’s life...."
From the Q/A section of the piece:
You object to the way today’s scrapbooks are so schematic, right? There are rules and guidelines for how to do them, and every element of them is premade rather than just gathering the flotsam and jetsam of your life and organizing it in a beautiful way.
By and large, what is so beautiful about scrapbooks [historically] is that they are so messed up! They are messy. They are not chronological, and they go back and forth and change things, and they rip out pictures of guys they broke up with. They’re so idiosyncratic.
... So many scrapbooks these days seem to be about other people, like — I’m going to make this about my son or my dog or the prom. But 100 years ago, a scrapbook was about you, about your experiences. And that’s why I became so absorbed by them as biographical receptacles of people’s lives. That’s why the banal things could be the most important thing. My critique of current scrapbooking materials is that it creates a meaningless visual grammar. Why would you want to follow a pattern?.... 
I have a theory that contemporary scrapbooking is a little bit of a reflection of reality TV. You look at a show like “The Biggest Loser,” or take Joe the Plumber — he’s famous for 15 minutes and now he’s gunning for a singing career. People want to gussy themselves up....  It’s this externalizing idea of, I want this to look good for everyone else so if I ever get famous my scrapbooks will show that I’m perfect. But the whole purpose was to celebrate the everyday....
What is happening to the scrapbook in the digital era, when nobody writes letters or prints out photos anymore? There is a whole community of digital scrapbookers, of course, but is the print version of the memory book going to vanish?
I was lecturing Yale undergrads, and some 19-year-old said, isn’t Facebook a scrapbook? I’m sure there’s some artist out there saving every single status update, but the digital is ephemeral and you have to actively pursue the fleeting digital evidence of our existence.
Right, you can’t just put it in a box. You have to make an effort to archive it.
But those people who are choosing to print out their photos and make scrapbooks may have the last laugh because the materials they are working with now are much more [durable] than they were before. Archivists are struggling to maintain old scrapbooks, but in 100 years these things will last, they are indestructible. There will be an entire world of material culture studies that looks at just this, these scrapbooks.

Recently recovered some scrapbooks from my mid-teens that had been in storage for decades, scrapbooks whose existence I'd completely forgotten about. And was indeed struck by how they anticipated some of the functions of a blog, albeit not the commentary or "thinking aloud" aspect. But I would stick in a right miscellany of books reviews, quirky amusing news stories, articles snipped out of colour supplements, adverts, leaflets, and other bits 'n' bobs. And looking at it now, over the course its duration (probably half a year) I could discern the shifting constellation of my interests aged fifteen or so - science fiction, alternative history, Python-style comedy, futurology pieces about consumer technology predictions for the 21st Century, a map of Europe showing all the devolution and separatist movements ... And then gradually, popping into view, early stirrings of an interest in music - the lyrics to Kate Bush's "Them Heavy People", a bottom-of-the-page micro-ad for a Killing Joke single.

By the next scrapbook - which has never been out of my reach, wasn't one of the ones put away in storage - the interest has narrowed completely. No more Marina Warner reviews of Christopher Booker books snipped from the Observer, or interviews with Michael Palin, or an article illustrated with a map of Central Europe detailing how a future Third World War could break out, based on a book written by military strategists. It's all reviews, interviews, thinkpieces,clipped out of the music papers.  I had decided who I was, who I was going to be. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

isn't it too early for the hypnagogic pop revival?

a review almost certainly superior to the record (Torn Hawk's Let's Cry and Do Pushups At The Same Time) it's reviewing (as the three dots out of five pretty much admits) - by Hydroyoga at TMT.

"....Is this music nostalgic? Yes, and no, but mostly no, and I’ll explain why. Somewhere in the 80s and 90s are cultural treasure chests, locked away and hidden, and  [Luke] Wyatt’s propagated them, dusting them off and giving them a new breath like a scientist in Jurassic Park. In his musical project, the TV (as an object) is prominent, and anything from bad sci-fi to sun-drenched porno is okay, basically... It’s not so much as adoring the past, thinking that times were better back then (the main forward thrust of nostalgia): it’s learning from the past, seriously, and recycling what you want to as you go. As in, learning how documentary music worked back then, or how a song in a movie or video game is structured, or how a flanger works, or how to saturate an electric guitar properly, or how to create the idea of emotion, even if it’s blatantly melodramatic and plundered to its very last depths....  
"Favoring the outdated over the vogue, the analog over the digital: it’s a worn-in practice, and the past compels us to it because we want to preserve, and are preserved (digitally).... The hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s: they last forever. Elton John is immortal, in an electromagnetic sense: the satellites in space know of him. The past frightens us so much we want it to be part of our future, which it can’t be. Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time works because it’s emotional and pins us down somewhere between the computer and life, where we want to be. It makes us want to cry or workout or take a lonesome drive amidst Douglas firs or palm trees, in cold or rain or hot weather, like in southern Florida, in Miami, or somewhere in the ouroboros of Texas. It at least compels us to think about respecting the material reality of VHS. It at least compels us to think about the infinity of broadcasting and of archival transcendence.....  His music just gestures at things, these things, these embedded and encoded things of the past that simultaneously are and aren’t part of some of us....

"But onward, toward the end of 2014, and our Tumblr feeds confound us. Mine, right now, in real-time, goes from some nudes drawn by the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, to a picture of a man riding a motorcycle in the 1950s, to updates from the New York Public Library. Culturally, we’re drawn to images, discovering them and preserving them. Today, we mix and match with a fatty, hyperreal intensity: we jump through worlds in instances, sometimes not even aware that we were fragmented. The same thing here with Torn Hawk; we might as well call Wyatt as much an archivist as a musician, because there’s a library science behind it, and he respects what already exists and translates those contexts into a form that complicates the simple truth of historical time, of A leading to B, of C coming after B, of digital equipment triumphing analog. Codex replaces scroll, Wi-fi cables replace dial-up...."

Of course my jest about a premature Hypnagogic Revival is misplaced. For this is no revival, this is just persistence, this is a sort of stuckness. Ideas and practices that nobody seems to be able to get past.  
That ole linear time in which a sonic-episteme would be superceded and supplanted by another, and then by another - and onwards ever onwards -  creating a thrilling illusion of teleology - all that's completely unravelled. 
So Hypnagogia persists. The New New Age persists. Retro-rave and nu / tru jungle are caught in a repeat-rinse cycle. Vaporwave vaporates still. The Eighties revival goes through half-lives, hasn't fully sputtered out, even as the Nineties revival gathers momentum and, quite soon, the early 2000s will come up for grabs. . 
But to take an example nearer and dearer to my heart - Hauntology is edging towards celebrating its tenth anniversary (if we take Ghost Box's first releases in 2005 as the ignition point). Now in 2014, Hauntology (and its hinterland subzones) had a pretty decent year -  nowhere near its best years, but far from its low ebbs. This year there have been some solid, in a few cases superb, releases from the established names; some promising new(ish) recruits; even a book  (okay, in that case decidedly deja vu-du). 
Chances are 2015 will be another pretty good year for Hauntology, as it will be for the other Zones of Alteration, 
In Atemporality,nothing ever really dies. But nothing ever really gets born either.  

Monday, November 10, 2014


Reviewing Arca's Xen, Philip Sherburne identifies the New taking shape....

"...  it is becoming clear that something is cresting the horizon, and while it's too early to make out the particulars of its shape—this lumbering behemoth with the Teflon gleam and Transformer joints and image-mapping skin—it is getting closer.
"This new thing is not a genre, exactly; call it a style, a sensibility, a veneer. It has to do with computers and digital sound and digital imagery. It has to do with representation and malleability, the idea that sound and image can be stretched and twisted and copied ad nauseam. It revels in digital gloss and grit, in bent tones, in smeared and frozen reverb tails. Extreme compression, schizoid pith: rap vocals broken down to monosyllables, a single "Huh" as metonym for everything that's happened between the Sugarhill Gang and now. History reduced to a USB stick.

"It's not necessarily sci-fi in its themes—not, say, in the way that Detroit techno celebrated cybernetics and space travel—but there's still something inherently futuristic about its portrayal of technology as something tangible and even sensual, its suggestion that data has texture and heft. It spins code into a second skin... You can make out its traces in the work of people like Actress, Oneohtrix Point Never, Evian Christ, FKA twigs, Berlin's Janus crew, and even PC Music, and it feels like it's coming to a head on Arca's Xen. The next few years—his next few years—are going to be interesting."

Feels like this has been coming on for a while  -- like this is a sensuously noir branch of digital maximalism - neugothromanticism.  It overlaps with the Harperzone, the hinterland of IDM 3.0 (IDM now meaning Internet Dance Music), things like "Distroid" and the new Coldness/Darkness (confusingly coexisting with the New Cuteness/Brightness)

Is this the same sort of thing - imploded, overloaded sensations of future-now dysphoria and disequilibirum - that Kid Shirt is talking about here, in relation to music by Krakkkbot?

Interesting to meditate on how the stripped-down, lean, 16-step sequencer linearity of, say, DAF or Nitzer Ebb gave way over 30 years or so to...  electronic musicforms like this: fragmented / restless / self-interrupting / auto-sabotaging / deliberately 'broken' -- disruptive, rather than *errm* discoursive - music that reflects the jarring, multi-channelled. corporatised ADDH culture that demands our attention from every which way but forward at the same time. We sit daily at the centre of a sphere of influences / adverts / tugs on our times / pleas for attention / earworms / etc, one that also reaches back in time and across shared temporal geographies. Music technology played a part in this migration, obviously, but so did cultural fragmentation and the multiplication of media-streams.

Trying to work out why this latest iteration of "digital baroque" doesn't do much for me....

Well of course I didn't much care for this sort of quasi-organic infolding and slithery convolution, this lush plasticized foliage, when it was writhing triffid-like off of  Lifeforms by Future Sound of London...  the attendant rhetoric of digital-virtual mestiçagem does feel like the re-irruption of  90s Zeroes & One discourse.... where topiary and Toop merge...  

(and just as the omni(virous)sound has been coming on for a while, similarly that discourse has been re-irrupting since 2008, 2009 - remember wonky?)

the non-attraction has something to do with the reasons I prefer collage and analogue-era animation techniques (models, cel overlay, zerography etc) to morphing, Pixar, CGI etc

stop press: a review of Xen  that strikes me as spot-on, by Maya Kalev at FACT  - the gist is "remarkable – but ultimately insubstantial" , "unusual" but not "emotionally affecting", "self-consciously hypermodern" yet often oddly recalling Autechre, IDM, trip hop, illbient. And the word "baroque" also crops up, interestingly. 

The opening bit - referencing an interview where Arca says that "Xen" is "a genderless alter ego, a fictional entity that he describes as 'kind of repulsive and attractive at once, and so I imagine her under a spotlight, in this room full of people just staring, wide-eyed, openmouthed'" -  indicates what is new that's been added to the otherwise 90s digital-virtual hybridity rhetoric, which is queer theory

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ubu Moi

I did a Top Ten for archive of the avant-garde UbuWeb

in danger of getting lost in the virtual catacombs so decided to focus on Extremism of the Human Voice

and Furious Pig, which won't embed for some reason