Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Unofficial Britain Soundtrack 2014

Bunch of things I liked this year on this Unofficial Britain Soundtrack 2014 mix by Gareth E. Rees as well as a LOT I never heard and some I never even heard of....

I have been using the "Hauntology Parish Newsletter" concept for a while now, partly because of the Anglo (or even Anglican) archaism (I'm sure they still exist but are probably email circulars or webpages nowadays) but also because this scene - hauntology and adjacent zones like pastoral-industrial / West Country Lot - is almost literally parochial for me. 

See, I realised a while back that quite a high proportion of the music that’s meant anything to me in recent times has been made by acquaintances and friends. 

Woebot has stopped making records, which makes this syndrome a bit less chronic. But still, among the others...  

I’ve met and had pints with Ekoplekz (probably the most consistently enjoyable musician for me these last four years)...   

Or take Moon Wiring Club (probably the most consistently enjoyable musician for me in the last 8 years; Leporine Pleasure Gardens would be in my Faves of 2014 except the ruddy package hasn't arrived yet). When Ian Hodgson turned up to a Totally Wired event in Manchester several years ago, I was so surprised and pleased I gave him a hug. I can't say that about Kanye West. 

Never met the Ghost Box lads in the flesh, oddly. But have corresponded with them on and off for almost a decade.  

Others in this zone are blog neighbours and/or intermittent correspondents. One way or another, figures I feel I know

Now that doesn’t mean I like everything these fellows do.  Nearly every one in the field has put out a duffer or two. 

For instance, that Soundcarriers album from mid-2014 struck me as the first wholly pointless release that Ghost Box have put out – pleasant pastiche, nothing more - the fact that the group made the cover of Shindig tells you all you need to know....  

But there is a cosiness, definitely....  and the latest emissions from this quarter are comfort food at this point.   

Then again, in a way that was always how hauntology worked for me...  it was extremely stimulating to think about, but as an aural experience it was never about being harrowed or scared out of my skin....  it beguiled me precisely through its oddly comfy sort of unease, the warp 'n' felt of familiar and eerie....  "charm" in both senses of the word

Nothing to do with Gothshit, that's for sure. Of which there's an alarming amount about at the moment: expressive disgorgements, Dark Visions, "challenging" listens .... often of a literally visceral nature.

Thing is, though...  when you've been on the earth a while,  you've probably had to grapple with, or witness up-close, death, illness, human frailty, etc.... Being confronted with mortality and abject vulnerability, that's just redundant information...  not enlightening, particularly,..  certainly not helpful in terms of carrying on...

Yes, rather audio comfort food than the sonic equivalents to nose-to-tail or molecular gastronomy on so many EOY lists this season....   which I dutifully check out and then almost without exception file under "objectively impressive / resolutely unhedonic"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - December - Moon Wiring Club, AUDiNT

Slightly too late for me to wheel out my hardy perennial analogy with the Advent Calendar, but making it just in time for a late high entry in my Faves of 2014, here's a new album from Moon Wiring Club - the opaquely titled Leporine Pleasure Gardens.

The compact disc contains the usual large number of tracks (twenty two, this time) but the vinyl incarnation consists of just two long ones. 

An excerpt from one of the LP sides, which I imagine as being like one of those Mantronix megamixes of the entire album.

A track off the CD:


Chiming with the recent, ongoing, potentially interminable "Mouth Music" series, Ian Hodgson tells me that the original concept for Leporine Pleasure Gardens was "just vocal/voice samples". In the event that proved impossible to sustain over the duration, but there's "still a lot of that in there though."

More information here.

Buy it here.


I thought Christmas had come early when a large package arrived from overseas.  Inside was a mysterious and attractive object:

It turned out to be the work of AUDiNT, "a research cell" currently staffed by Doctors Toby Heys and Steve Goodman, who are engaged in "investigating how ultrasonic, sonic and infrasonic frequencies are used to demarcate territory in the soundscape and the ways in which their martial and civil deployments modulate psychological, physiological and architectural states."

Inside the psychedecodelic camouflage case lurk a 112-page book, a 180g clear vinyl record, and six 12"x12" 'Dead Record Archive' cards. It comes in a limited edition of 256. 

The title is Martial Hauntology.

Which couldn't be further up my street, really.
Extending the work started with Dr Goodman's book Sonic Warfare and continued with AUDiNT's Unsound System,  Martial Hauntology "explores the involvement of Alan Turing and The Ghost Army's pioneering use of three-deck mixes in World War 2, through the chopper-mounted loud-speaker terror of the US army's Wandering Soul campaign in Vietnam, to the deployment of High Frequencies as 'teen repellants,' the military applications of muzak and the current use of hyper-directional LRAD speakers in Iraq." The vinyl consists of  two 20 minute audioscapes with recitation by Ms. Haptic: the first side concerns a "a mid-20th century spectral research mission across the Atlantic assisted by an illicit truth serum" and the second side "goes on a ghost hunt in the vinyl recycling plants of South China."

Listen to some excerpts and purchase here 

Read full review of Martial Hauntology - AUDINT (Kode9 & Toby Heys) on ©

Monday, December 8, 2014

"cultural gridlock"

JC: "I love the Internet, but it's hard not to get lost in it. It's not like a book where you start and get to the end. It’s like we’ve found a way to encapsulate all of human knowledge within one thing only to learn that you can’t do that. It's an overabundance of information. Ultimately, it must be quite tough to be confronted with that. If you wanted to be a creative person and you are confronted with the sum product of mankind's creativity up to this moment in history, that's pretty daunting, like, “Where can I fit my voice in amongst all that?”
Pitchfork: Yeah, the idea of making something new can seem pointless because you know it's going to be thrown on top of this endless pile of stuff.
JC: What people have to make sure of is that they're not replicating something that already exists. You really have to ask yourself: “Is there a point in me doing this? Has this already been said before? Is this moving things along or is this just adding to the giant pile of junk that's already there?” Social commentators give this kind of idea names like “cultural gridlock,” where things like music don’t seem to be developing so much. It's not like the music of 1994 is that different than the music of 2014—and that's 20 years worth.
".... People are learning that you've got to find some way of shutting things off in order to give your own mind a chance to produce something. It's interesting that most gadgets are called “iPhone” and “iPod,” with that "i" prefix, which is ego. But most creativity is not ego-led—a lot of it comes from the unconscious. So if you’re always checking your email or updating your Instagram profile, you're not just looking out the window, daydreaming. You've got to let the subconscious in—that's my main message to the world." 

Friday, December 5, 2014

retro-quotes # 9777

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 9777

"There's a whole genre of music known as 'shopping'. Go into the supermarket history of pop and say in a Jamie Oliver style voice. 'I'll have two of those, a dozen of those and give us a bag of them, too'. I think the idea is a kind of rule book shortcut to success. You can hear it very well in the band The Disappears who combined a few British post-punk bands mixed with Neu into something that sounds like a few British post-punk bands mixed with Neu.

"The art of pop now just depends where you shop. If you have no imagination or limited ambition, you shop in the high street, if you are a bit more clever, or enjoy risk, you shop in the backstreets or look the junkshops.

"LCD Soundsystem fell over during an interview with Simon Reynolds, who was well acquainted with all the high street brands James Murphy had been buying.

"It's not always that predictable and the good ones develop their own brand after they've got tired of shopping and wearing other people's old clothes. By their 4th album, The Disappears had begun to sound a bit like themselves."

-- Mr Datsun, Pinkfkishmedia Forum 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rodchenko ripoffs, part 29384737272736

retro-quotes #303298374734728329

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

"The world of the art of music, a world of sounds, is distinct from the world of noises. Whereas a noise merely rouses in us some isolated event—a dog, a door, a motor car—a sound evokes, of itself, the musical universe. If, in this hall, where I am speaking to you and where you hear the noise of my voice, a tuning fork or a well-tempered instrument began to vibrate, you would at once, as soon as you were affected by this pure and exceptional noise that cannot be confused with others, have the sensation of a beginning, the beginning of a world; a quite different atmosphere would immediately be created, a new order would arise, and you yourselves would unconsciously organize yourselves to receive it".

- Paul Valéry, "Poetry and Abstract Thought"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

from circuits and code to birch and horsehair

Remember being a bit disappointed when I read this piece, six years ago, about how computer music pioneer Paul Lansky had gone back to acoustic instruments:

"After 35 years immersed in the world of computer music, the composer Paul Lansky talks with wonder about the enormous capacities of primitive objects carved from trees or stamped from metal sheets: violins, cellos, trumpets, pianos. “To create the sound of a violin — wow!” he said in a recent interview. “I can’t do that on a computer”... “I hate to say this, but I think I’m done,” Mr. Lansky said. “Basically I’ve said what I’ve had to say. Here I am, 64, and I find myself at what feels like the beginning of a career. I’m interested in writing for real people at this point.”

".... He acknowledged feeling a twinge of jealousy toward successful acoustic composers, saying he sometimes wished he could produce the acoustic music of his graduate students. He even came close to admitting a dirty little secret: “I basically don’t like electronic music. I like to compose it. I’m just not a big fan of it..... 

"His conversion, in a sense, is a relinquishing of the need to control, the rejection of what he called an antisocial bent. What drives many creators of computer music is the desire to have total mastery over how a piece of music sounds. “I wanted to be a filmmaker rather than a playwright,” Mr. Lansky wrote. “That is, I was interested in creating the finished product rather than in creating scripts for other people to execute.”

".... Shedding electronic gear and the labor of writing computer programs is a “huge relief,” he said. “I’m digging out music in me that I couldn’t have with electronic music.” The sheer process of reinvention, Mr. Lansky said, is satisfying: “It’s more interesting to get good at something than to be good at something.” He recalled those pioneering years fondly. “We really felt as if we were at the beginning of a revolution,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets.

Makes a lot of (personal) sense. But must say I still prefer this kind of thing... 

to this 

Although it's pretty.

But yeah

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

reinventing the chair

"Ikea Jumps on Retro Furniture Trend by Reissuing Its Own Designs", notes Slate blogger.

"Midcentury modern and Scandinavian furniture designs seem as ubiquitous, relevant, and on trend as they did in the middle of the 20th century, and even more so as our gadgets get more futuristic and our interiors have gone decidedly retro (helped along no doubt by a glamorous boost from the Mad Men effect). Now under the guise of celebrating 70 years in business, Ikea has launched the limited-edition Argang collection, 26 reissued designs from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that include furniture, lighting, textiles, and tableware from its archives (available only in select Ikea stores).... Ikea dipped its toes into its archive last year when it reissued the 1955 Lovet table, the piece that launched its flat-pack modus operandi that helped make them the home furnishings monolith that they are today."

This reminded me of the ICA launch for Retromania back in June 2011, when there was panel discussion and audience Q/A. A woman in the audience took great exception to the thesis of the book, which she took to be that nobody was doing anything innovative at all, anywhere.  Now, during the panel discussion, I had put across the idea -- sort of devil's advocate defence / apology for retro - that rock 'n' roll was like the chair.  It had been developed to do a certain job, and the right sort of shape for a chair had been more or less settled, and there was only so far you could push before it became not very good at its job, i.e. being something to sit on. You could have an avant-garde chair, but it would be too uncomfortable to sit on. (C.f. the "discomfort food" of Futurist cuisine, e.g. pasta made of glass). Same perhaps with rock - it did one or two things, and if you pushed it much outside its comfort zone, it no longer functioned.

Anyway, as the kicker to her mini-rant against me and Retromania, this woman said, as proof of the continuing vitality of the spirit of innovation, "You talk about chairs... well, I know some people who are exploring ways of growing chairs."  I was so blindsided by her attack that I didn't think to enquire more about these people and how on earth one would go about growing a chair. (Or indeed why one would do that, given that IKEA exists).

I sort of imagine it as a Day of the Triffids-like scenario -- ecologically-minded scientists genetically modify trees that, instead of growing branches, extrude items of household furniture. But then it all goes wrong...