Thursday, February 26, 2015

retro-quote # 900002

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time #  900002

Figure 8 e-zine interviewer: How do you feel about pop culture moving in strange directions, where new music sounds quite old?

Andy McLuskey of OMD: " I think it’s not really moving in strange directions. It’s moving in entirely predictable directions. What’s happening is that we’re in this sort of post-modern, or I’m now informed neo-postmodern, (whatever the hell that’s supposed to be) world, where basically most creative cultural pursuits, it’s all been done before. So if you want to be in a band, if you want to be an artist, if you want to be a film director, what are you going to do that hasn’t been done before? And so we’ve got these sort of circular whirlpools where styles seem to be coming in, going out, going around in circles. And you get a mash-up where somebody will go, “Okay, if I add this style with that style, that’s a new combination. Nobody’s done that.”
"Pop music is eating itself. It was predicted that it would. And pop music, its popular culture and in many ways it’s high brow culture as well. It’s all going around in circles because there’s sense of fashion, and they call it a sense because there’s no actual fashion, it’s a sense of fashion. And there’s still this perceived requirement that things have to go ‘forward’ in inverted commons when in fact there’s no ‘forward’ to go to. That still happens but the world isn’t changing as quickly in terms of the technology. We could play synthesizers because they became available to kids who could buy them from their mother’s mail order catalog. Rock and roll happened because of the electric guitar in the ’50s became available.
"There’s been no new technological advancement since computer music. And so there’s been no real dramatic shift that has affected the way that music is made. So now it’s just all about style juggling. So it doesn’t surprise me. It’s not strange. It’s entirely understandable. It’s just those of us who are old enough to already see it go around in circles are just sort of mildly amused. We’re not saddened because nothing can be done about it. It’s just the way things are."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

the retro rush

The Quietus interview Mumdance and Logos on their new collaborative album Proto

"Released on... Pinch's Tectonic label, the record is knowingly and intentionally indebted to the rave music of the pair's formative years, old happy hardcore, gabber and jungle tapes dating back to the early-to-mid 1990s. The influence of the early Warp signings that defined Sheffield's storied bleep techno sound - records such as Sweet Exorcist's 'Testone', Forgemasters' 'Track With No Name' and LFO's seminal 'LFO' - can also be picked out on tracks such as 'Move Your Body', 'Border Drone' and 'Dance Energy (89 Mix)' (the title of which recalls the BBC Two "youth" programme that curiously co-opted elements of rave culture just a short time after Thatcher's establishment had finished knocking several shades of shit out of those involved in the early explosion of illegal raves)."

Isn't it about time people moved on to the dubstep revival or something?  Retrorave and tru-nu junglizm, it's kinda been done. Double done. 

I mean, it's nearly seven years since Where Were U in '92?.... 

"Despite not experiencing that early rave and acid house period first hand, it's impossible not to be drawn in as the pair share anecdotes about first raves and recount their discovery of the gabber, hardcore and jungle that has fascinated them enough to build an entire studio around realising those influences.

Mumdance: "So, we've spent quite a bit of time and money building up what is essentially a 90s rave studio and that's how we like to build tunes because it's a really important sound to us."

Now that is some serious retro bizniz right there - that is Jack White level attention to detail and correct process. A studio purpose-built for doing it the authentic bygone-rave-way!

Mumdance: "There's this aesthetic that runs through it in the way that's it been mixed down and how we've produced it all. That's the one constant, so obviously it references a lot of sounds but the mix-downs and the hardware that we used on it all, because we wanted it to have the colour of old hardcore and jungle for the sole reason that that's what we grew up with".

The Quietus journalist asserts that  "Proto, though, is not something rooted in the past, but a record that feels as forward-looking and futuristic as the genres that inspired it sounded on first discovery."

But how do you throwback and push forward simultaneously?

Mumdance:  "I think it was important for us to use old technology but make sure we were looking forward. But, when we talk about the future, it's not in a sense of 'we are the future', but more that the music we're referencing was obsessed with the future and we're big science fiction fans"

So, not "we bring you the phuture, the phuture, the phuture" ,... but "we bring you the past's idea of the phuture, the phuture, the phuture" 

Strange days we living through...

And to think there's people who don't understand why I wrote Retromania....  

Postscript: downloaded the album from eMusic, as I knew I would...  It's really well-done. As recreativity goes, very creative. But the point about its pointlessness stands.  And can a record really be slammin' and elegaic at the same time? Serious question.

As a historical exercise, it's quite interesting I suppose as it pinpoints a point where a lot of things - Belgian and German hardbanging techno, early breakbeat, the Brooklyn proto-gabba, UK acid-shrieker tunes, the harder things out of Detroit (like early Plus 8) ,stuff that in a year or two would ultimately be trance etc - were all jumbled together and tended to be thought of simply as "techno".

As Logos puts it: "I was really interested in the link as well between Belgian and US techno in the early days and people like Lenny Dee with his releases for labels like Nu Groove. That linked for me with hardcore, like Manix, 4hero, people like that. It's quite interesting because, at that time, techno, hardcore, rave were all quite mixed up and what later became that kind of polyrhythmic techno that Jeff Mills played and the industrial sound hadn't really emerged yet, but you could hear it coming through very early on."

The title "Legion" seems like a nod to PCP and Dance Ecstasy 2001.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"pop is dead-ish ; the soundtrack lives, kinda" - Or, 2014: Year of Blah and "Bundled Mundane"

"It all started with Frozen. [which] caught fire as a cultural phenomenon throughout the [2013] holiday season, and by the first week of 2014 the soundtrack was on top of the albums chart. Frozen eventually racked up 13 nonconsecutive weeks at #1, the most for a soundtrack sinceTitanic....   Meanwhile, the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack sold impressive numbers during summer blockbuster season. Subtitled Awesome Mix Vol. 1, it was designed to mimic the mixtape of ’70s and ’80s hits Chris Pratt’s character listens to in the movie.... The soundtrack resurgence spills over into 2015 with Fifty Shades Of Grey, which debuts at #2 this week with...  a mixture of original singles by stars like Ellie Goulding, the Weeknd, and Sia; old hits by Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, and Beyoncé; and an original score by Danny Elfman. 

"So why have soundtracks suddenly become a big deal again?....   Steven Hyden’s hypothesis at Grantland... boils down to pop is eating itself. As if fulfilling Simon Reynolds’ Retromania fears about endlessly pressing backward against the current, Gatsby style, the charts have been dominated by retro sounds throughout 2014 and early 2015. Sometimes it takes the form of revivalists like Sam Smith, Meghan Trainor and Pharrell; sometimes it’s covers albums or standards collections by old-timers like Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand. So of course a “mixtape” of old-school hits resonated."

Hyden's take at Grantland from November last year: 

"Many of the top soundtracks of the early 21st century have a distinct mid–20th century feel, with the High School Musical and Hannah Montanafranchises returning to the roots of ’50s and ’60s musical and TV tie-ins. Then there are truly corny throwbacks like the chart-topping soundtracks for Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, where Russell Crowe scored the Pyrrhic victory of finally notching a no. 1 album but without the other 29 Odd Foot of Grunts. Other recent soundtracks have been positioned as mixtapes supplementing YA-berthed juggernauts like the Twilight andHunger Games films, recalling how John Hughes once operated with non-undead teen films in a pre-apocalyptic world. Both kinds of soundtrack albums still sell, so long as they can be integrated into a culturewide cinematic experience...."

"Curator” is an annoying, overused buzzword that has replaced perfectly fine preexisting terminology like “producer” or “A&R.” (It’s kind of like how people say “stan” when “fan” already exists as a modified version of fanatic. Hasn’t The Marshall Mathers LP already done enough damage to our culture?) But soundtracks really are an orderly oasis in an otherwise maddeningly cluttered pop landscape. Soundtracks make consumers feel safe. What else explains one of the more confounding success stories of 2014, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, which ranks among the year’s best sellers with sales nearing 600,000?

"Guardians of the Galaxy fits in neither the movie musical nor soundtrack auteur slots. It is an utter anomaly in the history of big-time movie soundtracks: In August, it became the first soundtrack ever to top theBillboard albums chart without a single original song. How threadbare is the Guardians soundtrack? Even 1987’s mega-selling Dirty Dancingsoundtrack, which was rounded out by golden oldies like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ “Stay,” turned out newly recorded hits by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, Eric Carmen, and the man himself, Patrick Swayze. And that movie is actually set in the early ’60s, as opposed to “the present” in outer space. Back then somebody decided it was a good commercial decision to set Dirty Dancing’s climactic dance number to a song obviously recorded two decades in the future with synthesizers and drum machines. Guardians,meanwhile, was assembled with the idea that “I Want You Back” requires a fresh introduction.
"Not only are the tracks on the Guardians soundtrack old — the newest song is Rupert Holmes’s spry 35-year-old “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” — they are as familiar as the playlist for the safest soft-rock radio station in your town. Several tunes (including Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” and Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”) are already associated with other movies, making the Guardians soundtrack a de facto greatest-hits compilation for some of the greatest soundtracks ever.
"Frozen has the numbers, The Hunger Games has Lorde, but Guardians might be the year’s defining soundtrack, the one that most accurately reflects the times. With the exception of the backward-looking 1989, Pharrell’s “Happy,” and that goddamn Iggy Azalea song from the summer2014 has been lethally bereft of pop touchstones. Consumers have instead drifted to the comfort of the bundled mundane. Two volumes of the deathless NOW series also topped the charts this year, and, in the year’s most egregious callback, the Bob Marley greatest-hits package Legend entered the Top 10 for one week in September, 30 years after it was first exhaled into our nation’s dorms. Pop lately hasn’t just been hooked on a feeling — this is a relapse."

The "bundled mundane" - love it. 

I too thought 2014 was a blah year -  certainly in terms of chart pop, coming after several exciting pop-radio years in a row (2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 fading-a-bit-but-still-strong).  

In the summer, I noticed a few people voicing similar sentiments, including some who are obliged for professional reasons to be poptimistic but unable to hold back their ennui. Could it be objective truth then?  

Oddly, though, I started the year really really enthused.  Did something I haven't done for a long long time -  make a mix of fave stuff off of the radio, burned it and sent to some friends (nearly all of whom were just as enthused).  Stuff off of LA rap radio, plus some Top 40; slathered with Mustard, and kicking off with the tune that has stayed my favorite all year and never fails to make me swoon like it did the first time it oozed out the car radio: Tinashe "2 On".

That now appears to be peak Mustard. Indeed for the entire rest of 2014 his productions blanketed the radio with runny, subdued midtempo blaaaaaaaaaaaaaah like “Hours”, the one that recycles Fugees’s “Na Na Na”, and others that sound like slowed-down Nineties house (licks pilfed off of Robin S "Show Me Love" and the like). 

That sent me back to the mix-CD I’d made in the spring, and I saw that a lot of the tunes were actually 2013, even 2012. One or two were from 2011 and 2010.

From this I concluded that a particular cycle in chartpop, that kicked off approximately  2009 - the interfusion of rap and R&B with Euro, EDM, house, trance, brostep etc, forming a "total" dancepop deploying every trick in the contemporary production arsenal and the last two or three decades of club music, with the ruthless  single-mind intention of  thrilling the listener, buzzing you up as you go about your daily business, make dancefloors rage, and shift units.....   that four-five year epoch was sputtering out. 

The second half of 2014, whenever we put on pop radio or a commercial rap station in the car, it felt flat. 

Face it, a year ruled by Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea is a nothing year in the history of pop.  

Last year, there was nothing on the level of a "In The Dark," a "We R Who We R" this year. 

But nor was there a “Royals,” a “Somebody That I Used to Know”.

It was the year of "Rude" and "All About That Bass" and "Happy" - retro, or at least old fashioned styled pop all.

A year that led into a new year kicked off by "Uptown Funk" - retro-nuevo producer Mark Ronson meets atemporal-jukebox singer Bruno Mars.   

Friday, February 20, 2015

retro-quotes #1111111111

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 11111111111

“The child sees everything in a state of newness; he is always drunk....

“Genius is nothing more or less than childhood recovered at will.....  The fixed and animally ecstatic gaze of a child confronted with something new.....

"Genius of childhood – a genius for which no aspect of life has become stale...

“[The modern artist is] a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness... reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life. He is an ‘I’ with an insatiable appetite for the ‘non-I’..... 

“For any ‘modernity’ to be worthy of one day taking its place as ‘antiquity’, it is necessary for it [to capture its time].... 

"[Modernity is] the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.... Every old master has had his own modernity..."

                                                               - Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863

Thursday, February 19, 2015

retro-quotes #832

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 832

“It is the critical faculty that invents fresh forms. The tendency of creators is to repeat itself. It is to the critical instinct that we owe each new school that springs up....  The mere creative instinct does not innovate but reproduces.”

"“The old modes of creation linger, of course. The artists reproduce themselves or each other with wearisome iteration. But Criticism is always moving on.”

                            – Oscar Wilde, “The Critic As Artist”

Monday, February 16, 2015

retro-quotes # 577

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time #  577

“Every artist should avoid... modernity of form and modernity of subject-matter....  It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned”

                                                        - Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying

retro-quotes # 22222

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 22222

"I feel that there is only one law in underground music, especially in experimental music, and that's to go where no man has gone before!  Captain Kirk laid down the law and motherfuckers ought to follow it"
                                                                        -- Mad Mike Banks, Quadrasonic zine, 1993.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

retroblogging (in at least a couple of senses)

Momus,  at Mrs Tsk, pounces on a lamentable rock band called The Struts, to argue that no bright mind in their right mind would enter the rock field these days ("if you want that kind of stasis and that kind of reverence, put on a black dress and play the viola in a quartet!"). A further sign of this is the fact graphic designers no longer think of album cover design as a field in which they can express themselves interestingly:

"Imagine if Elvis Presley had been impersonating Scott Joplin. That’s what The Struts are doing with 1960s and 1970s cultural reference points. They’ve remembered them in such detail that they’ve forgotten them completely. If 1950s rockers had done the same thing, Rock as a genre would never have happened."

Momus quotes a designer chap called Fraser Muggeridge who avers "when I was a student I always wanted to be a record cover designer. You wanted to do a record cover, and you didn’t even know what an art book was, really. Now, most people see art books as a way of really expressing themselves.”

and connects it to his own excitement about creating print products (novels and attractively packaged writings) that sell mainly through art-oriented bookshops: 

"the feeling I got from (let’s say) the Edinburgh Virgin record shop in 1974, or any independent record shop circa 1978 — the feeling that there’s an exciting underground culture just waiting here to whoosh you away to areas of spiritual and semantic richness and originality — has now migrated to art-oriented bookshops like Motto and Printed Matter, or events like the Tokyo Art Book Fair, the Singapore Art Book Fair, the New York Art Book Fair. As someone invested in the idea of cultural glamour, I like to aim products at events and networks that have topical zing. Writing books is a way for me to get into zingy, zine-y, designy bookshops, just as making records in the early 1980s was a way of interfacing with an exciting — and now largely vanished — network of independent record stores."

Yet he admits that the graphic design and art publications worlds are fixated, in their own way, on an illustrious past - the 20th Century's panoply of innovative and often politically edgy movements in art, design, typograpy etc.

Momus floats two potential explanations / justifications for this discrepancy: 

"Sometimes the only explanation for a cultural shift like this is that fashion moves on, just for the sake of moving on. Things are exciting, and then they aren’t."


"Perhaps...  there cannot be more than one designated, exemplary area of experimentation and originality at any one time." 

This isn't too convincing . In the Sixties for instance there was pell-mell experimentation /originality going on full-tilt in all the arts simultaneously - fiction, film, theater, fashion, high culture music and pop culture music and jazz too, design, dance/performance, TV). For the young and some sympathetic elders, rock was at the centre of all of this, somehow...  but from Op Art  to musique concrete/electronic composition to radical theater, there was also a lot of unrelated but parallel impetus towards breaking tradition, pushing the envelope etc.  Same for much of the Seventies and intermittently in other decades too. 

And a comments-boxer picks him up on the double standard: 

"Your criticism of The Struts is that their pastiche of 60s and 70s stylings is an appeal to the authority of music’s golden past. You then acknowledge that these art book graphic designers are drawing upon the influences of Fluxus and the like, thereby pastiching art of the 60s and 70s, appealing to the authority of the Art establishment’s golden past. “...but Fluxus has still got edge!” You say. But does it? “Modern” art isn’t that modern anymore, and any attempt to replicate it today renders it Postmodern. What The Struts are doing is tired, I agree, but I don’t believe it’s any more tired than drawing upon the concepts behind neo-dada, etc.."

There is also the point that Momus is engaged here in a kind of retro-blogging - reblogging his objections to retro-rock, as voiced quite frequently in the early 2000s. Anti-Retro revivalism!  Indeed this Struts post, or the first few paragraphs anyway, is almost a reenactment of one particular, and particularly brilliant, post from the early 2000s - which, if I'm not garbling this completely in memory, was inspired by seeing a rock'n'roll band in its period rock'n'roll garb at an airport waiting-room or something  (I think the post was circa Hives, Stripes, Jet et al) and musing about how strange it was.... that rock had become very much like classical music, with its fixed-in-time instrumentation and correct dress...  
Still, admittedly, I'm verging on kettle-calling-the-pot-black territory -  since I was bemoaning "record collection rock" back in the early 1990s!  
I suppose this is exactly what is so dispiriting, in a way. That r 'n  'r regurgitate keeps repeatin' and repeatin'....  and it's no less objectionable on the fifth or fifteenth or fiftieth retch-up than it was the first time. So you find yourself repeating yourself... revoicing those objections.
The lines of argument feel frozen, stalled....    Postmodernism and its discontents, again and again, over and over....   forever????

Monday, February 9, 2015

retro-quotes # 939

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 939

"If the element of garbage cannot be separated into the parts which make it up, neither can cinema be divided into its composing elements. Marcelo Masagão’s Act and Wind a collage film composed of cinematic citations, is a personal homage to the cinema impressed upon the director’s retina,. We have all the elements of cinema, but Act and Wind’s arbitrary editing drains the cinematic image of its elementarity. The cinematic gestures are categorized, rationalized, organized by similitude: the female gaze, the rolling object, the round object, mirrors, ringing door bells, opening doors, turning keys, running, desire, old age, youth, shadows, clocks, darkness.

"There is, to be a sure, a certain pleasure that every film-goer will have in playing the game of identification in a film composed of films. Along with the pleasure of recognition, comes the sweet frustration for the films you recognize but can’t identify, a yearning for the films you can neither identify nor recognize, and a strange sort of prophetic foresight for those films you identify but don’t recognize. These intertextual gratifications aside, Act and Wind never elevates itself beyond being an arbitrary concatenation of images whose only decisive link is that created through taste. It is a film full of cuts but devoid of montage. Here, the cut is used never to compare, to clash, to generate; only to assimilate or smooth over (there are thematic cuts, formal cuts, rhythmic cuts, musical cuts, but no intellectual, political, ideological cuts). In montage theory 1+1=3, but here 1+1 is always equal to 0. And without thought, without idea, this collection of cinematic images becomes derivative, like a book of quotations, a gust of wind without the force of act.

"Depleted of any motivation other than that of taste Act and Wind presents a assembly of cinematic citations, an illusion of choice which emphasizes only individual taste as its holy grail, while concealing the social, communal and class structures that create this taste. Cinema becomes an object purified of sense as well as significance, and all that remains are shrink-wrapped, hydroponic images, radiating from an automatic screen, whose only essence is the faint reverberation of ‘I like…’

-- Yaron Dahan, "Artists, Magicians, Alchemists, Capitalists", 19th January 2015

take a look

Saturday, February 7, 2015


"New Old" with tremendous attention to detail - sound, lyric, clothes, packaging.

Jook meets Geordie meets Sharpies with premonitions of Sham 69 and Rose Tattoo - soccerstomp terrace anthems with Chinnichap bounce

Formed as a byproduct of the Junkshop Glam mini-commotion, anticipating a retro wave - on the scale of  WhiteStripes/Hives/Jet/Vines et al - that never came??


But why did it come out of Italy? I thought the 1970s in Italy was all about prog.

Monday, February 2, 2015

retro-quotes # 393

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time # 393

"We all live in two worlds. One is the world of our own experience. The other is created by the millions of flickering images recorded on film and video. It is a strange world where the laws of time, space and mortality do not apply. So many of the images are of people who died long ago. They are the modern ghosts who will never leave us. It is a beautiful world. But it may not be as innocent as it seems. It keeps us in enchanted cocoon - a static world that suits the modern system of power..... 

"The financial technocrats cut up the toxic debt and recombined it with other loans - to make it safe.
Hidden away with other investments as just another set of harmless numbers. But as they did this the connection of the debts to reality was broken.

"But it wasn’t just debt that could be cut up. The computers could also cut up images and sounds. And in a strange way the same thing began to the way we saw reality.

"We became surrounded by fragmented and mixed up images of


"Anything could be put with anything else.

"It was liberating and enchanting.

"But it also meant that


"But the managed world says that everything must stay as it is.

"And the images play around us continually - ghosts from the past who will not let us go. Holding us here in a fake world. Stopping us from moving forward in the future - and building a better and more truthful world."

              -- Adam Curtis, abridged summary of the Adam Curtis vs. Massive Attack event Manchester International Festival, 2013.