Monday, March 30, 2015

the hauntological artist

Guardian Long Read by Charlotte Higgins - "How Mark Leckey became the artist of the YouTube generation"


"When, in January, Leckey gave a talk to a rapt group of art students at the Slade School of Art in London, he said: “This is the best time to be an artist and making work. It is a magical time – I mean it is unanchored and fantastical. It is terrifying and exciting. The access that you have to all points of history, through the internet, is a kind of haunting. The internet is full of ghosts. We don’t know what is substantial and what is not.


on his early formative days as artist in late 90s:

 “At that time one of his demons was nostalgia,” said [Martin] McGeown [of Cabinet gallery]. “It haunted him as a kind of condition, a sickness. He was trying to rid himself of it, but also re-experience it.” McGeown was certain these ideas and emotions would soon find some kind of expression. He said: “I didn’t care what it was – whether a film, a piece of music, a painting, a drawing. I didn’t need to know and it wasn’t necessary to ask.” This effort – to re-experience feelings and things that had been lost, or never really possessed – would come to define Leckey’s work."


on Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore

"It consisted of edited-together footage of dancers in nightclubs that, on the one hand, charted a history from 1970s northern soul to 1990s acid house; and, on the other, conveyed the pulsing, ecstatic, out-of-mind glory of the dancefloor in a churning, heady rush. The work is perfumed with wistfulness and tinged with ghostliness. It speaks of an evanescent youth: the time codes on the amateur video footage tick away ruthlessly, as eloquent a memento mori as the skull in the corner of a Holbein. The title, Leckey said, was about the notion that “something as trite and throwaway and exploitative as a jeans manufacturer can be taken by a group of people and made into something totemic, and powerful, and life-affirming.” He made it in a kind of ecstatic fugue. “I cried while I was making it. I make this stuff to feel joy and melancholy and sweet-sadness.”...

"Fiorucci changed the game. In its sampling – and deeply skilful editing – of found film sequences, it anticipated the YouTube generation’s easy manipulation of digital sources. It activated a painful yearning for a recent past just out of reach, rendered almost touchable by the tantalising immediacy of the footage. It expressed a delight in forms of expression that had rarely before been the material of “high” art. And it portrayed subjects – working-class, mostly white, mostly male teenagers – rarely accorded dignity and grace in the wider culture. At the same time, in an art world that could often seem wry, or ironic, or knowing, Fiorucci was different: disarmingly sincere"


on the idea that the significant artists are those operating at time of technological rupture who seize the possibilities of the new while emotionally rooted in the previous phase of techne-culture

"He had a kind of heightened awareness of the generation in which he stood – those whose adult experience was on the junction of the pre- and post-internet eras. As [Polly] Staple put it, Leckey could remember “the days when you had to warm up the television” but he also swam with sure strokes in the waters of the web.
"Through this acute consciousness of the historical turning-point between the analogue and digital eras, he had indicated a route to a generation of younger artists: among them Ed Atkins, as well as figures such as James Richards (who was himself nominated for the 2014 Turner prize), Helen Marten and Camille Henrot. These younger artists had, in different ways, developed ideas about the nature of the image in the internet age; about the way that pop culture could invade their art; but perhaps most of all, about having the confidence to make work that was not wry, or ironic, but raw in its emotional intent."
On his most recent work On Pleasure Bent:

"It was a memoir, the story of his life.... He had had the idea for it one late night, drunk, when he had been messing around on YouTube and had come across a bootleg recording of a concert he had seen in 1979 at Eric’s, a club in Liverpool. He’d gone there to see Swell Maps; Joy Division were playing, too, so he saw them by accident. What Leckey had considered a significant but essentially lost and private episode was all of a sudden there, at his fingertips. He realised that he could reconstruct his own history from its traces: from music, from film, from adverts. These scattered shards, which once would have been impossible to reassemble and amass, had now migrated on to the internet as if gathered by an irresistible centripetal force..... For another section of the film he was reassembling the experience of being at the Joy Division concert; it was a process of collage, he said. He was mosaicing together hundreds of sounds and images. “I’ll go through hundreds of pieces of footage. Getting towards evoking something that feels close to that experience, or something that resonates with it.” He paused. And yet, he said, “These words are wrong.” He never felt that what he was creating was authentic, was true to the lived experience."
Yes indeed, I do feel I screwed up by not working Leckey and Fiorucci into Retromania...  Would have fit so perfectly in the chapter on Hauntology, or perhaps the various parts that explore rave nostalgia, or even next to the YouTube data-sea pearl-divers like Oneohtrix/Chuck Person/Sunsetcorp....   
Here's my thoughts on Fiorucci for the Serpentine Gallery retrospective.

Friday, March 27, 2015

black liberation atemporal maximalism

"The new album is a thicket of inspirational, historical references; you’ll find critical race theory, George Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Richard Pryor, Exodus 14, respectability politics and six separate levels of meta-analysis about the meaning of Lamar’s success and messiah status. It seems almost designed for parsing in a college classroom.... 

"Lamar, himself, might not quite know what he has created. There is a hoarder’s mania to this album – he seems to have gathered every idea and influence he could find without too much care for what all that clutter reveals, knowing only that there is something beautiful in it. When he homes in on what exactly that is, hip-hop will have another classic. Until then, we will have to be satisfied with watching him make an exciting but still-unfinished transition"

- Jay Caspian Kang, "Notes on the Hip-Hop Messiah", New York Times magazine.

Of course, there's a big difference between the atemporal maximalist archivalism of Kendrick Lamar and the atemporal maximalist archivalism of, say, Ariel Pink. The difference is that the Lamar album is about stuff that actually matters, that couldn't be more urgent or present-attuned. (In that sense not atemporal but totally timely). Whereas Pink and most other white history-bingers serve up banquets of perfect inconsequence.  "Retrolicious", but not nutritious, not soul food.   

(This ability to escape into havens of the jumbled-up past = white privilege? Well, it's a thought). 

A negative angle on the maximalist excess of To Pimp A Butterfly from Passion of the Weiss. Not sure I agree but a sharply argued take-down: 

"Kendrick parrots back all his influences, but there’s no synthesis. He’s excessively complicating sub-genres that worked before — songs that felt vital because of their simplicity and directness." 

Listening the first time I immediately thought of the analogue maximalism of D'Angelo's Black Messiah, an album I was surprised to find myself digging quite a bit, despite being ideologically averse to neo-soul as a proposition. (I was intrigued by a comment of David Toop - who mentioned not being able to remember anything about Black Messiah afterwards because it's so dense, while being wholly absorbed while actually listening to it, on account of its "brilliance of execution").

But To Pimp piles it on even further by being both analogue maximalist and digital maximalist at the same time (all the Sa Ra, Fly Lo element)....

Another thing that struck me instantly is how "this kind of thing" is a genre now: it's a record in the tradition of  Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), Common's Electric Circus, The Roots Phrenology, Outkast's Aquemini and Stankonia  .... the sprawling, influence-omnivorous, conscious and/or politically charged aspiring-Masterpiece that evokes, draws on, and honors the Seventies run of musically ambitious, lyrically radical black albums from Sly, Gaye, Wonder, P-funk, Isleys, Mayfield, Last Poets, Scott-Heron, Miles et al. 


Another retromaniacal / hauntological aspect to To Pimp A Butterfly, the ghost "interview" with Tupac. Kang, again:  

"At the end of “Mortal Man,” Lamar finally steps out of his dense thicket of references for a conversation between himself and Tupac. (Reviving Tupac has become its own odd industry in recent years. This exhumation was done by taking audio of an interview Tupac gave two years before his death in 1996 and splicing it together with Lamar’s new interjections.) "

'Tis the season for awkward, honorable, likeably earnest if not-fully-realised attempts to repoliticise music - i.e. Jam City's Dream A Garden

STOP PRESS:  very interesting (albeit, as he freely admits, unfinished post by Aaron at Airport Through The Trees, titled "The Aesthetics of Politics", and grappling with issues related to To Pimp A Butterfly and Dream A Garden

It contains the line of the year, when addressing the futuristic form versus regressive lyric-content mis-match that you get with Mustard style ratchet rap and modern R&B -  

"It just seemed like: even if we put a colony on Mars, there'd be nothing to do there but get drunk and try and meet promiscuous women at clubs."

which serves as set-up to the important point:

"the highest expression of Capitalist Realism is the concession of the contemporary, the new, the modern, and, especially the future, to Capitalism"

recursive disco

Is it too soon to be nostalgic about Random Access Memories and the Daft Punk discourse explosion of 2013?  Disco(urse) fever that seemed to evacuate itself from collective consciousness within six months of its eruption?

Niek Hilkmann writes about all that in  "The Greatest Recursive Disco Medley in The World", referencing Retromania upfront:

"Two years after Reynolds published his stream of thought, Daft Punk released an album that almost seems to be tailor-made to illustrate his ideas".

And it's true, if I'd written Retromania for 2014 publication, I could have dedicated a whole chapter just to Random Access Memories.

Hilkmann writes about the retro traits within disco itself,

"In 1978 a Dutch popstar called Theo Vaness decided to release his first disco record. It was called ‘Back To Music’. The record starts with the sound of machines rattling and beeping in the background while a voice declares:

This is the year 2501.
Our world is no longer a place where you can dream of the future.
Only of the past.
We use our time machine now and then to go back to nature, back to music.

After this a disco beat starts thumping and a countdown commences. Year after year passes, until the listener reach 1978, the year ‘Back To Music’ was made. The journey through time is far from over, as Theo Vaness starts singing a medley of Beatles songs and other popular hits from the fifties, sixties en seventies. After a couple of minutes the trip reaches an euphoric climax and the listener is safely transported back to 2501, the year where there is no place to dream about the future and people go back in time to experience music. The story that ‘Back to Music’ tells can be seen as a mere piece of science fiction, but Vaness’ thoughts on how music might be perceived in the future isn’t so far off from Reynolds stream of thought, or what Daft Punk illustrates on ‘Random Access Memories’.

He also discusses the ‘Stars On 45’ golden-oldie medleys made by Jaap Eggermont for Van Kooten of  Red Bullet Productions

"These bootleg disco records feature soundalikes who sing bit parts of popular songs and artists. For instance, ‘the greatest rock and roll band of the world’ features seventeen Rolling Stones songs accompanied by a relentless disco drumbeat that goes on and on and on. The beat regulates and unifies the songs and takes them out of their context. The  records were scorned by critics, but made a lot of money. The first record, comprising of Beatles hits, sold over a million copies in America and went gold in several countries. In essence, ‘Stars On 45’ appropriated existing melodies to a contemporary sound, much like Theo Vaness did. However, like Daft Punk, there is a recursive mechanism at work. The lengths the producers went through to make the records sound ‘alike’ are quite extravagant compared to today’s standards. It takes some skill to distinguish a ‘Stars On 45’ sample from a snippet of the real deal. There surely is some art involved in making inconspicuous covers, but with current sampling technology this whole process has become so easy that the process, or even ‘recognition of the ambition’ of sounding alike is not that interesting anymore. This makes the Stars on 45 a little anonymous nowadays and it’s hard to feel any form of nostalgia towards the records."

Plenty of other examples of retro tendencies in disco culture, from DrBuzzard's Original Savannah Band  to (as someone pointed out here in the comments not so long ago) the glitterball itself, which harks back to the 1930s and the era of dance marathons as in They Shoot Horses Don't They.... and for that matter I Remember Yesterday, the Donna Summer album on which "I Feel Love" appeared, which was conceived by Moroder as a conceptually linked series of songs about different eras (1940s, Fifties, etc) culminating in a song about the future. 

dead end culture - hipster critiques

An essay on hipsterism-critique that references Retromania and Douglas Haddow's Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization.

Hadn't realised that Haddow sounds such a Retromania-ish note in this pronouncement:

"Haddow even goes so far to claim that the hipster “represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning” or “a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new

That's a decadence argument, in the tradition of Spengler and "pattern-work", the devolution of vital cultures into effete civilisations....


New issue of the New Enquiry examines concepts of the future

from the editorial intro: 
"In the future food will be 3D-printed, or there won’t be any food. In the future there will be no borders, or your passport will be embedded in your iris. In the future gender will be flexible, or nonexistent, or just like it is now but better. In the future there will be no cops, or cops will stop killing black people, or cops will be tiny drones the size of flies. In the future you will be happy, or you will be unhappy, or you will be dead. But the future never comes, because it’s not habitable by any part of the human body apart from language, and so the future is only ever a way to talk about the present and the past.
"In the past, the future was over. The punks and artists in industrialized countries who first sloganeered no future in the late 70s were resisting reactionary free-market narratives of so-called progress. But perhaps all along it was capitalists who wanted to abolish the future. Now we’re in the seventh year of global economic crisis, and ecological disaster is becoming ever more generalized. Governments careen from one crisis to the next, while work and life are more intertwined and enmeshed in technological orders of control and surveillance at the same time that reproduction has become increasingly precarious and unreliable. The future of the no-future seems as apt as it is convenient.
"For the European Futurists of the early 20th century, the future was the expansion and acceleration of the technological present. Subjectivity would be wiped out in the increasing speed and violence of motorbikes and warfare until everything was one great mass of energy. This fascist dream seems mirrored in the Silicon Valley fantasies of the Internet of Things, the Quantified Self and the Singularity. But technological innovation turns out not to secure social transformation, at least not in its own right: many of us live in an actualized sci-fi of globalized communication and multiple interfaces, but we are still also living in the long time of colonialism, slavery, and patriarchy.
"Fascists and eco-liberals alike use the first person plural when they talk about time to come: “tomorrow belongs to us” or “we are killing the planet.” They assume that we are moving through the same present together, as a unified population, a mass. But our futures are as fragmented as our presents, and just as fissured by race, gender, class, and ability. Who has no future, and whose future is guaranteed by the present? Who even has access to the present by virtue of their past? In rejecting dominant temporalities, we can also trace the shattered thought of the now. Tentatively, we want to believe in a proliferation of futures: black, brown, queer, femme… Rather than evangelizing a singular vision of the future, as liberals have always demanded of revolutionaries, might we instead be able to say “let a thousand futures bloom”?
"In all of this, the future appears as something prismatic and internally dissident. And that’s as it should be — after all, nothing about its past suggested it would be very evenly distributed. But the collected essays in this volume should provide some opportunity to reflect on what could be. Speculation of an extended present is worth less than criticism of the modes of producing temporality, at least we think so. The answer is still to come"
The Collection and The Cloud
Nostalgia For The Future
Memory and Preservation
The Precarious Minimum
The Time Bubble
On Neuronationalism: Austism, Immunity, Security
Real Human Being
Dear Marooned Alien Princess

which addresses this starkly well-articulated paradox: 

"Capitalism posits a future of endless innovation in products and production processes, but no possible change in the social relations that move them"

a little bit of history repeating... and repeating

Repeating like something you've eaten keeps reburping itself to the surface again....

Viz, the Seventies revival, or re-revival, or re-re-revival

pieces in the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, New York Times, and god knows where else

"Who can help but plunder fashion’s past when its imagery is everywhere? The epoch was captured on film in “American Hustle” and, more recently, in “Inherent Vice,” the hemp-saturated reimagining of the Thomas Pynchon novel. It’s vividly present in rock memoirs like “Just Kids,” Patti Smith’s recollections of coming of age in downtown Manhattan, and in trips through the decade by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and by Joni Mitchell, muse to the designer Hedi Slimane, who highlighted the singer in his Saint Laurent spring marketing campaign.

A wealth of pop ephemera is but a click away on Pinterest boards that worship at the altar of Ali MacGraw, looking womanly-provocative in the plunging silk dress or suede trench coat she wore in “The Getaway”; or Marisa Berenson vamping for Vogue in high hippie caftans, turbans and multiple rings; or Lisa Taylor, legs splayed suggestively as she poses for Helmut Newton in a Calvin Klein dress.

Clearly the period retains an emotional pull. In retrospect, the decade that spawned the DVF wrap dress, maxi-coats worn over hot pants, and Ladies of the Canyon in battered jeans seems a garden of earthly delights.

“We didn’t have the consequences that we do for our actions today,” said the costume designer Mark Bridges, whose film credits include “Boogie Nights” and “Inherent Vice.” “People smoked without pause; you made out with who you wanted to; and on all fronts we were in an experimentation mode. 
Why not? The stakes weren’t as high.”

That age before AIDS and drastic budget shortfalls, Dr. Arnold said, “seems like the most exciting period of decadence ever. There’s an element of the ’70s that can still seem somewhat outré, kind of glamorous, but a little bit sleazy as well. It’s got an edge to it.”

see also

Macrame, the art of decorative knotting which was once the preserve of home-spinning hippies and later a Seventies staple, is the latest retro trend enjoying a resurgence in interiors. 


"The subtitle of "A Four-Colour Psychochronography" refers to the idea of psychochronography, an offshoot of the artistic concept of psychogeography. Psychogeography is a practice originally developed by the Situationist International as part of their efforts to forcibly dismantle the established social order. Psychogeography is the study of how physical spaces impact social, cultural, and personal lives. Its central technique is what is called the derivé, or drift, in which one wanders through an urban area according to some idiosyncratic logic that causes one to cut against the usual lines and paths traced.

Psychochronography applies this notion to our internal landscape. Taking seriously Alan Moore's notion of ideaspace, psychochronography suggests that we can wander through history and ideas just as easily as we can physical spaces, and that by observing the course of such a meander we can discover new things about our world." - Philip Sandifer,

interesting concept, although a lingering philistine reflex with in me toys with idea that, just as "psychogeography" is a fancy way of saying "taking a walk",   "psychochronography" is a fancy way of saying..... what exactly? Writing? thinking (and thinking aloud)? musing?  given that the vast bulk of our pondering must concern the past - our own past, the collective past - because the future is unknown to us - because wherever the present may be going, all that we can really apprehend mentally is the processes that brought this present into being...

Our internal landscape is 90 percent memory plus unrequited longings, anxieties / wishes re. the future. 

However, it is certainly easier to "walk through history" than ever before, this is true - the vast archival materials of the internet

this was tomorrow (cosmic library)

retro-quotes # 900

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time #  900

“Nothing dates the past like its impressions of the future”

-          Philip French, Sight and Sound, 1990

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"how to explain the popularity of uptown funk?" (retro outlawed and vibe-infraction, continued)

Asks this ILM thread.... with some comparing it to "Get Lucky" and Was (Not Was)'s "Walk That Dinosaur"  ....   But is it, like "Blurred Lines", actionable?

Some interesting points made, e.g.

Clemenza, who quotes Greil Marcus on blues resurrectionist Robert Cray ("What really puts me off about [Robert Cray] is that you just can't do blues in the self-conscious way you can do a lot of other things. You can't get up and say, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, now I'm gonna do a blues song,' without immediately sounding ridiculous.") and says "I'll leave aside whether that's fair or not to Robert Cray. But that's what I think about when I hear something like "Uptown Funk": "Ladies and Gentlemen, now we're gonna do a funk song."

To which why dont u say something or like just die (dog latin) replies:

"I feel like this is a mounting complaint about 'new' music in recent times, and not without reason. A review of the US hipster-metal band Liturgy in Wire magazine this month was arguing that compared to the original Scandinavian black metallers, this band are very self-consciously 'doing' black metal and that even their more leftfield tendencies felt tokenistic or forced, whereas a band like Ulver at the time were genuinely pushing the boundaries of their abilities and what the genre could do."

Leonard Pine, who complains in Retromania-ish tones that "Maybe I'M the one who's getting old, but mainstream culture seems to be all about old shit. Music that sounds like peppy, modern sensibility covers of old music (see also Megan Trainer), TV shows based on films I liked as a teenager, films based on comics my granddad liked as a teenager. Maybe it's to do with money because the more something is safe and familiar to the larger amount of people the wider its appeal, and old people are more likely to buy a song instead of just rip/download it".

Doctor Casino defends: 

"i know jack shit about bruno mars's upbringing or w/e but i'm kinda imagining it like a tribute to his parents' music.... like what he heard around the house growing up. i guess that makes it like vampire weekend and graceland or something. or maybe not - all the sounds in the song (and the vintage black male fashions in the video) were pretty much totally disappeared from the wider landscape by the time he was six years old, if not from other outlets including hypothetical parents' stereos.

"so sure, potentially it's more arch and revivalist, a brian setzer deal as noted above - but it's kinda better than brian setzer. i mean it's a cool song. it would have been a hit back then too IMO. whereas it's hard to imagine "stray cat strut" or "jump jive & wail" actually competing with the hitmakers of their respective nostalgia eras.

"maybe another way to articulate this is that while the video totally presents a pastiche of fashions, lighting, scenes and camera angles you might have seen in an 80s video, it's otherwise free of LOL SEE IT'S THE 80S stuff. like it's pretty clear everybody is totally stoked to be dressing up like this, they know they look cool as hell and have always wanted to be in such a video. i'm struggling to think of a counterexample here, but, i dunno, it's not like weezer being on happy days or nirvana being on ed sullivan and the gag is that they don't belong there and they're cooler than those cheesy old-timey things that we make fun of now. or insert any rock/punk band that goes "back to the 80s" and it's comical that they're wearing hair metal wigs etc. and maybe i'm mistaken, or giving the song too much credit, but part of me really wants to take that as a kind of transgressive gesture, reclaiming some kinda bypassed or overlooked urban cultural forms with strong black and latino roots, refusing to wink-wink around them, and making them into a gigantic hit song."


Detailed appraisal  of Bruno Mars's postracial pop atemporalism and Mark Ronson as the chart's top retro-fitter for nearly a decade now, conducted by Chris Molanphy at Slate. This bit - cueing off the analysis of Billboard radio expert Sean Ross, who found more than a dozen potential sources and predecessors for "Uptown Funk" - reads almost like an inventory of potential future ligitations a la "Blurred Lines":  

"Isn’t the chant “Up-town/ Funk you up/ Uptown funk you up” a steal from the Gap Band? Yes, cross-pollinated with some early Sugar Hill Records. That stomping party-train beat—doesn’t it have the stank of post-disco James Brown? You know it, and Bruno’s lyric “Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty” also owes something to the Godfather of Soul. How about those gurgling, Vocoderized vocal sounds—where have you heard them before? On classic funk records by Zapp’s Roger Troutman (as well as German synth-funkster George Kranz). Didn’t Prince protégésMorris Day and the Time patent that preening-vocal-plus-multi-dude-chorus approach? You know what time it is. And those syncopated horns—didn’t Rick James make his bones with that sound? What did the five fingers say to the face?

Sean Ross of Billboard points out that while "Uptown Funk" shot straight to the top, 

"many of the early ‘80s classics referenced were released during the worst period of a "disco backlash" that effectively kept all types of black music, not just disco, off of top 40 for three years, beginning in fall 1979..... the beginnings of rap, the return of disco to its R&B roots, the emergence of a second generation of funk artists, many of them influenced by new wave....  happened mostly off of Top 40's radar. Rick James' "Super Freak," a song that plays on Adult Contemporary stations today, reached No. 19 on the Hot 100 largely on the strength of sales. On charts that measured pop airplay only, it was mired in the 30s. The crowning of Prince as one of the decade’s breakthrough artists in the music press was spurred by two albums (Dirty Mind and Controversy) that got no pop radio support. Even "1999" was resisted by top 40 radio and had to be reissued after Prince’s breakthrough with the more overtly rock-flavored "Little Red Corvette."

The resistance to R&B crossovers finally broke down in 1982-83 as the result of a handful of records. Some were rock-flavored (Ray Parker Jr.'s "The Other Woman," Prince's "Corvette," Michael Jackson's "Beat It"). Some were just undeniable (Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing,” Jackson’s “Billie Jean”). Still, some of black music’s most exciting acts of the era were years into their hitmaking streaks before managing a crossover. Often, the biggest top 40 chart hit would turn out to be a less-enduring late career record. Ask most people to name aMidnight Star song and you'll likely get the No. 81 "No Parking (On The Dance Floor)" long before the No. 18 “Operator.”

"Uptown Funk" isn't the only recent example of a pop hit referencing an ignored R&B hit from this era. Disclosure's "Latch” recalls the shuffle of “Searching” by Change, the Chic-like Italian dance act fronted here by a then-unknown Luther Vandross. "Latch" broke at pop radio by riding the coattails of EDM, then engineered a reverse crossover to R&B/Hip-Hop and Adult R&B. "Searching" reached No. 23 at R&B in 1980, but never managed any pop airplay."

So 2014-2015 = The Year(s) That Post-Disco Finally Broke?

Actually that would have been the 80s career of Madonna, surely? 


This is the band that I immediately thought of the first time I heard "Uptown Funk"

But listening to this now, the resemblance seems to fade.  Obviously the sound of it is feeble compared to "Uptown Funk"'s modern steroid-stacked production, which feels like it belongs to the world of e.g. "Harlem Shake" as much vintage funk / postdisco / boogie etc.

So it's quite a clever concoction, alluding to the past, or various pasts, without exactly replicating anything. Unlike "Blurred Lines", which I vastly prefer, but which nonetheless is a vibe-replica of something very specific. 

The main thing  "Uptown Funk"  has in common with The Time's work is  a non-tunefulness. In the sense that there's not much of a song there, it's a groove. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Retro outlawed? The "Blurred Lines" decision

"The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else/ This applies to fashion, music, design… anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired, we're going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas.... Everything that's around you in a room was inspired by something or someone. If you kill that, there's no creativity"  

That's Pharrell Williams warning The Financial Times, of "copycat litigation" in the wake of the Gaye family's successful suit against his and Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" for ripping off the "vibe" of Marvin's"Got To Give It Up"

"Copycat litigation"? Law suits against copycats, more like! 

"No creativity"?   No recreativity, more like!

Harvey Weinstein, in the FT piece, argues that the likes of Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein would nowadays not be able to do what they did without fear of legal reprisal.  

I'm a fan of "Blurred Lines" but even so, if this decision did actually mean the end of the era of Pop Art / Appropriation Art, it might be worth paying the price of foregoing in future such retrolicious delights on the radio.

Curious about the status of parody now, after this decision...  

As I noted (writing about that Luke Haines New York in the 70s record) (and borrowing an idea off of Linda Hutcheon, the academic theorist of parody, pastiche, irony etc), 

"parody sanctions what in any other context would be dismissed as derivative and redundant. Laughter (and perhaps also a smidgeon of appreciation for the craft involved in these replicas) excuses what otherwise is merely empty impersonation.

In other words: retro is parody without the laughs.

But I wonder, as regards the future for Bonzo/Weird Al-style parody and Mike Yarwood-esque musical impressionists:  will the excuse of mirth-generation and legitimate social-cultural comment also provide legal inoculation?

[nod to Jack Jambie at Dissensus]

Friday, March 6, 2015

this isn't tomorrow

the last record i thought was like some Not the Nine O' Clock News parody of hauntology

this one (The Race For Space) ...   words fail  me

Public Service Broadcasting live at the National Space Centre, Leicester, a few weeks ago

Sunday, March 1, 2015

retro-quotes # 543

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time #  543

"We need to expand the concept of Retro Necro a little....  Retro Necro is very difficult to escape from, because its whole premise is that the old is more young than the young, more new than the new. That's why Retro Necro appeals to the young -- all these teens and twentysomethings having slash fantasies about dead people! That's why it appeals to Lord Whimsy too, perhaps. There's simply more spunk and vitality in decades long-gone.

"I have a theory about what computer geeks call "the epoch" -- the year 1970. I think in 1970 someone pulled a switch and culture went into reverse. The 60s was the last progressive decade, by the standards of all sorts of 20th century ideas of what progress meant. Political ideas like increasing equality, access to education and health care, scientific ideas like introducing new planes like Concorde or getting a man on the moon: all that went into reverse after 1970. Inequality started to rise again. Instead of going beyond the moon, astronauts contented themselves with Earth orbit. If a gay icon in the 60s was Joe Orton, in the 80s it was someone in Oxford bags pretending it was the 1920s again. An old 1950s film star became president in the US, a sort of 1940s governess took over in the UK. In the arts, Retro Necro was given the name postmodernism, which meant that we were no longer Modernist, and no longer believed in progress. Instead, we recycled things endlessly."

                                                                                               -- Momus, circa 2007.

"Retro necro", a fabulous coinage, must have been devised by Momus at roughly the same time I was using anechronesis a/k/a anecronosis  in various hauntology writings  - a much-more ungainly term (anachronism + necrosis) to describe the same syndrome: the sensation of living death and spiritual-libidinal entropy caused by exposure to retro-rock or anything form of undead zombie culture. 

However both terms have an antecedent in Peter York's Art Necro, a term he used to describe revivalism in popular arts, design, fashion etc back in the Seventies.

Of course, we're all of us are trailing in the footsteps of Nietzche.