Tuesday, October 27, 2015


"Hello Simon:

The Retroaction came to be after the fall of our old bands. We'd like to share Little Strange via Youtube today! 

The video gives a perspective of the band in our element, filmed in 360 degrees surrounded by our dancing friends playing the music we love. For best resolution/interaction use the Youtube app on your cellular telephone. Using the on screen cursor, you get the chance to navigating our jam space and see things change as our friends join in, dance and have a laugh. 

I met Ron Lang when I went to the ending of a bachelorette party. Ron was the male stripper these girls hired. He commented on my John Lennon shirt and after chatting we ended up liking a lot of the same bands: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who. The Beatles being Ron's favorite group, he really wanted to jam with us. After my old band fell apart, Ron and I decided to try out new people and see if we could take our sound in a fresh direction. 

This is what we came up with, listen on our Soundcloud

Collectively, we are inspired by the music of the past. However, we are trying to take it to the next level. On our site we like to say the we are "The bastard sons" of Rock N' Roll, Rhythm & Blues, and Garage Rock. All wrapped up in loud music and mod suits. 

We are The Retroaction. Thanks for taking a minute. 

Keith, Ron, Thomas & Charles"

File under mis-addressed emails

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Northern Soul

Finally saw that movie Northern Soul.

Thought it was quite well done. Fast moving, restless, kinetic. Moderately involving. Superfluous romantic subplot, inevitably. Spurious action/crime subplot. But captured something of the monomania, the sexless zeal of the subculture.


I did think there was couple of things awry with the project, the historical rendering.

Felt that there was such extreme fidelity to an idea of the past -  or an idea of not prettifying the past, being true to how grey and grubby the early Seventies was...  presumably coming ultimately from the director but implemented by the set design, costuming, make-up etc etc

with the net result that they really really overdid the grot

Everyone was so dirty - well perhaps not everybody, but the main male protagonists..... they looked like they'd been rolled in bacon fat immediately before each day's shoot

Long lank greasy hair, bumfluff, spots....

And my suspicion was that Northern Soul - being an extension of mod - and in that sense being an estranged cousin of skinheads ...  surely would have been totally obsessed with being clean and sharp looking?  (I seem to remember reading about how the Northern Soul men all used Brut aftershave...)

And sure enough, if you look at the footage immediately below.... the kids are spotless. Literally spotless - there's barely a zit to be seen anywhere. (Which is perhaps even more surprising given how poor the diet would have been in those days.... and how much  in the way of amphetamines consumed and nights without sleep, for these teenagers).

But the clothes are clean and ironed. The hair is well washed and combed.

There are one or two blum-fluffy, unfortunate attempts at mustaches... but overall, this was a totally kempt, groomed, and mostly cleancut bunch of young people taking a lot of pride in their appearance

(there's certainly nobody as beardy and wild-looking as that character in Northern Soul who's a minor pill-peddling gangsta - and who seemed more like someone you'd see at a Budgie gig or an outdoor festival like Bickershaw in '72 - which funnily enough was actually held near Wigan)

The smartness is all the more surprising given the amount of sweating these Northern Soul kids were doing in their dancing all night sessions - but then that's why they brought those hold-alls, it was to carry several changes of clothing, so they could look sharp and refreshed all through the night....

Another odd little thing that troubled me was the actual fidelity to how shit sound systems were at that time

They wouldn't have sounded shit to the kid at the time because that's all they knew

But especially in the early youth club scenes, the shitness of the sound system - while totally authentic, i'm sure - has the unfortunate side effect of making it very hard for the viewer to understand the incredible potent effect that these Northern Soul songs had on the kids hearing them for the first time ...  what with Northern Soul being a rather rickety sounding sound at the best of times....  it becomes quite hard to see why conversion experiences would be occurring on exposure to music that tinny and weedy sounding

so here i feel there was a case for using modern sound quality to recreate how it must have felt to those kids then, pre-bassbins etc -  grounds for a degree of anachronistic licence, simply to convey the majesty and might of the records as they impacted the early 70s teenage ear.... especially an ear heightened by amphetamines and other drugs...

(mind you the soundtrack seemed quite lacking in anything that sounded like a Killer Tune ... not that i'm an expert or afficianodo, at all. there was one great song but it was only played for about 10 seconds! i could imagine a viewer who knew nothing about Northern Soul being a little puzzled by the scene, about how such fanaticism be mobilized for such non-overwhelming music)

one thing i did like was the amphetamined obsessive focus on lyrics....  feeling of gnosis/eureka/revelation that the main lad John felt when listening to Northern tunes while pilled out of his box all night, on headphones, from a crappy tape....  scribbling them down them in his notebook, finding profundity in the lyrics

the lyrics that seem to touch a chord most were the ones to do with time flying - youth's ephemerality - burn now while you can - very much reminding me of "no heavenly reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn", or M.E.S. "now I found a reason not to die / the spark inside"

the idea of time flies, and flying high connected to me with the incredible -  almost unbelievable to look at, sometimes - buoyancy of the Northern Soul dance, the way the dancers bob and bounce, the strange levitated perpendicularity of the the posture (with nothing much going on around the hips and groin - no funk action), all the movements in the feet, and with the twirling of the whole torso, like a spinning top ... and then those backflips and down-drops, followed by springing up instantly, as though body-weight was nothing.... and the high-kicks....   all about the defiance of gravity, a refusal of being earth bound. weighted down by mundanity...  the dancefloor almost like a trampoline

the main lad John Clark, played by Elliot James Langridge, looked to me a bit like (and perhaps even deliberately styled like that) the boy in Kes four or five years on.... who's found a new way to fly.... a new transcendence

(although really he looks like Mark E. Smith as runty 14 year old)

the Novum

"The breakbeat is actually made up of two mono files on the sampler, which I adjusted separately, so that when I stuck them together, I had the break riding up and spinning around in the stereo soundfield. It sounded like nothing we'd ever heard, it was a revelation -- we listened to that for hours and hours." - Rob Playford, on working with Goldie for "Timeless"

(via Dissensus)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hauntology Parish Newsletter October 2015 - Keith Seatman; Fossil Aerosol Mining Project; Ghost Box 10th Anniversary compilation

Out now, A Rest Before The Walk, a new album by Keith Seatman  - CD purchasable at the Ghost Box Shop and from Monday, available via Bandcamp in digital and compact disc form. 

Set and setting: 

‘’From the Old Road take the track to Sidebottom Fold Farm at the foot of Wild Bank; through the gate and into the field, under the pylon that fizzes and crackles loudly on rainy days, up to where the heather  (thick with flies in late summer) begins. Over the dry stone wall and left along the rutted path to the disused rifle range with its raised banks and collapsing concrete bunkers; a bleak, melancholy place that is gradually being reclaimed by the land. Corroded round casings are still plentiful, embedded in the sandy earth, even though generations of children have collected them by the handful.’’

‘’We walk at different rates, often suggested by location, terrain, need and ability. We move about our homes at a particular ‘indoor’ pace, but there are interior spaces such as hospital corridors and station concourses that invite an outdoor rhythm and speed.’’

’To an extent all our walks are coloured by a degree of prior knowledge and awareness. Some locations and the routes we take are however so heavily loaded with particular memories or associations that our experience is profoundly affected by them.’’

Extracts from ‘Walk’ 2015 by Greg Palmer. 
Artist and Associate Lecturer on the B.A. (Hons) Fine Art course at Southampton Solent University & the M.A. Illustration course at Kingston University.

Tracklist for A Rest Before The Walk 

We all had our Dreams, Strange Tales & Lost Paper Trails, There’s Something Outside, Once More with the Whirligig, Broken Folk*, Made by Sun and Ice,
Race you to the Top, Thinking Doing and Moving, My Morning Ritual*, I Wish I Wish I Wish, Waiting for Mr Fieldpole, Sun in Her Hand,
Along the Corridor 1st on the Left Room 2882, A Rest Before the Walk

Contributors to the process include North Devon Singer Songwriter Douglas E Powell  (vocals, lyrics, sound-foraging. hospitality)  and Jim Jupp (co-production) 

hear excerpts here


In other news....

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project's ...The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971.. is due in a fortnight from the label Helen Scarsdale.  As discussed at Include Me Out - "the past in a state of decay, plunderphonics from genre films of the 1970s, but it's unlikely you will recognise the sources, so scrambled are the sounds...beautifully so, you might say, but this beauty is one of course textures from salvaged celluloid ...voices cut, rewound, repeated...a seance in sound..." - available here from October 30th 

Set and Setting

"An enigmatic cartel of urban spelunkers, ruinous sound ecologists and earnest refuseniks, the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project began its collective service in the 1986. Film, sound installation, and audio recordings have all been part of their broader agenda, all of which falls under a wholly unified aesthetic. Their's is a post-industrial model, sifting detritus from the wastelands located in Midwestern rust-belt communities shuddering in the downward spiral of economic demise. Upon the re-assembly of these materials -- often culled from 35mm film and 1/4" magnetic tape found in abandoned drive-in movie theatres and warehouses -- the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project interweave with ready-mades of their own disintegration. At this site of cultural and anthropological research, forgotten memes and planned obsolesce begin to map previously hidden routes through the psychological and existential landscape of the American psyche -- past, present, and future. 

Over the years, the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project has collaborated with :zoviet*france: -- the semi-anonymous cabal of pseudo-ethnomusicologists into our pre-apocalyptic past that could easily be seen as Fossil Aerosol's British counterpart. With The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971, the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project reconstitutes dissociated fragments from nearly-lost genre films of the 1970s, filtered by scratched celluloid, bad splices, dropouts, and damaged control tracks. Within piles of reversed tape loop miasma and time-lag accumulation, Fossil Aerosol magnifies the grit, the errors, the bad splices, and the dropouts within their mesmerizing and hypnogogic studies of uncanny dislocations. Helen Scarsdale is honored and flattered to be working with Fossil Aerosol for their first solo vinyl release. The first 200 copies of the Helen Scarsdale edition will include fragments of 1970s intermission film, recovered from an abandoned drive-in theater during the early 1980s, affixed to the cover of the album." 

hear here

hear here also


Finally, if you hadn't noticed, In A Moment… Ghost Box  - a double-LP / double-CD compilation to 
to celebrate Ghost Box's 10th anniversary is out now. Sleeve notes by me.  More information here

this was tomorrow (milky)

Monday, October 12, 2015

alien nostalgia

D. Harlan Wilson at Los Angeles Review of Books on the "alternate near-past" pomo-s.f. metafiction of Douglas Lain, whose After The Saucers Landed -

"depicts an alien invasion set in an alternate near-past where people have been dehumanized by the worn-out specter of consumer-capitalism and electronic media. From beginning to end, the pages are littered with kitschy pop detritus, including references to Soundgarden, UFOs, B-movies, Bill Clinton, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Macy’s, “garbage pail lid-shaped” flying saucers, Yoko Ono, body snatchers, name-brand autogeddon (Studebakers, Volvos, Toyotas, Mercedes-Benzes, etc.), MTV, Pepsi, Proctor & Gamble, Heineken, Duran Duran, espressos and cappuccinos and Maxwell House French roast, Elvis, The Carpenters, Playboy and Penthouse, the Gap, junk food, Swatch wristwatches, Good Morning America, Magritte, ZZ Top, Jazzercise, soap operas, laser light shows, IZOD shirts, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Herman’s Hermits, comic books, and Toys “R” Us … 

.... Lain has been called a postmodern SF author. What that means in the 21st century isn’t necessarily what it meant in the fin de siècle 1990s or the paranoid ’80s, let alone the anti-disestablishmentarian ’70s and the freewheeling, psychedelic ’60s — all decades that Lain jaunts back and forth between in After the Saucers Landed as he conveys the characters’ backstories while underscoring the evanescence and displacement of time itself. There is no stylistic experimentalism or playfulness with narrative structure; Lain more or less shoots straight, with a palpable beginning, middle, and end, and he writes in prose that is smart yet colloquial. On the postmodern register, two coordinates jump to attention: metafiction and nostalgia.....   the way we create mythologies and stereotypes about the past rather than try to represent or reclaim an authentic sense of history. Lain’s novel is an iteration of this pathology.

"The narrator and protagonist is an English professor, experimental writer, and UFO enthusiast named Brian Johnson. In a short prologue, he recalls the first landing of kitschy “Nordic-type alien[s] from the Pleides” on June 11, 1991. “It was exactly like something from a B movie from the ’50s,” Johnson recounts. “The landing was another sequence of moving pictures set between commercial breaks.” Punctuating the corniness of the event, the leader of the Pleidiens, dressed in a sequined jumpsuit, introduces himself as “Ralph Reality.” This is bad news for Johnson and his mentor and colleague, renowned artist and ufologist Harold Flint, whose research on the prospect of alien life is foiled by the brazen “Reality” of their goofy (and seemingly good-willed) arrival in flying saucers straight out of Amazing Stories or Plan 9 from Outer Space.

"....The Pleidiens were prompted to make contact with the human race because of Flint.. as well as by his colleague, fellow artist and semi-rival Charles Rain, who, in 1953, orchestrated World Contact Day, an event premised upon a message that was paid homage to in a song (“Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”) written and recorded by the band Klaatu in 1976 and covered by the Carpenters in 1978....

"The first rule of (post)modernity is there is no (post)modernity, which is to say that real truth is a fiction, and identity is a slippery changeling. On the surface, Lain’s engagement with these themes might seem antiquated and cliché, but it works on the level of nostalgia, as if Lain is sentimentalizing what it was like to read Foucault or Derrida for the first time as a graduate student when theory was fresh and new, difficult and challenging and enlightening, rather than Old Hat. I’m uncertain of Lain’s actual university experience, but he is conversant in some schools of theory and satirical of academia; to an extent, After the Saucers Landed is a campus novel....

"Alien nostalgia, however, points to the broader nostalgia conveyed by the entire book for pulp science fiction aesthetics, which were once “amazing,” “astounding,” filled with a “sense of wonder,” and so on, whereas now, in the realm of Baudrillardian hyperreality... such media has become a mere insignia of “the death of the real” — a death that is very much alive in After the Saucers Landed."

No fresh air here then...  just the exhausted and clogged atmosphere of the lingering 20th Century

10/26 postscript - some real fresh air

(via Erich Kuersten)

Friday, October 9, 2015

"unusually burdened by the excellence of its past"

"That’s not to say that pop music is ‘over’, as one or two of my friends have been heard to say. They have their Neil Young records and feel that nothing more is necessary. It’s just that pop’s present is unusually burdened by the excellence of its past. Music fashioned long ago for instant gratification has proved to possess extraordinary staying power. Over the years I have met one or two pop performers socially and if I have been drunk enough, I have asked them how it feels to have songs they wrote (in some cases, dashed off) in their youth still being played and loved decades later. And they can’t quite get over it either. How did that happen? I bet even Paul McCartney asks himself that question from time to time.
"The music industry, delightful behemoth that it remains, squeezes this music dry, of course. I’m not sure there are many manifestations of modern life more dispiriting than the jukebox musical, wherein much- loved hits of yore are attached to a story so thin and ridiculous that only Ben Elton could have written it. At the same time, we shouldn’t be too hard on people who are just trying to make a living. The other day, I met someone else who had grown up and grown old with ABC’s 1982 album The Lexicon Of Love, and we sat and discussed it with wild glints in our eyes. Needless to say, the song we both liked the most was a non-single album track that many people will never have heard of (‘Date Stamp’, in case you are similarly afflicted). Teenage elitism never dies, and as far as we were concerned, neither does that album. Thirty-three years on, The Lexicon Of Love sounds only slightly less than current. ABC’s Martin Fry has never come close to equalling it, but he is still out there, playing it live. It’s one of my favourite albums, and it’s his pension."
- Marcus Berkmann announces the end of his 27 year tenure as pop critic of The Spectactor
Sounds like he didn't exactly start from the strongest of footings though:
"I was 27 when I started writing this, and I am 55 now, but I was an unusually crabbed, creaky and ill-tempered 27-year-old, who already felt left behind by the way pop music was developing, and preferred the music of his own teenage years, as almost everyone does. This hasn’t changed much. I still think hip-hop is a waste of ears. Grunge was spectacularly uninteresting. Of Britpop I now listen to only Blur and Supergrass. And so on"
Fun fact - when Berkmann started his column, I was actually the pop columnist of the New Statesman. My tenure lasted about two years. I wasn't aware that I had an opposite number, as it were - not sure I ever picked up the Spectator. I would have just assumed they wouldn't have had a pop columnist at all.

(He's right about "Date Stamp" though - best song on Lexicon)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

spreadsheet culture

1/   Digital recording and editing often feels like working in a spreadsheet—it's not always a place for dreams
-- Chris Walla -  quoted in press release for Tape Loops, project by ex-Death Cab for Cutie man whose says of his choice to go analogue: I can't change a closed, physical tape loop with a mouse-click or a keystroke, and that’s precisely the point"

2/ The code of ones and zeros found in the pits of a disc’s surface was, at its base level, no different from the ones and zeros that represented the code of a spreadsheet program."
-- from  Mark Richardson's excellent piece about Oval's 94Diskont  reactivating his Resonant Frequency column at Pitchfork. (94 Diskont - 20 years old! or is it 21?)

Mark further notes: "This marked a philosophical shift, because data implies flexibility and transportability" and adds "Popp... once said that what Oval did was not “art” or “capital-M music” but rather could best described as “file management”—a term so functional that it can’t help but shatter the persistent myth of creativity. What we are doing, Popp seemed to say, is sitting in front of computers, opening folders, creating files, and arranging them. The work was, at base level, no different from an administrative functionary in a large office tracking inventory with Microsoft Access: You figure out what needs to be done and engage the software and hardware tools at hand in completion of the task.


Walla's Tape Loops thing is really nice actually

hear a track from it here

interview about it here