Thursday, June 30, 2022

retrotalk2022 - Get Back as time travel

And here's some retrotalk from yours truly - a discussion with Francesco Tenaglia for The Music Folder,  a talk-series curated by Archivio Storico Ricordi, which investigates the intersection of music, memory, and arts. This was done a little while ago, so the focus initially is on the recently-shown Get Back 8-hour Beatles documentary series and the uncannily persistent dominance and prominence of the Fab Four in our culture (chiming with Luke Turner's swipe at Maccagemony in the previous post). Then the retrotalk moves onto curatorial and annotative culture, obituary and elegy writing, the deejay as archivist, completism and collectoritis, my work as a teacher....  You can find the audio of our discussion here and a marginally tidied-up transcription here

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

retrotalk2022 nostalgia deathgrip

Stone the crows, here's yet another piece on retroculture -  this time by Quietus-man Luke Turner, writing for New Statesman.

 It bears the headline: "Macca and the Stones? The past has a death grip on our culture" and it starts by noting that "if you include the holograms, this week nine musicians with a combined age of 686 – Paul McCartney, Elton John, the Rolling Stones and ABBA – are once again the biggest cultural news in the UK"

Amusingly, Turner notes right near the top of the piece that "to attack nostalgia is nothing new. More than a decade ago, the critic Simon Reynolds published Retromania, an incisive look at a musical culture that seemed to wallow in ironic takes on the past rather than aspiring to anything fresh." Mark Fisher gets his due props too. 

But Turner wants to have it both ways - see things  from the viewpoint of the ahistorical young, "for whom it is all new, right now" and who feast on the atemporal banquet of streaming blahblahblah. 

He wants to be negative and positive simultaneously (difficult trick) and so as well as  complaining about rockpop's gerontocratic oliogopoly and their full-spectrum dominance of the attention economy, he also points to new shoots of growth -  small but teeming shocks-of-new still out there to be found (the kind of thing covered in the Quietus - the New Weird this or that)

I sympathise: nobody wants to be the old grouch if they can help it.  

Monday, June 27, 2022

retrotalk2022 - bringback culture

 A piece by Rachel Brodsky for Stereogum addressing the Kate Bush "Running Up That Hill" hoo-ha and other signs that "everything old is new again, and everything new is out of luck"

It references the Ted Gioia /Atlantic piece titled “Is Old Music Killing New Music?” from earlier this year (which I discussed / quoted here) and likewise explores the "resurfaced" life of old tunes off the back of TV needledrops, TikTok memificaitons,  the sale of legacy artists's catalogues for "hundreds of millions", the dominance of deep catalogue in streaming stats.

Brodksy writes; "I think what separates earlier instances of “bringback” culture from the one we’re currently in is that this one feels much more permanent. We might see more microtrends b/w/o dance challenges and memes, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that older music is way more accessible for all in 2022 than it was in 1992. That’s why “genre-fluid” musicians such as Billie Eilish, Post Malone, and Lil Uzi Vert have been popping up right and left over the last few years. Today’s popular artist frequently draws influence from across the genre spectrum because they’ve spent their lives immersed in 10 record stores’ worth of material. It used to be that rap producers had to go crate-digging to find obscure funk and soul tracks with which to build a new song. Today, it’s literally never been easier to find old music and treat it as new."

This discourse is itself becoming a kind of revival movement, a deja loop, a groundhog grind!

 I wonder if this creeping anxiety about retro-as-necrosis and Zeitgeist failure will ever fade? 

It's like the collective muscle memory of a generation that still has some faint lingering feeling for ideas like the Next Big Thing, forward-facing movements in music, the supercession of styles and era-epistemes etc. 

But presumably for people who have only ever known atemporality - younger people - these kind of complaints and worries will not compute at all, by a certain point. The past and the present will coexist as this flattened field of stuff to dip into at will. 

Perhaps then, finally, the well of retrotalk will dry up. So there might be a retrotalk2023 series of posts, and retrotalk2024.... But retrotalk2030?

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Summer Solstice edition

 Cranking the mimeograph to bring you a smatter of summertime tidings.


New from  Lo Five, the EP Lack - marbled fog blocs for fuzzy heads ("Thicc Air", one of these four tracks is titled - and sounds like it).  


Moon Wiring Club have only just made the most recent releases, Ghost Party Delirium CD and Ghost Party Delirium LP (completely separate records) digitally available on Bandcamp. These I slept on a bit, arriving very late in 2021 as they did, but the CD in particular - a double - has resurged as listening for me recently and I recommend a deep delve.  I got stuck on this one tune "The Original Phantom Roller", entranced by its descending-and-ascending reverbed B-line and hall-of-mirror recession of  lady voices ("watch the light!", "who's real, then? Me - or you"). Having played it  at least thirty times now, I feel certain it would make an all-time MWC Top Twenty.  Another killer is this crepuscular creeper with slap-bass twinges as unexpected and alarming as a tendon snapping. 


Another oldie but goodie - really old in fact, and really good (among the Top Five Greatest Hauntological Recordings Ever) - is something whose first-time vinyl reincarnation bypassed me some months ago: Dead Air by Mordant MusicOne of that first cluster of albums that made it clear something was happening that needed monitoring and monikering, the CD's mustard-hued fold-out has been gorgeously scaled up into a gatefold elpee by Castles in Space, with new artwork from Admiral Greyscale worked in there. And the audio has been remastered for vinyl - hear here the new edition's first side of dankly glistening glory. 


Beautify Junkyards have just released the lovely and eerie film Cosmorama Moving Images. A creative ruse around the challenges of touring in a locked down world, it documents a live performance by the band in a space  teeming with video projections, with surrealistic interludes involving spoken word from Justin Hopper of Old Weird Albion renown. "The environment becomes labyrinthine and the band's vibrant performance seems to induce the formation of spatial and temporal portals that spectators are invited to cross." Inspirations include Victorian London's Cosmorama rooms and the experimental film maker Stan VanDerBeek.  

You can see the movie at Vimeo On Demand. 


Not really from this parish - but let's say he's an exchange student - Estonian pop aesthete Mart Avi has an  excellent new album out, Blade


Canadian exchange student Samuel Macklin (better known as  connect_icut) has a collaborative project with Larissa Loyva called The Bastion Mews. Their latest emanation is this eddying haze of songspace titled "Sinking" and paired with the songspacier "Sinking Dub". It's the second in a series of singles - check out also last month's "Sweet" b/w "Sweet Dub."


A postcard from our Italian twin town Artetetra foretells an imminent ectoplasmic apparitionLoris Cericola'Metaphysical Graffiti.  

Release rationale: 

Best described as an obscure, dadaist sound collage, the album was realized entirely by experimenting with an array of tape cut-ups and analog sound manipulation techniques. A set of live improvisations performed with an assemblage of 4-tracks tape recorders, testing the possibilities offered by the textural audio qualities of cassettes. With an imagery shaped by Ed Wood-style geographic and fictional tropes, Metaphysical Graffiti stands as an aural alternative to a subcultural cave painting. The album is an ill-defined conglomerate of unintelligible folklore, flimsy remote voices and phony, signal-like transmissions. A fragmentary listening conjuring the instability of shortwave explorations and the ominous vibes of waking up in the middle of the night after falling asleep in front of a television in an unfamiliar locale. The samples and soundbites emerging from the minimal tracks’ backbone originate from a careful collection built through time by the musician and is composed of miscellaneous forgotten sales bin recordings, abstruse midnight home movies and haphazard library music pieces. Although the ten songs show a tendency towards supernatural, at times eldritch overtones, the work is surprisingly balanced by a direct simplicity. An atmosphere crafted through delicate distension of time and scattered synth themes. For the most part, Metaphysical Graffiti builds on liminal ambiances reminding of the early James Ferraro and Joel Vandroogenbroeck’s "Biomechanoid", crafting a long moment of discontinuous suspension akin to slow opium phantasmagorias. A space crawling with dimensional spooks drawn in sedative-induced reveries and practical-effects era delusions. 

Full waft due June 17


Finally, I recommend a good dig through our local library's record section. In amongst the budget classical, brass band and Bread albums, you can find some unexpected gems. Like these Eiretronica albums from the 1970s!

For the full story about these releases, go to the Miúin Archives. 

There is also a new curated compilation of work made at the Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. 

"The Kilkenny Electroacoustic Research Laboratory was informally set up in late 1965 by Jacinta Delaney (1937 -) and Eoghan Comerford (1935 -). They were inspired by Groupe de Recherches Musicales after Comerford visited the RTF in Paris in ’64..... The purpose of this collection is an introduction to a selection of works by key characters in the development of K.E.R.L. The structure of the collection gives a general outline of the development of the works throughout the history of the Lab, but it is no way comprehensive."

Monday, June 6, 2022

Death of Next

Another interesting Real Life piece, this time by Mitch Therieau. It predicts - but also calls for - "the end of the trend piece" and declares that "if the past two years have produced any genuinely new development in the history of the future, it is perhaps a widespread, if faintly felt, consciousness of stagnation; a growing conviction that a sweeping Next Thing is not forthcoming."  

It starts with references to "living through a long crisis of futurity" and the idea that "the future has been 'cancelled': foreclosed, rendered all but impossible to imagine, or at least not in ways that can help us create a better world in the present." 

Then moves to challenge this long established and differently  inflected notion of a "unitary Next Thing: a totally new 'world' where everything is either transfigured, or restored to how it used to be", which has been boosted by speculations about what will transpire post-covid. 

But "it turns out that there is no one future so much as there is a series of ongoing crises smoldering in the background, distributed unevenly at every level", and as a result, "speculation on the Next Thing has become an increasingly tough sell. "

Attention then turns to the pop culture genrescape: 

"If the 2010s introduced -cores and –waves to popular culture, with slightly facetious tags like normcore and vaporwave laying claim to free-floating elements of the zeitgeist, the pandemic years have seen an exponential multiplication of these suffixed “aesthetics,” beyond what any one person could hope to keep up with. ... The styles that have recently risen out of this internet soup and into the sphere of trend pieces have reflected a certain fatigue with the churn of trend itself." Goblincore is cited as evidence of this. 

"Across all these -cores and -waves that have spread like the mushrooms goblincore adherents admire so much, a quiet consensus emerges: there will be no Next Thing. Only detritus — old books, pressed flowers, dirty clothes — piling up in the here and now....  Future vertigo gives way to future fatigue."

Then Allison P. Davis’s “vibe shift” piece is considered. 

Nice bit on the trash heap of promised futures that never transpired: 

"Untold millions of former Next Things languish in dusty magazine archives, cached away on orphaned webpages, buried in a drift of ahistorically sorted content. There is no kitsch quite like the artifacts of a promised future that didn’t pan out... As the junked Next Things continue to pile up around us..., it may be that the realm of online trend is the place where an ambient loss of faith in speculation’s power has found its first vernacular expression....

(Hat tip to genre-spotter Kieran Press-Reynolds for alerting me to this). 

A lot of the micro-genre action in recent years feels unserious to me - not based in a genuine "looking for the new thing" hunger or wanting to propose one's scene-let as a real candidate for Next Next Big Thing status. Rather ,it's more a playful exercise in meta-genre. These jokingly purported genre flaunt their constructedness, their lack of basis in real social energy. They treat genre formation and genre-naming as a daft game. 

Seapunk feels like the first one where it seemed to be spoofing the very idea of genres and scenes, while also seeing how far it could fool people. 

So I don't know if there's really an underlying sadness at stagnation at work, or a frustrated futurism coming up empty. Then again, the flip  attitude could be a terminal syndrome in itself.


Here's another Mitch Therieau piece about vibes and the occult for The Drift

"imagining the future is good for you"

"... outside the future-thinking workshops or the walls of the Institute, Imaginable feels less like an invitation and more like a trap. Its exercises provoke future-thinking in terms of opportunity and disruption, of things to be grasped or tamed by the clever, the educated, or the future-oriented. In other words, Imaginable reads as a guide for how to eat the future, how to capture and entrain it, brought forth by a series of consultancy exercises that are partly responsible for how we got where we are right now."

An interesting critique of the "consultancy-futurism" of Jane McGonigal and her book Imaginable, from Cameron Kunzelman at Real Life