Monday, October 16, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
I was delighted to get the opportunity to do it for RBMA.
It's the story of the first decade of Virgin Records.
And it's a profile of Simon Draper, A&R Director and later Managing Director - the man whose vision and taste made Virgin a contender for coolest label of the Seventies.
Not that other chap, the one with the beard.
(Lol inventing here the industrial / Cosey Fanni Tutti style of trumpet-through-fog four years ahead of schedule)
(Viv G on the vocals there)
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Here's my blurb for No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976-1984:
What do these songs have in common?
1/ They come from a time when the gap between rock and black music was really small, compared with the gulf that now exists
Such that you almost wonder what the point of postpunk's vaunted embrace of funk and disco etc was as a gesture - given that the funk was already so deeply imbricated with mainstream rock music. It didn't need to be added or restored, it's there.
So you can see - if you shove to one side the rhetoric and the clothes and the theory and the adversarial positioning - acontinuum of Seventies rock that runs from beginning to end of the decade and that is steeped in black music - following its changes, absorbing its innovations (like the Larry Graham-esque slap bass bit in "Slow Ride" by Foghat... essentially no different as a musical move than scores of postpunk guitarists trying to copy Nile Rodgers )
They loved their Free after all, Go4
Old Wave / New Wave - the difference collapses as more and more time goes by
2/ The other thing they have in common - well, most of that first batch up top - is that they are used in movies. Something about this kind of groove-oriented early Seventies rock seems to move the action along. These feel-good tunes are a perfect fit for the "up" phase of a film like Boogie Nights e.g. the scene when things are going swimmingly by the swimming pool (they use the Three Dog Night and "Spill the Wine" in that sequence) or the more fraught but still thrillingly kinetic climax to Goodfellas (the soundtrack jumping from "Monkey Man" to "Jump Into the Fire" in a way that will never cease to electrify).
3/ They are all nifty groovers
It's the mundanity of the liberation-through-energy... its sliced-white-bread, staple background to the times quality that I find interesting.... Most of the above are second-division acts, solid radio providers, one-or-two hit wonders .... the liberation and the nifty grooviness is a general condition of the era... Even if (as per the kids in Dazed and Confused) the inhabitants of that era feel that the Seventies has fallen from the heights of the Sixties.... They don't know how good they got it.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
some of my favorite tunes of the last few years gathered into an (unmixed) mixtape for NERO
Laurel Halo – «Like An L»
Big Sean – «Bounce Back»
D’Angelo – «Prayer»
Young Thug featuring Birdman – «Constantly Hating»
Schoolboy Q – «Collard Greens»
eMMplekz – «Gloomy Leper Techno»
Rae Smemmurd featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug – «Throw Sum Mo»
Future – «Fuck Up Some Commas»
Future – «I’m So Groovy»
Naomi Elizabeth – «The Topic Is Ass»
Travi$ Scott – «Goosebumps»
Travi$ Scott – «Antidote»
Migos – «Bad and Boujee»
Aphex Twin – «Original Chaos Riff»
Jeremih – «Oui»
Let’s Eat Grandma – «Eat Shiitake Mushrooms»
Hybrid Palms – «Pacific Image»
Tinashe feat Schoolboy Q – «2 On»
Assembled Minds – «Morris Horror»
Friday, October 06, 2017
Grazie molto to Valerio Mattioli - author of Superonda: Storia Segreta Della Musica Italiana, a book about the experimental rock scene in which Battiato was a central figure - for filling in the background to his bizarre career. And cheers to Jon Dale for his revelatory tips on further listens from within Battiato's close-knit community of associates and accomplices.
Attenzione Londoners! Mattioli dialogues with Rob Young about the Italian art-pop freak-out scene of the Seventies on October 22, 5 pm, at the Coronet Theatre. More details here
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Klang curator Laura Novoa kindly gave me a guided tour of the exhibition. And of the the building itself, among whose features is La Gran Lámpara - a glowing glass-sided construction (inside of which are two exhibitions halls) that is seemingly suspended in the air, and is situated in this central voluminous shaft of space that goes from the roof to the ground floor.
Another important avant-garde emigre was Mauricio Kagel, who moved to Cologne, while the Argentina-born Mario Davidovsky went to work at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center.
The exhibition's span goes from the earliest forays into tape music and electronics made by Argentine composers like Francisco Kröpfl....
... then onto the wonderfully 1960s-in-vibe sound design / graphic design developed by the advertising agency Agens, as part of an integrated corporate identity project for the manufacturers SIAM Di Tella
... before winding up with CLAEM aka el Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales, the most advanced electronic music laboratory in South America thanks largely to the innovations of fellow called Fernando von Reichenbach.
Muchas gracias to Laura for a fascinating time travel trip to el futuro perdido latinoamericano!
For further information about Argentinan and Latin American electronic music, check out this essay by Ricardo Dal Farra. It comes with an enormous playlist of compositions which I have so far only managed to get about one-fifth of the way through - revelatory stuff.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
In the horrendously polarized, high-stakes moment that is now, you can kind of see why Nagle's thesis might offend; it does slightly resemble the old wet-liberal canard "you can go so far to the left that you end up on the right". But I have actually had a couple of conversations in the past year with online strangers who claimed that they know people on the radical left who have switched to the right - not because they shared the values particularly but because that's where the new cutting edge was, in terms of irreverence and iconoclasm. The buzz of shocking, the rush of causing offence - this was more important than the actual political positions and their real-world implications. This is the punk of today, in other words.
Nagle references The Sex Revolts a couple of times during her thesis. That book is a bit of an orphan in the oeuvre, indeed there have been quite long periods when I've completely forgotten that Joy and I ever wrote it. While I can't quite reconstruct the head that came up with the over-arching thesis on which the thing is scaffolded and which I'm not certain stands up anymore (that was the peak / swan-song of my infatuation with French theory), whenever I've looked back at a specific portion or patch of it - the stuff on grunge, or Siouxsie, or the whole section on psychedelia - it still seems on the money.
Probably the sharpest part is the stuff that relates to Nagle's book - which apart from anything else is a very handy quick-read recap of recent history / guided tour through the online sewers of discourse, from the social injustice warriors of the alt-right to the anti-feminist virulence of the manosphere (or should that be men-of-fears?). That is the Revolts chapter that dissects the masculinism of all the immediate precursors to rock rebellion - the Beats, the Angry Young Men, James Dean, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, et al - during which we bring up "Momism", a concept coined by Philip Wylie in his 1942 book Generation of Vipers. Wylie identified a form of new American decadence in the growth of consumerism, mass media entertainment like radio, and suburbia, which he linked to matriarchy and domesticity: American virility, the frontier style of rugged martial masculinity on which the nation was founded, was being smothered and enfeebled by over-mothering, comfort and niceness. The Sex Revolts mentions Robert Bly's Iron Man as a modern-day, therapeutically tinged and New Age-y resurgence of the Momism critique, a sort of Jung Thug Manifesto. But, published in 1995, our book was a year too early for Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club: angry young men reacting against metrosexual consumerism and sensitivity, an insidious decadence weakening them from within, and coming up with solutions that recall Nietzche's "in a time of peace, the warlike man attacks himself."
Fight Club was the book that coined the term "snowflake," and the novel has proved to be a prophetic parable. The ugly contorted face of anti-Momism today is the paranoid impatience with political correctness, safe spaces, trigger warnings, etc - the new proprieties that are felt as intolerable constraints, restrictions on the male right to spite. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with her uncatchy catchphrase "America is great because America is good," is Momism incarnate for the new angry young men, the symbol of a stifling virtuousness, a tyranny of good behaviour. So instead of Nurse Ratchet, they elected Andrew Dice Clay as President, on a ticket of Tourette's as a style of governance, reactive as much as reactionary.
Underlying it all is the crisis of a masculinity that doesn't know what it's for anymore, in a demilitarized and post-industrial era where women provide for themselves or are the high-earning member of the family. Hence the fixation on imagined threats to gun ownership, on rapacious extraction industries like coal and the removal of protections for Mother Earth (always struck by how "fracking" sounds like the violating act that it is - how's that for "libidinal economy"?).... hence the hankering for macho foreign policy postures (waving that big "stick" around) and Theweleit-on-the-Freikorps redolent Walls and dams against contaminating floods..... these and so many other psyche-fortifying issues are all of them proxies, props, displacements, compensations for an eroding and increasingly irrelevant style of manhood.
* The really acute essay on punk in that issue of Monitor is the piece by Hilary Bichovsky (then writing as Hilary Little) on a recent retrospective exhibition of Jamie Reid's art, including his work for the Sex Pistols, in the course of which she wryly but implacably picks apart the impulse-to-outrage from an unsparing feminist perspective. One of the things she comments on is the "Who Killed Bambi" artwork - the slain deer, an actual living thing sacrificed for an edgy concept, for a image that will shock. As with Vicious's "to think / I killed a cat", as with names such as Stiff Kittens and Kill My Pet Puppy, the underlying idea is that softy furry things made you soft inside. Killing soft weak things, even symbolically with sick humour, makes you hard.
Sex Revolts actually started with a sick joke. We went out for dinner with a friend - this is early Nineties, East Village NYC - and he'd brought along a friend, someone who'd been in various noise bands (including this one). During the meal, the musician told a joke:
Q: What's the worse thing about raping a child?
A: Having to kill her afterwards.
I guess it was a cool test - if you laughed, you passed. We flunked the test. Later, walking home, Joy and I started talking about why, at that time, there were such a lot of underground-rock bands with songs about killing women. Three hours of fevered discussion later, we had a book mapped out.
** For further Nagle reading, try this Baffler essay about the breakdown of manners and self-restraint in public discourse.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Sunday, September 10, 2017
(Which I heard on this fab Woebot mix of Brazilian)
And then there is this
which is ripped off of this
and then this (although Western copyright says you can't copyright a beat)
Wonder what else they pilfered?
I tend to point the figure in Malcolm's direction, considering that he fancied himself a voleur and recycled some Soweto tunes - copyrighted to himself - on Duck Rock.
Sunday, September 03, 2017
(a historical masterclass on rock criticism and music journalism from the start to the finish)
(Everybody's In Showbiz: Glam and Anti-Glam from the Seventies to the 21st Century)
entrada libre y gratuita
entrada gratuita con inscripción más información
Friday, August 18, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Well, how bizarre is that - now there's not just one but two really good books about post-rock.
The first came out a year or two ago: Jack Chuter's Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-Rock, which I discussed here.
And now there's Jeanette Leech's Fearless: The Making of Post-Rock, on Jawbone Press.
They are both strong in different ways. Chuter's is a bit more vivid when it comes to sonic evocation; Leech is more encompassing (it covers a LOT of precursor type stuff - late Eighties bliss-rock and dream pop etc) and has a sharper polemical edge to it.
Indeed, Leech is much more dismissive than Chuter of the later stages of post-rock, i.e. the stuff that 97 % of current fans + practitioners reckon post-rock is all about (whereas we early-adopter types / Lost Generation fanboys + girls are of the opinion that the Point verily has been badly missed).
Leech has quite the cutting term for all this point-missing activity: post-rock-rock. That extra "rock" and the implied sense of reversion conveys the way that an open field of possibility in which genre barriers were dissolving every-which-way has gradually turned into a fairly fixed genre of instrumental rock that - for my taste - tends to be overly dramatic and epic. Certainly it's not at all what I had in mind back when it was all about Seefeel Insides Disco Inferno Main Techno Animal Laika Moonshake Bark Psychosis....
For a sample taste of Fearless, check out this extract at the Quietus, prefaced by an essay written by Leech in parallel with her book that examines "how post-rock stopped dancing." Well, I don't know if there was ever that much post-rock that made you dance, but certainly there was a time when post-rockers were nearly all of them listening to and learning from dance music...
For a current and lonely example of "true path" post-rock, check out Rage Coma, the new album by Sam Macklin, a/k/a connect_icut
Although its means-of-construction is much closer to post-rock by my definition than Explosions in the Sky and all those other post-rock-rock bands with big-guitar sounds, this new record of Sam's has an attack and a scale - a gnarly rawness too - that is markedly different from his earlier more glitchy and subdued excursions. I'd almost say it "rocks" - but only in the same way that No U Turn records rocked.
It's no secret that having minted the theory (if not coined the word itself) I soon cooled on post-rock in practice, as the music itself seemed to cool down and becalm itself into nu-fusion / soundtrack-looking-for-a-movie-ism.
Covertly I even started to sympathise with the aversion and affront felt by those among my professional peers who felt - and occasionally caustically argued - that all this talk about being "post" was to piss on the sacred memory of the Stooges or the Stones....
Because, when push came to shove, I'd usually be more up for hearing a piece of pre-post-rock like this
(courtesy of YouTubers Worldhaspostrock !!)
In some of my writings on the subject I explicitly talk about the removal of the rebel-teenager-with-raised-middle-finger as the putative stage center protagonist of the music... replaced by a diffuse un-body, an ego-less and attitude-less spirit of adventure that didn't require the focal figure of the vocalist acting out as proxy for the audience.
Post-rock, at its best, offered a kind of nerd version of a musical heroics - a way to be, yes, fearless - crossing boundaries of the mind.... breaking the laws of genre.
Heroism without ego-drama.... grandeur without self-aggrandisement. Paraphrasing Stubbs on Krautrock, the artists submit themselves as a speck on a landscape of their own creation - an exploding skyscape.
But ultimately as the Nineties rolled towards its close, it all got a bit too mild... pulled along with the general tide in the culture towards a new kind of self-repression... the neurotically implosive detail-work of what Woebot called audio-trickle.
It learned the production technicalities of rave and hip hop - and put them to clever, complicated use - but it rarely picked up on the core energies in those musics: what - in this sister post - I characterise as the impulse to brock out...
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Hauntology Parish Newsletter - summer 2017 : Genteel Decay; The Focus Group; A Year in the Country; Ekoplekz
Genteel Decay is an alter-ego of Moon Wiring Club's Ian Hodgson. Some while ago Ian was propositioned by the gentleman behind cassette-label Illuminated Paths with a view to him crafting a side release for pseudonymous emission. As it happens, Ian had already been poking away at a pet project, involving "just vocal sounds and echo / delay / reverb effects." As you know, mouth music is something of a fancy of mine, so my ears immediately pricked up when I learned about A Crumpet or Two. And it's a right treat: a lovely dollopy portion of mashed-and-slurried speech. The original textual fragments are themed around an afternoon tea but as they're glutinously distended, like strands of treacle spooling from a wooden spoon, they degenerate into oozy nonsense. As Ian aptly puts it, "the end result sounds somewhere between a female HAL9000 having her memory chips removed and the thought processes of an Edwardian UK Stepford Wives."