Tuesday, April 29, 2014

conflicted retromaniacs, blank regenerations, Auteur as compiler versus compiler as auteur


In the new issue of The Wire, I contributed an extended review of  the new record by "conflicted retromaniac" Luke Haines -  New York in the '70s, an oddly blank regeneration of proto-punk idioms from the CBGBs / Max's Kansas City / Mercer Arts Center era.

A fun record to think about, although I had much more fun listening to its immediate predecessor, Rock and Roll Animals - on which Haines turned rock history into an anthropomorphic children's story.  For the line - for the thought -  "a badger called Nick Lowe" alone, Haines deserves a knighthood. Or at least a CBE.

New York in the '70s is a teensy bit like one of those Top of the Pops compilation albums you used to get where a session band pallidly covered choice items from the top forty (except that Haines is offering pastiches and forgeries, rather than covers, and none of his models -- Suicide, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Richard Hell, Jim Carroll etc - ever came close to charting).

Still it connects faintly with this theme issue of Wire which explores "game-changing compliations, anthologies, a-chronologies and lists".

A meaty issue, with lots of mindfood and entertainment strewn across its "22 page survey of paradigm-busting compilations, anthologies, mail order lists, mixtapes and other collections" involving most of the magazine's sharpest writers.  (Particularly enjoyed Joe Stannard's remembrance of the Moving Shadow / Suburban Base 1993 collaborative compilation The Joint). 

Other commitments prevented me from contributing but if I had, I think I'd probably have written about the "introduction to the New Music" samplers and compilations that classical music labels put out in the Sixties and, tapering off signficantly, the early Seventies. The major labels like Columbia, with series like "Music of Our Time", curated by David Behrman, and issued via its budget imprint Odyssey; Deutsches Gramophon, with those attractive color-varied but uniform-styled comps; Nonesuch, obviously, but also Folkways had an odd penchant for electronic music.



But of particular interest  to me are specialist labels like Turnabout, about which it's very hard to find any information these days. (Like, who were they, beyond being a subdivision of Vox, and why did they decide to focus on this segment of the market?).

postscript: triggered by Bollops comment below, even more avantclassical samplers, from the RCA Victrola New Music series


Thursday, April 24, 2014

some retromania-related reading:

A Pop Matters article looking at the resurgence of cassette culture by Elodie Roy, who I interviewed for that Fanzines Resurgence article five years ago account of her paper-and-print publication Applejack.


"Exithippies' reading of modern British tribal history is gloriously wrong, like a bad dream about a Simon Reynolds book. That has to be more interesting than another band who have boned up on exactly how it went down thirty years ago (or whenever), and can replicate the tics, cliques and tunnel vision to a tee"-  from Noel Gardner's Straight Hedge column for Quietus, which looks at a bunch of neo-punk bands, including Japanese outfit Exithippies who "obsessively mine two stylistic seams: neolithically primitive noisecore with vacuum cleaner blare and incomprehensible grunts, and barely-more-refined Castlemorton-style zombie rave", i.e. two genres that never actually merged despite the lifestyle crossover between squat punx and squat raves/travelers. Sounds both typically Japanese in a Boredoms/Acid Mothers Temple jump-cut archival-import collage mode, and like what will be increasingly common as a strategy of recycling and recombination as the resources of the past become depleted.

Most of the bits on Youtube of Exithippies don't sound very Spiral Tribe-y though - just like your typical frenetic crustpunk cacophony -  except for this one - 
which, conversely, doesn't sound remotely crustpunk.


Poet Mark Scroggins on Susan Howe's Bibliography of the King's Book or, Eikon Basilike and its connections to hauntology in both the Derrida/Specters of Marx sense and as a musical genre-not-genre.

An interesting article, but I would have to say that his opposition of rockism versus hauntology is off-point -- rockism's other is pop (and more recently its ideologification from the early 2000s on as poptimism). Hauntology is off somewhere else altogether.

Yes, there are rockists who have a hang-up with live performance as the site of authenticity and presence, as the liminal space where the rock community comes together, but that is only one strand - and a particular old-fashioned one -- within a larger set of assumptions, biases and beliefs to do with significance, seriousness, substance versus surface, rebellion, etc (most of which I agree with or at least am in sympathy with). You can be a records-man with not that much investment in live performance and still be rockist about your recordings (I'm the living proof of that).  You can be rockist in your value system when celebrating/analysing/taking pleasure in hip hop, post-rave electronic dance music, dub 'n' dancehall etc -- all of which have largely left behind the live-performance paradigm.  Again, I'm a good example of this myself.  (And of course, it really shouldn't need saying at this point: rockism in essence has nothing really to do with electric guitars or the four-man band. The rockist mindset/value system preexisted rock -- jazz was its previous site - and it will post-exist it too)

Further,  Hauntology, in so far as it is a post-millenium discourse of seriousness and mind-expansion that posits the idea of music that is in some way dissident, counter-hegemonic, unsettling, etc etc is not just not opposed to rockism, it is arguably  rockism's continuation, the next level of it, its afterlife.  Again, yours truly -- nu-rockist and hauntology-fan simultaneously - is the unliving proof of that.

(And FHI, I have read Specters of Marx and its sister-volume Ghostly Demarcations -- just didn't find (and still don't) much in the way of overlap between its contents and the music discussed in that Wire piece. Barely any in fact. )

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ghosts of my life, or, the atrophy of dreams (Jung hearts run free)

On Reboot.FM, Lisa Blanning talks with Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun about Mark's new book Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, with topics ranging from 2step and grime to the recent strain of melancholic rap.

Some records get played, including Drake's ditty about forgetting how much money's he actually made, as support of  Mark's argument  about "sad rap" / depressive hedonism  -  proof of the existential emptiness of late capitalism even for those outwardly triumphing in all its fruits of hyper-affluence and prestige symbols.

Generally agree but had a few problems since reading the Rolling Stone Drake interview in which he talks, seemingly highly enthused and not the least bit hollow-inside,  of  how his big dream is to own, or build,  the "largest residential swimming pool in the world", i.e. the planet's biggest private swimming pool. Now, nothing against swimming pools - I'm not intrinsically opposed to people owning their own pool -- indeed wouldn't mind having one myself. But to have as your strongest (non-artistic) ambition to own / build the largest swimming pool in the world....  

Reminded me of something else I read that Drake said: that his dream was to earn 25 million by the age of 25, and now he's done that, his new dream is 250 million by the age of 30. Not exactly Martin Luther King "I Have A Dream" now is it?

But nor is it dreams as in the dream life, the unconscious. The whole idea of dreams and dreaming in that sense -- nocturnal movies, the dreamwork, symbols to be interpreted, but also the irruption of dream imagery into art, from Surrealism to Monty Python and Terry Gilliam's animations -- that has all faded from the culture. We live in hyper reality not surreality. In a post-repression, post-sublimation, late capitalist society, "dreams" and "dreaming" is secularised and de-mythified; it means wanting to be famous or a billionaire, something that you could do but 99.9 percent won't.  

Videogames and CGI have something to do with it as well.

Here's my blurb for Ghosts of My Life:

"Ghosts of My Life confirms that Mark Fisher is our most penetrating explorer of the connections between pop culture, politics, and personal life under the affective regime of digital capitalism. The most admirable qualities of Fisher’s work are its lucidity, reflecting the urgency of his commitment to communicating ideas; his high expectations of popular art’s power to challenge, enlighten, and heal; and his adamant refusal to settle for less."

Also, an event this Thursday in London around Ghosts - Mark in conversation with Laura Oldfield Ford at the UEL, 7pm to 9pm - April 24 - Room US.G.17, University of East London, University Square Stratford, 1 Salway Road, E15. 1NF

piece by Amy Merrick at New Yorker on "vicarious nostalgia for an era [one] didn’t actually live through" and "the commercial allure of the Eighties" - meaning literally the allure of the 1980s deployed in TV commercials

 "For advertisers, the eighties are suddenly the decade to strip-mine for memories. During the Super Bowl, RadioShack débuted a self-mocking commercial with pop-culture icons such as Mary Lou Retton, Hulk Hogan, and Teen Wolf clearing the store of its old boom boxes and fax machines. Its punch line is “The eighties called—they want their store back.” (The background music, incidentally, is Loverboy.)....

"At RadioShack, the idea for the Super Bowl commercial came from focus-group participants who accused it of being stuck in the eighties. The company decided to own up to its image, while explaining that it had, indeed, remodelled its stores since the Reagan Administration. “There were so many memories associated with the decade that we realized we were onto something,” Jennifer Warren, the chief marketing officer for RadioShack, told me. “I was a big Cyndi Lauper fan, and I remember teasing my hair.

Merrick's explanations for the enduring appeal of the Eighties even to those born after 1990: 

"The eighties might also be the last era associated with an exuberant visual vernacular. The nineties are too dour for marketers—try selling a Waffle Taco with Kurt Cobain and dark flannels....  when you excise the actual news from our collective memory and are left with neon leg warmers and keyboard guitars, the eighties at least look fun."

Another  explanation:

"Since the nineties, though, it’s become more difficult to define the aesthetic of a particular decade. This might have something to do with the fragmentation and the proliferation of media, and with the fact that so much of our cultural experience is now virtual rather than physical. It also relates to the democratization of fashion; a few big brands can no longer dictate a look. Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told the Times that, if people in the future want to throw an aughts-themed event, “it does seem like it would be harder to dress for the party.”

Finally, snippets of research  on nostalgia and its relation to age. This first seems obvious and well-known ("as  people enter their fifties and begin to take stock of their lives, they become more susceptible to nostalgia, according to Erica Hepper, a psychologist at the University of Surrey" - yeah, tell me about it!). But this other  discovery is intriguing: "According to Hepper’s research, the other time nostalgia tends to peak is when people are in their late teens and early twenties. They’re facing a series of anxious life transitions, such as starting a career and moving out of their parents’ homes."

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Frontman of rising Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods hits out at retromania and the dearth of protest music - 'Noel Gallagher's got blood on his hands''"

full story at NME.com

Actually the full full story is in the newsprint edition of NME  but the website has a taster:

Stating that their name is not meant to be ironic, frontman Jason Williamson of the Nottingham based rap duo, confirms that he grew up as a Mod but turned away when the scene became too retro for him. "Creatively speaking, Noel Gallagher's got blood on his hands." Elsewhere, Williamson decries the lack of politically outspoken music in 2014, saying; "Ever since Thatcher got in and cut everything to the bone, it should have been protest music all the way."
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/oasis/76793#Oaq4Seeo0TpMPZkE.99
"Stating that their name is not meant to be ironic, frontman Jason Williamson of the Nottingham based rap duo, confirms that he grew up as a Mod but turned away when the scene became too retro for him. "Creatively speaking, Noel Gallagher's got blood on his hands." Elsewhere, Williamson decries the lack of politically outspoken music in 2014, saying; "Ever since Thatcher got in and cut everything to the bone, it should have been protest music all the way."

Stating that their name is not meant to be ironic, frontman Jason Williamson of the Nottingham based rap duo, confirms that he grew up as a Mod but turned away when the scene became too retro for him. "Creatively speaking, Noel Gallagher's got blood on his hands." Elsewhere, Williamson decries the lack of politically outspoken music in 2014, saying; "Ever since Thatcher got in and cut everything to the bone, it should have been protest music all the way."
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/oasis/76793#Oaq4Seeo0TpMPZkE.99
 I don't know about "blood on his hands" but this post-peak Oasis #1 single, recently discussed on Popular, is culturcide or historycide -  something of that order of atrocity:

Good group, Sleaford Mods

Sorta like Pitman, but for real.

reissue culture reaches 2001!

reissue culture reaches 2001!

viz, the Life Without Buildings reissue
which is also

reissue culture takes on the already-retro/revivalist/recyclical !

(what next in the postpunk revival revival? The Erase Errata Box Set? A deluxe expanded They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top?)

and also, finally

 reissue culture takes on the not-much-cop-in-the-first-place-let's-be-honest !

(except that's hardly a new development)

There's probably some examples of reissues of records after 2001 that I'm not thinking of.... well there was that 10th Anniversary Interpol job of course...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

this was tomorrow # パビリオン内覧会

"The concept of "space"--in all senses: outer, inner, architectural-- suggests itself irresistibly when you listen to the music of the post-WW2 vanguard... The new music often featured alarming panning effects that exploited the disorienting spatial possibilities of stereophony, so that the composer worked with blocs of timbre that moved through space as they moved in time. ... Increasingly, composers explored quadraphonic or eight-speaker set-ups: sounds circled around the listener’s head, swooped and veered, receded and surged.  Stockhausen had a spherical auditorium built to his specifications at the 1970 World's Fair in Osaka, Japan, with nests for musicians scattered throughout the audience; the latter sat at "the equator", on a sound transparent platform, and surrounded by fifty speakers distributed in ten circles (eight above the equator, two below)." -- from "Out of Space: Nostalgia for Giant Steps and Final Frontiers", chapter 11 of  Retromania

Nick Currie: "I was just watching your recent appearance on the talkshow Charlie Rose and I was interested in something you said about the Osaka Expo in 1970: that it was, in a sense the high point of humanity and that things have been going downhill ever since...."
Rem Koolhaas: "I was referring more to the spirit of the world’s reaction to both the launch of Concorde and the Moon landing than to the Expo itself. But it’s not only about technical prowess: it’s more to do with what can be imagined and what dimension imagination has in serious life. An organization like NASA was, essentially, 4,000 people seriously entertaining fantasy: that scale of working on visionary elements is now incredibly reduced. At the moment we want to achieve goals that are very imminent, very realistic. Few organisations are able to define an unconventional aim and then to engineer its implementation, even over a period of ten or 12 years. These days, projects often have a maximum of only four years in which to be realized, as that’s the typical period that a politician is in power."

- from a Frieze dialogue between Nick Currie and Rem Koolhaas  on the occasion of RK's's Project Japan: Metabolism Talks

this was tomorrow # 日本万国博覧会(大阪万博) 

Expo 70, Japan