23.12.16

Force Field: Detroit Techno 1985-1995


This is the conceptual twin to my London's Dreaming mammoth 'Nuum mix of February. Whilst I probably heard Hardcore first, my first musical love in the days of Acid House was Detroit. That's what inspired me to travel around West Africa in 1993 throwing raves. It wasn't seeing Derrick DJ at Bath in 1989 (an alienating experience at the time) or loving the Rhythim Is Rhythim "Emanon" track on the seminal 1990 Network Bio Rhythms compilation which stoked my obsession so much as the influence of my brother-in-law Mike. Later I appreciated David Toop's, and then Kodwo Eshun's writing which included references to Detroit.

Early on in the course of blogging in 2003 I wrote a number of things on Techno which drew me into cahoots with the legendary Kirk Degiorgio, a well-known fellow traveller of those musicians. I think Kirk and I shared a frustration with the discourse around Detroit which in spite of his unquestionable taste and robust support for it, he was perhaps in part responsible for forging. To hear the music as indebted to black music is in some way to negate what makes it so truly exceptional. As a music it doesn't so much as enact the donning of a "white face" (in Fanon's sense) as try to think beyond race. Another way of approaching the topic theoretically it is to try and deconstruct those earlier forms of black music; to look at the likes of Herbie Hancock and George Clinton as transgressive themselves as opposed to automatically belonging to any kind of continuum of Jazz or Funk.

In collecting my thoughts to put this mix together, just shy of 4 hours of my personal favourites of the genre, I read and watched a lot of things on the internet that certainly weren't there in 2003. A few resources stand out: There's the great "Hi-Tech Soul" documentary, also the slightly tedious but ultimately rewarding Red Bull Music Academy interview with Derrick May (hearing Derrick on Ron Hardy and The Institute is powerfully illuminating), Mark Fisher's splendid interview with Mike Banks at The Wire, and finally this excellent Mike Paradinas mix in support of a Heterotic release. What did strike me forcibly was, besides Mike's mix, the almost total absence of a good "classic" Detroit mix online. Think of the multitude of classic Hardcore and Jungle sets! There are many YouTube and Mixcloud shows which feature Detroit legends promising to give an old skool set - but, presumably to the promoter's chagrin, none of the performances contain more than a few great old tracks, and usually much more recent stuff. I can't blame those guys at all, they have moved on and quite rightly so. Derrick, for instance, will always play a few very old tracks, but is also madly passionate about new stuff. If you haven't seen him DJ live, DO NOT MISS THE OPPORTUNITY.

This mix was done live on the 1210s in three sessions, recorded on a Prism Lyra and spliced together in Audition. Mixing Detroit Techno on the decks always has some funny little gotchas: two of these records spun from the centre to the record's edge; Underground Resistance Records especially are always extremely fast, it takes a lot of forward thinking if you do not want to slow any records down (as I have completely avoided); and many of the records have fragile run-in grooves (funky pressings) which makes it extremely hard to hit the first beat if you spin back a record to it.

The mix of 63 tracks is essentially, but broadly, chronological. It would have been predictably geeky to start with A Number of Names "Sharevari" or Cybotron's "Clear" but I decided that this was to be a Techno mix. To that end the first track is Juan Atkin's "Techno Music", the track which caused Ten Record's "Techno - The New Dance Sound Of Detroit" to be called just that, and not "The House Sound of Detroit". That said the first tracks still have a gorgeous, glistening Electro quality. "Techno Music" itself is as near to a Kraftwerk track in spirit than I think any other record ever made. Startling stuff...

The mix takes in the First Wave, the Second and, er, the Third. There a few markers at which point I don't think it makes sense to still be talking about Detroit Techno in the same way. They don't happen all at the same time - some sooner than others - but all combine to sink nails into its coffin. So for instance when Jeff Mills left Detroit for Berlin - nail. When Transmat started licensing 3rd party stuff more, the "Energy Flash" and "Der Klang Der Familie" releases in particular, nail. Richie Hawtin's Plastikman alias, nail. I like Ghostly International, Ectomorph and Matthew Dear very much indeed - I just happen to think that they are something different, albeit great.

Dedicated to those titans of Detroit, Belleville, Windsor and Kalamazoo.



Juan - Techno Music
Model 500 - Night Drive (Thru-Babylon)
First Bass - Seperate Minds
M 500 - Testing 1-2
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Time to Express
Rhythim Is Rhythim - It Is What It Is
Model 500 - Off to Battle
Kevin Saunderson - Bounce Your Body To The Box
Reese and Santonio - The Sound
Kevin Saunderson - The Groove That Won't Stop
R-Tyme - R-Theme
Mayday - Wiggin
Suburban Knight - The Groove
Reese - Just Want Another Chance
Ocatve One - I believe
Symbols and Instruments - Mood
Model 500 - Wanderer
Blake Baxter - Sexuality
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Goodbye Kiss
Reese - Funky Funk Funk
Suburban Knight - The Art of Stalking
Rhythim Is Rhythim - Emanon
Rhythim Is Rhythim - Kaos
Rhythm Is Rhythm - The Beginning
Psyche - From Beyond
Vice - Constant Ritual
Fade To Black - The Calling
69 - Ladies and Gentlemen
Bango - Wave The Rave Goodbye
Drexciya - Sea Snake
Underground Resistance - Predator
Underground Resistance - The Final Frontier
Carl Craig - Wrap Me In Its Arms
B.F.C - Please Stand By
Drexciya - Wavejumper
69 - Microlovr
Sueno Latino - Sueno Latino (Illusion First Mix)
Octave One - Nicolette
Psyance - EQ
Open House - Aquatic
Prototype - Biotic
Dark Comedy - War Of The Worlds
Kenny Larkin - Metropolis
Shop - Nitwit
B.F.C - Galaxy
Underground Resistance - Amazon
Paperclip People - Oscillator
MK - Feel The Fire
Derrick May -Icon
Urban Culture - Wonders of Wishing
Kosmic Messenger - Soundscape
UR - 046
The Martian - Search Your Feelings
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Sex In Zero Gravity
Red Planet - Star Dancer
Robert Hood - Untitled 2
Psychic Warfare - Tails From The Crib
Jay Denham - People's Revolution
Millsart - Gateway Of Zen
Robert Hood - Museum
Dan Curtin - 3rd From The Sun
Morgan Geist - Stillway
Space - Envision

17.12.16

Pixies at Brixton Academy


Pixies at Brixton Academy. Just Lulu and I. Black Francis pictured singing "Caribou". Great show.

Twenty One Pilots Live at Alexandria Palace

My children love Twenty One Pilots or TØP as they are sometimes abbreviated to. So on Sunday November 13th I took them and two of their friends to the gig.


Getting tickets was a struggle - they sold out almost instantly. I was lucky to be lurking around the Ally Pally website when they released more.

Amazing that a band that receives almost no media coverage can be this big. I notice that two of their tracks "Ride" and "Stressed Out" were in Spotify's most streamed tracks of the year.


What are they like? Well, it's kid's music innit. Music for the youth. Eminem meets Fall Out Boy. Or (for the over 30s) The Beastie Boys meet Minor Threat. Visually they owe a lot to The White Stripes (a lot of black and red) - but they are more "trailer park" than "art school" and there is a hydroponic paranoia to a lot of the visuals which is present in the lyrics too.

The audience are utterly devoted to their messianic rock and sing every lyric; which makes for a great atmosphere. I kept thinking it must be a little like a Black Sabbath gig would have been in the seventies.

I think their latent religiosity of intent is something which is generally absent in today's cynical, defiantly superficial mediascape and so perhaps they have tapped into something there not available elsewhere?


TØP use a lot of what are almost abandoned theatrical gestures from Hard Rock. Tyler walks out over the crowd suspended in the air like Iggy. Amusingly they also put the drumkit on a platform and had the crowd carry that too whilst Josh was drumming. I found this avowed sincerity altogether quite heartening.


 The two band members kept moving the performance around too. Here they are just by the mixing desk. This was pretty entertaining and shifted the emphasis from the stage. Was a bit more open and egalitarian.


Extremely gymnastic too, they did these impressive jumps and spins. Quite a performance. Here Tyler climbed on top of a pole just above us. Threatening to jump. Teenagers just love that suicide thing don't they? I had to stop myself calling out "Be careful up there young man!" If only to embarrass the children.

I also got a few impossible to suppress (beneath the cool veneer) giggles for my Dad-joke routine of them doing warm exercises before the show - you know like opera singers - "La La La La La La Laaaa."

Altogether a great show.

6.12.16

2016 Errata

1) I said "Spillages" like it rhymed with "spillakins" (that game, you remember that, no?) - it is of course "Spillages" meaning things that have spilt. Industrial spillages.

2) I spent way too long listing what Radiohead albums had what number of good tracks. OMG so boring.

3) I forgot to include this track (courtesy of Senor Bisto). Which blew me away. I actually showed this to this chap I have the honor of working with who conceived and designed all the Champions League branding - he loved it! But we both decided it was probably best not to forward it to the company...


 Errata errata - and this 😐

 

4.12.16

Best of 2016



Didn't feel like waiting for everyone else to post their lists this year.

Tracklisting as follows:

Zara Larsson - Lush Life
Sia - The Greatest
Adele - Send My Love
Beyonce - Hold Up
A Tribe Called Quest - The Trump
Rihanna (feat Drake) - Work
The Weeknd - Star Boy
Future (feat The Weeknd) - Low Life
Young Thug (feat Wyclef Jean) - Kanye West
Lil Uzi Vert - Grab The Wheel
Frank Ocean - Pink + White
Radiohead - Decks Dark
David Bowie - "★"
Emmplekz - Gloomy Leper Techno
Xylitol - Split Upside
Bobby Bisto - It's Greenwich
Spillages - Death Don't Tell Ya
Huerco S - Cubist Camoflague
Harry Bertoia - Nova

25.11.16

Bruce Almighty


I have no aversion to Roots Rock! In fact I love Roots Rock. The Band, Van Morrison, The Clash, The Mekons, The Gun Club. I'm there, at the metaphorical bar, swigging jack. Yes mate.

Combing through all these online internet databases and Bruce Springsteen is as unavoidable as he was in those Rolling Stone "greatest records" issues and books like Paul Gambaccini's Top 100 Albums. People like this stuff; and some of the people who like this stuff are insightful, sensitive, functioning human beings. So what if the alternative music church are frequently disparaging about a mainstream icon like Bruce? Honestly I don't care what these people think - never have... You never cared either. None of us care. We're too old and cool to care about petty obscurantism. And something as supposedly awesome as these records are supposed to be needs to be engaged with. I even got the feeling I was missing out on something really great.

Bruce is certainly a character to be reckoned with. His recent autobiography - I didn't read it - but I read the reviews - he seems like he's a genuinely tortured soul. Was properly depressed and massively insecure right through the peak years of his fame. And this is himself admitting it, he's not being outed by a researcher, which is hardcore. I reckon it'd be quite a good read. And Bruce, he openly reveres Suicide doesn't he? He covers them! That's pretty great in someone so famous too.

So guess what? It's Bruce O'Clock.

I bought this box-set on eBay. A startlingly cheap £16 for literally all his "great" recordings. I could have listened on Spotify, I suppose, but I find I often fail to properly engage with music if I don't fully invest in it. Listening to Spotify can make me feel empty, like I'm in a queue. Sounds a bit shit too. Thus equipped I set out on the journey to the heart of Bruce. Like Dick fucking Whittington. I sit there through hours of the stuff. Waiting to be touched.

The Bruce aficionados argument goes like this: "Doh! It's meant to be bombastic and pompous, dummy! It's a ritual intensification of the mundane! It's deliberately over-the-top!" Mmm yeah, I guess. And I suppose there needs to be a place for the epic in music. But somehow my taste for it reaches to things that are often monumentally emotionless and inhuman - like giant craggy windswept landscapes or which represent awesome distances - things like La Monte Young, The Black Dog or possibly Neu! Music which somehow alludes to the immense scale of nature or the power of machinery - things which are beyond the reaches of the human. To me that seems a better fit with the epic than over-blown romanticism. I just end up feeling very alienated by someone "emoting" like this in my face - it makes me want to withdraw, rather than participate. Or, rather, skip.

The earlier albums, Greetings from Asbury Park N.J. (1973), The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (1973) are like Dylan with a bar-room band. There's the same fixation with "characters". From the first two LPs I only really enjoyed "Growin' Up", which is (unsurprisingly) nicely understated and "Wild Billy's Circus Story", evocative of a very hot day at the fair with its eccentric tuba part, for the same reason.

Born To Run (1975) utterly baffles me. In the past people have said to me that they don't "get" Bob Dylan. Quite a few people! Generally I'm a bit sad for them. Or perhaps, more truthfully, I suspect that they don't have a true feel for music at all. But I'd have to re-evaluate any disparaging thoughts on other people's taste on the basis of Born To Run - because how can such a universally lauded piece of music leave me so utterly unaffected and cold? There's only two kinds of music right? But I too don't "get" it. I don't even think I'd enjoy it if I was steaming drunk.

To my mind this isn't Rock'n'Roll - the sounds are in all the wrong places - it's more like vaudeville or even a kind of cod-classical music - albeit built from the materials of Rock. Springsteen here is like Dean Martin or Gene Kelly. On the title track, stepping down a infinite staircase waving a top hat. Heaping on insults: he's like the Elvis Presley of movies. Born To Run is like the TV soundtrack music from an urban soap opera... with cops in it.

Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) is simply not a good record. Even the tunes are weak - something you can't easily level at Springsteen. The River (1980) jangles and swings like a New Wave or Power-Pop record - in fact, purely in sonic terms, his detente with eighties music is more convincing and natural than that of many seventies superstars. It sports a curious mix though, at once it has all the baroque, symphonic touches of Born To Run, but the sound is somehow recessed as though Springsteen is aware the same pomposity just won't cut it with that cynical generation. The effect is ultimately unsatisfactory - at least Born To Run was what it was. There is a hint of future possibilities though with the catchy, retro-rock'n'roll pop-romp of "Cadillac Ranch".

From earlier forays (skirmishes?) into Bruce territory, I'd always concluded that Nebraska (1982) his solo Tascam 4-track effort was the only record worth taking seriously. Nebraska is great - not perhaps a stone classic because, although we aren't subjected to the same overbearing Wall of Sound, Springsteen's mannered Americana is often a bit groan-some. He is always looking for and overemphasising what he feels is the epic and eternal, without allowing the material to simply breathe. But criticisms aside, Nebraska is pretty fucking great - a powerful gesture in and of itself, exquisitely desolate and in the best way, romantic. "State Trooper" in particular, minimal to its core, could be an Alan Vega effort right down to Bruce's own tortured screams.

Finally, Born In The USA (1984) I will always have a soft spot for. I bought it and listened to it as an incredibly awkward, isolated and unhappy teenager. It and Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms (1985) bring those difficult and uncomfortable times back to me. This was just before I discovered The Velvet Underground and, I suppose, found a new family in sound.

Picking up from some of the more upbeat numbers on The RiverBorn In The USA works as pop music pure and simple - undeniably hooky song-writing. Beyond the actual hits I always loved the nouveau rockabilly of  "Working On The Highway" Springsteen's voice to me never sounded so good here as it shimmers with slapback echo. "Glory Days" - another great tune - too takes us "Back To The Future" to that eighties version of the fifties. The past here serves as a useful peg for his epic inclinations, the sweet sadness of nostalgia nicely undercuts his tendency towards bombastic sentiments.

The penultimate track of this whole eight album collection - "Dancing In The Dark", with its synth pads and five-note motif, sounds surprisingly, refreshing, of its time. Perhaps you know it or think of it as pabulum for MTV. But something happened here. It's as though Springsteen has emerged from a long dark tunnel. At once the least rock'n'roll sounding and most rock'n'roll track he has made to this point. Rock'n'roll because, finally, he is dealing with truths.

Seemingly an honest reflection of what we now know was his actual emotional state at the time, Bruce stops trading in gestures and for once gives us a glimpse of who he actually is - not the "authentic" man of the streets he has spent his career projecting.
"I ain't nothing but tired, man, I'm just tired and bored with myself. Hey there baby, I could use just a little help."
"Wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face."
I was, after all waiting to be touched, but was not expecting to be moved to tears. It's a message belied by its ostensibly upbeat video but here it is anyway. Maybe stick it on another tab and keep browsing.

 

22.11.16

Fuck being Cool


Kanye crashes and burns.

This is like Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen only perhaps more painful. Because we love Kanye. Of course we love him. He just behaves badly - it's not that he is bad. That's why people have tolerated him for so long.

Dear. Oh. Dear.

And even Jay-Z won't talk to him. 😢

People have simply run out of patience with Kanye being a douche.

As little as I feel sorry for him I hope he can clean up his act (cocaine surely, if not the more typical alcohol) and try being a reasonable human-being for a change.

He's got to stop stealing from life; accept what life gives him.

And he needs a good shrink who challenges him too.

Would the switch make him a superstar still? Who cares? In his own words "Fuck being Cool." Really.

Not (never) presidential material surely...? Not now certainly.

13.11.16

Remember you're a Woble


Couldn't believe my luck at the mis-spelling on this recently acquired 7" sleeve. Gold.

Head here to hear my characteristically massive Glam Radio show. I didn't set out to make out a two and half hour show, honest guv, it just turned out like that. Though, given the gigantic size of Reynolds' magnum opus, it is somewhat fitting.

Love Inc - Hot Love (Mike Mix)
T Rex - Hot Love
Eddie Cochrane - Summertime Blues
John Lennon - Cold Turkey
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in The Sky
Alice Cooper - Caught In A Dream
Todd Rungdren - Wolfman Jack
Jobriath - Blow Away
Halfnelson - Wonder Girl
New York Dolls - Looking For A Kiss
Elliot Murphy - Last of the Rock Stars
Suzi Quatro - Devil Gate Drive
Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Anthony Newley - Moogies Bloogies
David Bowie - Dodo
Mott The Hoople - Sucker
David Essex - Rock On
Roy Wood - Rock Medley (Rockin' Shoes/She's Too Good For Me/Locomotive)
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Faith Healer
Cockney Rebel - My Only Vice
Roxy Music - Sultanesque
The Damned - Morning Bird
Paul Ryan - Natural Gas
Jimmy Jukebox (aka Kim Fowley) - Motorboat
Iron Virgin - Rebels Rule
Shakane - Love Machine
Sailor - Glass of Champagne
Gary Glitter - Rock'n'Roll Part 2
Kanye West - Black Skinhead
The Young Gods - Did you Miss Me
The Wombles - Remember You're A Womble
T Rex - Metal Guru

Addendum/Notes:

1) The Arena Eddie Cochrane Documentary from 1982 which features an excerpt of Chris Petit's "Rock On" (thanks Carl). The Beatles also owe a debt to Cochrane as it was Paul McCartney's ability to play "20 Flight Rock" that secured him a place in the band.



2) Todd Rundgren on the rear sleeve of "Something/Anything?"


3) A sentence I started but didn't finish: I have sections in my collection for US 1960s and UK 1960s, but Seventies Rock is a single "transatlantic" section. In case you were interested ;-)

6.11.16

1987


Remember this like it was yesterday. Now nearly twenty thirty years ago. Stunning selection. Top year for music certainly.

5.11.16

Believe It Or Not


Michael Jackson made from sweets.


Sting carved into a phone directory.

31.10.16

Macbook Woe


Here's a refreshing article in FACT which concludes that the new Macbook Pro is a poor choice for musicians. They even go on to recommend switching to the PC citing the brilliance of  Windows 10 and the Surface. I came to the very same conclusion this Summer when, after loyally using Apple for twenty years, I parted ways with my faithful 12-core Desktop and 2013 Macbook Pro and bought an HP Zbook with the proceeds.

Apple have failed to support their industrial user base. OS X, with its legion of user-friendly gadget-apps has become more and more geared to the consumer market. They're intoxified by selling iPads, iPhones and iBooks. Video-wise it has been one catastrophe after another. Apple arrogantly destroyed Final Cut Pro. Then they released the "dustbin" - the least enticing Desktop machine since their cube. Then they killed QuickTime on Windows. There are still no really powerful graphics cards for the Mac.

This "Pro" laptop is a massive joke. The Touch Bar with its ability to scroll through emojis you can put in your email takes the biscuit. Will Adobe be supporting this in any of the Creative Cloud applications? Can I envision Autodesk implementing it in Maya? They tout the new P3 wide-gamut monitor but only a fool would design in anything other than sRGB (for devices), Adobe RGB (for print - though...) or Rec709 (for broadcast). That is unless they're sure the next user will own one of these ridiculous machines. Who cares how fucking thin it is?

I can't help but reflect that this is incredibly short-sighted in business terms. Apple used the Mac's rep as a graphic design powerhouse in much the same way that Fashion houses use haute couture. Certainly they still retain a dominance in the creative industries, but in my opinion only owing to people's reluctance to consider the alternatives. That appears to be changing.

29.10.16

Somerise


Unruly Milk: Spilagges

Here's a magical slice of New Wave West Country Lo-Fi. Unruly Milk pile up loops of close-miked instruments against a background of three-dimensionally reverberating VSTs. Then smattered with the occasional vocal samples and (on "Ambassadeurs") even a recorded singer. Coming on like General Strike meets Position Normal the results are as studiedly ragged as they are elegantly modern. This will be by favourite ever release which the mercurial Kek-W has been involved with.



Eastville Vending: 23 Minutes - 23 Tracks - 23 Artists

In the same vein as Elliot Sharp's "State of The Union" No Wave compilation in which 34 artists had a minute. Produced and artfully sequenced by Farmer it's an engaging and surprisingly coherent journey through the shadows of Brexit Blighty. My favourite track has to be Runningonair's "The Message" a text message accidentally sent to a BT landline (ever had one of these? I have) is recited by a robotic femle voice and then draped with a creepy synth.

Here

23.10.16

Squeezebox Encounter #2

In April I wrote of how I harangued a seemingly blind street musician playing outside Coram Fields.

In the intervening months the man disappeared. As I cycled past in the evening I have often rued my missed opportunity to let him hear the hornpipe, for him to learn said piece of music and to therefore improve his takings.

I was both delighted and nervous to see last Friday that he was there again. This time I had my strategy worked out. I mounted the pavement, pulled out my phone, found someone on YouTube performing the tune and gently implored him to listen. The pavement was empty and it was growing dark as we huddled round the device, its screen glowed as the slightly weedy speaker spooled forth.

Once again he fumbled with the keys trying to pick up the gist of the song. Occasionally it seemed like he had worked out its shape. I certainly couldn't manage something like that. I regretted I didn't have any cash on me. In an ideal world buskers would take contact-less payments. I must get in the habit of carrying a few bob on me.

9.10.16

Lifeforms



I've been meaning to do this "Lifeforms" mix for so long. After all those purist Hip-Hop mixes I wanted to turn the tables a bit. This not-quite-authentic Hip-Hop has always been frowned on but in the end it has ended up being re-appropriated with surprising gusto. The influence of Techno on "proper" Hip-Hop in particular is undeniable. I've been really pleased with how it came out - how leftfield stuff like Lootpack, Shabazz Palaces, Sensational sits together so beautifully with the beats end of Glitch and Techno.

Sounds of the JHS 126 Brookyn - Chill Pill
Cristian Vogel - Gigantic Tautological Machinery
Roots Manuva - Bashment Boogie
Divine Styler - Make It Plain
Boom Bip - Last Walk Around Mirror Lake (BOC Remix)
The Roots - In The Music
DJ Spooky - Grapheme
Death Grips - The Cage
69 - If Mojo was AM
Infesticons - Theme
Juggaknots - This Morning
New Kingdom - Lazy Smoke
Nearly God - Poems
Boards of Canada - Turquoise Hexagon Sun
Sensational - When I Deal Minze
J Burger - Wunschmaschinenpark
Shabazz Palaces - The Phasing Shift
Scienz of Life - Ghettos tah Galaxiez
Loot Pack - The Anthem
cLOUDDEAD - Unnamed
The Roots - Livin' In A New World
Prefuse 73 - Point To Be
Brandy - What About Us
Sa-Ra - Enter the Sex Shop
Urban Tribe - Covert Action
Cannibal Ox - Iron Galaxy
Nosaj Thing - Caves
Kid 606 - Straight Outta Compton
Run The Jewelz - Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
DJ Shadow - Influx

6.10.16

Physics

One key aspect of the work I do for a living is Motion Graphic Design. Since the recent wave of procedural animation in apps my clients have wanted to see more of this kind of kinetic and interlocking animation movement in the work I deliver. These animation techniques have always been around but clients have become better versed in its language. When it comes to animation they've actually become more demanding. That's not to say that people really grasp the technique or the technical language. I'm afraid I inwardly groan when I'm asked to put "more easing" into a sequence of movements. "Easing" is a more fundamental technique whereby movements slow in or slow out. But in fairness the point is that people know much better what they want to see - and equally when what they want is not there. Using the language around the procedural animation of apps (that's movement which is calculated by equations) I coined the word "Physics" to describe to clients exactly what it is they want. I'll say - "You want to see more Physics."

The effect is only rarely achieved by using scripts and expressions. If you want to make it work really well you have to animate it by hand. This thing drops. It's counterpart explodes upwards before slowing to an imperceptibly slow speed as though almost static. It knocks something else which swings around and triggers thirty things which happen simultaneously. The most endlessly referred to example of this style of animation is the Designed by Apple in California animation. I get handed this as a reference about once a month. And of course, not really meaning to sound jaded, I understand its appeal.

Thinking about "Physics" as a phenomenon of interlocking rhythm got me to reflect that this kind of very beautiful and satisfying symphony of motions is one of the key and very under-appreciated aspects of music. Of course musicians themselves, especially ensemble players in bands and orchestras where figures are passed around a group of people understand exactly what it is. But critics have rarely commented on it. Indeed I can't think of a single example - though of course that might just be my ignorance. And it's fair to say it's not necessarily a very interesting thing to break down in writing either...

The best place to hear "Physics" in music is Jungle. In fact there was a dialogue at the time about just that that deepened around Drum and Bass. Truthfully the physics got worse. It became progressively less entertaining to listen to it ricochet around itself as the discourse around it got stronger. The best physics you can hear in Jungle are on the best tracks. Because that's what defined the music at its strongest.

One apposite example is Firefox's "Warning" (Roni Size Mix): how the differently-textured snares interweave like hocket; how the bass-line sneaks into the track like tiptoeing villain, that goose bump-inducing double-time pairing of the bass-line and skittering drums; the way the bass line suddenly girds its loins and makes nimble jumps; how vocal samples at once float over the maelstrom (Junior Tucker), burst forth like hiccups (Snaggapuss) or suddenly, like Tarzan, swing into the carriage of the riddim's high-speed train and swagger in time before swinging out again (Shabba Ranks). Other good places to hear physics in music are Music Concrete and Dub.

For me "Physics" in music is all about the essence of what it means to be a flesh and blood manifestation, to understand what it is to be a  life-form under gravity. You bring to the experience of watching or listening to "Physics" what it is to be alive. And equally a sense of the very boundaries of physical possibilities. It's like gymnastics for the soul.

5.10.16

Shock and Awe Roadshow in London


It's a big week for us Simon Reynolds fans!

Don't miss this great radio show at The Quietus or this talk Simon's giving tonight at The Forge in Camden.

4.10.16

Musical Psychogeography in Cheltenham

A recent weekend trip to Cheltenham for a family wedding brought back some very strange psychogeographical memories to me.

I spent a lot of time in Cheltenham in the mid-eighties as a teenager. I used to get the bus into the town and visit the record stores: Our Price (where I bought such records as Einsturzende Neubauten's debut LP and Big Black's "Songs about Fu**ing") and the brilliant Badlands where I bought too many discs to mention (though Pere Ubu's "360 degrees of Simulated Stereo" springs to mind).

Driving into the town on the way to the wedding along the London Road I pulled up at the traffic lights and remembered that this very location is always inextricably linked in my memory with The Velvet Underground's "White Light, White Heat". Indeed whenever I think of the album I flash on this very spot. I recall turning the record over and over in my mind as I was riding the bus into town; listening to "Sister Ray" at the traffic lights on my Walkman.



And it didn't stop there. This view and location on Clarence Street (below) always makes me think of Pere Ubu's "The Modern Dance". This was before I actually owned the record which I eventually found at the Our Price on the Kings Road. I think the association was owing to a rave review of the reissue that appeared in either the Melody Maker or NME. I must have been reading the review at this location. A family friend owned the newsagent and it's likely I bought the "inky" at their shop.



Turn 180 degrees around the same crescent and here I have a powerful association with David Bowie's "Alladin Sane". I'm pretty sure I bought the record at Badlands and, walking back to the High Street was gazing intensely at the cover. Or perhaps daydreaming about it.



This, below, is where the Old Price used to be on the High Street.



And here is Badlands. Still open. Still great with a great mail order too.



For a long time I used to have memories of particular records in London. Often they were things that that I heard on pirate radio as I was bombing round town in my car at that impressionable age. A certain tune at the corner of the Euston Road etcetera. On re-encountering these Cheltenham memories however I realised their London equivalents have all faded away. Worn away by other associations. These kind of cultural and musical memories are written in one's mind as though magnetised. We are the tape which receives these signals and we are imprinted by them. However, with the passing of years, the signal fades.

Postscript. Just remembered another great record I bought at Badlands. Brian Eno's "Before and After Science". Secondhand. With the lovely prints.

11.9.16

Modern Rock Art


Two recent exhibitions I've attended point to the ongoing romance between Modern Art and Rock Music. Ragnar Kjartansson and Martin Creed both hail from, if not geographic peripheries, then at least the fringe; the former from Iceland and the latter Scotland. They have in common their fixation upon the mores of slightly fusty critically-acclaimed, white, male forms of Rock.

Kjartansson seems to adore the mature, stubbled, alt-Rock of Sigur Ros and especially The National (I groaned at the sight of 180 gram vinyl on sale in the gift shop). He is utterly caught up in the, to me, inexplicable charms of "real" performances, acoustic guitars and alcohol. Oftentimes this enchantment with the musical culture seems bereft of critique - as if to celebrate the cliché of bourgeois troubadours was in itself enough.


The extended multi-channel video piece The Visitors (2012) is a case in point. The setting, a beautiful manor house on top of a hill in an exquisite bucolic setting is lovely. The concept too is alluring, enigmatic and magical. The performance starts as performers and cast are ensconced in separate rooms in the mansion singing their song about "feminine ways". Slowly, still singing together, captured on fixed cameras, they weave their way together down into the far distance of the estate. It's every MOJO critic's fantasy of The Rolling Stones. However, I was left with an overbearing sense of the piece's absences: Who mows these lawns? Where are the small children? How can these (frankly annoying) people afford to live in this massive house? It's a celebration of the indolence and self-obsessed - of a strand of indulgent, moneyed bourgeois culture fiddling with itself while Rome burns.

Only Kjartansson's delightful Me and my Mother (2015) hints at a self-corrective undercurrent. Here are presented five video loops, filmed over a decade or more, which depict Ragnar's mother spitting in his face. This is a brilliant and hilarious piece. I literally laughed out loud. In the earliest versions he and his mother chuckle a bit at the black humour, but as time goes on she takes on a more venomous demeanour and he (always besuited) seems more sombre and chastened. I couldn't help but question the biographical backstory. Is this a woman without grandchildren with an inveterate rocking and rolling playboy for a son? I'm sure Google has the answers.


Martin Creed on the other hand is a little fixated with the interface between Art, Rock and Minimalism. I reckon Creed's favourite records are Glenn Branca's The Ascension (1981) and Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio (1977). He would also almost certainly own every single Postcard records 7", Polyrock's debut album (1980) and The Fire Engines' Auf geladen Und Bereit Fur Action Und Spass (1981). I think too that given his sartorial choices and the abundance of retro memorabilia presented at the Hauser and Wirth exhibition that Creed has been swept along in the wake of Hauntology. Ghost Box, with its own strong Art Rock impulse, also made a very big impression on Scotland.


How to strike it rich in Modern Art? You must produce the same thing over and over again. It's an extremely difficult thing to achieve without boring yourself rigid but that is, in its essence, the key to greatness. Arp made wooden blocks. Pollock dripped (thankfully dying just as he began to swerve). Duchamp made "readymades". Whiteread moulds. Warhol screen-printed. Rothko painted gradient ramps.

The problem with the Creed show was that it seemed all over the place. Poor Martin is consumed with much too much restless energy - I know how he feels. But it makes it that much harder to find out what the message is. Increasingly I came away with the conclusion that it was this very stylistic eclecticism (minimal dots, pop videos, retro installations, squiggly paintings) and thus by extension the multicoloured personality of the artist himself that was the subject. This is the Artist as Rock Star; art as a kind of cultural autobiography. That doesn't seem enough - it might be old-fashioned of me - but culture needs to be saying something more.

The Art establishment is haunted by a problem when it comes to recognising greatness. The very finest "culture-wide" artistic statements which have come from music's axis, probably for strictly territorial reasons, have been more troubling to it than embraced by it. I'm talking about Harry Smith, La Monte Young, Laurie Anderson, graffiti, Barney Bubbles, Einsturzende Neubauten, Raymond Pettibon and the KLF. Only rarely and in the case of Don Van Vliet (after he changed his name) and Carsten Nicolai do they embrace the real thing. Too often they settle for renegotiations.

28.8.16

Bands a make her dance



I've been loving The Roots. I was wrong about them. From "Do You Want More?!!!??!" through to "Phrenology" that's an amazing four album run.

And I got to thinking about my prejudices towards the concept of Hip-hop with instruments. I've always thought it had to be 2 turntables and a microphone, or an MPC. Some deconstructive virtual shit.

And then I thought a bit deeper - back to the Sugarhill Gang and then further deep into the pre-history of Rap, and naturally of Reggae too. There's always been rapping with instruments. In fact pretty soon the "classic" version of Hip-Hop we know from sampling will seem a small island in time.

I've built this mix - which is a pretty dope history lesson -  in reverse chronological order for a change. To lead your ears out from the present.

-

Jay Z - Jigga
NERD - Lapdance
Timbaland and Magoo - Up Jumps The Boogie
The Roots - Double Trouble
Stetsasonic - Pen and Paper
Trouble Funk - Drop The Bomb
Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel - Step Off
Rammelzee and K Rob - Beat Bop
The Younger Generation - We Rap More Mellow
Soul Sonic Force - Zulu Nation Throwdown
Funky 4 + 1 - That’s the Joint
The Treacherous Three - The Body Rock
Xanadu and Sweet Lady - Rockers Choice
Derek Laro and Trinity - Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
Welton Irie - Shake Your Body Down To The Ground
Fatback and King Tim III - Personality Jock
Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
The Last Poets - Related To What Chant/Related To What/Mean Machine Chant
Big Youth - Jim Squashy
Hustlers Convention - Sport
James Brown - Black President
U.Roy and Eric Donaldson - Festival Time
Pigmeat Markham - Here comes The Judge
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

27.8.16

Panther Books











I got a copy of "I, Robot" on eBay and when it arrived I thought, hm, Panther. I'm sure I've got other Panther Books. I was really surprised how many. What an incredibly cool imprint it was! The wiki is surprisingly scant and actually (with an admittedly cursory look) there doesn't seem to be anything about them online.

If there was an equivalent record-label, voraciously eclectic and self-consciously counter-cultural it would have to be Limelight from 1968 till its demise. Just as Panther started at the trash/beat end of the market before going wild; Limelight started with jazz.

Pulp's "Common People"



To my mind Pulp were merely "OK". They were a bit like a vaudeville act - that's to say how their music, lyrics and visuals were poised in relation to one another. I have always preferred music strictly on its own terms, stripped of everything but artwork - as sound as opposed to theatre. One could place Pulp and Jarvis Cocker firmly in the theatric tradition of Anthony Newley, Scott Walker and David Bowie. Although perhaps Bowie and Walker kept firmer faith in recorded music? Pulp's medium was the live performance and the pop video. That certainly doesn't make them uninteresting but simply not my cup of tea.

In the suffocating left-wing critical consensus that has grown up around pop music in the past decade Pulp's "Common People" has again and again been touted as some kind of urtext. Critic after critic swoon over its supposedly indelible encoding of internecine class hatred and the alleged bright light the song shines on inequality. What do I say? Hang on half a darned second... You only need to reflect honestly for a moment to know that this is nonsense.

I don't especially endorse them, but there are reasons why Global Capitalism is ripe for criticism. Chief amongst these is the way its mechanisms ravage life at its peripheries. I've come across no better example of this than the story of Michael Birch and the Devon village of Woolsery. Tycoon Birch visited the Devon village he knew as a child and was shocked to find its hotel, pub and chippy shut down. He set about to rectify the situation.

The strength and poignancy of the fable being that it foregrounds the condition of capitalism and is not some paranoid, bilious theory about a shadowy "establishment". Birch is, like most people, a decent and reasonable individual. In stumbling into the ravages of this town from his childhood he had the, I don't know if it could be called, "good luck" to witness in an entirely objective way the worst current in society. Imagine how differently he, or anyone for that matter, would have reacted if an organised committee of Woolsery residents picketed his home in San Francisco? Perhaps he'd have the stoicism to see them right - but most likely he'd call the cops. Because, after all, it's not exactly his fault is it?

Not only is there reason to be be disgusted the extremes of capitalism, there are also good ways of going about expressing this. What Birch did, quietly took action and gave his time and money at a grassroots level, is exemplary. That's praxis. And there are bad ways. Pop music is a particularly bad way. From the outset, and I'm surprised the left needs this pointed out, Pop music is about making money. If you're preaching financial equality in a Pop song you're a hypocrite. More and more, with disgusting stunts like Corbyn's act of pretending a Virgin train is full and sitting on the floor, I think Politics is a bad way of expressing it too.

If you actually examine "Common People" and not take it as read, it's considerably more nuanced. To my mind these nuances actually add to Cocker's humanity - rather than detract from them.
She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College
That's where I
Caught her eye
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and coca-cola"
She said "Fine"
In the first instance, what heterosexual man in the world, rich or poor, black or white would object to a beautiful, rich, young woman hitting on them? It's hilarious that this even needs to be pointed out. It's not tanks on the lawn; it's a dream situation! And make no mistake, this is supposed to be a gorgeous girl. In the video played by the delightful Sadie Frost. And Cocker is in control the situation and, it seems, her. She buys him the drink he wants which isn't a bad start. He's not pleading! He's loving every second of it.

And then she says something truly stupid and obnoxious:
And in thirty seconds time she said
I want to live like common people
I want to do whatever common people do
I want to sleep with common people
I want to sleep with common people
Like you
She's slumming it. Yeah, it's kinda offensive. But she's a bit naive and wanting to open herself up to more experiences - and frankly thank god. I wish to goodness there was more of that. I doubt Bernie Ecclestone's daughters have ever slummed it. They will spend their whole lives in a gilded cage. The Queen slummed it for one night only and I'm sure it did her a lot of good. More social mobility has happened as a result of people slumming it that was ever created by grammar schools. So what does Jarvis do? Is he so outraged by this that he slams his drink on the bar. The song literally stops right there. The video director shouts: "It's a wrap!" No. He fucks her. Well what else could he do?
Well what else could I do
I said "I'll see what I can do"
I took her to a supermarket
I don't know why
But I had to start it somewhere
So it started there
I said pretend you've got no money
She just laughed and said
"Oh you're so funny"
I said "Yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here
Is he really the commodity he is depicted in the video? Being pushed around in her shopping market trolley? Poor, feeble Jarvis the victim? I don't buy it at all. Again, it sounds like he is control.
But she didn't understand
She just smiled and held my hand
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all
Certainly he is cynical of her motives, contemptuous of her background just as he finds it fascinating and alluring - but this is a sexual relationship, a transaction. Is he tossed aside by her like, ah, a cheap plaything? The song doesn't say that. It doesn't really imply it either. He might have got fed up with her and found a new shag which, knowing men, is the more likely situation.

For me the key to understanding the song is the wider biographical context. Make no mistake, the protagonist is Jarvis Cocker. Jarvis Cocker global celebrity, rock star, erstwhile Radio One DJ, video director, all-round international man of glamour and intrigue - not an invented character. Twice I've encountered Cocker in the wild - once on a bike, him with Chloe Sevigny on an empty Lisson Street at the foot of the Euston Road - and once more recently at the sadly defunkt On The Beat record store on Hanway Street. He seems at once groovy, charming and humble. I don't think it's irrelevant to point out that he's not a social worker in Sheffield.

And who is the woman? Well actually now we know. She's Danae Stratou and to quote from Wikipedia:
"...her father is Phaidron Stratos from the family Stratos who founded the Peiraiki-Patraiki textile industry in the Peloponnese, Greece’s largest textile industry in the past."
The Independent elaborates:
Danae Stratou studied at St. Martins College of Art and Design between 1983 and 1988, the same year Cocker enrolled in a film studies course there during a break from the band. He told NME in 2013 that he met the Greek girl in the song during ‘Crossover Fortnight’, when St Martins students switched into another discipline for two weeks. 
In a later interview Cocker remembered a conversation with the Greek woman who "wanted to move to Hackney and live like 'the common people'". He used this as the basis for the song. But the identity of the woman has never been discovered, despite a search launched by BBC3.
The quite hilarious punchline, and frankly a thousand million monkeys couldn't make it up, I couldn't find a more apposite way of puncturing the nonsense of contemporary socialism and its craven quest for victimhood, is that now she's married to Yanis Varoufakis the poster-boy of the radical left.

20.8.16

I've got blisters on my fingers!



You know that line dear reader! I kept wandering into situations recently where people were playing The Beatles "Helter Skelter", it must have been at least thrice, and it always sounds as alien and terrifying.

Here's a really nice mix of this grungey, mutated R'n'B-derived sound which has caught my ear. Partly inspired by the new SchoolBoy Q "Blank Face" disc - by rediscovering the bruised sonix of Alex Chilton's lost years - by finally catching up with Tricky's "Pre-Milennial Tension" - by discovering the fucked-up Proto-Rock-Rap coming out of Sun Studios.

The mix starts focused and then descends into a maelstrom of re-imagined Afro-primitivism before riding the brittle linndrums of RSW into the recently discovered (by me) Robert Gordon mix of World Dom's LL Cool J homage.

I hope you can get with this dear readers.

-

Gomez - Get Miles
The Cramps - Human Fly
Howling Wolf - Moanin’ at Midnight
Tricky - Christiansands
Black Sheep - Similak Child
Captain Beefheart - Moody Liz
Joe Hill Louis - Gotta Let You Go
Alex Chilton - Bangkok
Jimi Hendrix - Stone Free
Miles Davis - Red China Blues
Schoolboy Q - That Part
Siouxsie and The Banshees - Tattoo
Sam Prekop - Practice Twice
Hype Williams - Untitled
Steel An’ Skin - Afro Punk Reggae Dub
Masikulu Rhythm - Mark Ernestus vs. Konono Nº1
Renegade Soundwave - The Phantom (It’s In There)
World Domination Enterprises - I Can’t Live Without My Radio (Robert Gordon Total Mix)

11.8.16

insane stuff wot i found surfing online #1

one comes across some pretty strange stuff online. the strangest, i find, are the seemingly private after-trails of misery and insanity. here are three powerful specimens i came across quite by accident whilst looking for other stuff.


do NOT ask me how i came across this. i have no idea. it reveals one man's battle against the toxic administration of wikipedia. completely bonkers. excepted here is details of an edit war over a siouxsie and the banshees article. but there's much, much more besides. you read it here first second.




why i ended up on jaime's discogs page i don't know. but there i was. therein he details his incredibly shocking treatment at the hands of one "joe lewis" from chicago - who steals all his music and releases it as his own. internet gold.




this is really heartbreaking. pete's story is tragic enough but at the bottom there is a single, very sweet comment from susan cadogan herself. the anxiety is almost unbearable. did pete ever read this comment?


10.8.16

Post-Punk in 10 CDs


This was surprisingly easy to do in only ten CDs. In fact, I challenge YOU to do it better. And, ferchrissakes, I have the records and any more would be excessive duplication. For me it's definitely these ten. No room for snobbery and chaff. "Nah... 11" - Wire's "154" could probably be in there in too - but two entries from one band seemed excessive. 

Second Edition great subs. P.I.L, Slits, Wire, Feelies, Associates and Blue Orchids all recently remastered from original analogue tapes and sounding great. The others sounded pretty fine too. And cheap. All under a fiver except Blue Orchids and The Associates which were surprisingly dear but great bonus material with both, seriously.