25.3.17

Nu Grooves: New York House and Techno 1983-1996


Calm yourself people! No, this was not mixed by a machine. It was mixed by I, the god-like Woebot. Live on the twelve-tens. No edits. Bo bo bo! Absolutely stunning mix skills in effect. The final part of my massive all-conquering epic House and Techno Roots trilogy and displaying almost scarily perfect taste, education and acumen.Oh my gosh... Bit shorter than the other two mixes at 1 hr 40 mins - a mere 35 tracks - but it felt right.

The sonic argument here is that, in real terms, in genres spawned and ideas conceived, New York was the true sonic innovator of the golden era of dance music (1984-96). New York gave us House (the epicentre moved from Chicago quite quickly), Rave (Beltram, Landlord), Trance (Revelation - first trance track IMHO), Ambient House (the likes of Sound Waves), Jazz House (Burrell), and Dub Techno - Dubstep, even! (Bobby Konders).

We start with a slice of Electro-Garage, Cuba Gooding's "Happiness" already pre-echoing the UK's innovations, take in Todd's "Weekend" remix (Disco still very close) and then we're off! Special mention must go to Code 6's "Third Aura" - Beltram's finest moment. No "Energy Flash" in the same way the Detroit mix had no "Strings Of Life" and the Chicago mix skipped "Acid Trax".

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Cuba Gooding - Happiness Is Just Around The Bend
The Todd Terry Project - Weekend
Lenny D and Tommy Musto - Everything Bamboo
Masters At Work - Alright Alright
The Break Boys - And The Break Goes On
Ray Love - The Delusion
Flowmasters - House The Crowd (Dub The Crowd)
Landlord - I Like It (Blow Out Dub)
Fallout - The Morning After
DMS - And The Beat Goes On
Royal Orchestra Ltd - Get Down
Bas Noir - I'm Glad You Came To Me (Dub Mix)
Sound Waves - I wanna Feel The Music
33 1/3 Queen - Searchin'
CLS - Can You Feel It (In House Dub)
N.Y. House'n'Authority - Apt 2A
Metro - Angel Of Mercy
Aphrodisiac - Song of The Siren (Black Sea Mix)
Project 86 - Total Recall (Original Mix)
Rydims - Rydim #2 Version
Code 6 - C.O.D.E.S.
Project 86 - Legends
Revelation - First Power
4 Most Poets - Reasons To Be Dismal
Beltram - Reflex
Lost Entity - On The Verge
Code 6 - Third Aura
Major Problems - Overdose
Gypsymen - Bounce
Nu Yorican Soul - The Nervous Track
Aly-Us - Follow Me
South Street Player - (Who?) Keeps Changing Your Mind (The Night Mix)
Kenlou - The Bounce
Mood II Swing - I See You Dancing
Todd Edwards - Fly Away

18.3.17

I'm Diogenes


David Keenan has recently published a book on Faber, a piece of fiction called "This Is Memorial Device" which I have bought and look forward reading. As part of his media round he talked to that national treasure and bastion of indie journalism John Doran at The Quietus. It's a highly entertaining podcast and I listened to it from start to finish not just once, but twice. Just to make entirely sure I understood where Keenan was coming from.

I don't have much time for the Coil, NWW and Current 93 axis which Keenan celebrates in "England's Hidden Reverse" (which book has been reissued and is available at Strange Attractor Press who have another paperback edition available in June this year). I guess I'm inspired by the idea of health - psychic, physical and psychological well-being. That doesn't square with Industrial music. 

And, again speaking personally, rarely does that music manage some detente with the holy.  It has to travel so far round the world in the wrong direction before glimpsing the sun on the horizon of night. David played a really excellent track by Whitehouse "Cruise (Force The Truth)" - which is as good an example of this as any. It may be, in part, because the acerbic, angry voice and twisted lyrics become "so much noise" - and what we hear is nought but the soul of man.

How music abets health, is food for the weary soul, is something I need to explore in writing more. The axe I want to grind here and now is a different one though. Listening to Keenan, and in fact Doran too, two monuments of the "underground" got me to thinking about psychological strategies that these self-appointed mavens deploy.

Keenan talks revealingly, when he discusses Whitehouse (the highlight of the interview) about how William Bennett "jams signals" - that's to say plays a strategic hand in such a way that it negates criticism. How can the groop pitch their message to disable resistance so as to ride through the receptive barriers: "It's boring" - hardly. "It hurts my ears" - it's supposed to. "It sounds a bit funny and a little ridiculous" - like Punch and Judy, yeah? "I feel awkward listening to it" - that's the point. It's a very combative way to engage people - but that's the staple procedure of Modern Art, to sidestep defenses and overpower our senses.

In the same way Whitehouse "jam signals" Keenan's own cultural power-move could be described thus:
"I'm Diogenes."
Diogenes, visited by Alexander The Great and who tells this world-conquering general that he should get out of his light. And by celebrating the music he does, the bracing, local, individualistic anti-commercial skronk, Keenan is saying "I'm Diogenes, I'm the high-priest of Airdrie, who are you?" And, yes, it's a good move. It's also a move which, on the peripheries, in Glasgow (or indeed Cambridge or Somerset - scenes I've covered) is almost vital. If you aren't operating in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris or Tokyo you practically HAVE to take this position if you're going to carve yourself the psychic space you need to survive. Strategic opposition and an inversion of the idea of a dominant culture makes sense in those geographical contexts.

However, whether it's a move the "underground" is sensible playing en masse I question. Here's a glossary of useful concepts:

Obscurity (buzzing with buzzwords today) - that's a concept I long ago stopped giving any credence to. That something is obscure does not in any way denote it has cultural value. Try selling your own "obscure" records and you should figure this one out quickly.

Good taste. Doran himself raised this with Keenan who, tellingly, seemed to miss the point of the question which was that Doran was implying the very existence of good taste ought to be controversial. In Glasgow good taste is something (perhaps refreshingly?) people don't question. For instance, upon Doran's inquiry about the validity of good taste Keenan proceeds to hold up Throbbing Gristle as an example of good taste as opposed to Echo and the Bunnymen who (according to Biba Kopf) are in bad taste. But this is still conceiving good taste as a concept in a positive way (it is confused - so just listen to it) in fact Doran meant that yes Throbbing Gristle are in fact good taste - in the sense that they are "approved"- Throbbing Gristle are canonical and therefore need to be questioned.

Canonical. How really valuable is the canonical as a concept? As a notion this is embraced unquestioningly in Scotland - probably because as a nation it isn't swamped by cultures like it is here in London. There's still a space for a counter-culture (or two...) in Scotland. But canons should be looked at askance - and by the same measure things which are "commercial" should really be understood at face value on their own merits (the gist of my Lost 100 Rock Albums of the Seventies book) - indeed something like the NWW list should probably be given no more credence than the scribbling on the back of a postcard. It should be valid as only someone's historical idea of a canon, and no more.

Seminal. The seminal is another concept tied up in all this which feels like something Keenan doesn't really scrutinize. The seminal had its validity in that era when we were all fumbling around in a fog of ignorance - when those leads to the talismans of deeper past were really valuable and illuminating. But with everything laid out as it is on a big buffet - not so much. Keenan is long on how things are influential. Frankly I long for the simplicity of the times when that was even conceivable.

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As much as any other obsessive record collector I wish Keenan were right about the implicit cultural value of certain recordings but I guess I don't have that monomaniacal belief in some music's inherent superiority. Certainly I feel some things much more acutely than others but I've come to accept that that's my thing... It's almost certainly my loss to be a victim of subjectivity but as a result the bittersweet truth is that, I believe, saying "I'm Diogenes" in the act of building a cult from opposition and obscurity is no longer meaningful. The modern condition in this era of narrow-casting allows one to do no more than embrace one's own idiosyncratic isolation and be at peace with it.

Diogenes


This is a single-page comic I did in 1997 that has never seen the light of day. (Just) before this kind of data could be collated at a press of a button I rounded up the information from reading Robert Anton Wilson's "Eye of the Pyramid", Rabelias's "Pantagruel", and Lempriere's "Classical Dictionary".

From Lempriere and on the cutting room floor (this from an old notebook):
- Retires to Athens to become a disciple for Anisthenes who first refused to admit him to his house and even beat him with a stick. "Strike me Anisthenes, but never shall you find a stick sufficiently hard to remove me from your presence whilst there is any information to be gained from your conversation and acquaintance." - lol
- Was once sold as a slave but the magnanimity of his character so pleased his master that he gave him control over his estates. 
- Ordered his dead body to be carelessly thrown into a ditch.
- The people of Sinope built a tomb for him with a column of marble with a marble figure of a dog erected upon it.

This is possibly my favorite comic I've done of all time. Back then I was drawing every day and, as is the way when one practices anything, I got quite "flexed". It was drawn straight out, frame by frame, without any planning at all and no corrections.

In 1997 I was passing out of the influence of Ken Downie which had meant reading a lot of Alchemaic texts - books like [glances across his shelves] Donnelly's "Atlantis", Remy De Gourmont's "The Natural Philosophy of Love", J.W. Dunne's "Experiment With Time", Jung's "Psychology and Alchemy", Burroughs "Cities Of The Red Night", Jean Overton Fuller's biography of The Comte De Saint Germain, Joscelyn Godwin's "Robert Fludd", William's "Voodoos and Obeah", P.D. Ouspensky's "The Fourth Way", Israel Regardie's "The Tree of Life", the Atlas Anthology on Raymond Roussel and Griaule and Dieterlen's "The Pale Fox". I even remember visiting the Swedenborg bookshop (I wonder if it is still there?) and picking up a copy of his "Heaven and Hell".

Hanging out with Ken and coming to understand his ethos, essentially as a fervent disciple, had been a shock to the system. I had had only a cursory understanding of occult ideas beforehand and it was a veritable baptism by fire. Digging myself out of that fascinating tomb required really understanding and synthesizing that school of thought. When Erik Davis' epochal "Techgnosis" came out in 1998 I was fully up to speed on the crosscurrents between electronic music and the gnostic and indeed emailed Erik at the time about La Monte Young (historical note: email was a kind of virtual electronic postcard that people would send to each-other in the days before social media).

At the end of the nineties many people were flung out of raving on drugs to electronic music into exactly this quasi-space. Many decided to stay there and build invisible kingdoms. I chortled to myself recently when I read John Higgs' initially intriguing but eventually over-cooked book on The KLF "The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds" because these were the ideas which had inflamed and excited us "back in the day" - and they did seem, if not necessarily entirely silly, then certainly anachronistic and endearingly daft.

I remember reducing the sum total of my new knowledge on madness and the occult to one maxim: "Fiction is real." If you ever find yourself caught up in the starry dynamo or realise you are seeing too many of the number 23, then use that as your tiller back to the safety of consensual reality.

5.3.17

Chicago House Music 1986-1994


On to part two of my monumental trilogy of mixes dedicated to the US roots of House and Techno! The artwork above, which I have always loved, turned out on closer investigation to be by an old friend of mine Suzy Godson who is now the deliciously controversial sex columnist for The Times.

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Detroit produced an army of shaolin monks toiling away to finely hone masterpieces of neurotic electro. Chicago's approach could haven't been more different. Disco, not electro, was always the template and rather than working away in cloistered obscurity Chicago producers seemed under an invisible pressure to commit their ideas to tape as quickly as possible before someone else had the same idea. Often, as is perfectly illustrated by the trio of "Video Crash", "Video Clash" and Magic Feet" producers pretty much released the same track.

This closely-fought squabble for near-identical intellectual capital is hilariously highlighted in the story of JM Silk and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk's very names. Silk announced one afternoon to his friend Farley that he intended to call himself "Jackmaster". Farley thought this was too great an idea to let his friend keep and went around the neighborhood that evening announcing that henceforth he was to be known as Farley "Jackmaster" Funk. The next day the furious and chastened Silk had to contract his choice to "JM".

Tracks always seem as though they are mixed live, the hurry extending to pressing the discs themselves which often suffer from legendarily bad pressings. To criticise this is to fail to grasp the breathless urgency which gives this music its astonishing raw energy. Originality isn't the cherished concept it is in Detroit so the brilliant inventiveness of the music is a testament to the genius of its creators.

Recorded live on the 1210s the mix is, again, arranged chronologically. It moves from the early Jacking sound, to Vocal House to Acid. Acid is most definitely still in the air. There's the splendid pHarmerz "20 Acid Clonk Greats" release and as recently yesterday FACT posted a playlist of TB-303 tunes an instrument with which shows up in the strangest places. DJing Acid requires nuff chops because, unlike Techno with which you can be "neat and discrete" and chop into a new track, Acid is intended to be layered. The long segue is essential to get those 303s chattering in sync and to produce the rich, multiplied harmonics.

After Acid there's a palate-refreshing sequence of Hip-House before a touch of, I guess, proto Ambient House (by the likes of Virgo) before a stretch of the hard Jacking post-acid sound whose most notable protagonist must be the godlike Steve Poindexter and found its home on the peerless Muzique label. Towards the end of the mix Cajmere and his Clubhouse and Relief stables predominate. By this stage there is the sense that Chicago's distinct local identity is beginning to be subsumed into New York's. This is exemplified by Pierre's move to that city and his Wild Pitch mixes on that city's Strictly Rhythm label.

Word must go out to my illustrious ancestor Sir Herbert Ingram who perished with his young son on Lake Michigan in 1860. My aunt, the family historian, contradicts this Wikipedia entry and tells me that Herbert had joined all the passengers on one side of the steamer so as to have a view of Chicago and that this action caused the boat to capsize and for them to be drowned in the freezing waters.



Tracklisting

Jamie Principle - Your Love (Original Mix)
Fingers Inc - Can You Feel It (Martin Luther King Mix)
Fingers Inc - Waterfalls
Adonis - No Way Back
Robert Owens - Bring Down The Walls
CJ & Master - Dub Love
Jungle Wonz - Time Marches On (Straight Up Mix)
Fingers Inc - Music Take Me Up
Jungle Wonz - The Jungle
Blakk Society - Just Another Lonely Day
Da Possee (feat Martell) - Searchin' Hard (House Mix)
Joe Smooth - Promised Land
Ralphi Rosario (feat Xavier Gold) - You Used To Hold Me (Micky 'Mixin' Oliver Mix)
Pierre's Fantasy Club - Dream Girl (Ralphi Rosario Mix)
Adonis - Reck This Joint
Hot Hanas Hula - Hot Hands
Armando - 151 (Orig. Mix)
Armando - 151 (Hot Mix 5 Mix)
Farley "Jackmaster" Funk - The Acid Life
Armando - Confusion Mix ("Land Of Confusion")
K Alexei - Vertigo
Steve Poindexter - Maniac
Bam Bam - Where's Your Child?
DJ Pierre - Box Energy
LNR - Kream (Till The Cows Come Home Mix)
Phuture Phantasy Club - Slam
Da Possee - In The Heat Of The Night (Vocal Version)
K Alexei - All For Lee Sah
The "Chicago Bad Boy" (feat Gershon Jackson) - House Music All Night Long (New York Club Mix)
The DJ Fast Eddie - YoYo Get Funky
Tyree - Video Crash (Crash Instrumental)
Lil Louis - The Original Video Clash (Often Imitated Never Duplicated)
The MD Connection - Magic Feet (Orig.)
William S - I'll Never Let You Go (Instrumental Mix)
Virgo - In A Vision
Da Possee - It's My Life (Aluh Mix)
Ron Trent - The Afterlife
Terry Hunter - Back 2 House (The House Mix)
Mike Dearborn - 1991 (A New Age)
Steve Poindexter - Body Heat (1991)
Steve Poindexter - Mental Problems
Ricky Smith - Crazy Drums
LNR - Work It To The Bone
Neal Howard - To Be Or Not To Be (Mayday Mix)
Cajmere - Mind Gamez
Cajmere - I'm A Dreamer
DJ Rush - Jack N Da Box
Steve Poindexter - Entercourse Of The New Age
Jungle Wonz - Bird In A Gilded Cage (Club Mix)
Green Velvet - Flash (Green Velvet Mix)
Robert Armani - Circus Bells (Armando's Mix)
Phuture - Rise From Your Grave (Wild Pitch Mix)
Chez N Trent - Untitled

1.3.17

Methuselah


I watched this again for the first time in ten (?) years the other night. It's not too bad. Not too bad at all. There's something very nasty about the way the voiceover reminds me of The Magic Roundabout AND John Cale reciting "The Gift" - nasty in an unsettling way that is, which was certainly what I was striving for.

Jungle Tape from 1994