Monday, September 29, 2014

10 years of loving the music of Ariel Pink!

Almost to the month

And he's yet to disappoint

Wish there was a video of "White Freckles" I could post

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Very in-depth piece on PC Music (as in QT et al) by Philip Sherburne, although whether you should even go deep with something so determinedly shallow as the PC Music aesthetic is debatable. But then these sort of operations are never content to just be blank, are they? They can't resist showing how thought-through and conceptual the whole thing is.  Pointing out the references, the  precursors, the intent....  Just like the art world.

This one is even more Lola-like than "Hey QT"

Also reminds me of Sally Shapiro a bit.

This next one doesn't content itself with simple simulation, goes for the old push-to-extremes / distorting mirror approach, beats so hyper-eclectic and epileptic they never settle into a groove, sounds so cute and so shiny they hurt your ears....

Reminds me - in ludic-parodic spirit and some of the actual sonic techniques of mutation and disfigurement - a little of The Residents, or Morgan Fisher's Hybrid Kids project

PC also crop up in this new Adam Harper piece "The Online Underground: A New Kind of Punk?" at Resident Advisor

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014


It's like Lola from Charlie and Lola grew up and she's now at the age for texting and crushes and first dates.

Like "Never Ever Getting Back Together" with English vowel sounds and intonation.

Q about  QT  and her "divisive" label PC Music.

Since kitschadelic pop already exists in the world, abundantly, what does simulation-kitsch actually add by way of surplus value?  A layer of reflexivity, studied inauthenticity, of meta-manufacturedness?  But the faux-real already exists, with Taylor Swift and other TeenNick Top 10 fare?  Can K-pop, so denatured it's practically animation, be surpassed on this front?

This is the same question I have with vaporwave, with James Ferraro's takes on rap / R&B, and so forth.

The Jeff Koons question.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

dark and smooth

Mystery tune identified, 21 years later!

The track that starts here at 9.43 with MC OC riding...

And also (with different, nearly as excellent, MC - Det? - riding) here at 31.05:

Ment 4 Bass = DJ Phantasy + DJ Lee. Engineer: Alex Reece.

Another incredible track by Phantasy:

And this one done with Gemini:

This one too

And -  I never knew this - Phantasy was half of DJ's Unite, as on the original Energy Flash CD

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

further thoughts on Drops Away.....

I suppose there's a difference between the waxing-and-waning of an artist / genre in terms of your own personal canon / listening habits over time.... and then the more collective and objective waxing-and-waning of figures / sounds / periods as a result of changing ideas and expectations about music, what it's for....   which has both a fashion-driven element and a more sociologically-revealing aspect....

I thought of a couple of examples after doing the first post that relate to what you could call The Drops Away... And Then Rises Back Up Again Syndrome.

Joy Division

Seems to me, going by memory but also by what new bands talked about during that period, that Joy Division's profile of relevance faded significantly during the course of the Eighties.  Partly because in a way they were still active and very much present as New Order but doing something increasingly poppy and danceable and un-JoyDiv-like, but also because of the general drift away from postpunk into the Sixties-mining approach of indie/underground rock.  Also think that certain bands can be so influential in immediate terms that they exhaust their influential-potential over the longer term....  at least until enough time has elapsed for them to come back as a reference point and source, seem fresh again.   In 80-81-82 there were so  many JoyDiv clones and heavily influenced bands, from the major (Cure circa Faith and Pornography) to minor (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry),  you could talk about Joydiv-damage.   They were a big part of the DNA of Goth (think of Bauhaus early on). So almost inevitably they had to disappear from consciousness....  Then very gradually, they crept back to assured canonical status (probably helped by the Deborah Curtis memoir). But for instance I remember Loop doing a single in 1989 or 1990 - around A Gilded Eternity, I think - and it had a marked JoyDiv flavour, and that seemed very surprising, because one had almost forgotten about Joy Division's existence. 

Bob Dylan

As I recollect, from punk through all of the first half of the Eighties, Dylan was simply not a reference point. A little prior to when I started reading the NME, Burchill & Parsons wrote an anti-Dylan screed called something like "Take This God and Stuff It"; the one I actually read at the time was the follow-up, about James Dean, called something like "Take This God and Bury It".  So that Dylan-demolition could be taken as the book end for the start of the Dylan-Drops-Away period. But Burchill & Parsons were only articulating a general feeling, or anticipating it, as journalists often do - the belief that Dylan was irrelevant in a punk-and-after context.  He had been a huge overbearing presence in Old Wave, the community of artistic likeminds that gathered for The Last Waltz - which was the wake for a whole era and its conception of what was valid and mature in rock (i.e. American roots music merged with poetic-literary lyrics, song-as-story, etc).  The book-end at the other side of the Dylan Drops Away period would be around 1985 when Nick Cave -- very strikingly at the time - spoke of his admiration for Dylan and how he saw certain parallels between his own ornery artistic path and Dylan's career. Also Costello doing the very blatantly Dylan-influenced album Blood and Chocolate.  Jason & The Scorchers doing a cover of "Absolutely Sweet Marie".  Minutemen name-checking him on "History Lesson Part II' on Double Nickels on the Dime. Perhaps even things like the new protest singer thing with Billy Bragg or the folk-country / The Band-as-model approach of the new Mekons. But between roughly '77 and '84, a good eight years or so, Dylan's stock was extremely low.  All through my formative years, the idea that you should check out his oeuvre, that this was essential listening for rock neophytes, was simply absent - something I've never quite been able to shake, in fact.  During that entire period of New Wave/postpunk/New Pop, just about the only examples of discernible Dylan influence in younger groups would have been Dire Straits and Tom Petty. Being a Dylanologist would have been an arcane pursuit for a young person.  This eclipse of eminence and centrality was obviously helped by the fact that he was making a series of shitty albums and had become a Born Again Christian. In fact now I remember it, Cave made a point of saying he really liked Slow Train Coming!


Talking of Cave, on the topic of the personal waxing-and-waning of The Birthday Party in my own rock pantheon, I remembered interviewing Ian McCulloch in 1989, during which he surprised me with the question ‘what’s your Greatest Band of the Eighties’. Probably hoping I'd say The Bunnymen! My mind went blank and I blurted "The Birthday Party", triggering much Mac scorn.  If I'd thought for a couple of seconds longer, I would have probably said The Smiths. That would have been more accurate. But The Birthday Party would have been very high up, a definite contender.  But today I'm not sure where they'd rank.  Groups that had dipped away in my consciousness in the late Eighties have risen back up subsequently - The Birthday Party would now have to jostle with The Associates, the Banshees, Scritti, Cabaret Voltaire, Meat Puppets, Blue Orchids, Husker Du, Orange Juice.... 

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Drops Away Syndrome

Quick addendum to the Kate Bush once upon a time decidedly uncool post -  and a longer broader follow-up.

Quick bit:  one Hal In London points out that Bush did not once figure in the NME critics end-of-year lists - until 1985 when she rockets out of nowhere and enters high in both the LP and singles charts, with Hounds (#10) and "Running" (#3).  Hal further notes that she makes not a single appearance in the equivalent lists at The Face ("surely the definition of cool in the 80s?").  The NME readership is difficult to gauge, in so far as the polls tend only to mention the winners. And here, interestingly, Bush does make one appearance, in 1979, as Female Singer of the year. But the next year she was displaced by Siouxsie Sioux, who held that title for several years running until ousted by Elizabeth Fraser in 1984. Generally-speaking the NME readership lagged a couple of years behind the writership in terms of taste and ideology, so the one-off triumph of Bush in '79 might be down to persistence of Old Wave mentality. There also wasn't much competition around (although Debbie Harry won it the year before).  

More generally.... very interested in this whole business of the fluctuating standing of artists over time.... the way that what is considered central and crucial at one point can become peripheral and inessential later....  

My nickname for this is The Drops Away Syndrome. 

The Drops Away Syndrome has a vice versa  - the Rises Up Syndrome - but it's less common. Most traffic tends to be downwards, a sort of aesthetic-critical gravity force tends to prevail, bending towards irrelevance and obscurity. 

A few examples - Graham Parker, considered a colossal figure, especially by American rock critics.... Rod Stewart, regarded by many in the early Seventies as one of the great songwriters and singers of his day, indeed by certain US critics revered as a story-teller who damn near singlehandedly redeemed rock at a time when it had gotten remote and heartless and inhumanly bombastic...    Eric Clapton....  . on a much smaller level, Randy Newman,  Mink Deville

In my own lifetime as a fan and writer, there are a number of reversals and wanings that are quite disorienting to contemplate -- the towering godhead of The Birthday Party and Nick Cave,  who enjoyed a  prominence and eminence in my mental life of the Eighties that's hard to reconstruct now, feels vaguely inexplicable...  Elvis Costello, similarly....  Ooh, and please don't mention The Young Gods.

Think how central Animal Collective seemed in the mid-to-late 2000s, that period between Here Comes The Indian and Merriweather, boosted by side-solo things like Person Pitch.... and how that's not the case now. 

But it happens also to genres and eras .... postpunk came back in a big way in the 2000s and is still very much on the table, as something that neophyte listeners need to acquaint themselves with, as something that bands might still draw on... But the reason it came back was precisely because it went away in the Nineties, was hardly ever referenced or reverenced. Too recent, perhaps, or too different from the vibes then prevalent.

In the Nineties, the place postpunk might have occupied was taken by other stuff .... Like Neil Young, who seemed like a totemic ancestor, a godfather figure to a lot of the rock action of the decade, the grungy and slackery end of things. The idea of, say, Talking Heads, or PiL, being an influence, a model, would then have seemed pretty daft. But now it's the other way around.  

The man when it comes to all things canon-related is of course Harold Bloom, and he argues that what goes into the canon of Western Literature and what gets left out is something determined by later poets and writers and dramatists.    They choose their influences and precursors. (Not always consciously choose - but through processes of attraction that seem to operate outside the realm of volition, to have more in common with visitation and possession). 

Go long enough without being an influence, without any visible descendants,though,  and you will begin to slip out of the canon.  Literary history is full of figures like Graham Parker or Eric Clapton, once considered Immense, colossi bestriding their eras - George Bernard Shaw,  Tagore. 

Kate Bush's rise in stock, the way she seems a more central figure in pop music history than she did during her actual historical prime is caused in part, then, by the large number of artists who emerged (ac)claiming her as an influence, a role model, an inspiration --  Bjork, Bat For Lashes, St Vincent, Tori Amos, Grimes, FKA Twigs.

But you could scour the current landscape of audio production and travel a long way before you found instances of  young, emerging artists influenced by Clapton, Costello, Rod Stewart, Graham Parker... people that critics would  once have figured for enduring forces in music, germinal figures, but actually turned out to be the last of a family line leading up to them but sputtering out with them.   

Non-seminal, you might fairly call them, twisting the rockcrit cliche. 

Of course, there has been something of an industry of excavating obscure figures or forgotten/maligned genres...  an attempt to harness them to the fashion machine. 

But I'm more interested in the way these fluctuations more often seem to occur through anonymous collective processes... 


The slightly chilling takeaway thought from all this is, of course, that what seems central and crucial to us right now could -- in many cases, will -- seem peripheral and inessential  to us at some later date.

I suppose it's not unlike the old girlfriend /  boyfriend  syndrome, "what on earth did I see in her / him?"

In some cases, you can see still, very clearly - perhaps painfully, certainly wistfully - what you saw in them. It'll never leave you. 

But in other cases... 

Likewise certain artists and genres abide with you to the end of your days. And others don't, Which doesn't mean they weren't fine in their moment, for whatever you got out of them or wherever they took you, the thoughts they spurred, the feelings they stirred.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Now online at Pitchfork, the essay I wrote for the first issue of the analogue-only Pitchfork Review about the analogue-era weekly music press of yore - "Worth Their Wait."

Loved the James McShane illustrations for the piece, which I suppose were meant to be me as teenage NME fiend, but in this case make Berkhamsted High Street look almost Parisian.

In the piece I refer to being such a NME-devotee that a caustic review of a bunch of NWOBHM records by Paul Du Noyer inspired me to compose an anti-heavy metal leaflet, which I distributed to bemused
passers-by on Berko High St.

Earlier this year I finally shipped the contents of  my 19-years-running storage unit in London to LA. Alongside boxes of records, cassettes, books, old music mags, and so forth, I found a trove of personal memorabilia - letters, scribblings, sketches, souvenirs, all sorts of shit I'd completely forgotten about. And in one folder I found the anti-HM tirade, which is scanned below.

Except it was different from how I'd remembered it. First, it's a work of co-authorship -- the handwritten bit isn't my handwriting, and the tone throughout is different, a composite of voices.  And it's not so much a straight diatribe as a spoof. Posing as an informative guide titled "The Bare Facts About Heavy Metal", the leaflet purports to clear up the misconceptions and negative stereotypes about this unjustly maligned subculture.

Just slightly too big to scan fully -- the cut-off last line, following the quote from Du Noyer's NME review, is:


Heavy metal gets the last laugh, though, as I now love even such lowly, irredeemably unsound examples of the genre as this: