Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Shock Doctrine

Coming out late October on Zero, Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night is an anthology of punk texts edited by Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix. Participants include Simon Critchley, Judy Nylon, Tony D, Tom Vague, Jonh Ingham, Penny Rimbaud,  Barney Hoskyns, Nicholas Rombes, Jon Savage....  our lost dear boy Mark Fisher ....  and yours truly. My contribution is an essay looking back at punk, but not from the present: "1976/86" was written in spring 1986 for the final issue of Monitor and simultaneously participated in the spate of 10th Anniversary retrospection (mostly hand-wringing: what happened, where did we go wrong?) while also examining the retrospective discourse itself. Far from punk being something long-long-ago and absent, I felt it still loomed over the landscape of British music, which if anything was over-determined by punkthink. In a way that essay is the acorn that after a long interval grew into Rip It Up and Start Again, although "postpunk" as currently understood was just one of  many after-punk pathways traced in the piece. 


"Punk as outrage" was another of the trajectories pinpointed and dissected - the vileness and Vicious-ness lineage, a/k/a "I killed a cat" = Doing It My Way *. Thinking about that reminded me that I've been remiss in not flagging up here another very interesting Zero publication -  Angela Nagle's Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right -  although it's got so much attention this summer you've almost certainly heard of it already. Indeed it's rather a controversial book, with some on the hardcore edge of the Left seemingly viscerally offended by its thesis, which asserts that there is a commonality of psychology in the desire-to-shock, whether manifested on the far right or far left of the political-cultural spectrum. 

In Nagle's words, "the ideologically flexible, politically fungible, morally neutral nature of transgression as style" - tactics of outrage and taboo-testing provocation - gradually migrated from the old counterculture to the new   contra-culture of far right trolls. That shift represents both "the co-opting" and "the triumph of 60s left styles of transgression." The scabrous truth-telling and refusal to self-censor of the Yippies, Lenny Bruce, counterculture publications from The Realist to Oz,  and pretty much everybody in that entire Fifties-Sixties gang, which then evolved through punk (especially the Malcolm McLaren wing) to become the Sixties-turned-inside-out of industrial culture - these attitudes and techniques have found a new home on the far right. The target is the same as it always was - the prudish / prudent bourgeoisie - but the nature of the taboos and the ideas of what is bad conduct have shifted: there are new norms to break, new normies to appall. As the most infamous exponent of the new style - now disgraced for going too far - has put it, the dominant culture to be countered is "the nannying and language policing and authoritarianism of the progressive left - the stranglehold that it has on culture." **

In the horrendously polarized, high-stakes moment that is now, you can kind of see why Nagle's thesis might offend; it does slightly resemble the old wet-liberal canard "you can go so far to the left that you end up on the right".  But I have actually had a couple of conversations in the past year with online strangers who claimed that they know people on the radical left who have switched to the right - not because they shared the values particularly but because that's where the new cutting edge was, in terms of irreverence and iconoclasm. The buzz of shocking, the rush of causing offence - this was more important than the actual political positions and their real-world implications. This is the punk of today, in other words.

Nagle references The Sex Revolts a couple of times during her thesis. That book is a bit of an orphan in the oeuvre, indeed there have been quite long periods when I've completely forgotten that Joy and I ever wrote it.  While I can't quite reconstruct the head that came up with the over-arching thesis on which the thing is scaffolded and which I'm not certain stands up anymore (that was the peak / swan-song of my infatuation with French theory), whenever I've looked back at a specific portion or patch of it  - the stuff on grunge, or Siouxsie, or the whole section on psychedelia - it still seems on the money. 

Probably the sharpest part is the stuff that relates to Nagle's book - which apart from anything else is a very handy quick-read recap of recent history / guided tour through the online sewers of discourse, from the social injustice warriors of the alt-right to the anti-feminist virulence of the manosphere (or should that be men-of-fears?). That is the Revolts chapter that dissects the masculinism of all the immediate precursors to rock rebellion - the Beats, the Angry Young Men, James Dean, Ken Kesey, et al - during which we bring up "Momism", a concept coined by Philip Wiley in his 1942 book Generation of Vipers.  Wylie identified a form of new American decadence in the growth of consumerism, mass media entertainment like radio, and suburbia, which he linked to matriarchy and domesticity: American virility, the frontier style of rugged martial masculinity on which the nation was founded, was being smothered and enfeebled by over-mothering, comfort and niceness.  The Sex Revolts mentions Robert Bly's Iron Man as a modern-day, therapeutically tinged and New Age-y resurgence of the Momism critique, a sort of Jung Thug Manifesto. But, published in 1995, our book was a year too early for Chuck Palahniuk's  Fight Club: angry young men reacting against metrosexual consumerism and sensitivity, an insidious decadence weakening them from within, and coming up with solutions that recall Nietzche's "in a time of peace, the warlike man attacks himself."

Fight Club was the book that coined the term "snowflake," and the novel has proved to be a prophetic parable. The ugly contorted face of anti-Momism today is the paranoid impatience with political correctness, safe spaces, trigger warnings, etc - the new proprieties that are felt as intolerable constraints, restrictions on the male right to spite. 

Underlying it all is the crisis of a masculinity that doesn't know what it's for anymore, in a demilitarized and post-industrial era where women provide for themselves or are the high-earning member of the family. Hence the fixation on imagined threats to gun ownership, on rapacious extraction industries like coal and the removal of protections for Mother Earth (always struck by how "fracking" sounds like the violating act that it is - how's that for "libidinal economy"?).... hence the hankering for macho foreign policy postures (waving that big "stick" around) and Theweleit-on-the-Freikorps redolent Walls and dams against contaminating floods.....  these and so many other psyche-fortifying issues are all of them proxies, props, displacements, compensations for an eroding and increasingly irrelevant style of manhood.   

* The really acute essay on punk in that issue of Monitor is the piece by Hilary Bichovsky (then writing as Hilary Little) on a recent retrospective exhibition of Jamie Reid's art, including his work for the Sex Pistols, in the course of which she wryly but implacably picks apart the impulse-to-outrage from an unsparing feminist perspective. One of the things she comments on is the "Who Killed Bambi" artwork - the slain deer, an actual living thing sacrificed for an edgy concept, for a image that will shock. As with Vicious's "to think / I killed a cat", as with names such as Stiff Kittens and Kill My Pet Puppy, the underlying idea is that softy furry things made you soft inside.  Killing soft weak things, even symbolically with sick humour, makes you hard.

Sex Revolts actually started with a sick joke. We went out for dinner with a friend - this is early Nineties, East Village NYC - and he'd brought along a friend, someone who'd been in various noise bands (including this one).  During the meal, the musician told a joke:

Q: What's the worse thing about raping a child?

A: Having to kill her afterwards.

I guess it was a cool test - if you laughed, you passed. We flunked the test. Later, walking home, Joy and I started talking about why, at that time, there were such a lot of underground-rock bands with songs about killing women. Three hours of fevered discussion later, we had a book mapped out.   

**  For further Nagle reading, try this Baffler essay about the breakdown of manners and self-restraint in public discourse.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

RIP Grant Hart

for a couple of years there, Husker Du were my favorite band

Sunday, September 10, 2017

naughty naughty

There is this - "Hello, Hello Daddy (I'll Sacrifice You)" - which is ripped off of this

(Which I heard on this fab Woebot mix of Brazilian)

And then there is this

which is ripped off of this

and then this (although Western copyright says you can't copyright a beat)

Wonder what else they pilfered?

I tend to point the figure in Malcolm's direction, considering that he fancied himself a voleur  and recycled some Soweto tunes - copyrighted to himself - on Duck Rock.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Sunday, September 03, 2017


This week I'm heading down to Argentina for the publication of the glam book, published through Caja Negra under the title Como un golpe de rayo. That translates as Like A Lightning Strike


I'm doing two events at the Córdoba Book Fair (Sept 8 + 9) and a presentation in Buenos Aires (Sept 12). 


la Feria del Libro de Córdoba

Viernes 8 de septiembre, 11 to 13 hs

Primer Piso, Sala 1

Crítica musical: Cómo y por qué hacerla. Enfoques históricos y tendencias actuales 
(a historical masterclass on rock criticism and music journalism from the start to the finish) 

actividad gratuita con inscripcion previa

Sábado 9 de septiembre, 19 h 

el Patio Mayor del Cabildo

Conferencia - "Todo el mundo está en el showbiz: el glam y el anti-glam de los setenta al siglo XXI” 
(Everybody's In Showbiz: Glam and Anti-Glam from the Seventies to the 21st Century)

entrada libre y gratuita

Buenos Aires

Martes 12 de septiembre,  19hs

el Centro Cultural San Martin 
Sarmiento 1562

Con presentación a cargo de Pablo Schanton

Conferencia - "Todo el mundo está en el showbiz: el glam y el anti-glam de los setenta al siglo XXI”

entrada gratuita con inscripción   más información

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

A piece by me on instrument-builder / robot-maker / sono-historian Sarah Angliss and her spooky-lovely London-themed debut album Ealing Feeder, written for the latest issue of online arts magazine 4Columns

mouth music (C81 selection)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

post-rock / post-rock-rock / pre-post-rock

Well, how bizarre is that - now there's not just one but two really good books about post-rock. 

The first came out a year or two ago: Jack Chuter's Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-Rock, which I discussed here.  

And now there's Jeanette Leech's Fearless: The Making of Post-Rock, on Jawbone Press. 

They are both strong in different ways. Chuter's is a bit more vivid when it comes to sonic evocation; Leech is more encompassing (it covers a LOT of precursor type stuff - late Eighties bliss-rock and dream pop etc) and has a sharper polemical edge to it. 

Indeed, Leech is much more dismissive than Chuter of the later stages of post-rock, i.e. the stuff that 97 % of current fans + practitioners reckon post-rock is all about (whereas we early-adopter types / Lost Generation fanboys + girls are of the opinion that the Point verily has been badly missed). 

Leech has quite the cutting term for all this point-missing activity: post-rock-rock.  That extra "rock" and the implied sense of reversion conveys the way that an open field of possibility in which genre barriers were dissolving every-which-way has gradually turned into a fairly fixed genre of instrumental rock that - for my taste - tends to be overly dramatic and epic. Certainly it's not at all what I had in mind back when it was all about Seefeel Insides Disco Inferno Main Techno Animal Laika Moonshake Bark Psychosis....  

For a sample taste of Fearless, check out this extract at the Quietus, prefaced by an essay written by Leech in parallel with her book that examines "how post-rock stopped dancing." Well, I don't know if there was ever that much post-rock that made you dance, but certainly there was a time when post-rockers were nearly all of them listening to and learning from dance music...

For a current and lonely example of  "true path" post-rock, check out Rage Coma, the new album by Sam Macklin, a/k/a connect_icut

Although its means-of-construction is much closer to post-rock by my definition than Explosions in the Sky and all those other post-rock-rock bands with big-guitar sounds,  this new record of Sam's has an attack and a scale - a gnarly rawness too - that is markedly different from his earlier more glitchy and subdued excursions. I'd almost say it "rocks" - but only in the same way that No U Turn records rocked. 


It's no secret that having minted the theory (if not coined the word itself) I soon cooled on post-rock in practice, as the music itself seemed to cool down and becalm itself into nu-fusion / soundtrack-looking-for-a-movie-ism. 

Covertly I even started to sympathise with the aversion and affront felt by those among my professional peers who felt  - and occasionally caustically argued - that all this talk about being "post" was to piss on the sacred memory of the Stooges or the Stones....

Because, when push came to shove, I'd usually be more up for hearing a piece of pre-post-rock like this 

than this

(courtesy of YouTubers Worldhaspostrock !!)

In some of my writings on the subject I explicitly talk about the removal of the rebel-teenager-with-raised-middle-finger as  the putative stage center protagonist of the music...  replaced by a diffuse un-body, an ego-less and attitude-less spirit of adventure that didn't require the focal figure of the vocalist acting out as proxy for the audience.

Post-rock, at its best, offered a kind of nerd version of a musical heroics - a way to be, yes, fearless - crossing boundaries of the mind....  breaking the laws of genre.

Heroism without ego-drama.... grandeur without self-aggrandisement.  Paraphrasing Stubbs on Krautrock, the artists submit themselves as a speck on a landscape of their own creation - an exploding skyscape.

But ultimately as the Nineties rolled towards its close, it all got a bit too mild...   pulled along with the general tide in the culture towards a new kind of self-repression... the neurotically implosive detail-work of what Woebot called audio-trickle.

It learned the production technicalities of rave and hip hop - and put them to clever, complicated use - but it rarely picked up on the core energies in those musics: what  - in this sister post - I characterise as the impulse to brock out...

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - summer 2017 : Genteel Decay; The Focus Group; A Year in the Country; Ekoplekz

Genteel Decay is an alter-ego of Moon Wiring Club's Ian Hodgson. Some while ago Ian was propositioned by the gentleman behind cassette-label Illuminated Paths with a view to him crafting a side release for pseudonymous emission. As it happens, Ian had already been poking away at a pet project, involving "just vocal sounds and echo / delay / reverb effects."  As you know, mouth music is something of a fancy of mine, so my ears immediately pricked up when I learned about A Crumpet or Two. And it's a right treat: a lovely dollopy portion of mashed-and-slurried speech. The original textual fragments are themed around an afternoon tea but as they're glutinously distended, like strands of treacle spooling from a wooden spoon, they degenerate into oozy nonsense. As Ian aptly puts it, "the end result sounds somewhere between a female HAL9000 having her memory chips removed and the thought processes of an Edwardian UK Stepford Wives." 

Ian mentions in passing that a bunch of MWC releases are now available for the first time as downloads via Bandcamp, including the special vinyl-only and cassette-only editions of A Fondness for Fancy Hats, Leporine Gardens, and Today Bread, Tomorrow Secrets.


Four years after The Elektrik Karousel, there's finally a new long-player from The Focus Group - and it's a superb one too. Stop-Motion Happening with The Focus Group is Julian's most disintegrated and dream-like work since hey let loose your love, but the previous album's Anglo-psych fairground feel still flickers through in places.   


Out next week from the prolific A Year in the Country label is what I believe is their first release that isn't a themed compilation - a solo effort titled Undercurrents by the gentleman behind the label, aka, er, A Year in the Country. Excellent moody n' twinkly stuff it is too, with the usual exquisitely intricate packaging. 

Release rationale: 

"Undercurrents was partly inspired by living in the countryside for the first time since I was young, where because of the more exposed nature of rural life I found myself in closer contact with, more overtly affected by and able to directly observe the elements and nature than via life in the city.

"This coincided with an interest in and exploration of an otherly take on pastoralism and creating the A Year In The Country project; of coming to know the land as a place of beauty, exploration and escape that you may well drift off into but where there is also a sometimes unsettled undercurrent and layering of history and culture.

"I found myself drawn to areas of culture that draw from the landscape, the patterns beneath the plough, the pylons and amongst the edgelands and where they meet with the lost progressive futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of what has come to be known as hauntology.

"Undercurrents is an audio exploration and interweaving of these themes - a wandering amongst nature, electronic soundscapes, field recordings, the flow of water through and across the land and the flipside of bucolic dreams."


Although he dwells on the outskirts of this parish, it should be noted that after a low-key patch Ekoplekz has a new album out on Planet Mu:  Bioprodukt. Excellent stuff, as always, as expected - but differently excellent. There's a clean glisten, a cold 'n' bouncy feel to much of the album, quite unlike the grainy monochrome of the torrential release-flow of first-phase Eko (something matched by the gaily coloured album artwork). Hints and traces of Pole, "Macau"-era Monolake, perhaps even solo Czukay...  a industrial-goes-tropical sinuosity to the rhythms and balminess to the atmospheres. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

dust of stars

The cover of the Italian edition of Shock and Awe, which is out in a  month or two on minimum fax, in a translation by Michele Piumini

 Polvere di Stelle translates as Star Dust

Friday, July 07, 2017

Here's the text of a chat I had with Todd L. Burns of Red Bull Music Academy about glam rock + art-pop, from the Seventies to the 21st Century.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

un géant tombe

RIP Pierre Henry

My first Pierre Henry album, picked up for a quid at an Oxford jumble sale in 1983.

Bon voyage, Monsieur Henry

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Feeling Love

Here's a feature I wrote for Pitchfork on "I Feel Love" - which turns 40 in a few days time - and on the miraculous, world-changing synergy that formed between Donna Summer + Giorgio Moroder + Pete Bellotte, along with the rest of the Munich Musicland squad.

I got to meet Moroder and Bellotte, spoke with drummer man Keith Forsey and with the original disco critic Vince Aletti, and communed cosmically with Summer, who has - alas - departed for another plane.

and finally, on this one, note the movie-style credits, delivered via vocoder, that name-check everybody involved in the production - right down to "tea and coffee" by Laurie Kanner, GM's secretary

Monday, June 26, 2017

Let's Eat Grandma

here's a profile I did for NPR's The Record of Let's Eat Grandma -  makers of wondrously askew pop-not-pop, but somewhat elusive interviewees....  and a group currently in transition, most likely towards something even more wondrously askew

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Shock and Awe paperback - out July 6th

The UK paperback edition of Shock and Awe is out on July 6th. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

From the Desert to the Sea: The Desolation Center Experience

LA people interested in underground events and the history of alternative culture should hie over to San Pedro on Saturday June 17th for this exhibition about the legendary Desolation Center desert festivals of the mid-Eighties, followed by live performances later that night from Mike Watt, 100 Flowers (nee Urinals) and Saccharine Trust.

Those LA people ought also hie themselves thither a second time the following Saturday June 24th for a panel discussion on Underground Events from the speakeasy days to Merry Pranksters to early Burning Man. Line-up includes John Law (Cacophony Society, co-founder Burning Man), Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag/SST), Rev. Al (Cacophony Society,) Skylaire Alflevgren (Fortean journalist) and Jack Sargeant (underground historian).

Press release: 

June 17–July 30, 2017
Opening reception Saturday, June 17 from 6–9 p.m.

Before the era of Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, Desolation Center drew punk and industrial music fans to the far reaches of the Mojave Desert for the first of five events, "Mojave Exodus," in April of 1983. Traveling by rented school bus, hardy devotees journeyed to witness events that the LA Weekly described as being like “some bizarre ritual at the end of the world.” A seafaring music expedition launched from LA Harbor in San Pedro led the LA Reader’s Chris Morris to declare it had “opened a new window in my head.” These surreal guerrilla shows featured site-specific performances by Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Redd Kross, Saccharine Trust, Savage Republic and Swans, and paved the way for the mega-festivals that have become a crucial part of music and alternative culture in the 21st century.

Cornelius Projects pays tribute to Desolation Center’s pioneering vision with an exhibition featuring painting, photography, sculpture, video and ephemera. Participating in the show are Desolation Center alumni Mike Watt, Curt and Cris Kirkwood, Mark Pauline, Raymond Pettibon, Anthony Ausgang, Kristine Kryttre, John Tottenham, Joe Baiza, Ann Summa, Dave Markey, Bruce Licher, Naomi Petersen, SPOT and more. Images from the exhibition will be featured in Stuart Swezey's documentary Desolation Center (, slated for release next year.

is co-curated by Laurie Steelink, Stuart Swezey, Craig Ibarra and Mariska Leyssius. Readings, panel discussions, live music performances and rarely seen underground films and videos will be presented during the run of the exhibition. A schedule is forthcoming.

Cornelius Projects is a space dedicated to promoting culture and art in San Pedro, CA. During the exhibition Cornelius Projects will be open Thursday through Sunday from 12–5 pm or by appointment.

Stuart Swezey (Desolation Center/Amok Books)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Rise, like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number! Shake your chains to earth like dew. Which in sleep had fallen on you: Ye are many—they are few! -  Shelley

Monday, May 29, 2017

Vitamin C

Check out this animated documentary by Matthew Ingram a/k/a the Man like Woebot - a delightfully rendered, deeply researched edutainment, that's full of fascinating details about the discovery of Vitamin C, the effects of deficiency, and the vaunted benefits of higher-than-the-RDA doses.

Talking of things that are nourishing and delectable at the same time, Matt has recently made available at a new budget price his blog compendium The Big Book of Woe (which features a foreword by yours truly). Just shy of 1200 pages, it now goes for only $2.99! That's a quarter of a cent per page, man - cor you're gonna be sorted!! The only way now to read this "golden age of blogging" legend, The Big Book of Woe is purchasable here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Guardian feature on Doctors of Madness and Richard Strange, pegged around their excellent Cherry Red box set Perfect Past and upcoming UK tour.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

some things in Italy

This weekend I will be attending Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino - the International Book Fair in Turin - in tandem with minimum fax, who are publishing Shock and Awe in Italy later this year and have also picked up Retromania and Rip It Up And Start Again (Post-punk 1978-1984 as it's known over there). Then on Tuesday the following week I'll be in Rome for an event.

Torino, Saturday May 20 

Salone Internazionale del Libro, Lingotto Fiere, via Nizza 294 

2-4 pm I'll be at the minimum fax stand 

4.30 pm - Sala Blu - discussion with journalists Valerio Mattioli and Luca Valtorta

Rome,  Tuesday May 23rd

Salotto di Monk, via Giuseppe Mirri35

9-30 PM - discussion with Valerio Mattioli 

Our covers are now made in Turin by robots!” - Green 
I interviewed Jlin about her new album Black Origami for The Guardian.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jean​-​Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline

I am delighted to have contributed the liner note essay for a very special reissue project: a selection of Jean-Jacques Perrey's pieces performed on Georges Jenny's proto-synthesiser the Ondioline. 

These super-rare and in some cases never-before-released examples of early electronic music have been lovingly restored and elegantly packaged under the auspices of a new label, Forgotten Futures -  the passion project of Wally De Backer, also known as Gotye

In the essay for Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline, I position Perrey among the "friendly futurists":musicians who embraced the new technology but applied it to purposes of entertainment and relaxation rather than lofty and forbidding avant-garde ends. Perrey's instincts were melodic and groove-oriented, so when he deployed tape-splice trickery and electronic keyboards, the result was generally antic whimsy (The In Sound From Way Out, with Gershon Kinsley) or beguiling wistfulness.  "What drew him to the Ondioline – and drove the dedication that made him become the instrument’s virtuoso non pareil – was the combination of its mimetic powers (the way it could substitute for existing instruments and lend itself to pastiche, stylistic allusion, and sonic witticisms in the style of his beloved Spike Jones) with its plangent emotionalism, the uniquely yearning ache of its timbre."

The deluxe vinyl package is the true objet du désir, for sure, but those digitally-inclined can partake via

Georges Jenny's Ondioline

Look out for more electronic archaeology from Forgotten Futures in the year ahead. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Making a Messe


Pierre Henry composed Messe De Liverpool  for the 1967 inaugural mass at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. However he wasn't able to complete the work in time, so another work was actually played on the day.
Now, finally, on the 50th Anniversary,  the work is being aired in this magnificent example of post-WW2 modernist ecclesiastical architecture,  designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd. Introduced by Jarvis Cocker, it takes place this coming Saturday May 13th - and how I wish I could attend.

Further information about tickets and times.


Musique concrète for a temple of concrete! Actually Messe is not like one Henry's typical tape-splice works, it's more like a blend of text-sound, mouth-music and electro-acoustic - fractured syllables, ecstatic jabbers and droney incantations, interspersed with traditional instruments that are processed.  It's not on YouTube but you can hear it here.


Sir Frederick Gibberd, "Harlow's architect"

Almost a decade ago, a fledgling fan of the modernist church / modernist synagogue, I stumbled unawares on the Metropolitan Cathedral while on a trip to Liverpool.  And it is stunning, outside and inside.




I was with Lisa Blanning and Mark Fisher (all of us were in Liverpool for the FACT art centre's hardcore continuum event in 2009). I like to think Owen Hatherley was there in spirit.

Which reminds me there's a related event on Friday May 12th: Concrete Utopias, a symposium that "explores concrete, both as construction material and its use metaphorically to describe experiments in music and poetry.  Bringing together architectural, social and cultural perspectives, it will explore the utopian impulses and modernist thinking that informed different practices in architecture and the arts in the 1960s – brutalist architecture, musique concrète and concrete poetry – and their continuing interrogation by academics, artists and activists today."

There is also a "Brutalist Liverpool" walking tour on Sat 13th May at 10.30am – 1.30pm, £5/£4, conducted by The Modernist Society and taking in "the pre-cast concrete of the Liver Building" and
much more.



Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hauntology Parish Newsletter, May 2017 : Further at the Portico Gallery, South London, this Saturday; ToiToiToi; The Focus Group; IX Tab; Radionics Radio; Portland Vows; The Heartwood Institute; "folk horror".

News of an exciting gathering in London this weekend. Organised by DJ Food & Pete Williams, Further takes place at  a former theatre turned community centre in West Norwood (my old parish in the mid-Eighties, it so happens). Featured artists include Ghost Box's Jupp & House doing an audio-visual set and Howlround live sound-tracking  the film A Creak In Time by Steven McInerney of Psyché Tropes.

Says DJ Food a/k/a Kevin Foakes, the concept is neither a club nor a film night, but "somewhere in between... where the visual is as important as the musical."  

Date: Saturday May 6th
Location: Portico Gallery, 23B Knight's Hill, London, SE27 0HS,
Price: £7.55




Talking of Ghost Box, the label has a really cool new release out by a name completely unfamilar to me - ToiToiToi. Who turns out to be a German fellow (a first for the label, I believe... Indeed I wonder if they've ever put out anything by someone who wasn't British?). Appropriately they use the term "wunderkammer" - German for cabinet of curiosities - to describe Im Hag. Which seems bang-on, for the previous Ghost Box release it reminds me of a tiny bit is The Transactional Dharma of Roj  - which itself very much felt like a cabinet of ungainly marvels... queer little audio-contraptions whose design and purpose was unclear but that nonetheless entranced the ear.

 I also think sometimes of Mouse On Mars's buoyant and airy dinkytronica  

Release Rationale: 

Im Hag is the debut Ghost Box album for Berlin based Sebastian Counts’ ToiToiToi, following on from his single for the label’s Other Voices series in 2015. It’s very detailed and lovingly produced music, crafted from electronic, synth, sampled and acoustic sources. Its a wunderkammer of an album crammed with original ideas. All at once managing to be witty, spooky, melodic and abstract.

The music and design explores the polarities of folklore vs modernity, and wilderness vs civilization. It’s an album about German culture but it pre-empts a nostalgia for the vanishing concept of internationalism, once exemplified by town twinning. It’s also a warm-hearted record, hopefully a tiny morale booster against Europe’s resurgent spectres.

It's the best thing Ghost Box have put out for a while I think .... although it may not be for long, judging by the preview I've been permitted of the forthcoming and splendid album by The Focus Group - possibly Julian H's best since hey let loose your love.  

This reminded me of my remissness in forgetting to mention in the last newsletter the excellent debut album by Children of Alice - the ghosty supergroop comprising House, Roj, and Broadcast's James Cargill. I was supposed to be writing a feature on them, but owing to elusive obstacles that still mystify, this came undone. A classic of the ungenre, nonetheless, so don't miss it


A soul-sister to Focus Group in some respects, but less twitchy with detail, IX Tab's The World Is Not Where We Are  (due June 1st via Twiggwytch Recordings) is another fab excursion of dronescape-gardening and abstract-leaning bucolictronica... finding the (un)common hinterland between Laurie Lee and Luc Ferrari....  And hark at those mind's-eye-activating titles: "The Orchard Dream",   "Meeting in a Roofless Church", "The Smoke and The Birds", "The Tired Synths"...

Release rationale:

"The World Is Not Where We Are completes a trilogy of IX Tab albums and, while clearly cut from the same dirty cloth as Spindle & The Bregnut Tree and R.O.C, it is something of a departure in that, this time around, there is manifestly an acceptance of the feminine into the harte of the wud. The World Is Not Where We Are is moon-driven and burnished in silver. It’s anima(listic) and tidal, altogether more graceful in it’s movements. 

This time around, IX Tab features Eli Murray aka Gentleforce and Joan Pope of The Whip Angels, two collaborators from across the seas who instinctively understood the ritualistic nature of IX Tab and the strong sense of place. Gentleforce released arguably the best ambient album of 2016 in Refuge From The Great Sadness, while Joan Pope’s audio-visual sex cult, sexdeathrebirth, is in the process of taking all the worlds by storm. 

Other things have remained the same: old energies pushed in new directions. Lyrics by Kant by way of the Noumenal; songs by W.B. Yeats and Colette; atmospheres and sex magick exercises from Israel Regardie and Pope Joan; drones made from creaking swings and squeaking munkins; folk dirges and shotgun fire; wassails & poetic re-imaginings of lost causes. We know it’s an increasingly unpopular opinion, but we don’t believe that any music speaks for itself.
As ever, the IX Tab universe spills out into a 16-page full colour booklet bursting at the seams with esoteric ephemera, loose psycho-geographical details, lyrical shards, totems and potentially libelous slurs against 18th C portrait artists."

Pre-order via and downloads soon-come via

Three  other projects of reasonably recent vintage:

Released on SubRosa, Radionics Radio: An Album of Musical Thought Frequencies is a project created by composer / researcher / instrument builder / sonic contemplator Daniel R. Wilson, who informs me that the album "employs a technique theorised by Delawarr Labs that promises a brand new way of making music: by (supposedly) embedding 'thoughts' or 'moods' within the electronic musical tunings".   On pieces like "Heal Chakras" and "Wonderful Feelin" the process generates slowly gyrating planes of drone that put me in mind of Nurse With Wound's Soliloquy for Lilith, but other tracks are more eventful and internally varied excursions in the quirktronic mode. 
Advert and mini-documentary on the project below, while a full-blown release-rationale can be found at Wilson's Miraculous Agitations blog.

Word also reaches me of a newish album from Concrète Tapes -  Play Nicely by Portland Vows, a pleasing set of electronic sketches and mood-vapors. 

Also fresh to the parish: The Heartwood Institute, an apple-cheeked nephew to the gnarly-thumbed wood-whittler of an uncle that is Belbury Poly - at least judging by this album Mix Tape One.


That Heartwood Institute cover image - so redolent of the maypole scene from The Wicker Man  - reminded me that I was chatting over the fence with parish elder Ian Hodgson the other morn... 

Ian remarked how much "‘auntology by any other name" stuff was going on at the moment, pointing to the book Scarred For Life Volume One by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, which is blurbed as "an affectionate look at the darker side of pop culture in the 1970s. Public information films, scary kids' TV show, bleak adult dramas, dystopian sci-fi, savage horror films, violent comics, horror-themed toys and sweets and the huge boom in paranormal paraphernalia; all this and much more is covered in depth. Prepare to relive your childhood nightmares. The things that made us... Scarred For Life!".

He also pointed to the imminent Fortean Times feature "Haunted Generation: The Analogue Nightmare of a 70s Childhood" (for which I was interrogated, as it happens). 

Much of the by-another-name activity hides under the another-name "folk horror", as elaborated here in Guardian article  and in a recently-published book by Adam Scovell,  Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange.

And then published this very day: Louis Pattison's Bandcamp listening-guide to artists working in the F-H genre, including various outfits on the Reverb Worship label such as this "spookfolk" group The Hare and the Moon.

This comes with a fictitious-TV series mise-en-scene that raises a chuckle:

A five-part ITV children’s drama originally transmitted over the summer of 1972 and produced by Harlech Television based in Wales. Set in a village outside Hereford the story follows the preparations for the annual Wakes event but dark forces are unleashed when the organisers decide to build a ‘Witch’s Hat’ ride on an ancient burial mound. Roy Kinnear plays Mayor Hamilton who wants the Wakes event to go ahead in spite of warnings from local newspaper reporter Jane Meadows (Elisabeth Sladen). Also attempting to avert disaster are young white witch Heddwen (Camila Vargas) and visiting archaeologist Robbie Duggan (Iain Tranter). The series' obscurity is explained by the fact that a Welsh Nationalist transmission engineer deliberately confined the broadcast of the programme to Wales, failing to perform the switch required and thus enabling the Welsh language programme ‘Ffalabalam’ to be shown on the nationwide ITV network whilst ‘Hereford Wakes’ was shown only in Wales. A combination of luck and coincidence led to us being able to contact a relative of the composer and so we're delighted to present the music from Hereford Wakes for the first time. 

Hereford Wakes (1972) from Rachel Laine on Vimeo.

During the piece Pattison mentions this handy survey of the landscape at the site Folk Horror Revival by Andy Paciorek.

It all feels a bit terra cognita  (terror cognita, even!)...  a distinctly compact patch of British film and TV history (as Ian observed - Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw, Witchfinder General - Penda's Fen and Robin Redbreast - Children of the Stones - some PIFs) now trampled frisson-less after successive waves of visitors...

That feeling of deja deja vu exacerbated by the news that English Heretic are soon to release their fourteenth record Wish You Were Heretic, which contains a sampled snatch of  the folk ditty "Bushes and Briars", soundbites from Robin Redbreast, narration of Houseman's "On the Idle Hill of Summer"... 

Round and round and round we go, big kids prancing endlessly around the memory maypole...