Thursday, 18 September 2014


The wonderful Ian Penman on Elvis in the LRB:

A day in the life: pure liquid cocaine soaked into cotton balls and stuffed up his nose for breakfast; a tutti-frutti of eviscerating biphetamines to get the day off to a smart jog; a whole undulant funhouse spin of downs, any downs at all, for tea. And yet, and yet … Presley’s excess never feels particularly Dionysian; it seems far more a matter of exerting control. Sex and drugs were never binged things, but run always according to his pernickety little itineraries. In the 2005 photo history Elvis by the Presleys, there are two books embossed with his special golden name-stamp: a slim black New Testament Prayer Key and his colossal, multi-coloured Physicians’ Desk Reference. (The latter was his bible, next to the Bible.) Life became more and more a closed-off space, Graceland a cathedral dedicated to endless self-reflection. He was his own icon, long before he became ours.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Koons, Dada

Great article by Martin Filler for NYRB attacking the Koons retrospective at the Whitney, with strong words for Dada:

Dadaism, which erupted a hundred years ago in the midst of World War I, may be one of the most misunderstood developments in twentieth-century art. There is a purity, almost an innocence, about the carnivalesque impurity of the original Dadaists and their objects and their ideas... Art, Duchamp worried, is “a habit-forming drug,” and with the readymade he somehow hoped to break the habit, which is perhaps what every artist hopes to do by inventing art anew. Jean Arp, one of the very first Dadaists—he was also and almost simultaneously one of the great classicists of twentieth-century sculpture—wrote that “Dada wished to destroy the hoaxes of reason and to discover an unreasoned order.”

Repetitive Rock

Drunken times listening to lots of music with D, highlights being minimalist-repetitive rock via Nisennenmondai and Shellac, both revelatory:

Shellac: Terraform – slow, long loops of spiky restrained rock, in kinda Scape/late 1990s dub techno-electronica mode:

Nisennenmondai: N – captivating ultra-minimal and repetitive rock, or techno by rock trio:

And on other notes, also loved this Prince gem, what a doozy! Gloopy loops of woozily seductive pop-soul, with synths that seem to melt. Interesting blurb:

"The Beautiful Ones" is the third track on Prince and The Revolution's soundtrack album Purple Rain. Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince, the song was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles by Peggy Mac and David Leonard in early September 1983.

"The Beautiful Ones" is a haunting musical tale of emotional longing and unrequited love. Starting out as a slow falsetto ballad, with Prince's piano and organ-sounding synthesizers providing a lush backdrop, it gradually builds in volume and intensity, and by the end of the song, Prince is screaming out "Do you want him, or do you want me? 'Cause I want you." The song comes to a quiet close, with Prince's keyboards and drum solo serving as the closing instrumentation.

The song replaced "Electric Intercourse" on the Purple Rain album.[1] It was originally written for Susannah Melvoin (Revolution band member Wendy's twin sister) to woo her away from her then–boyfriend.In the film, Prince sings the song directly from the stage to Apollonia, who is sitting with his rival Morris Day. The song is a direct and urgent appeal to Apollonia to choose Prince as her lover — and it is a direct challenge to Day. Ultimately, as the song ends and Prince lies, apparently spent, on the floor of the stage, Apollonia leaves in tears. (Later, she surprises him when he is unlocking his bike to leave.) The version on the Purple Rain album is slightly cut; a longer version of the song exists."

Also played a lot of 80s disco, this Peter Tosh killer among them:

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Enduring Charm of Classical CDs

Interesting article entitled 'The Classical Cloud' by Alex Ross for the New Yorker (can't seem to access it via work's IE6) where he discusses his abiding fondness for CDs over digital music streaming, despite the accumulation of damaging and space-occupying petroleum-produced objects. Among the benefits of CDs he particularly lists the liner notes (the comprehensiveness of which is almost unique to classical music), and how much information they provide that streaming platforms cannot; cover art; the joys in browsing spoines and selecting discs at random, and the memories provoked from seeing an old CD – where it was acquired, where it was most enjoyed, where it has lived and travelled … Spotify is singled out for its poor handling of classical music tracks, mixing up movements, symphonies, confusing artists, etc. Who'd have thought?!

What with classical music’s interest in supporting information (composer and artist biographies, work analyses, performance reviews, instrumental detail, recording dates, locations, libretto, extracts of original scores, etc,), the anorak nature of so many of its more devoted listeners, the need for high definition sonic clarity, and the money and support behind the industry, classical certainly does the CD format better than most genres. I too still value classical CDs more than others, often even over classical vinyl. I recently even bought some, all $5 a pop brand new, or rather still in shrinkwrap but having lingered in the dust filled (now defunct) warehouse of a certain music distributor. I even recalled handling these when working there many moons ago:

James Dillon: Book of Elements (NMC)- dizzyingly complex piano music, with enough strange hooks to cut through the chaos. Dillon was a semi-staple on Dead and Alive, reckon we'd have played more of him if we'd kept at it :

Player Piano 6 - Original Compositions In The Tradition Of Nancarrow (MDG) - Core Dead and Alive repertoire - wonderfully strange sounds from player pianos in post-Nancarrow language, a world I'm obsessed with. Music by Daniele Lombardi, Tom Jonson, Krzysztof Meyer, James Tenney, and interestingly pianists Marc-Andre Hamelin, Stefan Schleiermacher, kind of like writing themselves out of work:

Bernhard Lang: DW (Col Legno) - Using samples and turntables to produce a type of high-brow, refined hauntology; ice-cold and terrifying:

Luigi Nono: Orchestral Works & Chamber Music (Col Legno) - Part of what I always thought looked like Col Legno's "budget sampler" range:

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Waiting versus Gorging

Excellent article by Simon Reynolds on music media of yore (1960s-1980s) versus now which while romanticising the good ol’ days is very eloquent on the problems of today. Good point which I’d not given much thought too is the decline in quality of writing and criticism of today, not just from the volume of amateur/public opionion spewed forth everywhere but through the jaded, what’s-the-point-in-adding-my-two-cents sense that many professional critics (do they even exist anymore?) must surely feel. I know I can seldom be bothered weighing in on any musical subject these days. How much time will readers spend on reading anything, in between the constant distraction and churn of information?

In romantic love and in music fandom, absences and delays create the space in which desire grows. The remoteness in space or time of the “unattainable” or “yet to come” fills the present with exquisite tension, a forward-directed propulsion. In an “always on,” instant access world, the flooding nowness and nearness of everything unavoidably smothers and stifles these impulses. It kills not just yearning, but eventually appetite too.

Certainly the all-you-can-eat availability of music now has largely killed my appetite. For me, listening to new music now seems less about discovering a new sound/artist/song that might provide a new fresh thrill, than a search to find a link back to how music used to be perceived. Also, and yes this is a very old and tired argument, the cheapness, intangibility and sheer voluminousness of digital music makes its consumption low on pleasure. The limitation of physical formats - through physical space and budget limitations - makes them such a more pleasurable medium.

Another factor that makes listening to digital music a chore is the need to use a computer, particularly if I'm going through the full collection. After working on a computer all day the last place I want to be when not at work is on one. I know there are ways around this, through wireless Ipod apps and such, but again your tied to staring at an illuminated screen. I wonder how much discussion has been given to this aspect of digital music consumption, or are most people happy at the screens? Walking around this world and looking at the numbers of people on phones, tablets, laptops etc., certainly doesn't seem to be a problem for most people.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Motorik Futures

In refining the schtick for Pattern Repeat I listened to a lot of what could be termed ‘ambient motorik’, a not-quite-house-not-quite-ambient chugging music, zipping along an imaginary autobahn, at night of course, illuminated by neon blips and spacey bleeps, the synthetic rush providing a sensation of forward motion. Cast back to the likes of Neu!, Harmonia, Michael Rother et al and the original sense of the motorik, even Kraftwerk’s iconic Autobahn, and perhaps more so to the original NY Minimalists – Riley especially but early Glass too, repeated arpeggios evoking endless space and sense of movement. Add in the recent rediscovery of new age synths, the bucolic edges of low-fi industrial music, traces of synthetic Balearic disco, Patrick Cowley soundtracks … No shortage of early versions to explore.

In the present day there’s masses of stuff in this mould, too much perhaps, but also too much of quality to write off completely. Stretching from the new new age synth and guitar dudes of LA and beyond, of which there are very many, to the possibly kookier ends in Europe and elsewhere … Again, nothing really new here, and no need to lasso all this together aside from the fact that there is much fun to be had zinging across these sounds, stringing mixes together taking in these tangents. Here’s a few recent highlights:

From recent Opal Tapes collection (May 2014), Holvr’s “Space Weight” was a highlight and perfectly representative, acid for beanbags:

Postmodern Autobahn update:

Drifting into actual house rhythms but hardly dance music, everything Steve Moore does is smooth gold:

Getting more bucolic, Vermont is exemplary, and hopefully influential on future Pop Ambient collections:

Jurgen Muller - Science of the Sea – A homage/pastiche of an imaginary soundtrack to a 1970s Jacques Costeau figure, said to be the work of LA’s Norm Chambers…

… aka Panabrite, which his Sub Acquatic Meditations removes any doubt:

Much great stuff in this realm can be found on house and techno B-sides and album fillers, such as this:

… And the godfather of techno b-side motorik synthscapes:

And back further, this Michael Rother track is superb:

The net is wide but such beautiful music all this, and masses to explore.