Friday, December 29, 2006

They Did It Again!
I avoid the New Year festivities like the plague. But if I was going to go out...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Albums of the Year 2006
Last year's top ten was preceded by a short rant castigating those who bemoaned the state of music circa 2G5. I guess my general gist was that there was plenty of good music out there, you just had to look for it. I still feel the same way but I'm beginning to think a lot of the best stuff has such a marginal presence that it barely seems worth mentioning. In particular, the (non?)scene that I've been calling the New Electronic Underground appears to be making no impact whatsoever on the record-buying public.

None of the top ten actually comes from the NEU, which might be indicative of the fact that the "scene" hasn't really managed to throw up any fully classic works yet. Or it might be because I've started to feel that pushing this stuff on people is pointless because nobody's ever going to bother listening to it. For whatever reason, excellent albums by Guiseppe Ielasi, Sebastien Roux, Mountains, Tape and various others did not make the final cut.

Instead, the albums I've selected seem to conjur some ghosts from my past. We'll get to that right away...

Top Ten Albums of the Year
Biosphere - Dropsonde
A marvelous exercise in giving the people what they want. Dropsonde doesn't do anything to expand Biosphere's (admittedly rather dated) sound-world. On the contrary, it does exactly what you'd expect it to. Luckily it does so nigh-on perfectly.

So, yes, one of my favourite albums of the year is an ambient techno album built on jazzy drum loops and soothing synth pads. Snicker all you like but - while just about everything else this year sounded utterly sterile and pre-set - Dropsonde wove just enough error and imperfection into its highly accomplished mix to prevent triteness from ever setting in.

Burial - s/t
One of two albums on the Hyperdub label to make it into this year's top ten. Hyperdub is living proof that the willfully eclectic, unselfconsciously intelligent spirit of the 90s lives on in some quarters. As if to ram this point home, the label even put out a 12" by quintessential post-rock renaissance man Kevin Martin. And, while I'm not sure that the dubstep scene that spawned Hyperdub represents the future of music (or even the future of electronic dance music), it is - at the very least - keeping alive some of the more worthwhile ideals from the recent past.

None of this really adds to or detracts from the fact that Burial's self-titled debut is flat-out amazing from start to finish. Like Basic Channel trying their hand at drum'n'bass or :zoviet*france: having a stab at trip hop, this album is deep, dark and (yikes!) danceable. It actually reminds me of the Scritti Politti album discussed below, insofar as it makes a point of messing with cliches to surprisingly moving and occasionally hilarious effect.

Can't - New Secret
I can't claim to be very turned on by the post-Wolf Eyes noise underground that is so vigorously active right now. It's not the same-ness of the music that bothers me so much as the bozo-gonzo, semi-ironic machismo of it all. I've been told, for example, that if I like Pita, I'll love Prurient but I just can't get past that guy's S&M cover art.

It makes sense, in this context, that today's most interesting harsh noise artists should all be female. Can't aka Jessica Rylan is pretty much the queen of the scene right now, as far as my bleeding ears of concerned. New Secret is a genuinely uncanny picture disc cut with hesitant confessions mumbled through home-made synths and FX boxes. Mostly, it's just some distortion and yet nothing has ever sounded quite like this. Truly, a unique talent.

Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky
The most ambitious Current 93 album in years and one of the best ever, by my estimation. Black Ships Ate the Sky is so overwhelmingly powerful that I'm able to love in unconditionally in spite of myriad potentially off-putting factors. I mean, isn't apocalyptic Christianity best left to the odious Neocons and their ilk? Aren't guest-appearance-laden luvvie-darling fuckfests like this something to be avoided like the plague? Apparently not.

David Tibet's increasingly erm... complex vision thing is so searingly righteous and heartbreakingly humane that it eliminates doubt at 40 paces. Also, every single guest star on this album is performing his or her fucking heart out (Will Oldham never sounded more at home!) This is no flaky goth black-slapping session, this is LARGE SCALE.

Ekkehard Ehlers - A Life Without Fear
Clearly, I'm very bitter about how unfashionable anything related to the "glitch" craze of the late-90s has become (except, perhaps, certain elements of the minimal techno scene). Still, it really does mean that a lot of great stuff goes under even the smartest peoples' radars. Case in point, the fact that this album did not make it into K-Punk's recent discussion of "hauntological blues" (actually, I only skim-read this post, so maybe I missed a reference but I fuckin' doubt it). For what it's worth, the best glitch music is inherently hauntological and much of the blogsphere propaganda bigging up hauntology reads suspiciously like the articles folks were writing about glitch (not so far) back in the day.

A Life Without Fear is hautological glitch-blues of the first order and it's hard to believe that I was actually disappointed when I first heard it. Good thing I kept coming back to it. Ehlers has achieved something very special here - a genuinely uncanny almalgam of the organic and the electronic, epitomized by his habit of putting a laptop through two guitar amps when he plays live.

kode9 + the Spaceape - Memories of the Future
The other Hyperdub release to make it into this list. If the Biosphere album sounds like the 90s caught in amber, Memories of the Future sounds like the 90s just kept going. The sound is distinctly now (lots of parping VST synth presets and off kilter R'n'Beats) but the attitude is strictly 90s - intelligent, eclectic and pre-millennial.

You've got to admire kode9's poor work ethic, too. A substantial chunk of this album has already been issued on 10" singles over a not insignificant period of time. Apparently, kode9 is the only person who makes music at home on a computer who doesn't have a backlog of 10 billion unreleased tracks. Instead he has focus, which is probably why so many of these tunes hit their target dead on.

Razor X Productions - Killing Sounds
Hey and look who it is! It's "quintessential post-rock renaissance man" Kevin Martin. Boy, this top ten really is turning into an exercise in 90s nostalgia, isn't it? I suppose I'll have to explore this phenomenon at greater length in the future. For now, let's just consider the phenomenon that is Kevin Martin.

You might think that, seeing as he seems to have actually established some kind of audience for his music recently - K-Mart might have moved on a bit since his days languishing in obscurity as leader of God, Techno Animal, Ice etc. In fact, Martin's recent work - which usually pairs him with Jamaican dancehall vocalists - is every bit as skull-crushingly intense as anything he did as a pioneer of the early UK post-rock scene. This album collects a series of singles made with digi-dub producer The Rootsman and a whole host of gruff-voiced singers and deejays. It's killer.

Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
So much has been written about this album that I barely know where to begin. So much really great stuff has been written about it that I feel rather humbled. Let's just say, straight off the bat, that this is the album I listened to most in 2006. That may be because it was the year's best non-difficult/experimental album but I'm willing to stick my neck out and declare it Album of the Year full stop.

I mentioned before how I love the way Green plays with cliche on White Bread... To qualify this a bit, Green has spent 25 years exploring the language of popular song - tearing it open and prodding its guts - and has reched a stage where he commands complete control of this language. At this point in his career, there's simply no need for a trade off between knowing irony and helpless sincerity - they can coexist undiluted, each reinforcing the other's strengths. This is a state of affairs that is essentially impossible to achieve but it crops up again and again on White Bread... Which, I suppose, makes it impossibly good.

Raphael Toral - Space
While the New Electronic Underground has thus far failed to produce an epochal classic, some of the old guard of post-Oval abstract electronica have been doing their best work yet over the last couple of years. NEU-affiliated glitch veteran Stephan Mathieu made the top ten last year with The Sad Mac, an album that still floors me with its simple beauty every time I return to it.

This year with have the Ekkehard Ehlers album and this, which approximately does for jazz what A Life Without Fear does for the blues. Essentially, it sounds like In a Silent Way played by narcoleptic androids. It's the type of record that seems to slow my heart-rate and speed my brain function simultaneously, a distinctly uncanny feeling. Like much of this top ten, Space succeeds in doing this because it is so remorselessly serious and rigorous. The other-worldly beauty emerges almost in spite if itself. The more straightforwardly humanistic NEU acts could learn a thing or two from this.

Scott Walker - The Drift
The language of popular song has always maintained that the saddest thing in the whole wide world is to see your baby with another girl. Somewhere along the line Scott Walker realized that the saddest thing in the whole wide world if to see your family raped to death by the secret police. I know that' a pretty tasteless way to make a point but I honestly can't think of another way to account for The Drift.

Darkness in music has long been tied to adolescent male angst and power fantasies. This year saw some valiant attempts to tackle the truth about humanity's dark side with intelligence and rigour - A Life Without Fear is notable in this regard. The Drift has to be one of the most authentically dark records ever made, which makes it as compelling as it is challenging. This album isn't as unlistenable, as some would have you believe. The real problem is that it offers no resolution or comfort. So, it's not hard to listen to per se but it's hard to have listened to.

Top Three Re-issues of the Year
Oren Ambarchi - Grapes from the Estate
Originally released on CD by Touch and recently reissued as a Southern Lord double LP. Given its label pedigree (both companies are run by excellent graphic designers), Grapes from the Estate was always going to look great. Trust me when I say it sounds just as good as it looks.

Where Rafael Toral has abandoned dreamy guitar processing in favour of pure sine tones, Oren Ambarchi has reduced his guitar sound to pure sine tones, via copious amounts of processing. That's not to say that this album is as austere as Ambarchi's previous Southern Lord LP, Triste. In fact Grapes... is his most melodic and accessible work to date.

Coil - Black Antlers
Other than the Scritti Politti effort, the album I actually listened to the most this year was The Ape of Naples by Coil. Attentive readers will remember that Ape... was one of those albums that came out just too late for the 2005 list and just too early for the 2006 list. Really though, it's such a work of timeless magnificence that tying it to any particular year seems a little petty.

Black Antlers is great too. A rejigged and remastered version of a digital/CDR release, which was the only MP3 download I've ever actually paid for. Like Ape... it's a song-based album in the style of the Musick to Play in the Dark series. If you're a fan of the later Coil, then this is essential. If you're not, then I pity you.

Arthur Russell - Another Thought
While Another Thought is essentially a ragbag of demos originally released (by Phillip Glass!) shortly after Arthur Russell's death, it's actually his most accessible and coherent album. The recording is clear, the tunes are catchy and Arthur's singing and cello playing never sounded so instantly appealing.

It's not unearthly or unique like World of Echo but it's a great starting point for Russell neophytes and essential for fans. Great to see it back in print. My only concern is that there might not be any more of these albums waiting in the vaults.

Song of the Year
"Monkey and Bear" by Joanna Newsom
Seems like it would be stating the obvious to include Ys in my top ten albums. I hate all those lists that are the same as all those other lists. Still, there's no denying that it's an impressive piece of work. Sure, there's lots to dislike about Newsom's studied kookiness and her proggy pretentiousness. Luckily for her, you get a pass for that stuff if you're a genius.

That's right, I said "genius". And you can look no further than "Monkey and Bear" for proof. I can't think of many examples of narratives this coherently, meaningfully magical in popular song. The words are incredible and Joanna's delivery gives them absolute authority. What really gets this to the top of my personal pop chart, though, is Van Dyke Parks' utterly utterly bonkers orchestral arrangement.

Other Notable Releases
Current 93/Om - Inerrant Rays of Infallible Sun (Blackship Shrinebuilder)
Deathprod - s/t 10"
Chihei Hatakeyama - Minima Moralia
Guiseppe Ielasi - s/t
Loscil - Stases and Plume
Joanna Newsom - Ys
Mountains - Sewn
Om - Conference of the Birds
Donna Parker - Debutante
Rhythm and Sound - See Mi Yah Remixes
Arthur Russell - First Though, Best Thought and Springfield (reissues)
Sebastien Roux - Songs
Tape - Rideau
Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Richard Youngs - Advent (Reissue)

Lots of others that I can't remember. Suggestions in the comments box please.

Two New Mix CDs
Just let me know if you want one.

The Acid Folk Volume Three
John Renbourn - "Down on the Barge"
Shirley Collins - "Adieu to Old England"
Vashti Bunyan - "Where I Like to Stand"
Davy Graham - "Anji"
Bill Fay - "Warwick Town"
Bert Jansch - "I Have No Time"
The Watersons - "The Whitby Lad"
Fairport Convention - "Tale in Hard Time"
Fresh Maggots - "Rosemary Hill"
Anne Briggs - "Living by the Water"
Sandy Denny - "Late November"
Martin Carthy - "Lord Randall"
Steeleye Span - "Rougues in a Nation"
Trader Horne - "Morning Way"
Kevin Coyne - "Evil Island Home"
Trees - "Fool"
The Pentangle - "Cruel Sister"

Sam's Mix CD for Winter 2006/7
The Fall - "I'm Ronney the Oney"
Dangerdoom - "Crosshairs"
M. Sayyid - "M. Sayyid is the Future"
Roll Deep - "Graveyard"
kode9 + the spaceape - "Portal"
Thom Yorke - "Black Swan"
Scritti Politti - "Throw"
Arthur Russell - "Springfield (DFA Remix)"
Coil - "Sex with Sun Ra (Part Two)"
Scott Walker - "Darkness"
Greg Davis and Sebastien Roux - "I Never Met Her"
Ekkehard Ehlers - "Die Sorge Ghet Uber Den Fluss"
Oren Ambarchi - "Happy Ending"
Tim Hecker - "Stags, Aircraft, Kings and Secretaries"
Loscil - "Subaquatic"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holy Shit! Part Three: The Bellingham Electronic Arts Festival.
I wish I was going to this. Hell, I wish I was playing. Sadly, I only found out about it yesterday - which doesn't leave enough time to arrange a weekend trip south of the border. Still, I'm giving it my highest possible recommendation. The line-up is a veritable who's-who of the New Electronic Underground: bastien Roux (pictured); Greg Davis; Keith Fullerton Whitman; Chihei Hatakeyama etc. etc. etc. Apparently this is the festival's third year too!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Holy Shit! Part Two.
"Blindness" by The Fall on an SUV commercial???
Holy Shit! Part One.
It's not just a party... it's a rave. Kevin Martin! Apparently these people brought kode9 to Vancouver last year. Who knew?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Intermission Part Two Reminders.
1. The forthcoming connect_icut vinyl LP is now available for pre-order from here. If all goes well the album will be out at the beginning of March 2007. An extremely limited number of white label promo copies are available now. If you are a published journalist who seriously intends to review the LP, send your contact details to the usual address and I'll see what I can do.

2. If you're in town this weekend, come and hear me play at Blim on Saturday. More details here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

There will now be a short break while I work on my Top Ten of the Year post.

In the meantime, keep yourself entertained with
The Impostume's Jeru the Damaja video fest - apparently inspired by the rumour that Scritti are playing "Come Clean" live!

Those of you who were lucky enough to get Pugilistic Linguistics, my hip-hop in the 90s mix CD, will remember that it was named after the very apt first two words in Jeru's "Mental Stamina."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Okay... Okay...
...As Larry David would say.
I've asked this question before, I know, but: What Is Happening On Veronica Mars?

Let's review the facts. Not the obvious facts... obviously...

1. Last season was all "about" the social problems caused by economic polarization.

2. Figuring that out wouldn't have helped you to solve the mystery. No, no - the culprit's actions were caused by a different type of pathology altogether. I won't get more specific, in case you are yet to experience the joys of Season Two.

3. This season seems to be all "about" - for want of a less brazenly Post-Structuralist term - reterritorialization, specifically in regards to organizations. That is to say, an organization - say a university, a fraternity or a feminist group - might start out with noble, rebellious or subversive intentions but the great abstract force of The System will soon invade its logic and reduce its actions to empty gestures that only serve to reinforce the status quo.

4. Figuring this out won't help you solve the mystery. Presumably. Kris thinks that the Dean's wife (of all people!) dunnit. Don't ask me.

5. I haven't had any Veronica-related hate mail for a while. Apparently, I miss it.

Friday, October 27, 2006
Yes, the connect_icut website finally exists.

Just a few things things I should mention:

1. At the time of writing, the new line-up for the Novermber 18 show is strictly to-be-confirmed.

2. Yes, that's a dash between "connect" and "icut". Seems you can't put an underscore in a URL.

3. There's some pretty exciting news about
upcoming releases, including the LA (An Apology) vinyl LP, which should be coming out on my own label CSAF in early 2007. This will be extremely limited, so tell me now if you want to reserve a copy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rats Saw God.
So Kris is in a used book store, selling some unwanted stuff, when a young-adult paperback sitting on the shop's counter catches her eye. Why is that title familiar?

Of course, "Rats Saw God" is an episode title from season two of Veronica Mars. And the author of this paperback? Why, if it isn't Rob Thomas, the creator of a certain TV show about a girl detective with an attitude problem.

Here's a little sample from the book...

I left my post for a few minutes to pick up my sophomore schedule. Upon returning, I was surprised to see a fair-sized crowd of potential dadaists clustered around our booth. Doug was in the process of explaining dadaist doctrine to three girls.

"What's the point?" the shortest of the three said. I was sure I recognized her from somewhere but couldn't place her.

"Exactly!" Doug answered.

All of which rather begs the question: were there books like this when I was a teenager and, if so, why didn't anybody tell me?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I Liked It!
My main fear, on entering a screening of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette was that it would portray the pre-Revolutionary French upper class as glamorous and interesting. The moment Gang of Four's "Natural's Not In It" started blasting from the theatre soundsystem, I knew I had nothing to worry about.

Sofia's aristocrats are an unattractive bunch, for the most part: they're privilege cushioned by a smug sense of entitlement; they're indulgence desiccated by a regime of strict social ritual; they're senses eroded by years of petty sniping and gossip; they're minds numbed by the reassuring mundanity of the socioeconomic order;
reveling in the banality of their evil and the crapulance their of repulsive Anti-Glam.

Much like the contemporary ruling class, naturally. Of course, most of them can't be blamed, exactly. Like the rest of us, the truly privileged are generally just happy to play their little parts in perpetuating the status quo. They're just lucky to actually benefit from it more than we do, objectively speaking.

Anyway, into this unappealing milieu comes Marie Antoinette - a dreamer whose Pro-Glam can't be crushed by the machinations of The System. Clearly Sofia has more important things on her mind than historical accuracy.

The film
sounds great too, by the way: important dialogue is audaciously buried into the general ambient hubbub; pivotal scenes are soundtracked by new wave hits remixed by Kevin Shields(!)

What's remarkable is how un-pop it all is - in spite of the music and the punky graphics. It's more stylized than stylish; more thought provoking than thrill providing. It's brilliantly, subtly realized and the middle-brow film critics will never understand it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Advanced Warning
For those of you who live in Vancouver and love experimental electronica, we are proud to present...

robot army

Sat Nov 18th 2006
@ Blim
#197 – East 17th Ave. (@ Main St.) Vancouver

More details closer to the time. Lots more exciting connect_icut news to be announced in the coming months.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Oval - "Do While".
Can Carl Impostume find a copy of 94 Diskont for a quid?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Current Listening - A Short Photo-Essay, of Sorts. these...

...and this...
Samm Levine!
A somewhat underwhelming Veronica Mars last night BUT:

(i) Samm Levine! What next? Martin Starr?

(ii) I guess I was wrong about the Humourless Feminists. "I'm on your side!" says Veronica, not yet knowing how wrong she is.

A shame but also a reminder of perhaps the most disturbing idea at the heart of this show: that attempting anything
constructive within The System merely contributes to and perpetuates that system.

You're not on their side Veronica. Truly you are The Great Destroyer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Veronica Mars - Season Three
Starts tonight. I assume you wouldn't miss it for the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wild in the Aisles
So - seeing as a number of you have asked - I am rather enjoying my new job. Still, gotta admit that acclimatising to my new routine is rather sapping the old mental energy. Consequently, I'm going to predict that blog posts are going to be few and far between in the coming weeks - other than a forthcoming Not Me-related post (which will be deleted after a week). This serves as a pre-emptive apology.

The fact is that I haven't felt like doing much outside work other than playing with the cat and watching Veronica Mars DVDs. I didn't even make it to the Jan Jelinek show this weekend. I'll try to get back into the blogging business as soon as possible, though. Vain as it may be, this here forum is important to me and I don't intend to give up on it yet.

In the meantime, here's a list of current listening. I just went through a fairly astounding record buying binge – basically getting as much as I could while there was still a staff discount to soften the attendant financial blow. Add to that a few eBay purchases and the receipt of loadsa promos, downloads, CDRs etc. and you end up with a somewhat imposing “to-be-listened-to pile”. Here are some of the highlights of what I've heard so far.

King Sunny Ade - “Juju Music”
Classic afro-dub-rock mantras that go on and on and deeper and deeper.

Sandy Bull - “Fantasias”
John Fahey? Pah! Davy Graham? Lightweight! You haven't lived 'til you've heard Carmina Burana played on the banjo.

Esperik Glare - “Disruption of Meditative States”
Charlie's deep and dark forthcoming CD.

Jan Garbarek - “Paths, Prints”
New age jazz doesn't get much better than this. Hey! Where are you going?

Lim - “A Palling Hush Demos”
He of the forthcoming best-yet Not Me mix. Somebody sign that kid up!

Mountains - “Sewn”
Another hit from the New Electronic Underground.

Sebastien Roux - “Songs”
NEU in effect again! Not as instantly appealing as Pillow but ultimately more rewarding.

Tip of the iceburg, mate. Can't wait to see my credit card bill.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Dream is Over
Today is my last day as a professional record store nerd. I'm taking that long walk into the real world. A melancholy moment but a necessary one, all the same.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Two New Mix CDs
As usual, anyone who wants copies of these should drop me a line. I'm already planning volume three of the UK post-rock series, so anyone who could help me out with some of the (even) more obscure artists would win my eternal gratitude. Spoonfed Hybrid anyone?

Here are the tracklistings...

Sam's Mix CD for Autumn 2006
The Fall - "Job Search"
Roll Deep - "Boogeyman"
Kode 9 - "Backwards"
Burial - "U Hurt Me"
The Knife - "Silent Shout"
Thom Yorke - "Harrowdown Hill"
Piano Magic - "Incurable"
Scritti Politti - "Snow in Sun"
Luomo - "The Tease is Over"
Kate Bush - "How to be Invisible"
Coil - "Amber Rain"
Ekkehard Ehlers - "Nie Wieder Schnell Sagen"
Greg Davis - "Custom Made Mobile"
Six Organs of Admittance - "Wolves Pup"
Current 93 - "Black Ships Seen Last Year South of Heaven"

Lost in Fog: UK Post-Rock Volume Two
Papa Sprain - "See Sons Bring Some More Out Tomb We Enter"
Flying Saucer Attack - "Everywhere was Everything"
Bark Psychosis - "Blue"
Disco Inferno - "Sleight of Hand"
Moonshake - "City Poison"
The Third Eye Foundation - "What is it With You?"
Experimental Pop Band - "Universe"
Pram - "Cumulus"
Seefeel - "Plainsong"
Fridge - "Long Singing"
Techno Animal - "Flight of the Hermaphrodite"
Piano Magic- "I Came to Your Party Dressed as a Ghost"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Release Starsailor

My first exposure to Neil Young's album On the Beach came via a website called "Realease On the Beach". At this time, the album had yet to be re-issued as a CD - an oversight that provoked some lone Neil/internet nerd to post the entire tracklisting online as downloadable MP3s.

The fact that - to the best of my knowledge - no equivalent site exists for Tim Buckley's Starsailor is a shame, at best. In fact, it's a sin - not only is Starsailor currently unavailable on CD but it is also extortionately expensive to buy used as either a CD or an LP. This sorry state of affairs is particularly irksome bearing in mind the sporadic CD and LP re-issues of other Buckley albums that have come along in recent years.

So where is Starsailor? Buckley's great avant-rock masterwork? His best album? The one everyone wants, for goodness' sake? Where is it? Well here's my contribution to the cause - an incredible video of Sir Tim playing "Song to the Siren" on the Monkeys' TV show (of all things!)

For what it's worth, I currently consider this song to be the second greatest ever written - slightly behind Scott Walker's "Farmer in the City" and slightly ahead of Kate Bush's "Army Dreamers". So there.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

God I Love Scritti Politti
Just recently got White Bread Black Beer on Wax-As-I-Call-It and my sealed copy of Cupid and Psyche 85 just showed up in the mail ($2.99 on eBay). To celebrate, here's a short video of Green and his hired hands playing "Wood Beez" this year, in Japan.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On the Other Hand...
Carl reminds of the need to keep music evil in the coda of this post, basically a thorough character assassination of St Etienne. I certainly agree with the general anti-Popist, pro-imperfection sentiments here but I have a few problems with the specifics.

(i) Carl takes St Etienne to task for being, essentially, "politically-correct" pop. My guard always goes right up when someone plays the PC card. It almost always turns out to be some embittered right-winger, bashing an outdated academic trend in order to discredit anything politically to the left of Ghengis Khan. Which obviously isn't the case in this instance but...

While I can see what he's getting at, I can't help feeling that - in some sense - it's particularly inappropriate to describe Saint Etienne as PC. Political Correctness, to me, is inextricably linked to multiculturalism and St Etienne could hardly be more generically non-multicultural. Indeed, having an almost fascistic desire to bleed pop white is probably the worst charge one can level at St Etienne.

(ii) Carl also takes St Etienne to task for what he perceives as their bland childishness. Well, you know I'm a huge Jonathan Richman fan so...

I'd argue that most blandness in pop has far more to do with "adultness" than "childishness". Children are fascinating precisely because they are "imperfect " - unfinished, messy (both figuratively and literally)... It's this, as much as the supposed innocence and wonder of childhood, that J-Rich plugs into and it's this that gives him an edge on your run-of-the-mill twee pop. Whether St Etienne have this edge is open to debate.

(iii) I've always had a slight soft-spot for St Etienne. Have to admit, though, that this is mainly because I once interviewed them and they turned out to be shockingly friendly, considerate and not at all snooty. Have to agree with Carl that their music is largely quite unappealing but I'd just like to assure him that they are not twats.

Anyway, another great Impostume post that reminds us of the treasures to be found in the dollar bin. Carl's going to love my "UK Post-Rock Volume Two" mix CD (coming soon!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

More and More Again Soon
Very jealous that Woebot got to experience the Green Man festival. I've always wanted to go.

At least I can comfort myself that the Not Me project is going from strentgth to strength. You can stream a new version of the Value Village People mix from their new website.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What Am I To Do?
Carl's concept of Ascetic Bohemianism has led to a lot of introspection in my little corner of the blogsphere. (By the by, has anyone else thought of using the term AsBo as an acronym for this - hilarious if you read the English papers. ) My soul-searching/navel-gazing has led me back towards an old quandary: how do you reconcile a life of quiet self-improvement with a love of Dionysian, bonkers or downright unpleasant art?

Let's back-track to the early 90s, when I went through my major rap music obsession. I loved hip-hop passionately at that time and the music opened my mind to a lot of interesting, worthwhile lines of thought. Still, I always had to take rap music/hip-hop culture with more than a pinch of salt because I found so much of the content morally and politically objectionable.

I guess I only had so much salt to hand because, some time in the last few years, I started to find the whole shebang distinctly unpalatable. Nowadays, I hardly listen to any rap music at all and am honestly made queasy by overt displays of affiliation with hip-hop culture. The other day Kris forced me to watch an episode of MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen in which people kept describing things as being "off the chain" and yelling "let's get crunk!" It was sickening.

Anyhoo, just recently, I had a similar experience, albeit within a shorter time-frame. This time it was the industrial underground centering around Coil/Current 93/Nurse with Wound that got me open. Delving deep into this peculiar sub-scene led me into a treasure trove of entirely unique and extremely meaningful music. At the same time I was always a little put off by scene's rather adolescent obsession with sex, death and "magick". Once again, I find my figurative salt cellar running low. I've seen a couple of Myspace "favourite music" lists recently that place connect_icut alongside awful, awful Nazi/Satanists Death in June and Non. I've started to wonder what I've gotten myself into.

And yet and yet... Here's the catch, the central paradox, if you will: I realise now, that the elements I find most objectionable in hip-hop and industrial music are essential to the appeal of said genres - at least they are for me. That's why I prefer Black Moon to Black Star and Coil to Nurse with Wound.

I've always admired the way Nurse's Steven Stapleton scoffs at the more ludicrous excesses of his industrial peers. But, honestly, isn't it ludicrous excess that makes Current 93 and Coil so much more satisfying than NWW? It's the excess of imagination, sincerity and wonder what makes this music great. Likewise, its the terrifyingly cold and hard acceptance of late capitalist "reality" that makes the music of Mobb Deep and their ilk so compelling.

So where does that leave me? Sitting at home, listening to Jonathan Richman and wishing we could all be nice and reasonable - or, at least, wishing things could ever be that simple.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Not Me - A Call for Collaborators
I've been working on a new musical project, which I've given the loose working title of Not Me. It basically consists of five sets of four one-bar musical loops created in Reason. There's also a Max patch that I've made to sequence the loops into live mixes/songs.

So far I've come up with two rough mixes from each of the sets of loops. The mixes are broadly somewhere between Basic Channel/Rhythm and Sound-style dub-techno and the avant-dubstep of the Hyperdub label. Did I mention dub?

What I'm looking for now is musicians/vocalists to add there own contributions to the existing mixes and also musicians/producers to create their own mixes from the loops. Max hackers are also welcome to screw with the Max Patch.

I can provide whatever you need via Yousendit or the snail mail - loops, mixes, the Max patch... even the Reason files I made the loops with.

I'm not sure where this is all going, though my fantasy would be a series of 12" or 10" singles. Right now, I'm trying to keep it as open as possible. So, if you want to get involved, shoot me an email to the usual address.
Today is that most glorious of days.

Roxie is five.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I, Wyatter or My Fear of the Square World

Shortly after publishing this post, I decided that it was far too personal and revealing. Therefore, I have now censored it to remove any unsuitable language and conent.

I'm not to first person to point out that The Impostume is the best thing to hit the blosphere in quite a while, but I thought it was about time I gave it a big-up. This post, in particular, struck a chord with me. Carl's concept of "ascetic bohemianism" is XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX for this here XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX. Of course, it's hard not to declare oneself a XXXXXXXX (or indeed an XXXXXXX) without feeling like a XXXX, but what else is an XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX to do?

XX XXXXXXXXX, the XXX XXXXXXX XXX "XXXXXX" XXXXX XXX XXX "XXX" XXXXX is massive and seemingly XXXXXXXXXXXX. This is X XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX for me as I'm XXXXXXX XXXX-XXXX in a XXXXXX XXXXX while I XXXX XXX X XXX with - y'know - XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and stuff. I actually XXXXXX XXX XX X XXXXX XXXXXXXXX for a seemingly decent enough XXX XXXX XXXX because I couldn't XXX XXXXXX being able to deal with XXX XXXXXXX'X quarterly, compulsory XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX (this is almost entirely true!) So, it's XXXXXXXXXX to me when Carl says...

"it just needs a certain amount of hunkering down, taking a deep-breath, letting the shackles of opportunity rust right off you until, hey presto! you'’ve condemned yourself to the life you always really wanted"

But I've never really XXXX XXXXXXXXXXX with the idea of XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXX and XXXXX (or their contemporary equivalents) are about as XXXXX XX XX XX XXXXXXXXXXX and XXXs. More to the point, I've always XXXX XXXXXXXXX the fact that the only thing holding XXX XXXXXX and XXX XXXXXX together in some kind of XXXXX XXXXXXX is their shared XXXXX for XXXXXXX cheap XXXXXXX XX XXXXX, XXXXX and - gulp - XXXXXX XXX. So, again, I really feel XXXX X'XX XXXX XXXX when I read that someone has written...

"What we might be aiming for is a kind of systematic re-ordering of the senses within a culture that generally wants/needs us to be as maximally sensation-hungry as possible."

Two thumbs way up, mate. Keep up the good work.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Top Five Records of the Year So Far
Saelan's Mid-Year Round-up inspired me to create a list of my own. I thought it would be a pretty easy task but soon found that a lot of the records I've been listening to a lot this year actually came out last year - Coil's Black Antlers, Kate Bush's Aerial, Matt Elliott's Drinking Songs... More alarmingly, I found it hard to come up with ten new records from 2006 that I'd liked enough to buy. I abandoned the project for a while before realising that there were at least five records this year that I actually liked enough to consider potential future classics; five really important, meaningful and possibly epochal records.

Scott Walker - The Drift
Not his best record but quite possibly his definitive statement. The essence of all that is Scott boiled down to opaque black goo. Drink it all down. It's good for you.

Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
At first I was put-off by home computer-iness of the production - endless preset break loops and parping VST synths. But, perhaps for the first time in Scritti history, this album isn't about the sound - it's about the singer and his songs. In this sense, computer studio production is the acoustic singer-songwriter sound of our times - sonic shorthand for intimacy and confession. This is probably the only context in which Green would be able to make such an unusually personal album.

Ekkehard Ehlers - A Life Without Fear
Again, this was initially disappointing. I keep hoping that Ehlers will make another album as simple and blissed-out as Plays or Heroin. A Life Without Fear is a much more thorny proposition and - on repeated listens - all the better for it. That's not to say that there aren't passages of intensely lovely droning here. It's just that they're interspersed with all sorts of musical and conceptual about-faces and double-takes. A most welcome challenge to expectations.

Burial - Burial
As with a lot of the best music, you can spot all the neat reference points here without really being able to see how they ad up to the finished product. This is being proclaimed the first masterwork of dubstep and, as such, its obvious precendents are in the 'ardkore continuum - rave, jungle, UK garage, grime... But there's a whole other, wholly other, sonic strata revealing itself here. I detect the elegiac melodies of early (and recent) Aphex Twin, the faux-ethnic atmospheres of :zoviet*france: and the gritty digi-dub of Basic Channel. Whatever, the case, this is a unique, utterly compelling and genuinely mysterious album.

Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky
Once again, I initially found this rather off-putting (an odd pattern developing here - could be significant). I was very wary of the amount of guest appearances contained herein - the same thing that threw the last Antony album hopelessly off-kilter (naturally Antony appears on Black Ships...) Also, on actually hearing the album, I was shocked by how dark and complex it sounded. I'm a big fan of Current's ultra minimal, reflectively mature albums (Soft Black Stars, Sleep Has His House...) and was a little disappointed to hear Tibet et al revisiting the tortured, tortuous terrain of All the Pretty Little Horses, Thunder Perfect Mind etc... Fairly quickly, I came to realise two important things: (i) Tibet's use of guest stars is audacious and brilliant - each arranges and sings his or her own version of the same song, with the - almost universally fantastic - versions interspersed throughout the album; (ii) All the Pretty Little Horses is one of my favourite albums of all time and Thunder Perfect Mind ain't bad either. In fact, Black Ships... is an astonishing, devastating piece of work that ranks with the best of C93's output.