Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Those who've gone in 2006...

James Brown
Syd Barratt (Pink Floyd and solo)
Arthur Lee (Love)
Nancy Arlen (Mars)
Mariska Veres (Shocking Blue)
Grant McLennan (The Go-Betweens)
Sapurmurat Niyazov (thankfully)
Slobodan Milosevic
Saddam Hussain
Robert Altman (directed The Player)
Steve 'cripes she's a fiesty little sheila!' Irwin
Smallfish Records (above, or rather what's left of it)

Thinking about Brown, Barratt and Lee makes me realise just how old the 'golden generation' of 60's musicians venerated by Q, Rolling Stone, Mojo etc are now. The rock establishment, in other words, which the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is based around, and which is on Uncut magazine every other issue. I mean, McCartney and Dylan must be, what, mid-60's? Without wishing to sound morbid, they're not gonna keep on going forever. Unless you're name happens to be Keith Richards, of course.
Locally, the closure of Smallfish Records' shop (they're still operating online) was especially depressing. Maybe it wasn't the cheapest in the world (compared to Sister Ray, anyway), but it was a fantastic, one-of-a-kind shop - and, importantly, it had a great cafe in the basement with live electronic sets. What other record shop has got that? Apparently, it closed down because the landlord of that whole block decided to raise the rents extortionately. And what has replaced Smallfish Records since it closed down? Absolutely nothing. What a waste. No doubt there will be something sooner or later - either a Wetherspoons or Starbucks. So one more nail in the coffin for any individuality that Old Street's kept left...no doubt The Foundry in next.
Also music related was the closing down of CBGB's; it's reincarnation in Las Vegas, is proof that rock n roll has truly become postmodern. It had a weird museum attached to it before it closed down anyway, if I remember rightly. What would Baudrillard have made of that?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Well, All Tomorrow's Parties was a blast, if pretty stressful. Three days at Butlin's holiday camp (see original post below) checking out some pretty weird and wonderful acts.

Sadly, I missed those aforementioned greats Ashtray Navigations, 16 Bitch Pile-Up, and MV/EE + The Bummer Road. Perhaps I was busy playing crazy golf or go-carting. Jackie-O Motherfucker cancelled too, dissapointingly. Perhaps they got lost trying to find the place.

Highlights: David Tibet with Nurse With Wound (first act on of the weekend!) screeching "I'LL SEE YOU ON THE DEAD SIDE OF THE MOON!" (and seriously freaking out the bar staff); Islaja; Charalambides; watching My Cat Is An Alien with my eyes closed, feeling dazed. Iggy & The Stooges (well, obviously). J Mascis' monstrously loud distortion pedal in Dinosaur Jr.'s set. The look on the bouncers' faces during the heavy weirdo double-bill of No-Neck Blues Band and Sunburned Hand of the Man (no, this isn't Freddie Starr onstage), in which members of said bands blue bubbles at the audience while wearing pink wigs, and ran around with an empty crate of Stella Artois bottles on their head. The same during the Dead C's hour-plus maelstrom of howling feedback and pummeling bass. The looks at the hot-dog stall outside the Reds stage as Prurient played punishing screeching power electronics. Double Leopards. Watching an hour-long live concert of John Fahey on ATP TV. Watching a gig by Hair Police, also on ATP TV, in which they trashed a venue and attacked the audience. The first half of Magic Markers' set. Gang of Four's singer and guitarist tripping over each other by accident onstage. Being involved in a surreal discussion about 9/11 with Blood Stereo's creepy gutteral noises as a soundtrack.

Lowlights: Wooden Wand. Missing most of Richard Young's set (would have been interesting). Not being able to get into the MC5 at all due to bad organisation. The excruciating Catherine Brelliat film on ATP TV on Sunday night. The queue to get in for Sonic Youth (even though they played twice). The toilets, quite a bit of the time. Food, and the price thereof. Drunken idiots in the queues to get into the gigs (not that I was sober, I guess). The idiot who came up to me at the 'jazz skronk' stage (as the Reds stage was nicknamed) during an excruciating (but kinda cool at the same time) set by Corsano/Flaherty/Spencer Yeh and leered into my face drunkenly -with extremely bad breath- and sneered unplesantly. Said person then went on to the next bloke. It turns out that this was part of a 'trangressive', 'daring' art project filmed by some nobs with a camera, to see the reaction of people. And they decided to do it at a safe, mainly left-thinking, mainly white festival like ATP rather than on the streets of Peckham, obviously, because they're just so, like, transgressing the boundaries of what's acceptable. Sitting in the coach on the way back tearing through winding country roads while suffering from a hangover.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the event by those folks at Ecstatic Peace.

Bring on the next couple of ATP's!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Some great pieces in the last few months by K-Punk and Simon Reynolds – the latter in November’s issue of The Wire - that talks about the Ghost Box label as part of his Haunted Audio article, revisiting the future from a perspective of the past (K-Punk's got stuff about it here [scroll down a bit] and Blissblog / Simon Reynolds here and here). The ghosts of ‘haunted sounds’ are a legacy of people like the BBC Radiophonic workshop, who soundtracked Doctor Who and other futuristic sonic detritus on British TV, and whose aesthetic has been revisited recently from the space-age pop of Broadcast and Stereolab. Other early precursors can be found in the early electronic stuff like the Silver Apples and The White Noise (Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonics stuff, plus others), the 2001 film, and countless other haunted sounds where there’s a vision of the future rooted very much in the period stretching from 63-83 or so. I missed this similar-minded night at the Purcell Room on the South Bank because of doing a gig but it looked pretty wild:

Concurrently to Reynold’s article is a hilarious but brilliant post here by K-Punk (this man really should have a column in The Guardian) about the fetishism of autoeroticism in Ballard’s Crash. It reminds me of that interesting period in the late 70’s and early 80’s when you had dark cyber-punk classics such as The Normal’s Warm Leatherette, Throbbing Gristle’s sardonic ‘United’ single, and A Clockwork Orange. Ballard’s book chronicled a group of dejected 30-somethings who find themselves aroused and liberated by having sex while crashing cars. The human scars end up being attempted replicas of what happens to their automobiles – the subject matter of Warm Leatherette, with the automobile couples bleeding into one with the car (there’s many metaphors like this in the book, in which man and machine become one).

Vaughan’s messianic, deranged personality kind of reflected some of the titillating themes of post-punk at that time, such as the obsession with dominance – just check out this amusing footage of Genesis P-Orridge live with TG onstage.

It’s funny that Gang of Four seems to have become seen as the archetypal post-punk band now, as I’ve always thought that Joy Division and something like ‘Warm Leatherette’ captured post-punk more. This era is kind of summed up in this fantastic bit in Simon Reynold’s book:

“And yet, as colour-depleted and crumbling as these now post-industrial cities were, it was possible – perhaps essential – to aestheticize their panoramas of decay. The post-punk groups found two writers especially inspiring in this regard. Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, set in a near-future Britain, features roving gangs of marauding youths midway between skinheads and punks, vicious dandies who live for gratuitous ultraviolence. Both the book and the 1970 Stanley Kubrick film version capture the desolate psychogeography of the new Britain created by the ‘visionary’ town planners and fashionably Brutalist architects of the 1960s – all high-rise blocks, shadowy underpasses, concrete pedestrian bridges and walkways. This same traumatized landscape served as the backdrop – but also, in a sense, the main character – in J.G. Ballard’s classic seventies triology of Crash, Concrete Island and High-Rise. Likewise, Ballard’s earlier short stories and cataclysm novels obsessively conjure an eerie, inhuman beauty from vistas of dereliction – abandoned airfields, disused weapons ranges, drained reservoirs, abandoned cities.”

The above might sound a bit pretentious, but I can kind of see where he’s coming from. The ‘60’s utopian experiment gone wrong’ of places like Elephant & Castle (and Southgate’s futuristic tube station, above, which looks like something from Doctor Who) is kind of an example of this, with E&C’s endless underpasses and concrete walkways surrounding the strange clearing that the roads surround, with its bleak, expressionless building (is it some kind of miniature power station?). It can be a really eerie place sometimes. Soon it will be gone, of course, with the new million-dollar plans for the area…it’s this kind of dystopian feel that Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, and PIL kind of captured a bit more than Gang of Four, and in the way that they used primitive synths or tape machines alongside conventional instruments. In a lot of ways, Throbbing Gristle were just as much a post-punk band – even though the guitar was barely recognisable – as GOF. I finally got to see GOF live up in Glasgow at the Indian Summer festival this summer, and I thought they had more in common with heavy punk stuff than post-punk in a way, but others would obviously disagree. It seemed kind of weird watching them doing these anti-capitalist critiques while at the same time well aware that they’ve all got comfortable media jobs, well entrenched in corporate life (there’s a link somewhere on Simon Reynold’s to some blog post where it exposes all the jobs they’ve got – apart from the guitarist that is, who’se apparently a total alcoholic). In any case, Shellac and the Liars are more post-punk than Bloc Party will ever be.

K-Punk’s blog gets even more weirder, with a strange four-way blog discussion about pornography, involving Infinite Thought, The Measures Taken (another blogger interested in dystopian landscapes), Bacterialgrl, and Different Maps And Poetix, whoever these people are (doesn't anyone go under their own name anymore?). What that Ballard book brilliantly picks up on is the way that porn is overlapping with consumerism and the mainstream; you only have to look at many r ‘n’ b videos to see what he means. Or the works of NYC ‘cinema of trangression’ director Richard Kern.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

After one of my previous posts about the unique band Mars, a 'No Wave' band based in NYC's lower-east side, it was sad to see that another member of the band has recently passed away - drummer Nancy Arlen. RIP.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Great Independent front covers of our time (II)

Just in case there was any confusion as to why the Democrats have been so popular in the U.S. mid-term elections...well, thank you for clearing that up, The Independent

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Getting well excited at attending All Tomorrow's Parties for the first time. In just over a months time, I will be watching Iggy & The Stooges, Sonic Youth, Gang of Four, Jackie O-Motherfucker, Bardo Pond, Melvins, Deerhoof, Wolf Eyes, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and 50 other bands or so (it must be literally that much - just look how many bands have been confirmed in the line-up). Given that it's Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore curating the festival - ie choosing all the bands - you can expect that most of these bands aren't exactly going to sound like Hard-Fi (or Razorshite). Good, if you're inclined to sometimes like difficult music (which I do - most of the time, anyway). Obviously it'll be a little difficult to see every one of those 50 bands on the bill. In fact, it will actually be impossible, as my understanding is bands will be performing in different rooms simultaneously. Well, obviously the same band won't be performing simulatenously in two rooms, as that would require teleportation. Anyway, Moore sadly won't be playing with To Live And Shave In L.A. (you haven't heard of them? Shame on you), of which he is a sometime member. Still, it should be an experience - especially as it's at Butlins. Yes, Butlins - a veritable British institution on the English coast, the holiday camp that bored families take their whining kids. Watching Ashtray Navigations (whoever the fuck they may be) performing their "psychedelic noise project" and 16 Bitch Pile Up - who probably don't sound like a fey, jangly C86 band judging from their name - or MV/EE + The Bummer Road together with their dog Zuma doing some serious drone action in Butlins is going to be a truly surreal experience...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'll be performing on Thursday 30th November 2006 at The Wilmington near Angel tube station, on around 8 to 8:30pm, with Archslider. Click here for details on address, etc. The night has four other bands and a flyer can be found here, at the bottom of the page. Apparently it's £6 without a flyer, £5 with.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

North Korea's statement in response to unilateral UN sanctions after their nuclear tests is pretty downright scary, particularly this bit:

We will fulfil our duty to denuclearize the Korean peninsula as we have already declared, but if anyone tries to infringe on our
sovereignty and our right to existence, even a bit, under the signboard of the UN Security Council resolution, we will unsparingly launch a merciless strike. We will watch out for any move by the United States, and will take appropriate measures accordingly.

What constitutes infringing on their sovereignty just "even a bit"? Taunting Kim Jong-il from across the river in full view of the guards on the border between China and N.Korea? Actually, it'd be difficult for the guards to see you as they'll be in darkness, judging from this article.

Indeed, while Kim Jong-il parties away with his cognac, and bottles of wine that cost more than what a North Korean worker makes in a year, his country only has a couple of hours of electricity a day. The contrasts from space with South Korea and Japan are pretty telling when you look at this composite picture of the Earth at night from space, as well as the close-up image above.

More on the practice of 'Wyatting'...

From K-Punk's blog in the July archives - this is a heavy one, and involves some serious class analysis!


I think we can gain another insight the big Other from ‘Wyatting’. I remain deeply ambivalent about the phenomenon, but I’m more sympathetic to the motives of some of those involved after reading Carl Neville’s account of participating in it. Carl’s attack on ‘that horribly sentimentalized middle class viewpoint that its horrendous to sneer at "normal" people and disrupt their "normal" perfectly harmless Friday nights out etc,’ gets to the heart of what is wrong with Popism and its academic twin, Cult Studs. There’s an awful poignancy to Carl’s description of he and his fellow Wyatters’

love/hate relationship with the class that we were always estranged from but for which none the less we continue to nurture a kind of angry hope..we are appallingly conflicted ourselves.. there is for us a particular heightened poignancy in, for example, putting on card-carrying-Commie Robert Wyatt's exquisite version of "Red Flag" in a pub full of pissed-up Proles and watching them pull faces and shout to have it turned off... a particularly bitter amusement, compounded of many emotions...

The question Carl poses at the end - ‘how do you Wyatt a bar full of Resonance FM listeners.... a bar full of super eclectic, super ironic Fashionistas (I'm guessing M-People's " Elegant Slumming", is pretty much the key.)’ – makes it clear that what constitutes Noise is structural position rather than any inherent features of the sound itself. Wyatting can be seen as one response to the impasse that Simon described in his piece on Noise in Blissed Out: without a big Other who can be annoyed and scandalized, Noise loses it cache.

The fact that the site for Wyatting is pubs is also revelatory, especially in a week in which Top of the Pops is finally limping to its inglorious end. Part of the thrill we got from performances by the likes of Japan and the Associates on Top of the Pops came from the fact that they we knew they were being broadcast into so-called ‘normal’ living rooms. The ‘normal’ context of the show itself - the hopelessly out-of-touch pre-Yoof Radio 1 presenters and the mediocrity of the surrounding bands - added to the intensity. But those bizarre incongruities were features of Old Media broadcasting, elminated by the proliferation of niche marketed narrowcast digital channels. The only site you will be able to reach anything like a general audience now is, indeed, pubs, so it is here that digitial hyper-choice can come into tension with ‘normality’. It is difficult, though, to see that tension generating anything but pointless rancour and/ or bemused incomprehension. British people will defend, sometimes literally to the death, their absolute right to reality-confirming convalescent oblivion. The game was up when breweries managed to successfully market pubs as anything other than places in which the defeated and the dejected - old men and (pre-Cool) Coronation Street characters - shuffled off into the sidings of life. The Rover's Return: Britain's popcultural answer to Waiting for Godot: a confirmation that 'no-one moves', that any attempt to escape ends up in the same drab familiarity. Pubs, like universities, are unredeemable; nothing can ever happen in them. That is what they are for: to suck everything into a black hole of vegetative inertia…


I guess there's an underlying theme of nostalgia here for the days of Top of the Pops at 7pm, and when there was no internet radio or cable to offer dazzling choice. In other words, it was a kind of 'special' moment when your favourite indie band appeared on TOTP/The Tube/The Old Grey Whistle Test, or when John Peel played Half Man Half Biscuit, etc because it was like a rare gateway into a more exciting universe of left-field music before the program just put on some bland tosh again (which would have been dreadful power-pop in the mid 80's - Deacon Blue, Wet Wet Wet, Level 42, that sort of thing). Whereas now, you can just go on YouTube and get footage of the band you want straight away, or buy a DVD of the band's performances. Music has become decentralised.

Merzbow photograph courtesy of Under City Lights

Wolf Eyes interview up

Writing that article made me think about the whole 'noise' scene and how Simon Reynolds exposes in the book Rip It Up and Start Again just how dodgy the politics of some of those bands were - Whitehouse, in particular, were practically a parody of fascism. In The Wire, free-jazz drummer Chris Corsano makes the point that Whitehouse live were so OTT that it's 'supercamp', as he puts it, with two blokes in their 40s onstage shouting lyrics about various sadists and mass murderers throughout history. Nonetheless, as a spectacle, the sheer sonic assault of Whitehouse live when I saw them took some beating.

Goying beyond the confrontational approach of some of its acts, noise remains a fascinating genre, with's its incredibly prolific releases (Merzbow (above) has released something like 350 albums, including the legendary one that came soldered into a car's ignition) and uncompromising stance. Stubbornly avant-garade, noise remains the genre most untainted by commercial success, and has a kind of purity about it as a result (though some would translate it as elitism), both in aesthetics and in the visceral drone of the music. No-one becomes a noise artist with even the slightest hope that they might actually make some money.

Following on from this, Reynolds has also mentioned in his blog about the practice of hip music fans christened 'Wyatting', which basically involves going into a pub with a fiver and putting on deliberately the most unlistenable music on the jukebox all night, thereby rendering the chav's attempts at chatting up members of the opposite sex nullified by the fact that it will be to a soundtrack of punishing industrial power electronics white noise.

Amazingly, it's been picked up by The Guardian, who've provided a succint explanation of the act here. But Reynolds' blog below is far more entertaining.

From Simon Reynolds blog 2006-01-06

There’s A Wyatt Going On

Further to the Thursday Afternoon prankster story, two correspondents write to tell me how this is becoming a burgeoning cruel sport among hipsters--square-baiting-- or perhaps, in a more charitable reading, a desperate intifada-like resistance to the tyranny of Pop and/or Indie Middlebrow...

A Guy Called Danny says he did “this exact same thing (right down to using Thursday Afternoon as the polite nuisance) in a bar in Brighton mostly frequented by metalheads about a year ago. Those "infinite jukebox" thingies are an unlimited source of fun: Another favourite trick was to go to a fashionable indie pose-pub and cue up all four sides of Metal Machine Music, then watch as the customers' carefully cultivated cool slowly crumbled. How we smirked! Looking back, it probably wasn't worth the four quid I had to put in the jukebox, though.”

while Carl Neville says “this particular use/abuse of pub Jukeboxes is something of a ritual now, at least it is for me and a couple of mates.. . there's a bar in Ramsgate... with one of these massive database jukeboxes installed, and once a month when i visit family and friends we go " Wyatting" (the cowardly white muso boys anonymous attempt at provocation and civil disobedience, term coined after our inital experiment with playing the whole of Dondestan one Friday evening, to general be/amusement). Now we like to get down there nice and early with twenty quid each, get a good four or five hours worth of Dark Magus and On the Corner or the complete works of The Mahavishnu Orchestra on, nicely topped off with a bit of Neubauten or Coil, maybe a smattering of "Frankie Teardrop", a soupcon of Merzbow and a pinch of No Pussyfooting as the locals try to go through the ritual Friday night lad/laddette motions to a soundtrack of nails down blackboard feedback and thirty two minute Evan Parker clarinet solos. Naturally you have to try to look like as if your not enjoying it much either, even complain vociferously if required....though thus far no one has ever demanded its turned off.. which maybe an interesting brit/yank diifference.. they just tend to complain to each other and get on with the business of suffering through ( ahhh, the stoical, masochistic, stiff upper lip Brit!) any number of auditory abominations.....naturally the more inappropriate the pub the greater the delight in "Wyatting".. we've enjoyed it so much down on the coast i'm thinking of exporting the practice to London ( no doubt I'm well behind the times and there are already embattled enclaves of "Urban(e) Wyatters" doing the rounds here, i've just yet to hook up with them) perhaps blissblog could help to promote this childish, futile, but finally hilarious practice (death of the political and all that, eh?) by forming a "Wyatt Squad" in New York and generally helping to boost its profile on an international scale...

“It’s already becoming a competitive sport!."I Wyatted the Wifebeater's Arms in Castleford with three solid hours of Diamanda Galas last Friday, mate what you been up to.. oh yeah, Pauline Oliviros???.....Cambridge....??? is that the best you can manage?"I guess the music biz and the pubs that have installed them have no idea what a demographic busting, commercially suicidal innovation this one is... it only takes twenty or so commited, strategically deployed Whitehouse fans to bring entire national chains crumbling to the ground... endless loops of "shitfun" and " I'm coming up your ass" of a sunday morning as the punters tuck into the pub lunch..... and so Kapital sows the seeds of its own destruction through hammy Eighties PowerElectronics... fancy twenty five minutes of Sutcliffe Jugend with that Full English love?... two pints of Stella, a pickled egg and could you turn the Smell and Quim track down a bit mate, its given one of the kids a nosebleed....just wait till the video version o f this jukebox becomes available, no doubt in conjuction with youtube.. come that glorious day comrade it's gonna be wall to wall live G.G. Allin footage down Laurence Llewelyn Bowen's poxy Inc bar, i'll tell you that much... !"

Pockets of resistance inside the City of Music, using the technology against itself--a design flaw in the machines unspotted by the manufacturers? Or just the Wire-reader/ Resonance FM-listener as audio-bully?


Now that you have 'internet jukeboxes' theoretically you could have any track that's ever been released at your fingertips, but surely it's only a smattering of pubs that have these new-fangled things set up? I mean, the majority of pubs patently have 'traditional' jukeboxes which most certainly don't have Whitehouse or Merzbow or Dimanda Gallas (never mind if it's in Margate), surely? You'd have to be a pretty clued-up (or loony) pub owner. The closest I can think of is T
he Strongrooms in Shoreditch, which has My Bloody Valentine's Loveless or Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - the latter of which had the 17-minute free-jazz freakout of Cop Shoot Cop, which I was sorely tempted to put on. But come on, 32 minute Evan Parker clarinet solos or Swans' Public Castration is a Good Idea, or Foetus' Scraping a Foetus Off a Wheel? No pub with a traditional jukebox is going to have that.
Reynolds has also managed to find other stuff about Wyatting here.

Following on from my earlier post about the probe to Pluto, it now emerges that Pluto may not actually be a planet anymore. The debate is getting serious, with exciting - well, sort of exciting, anyway - news emerging of punch-ups among experts at the International Astronomical Union's conference in Prague. This bit made me laugh:

Stern said like-minded astronomers had begun a petition to get Pluto reinstated. Car bumper stickers compelling motorists to "Honk if Pluto is still a planet" have gone on sale over the internet

Strange to think that a lump of rock millions of miles away in space is causing consternation among grown professionals. In the next hundred years, there will no doubt be endless discoveries of planets such as 2003UB313 in our solar system, which are actually bigger than Pluto. What are the school text books going to look like then?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This New Scientist front cover from a couple of months back takes some beating. Cripes, as Steve Irwin once said when he was still alive. Puts things into perspective when watching X-Factor, anyway.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I have been joined in the world of blogging by none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose set up his own website-cum-blog. In a country that has serious restrictions and censorship when it comes to cyberspace, Ahmadinejad has shown that he's keeping up with the modern times.

His site is in four languages - English, French, Farsi and Arabic, with English denoted by a rather bizarre hybrid flag that combines the stars of stripes with the cross of England (whither the Union Jack these days? Perhaps he has inexplicable greivances against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - not that the Wales flag is in the Union Jack of course, but I digress). There's also a frankly scary poll in which we are asked to vote on: "Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?" It's nice to know that Ahmadinejad wants to ponder these questions with us. Maybe there will be one next where we can vote as to whether North Korea really wanted to bomb Alaska.
While not busy threatening Israel with scary remarks about Zionism, the President has decided to share this thought with us:

I had to start working in a shop- that made certain parts for cooling system of buildings- to make some money to cover a portion of my family’s expenses and also my educational costs. Even though I was very playful those days, but was aware of my school & education. I was a distinguished student.

Apart from the bad grammar, you have to wonder what he means by "I was very playful". Woah, was Mahmoud a bit of a hell-raiser? Things get more surreal with this:

Although these terrorist groups are still under the protection and shameful support of Great Satan USA, however, the slap that these groups have received from the brave nation of Iran will never be forgotten by them.

Yeah, they got a slap on the bottom. Great Satan USA sounds like an awesome title for a psychedelic rock song, by the way. A bit like Rocket USA by Suicide but, erm, not. Maybe Ahmadinejad is a fan of Suicide's classic first, self-titled album. Then again, maybe not.

I will continue this topic later on as it took long in the beginning. From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler. With hope in God, I intend to wholeheartedly complete my talk in future with allotted fifteen minutes.

Why fifteen minutes, exactly? Anyway, we've been promised some future gems while he's off. His blog will no doubt get 5 billion more hits than mine, and is in four languages. But in every other way, mine is better. I wonder if I should post my blog address at the bottom of his webpage? It can only be a matter of time now before his mate, dear old Kim Jong-il of North Korea, does a blog about his favourite films in his vast DVD collection (he has reportedly the biggest hi-fi/stereo system in the world). There must be a lot of porn in there, I reckon. After that, keep your eyes peeled for Robert Mugabe's imminent appearance on Myspace.

Went to the above, rather strange warehouse party, in which Shoreditch in excelsis promoter Sean McLusky has attempted a rather bizzare 'new craze' at the moment (or maybe it's just syle magazines talking bollocks) of revisiting early 90's rave and rave-rock with bands like the Klaxons...this was nothing like those cheesy 'Ibiza 89 classic hardcore revisited' type nights full of Essex boys with ponytails though, as the audience was your typical Brick Lane trendy fashionista people. The world is truly becoming a surreal place when the 'indie' scene - or at least the trendy, Trash-visiting indie/electroclash/post-punk etc. crowd - starts venerating something that it was traditionally always diametrically opposed to fifteen years ago. I used to go to raves in the 90's, in both squat parties and in warehouses, and a weird sense of deja vu from the first time around pervaded. Yet at the same time it felt like a weird simulacrum, for while it felt like a proper early 90's squat rave - replete with endless graffiti, some goon with glo-sticks, glow-in-the-dark clothes, and pilled up people in the chill out areas away from the music - the fact that it's more than ten years on from all that led to a surreal atmosphere. I seem to remember them playing classic tracks by Phuture ('Acid Trax', maybe?) and others.
It's another example of how music seems to go in cycles and repeats itself, just as post-punk rehashed the late 70's/early 80's and electroclash the mid 80's - but also of our endless diet for nostalgia, that's ever-present in people's obsessions with Star Wars, The A-Team, and all those sodding remakes being made in Hollywood at the moment.
So is the next step to rehash the early 90's rave scene, even within the 'indie' circles (whatever 'indie' is these days)? I've heard that the Klaxons latest single has been a regular at indie clubs lately (you know you're getting old when you only hear about the new de rigeur tracks being played at indie clubs rather than actually being there).
That means that chronologically the next movement could eventually gravitate towards a dreadful version of Britpop, ten years on....God, what a horrible thought, and that's when I'll feel really old...in mitigation, maybe they'll rediscover that period around '93 that had a whole load of interesting bands (Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Bark Psychosis, Flying Saucer Attack, Seefel, and the tail end of shogazing).

Great Independent front covers of our time (I)

It struck me on the 10th August walking to work that all was not it seemed - the traffic and pedestrians walking down the street were there as usual, but there was an eerie, distinct silence too. Then I realised - the constant noise emanating from planes flying past every hour of the day wasn't there for once. I've become so used to the sound that it seems almost like an anomaly not to hear the familar roar of those jets.... Perhaps the front cover of the Independent captured the despondent, neurotic mood of the nation best after the suspected plot to blow up passenger planes, which led to mass cancellations at UK airports.

If this continual threat of terrorism continues, it's not long off before those ID cards discussed by the Government are made compulsory - a depressing thought indeed, and one that would stoke an Orwellian, paranoid state. In a sense, even though the plot was foiled, the terrorists will have won if it gets to that point...how did it get to this?

I've just had a horrible moment of clarity.
There I was following this exciting - well, exciting to geeky space-following nerds, anyway - probe mission to Pluto and the Kuiper belt, in which it will orbit the far corners of our solar system for the first ever time. It will encircle mysterious Pluto and it's moon Charon. and then on to negotiate huge rocks orbiting the Sun from way out in a 'belt' which marks the edge of our solar system (well, sort of anyway). But then I realised with a horrible dawning that I will be 37 when it 'arrives' there....Christ, what a thought...I feel like I was only about 23 yesterday. Well, obviously I wasn't, and objectively I'm talking crap, but you know what I mean, etc. Reading about space exploration always has a way of making you feel really old...
Edit: apparently, Pluto and Charon and in fact a double planet set rather than one planet and it's moon...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mighty Kim has a heart after all. Do you reckon she actually geniunely loves him? Or could it be something to do with his elevated position? Then again, if you're a North Korean female and Kim Jong-il offers his hand in marriage, I suppose you're not really going to say no...the funniest bit though is when it mentions that Pyongyang has a "University of Music and Dance". It's fair to say that Acid Mothers Temple won't be making a trip across the Sea of Japan any time soon to do a gig there...

Went to Brick Lane today and checked out the market for a bit before tracking back to Mare Street to investigate a 'happening' at Las Vegas Tattoo's. There was various art exhibitions and interesting characters providing fake tatoos (I had one). You could, of course, have a real tattoo if you so wanted to...I'd love to think it would make me look hard, but I'd probably just end up looking like a Shoreditch twat.

Anyway, there's no getting away from it - is Brick Lane going to become the new Notting Hill? I can't really say I'm too happy about the new Monica Ali film shot on location, but not because it'll make the area touristy - as if it's not already anyway. Nor am I one of those stuck up twats - most of them originally from the posh part of the Home Counties* - bemoaning camera-weilding tourists from Germany, France or Brazil or wherever, as if these twats have some precious right to Brick Lane that's being eroded by those inconsiderate types abroad (a typical example was some posh bint working on one of the stores, who stuck her nose up to everyone).

No, I'm just annoyed because it means that prices will go up and up after the film and anyone on a relatively low income, or anyone with an 'artistic' lifestyle who isn't bringing tons of money, will be priced out of the area. It'll become like vast swathes of West London, in other words, but just as with there you will still have the council estates with the dire poverty. So the polirisation between the rich and the poor will become exacerbated, just as with Rotting Hill...although I live in Bethnal Green near the end where it meets Cambridge Heath Road rather than Brick Lane, or further to Shoreditch High Street, I can imagine this trend spreading....

* highly unscientific random guess

Interesting profile of Jim Kong-il here in The Observer....and a less amusing one here too. He's now warning South Korea and Japan of 'dire consequences' if they start squaring up to his country. Scary...

So no more Top Of The Pops, eh? It has finally been axed. I haven't watched it in years, of course, like most people I imagine, but still....TOTP is embedded in the memories of most music fans from when they were growing up eagerly waiting for that 7 o'clock show, and it certainly brings back memories for me. Only the most die-hard cynic would say that in it's golden period it wasn't an important milestone in exposing music on mainstream TV. All we've got left now on terrestial TV is fucking Jools Holland and his mate KT Tunstall. Respect to The Fall for making him sign a contract stating that he couldn't play boogie-woogie piano along with them.

Berlin is a pretty amazing place. The city seems to be continually in a state of flux, with endless building sites redoing whole areas from scratch. There's a kind of weird Blade Runner feel to the area when you get the overground, with huge highway-like streets dazzlingly laid out in front of you when the train is on a raised track. Initially the Docklands Light Railway came to mind, but this is a more dystopian feeling landscape, with endless abandoned warehouses and no-mans land places...it has the feel of London back in '92, or even what the back of King's Cross is now if it was squatted more, with endless nooks and crannies uncovering films showing in some of the abandoned buildings and all kinds of impromtu arts stuff going on in these huge squatted warehouses...sometimes I felt like I understood why Einsturzende Neubauten made the kind of music they did, though maybe that's just me sounding like a nerdy tourist / middle-class Wire-reading type into German industrial music. It's an incredibly urban, industrial city in a way that lots of other cities aren't. We went to a club in the Arches with this incredible skyscraper skyline in front of us, yet at the same time industrial wreckage was sprawled all around. It's like parts of the city have gone distinctly wrong since way back when the city was bombed incessantly, and the only way to correct the problem is to raise the areas to the ground completely before starting rebuilding again. In that respect, I can understand why a lot of the Techno bods operating in the city made a comment a while back in a Wire feature that they saw Detroit as their spiritual 'sister' city. Both are hard, grimy but also intensely futuristic cities that produced an appropriately uncompromising, dystopian Techno soundtrack. Whole squatters and traveller types lived in caravans around the river, and you could hear the distant sounds of interesting things going on...on the train, you could see tantalising glimpses of the parties they were having. After that, London seems pretty tame in comparison.

Recent listening

Smog - A River Ain't Too Deep To Love
Movietone - Day And Night
Sigur Ros - Takk...
Hood - Cold House
Jackie-O-Motherfucker - Flags of the Sacred Harp
Dead Meadow - Shivering King and Others
Fennesz - Endless Summer

We are all doomed.

Could Britain become like this??

What a depressing thing to reveal in an interview. So will all his actions from now on be attributed because his personal friend up in the sky told him to do so? Sometimes I think the difference between Blair and Bush is not as different as it seems....obviously that's not really true in the sense that Blair at least acknowledges in the link above that this can go too far. At least he's not a born again Christian....is he?

Nonetheless...why do people constantly feel the need to have God sanctify what they do? There's something like 140 billion galaxies in the Universe, of which we are part of just one, stuck on a spiral arm that's the equivalent of the Scunthorpe of our solar system. Even if there is a God, I'm sure that he doesn't give a toss what we do or don't do. Yet people seem to think they have their own personal God who cares about their everyday life, who cares if they pray 3 times a day rather than 5, whose watching their every move and honestly has a geniune interest in people's affairs.

If you had to look after 140 billion galaxies, wouldn't you be a little too busy to deal with that shit?


That's quite a controversial thing to say, given Blair's blessing of religious schools posing as normal comprehensives. Why do so many people equate aetheism with an incompatability to appreciate the world around you, an inability to enjoy nature? If I told a devout person that I had just seen pigs fly, or that I had levitated off the ground for hours on end, they would demand as much evidence as the next person.

Yet with religion, we are told to believe completely ridiculous myths without question.

Well thanks, Tony. I feel much more secure now that God has given the thumbs up for the invasion. Do you think if I'm nice to him he'll get me a widescreen TV for my birthday?

There's something in this depressing article about the polarisation of India's classes (particularly in the bits about the new gated-off settlements for the rich) that reminds me of what Baudrillard said about LA, with it's gated enclaves, CCTV panoptican power, and bordered off communities that never speak to each other...it kind of makes me think, could London end up that way too? I mean, London seems a more mixed city in the vein of NYC, but when I was living in Tottenham I couldn't help but notice how quickly the mileu changes when you drive in the car from Tottenham to Hampstead Heath, for example....the contrasts are startling.

a theory has been postulated in a recent issue of New Scientist in which some dudes postulate that what we think of as the Universe is in fact one giant five dimensional black hole.

Admittedly this is pretty difficult as most people (me included) immediately would think of the classic 4-D version of a black hole, in which the enormous tidal forces would instantly pull anything - whether the planet Earth if it fell into a 4-D black hole, or light, or a spaceman adrift - apart. Anyone who'se read Stephen Hawkins would be familiar with his notion that time, light and space would become distorted, and with the example of a spaceman in a ship orbiting a star collapsing into a black hole, where the signal from his mate - whose on the star falling into the black hole - taking longer and longer to reach the guy in the spaceship until it becomes infinate. Thus time is stretched, which has led to exotic theories about black holes leading to gateways into other galaxies, etc.

Anyway, if this new theory is true, it would surely challenge the prevailing theory of black holes, as if it's true then our very existence shows that it's possible to live within a 5-d black hole. Of course, this doesn't take into account that there may be 4-d black holes within a 5-d one - and in fact, it's believed that in the centre of our galaxy (of which we are a tiny part of one spiral arm) there's a black hole. The idea of 4-d black holes within 5-d ones is pretty mental.

It could mean that what we think of as the Universe as a whole may be just one 5-d black hole existing within an unimaginably vaster Universe - one with alternative realities. Hopefully these alternative realities don't contain
this pitiful lot.

The guy at K-Punk has done a reply of sorts to Simon Reynold's article....I agree about that awful Guardian article (which it links to) - and me saying so doesn't mean I'm an old out-of-touch fogy. Just because British guitar music is booming, it doesn't mean that the Kaiser Chiefs or The Zutons or the Dead 60's or whatever else of this kind of ilk that the NME is hyping up are any good. Then again, that doesn't mean that all guitar 'indie' (whatever that means these days) music's worth is negated, just that chancers like The Rakes are not the future of music.

Excellent contribution to the Danish cartoon debate too at the bottom of the screen, which puts the controversy into perspective.

Now this (scroll down a bit past the stuff about Folk Britannia) is an interesting link from Simon Reynold's blog. For those who need some kind of context, SR has been a journalist for Melody Maker, The Wire et. al. since the mid 80's. He first coined the term 'post rock' in 1994 and is one of the best music journalists around, with the recent mighty tome 'Rip It Up And Start Again', covering post-punk in the late 70's and early 80's, to his name...for much of the 90's, he remained, if not resolutely anti rockist, at least defiantly against Britpop (though not Pulp), instead singing the praises of 'ardkore' and jungle alongside covering the first wave of British experimental bands in that decade (Seefel, Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis).
As we progressed to the 00's, his attention turned to much garage and the 'grime' scene, though naturally he still covers much of the more experimental fringe of alt-rock.

Given his commitment to futurism in music, his post on the Artic Monkeys seems pretty interesting. I always assumed he'd dislike them for being the very personification of the square four-piece indie outfit, but apparently not....could it be that he no longer believes that music has to be forward thinking to be valid? At one point he even says that much dance music has become just as retrograde as indie music - a startling admission by SR's standards.
Just came back from the Buffalo Bar - caught an awesome set from NYC's The Double who played some extremely strange keyboard and effects-heavy atmospheric artrock. Post-punk that's true to it's original blueprint, in other words - Pere Ubu (who they sounded like a lot with the whirring, crepuscular synths), Joy Division, No Wave stuff, Jonathon Richman even. Dark, post-industrial music. Brooklyn at the moment really is producing some amazing stuff at the moment, what with Gang Gang Dance, Black Dice, Animal Collective, Mice Parade, and countless others...and now this lot. I realised watching the show that this is what post-punk is about, not some fashionista magazine covering Bloc [sic] Party - post-punk was about outsider weirdness and freaks and raw, strange music that didn't fit in, not BP and The Rakes and their NME-approved, 'cool list' bollocks and their immaculately styled Hoxton audience. Yes, they (BP) have a great drummer, but great drummers do not automatically make a decent tune, and BP sound like a half-arsed version of Blur - what they will never get is that having THAT drum beat and some 'angular' guitar does not make you a post-punk genius. Tonight, it had to be said that the Yanks kicked our arse on this one - though The Early Years in support (from various parts of the North of England, but now living in London) were fantastic too - droning Krautrock in a Stereolab/Spacemen 3/Electrelane/Flying Saucer Attack vein.

Recent listening

Vashti Bunyan - Lookingaftering
Liars - Drums Not Dead
Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness
Broadcast - Tender Buttons
Stereolab - Instant O In the Universe
Amon Duull II - Yeti
Cul de Sac - Immortality Lessons
Dirty 3 - Ocean Songs
Herman Dune - Not on Top
Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower

Looking at Ticketweb/Stargreen's listings today, I couldn't help but notice the depressing way in which many big venues around the country now are prefixed by the name of a beer, or (in the case of those 'NME nights') sponsored by 'Shockwaves' - a hair gel? Dental floss? Whatever, it's just one more in an endless corporate rebranding of venues so that, for example, the Brixon Academy is now the 'Carling Brixon Academy'. This isn't Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells complaining because of a fear that it's only encouraging people to drink more. On the contrary, one of the most depressing things at these places is that I've frequently been told that there's not enough alcohol - or rather that there's not enough different brands of alcohol, as naturally only one brand is available - that of the sponsor. This was made apparent to me during Sun O))))'s gig at Islington Academy (sorry, 'Carling Islington Academy'), where virtually the only drink you can buy is....you guessed it. And only in a can, not on tap, if I remember rightly? So you can't even choose which beer you like to drink at a gig that you've forked out £15 or more for these days.

Sure, music is a business like any other, but it's still depressing when you go to some of these venues and see how uniform and corporatized they can be. Reading Festival, natch, is the same.....so yeah, thumps up for those labours of love that are 'going it alone', ie the independent likes of the Luminaire and the Spitz, or the Scala and Bush Hall, or the Buffalo Bar....maybe there's sponsorship lurking somewhere in these places (I can't say for sure, but I doubt it), but it's not thrusted in yr face; if it is, at least it remains secondary to the venue and the music. They're not sucking on a giant beer corporation to keep them going.
And at least at these places I can drink something that isn't bloody Carling.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Its kind of fitting that anomie should be a French word. According to this article by openDemocracy, thats exactly what the French youth were feeling when protesting against De Villepins CPE contract, which would have made it possible to fire a worker on the spot between the ages of 20-26 with no explanation. Much has been made of the fact that while the sioxante-huitards of 68 (depicted recently in Bertollucis film The Dreamers) took to the streets in idealized hopes of change, with a desire to be different than their parents generation, yet against a relatively prosperous backdrop, the current protestors have took to the streets in order to stop change, and against a backdrop where Frances unemployment has risen to the worst for years. The protests have taken place out of fear for a less than secure future, and consequently have had a different, dulled hue to their parents idealism. Whats remained less commented on is that Chirac and De Vellepin may have backed down because of the knowledge that if the law had been put permanently in place, there could have been a huge exodus of young French graduates to elsewhere in the world one that could even have been dehabilitating to the French economy. After all, if serious about a career in a certain field, why would you do it with the knowledge that you can be sacked at any time within the next two years in a job related to that field, for no reason at all, whereas in other countries you cant? Despite the fact that the left-wing French intelligentsia has often painted the Anglo-Saxon economy as the ruthless bogeyman, there are actually rights that protect workers in their first two years in a full-time, permanent job here in the UK.In any case, the knives have come out in articles such as this one from the Economist, who claim that France is struggling in a globalized market. Yet its too easy to slate France for its economic protectionism. You have to hand it to a country that has managed to have the sixth biggest economy in the world (that is if you include China in third place these days above Germany and the UK no prizes for guessing the two above China), yet which has managed to protect the 35-hour working week. As the recent takeover of The Body Shop by LOreal has showed, Frances companies are competing well on the world stage far more than the English-speaking press might acknowledge.Nonetheless, while the protestors may hail their victory particularly as de Vellepin lurches from one crisis to the next - the article suggests that there may be a deeper underlying anomie effecting France, one that can be encapsulated to some extent in Michel Houllebecqs writings, and its certainly true that his books capture the alienation of the French individual as the country goes through one of its periodic existential thoughtful moods. His books capture a France that still remains a huge power in the world, yet which is fighting a losing battle to the English language and American culture (and, increasingly, perhaps Cantonese/Mandarin and Spanish). While a lot of the cynicism and anomie expressed by his characters may seem quintessentially French, whats interesting is that a lot of it seems to me pretty blatantly ripped off from some of Brett Eastons Elliss works, particularly in the bored, flat descriptions of the more graphic elements to both novelists works - read the emotionally flat, almost uninterested descriptions of group sex and graphic murder next to similar scenes described in cold, neutral style in American Psycho and youll see what I mean. This technique used by both writers is deliberate, of course, the natural consequence of essentially jaded viewpoints of Western humanity from cynical middle-class, middle aged men and it should be pointed out here that Houllebecq is no great admirer of France either, judging from the comments in his books. From the Western sex tourist in Thailand in Platform to the pathetic sex-obsessed loser Bruno in Atomised contrasted with his cerebral, reserved half brother Michel, a molecular biologist his characters arent exactly shining heroes.The success of Houllebecq in the Anglo-Saxon world suggests that his depiction of modern Western man in a state of despair is not limited to France after all. His work resonates in Hollywood films like Fight Club, in which Brad Pitt and Edward Norton attempt to wage an anarcho-war against credit card culture. It could be that the anomie felt by France at the moment is one that could spread to much of the rest of Western Europe as it faces a new century in which the dominant emerging economies will be the China and India despite the assertion by Mark Leonard that Europe will run the 21st century.

Was thinking about Simon Reynold's account of post punk, Rip It Up And Start Again - although the majority of the book is based on the U.K. scene, there's a fascinating chapter on the downtown New York No Wave scene that coalesced in the late 70's and early 80's. No Wave was an interesting scene, and especially with bands such as Mars and early Lydia Lunch's stuff with the Teenage Jerks, as it represented such a break with anything from before. The section on Mars recounted how they used to visit loads of record shops and plunder the world music archives and 'ecstastic voodo music' - something that might sit strange at first when listening to their atonal workouts. However, you can hear the influence on closer listen, with the song titles ('Outside Africa') and the strange quasi-tribal drum beats, alongside the metallic racket. This (perhaps ephemeral and patronizing, but still...) world music obsession was seized on by Talking Heads, of course. Amazing band - Mars, I mean, not Talking Heads. Well, some of TH's stuff is good too.

I'd wager that nowadays the closest relative to Mars is something like Gang Gang Dance - the spiralling tribal polyrhythms and uncoventional marriage of no-wave noise with dub rhythms and unconventional microtonal vocals on 'Revival of the Shittest' has more in common with Mars than any of the scratchy post-punk bands with their 'angular' guitar riffs around at the moment.

The chapter focuses not only on the music - Mars, DNA, Lunch, James Chance, Glenn Branca (albeit only briefly, sadly), etc. - but also on the socio-economic context of a city entering the 80's Reagen era, which when taken to the extreme would eventually be reflected in the likes of 'Wall Street' (you know, the Michael Douglas one) and 'American Psycho' as the decade went on.

It struck me that this late 70's/early 80's period - where the dividing line between the NY downtown art-rock scene on the one hand and the city's jazz and disco scenes on the other - became blurred and in a state of flux in a way that the present day London music scene owes a huge debt to. Nowadays it's common to have disparate musical strands on the same line-up, but it wasn't always thus...

Monday, September 25, 2006

The man above is Saparmurat Niyazov, the 'President of Life' of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, a country where his narcisstic tendencies have oustripped even North Korea's Kim Jong-il. In this former Russian republic, which became independent in 1991, the days of the week are named after himself (exactly how I'm not sure, unless he's got quite a few middle names), all watches and clocks have his portrait, and - in an echo of Mao's 'Little Red Book' - he has an official book called 'Ruhnama' which will make people "become more intelligent" and facilitate a trip "straight to heaven" if read three times. George Orwell would have a field day, except for the bit about becoming more intelligent, as I seem to remember one of the Big Brother slogans in 1984 being about remaining stupid ('Ignorance is Bliss').
Most amusing of all, an enormous statue of himself continually revolves on a rotating pedestal in the capital Ashgabat, so that it always faces the sun (even if there's a total eclipse, I suppose).
That's pretty funny, in a depressing way. Jesus, imagine naming the days of the week after Tony Blair. Whenever I'm feeling down, I just think of the poor buggers - all five million of them - who have to grow up in this place...or in North Korea, of course, where their dear leader is so bonkers that he actually once had a terrified Chinese film maker kidnapped in order to make a propaganda film which had Godzilla but with Kim Jong-il's face. They showed clips from it once on Channel 4 in a documentary about mental films, and there's one bit when this weird , enormous hybrid creature - Godzilla's body, Kim Jong-il's face - attacks Japan. Now I don't know about you, but if I were on drugs watching that, I'd be pretty freaked out....