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.