Friday, October 12, 2007
As urban guerrilla sounding in it's own way as Throbbing Gristle, drum 'n' bass or techno, Glenn Branca has always produced some awe-inspiring music. My particular favourites are 'Lesson No.1 for Electric Guitar' and 'The Ascension', in which you can hear the endless oscillating strands of sound that come from multiple guitars. Presumably an orchestra of one hundred guitars at once would produce endless micro-tonal possibilities? I actually think that the two tracks by him mentioned above sort of predate genres like shoegazing and post-rock that we've become used to. There's not a huge difference between the tracks and some of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's work, for example. Or Seefel's 'Quiqe'. Anyway, this gig is something I wish I'd went to, along with the Boredoms gig in New York, in a park with 77 drummers on the 7th July 2007, at 7pm, which would perfectly fit their frenzied drum incantations:
Sadly, though, I couldn't go to Branca, due to relocating this weekend to a new house near Walthamstow Dog Tracks of all places, where my famous neighbours will include Blazin' Squad, Daniella Westbrook (her of the nose sans septum), Teddy Sheringham, and - of course - Brian Harvey. Exactly how I've gone from Glenn Branca to Brian Harvey in one post I don't know. Still, Branca's playing two sets at the Portishead ATP in December (including one set with 'special guests' - no doubt Thurston Moore will be among them, as he's doing a solo set too), so will catch him then.
...we will also shortly see the end of King's Cross' dark, shadowy industrial wasteland as it makes way for luxury flats (which will doubtless be those new model flats that all seem to look exactly the bloody same in that bland way), and the extension to the Eurostar - and with it, the Canvas complex of nightclubs (though I believe The Egg club will stay). K-Punk's post here is a fitting eulogy / requiem to an area that I still have imprinted in my mind from when I used to go to raves there in the mid-90s in the open brick courtyard / warehouse area, at what was then called Bagley's (which really makes me feel my age). I revisited that area recently with the TDK Festival, and a wave of nostalgia came over me; I always used to wonder what went on in those endless rows of warehouses, if there were interesting bands or events happening there. Now, much of this landscape will all be gone soon, obliterated in the desire for more luxury flats and wine bars/bistros; it's inescapable. It will become just another trendy area of London.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
So, despite the endless petition signatures, the leafleting, the articles in newspapers, and even the pleas by dear old Red Ken Livingstone, it wasn't enough for the Spitz to close, the latest victim of the area's corporatisation (though the venue has done stuff since at Rich Mix). I guess the sight of people making weird left-field experimental music at an interesting venue in a perfect location was just to much to bare for Ballymore Properties, who would prefer the an anodyne wine bar full of city yuppies. Although CBGB's had reportedly become a parody of its former self near the time it was shut down, you could almost draw parallels: the two areas around the Spitz and CBGB's are accelerating in the property market, and live music is always going to be the casualty (particularly once the new East London line is built). This is no place for nostalgia about what both venues have gave their respective cities in terms of culture or an arts scene. Obviously the Spitz was only one venue in London. But it was pretty much the best venue. Anyway, nostalgia doesn't count for anything when you have a prime location near the financial district. Who wants to listen to that unlistenable music when you can have an All Bar One? It's not like that area is lacking in investment bankers / lawyers etc to frequent the posh bars spouting up, of which the Spitz's replacement on that site will be one.
Another nail in the coffin for an independent scene in London, then (along with the Hammersmith Palais - another great venue). Still, there's always Starbucks across the road...
Anyway on a more serious note, the spirit of the Spitz lives on in part just down the road, at a great venue called the Gramaphone. And there's the Duke of Uke and the new Rough Trade East, to remind me why I still go to the area.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
...this time curated by Portishead, and Silver Apples have just been added to the bill! Along with four doom metal bands, Jah Shaka Soundsystem, Glenn Branca (playing twice!), the Aphex Twin, Julian Cope, and countless others, some of whom I've heard of (Oneida) and some I haven't (Crippled Black Phoenix? The Heads? Jo Volk?). Why aren't Movietone on the bill? Anyway, it confirms my theory that Portishead have always had more in common aesthetically with left-field guitar music than most electronica (and especially aberrations of the 'trip-hop' genre such as Zero 7 and Groove Armada - music for media people living in 'pads' in Notting Hill). They also take a nice swipe at another aberration of music, Mark Ronson, here. Exactly who is choosing to pay to go to Shepherd's Bush Empire and see this man do karaoke versions of the Kaiser Chiefs, among other acts, is mystifying; clearly someone is, as his gig there is sold out. Ronson is the prime example of music as background music; it can be played anywhere and, because it's not even his own compositions but rather pointless covers, it's easy to digest anywhere. You can play it on your iPod anywhere and not have to really think about the music. He's a prime example of music's superficiality in the digital age, when the sheer abundance of music negates it's importance: it's everywhere, from the clothes shop to the hairdresser. "Oh, but they're inventively done covers that add a twist to the original". So what, though? I guess I don't hang at the right parties at the Notting Hill Arts Club, so I wouldn't understand. This is Ronson's demographic. His music is seen as "cool" and "fresh" takes on old songs, which Kate Nash/Lilly Allen/Amy Winehouse types put on at parties.
At this point, I should just point I have an iPod myself and actually like it. But I also take the music on it seriously rather than treating it as background music. Which is one reason for the importance of All Tomorrow's Parties. Roll on December.