Wednesday, December 31, 2008

RIP Walthamstow Dog Tracks

The building's demise is another example of great individual modernist art set to perish forever, even though (a) dog racing is arguably an inherently ethically dodgy sport due to the treatment of the animals, and (b) it was largely as a result of indifference rather than deliberate attempts to knock it down.
However, it could be used for a myriad of other purposes besides dog racing, ranging from art to music. Instead, it's likely that it'll be replaced by identikit flats with nothing but the desire to fit in as many people as possible. Perhaps this is the future: truly unique architecture for the working people, as grand as the Volksb├╝hne in Berlin, set to rot without a moment's thought. Perish the thought that it could ever be grade A listed (though admittedly the food was awful).
Maybe architectural monuments such as the Hoover Building and Battersea Power Station are next...and soon we will have no trace of a city past.
This site's celebration of the aesthetic joy of sleeve art brings back so many memories - being eternally transfixed by Peter Saville's endless run of mysterious Factory Records' covers in Our Price, including the unforgettable austerity and minimal reductionism of Unknown Pleasures (which it covers here); the strong palette of colours in the 'tree of life' that features in both Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock; the forbidding secrets of Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising, with it's towering Gothic pumpkin image framed by a blood-red sky with the New York skyline menacing in the distance; and the blur of guitar haze on MBV's Loveless - a sleeve that actually captures the contents of the music...not to mention the beautiful packaging of the Constellation Records releases, and so on, with endless examples. Record sleeves have become so woven into the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, that it's easy to forget just how strong a statement - both politically and aesthetically - they can be. I've always thought that the best album sleeves are those which have a certain amount of intangible mystery and individuality to them, and yet paradoxically are strongly evocative of something about the contents within - despite however abstract the cover art may be. Which leads on to my posts below about downloading culture - could the album sleeve be another casualty after record shops, what with the rise of the mp3?
What's disappointing about that site is how banal some of the sleeve art that's on display is (and let's not even mention the presence of Lenny Kravitz on the list). Christ, even Screamadelica would look great on there compared to Regurgitator. From the top of my head, here's my list of what else should be on there other than the one's even mentioned.
Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth)
Spiderland (Slint)
Things We Lost In The Fire (Low)
Yanqui UXO (Godspeed You! Black Emperor)
Forever Changes (Love)
Liar (The Jesus Lizard)
Quiqe (Seefel)
Mouths Trapped In Static / Telegraphs In Negative (Set Fire to Flames)
The Doctor Came At Dawn (Smog)
Do Make Say Think (Do Make Say Think)
Lazer Guided Melodies (Spiritualized)
Palaa Aurinkoon (Islaja - there's just something about that image of her...)
Deceit (This Heat)
Admittedly I could be here for a while (not to mention the fact that this list contains no real dance music or jazz). Any suggestions?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Back at the Flea Pit for the Christmas Recluse next week, performing with Fractured Waves...should be a corker.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That post below about music in the internet age has really made me think about how technology has progressed and times have moved on when it comes to playing music. Twenty years ago, CDs had been only just been released on the market, and the idea of having your entire CD collection (and record collection too, with new technology, such as this Vinyl Adaptor) on an iPod only marginally bigger than a mobile phone must have seemed unthinkable. My iPod has up to 120GB of space - an unbelievably large amount, and enough to store an entire record shop's worth. Exactly what format music will be consumed in in twenty years time can only be imagined.
As mentioned below, the downside of the current download culture is the ubiquity of music everywhere and the slow eradication of the idea of the album as a coherent, whole entity rather than a collection of disposable, individually downloadable tracks, thus chipping away at the traditional pre-internet era thrill of buying an album from a record shop. Of course, you can still physically go into a record shop and buy an album, but there's no doubt that download culture has seeped thoroughly into the music retail market. The other issue of downloading culture is sound quality, of course, including the omniscience of compression more and more, as Simon Reynolds points out in this article.
The same thoughts above about iPods containing entire record collections also applies to the making of music, and particularly relates to a band that I'm looking forward to seeing at this weekend's ATP at Butlins curated by Mike Patton and the Melvins. Along with Silver Apples and United States of America, The White Noise are one of the original primitive experimental electronic 'rock' outfits, the difference with those two acts being that White Noise were based in Britain (albeit with David Vorhaus being American in origin), and congregated around the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, enlisting Delia Derbyshire along the way. An Electric Storm, with its panned drumming, tape loops and jarring samples juxtaposed with sweet pop melodies, must have sounded completely alien when it first came out.
The idea that the painfully-constructed sounds emanating from these mysterious rooms full of enormous primitive electronics, tape and synthesiser machines in the BBC headquarters could one day be distilled down to that coming from a laptop must have seemed incredible in the 1960s, just as with the idea of entire record collections existing on a piece of software barely the size of a phone. Consumer technology has become smaller - nanoized, you could call it - and more powerful rather than simply becoming bigger, as predicted in much old sci-fi. The downside of easy-to-use software such as Garageband that can be used in laptops now, as opposed to the painstaking work that must have took place splicing tapes in the huge laboratory-like rooms during White Noise's time, makes me think that perhaps punk's mantra of 'anyone can do it' has finally come true, liberated by the progression of technology.