Sunday, October 29, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I would not call Villalobos' newest a revolution per se. Rather it is an inversion of what Richie Hawtin came up with a year ago with Transitions. Instead of making one long track out of countless other tracks, Villalobos takes one loop and stretches it until eternity. I would not call that a revolution as such, because it remains to be seen whether others will follow this course. But of course one cannot deny that, if the promise contained in this record would be followed up by others, techno may be looking at new and exciting horizons. On top, it promises a lot for dj sets to come. I can hardly wait to encounter the dj who carries this tune as a kind of signature throughout his set.
Most importantly, it sure promises a lot for Villalobos' further carreer, him being the first who has exhausted the length of one vinyl-side. Because you just hear that he wanted this track to continue much further than one side of vinyl could provide. I do not think anyone has ever filled one side of a record with such a long variation on just one loop.
And what a loop it is! Rivalling 'Phylyps Trak II' in hypnotic endlessness, it has been swimming around in my head since I first took notice of the man's set on Awakenings, and I predict it will not leave my mind for months to come. I can't wait to hear this over a big, big, big sound system.
No doubt about it: 'Fizheuer Zieheuer' is the tune of 2006.
To be honest, I do not know why - probably Lacan would have quite a complicated explanation for that why too - I feel, time and time again, compelled to find out what Jacques Lacan and his followers are really talking about. The more I read about him, the more I must conclude that he in fact was a charlatan. The reasons and arguments by which his followers defend his thinking are most of the time completely, sometimes utterly, absurd. They would probably, on reading the above, state that "I am not yet ready for Lacan". I know one thing: they are absolutely right.
The problem is that his name and his theorizing on and concepts of the function of language and the unconscious keep popping up in almost every text by philosophers and cultural critics that come after him. This poses a problem because some of the people who claim to have been influenced by Lacan really seem to have some useful and relevant things to contribute. But the second problem is then that you ask yourself the following: if Lacan was a charlatan, how can anything that his followers have to say be relevant and useful at all? Again, defenders of Lacan would probably say that there is in fact no contradiction between those two points of view. More to the point they would even dare to state that the contradiction itself is a constitutive element of the understanding of Lacan. Sorry, but this is something that I can not agree on. It is in fact totally unacceptable.
An example: I am currently initiating myself into Derrida's thinking. I think I can say that I understand where he is going to, although, as is the case with Lacan, he is sometimes very arcane and esoteric. Nonetheless, I can attribute worth to some of his concepts and way of thinking. But then again - Derrida being a great admirer of Lacan and also having sat through some of his seminars - what if Lacan is, as many have said in the past and say in the present, really and truly complete bullshit? This would have enormous consequences for post-Lacanian thought. It would actually mean that the greater part of that thought (Derrida, Foucault, Zizek, Badiou) is also bullshit. I am not saying this is the case, but the sole possibility of it frightens me, because a lot of these people are considered important thinkers and literally tens of thousands of students have since been exposed to ways of thinking that could have no basis whatsoever in scientific fact. On the other hand, it would almost make you glad that philosophy is no longer considered relevant by political decision-makers these days.
But the most important objection against Lacan's train of thought is that there are people who call themselves analytics who use his obscurantisms to treat people (to cure people, as you can conclude from Sarup's above citation, seems not in the least to be the goal of a Lacanian analysis). I mean - come on: this is basic! - every psychoanalysis should at the very least lead to a bettering of the patient's mental and/or psychological state. Instead, as in Freud's approach, all it comes to is talk, talk, talk. But as far as I know solutions do not come from talk, they come from deeds.
Look at it from a political point of view. To cite one example: Israelis and Palestinians have signed quite a few treaties in the past, but nothing comes from it, because words and promises do not materialise into actual change. Some may think this a crude comparison, but is it really?
Just as politics is based on the need to understand society and the conflicting values therein that need to be reconciled to lead to solutions, just as all of philosophy is built on a need to explain and must do so by offering a possible truth, psychology should, if it wants to retain any value, offer solutions. Talking one hour a week with your analytic will not solve any problem, it will only cost you a lot of money. Problems can only be solved if eventually you walk away from the analytic and start putting possible solutions, that have hopefully been handed to you through the reading of your analytic, into practice. I am not saying here that life as such is only practice, but solving its problems certainly is. It is really as simple as that. Words are cheap and the more there are, the cheaper they get.
As such, for me there is not really any need to refute seperate theories or concepts of Lacan's thought. The basis of the whole is just unsound. Why then waste whole libraries, tons of paper and terrabytes of server space on its refutation?
Monday, October 23, 2006
Read all about Keiko from Tokyo's unstoppable sexdrive here. And then click on 'good and bad emails'. My idea: the girl is actually an aging Japanese comic or, even more probable, two pimply and bespectacled otaku's. That part about "Two man is two wallets and four kidney" is killing me, though. The internet never ceases to amaze me. I am predicting she will be world-famous in a jiffy.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I noticed that a lot of young people walked out of the room to shake their body to other more contemporary acts and/or dj's. First I was tempted to ascribe this to intergenerational preferences. But then I asked myself: Where the hell is your goddamn' respect? And at the same time realised how far techno and electronic music in general have strayed from what should have been their direction. Electronic music could have been a utopian music, the ultimate Cosmic Sound. Instead it has become, for the most part of it, a case of a guy/girl putting one record on after another - or even worse: using Ableton or what do I know to do exactly that for him/her - and getting a huge applause for it. Shame. And they can call me an old tosser for that, I do not care one bit.
Another thing: It was my first visit to I Love Techno and with such an amount of money pumped into a rave of this scope you'd expect at least a decent sound quality. No way gov'! The sound was horrible, all the magic of electronic dance music (the bass, the pump, the sheer physicality of it) carefully filtered away. Vade retro Satanas! And Satan in this case equals - what a suprise! - Clear Channel.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Narcotic Syntax are generally one of the least interesting acts on Perlon, but this 4-tracker on We In Rhythm is the shit supreme. As you may have concluded from the title, percussion makes out the main part of these four side-long workouts. All four are good and not near as minimal as you would expect from these guys' previous outings. 'Fusión Nuclear' even has some motorik touches to it. But 'Descarga Narcotica', with its improvised marimba and vibraphone parts, is the one that will positively set the dance floor on fire. Recommended!
The Orichalc Phase - Violations [12", DC]
Another corcker from the best label on the block. The rock-'n'-roll/no wave attitude inevitably reminds of the label's strongholder The Emperor Machine. 'Comatone' begins as a 2006 update to A Certain Ratio but halfway the ryhthm slows down for a dubby space outro. The titletrack comes in two versions, with the original sounding like The Charlatans or Inspiral Carpets fed through a fucked up amp and the dub again slowing things down for an even more freaked out darker take. Yummy! And in case you would want to know: orichalc is "a metallic substance, resembling gold in color, but inferior in value."
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Red Krayola - God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail with It
Saying that these guys were ahead of their time is an understatement if there ever was one. What The Stooges were for all things heavy and freaky, The VU for all things indie, these guys were for the punk, no wave, lo-fi and free folk movements. These are their two first longplayers I think and if you take into consideration the fact that they were almost thrown of the stage at their first gigs, then you realize that people never will learn: they will always mistake a diamond for a shit. Their loss.
Sun City Girls - Tibetan Jazz
The first thing I ever tried from this strange group. The thing is that Tibetan Jazz sounds like exactly that. It is jazzy and free-in-an-ethnic-style at the same time. Though a tad chaotic at times, this is impressive stuff and it was way ahead of the whole New Weird America thing.
Anthony Braxton - 3 Compositions of New Jazz
Anthony Braxton - For Alto
In the past I have often shyed away from the caustic and abrasive and arcane nature of free jazz (and free music in general). But I re-read the amazing interview Braxton gave The Wire a time ago and this guy has such an amount of purpose and will in his body, mind and soul that I just had to discover his music.
3 Compositions of New Jazz was his first work as a leader and it is all the above mentioned things. It is very difficult music but intensely rewarding if you are willing to put your teeth in it. Think Coltrane, Ayler or Coleman's Live at The Golden Circle and then make another leap and you have got Anthony Braxton.
For Alto, the first record ever for solo saxophone, is even more difficult. Patience and a receptive attitude are very much required if you want to sit through this. Still, it is less shocking than the stuff English improvisers like Evan Parker, John Butcher or Paul Rutherford came forth with in the early and mid-seventies. Maybe the difficulty is also partly due to the fact that Braxton's music is sometimes nearer to classical music than to jazz. This may be almost forty years ago, but I am willing to bet that a lot of people still deny that this is music. They are of course wrong.
Olivier Messiaen - Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité
This is his one of his famous organ works. And as much as I like this, as much as it moves me, I have to admit that I was not able to sit through it in one listening. At times the music is just too painful and intense for your ears. I do not know, not being a religious person at all, maybe I am missing the necessary level of faith and abandon to fully appreciate this. Some might say: you do not have to be a religious person to appreciate religious music, and I can agree with that. But this is so powerful that it borders on the psychotic. Then again, I have always found religious people to be a little psychotic, believing in things that to not exist (that is a tautology, not?) and regulating your life accordingly...
Faust - Faust V
A big thank you to Omar for signaling this to me. There seem to be quite a few mixes, editions and bootlegs of these sessions that were supposed to sprout Faust V, were it not for the usual shortsightedness of even a forward-thinking label like Virgin. I have to agree that even left-overs and try-outs that sound like they were recorded in a stable (or even in open air) from Faust sound a hell of a lot more relevant twenty years after than a lot of music that calls itself 'rock' these days. Mind you, the sound is worse than some cassette editions from Outer-Mongolia. Nonetheless, nice to know that these guys still cut it with the best, as I am always under the impression that Can and Neu! in recent history always had way more exposure than this equally revolutionary lot. Krautrock forever!
Hu Vibrational - Universal Mother
I have always had a soft spot for percussion records. And this is another of those beautifully packaged Soul Jazz editions. Produced by Carlos Niño and played by Adam Rudolph (Yusef Lateef) with Brahim Frigbane (Peter Gabriel, Morphine) and Hamid Drake (Peter Brötzmann, Pharoah Sanders) it is no less than a drum feast from beginning to end. Evidently you do not go looking for songs on such a recording, it is the grooves and the rhythms that are enchanting. The saying goes that "in the beginning there was the drum", and on the basis of this record one must conclude that it is going to be there in the end too. All Hail Soul Jazz!
VA - Plague Songs
Strange record, being a compilation of ten songs where each artist writes a song about one of the ten plagues. Not everyone delivers memorable songs of course, but overall I found this to be an enjoyable and at times moving record that encompasses a lot of musical styles around a common theme. When it comes to Scott Walker I must admit I am not entirely rational and thus I was most carried away by his contribution (that backing choir, bordering on the psychotic, damn', I am using that word a lot these days), but the Eno-Wyatt collaboration was intriguing too. Further decent work comes from Laurie Anderson, Cody Chestnutt and a list of less known singers. Do not know if I will remember this compilation in a few months or so, but every Scott Walker outing is worth a listen.
Jandek - Interstellar Discussion
Jandek - Staring at the Cellophane
Ludo (who even named his blog after a Jandek record) once suggested that it is best to just throw yourself into the Jandek universe. I had these two on my hard-disc for a while and when I listened to them this weekend I was just flabbergasted and, to be more peculiar, deeply moved. This is music that is so naked and so emotional without much ado, going straight for the root of things without much accompaniment to speak of. I was hooked from the first minute and the moment I have the money I am going to fill out that cheque and place that order for those twenty or so Jandek cd's. I use the word revelation way too much but this the real thing.
Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon
Morton Subotnick - The Wild Bull
Those truly were the days! Elektra offshoot Nonesuch actually offered Subotnick money to make these records. These days he probably would have to release it on a limited-run cd-r. To me these records sound like a guy trying to make a sort of minimalistic classic music of chance with electronic devices. But the sounds are so wonderful that sometimes you can not help but ask yourself if the sounds they are using today are as intricate and detailled as on Silver Apples of the Moon and The Wild Bull. Both are pretty introverted without being really dark or coming on uneasy. It is the music of cosmic awe and surprise, full of playful coils of sound. And it also has the insight (clearly still derived from classical music and Cage) that silence is one of the most important parts of music as such, an insight that, regretfully, has all too often rightout disappeared from today's horror vacui they call music.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
The first time I did not like it. I did not even like it the second time. But after the third listening it began to dawn. I think dubstep is about the first post-rave style of music coming from the UK that is sad, elegiac and introspective rather than the other way around. Not surprisingly then that it is the first post-rave style that succeeds not only in attracting my attention but also in keeping it. There is an apparent empty core to this music, more impressionist than expressive. It is as if both the music and the singing on Memories of the Future are deliberately not begging for your attention. Which is utterly strange, I must admit, but I just cannot phrase it differently.
Everytime I put this record on I am desperately searching for a compass, for a destination, while at the same time the suspicion starts to linger that a direction is not at all that which you should be looking for. It bridges the gap to another dimension, not to another place. This gives the music a depth and purpose that I have always found lacking in drum'n'bass, 2-Step, broken beat and any other post-rave UK dance genre.
It is a kind of music that fleets you by, as if you are passing a derelict and depopulated district of a city and you hear music, but you are not entirely certain where it originates from. You are not even entirely certain it is really there. You feel like the boy wandering around in Ballard's Chronopolis, wondering who takes care of all those clocks. It is incomparably elusive and vague, music for searchers rather than finders.
Everytime the music is over, it is as if it disappears from memory altogether. But when you put it back on, you are immediately transported back to a no man's land of the spirit, some kind of eerie demilitarized zone that is reminiscent of Ballard's Terminal Beach, a place where you can quietly immerse your self into the memories that at any other place you would rather avoid, "lost in paranoia's most beautiful dream"
Strangely enough the repeated listening of this record has also initiated a renewed interest in the Burial album, another record that at first I did not grasp at all, a turnaround so dramatic that now I am beginning to think that these two records might be among my records of the year.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Years ago, I swore to myself that I never would sell any record I have ever bought. But these vinyls gradually take up a lot of space (there was a time, in my previous living space, that I literally had to move records to reach other records) and when you think about it, if you do not play them any longer, they are just standing there, doing nothing more than reminding you of the fact that on the whole you have paid an incredible amount of pecunia for them. When you confront that constatation with the fact that you have not played some of those records for five years (or even longer) then I must admit that I am really glad that these days you can share your records over the internet, so that you can give a record more than just a few listenings before deciding to buy it and add it to your collection. It may not be too fair to the artists in question, but it is a significant progression if you are a musical addict like myself.
Selecting the records I was going to sell also taught me some humility. Everyone who loves and buys music on a regular basis thinks that he has got good taste. But in fact more and more you realize that you are, more frequently than you are willing to admit, influenced by reviews, first listenings, novelty, the opinions of your mate's and what do I know.
Of course, now that I have grown older, I like to think that I select the music I buy with more maturity and experience, picking records with greater knowledge. But I am willing to bet that, in another ten years, I will be writing a lamentation that in spirit will not be too far removed from this one.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Maybe a second listening (but who really desires a second listening of such stuff) will bring more nuance to my opinion, but I sat it through without blinking an eye, and now, a few hours later, all I remember is a barrage of sonic debauchery that was so overpowering that it did not do too much at all. Yes, you hear some metal influences, buried deep into the core of it, but even when you unleash this kind of hellish white noise, you have to provide the listener with at least the suggestion of a bearing. Just pasting all these pieces together without as much as a transition is like beating your audience to pulp with a big chunk of stone and then, when they have barely recovered, throwing another on top. It hurts and dulls the senses, not leaving much space for enjoyment at all.
Friday, October 13, 2006
President Bush: Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times: I can take them off.
Bush: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
Wallsten: All right, I'll keep it, then.
Bush: For the viewers, there's no sun.
Wallsten: I guess it depends on your perspective.
Another Example. Google has announced its intention to give people the 'chance' to copy all their computer data onto Google's megaservers somewhere in the USA. That way you would not need a hard-drive, not even installed programs anymore on your desk- or laptop, your cpu being limited to an interface at your home. But, again rather of course, this would give the company unlimited access to control your data. Why would I want to share such details with a company that has made an agreement with the far from democratic government of The People's Republic of China about limiting the access to websites that are not endorsed by that government? Please, give me one good reason. I think it is time to start spending some money and creating a .com address.
What beats everything is that all these things are advanced in the name of so-called progress. Isn't it about time that at least some politicians start reacting against such intrusions of privacy? Everyday you read about European and other governments giving up personal data contained in phone conversations and e-mails, bank and payment data and free citizens' movements to agencies, government bodies and private companies (because more and more such tasks are handed over to private companies, since governments do not have the know-how nor the money to carry out such tasks) who are not in the least obligated to accept some form of control or accountability.
If democratically elected politicians stand for such invasions of privacy and let all these developments that are detrimental to democracy and free citizenship run its course, why do we need them any longer in the first place? Who needs a democracy if the people who represent this democracy for us no longer perform their duties and instead fill their time with making the financial books stick. If that were the sole duty of a politician, then we would be better of with a government of accountants. When such invasions of privacy are, in most of the cases incidentally, uncovered (because mostly you have to read it in a newspaper or another massmedium that has left a shred of decency), the formation of a committee to investigate these "grave matters" is announced. And that is about it. Case closed and see you later.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Carl Craig delivers his best remix this year. Yes, it is better than the DFA remix and better than the Burial Mix remix, both already quite brilliant mixes. As usual it stretches 9 minutes plus with all the usual sounds that you have come to expect from a Carl Craig dance floor remix. It has much in come with his Goldfrapp remake from a few months ago but on this one the mixing board was not set on automatic and the vocal treatment reminds a bit of his classic Aquarhythms remix. No jazzy, housey or dubby additions, just straight for the techno jugular. And those strings appearing around minute seven are a gift of God. The shit!
Martin Buttrich - Full Clip [12", Planet E]
After a period of re-releases Planet E finally seems to be taking up its pioneering role again. Last month's Ican release was already pretty good, but this two-tracker by Germany's Martin Buttrich (he was co-responsible for Timo Maas's Depeche Mode remix) is much more in sync with what is currently hot on the European floors.
On 'Full Clip' he drowns you in ever building strings and the overall effect is not too far from later Transmat releases or a good Steve Rachmad track, if it were remixed by Âme. And true to the 2006 climate it lasts well over 12 minutes. The groove that never stops, that kind of record.
Flip 'The Programmer' is a more subdued affair with sweeping synths and all kinds of little whirling noises, well suited for a Sonar Kollektiv style deep house set. But the woman's voice keeps it, in contrast to the outer-space titletrack, a bit too firmly on Planet Earth. Not too bad, but no match for the brilliant a-side.
Stefan Goldmann - Sleepy Hollow EP [12", Sonar Kollektiv/Innervisions]
Sonar Kollektiv strikes again and again. Movementz' 'The Locust' in the original version sounds like Chez Damier circa 1992, which is not bad as a reference but not very forward-thinking either. Trickski's remix is the real deal here. Employing the same sounds he constructs a très du jour neo-trance wobbler that retains the housey feel, but, thanks to a few nice breakdowns and ecstatic build-ups, catapults Sonar Kollektiv in the camp of the German techno contenders. Think Âme going Bpitch Control.
Stefan Goldmann's 'Sleepy Hollow' is in the same ballpark. Over here the original is awesome too, though. Cool house vibes hold your attention with a catchy melody that gets worked over through a battery of effects. On the flip Goldmann is joined by the Âme duo for an even more dance floor orientated mix. For those who have been residing on the moon the last two years: Âme rule.
Cosmo Vitelli - Delayer [12", I Am A Cliché]
Forget the original and flip right over for the amazing Quiet Village remix, an urgent italo-disco chugger with lots of spacey synths and over-the-top sounds. Something tells me 2006 is the year of Matt Edwards.
Isolée - The Western Edits Pt. 2 [12", Playhouse]
Out for a while but had to get this one because of the exquisite 15-minute Villalobos remix, that is, in my humble opinion much better than the original. Call it a sop until the eagerly awaited new Villalobos on Playhouse is unleashed upon the world.
Fuckpony - Get Pony [12", Get Physical]
The choice track from the Fuckpony album gets a 12" release and that was more than welcome because the album vinyl pressing lacked a fitting big system mastering. Flip 'Dawgs Life' adds another acidic dance floor stormer with a lot of trippy sounds to their résumé. Nice!
Suburban Knight - Hi Monster [12", Dark Print Limited]
Circumspection is needed when you encounter a Suburban Knight release on a label that is not UR. But this one is pretty good. You hear that Mad Mike has not had the final cut, but with the help of cohorts Sami Goossens and Gerome Sportelli James Pennington still succeeds in conjuring up that mythical cosmic Detroit feeling. 'Hi Monster' is more exuberant in a Red Planet trance style, while flip 'Alpha Game' veers more towards dark electro. But the vibe is deep and futuristic on both sides and makes you forget that dreadful Peacefrog release.
Monday, October 09, 2006
If the mass media too from now on would follow this example by no longer referring to those people as 'allochtonous', we could go a long way. Say about the US what you like, but at least they do not consider the people who have acquired the American nationality as foreigners. They are considered Americans from day one. And that is probably on of the main reasons why the US is the most powerful country in the world. When it comes to that acceptance Europe could learn a lot from the too often maligned US of A.
Another remark: the woman I voted for is the daughter of an imam. Again this proves that most people of islamic faith are tolerant, far from fanatic and ready to integrate themselves in their country of migration, while at the same time not turning their back on their own culture. The man's family can boast incredible credentials: one daughter is now on the city council and was assistant-lecturer at Antwerp University before going into politics, the oldest son is a politician too, another son has joined the police force and the youngest son has a college degree too. But you won't read much about such immigrant success stories in the Flemish newspapers. Of course not. Which goes to show, again, that the media, through omission and deliberate misinformation, are at least partly responsible for the rise of extreme-right parties.
I don't know if I already posed the dictum here that to me "music is serious business". I probably have. Of course music is also fun, entertaining and a source of consolation, thus a surface on which you can reflect your emotions. But what is, in the end, more important to me, is the need to theorize and investigate the possibilities of music to derange, influence and change the fabric of people's lifes. This may sound preposterous to most people, who usually deploy the cliché that "music is only music". That may be the case for most people, but to me, understandably, as I listen to a lot of music in order to write about it and try to say something meaningful about it, it has always been much more. Over the years I've come to believe that all good music, however small and narrow its intention or scope, should be able to withstand questions about its validity to fit into an historical context. Music, even the thinnest commercial pop music can never not have a meaning and be important at the same time.
It is on of the reasons why I adore a magazine like The Wire (The Wire is just an example, perhaps there are others, but I have not discovered them yet). Yes, you could say that The Wire staff are a bunch of other-worldly intellectuals writing about music that nobody other is interested in. You could say that, but then you would sidestep the one issue of true importance. Namely, that it is still a good thing that there are people who want to place music into a social, philosophical and historical context, looking at it objectively, and, most importantly, giving artists who truly reflect about their art (because, yes, I consider good music, whether it is Britney Spears' 'Toxic' or Nurse With Wound, to take two extreme examples, to be Art) a forum to bring those reflections and new ideas into the open.
To return to the problem in question, I find that there is a serious lack of this approach in electronic dance music in general. I rarely read a really interesting interview with a 'dance' artist. Of course there are exceptions (Jeff Mills, Squarepusher, Matthew Herbert and, recently, Kode 9 spring to mind immediately, I know there are a few others) but it is my experience that most interviews with dance artists are limited to the anecdotic and factual. I've interviewed quite a lot of dance artists myself and I found most of them shying away from theoretical and social issues, as if they do not want to take themselves too seriously, quickly avoiding those questions and all too often reverting to the old catchphrases "it's only dance music and it should stay fun etc..." instead of interrogating themselves about their place in a wider context. You can talk to them about their influences, what music they like and sometimes about the influence of equipment and multimedia, but it seldom goes much further than that. With dj's, the waiters of electronic dance music, it is even worse.
The immediate corollary of this situation is that you also have few writers who dare take on electronic dance music in that way. Maybe this has to do with the relative short history of electronic dance music. But most of all it is a question of a lack of will and guts.
I will throw you a few names of people who I think write in an interesting and inspiring way about electronic dance music. Philip Sherburne is the prime example, Mark 'K-Punk' Fisher is another (although he could rein in on the 'Lacanian dynamics' and make it even better) and I will add my favorite, Woebot, here too. Even the over here loathed Simon Reynolds (mostly because I think his predictions are a bunch of self-interested bollocks, his historical writings are much better for that matter) can be added to what is still too short a list. In my mothertongue Omar Muñoz-Cremers and Theo Ploeg are the few examples I can think of, although (sorry guys, don't hit me) even they do it too rarely. But at least, as much as you can disagree with their opinions, they do try. Most others (and for the time being I will humbly include myself) dare not or simply are just not able to come up with a thesis that can withstand the least theoretical scrutiny, by which I mean that they do not succeed in offering the barest minimum of a social, philosophical or historical framework which you can start to reflect upon, subsequently paving the way for antagonistic, provocative and new approaches or views.
The inevitable result is that most writings about electronic dance music are ultra-subjective and indicative: everybody likes this or that, or they want to direct you to or enthousiastically convince you of the merits of such or such record. Sorry, people, but the review (still about the only journalistic form that takes on electronic dance music) is forgotten in the blink of an eye and almost as fast obsolete. If you want to offer writings that inspire people you are going to have to do much better than that. This has been the case in the past for all modern forms of art: cinema, jazz, 20th century plastic arts, rock and pop music, avant garde, architecture, I could go on. Who cares about the 1969 opinion of the then very influential Pauline Kael about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssee now, in 2006? Right, nobody. Why? Because the review is ultimately an attribute of the modern mass media. Reviews are in the best case strings of hopefully expert opinions to fill the pages of newspapers, magazines and, in this day and age, weblogs. Reading a review is a mere pastime, it can be funny or poignant, but it remains at that. Why do we, in contrast, still read the more theoretically advanced writings of Goncourt (for French literature of the early 20th century) or Godard and his colleagues of the Cahiers de Cinéma (for postwar cinema)? Because they said something, because they dared impose a view.
For me personally it has come to the point where I am being drawn away from what was my favorite music, just because it seems that no-one dares draw up one interesting theory about electronic dance music. Either you have university people applying drab postmodernist nonsense and newspeak and thus containing what could be interesting into the feared circle of cultural studies, or you have amateurs generating a load of irrelevant utopian nonsense, ultimately resulting in not much more than predictions about which hype is going to be important in a year or so. That is about it when it comes to context and ideas. In between there is a void and it urgently needs to be filled up.
So, in the end, this is a cry to artist and writers alike for some cojónes. Please, dare say something, dare invent, dare position yourself. Because at the moment it is almost nothing at all.
It is, of course, not all laughs, because the Vlaams Belang party has had a landslide victory in most small communities, even in those where there is not a coloured face in sight. Which proves that the rise of fascist parties in general (because Flanders is, discouragingly enough, not the only place in the world where people reflect their unease with postmodernity and globalised capitalism through voting for parties that propagate hate and intolerance) is not exclusively about racism. It is also a sign that people are less and less tolerant regarding most other issues too, and ultimately, when it comes to dealing with each other.
When we were, yesterday, watching Bliss, the movie I discussed in my previous post, I commented to my mother that people who complain about the situation here in the Western part of Europe, should be sent to China, Africa, Eastern Europe or any other region in the world where everyday people struggle just to keep their heads above the water.
The ultimate problem is that people in Europe (and also in the US, that other very rich part of the world) do not realise how lucky they really are, and simply, out of sheer boredom rather than out of an immediate need, start inventing discontent where there are no really problems, in the process denying all other groups, races and have-nots their place and piece of the pie.
A lot of work needs to be done still and maybe things will get even worse, but after a long period of complete political despair a ray of hope has finally succeeded in piercing the clouds in the place where I live. I drink to that, as long as it lasts.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Bliss [Shen Zhimin, 2006]
A deeply touching Chinese movie about the lives of an extended family in China's early capitalist age, today that is. Poverty, unstable economic conditions, disease, death, crime and the difficulty of all relations concommitant with those conditions : the great themes of everyday life are treated with great feeling, dignity and respect. A 'little' movie, as they say, but with an emotional power that, these days, only Asian cinema seems able to capture. Impressive also because it shows the devastating effects of wild capitalism on the Chinese land- and cityscape. A beautiful film about the ugliness and problems of everyday life, it leaves, at the end, a ray of hope, by showing to which lengths people will go to make a better life and preserve their humanity.
The Queen [Stephen Frears, 2006]
The undisputed star of Frears' movie about the reaction of the British royal family to Diana's death is Helen Mirren, who incarnates Elisabeth II with such verve that she even succeeds in copying the Queen's walk. James Cromwell (as Prince Philip) and Michael Sheen (as Tony Blair) are brilliant too, as is, to be honest, the rest of the cast. A very funny film, too, that gives an insight into the often other-worldly views and behaviour of priviliged people. The scenes where Elisabeth quietly humiliates Blair during their bi-monthly face-to-face are mightily funny. Yet, despite its criticisms, the portraiture of the royal famlily is never cruel. The ironic message seems to be that even royals are mere humans.
4:30 [Royston Tan, 2006]
Probably the first Singaporean movie to reach the European screens is one of the best movies I've seen in quite a while. The very simple story treats about a boy who is left alone by his businesswoman mother in their apartment, only accompanied by a Korean lodger. Their relationship, since they do not speak each other's languange, is completely wordless. Difficult at first they slowly are drawn to one another, developing a silent friendship. The film is very minimal, using the slightest possible means a maximal effect. Themes like loneliness, the anonimity of big cities and the difficulties of growing up without much support are suggested rather than elaborately worked out. In the end you do not learn much more about the nature of the exact relationship between the two protagonists, but I garantuee that a lot of scenes will be haunting your thoughts for days to come.
Brick [Rian Johnson, 2005]
Brick, a very original film noir pastiche, is also one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long while. It deploys typical film noir techniques like the loner anti-authoritarian detective, the femme fatale and an outrageously complex intrigue, but at the same time perverts them by setting the film in a Californian high-school and filming it, in contrast to most film noirs, mostly in broad daylight. The pace is lightspeed fast and the bombardment of surreal jokes lasts until the very end. Very good movie, especially when you consider the double fact that there isn't an actor in the movie that you've heard of before and that it clearly has not cost a dime. I recommend you will laugh your head off.
In the meantime I just wanted to signal that Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, the fifth movie I saw today, is outright one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever watched from a director with such a reputation. I stand corrected: it is one of the most ridiculous movies ever, period.
Each and everyone of the actors is either miscast (Hillary Swank! Josh Hartnett!!) or not up to his task (most of the others). Some of them have on top of that fallen prey to some of the worst overacting in cinematic history (Aaron Eckhart! Fiona Shaw!!!). Scarlet Johansson may be considered the most sexy woman gracing the screen today, but her part is virtually nonexistent, unless you define a part as holding a cigarette and a succession of outrageously cliché sexy looks. De Palma even succeeds in making her look like a pastiche of a sex doll, with those hellishly red lips, that hair so platinum blonde that it seems to radiate and a face make-up that is more suited for a death mask. And, lest I forget, the dialogues were positively ludicrous. Add to that the part of KD Lang as a lesbian singer and a lesbian ballet dance number (if you have to believe this movie half the population of Los Angeles in the fourties consisted of lesbians) and you do not know whether to laugh or to cry.
The greatest disaster of all was the plot. I dare not even coin the term 'screenplay' here. When you adapt a novel by James Ellroy, famous for his protracted and intricate plots that span years and years of interwoven personal histories, either you rein in the plotting, dropping along the way a few subsidiary storylines, or you make a three hour movie so you can do all those storylines justice. Instead the movie compresses everything into ninety minutes. The consequence: At the end of the movie so much enigmas need to be resolved that the last fifteen minutes constitute the most contrived piece of cinema I've ever had the occasion to view.
Obviously a disaster of a movie calls for a disaster of an ending too. Of course Hartnett and Johansson get together after all they've been through. Which is rather pathetic, considering the dark and perverse atmosphere that De Palma has, in vein, tried to convey during the movie with the help of horned dildo's, lesbian sex scenes and his usual explicit horror that is boring rather than shocking.
This director needs a) a retirement b) a shrink c) a ban from directing. Teeth-grindingly bad.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Ibadan - Timbuktu [2x12", Ibadan]
Âme are at the moment Tha Shiznit Absolute, as you well may know. They just released a mix for Sonar Kollektiv and the playlist is about the most surprising of all times. We're talking Manuel 'Ashra' Goettsching, Carl Craig (the legendary Jonny L remix, previously only available on promo), Derrick May (a remix of his I did not even know existed), Laurie Spiegel (taken from the Anthology of American Music!!!) and New Musik's '24 Hours from Culture' all on one album. Add some Italo, some house, some disco and of course Âme themselves. Creaming-tastic! And then I have not even heard the mix itself, which contains a few additional tracks.
They also made no less than four mixes for the new Ibadan release, with a Main Mix, a Beatless Mix and an Outro Mix, plus an Original Mix, all good. An altogether deeper affair than their previous dance floor scorchers, you still recognize the Ibadan Afro elements, but it proves that Âme are from now on operating in a league of their own. Think Carl Craig, Ashra Tempel and Maurizio sharing the stage for a Fela Kuti homage and you're not even halfway there. You thought Carl Craig's remix for DFA was the best thing you've heard this year? Think again.
Cobblestone Jazz - India in Me [12", Wagon Repair]
Lazy Fat People - Shinjuku [12", Wagon Repair]
Mathew Jonson's stuff with Cobblestone Jazz is usually more restrained than his own infinite sounding free techno workouts and that's the case here too. You hear the typical Jonson elements but it is all more minimal and thinned out, without the climaxes. Nevertheless very inspiring.
Lazy Fat People are doing beautiful things at the moment (see below). 'Shinjuku' can be situated somewhere between electro house and minimal, but it is the trippy breakdowns that really do it. Very now and very good.
Audion - Mouth to Mouth [12", Spectral]
Scorcher alarm! Big room techno of the highest momentum. I do not know what it is about Dear's stuff that takes you away so easily. It is like nothing is happening (that simple piano-loop!) but you are transported deep into space anyway. Without any doubt one of the big tunes of this fall.
Solieb - Isotropy/Stay High [12", Maschine]
Lazy Fat People's mix of 'Isotropy' is pure lysergic fun, sealing the gap between minimal, proggy techno and neo-trance. Like with the Audion track at first it seems like nothing is happening at all, but it builds and builds, filling in the minimal structures with plenty of trippy details gathered from what seems a hundred different electronic music styles. Restrained is the new minimal it would seem.
Eat - Mission Elevator [12", Diamonds & Pearls]
Luciano's track on the flip is not too bad but far from his most interesting track. But no worries when Eat's 'Mission Elevator' is a scorcher beyond belief. Exciting techno with lots of industrial noises and acidic smudges that just builds and builds, with enough breakdowns and climaxes to make you shit your pants. Classy too that they keep it all up until the end, instead of, like many of their peers, just opting for a beat-and-cymbal outro.
I:Cube - Acid Tablet EP [12", Versatile]
Versatile delivers again with three supa-dupa tracks from the man-who-can-do-no-wrong. As times dictate dancing its legs off somewhere between acid house, electro and techno, with some nice dub touches on the last track. Buy now or regret later.
Putsch '79 - Doin' It Remixes [12", Clone]
A discoid remix care of Major Swellings aka Prins Thomas and on the flip nu-italo vibes by Daniel 'Balihu' Wang, plus an additional edit by the Putsch-duo themselves. Fat sounds a go-go for your pleasure. Nothing too new or revolutionary but not too bad either.
In the meantime still have to get hold of that new Planet E, that, according to reliable sources, is one of the records of the year. And the new 40-minute Villalobos is on the way too. High times, people, high times.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This is, of course, not to say that such behaviour has not been going on for ages. The CIA, the former KGB and probably most other secret services all over the world have been carrying out such directives for ages, having learned it from, amongst others, Nazi Germany and the Franco regime and, in turn, spreading it to other regimes such as Pinochet's Chili and the Argentina of the junta (The role of the School of the Americas you should know all about by now). But back then, even until a few years ago, they were considered out of line and not conciliable with a democratic society. Since a few years, it seems like they have become an integral part of it.
What we're not realising, or maybe not enough, is that by forfeiting these rights when it comes to so-called terrorists (which is, of course, just a name for people who are waging war without the sanction of a national government), like in the past when it came to "communists" and other people who were labeled "subversives", we've crossed a line that we won't be able to step back from.
And it just goes on and on. Everyday now rights that we've taken for granted since the instauration of the habeas corpus are being voted away by legislating bodies, foremost in the USA of the Bush governement, but increasingly also in other countries all over the world.
This week a bill is being pushed through Belgian parliament that actually decreases if not annihilates the power of the same parliament to have any say and control over the workings of the secret services and associated police units. Can you imagine, a parliament that is actually voting away its own democratic powers? And in the name of what? All ratio and decency must be sacrificed in order to achieve a state of total security that is not only unreachable but, frankly, just utopian. There are, have been and always will be fanatics and other nutcases who are ready to create a total war of us-against-them, just to get what they want, which is, in most of the cases, a sort of purified paradise that never existed in the first place, just like our supposed cosy total security paradise has never existed and never will exist.
Mind you, I am not pleading here to let massmurderers roam free and continue their actions. I am not that naïve. Indeed, we must fight back those excesses and sometimes, I will conceed that, we may have to use necessary force. But, as cliché as that may sound, necessary force, to me, is still far away from giving up decency in order to beat cruel and ruthless antagonists. It turns you into one of them. And by doing that you're giving up your humanity. I hope we are ready for the consequences. One of these days "the suede denim secret police" will be coming by and they might not only be coming "for your uncool niece", but for you too.
Pessimist? Yeah sure! That's what we were all thinking until a few years ago, was it not?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Neu! style dynamics alternate with oriental ambient and the overall sound is not to far from Moebius, Plank and Neumeier's Zero Set (incidentally on the first Begegnungen you get a remix of 'Pitch Control'). The production style reminds a bit of Ryuichi Sakamoto's early solo work and Japan's classic Tin Drum. If you stretch the comparison you can even hear some echoes from Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes' era. And you get Eno dropping his robotic vocals on a few tracks. More than just nice.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I can just barely tolerate Another Thought, but I guess I just do not like Russell's voice. I know people are going to call his music intimately personal and naked, as if you're in the room with him when he recorded it. All that may be true, but to me, even when he starts building vague calypso symphonies like 'In the Light of a Miracle', it all seems to go nowhere, like a jam that fails to leave any impression whatsoever. It all sounds pretty primitive, contrived and arty in a bad way, like a work in progress that was left at just that.
Calling out of Context comes on as a more thought over collection of songs. At least here you have the impression that he was working towards something instead of injecting his ideas into an artistic vacuum. Here the unfinished aspect (since these tracks were found in Russell's estate after he died) is not as annoying as on Another Thought and World of Echo. You hear that the guy is a genius (yes, I will conceed that) and the record contains quite a few playful and inventive sections. Nonetheless it still remains a rather sketchy compilation of somewhat unrelated tracks, lacking a common thread that would turn it into a proper album. And, even considering the fact that the people who released it have probably left it like Russell would have wanted it, it surely could have benefitted from a better mix. A pity because it's my opinion that Calling out of Context, given a thorough studio overhaul, could have been a genuine masterpiece. Now it feels like a mere curiosity.
Monday, October 02, 2006
After MAW's Kings of House and Peterson and Jazzanova's Kings of Jazz BBE gave Garnier and Craig free headway for compiling techno. A bit strange that Garnier focuses solely on Detroit Techno, but it's a nice double comp nonetheless. Garnier takes on Detroit's history from The Stooges unto Dabrye, while Craig goes delving in European classics, with Black Dog/Plaid making two appearances, next to pioneering acts like Visage, Yello and Nitzer Ebb. And Capricorn's 'I Feel Love', by far my favorite Italo track, is on it too. Essential!
Rob Mello: No Ears Mix [Classic]
Mello mixes up classic tracks from Solomon and Carter's now defunct Classic Music Company. A sort of flashback for me, because - I checked it of course - through the years I seem to have acquired no less than 43 records from that 'classic' house label. All quirky and tweeky shit with lots of freaky vocals set for the dancefloor. Well recommended if you like the typical Freaks style. Don't know if it's really on Classic because, as I said, the label stopped proceedings after its 100th release. Sort of an afterbirth I suppose.
Kaito: Hundred Million Love Years [Kompakt]
What do you know? Kaito unleashes a pure ambient record on Kompakt. No beat whatsoever in sight and no percussion to speak of. Pure chill bliss. Haven't heard a record like this in years, it seems. Reminds me of early nineties chill (think The Irresistable Force) and that's a good thing. Oneiric is the word I think I was looking for.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
My advise to those who think their world should be populated by white people only: move to the North Pole, you won't see any black, yellow, red or brown faces there and it's as cold there as in your heart. That is, if you have one.