Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Some Self

I have been reading a lot of Will Self's stories lately and I am going to have to reconsider my thesis that he is not a Ballardian writer, because he is. But where Ballard is always clinical and menacing, Self is funny and ironic. In a way he illuminates the same post-modern situations as Ballard, but the intended menace is somewhat subdued and the outcome always drole rather than Ballard's frequently harsh and cruel critiques.

His subject matter is also very different, though his characters are also very upper middle-class (artists, doctors, philosophers, psychiatrists, editors), but as opposed to the typical Ballard typology they are far less out of control, a kind of kindly perverted bourgeois. Where Ballard describes a world wherein psychosis has overruled neurosis, while still being called normal, Self describes the same loss of affect in a much more benign way. The conclusions are the same, but the consequences are never that far-reaching. A Ballard-light, quoi?

Of course the link between the inundated England of The Book of Dave and The Drowned World is self-evident, but I can hardly wait to discover the subtle differences in subject matter and characterisation (still waiting for the paperback). This is really a very stimulating writer. For the interested: try The Grey Area and The Quantum Theory of Insanity. As they are short-story collections, the Ballard parallel will be immediately made clear.

Proto-clicks: Ragnar Grippe - Sand [1977]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Neu und Besser

Frankly I do not know why I have taken so long to realize that to continue this blog as a musical critique would have been the death of it. Woebot is having quite a laugh with Paul Morley's piece in the Observer on Sunday, but is Morley not right? So many bloggers come totally unprepared, without the merest hint of any maturity into the world of online journalism that they vent one inanity after another into the blogosphere." As long as it's new, as long as it flashes in 40 million different colours", as Johnny puts it in Naked. The birth and death of the same thing are proclaimed in a few weeks time. Yeah, I guess you could call that the end of history.

I too was at first totally fascinated by all those people in the blogosphere who toss around references to Deleuze, Lacan, Barthes, Derrida and whoever is the (wo)man of the day. It is why I decided sometime last year to finally start reading all those referenced authors and philosophers, so that at least I would be able to understand the difference between a K-punk and his many imitators.

More importantly, of course, it was to find out where I really stood amid all those different points of view. I have not really made a definite choice yet, I even suppose I never will. I could never fully adopt a Lacanian take (as Dejan does), because history has taught me that there are many different truths (cfr. Dejan and Zizek) and that it is best not to take a fixed point of view.

This could be perceived as ideological cowardness, but, frankly, are we not way past that? Most contemporary thinkers - sometimes I think everyone after Heidegger - just deal in hermeneutics and refuse to offer a fixed point of view. Rightly so? I am in doubt.

One side of the story tells me that by focusing solely on hermeneutics and declaring the end of all great stories and concepts thinkers have opened up a Box of Pandora of intellectual nonsense that gets employed by the intellectually less gifted (by that I do not mean people with a low IQ or such stuff, but writers who have not taken the time to consider which tools they should use and, even more importantly, have not taken the time to absorb the lessons these tools offer them) to show how clever they are by mentioning such or such 'big name'.

The other part shows that almost no-one any longer dares to do anything other than hermeneutics, i.e. just offering tools and methodology to analyse post-modern problems.

This mere hermeneutic approach, I suspect, will only bring up more post-modern problems, a sort of post-to-the-power-x-modernism, while all the while the question should be how we are going to escape from post-modernism into something new that is truly worthwhile.

The link between this hermeneutics-for-philosophy and the sorry state of blogging may be a thin one, but I think there are at least some parallels. Because in the blogosphere everyone can at least pretend that he is a specialist in his given field. You only have to look at the by now very old and very sad mentionings of "the eighties" in relation to today's musical scene.

It is a bit of a shame that James Murphy does not really live up to his own point by blatantly ripping the 80ies himself, but he sure had a point with his "borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties". Damn! With The Klaxons we even have our first case of unremembered nostalgia for the unremembered nineties. At the present rate of dilution of thought next year we will surely experience the first symptoms of borrowed nostalgia for the remembered noneties.

It is why I felt a bit uneasy at the lengthy column of text dedicated to new rave (which as a "style" is completely devoid of any meaning) by the always so sharp Philip Sherburne. K-punk dismissed the phenomenon and its presumed attributes in a short post and very rightly so. It is a sorry state of affairs when journalists and writers have to dedicate a piece to utter nothingness, just because their editor wants his magazine to be in tow to the latest fad on Myspace or other extended nitwitworks.

I will never forget the mail I got from my editor at the end of 2006 in which he stated that our predictive article on the next big musical things in 2007 might as well contain absolute off-the-map bullshit, because no-one would remember it at the end of the same year. He was right of course, but does that make me feel good? I mean, how much difference is there between such a text and one that is puked out by the infamous post-modern lingo generator that someone put on the net a few years ago?

All these analyses are nonetheless offered up as inventive, original and learned news items, the newer and the less thought-over the better. And, of course, real journalism has been infected by this development along the way. If then someone, like Morley, admittedly someone from the old school, dares attempt to bring the phenomenon back to its real dimensions, i.e. as a mere avalanche of shit clogging up your brains, eyes and ears, he is all too readily dismissed as an old fart. Instead such remarks should lead to a deserved mea culpa and some reflection.

Nonetheless, since I have a positive attitude and am - hopefully for some time longer - still hopeful, I expect that one day out of this sea of muck may arise a blogosphere that truly lives up to its promises, a sort of direct democracy that is really worthy of its name. So we have a K-punk, we have a Cultural Parody Center, we have a Steven Shaviro, but it is not nearly enough to posit a true renaissance of thought. Time to get our hands and minds dirty.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kode9 from outta Space (come to save da human race)

Just had the most amazing evening in a long time in Petrol in Antwerp. First Alex and Laetitia of Karat Records rocked the place with the kind of house that I did not know existed any longer. Then Ark (of Perlon fame) and a mate of his did a dj/laptop funky techno set that rocked even harder. And then Steve aka Kode9 came to dub da place out with the most incredible dubplates I've ever heard. You just saw that he was afraid to hit the decks after a couple of techno dj's but already at the first record he had to do a rewind. He got the place dancing like there was no tomorrow and there was nothing but shouting and screaming going on every time he put on a new record. And he played Digital Mystikz' 'Anti-war Dub'. And the Digital Mystikz remix of Fat Freddy's Drop. Suffice to say Kode9 is "nearly God" behind the decks. Every single body in the place was moving, even the women ("most importantly", as Steve rightly put it), even more remarkable when you take into account the overall darkness of the music he played. Afterwards we had a little chat about his upcoming book on sonic warfare, Mark K-Punk (who else?), Ballard (The Drowned World and Chronopolis, what else?) and the upcoming new Kode9 & The Spaceape album (yes! it's coming up!), while Belgian techno kingpin Spacid put on some Basic Channel 12-inches. What an evening!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Some thoughts on reading Maurice Blanchot

Now do not understand the following as me being an expert on Heidegger (although I have read most of his important works) and Hegel, but I have to say that I have never fully understood the assertion that they are difficult writers. If there are two philosophers that I do fully understand then it will be those two. I think it is because their definitions are so crystal-clear. So clear as a matter a fact that I have always considered them to be poets rather than philosophers. This might seem a light even sacriligious take on their meaning and significance, but I could not possibly phrase it otherwise. Compared to them most other philosophers are muddleheaded.

This may seem a strange approach to philosophy, given the fact that philosophy is explicitly trying to explain the world, but I have found that I truly begin to understand the philosophers I like/agree with/find useful, only when I do consider their writings as poetry (the same thing has happened recently when I started to read Derrida, instead of reading about him). Poetry for me implicitly means 'lightness', the ability to approach language at face value, as raw material, not as meaning. If you go from there, instead of, as most people do, immediately attributing immense significance to words, possible theories remain much clearer if things get complicated later on.

If, like Lacan [I know that Dejan will dislike my interpretation of Lacan as a philosopher, but I am doing it anyway because Lacan himself started that interpretation by talking nonsense about Hegel and Kant. [btw: even if it were only his followers who have mistakenly interpreted his teachings, then it is still his fault because he developed his thoughts in troubled water]], your definitions are mystified and deliberately obscure, the philosophical edifice you want to erect with those definitions (the 'erect' has, deviously, not been chosen completely undeliberately), will crumble at the ultimate and most important moment, that is, when you really have to say something, i.e. explain. Omar states in the comments of this post that he considers Freud's Interpretations of Dreams as an "avant-garde biography" rather than as the promise of its title and I think that is a saner approach.

= = = = =

Ultimately most problems in life that are related to words (i.e. people not understanding each other) become problematic because people employ different definitions, which means, from either view, that the other (not the Other) is employing the wrong definition.

I have this problem with talking about music too. For me all music is at the out-start raw sound material. The whitest noise (take Aaron Dilloway) and the most verbose lyricism (take Leonard Cohen) I try to approach with the same innocence. Therefor for me there is not such a thing as difficult music. Music can be only difficult if you approach it from one way/viewpoint only, that is, define it too succinctly. If you define music as 'music with lyrics', only then can white noise become difficult music. For years I misinterpreted some kinds of music because I defined them in relation to other music and thoughts external to music. This is no longer the case.

Two examples to somewhat explain my position:


At the moment there is a lot to do in certain quadrants of the blogosphere about Xasthur. People analyse his music and find themes like genocide, racism, Nietzschean philosophy and go from there to racist interpretations of Lovecraft and Houellebecq. There is even a nutcase who has found a link between Varg Vikernes and Houellebecq. I dare declare that these investigations, how erudite and reeking of 'look at all the things I know' as they may be, totally miss the point. Why? Because they make problematic something that is, in its immediate attributes, only an aesthetic question. Do I care why Varg Vikernes or Xasthur make their music? Not in the least. If you approach music that way you are already making a moral statement. To explicate further: I am not a racist. Varg Vikernes is. Does this mean that I do not like Vikernes' music? No, it does not. I think Burzum is just good music. For me it does not conjure up future times when all Jews, black people or whoever will be extinct. What all these investigators do not realize is that at one time or other they inexorably must end up in contradictions. How can you ever justify your liking of Xasthur or Burzum again later on, when you have made problematic the philosophic themes behind it? To bluntly relate ideologic to aesthetic concepts is a bit like shitting on a white carpet: sure, that carpet was not going to stay white forever, but there are other and certainly more gradual ways of soiling it.


Dejan does not in the least like Burial and Kode9, he even feels compelled to write a whole post on it. I am wondering whether this is not, again, a dire(ct) consequence of his so-called 'hauntological' interpretation of these musics. He has read so much about those artists before listening to them that it can only lead to disappointment. To me these two records are masterpieces because they remind me of sounds that I have appreciated in the past (e.g. dub, Massive Attack, Tricky, early drum'n'bass, isolationism, Detroit electro) and do something fresh with it. I could not possibly care less if their intended or suspected themes are hauntological [I will for the time being leave unanswered the question if there in fact is something like hauntological music, because I am not convinced that there is a relation between the crackles of Robert Johnson, the pops of Chain Reaction or the intended bad sound quality of black metal] or not. They may, as I have written in the past, remind me of certain Ballardian landscapes, but I will never go as far as to call Kode9 or Burial Ballardian artists. Nor will I call Will Self a Ballardian writer because he writes about a submerged island.

= = = = =

Maybe it does sound impossible/improbable but every day again I try to be a blank sheet, a tabula rasa. To quote The Spaceape, I try to let music "stimulate the audio nerve directly".

This is not to say that this approach will always work out as I intend it, but I have to try or most of the true meaning will escape me.

= = = = =

I have to agree with Blanchot, who strongly opposes Sartre's dichotomy between prose and poetry, with prose then being the so-called 'committed' pole of writing. Words commit out of themselves, as things or images, but never as signifiers: they do not need to be committed or need meaning instilled in them. They may, but it is by no means necessary. And it is just the same with music and sound. Ultimately the more you say/write about music, the more you distance yourself from the act of listening itself, thereby putting an invisible barrier of thought between yourself and the music.

As much as I have an immense respect for him and his mates writing those cunning rhizomatic tales of endlessly interwoven meaning, I am wondering whether K-punk is in any way still capable of truly enjoying music. Does he have the time for it, before he goes on another logorrhoetic spree? I am always baffled by that powerful language at first, but - and this can take a mighty long time - eventually I always start doubting those meticulously constructed theories, because I suspect the words were there almost at the same time as the aesthetic experience itself. It is probably the reason why the Cultural Parody Center is my all too necessary antidote to K-punk's idea-logical hypercornucopia.

How many times have I not thrown incredibly dirty invectives at my computer screen when reading Droommachine Sporenburg, wondering how such a beautiful mind could state such inanities? What a difference it makes now when I am reading the charming and inspiring OMC-par-OMC, a blog where ideas and memories finally seem to have been allowed some breathing/breeding space. On Droommachine Sporenburg thoughts were suffocated. Now, on OMC-par-OMC, they flourish, and, more importantly, have acquired true meaning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fear and Language

Today started my first reading of Maurice Blanchot and I could not help being reminded of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit. Where Heidegger tries to build up the whole of reality out of being(s), Blanchot tries to get hold of literature through the investigation of its basic assumptions. And just like Heidegger you feel like there is a struggle going on with Language itself. How do you talk about literature if you are not really sure what literature is, where it really comes from and are still looking for its essential building blocks?

By doing this he shows once again how difficult these kinds of texts can get (cfr. Sein und Zeit). The premises seem so simple at the outstart, but, as Blanchot readily admits, it is remarkable how easily the handling of the most simple and basic concepts already leads to apparent paradoxes. You can't help of bringing to mind Derrida's "What deconstruction is not? Everything. What is deconstruction? Nothing!"

The parallel with postmodern society must be self-evident. It is like a nod that can never be untangled, because we have allowed too many factors into the game. Removing factors from the equation is no option either, the aporia will continue to exist. And now we must forever keep on playing, with not as much as a splinter of hope of ever finishing the game. We have definitely played ourselves.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Reverse thought engineer (1)

Melody Mental

You know Vannier as the man who wrote the arrangements for Serge's Histoire de Mélody Nelson. This sounds like the instrumental follow-up to that album. On first hearing it would seem to have been sampled to death and then some. Gorgeous anyway.

At Last

If the music is as good as the guy who puts it out, then we're in for some real treats.

Amazing Daze

This (because it is not what it looks)


This (because its reputation is more than deserved)


That (because it reminds you that better things come out of Iraq than suicidal nuts)

Dreamy Days

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Anotha Month, Anotha Dance

As announced there will be some changes. What those imply, you will see rather than me writing some half-assed pseudo-Lacanian/Barthian/Derri-daddy-an explanation about it. But it is indeed possible that the words 'war', 'mental', 'change' and 'too long' play a part in it. Possibly the rate of invectivism may slightly rise, too, in the future. And to be quite frank, I have not really decided whether English or Dutch is the foremost language to go start invecting in.

And most importantly: I wish to declare the death of the review. Nifty, innit?

Silly or Scary?

Both, I suppose.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nothing but...

Confusion at the moment. So check back later on for a conceptual revamp and other changes.