Monday, April 30, 2007
In these distressing times of jagged heteronormativity, apocalyptic multiplicity and the retro-gaze of the eventual subject my relationship with concepts and theory surrounding popular music has always been rather one of alert suspicion. When the names 'Raster-Noton' and 'Carsten Nicolai' are evoked this suspicion goes into supermega-overdrive and reaches an all-time high.
The above promotional text accompanying Alva Noto's newest project (Nicolai does not make records, he thinks up projects, that are then worked out in detail and, one is inclined to think, are only recorded because, well, they have to be, do they not), is one of the most overblown and anal commentaries I ever encountered. And as a regular record reviewer I have read quite a few promotional papers that were talking out of the metaphorical anus. I, as any other thinking being, crave my daily piece of theory. But when they lay their filthy pomo claws on my music, I am inclined to take out the air-rifle and do some serious damage.
Now, I am asking you to point out in which way there is anything revolutionary about taking samples and copying them beyond recognition? Since the birth of the sampler electronic producers have been doing just that, have they not? Tell me what is so special about that.
All this would not make me grumpy, if not the music that is the result of this incredibly original and shrewd conceptualisation were anything more than white noise and ambient. Mind you, the music on Xerrox Vol.1 (four more episodes, and, one fears, an equal amount of conceptual bullshit along with it, to follow) is some of the most pristine, alienating and beautiful sound you will have ever heard. But even after a few listenings it remains just that: white noise and ambient.
The music even sounds white. It is pure nothing music, a glacial soundtrack to accompany a perverted tourist walk through a cathedral of concrete, glass and shining design materials. Beautiful as levitating through the clouds on a sunny day, but the link with the so-called concept is non-existing.
Furthermore, what is Nicolai talking about when he states that "the results manifest their connection to the original only suggestively"? I challenge everyone to listen a few times to this recording and point out the portion(s) which he thinks manifest any connection whatsoever to a recognizable sound source. Nicolai is so kind to provide us with a list of the original sources, references like "Narita Airport", "Telephone Wait-loop" and "Seven-Eleven Tokyo".
He is right when he says that you will not recognize Narita Airport or the 7/11 in Tokyo on Xerrox Vol.1. But if he had put phrases like "Bear Fart from Amsterdam Zoo" or "80-year Old Being Porked by Said Bear" instead, you would have believed him just as well. Hell, I would even take something like "Carsten Nicolai Hurting His Membranes While Thinking Up A Marvellous New Concept" for granted. But the result would be exactly the same. Is this a cd or an encyclopedia, an example of Nicolai's "work in the transitional area between art and science"? Who knows, dear readers, who knows?
And then of course, as top of the bill, we get a phrase like: "In this respect the original is copied to the original." What the fuck is this guy talking about? Someone. Explain. This. Sentence. To. Me.
But this is not the end of it. Xerrox Vol.1, as you will by now have come to suspect, is not encased in an ordinary jewelcase. Sir, no, Sir! It is presented in a folder. If you fold this open more logorrhoea comes pouring out. Things like:
"In the end the process of copying can itself become a creative tool which analytically generates something new. The mutating copy emerges as a new original and thereby provides space for development." (The sheer invention of it! Serendipity alert!! A sound Revolution!!!)
"In our world of constant reproduction the immeasurable number of multiplied images corroborates the original. The copy assumes its independence and its own value. The replication equals the original, which as an icon becomes abstract and virtual." (Yes, dear readers, you read that right. This "Maître Penseur of Microtechno" dares to go all Platonic on us.)
What next? Will Xerrox Vol.2 be an "original replication" of Xerrox Vol.1? And Xerrox Vol.3 an "unrecognizable copy" of the, by that time, iconic, abstract and virtual Xerrox Vol.1? And, most important of all: will we still be able to recognize "Narita Airport" by the time Xerrox Vol.5 will have wreaked more conceptual havoc upon our poor minds? Will the "integral material component of the original remain or can this only be projected?" Give this man some time and in a few months he will be mentioning terms like "substance", "category", "free will" and "eternal recurrence". Anytime would I welcome another tsunami of Tolkien-inspired progressive rock albums with Uriah Heep-style sleeves full of wizards and sci-fi birds before taking in another helping of this kind pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo.
With all this mind-poisoning post-techno babble one would almost forget - and this, the ironic cruelty that is always so manifest in pomo, almost makes me weep of frustration - that Xerrox Vol.1 actually is one of the most fascinating ambient records 2007 has yielded up till now.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Apart from the bonafide heavy hitters I was not really convinced by the critically lauded first album. But I just love this record and anyone saying that this is a bad record does not know what he is talking about. And the average age of this bunch being twenty we can expect plenty of great things to come (I hope, that is). One of those rare records that makes you wish you were sixteen again.
Circle - Pori
Another record, another style. Which means in this case: how many styles can you handle? This time around endearing panoramic ambient sounds mixed up with bass-heavy electronics and off-kilter rhythms, avant garde versus free jazz versus classical, motorik hardrock with Gregorian chanting, bombastic drum work, epic synthwashes all over the place, lots of nocturnal atmospheres and a whole lot more. These guys are as difficult to follow as their song titles are to pronounce.
Jona - Smart Cats vs Dumb Dogs / Evidence
I bought his previous two 12-inches on Get Physical and this one proves that this Belgian continues his ascent to the top techno drawer. And he is doing something original with the labelsound, of which I was growing a bit tired lately. Like always he royally takes his time and just when you think this is going to be another not-much-happening minimal funk track he gets all emotional and melancholic on you.
Von Südenfed - Tromatic Reflexxions
Forget that horrible last Fall-record. This is the one to worship. Great beats and Smith in full effect. I think he needs a new band or something. Again.
Brainticket - Celestial Ocean
Most of the time Brainticket are considered to be Krautrockers but they were actually of Swiss and Italian descent. This album contains some great ethnic inspired prog. But if an inspired bootlegger/editor (think Dark and Lovely or such) added some good contemporary beats to the mighty 'Jardins', you would get a great slow sub-disco anthem. And those who were wondering where Steven 'NWW' Stapleton got those dreamy foreign sounding vocal bits, look no further, you will find plenty of those on this record. Splendid stuff!
Roxy Music - Country Life
My mother had this record since before I was born and I always liked the horribly made-up girls with the see-through underwear, but never got around to actually checking the music. And it turns out to be one of the best Roxy Music albums. Not everything is genius, but 'The Thrill of It All', 'All I Want is You', 'Out of the Blue' and 'Prairie Rose' are among the best they have ever done. Arty as fuck (dig those Weill-ian phrasings on 'Bitter-sweet') but what was ever wrong with that?
Die Tödliche Doris - " "
Ooooooh! Great deconstructed anarcho-punk artrocky stuff from Berlin. They started the whole Berlin scene along with Einstürzende Neubauten and DAF and they are just as great, but more in a chaotic No Wave style à la DNA and Teenage Jesus. What is more, they are also pleasantly disturbed. Has also one of those titles you cannot pronounce, but only read, which I think is another plus. They once released two records that you could play at the same time and then get a third record, the so-called Invisible LP, which even had a catalogue number of its own. I like those antics! Crazy as fuck and anti-everything, sounds like a Fire in the Mind kinda group.
Shining - Grindstone
Thanks for the tip, Bas! Totally freaked out mix-up of gothic, progressive, jazz, hardrock, electronics and what the fuck do I know. Audacious, ambitious, inventive and completely succeeding where others fail. With operatic vocals, always a big plus at the Fire place.
Glenn Jones - Against Which the Sea Continually Beats
Classic instrumental twangy sounds from Cul De Sac-member. Recommended for the John Fahey and Jack Rose lovers. This guy can play a mean tune.
Ibliss - Supernova
This group is what remained when Hütter and Scheider left the one-off project Organisation to start up Kraftwerk. And Ibliss in turn turned out to be another one-off. But it is a beauty. Very funky and with lots of exotic and ethnic sounds, these four tracks are among the best and most accessible the Krautrock movement ever yielded. Although titles like 'Athir' and 'Marga' promise otherwise there is nothing much psychedelic about Supernova. It sounds more akin to early disco and late jazzfunk actually, a bit like Miles Davis circa Agharta and Pangaea, but a lot tamer of course. Nonetheless well worth checking.
Moebius Neumeier Engler - Other Places
A mix-up of tribal, industrial electronics and that mighty unique Krautfeeling. And 'Sumplige Wasser' sounds like it could have been released on Kompakt, or something by the current incarnation of The Orb. Essential listenening.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
And they noodled on. Beautiful and going nowhere in particular. But to be honest, I like everything this lot does.
Circle - Tyrant
Another Circle, another style. This one's more NWOFS (New Wave of Finnish Shoegaze).
Tod Dockstader - Electronic
There are actually two volumes with exactly the same name. Pretty far removed from the abstract musings of the Aerial series this lies somewhere between the musique concrète experiments of the GRM, krautronics à la Cluster, sci-fi dramatics and industrial. I was absolutely flabbergasted by it.
Edgar Froese - Aqua
Pretty difficult to find something worth listening to in Froese's solo discography. This one's closest to Tangerine Dream circa Phaedra.
Pan American - For Waiting For Chasing
Atmosphere, nothing but atmosphere. Americana ambient, if there were such a thing.
Aphrodite's Child - 666
I confess: I am a prog lover. And this concept album from Roussos and Vangelis about the Apocalypse is as prog as they come. With incredible opera styled vocals from Irene Pappas as a bonus. Only for the brave!
Pentangle - People on the Highway
Folkrock from Bert Jansch's group. With lots of high-pitched girl's voices singing about Albion, snow and sun, wedding dresses, mountains, sweethearts and such. Flowerchildren ahoy!
Sacrificial Totem - Hurqalya
Pagan black metal noise that would scare away even Satan himself. Disturbing shit. For those who can dig the universe-being-born aesthetics of Cluster '71.
Boredoms - Super Roots 9
One track, 40 minutes long, of totally over the top extravaganza. Including insane sampled choirs. Carmina Burana meets Japanoise.
Acid Mothers Temple - In C
Terry Riley sounds like Neu! in these hands. Grooved out!
Keiji Haino - Book of Eternity Set Aflame
Scorched earth style guitar noise rules on this one. Wouldn't be amazed if it turned out Stephen O'Malley has this one in his collection. Louder than Wolf Eyes and more unnerving than Sunn o))). Haino is The King.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Needless to say that I do not in the least agree with Richard Rorty, who, in this documentary, describes Heidegger as "a bad man who wrote an interesting book". Heidegger's challenge still stands today, more than ever. And it is about time we lived up to it.
I am inclined to think that, although we do live in a postmodern age, most people, and more importantly, most postmodern criticisms, still continue to express themselves in the vocabulary of modernism. It is not because they use all this postmodern terminology that they think differently.
Because, if they are so postmodern, why do they feel obliged to think up new concepts all of the time? After all, is there anything more enlightened than coming up with new concepts? It is much more of a challenge to think new thoughts with the concepts that are already there and that (seem to) have been exhausted.
The biggest problem of postmodernism, then, is perhaps the fact that no-one at all any longer dares to think a tabula rasa. And tabula rasa does not mean another heap of new concepts. No, it means thinking up new meanings. One must think beyond, not 'after' modernism. Mors ontologica is only a fact when you choose to accept it as such.
So there is still hope, perhaps even more than ever. The work is never done. History may have ended, but history is just a concept. The world is ruled by people, not by concepts. Language may speak us, but one still can - no: must - choose by which language one is spoken.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The sentence that keeps on returning again and again in White Noise is the existential "What does it mean". DeLillo's protagonists seem to be wandering a theme park where fun, fun, fun is the ultimate goal. But in the end (and sometimes that 'end' comes all to quickly) they always realize that fun, fun, fun only conceals the ever continuing search for a meaning that eludes them. They are not even sure (and we with them) that there is an ultimate meaning. To me they are erring souls, forever striving forward while all the way they do not know if there is something to be reached in the end. Irony seems to be the only way out when truth has been lost.
It makes a joyful reading of these books very difficult. Sure, you laugh a lot, but what, in the end, are you laughing with? There is no salvation, no real conclusion. Maybe Lyotard was right after all. There is no longer any belief in meta-narratives. But what has been constructed in their place leaves all to the imagination and painstakingly avoids any meaning whatsoever (cfr. David Lynch's latest films: sure, they are imaginative and alienating to an absurd maximum, but what does it all mean in the end?)
So we all flee into the detailed and the ultra-particular while never seeing (or should that be: unconsciously a-void-ing) the bigger picture that emerges. That is, total despair and the need to fill in the void regardless of what is being filled up and what we fill it up with. We have everything, but no direction. And the real danger is that when desperately looking for a direction, you choose the wrong one and end up doing very stupid things. You see, for postmodern man, lacking meta-narratives, it just is not necessary any longer to do the right thing. Frequently it seems already enough to do something.
It leads me to think that even the renewed fanatism of muslims as well as christian fundamentalists is no more than a cosmetic affair. After having relinquished religion and having chosen uncritically for wild capitalism, they find out that the chosen path leads to nowhere. But the return to faith is a case of self-deception at its worst. Because in the end they never entirely refute the principles of capitalism. In its place comes an ugly hybrid that combines everything that was wrong about both systems in the first place. So the so-called moral renewal becomes in the end no more than a moral fundament for laissez-faire capitalism. "New", all too often, is just a remodelling of the old forms.
If there were one word with which you would have to sum up our current civilization, it would be unsurprised.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Goddess! Goddess!! Goddess!!!
Colleen - Les Ondes Silencieuses
Out of time beauty on authentic instruments.
The Young Gods - Superready / Fragmenté
So there was nothing coming out of Switserland besides the cuckoo clock, Harry?
Hermann Nitsch - Harmoniumworks Vol. 1-12
Hypnotizing endless organ loops from the Vienna Actionist.
Alexander Tucker - Old Fog
Psychedelic folk with an atypic but rewarding voice.
Khylst - Chaos is My Name
Messages from the darkest pits of hell.
Frankie Valli - Beggin' (Pilooski Edit)
Frankie 'Four Seasons' Valli gets a postmillenial update.
Motor - Unhuman
Stomping electro-tech to set the dance floor alight.
Nico - The Frozen Borderline
What can I say? Even the demo versions are great.
Efterklang - Under Giant Trees
Another enchanting episode of the Efterklang fairytale.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
It is the by now dreary postmodern story of people not wanting to accept the society they have created themselves. So when it comes to entertainment they instinctively shy away from the mechanical and cold aspects of electronic dance music, not realising that nostalgia always leads to sameness and ultimately fascism (that last one I have nicked from DeLillo's profetic White Noise I think, but I am convinced it is true nonetheless).
Worse is that those who call themselves underground journalists also continue to gobble up the structural hypes that are forced upon them by record companies and big broadcasting companies. You just have to casually read two or three so-called independent magazines to realize that week after week, month after month they, too, fill up their columns with the same artists and currents. The critique may be different but the names are all exactly the same. That way a lot of really good music is hardly visible and gets ghettoised toward niches and fragmented interest groups.
There may be, as Theo remarked, a market for niche-music and indeed there is. But the fact that they will forever remain niches also entails that the margin for true innovation continues to grow smaller and smaller.
But then again, true innovation does not let itself be stopped off by the narrowness of its manoeuvring space. It thrives on exactly that. So, in the end, there is always hope.
Addendum: I am wondering though why Theo thinks it is that much different in other countries than Holland. I think this has ultimately more to do with the wider public they are reaching, because most of the magazines he is - I think - talking about are written in English. Relatively speaking I am guessing the difference will not be all that great.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The most beautiful techno I have heard in quite a while.
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime:
The most beautiful techno I have heard in quite a while, part 2
Psalm Alarm - Blk Paintings Vol. 1:
Actually sounds like an evil version of Coil's How to Destroy Angels. And, yes, that is a mighty good thing.
Battles - Mirrored:
To art rock or not to art rock? Fuck that! It rocks!
Ignatz - Ignatz II:
Belgian has the blues. Big time.
Religious Knives - Remains:
Not just another collection of drones.
Wolf Eyes - Black Wing over the Sand:
Yes, they have done it again. And again. And again...
Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity:
Supreme pop madness rules supreme.
Gudrun Gut: I Put a Record On:
Sehr gut, ja, danke!
Throbbing Gristle: Part Two, The Endless Not:
Still gets my gristle throbbing after all those years.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Monday, April 02, 2007
And - to add my own little thought to Big John's - always fookin' fantastic, mate!
It is not that I feel ashamed that I have become a fan when I am 32 years old. But I would have wished that I got into The Fall 20 years ago, then I would not be busy for the next ten years searching for the records (there are about 84 now). Yes, overnight (that is: it had been brewing since I first saw them live in concert) I have become a Fall-fan (How could I not? They were named after one of my favourite books.) and a devout gobbler of MES's rambles and rantings. At the moment I hardly listen to anything else, I must confess, which is a bit of a problem when you got about 30 promo's of new stuff piled up on your desk waiting for a deserved (or not!) review.
This is really the group that you love or hate and I fookin' LOVE it. And shame on those who claim that The Fall have not released anything relevant after Hex Enduction Hour, because The Real New Fall Lp (Formerly Country on the Click) from 2003 is one of the best records I have ever heard in my life.
I don't know, maybe I have been lucky, but up till now I have not heard one Fall-album that was not thoroughly enjoyable, if it was not outright brilliant to begin with.
For those unaccustomed: Start with the early work (Live at the Witch Trials, Grotesque and Slates are all the bee's knees) and then go for This Nation's Saving Grace, which is an absolute masterpiece, were it only because 'I am Damo Suzuki' is on there somewhere. If you do not like any of these, do not bother, you will never understand then. Your loss, mate! But for the record: there is not such a thing as a bad Fall-record.
There is a legend that there are people who do listen exclusively to The Fall. Though I will never be one of them, it is something that, since a few weeks, I can at least grasp the concept of.