Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mad Mike interview online here.
"I realised, more than before, that the talent is to use simple words to explain difficult concepts and not to hide simple concepts behind difficult words."

Thank you, Jacques Attali.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rather Raving (about)

Helmut Lachenmann - Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelholzern

It was bound to happen. After listening to noise, improvisation and free jazz for some time I just needed to submerge myself into modern composition. Do not ask me any musical specifications about this one because I am far from steeped in the finer points of counterpoint, pitch, serialism or twelve-tone theory. But I sure know this is one of the best things I have ever heard. As you can guess from the title this is sort of an opera. There are actually not too much vocals, rather vocalisations and Sprechgesang. I just wish now that I had taken up musical theory when I was younger, because now I can only tell you that I am playing this to death. I think, though, that it, again, has to do something with the recurring silence and the minute gradations of volume in this kind of music. And of course with the fact that Ralf Wehowsky (of P16.d4) once pointed out in an interview that this music sounds right and everything by Madonna sounds wrong.

[It would not be honest to throw that last bit in the reader's face without providing any context, however. What Wehowsky meant was that to listen to pop music you do not need to adapt yourself, because the melodies are for the most part quite simple and harmonically pleasing. Listening to dissonant, unpredictable music requires of your brain that it adapts itself to patterns that it is not used to. Adapting is learning and learning is acquiring more knowledge. Anyway, I think he is right.]

Karl-Heinz Stockhausen - Mikrophonie I & II / Telemusik

Einstürzende Neubauten, but 25 years earlier. These are probably the Stockhausen works that were most ahead of their age. The musical equivalent of stealing the fire from the gods. Amazing.

Cornad Schnitzler - Rot

I knew Schnitzler from his pioneering roles in Kluster and Tangerine Dream, but I had not yet checked out his solo works. So this came on like a revelation. 'Meditation' is a mechanic ambient soundscape much in the vein of Seesselberg or Vangelis's Beaubourg, while 'Krautrock' is the real works: lots of bubbling proto-industrial electronics with an ensnaring percussion loop being segued in later on. Schnitzler's music (and there is an awful lot of it) always sounds a bit like an automatic factory turned into music, so refrain if you are looking for emotional satisfaction. Of course I am exaggerating here, because there are pleasing sweeping synth tones woven through most of 'Krautrock'.

Magma - Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh

Mostly when people reference Magma it is to ridicule them for their self-invented Zeuhl language and general hippy antics. But then they better take heat of this. This reminds me of Archie Shepp's Attica Blues and that's saying something. Probably one of the best prog records ever. Shows that these guys were highly knowledgeable of the most interesting periods of black music (Tribe, Strata East, Black Jazz). You have got to take the ridiculously high female chanting for granted, though, otherwise you will not be able to sit this through.

Robert Ashley - Automatic Writing

Robert Ashley now makes experimental opera's but this is something different altogether. The title track consists of no more than two voices, one female whispering in French (think L'Année Dernière à Marienbad, and closer to home Nurse With Wound's 'Echo Poème', which is a total rip-off of Ashley) and one slowed down to a sort of unholy grunt, plus some unidentified background noises.

On 'Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon', when a girl's voice is talking about a guy who puts his fingers between her legs and then tries to put that finger in her mouth (and so on) over the sound of a music box, things get very creepy, as if you are listening to an excerpt from Sex, Lies and Videotape, but without any help of context. 'She Was a Visitor' is no more than that same sentence repeated ad nauseam over particularly uneasy listening.

One of the most powerful and impressive pieces of sound art
you are bound to hear. Ever. Do not play this with the lights out, unless you want to end up in an asylum for the mentally challenged.

Robert Ashley - Private Parts

After Automatic Writing this is almost easy listening, though it is also far from that. Basically it is a guy with a soothing but also slightly bored voice reciting a text of seemingly unrelated text fragments over tablas, piano and delicate synth tones. Alienating to say the least, though less psychologically invasive as Automatic Writing.

Mordant Music - Carrion Squared

Mistah Fisha is going all "hauntological" over this ("Music is dead. Long live hauntology!", LOL), again, although he hastens to set aside this release from the label's usual output. He'd better, because this album was made for library music publisher Boosey & Hawkes* and consists of no less than 40 mini-drones à la Cluster, Conrad Schnitzler or Seesselberg. So no "hauntology" then, but kosmische music, though of course the shortness of the pieces contradict their cosmic nature. All very confusing, but that's "hauntology" for ya, I guess.

Threshold Houseboys Choir - Form Grows Rampant

Being Peter Christopherson's first outing since the demise of John Balance, Coil's other half. This actually sounds like an instrumental version of the new Throbbing Gristle album. That it contains heavy trace elements of the later Coil (and Balance's voice for that matter) will not surprise either. Themes and even melodies of certain Coil records are leisurely reemployed (especially the heavy use of vocoders from post-mortem album The Ape of Naples) and thus this sounds a lot like the slightly perverted fairy-tale music that the duo were famous for in their later carreer. And yes, you are probably right about the homosexual innuendo contained in the project's name, given the fact that Christopherson has been living in Thailand for some while now. Intriguing as ever nonetheless.

Box of Dub

Always nice to notice that dubstep has some margin for progression. The top dogs of the game come up with roots inspired dubstep and show along the way that dubstep is really only at the beginning of its odyssey. Which in this case means going back to the roots of the style and toning down the overall darkness.

Rumble in the Jungle

A supreme compilation that shows after the fact where jungle went wrong. No electronic basses or metallic percussion here, just vocally hyperactive rude boys and superfunky drum'n'bass. Party time music.

Burial - Ghost Hardware

No sign of slacking here. Three tracks in the style of the album with lots of wet background noises and sad echoing vocals. Nothing new or much progression compared to his previous outings but that need not always be the case as we all know. I would have wished he'd chosen another title, though. "Hauntology", is there no escape?

Digitalism - Idealism

Or I'm getting old, or I just don't like this. The Digitalism album, though, is much better than the Justice abomination, which is just plain vulgar in its desire to please the less discerning ears. Furthermore I always will despise people who choose a symbol as title for their album. I am not going to waste any more words on this, neither am I going to vilify these guys. I just think Daft punk was better. So it would seem I am getting old after all. Nevertheless I am pretty sure that these two will tear the roof off in a live setting. Mixed feelings, then.

* There are two ways to interpret the fact that Mordant's "hauntology", a music that has library music has one of its main influences, is now in turn being used as library music. You could, if you are a believer, say that "hauntology" has come full circle. One could also, more viciously, state that it pre-empts itself, having turned into a sort of parody on its own influence. Probably the truth lies somewhere between a bit of both.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


"Madness and Civilization was also famously criticised by Jacques Derrida who took issue with Foucault's reading of René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. Derrida's criticism led to a break in their friendship and marked the beginning of a fifteen-year–long feud between the two. (At one point, in a 1983 interview with Paul Rabinow, Foucault seemed to criticize Derrida's reading of Plato's Phaedrus in Of Grammatology, considering the writing/speech distinction unimportant.) They eventually reconciled in the early 1980s (reportedly, this reconciliation was due in part to Foucault's defense of Derrida after the latter was alleged to have been caught with marijuana in Prague)."


Derrida and marijuana? Things are suddenly becoming much clearer. What's next? Deleuze and acid?

Of course we know that Derrida was indicted by the communists for speaking up against them during a conference. Still you can't but wonder.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Il convient que la poésie soit inséparable du prévisible, mais non encore formulé.

René Char, Partage Formel

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Two essential mixes floating around at the moment.

First up is Kode9's absolutely brilliant mix on the Sónar site. At the moment it is only streamable (is that an actual word?), but Kode9 has promised on his blog to make it available for download later on. And he'd better 'cause it is hot as hell featuring some brand new Hyperdub dubplates.

Next is Sebo K's mix for Resident Advisor, a site that has been responsable for the majority of good mixes on the net for the last year or so (Ewan Pearson, Ripperton, Alexander Robotnick). A very nice mix positioning itself somewhere between deep techno and house, with a few old hits thrown in for good measure.

As we speak the latest RA mix by up-and-coming man Efdemin has been added to the site. Listening to that one now, so do not really know whether it is recommendable.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Deux Vérités de Marguerite

In France they still Love Literature with two capital L's. The ultimate proof are the Quarto editions on Gallimard. With those you get a load of essential texts of one writer in one book. The paper is ultra-thin but you get more than 1000 pages for a reasonable price.

So I was thumbing through the Quarto of Marguerite Duras and in the introduction she was being quite honest about being a writer. She said - and I am quoting from memory here - that "the essential thing about being a writer is daring to write. I have written incomprehensible things and they were read."

Two truths if there ever were truths. I mean, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida, while still among the living, all they did was write, write, write. They were frequently accused of being opaque and rightout incomprehensible, and - this is what it is all about - they probably were, if you observe the thousand-plus interpretations that are to this day (and probably for many years to come) plaguing the blogosphere alone. I mean, I was reading Badiou's take on Deleuze (La Clameur de l'Être) and thanks to Badiou I now feel that I understand even less of Deleuze than before.

But I guess that it is what writing is about: Write now, think later.

Second truth, then. I remember reading Duras' Le Ravissement de Lol. V. Stein - a long time ago that was, tempus fugit - and to this day I still could not possibly fathom what that book is about (I even suspect that, with all the additional knowledge I have acquired since then about France's cultural climate at the time the book was written, I now will understand even less if I decide to re-read it). Bearing in mind Duras' quotation I am bound to believe that even the writer herself did not know what it was about.

A few years ago for me there would not have been any point whatsoever to reading an incomprehensible book. Now it has become a challenge. When incomprehensible (or seeming to be), literature becomes pure language again, the ground zero of writing, mere signs, signifiers and symptoms waiting to be deciphered, like hieroglyphs by an Egyptologue. Meaning leading to other meanings, "a Thousand Plateaus" of Meaning.

Why settle for one meaning if you can have all the truths in the world? Or how nihilism and holism are just two sides of the same coin.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Vinyl ist Nicht Tod

Neu! Neu!! Neu!!! Neu!!!! Neu!!!!!

Quince - Sole Trader

I can hardly fathom how the people over at Delsin keep the quality of their releases so vertigineously high. Quince has been making ace tracks since his first release and this is another scorcher of a beauty beyond compare that does not neglect the dance floor part either. Heavily influenced by Carl Craig (Who else?) it is the kind of techno you always think they stopped making ages ago. Lots of warm strings, sharply tuned jump chords and ecstatic melodic highs remind you that Detroit techno remains the yardstick for emotionally satisfying techno.

Syncom Data - Beyond the Stars

Dubby techno business, also hailing from the Netherlands. The A-side is a fine techno dub with rootsy lyrics, while the flip harbours a beatless Carl Craig style workout that is all strings and trancey sounds, and a more rave-inspired techno track that pumps up the bpm's and will fit nicely into an inspired retro set.

Redshape - Dog Day

Single-sided monster from the maestro that has Derrick-May-in-1989 written all over it. Rave sounds are back on the block it would seem. The percussion is all Transmat, the beats hiphop. Hell of a combination.

Âme - Balandine

Why is everybody shouting about that grossly overrated 'Fiori', when this is so much better? Âme's music seems to be taking on a more epic strain with each new release, but you can not complain when they keep on producing this kind of quality. Another awesome duo, with the title track being the more ingeniously structured of the two, while 'Eoni' sticks to one good idea and makes the most of it. Innervisions rules!

Fuse presents Steve Bug

I included this one just to signal that Foremost Poets' 'Reasons to Be Dismal' (orginally released on the mighty Nu Groove) is available again on a nice fat pressing. Thanks for that, Mr. Bug. And you get two more excellent minimal techno tracks on the flip. Nice!

Wolfsdorf und Freunde

Shackleton - Blood on My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos Apocalypso Now Mix)

I just can't get this out of my head ("When I see the towers fall, fall, fall..."). Depressing and endless in a cosmic way at the same time. Why they felt the need to split the track in two halves will remain a mystery forever. But then you always have the cd-version for that experience, I suppose. My record of the year, for sure.

Beck - Cellphone's Dead (Villalobos & Ellen Allien Remixes)

Allien's version is not too bad, but couldn't possibly compete with Ricardo's already classic remix. Again Villalobos keeps it dark and moody by accentuating the spooky Gregorian chant-style sample. Anyone who wants to see his remix end up in the 2007 listings better take heed of the mighty Ricardo.

Not so M_nus

Marc Houle - Bay of Figs

Two M_nus related releases to end this round-up. Houle's double-pack is dangerously perfect minimal. And by 'minimal' I mean funky Daniel 'DBX' Bell bleeps and Hawtin spaceousness. The term 'DJ-friendly' seems to be invented for this record.

VA - Spaceships and Pings

I bought this one a few months ago, but it keeps getting better and better. So I thought, why not write a bit about this one? It was released in 2006 on Items And Things, which is a M_nus sub managed by the Magda-Houle-Pierce trio (aka Run Stop Restore). Each of the bosses get a track, with Magda going in an electro direction, Marc Houle opting for his usual spare electro-ish style and Troy Pierce keeping it moody and technoïd, the result not to dissimilar to his Louderbach alias. Konrad Black delivers the best track, though, here deviating from his usual atmospheric minimalism with a driving melodic Italo disco synth stomper. Very nice package! Catch it if you can.