26 October 2009
It is sad but true: yet the death of another grossly under-appreciated musician/artist/conceptualist of the past few decades. Having only released a couple of CDs (see my earlier blog entry on her) on John Zorn's Tzadik Records, her works take tremendously effort and commitment to ingest and digest, but they will never disappoint. Download does not do justice to listen to her music as to appreciate them, the actual architectural space she recorded them in would be the best but CDs will have to do, for now, until someone brave enough, decides to re-stage some of her works again. Now it's time to check her out, if you have not done so.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 10/26/2009
22 October 2009
The "H" words are in vogue in recent years. First, music writers and theorists (particularly in the UK and Europe) deposit Derrida's idea of Hauntology in some of the more other-worldly and retro-futurist sounds coming out of Britain on labels like Ghost Box, Mordant Music and Trunk Records, as well as acts like Broadcast and Boards Of Canada, which use similar studio and musical raison d'être and wizardry/techniques to create music which goes back to the recent past without one being involved in the actual time era in question and thus it is basically a re-creation and re-imagining of the more esoteric and underground culture of the late 1960s and 1970s. So materials ranging from obscure psychedelic and folk records, library sound bites, proto-muzak/New Agey sounding tunes, pastoral musing of all sorts on vinyl and of course BBC soundtracks and background sonic-artefacts are all for the tapping and re-appropriating.
Then this year David Keenan wrote an article on Hypnogogic Pop in the Wire which, though not once mentioning the word "Hauntology" basically argues for a return of the post-Noise underground generations, who in their 20s, are hacking back to the proverbial retro well-spring of not so much that of the 1960s and 1970s but, alas, the 1980s! (Yes, yes, in Singapore, it is associated with mainly the current fashion trends, bad chart pop music, theme-based night spots and club nights as well as budget-priced compilation CDs from the major labels to try and regain some lost grounds from the ubiquitous downloads). The key flag wavers of the Hypnogogic cohort who revel in the 1980s are best represented by the Skaters and the individual projects embarked by Spencer Clark and James Ferraro. A potent mix of Californian beach balm, 1980s pop cultural detritus, the Reaganian dread of the decade and a shiny and bright psychedelic surface to boot.
The others tap into various sources and decades for inspiration and sonic raw materials: the late 1960s regional psych rock of Texas are re-channelled without much retro-gazing pose by Gary War and the Super Vacations (plus other acts on the Shdwply Records); the post-Goth/Industrial song re-structuring of Zola Jesus and Cold Cave; the Tangerine Dream/German Kosmische drone of Emeralds are all, according to Keenan, prime proponents of the movement.
So what is the big deal? I personally have some issues with the categorisation and classification of certain acts under the two umbrella generic names but I do agree that musicians in both camps are trying to get out of the cul de sac of the fields of practice which they originally came from: for the Hauntologic Pop acts, English pastoral-inspired music from the 1960s/1970s and electronica of the 1990s; while for the Hypnagogic Pop groups, Noise and Psychedelic Rock of the 1990s and 2000s. Instead of the simulacra of the various mere retro-flexing music products of the current rock/pop acts in the charts and radio/TV, these artistes are genuinely looking for a way out in creativity and musical expressions despite the deep-seated notions which many feel that in music all that can be done have been done before.
Thus, it is still pretty exciting though to listen to some of these stuff as music, despite being jaded and all, can still bring a smile on my face whenever I pop a cassette in, slip a CD in or position the stylus in place.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 10/22/2009
21 October 2009
Have not been very motivated to write another new entry for the Noise Continuum series but two pieces of news caught my eyes so I thought I would like to share with you here.
First, David Keenan, the owner of the record shop based in Glasgow, Volcanic Tongue and the author of the book on Nurse With Wound, Coil and Current 93, "England's Hiddern Reverse", has decided to call it quits with his blog site, The Hidden Reverse, due to, according to him, other more important commitments as well as the heart for it. You can still go read some of his entries though, go to VT.
Secondly, a website specialising in distribution of magazines, Stack, has recently interviewed Tony Herrington, the don of the sainted alternative music rag, The Wire. He basically presented some insights about why the magazine is able to continue to thrive despite the current decline of music rags in today's world. Some of the factors he highlighted, perhaps will serve as inpetus for the rest of us out there to persist on as music fans, and more importantly, refusing to take whatever bullshit the mainstream culture industry is trying to shove down our throats in both blatant and insidious manners.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 10/21/2009
08 October 2009
Taking a break from my vanity blog project of tracing the history of Noise in my "Is There A Noise Continuum" blog series, but still wish to point to anyone who is interested about the history of Noise that shortly after I have started writing about the Noise Continuum, the esteemed Art/Music radio/internet station Resonance FM, which is based in London, also kickstarted a regular programme on, guess what, the history of Noise, featuring some of more active Noise activists around the world today.
By the way, was ruminating for quite awhile about an article Simon Reynolds wrote and published online some time ago about Music & Theory. Basically he was tracing the history of rock/music journalism in the UK music press since the 1970s with some reference to the precedent and concurrent rock-write taking place in the USA as well. He is saying that there are two schools of music journalism, i.e. plain straight forward reportage/interview/review of rock stars, artists, albums and career of the trend setters and hip shakers of the moment or the canon OR the attempt to theorise and contextualise the scene, genre development, ideas and politics of the music and its protagonists. The former is about no-bullshit, non-academic and high-faluting linguistic posturing while the latter is all about reading between the lines, psychoanalysing, reading into the history and genealogy and coming up with an essayist conclusion or prediction of things past or to come.
<= Smarty Rock-write
Simply Write Rock =>
Well, it set me thinking about my relationship with rock/music writing for the past few decades: Too young to experience some of the polemical writings of some of the iconic journalist and writers mentioned by Reynolds in his article but a bit older than those who might not even be aware about the joy and importance of serious rock-write of the post Gen Y populace (who grew up with the Internet, which in many ways is responsible for the slow-death of music magazines and serious essay-length rock-write), but belatedly trying to latch on to the tailend of a declining breed of rock-write inspired millieu of the recent past, I am often caught in a inner dilemma about music, the writings and the people who write about it.
Personally I admire the eloquence and enthusiasm of the current writers like Reynolds, David Keenan, Tony Herrington and Rob Young. As for the older writers mentioned in Reynolds' article who started out in the late 1970s, Chris Bohn, Edwin Pouncey and Mark Sinker are key ones I can think of. As for the godfathers of rock-write in the 1960s and 1970s, of usually American stock, Lester Bangs and to a much lesser extent RIchard Meltzer, are the ones for me. It is a mixture of theory-driven type and the rock-as-pure emotional/expression style. I love theory but I have little patience to dive deeply into it as to come up all drenched from head to toe with jargons and relevant terminology to boot. However, I definitely am for the big-picture/zeitgeist/scene and genre essays. In other words, I like my rock-write intellectually powered but still coming across strongly in its vernacular articulation and musical joussiance. Kickass but smart.
But today, many people are just not interested to read beyond much, their career/academic fields, self-help manuals (just go and check out the top 10 lists of most chain book stores)and popular fiction (which might just be appearing in cellular form sooner than you think at the nearest big screen to your place). Even self avowed music fans are suffering from similar traits of habits and mindset. We simply have too much choices of entertainment (yes, pure and simple, down-to-the-lowest denominator kinda entertainment and not culture or food for thought) and not forgetting that almost every music genre can be downloadable (most of time illegally) in a matter of minutes via the Internet, why bother to read, understand and make an informed choice about what you are listening to? It's just muzak for most, anyway.
It is time to re-think: technology should help us to up the ante in terms of our ability, capacity and tenacity to understand the world around us, be it music, films, politics, social issues, global awareness, etc. This is of course a sidetrack from what I first started out to expound here though.
Anyway, yes intellectual rock-write vs simply writing about rock. The ability to read, understand and think about what we absorb is a unique human characteristic which, I think, should not be lost. Let us try to read a bit more into things, and in this case, music, which has the power to infect the soul, affect our emotions, deflect most dredgery in life and of course try to reflect what life is, to us.
Oh yes, Reynolds ended off his article with this line: "The quoting from philosophers over-indulged in by myself and my peers, and earlier by our role models, was perhaps closer to being a drug-pusher than anything else, the motivation less to do with impressing the readers than turning them on: 'C'mon, try it, try it... This will really take you places." and the fact that he entitled one of the parts in the paper with "The appeal of theory is precisely its power to intoxicate", though not presenting the whole picture does speak volume of the people who are always passionately yakking away or sending literary missives out to entice, to draw people in and to evangelicise the music they hold dearly to. Rock on, guys.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 10/08/2009
01 October 2009
When Kraftwerk first unleashed the ultra modern, streamlined and no-frills electronic mantric tune of 'Autobahn' into the world in 1974, it not only went up to the top of the charts all over the world but it also ushered in the age of electronic music. Serving as both inspiration and raw material, Kraftwerk basically became the godfathers to aspiring home electronic tinkerers, amateur non-musicians and inspired DIY electro-punks, spawning an entire multiverse of hiphop/electro/freestyle, Chicago House, electro-pop, Detroit techno and New York Garage.
The subsequent explosion of dance music and the genesis of a wide variety of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres within the dance continuum (which is still going on today)encourage some to describe the second summer of love to be equivalent to the original psychedelic late 1960s and the highly nihilistic late 1970s of punk, which paved the way for a whole wellspring of creativity and vibrancy in the music scene. By the mid 1990s, with the collapse of Soviet-led Communism becoming history, the reach of this electronic revolution proliferated into previous un-imagined locales in Eastern Europe and Russia too. The founders of the electronic/noise art Raster Noton record imprint, Carsten Nicolai and Frank Bretschneider, were prime examples of such globalising outreach of electronic media before internet became a household buzzword a few years later.
The Raster Noton imprint presents electronic/dance music with a big difference from most other artistes broadly classified under this umbrella category: with Ryoji Ikeda, Alva-Noto(Carsten Nicolai's own project), and even other more overtly dance-able acts like Byetone, Frank Bretschneider and Signal, they sounds are filled with what Rob Young of the Wire called the glitchtronic textures and musical syntax but they albums and tracks are infused with a perpetual tight-rope balance between atonal melody pulses and straitjacketed noise signals.
At times, the tracks just sound like a long-desserted spacecraft emitting sine-tone based electromagnetic waves into the stratosphere of the vacuum of the universe. When the rhythm kicks in, its overdriven electric-spasmotic twitches careening down one's nervous system, verging on the hiccups and tensile pull of the time-stretch linear construct of the track. Organised noise with a pulse of almost Nitzschean will-to-power forward thrust.
Few within the electronic dance canon could rightfully be placed within the Noise scheme of things, Raster Noton is one of them. Compelling stuff. The only other act I can think of would be Pan Sonic, from Finland. The duo of maximalist electro-noise driven pulse beats which first built up their sound on their first album 'Vakio' and mutated throughout the years via albums like A and reaching its creative climax with 'Kesto', a multiple box set of almost Merzbow-like intensity for electronic dance-based music. The constituents of the duo, Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen have not only released albums and tracks on Raster Noton but collaborated with other stalwarts of Noise like Suicide's Alan Vega and Keiji Haino. They managed to bring back the 'power' to the notion of 'power duo' back to electronic dance music.
To find out more about Raster Noton, go to Raster Noton for information and RN for the label site. For Pan Sonic go to, Sonic.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 10/01/2009