Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I wrote the intro essay for Pitchfork's 50 Best IDM Albums of All Time - and short appreciations for Boards of Canada's Geogaddi and Isolée's Rest.

As with the ambient list, there's lots of things I've never heard, and even a few names I've never heard of.

Surprised at the non-appearance of Luke Vibert, though.

If the electorate has been restricted to a single voter -  me! - then Throbbing Pouch would be Top Five and Tally Ho! would have placed somewhere too. There'd be even more Aphex Twin (Analogue Bubblebath 3.... that old tracks for free megadump bonanza of a few years ago) and even more Boards of Canada. Those exquisite early Black Dog EPs would have got a nod. 

Yes, I would incline to a narrower and somewhat Britcentric conception of IDM.... Do Detroit-aligned or German-minimal things really count? IDM fans might like them, but....

You'd also have seen this lovely record in there too. 

An album inspired by bereavement, as it happens. 

Also grief-releasing is this first-phase IDM classic -  by the overlooked Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard. 

I did not know this existed. Like a beloved face, seen from a different angle. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

RIP Jaki Liebezeit

The might, the majesty

Scoring 9.8 on the Motorikhter Scale

Five bodies, one mind.

Here, though, they come over not so very distant from Deep Purple

Back to the worship...

Absolutely rollin

The Meters of Mittel Europa

Postpunkfunk should have just not even bothered -  game over, six years previous

Cooking up your bodybrain

The politics of trancing

And last but perhaps most -  my favorites, I think

(Is this a tango?)

The unstoppable pulse

Liebezeit - translates literally as Lovetime.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Remembering Mark Fisher

Here's my more "official" tribute to Mark at The Guardian

The words came easy, although it was somewhat disorienting to be assessing the achievements and legacy of a friend who was also a public figure. 

That was his achievement, though  -  he was out there, making a difference in the world.  

Only real problem was struggling to fit all that Mark had done into the word-count. He was active on so many various fronts, came up with so many concepts and provocations.  

There's an increasing number of remembrances out there, with more promised.

Below are just some of the testimonials so far from friends and colleagues - touchingly personal, or touching on other facets of his work than I could cover.

Owen Hatherley's 

Jeremy Greenspan's 

Derek Walmsley's

Siobhan McKeown's 

Dissensus bods's 

David Stubbs's (+ and unpublished 2010 interview with Mark by Agata Pyzik)

John Foxx's 

Adam Harper's 

Robin Mackay's

Otolith Collective's

Paul Autonomic's

Dan Fox at Frieze's

Sam Davies at Sight & Sound's

Maria Minerva's memories of being Mark's student at Goldsmiths

Also a proper long study of his life and work from Alex Niven at Jacobin

There is also a fund now that's been set up to support Zoë and George.  Please give if you're able. In a little over a day, it reached its target amount and now has a new target amount. That's a lot of love there. (Update 1/24: it's now reached the revised target amount and is steadily ascending to yet another target amount - amazing!)

Later on I will pull together some links to favorite or epochal pieces by Mark. There's so many, though!

Oh and this is lovely - Magz Hall dug out a Resonance radio doc she did in 2004 on the early blogscene - you can hear Mark's voice, along with Woebot, Geeta Dayal, Luke Davis and myself. Happy days...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

RIP Mark Fisher

I expect most in this community will have heard the terribly upsetting news about Mark Fisher, aka K-punk.

My first encounter with Mark was actually unawares – in 1994 I wrote a piece for Melody Maker about a group he was in called D-Generation, in which many of the ideas and themes that would obsess him in his later writing were rehearsed. But the phone interview was with another member of the group, Simon Biddell. Years later Mark shyly revealed that I had actually written about him, in effect, and I went back and checked the piece and there he was, in the photo. With long hair! But then we all had long hair in the early Nineties.

I first met Mark when doing a profile of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, aka CCRU, in the late Nineties. He stood out - even in a milieu crackling with intellectual energy – for his eloquence and urgency. Already the hallmarks of his work were evident in his conversation and in the tracts he penned for CCRU publications: the lucidity, the rigour, the exuberance, the capacity and the compulsion to connect things across far-flung fields, the ability to focus in with vivid attention to aesthetic particulars and zoom out to the widest possible scope.

Then we became proper friends – and comrades – during the early blogging days of the 2000s.         K-punk was the hub of the community, fizzing with fervour and argument; Mark was a dynamo, hurling out provocations, ideas that demanded engagement. He became a cult figure. A catalyst.

With Matthew Ingram aka Woebot - the community's other hub, with a similarly effervescing comments box - Mark co-founded Dissensus.

That era then led onto to Mark’s brilliant books for Zero and Repeater - Capitalist Realism, Ghosts of My Life, the collections he edited and co-edited on Michael Jackson and Postpunk. And now his new book The Weird and The Eerie. Books that have cemented his standing as the most original and provocative writer about popular culture - and its interface with the political - of the last fifteen years.

The exciting thing about Mark's writing - CCRU era, K-punk era, in magazines like FACT and The Wire, the books - was the feeling that he was on a journey: the ideas were going somewhere,  a gigantic edifice of thought was in the process of construction. That Mark was thinking big, building a system, always aiming for the largest scale. And finally that this work, rigorous and deeply informed as it was, was not academic, in the sense of being done purely for its own sake: its urgency came from his faith that words really could change things. Reading Mark's writing made everything feel more meaningful, supercharged with significance. It was a rush. An addiction.

The last time I saw Mark in the flesh was at the Incubate music festival in Tilburg, Holland, in 2012. We had a long chat, intermittently soundtracked by a live performance by Raime. He talked about his plans for future books, and passingly mentioned – in a completely unassuming way – that Capitalist Realism had sold ten thousand copies. I’m not sure he fully grasped what an extraordinary achievement this was, for a theoretical book about politics and mental health on a small publisher. This was down to word of mouth, his own charismatic public appearances, the originality and timeliness of his ideas combined with the clarity and passion of the writing.

At the festival I gave a talk, relying as always largely on a pre-written text; Mark followed and spoke off the cuff, riffing away, leaping from subject to subject, making electric connections, in a performance that he later likened to a stand-up routine.

On page and in person alike, Mark was a brilliant communicator.

I can imagine he must have been an inspiring teacher.

The last time I communicated with Mark, a few months ago - during which he alluded to his struggles - I told him I had been wanting badly to hear what he had to say about Corbyn, about so many things at this present critical time – musical, cultural, political.

I shall miss all the writing that Mark would have done, the penetrating insights and surprising connections, always that sense of the big picture. The wit and the style too: his writing was always an entertainment as well as a challenge.

But I shall miss Mark the person more. He was kind, generous, sweet, funny – these are not always things that go hand in hand with genius.

Our hearts go out to his wife Zoë and little boy George; to his family and friends; his colleagues and students; and to his fans and readers.


Below is a photo from a party Joy and I (and Kieran) held during the summer of 2002, which was the last period we lived in England for any length of time. There’s Mark, and Kodwo Eshun, and Anjalika Sagar, and Steve Goodman aka Kode 9. A clusterfuck of genius!

A couple of Mark's favorite songs.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quinto Mondo

       Artetetra image

some interesting releases on the  artetetra label out of Italy, whose preferred Zone of Alteration appears to be Fifth World / nu-exotica / neo-geo 3.0

release rationale:

"Erhai Floating Sound is a spatialized live sound performance which took place on Erhai lake in Dali, Yunnan, China in may 2010, involving Laurent Jeanneau aka Kink Gong and Julien Claus. The electronic sounds were produced on a small fishing boat inside the lake connected by underwater cables to other four boats, each of them carrying a speaker.  This tape is a stereo version of the quadraphonic performance of Kink Gong and it's about an hour long. 

Laurent Jeanneau is an electroacoustic composer, ethnomusicologist and Sublime Frequencies contributor, who has released more than 150 cds concerning recordings of ethnic minority music, mostly from south-east Asia taken in more than 15 years of activity. The electroacoustic activity of Kink Gong is based on the deconstruction of the original recordings, which focus mostly on vocal and local instruments like gongs, mouthorgans and string instruments, into soundscapes and cut-ups." 

release rationalised:

"Pavel Eremeev is an artist based in Moscow and a member of Middle-Eastern tinged band uSSSy. Under his solo guise as Holypalms, Eremeev hooks his quarter-toned guitar up to his laptop to make some pretty gritty and relentless music, riding all manner of West African, and South Asian rhythms. His background in complex compositions with uSSSy seems to have really opened up the amount of detail and sheer number of sections and interleaving tracks of distorted Eastern guitar licks and synthetic drum rhythms at his disposal. ‘New Monkey Forest II’ stands out as a glorious 8-minute burst of energy, the rabid guitarwork blending with a vast array of meticulously programmed jungle drums. In comparison the 12 minute ‘Stoned In The Jungle Stolen By The Liana’ is much woozier and stranger, focusing in on laptop bleeps for a simmering introduction before the guitar joins in and the entire affair weaves its way through a good half dozen peaks and troughs" - Spool's Out - the Quietus 

release rationale:

"Ak'chamel, the giver of illness, is a mysterious band from Texas. 
This new tape is a work based on the concept of shortwave broadcasts from unknown and invented places. When it comes to talk about surfing black magic and to officiate obscure pagan rites in the swamps consumed by otherworldly music, unknown drugs consumption and incomprehensible formulas to offer to the elders, Ak’chamel definitively know what they're talking about."

also on artetetra, there's some new (ish) gear from Hybrid Palms (who made one of my favorite albums of last year) +  pal Cheap Galapagos

release rationale: 

"In this new work curated and produced by artetetra and designed by Giulia Bencini and Disegnini Brutti in a very short issue of 50 CDRs, Cheap Galapagos and Hybrid Palms bring together an entire imaginary of cheap tropicalisms, lo-fi exotica and virtual soundscapes concerning all the aesthetic elements of touristic trips from the glorious era of 50's/80's commercials and vintage holidays photo books. While Cheap Galapagos propose their idea of caraibic/samoan/jungle music with two long compositions that mix strong influenced environmental ambiences à la Dolphins Into The Future/Lieven Moana Martens and Fluorescent Heights with Hailu Mergia styled harmonium groovy organs and goofy percussions and xylophones, the russian Hybrid Palms demonstrate to be really attached to a very genuine vapor influenced perception of Tiki music with 5 tracks showing a summerish lysergic mood that reminds of earliest synthwawe as well as some of Sun araw latest experimentations.  The work result is to be a coherent and fresh vision on the new developments and shades of tropical music and exotic vaporwave that the italian label seems to love and support. 
Shiny Beaches with giant palms scattered all around, greenish water full of unknown new marine animals and a shitton of deluxe and gorgeous malls full of kitsch souvenirs shops take over the imagination of the listener who can take a whole all-comfort vacation from his boring daily life only through the almighty Internet."

       Artetetra image

Monday, January 02, 2017

see you in 2017 (we have arrived)

flipside of  1990's

"Mover is dark because it's set in the phuture of mankind. I can't possibly justify seeing a happy end to this stupid human drama. Darkness is not mystical, it's your everyday reality"- Marc Acardipane 

YouTube doesn't have Reign's "Enter 2017"

But it does have