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29 October 2011

Look at Stars (Fall Breaks and Back to Winter)

Did this one a little while back but sat on it for a while, undecided as to whether it merited posting, until I decided wtf. Another one of those strung-together jawns, compressed mix of some (only some) tracks that I'd been listening to over the past 6 to 8 months. Some recent releases as well as a few artists with varying degrees of history, and an odd allotment of style to be found amidst the entire batch. So have at it, if you're so inclined.

::: DL :::

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27 October 2011

Nobody Here (The Marinettis Bring Home a Computer)

So, after months of wanting to read it and sounding off on the topic myself, I only recently got around to reading Simon's Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past. Thoroughly enjoyed it, of course. Simon's book covers its topic from a variety of angles, and offers a lot to mull over. Far too much to go into here, actually. But I might have a point or two to address.

But one surprise, for me, was the few pages devoted to highlighting the artist Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin) in the early stretch of the book. I'd long been taken with Lopatin's music, but am even moreso now that I learn about Lopatin and the ideas that inform his music. Quoting from the book:

"...Yet the speed of technological advance means that each beloved machine is rendered obsolete with ruthless rapidity. With individuals and businesses throwing out info-tech every two to three years, obsolete computers are a huge environmental problem. ...'I'm super into the idea that that the rapid-fire pace of capitalism is destroying our relationships to objects. All this drives me back, but what drives me back is a desire to connect, not to relive things. It's not nostalgia.' He argues that the idea of 'progress' itself is driven by the economic imperatives of capitalism as by science or human creativity. In a 2009 manifesto-like article, he decries the fixation on linear progress, proposing instead the opening up of 'spaces for ecstatic regression. ...We homage the past to mourn, to celebrate, and to time travel.'"

The cited article, "synthemas and notes 1", can be found here and it offers a deeply interesting read. As a manifesto-ish text, it provides an explanation as for a specific semantics of sound. Lopatin begins by describing his attraction to synthesizers, particularly those of a certain vintage, due to their sonic capacity for suggesting "allegorical landscapes." This ability, he states, is the result of the instrument's own limitations -- the "grain" of its sound being the product of the instrument "striv[ing] and fail[ing] at mimetic representation." The act of creation becomes the act of exploring the abilities (but chiefly the limits and flaws) of the gear's "closed-circuit universe." "The more you enjoy process, limitation and defeat," he muses, "the more potential there is for chance and adventure."

The idea or aim of achieving any degree of originality in this process isn't a factor, since the notion of originality is little more than a threadbare modernist notion, a notion that too often is found riding shotgun with the problematic idea of dynamic and relentless progress. "If our generation can be defined artistically in a single way," he offers:

"It is that of the collector-archivist. We are naturally disposed towards nostalgia, and deep freeze cultural informatics is our greatest cybernetic feat. To understand the euphoria and confusion of my generation is to loop the part of Bill & Ted’s in which Beethoven rips a decisively Steve Vaiesque guitar solo on a synthesizer, and thus we intrinsically understand the nature of the eternal rip."

The reasons for doing so being that:

"The lessons of the past are moments in time that are eternally engaged, and the ability to transmit and interact with ~previous systems~ is evidence of the deep melancholy which arises from our inability to stop time just long enough to experience it."

Which perhaps sounds a bit bleak to some, if not like conceding aesthetically bankruptcy in the face of a cultural/creative impasse -- endlessly staring back down the avenue that led to a certain "postmodern" dead-end. About which I have some further thoughts, but they'll have to wait for another post.

25 October 2011

The rain, it raineth...

Dog Faced Hermans, live in Lincoln, NE, 1994. Full show in a single hour-plus clip. Same kind soul that recently uploaded it also up'd this other one, captured in Brussels the same year.

That is all.

21 October 2011

That's No Moon...

Fortunately, Owen Hatherley's a prolific blogger and writes for numerous online publications. I've long been curious about his two books on architecture, but they're not the sort of thing that circulates very widely here, on account of the fact that they're very British/Euro in focus -- be it his revisionist take on Brutalism, or his attack on generic contemporary urban architecture. The latter being his book A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain. Thing is, the critical thrust of the latter isn't an exclusively U.K. phenom, since the sort of architecture he critiques has (it seems) become something of a new International Style. The glimmering yet soullessly homogenized buildings that seem to be going up in (if not glutting) every middling/large city -- not just here in the U.S. or in Britain, but many other places as well.

I gathered this scenario was much more common that I reckoned a while back when I was checking the traffic to a particular recent post of mine. The post had generated an unusual (for this humble blog) amount of hits and linkage. One link went to a blog written by someone hailing from a town in Portugal, where the author could relate to the very thing I was talking about.

I lived in Chicago for the better part of 16 years. In that span of time, I watched the city "turn around" in some respects; with certain parts of the city being developed to the point of being unrecognizable from how I'd know them during the 1990s. This became especially true as the housing bubble began to emerge back around the beginning on the Noughties. River North, Printers Row, Fulton Market, Greektown, and many other neighborhoods sweeping with generic boutique-y rows of shops, filling up with blocks and high-rises of bland and blocky "luxury" condominiums. In some cases, I suddenly found it difficult to navigate or orient myself in places I'd previously known quite well, because all the landmarks had been erased or were obscured by high rises.

In some instances, these new (over)built environs felt downright oppressive. A not-uncommon plan for some blocks of condos -- wedged into this or that span of street -- was to a multi-level parking deck for the residents, with the Lego luxury abodes stacked atop. Thing is, city ordinances reputedlym dictated that these parking levels had to be walled in, could not be open. So as you walked along a row of one of these things, you'd face a solid concrete wall extending up about 2-3 stories running down the length of the street. A dingy chasm, effectively -- dwarfing, alienating, drab. (I believe once upon a time, the popular word for this sort of effect was "dehumanizing.")

Which brings us to the song above, up there in the Youtube clip. Wifey and I caught the Country Teasers back in 2006 when they hit the U.S for their The Empire Strikes Back tour. They trotted out this tune ("Mos E17ley"), and it immediately became something of a recurring trope in our lives. Inevitably we'd find ourselves driving or walking through a neighborhood like those described above, and one of us would mutter, "This place...is like the fuckin' Death Star."

14 October 2011

This too shall pass...

Simon recently popped up with a few stray thoughts on the passing of Steve Jobs, which I found amusing because I'm more-or-less of the same mind on the matter.

Somewhat more interesting was this piece at The Contrarian. Or at least potentially interesting, since unfortunately it's a bit of tease; a wind-up followed by...the author directing the reader to read some New Yorker article that requires a subscription. Still, the author gets at an interesting contradiction that rests at the heart of the Jobs legacy. That being: The whole Zen idea of technologically-enabled impermanence and intangibility -- the dematerialization of music, books, etc. -- versus the fact that what Jobs & co. ultimately excelled at was getting everyone hooked on gadgets that were constantly being rendered obsolete in the ever-escalating turnover of upgrades and next-gen models. Because really, I think we can all be certain, despite what some parties would have us believe, that the path to Enlightenment isn't paved by slavish consumerism.

Which is an odd legacy to have, particularly since we're talking about someone who was of "a certain generation." So to with the whole i- angle -- the tech-enabled culture of solipsism/autism that Simon points towards in the latter half of his own post.

- sent from my iPhone™

12 October 2011

Ritual (Interlude)

Ingram Marshall: "Gambuh I" for Balinese flute, synthesizer & tape delay (1975).

{ via Rootblog. }

07 October 2011

TV Party Tonight


What was the deal with Quincy punx? That was something of a har-har subcultural meme in the punx community for many years. Personally, I thought the CHiPs punx were underrated. They provided way more bang for the blitheringly paranoid youthsploitation buck. Quincy punx largely kept their mayhem indoors, with the confines of their punk-rock clubs and whatnot...

But the ChiPs punx took it to the next level. The ChiPs punx being a band called Pain, who had a song about how they "dug" pain, which was effectively their anthem, if only because it seemed to be the only song they'd been able to come up with. But anyway, they played the song on some rooftop, then hurled a perfectly good guitar over the side into the traffic below, causing all sorts of multi-vehicular chaos. This is more than petty mischief, it's wanton and malicious destruction, because punx love that type of stuff. They meant it, man.

Well wudduya know, it looks like some kind soul has recently down the excavation upped some clips...

Teevee is so educational. Y'see, that right there is why the Elks Lodge Massacre had to happen. Punx got no respect for nuthin'. Which is why they merited a belated expose' on the pioneeringly sociological carousel that was the Donahue show. Philthy phucking Phil Donahue punx, ladies and gentlemen...

And now that I see this again for the first time nearly 30 years, I'm reminded that the Donahue show was shot in Chicago. But this isn't the edition I remember seeing. The one I remember seeing must've been earlier, because it wasn't as boring and it involved a buncha West Coast punx, and at one point Phil read some of the lyrics to "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," and then some woman in the audience stood up and went on an obnoxious screed about how she'd been a "flower child" in the Sixties and had tuned in, turned on & dropped out & all of that, but if one of her kids came home looking like that then she'd have to THROW THEM OUTTA THE HOUSE.*

Speaking of such, as far as moral panics were concerned, none of these media punx compared to Dragnet Hippies. Talk about fuckin' menaces to society...

Of course the "Blue Boy" episode is a cult fave, but that's just the narcotics angle. What I'm talking about is the one where Joe Friday and his sideman go up against the seditious radicals & whatnot. Like the one where Joe sits on a discussion panel with a bunch of long-haired upstarts (chaired by a hippie played by Howard Hesseman), and he's the sole representative of "the System" that everyone else on the panel wants to overthrow. Or another episode where they ended up dealing with some kid who was getting involved with some group like the Weathermen or something, and in each instance these episodes ended with a long exposition by Joe or his partner Bill Gannon where they explained to the troublemakers how they were wrong -- that America was great because it was the land of freedom, the type of freedom that allowed (say) someone like them to say whatever they wanted or believe whatever they wanted, and etc etc. Which I guess was supposed to amount some sorta ideological checkmate, with them pointing out some sorta inherent contradiction that those hippies/radicals had yet to recognize or scrutinize in their own muddle-headed thinking about freedom.

And who better to deliver the news than Jack Webb, he being the big Establishment type that he was? Plus the way he'd already proven himself as a first-rate patriot & everything...

But Dragnet appropriately enough, went off the air in 1970. And it was odd to see Jack Webb, being the big law & order sort that he was, turn up again later in the decade as the man behind Project UFO...

The show was apparently based on the files of the USAF's Project Blue Book. It followed two Air Force investigators as they traveled the country investigating various sightings and close encounters. Each episode was based on some reported sighting and the Air Force's investigation, and each episode ended the same way -- with the agents debunking the sighting, offering a thorough explanation to the witnesses what it was they actually saw and mistook for an alien spacecraft. The show was solidly pro-Federal and might as well have been called The Swamp Gas Files, and it seemed a really bizarre stretch for Jack Webb considering the more pedestrian, no-bullshit ground he'd covered previously. But when you factor the prior Commies-under-every-bed/Red Scaremongering/John Bircherite business into the equation, perhaps it wasn't such a stretch after all.

Still, not sure Jack Webb decided to choose this particular vehicle to get his pro-Establishment message across. Conspiracy theories about Roswell and Hangar 18 were still fairly marginal at the time, and wouldn't go "mainstream" until some time in the next decade. Perhaps it just fit in with more general tenor of TV and popular culture in the early-mid 1970s -- all the TV special dealing with unexplained phenomena like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and all the stuff about psychic activity with Uri Geller bending spoons with his mind and some other guy who could project pictures of faraway places into camera telepathically, intermixed with Carlos Castaneda or Edgar Cayce type stuff about astral projection or whathaveyou. And lots of things about UFOs, especially connected to Erich von Däniken and Chariots of the Gods and the other books he cranked that all had to do with ancient astronauts and their early interventions with the Egyptians, and the Mesopotamians, and the Olmecs and Toltecs and all the other early civilizations...

Sure, it was all very Mondo Cane. Being a kid at the time, I naturally found all of this stuff absolutely fascinating. It all fit right in with an 8-year-old boy's steady diet of Marvel comics, Evel Knieval, and Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Thing is, my allowance (if I even had one at the time) was pretty paltry, so I'm sure I wasn't the primary demographic that all this ad-leveraged programming was targeted to. Which means that grown-ups must've eating this shit as much as I was. Dunno, maybe it had something to do with the proverbial "temper of the times" -- somehow connected with all that post-'60s "alternative spirituality" and proto-New Age hokum. Modern life having changed so much and so rapidly in the preceding years that a lot of people were flummoxed and anxious and uncertain and couldn't tell what was what anymore, and were therefore open to entertaining all kinds of ideas. All bets are off, everything's up in the air.

But as far as the Sixties were concerned, TV was also quick to remind us that there was a good reason for Joe Friday & co were keeping a close eye on those hippies...

Yeah, my parent's generation was the first generation raised on TV, and in the 1970s they entered into adulthood and took the cultural reins. Part of that meant getting out into the world and pursuing a fulfilling and self-realized life in the supposed "Me Decade," which is maybe why I was part of that first generation for whom TV was a babysitter. And add to that we were coming up the third modern generation in which the society at large was phobic about its own offspring.

But back to punx...

Skip to Nashville at the beginning of 1978, which is where me and my mom were living at the time. An early-evening local news broadcast is on the teevee, and towards the end of the report, they have an item about a newsworthy event that was taking place over in Memphis. There was some band from England playing there, a band that epitomized the "punk rock craze" that people had heard about, and some curious folks were going to check out the "punk rock group" and see what it was all about. Cut to shots of the venue, and patrons coming out of the dark to line up at the doors, all of dressed in odd misunderstood approximations of how punx were supposed to look, all of which did actually make me think of Halloween at the time. I guess the anchorpersons thought the same thing, because they grinned and shook their heads bemusedly at the end of the clip.

Turned out the unnamed "punk rock group" was the Sex Pistols, making the Memphis stop on their ill-fated American tour, and the anchors weren't going to say the name on the air...what, it being prime-time/family-viewing hours in what was more or less the Bible Belt. But at any rate, my mother turns to me and asks, "Have you heard of this punk rock thing?" She was the adult who worked at a newspaper, I was the eleven-year-old who'd been stuck in some backwoods Southern Baptist school over in the next county -- how was I supposed to have heard of any "punk rock thing"? I shook my head to the negatory. She tells me, "It's this thing where the kids take lots of drugs and beat each other up, and they stick pins and needles through their faces." She shook her head is dismay, and added, "The world has just gotten so sick."

Me being eleven years old at the time, naturally I was intrigued. So: Flagged for future reference.

But it'd be roughly another full year before I'd hear any punk-rock music proper. Late at night with some syndicated program on the radio, and the deejay played the Ramones's "Teenage Lobotomy." I was immediately seized by its energy and its brashness, and was jumping and dancing around my room before the first chorus came round. So it was my introduction to something that would factor quite heavily into my teenage years and early adulthood. Maybe the speed and the volume of the music just happened to symbiotically complement the surges of hormones that came with adolescence. Most likely, yeah. But it was more than just that. Seemed like a lot of times, even at its most willfully stupid, the music made much more sense than a lot of the bullshit around me. And yeah, the Eighties were a big decade for bullshit.** Guess it all comes down to the signal-to-noise ratio. What differentiates one from the other, how you filter them, and how the right signal/noise gets transmitted at a time when it amounts to something of significance. ***


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* Of course, all of the above is the from 1980s. Media-wise, the rate of cultural dissemination was much slower in those days. American tabloidism was incredibly slow on the uptake about what a goldmine punk would be.

** And sure, I realize that all of the above is drivel, and that it constitutes me breaking my own format. But when you're having a problem with writer's block, you gotta find a way to punch through it; so consider it a freestyling exercise. But hey, this is America (dammit) and it's my blog, so I can do whatever I want.

And in all honesty, I gotta admit...there's gotta be nothing more utterly fucking boring than writing/reading about punk rock, yknow seeing how it's become so deeply enshrined and endlessly documented & yadda. There's very little of it that I listen to anymore, that I ever feel any desire to pull out and revisit. Maybe because so much of it made sense and seemed vital within a certain context, that context being mostly aligned with the Reagan Years.

*** Meaning (I guess) that one could file all such stuff under "culture studies." Which is ultimately a pretty pointless and empty category, if you haven't had pre-req companion courses in history.

05 October 2011

04 October 2011

You're on Top of the World

And here's to an unguilty pleasure.

One of the other contributors to the outboard venue(s) all but commanded me to write something on the topic a while back, and I only recently got around to obliging. And since this is me we're talking about, of course I couldn't keep it short.

A highly subjective take on the matter, I'll admit; but there you have it.

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