26 April 2015

Poplock Cosmopolis: Once Upon a Time in NYC, Pt. 1

At his his “Energy Flash” blog, Simon points to an online piece via New York magazine that offers a brief oral history of the NY shop Liquid Sky, the rave-culture boutique/record store operated by DJ Soul Slinger and his partner Rey back in the 1990s, which quickly became an anchor for the experimental electronic music scene in the five boroughs. The magazine's main angle being not that it was a pioneering presence on the NYC underground scene, but rather that Chloe Sevigny used to work there.

I mainly remember the label that grew out of the venture. Firstly, there being Jungle Sky, which aimed to provide an imprint and/or means of distro for Stateside/NYC junglists like Carlos Soulslinger and his confrères, by way of a series of 12”s and compilations...

After which came the Home Entertainment sister label, which devoted to the illbient scene that was brewing over in Brooklyn at the time, but mostly ended up issuing a lot of releases by a handful of German acts. There had, in the early ‘90s, been a scene brewing in Cologne; many of its participants being in some way or another associated with the techno act Air Liquide, all of whom performed under a variety of solo and collaborative monikers. Two of whom -- Thomas Thorn and Ingmar Koch (aka Dr. Walker) -- owned and operated music clubs in Cologne, thus having been central to nurturing the scene in question. Koch’s club was Liquid Sky Cologne, which may or may not have taken its name after the Deutsch-Amerikanische freundschaft between Carlos Soul Slinger and the Cologne artists...

Much of this has long since receded into the fog of obscurity and marginalia. Koch/Walker would later opened a club in -- if I recall correctly -- Greece before more recently transplanting the Liquid Sky club in Berlin As far as the Cologne scene was concerned: before the 90s were over, it would be exclusively be associated with another sound -- the sound of moody, minimal tech-house stylings of Wolfgang Voigt’s Kompakt label.

Some 6 years I uploaded a mix of the Liquid Sky/Electro Bunker Cologne material on oe of my prior blogs, under the titled “Things You Probably Missed.” Have since thought of doing a similar one here, devoted to the NYC illbient scene of the mid ‘90s. (When was the last time I uploaded a mix? S'been at least a couple of year sat least, I think. Does anyone give an isht anymore?)

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Anyway, discographic tangents aside: Simon makes the comment that “The oral history thing is getting a little bit of hand, don't you think?” Although I haven’t noticed any uptick in the format, one might expect as much,. It’s easy work for the writer -- in that one relinquishes the role of writing for recording, transcribing, and editing. More curatorial than creative, because you’ve largely outsourced the content-generating part of the process to outside parties; thus rendering the process something of a cakewalk towards a deadline.

But the oral history, as a participant’s retelling, frequently lends itself to nostalgia, or at least to to some “those were different times”-type narrative. Case in point, a quick googling of the Liquid Sky topic reveals that Carlos Soul Slinger’s former partner Remy made an amateur doco about the NYC underground in the ‘90s, intermixing footage she’d taken back in the day with interviews she made on a return visit (years afer she & Carlos had split up and she’d returned to Brazil).

And over the past year or so I’ve heard or read a fair number of interviews from artists, of various stripes, in which the topic of old-vs-present NYC surfaces at some point -- about how the city no longer resembles the place that it once was. It has, I’ll admit, become a trope or refrain, of late. Plenty of it to be had in the above. Hence the appeal of the nostalgia/oral history angle. But as far as New York is concerned, it long ago became the economic trailblazer for what's become common in other major metropoles. As a friend wrote to me last year, commenting on a return to take up residence in his hometown: “As for San Francisco, I think we can officially pronounce it dead. It's a good city if you’ve loads of money for consuming culture, but at the same time it’s become a place that is very inhospitable to those who produce it.”

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