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2016 6 Dez

Favourite Albums 2016

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  1. Drake „Views“ (Cash Money Records)
  2. Bon Iver „22, A Million“ (Jagjaguwar)
  3. YG „Still Brazy“ (Def Jam)
  4. Hieroglyphic Being „The Disco’s of Imhotep“ (Technicolour)
  5. Brian Eno „The Ship“ (Warp)
  6. Andy Stott „Too Many Voices“ (Modern Love Records)
  7. David Bowie „Blackstar“ (Columbia Records)
  8. John Cale „M:FANS“ (Domino Recording Company)
  9. Jesu/Sun Kil Moon (untitled) (Caldo Verde)
  10. Floorplan „Victorious“ (M-Plant)
  11. Aly Keïta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli – Kalo Yele (Intakt)
  12. Young Thug „Jeffery“ (300 Entertainmnt/Atlantic)
  13. PNL „Dans la légende“ (QLF)
  14. Biosphere „Departed Glories“ (Smalltown Supersound)
  15. Beyoncé „Lemonade“ (Parkwood Entertainment)
  16. Roman Flügel „All The Right Noises“ (Dial Records)
  17. Efterklang & Karsten Fundal „LEAVES – The Colour of Falling“ Performed by Efterklang & The Happy Hopeless Orchestra (Tambourhinoceros)
  18. HEXA „Factory Photographs“ (Room 40)
  19. Illum Sphere „Glass“ (Ninja Tune)
  20. ABC „The Lexicon of Love II“ (Blatant Music Ltd)

 

2016 23 Nov

Intensive care music

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There’s a shop in London that is so exclusive its website isn’t indexed by search engines. I don’t remember how I discovered its existence. I think maybe someone forwarded me a hyperlinked URL for this obscure, somewhat mysterious entity.

The clock is broken. Time slid off its face, by and by evaporating. Its 6 upside down is a 9 now. All of which is to say the exact when of my visit to this place is unrecorded. It could have been 2014, 2013, 2018. I simply don’t care when it was (or will be). Time-stamping memories is a reductive process. Especially those that have a psychogeographical element. And those that may not have happened yet can’t be time-stamped anyway. The clock is broken. The calendar is torn. Everything is broken. Everything is repairable. Forward. Je me promène. Principalement je me promène.

I’m fairly sure it was in Hackney. (LOL wher da fuk else LOL.)

Sunny day, virtually cloudless, low humidity. One of the 3 or 4 days of the English year (in Scotland you only get 1 or 2) when someone from Southern Europe would look up at the sky and not start crying (I love the UK weather and its limitless greyness but that is a whole other blog).

I’d been in Finsbury Park earlier that day looking for John Lydon’s old house. Without an address it was a deliberately pointless exercise, and I didn’t find it. Late breakfast (more of a brunch, really) at a cafe up the road from Finsbury Park tube, then onto Hackney. I’d had to call the shop to book an appointment. You can’t just walk into this shop. You have to phone and go „hi, can I visit your shop at 2pm please“ and they go „yeah, that should be okay“ and you give your name.

So I get there at the appointed time, and LOL of LOLs, the fucking thing doesn’t seem to exist. In this totally anonymous, slightly inauspicious street in Hackney. The street number I have been given appears within a range of numbers (you know, like 21 to 28 X Street) – and that range refers to a faded office reception area behind a locked door leading up to a personnel agency with a strange name and vaguely disturbing logo. (It reminds me, fleetingly, of Michael Landy’s Scrapheap Services and I LOL silently to myself. (All LOLs are silent. Especially the loud ones.)

And I stand there, like a plum. In the pleasant Hackney sun. It’s either late Spring or early Autumn. Warm not hot sun. If my life was a cartoon (and I am not sure it’s not) then at this point there’s a big thought bubble above my head going: Fuck this. I check the address on the unindexed website on my phone. I go to the top of the street and check I am on the right street. I do not want to make the mistake I made the time I went on foot from Gare du Nord to Montreuil only to find out the city has 2 streets with the same name and the one I walked to was the wrong one and had nothing in it. And the right one would only have been a 6 minute walk from the station.

A woman appears. She looks like Rickie Lee Jones did in 1989. She even has the hat. She is American. I tell her I am looking for the mystery shop and she tells me she is too. We spoke for a while about music. (Or will do if this a memory from 2017 or beyond. Calendrical entropy, mate. Calendrical entropy.) She owns a record label She knows her stuff. I mention that my main listening pleasure is records like Plateaux of Mirror and The Pearl. And she came out with a classic line. She says: „ah, thats real intensive care stuff“. And it was one of those moments where it’s like in your cartoon world a lightbulb flashes above your heed. Cos there is an element of intensive care in this music, somehow. What a fucking brilliant description. (I have been in intensive care many times but only ’so to speak‘. I had a summer job one year cleaning various hospital wards, one of which was intensive care. There is an ambience in intensive care, unmistakable. The pay and status of the job were so low as to be laughable, but for me it was an honour to do this work.)

The Pearl, by Brian Eno and Harold Budd is my favourite record this week. (According to LastFM I played „Late October“ 724 times throughout 2012 so I’m guessing it was a favourite then too.) It’s almost a VR experience. There is depth perception going on in some tracks, as well as sunlight through gaps in the forest roof. It’s a very playable record, and one that you can either concentrate or not concentrate on, depending on how you feel. You can tell Harold Budd is a poet here, despite there not being any words – well, not along the surface anyway. Maybe there are subterranean lexical streams in which words float like blue/white canoes saying things like „moss“, „lichen“, „Mnemosyne“ – the latter a word that is always best unworded and off the page, for structural reasons. Boom.

If I ever truly loved an LP it is this one. It is fucking giant. And yet no way overbearing or serious. There is no such thing as serious music anyway. Its intentions – like those of satire or fine art – may be serious. But the enaction of art is play. No matter what you do with paint or a drum, you’re a beta chimp at play. Imagination is more important than unlaughing seriousness. The cosmos is partly the sound of laughing. The big bang is a bang of mirth as well as fireworks. And music is just an echo of the sound of creation.

Anyway, eventually the American woman’s friend turned up. An American rapper. He knew the people in the shop and texted them to come out and meet us. The rapper was friendly and I could tell he found my Scottishness amusing, but I couldn’t help feeling that these people – however congenial they may be, were on a different plane to me, the working stiff who used to mop hospital floors. The woman asked for and took a note of my email address before the rapper showed up. She was going to send me some music. She didn’t. But I like that anyway.

Eventually we get led into the shop. It’s kind of like a cave, or a spaceship. Low ceilings, slightly weird sealed off from outside world kind of feeling. In one room is a bar. Nobody is behind this bar; the walls are stocked with spirits labelled with logos I’ve never seen before. The other 5 or 6 rooms are full of clothing. I doubt anything costs less than £700 here. I am more of a Levi’s/Adidas guy. Time to go. I find her and I say goodbye to her, and then go back up the stairs and onto the anonymous Hackney street. And I think of the Rickie Lee Jones lookalike’s phrase „intensive care music“ and I think „I will need to use that phrase“.

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

On paper this film sounds extravagantly silly. Basically what it is, is a bunch of old people smashing things up.

 
 


 
 

 
 

And as much as I’d love to be able to do an essay on it and talk about how – not unlike William Blake’s „Songs of Innocence and Experience“ from 220 years earlier – its simplicity (or rather apparent simplicity) defies any attempt to nail it down with words. TRASH HUMPERS, like Blake’s fireworks-in-your-synapses work, is free. You’re free too, to ignore it or call it dumb. I call it fucking genius. I saw it at the cinema – and as you can see in the above pictures, bought the DVD and also the book. The book was an ex-display copy I got cheap from the (it has to be said: miraculous) Magma bookshop on Oldham Street, Manchester. The first few leaves show light wear but the remainder of the volume is in crisp condition. Also, being display copy, the shop had fitted the book with a heavy duty plastic dustsheet. There is a card insert someplace inside the book, with the publishing company’s address in Zurich. It is a good book – some of the pictures in it are actually removeable stickers although why anyone would pay money for a book like this and then stick the stickers to, like a lamp post or somehing is beyond me. The book doesn’t have much in the way of words, just very bare sentences surrounded by white space that say things like „They sleep in junk piles with sleeping bags“. I am guessing that these (fewer than 20) sentences form the film’s script/screenplay.

 
 
 

 
 
Quite soon:  Into Eternity

2016 24 Okt

Joseph Beuys in Edinburgh.

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Joseph Beuys and Edinburgh go way back.

Walk around Scotland’s capital city long enough and sooner or later, Beuys will appear. A real presence. The most recent encounter: a late afternoon Saturday, late October 2026 (or 2016, my DeLorean is ****ed these days). I was on my way someplace else, passing through Edinburgh’s north-west side on foot. And it was nearly evening and the gallery this poster belongs to was closed for business.

But it was great to see a friendly face. So great. A comfort. And if you play Psychogeography, the two things you don’t get are: 1. a map; 2. an itinerary. Is Joseph Beuys really dead though? Art never sleeps. Even when the gallery is shut and you’re off someplace else, there it is.

2016 18 Okt

Windowlicker

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Assange and The Big Money
 
 
The Snowden reference Lajla made in the previous post provides me with a perfect link to this post. (Great Gabriel lyric there Lajla, by the way.) Anyway:

Yesterday I stood just ten metres away from Julian Assange. I didn’t see him. Maybe he saw me. Who knows? Thousands of people pass Assange every day, most probably unaware that behind a net curtain, there he is – on his exercise bike, or watching the news on cable, or both.

Whenever I go to Knightsbridge I always stand on that corner for 30 seconds or so. For a good while there was a uniformed police presence on the corner. Then for a few months there was a presence that didn’t identify itself. Now there is nobody. It’s not a part of the area you’d much notice – Harrods‘ loading bay is at the end of the short street, and the Ecuadorian flag flies from the bay window of the Embassy where, in a presumably small and airless room, a weird captivity plays out, at length, while – in a very real sense – history slowly unfolds around it.

From a pyschogeographical viewpoint there is something fascinating here. You have the unstoppable flow of people everywhere – and of money too, with One Hyde Park (or whatever it is called) just across the road. London’s most expensive new development, architected by the same guy who did the Pompidou.
 
 
 

 
 
 
In most new developments you’ll get a few retail units that house a coffee shop, a deli, things of these nature. At One Hyde Park the retail units are McLaren cars, a private Islamic bank, and Rolex Watches. In the walkway between the buildings there is a recess maybe ten feet square, unused, where for some reason the building’s wall isn’t flush. There are spikes on the paving in the recess, to deter anyone from sleeping there. They look like a large version of the spikes used on window ledges to deter pigeons. Pure JG Ballard.

Anyway, it’s totally weird to walk between these points so close together and on the one hand see the river of big money and the almost overwhelming amount of people passing through, while on the other, a window behind which the feeling of stasis can only be injurious to mental health.
 
 
Brockwell Park
 
 
No adventure in pyschogeography should have an itinerary. Psychogeography is not a narrative, although I guess there’s an element of narratives overlapping or colliding. A friend called, she said do you want to meet for coffee. I said yes, let’s meet at Brockwell Park. So we went to Brockwell Park. Which was remarkably free of Hundescheiße.
 
 
 

 
 
 
The coffee was good but the weather turned cold and it started to rain and I had to go to Stoke Newington so that was that. It’s an unremarkable park but it has that sense of South London invincibility.
 
 
The Isle Of Dogs
 
 
At some point prior to or after this, I was on the DLR and did what all good psychogeographers should do and got off at a random stop. Mudchute.
 
 
 

 
 
 
This used to be the real East End, the murder and mayhem end of town. But these days it has the feel of success. Not trendy enough to be trendy, not desolate enough to be London’s answer to Staten Island. Then before you know it you’re on a walkway under the Thames. Where in typical British fashion there’s an instruction: do not cycle. And a typical British response: the tunnel is full of of fucking cyclists.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Quick look around Greenwich, not in the mood for maritime museums, let’s go to Canary Wharf for no other reason than that it is there. I was looking for another walkway. One I’d seen photos of but couldn’t locate even with Google Maps. I asked a security guard. Got my smartphone, showed him the picture (expecting to be told it didn’t exist or wasn’t yet open). He said: go out that door, it’s above you. So I did, and it was.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Crossrail Place, One Canada Square. You could have a flight of stairs either end, easily, and not need the walkway. But it has to have been worth the money – it’s pure Kubrick.

 
*
 
„How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls“
 
*
 
„Now as the ladder of life
‚as been strung
You may think a sweep’s
On the bottommost rung
 
Though I spends me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this ol‘ wide world
There’s no ‚appier bloke“
 
*
 
„In the night we freeze
And you want me to tell
In London’s lonesome park
Brockwell“
 

2016 22 Sep

Jerusalem is here

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2016 16 Sep

Views, update from MM

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I think Views will be my record of 2016. The NME’s review was written by someone who gets what the record is about, and said „hip hop’s king of whinge still reigns supreme“. Whinge is quite a funny word though – and I’d argue that whinge is the last thing Views presents us with. Yes, it addresses rains and shadows, millionaire ennui and the tribulations of living the dream – but what we have here is candour, not whinge. It’s something of a genius ability, to delineate the non-positive aspects of inner space without the work being a bellyache – but here it is. The lyrics don’t really make sense out of context (this being Toronto 2016, not being Shakespeare’s sonnets) so I won’t quote any here. The other thing about lyrics, of course, is that it’s their spacing and pitch changes that often imbues the meaning – you have to kind of like be there, y’know? Listen to how the final deployment, for instance of the sub-chorus on „Feel A Way“ is rendered via a sonic degradation effect as if it’s emitting from a discarded cellphone – while fat shards of synth cut in at angles like bits off a falling building. The effect is like so-called ‚forced perspective‘ in a cinema backdrop, except the perspective here is temporal. One moment we’re *in medias res* and then – boom – we’re looking at a faded Polaroid. Complete fucking genius.

„Drake’s sly sense of humour is one of the things that stops his constant moaning becoming unbearable“ said Alexis Petridis in The Guardian’s review. I’d have to agree with this – at one point Drake (or the character’s voice he is mediating) complains that a girlfriend wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t wait around for him, even though he’d only been off the scene for „the last few months“. Hence the title Views, I guess. You could take things at face value, or you could take the record to be what I take it to be – a work that is about perspectives, not all of them autobiographically based. Also, the record is full of word play – so literality is probably a broken cup here.

The thing I like best about Views, though, is the production. In some ways it is, if not minimal exactly, then juducious. Take the track Too Good – there are only maybe 5 or 6 elements going on here (including what sounds like electric guitar played backwards) but it’s the voice recording that’s the main thing. You could pull it apart though and the acapella would be a listen on its own, as would equally the backing track. But even at its most upbeat, Views has darkness at the edge.

*

In other news, DJ Mireia Moreorless emailed yesterday. She told me to listen (really listen) to Diamonds On My Windshield. So I said, „Okay I will, yes“. (Hadn’t listened to it in years.) Next day she’s like „what did you think?“. I’m like „I don’t know. It’s like a Raymond Carver short story. You think you’ve got it, then the central point of it moves off someplace else“.

 

 
 
 

I don’t actually know if this one qualifies as a lost classic, but it never crops up in lists of classics, so it’s going in the Lost Classics shelf.

The Buggles‘ The Age of Plastic is a remarkable LP for lots of reasons. While it’s a contemporary (roughly) of Kraftwerk’s Computer World, there could hardly be more difference between them, despite superficial similarities of theme. Computer World is brain food – a manifestation of an almost limitless intelligence. I am glad to be one of the many people who have made a pilgrimage to Mintropstrasse, Duesseldorf just to stand at the doorway of where Kling Klang used to be. Computer World is biting satire, its rhythmicism a necessary corrective, its darkness illuminating. I wouldn’t count myself as a Kraftwerk fan though beyond Computerwelt and the song Neonlicht. Why? Why not. Anyway, where the fuck was I? Oh yes, The Age of Plastic.

Computer World is sequenced, metronomic, swingless, nailed down with spikes. The Age of Plastic is uncomputerised. Computer World is – in a sense – neoclassical. A term that’d usually be pejorative but in KW’s case it’s not pejorative at all. The Age of Plastic is pop all the way through, with some proper prog bubbles fizzing at the surface. What both records have though – in bulk – is tunes: melos and structure.

1. The Plastic Age. The lyrics here don’t really withstand critical analysis. This is not a Ray Bradbury short story. Essentially it’s a brief evocative description of someone overcome by technology. Touch of the Jacques Tati rather than the Fritz Lang.

2. Video Killed The Radio Star. A 4 minute 14 second long operetta. Teh end of teh pop. LOL. „Put the blame on VCR“ – a slightly ludicrous piece of metacommentary, yes – but that’s what pop music is for. If we wanted something on the inextricability of sound/vision we’d have to pick up a Roland Barthes book and light up a Gauloises cigarette.

3. Kid Dynamo – this reminds me of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. For this reason: the music tells a better story than the libretto. A musical masterpiece with funny human larynx soundwaves on top. Odd but truly great.

4. I Love You (Miss Robot). This is the greatest song on the record. Somewhere in this gleaming cyborg fantasy is the trace of John Donne’s „The Sun Rising“. But the unruly sun is down, and the sky is nuclear, and the sour prentices are sardonic and made of metal.

5. Clean Clean. Very, very clever stuff. Starts off with funeral church organ not unlike John Cage’s „Souvenir“ (which it predates, time travel stylee) and the rest is a war narrative presumably from the POV of the dead, with media echoes in his head. „Lost a million in our very first attack. Clean clean. Don’t you worry ‚cause you know we’ll get them back“. A powerful, trenchant and understated comment on the deluded arithmetic of conflict.

6. Elstree. More media metacommentary. A snowstorm within a snowstorm. Love the juxtaposition here, against the previous song. „They made a field into a war zone/ I beat the enemy on my own/ All the bullets just went over my head/ There’s no reality and no one dead/ in Elstree…“

7. Astroboy (And the Proles on Parade). Is this prescience or is it just history? The lyrics tell of overprivilege and ennui. But there is heart here, as well as brioche.

8. Johny on the Monorail. Like track 3, the backing track transcends the lyrical content. Strip the track of its vox and watch a YouTube (or VCR) clip of the Chicago Loop with it instead.

2016 4 Sep

Visez vise Scotieni

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