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Life Out of Balance

Electric Wizard – “See You In Hell” – Wizard Bloody Wizard – Spinefarm Records

“For years,” writes Naomi Klein, “climate scientists have warned us that a warming world is an extreme world, in which humanity is buffeted by both brutalizing excesses and stifling absences of the core elements that have kept fragile life in equilibrium for millennia.” The natural world, if there is still such a thing, is indeed in violent upheaval. Hurricanes, floods, and forest fires have marred the serenity of the summer months, and the autumn of our years will soon be upon us. Okay, now what? Might as well rock the fuck out to some righteous riffs. “All of your dreams will die,” warn the Dorset stoner sludge foursome, in what the band themselves describe as “twenty-first century funeral boogie.” It’s tough to miss the crux here.

 

Rafael Anton Irisarri – “RH Negative” – The Shameless Years – Umor Rex

Throughout his life, William Blake claimed to have seen apparitions of the apocalypse, which prompted him in 1808 to conceive of a masterwork called A Vision of the Last Judgment—a work that was later mysteriously lost. The painting was to be exhibited in 1810, accompanied by an exhaustive analysis by the artist. But when the exhibition was abruptly cancelled, it disappeared. We only know of it from Blake’s handwritten notes, and the detailed description contained in a letter penned to his contemporary, the English painter Ozias Humphry.

Did the piece ever exist? And if so, did it contain some kind of code—an esoteric set of instructions on how best to face Armageddon? Screaming, with middle finger outstretched to the heavens? Lachrymose, prostrate, begging for forgiveness? Stone-faced and stoic in silent resignation? In awe of the powers that are far greater than us, that we never could predict or control? Today, we can only speculate. Rafael Anton Irisarri’s cyclical titanium drones give us plenty of time to think about it.

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Rest” – SebastiAn

Mercy comes in many forms. This music box-like song produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is the antidote to so much ill will in the world right now. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s lullaby for the end times pleads its subject not to leave—the piece’s title translates simply as “stay.”

 

Cham-Pang – “Bella V” – Tant pis 81-82 – Tenzier

I learn a great deal from my friend Roger Tellier-Craig. He’s like the Rain Man of music from beyond the margins—especially if that music originates from Quebec. This week, Roger posted a link to this buried No Wave treasure, soon to be released through Tenzier, a not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to “preserve, celebrate, and disseminate archival recordings by Quebec avant-garde artists.” Despite its age, “Bella V” could have been released today, alongside the works of contemporary Quebecois musicians Marie Davidson or Bernardino Femminielli.

Cham-Pang, a play on the pronunciation of lyricist Yvel Champagne’s surname, also featured contributions from Bernard Gagnon, the legendary Montreal-based electro-acoustic composer who recorded his first experiments at McGill’s Electronic Music Studio in the 1980s. Thanks to Tenzier, the Schulich School’s Marvin Duchow Music Library now houses Gagnon’s complete archives. Praise the island mentality that sustains this kind of cultural production, and vocal advocates like Roger who doggedly bring it to our attention.

 

Dean Hurley – “Electricity I” – Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△ – Sacred Bones

Let’s be crystal clear: there are two categories for art: there’s good, and then there’s not good. And very little good came out of the new season of Twin Peaks, meaning that the vast majority of it was not good. Personally, I wish they had never made it at all. Still, having said that, let’s focus on what good there was: the entirety of Kyle MacLachlan’s embodiments; Doris Truman, played by a hysterically funny Candy Clark, screaming “we’re gonna get that BLACK MOLD, Frank!”; and Dean Hurley’s outstanding sound design.

Specifically, the spiky static snarl Hurley’s crafted as the cue for electricity throughout season three is one of the scariest, heaviest, most nightmarish sounds I’ve ever wrapped my ears around. If you couldn’t bear to watch the all-too-often-cringeworthy acting (when otherwise brilliant thesps like Naomi Watts and Harry Dean Stanton deliver such dreadful performances, it’s a sure sign of a void of vision), or the contrived musical showcases at the Roadhouse (more on that here), Hurley’s sturdy sonic architecture at least made the series listenable. That’s something good.

 

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Born To Kvetch

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Undoing A Luciferian Towers” – Luciferian Towers – Constellation Records

In his informative and often laugh-out-loud funny history of Yiddish culture, entitled “Born to Kvetch,” author Michael Wex begins with a joke that only Jews and friends of Jews will get—a joke that I think applies equally to Godspeed’s particular brand of ennui—a joke that goes thus: A gentleman boards a train leaving Grand Central Station for Chicago, sitting opposite an old man reading a Yiddish newspaper. Half an hour into the trip, the old man puts down his paper and starts to whine, “Oy, am I thirsty.” Again, with more force, the old man exclaims, “Oy, am I thirsty!” “Oy, am I THIRSTY!” Annoyed, the gentleman has had enough inside of two minutes. He gets up and hurries to the dining car. He takes a paper cup, fills it with water, and rushes back. Half way there, he wheels around, takes a second paper cup, fills that with water, too, and walks gingerly back to his seat, careful not to spill a drop. He thrusts the first cup of water in his face. The old man gulps it down, and before he can say a word, he shoves the second cup in front of him, which he drinks in turn. Hoping to get a wink of sleep, the gentleman sits back down and closes his eyes. The old man leans back, allowing himself exactly one second of relief, and hollers, “Oy, was I thirsty!

The joke, of course, is that even scratching the itch, even quenching the thirst, doesn’t quell the drive to kvetch about it.

 

Karl Fousek – Two Pieces for a Temporary Connection – Archive Officielle

In almost every car commercial for the past few years, a familiar scene is one in which the car in question is driving through a digitally animated version of nature. I once imagined that this was to show how environmentally friendly the car was, despite the fact that they all still run on some version of fossil fuels. Now, I’m starting to think that maybe nature is animated in these ads because long stretches of undisturbed landscape are harder and harder to come by, difficult to access, and impossible to film car commercials in. Karl Fousek’s new tape sounds like the audio analog for animated nature. If we ever needed to soundtrack a CGI jungle scene, with digitally rendered birds and bugs, flora and fauna, this is it.

 

OPN – “The Pure and the Damned, ft. Iggy Pop” – Warp Records

“The pure always act from love / the damned always act from love / the truth is an act of love.” Daniel Lopatin’s work of late has taken on an almost entirely earnest tone. Where his compositions once were pure 808s and piss takes, this undeniably lush track wears its heart upon its sleeve with no shame. It reminds me of one particular stanza from R. Buckminster Fuller poem, “God is a Verb,” published in the fall 1968 issue of Whole Earth Catalog:

for “all’s fair”
in love as well as in war
which means you can
junk as much rubbish,
skip as many stupid agreements
by love

 

Tough Age – “Me in Glue” – Shame – Mint Records

This punchy track from Canuck parking lot punks Tough Age cuts right to the heart of modern, social media-produced ambivalence. “Want to fight back, but I don’t like it either/ Can’t lose your friends when you keep it a secret,” moans vocalist Penny Clark. Don’t, for instance, tell anyone you don’t like the new Twin Peaks. (See next entry)

 

Twin Peaks: The Return – Showtime

There’s a funny scene in the 1989 Ron Howard film Parenthood in which Steve Martin, dressed as a party cowboy for his anxiety-addled son’s birthday, resurrects a family friendly version of his classic ‘70s stand-up balloon animals shtick. Clueless, but buoyed by a swollen sense of dutiful self-satisfaction, he struggles hilariously with the oblong inflatables, squeaking loudly as they’re manipulated into evermore-deformed shape. Finally, Martin hands the assemblage to a kid—something looking like a sausage link nightmare—proclaiming, “Your lower intestine!” This, to me, is the perfect visual metaphor for David Lynch making the return to Twin Peaks. Creating something that doesn’t look like anything else is equally accomplished by genius and jerk.

 

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Stranger in a strange land

Daniel O’Sullivan – “HC SVNT DRACONES” – VELD – O Genesis Recordings

Taking Latin in University isn’t completely useless. You get to read inscriptions on buildings, decipher fancy college degrees, perform etymology, and translate obscure song titles. This one means: “Here are the dragons.” One could also say “Here be dragons” if one wanted to sound more like King Arthur. Who says it’s a dead language?

 

Regis – “Maxi” – Blackest Ever Black

To me, the Holy Trinity of Techno is still Silent Servant, James Ruskin, and Regis. I am not finished mourning the demise of Jealous God, the excellent if short-lived label that released some of the musketeers’ classiest late-night stompers. But this too-short teaser from a forthcoming single on Blackest Ever Black will have to do. For now. One for the bloody dancefloor.

 

False Witness – “Revolt” – The Art of Fighting – GHE20G0TH1K Records

I knew I’d heard this before.

I have a strange affliction—some might call it a gift, others a curse: I am able to recognize aesthetic similarities across various pieces of music. Useless, perhaps. It’s an acrostic kind of memory, akin to perfect pitch: recordings inscribe themselves permanently and irrevocably into my mind’s ear. (I may have missed my calling as an intellectual property attorney.)

For example, I can sing a song in the precise key in which it was committed to tape. I can also immediately identify little phrases, licks, riffs, or passages in songs. Let’s do some comparative analysis:

Blur’s “Boys and Girls” bass line is a direct facsimile of David Bowie’s “DJ”;

 

“I don’t like the drugs” by Marilyn Manson is Bowie’s “Fame”;

 

Supergrass’s “Jesus came from outer space” contains a descending phrase reminiscent of “Star”.

 

Come to think of it, all these examples are David Bowie-related. Here are some that aren’t: Radiohead’s “Decks Dark” = “Teardrop” by Massive Attack;

 

Alicia Keys’ “Blended Family” = “What I am” by Edie Brickell;

 

And L-Vis 1990’s 2009 banger “Compass” = “Revolt” by False Witness. Listen to them side by side, or at once for all I care:

It’s the same Soca rhythm, at the same tempo, in the same key. And don’t be alarmed, but it even features the same air raid sample.

AIR RAID!!

 

Yally – “Dread Risk” – Diagonal Records

I’ve been working on a theory of music akin to Thomas Schatz’s “whole-equation-of-pictures” method of cinema analysis. In contrast to Classical film scholarship like André Bazin in France, or Andrew Sarris in America, both of whom advocated for auteur theory, Schatz believes that films are in fact a product of what he calls “the genius of the system”—a more media-ecological or even proto-intersectional approach. For Schatz (and me), cultural texts are just as much shaped by complex structural forces as they are authored by an individual artist’s voice and vision. I find this to be especially evidenced in instances of historical revisionism.

Artists naturally want to pay homage to their greatest influences, and at various points set out to emulate the feel of their favourite masters. Liam Gallagher made a career out of trying to perfect John Lennon’s slap-back delay, which was itself modeled after Elvis Presley’s vocals. But Lennon’s was as far away from Presley’s as Gallagher’s is from Lennon’s, because certain elements in the equation—everything from media format to microphones, cables, effects processors, and sound dampening materials—have changed. Even when a band goes as far to emulate a long-gone sound as, say, Arcade Fire did with The Suburbs—using 1940s gear; pressing each song to a dubplate before digitization—it still comes out sounding like early 21st century Indie rock.

Regarding revision, electronic music is no different. Take Yally’s “Dread Risk”, a faithful nod to the brooding 1990s Drum ‘n Bass of Photek or μ-ziq, and the comparatively maximal belter that I always suspected (hoped) was lurking in the Raime arsenal. It sounds like Jungle, but different, simply because the whole equation is different.

 

Delia Gonzalez – “Horse Follows Darkness” – Horse Follows Darkness – DFA Records

Speaking of nostalgia, here’s one to tug at the old melancholy cord. In this vintage synth hymn, Cuban-American multidisciplinary artist Delia Gonzalez dreamily conjures the uncanny air of feeling like a foreigner at home. At a time when Trump and Brexit have become all too real, I think that many of us can relate.

 

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Hum along with me, along with the TV

Sylvia Monnier – “Theresa Russell” – Stock Shot & Addictive Sling – Sacred Phrases

This winter, there has been a mysterious and persistent hum in my house. It is a low frequency noise, lower than the 60Hz hum normally heard from buzzing home electronics or the baseboard heating. At times, usually at night, it fills my ears with a sinister resonance that is neither natural nor purely automatic. In pajamas and slippers, I repeatedly go on midnight excursions around the block to try and identify its source. To no avail: as soon as I leave the house, it disappears, submerged beneath the din of the city. But there is it again when I’m back inside, humming away, driving me a bit madder with each humming moment.

I try music to drown it out. But because it’s such a deep tone, it is not easily masked. It’s a sound that you can feel vibrating through the floor, a fundamental wave that tunes and transforms everything in the vicinity. Bassy music helps. Still, as soon as it’s done, the hum resumes its oppressive dominance over the sonic space.

The only things I find truly effective are sounds—not music per se—that blend in with the hum: drone music, durational tones, field recordings. For instance, Nancy Tobin’s 2007 CD Duo Des Aigus—an improvisational dance and sound installation based on audio feedback—works especially well. And so does “Theresa Russell”.

I have yet to discover the true origin of the hum in my house. Alternately, I have hypothesized it to be mechanical, electrical, industrial, or perhaps even imaginary. But I now fear that living with this hum is going to be the new normal. I’ll just have to harmonize myself with it, or be condemned to days of incessant discord.

 

Biggi Vinkeloe Band – “Jag Lyfter Mina Händer” – Aura Via Appia – Omlott

There is an unabashedly celebratory mood to this track—a virtue missing from almost all forms of music right now. It sounds like Scandinavian Gypsy Drum n’ Bass. I like it. And I can’t help cracking Biggi “Smalls” Vinkeloe jokes. Call it value added.

 

David Kanaga – “Go On / Salt & Scab” – Oἶκoςpiel OST pt. 1http://www.oikospiel.com

Like some cruel Pavlovian torture, the Québec brain is hardwired to immediately recognize Celine Dion’s voice. Nonetheless, Kanaga’s jump cuts in the first movement of this piece paradoxically reprogram a clandestine soulfulness into Dion’s otherwise antiseptic operating system.

 

Jlin – “Nyakinyua Rise” – Black Origami – Planet Mu

In the mid-1960s, Kenya’s first president following British colonial rule, Jomo Kenyatta, bestowed upon the Makadara Nyakinyua women dancers 1,000 acres of homeland, in gratitude for their entertainment—the president’s personal favourite. But the Nyakinyua and their descendants were forced from their homes near Nairobi in 1988 by predatory property developers. Bulldozers destroyed their houses, scattering the dancers to live with relatives in neighbouring communities. Those that stayed remain squatters on their own land.

As of January 2017, there has been no permanent resolution, with the Nyakinyua holding frequent protests and threatening to boycott elections in attempts to persuade the administration—Kenyatta’s son and current president, Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”)—to either oblige their land claims, or resettle them elsewhere. Even if you haven’t heard this story before, you’ve heard this story before—from the Palestinian situation to urban gentrification in major metropolitan centres. Jlin’s track is a battle cry that renders the Nyakinyuan plight universal.

The problem with other peoples’ problems is that, sooner or later, they become your problems, too. So you might as well make them your problems sooner than later.

 

TCF – “C6 81 56 28 09 34 31 D2 F9 9C D6 BD 92 ED FC 6F 6C A9 D4 88 95 8C 53 B4 55 DF 38 C4” – mono no aware – PAN

The first-ever MIDI sequencer—the Sequential Circuits Model 64 MIDI sequencer—in addition to velocity, pitch and modulation information could record and store up to 4000 individual notes. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony contains over 135,000 noteheads producing more than 70,000 separate notes. TCF’s obscurely titled track featured on mono no aware, a new ambient compilation courtesy of Pan Records, reportedly consists of 150,000 MIDI events, pushing this ostensible drone composition into Georges Seurat / Black MIDI territory.

It is easy to forget that digitally recorded music—indeed everything digital—is in fact composed of discrete, granular events that our brains then smear back into something apparently continuous. A standard CD, for instance, reconstructs an analogue sound signal by taking an audio snapshot 44,100 times per second. What we hear sounds uninterrupted, but in reality, it is an auditory illusion—like a flipbook. This is an excellent metaphor for life: what appears smooth on the surface is invariably violent and unpredictable at its most fundamental constituent level.

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A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires

Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche – Alizé et Margaret D. Midi Moins Le Quart. Sur La Plage, Un Palmier Ensanglanté II – Constellation Records

There really are no words for what is going on right now. Even before Donald J. Trump assumed the office of the US president, in Avant-Garde-level efforts to inveigle the pubic, he entangled the media in the world’s most dangerous ever game of “I know you are but what am I?”

Still, there is no alternative to fact. With one of his first cabinet nominations, Trump installed the former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, as secretary of state, clarifying his administration’s priorities for anyone still in doubt. He has since signed executive orders to construct a border-spanning wall between the US and Mexico, and at the same time to build an oil pipeline connecting Canada’s tar sands to refineries stateside. He has frozen new research grants to the Environmental Protection Agency, and directed it and other federal agencies to restrict their public communications. It is full-time work just keeping up with this shit. And I’m not even American.

It all makes me want to throw up my arms and howl nonsense at the heavens from the island of Montreal. Which is what Avec Le Soleil do, chiefly. As Samuel Johnson understood, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

 

Gnod – Bodies For Money – Rocket Recordings

If it is words you want, though, you cannot do better than Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine, the title of Gnod’s recently announced upcoming album. The MC5 might have been proud of how this Salford ensemble mightily riff through politically-charged lead track “Bodies For Money.” It bashes unabashedly.

I recently saw someone tweet something like, “We’ve now entered the realm of by-any-means-necessary.” One of those means, an ideological imperative, I argue, has always been to unconditionally rock the fuck out. “When we become crazed in our obsession with idiotic enjoyment,” wrote the always-provocative Slavoj Žižek, “even totalitarian manipulation cannot reach us.”

 

Slowdive – Star Roving – Dead Oceans

I have no emotional space left for nostalgia. Fortunately, this is not a trip down memory lane. Slowdive are simply a band that stopped making music together for a while, and recently started again. It’s actually a boring story, and a welcome one.

 

Happa – Bum Trance – PT/5

One hallmark of a great tune is that it immediately makes you want to listen to it again. “Bum Trance” manages this. Operationally, it seems like the track, which represents restraint as much as maximal over-indulgence, wants to go back in for one more drop. The fact that it doesn’t—that Happa winds it down rather than back up again—bestows the banger with a charming if false modesty.

 

Open letter to Brian Eno – Re: The Guardian interview, 23 January 2017

Dear Mr. Eno;

Long-time listener, firsttime caller. I hope this note finds you well.

I have always held you and your music in the highest regard. But I am concerned by some of your views expressed recently in The Guardian. What dismays me, as a music technology historian, is your misguided notion of music’s structural homology with social organization. You describe the orchestra as a top-down, pyramidal model of power (bad), as opposed to the “more egalitarian model of a folk or rock band” (good).

In reality, however, neither of these models broadly characterizes music nor politics. It is, rather, rogue dictatorships that we now witness rising in all forms. We can read Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen and their ilk as political incarnations of the contemporary musical studio sovereign: the producer. Today, (usually lone, often male) producers, of whom you are one, more than anyone else prescribe, transform, and regulate the musical landscape.

Industry standards like CDs or MP3s, technological protocols like MIDI, and computer platforms like ProTools have facilitated this shift, allowing one person with little to no traditional skill necessary to create entire musical works from start to finish. Comparing today’s musical and social organization, the respective fields reveal increasingly decentralized societies recklessly helmed by defensive amateurs. That’s about as far from egalitarian as one can imagine.

Best-case scenario: one of these dictators, either of the political or musical variety, experiences a profound awakening, turning out to be benevolent instead of tyrannical. This might manifest in selfless acts, incongruous with capitalism. For example, lending your considerable talents to assist someone more overtly radical than, say, James Blake or Owen Pallett might get that ball rolling. How about a Brian Eno-produced Godspeed record? Better yet, the next Solange. Just a thought.

Respectfully and sincerely yours,

Ryan Alexander Diduck

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The Soundtrack of Our Lives

My Alarm Clock, Pile Drivers

The pile drivers this week had fallen mercifully silent. That is, until this morning at 7:41am. There has been so much construction noise in the neighbourhood at all hours that I can scarcely tell what time of day or night it is anymore. By all accounts, this is merely the iceberg’s tip: more than twice the amount of roadwork seen in 2016 will take place before 2021, reports La Presse. The auditory effect—and proprioceptive affect (earplugs don’t work because you can feel the destabilizing concussive force) is almost identical to MK-Ultra psychological warfare research the CIA conducted clandestinely at McGill University in the 1950s—inducing sleep and sensory deprivation through indiscriminate noise—to break psychiatric patients down to a blank emotional slate. It’s all been meticulously documented in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which our Sud-Ouest borough uses like an operator’s manual. To put a twist on O. Henry’s famous adage about New York City: Montréal was a great town, until they started rebuilding it.

 

Emptyset – Borders – Thrill Jockey

Speaking of pile drivers, Paul Purgas and James “Ginz” Ginzburg—the duo known collectively as Emptyset—are due to release Borders, their fifth studio recording, via Thrill Jockey in early 2017. Some reviewer somewhere sometime once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Emptyset’s signature infrasonic industrial drub reflected the sonic landscape of Bristol’s mid-naughties construction boom. Well, it’s not just Bristol now; it’s the whole world. Having the privilege of previewing this album at high sound pressure level over the past two days has provided reprieve from the jackhammers and pile drivers and beeping vehicles. They counteract each other.

 

Jóhann Jóhannsson with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble – Cinquième salle – 10/20/2016

Black-and-white video projections of fur-bearing creatures rotate on a screen behind the darkly lit stage. With a sense of ceremony befitting a Viking funeral, Jóhann Jóhannsson periodically arises from his piano stool and meticulously rewinds reels of ¼ inch tape, upon which are recorded processed loops of female voices counting out encoded alphanumeric transmissions in French, Spanish, German. A chamber configuration of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble fills in the gaps between Jóhannsson’s protracted compositions by elongating single notes from their stringed instruments, concealing the transitions that otherwise sewed the evening’s musical offerings together. “Seamless” would be one word to accurately yet inadequately describe the performance. Another might be “perfect.”

Orphée, Jóhannsson’s first recording for revered Classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, is a strong contender for my album of the year. I almost choked coughing up $42 Canadian dollars for the LP at “Cheap Thrills”—a misnomer if ever there was one. Still, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

 

The Public Psychedelic Reel

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-3-30-37-pm

It’s often said and seldom heard: cultivate your mistakes; they become your style. Two separate but connected events this week prompted me to collect and repost—in effect, to retweet—my published writing. The first was this excellent essay by Elizabeth Newton. In it, she urges: “To retweet oneself is to say, ‘I gave it some thought, and I meant what I said.’ Retweeting expresses a conviction that is the essence of reference, whatever its form: In case you missed it, here it is again.”

The second came when Dan Lopatin tweeted his personal approval of my “Play Recent” blurb about his latest video for “Animals.” It is apparently the first piece of my writing that 0PN’s legion fans have liked. The duty of criticism is not to please artists or audiences, but of course it’s nice when it does. I’d almost quit writing after the responses to my 2015 Garden Of Delete Quietus review—trolling comments that have since been… deleted. (S/he who lols last lols longest.) Revisit that review, as well as all the work that I’ve contributed to the public record over the past five or six odd years. Thank you for the support.

(Hack: to access the stuff hidden behind paywalls, copy/paste the links at sci-hub.cc)

 

Factmag’s Halloween Hip-Hop Mix

This is fun: Fact Magazine’s US editor John Twells has compiled a mix of Hip-Hop tracks that sample from Horror movie soundtracks—ideal seasonal listening. Personal fav: Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some More,” which deftly deploys Bernard Hermann’s Psycho Suite as counterpoint to Busta’s expeditious lyrical delivery. I saw Mr. Rhymes perform this track live at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in 1999. Impossibly, he rapped faster than the beat.

God damn, there ain’t no more. Is there?

 

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‘I get some of you all the time, All of you some of the time’

Lost Highway – OST Reissue – Music on Vinyl

“I like to remember things my own way,” says Fred Madison, the main character in David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, as he’s interrogated about his aversion to video cameras by two stereotypical police detectives. “What do you mean by that?” one of the cops presses. “How I remembered them,” Madison deadpans. “Not necessarily the way they happened.” These austere lines of dialogue convey a deeper truth: that an imperfect and highly subjective mode of remembering—what once was merely considered “memory”—is quickly disappearing. With commemorative cycles, archival releases, anniversaries, reissues, documentaries, hidden and expanded histories and the like, we are increasingly instructed on who, what, when, where, why and how to remember; forgetting in the process that memory itself is a muscle; forgetting in the process just how we might have remembered in the first place. These revisionist histories are like surveillance videos, offering the illusion of objective omniscience, all the while directing our attention through an ever-narrower window.

 

“Animals” – Oneohtrix Point Never – Dir. Rick Alverson – Warp

I get the sense that this video was completely conceived and executed by algorithms. It’s like how House of Cards was made because Netflix noticed from their metrics that viewers favoured both political dramas and Kevin Spacey. In some Brazil-like office, a report was generated: It revealed that 0PN fans also searched for Val Kilmer (86%); tabloid sensationalism (64%); red Nike tracksuits (73%); strobing visual effects (77%); non-sequiters (94%); steady-cam (81%); and beige (100%).

 

“Strong Proud Stupid And Superior” – Grebenstein – Downwards

Service.

 

Twin Peaks Season 3 – Dir. David Lynch – Showcase

After viewing the most recent teaser for the upcoming season of Twin Peaks, scheduled to air in 2017 on the Showtime network, and believing that there were no budgetary or creative compromises, I am genuinely excited. This is beginning to look less like a reboot and more like a band—like Pink Floyd or Godspeed—reuniting while they still have something great left in them.

 

Responses to “999 Words” on RBMA and underground scenes

There are three things I now understand about the nuts and bolts of Red Bull’s relationship with Mutek—and with other non-profits like it. 1: Red Bull requires a liquor license to sell the Vodka part of the Vod-Bomb, so they need to partner up with an entity that has one—preferably a festival that can arrange licenses for a wide range of events and venues. 2: Mutek is co-opted into deploying their social networks to promote RBMA events: Mutek RTs Red Bull’s Twitter posts, not the other way around. 3: Red Bull gives money to the festival in exchange for subtle brand infiltration: i.e. ubiquitous logos displayed onstage during Mutek musical performances. In this way, a gigantic corporation is able to infiltrate a non-profit organization that was largely funded by the public: governments; granting agencies; fans like you and me. It’s the privatization of public resources routine at work, the logic of neoliberalism.

The question then becomes: do corporations do it better? And the answer is still a resounding no. Why? Here are two good reasons.

The first disturbing trend about Red Bull Music Academy’s infiltration of the musical underground is the sidestepping and in some cases re-writing of its histories. Rather than acknowledge existing journalism and scholarship on artists, scenes and cities, they order up their own. Again, Red Bull has deep pockets and pays handsomely. So this attracts enough authorities—say, Will Straw writing on Montreal’s disco scene—to lend an air of unified legitimacy, reinforcing the “academy” part of RBMA. Instead of sharing an article or interview from The Wire or The Quietus, or local papers like Voir or Cult MTL, they will poach someone to write a standalone piece, thus keeping the centre of cultural knowledge contained within their own branded ecosystem.

But the biggest reason is this: Once scenes enter into a monetary relationship with corporations, the scene must adhere to corporate logic, not the other way around. Music and its criticism becomes content for corporate benefit; the corporation is surely not in operation to assist local music communities. If musical output or even the entire scene starts to wane, rather than nurture or cultivate it (as a devoted public might do), the corporate benefactor will simply move on and find another site of production that they can latch their logo onto. Growth becomes imperative. It’s capitalism.

Since penning my “999 Words” column, I have been inundated with responses, both positive and negative. I have been called a “hater.” (Not true. I deeply love this music, this city and its scenes.) Other people have asked me what solutions exist. One that I can think of, and it’s not far off, is to make being skeptical of Red Bull so popular that they are forced to commission works that are overtly critical of their own brand. Hey RBMA, this gun’s for hire.

 

“Killing A Little Time” – David Bowie – Lazarus – Columbia Records

Heavy, confessional insight and drum-and-bassy riffage from what we now know were the Thin White Duke’s last days. Echoes of Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson and Charles Mingus fuse particularly well on this recording, the third of Bowie’s final three musical offerings.

A friend of mine once said to me, in a time of dire need: there are two ways of looking at the world: 1: we’re all fucked 😦 Or 2: we’re all fucked 🙂 A truism if ever there was one. We’re all just singing our handful of songs here, killing a little time.

 

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