12.29.2009

I've always depended on the kindness of strangers...

Gee. Golly. Gracious.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/opinion/29herbert.html?ref=opinion

Is it bad faith or naivete? I am trying to understand the logic here and it feels like a screwdriver inside my head is trying to get out.

Wall Street taught the US Government alot about speculative income.

I want to try this with my landlord. "Sorry I am late on rent but I spent the money I was supposed to spend on rent on beer because I believed I was getting a raise."

12.24.2009

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/opinion/24kuperman.html?adxnnl=1&ref=opinion&adxnnlx=1261666871-xzs+2Jlpy3EqSBV8Jf384A

Let's do it, baby. 'Cause DYStopia is the only 'topia we can envision. Let's take it all the way. No need to hide the American death wish behind "just war". Let's "just" have war.

"It was dark as fuck on the streets/
My hands were all bloody/
from punching on the concrete"

12.23.2009

Amen, My Brother

http://recoveringrockaholic.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/the-people-vs-music/

LWE on Vinyl

Good essay here taking a more personal perspective on the vinyl vs digital debate.

As you can imagine, a miserable bastard like me has all sorts of things to say about this issue (and just in case you were wondering, vinyl, every week), but I want to reiterate a point originally made not by me and yet I cannot offer a citation. The relationship of techno to technology has never been an unquestioning one. Never mind the nebulous concept of "soul", techno has always been about turning machinery towards achieving the goals of humanity and culture. If a technology does not serve these things, there is no reason to embrace it.
Ultimately, for whatever reason, a lot of people out there subconsciously seem to want to be replaced. I wish I could find something exciting in this, "the future". Humanism feels so reactionary nowadays and yet...

12.10.2009

You Didn't Already Know This?

Sorry Folks.

Disco revival/edits is just the 00's version of 90s acid jazz/rare groove.

What? Sniffing cocaine in Brooklyn, NY is cooler than in the West End of London?

You Already Knew This

History is the name given to the narrative of decisionmaking by the poltical and economic elite. Some of us have a choice in how we die but we are all collateral damage.

12.04.2009

2009 - The Year In Music - The Entire Essay - Fuck You

Mostly it was a bit crap. Even though almost everything I published about music was vituperative, I am sure it wasn't enough to actually cause at least one person to put down their instrument and think before actually bothering to publish their music and inflict their "personal brand" on myself and others who feel faith draining out of our souls slowly, yet inexorably, like sap from a tree.

Best Album of 2009:
1. Fever Ray - Fever Ray

Dark, arty, novel sonics and you can dance to it. Anyone who had "more important things" to accomplish than this surely failed miserably.

Good 12"s of 2009:
1. Ribn - Mined (Millions of Moments) - techno - not innovative but it works (actually late 2008)
2. Hunee - Tour De Force (WT) - house - not innovative but it works

Best Singles of 2009:
1. Soft Cell "Frustration"
1. Expose "Come Go With Me"

Neither recorded this year, obviously, but most records recorded in 2009 only sound like they were recorded in 2009 because they conformed with 2009's particular portion of the retro-fetishism that has mostly characterized this decade (or because they sucked) (and really, any truly well-written end-of-decade summary would have to include the narrative of the fashionability of past moments in musical history).

I spent most of 2009 working at a day job I don't particularly enjoy, and, worse, that makes me feel like I am contributing negatively to human history. "Frustration" is the theme song of my subway ride home, a bitter song perfect for staring into the bitter faces of my compatriots-in-travel*. "Come Go With Me", which I only own on vinyl, and therefore cannot play on the subway, is my reward at home. The lead singer invites me back into intense world of possibility that I forego due to exhaustion. Someday I might join her**.

*"Bedsitter" acts as a great counterbalance to "Frustration" on the album - I often wonder what would happen if the two protagonists were to meet and realize their budding nihilism wouldn't abate by switching places.

** There was a lot of talk about perceived gender imbalance in one of the lengthy ILM threads deconstructing the Pitchfork end of decade list. What never seems to come up in these debates is who the audience is for the artist(s) in question. Regardless of gender, some artists write for their own, and some for the other. Instead of merely analyzing the demography of the list, it would be more interesting to ask why it seems less common for men to listen to records by females directed to males (eg the Expose record in question, which is technically gender-neutral but doesn't seem to be directed towards lesbians [of course I could just be saying that because I am male]) than it is for females to listen to female-directed music by men (there is a great live recording of Teddy Pendergrass singing "When Somebody Loves You Back" where the music at times almost inaudible due to screaming female fans but, alas, I cannot find a link).

Good News

Simon has graciously pointed out that a good writer has made her timely reappearance after her earlier online manifestations vanished months ago.

Her short-but-sour decade roundup, ultimately to include ten songs (a gesture kind in its brevity but frustrating; I would rather have a long list from a a disaffected writer than have to depend on this one, in which 180 records are listed for the sole purpose of buttressing the self-serving enshrinement of facile hype [aka the top 20] into History, for insight into what happened and to see if there is anything worthwhile that I might have missed), includes this paragraph, which quite ably summarizes the way I feel, and would render my own forthcoming "decade in music" essay redundant if it weren't for the lack of foolishly complex sentences such as this, which are surely entertaining to my readers (the long multi-sectioned sentence below is much more artfully written):

A lot went wrong and my own sorry generation are largely culpable. Smug, lazy and intellectually self-satisfied; historically uneducated and therefore fixated on superficial understandings and re-stagings of the past; unwilling to risk seriousness, or rather, mistaking creative conservatism and po-faced self-absorption for seriousness; lacking sex, glamour, rage, resentment, a death drive, or anything vaguely fucking resembling a reason to make a mark upon the world – you, my peers, are possibly the most boring lot of Westerners since those born ‘tween the World Wars grew themselves up on Patty Boone and Georgia Gibbs.

11.23.2009

Precedent

http://www.slate.com/id/2236146

Worth a read, even if you are already "over" this issue due to the constant flood of articles about it, this article discusses expected implications of having this trial, namely that any attempts by the defense to use the torture of their defendents as a means of getting any confessions thrown out will, of course, be overturned, which may/will negatively affect other trials in the future. I am worried that domestic law enforcement will, subsequent to this trial, have a lot more leeway in using more forceful interrogation techniques because prosecutors will now have a better chance of ensuring that any confessions gained will make it to the jury's ears.

11.13.2009

Thai In Styrofoam

A lot of my best ideas lately have been coming to me while walking and have not survived the train trip home. I am tempted to get some sort of portable recording device but somehow I feel like I don't want to be that guy talking about the End Times with a weird look in his eye while surrounded by the wealthy, beautiful people of (insert Manhattan neighborhood). Don't know why I have a problem with that. Actually, it sounds sort of great (I don't think I'll ever have any friends in Soho anyways). In fact, there are enough of them/us in New York that, with a little coordination (and perhaps a more generous welfare system) we could probably sustain our own bar.

Someday I may remember and write the recently-composed-in-my-head essay entitled "The People Jogging Along The Hudson Are Right", but until then, I give you the only fragment that survives:

... a condo in Battery Park with a view of Hoboken or at least a condo in Hoboken with a view of Battery Park...

... more actual "content" before the end of the year I hope/think/promise...

11.07.2009

I'm An Independent Get Me OUT Of Here

Ok so I have read Berlin and read other people's discussions about his writing and listened to discussions about it and watched documentaries based on it and yet I still just don't get it.

The thing about politics now is that the stupid discourse described in the previous essay is based on the (foolish at this point) idea that, you know, government should do shit. Unfortunately, this stupid discourse delegitimizes that perfectly sensical idea to the point that not only does nothing happen but the people who sit it out, not out of principle (ie the non-addicted), but out of, basically, apathy, selfishness and/or fear, somehow become the moral center of the system. I don't support any position of the hard right but at least I get to use the word position when writing about them. Unlike these flighty fucks.

I always find reading David Brooks amusing,. There is something about his writing style that is calming, seemingly evenhanded. Not that I am ever lulled into agreement with him but if I am not awake the effect of reading an essay like that cited above is not unlike being woken up with a bucket of cold water. I made it halfway through the essay with nothing more than a chuckle at his "herds of cats" analogy before getting to this:
The first thing to say is that this recession has hit the new suburbs hardest, exactly where independents are likely to live. According to a survey by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, 76 percent of suburbanites say they or someone they know have lost a job in the past year.
Where do I start? Have people in the new suburbs really suffered more than, you know, poor people? Granted, it does actually seem plausible that, for a short period at least, it was probably a better bet to work at McDonalds than, say, "Goldman Sacks", and yet... c'mon, really? And what of the fact that these new suburbs are the epitome of the hubris that got us into this mess in the first place? No down payment on a thin drywall and thinner aluminum "building" where trees used to be? Sounds great!

As for the "statistic" cited above, I wonder if the margin-of-error actually considered the nature of suburban communities, which are, you know, fairly closed. One dude loses his job and it gets mentioned at a backyard BBQ over the summer and, suddenly, calamity. Ok it was probably/definitely more than one dude but you get my point.
Next paragraph:
The second thing to say is that in this time of need, these voters are not turning to government for support. Trust in government is at its lowest level in recent memory. Over the past year, there has been a shift to the right on issue after issue. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who believe that there is too much government regulation rose from 38 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2009. The percentage of Americans who want unions to have less influence rose from 32 percent to a record 42 percent.
What the fuck does it matter what people believe? These people were probably the vanguard of the "fuck government, let's SUV" contingent who, if they even read the paper, hung on every last drop of spittle emanating from Alan Greenspan's trachea (© Ayn Rand). Probably, though, they missed the time when their hero completely renounced his beliefs in the free market, a tacit admission that his unwillingness to investigate fraud and his willingness to block regulation of the very markets that brought the economy to its current state was responsible for for what we are dealing with now. But, what does he know compared to people who don't?

The logic is mystifying. Bankers play poker with their eyes closed with the wealth of a nation, no regulations necessary. Government gives those bankers back the money they lost, and is blamed for interfering. I almost want to cross the line and become one of those Marxists who desires the complete eradication of all government regulation of capital in the blind belief that complete and utter chaos is the only way people will finally come to realize what has been done to them. Yet, even as I envision the last bankers in America scrambling to the southernmost tip of Manhattan to take the last paper currency left in our decrepit society to the place at which it will be burned, I can still envision some self-righteous "Independent" standing there waiting to tackle anyone with a fire extinguisher.

So the article goes on with more dumb poll results until another stupid paragraph:
It’s time to return to fundamentals. No short-term fixes. Government should do what it’s supposed to do: schools, roads, basic research. It should not be picking C.E.O.’s or setting pay or fizzing up the economy with more debt. It should give people the tools to compete, not rig the competition. Lines of restraint have dissolved, and they need to be restored.
The amount of doublethink here is amazing. Is he already forgetting that the reason Washington started to change Wall Street's diapers is because Wall Street couldn't manage that particular task by itself?

11.06.2009

just sorta fucking tired

You know I used to care, or rather I still do, but in a much more passive way (hence the infrequency of activity here). From age 16-25 I read the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, the Economist, Harper's, etc. on at least a semi-regular basis. Whatever insights I had gained from reading social and poltical theory, however far away I traveled from the narrower circumstances of actual goverments and their practice in my lifetime towards bigger ideas about why government itself should exist, and how, I always returned back to the narrower context of America and its foreign and domestic policies. If the current health care debate, for instance, were taking place in the above time frame, I would at least be able to provide a general summary of the most popular bills and would have an opinion as to which one I would like to see passed. I would have know then, as I know now, that any bill passed would be a compromise, but I believed in "steps in the right direction", in the idea that the positive change, no matter how small, that would result due to new practice under new legislation, would convince the populace to continue moving forward.

Maybe I wasn't quite that naive.

But, when taking myself and my own desires out of consideration (and even with these desires the primary consideration) I still felt that some sort of basic, highly circumscribed universal morality existed. The following are its principles:

1. Children should not be seperated from their limbs on purpose*.

2. Profit should not be made on human suffering.

While I am no libertarian, not even close, and understand just how much is allowed outside of this small moral sphere I have depicted, the above appears axiomatic to me, way outside opinion and ideology. And yet is is unachievable. Of course, perfection is as such by its nature.

At some point, my country got hooked on the metaphorical drugs of its own mythology, of its own spin, to the extent that, like in Borges' map, there is now no actual reality to refer to in contrast to the "fake" one under discussion. Of course, all of this is old news, but that fact that the current administration is, on a fundamental level, just as hooked and addicted as the previous administration, like most Americans really, to what amounts to an irrational conversation considered rational by all participants based on assumptions that are phantoms of the speaker's mind, is fairly dissapointing.

Think of some parody of a stoned conversation in college. The participants are discussing what it would be like to see, say, Tangerine Dream play a gig on Jupiter. Of course, currently, this is impossible (yet somehow it seems more possible than the spectre of socialized medicine haunting the malls of America [even given the advanced age of TD members!]). But, under the influence, it is not difficult for me to imagine the debate becoming impassioned, and the mere impossibility of the act getting lost amid the debates over, say, what type of suits would be necessary, or which synthesizers would hold up best against the hostile atmosphere (my vote is on the OBx or JP-8). Perhaps, given enough marijuana, people would actually feel slighted by the way in which their arguments were contravened by others, would maybe wonder if "John's last comment was meant to be taken personally" or if "Sarah was waiting for the opportunity to say something mean".

This is actually American poltics at this point, the passionate defensiveness (and sometimes agressiveness) of people who have had their feelings hurt (or who want to hurt feelings) debating the impossible variables of impossible occurances.

I, myself, am not addicted to this drug. And now that I look back, to that era when I actively cared, I realize that I was a condependant and an enabler.

I can't do anything for you America. I don't want you to die but it is up to you as to whether it happens or not. I am ready to move on. I forsee a quiet life for myself, a small, dilapidated studio in the old section of a medium-sized city in Eastern Europe (perhaps near the water), a french press, an overfull ashtray, and a small transistor radio playing the BBC World News. I will hear about you often, but the BBC announcer will be dispassionate, and I will be soothed. +

*I don't tend to think children are automatically innocents but while they still have the responsibility to act well in the narrower context that is their life, how they could they possibly be responsible for the larger one that is the province of adults?

+So some of you are going to read this, especially the article linked-to above, and say "yeah man, people know exactly what is going on... the governments... the corporations...". Well, I have heard those arguments, I make them myself sometimes, but I have come to redefine the way in which I tend to think of knowledge. It is something that is acted on. Or it is not possesed.

(Lastly props to BLCKGRD for the commentary and the providing of good links daily. I am from DC Metro too, and I used to be a registered "lessshity" there)

10.08.2009

Sick

Strep throat and ear infections... reminds me of being a kid... though I have had to provide my own comfort food of course.

Mark @ K-Punk with some good stuff...

All this "miltant dysphoria" talk makes depression seem so much more interesting than it really is. I feel like there is some sort of Hipster Runoff-style entry that needs to be written about the ease in which this mindset can be valorized by people who don't have the soul-crushing dayjobs that make theory into luxury. Also, without having gotten my hands on Cold World yet, I do wonder how class and the whole logic of partying hard on the weekend to make up for the week's drudgery will be addressed. I guess I need to go out and spend some money on something besides alcohol and records this weekend.

For the working writer, a few gifts:
Planning a nostalgic article on classic chill-out music? Or how about another article lamenting the death of dance music in America? Your title search is over! "Beat Not Happening".

How about the millionth article on the stratification of all genres? I give you... "I Want Your Sects".

Have a good weekend.

10.01.2009

Hauntologics (Detroit RMX)

http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/01/news/economy/_morgue/index.htm

Something To Follow

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/10/01/texas.execution.probe/index.html

No long diatribe forthcoming. Suffice it to say I am against capital punishment, and for all the usual moral/ethical reasons. Probably no surprise to you. The admission that an innocent man might have been executed might finally be the catalyst for more prominent discussions of this important issue, and might provide our President with an excuse to intervene in this matter. But I won't get my hopes up.
Edit:

9.29.2009

Who, Me?


Hello. Welcome.

All I can say:
1. I had no idea that anyone besides my close friends knew I was here.
2. Because of (1) I never meant for my statement about going down to Webster Hall to be absolute gospel. It is typical for there to be extra tickets released at the last minute, but, given that I don't work for the venue or any of the bands, I can't promise anything.
3. Nevertheless, if you took my advice, advice that succeeded for me and for other people yesterday, I hope you got your tickets and have a great time tonight.

Peace, love, granola.

Yes.

Finally I feel good.

I saw Fever Ray tonight in New York. Amazing, powerful show. Those of you who have the freedom should try and get down to Webster Hall Tuesday, September 29th at noon and wait patiently for any tickets released by the venue (technically the show is sold out, but there are always extras).

Someday I might muster a post about how I think this might be the most significant musical act of the decade, but only if I can write well enough to actually convince you. Until then...

9.10.2009

Whither Positivity?

Late notes on hate... should have been posted in June as part of the whole Sonic Youth brouhaha... more thoughts on the below and race specifically perhaps forthcoming...

Arguments, of course, are based on assumptions, and, having staked out the position I have, the responsibility of further explication rests on my shoulders, and yet I don't want to explain my hate further.

Let me explain why I don't want to explain.

Commenter (on Blissblog) Kevin H says "most of the stuff we 'hate' we don't engage with thoroughly enough to be able to intelligently take down or understand what others see", and I can't help but seeing this sentiment as a relic of an earlier era. You see, for elementary school I attended what could only be considered the apotheosis of the liberal school. It was a private school, mostly filled with privileged kids, and yet the school was rightfully proud of its past, as it was, the first non-segregated school in the Southern state where I grew up, and its voluntary desegregation preceded by years any court orders that would have compelled it to do so. We studied slavery, the Civil War, African geography, and, especially, the Civil Rights movement (and we studied them heavily, for years, not as "units" within a larger narrative, but as THE narrative itself). This being the 80s, multiculturalism as a Leftist intellectual movement was still young, and our teachers took it to heart.

Rather than discuss the complex social and historical forces that could help us understand how racism as an idea came about, rather than understand those sort of viewpoints as flawed logic, and certainly not innate to humanity biologically speaking (whatever tendencies we have towards grouping ourselves, there is nothing inevitable about the specifics, the agency involved in choosing those groups), racism, hate in its worst form, was always dismissed with the kind of sentiment Kevin H expressed in the quote above. Racism, however, is not a lack of understanding but a tragic misunderstanding, and my own personal abhorrence of those sorts of beliefs does not stem from open-mindedness, but from my own logic based on vastly superior assumptions. Literally, I can't see a reason for racism because my assumptions won’t allow it. The idea of being open-minded about this sort of thing doesn't make any sense, because I never had to pass from the stage of being closed-minded in a socially unacceptable way (racism) to "opening" my mind to something more socially acceptable (anti-racism), which, as mentioned, is another form of closed-mindedness.

This process is, in a way, one type of received narrative of the last few decades. Closed-minded America seemingly came to accept and tolerate difference. Homosexuality, for instance, went, in thirty years or so, from a "disease" to a strategy for making hit TV shows. And while there are certainly still people out there who have yet to make the leap from the 1950s into our current world of improved tolerance and acceptance (and vigilance towards these people is still important!), my concern, at least in this essay, is not with those who have yet to join the new consensus, but with the consensus itself. Every solution creates a problem, and so worthy ideas meant to challenge older social consensus, when they become consensus, need to be challenged.

So what needs to change is the call for tolerance that is predicated on the assumption of intolerance. What if, instead, we are to assume tolerance and problematize that? For isn't that what so many of us have been discussing, in a way? This open-minded, tolerant world of art and music that it is talented but inconsequential? That fails to deliver the sort of social flux that we have come to expect? It is not that that I hate because of a lack of understanding, but because of it.

8.10.2009

Updated Links

Even more to come eventually.

7.20.2009

Inscense

(sorry for delay on forthcoming big essays to the handful of you patiently waiting)


I was going to write some sort of moralizing post about how the reflexive desire for obscure records might lead the more superficial collectors out there to miss some great music, but instead, here is a series of words and pictures.


If you like


and

dont let




obscure the fact that




is a masterpiece of jazz/fusion/psych.

Cant find?

Enjoy the more tightly-controlled and somewhat/sometimes more serene




with a great cover of "A Love Supereme" (featuring amazing simultaneous guitar work [did I just write that?]), or



which I "borrowed" from my Mom many years ago (warning: "hippy vocals" and sentiments).

7.05.2009

RoC 4: Could It Be?

(Found this in the archives of unfinished work. I don't necessarily agree. Just wanted to show you. This is what happens when I drink or smoke too much alone.)
That the entire history of human existence could be jealousy? After all, it is all pointless. The divide between the great "unwashed masses" and "us" could simply be the difference between acknowledging that there, is, is in fact, no point to human existence, and not knowing?

6.30.2009

A Better Thought

For all of my frustration with MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and the ongoing process of self-marketing they engender, a recent interview with Ralf from Kraftwerk netted this gem, which concisely explains the paradox of the easy coexistence of radical individualism and radical conformity on these sites:


What he says next is probably not intended as his verdict on Twitter - a
Kraftwerkian development, if ever there was one - but it may as well be.
"Everybody is becoming like ... " - he pauses - "a Stasi agent, constantly
observing himself or his friends."


Like the child of Marx and Coca-Cola that I am, I keep thinking of these sites only in terms of the constant self-marketing, forgetting the desire for instant feedback (and approval) that may be even more important for the obsessed user.

6.29.2009

Two Wrongs Make A Right

As mentioned a few posts ago, I have been slowly working my way through the list of 100 best singles that Mixmag published back around 1996 or so. Although I have heard many of the records on the list, there are definitely a few that were new to me. One of the most surprising gems is David Morales' (!) mix of Mariah Carey's (!!) "Dreamlover" (!!!). Here is the original, sung with a youthful, daydreaming optimism that, while pleasant, belies the stated desperation of the singers need.


And here, the remix, which, I think, changes the key and rewrites the background to drastic effect. In terms of need and desperation, this is an adult record.

6.28.2009

MJ

I don't have anything interesting to say, but here are a few thoughts anyways:

1. While MJ's life and death provide plenty of food for thought for those that excel at theorizing the Modern/Post-Modern/Late Capitalism, what have you, I never enjoyed thinking about him in these terms. These sort of critiques need the media frenzy they lament, and many of them seem to forget that there was every any music involved in the first place. And it is the music, in the first place, that concerns me. Those Po-Mo professors gaining cultural or literal capital off of the back of the frenzy are sometimes just as cynical and debased as the creators of the frenzy itself.

2. K-Punk is right in calling "Billie Jean" one of the great artworks of the twentieth century. And I think, if there is a sense of MJ's death being the end of an era, it is really the end, at least to me, of the era of true convergence of talent in all aspects of recording. Think: what was the last album in which the best producers, engineers, studio musicians and artists all came together to create something of that calibre? Honestly, U2 might be the (very frustrating for many of you!) answer. Most of the great non-rock (ie self-contained bands) pop records have been made in the control room since and, only now, as the intense synth-driven Modernism of the super-producer era has drawn to an end (at least in terms of artistic innovation), can I feel a bit of nostalgia for the big-California-studio era of music that, after Thriller, grew so cynical as to deserve the dethroning it received at the hands of young kids from New York armed with low-resolution samplers.

2a. There are some interesting anecdotes here. If you can make it through the geeky aspects of this thread, you will find some great stories (including the recollection that Quincy Jones didn't think "Billie Jean" was strong enough to put on the album, whose nine songs, incidentally, were culled from a choice of 300 [!]) from Bruce Swedien, the engineer behind Thriller, and, along with drummer N'Dugu Chancler, the other genius behind "Billie Jean". Why genius? The beat played on that record is the most straightforward imaginable, the first rock beat ANY drummer would learn, and yet, between the disciplined performance of the beat, and the weight the bass drum was given by Swedien's techniques, this simple beat is not only instantly recognizable as the beat of that song, but also, sonically, matches the mood of the lyrics in a way that few drum recordings, at least to me, ever have.

3. "Baby Be Mine" is the most underrated track on "Thriller". Please give it your extra consideration in whatever nostalgic listening-fest you have or will be engaging in. Pure joy, the way I prefer to remember MJ and his music.

6.18.2009

Synthz


Thoughts on synths here. I haven't talked about it much online, but I have spent the last few years in day jobs dealing with electronics that either make, record, or reproduce music. I probably have too much to say it about it all, and plans for an extensive post explaining recording and reproduction, replete with passages describing the ethics of certain perspectives, keep falling through due to the sheer ambition of the project.  

Some commentary:
1. I do agree that the Oberheims are probably the best out there as a line on the whole, though the affordability mentioned in relation to them is slightly deceptive. The Matrix6r is certinly a reasonably-priced model, usually going for around $350-500-ish on eBay, though the bigger brothers of this model, the Xpander and Matrix12, the ones that actually provide enough control capabilities to obviate the need for an external box (which raises the price of the investment), run more towards $2,000-$2,750 and $3,000-$5,000 respectively. The soon-to-be-reissued(!) SEM module runs towards $1,000, is monophonic (meaning it only plays one note at a time), and requires an external keyboard. Price-wise it runs towards the middle of the monosynth spectrum. The 4- and 8-voice models almost take you to used-car territory in pricing. As for the OB8, expect to pay around $1,500-$2,500.

2. Surprised that Matthew finds Rolands to be nasty. Those boards are such a fixture in dance music that it is probably impossible to hear five classic records from the genre and avoid hearing a Roland sound or a Roland-inspired one. The Rolands are mostly known for their strings, and their general warmth, compared to many Oberheims, which have a more brassy quality (which I love equally, if not slightly more). Here is one of my favorite Rolands, played by one of the better Youtube synthesists. Great evocative pads, and it's a digital synth!



3. As a poster on Vintagesynth, I have to comment a bit on the characterization of the board. Most of the technical discussions, when it comes down to it, are about the sound. The endless debates about chips versus discrete, VCO versus DCO, etc., are all sonic debates. The most fetishized synths out there, like the Roland Jupiter 8, the Sequential Prophet 5, and the Yamaha CS-80, have for the most part, fairly mediocre specifications, and can be easily outdone in terms of processing power by even the most modest synths on the market today, and yet, they do have special sounds, all of them, and are evocative on even the simplest patches (not to start the endless software vs. hardware debate here, but the frustrating aspect of software is that making it sound good, while entirely possible, requires so much more processing, so much more [sound-degrading] stuff in the signal path, that, in the end, the immediacy can be lost, whereas pressing any button and turning any knob on an Oberheim OBx while more likely result in something special almost immediately).

4. Furthermore, some of the deepest and most complex synths out there are heavily undervalued right now. Most synthesists stop at learning subtractive synthesis (the category of synthesis to which all aforementioned synths belong), but other styles, especially additive and FM, remain comparatively unexplored. The synthesizers that best exemplify these styles, like some members of the Yamaha SY series (for FM), and the Kawai K5000x (for additive), are quite cheap on the used market and, though they have a much higher learning curve than other synths, promise the possibility of creating the few sound nobody has heard before (and, being digital, although not as warm as the best analogs, offer a distinctly glassy and ethereal palate that is all but impossible to render on most analog synths.

5. In fact, "digital" and "hard to program" are the words that make my ears perk up at this point. Part of the allure of the classic synths is the one-knob-per-function control systems that add a certain immediacy to the music-making process. However, the desire for easy control tends to prove overly deterministic in the perceived value of synths out there. To put it another way, all of the really expensive ones have lots of knobs and usually fairly limited functionality. Of course, classic analog sounds have a very important place in the making of any music based on synthesizers, yet the modernist narrative of ever-deeper synths and ever-newer sounds started to curve from its linear path back into a circle as the 90s wore on and people turned back towards classic sounds and classic synth architectures. The most maligned and, therefore, the most interesting to me, synths out there right now are those models from the late 80s and early 90s that combined infinite sonic possibilities with imposing interfaces, and I am very interested in adding one or two pieces from this era to my incredibly modest studio someday.  

Some classic originals:

Roland VP-330 (1979)


Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 (Late 1970s - Early 1980s)

Roland Jupiter 6 (1983)

90s Vintage-Inspired Recreations:

Clavia Nord Lead (1995)

Roland JP8000 (1996)

And finally, the (comparatively) imposing minimalism of the late 80s and early 90s:


Roland R8 (1989-1992)

Roland JD-800 (1991-1993)

Korg M1 (1988-1994)

Yamaha SY77 (1990)

5.  Finally, the subculture of synthesists on Youtube is very enjoyable for geeks like me. My favorite participants are RetroSound and Jexus. RetroSound's videos mostly feature the classics, albeit the affordable ones, and also some of the better-sounding digital synths. Jexus, on the other hand, is an interesting character. He mostly focuses on maligned, cheap gear, and through sheer skill of programming, wrenches amazing sounds out of the neglected pieces he champions. His videos can be read as contextually subversive as he is implicitly insulting those synthesists who tend to amass large collections of classic gear but never learn to program interesting sounds or make interesting music. Although Matthew is right in saying that each board has its character regardless of the talents of the user, the right user can turn the character of any synth into something positive and musical. 

6.15.2009

Huh?

Before a good friend of mine moved out to LA, he gave me a large stockpile of old Muziks and Mixmags from the 90s. Besides the fun memories it has brought back (and I still don't know who the hell Seb Fontaine is, no offence bruv), I found a copy of Mixmag's list of greatest 100 singles of all time (which I am currently going through one-by-one).  Although most of the choices are spot-on, I don't get the adoration for "Where Love Lives". British people of a certain age, please explain.  

Thanks!

Note

I really do apologize to everyone but a handful of people for incessantly reacting to only a few other writers. I am going to make the effort at some point to add some more links to the many, many excellent writers I have come across in bouts of random clicking. Additionally, if you would like your writing to be linked-to here, please, by all means, use the comments tool. Lastly, if you have made specific comments on your website in relation to what I have said here, I would love to know, not for the purpose of feeding my own ego, which, I assure you, is not a factor here, but rather because I do desire dialogue.  

With that being said, I am, unsurprisingly, working on a reaction to recent calls over at blissblog for positivity ("The hate continues, only here at Airport Through The Trees!"). The post is so large that I have had to take it over to a word-processing program for proper editing. It is six pages long, with no spacing and fully-justified (hopefully in more ways thanone!) and I am in desperate need of an editor.  Any volunteers?

6.07.2009

Bed

Simon Reynolds writes:

anyone fancy a crack at updating the famous T-Shirt, You're Gonna Wake Up One Morning and KNOW What Side of the Bed You've Been Lying On? You know, the one McLaren, Westwood and Bernie Rhodes came up with shortly before punk, which divided pop (and beyond) culture into "Hates" and "Loves" (with Bryan Ferry shunted into the establishment/enemy camp despite the fact they'd all loved Roxy originally).


Before following the link and realizing there was a list on this shirt, I came up with the following: One day I woke up and realized the bed wasn't there.  

Con't

More on Burial from the Impostume.  At least a part of the argument stems from the writer's incredulity that any "kid form the streets" could somehow feel the same way as certain academics about Late Capitalism.  A little research would show that Burial is most likely in his late twenties and went to a fairly good school, where the foundation for an interest in social theory could have been laid (this information may also account for the Four Tet collaboration). 

5.24.2009

Career, Careeah, Coreah, Korea

Read.
Ouch.

Amusing and timely writing. TIP!

Ronan has some good thoughts on DJ feedback and instantaneous reviews.  

(Back when Sonic Groove existed, I used to subscribe to their weekly emails.  One hundred nebulous comments a week!)

5.23.2009

Yay...

Lots of people now getting in on the whole question of who should be on the "I Hate" shirt in 2009...

Simon is keeping tabs...

and the Impostume and assorted commentators deserve special mention for this.

I can see why Burial is a good nomination, given how many writers, including yours truly, who may have, at some point, ingested too much X (whereas X= Joy Division, Post-Marxist critical theory, Ballard, rave music, late-night movies, etc.), convulse with rapture over the mere mention of the name, and yet, I have my reasons for disagreeing.

Rather than give in and convulse, I am just going to say that, if some artists out there listen to Burial and come to understand the ramifications of the music in a similar way to what K-Punk describes, perhaps they will be inspired into exploring their own relationships to "music" and "culture" in general, instead of merely existing within these worlds.*  

As for Pavement, mentioned in the comments section, I thought about that group as one to nominate, but it didn't feel like the kind of heresy necessary to truly get a reaction.  

Another writer mentioned Wilco, but it feels a little late and a little easy, and personally, it is more interesting to attack pretenders to the "far-left" throne before turning towards the middle.

*Critical thinking nowadays has to be more like peeling your way out from the center of an onion instead of the other way around.  

5.06.2009

In Case You Missed Them...

Some amazing writing that I just came across:

American Stranger on Culture and Technology

Following on From

Mark K-Punk's article.

When I read writing of this calibre, I am glad the word "amateur" is prominent on the front page here, though I do feel some comfort knowing I am not way off (in terms of what I am thinking about, not how well I write!).

What I have been discussing with my roommate lately mirrors somewhat what is being said in the articles mentioned above, which is that, when we talk about computers taking over, about A.I., our imagination seems to go back to the movies, envisions legions of talking robots, computers with arms, things of this nature.  While technology still seems to lack the sort of conscious agency that would make it seem human, and therefore capable of disrupting our perch atop the food chain, perhaps we need to update our own systems, and understand that technology IS developing its own narrative and history, one in which it undermines the grip of traditional culture on our minds by constantly working to "improve" it.  I can't quite come up with a good analogy to describe this switch; perhaps the closest is an oversimplified reference to ye olde Marxian concept of base and superstructure.  In the same way that Marx saw politics, art, etc., as limited by, really the window dressing of, economic forces, technology is now slowly making itself the fundamental aspect of our cultural exchange, and perhaps only a serious address of technology in and of itself which understands this new role will allow us to find a way out of this predicament.  

There needs to be some sort of new language to discuss these issues, because the early battles in this fight, between us older holdovers from "the underground" and the pietists of this new flat and deracinated world, was a loss for our side, for the MP3 and the iPod have added yet another level of alienation to this world in the Marxian sense.  Whereas alienation used to (partially) refer to the strained or broken connection between the worker and product, and product and consumer, now there is no product, and the connection, broken, obscured, can never be realized.  It is the opposite of a spectre, as there is no haunting, just a positive nothingness.  

Artists are now the only people being asked to work for free. 

(And what is worse is that probably most of the people driving this technological innovation forward think, on some level, that they are helping. Which leads me to...)

****
A quick idea to throw out there:
What those of us on the left need to get firmly implanted in our heads, no matter what happens, is that we are to liberals what the hard right is to conservatives and moderates. What we have in common with our backwards, racist half-cousins is simply our desire for ethical and moral solutions to problems.  That our imagined solutions are infinitely more just, if only because they are based on more seemingly-universal, and certainly accessible principles of morality as opposed to ones based on religion, is what saves us from being well, evil.  And yet, just as the hard right continually does its work here in America to get Republicans elected, only to see their policy goals ignored, we should expect the same thing.  The "enemy" is not extremism but complacency, that great mass of moderates, whether liberal or conservative, that see any attempt to claim that individual actions have social ramifications, that choosing A is also choosing not B, as being unnecessarily judgmental.

***
Which is why I want to say, to all of you TrakRatoMP"DJ"s downloading charts off of Weakport... I could give a fuck if you want to play shitty-sounding shit to the drunken masses but you are putting shops and distributors out of business and creating new monopolies that have fuck all to do with the independent culture you get your credibility from.  Fuck off. 

5.05.2009

RoC 3: Masticating On "The Hipster"

(I can't finish this one and yet so much of what I believe is in here, badly expressed, that I must put this out...)

A few months ago, the discussion of the "hipster" phenomenon reached, well, not quite a fever pitch but a temporarily higher level of intensity due to the publishing of an article in Adbusters. As much as I appreciated some of the sentiments behind the article, I always felt it did not dig deep enough, that it was a litany of conclusions without any evidence to back them up, other than the anecdotal references to cliches about hipster fashion (and, contrary to the article, there were already people drinking PBR in V-necks a decade ago.  

 I want to try and discuss the issue with more sympathy, and to try and see things from more of a "hipster" perspective. After all, this is my generation. I AM a twentysomething living in Brooklyn with a blog, and I DID have the Matador catalog mailed to me before I reached High School. If I dressed fashionably, didn't have an arbitrary preference for hotel bars instead of dives, and didn't rebel against my early-teen indie past in my late teens, I could be one of the mocked on Hipster Runoff.

The map:

In the first essay in Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, the author refers to Borge's story about a map that grows so large and detailed that it covers the entire terrain and, in doing so, obscures it to the extent that it is as if the terrain never existed. This definition has numerous effects. First, it provides an image to define the state that eveyone in the West, if not worldwide, lives in, which has been called mediation. Secondly, it redefines the concept of the authentic as something that can be seen but not recovered (because the map DOES define that which lies underneath it, even thought its very existence prevents us from touching below its surface). 

What we call the post-modern era, especially in terms of the arts has been the process of drawing this map. When our feet passed from touching on the ground to touching the map underneath it, the map was not completed. The process of mediation, ie the process of the map enveloping the terrain, was the precondition for our ability to finish the map in its every last detail. The process of the completion of the map has been the process of delinieating everything underneath it by sketching it out.  Our access to the past has become perfect.  

Especially in music, which is the art I am most capable of discussing, most recent attempts at creating the new have failed. Why is this? Not that we can no longer access what is under the map but only the map itself, the process of innovation is only the redrawing of the map. There can be no more mountains, nor rivers, but only the fascimile that the redrawn contours of 2-dimensional space can achieve. Even when seemingly new ideas come about, the culture does not change, there is no depth, and the new renderings on the map, being not mountains and rivers, being not physical, weighty, can easily be redrawn in the next hour.

The process of criticism over the last decade or so especially, with the proliferation on genre-naming, of delinieation, has been to draw and redraw countours. The vitality of Modernist criticism, with its standing-on-the-moutaintop invocations for the new, the radical has been replaced by detail, specialization, by the fixing of lines instead of the call to abolish them. For all of the genre-hopping of recent decades, the result has not been more innovation because the hopping has happened across the virtual borders of the map. The effort required to traverse real space that was required before the map existed has been replaced by the ease of skipping about a flat and concacted space. This ease of travel, requiring little commitment, is the reason that hybrids have lost their charge and excitement. It is no longer a physical act, the literal construction of bridges between formerly intraversable space.  

 The focus thus far has been on the horizontal plane, on the drawing and erasing of lines, but what of the vertical? What of the space underneath, the space we used to walk? It does still exist, even if it is difficult if not imossible to access. That aspect of hauntology that is the regard for derelict buildings and artefacts from the Modernist past, the places in our cities that have not been mapped, is certainly proof that there are ways to get (temporarily) off the grid, but, although walking these spaces and thinking on them is certainly not futile, these spaces that are off of the map literally do not function. They have not been mapped because they are not part of the new mediated space. So any fetishization of these spaces is non-functional in the same way. Sure, they assuage the nostalgia of some for the lost vitality and historicity of the past, but they do not function as alternatives for what is so distastful. They are ways out, but not ways in. Any intervention that is against the map must build on top of it, must put physical space on top of it, instead of hiding out in its holes. 

 But the fact that there are holes allows the ones who seek them a priveliged access to the world of construction of the past that must inspire the constructions of the future.

 The map, conceived vertically, allows discussion of another theme, namely the intransitive nature of art. As I have noted before, all problems are problems of reception. The problem of the hipster is the problem of the inability of the art of the past, especially Modern art, to survive through the map as an agent of change. The map, a drawing, is an aesthetic rendering, and thus anything seen on the map can only be processed in this manner. The depth of this art of the past, the meaning and ideas behind it, does not get through. The only proper critique of the hipster lies in identifying the unwillingness of a group of people who know the map and all of its contours well, can travel its spaces with knowledge and ease, and yet never attempt to tear pieces out of it to see what is behind. The world superficial is appropriate and not at the same time. Used as a synonym for vapid, it is inappropriate. The effort required to be able to thrive in this horizontal space is its own challenge. It does require a serious commitment. Much of the critique of hipsterdom seems to come from those who have not acquired the knowledge and skill to traverse the horizontal space of the map. This is not a valid critique. A broad familiarity with art and popular culture, that is the province of the alpha hipster is a familiarity necessary just as much to the critics of this culture as its proponents.

So what of what is underneath the map? Obiously, as we have seen, there are unmapped spaces that can be reached, but what of what is covered? I assert that, even if the past, Modernism, etc., can NOT be recovered, we can tear holes. Never enough holes to detroy the map (because others are in the constant process of redrawing), but certainly some. What can be recovered through this whole is not the sanctity or "authenticity" of the past, but its spirit, its desire. We can never truly remake what was made, but we can recover the motives in order to try and move forward. And these motives and desires, when recovered will not yield the same results as they did in the past. The desire for the authentic that exists now fails for this reason. It believes that simply depicting the look of the past will revive its spirit. The desire for the authentic that mistakes the past for its aesthtics and not for its desires cannot see past the map, is purely mediated, and therefore as far from the authentic as possible.  

That is not to say that those who tear into the map, and who touch real terrain, who may even live parts of their lives, days at a time, on the terrain below the map, are more authentic. Those that live in this way, who understand the desires of the past, understand that for so long, the animating ideas of past revolved around change. This past is the history of man changing nature. This is the past of great feats of engineering and design. This is Faust, Robert Moses, the long procession of manifestoes that animated the centuries after the Enlightenment. Those with the ability to tear through the map know the terrain below was never fixed. It is only those who cannot see through the map that imagine a fixed terrain below, imagine it possible to recreate the past as if it was as it was for more than one second, for more than one person.  

But what of these people that can access the terrain underneath the past? What is their relationship to the hipster? Here we must bring back that old concept of the double. From a distance, these two are the same. Educated, both about the past and about "now". They own many of the same records, have seen many of the same films, even hold many similar opinions. But, for whatever reason, the non-hipster has, whether on purpose or not, has been able to break through the map to the terrain below. The resentment this person feels, the critique he levels, is at once the valid complaint of someone who sees his peers insufficient for not being able to cross from map to terrain, and who feels put-upon for having the lines redrawn around and above him. It is also invalid in the sense that it is taken personally, and also because many who can access the map believe in their own version of authenticity, which is just as problematic as that purely aesthetic authenticity that hipsterdom is so enamored of. 

Upon tearing through the map, many who arrive on the terrain below see it is not changing. Now that all effort goes into the process of redrawing above, nothing has happened below. They make the mistake of projecting this fixity as a permenancy across the past and seek to preserve this stasis. They mistake the redrawing of contours as the redrawing of terrain itself. Denying both the change of the past, the fact that the terrain they seek to preserve was not always thus, and the change of the present, the work on the map, their concept of the authentic is as equally aesthetic as that of the hipsters they so detest. The only difference is the lack of mediation, which is no bonus; in both cases, only the surface is seen, just different surfaces. 

 An example of this contrast can be seen in the different approaches of, say, Wynton Marsalis and what a stereotypical hipster band could be. While it was once said that the only tradition in jazz is innovation, what I have heard of Marsalis' early work seeks to fix the past at a certain moment. His opposition is avant-jazz, another, sadly, fixed aspect of the past. He is not only trying to recover the authenticity of the styles of past jazz, (in fact I do credit him with his own style, his own aesthetic) but also, by denying the avant-garde, is implicitly trying to recover practice as well (ie what chords can be used, how a jazz performance is structured). Contrast this, with, say a post-punk or country-rock revival group, which may go much further in both the exteremes of formal experimentation than Marsalis, but also in its recovery of the past as pure aesthetic (whether in clothing or which synthesizers are used, etc.). Maraslis lives on the real terrain under the map, and is only defined by its contours because he is unwilling or unable to change them, whereas the stereotypical hipster band cannot access the terrain below and is limited by the map itself, even as they are able to redraw and erase its marking as they see fit. In both cases, the ideas are not recovered, the drive is not recovered. In both cases, regardless of how enjoyable the music is on an aesthetic level, the feeling is that there is nothing at stake, either because no new physical structures will be erected, or because the map itself, as it is only a map, and constantly being redrawn, can hold no value, regardless of what happens to it.

They are redrawing the city.  Yes, always.

 Gentrification is a part of hipster culture. There are certainly economic reasons for this, as most hipsters are young, aspire to live off of their creativity, and may not have well-paying jobs because of this. Be that as it may, the word gentrification is still used in an old manner with an old meaning that no longer holds. If we simply define it as the process of the working or welfare class being priced out of areas they took over during the suburbanization that occured in the middle of the 20th century, we would still not be satisfied with the term. Even if we add the racial dimension, we are still missing the point. The process of gentrification as conceived of above is no longer valid. The shifting of population across space is part of history. We can be critical of speculative real estate, and be sympathetic towards the disadvantaged as they are shuffled around the city by forces out of their control, even while they may be desprerately clinging to jobs they are compelled to move away further away from, but we have to see the process of gentrification as a symptom of larger problems. With a more even distribution of wealth, gentrification, as it is currently discussed, would slow to a crawl, if not stop altogether. Renters could buy instead, and those who wanted to stay somewhere would have the means to do so.  

Gentrification needs to be discussed in another way. Gentrification is the spreading of the mediating map to unmapped sections of the city. It is not that these areas are being recovered for the wealthy and white that is our primary concern, at least only for its own sake. As Koolhaas mentions in the book "X", when people move in from the suburbs back to the city, they bring their values of "predictability and control" with them. They are agents of mediation, which cannot be unworked. This is what I mean when I say the word gentrification is used mistakenly. People use it to describe a historical process, whereas the process now is ahistoricizing. 

 "the terrible thing is that everyone has his reasons"

The most valuable lesson that I remember from reading Marx and what he said about ideology is that "everyone has his reasons". This idea that corporate ceos are evil and purposfully doing everyone wrong seems like leftist position. After all, it is critiquing capital, right? But it is a superficial one. The ceo of coke was hired to expand coke's market share. Capital is not intrinsically moral and corrupted by practice. It is rather instrinsically amoral and it is us who foolishly expect it to be anything else. Even the best public policy in a democracy with capitalism as its economic system is merely a better damn holding back impossible volumes of water. 

The idea that there is anything purposeful about the mediation of space and of ideas into art, things, is not a purposeful one. The admirable desire to find uncommdified space in all of its manifestations is the only desire left to those who cannot access the old desire for change to physical space, and the contruction and destruction that that requires. The change that this vanguard of sorts can achieve is only on a map, a map that is available to all the population, ie the nonhipsters. The fact that this map is so flat and easily traversible has accelerated the "changing same" of now, as hipsters try harder and harder to disappear into their own space, a space that, since it is flat, offers no place to hide. This is how hipsterdom accelerates the consumer culture it purports to detest. 

the seeds of the larger forms of capital lie in its smaller forms

As any savvy navigator of consumer capitalsim knows, the few "gems" left are hidden. In the case of Marx's communist manifesto, one of the more powerful statements he made is in a section of the book that few seem to read. In the last section, he derides petit bourgeouis socialism. He rightly understands the the larger forms proceed from the smaller. Remember ideology. Many of the "monsterous" extreme of corporate capital had their seeds in the simple thought "my store is doing pretty well.  perhaps it would be a wise investment to open another lcoation". And so the transition of independant lables from small operations local in scope to internationalized farm teams for the majors, who, as they have allowed fewer and fewer to become players, have allowed the independent scene to thrive like never before. But the failure of the majors to "do their job", ie invest in artist development and use the power of promotions to bring truly worthy artists into the spotlight, has, as those artists are now independent artist, brought the indie labels ever closer into their orbit. The indies, picking up the scrappings of the majors, have become like majors themselves. They can no longer fulfill their purpose to subvert except by eating themselves. Anyone who imagines a healthy mainstream record industry that is undercuttable is kidding themselves. The major labels are a paradox: the heaviest nothing you can imagine. As record sales contiue to dry up and as they continue to push themselves further and further into the corner with their need for blockbusters that increasingly fail more spectacularly, they will collapse onto their catalogs and will become simply the best-capitalized reissue labels extant. They may also continue to serve, like the man in the grey suit, as a straw man that indies can utilize to justify themselves, now that they cannot do it on music alone.