Still reeling from Dave Tompkins’ fantastic
presentation for his book on the vocoder How To Wreck A
Nice Beach, at The Wire salon last week. Both the
book and his talk are full of little coincidences and serendipitous
overlaps. One that was particularly mind-boggling for me was Dave
interviewing Florian Schneider and Wendy Carlos on the same day.
I’d be quaking in my boots at the thought of talking to even one
such towering figure in modern music, much less two in one day!
Naturally, ensuing office chat after the talk turned to Carlos’s Switched On Bach. Some (no names, ahem) don’t see the appeal, but I had to admit that I own the Switched On Boxed Set (you can listen to some audio clips from it here), which I bought a few years ago when I was listening to a lot of Bassline. That little revelation beggared another question: why would I make that connection? I had thought the answer to this was obvious and that I had addressed it already in my previous writings about Bassline. Well, actually, I hadn’t.
Bassline is a funny genre, and the music regularly makes me laugh. Its over-the-topness verges on the ridiculous and comes generally in two varieties. The first – which I’m not so keen on – is trashy pop mindlessness. The second – which I love – is pure unabashed rave abandon. But one of Bassline’s defining and most amusing traits is the use of arpeggiated synth lines, which regularly recall the Baroque melodies that Carlos was famous for recreating and amplifying. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
This Youtube clip of T2's "Oh Boy" (from his The Monster Dubz EP 12") was obviously taken from a mix, so the track isn't freed from the previous one until about the 30 second mark, exactly when those synths come in.
This is the b-side track to Dexplicit's Lifey 12", called "Over You Rmx" with Kasia. It's only the first half of the track, but you can hear the synths – a little more clumsy in this one, but still riffing Carlos-style – at around the 56 second mark.
This DJ Pyper track "What A Load" was only released digitally, and I first heard it on an excellent, short Bassline mix that Zomby did for Mad Decent. Look out for the synths around the 53 seconds mark.
While I'm only highlighting the Wendy Carlos synth connection here, the use of strings by quite a few of these Bassline producers is another (perhaps slightly more tenuous) link to the music of 'respectable' long-dead, white guys. Check out the T2 and DJ Pyper tracks again and listen out for that.
An exclusive mix from Glasgow's Jackmaster which was originally
broadcast on our Adventures In
Modern Music programme on Resonance FM last week. Jackmaster is
a resident at Numbers, works at
Rubadub, and has his hands
in a number of labels as well, including Dress 2 Sweat and Wireblock. Originally I asked him for
half an hour, but he provided over an hour's worth of music and
with so much unreleased material, I wasn't going to protest!
I'm not sure what it is about Glaswegian DJs (maybe one day I'll bore you all with my theories about places like Glasgow, San Francisco and Detroit), from Optimo to Kode9 to all of the Numbers crew, but they tend to mix it up a bit more and Jack's tracklist is no exception. A good mix all around which is especially interesting to reflect the changing face of UK dance music, but for my money the latter half really gets things bumping. Download it (128 kps, 71mb) by clicking here.
1. Elecktroids - Future Intro
2. Lando Kal - Fuzzy Ankles (Wireblock)
3. Lunice - Wobble (Unreleased)
4. Guido - The Way You Make Me Feel (Punch Drunk)
5. Shabba Ranks - Mr Loverman D.M. Ragga Hop Remix (Epic)
6. Dials - Riggle Giddum (Unreleased)
7. Rustie - Ultraman Remix (Unreleased)
8. Debruit - Pouls (Musique Large)
9. Redinho - Mo Brap (Wireblock)
10. Ghosts On Tape - Equator Jam (Wireblock)
11. Peter Digital Orchestra aka Fulgeance - Red & White (Wireblock)
12. Apparat - Hold On Modeselektor Remix (Shitkatapult)
13. $tinkworx - Coelacanth (Strange Life)
14. Shadow Dancer - What Is Natural (Boys Noize)
15. L-Vis 1990 - United Groove (Mad Decent)
16. Apple - Chantes (Unreleased)
17. Lil Silva - Different (Unreleased)
18. Sticky - Juneirah Riddim (Ltd.)
19. Emvee - Nocturnal (Wireblock)
20. Secret Agent Gel Feat. Coppa Kid - Crew (Bok Bok Remix) (Unreleased)
21. Starkey - Knob Twiddler (Unreleased)
22. Dorian Concept - Trilingual Dance Sexperience (Unreleased)
23. 77Klash - Pressure (Unreleased)
24. Touchy Subject - Wicked Act (Wireblock)
25. Crime Mob - Knuck If You Buck (Accapella)
26. DJ Oddz - Strung Up VIP (Black Majik)
27. Mr. De' - Detroit Zoo (Electrofunk)
28. Joker - Purple City (Kapsize)
29. Low Deep - I Know (Colourfulstate)
30. Redinho Bare Blips (Wireblock)
31. Clarke - Dirty Pixie (Warp)
32. Ludacris - Pussy Poppin'
33. AFX - Analord 9 Edit (Rephlex)
34. Bonecrusher - Never Scared (So So Def)
35. Rustie - Jagz The Smack (Stuffrecords)
Here's my slightly revised presentation from
last week's Hardcore Continuum seminar (thanks to Steve and Jeremy
for making it all happen). I was actually going to do more
revision, but as K-Punk reminds me, one
can endlessly revise and then it'll never get posted or published
anywhere. Plus, perhaps it'd be disingenuous to present something
here superior to or bearing little relation to what was actually
For anyone interested who couldn't make it, you can find Alex Williams's and Blackdown's pieces on their respective blogs already. As well, if you haven't seen it already, footage of Simon's talk on the 'nuum from earlier this year can be found from FACT Liverpool's site here. And of course, his original articles which outlined his ideas about this have been made available on our own website, (introduction to the online re-publishings here)
As an American living in London, I’ve got something of an outsider’s perspective to all of this. In fact, when I first heard the term "Hardcore Continuum" I didn’t know that the reason Simon Reynolds named it as such was in homage to the trend that kicked it off: Hardcore Rave. Yet the idea of a Hardcore Continuum made instant sense to me, without any need for explanation.
But with the knowledge that “Hardcore” refers to Hardcore Rave comes an image of the ‘nuum like a line (or lines) of dominoes, each microgenre along the way acting as a catalyst to a successor down the line, furthering the kinetic motion. Unfortunately, the linear quality of this may be exactly what prevents some from fully embracing what is otherwise an insightful example of pattern recognition.
For myself, I prefer to think of another definition of ‘hardcore’: something or somebody completely uncompromising in vision or commitment to an idea – in this case, the music. For me, the Hardcore Continuum is hardcore in this manner for two reasons. Firstly, the rigidity of the format: electronic beat-driven music originating in the UK, designed to make people dance. Secondly, more importantly, it’s the constant search for new ideas; an undertaking to innovate instead of resting on tried and tested formulas. When thought of in this way, ‘hardcore’ becomes defining ethos instead of ground zero for the phenomenon.
This hardcore drive in the UK producers whose work we’re talking about today may differ slightly from the more political rock and punk artists the term is more often associated with. While it’s probably safe to say that all of these key producers have strived to be a little different than their predecessors, it’s often the case that there may be additional underlying motivations. These can include relief from boredom, the hope to turn a quick buck or perhaps only the need to feed an audience that thrives on novelty. It’s not a question of “doing it for the right reasons, man”. Instead, the end product maintains strict standards of one-upmanship that hone an edge of competition and permutation. This ever-shifting landscape of club culture is both the cause and effect to the constantly evolving sounds until neither the audiences nor the artists will settle for less than the newest and the best. There’s no time for complacency when you’re hardcore.
When ‘Hardcore’ is redefined as above, it helps clean up the more contentious issues of Reynolds’s existing model. It’s easy to throw out the more arbitrary presuppositions – “ridiculous sublime” is one – and a seemingly necessarily causal relationship between the microgenres. It doesn’t matter that they come from each other (although a connection is certainly audible almost all of the time); more that they all come from the same place – Britain – and serve the same purpose – making people move, stepping it up beyond the previously established sounds, one mutated dance form at a time.
Once you give birth to something, it has its own life, it exists in its own right and belongs to the world. Reynolds knows this and has stated that he is happy for others to grapple with the notions that he has proposed and take up the development of his ideas. They are not so sacred that his framework cannot be adjusted. But the limitations are not within the concepts surrounding the Hardcore Continuum, but rather lie within the people who would deny the value of its ideas and refuse to take it upon themselves to improve upon them.
So any regular readers of the magazine will
know who Steve Barker is, but anyone who doesn't live in the UK may
not be aware of the extent of his coolness. He recently turned 60
and is a grandfather (sorry, Steve, I've outed you!), but is still
incredibly enthusiastic about music and wholly involved with it. He
was at that infamous Bob Dylan concert (in Manchester's Albert
Hall) in '66, he met pre-fame Bowie and he still manages to help
get gigs in China for the likes of Kode9 and The Bug.
The reason I bring all this up is because he's been hosting a radio show for BBC Lancashire for nearly a quarter of a century. They regularly get guest mixes in and after Steve provided a brilliant mix of Chinese music for our own Resonance radio show (check it out here), he asked me to return the favour. It aired this past Saturday, but you can listen online here. Tracklisting of my mix (done in three 20 minute segments) as follows:
Gal Costa - Barato Total - Cantar - Philips
Jay Tees - Buck Town Version - Studio 1 7"
Strategy - Future Rock - Future Rock - Kranky
Out Hud - Jgnxtc - Out Hud/!!! split remix 12" - Zum
Suicide - Che - Suicide - Blast First
Zomby - Spliff Dub (Rustie remix) - Mu5h - Hyperdub 12"
Henry Flynt - Jumping Wired - Hillbilly Tape Music - Recorded
OCS - Oh No Bloody Nose - 3 (Songs About Death And Dying) - Narnack
MF Doom - Tick Tick (feat. MF Grimm) - Operation Doomsday - Fondle 'Em
Microstoria - Dokumint - Init Ding - Mille Plateaux
Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band - Sunshower - Kid Creole: Going Places, The August Darnell Years - Strut
Little Howlin Wolf - Sunny Come Early - Stranger Mon' - Beacon 7"
Tsèhaytu Bèraki - Bezay - V/A - Ethiopiques Vol. 5 - Buda Musique
Wasteland - Emerge And See - October - Transparent
Appleblim & Peverelist - Circling - Soundboy's Ashes Get Hacked Up And Spat Out In Disgust EP- Skull Disco 12"
Mint - Phonogram - v/a - Kompakt 1 - Profan
The other night I saw Velvet
Goldmine for the first time. I seem to recall that when it
came out ten years ago, it looked quite cool, but folks who had
seen it hadn't been too positive about it. I hadn't thought much
about it in the interim, but not too long ago I came home and my
flatmate was watching it. I caught the part where Ewan MacGregor
plays Iggy Pop on stage and was immediately interested. Ewan is
fully convincing and his screen character Curt Wild (geddit?) has
even more extreme added twisted back story (one can only hope that
Iggy didn't have it so bad, but maybe if I ever get round to
reading his biography, I'll find out just how close it is). It made
me want to see the rest of the film and when I found out that
writer/director Todd Haynes had done this movie I made it a
priority. I'd recently seen Haynes's Dylan 'biopic' I'm Not
There and found it flawed, but really brave and very good.
That plus Time Out some months ago had a cover feature
of their top 50 rock flicks (or something like that) and Haynes's
barbie-casted Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story had
come out on top. Synchronicity!
Today, having watched Superstar on the internet (the only way to see the short film, as its distribution suffered after Richard Carpenter sued), I can now say I've seen Haynes's music-inspired films (all within two months of each other) and it's an interesting trajectory. Superstar (which is Haynes's second film released in 1987) is certainly the most straightforward, even with the barbies. It's an easy narrative punctuated by ominous foreshadowing and illuminatingly preachy text concerning anorexia. Given the primary device, it can't help but be tongue-in-cheek ("No, we can't eat at The Source! hahaha"), but I found it a sympathetic portrayal of Karen's self-cancellation. One might assume (as Richard Carpenter probably did) that by using dolls Haynes was making fun what must have been a tragic and difficult situation, and while it may have actually been borne of financial necessity, it makes for some tender homage in a form similar to children at play. The love of children is not usually duplicitous, and similarly that affection is revealed, as in the lovingly rendered barbie-sized sets and costumes.
With Velvet Goldmine (1998), the on-screen rock stars aren't at all veiled mirrors of their real life counterparts, but in this case Haynes makes his own story using real characters instead of relying overly on their real-life stories, as so many young children are given readymade characters (like Barbie and GI Joe) complete with a look and a backstory to make their own adventures with. My main beef with this vastly entertaining and rather beautiful film is Haynes still felt the need to retain lip service to an overarching plot, which plods along between the lavish set-pieces that are full of wit and insight not least because of constant references to and quotes from Oscar Wilde, which in itself ties the set-pieces together better than the 'plot'. One short scene of Curt Wild and Brian Slade (David Bowie) musing on their love is acted by dolls in one child's voice and intentionally cliched dialogue making it an oddly touching and innocent portrayal of such a moment: gay hedonist rock star love.
Ten years later and Bob Dylan becomes the fetishised pop star in I'm Not There, made up of vignettes close and inspired to his life, the viewer's knowledge of which making the lynchpin that allows the film to roam plot free. Losing that structure seems to release even more ideas from an already imaginative director and perhaps obsessive fan. The life of Dylan is such a rich tapestry to draw from and Haynes really does that justice. He keeps a few stylistic choices (making some scenes deliberately stiffly acted, which can be a bit jarring when it's not done humourously), but it's an incredibly engaging way to tell a story and kind of makes you feel as though you're learning something about the subject as well – getting a sense of that elusive charisma that made them something special in the first place.
Turns out Haynes's first film is actually about Rimbaud, who is a poet I had recently decided to investigate. Synchronicity has dictated my next foray.