A quick heads up for Brighton Wire folk: Joseph Stannard's psych/prog/kraut/cosmic/electronic extravaganza The Outer Church touches down again on 9 June, with a special guest DJ in the shape of Moon Wiring Club’s Ian Hodgson, who promises "AN ELECTRONIX FIZZPOP SLURRED ITALO SYNPOP SPACE EXPLOSION". We don't know as yet if he'll be DJing in capitals. That's his marvelous flyer above. There'll be the usual music from Giorgio Moroder to Mordant Music to Magma. It takes place at The Penthouse @ The Freebutt and it's FREE.
elnicho, a mail order project for experimental music (who co-curated the recent Radar festival in Mexico City), has curated an evening celebrating the musically omniverous, globe-spanning Sublime Frequencies series. The evening will feature tunes and projections culled from the extensive Sublime Frequencies catalogue, along with wild dancing. It all takes place on 13 May at the Galeria del Comercio, a gallery for free public art projects on the streets in Mexico City (in this case, one particular corner).
Sound artist Susan Philipsz has been nominated for the Turner Prize this year (along with The Otolith Group, one half of which is The Wire contributor Kodwo Eshun). It reminded me that we shot some footage of an installation of hers at the ICA back in 2008.
The Internationale was shown for two days at the ICA in central London off The Mall, a wide boulevard leading from Trafalgar Square up to Buckingham Palace (monarchs use The Mall to impress during state visits and other ceremonies). To experience the piece, a small group of visitors were led to the rear of the ICA and up a ladder onto the bare roof terrace. A single loudspeaker attached to the façade of the grand building broadcast Philipsz’s voice softly warbling its way through the anthem of international socialism, blending with the background drone of city traffic. Philipsz’s work takes the form of a series of cover versions; studies in how particular songs can mutate, displacing them from their own time, projecting them via a different voice (usually her own), and mixing them into different spaces (usually public, transient ones). Filter, one of her better known works, has the artist singing pop songs by Radiohead, The Velvet Underground, The Vaselines and The Rolling Stones through the public address system at a supermarket in East London. An earlier version took place in Belfast’s main bus station, both installations eliciting a wide range of responses, from interested to irritated (as covered in Cross Platform, The Wire 244)
Philipsz has presented several versions of The Internationale. The first was in a pedestrian underpass in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1999. Another took place in 2000 at Berlin’s Friedrichstraße Station, a notorious border crossing between East and West Germany during the Cold War. Both of those installations, situated in the former Eastern Bloc, would seem to turn the song into an elegy for a time when international socialism was a reality. It’s less certain what’s happening in this London version though. Situated in the heart of the old British Empire and current capital of finance, the displaced Internationale has either lost an authoritative voice or is just being drowned out by the city’s noise.
The Internationale was made as part of Out Of Bounds, a short series of artists interventions in the private spaces of arts institutions around central London.
The folks at Soul Jazz Records have organised a night at Cafe Oto to celebrate the life and work of the late drummer Steve Reid, who over the course of his long career worked with a wide array of artists including Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, James Brown, Fela Kuti and Sun Ra . Details on the flyer below.
Check out some recent footage shot by Chris Carter of a jam during Throbbing Gristle's soundcheck in LA as part of their US tour which ends tonight in NYC with a sold out show... Next up is June 19th show in Copenhagen followed by two appearances on the 21st (the earlier show is already sold out) in London [check out their site for more info]
Also out there in the eVideosphere UbuWeb continue their
expansion with a few interesting vids:
Craig Baldwin's 1995 film Sonic Outlaws which looks at copyright infringement, music and art including Negativland (and their run in with U2 and Island Records)
And on the TG theme, UbuWeb's also posted Tony Oursler's Synesthesia interview with Genesis P-Orridge (part of a series of interviews with Downtown NYC artists including John Cale, Thurston Moore, Dan Graham, Genesis P-Orridge, Kim Gordon, Glenn Branca, Laurie Anderson, Tony Conrad, David Byrne, Lydia Lunch, Alan Vega, and Arto Lindsay)
The Wire’s monthly series of salon-type evenings continues with author and The Wire contributor Ken Hollings (author of Welcome To Mars and Destroy All Monsters and presenter of the Hollingsville series on Resonance FM) and Steve Goodman (Kode9, author of Sonic Warfare), discussing the uses and abuses of sound and noise from sonic bombs to soundclashes.
Below is a short online reading and listening list in anticipation of the event (mostly via Ken Hollings)
•Stream Hollings's Radio 3 programme From Gameboy to Armageddon on the Military Entertainment Complex
•PDF download of Theatres Of War: The Military-Entertainment Complex, an essay by Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood.
•Projects page of the Institute For Creative Technologies - an institute set up to bring military planners, games designers, Hollywood SFX people and experts in interactive technology together.
•Give yourself an adrenalin buzz (or scare yourself silly) with Bohemia Interactive's Virtual Battlespace 2 promotional film.
The salon takes place at London's Cafe Oto, 6 May, 8pm, £4.
Tickets for the Carsten Nicolai curated Parallel Voices: Missing Link at London's Siobhan Davies Dance Studio (sponsored by The Wire) will be going on sale from 8 February. The three day event, which features talks and performances from Blixa Bargeld, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Christian Fennesz and Chris Carter amongst others, takes place 17 - 19 March with tickets priced at £15/£10 (multibuy ticket) or £9/£6 per night... Get them while you can as there is very limited space available at the venue!
The big news doing the rounds of London club culture last week was concerning the future of Plastic People, the longstanding home of the FWD>> club and a key part of dubstep’s history. The Metropolitan Police have applied to review the license of the club, citing reasons of prevention of crime and disorder and public nuisance. DJs such as Kode9, Theo Parrish and Mark Ernestus have regularly appeared there, and it’s one of London’s most intimate venues, a small space designed for close listening. An organisation called The Friends of Plastic People has been formed, which aims to help the PP management to comply with the licensing conditions.
On a personal note, I find this disturbing and bizarre news. Plastic People is certainly one of the most welcoming and most trouble-free places I've ever been to. Compare with the rest of the Shoreditch area – one of the most densely populated places for strip clubs and brothels in the whole of the UK, due to the nearby presence of the City – and it's baffling how police could conclude that crime prevention would be well served by focusing their scrutiny on this intimate club, where you'll generally find 200 odd fairly well-behaved music fans.
To me, I find it part of a slightly unsettling trend – urban music events are being regularly cancelled on the whim of the police, it seems, from the UK tour of rapper Giggs to numerous grime events over the years. The notorious Form 696 is apparently used by police to monitor grime events in particular, which requires addresses and contact details for all artists appearing on the night (which for a grime event can be many, many MCs). I can't be alone in viewing this as a gross invasion of privacy.
The problem here is that the police are essentially the sole arbiter of what constitutes safety in the context of club culture. From the outside, it appears they're more comfortable with busy, boozy, pubs and superclubs than intimate and self-regulating underground events. At a time when binge drinking is seen as a serious public health threat, it seems that police are unwittingly whittling down events into just the kind of mainstream, mass-market entertainment channels that encourages conspicuous consumption.
On Saturday, I went to another London club, Proud Gallery in Camden. Truly one of the most unpleasant clubbing experiences I've ever had, it was dangerously packed to capacity, full of aggressive punters packed into close-quarters, and with unsmiling security guards moving crowds from pillar to post to stop people congregating in the quiet areas. Is this the terrifying future of clubbing, where security guards make sure there's no disruption to the surrounding neighbourhood by packing clubbers in like cattle? Perhaps that should be horses, given the building's history. I mentioned the dangerous amount of people in there to a black clad, baseball cap wearing security guard at the end of the night, who merely shrugged. We walked away from the club, feeling like we'd narrowly escaped from a mass bar-room punch-up. But at least there was no crime or disorder on the street, eh?
As things stand, there are two ways to help Plastic People. You can sign the petition at petitiononline.com/PP2010/petition.html . The most important action, though, is via local letters sent to Hackney Licensing from local residents and businesses. Details of Hackney Council's licensing section can be found here. A Facebook group is also distributing information on how you can help.
A hearing on the future of the club’s licence is due to take place before 31 March.
UPDATE AND RIGHT TO REPLY FROM PROUD CAMDEN:
I got an email in response from Alex of Proud Camden. Here's part of it he asked to be quoted:
We stick to police capacity and have done since we opened.
We don’t allow any AIS security guards to wear headwear and never have. We also don’t allow any form of military clothing.
We try to make all our staff polite and pleasant.
We have to stop people congregating in fire exits, it’s simply the law. This annoys people obviously, but it’s the law, not us!
We were not over capacity and it was not dangerous. There are 7 sets of double width fire exits, 2 or more to each room, a fire alarm that cuts out the music and over 17 floor staff who are on the radio and there to watch for everyone’s safety at all times.
It was hot on Saturday night and that made the club unpleasant for an hour until the ventilation was cranked back on for the first time since summer.
There never has been a punch up and we pride ourselves on how safe Proud is and will continue to be.
We will review all procedures , and I am sorry you had such a bad evening, we honestly hate it when people have a negative time!
Following its reissues of Robert Wyatt’s UK solo albums, the Domino label is about to release His Greatest Misses, a 2004 Japan-only compilation. If you're looking for a one-stop comp that distills Wyatt’s unique essence, this is it, right down to the sleeve art, which reproduces a number of cute crayon drawings by the six year old Robert. It pulls key tracks from all the solo records from Rock Bottom (1974) to Cuckoo Land (2003), plus it contains a number of Wyatt’s inspired cover versions, including "At Last I Am Free", originally written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers for Chic's 1978 C'est Chic album.
In his glittering history of disco, Turn The Beat Around (Faber And Faber, 2005), Peter Shapiro devotes a whole chapter to illuminating the ambiguous emotional and socio-political currents that run beneath the sophisticated, aspirational vibe that describes the sleek surface of Chic's music, that make Chic into a much more complex proposition than you might at first think, something more than just amazing grooves, irresistible hooks and inspired arrangements, as if we needed pop to give us anything more than that.
Running for more than seven minutes, "At Last I Am Free" is an extended modern R&B; ballad, an epic metropolitan soul mantra (Chic could write those as easily as they could knock off devastating disco grooves), played at “a crawling tempo”, as Peter describes it, with the Chic singers, Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin, “sounding alternately like zombies and angels”.
What a strange song for Wyatt to cover, you might think.
I like cover versions that subvert or detourn the originals in some way (as in the kind of covers discussed in The Wire's Remake Remodel feature in issue 261), but Wyatt's version is a bit different, a cover that plays it more or less straight, but which ratchets up the complexity of pop in rare and precious ways, not least of which is that it's a cover by a musician who was supposedly the ultimate in gritty, engaged political art of a song by a group that was supposedly the ultimate in vacuous escapist pop. But as Peter's book tells us, Chic were far more than that, and Wyatt has always been a musician willing to ride roughshod over the knee jerk expectations and prejudices of his audience and the media.
A very bitter wind blows through the song. The chorus couplet haunts me: "At last I am free/I can hardly see in front of me." The lyric sounds like it is describing a particularly devastating break up narrative, but it's also hard not to hear it as a comment on the failure of Amerikkka to deliver on the promises it made during the heyday of the civil rights movement. That's one reason Wyatt covered it, I guess, as a statement of political solidarity. The other reason he covered it would be rather more prosaic, I suspect: Wyatt knows a great pop song when he hears one, and this is up there with the best of them. The combination of the melody line and the chord sequence beneath make it into a classic heartbreaker of a tune, but combine those qualities with the complex of emotions encoded in that couplet in the chorus and you have an example of a pop song that digs deep to access some kind of existential truth about the unbearable sadness of the human condition.
I actually prefer Wyatt’s version to Chic's. It replaces the lush orchestration of the original with a very minimal arrangement that exposes the stark sentiments in the lyric more effectively. In place of the undead or ethereal spirits, Wyatt sounds more like an inspired pub crooner, bringing tears to the eyes of the denizens of the snug, as he warbles with heartbreaking sincerity thru a glass bottom phut cig (as Mark E Smith, another great snug (non-)singer-philosopher made good, once put it).
The Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser has also covered the song. But I don't like her version much: the arrangement is too sugary-sweet and over-produced (like most Cocteau Twins tracks) and Fraser's performance tries too hard to ring every last drop of tragic emotion from the song. I'm guessing I might be out of step with the zeitgeist here, as we are slap bang in the middle of another 80s revival (cf minimal wave, chillwave, glo-fi, and so on and so forth: seriously, I've not heard this many new tracks using that blissed out chorus effect on the vocals since PM Dawn), but for me her version is too arch and knowing and too calculated to affect. It reminds me of something John Cage once said, when someone asked him why he didn't like to be moved, emotionally, by music. I don't mind being moved by music, Cage quipped, I just don't like to be pushed.
A new series of monthly events in East London curated by The Wire Magazine. The evenings will consist of readings, talks, panel debates, film screenings, DJ sets and live performances. The first instalment is Revenant Forms: The Meaning Of Hauntology at London's Café Oto, 1 April, 8pm, £4 on the door only
Mark Fisher (K-Punk) leads a panel with Adam Harper and Joseph Stannard debating the uncanny quality of so much contemporary audio, from spektral disco to dubstep, Hypnagogic pop and beyond. Plus screenings of films by Julian House (Ghost Box, The Focus Group), a live set by Moon Wiring Club and eldritch vinyl interludes courtesy of Mordant Music.
Below we've compiled a short online reading and listening list in anticipation of the event:
Ian Penman's Black Secret Tricknology, first published in The Wire issue 133
A transcript excerpt from Joseph Stannard's interview with Broadcast, which formed part of Stannard's cover feature on the group in The Wire issue 308
Adam Harper's Rouge's Foam blog
•Hauntology: The Past Inside The Present
Joseph Stannard's The Outer Church
•Revenant Forms: Future-Past Preview
Website of the label and design project Ghost Box
Jim Jupp's Belbury Parish Magazine
Mordant Music home to Baron Mordant, Admiral Greyscale, Sam Shackleton and more
James Kirby's (aka The Caretaker) History Always Favours The Winners
Listen to some tracks from Moon Wiring Club
Broadcast and The Focus Group "I See, So I See So"
Phenomena And Occurrences, a Ghost Box film by Julian House.
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