Thursday, March 31, 2011
Just a reminder that this Sunday we have our first 'Sound Garden' chill out party at Bar Orbit. We already thought a party like this would be good for people in Tokyo, and after the last couple of weeks, we think a relaxing party like this is needed even more... It has been a stressful, challenging time, and this will be a great opportunity to listen to some good music, have some drinks, and relax with friends. The party is free, but we will have a donation box, with all money going to the Second Harvest Japan Relief Disaster Relief Plan.
DJs: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
Sunday 3 April 2011
17:00 - 24:00
Bar Orbit, Sangenjaya
It is time for us to be together again. We hope to see you on Sunday.
DJ: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
17:00 ~ 24:00
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Two Finnish acts - Pan Sonic and Vladislav Delay - have had a profound impact on my understanding and appreciation of electronic music, so I was very interested when a ssg reader kindly sent us this short mix composed of Finnish experimental music made between 1969 - 1981. This was most definitely virgin territory for me, and I found the mix both fascinating and enjoyable. So I definitely recommend giving it a listen:
sipitron - fnnshmnmlsm
pekka airaksinen - m60 (dharmakustannus)
usko meriläinen - ku-gu-ku (jasemusiikki)
esa kotilainen - avartuva näkemys (love)
edward vesala - maailman reuna (johanna)
sperm - dodekafoninen talvisota (de stijl)
yhtye - apatian tanssi (love)
erkki kurenniemi - sähkösoittimen ääniä #1 (love)
jukka ruohomäki - mikä aika on (love)
aavikon kone ja moottori - karavaani (bad vugum)
j.o. mallander - in reality (anoema)
Sunday, March 27, 2011
"Boing Poum Tchak!" is a French techno website that has recently started publishing a zine. They invited me to contribute an editorial to the most recent edition and I was happy to accept. If you speak French, I'd encourage you to buy the zine, but for the rest of us, here is the English version of what I wrote. Keep in mind, I tried to write this in 'editorial' style, so the language and tone might be a bit different (then again, it might not). I am not sure if I even agree with everything, but the main purpose is just to throw a few ideas out there... Thanks to Pierre-Nicolas for inviting me to contribute to the zine, and to Luis who commented on a draft.
Build Your Own Berghain
Across the globe, people talk of Berghain in reverent tones: the techno Valhalla where Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock play marathon sets to a crowd of genuine enthusiasts that have made it past the equally legendary bouncer. It is much more than simply a Berlin institution; each week Easyjet and Ryan Air flights fill with clubbers wanting to get their fix. And for those poor souls that have yet to make the pilgrimage, Berghain becomes ‘Berghain’, a kind of magical techno wonderland that you can only dream of. In a recent RA interview, the Italian techno producer Obtane announced it was his favourite club, despite the fact he’s never actually been there. He is hardly alone. In techno circles, Berghain has increasingly taken on an almost mythical status, the place where the music never stops and all your techno dreams come true. And, of course, there are many very good reasons why Berghain is held in such high regard. Nonetheless, I think there is a danger of idealizing Berghain, misunderstanding it, and drawing the wrong lessons from it. When people from outside Berlin talk about how amazing the club is (and it seems like outsiders talk about it much more), they usually do so – either explicitly or implicitly – in reference to their own scene, suggested as inferior and lacking in comparison. In a certain sense, this may be true: it is hard to rival either the talent at Berghain’s disposal or the unique constellation of factors that have allowed for its creation and existence. Yet (implicitly) complaining about the lack of a local Berghain is hardly a productive attitude. Likewise, jumping on the next Easyjet flight and heading to Berlin as often as your paycheck allows for is potentially a pretty corrosive solution, both for your own scene (if there is one) and for Berlin’s.
Rather than uncritically valorizing Berghain, I want to suggest that a more productive approach would be appreciating it for what it is (on its own terms), and thinking about what generic lessons can be learnt from it. For starters, one element that distinguishes Berghain from many other clubs is the amount of emphasis placed on their resident DJs. At most places the role of the residents is just to keep the decks warm until it is time for the international guest to play. Berghain tends to be the opposite – while they get a constant stream of big name guests, the locals share equal billing. If anything, it is the residents that are usually the highlight. The immediate response to this might be: ‘Yes, but their residents are Marcel Dettmann, Steffi and lots of other amazing DJs’. Sure, but these DJs developed in a symbiotic relationship with the club itself. This emphasis on nurturing and supporting their own artists has played a vital part of their success, and I think it is a lesson from which many scenes could benefit. Another important point that can be taken from the example (rather than symbol) of Berghain is recognizing the way political, economic, social and cultural factors shape the possibilities for techno. Quite simply, it is hard to imagine Berghain existing anywhere outside of Berlin. On one level it is the distillation of a unique confluence of permissive factors combining with agency, opportunity and presumably some luck that has given rise to Berghain. There are not many places in the world where something like Berghain would be possible. So rather than wishing/hoping it could somehow be recreated, I think it is more useful to consider what opportunities and constraints are present where you are, and how these can be channeled productively. Organizers like Beyond Bookings in New York with their Bunker parties, the Bleep43 crew in London, the previously longstanding Optimo night in Glasgow, the Labyrinth festival in Japan, are all successful examples of people creating something important and special that is unique to their environment. Of these the one I know best is Labyrinth, and there is no way it could exist anywhere else in the world besides Japan. It is an event that productively engages with its environment, recognizing both the constraints and opportunities that exist. Ultimately what I am saying is that for the most of us that don’t live in Berlin, we should stop pining for Berghain and counting down the days until we can afford to jump on another flight. Instead, we should think of it as a positive role model, not to emulate, but a place to draw inspiration from. Quite simply, the aim should be to build our own Berghains, whatever they may be.
Speaking of Berghain, this coming Thursday 31 March they are having a special benefit event featuring Steffi, Nick Höppner and many others. The DJs are playing for free and all proceeds are going to Doctors without Borders. This is a really excellent idea and I wish I was in Berlin to be able to support it. Try to get down there Berlin ssgs and support a good cause!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Without further ado, here is part II of our III part Q&A with the first lady of Marxist deep house as well as the man responsible for the love bomb that caused the house explosion in Kami Sakunobe back on 2006, Terre Thaemlitz... this time, following on from pt I, which focused on production, the questions cluster around issues of distribution and promo mo fos. Bombs away.
It strikes me that an understanding of distro is utterly essential for anyone who wants to know what kind of capitalism they're living in (generally). What is implied when such dysfunctional distributive processes and distribution systems are some of the key factors that makes or breaks artists, sounds and scenes? I know you've thought a lot about this, so I leave the response very open...
It's very difficult for people to understand the functions of distribution, since these processes are reified and become obscured even to those in the business. I mean, I've written many detailed articles on the subject, and I myself do not believe I understand the process. In a way, we are forced to function religiously because life under capitalism demands a degree of faith - and like faith in a religion, our faith in the general goodness of processes of distribution and access makes us blind to many of their corruptions... because we socially rely upon them, culturally and economically. And if we fail to trust, we find ourselves excommunicated and facing social difficulties that make everyday life nearly impossible. For example, if you were to eradicate from your life all goods with links to inhumane manufacturing processes, ecological destruction, etc., you would find not only your quality of living would change so radically that you would lose everything you know, but also that you would lose connections to family, friends, employment, etc... It's really an excommunication. So the act of critically examining capitalism is an act of blasphemy, as one can easily see in the continued villainization of Marx.
Within this context, labels and distributors buy chart placements, reviews, etc. It's industry. This hasn't been a surprise for many decades. I think after the Billboard chart scandals of the '60s and '70s most people stopped believing the popularity of an item had anything to do with the public's actual opinion of it's quality or usefulness. We're all accustomed to first-edition books hitting the store shelves with "#1 Best Seller" already printed on the cover, all of which is determined not by consumer purchases, but by the quantity of retailer pre-orders received by distributors. And retailers are pressured to place those large orders, too. These are the numbers that determine popularity. It's like the US presidential voting system - people want to believe their vote counts, but it's all about the electoral college... and even when they are confronted with this, such as with G.W. Bush, their faith is great enough to pass forgiveness and continue sharing in the myth rather than revising the system. Or it's like Catholics and abusive clergy. Most consumers are sheep, and they're okay with that. It makes life easier, and even then life is plenty miserable. So asking people to unpack this stuff, and willingly make their lives more difficult, is not something those who have been conditioned to believe in their own self-entitlement are likely to do willingly. That's all of us. In this context, music is still pretty much just as Funkadelic laid out 33 years ago in the lyrics to "Promentalshitbackwashphychosisenemasquad" (Google it).
All of this is implied in how distributive processes make or break artists, sounds and scenes. Helping make people aware that music is just as corrupt and dreamless as the rest of their lives is what I've been spending a lot of energy on over the years.
Apologies in advance for the rant: Chris and I have had a lot of exposure to promo over the past few years with ssgs (more and more of it)... not much of it has been positive! In fact, most of those involved seem to me to be total fucking parasites, rent seekers who exploit a nodal point in a distributive system which they set up as a 'gate' and then charge admission – pace Bono 'you ask me to enter, and then you make me crawl'. From where I'm sitting, it seems that promo has also corrupted what little critical reviewing and curation was going on on the various websites (with a few bright shining exceptions). I am continually disturbed by a percentage of online readers who no longer appear to know or understand the difference between (an attempt at) critical reflection, contextualisation, journalism, opinionated ranting, and flagrant marketing... the word 'content' is king here... and then on top of that, there's the basic situation where Artist spends a year making a beautiful record. 'Old paradigm reviewer' (PC feeling sorry for himself) spends two weeks trying to listen carefully to the record, then three hours writing a review. Content consumer takes umbrage to review and/or record, and writes an off-cuff dismissal, which also, weirdly, simultaneously enacts the auto-abrogated right to review album and reviewer, without critical engagement. but the other day, Chris received this email, which says it all:
"Dear Chris, 'XXX Distribution' is a young aspiring digital distributor for electronic music in YYY - Germany. Even though we are specialized in electronic music, we also cover a large amount of other genres as well. We would be pleased if you are interested in a close cooperation with us and may like to write reviews at your blog for upcoming releases. In exchange you will receive the releases for FREE."
(NB capslock is not mine)... question: how can we understand the dominance of promo in the political economy of today's electronic music?
Promoters and agents are the used car salespeople of the music industry, for sure. I've always understood they are part of the industry, but I try to minimize my direct interaction with them. When I license a release to a label I will generally let them promote it as they normally would since in that case I am submitting to them as an employee of sorts, but in 18 years I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've done paid-advertising or other out-of-pocket promotion on my private Comatonse label's releases. Promotion really makes me feel dirty, which is one reason I don't do Facebook, Myspace, Soundcloud and the rest. (The Comatonse website is more of an ironic and sarcastic hype engine, which fewer and fewer people seem to find since they are always looking for content in those major websites.)
But I agree, it seems things have changed in the past 5 years, with online promotion, etc. I mean, if one blog prints something, it's almost instantly mirrored verbatim on a billion sites by spider-bots. For example, last December RA ran an announcement for a Berlin performance of finished sections from my upcoming "Soulnessless" album, and I guess the writer - who I think was also connected to the event - was overexcited and decided to write the album would be released in January, 2011 (in fact, it's still in production today). Suddenly there were 50 or more websites with blurbs about the album being released in January. I sent an email to RA and they revised their site, but it was too late. We don't live in a world of little mistakes anymore, but quickly circulated soundbites that persist in archives as facts. And this lo-fi blog journalism is accepted right along with the lo-fi MP3s they distribute. With regard to coverage of my own releases, it's also very obvious that people will copy the press release verbatim and slap their name on it. I'm sure that's how it's always been - it's the purpose of the press release - but it's lazy.
For me, the most confusing thing these days are the online shop reviews, since these can sometimes be quite thorough and well-written, but ultimately they are shop advertisements to sell the records. It's gotten to the point where I've almost stopped updating reviews on my website, since the line between review and advertisement has gotten so thin - and I'm saying that as someone whose entire website is a deliberate spoof on self-hype and over-exposure! Compared to the old days of music magazines, the journalist-middleman has been eliminated. She now works directly for the shops or distributors who do their own journalism under their own brand names (Juno comes to mind). And although I could imagine someone trying to frame this in a good light, such as processes of industry becoming more transparent and visible, I can't see it as anything other than a step deeper into the belly of the beast - if only because this act of transparency is not coupled with our critical resistance or anger. Nobody should believe anything they read online without doing further research. And I think most people know this. But again, going back to the way in which blog commentary has become as vital and entertaining to readers as the articles themselves, people seem to just roll with it. And from an industry marketing perspective, our complacency is then mistaken for "enjoyment" or actually liking things as they are - so the industry spends more money on fostering this kind of journalistic framework, and it snowballs... until you end up with something like Yahoo! News.
But we should be clear the snowball didn't start with the internet. Talk about serendipity, earlier today I was looking at the gatefold cover to Miles Davis' 1970 album "Bitches Brew," and it contains all of these same elements. The vinyl inner sleeves are printed with Columbia Records' in-house promo-zine cleverly titled, "The Inner Sleeve." The sleeves are designed to look like a newspaper, with editorials, articles and reviews about other Columbia releases including, "Laura Nyro: a three-year-late listener's guide" by Pete Fornatale, "Wars Are Such a Devilish Thing" (remember, this was during Vietnam), and "Country Music, What Is It?" The centerfold of the album jacket itself has a diarrhetic rant about "Bitches Brew" by Ralph Gleason, which predictably starts, "There's so much to say about this music. I don't mean so much to explain about it because that's stupid. The music speaks for itself." Then, as promised, he goes on endlessly talking about nothing. Around the middle he writes, "I started to ask Teo how the horn echo was made and then I though how silly what difference does it make? And it doesn't make any difference what kind of brush Picasso uses and if the art makes it we don't need to know and if the art doesn't make it knowing is the most useless thing in life." This is exactly the model of contextually transcendental "soul" and "artistry" I was bitching about earlier - the value of which is always determined by "making it," although that doesn't matter, right? That would be shallow, and we're not shallow, right? Idiots. Clearly, there is plenty of usefulness in knowing that which "doesn't make it." Otherwise, all we have left are histories filled with cathedrals and castles, and I find no resonance for that kind of cultural tourism. That is how we've already become tourists within our own cultures.
As a DJ, another issue with promos is the endless mailings we get to download music. Of course, sometimes we get lucky and find ourselves getting serviced by amazing labels - it's similar to the euphoria of olden days if a DJ managed to get into a hot vinyl record pool with tons of amazing promos. But most of these MP3 promo sites have gotten increasingly complicated, asking for comments and rankings of tracks before we even download them, all judgements being based on the sound of low-quality web players. If you type comments without thinking, you later find that they've printed your comment in advertisements as though you are someone who wants to promote the project or have your name tied to it. It's not enough that we might be willing to play their track in a club or something, like in the '80s. Now everything has to be logged and documented. I don't like this at all. Especially the creepy YES/NO buttons asking, "Do you support this release?" What the fuck does that even mean? Do I support it? No, I don't fucking support it, whether it's an amazing track or not! At that point I'm just trying to get hold of the higher quality download so I can listen to it properly. And after I spend my time downloading it I will then decide if it goes in the trash or not. It's way too soon in the relationship to ask for a commitment, whatever "support" means! And clearly the nature of the question pressures people to click "YES," since clicking "NO" probably means getting dropped from the list... I assume? I'm lucky that I use an old Mac running OS X 10.3, and its web browser is no longer supported by most of these newfangled websites, so I can't hear them anyway. If a promo mailing seems interesting, I'll usually email the label and explain my browser issue, then ask for a download link to check them out without leaving comments. (By the way, it's completely messed up that so many sites require the latest web browsers, since software upgrades are clearly an economic privilege - and particularly difficult in poorer nations that First World people like to feel the internet is helping elevate so much. News flash: Your "global" sites are inaccessible! It's usually just because the site developers want to say they are using the latest Java or Flash, despite not utilizing new features... and of course with the newer sites there is a lot of back-end server-side marketing and research is also being accumulated, customizing advertising shown on your screen, etc.)
Provided the Pacific Ring of Fire keeps quiet, stay tuned next week for our final, third installment...
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sorry for the delay in posting this, but here is the tracklist for ASC's ssg special mix. As you can see, it is full of super fresh beats. One thing that really impresses me about ASC is he has been producing a lot of music recently but without sacrificing the quality. In particular, I really love his new track 'No Secrets' that he finishes the mix with. Anyway, here is the tracklist - plenty to look forward to.
ASC - ssg special mix
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Hopefully some of you fellow ssgs already checked out Chris' excellent mix for John Osborn's radio show on Twen FM. This week was my turn. Unlike Chris, I attempted to beatmatch records - with, err, mixed results. This one is a deep dive into the warm dark; a selection for improbable dance floors. The track selection and program were off the cuff first time round, but the connector to my digital recorder wasn't properly plugged in. Second take, I tried to capture the first mix again, but got restless and ended up shunting the final third in a slightly different direction. I hope you enjoy it; I certainly had a ball making it. Many thanks to John for this opportunity. This one is slow slung, with love, from Melbourne, for Berlin and everywhere else.
John Osborn TwenFM w/ PC (mnml ssgs) 13.03.2011
01. Da Lub Masheen - Rented Room - swaysack rmx - (not Konrad Black as mentioned in show!)
02. Echochord 048 (signa rmx)
03. Echochord 047 (xdb rmx)
04. Rau - Giegling Records
05. Conforce - Cruising EP - Curle 021
06. Rhythm & Sound w/ Tikiman RS 01
07. Donnacha Costello - Look Long 02
PCs MNML SSGS Guest Mix
01. Levon Vincent - Deeper - These Games EP, Novel Sound 2008
02. sleeparchive - Image Photometer - Infrared Glow EP sleeparchive 2005
03. Kassem Mosse - No Peace, No Love, No Unity - Acqueous Haze EP, Mikrodisco 2008
04. Tin Man - Life is Acid - Keys of Life Acid - Keys of Life 2006
05. Hauntologists - A1 - Hauntologists EP 03 - Hauntologists 2010
06. Donato Dozzy & Say DJ - Tutto Negativo - Mental Groove 2006
07. tobias. - Street Knowledge - Street Knowledge EP - Logistic 2006
08. Levon Vincent - A Melody for Everyone - The Medium is the Message EP - Novel Sound 2009
09. Carl Craig - Sandstorms - Just Another Day - Planet e 2004
10. Prince of Denmark - Are You Ready Ralph/187666 - Giegling 2010
------01. Radioactive Man RGC 003
02. Oracy - Bassmood - Mojuba 014
03. Schatrax - Dizzy - Sister Phunk 2007
04. Marco Shuttle - VIDD001
05. SCB AUS 12
Friday, March 18, 2011
３月２０日に予定していましたMNML SSGS PARTYは
Given the recent tragic events and current situation in Japan, we have decided to postpone the MNML SSGS party, originally planned for this Sunday 20 March. After speaking with all parties involved, we felt this was the best decision. It is disappointing, as we were very excited about our first party, but it is not the right time. We will be organising a new date for the party, and can all be together then. For anyone has advance tickets, these tickets will be valid on the rescheduled date. Otherwise they can be refunded at Module. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to get in touch.
We will let you know when a new date for the party has been worked out. In the meantime, our thoughts are with those who have suffered from the earthquake and tsunami. This is a very difficult time for Japan, but I have been amazed with the strength of this country. Full respect.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Just a very quick post as I have been receiving lots of very kind mails and messages checking that we are ok after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan yesterday. Being based in Tokyo, we were lucky, as it was the north of Japan that was really hit. The good news is that all family and friends are fine. The bad news is that it looks like the death toll is already over 1,000 and rising, there are still aftershocks and more tsunami warnings, and there are some issues with one of the nuclear power plants here. Tokyo is basically fine, it is the north that is feeling it. I just hope things will be ok...
Despite this, I am still very happy to be here! This experience has reaffirmed what an awesome country Japan is, filled with lots of great people and very well constructed buildings. And thanks to the techno community for reaching out, all your messages have been greatly appreciated. Glad to know you care! Thanks.
We are sending our love and thoughts up north, and to all those suffering.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
At the MNML SSGS party next weekend the second room will be a chill out room. This is something really important for us - we miss having a space where friends can gather, talk, relax, and listen to some more downtempo, relaxed sounds. Electronic music is about a lot more than moving the dancefloor, and for us, this other side - downbeat, IDM, ambient etc. - is just as significant. So together with two good friends of mine here, we are putting on a monthly chill out party in Tokyo. It is a bit of an experiment for us, and we are hoping it will be a successful one, because we think there is space for a party like this in Tokyo. If you have listened to any of the "Sunday Sounds" mixes here, that will give you a bit of idea of the feeling we are going to try to create... We have found a really amazing venue for it - Bar Orbit in Sangenjaya. This is the perfect place for a chill out party: a very friendly, relaxed vibe with an intimate atmosphere and great sound. And keeping with the relaxed feeling we want to create, there is no entry charge. Details are:
DJs: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
Sunday 3 April 2011
17:00 - 24:00
Bar Orbit, Sangenjaya
Hope to see you there!
東京でのチルアウトイベントを増やしたいという意志をもとに、友達二人とマンスリーパーティーをスタートすることに決めました。音はMNML SSGSで配信している「Sunday Sounds」のイメージです。場所はチルアウトにぴったりな三軒茶屋のOrbitという店です。クッションやベッドが置いてあり、サウンドの質も高くて理想的な場所です。
DJ: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
17:00 ~ 24:00
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
One of the biggest 'finds' for me in 2010 was ASC. This might sound a bit ridiculous, given his extensive discography, and his longstanding involvement in electronic music. But drum & bass was something I never really connected with, so ASC was an artist I just missed. Even when the autonomic sound hit, it largely passed me by. Much of what autonomic is doing I still haven't fully explored, but it strikes me that a somewhat parallel movement is happening there compared to what Detmmann, Klock and other artists around Berghain did for techno a few years ago (that could be a bad analogy, just an impression from outside). Despite being somewhat distanced from the autonomic sound, I checked ASC's RA mix and his 'Nothing is Certain' LP, and both resonated strongly with me. Present in both of these is the element of ASC's sound that really appeals to me - it has a very powerful atmospheric dimension to it (it is also has a certain beauty, which I love). As I discovered more about ASC, it made sense to me that he has a deep passion for ambient music, reflected through his truly excellent deep space mix series (all are worth checking). Given that much of his production manages to infuse an ambient dimension (or sensibility), I couldn't help but notice that as a DJ he kept these sounds more separate: there are the ASC deep space mixes, and then there are more autonomic-style ones. Here lies the genesis for this mix: we asked ASC for something that would bridge these two sides of him. And ASC proved more than up to the task... Much like his effort for RA, one element that stands out is how well conceived and structured the mix is: there is a clear sense of narrative throughout. Enjoy this mix from ASC, it's a beauty:
ASC - ssg special mix
ASC is one productive individual, with forthcoming releases including (but certainly not limited to) EPs on Auxiliary, Levitated, Nu Directions, and Autonomic. He also has a special new 'Symbol' series on his own label Auxiliary. The 2nd one is a collab with Bvdub and it is great, so keep your eyes out for that. He is playing 31 March at the Forward Festival in Washington DC, and 1 April in Philadelphia. If you want to keep track of what he is doing, easiest is to follow ASC's blog, soundcloud, official.fm page, and his twitter. Big thanks to James for making this mix. Enjoy.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
A few weeks ago in the midst of a paper I was writing on Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, I began obsessively compiling a mixtape; maybe doing so was a way of dealing with a lot of the feelings that writing about Zarqawi provoked.
This one had to fulfill all the cassette-era criteria: be about 90 minutes long, and 'work' as a sequence of songs and tracks, without the ability to beatmatch, cut or fade. Here it is: all tracks played in full at +/- 0, in the order that made sense to me, ear tested through three drafts that didn't quite work, and finally allowed to settle for a fortnight, before a final play to check and see if it holds up. I think it does.
The title is taken from a speech made by George W. Bush on September 6, 2004. It's so bizarre to think about those times now, in light of the carnage and stupidity and every other damned thing it involved (and involves). It was a time I found totally gutting, a gutting doubled by being utterly powerless to do anything. None of this context is audible – or is it? It's all in there somehow, I think. Well, I'm not sure, but as soon as I remove the mentions of Zarqawi, the mixtape feels incomplete. I'm willing to just let that one be. Hence that pic.
The only thing that makes these songs and tracks audibly a 'set' in any way is their personal relation to me; they're all compositions or contain 'something' that I can't get rid of, that's stayed with me. So then - a personal sound spectrum, with slight hauntings, from one ssg to all you others. I hope you enjoy it.
9/6/04: 'We must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.' (Applause.)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
2. Western Standards - "Space Is A Place" [Western Standards Recording Co.]: I was looking forward to this after the strong debut from Western Standards last year. I liked that LP, but this one is a cut above, a strong, complete album. Been playing this a lot.
3. Morphosis - "What Have We Learned" [Delsin]: This album isn't due to be released until next month, but it has already been generating quite a bit of hype and interest. That for me is normally, if anything, a warning sign, but in this case, I can assure you: believe the hype.
4. Tropic of Cancer - "The Sorrow Of Two Blooms" [Blackest Ever Black]: After 2 EPs from Raime, the 3rd outing for Blackest is from Tropic of Cancer aka John Mendez and Camella Lobo. They put out a fantastic EP the other year, which many people missed, but I have a feeling people will now rightly be paying closer attention with this release and a new EP on Downwards.
5. Kassem Mosse - "Workshop 12" [Workshop]: Most people who read this blog will have already purchased this EP and gone crazy over it. No need for me to say anything.
6. SCB - "Loss" [Aus Music]: Very catchy, very enjoyable. Listening to this you have to wonder if Paul Rose has been spending just a bit too much time in the Panorama Bar...
7. CRC vs. Myon - "Strings & Harmonies" [Heliocentric Music]: This is a label that really deserves more attention. This is the 4th release from Heliocentric, and pretty much all the tracks (except for one side of #3) are very strong. Classically rooted melodic techno done very well. We will be featuring a mix from these guys soon. Definitely worth checking this and the previous EPs on the label.
8. Motion Sickness Of Time Travel - "Seeping Through The Veil Of The Unconscious" [Digitalis Recordings]: Ridiculously awesome artist name. Makes quality music too. FACT wrote a good review that will do a better job than anything I am going to say. We have a Sunday mix from MSTT soon.
9. DJ HMC - "Phreakin' / Cum on" [Decks Classix]: I am not particularly patriotic, but HMC does make me proud to be Australian! Pretty easily the finest techno producer to come from down under. These are two of his best cuts. Pitch them down and they can still be very destructive. Much respect!
10. Ø - "Heijastuva" [Sähkö Recordings]: I have seen barely anyone comment about this. I don't get it. It is a new release from MIKA FUCKING VAINIO. This is definitely closer to an EP than an LP, but it doesn't really matter, the first two tracks demonstrate how much better this guy is than most producers.
That's it. Plenty of great music about...
Thursday, March 3, 2011
We love Terre. In fact, we love Terre so much, that he was the first choice for the ssgs' upcoming party in Tokyo. But aside from his wonderful productions and eclectic DJ sets, we also love Terre for her great mind. In a world where too many producers embody the philosophy that house music is controllable desire you can (and should) own... there is also Terre Thaemlitz.
We hate hard questions because we know the answers and don't like them. That's why it's uncomfortable talking frankly about the GWOT or the GFC: to some extent we are - and we know we are - the dependent beneficiaries of systems and processes that involve domination, exploitation, alienation and cruelty (here is a talk you can download discussing one example). It's also true that the Starbucks macha latte is delicious. These are the kinds of things that Terre is constantly making us think about through her words and music: of all those other places and sources we depend on - and depend on not thinking about - in order to be able to function and listen and own all this. But the message is also love. 'Between empathy and sympathy is time'.
So: I wanted to talk about 'music production', but not in that way. I wanted to ask about music production, music distribution, and music consumption. I wanted to generate some (hopefully) intelligent thoughts and some interesting comments from your ends. So... well, I had to ask Terre, didn't I? What follows then is the first part of a three part Q&A. I asked Terre some questions, and she responded with his first, best thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading and thinking about it, I certainly enjoyed receiving such interesting responses. Questions are in italics, topics in bold, responses written in red and pink ink (almost invisible through web 2.0 interfaces).
of text and context:
In Midtown 120 Blues you spend some time talking about the erasures of context involved in making house music 'controllable desire you can own'. I'm sort of obsessed with this phrase, which seems to me to get at the basic habitus of electronic music consumption these days... but the question: how is context constitutive or shaping? My gambit here is that it you're of the view that it lays the ground from which we create, as well as from which we hear, but that, like the ground, we only realise it's there when it falls away, when there's an earthquake ?housequake? etc... and: how would you describe the general 'context' in which the broader 'we' are relating to one another, through music, in 2011...
Just in case some youngsters didn't understand the sample's reference, it's a cut-up of Chuck Roberts' infamous monologue that defined house for a generation - only whereas he talked in typically overreaching terms about how "no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all," (tell that to my parents...), I did a Burroughs-esque cut-up to have him saying something that I feel reflects the reality of how house functions as a highly controlled, regulated, distributed product. Especially now when it's sold and controlled on a scale that was unimaginable 30 years ago, and which has made sampling so risky that this once sample-based genre of music has now become about conventional "musicianship." It used to be about unconventional musicianship, by which I mean it was not about sounding like a trained musician with a knowledge of keys, chords, studio session recordings, etc. For me, this shift toward studio musicianship indicates a conservative backlash - and that backlash is clearly the result of integration into larger distribution systems, becoming less specific and more accessible. I mean, in a tragic and ironic way, by becoming more homogenized and accessible, today's house is functioning more like Roberts was talking about 30 years ago. It is more likely to be "understood by all" because it's sonic signs have moved closer to pop sensibilities and become more familiar in public places. For example, I'm sure my mom can't tell the difference between disco and house, but she has been exposed to enough house via TV commercials or what-not that she can say house is a kind of disco. 30 years ago, she probably wouldn't have known how to describe house at all, or what to identify it with.
The chief context shaping all musics is economics. And I'd say that even if I wasn't a Marxist. Clearly we would not have Chicago Acid House if shitty gear like the Roland 303 was not utterly worthless in the realm of pop music, and could be bought for a few dollars at thrift and pawn shops, to be used in ways that were unintended. We also wouldn't have ballet if it wasn't for the feudal aristocracy's need to develop a culturally acceptable form of pornography. (In fact, the only interesting thing about ballet for me is its continued function as pornography for bourgeois women.) Every form of music, without exception, is formed by economic limitations or excesses. And of course, as musics develop and gain audiences in other cultural and economic spheres, those dynamics change. Nothing stays the same. For example, at the peak of the Acid craze, a 303 could sell for several thousands of dollars. Clearly that changed the types of people able to buy the equipment and produce Acid, both reflecting and calling into being an entirely new series of social and business relations around the music. This all seems very obvious, but for some reason there are a lot of people who still believe in concepts of "soul" and "artistry" that transcend the social, rather than seeing that they are actually defined by the social. Or, even if people acknowledge the impact of material contexts, they only do so through the lens of Americanization, in which all people with "real talent" have the ability to transcend economic limitations and get rich. The most "deserving" gangsta rapper is the one who managed to move from a jail cell to a mansion, right? This is the bullshit American dream that is applied to all aspects of life under globalization, and to answer your question, I would say this phenomenon of "Americanization" is the framework through which "we" currently relate to music and one another in the First World, as well as in the Third World countries we stand upon. By "Americanization" I am not talking about a US-controlled conspiracy, but a globally/locally proliferated ideological framework around commerce and cultural transactions that goes beyond the US.
After economics, I would say sexuality is the next greatest influence on how we consume music. People congregate around various styles of music - it's often how they choose their bars or hang-outs - and within those scenes we seek sexual and social connections. Of course, we all step in and out of various scenes, sometimes openly and sometimes in secret. I think of the anti-disco movement in the US during the '70s, and how it primarily revolved around homophobia and queer bashing. If you liked disco and were male, you were a fag. (If you were a woman, it was different since disco was then considered as wiggling your ass for straight boys.) Like, it was okay for a male to be into Queen's "We Will Rock You," but if you were into "Another One Bites the Dust," suddenly everyone was concerned about Freddy Mercury being gay. Conversely, bluegrass is not so popular in most Gay bars. So the ways in which we publicly identify with certain genres while simultaneously having musical "closets" around other musics we like - even when they're by the same artist - also affects how music is consumed, shared, and congregated around.
Closets, hypocrisies, crossed borders - these have always been a part of how people move socially. So when we're talking about contexts, we also have to keep in mind that their borders are to be crossed. However, it's very important to see how these crossings occur through access to, and participation in, systems of power and domination - cultural, economic, etc. - and not through some American dream about the human capacity for upward mobility and liberal multiculturalism. That latter myth actually clouds our ability to identify and engage with the systems of domination we wish to see weakened. For example, I grew up in the Southern Midwest, and I can tell you a lot of racist rednecks love hip-hop - the more ghetto the better. So a like of music does not equate with a like of the people who make it, yet this is a huge presumption behind most music writing. The actual processes of identification are much more complex and problematic.
recording, production, inscription:
How does that broader context find itself onto disk (or tape, or whatever medium of inscription is used)? What traces remain, what tracks (like a fox's) are effaced or erased by the datasea (I think also here of the way data makes labour seem 'immaterial' a la that Hardt article I linked you to)? More specifically, as someone who is selling their music as recordings (either vinyl or data) - how does that process of transmission, transfer, exchange, decryption and re-encryption shape what you're doing (what's possible, what's necessary, what's redundant)?
Again, going back to economics, the quality of one's equipment determines the formats used, their sampling rates and bit depth, etc. True, there are plenty of lo-fi analogue instruments that cost a fortune, but in that case the term "quality" relates to some other aspect of their sound which, in the end, still has it's sound value equated with monetary value since whatever is culturally determined to be "better" - technically or aesthetically - costs more.
Simultaneously, on the consumer side, listeners are fixated with free MP3 files, free podcasts, free this and that... Record labels (including myself) usually only give away low quality soundfiles as a means of "protecting" the "real thing," but in fact these low-res files have unwittingly come to function as the "real thing." I was having a conversation with Dont Rhine of Ultra-red the other day, and he was talking about this. He said a lot of people he knows don't know anything about bit depths or compression rates, and don't really think about sound quality. Whatever finds its way into their MP3 player is accepted as-is. And I would agree, that seems to be the case with a lot of people I know, too. Taken to extremes, a lot of DJ's rip totally shit 96kbps MP3 audio from YouTube videos and DJ with them. Sad.
I guess this circulation of low-res files has replaced the function of used vinyl records, and buying promos. I mean, a lot of my vinyl records were bought used, and many even have the "Not For Resale" stamp on them - before the digital age I guess that was in some ways similar to tracking down a low-res MP3. Yet, even though they were bought for a dollar, they had full sound quality (barring scratches). But I guess today, people don't even spend that dollar. Besides, a lot of shops are not selling 320kbps MP3 or CD quality AIFF/WAV files, which also says something about how quality is not a concern for the industry. It's all about economics - smaller files take up less disk space on servers, take less bandwidth to transfer, all of which cuts costs for the major distributors who have enough content that those things add up. And all of those quality control issues affect how the materials we produce in the studio are distorted and re-presented to audiences. This is not new - vinyl records, cassettes, and even CD's all have serious quality limitations compared to most master recordings - but at least with physical formats there was a predictable, material baseline for how bad things got. With MP3s, people compress and recompress until the sound is in shards, and somehow people seem okay with it. The music continues to function somehow. Maybe this is because most people don't have big stereo speakers anymore. They either use tiny computer speakers, headphones, ringtone, bookshelf systems or 5.1 surround with subwoofers - none of which are appropriate for listening to music, in my opinion. Nice headphones would be the best option in that mix. Meanwhile, these same listeners are the great "judges" writing prolific comments on blogs, etc., arguing with one another as though they are actually invested in the music they haven't even heard properly...
stay tuned for part II of III next week...
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
One of the highlights for this blog last year was being able to share the recording of John Osborn killing it at Panorama Bar. So when John asked the ssgs to contribute to his radio show on TwenFM in Berlin, we were more than happy to oblige. Last Sunday there was a guest mix from myself, and in two week's time it will be PC's turn. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do with this mix, and at the last minute changed my mind and added a bunch of acid. Always a pretty safe move! The usual description for my mix applies: some really great tracks, hopefully ordered well, with one or two rough transitions. It turned out alright, but placed in the context of the rest of the show, it is pretty clear that John is the real DJ...
*Edit* The whole show has been removed from John's soundcloud, so this is just my mix:
Chris - TwenFM mix
1. Zwischenwelt - Shadow Being
Tune into the next show on 13 March to catch PC's mix, and for other editions, check John's soundcloud.