Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chilled to Spill: How the Oil Spill Ruined Chillwave's Summer Vacation

My latest Difference Engine column at PopMatters on Chillwave, Hauntology, Drag, and Hypnagogic...and oil as liquid ghost. Please read and discuss.

Must give some credit to this article at Ballardian, whose ideas are alluded to briefly in parts. Any time you mention environmental devastation, you should always turn to Ballard since he stated it better before the world even really started to come undone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Catholic Skin

Nice to see that last year's review of the excellent issue of the late 1970s album by hi-NRG god Patrick Cowley and Indoor Life's Jorge Socarras was mentioned by Socarras himself in this article on its creation over at The Interstitial Arts Foundation.

Vs. Corporate Bullying

A fascinating (old) post by Lennin's Tomb here worth considering on the abundance of American workplace and school massacres. Not sure if this is a direct reading of Mark Ames's going postal or a commentary on it, but there are certainly some interesting thoughts on how (often) these shootings represent a kind of tipping point blowback of corporate bullying. Of course, this in no ways justifies such abhorrent behavior, but it seems silly to think that we can ever stop these things from happening without examining the real causes of the violence rather than hawking convenient scapegoats (guns, videogames, etc.):

"And so, we might discover with a shift of perspective that these massacres are comprehensible as a revolt against intolerable, desperate conditions, a result of a sustained blitz on workers' security and income.

"Well, there is plenty of evidence for the latter, and you wouldn't have to read Ames' book to find that out. The statistics on wage growth, inequality and workplace safety tell their own tale, as does the almost psychopathic denial that is issued by corporate spokespeople every time a similar 'tragegy' occurs. But Ames discusses the full range of the attacks on workers since 1980. This includes not only the atrocious ways in which wealth has been transferred to the rich, while ever-expanding numbers of American workers have to put up with no health insurance, lousy wages, diminishing benefits, eroding pension schemes, and longer hours, but also the much-celebrated drives by people like Al 'Chainsaw' Dunlap and General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who insisted that workers have 'unlimited juice to squeeze', and that fear in the workplace was an invaluable tool of business. Indeed, the assumption of the right of capitalist firms to terrorise their staff is so ingrained that Ames has no difficulty turning up editorials and statements from successful CEOs on the topic, as well as some detail on the practise. One document, an internal memo from the CEO of the Cernel Corporation, is sickening and vile in its attempt to bully the middle managers into bullying the staff more effectively. The car parks aren't full at 8am, the boss whines, people are being allowed to come in late, and leave early. The managers are told that if they don't make sure that everyone is at work, arriving half an hour early and leaving half an hour late, they will be fired: and this is to be achieved by out-of-hours emergency meetings with staff in which they are threatened with the boot. Staff numbers are cut, facilities are cut, benefits are frozen, etc etc. There ought, says the boss, to be pizza men arriving at 7.30pm to feed starving workers. And there is no shortage of official corporate ideology legitimising this. Welch explains, for instance, that fear is "healthy, like pain is healthy" because it "gets you out of that comfortable equilibrium". It destroys "comfortable equilibrium" alright - sanity, marriages, families, livelihoods, communities..."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Feeling/ Not Feeling


Emeralds- Does It Look Like I'm Here? Astonishingly beautiful. Sampled their first (widely distributed) disc and didn't care for it, but, here, like on Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport, they've really produced something massively moving.

ARP- The Soft Wave- Of all the mostly pleasant komische to come out in the past few years, only ARP seems to really have handle on the kind of alchemy which made it special. Most notable, however, is the vocal track "From a Balcony Overlooking the Sea", which could have been plucked from Another Green World. Downright stunning.

Submerse- A few real cheeseball ditties in this canon, but I'm only now catching on to this whole "future garage" thing and digging approximately 50% of it.

Synkro- the closest thing to a Burial clone we've got, which is fine since Burial doesn't seem to be in a hurry to put out more.

Sun Araw- On Patrol
Blondes- "Moondance"
Dennis Ferrer- "Hey Hey"
Grouper- "Hold"
Cut Copy- "Where I'm Going"
Gayngs- "The Gaudy Side of Town"


Oneohtrix Point Never- Returnal- Yeah, it's good, but Rifts is soooo much better.

Delorean- Subiza- Can't be sure yet if the vocals are noxious or tolerable. All I know is that "Seasun" got on better without them. The music is otherwise delectable.

Mount Kimbie- Crooks and Lovers- A bit on the fence about this one. Based on their EPs and remixes, I expected it to blow my mind through multiple orifices. Not quite. Was excited to hear (possibly conjecture) that they use FruityLoops to make their tracks. As a fellow FLooper, that makes me respect them more.

the "Drag" or "Witch House" genre- Speaking of FruityLoops! Drag might just be the most Fruitiest Loopiest genre to ever gain national spotlight. Obviously, I see nothing wrong with the technology (see above), but some of the artists (Mater Suspiria Vision, Salem) seem to take no pains to correct many of the problems with it (flat sounding drums, easily recognizable presets, etc.). And it's not even that many of these tunes are all-out bad (there's a few decent ones), but it's a shock to hear someone like Salem get crowned with next-big-thing status from otherwise exemplary pubs like FACT. Geezus, m0dnAr sure were ahead the game, I guess. I have a huge gripe however with the "Witch House" tag as this music has nothing,repeat NOTHING, to do with house music as it currently or ever has stood in the past. The house tag seems to just be a way to give some kind of underground "cred" to a scene that's essentially post-hip-hop electro-goth or screwed darkwave or maybe even just plain coldwave without being as much of a blatant homage as the Wierd acts are. The only house-ish act included in the current roster of Drag acts is Pictureplane, who, despite an excellent little song called "Goth Star", doesn't really seem to fit in with some of the other artists. Judging by the Youtube presence, many of these artists are quite adept at making psychedelia out of foreign horror flicks, but musically I'd take early Ministry/Cabs/Gristle/SPK/Coil/Young Gods, et al. anyday.


How To Dress Well: Yet another example of apartment bedroom pop. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this is bedroom pop that is scared shitless to sing with any passion for fear that the neighbors might hear. It's bad enough the kids don't want to pay for music, at least pay for some studio time if you're not allowed to make any noise. Also, is there a rule that this music has to be compressed to shit so that you're hearing the top sound bars peaking against the top of the register?

Seefeel - Faults by Warp Records

Seefeel- "Faults"
Can't even tell you how excited I was to hear about new Seefeel material, especially since they proved with last year's Maximo Park cover on the Warp comps that they still had it. I named changed my music project in homage to Seefeel, for chrissakes. Not abysmal by any stretch, but definitely weak by Seefeel standards. And I loved that last Disjecta EP.

Panda Bear's new single: eh....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Right to Work Less

Brilliant editorial here by Nina Power on how Britain's Right to Work campaign has shifted from the Right to Work Less. As a member of a family wherein both parents are forced to work, the cruelty of capitalism's effects on family is becoming quickly apparent. As a country subservient to business interests, America could give a flying fuck about families and has every intention of making sure that you have as little input into how your child is raised as humanly possible. I could go into detail, but I'm trying lately not to pop too many blood vessels in my head.

Some choice cuts from Power:

"The mass entry of women into the workforce has corresponded with an overall stagnation or diminution of wages. It is as if employers have taken the very worst aspects of women's work in the past – poorly paid, precarious, without benefits – and applied it to almost everyone, except those at the very top, who remain overwhelmingly male and incomprehensibly rich."

Power is that rare feminist who doesn't waste time like other feminists patting themselves on the back for assimilating into wage slave culture without demanding that the workplace adapt to the specific needs of women. The idea has always been that women are equivalent to men, so they can perform jobs just as easily as men, which completely ignores the complex social and biological dynamic of male privilege.

"The supposed opposition between the desire for motherhood and the desire for a career, for instance, obscures the reality of the situation in which many mothers work because they have to, that childcare is punitively expensive – and that this "choice" is usually no choice at all."

Reminds me also of this from Raj Patel, on how the raising children is subsidized specifically because businesses couldn't survive if they had to somehow find a way to pay for that cost:

"Marx also made another point that I think is tremendously important, which is that modern capitalism doesn’t pay for household work. Modern capitalism doesn’t pay for the business of making new workers. Bringing up kids, educating them, and building new community won’t be paid for by capitalism because that’s a subsidy that capitalism needs in order to survive. Some U.N. researchers figured out that women’s unpaid work (in 1995) would cost $17 trillion if we were to pay market value -- pretty much half the total world output. Yet women own less than 10 percent of the world’s resources in developing countries and less than 10 percent of the land. And this is not an accident, it’s integral to the way the system works."

Must say, I really feel many of the ideas of working/non-working discussed by K-Punk in posts




"When I was unemployed, I was convinced that an absolute ontological gulf separated me from Work. Work - which, like "being in a relationship" - would automatically confer on me the status of being a Real Person. But the horrific irony was that one couldn't achieve this status. You couldn't become a Real Person by getting a job. It was the other way round: only Real People could get work. Being unemployed wasn't a cause of shame; rather the sense of shame which I carried around as if it was the core of my being was what prevented me getting a job. So my job applications and interviews had an air of total hopelessness about them. I know there's no way you would give the job to an insect like me, and we both know I couldn't do it even if by some miracle you offered it to me, but ... It took me years to realise that job interviews were a ritualized exchange where the point was to determine whether you knew what the right communicative etiqutte was, and that telling the truth made you some weirdo. Surely even those who have not been in the Castle know that one doesn't behave like that ..."

BTW, reading about this Fairy Jobmother crap makes me dread seeing the more extreme American version.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inception to the Rule

Another great criticism Inception by Dan Fox at Frieze and how the language of dreams is translated into the vernacular of Hollywood. Again, I did enjoy the film, but there are many aspects of it that were troubling.


Simon Reynolds with a great article on the Hardcore Continuum, why the younger generation might reject the idea, and where today's music (doesn't) stands laterally along the 'nuum spectrum

Also worth reading is Carl Neville's response here

Neville does well at identifying something that seems crucial to the generational divide Reynolds suggest:

"Probably, before, I’ve termed this the hipster sublime, but trying to think about generational issues more generously, can’t it be the case that there really are two split sensibilities here. Between a generation that had nothing available to it and spent all its time looking to the future and waiting for something to happen and a generation for whom everything had already happened, to whom everything was present and who had to look around in all directions at once?"

Though the current generation has been guarenteed by late capitalism to earn less than their parent's generation, musically they're in a period of overabundance. The 'nuum and its notions of historicity seem to implode at the split between the have-nots ("a generation that had nothing available to it and spent all its time looking to the future and waiting for something to happen") and the have-alls ("a generation for whom everything had already happened, to whom everything was present and who had to look around in all directions at once").

The University as Copy Shop

Here's the ever interesting Rob Horning on the rise of plagiarism among college students and the speculative assumption that this is a Web 2.0 phenomenon. Most notable however is the following passage:

"Students, I suspect, don’t take attribution seriously because the work they are being asked to do is not serious to them. They don’t have much of a sense of scholarship as a collective enterprise, or of what they do in college as scholarship. With gen-ed classes, they know they are just marking time and doing busy work for the most part. They are right to think that plagiarism is not “a serious misdeed” that is somehow different from any other form of academic dishonesty. To pretend otherwise is to serve the ideological bidding of the lords of intellectual property.

"The implication of plagiarism hysteria is that scholarship is a process of claiming ownership of proprietary information, an exceedingly unnatural attitude that students have always needed to be indoctrinated into, particularly if they want an academic career. This usually involves a series of ritualized genuflections in the form of citations of the recognized masters of a particular discipline as part of a student’s professionalization into the academy.

I can't say I agree wholeheartedly with this, but it's rather convincing that students are not convinced at school of the value of their scholarship. It's just assumed that their studies are valuable since they are studying them, but, as Horning points out, many of them just take it as "busy work" to fill time between drinking sessions and job applications. If people were to enter the corporate culture first and then the university, there would be no problem at all with plagairism or any other kind of equivalent cheating, as this is the natural order of success. If this is the future kids have to look forward to, what reason would they have to take seriously any kind of uncompensated tasks they must complete on the way to this dead end?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dead Channels

Great Article Here at PopMatters about outdated technologies and a sense of the uncanny that evokes Toffler, Ballard, Lynch, Gibson, et al. Author David Banash makes central the use of the static channel as laid out by Gibson's opening lines to Neuromancer: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I've never actually read Neuromancer, despite having a column named after another Gibson novel, but I find the metaphor Banash pulls up fascinating. It seems that it will be harder to engage the younger generation (particularly my newborn daughter's generation) in just how...unfinished...the world seemed when we were growing up. Television, not yet the stuff of 500 channels, had yet to be conquered. Gigantic, bulky, satellite TV, the dominion of the super-rich, promised exotic broadcasts from far and wide, but there was no schedule to it. In fact, in order to get certain channels you had to actually POINT your satellite (and before it, your antennas) in different directions. In this world, videodrome was out there somewhere, waiting to transform you into the new flesh. Things you had never even thought of were out there, just waiting for you to reach the right latitudinal destination. By contrast, in the era of digital cable, the platform is already laid out for you. All your options are there: 500 channels, nay 1000, and still nothing on.

Also notable in the history of dead television (or the ghost box) was the presence of scrambled channels, channels whose signal was blocked. These were broadcasts which required some level of arcane passage. Yet, at a psychedelic tilt you could glimpse inward at this restricted world and the resulting anamorphism was perhaps even more exciting. Will sex ever be as interesting to kids without the scrambled porn network? In the age of YouPorn, sex becomes less fantastical, more of a consumable than something that requires coded instructions and an intuitive level of understanding. No titilation. Instant pleasure. Negative jouissance.

Banash also makes reference to test cards, noting how strange they seem in retrospect, as he states in this powerful passage: "Often broadcast throughout the night, the test patterns seemed decidedly occult, charged with a kind of technological magic...the gaze of this Plains Indian seems almost mystic, looking to a spiritual rather than a material horizon, and so the figure becomes uncanny, disturbing. Most test patterns share something of this, and their uncanny power is, I think, much like Gibson’s image of static. The patterns marked a potential. They completed the broadcast circuit, but they utterly negated the banality of actual television programming. Instead, they simply made present the terrifying power of television, marked its presence—we are connected, something could appear. This is their utopian aspect—since they demonstrate the technological power as a pure form, the viewer of the test card confronts the sheer power of the medium without the reassuring or depressing banality of actual programming."

Interesting too that he should see the Indian head as looking to the future, when it is such a totem of he past. The sight of the Native American must always remind us of the world that existed in fine working shape before the European imperalists conquered it. Maybe, the makers of television were trying to convey this with their cryptic test card- that beyond the programming day lies the natural world, the world of the natives, a world that proves that all this virtuality is only a smokescreen. In the post test card era, is there anything but television left? Was there even a history that brought us here or a future to look forward to? I'd imagine dissertations could be written about that Indian Head alone.

I'm surprised he didn't make reference to the BBC test card of a girl playing tic tac toe with a clown puppet, more than likely the source of a generation's worth of nightmares.

Disturbing, no?

And reality television is perhaps the antithesis to the dead channel, the satellite dish, and the test card- an attempt at constructing a cognitive map of the existing world. Reality TV promises full coverage of the human condition as it currently exists, qualified only by the standards and practices laid down by the gigantic media conglomerates that own all of the 1000 channels. In reality TV, we can mistake living for "acceptable living". I mean, Mythbusters is a fine enough show, but where's the program called "Mythmakers"? Where's the Indian Head?