Sunday, June 22, 2003
Speaking of which: the Bandalero Riddim! Yes it's another great riddim complete with lilting sitar and addictive handclaps! And I hadn't even had time yet to mention the All Out or Snake riddims! Three cheers for the family iMac and streaming 1xtra!

Anyone heard that Timbaland/Rajeswari track? It's, like, pure bhangra! Not just desi/bhangra-pop a la Panjabi MC, but the sort of uptempo wedding-dancing stuff that my housemates put on around the house... except when Timbaland starts quoting Sean Paul's "Get Busy". The Panjabi Hit Squad played it on their show and then afterwards implied that it was too traditional even for them! S'alright, but it's hard to work out what he's trying to achieve - never in a million years would it crossover in the US... or am I not putting enough faith in the open-mindedness of radio?

That show is pretty great BTW, though it's eerie how much it sounds like the dancehall shows and vice versa (mostly the fault of dancehall's current bhangra obsession I think - at this stage I'd say about half of the current dancehall riddims are Indian-based, if not more).

Thursday, June 19, 2003
Simon's musings on deterritorialisation in music are incredbly insightful, but I think it's somewhat misleading to suggest that all the exciting stripes of music around at the moment - especially garage rap - are defiantly territorialised and not deterritorialised at all. It doesn't explain the awesome friction created by Jay-Z rapping over Panjabi MC, or the geographically enigmatic appeal of the Diwali riddim. And what's exciting me about garage rap at the moment is that it's not just about distilling the music down to a pure London t'ing - on that Nasty Crew set a lot of the thill comes from the collision of minimal 8-bar and MCing with Indian dazzle (4 minutes in) or exotic synth sparkles (22 minutes in) or plangent Chinese flutes (the last track). Stuff like this, like Elephant Man's "Fuck U Sign" or Foxy Brown's "Run Dem" are neither territorialised or deterritorialised but a jarring mixture of the two forces. Urban music is well placed to create a diaspora precisely because of its "facialisation", its emphasis on origin and authenticity rubbing up against its multiculturalist sonic impulses to create a friction that is alienating, indecipherable, enticing. The interlinks between the US, Jamaica, London and India are interesting because of both their continuity and their radical breaks with eachother - their relationships with eachother become an irresistible puzzle that we can't help but want to solve.

And maybe that is what we're always looking for in music - the sense of conflicting ideas and impulses that have yet to be assimilated or pared down to a single essence, making this music impossible to entirely unpack, a Pandora's box whose lid is always only half-open ('cos once Pandora's Box has been emptied of its secrets, what purpose does the box serve any more?). In fact I'm starting to think that the ability to "pare down to a single essence" is the fatal blow to the future possibilities of a sound. The initial attraction of Horsepower Productions was the savviness with which they took all of 2-step garage's burgeoning contradictions and expressed them in a simple formula - rhythm-as-androgyny. I loved them initially because of the clean precision with which they expressed this underlying secret to garage's success. But ultimately this distillation was the equivalent of revealing the secret behind the magician's tricks - 2-step from then on could no longer retain that sense of enigma that it had hitherto possessed, and while I do love In Fine Style and related stuff by the likes of Zed Bias, it sounds like a comprehensive dead-end in the same way that the rhythmically superlative drum & bass released by the likes of Metalheadz circa 94/95 (eg. Dillinja's "The Angels Fell") seemed to spell the absolute end-point of breakbeat mash-up. It's no co-incidence that the 8-bar rhythmic matrix took over completely at the same time as Horsepower Productions "perfected" 2-step; at this point the appeal of 8-bar appeal is much less open to clear articulation, much more problematic.

Meanwhile the problem with prog house as a musical style is that it's deterritorialisation distilled, purified, simplified and scrubbed clean, with none of the flux and tension that the term implies. And deterritorialisation only possesses these qualities to the extent that it is in contest with territorialist impulses. It's no secret that the great social engines for modernist literature were countries where forces of modernisation were still in contest with pre-modern structures - James Joyce's Roman Catholic Ireland, or the pre-industrial, largely feudalist Russia. Remove the opposition, and you remove a large amount of the meaning of any given force or impulse. The deterritorialism of current urban music can only be understood in the context of territorialism; its facialisation only derives meaning when contrasted with its essential interchangeability; its open-minded experimentalism exists in perpetual contrast with its monomaniacal thematic consistency. It's these very contradictions which make this music seem to thrive with potential, make it so incredibly attractive and addictive.

Sunday, June 15, 2003
I'm back at my parent's house to study for my law exams but instead of studying I'm listening to that awesome Roll Deep Sidewinder Mix from last year or whenever it was. I'm fully prepared to concede that this stuff might by now be, like, totally outmoded, but fuckin' hell it's thrilling. It's quite depressing though because in many ways I feel so emotionally attached to the process of following garage's twists and turns as they happen, but that's a task that's been difficult for nigh on a year now, and almost impossible since I moved out of home... while I just know that garage's vitality and isotopic instability has certainly not decreased over the same period.

This obsession with as-it-happens musical journalism might seem a bit myopic (these sounds will still be around in a month, a year, a decade) - acknowledged, but nonetheless since late '99 I've always considered garage to be my punk, my 'ardkore/jungle - a rollercoaster journey that I could immerse myself in if not culturally then at least sonically, theoretically... not just retrospectively imagining the scene's boundless imagination but experiencing it milestone at a time. I fell in love with garage hot on the heels of falling in love with thinking about music, and it's fairly obvious that this genre informed pretty much all of my ideas about music, chiefly my zealous focus on groove, and my cluster of obsessions within the borders of groove science: the dialectical relationship between familiarity and alienness, loose vs tight, base/superstructure models for musical arrangements, femininity embodied as the "incomplete" within grooves... the list goes on. To take the argument to its logical end, you could say that my love of microhouse is essentially and entirely a reflection of how easily so many of the conceptual stimulants which garage provides me can be transplanted over. So when I hear new garage, this music that plays so wonderfully with all of my obsessions, it's a bittersweet feeling - delight mixed with the knowledge that I'm barely scratching the surface.

PS. obviously all of this also applies for that amazing Nasty Crew mix.

Monday, June 09, 2003
So we get this advantage/problem with pop revivals that what gets revived is at once a distillation and a restriction of what had gone before - electroclash is supposed to be metonymic of the eighties, but it's hardly representative of it in any definitive sense, and that's a strength and a weakness: there's a brutalist focus to electroclash that would disappear if it, like, really tried to engage with A-Ha and Kids in the Kitchen, but the best eighties revival project so far has necessarily existed entire outside of electroclash discourse. I'm thinking of Future Bible Heroes, of course (though I don't have the new album). Merritt and co. at least seem to open the possibility for a much larger amount of the great impulses of the eighties to be harmonised - stiff rhythmic propulsion yeah, but also self-conscious grandeur and ambition, daring out-thereness and spine-tingling emotion (thinking of a tune like "Real Summer", which seems to hold the keys to New Gold Dream AND The Hounds of Love AND The Primitives in its hands). Memories of Love is one of my favourite albums because it seems to encapsulate so many possible routes towards transcendence.

I note from Blissblog and related sources that an alternate eighties is now in "tres hot" stage - I am of course thinking of the (romanticism X sonic daring) of The Associates, The Blue Nile, early OMD, Simple Minds circa Sons & Fascination New Gold Dream. This has been on the cards for a while - I remember having a conversation on ILX with Robin Carmody on the very subject in late 2000 where he mounted a passionate argument for this music's vitality. What's interesting though is how it's picked up steam: The Associates have been a perennial favourite of many right-thinking people for a while, but New Gold Dream was the lucky subject of an exceedingly fast critical rehabilitation on ILX over the course of last year, before which I don't think I'd heard it being paraded so confidently, so unprovocatively as a stone-cold classic (I know I shouldn't act as if ILX equates with the free-thinking world, but somehow it's hard not to). Recently there's been a number of signs on the local blogosphere: Jon Dale writing up The Associates, Cozen likewise covering The Blue Nile, and now the excellent K-Punk is trying to singlehandedly do the same thing for early Ultravox and John Foxx (not only has this piqued my interest in Foxx, but I want to note that k-punk is great reading, and it looks as though I was beaten to the punch with the "neuromantics" tag!). I wholeheartedly support this, and await with great interest Cozen's forthcoming New Pop Then and Now piece. Obviously this tres hot status is at least partially a result of a crop of new records that invite a reconsideration of this music all over again. As with "the lost generation", these were bands whose essential mission was in many ways left unfulfilled, dangling, inviting subsequent musicians to pick up the threads and run with them. And curiously, as with the lost generation, the temptation to name successors is stronger than the actual evidence of such, as bands and artists I might mention here (Coloma first and foremost, but also quite a few others) are really only offering hints and glimmers of what I might arbitrary deign to be their predecessors. But the formal similarities aren' t the point; what seems important is the sense that now is as good a time as any for bands to be mixing up pop songs and sonics, emotion and intellect, a dual emphasis on construction and performance, and while we're waiting for new strains of this impulse to emerge it's partially satisfying to return to the older attempts. It's the potential new environment, rather than accretion of existing records, that invites the sort of conjecture you're reading now.

Maybe worth pointing out that I've been listening a lot lately to OMD's Organisation, which in spite or perhaps because of "Enola Gay" seems to get overlooked in discussions of their early work. I think it's great - an astonishingly expansive, idiosyncratic, unpredictable collection that captures enough divergent impulses for twenty bands to feed on (the Martini Bros. in particular might have picked up much of their schtick from this album). Not just strident nuclear age pop, but eerie Kraftwerk shimmer ("2nd Thought"), Ultra Vivid Scene-as-produced-by-Aphex-Twin-esque dream-pop ("VCL XI" - - and I'm all for agitating for a new definition of the term "dream-pop" that can include a track like this), burbling vaudeville ("Motion & Heart"), greyscale ("Statues"), angry synth-punk ("The Misunderstanding"), minimal disco ("The More I See You"), sugary swoons ("Promise") and glacial drift ambient anthemics ("Stanlow" ). OMD seem quite happy to take each idea and run with it, with both vocals and arrangements shifting dramatically from song to song. As with many of the other records in this hazily defined area of tres hotness, Organisation derives its overriding sense of boundlessness from its contextual position between worlds - between glam, Kraftwerk, post-punk, disco, the New Romantics, art-rock, the Art of Noise. Between all of these worlds and confined to none of them, Organisation is one of those records, like Kate Bush's The Dreaming or A.R. Kane's I, that takes on the semblance of an endless treasure trove, a Pandora's Box for anyone with the bravery and perversity to open it.

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Moments in love: that glorious rising guitar in the already wonderful Timberlake chorus of Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is The Love".

Oh my god, y'all have to hear the Mudslide Riddim! A devastatingly simple but effective digital mindmasher. Search:

TOK - Seems As If
Elephant Man - Mani Mani Girls
Assassin - Want To Be Free
Bounty Killer - War Combo


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