Jay Glass Dubs/Eli Keszler/King Midas Sound/Nihiloxica/Daphne Oram/Ossia/Finlay Shakespeare/Tilliander
“Who we are has never been more incompatible with who we need to be. What we have become is the greatest threat to ourselves and the planet. We have been perfectly groomed, psychologically and spiritually, for disaster. We have become hard. We are the people of the apocalypse” – John F Schumaker
Forty-six-years after the New York Dolls established that frustration and heartache is what you got, we are slowly beginning to recognise the surreality of the human personality crisis at the heart of the uber-consumer experience. The state of the average being’s social character is that of mere marketing personality: condemned to eternal suckling on the cathode ray nipple, except even that analogy has now been superseded by cyborg-served algorithmic moon beams done super rapid on a laser beam. The age of cultural infantilism is upon us, psychological neoteny is where it’s at, baby. Thoughtlessness is the new black; the cult of the individual dictates that my pain and sadness is more sad and painful than yours. Narcissism, sociopathy, dishonesty, inequality, all strutting their stuff along a catwalk near you. This moral blindness in the face of mutually assured destruction has become the norm. When I was at school, we had a mock election, the apathy party won. How prophetic that now seems: “We are at risk of losing our sensitivity to the plight of others” – Zygmunt Bauman
Unitary Urbanism emerged from the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus/Lettrist International‘s Alba Platform in 1956, and was further contested by the Situationist International (SI) well into the early 1960s. At its core, it concerned the rejection of functional approaches to urban architectural design, and the compartmentalised practice of detaching art from its surroundings. Unitary Urbanism challenged the grayscale of metropolitan edifice to question where function ends and play begins: “‘Whatever prestige the bourgeoisie may today be willing to grant to fragmentary or deliberately retrograde artistic tentatives, creation can now be nothing less than a synthesis aiming at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life. … A unitary urbanism—the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies—must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate” – George Williams
Urban Solitude, meanwhile, has materialised from the post-everything miasma of cultural collapse to conceptualise the irony of dislocation theory and disconnection in urban environments. Metropolis: a place called home by many, and a home to many without a place. Urban Solitude imagines the technological bubble we inflate around ourselves to shield us from the energy and competition of the metropolitan landscape, one that can overwhelm every sense of our bodies if left to its own devices. Despite the intensity of our urban surroundings, there are gaps in the space/time continuum, and we access our seemingly cherished solitude via uber-modern means: when left to our own devices. Absence of conversation; lack of human connection; a dearth of any collective experience, the human mind loses focus on what it means to be a part of something bigger than the self. Externally, you are consumed by the streets, you feel a part of their energy. Internally, you are distracted and detached, bonded algorithmically, a slave to the rhythm. Solitude becomes the co-existence of being just another face in the diseased arteries of the metropolitan thoroughfares. Urban Solitude expresses the death of the collective experience to question where society ends and self begins.
Triumphant in the aftermath of ‘Epitaph’ (Bokeh Versions), Jay Glass Dubs broadcasts yet further emissions from the eternal echo chamber in the form of a 7″ for Joachim Nordwall‘s Dub On Arrival imprint. ‘Thumb Dub’/’Index Dub’ deliver exemplary dubwise deconstructionism of the highest order in just under 10-minutes. ‘Index Dub’ is the more abstract of the two cuts, with hints of the choralism of ‘Epitaph’ interred deep within the competing reverberations. ‘Thumb Dub’, meanwhile, errs backwards, into JGD’s recent past, with a cut and dub that vaguely resembles St Etienne‘s version of ‘Only Love Will Break Your Heart’, but I could be mistaken. I often am.
Hot on the heels of the unmitigated glory of ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press), Eli Keszler is back once again, like the renegade master that he most assuredly is, with a new 3-track EP, ‘Empire’ (Shelter Press). Keszler’s unremitting quest for stillness, tranquility and beauty in a dystopian metropolitan landscape continues at languid pace. A soundtrack to urban solitude, clinging abstractly to the illusion of order during unspecified decline, Keszler refines and redefines similar tropes to those explored on ‘Stadium’ at the intersectionality of free jazz, expressionism, percussion and electronics.
‘Solitude’ (Cosmo Rhythmatic): “a meditation on loss. A loss that has been enforced and unexpected. It’s about processing the irrational and incessant feelings of rejection and loneliness, like listening to the tenderness of love disappear to be replaced by skewed logic”. Reduced to a duo, once again, Kevin Martin and Roger Robinson reconvene as King Midas Sound, for a tortuous 12-track trawl through the North Sea of despair. Dressed in partnership with Japanese contemporary photographer, Daisuke Yokota, his monochromatic tones and textures ideally compliment the obsessive, compulsive negativity that dominates ‘Solitude’. Over minimal electronic soundscapes, Robinson recalls the intensity, diction and delivery of Linton Kwesi Johnson in his dread beaten and bloodied despair. This is a painful listen, and anyone who has danced with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross will recognise the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance at play. Melancholic and immersive, ‘Solitude’ is the sound of an amplified pain and sadness more sad and painful than even our own.
Nyege Nyege Tapes maintain their productive start to 2019 with this impressive cassette release from Nihiloxica. ‘Biiri’ expands on the promise of their 4-track self-titled cassette debut with this further 4-track exploration. Honed by a year on the road, Nihiloxica dig ever-deeper into the rich seams of the Bugandan techno underground to mine the progressive developmentalsim at the heart of ‘Biiri’. Fusing electronica to the indigenous core of their traditional influences, Nihiloxica evidence the immemorial at the epicentre of their darkness as a portal to transcend space and time.
Dropping as I type on Modern Love associate, Young Americans, ‘Oramics’ is the long-overdue vinyl reissue of the Clive Graham compendium of Dapne Oram, material originally issued on CD in 2007. Electronic music pioneer and contemporary of Delia Derbyshire, Oram was the founder and first director of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. Distinguished by its eclectic light and shade, ‘Oramics’ has been mastered at Dubplates & Mastering in Berlin to allow the listener to travel back in time for that ‘almost-there-when-it-mattered’ experience. Over two and a half hours through 44-tracks, this is a journey into sound art at the moment of its inception. The sublime ‘Bird Of Parallax’ could have been recorded just yesterday, for all these ears are worth. I defy anyone to explain the process by which such visionary practice can transcend decades to remain artistically relevant to this day. Mic up that Kango, Blixa, this is the sound of ground being broken, echoing down the wormholes of relativity.
Daniel Davies, aka Ossia, has been toiling away on what would eventually become ‘Devil’s Dance’ (Blackest Ever Black) for almost as long as some of us have been anticipating it. In this temporary unequal world, that expectation can still capture the imagination at a time when we are actively encouraged to lower any expectation is a wonder in itself. I’ve been waiting on ‘Devil’s Dance’, doggedly, for months, a period of time equivalent to eons in this era of the short attention span. Set in concrete, built in the vast spaces between sounds, ‘Devil’s Dance’ transpires as it transcends, to dwarf its contemporaries. Sprawling from the speakers with Babylonian intent, Ossia captures the multifarious essence of myriad soundsystem cultures down the ages to fashion a masterpiece of isolationism that invokes the all-encompassing dread at the intersection of solitude and society. At its widest vistas, ‘Devil’s Dance’ embraces the modern composition of Lucy Railton‘s ‘Fortified Up’ with the oscillating glissandi of ‘Vertigo’, the 23-minute culmination of Ossia’s transcendental meditations. Elsewhere, ‘Radiation’ offers glimpses of Mats Gustafsson‘s Fire! through the lens of Ollie Moore‘s sombre sax, whilst ‘Hell Version’ delineates comparable hauntalogical tundras to those of Demdike Stare‘s ‘Wonderland’. Ossia has masterfully defined 2019 barely two months into its infancy: this is a record that will stay with you far beyond its allotted fifteen fame-filled minutes with this fanzine writer.
Previously unknown to me until a month ago, the variegated talents of Finlay Shakespeare’s ‘Domestic Economy’ (Editions Mego) are a revelation to behold. Steeped in the lineage of 80s electro-pop and dark-wave, ‘Domestic Economy’ invokes a pantheon that includes The Normal, Robert Rental, Thomas Leer, Blancmange, Depeche Mode, The Human League, Heaven 17, et al. With a vocal that echoes Mark Hollis, Robert Smith and Peter Gabriel at times, Shakespeare exudes an existential angst that defines the edginess of his art as a balance of emotional and rational practice. Supported and abetted by Russell Haswell, Shakespeare’s uncanny ability to bring retrospective structure to improvisation fair takes one’s breath away. ‘Domestic Economy’ is a post-everything implement that no informed household should be without. It’s a record that keeps on giving, one that will rest close to this turntable for many years to come.
And finally, to complete an admirable roster for this month, and thematically conclude this column, the second offering from Joachim Nordwall‘s Dub On Arrival imprint is this absolute belter from Andreas Tilliander. Swathed in the aura of Basic Channel, ‘Expect Resistance’ conjures the revolutionary intent of the Situationist International (SI) as viral carrier demanding a generational shift away from apocalyptic Urban Solitude towards ‘Respect Existence’. The greyscale is no longer the oppression of our architecture, but instead the oppressive architecture of our very minds. Art interpreting life, life interpreting art. Interpretation is everything. Interpretation matters. We have to reconfigure out what’s going wrong here. One of theses days, we’ll get ourselves organasised. Find the common ground. Identify commons. When we share, everyone wins.
Black To Comm/Commodo/E B U/G36/Jay Glass Dubs/Sam Kidel/Jay Mitta/Nkisi/Szare
“The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments: because the stimuli from the algorithm doesn’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process, of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage, is addiction” – Jaron Lanier:
The surreality of existence in Perfidious Albion in the era of surveillance capitalism is duality incarnate. Do you cut down on gear or live in fear? It’s a big decision in a town called Malicious Intent. The algorithms of the night harvest your behavioural surplus. Data-as-labour science inform material infrastructures: stacks. These computational power systems delineate automated platforms that recursively break down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same or related type, until these become simple enough to be solved directly: “Platforms offer a kind of generic universality, open to human and non-human users. They generate user identities whether the users want them or not. They link actors, information, events, across times and spaces, across scales and temporalities.” – McKenzie Wark:
Same as it ever was: 95% of your thoughts are the same as yesterday; 80% of your thoughts are negative. Algorithms know this. Algorithms know it’s easier to make sad faces than happy faces. As with all dependencies, it’s not the high that ultimately moves us, it’s the anticipation of that high. The memory of that high. The ghost of that high: hauntalogical repetition, a future high that can only ever be lower: “It’s about the hunt, the search, the excitement of the chase. And that has to do with the brain’s incentive and motivation circuitry, the nucleus accumbens and its projections to the cortex, and the availability of dopamine” – Gabor Maté:
No matter what we may think we need. No matter what we may be told we need. Want never gets. The actual experience of ownership pales in comparison to the sociological imagination of expectation. Everything’s for sale, baby. Everything’s reduced. Reduction diminishes discourse. Polarity diminishes responsibility. Nobody’s fault but mine? “While it is impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without the digital, it is easy to imagine the digital without surveillance capitalism. The point cannot be emphasised enough: surveillance capitalism is not technology” – Shoshana Zuboff:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana. Progress deems it necessary to replace original problems with a more general or complicated problems in order to initialise recursion: there is no systematic method for finding proper generalisation. Instead of progressing, isn’t it time we regressed? What if the answers don’t lie in our future, but in our past? “The most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence. If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look” – David Graeber And David Wengrow:
Duality seeps through the brickwork of cultural edifice, like rising damp. Every sad face, every happy face. Surplus data divides us. Fear has gone viral. The very platforms that allegedly help us to communicate with each other instead encourage the isolation that gives birth to self-doubt. The doubt that means we are ultimately on our own, even when surrounded by people. This creeping bent, this dystopian paranoia emits from every pore of Black To Comm‘s ultimately disturbing ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings’ (Thrill Jockey). Marc Richter‘s first new material under the moniker since 2014 is a departure of sorts from the tramlines of the project’s lineage. Like a Burial record on Southern Lord: the curtains are drawn, the robes are donned, the dry ice swirls, and hope lies crushed on the stage floor. Richter himself concedes that ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings’ is deliberately uneasy listening: “In recent years it has become very difficult to promote a real underground culture. Social media seems to have standardised people’s opinions, and suddenly everything seems either black or white, while I’m personally more interested in the grey areas”. Assembled from unspecified samples from Richter’s vast collection of vinyl, he’s keen to point out that he does not regard his music as ambient. Manipulation, slight-of-hand within the shadows of the creative process, reveals an enigma of sound that defies categorisation. ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings': a transcendent experience at the dark heart of the human machine.
Building on the promise of last year’s smouldering ‘Dyrge’ (Black Acre), Commodo delivers arguably his finest work yet, in the form of stellar two-tracker: ‘Rikers’/’Daytona’ (Deep Medi Musik). I wasn’t entirely convinced by Commodo’s ‘How What Time’ full-length for Black Acre back in 2016, there was little sense of a true identity, just the nagging suggestion that Commodo still hadn’t found what he was looking for. ‘Dyrge’ reignited my interest, and although ultimately frustrating in its limitations, most of the core economies that make ‘Rikers’/’Daytona’ so expressive can be found nestling within its norms and values. There are nods to Ryuichi Sakamoto, alongside an undeniably kinship with the likes of Henry Greenleaf: an emerging generation shaped by the liberation of ‘Untrue’.
Bristolian Ella Paine primes us for her debut long player as E B U later in the year with this enticing four-tracker for No Corner. ‘Falling’/’Light Show’ arrive with accompanying mixes from O$VMV$M and Broshuda respectively, reducing the glitch of the originals to paired down dub and muted bleep. Dressed in artwork, design and print by Harry Wright & E B U (front cover), Broshuda (back cover), O$VMV$M (insert), Studio Tape-Echo (centre label design/layout), and 16 Tonne Press (print), E B U is set to capture hearts and minds in 2019.
Last seen underpinning Nazamba‘s utterly essential ‘Vex’ (Pressure) at the back end of 2018, Japanese anarcho-dub-punks G36 return with the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Floor Weapons Vol. 1′ (Pressure). ‘No Escape’/’Black Mass’ (Hotline) ramp up the expectations further: the siren call modulation of the ‘No Escape’ clarion, pulsating riddims pinning the future to the floor of the now with a body fold takedown; the ritualistic inference of ‘Black Mass’, an underground collective with malevolent intent. Pressed on heavy manners wax in an edition of 500, in printed reverse board sleeves with stickered centre labels designed by Studio Tape-Echo, G36’s stock is rising.
A memory of someone no longer with us. An inscription on a tombstone: ‘Epitaph’ (Bokeh Versions) arrives to confirm that Jay Glass Dubs is effectively giving notice on everything but his primary identity, with this, his debut long player. Half a decade of subverting contemporary dub mores under his belt, Dimitris Papadatos‘ philosophical approach to echo-chamber science slips off This Mortal Coil to rise like a phoenix on ‘Epitaph’. Featuring vocals from fellow Greek songstress Yorgia Karidi, and saxophone from Ben Vince, the record pushes way beyond the confines of previous EP, ‘Plegnic’ (Ecstatic), to forge a panoramic new vista of sound that I’m only just beginning to explore. Personally, I preferred ‘Plegnic’ to JGD’s 2018 release with Leslie Winer, ‘YMFEES’ (Bokeh Versions), but that inconsequentiality is now rendered redundant, as ‘Epitaph’ is a staggering progression from both. Like a 4AD compilation forced into an airtight studio with This Heat, this is a record that spoils the listener with its breadth, as it taunts them for not being able to take it all in at one sitting. Jay Glass Dubs is dead: long live Jay Glass Dubs.
Operating at the level of enemy within the infernal machine, Sam Kidel moves from the call centre culture of ‘Disruptive Muzak’ (The Death Of Rave) to subvert the stacked platforms of Google’s data centre in Iowa, with ‘Silicon Ear’ (Latency). Triggered by the humming banks of Google’s servers, Kidel performs what he calls ‘mimetic hacking’ to extract algorithmically-generated notes, rhythms and melodies from cabling installations to create: “music that deafens the silicon ear”. As Latency duly advise: “The generative audio patch Kidel used to make Voice Recognition DoS Attack seeks to disable the functionality of voice recognition software by triggering phonemes (the smallest units of language). The project, first developed for the Eavesdropping series of events in Melbourne, exploits a weakness in voice recognition that cannot distinguish between individual voices. When you speak while the patch is playing, the cascading shards of human expression mask your speech and thus protect you from automated surveillance, questioning our vulnerability in the face of global data giants. In amongst these displaced sounds, Kidel fed additional musical elements into his patch to create the version of the project heard on this release”. ‘Silicon Ear’ actually has to be heard to be believed, Kidel is at the top of his game here, epitomising everything this month’s column seeks to connect.
Nyege Nyege Tapes pick up 2019 where they dropped 2018, with the frenetic insistence of Jay Mitta’s debut long player for the label, ‘Tatizo Pesa’. A companion record to 2018’s exemplary Bamba Pana release, ‘Poaa’, ‘Tatizo Pesa’ keeps the BPM register up in the 180s with expedited alacrity. Blending jab jab, soca, footwork, hardcore and flash core, Mitta rattles the rimshot with his syncopated Singeli, Sisso Studio style. By welding traditional Tanzanian folklore to Western post-rave culture, Jay Mitta, Bamba Pana and their ilk are triggering a tsunami of East African dance music destined to wash up on shores hemispheres away from their epicentre.
NON Worldwide collective curator and activist, Nkisi, is as oracular as her name would suggest. Nkisi are spirits, or an object spirits inhabit – this is entirely appropriate, as the music she has created on ‘7 Directions’ (UIQ) is nothing short of sacred. Currently residing in London, Nkisi was born in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo, and raised in the city of Leuven, near Brussels, exposing her to Congolese music and Belgian hardcore and gabber. These seemingly disparate influences, alongside the African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo and the writings of Kongo scholar Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, inform the timeless polyrhythms of ‘7 Directions': “When we hear before we see, voice and sound waves interplay between consciousness and hallucinations. Allowing the rhythmic to experiment with conditions of perception, disrupting predetermined expectations. Through manipulating rhythm, we create movements of energy, this energy determines collective behaviour and allows for new ways of producing knowledge. When we hear before we see, we can think about predicting the future and the manipulation of imagery that happens. Through visionary possession we are renewed from within, in a system of systems. The pattern of patterns in being, it reaches and remains forever incomplete”- Nkisi. This has been on repeat chez Encoule ever since it landed, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Following a new year period binge-listening to Zuli‘s ‘Terminal’ (UIQ), we seem to be stuck in UIQ cycle here in the tMx bunker.
“Over the course of nearly a decade of releases, Szare have have been a mainstay of UK dance music, cementing their reputation through a string of essential releases for labels like Horizontal Ground, Idle Hands, Field, Project 13 and Different Circles“. Their three-track debut for newly minted Bristol label, Polity Records, ‘Miner’/’Cut With Glass’/’Drop Shadow’, is their most expansive output to date. Intense and precise throughout, all three cuts signal a developmental trajectory close to vertical. Up for preorder now at Rewind Forward, but not scheduled to drop until early February, this one is already freaking out the geekometer in the tMx bunker.
“In a world that feels like it’s regressing into tribalism, many of us who don’t fit into any one specific group identity feel sidelined at best” – Zuli
When a body’s in trouble, who do you talk to? When you want to feel somebody and the body won’t let you. Who do you talk to? Who? In this age of dislocation, we seemingly struggle to connect. With ourselves. With others. With anything of any profound meaning or import. Those once trusted institutions, wilted on the vine. Prolific communicators, hanging on the line. Who do you talk to?
When a system’s in trouble, who do you trust? In these end of capitalist surrealism days, it gets harder every twenty four hours to tell the rehearsed from the propaganda; the support from the marketing; the control from the authority. There is no opinion internal. No organ eternal. No mast to pin those colours to. No shoulder to cry on. No pail for those crocodile tears. Fear is our only weapon. Fear is our only enemy. Traditional dominators, exposed in a hail of shame. Established promulgators, the song remains the same. Who do you trust?
In the season of lists, subjective objectivity becomes hypernormal. Graded, faded, paraded. Floated, gloated, bloated. MSM, social media, fixated on extremes. Sociological imagination flourishing in-between. We don’t seek to be prescriptivists. We won’t arbitrate. We trust that you will form your own sentences and paragraphs from the trakMARX alphabet. Potential. Purpose. Passion. We’ll leave it there.
A is for:
Alpha Steppa – ‘Liberation’/’Pray’ (Zam Sam Sounds)
Alter Echo & E3 – ‘Ah Mi Guide’ (Scotch Bonnett Records)
Thomas Ankersmit – ‘Homage to Dick Raaijmakers’ (Shelter Press)
Aspect – ‘Stand Clear’/’Untitled’ (Droogs)
Felicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – ‘Limpid As The Solitudes’ (Shelter Press)
Shinichi Atobe – ‘Heat’ (DDS)
B is for:
Daniel Bachman – ‘The Morning Star’ (Three Lobed Recordings)
V/A – ‘bblisss’ (bblisss)
John Bence – ‘Kill’ (Grooming)
Ursula Bogner – ‘Recordings 1969-1988′ (Faitiche)
C is for:
The Caretaker – ‘Everywhere At The End Of Time – Stage 4/Stage5′ (History Always Favours The Winners)
Conjoint – ‘Earprints’ (DDS)
D is for:
V/A – ‘Danske Båndamatører // Danish Tape Amateurs 1959-1976′ (Institut for Dansk Lydarkæologi)
Sarah Davachi – ‘Let Night Come On Bells End The Day’ (Recital) // ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing)
Deadbeat – ‘Wail Ball & Cry’/’Dub Ball & Flange’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Demdike Stare – ‘Passion’ (Modern Love)
E is for:
Julius Eastman – ‘The Nigger Series’ (Blume)
Ekuka Morris Sirikiti – ‘Ekuka’ (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Moulay Ahmed El Hassani – ‘Atlas Electric’ (Hive Mind Records)
Exael – ‘Collex’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
F is for:
Mark Fell – ‘Intra’ (Boomkat Editions)
4625 – ‘4625-001′ (UVB-76 Music)
Flame 1 – ‘Fog’ / ‘Shrine’ (Pressure)
G is for:
Henry Greenleaf – ‘Fold Together’ (Par Avion)
G36 – ‘Floor Weapons’ (Pressure)
H is for:
Head Technician – ‘Profane Architecture’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Tim Hecker – ‘Konoyo’ (Kranky)
Heights & Worship – ‘Selassie’s Song’/’Break Every Chain Mix’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Lonnie Holley – ‘Mith’ (Jagjaguwar)
Holsten – ‘Abscess’/’Momentum’ (Droogs)
I is for:
J is for:
Nicolas Jaar – ‘Pomegranates’ (Mana)
Jay Glass Dubs – ‘Plegnic’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Jan Jelinek – ‘Loop Finding Jazz Records’ (Faitiche)
K is for:
Roland Kayn – ‘Simultan’ (die schachtel)
Eli Keszler – ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press)
Sam Kidel – ‘Silicon Ear’ (Latency)
L is for:
Gabor Lazar – ‘Unfold’ (Death Of Rave)
Mary Jane Leach – ‘(f)lute songs’ (Modern Love)
Stephen Legget – ‘Bathhouse’ (Firecracker Recordings)
LQ & Headland – ‘Fat Neck’/’Mineral Run’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Lurka – ‘Heat Mover’/’Battery’ (Timedance)
M is for:
Manonmars – ‘S/T’ (Young Echo Records)
Nozomu Matsumoto – ‘Climatotherapy’ (The Death Of Rave)
Abul Mogard – ‘Above All Dreams’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Move D – ‘Kunststoff’ (Ava Records)
N is for:
Nazamba – ‘Vex’ (Pressure)
Di Luigi Nono – ‘Non Consumiamo Marx Musica Manifesto Numero 1′ (die schachtel)
Marja Nuut & Ruum – ‘Muunduja’ (130701)
NYZ – ‘SHFTR FRQ” (The Death Of Rave)
O is for:
Ojar – ‘Cycles’/’Fear Not Dub’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
154 – ‘Wherever You Go, I Will Follow’ (Boomkat Editions)
O Yama O – ‘S/T’ – (Mana Records)
P is for:
Bernard Parmegiani – ‘Mémoire Magnétique, vol.1 (1966-1990)’ (Transversales Disques)
Bernard Parmegiani – ‘Les Soleils de l’Île de Pâques/La Brûlure de Mille Soleils’ (WRWTFWW Records)
Pendant – ‘Make Me Know You Sweet’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
Pugilist – ‘Roll Off’/’Hemisphere’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Pessimist – ‘SPRTLZM’/’SCIFI’ (Pessimist Productions)
Q is for:
R is for:
Lucy Railton – ‘Paradise 94′ (Modern Love)
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – ‘Red Ants Genesis’ (Hospital Productions)
S is for:
Schlachthofbronx – ‘Dun Dem’/’Soundbad’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
SKRS – ‘Paradise Magic Traxx’ (Ancient Monarchy)
Sons Of Kemet – ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ (Impulse)
Strategy – ‘Dub Mind Paradigm’ (Khaliphonic)
Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus – ‘Chat’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
T is for:
TNT Roots – ‘Chant Down Babylon Verse 2′ (5 Gate Temple)
Topdown Dialectic – ‘S/T’ (Peak Oil)
U is for:
Uon – ‘S/T’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
V is for:
Versa – ‘Seed’/’Planting’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
W is for:
Teresa Winter – ‘What The Night Is For’ (The Death Of Rave)
X is for:
Y is for:
Young Echo – ‘S/T’ (Young Echo)
Z is for:
Zuli – ‘Terminal’ (UIQ)
It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. See you in 2019!
Lonnie Holley – King’s Place, London – 10/11/18
We set out on a voyage of discovery, literally. End-of-days-rain reducing the M40 to a river, unafraid of becoming the sea. We sallied forth, for London Town: to dock with the mothership. Crawling, past Marylebone, past Euston, past King’s Cross, at a rate of o.1mph. A Dickensian canvas unfolding, precipitation, wall-to-wall carwash hair, thousands of previously waterproof garments, reduced by now to sodden tarpaulins, flapping in the idiot wind.
King’s Place was easy enough to find, as most King’s places are. They tend to stick out from the surrounding real estate like crystal palaces in the mire. Situated next door to The Guardian offices, I’d wager I wasn’t the only fanzine writer in the house on this most inclement of evenings to witness the nearest thing that America has to a genuine prophet in 2018. We’d arrived, supposedly in good time, following the debacle that saw us arrive for Tim Hecker‘s recent Barbican extravaganza by the skin of our teeth. We’d hoped to eat at a leisurely pace prior’s to the night’s performance, in a bid to avoid the subsequent heartburn often the exclusive territory of digestive tracts of a certain age.
For a venue of its size and alleged stature, you’d have expected the King’s Place to have come equipped with a fully functioning King’s Car Park, located conveniently, for the benefit of loyal subjects, arriving with gold, frankincense, myrrh and Lonnie Holley tickets. Sadly, this was not to be the case, and we lost a valuable hour circling the King’s Cross environs, at the mercy of a triumvirate of twittering maps apps, bartering for 4G bandwidth and the driver’s precious attention. After two or three laps, and a wrong-way-down-a-one-way-street experience, we finally orienteered our way to a functional carpark, a 15-minute wander away from the venue. The ticket machine presented the next problem, as it refused card after card, contactless or digitised. The sense of joy on finally extracting our valid parking ticket was one bordering on euphoria. Thankfully, the deluge has partially abated, as we skipped through the puddles, jumping over kerbs.
Once finally inside, the venue itself was warm and welcoming. A sizeable arts-centre complex, on many levels, we were able to graze on burgers and sandwiches, washed down with lashings of iced mineral water, arriving in our seats a few moments before Lucinda Chua took to the stage. Chua, a London based artist/composer and sometime-collaborator with FKA Twigs, delivered an extended cello composition, abetted by a bank of foot-pedals, sampling and manipulating her instrument in real time, to impressive effect. An early highlight occurred when a King’s Place employee strutted self-importantly towards the stage to remove and confiscate Chua’s smouldering incense sticks with an exaggerated movement that reeked of comic petulance. Chua’s annoyance was palpable, but, to her credit, she didn’t miss a stroke. On moving to piano, she revealed a stunning vocal, to perform an unnamed tune of majestic fragility, and then she was gone.
With the stage set, Lonnie’s manager made a few final adjustments to the equipment, before taking his place behind the tapestry-draped keyboard to inform us that if we’d enjoyed Lonnie’s ‘MITH’ (Jagjaguwar) record and were looking forward to hearing songs from it tonight, we were going to be sadly disappointed. He explained that Lonnie doesn’t do repeat performances, and that what we were about to receive was a stream-of-consciousness channelled exposition of improvised intergalactic communication with mother universe. Lonnie duly arrived without greeting, to take his place behind his keyboard. Flanked by Nelson/Patton: Dave Nelson (trombone and synth) and Marlon Patton (drums and Moog bass), Holley plugged us into the mainframe, downloading the universe into the collective frontal lobes of the audience.
Each song began with Lonnie leading the way with a few piano chords and a vocal ad-lib, imploring Nelson/Patton to lay down a constantly evolving undercarriage, and take it to the bridge. Every song performed loosely echoed a compadres from ‘MITH’, in terms of structure and shape, but everything performed on the night was plucked from the hovering mothership: transmitted to earth by telepathy; beamed out from Holley the transmitter by laser. In between songs, Holley disseminated information, drawing us in.
An immaculate communicator, my sense of being in the presence of a unique human being was overpowering. Holley said he’d been over our sea, under our sea, that he’d come to see Queen Elizabeth. The bells of old London Town were ringing for him. He said he’d felt unwell earlier that day, and that monetarily he’d doubted his own strength. Yet, here he was, performing his duties, delivering his message. Essentially: he’d come in peace; he’d come in love; he’d come to empower us. We can all do anything we want to, if we want it badly enough. He told us that he was one of 27-children; that his one regret was missing out on an education; that he knew we were all subject to curfew, that he’d get us all home to our mothers on time. I felt the wisdom of the ages exuding from Lonnie Holley; I felt a warmth of connection that I’ve rarely felt from a performer; I felt the love in the room; I felt the love in the universe, although I knew he was making it all up as he went along, it still touched me deep inside like nothing else I’ve ever witnessed.
I knew there and then that this would drive me back to ‘MITH’ with immaculate connection. I may not have heard it performed as promised in the King’s Place promotional materials, but somehow I’d been involved in an exchange greater even than the sum of its parts. As the final notes faded, Holley lifted two thumbs up to us in salutation: “Thumbs up from the universe”. Then they took their bows.
Making our way out of the auditorium, genuinely affected by the performance, we were amazed to find Holley out in the foyer, greeting his audience, signing autographs. As I thanked him and went to shake his hand, he grabbed it with both of his, and wrapped his thumbs around my wrists: “Thumbs up from the universe”, he said. “Thumbs up from the universe”.
Demdike Stare/Exael/Eli Keszler/Mary Jane Leach/Maarja Nuut & Ruum/Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up”
It is said that it is easier to imagine the end of civilisation than to imagine the end of capitalist surrealism. As a boy from 1962, I have a genetic predisposition that dictates that I find it easier to imagine the end of civilisation than imagine my own demise. Whether the thief finally arrives dressed in a post-ironic ‘armageddon’ t-shirt in the dead of night, or holding a BBC microphone in broad daylight, only my faith in the quantum indestructibility of eternal energy can save me now.
As the sinister pantomime otherwise known as 2018 limps into panto season, only one man can truly define where we are at. And we may find ourselves creating our own freedom, with the weight of Raoul Martinez‘s accidental birth restrictions draped around our auras. As techno-scientific progress and pseudo-intellectual critical thinking slug it out in the ring according to Byung-Chul Han‘s psychopolitical rules of combat, the propensity of a nominal elite to believe in their own omnipresence matches the arrogance of their puppeteers on the seafront of effrontery.
We live in times where we are told repeatedly by the MSM that anything is possible: populating Mars; automation and the end of surplus labour value; AI ascendency; continued economic growth and prosperity. Yet, as Slavoj Zizek expounds in his latest masterwork, ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’ (Penguin), it is no longer possible for the fiscal elite to fund hospitals, schools, social care or end homelessness. In 2019, the real revolutionary act will be to redefine what is possible. We are drowning in empty freedoms. We are overdosing on unfreedom.
Zizek spoke recently to The Economist in promotion of ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’. In line with trakMARX editor Guy Debord‘s position on plagiarism, we though it fitting to partially reproduce that interview here without express permission:
The Economist: What do you mean by “the era of post-humanity”? What characterises it?
Slavoj Zizek: It is not primarily the automatisation and robotisation of the production process but much more the expanding role of science, machines and digital media in social control and regulation. The detailed registration of all our acts and habits enables the digital machine to know ourselves, even our psyche, better than we know ourselves. In this way, social control no longer needs to be exerted in the old “totalitarian” mode, through open domination—we are already manipulated and regulated when we act freely, just following our needs and desires.
But there is another feature which justifies the term “post-humanity”: the prospect of the direct link between our brain and the digital network. When this happens, we lose the basic distance which makes us human, the distance between external reality and our inner life where we can “think what we want.” With my thoughts, I can directly intervene in reality—but the machine also directly knows what I think. In the last years of his life, Stephen Hawking experimented with a technology to communicate with the world—his brain was connected to a computer, so that his thoughts could choose words and form sentences, which were then relayed to a voice synthesizer to be spoken aloud. Fredric Jameson noted that, today, it is much more easy to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. This sarcastic insight is today becoming reality: it looks that, in some new form, capitalism will effectively survive the end, not of the world, but of humanity.
The Economist: Brexit and the rise of populist politicians seem to show that voters want to be protected from the harder edges of globalisation. So, back to Jameson’s thought, is it still easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the free-market consensus associated with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan?
Mr Zizek: As with fascism, I think that populism is simply a new way to imagine capitalism without its harder edges; a capitalism without its socially disruptive effects. Populism is one of today’s two opiums of the people: one is the people, and the other is opium itself. Chemistry (in its scientific version) is becoming part of us: large aspects of our lives are characterised by the management of our emotions by drugs, from everyday use of sleeping pills and antidepressants to hard narcotics. We are not just controlled by impenetrable social powers, our very emotions are “outsourced” to chemical stimulation. What remains of the passionate public engagement in the West is mostly the populist hatred, and this brings us to the other second opium of the people, the people itself, the fuzzy populist dream destined to obfuscate our own antagonisms.
The Economist: In 1968, Jacques Lacan told student protesters in Paris that “what you aspire to as revolutionaries is a new master. You will get one.” Does the appeal of populists and so-called strong-men reflect a desire for authority that liberal democracy can’t provide?
Mr Zizek: Yes, but in a way different from the one that Lacan had in mind in his pessimist reading of the 1968 turmoil. For Lacan, the consequence of 1968 was the decline of the old (directly authoritarian) figure of the master and the rise of a new master figure, than of the expert—what Lacan baptised the “university discourse.” Just think about how today economic measures are justified—not as an expression of political will and positive social vision but as a consequence of neutral knowledge: it has to be done, this is how markets work.
Just recall how the experts in Brussels acted in negotiations with Greece’s Syriza government during the euro crisis in 2014: no debate, this has to be done. I think that today’s populism reacts to the fact that experts are not really masters, that their expertise doesn’t work—again, just remember how the 2008 financial meltdown caught the experts unprepared. Against the background of this fiasco, the traditional authoritarian master is making a comeback, even if it is a clown. Whatever Trump is, he is not an expert.
The Economist: Do you want a new master?
Mr Zizek: Surprisingly, YES, I do want it. But what kind of master? We usually see a master as someone who exerts domination, but there is another, more authentic, sense of a master. A true master is not an agent of discipline and prohibition, his message is not “You cannot!”, nor “You have to…!”, but a releasing “You can!”—what? Do the impossible, ie, what appears impossible within the coordinates of the existing constellation. And today, this means something very precise: you can think beyond capitalism and liberal democracy as the ultimate framework of our lives.
A master is a vanishing mediator who gives you back to yourself, who delivers you to the abyss of your freedom. When we listen to a true leader, we discover what we want (or, rather, what we “always-already” wanted without knowing it). A master is needed because we cannot accede to our freedom directly—for to gain this access, we have to be pushed from outside, since our “natural state” is one of inert hedonism; of what Alain Badiou called the “human animal.”
The underlying paradox here is that the more we live as “free individuals with no master,” the more we are effectively non-free, caught within the existing frame of possibilities. We have to be pushed or disturbed into freedom by a master.
The Economist: You have argued for the “occupation” of the digital grid, but how can ordinary people hold big tech firms to account if only a tiny fraction of us are capable of comprehending an algorithm?
Mr Zizek: True, we—the majority—don’t understand the details of algorithms, but we can easily understand how we are controlled by the digital grid. Moreover, I don’t think the experts themselves fully understand how the digital grid really works, plus those who exploit their knowledge also do not know the technical details.
Do you think that when Steve Bannon mobilised Cambridge Analytica, he understood the algorithmic details of its work? Or take ecology: to grasp global warming and the ozone hole, you need science which most of us don’t understand, but we nonetheless can fight against the prospect of ecological catastrophe.
There are risks of manipulation here, of course, but we have to accept them. We have to abandon the naïve faith in the spontaneous wisdom of everyday people as a guideline of our acts. That’s the paradox of our era: our most ordinary daily lives are regulated by scientific knowledge, and the dangers of this (often invisible) regulation can be fought only by a different knowledge, not by New Age wisdoms and common sense.
I first encountered Demdike Stare back in 2012, with ‘Elemental’ (Modern Love), but my head was awash with punk fury back then, and the experience passed me by. They sat there stubbornly on my hard drive during the ensuing years, however, and with each further tentative exposure, I became more intrigued. It wasn’t until the arrival of Testpressing #7’s ‘Rathe’ (Modern Love) in 2015, that I truly fell head-over-heels. With the release of ‘Wonderland’ (Modern Love) in 2016, that mild infatuation became full-blown obsession. Informed by the work of recent signings to their own DDS label, Equiknoxx, ‘Wonderland’ got down and dirty with digital dancehall: ragged ragga-jungle, dubbed-out synthesis, 808-patterned overload, spiral loops, bouncing breakbeats, and snapping grooves. ‘Wonderland’ hiccuped, stumbled, and flipped. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. ‘Wonderland’ had arrived: music for haunted dancehalls. Over the course of the last two years, Demdike Stare, Modern Love and DDS Records have become central to my ever-expanding vinyl collection: broadening my horizons, expanding my parameters. Alongside the aforementioned Equiknoxx, DDS have since gifted me Shinichi Atobe, Conjoint, Orior and Robert Akai Aubery Lowe. Whilst Modern Love has brought me Lucy Railton, Turinn, G.H. and Andy Stott. Without the Demdikes, I’d not have found Move D‘s ‘Kunststoff’ (Ava). The Demdike era has been influential, to say the least.
It was with a mixture of surprise and acute expectation, then, that I approached ‘Passion’ (Modern Love), Demdike Stare’s out-of-the-blue 9-track double album, as it landed last week. With no preliminary fanfare, no pre-release hype, the arrival of this floor-filling pedigree filly caught me on the hop. It’s not been far from the turntable since, though, and first impressions are that it’s more strident than ‘Wonderland': pedal pressed closer to the metal; windows of abandon wide open; all caution thrown wildly to the wind. In a year crammed full of essentials, it’s most definitely a contender. From the stuttering oscillation of the opening ‘New Fakes’, to the atmospheric divisional joy of the closing ‘Dilation’, DS explore the nooks and crannies of sound system culture with a frenetic wantonness. ‘At It Again’ sets the pace, a furious maelstrom of radiotelegraphy. ‘Spitting Brass’ fills those dancehall bassbins with solid aural gold. ‘You People Are Fucked’, a mashed up killer, the record’s most memorable bass line, in and out in under three minutes. Fucked up pop music, in a dancehall style.
A copper-bottomed absolute belter flew in this month, in the shape of another double album, this time Eli Keszler‘s ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press). Having spotted this one coming a mile off, thanks to Shelter Press bunging the clear wax edition up for preorder on their Bandcamp page, my internal hype machine had been working overtime, deep within my psyche. I was hopped up on ambition for these sides, long before they landed. I’d heard a couple of tracks, watched Keszler’s career blossom (oPN/Daniel Lopatin, Lauren Halo) with interest, and I’d decided I was going to dive into this one from the top board, weeks before the postman finally knocked. Sitting somewhere between Conjoint‘s ‘Earprints’ (DDS) and Jan Jelinek‘s ‘Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records’ (Faitiche), ‘Stadium’ looks set to trouble the scorers as we head into list season. Recorded in response to Keszler’s moving of his home from South Brooklyn to Manhattan, ‘Stadium’ could be seen as a reflection on the psychogeographical, environmental and sociological aspects of change. Relaxed yet urgent, complexed yet schematic, this is avant-jazz outsiderdom striving for inclusivity.
Hot on the metaphorical heels of the recent ‘blisss’ compilation and Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus’ stupendous ‘Chat’ 12″, West Mineral hit pay dirt, once again, with this essential debut long player for the label from Exael. ‘Collex’ (West Mineral) builds on the promise of 2016’s ‘Miche’ (Lillerne Tape Club) cassette, mutating somewhere between the Berlin-infused dub of Chain Reaction Records and the constantly deconstructing fallout from ground-zero Chicago techno. ‘Collex’ sounds like it could have been both written and recorded by AI, it feels that ahead of the game. Metal machine music for a compromised human world.
Meanwhile, back at planet Modern Love, four pieces for flute and voice composed between 1985-2018 comprise Mary Jane Leach‘s ‘(f)lute songs’ (Modern Love). A contributing member of NYC’s avant-garde community since the 1970s; an active member of DownTown Ensemble, MJL has worked in her time with luminaries such as Arthur Russell, Ellen Fullman, Peter Zummo, Philip Corner and Arnold Dreyblatt. Following the release of ‘Pipe Dreams’ (Blume Editions) in 2017, MJL’s star has risen accordingly here in the UK, and Modern Love have duly embarked on their second avant-classical outing of the year with ‘(f)lute songs’. Featuring Italian flutist Manuel Zurria (Alter Ego), alongside treated vocals, it’s genuinely impossible throughout to discern which is which. The four pieces here combine in a 37-minute suite that takes the listener on a journey of somnambulistic reverie, equally stunning in emotional depth to that of Sarah Davachi‘s ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing): “Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt” – Kant
“The presiding spirit of ‘Muunduja’ (shifter) is a state of being between states, the warping of time’s arrow using sound”. Estonian duo Maarja Nuut & Ruum’s debut is a spectacular triumph, forging the gaping chasm between traditional folk music and electroacoustic expression. ‘Muunduja’ (130701) takes its time to establish its plateau within the psyche, but once there it resolutely refuses to relinquish its position. A record to be heard without and felt within, ‘Muunduja’ is a riot of competing textures and timbres. Affluent in its resources, expectant with promise, Maarja Nuut & Ruum conjure the spirits of their ancestors to forge future soundscapes of glitchy reverence.
Recorded back in the winter of 2017, this new vinyl edition of ‘Red Ants Genesis’ (Hospital Productions) sees Low Jack & Equiknoxx join Dominick Fernow’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement on this remixed riot of collaboration frenzy. With Phillippe Hallais, Gavsborg and Time Cow joining him at the controls, Fernow joins that loop of dread artists connected to me by their association with Demdike Stare, and, having previously been largely unmoved by much of Fernow’s work as RSE, ‘Red Ants Genesis’ has been somewhat of a revelation. Dark ambience in a dancehall style, the deeply dubbed sonic tar of these recordings coats the lungs, challenging one’s tympanic membranes to rupture.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER