The Peasants’ Revolt began in May 1381, triggered by a recently imposed poll tax of 12-pence, levied against every adult, wealthy or poor. The revolt was not just about the ethical distribution of capital, however, these peasants had a raft of issues around social justice, inequality and civil liberty. Their demands focussed on employment rights, social mobility, and an end to the oppressive practice of serfdom. Inspired by the work of proto-human rights activist, John Ball (John McDonnell), the revolt was led by Wat Tyler (Jeremy Corbyn). On 13th June, the rebels reached the capital, and traversed London Bridge. Once in the city itself, they attacked civil targets, destroying legal records, opening prisons, sacking homes, and killing individuals they suspected were associated with the Royal Government.
The parallels between the Peasant’s Revolt and GE2017 are heavily pregnant with artistic licence: May humiliated in June, forced into an unethical pact with the DUP, described as an agreement of ‘confidence and supply’, possibly in breach of both the Good Friday Agreement and the British Constitution. Humbled and ridiculed on the shores of political wilderness, berated, even, by members of her own party, themselves no strangers to backstabbing or assassination, condemned to form the spineless backbone of future LSE theses on ‘how not to conduct an election campaign’. Throughout the process, the May backhand wobbled, as she performed U-bend-turn after U-bend-turn, stumbling effortlessly, tripping through the cornfields of her own mind, like the Black Knight in ‘Monty Python’s Holy Grail': waffling, cowering, as the mighty Corbynator wielded Excalibur through her mandate, slashing her stealthy plans for the private sale of the NHS to ribbons: “It’s only a flesh wound!”
After a seven-week campaign that saw Labour produce a fit-for-purpose manifesto that set the hearts of neo-socialists alight, Jeremy Corbyn has become the most powerful political figure in the UK. On a night destined to go down in political history, or, at the very least, Owen Jones‘ special Guardian journalist’s notepad, the largest Labour swing since the Atlee administration of 1945 smashed neoliberalism in the face with a 3-wood of pubic contempt, simultaneously fucking the Blairite tendency in the arse with a rusty sand wedge. The youth of Britain stirred, doubtless mobilised by the shock of a relevant cover story in the NME, as hundreds of thousands of young people got off their lazy arses to kick the fuck out of pompous Tory politicians whose lazy stereotypes idly propped up the bars of gentleman’s establishments across the land. Old and young united in fear, motivated by survival principles usually associated with the kind of post-apocalyptic landscapes pre-election debating audiences were seemingly including in their policy demands.
As Corbyn filled public spaces with his adoring acolytes, fox hound Barry Gardiner ripped apart the paramilitary wing of the BBC press corps, tearing out the throats of Murdoch’s minions on a daily basis. Emily Thornberry captured hearts and minds with her meticulous accuracy and her unflappable delivery, the antithesis of the cliche-by-numbers stable strength of the May crash test dummy. Like a mannequin doused in grey paint, all the May could do was implore us to watch her dry. In car-crash media interface after car-crash media interface, she hurtled through windscreen after windscreen, in search of private health care initiative leverage mechanisms.
Meanwhile, bombs went off, atrocities were committed, the May refused to debate, and the BBC moved ever-further into an identity crisis that basically rendered it the Official Propaganda Department of the Conservative Party: for Lord Haw Haw, read Laura Kuentssberg. The May appeared in cowsheds, lay-bys, farmer’s markets, and well known dogging sites, but, as the cameras duly panned back, the big reveal was nothing more than a handful of specially bussed-in colluders, crisis actors on their day off, pimping for extra cash to cover dementia-related support for their elderly relatives. As the campaign trundled on, the elite’s desperation to smear the unimpeachable Corbyn forehand grew more desperate by the hour: Corbyn was in league with the IRA, Hamas, the PLO, he’d once gone on a picnic with Vladislav Surkov, during which he’d professed his love for the work of Yury Shevchuk. As all of this played out, the greatest trick Boris Johnson ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.
Day by day, poll by poll, the gap closed. The right wing media, unable to subvert reality any longer, screamed: “mind the gap!” Through a tear in the space-time-contiuum, relative truth began to seep into the consciousness of the masses, by cultural osmosis. Palpable hope filled the air like pollen, forced down by the proliferation of CO2 gasses emitted by Murdoch’s patented Anti-Corbyn spray canisters, issued to all News Corporation journalists. As Tory millions were pumped into their faltering campaign through an offshore pipe under the cover of darkness, Labour activists controlled social media platforms with brilliantly executed content, including a series of shorts by renowned director, Ken Loach. Tory ministers were leaving copies of their manifesto in whorehouses, expensive restaurants, massage parlours and airport departure lounges, in the vain hope that they could lose every last copy before voters worked out that they were emptier than George Osborne’s soul. The ever-growing list of celebrities endorsing the party of The Many dwarfed Jim Davidson and Andrew Lloyd Webber, who urged anyone who’d listen to consider the plight of The Few. Amber Rudd insisted there was no magic money tree, but there was, and it was taking on a decidedly tangoed hue (later found to be Dutch Elm Disease, or William Of Orange Disorder).
As June 8th eventually receded, a nation considered the least painful way to keep abreast of incoming results and unfolding events. The smart money settled on Chanel Four’s ‘Alternative Election Night’, hosted by Jeremy Paxman, the cunt’s cunt. Despite the obvious pain of having to stomach Ann Widdecombe, not even the irrepressible smugness of David Mitchell or the tedious gameshow hostery of Richard Osman could dampen emerging enthusiasm for the rapidly collating data. The exit polls had manifested earlier, smothered in the afterbirth of optimism, like a newly born lamb. Throughout the ensuing night, those who give two shits about anything else other than themselves lovingly licked clean every Labour hold/gain emitted from the womb of the ballot box.
Dawn eventually revealed a Parliament hung on Gallows Hill. The loser had won, and the winner had lost. Neoliberalism lay fatally wounded on the Rococo lawn of its Painswick mock-Tudor mansion house: “Come back, I’ll bite your bloody legs off”. The May refused to do the decent thing, and by 12.30pm on the 9th of June, she was on her knees, begging the Queen to let her form a government, with the aid of a Loyalist Paramilitary terrorist organisation, somehow intrinsically different to the terrorist organisations she had so recently condemned Corbyn for fraternising with.
Throughout the climax to the campaign, my soundtrack to this pantomime of performance has been the fifth-album-proper by post-everything Tyneside troubadour, Richard Dawson. ‘Peasant’ (Weird World), a record truly worthy of such narrative conceit, is a double concept album set in the dark ages (circa 450AD to 780AD) in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bryneich, which covered North-East England and South-East Scotland in the 6th and 7th centuries. Developing Dawson’s fascination with Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North), ‘Peasant’ explores the asset-based functionality of community through the eyes of twelve of its members: ‘Herald’, ‘Ogre’, ‘Soldier’, ‘Weaver’, ‘Prostitute’, ‘Shapeshifter’, ‘Scientist’, ‘Hob’, ‘Beggar’, ‘No-one’ and ‘Masseuse’. Dawson himself describes ‘Peasant’ as “a panorama of a society which is at odds with itself and has great sickness in it, and perhaps doesn’t take responsibility – blame going in all the wrong directions”.
Dawson generally considers his art to be community music, and in essence the central theme of ‘Peasant’ challenges the process of divide and conquer that is at the heart of the neoliberal personalisation agenda. Dawson suggests that the all-encompassing darkness of the dark ages has much commonality with our own fractured society, circa now. At its most pessimistic, it ponders whether Britain always been broken, simultaneously promoting the healing properties of connectivity in a considerably more optimistic manner. Dawson considers it to be an album of hope, a record he wants to be absorbed by as many people as possible.
Musically, ‘Peasant’ evolves beyond the structural minimalism of ‘Magic Bridge’, ‘The Glass Trunk’ and ‘Nothing Important’, for his fullest sounding record yet. Resplendent with flowing melodies, quivering on the edge of Dawson’s trademark avant-skronk, the signature sound of the album is that of jug band, equally in thrall to The Incredible String Band, The Magic Band, The Fugs, Davey Graham, or, most pertinently, Comus‘ 1971 opus, ‘First Utterance’ (Dawn Records). Dawson is aided and abetted by the Davies family: siblings Rhodri (pedal harp, lever harp, gong ), Angharad (violin) and father, John (trumpet, flugelhorn, soprano, trombone). Dawson himself handles guitars, drums and electronics, and the ensemble is augmented by a chorus of Jake Billingsley, Nathalie Stern, Sally Pilkington, Nev Clay, Dawn Bothwell, Rachael Macarthur and Vic Eynon. Recorded and produced by Sam Grant at Blank Studio in Byker, the sonic depth and breadth of ‘Peasant’ is equal to that of the Tyne itself.
Beginning with appearances, the record’s sleeve is a departure from the largely black and white textures of Dawson’s previous three outings, more in keeping with that of the Weird World reissue of ‘The Glass Trunk’. The lurid red and yellow of the cover’s graphics, and the use, once again, of the photography of Ben Wayman, establish a visual lineage that feels as if it may progress further down the line with future releases. Pressed on vibrant yellow vinyl, the limited edition comes with a set of twelve postcards, and is signed by Dawson personally:
Having spent a week or so in the company of ‘Peasant’, I’m slowly beginning to get to grips with the sheer exuberance of its expansiveness. The first few listens were exhausting, such is the enormity of this record. Having grown used to the intimacy of Dawson’s work over the last few years, the grandiose arrangements and the fullness of sound take some digesting. It has been suggested in some quarters that ‘Peasant’ is not a record that grows on you, but that seems an utterly ridiculous claim, to these ears. Every time I’ve sat down with this album thus far, I’ve discovered something new lurking in the aural miasma.
‘Peasant’ opens with the brief instrumental, ‘Herald’, a fanfare for the uncommon man, that quickly dissolves into a series of parps, vaguely reminiscent of Stewart Lee farting the ‘National Anthem’ during his ‘My Cat Jeremy Corbyn’ routine. ‘Ogre’ follows, the first song to be issued to Dawson’s impatient fanbase (Dawson had been working on what would become ‘Peasant’ when I last spoke to him at Supersonic Festival, in June of 2015!), back in April, announcing the timbre of what was to be expected in June. The song itself is as big and as ugly as its title suggests, stretching Dawson’s vocal dexterity from warm whisper to soaring falsetto, shimmering with Davies’ harps, hurtling towards a closing stanza that sets the choral tone for much of what will follow in its wake.
The second taster, ‘Soldier’, is up next, and on election day, and long into that historic night, I clung to the relevance of its lyrical theme: “I am tired, I am afraid, my heart is full of dread”. Post-middle eight, and post-exit poll, the mood changes: “My heart is full of hope”. ‘Weaver’ enters discordantly, then somehow manages to outdo its predecessors in its inherent magnitude, before rising to a choral denouement that invokes some hitherto unrecorded Ben Wheatley soundtrack. The video that accompanies the song portrays Dawson dancing around a walking cane, uncannily resembling a younger John Lydon, whilst lyrically the song contemplates the nature of gossip, spreading its own strangely prescient rumours, again hugely relevant on election night: “precipitating the early onset of Labour”.
‘Prostitute’ examines the oldest profession with tender refrain, flecked with psychedelic guitar lines and plinking, plucking nylon. ‘Shapeshifter’ struts along at a relative pace, as Dawson peaks and flows through the parameters of his range with untold glee. The most upbeat song on the record, Dawson has a long association with shamanic tendencies, and the subject of shapeshifting retains relevance to many prominent figures in our contemporary world. Nothing is what it seems, everything hidden within plain sight, that is the slight of hand of capitalist surrealism. ‘Scientist’ continues the forward motion, but at a slightly lower tempo. Make no mistake, these two songs are key to the continuity of ‘Peasant’. The song ends with Dawson’s take on the big rock ‘final bonk’, but on nylon guitar, instead of a Gibson fed through a wall of Marshalls.
‘Hob’ is another election night favourite, nestling delicately at the outward bound section of the record. The song tumbles down the stairs of inflection with a gentle shove from one of Dawson’s sweetest melodies, as old as time, as fresh as a the spirit of victory in the air. As the slowly stacking numbers pointed more assuredly to a hung Parliament on the morning of June 9th, the line “at the murmur of dawn there’s a knock at the door” assumed an ever-ominous portent for the May. The peel-of-bells riff of ‘Beggar’ is a campanologist’s delight, punctuated by stomping percussion that jumps out of the mix like a jack in the box. Angharad Davies’ violin shines with radiant beauty here. The penultimate ‘No-one’ is the record’s second brief instrumental interlude, bubbling with electronic interfaces, like a burst of static interference from a radio station of the future beaming its dissonance backwards into history.
‘Peasant’ closes with ‘Masseuse’, Dawson’s single most ambitious statement to date. The song recounts the tale of the quest for ownership of the enigmatic ‘pin of quib’. Riding a bastardised 80s hair metal riff interspersed with breakdowns that equal the darkness of ‘The Vile Stuff’ in texture and tone. For 10:49, every trick explored in the previous 50-minutes is tweaked to perfection for a stunning climax, basically a mini-opera in itself. The silence that follows only emphasises the brilliance of what just taken place. Every time I listen to ‘Peasant’, I find myself having to draw breath and reflect on the utter magnificence of what has just occurred.
That same silence on Sunday June 11th resonates like a bell from the ghost of the May. Again, I find myself reflecting on the magnificence of what has just occurred. The peasants have revolted, and a new radical politics has emerged from the confines of neoliberalism to promise the formation of a transformative Labour government that will echo the convictions of its 1945 precedent, in both ambition and integrity. More people have joined the Labour Party in the last 48-hours than populate the entire Conservative Party. Our membership is currently 800,000, and rising. Corbyn is a hair’s breadth away from the keys to 10, Downing Street, and all over the land, young people are singing his name as they pour out of the nightclubs of our towns, our cities, our hearts. I have waited all my life for a moment such as this. Avante, comrades, the battle has been won, the war in earnest begins here.
“Free markets, free elections, free media, free thought, free speech, free will – the language of freedom pervades our lives, framing the most urgent issues of our time and the deepest questions about who we are and who we want to be. It is a foundational concept at the heart of our civilization, but it has long been distorted to justify its opposite: soaring inequality, the erosion of democracy, an irrational criminal justice system, and a dehumanizing foreign policy” – Raoul Martinez
As we enter the month of May, the threat of a looming UK general election called by a non-elected prime minister in response to impending corruption charges levelled by the CPS shadow the lungs of the nation like the chest x-ray no self-perpetuating ex-smoker ever wants to see. The harsh realities of capitalist surrealism bite hard on a global stage seemingly preparing for thermo-global nuclear war. Only the plucky little guy from North Korea stands in the way of the inevitable capitulation of the underdog. Even the once-proud China is in talks with the comedy dictator with the satirical hair. Fascists are at the gates in France, and in every bedroom, on every estate across Western Europe, small bands of individuals with no actual friends are unfolding their swastika flags, polishing their replica iron crosses, and downloading survival technique handbooks.
Living in a country where what’s left of the working class buy The Sun on a daily basis so they can take their kids to Thorpe Park at a heavily discounted rate, whilst their neighbours are being shot for having vaguely anti-authotiarian stances, merely adds another layer of surrealism to an already heavily over-stitched tapestry. One can imagine folk wandering the corridors of Le Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, yearning for simpler times, where narratives were linear, and epochs of stability were rife. Meanwhile, the political sensibilities of the both the metropolitan and rural liberal elite shudder under a bombardment of memes, as social network platforms groan under the weight of anti-capitalist observational politic.
The BBC’s campaign to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn at its zenith, the despicable May launches her somewhat risky gambit. Surely, with Labour so convincingly buried beneath an avalanche of right-wing commissioned, right wing-skewed, right-wing-press-delivered poll condemnations, there’s no way out of this cul-de-sac for our hero/saving grace? Surely we’re all fucked now? The only questions left are: how hard? For how long?
Obviously, that’s a matter of conjecture. One reasonably based on how much money you earn; how deeply your vein of collusion runs; what school you went to; and how little you actually care about anything other than your car, your holiday(s), your kid’s private schooling, or whether Chelsea win the premier league (NB: other elitist sporting ensembles are available, more on that next month, you have been warned!). As long as Sky TV keeps pumping disinformation into the cathode ray nipples of the gullible classes, and David Dimbleby holds sway over any faux-debate on moral turpitude, there will always be an England, and it will always stink vaguely of piss.
Any soundtrack to these confounding times, therefore, demands to be heavily infused with righteousness. So, pull up a pine scatter-cushion, bespoke-made by a retired NHS worker in her custom studio in St Ives, chuck another climate-change denier on the fire, and settle down for a rough guide to the consciousness-mingling ceremony the nation demands as it considers the choice between a future of equality, social justice, inclusivity and prosperity for all, or fucking itself in the arse with a spiked baseball bat, without the use of a lubricant.
Back in early 1978, at the height of the punk wars, here in the UK, whilst the revolutionary politics of The Clash, the Situationst International (SI) rhetoric of the Sex Pistols, and the anarcho-syndicalism of Crass ensured that future generations would never have to live under a facist regime, ever again, Vincent Ahehehinnou left the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou without explanation. For nearly forty years, the reasons behind Vincent’s sudden departure have remained a mystery. Until now. In an interview included with Analog Africa‘s glorious reissue of ‘Best Woman’, Vincent’s first post-Poly-Rythmo album, rarer than a Labour voter in any given affluent suburb of the UK, arguably West Africa’s greatest singer comes clean about the circumstances surrounding his exit from the Benin troupe. ‘Best Woman’ ably collates four strident samples of furiously funky Afrobeat intensity. Treble-heavy guitar tones wrap themselves around spritely horns, underpinned by syncopated beats, focussed horns cut up the call-and-response male/female vocal intricacies in a hive of activity guaranteed to inspire rug cutting on an industrial level in the homes of both the rural and the metropolitan liberal elite. Bustling hi-hats, wah-wah workouts, complexed grooves and hypnotic, meditative vibes ensure that every cut is deeper than the last. Originally released on Nigeria’s Hasbunalau Records in 1978, Analog Africa’s Dance Edition imprint pressing has be remastered by Nick Robbins, cut by to vinyl by Frank Merritt at the Carvery, and personally approved by Vincent himself.
Remaining narratively with the mother continent, ‘The Original Sound of Mali’ (Mr Bongo) compiles sixteen Malian masterpieces for your edification and conciseness-expanding facilitation. Collated by David ‘Mr Bongo’ Buttle, Vik Sohonie (Ostinato Records) and Florent Mazzoleni, this gargantuan collection checks in at one hour thirty seven minutes of immensity, amply illustrating and amplifying the depth and breadth of the Malian aural tradition. Spread over four sumptuous sides, this breathtaking selection demands its place in any tired and flagging record collection. Blow those neoliberal cobwebs away with a truly eclectic journey through the eighth-largest country in Africa. With almost half the country living beneath the poverty line, and a Muslim representation of around 90% of the population, Mali bears more than a passing resemblance to a UK whose Tory dictators are using fear tactics to incite Islamaphobia on the one hand, whilst condemning an ever-growing section of it’s own citizens to the virtual workhouse of conceptual poor law politic. It’s time to take a leaf out of the book of Taureg rebels, who in 2012 declared the secession of a new Malian state, Azawad:
A1. Idrissa Soumaoro et L’Eclipse de L’Ija — Nissodia (Joie de l’optimisme) / A2. Rail Band — Mouodilo / A3. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako — M’Bouram-Mousso.
B1. Super Tentemba Jazz — Mangan / B2. Sorry Bamba — Yayoroba / B3. Super Djata Band — Worodara.
C1. Zani Diabaté et Le Super Djata Band — Fadingna Kouma / C2. Salif Keita — Mandjou / C3. Alou Fané & Daouda Sangaré — Komagni Bèla.
D1. Super Djata Band de Bamako — Mali Ni Woula / D2. Idrissa Soumaoro et L’Eclipse de L’Ija — Fama Allah
The double LP includes a 24-page booklet on Malian Music written by Florent Mazzoleni.
Further back in time still, in 1976, Marijata – a Ghanaian trio featuring Kofi ‘Electric’ Addison on drums, Bob Fischlan on organ and Nat Osmanu on guitar – dropped their debut sides for Gapophone Records. Recorded At Ghana Film Industry Corporation Studios, ‘This Is Marijata’ (Mr Bongo) has been a highly sought-after title by collector’s of African music for decades. Featuring four cuts of raw pulsating, insistent funk-based Africana, this RSD related release is one of the few reasons not to despise RSD with all your anti-capitalist heart. The title is available exclusively from the link below from 06/05/17, so don’t sleep on it:
Tracing the inherent spirit of Mali & Ghana across the mighty Atlantic to Jamaica, Prince Far I‘s Lloydie Slim produced debut long player, ‘Psalms For I’ (Deeper Knowledge), was originally recorded at King Tubby’s, again, in 1976. The cry of a people longing for a return to the ways of righteousness, ‘Psalms For I’ resonates in these times of capitalist surrealism. The album ranks amongst the greatest chant albums ever issued, the lyrics derived almost en masse from the Book of Psalms. This is revolutionary, meditative, cultural music, that established Prince Fari I from the offset as the prophet with the voice of thunder, soon be lauded, held aloft in a celebration of awe, by the UK punk generation, and the bands who blended their punk rock with conscious riddems with flows of radical prose. Comprising ten chants predominantly exploring Aggrovators-backed rhythms, Deeper Knowledge’s reissue marks a watershed in Jamaican remastering, pressed from new stampers made from the pristine-condition original mother plates. This masterful album is arguably Prince Far I’s finest moment, one that demands a place in every radical home, of both the rural and the metropolitan cultural elite.
Weaving back and forth in time, developing a narrative supported by unequivocal DNA evidence, any ‘Out Of Africa’-themed column worth its salt would not be complete without reference to Barney Wilen’s legendary double album, ‘Moshi’ (Souffle Continu) . Bernard Jean Wilen was a French tenor/soprano saxophonist and jazz composer, born in Nice in 1937. His father was an American dentist, turned inventor, and his mother was French. He began performing in clubs in Nice after being encouraged by Blaise Cendrars, who was a friend of his mother. His career was boosted in 1957 when he worked with Miles Davis on the soundtrack ‘Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud’ (Fontana):
“In 1970, Wilen assembled a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa to record the indigenous music of native pygmy tribes. Upon returning to Paris two years later, he created ‘Moshi’, a dark, eccentric effort, fusing avantjazz sensibilities with African rhythms, ambient sound effects and melodies rooted in American blues traditions. Cut with French and African players, including guitarist Pierre Chaze, pianist Michel Graillier, and percussionist Didier Leon, this is music with few precedents or followers, spanning from extraterrestrial dissonance to earthbound, streetlegal funk. Wilen pays little heed to conventional structure, assembling tracks like ‘Afrika Freak Out’ and ‘Zombizar’ from spare parts of indeterminate origins” – Jason Ankeny, AMG
I have mentioned this once before, but it bears repeating, Souffle Continu Records’ deluxe reissue features exemplary additional artwork along with high-definition remastered audio. This indispensable artefact also includes a twenty-page booklet on 200gsm art matt paper, including rare pictures, sheet music and original liner notes, plus a bonus dvd of Caroline de Bendern’s movie ‘L’intention de Mlle Issoufou à Bilma’, documenting Wilen’s incredible African journey.
Finally this month, no consciousness-mingling ceremony would be complete without exposure to Dadawah‘s majestic ‘Peace And Love’ (Dug Out): “Dark, hypnotic, tripping nyabinghi from 1974. Led by Ras Michael over four extended excursions, the music is organic, sublime and expansive: grounation-drums and bass heavy (with no rhythm guitar, rather Willie Lindo brilliantly improvising a kind of dazed, harmolodic blues). Lloyd Charmers and Federal engineer George Raymond stayed up all night after the session, to mix the recording, opening out the enraptured mood into echoing space, adding sparse, startling effects to the keyboards. At no cost to its deep spirituality, this is the closest reggae comes to psychedelia” – Dug Out Press
By the time we reconvene for June’s column, the die will have been cast, and we will either be celebrating a significant shift in the consciousness of the nation, or holding our bleeding arses and screaming. The decision facing our nation on 8 June 2017 is the most significant we have ever faced. This is no longer a choice, it is the duty of every human being residing within the confines of the UK to vote with their conscience, not their wallet. The time for collusion has come to an end, and the prospect of insurrection, public disorder and eventual civil war beckons, should a halt not be called to capitalist surrealism. In Jeremy Corbyn we have a Moses to lead us out of the wilderness of neoliberal selfishness, waiting in the wings are a phalanx of radical and angry younger politicians of a united left, who will build on the foundation laid by Corbyn as we reclaim our freedom in the name of a future, for all our children.
In the words of Slavoj Žižek: “the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably the headlight of another train approaching”. It’s time to tackle that oncoming train; time to block the track; time to send it back in the other direction. It’s a tough reality to consider, but right now those of us with children will be roundly hated and despised by our offspring should we not seize the day and overthrow the corruption that has blighted most everything in this post-Fordian age. No longer will Fordist solutions suffice, the manipulation has been so seamless that only the implicit rejection of the values of greed and selfishness espoused by the Consevatives, New Labourites, Liberal Democrats that have shaped the last forty years can save us now! Avante!
“There is scant support in the Square Mile for Jeremy Corbyn and his followers. There is no enthusiasm in a predominantly pro-business ward, such as Queenhithe, for idealistic but old fashioned cooperative socialism” – Brian Mooney (councillor for the ward of Queenhithe)
Even as the Labour Party won a record five seats in the City of London elections on Thursday (23/03/17), so the entrenched stalwarts of the privileged right seek to negate the responses of the left. Picking up the theme of comedian Stuart Lee‘s ‘Content Provider’ from February’s column, it is increasingly difficult for commentators delivering anything other than the austerity party line of the hegemonic right to make their voices heard in the sea of piss-infected apathy that surrounds this septic, crumbling archipelago, circa 2017.
In a nation that once prided itself on being left-orientated, almost by default, my generation grew up under the moral umbrella of organisations and ideals such as Rock Against Racism (RAR), The Anti-Nazi League (ANL), and the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Seemingly united under the banner of ‘punk rock for all’, we had no idea that this nascent ideology would culminate in a startlingly sinister parody of dysfunctionality thirty-odd-years down the line. The social injustice, inequality and pure mania of hatred that fills our news feeds hourly echo the crassest proclamations of any totalitarian project worth its salt mines. In a climate of fake news, false flags and little hope, but for the chosen few, is it any wonder that self-medication is the sport of superkings?
In times such as these, we look to the ‘young men’ (casual historical sexism, notwithstanding, itself a generational signifier, in terms of gender equality!), not the men of Manchester (so much to answer for), I might add, who’s inherent conservatism, it could be argued, ushered in the very cultural elitism that has become de rigueur in a country where only Ed Sheeran makes any money from music in 2017. As we struggle to discern any cultural specificity betwixt underground and overground, these are dark days, indeed, where bodies litter the streets, double-drawer devans litter the countryside, and the rhetoric of braying laughter reverberates around the Commons. Collective memories of the Miner’s Strike, Clause 28, the Poll Tax Riots, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, even the demonstration in protest at the government’s proposed reforms to further education of 10th November, 2010, all pale into the insignificance of history (written by the winners!) when compared to today’s march in London (25/03/17).
In the wake of events in the capital this week, the aforementioned hate of the common right and the orchestrated symphony of judgement from the un-mandated ruling right will join together to berate, condemn and pillory any objections to the continued steamroller of neoliberalism in its inexorably efficient bulldozing of public edifice, as it collapses into the pockets and wallets of the capital-rich elite.
Its at times like this that we look West, to Stevenage . . . less than a year ago, I’d never heard of Bad Breeding. I’d lost hope of a younger generation picking up the baton of protest and running with it. It was with much anticipation, then, that I read Paco Mus’ listing for their debut long player, and immediately sought out a copy from source. An early indicator of the integrity of the group was apparent from the FOC access to WAV files of the record from their An Age Of Nothing cartel. The second indicator being the forthcoming communication from the group’s vocalist, Chris Dodd. My copy of their self-titled debut long player had arrived damaged in the post, he simply replaced it with a fresh copy without question, and a bond was forged. That’s how integrity works. ‘Bad Breeding’ (self-released) marked the birth of a resurrection of hope, for me, a generational signifier that la lucha continúa.
As we shape up to the release of Bad Breeding’s masterful sophomore full-length, ‘Divide’, on the ever-reliable LVEUM, I was motivated to conduct the first interview we’ve run in these pages for some considerable time. That’s the mark of my respect for this group, their music, their art, their determinism, Paco Mus, and the need to continue the struggle, by any mean necessary:
trakMARX – How’s morale in the Bad Breeding camp as we type?
I think it swings between joyousness and indifference. We watched a re-run of that final episode of Inspector Morse the other night, The Remorseful Day, which is a brilliant piece of television, but then had to get up to lug bricks and stock-pick stationary in a distribution warehouse at five in the morning. I think the jump between those emotions are decent descriptors of ours lives at the moment: monotonous swings of ups and downs, just getting on really. Having said that, we’re excited to put out the new record and play shows, although that inevitably means losing our jobs again if we play for anything more than a week or so.
trakMARX – Two long players in a year . . . that’s an admirable work rate! What’s the primary driver of this frenetic productivity?
I think it stems from a fear of not having an outlet for our frustrations and concerns. Stevenage is a town of quite limited options in terms of getting your word heard so coming together in a room and hammering things out feels like it goes some of the way to working off whatever resentment we’re building up at the time. We work manual labour jobs during the day, leaving the limited time in the evenings free to do something that doesn’t involve plasterboard or shifting bags of sand. We don’t really have the money to travel into London, most of what we have has to be self-generated in our own little room. We’ve never really had the financial comfort of sitting back and affording ourselves time. It’s always been very pragmatic, almost dogmatic in some cases, as we break days up between working and trying to write music. If we stop, we just regress into that same monotonous process again – and that’s not to deride the meaningfulness of our work or the type of work we do – it’s just that being able to have a source of release keeps us slightly more chipper. We just enjoy making stuff and playing together, sounds like a bit of a beige cliche but it’s true for us.
trakMARX – ‘Divide’ is coming out here on LVEUM, and on Iron Lung in the States. How did both these arrangements come about?
It was just a case of playing gigs and meeting decent folks. Good people find good people in the end and that’s how I got to know both Paco and Jensen. They were into the first record and stuck it in their distros and from there we just went on to give the new recording a home. Both of them have been releasing amazing things for years and do a lot of good stuff to help bands.
trakMARX – If you had to pick three LPs you dig from each label’s roster, how would that work out?
We’d be here until Christmas I reckon. In terms of LVEUM, last year’s releases from Anxiety and ES were great. I’d have to say that my faves are definitely the Crisis re-releases and the Disaster – War Cry one that came with the flexi. In terms of Iron Lung, the GAG record is hilariously brilliant and that Copsucker LP from KIM PHUC is a gem too. I have quite a few favourites.
trakMARX – On early inspection, ‘Divide’ feels darker, denser, and possibly even more pissed off than ‘Bad Breeding’! How did, firstly, sociopolitical conditions, and, secondly, means of production, affect the end product?
I’d been working on bits and pieces of lyrics in the spring and I think a lot of the media coverage around the EU referendum – especially the portrayal of opinion in predominately working-class areas – got me thinking about how to thread things together in more conceptual terms. The overarching implications of the campaign coverage and its continued distortion of particular issues pushed me towards trying to write something that was framed just as much by a lack of clarity as it was me simply trying to vent. We wanted to create something that was as claustrophobic and dense as what we were sifting through in Stevenage.
Obviously there are some clear political discussions running through it. With Whip Hand it was my take on how pernicious government policy has contributed to the alarming emergence of social cleansing in the UK – the continued punishment of the disabled, the utter contempt for our homeless communities and the fallout of private-led development projects sanitising space to the detriment of those in need of social housing. The title of that song was looking back at that old English phrase of dominant positions in horse driving, people in authoritative places occupying the forceful role. When looking at something like Death, that was really exploring a community still coming to terms with the tragic death of David Clapson and the impact of abhorrent bureaucracy. On the other hand, Anamnesis and Loss were examinations of things going on in our personal lives – although I still tried to weave in some of those wider conversations too.
We saved for a while to work with Ben Greenberg and I think that was really important. When talking about making the record we kept coming back to this idea of production almost adding another way of communicating. We had this ideal of ‘machinery as language’ that we wanted work into the record – having something underneath the surface gnawing away at the listener. We tried all sorts of stuff to make that work: triggering drum hits against machine noise, sending the vocals out across water to hit a wall and then recording all the stuff that bounced back. We made most of it on an old boat so we had all this peculiar spacial stuff to play with, old tanks that served as echo chambers and other bits like that.
trakMARX – The presence of Killing Joke looms large throughout, to these ears, is that a valid observation?
I think there’s definitely a comparison to be made when looking at that industrial element. We all work with machinery of some kind during the day and have always sought to work that into the songs. I think that similarity definitely has something to do with the idea of us wanting to bring that other language into the record. It might seem odd, but we also got talking about This Heat and what they were able to do with production as a means of another voice – manipulating tape and the use of somewhere like Cold Storage. Obviously it sounds nothing like This Heat, but we wanted to examine that battle between making something human and something that has been steered by technology.
The most obvious song that tried to examine this was Endless Impossibility. Lyrically it was me reporting back on conversations I’d had around warehouses and sites about aspiration in the workforce and the looming impact of automation. You hear these tired arguments about immigrants or migrational workforces taking ‘our jobs’ when there’s this monumental change looming with technology and automation. The likelihood is that most of the work undertaken by us four won’t be there in its current form for much longer, which poses a lot of questions about the working future for people in towns similar to Stevenage. The second half of that song was us trying to demonstrate the struggle between people and technology, basically by layering those suffocated human elements beneath all of that production noise.
trakMARX – As one of the few bands in the UK right now delivering social commentary through their art, why do you think the current generation are seemingly so reluctant to stick their heads above the parapet and actually stand for something, anything?
It’s a difficult one. If you dig deep enough there are still a lot of artists making statements, but most of the discussion remains within circles below the surface or confined to certain corners of the internet – sometimes out of choice and often because it doesn’t fit whatever narrative the cultural gatekeepers in the media are piecing together. I’d say there are other things too: making political statements can often be a ham-fisted thing to do, while it’s also safer financially to make something that’s potentially easier to consume.
trakMARX – The other contemporary band that do ’say something’ are Sleaford Mods, and they’re a pair of middle aged men! What do you make of their art, and their well publicised observations that contemporary British protest music is dead!
They’ve been making music for donkey’s years and you have to appreciate that commitment to remaining outspoken and resolute. To be honest I haven’t really followed those observations about protest music. I think it still exists, you’ve just got to look in the right places. I think people certainly seem less apathetic than last year, you’ve only got to look at the growing number of community movements – but I do think we sufferer from things being so fragmented and self-absorbed. You don’t really have mass UK movements through music like you might have done in the past. Most of the interesting and empowering things happening now seem to be taking place at smaller community levels.
trakMARX – In terms of global protest music, Moor Mother’s ‘Fetish Bones’ was one of 2016’s unqualified successes, did that record affect you at all?
I came to that record late, but it’s really powerful. As a privileged white man it made me witness to so many elements of both historical and present trauma that sometimes get neglected in discussions over here. It’s a record that you can’t really forget about once you’ve heard it. The more time you spend with it the more it buries inside you too. When you start piecing together the lyrics and the collage of sounds it makes your stomach churn. Yeah, it’s something quite deeply affecting.
trakMARX – And finally, where next for Bad Breeding?
We’ll continue making stuff for as long as we can afford to. Making music and keeping a job is a difficult thing to do when you want to record things beyond an eight-track or play as many shows as you can. There isn’t any financial incentive in doing this so just as long as we continue to find the space and time to write, we’ll keep making records.
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” – William Wordsworth
Written in response to the French Revolution of 1789, Wordsworth could conceivably have been pre-imagining the later revolution of May ’68, or later still, our profound need for a global revolutionary response to the shackles of Late-Capitlism, circa 2017. How do we challenge David Stubb’s observation from January’s column: “You can vote for whoever you like, but capitalism stays until the end of time. Understand that democracy’s bounds preclude its removal. Your dreams of revolution and foment are buried in the 20th century. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a dangerous fool” (The Quietus).
As Slavoj Žižek argues: “We encounter here the old problem: what happens to democracy when the majority is inclined to vote for racist and sexist laws? I am not afraid to draw the conclusion that emancipatory politics should not be bound a priori by formal democratic procedures; people quite often do not know what they want, or do not want what they know, or they simply want the wrong thing” (The Guardian, 2016). Žižek concludes that the emancipatory left must therefore engage in the process of reform, to demand what is prima facie politically and economically possible within the current system, to dismantle the neo-lierbal agenda of personalisation from within.
John Holloway stakes the claim in his hugely influential ‘Crack Capitalism’ that our notions of revolution and emancipatory actions have to evolve along with the system that we are striving to dismantle. In the cracks where service does not meet need, community-led responses are planted as seeds to further widen said cracks through growth. Dan Swain nails the red flag to the mast in his review of ‘Crack Capitalism': “For Holloway, many things can form a crack – from campaigns against water privatisation to simply not going to work and reading a book instead. He writes passionately and eloquently about the different ways in which people resist the logic of capitalism in their everyday lives. However, it often seems that there is no clear way of distinguishing between effective and ineffective rebellions against capitalism. This leads to the impression that he sees the act of rebellion itself as more important than its success or failure. He mentions the miners’ strike in Britain, suggesting that the most important thing about it was ‘the sense of comradeship and community that was established’ (Socialist Review)”.
This paradox looms large at the heart of comedian Stewart Lee‘s ‘Content Provider’, his first all-new-material-show since 2011’s ‘Carpet Remnant World’. Informed by Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, ‘Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog’, ‘Content Provider’ describes the culmination of personalisation, where individuals have been reduced to a narcissistic mass, wandering as lonely as clouds through a miasma of fake news in a perpetual state of interpassivity: atomised man in the era of digital consumerism.
As we luxuriate in the newly refurbished decadence of the Oxford Playhouse, secure in our status as members of the semi-rural liberal elite, Lee decimates members of the audience self-obsessed enough to be taking photographs with their mobile phones, before opening with: “Not everyone who voted to leave the EU is a racist. Some of them are just cunts”. Let’s examine that closely: ‘not everyone who voted to leave the EU is a racist’, meaning that some people who voted to leave were racists, which can hardly be denied; ‘some of them are just cunts’, again, undeniable. That that quote alone reopened the gaping wound that divides this country when I posted it across my social media platforms the following day, albeit in a deliberately inflammatory manner, is indicative of the main narrative thrust of ‘Content Provider': the two main psychological preoccupations of human beings: our ‘need to be right’, and our ‘need to be loved’, have seemingly been overwritten by new code that instead dictates that ‘we will be loved whether we are wrong or right’, come what may.
A veteran of Lee’s comedy, I was massively impressed by ‘Content Provider’. Lee is unparalleled in his status as philosopher-comedian, his theoretical and critical chops mockingly dismissed elsewhere by Chris Morris in the outtakes to Series Four of ‘Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle’ as ‘someone who attended Oxford but couldn’t be bothered’, Lee gracefully swallow-dives between juxtapositions in a technical flurry of comedic construction that is both eloquent and profound. The Twin-Towers of Brexit and Trump evidence the gullibility of the proletariat in swallowing the unfurling narrative of minority control in this Post-Fordist Age. In a brief encounter at the merchandising stand post-performance, Lee told me he’d just been having a bit of fun tonight, and that he was really grateful it had been received in such a positive light. I didn’t have the courage to ask him to pose with me for a selfie, such was the crushing weight of the denouement to ‘Content Provider’. Stewart Lee himself may be haunted by a form of Brechtian duality: ‘I’m coming to despise the character of Stewart Lee’, but he remains resolutely loved and admired by the semi-rural liberal elite.
Meanwhile, if quantum science is to be believed, somewhere in a parallel universe, Jacques Derrida and Franco Beradi sit sipping burnt caramel latte in the Cafe D’études Supérieures, on campus at the Sorbonne. The Sex Pistols‘ ‘No Future’ blares from the juke box, followed by Buzzcocks’ ‘Nostalgia’. The future has been stolen, society is but a spectacle. Guy Debord smiles, and a baby dies, in a box on La Rue Victor Cousin. It’s a sociologist’s paradise, each day repeats.
If we interpret hauntolgy as the ghost of art passed, resurrected in some hitherto age yet to come, then the spectre of Marx shadows much of what I’ve been listening to in the past month. We begin with Orior, who’s exemplary ‘Strange Beauty’ (DDS), has been stirring the dusty corners of my semi-rural liberal soul exponentially since its arrival in the tMx bunker in January. Time Teamesque musical archaeologists, Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty (Demdike Stare), exhumed this collection from a pauper’s grave, somewhere in the South East of England, for release on their DDS imprint last year, and it was received so positively that its now been repressed on double gold wax. Prior to these sides, Orior’s only release was the 7″ ‘Elevation’ EP (Crystal Groove Records), back in 1979. Much later, Vinyl On Demand Records included an Orior track on their ‘Snatch Paste’ compilation, and a contact as a result of that release led our intrepid DDS detectives to Jeff Sharp (aka ‘Clip’), who fortuitously had a batch of old Orior tapes stashed in his attic. Andy Popplewell was soon at work, busily restoring said tapes, describing them as ‘pure gold’ from the offset of the process. The resultant ‘Strange Beauty’ album is everything its title suggests, and everything in-between. It’s staggering how contemporary these recordings sound when placed in current sonic surroundings. Demdike Stare cite Orior as a massive influence on their work, and it’s not laborious to make that connection. Over the course of twelve tracks, from the revelatory opener, ‘Larbico’, with its chiming church bell punctuation, and its promiscuous bass line, drenched with intonation, to the mournful piano chords of the closing ‘MA’, ‘Strange Beauty’ reveals itself at a leisurely pace. It took me weeks to fall in love, but once smitten, there was no antidote.
Another relic that has been filling my heart of late is The Tapes‘ ‘Selected Works 1982-1992′ (Ecstatic Recordings). Italian siblings, Giancarlo and Roberto Drago, a.k.a. The Tapes, existed between 1982 and 1992, releasing ten privately pressed cassettes, employing a means of production that encompassed mono-synths, drum machines, microphones and 4-track recorders. Pressed to vinyl for the first time ever, this indispensable collection captures pretty much every spontaneous moment the duo ever committed to ferrichrome. Alongside the work of John Bender, recently dug up by Superior Viaduct, ‘Selected Works 1982-1992′ is amongst the finest the genre had to offer back in the eighties. There’s an outsider art vibe to these twenty-one tracks, and anyone vaguely interested in the developmental curve of electronic music should investigate without delay.
Loosely connected to both these releases through Boomkat‘s umbrella association, Turinn‘s ’18 1/2 Minute Gaps’ (Modern Love) is an eclectic collection of contemporary rhythms: edgy, nervy and wired. Along with Willow and Croww, Turinn (aka Alex Lewis) represents an emerging new generation of the Modern Love community. After fifteen years of continued creativity, Modern Love have an established a livery and lineage that echoes the attention to detail of Factory Records. Turinn’s mongrel style captures the spirit of Lewis’ influences (he wears his heart on his sleeve), this is an album that has grown up in the shadow of Manchester (so much to answer for), as indeed has its creator. ’18 1/2 Minute Gaps’ delivers ten cuts of post-hardcore that factor in enough post-punk-shape-throwing to satisfy the Factory comparison, alongside shards of Derrick May, Burial and Autechre. From Detroit to Manchester, and back again, these sides reverberate with inventive atmospherics and punishing beats. The whole show has a freestyle feel, and with debuts from Willow and Croww both expected on Modern Love before the year’s end, 2017 threatens to be the year of the neophyte.
Hamburg, second largest city in Germany, a harbour city that acts as a portal, both into and out of the country, home to V I S Records, a fledgling label administered by Golden Püdel‘s Nina Trifft. V I S may have only released a handful of tapes and twelves since their inception in 2015, but a brace of cassettes they’ve unleashed this year are positively mandatory. The first, by Mother Mark (Mark Maxwell), of Glasgow’s Heated Heads, aka DJ Feedback, DJ Foodbank and DJ Floorfillers, comprises a 90-minute exercise in techno-concrete, split over two 45-minute tracks that are both menacing yet eerily beautiful. Vast, droning tundras of shimmering industrialism, interspersed with oblique melodic washes and snippets of spoken word. The second, curated by Stratos Bichakis, is ‘Greek Ethno Music Location Recordings’, a wondrous compilation of Greek experimental music from 1930-1988 that embraces a cornucopia of traditionalism echoing African influences that compel and intrigue. The download features and extra 60-odd minutes of music, burnt from associated vinyl compilations, and if you’re quick, a second run of cassettes have recently been pressed.
Another trio of antecedents that have shaped my February also come from the distant past: firstly, Italian Minimalist composer Giusto Pio’s ‘Motore Immobile’ (Soave), a masterwork with few equivalents: a beguiling organ drone in two movements, supported by piano, violin and vocal. Reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘F? A? ?’, minus the guitars and vocal samples, ‘Motore Immobile’ is an emotional smorgasbord that resonates long after the final note has faded. Beautifully packaged on clear wax by new Italian label, Soave Records, expect more indispensable items from Soave as the year unfolds.
Secondly, Jean Hoyoux‘s revelatory kosmische musik double vinyl reissue, ‘Planetes’ (Cortizona). Hoyoux was a Belgian psychologist, astrologer, and musician who created ‘Planetes’ and its follow-up, ‘Hymne’, during the early 80’s. It would appear likely that he died shortly afterwards, as nothing more was heard from him again. Virtually no information whatsoever is available on the man, except that he was obsessed with the healing properties of music. Originally issued on CRETS back in 1981, ‘Planetes’ was created using a Yamaha CS30, an ARP Explorer, a Roland RS90, a Korg VC10 and a Korg MP120, in seven movements at Groupe de Recherches Musicales.
The third and final component of this triumvirate is Barney Wilen‘s ‘Moshi’ (SouffleContinu Records). In 1970, Wilens, a veteran of the 50’s jazz scene who’d played alongside Miles Davis et al., assembled a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa to record the music of indigenous pygmy tribes. On his return to Paris in 1972, he assembled ‘Moshi’ from the material he’d captured in situ. The result was a dark, eccentric double album marrying avantjazz sensibilities to African rhythms, ambient sound effects and melodies rooted in American blues traditions. SouffleContinu’s deluxe reissue includes additional artwork, high-definition remastered audio, and a 20-page booklet including rare pictures, sheet music and the original releases liner notes. This stunning package also includes a bonus dvd of Caroline de Bendern’s movie, ‘A L’intention De Mlle Issoufou A Bilma’, that documents Wilen’s groundbreaking African journey.
Camae Ayewa, the Philadelphia-based protest musician, artist, and activist – a.k.a. Moor Mother – follows her incendiary debut ‘Fetish Bones’ (Don Giovanni Records) with ‘The Motionless Present’ (The Vinyl Factory), a collection of unreleased poems and soundscapes. ‘The Motionless Present’ is seen by its creator as a ‘statement towards understanding the disconnect between humanity and injustice’. The album features various new collaborations and previews of upcoming projects: Black Quantum Futurism, Moor Jewelry, Mental Jewelry, 700 Bliss and more. This limited one-time-only pressing is available to preorder here:
Finally this month, a brace of albums from Áine O’Dwyer – ‘Locusts’ and ‘Gegenschein’ – both originally issued on tape in 2016, have now been given necessary vinyl editions by Mark Harwood’s Penultimate Press. Recorded in 2015 at St. James’s church, Barrow-in-Furness, England, and the First Unitarian Congregational Society Church in Brooklyn Heights, New York, ‘Locusts’ is spiritually intense music that seemingly reverberates betwixt dimensions, seeping between parallel universes in its bid to remain invisible. Drawing on O’Dwyer’s Irish catholic childhood, but equally informed by her pagan adulthood, these keening, discordant folk laments occupy inherent contradictions, casting O’Dwyer as a conduit for ancient currents which lie at the edge of our perception. Enormous pipe organ tones, incredible vocal timbres and ominous bottom-end drones forge an esoteric whole that transcends space and time to move the listener somewhere only they can know.
Recorded at the Franciscan Friary, Limerick City, Ireland, on the Winter Solstice, 21st December, 2012, ‘Gegenschein’ features two lengthy pieces related to the Mayan Calendar’s predictions of the end of time, or conversely the beginning of a brave new epoch, which ever way you chose to interpret it. ‘Gegenschein’ is a genuinely astonishing spectrum of coruscating, competing overtones, that alternate between mystic drone and ecstatic fanfare, where swelling signatures crash into harmonic waves to present an overwhelming sense of spiritual turmoil.
With yet another album, ‘Gallarais’, forthcoming on MIE Music in March, O’Dwyer, arguably more than any other artist featured this month, truly represents the state of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the presence of being is replaced by a deferred or absent non-origin, represented by the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.
‘Interpassivity’: A state of passivity, particularly cognitive or emotional passivity, enabled or facilitated by the appearance or potential of interactivity. This concept explains how works of art/media seemingly provide for their own reception. The term was coined by Robert Pfaller and Slavoj Žižek, and combines the words ‘interactivity’ and ‘passivity': subject matter can therefore become its negative when illusory interactivity produces passivity. Put simply, in 2017, the act of consuming allegedly subversive art forms has taken the place of activism. In a society that profits from your self-loathing, liking G.L.O.S.S is no longer a rebellious act.
The death of author and political theorist Mark Fisher this month was a crushing low. To lose a mind of such diagnostic agility so early in the grand scheme of things has been both heartbreaking and disempowering. In what is destined to be a defining year, in terms of the divide and conquer agenda, Mark’s death is yet another body blow to left unity. As a cultural diagnostician, Fisher has been illustrating the pervading cynicism of neoliberal perspectives via cultural association since the dawn of the 21st century. A contributor to The Wire, The Guardian, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound, Fisher’s own titles include ‘Capitalist Realism’ (2009), ‘Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology And Lost Futures’ (2014) and ‘The Weird And The Eerie’ (2017). A founding member of the interdisciplinary research collective known as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, Fisher spent a period teaching in a further education college as a philosophy lecturer before founding his highly influential blog, k-punk, in 2003.
Eight years down the line from the publication of ‘Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?': the Labour Party is being torn apart by the Blairite right; fascism is alive and well in America; the far-right is gaining power throughout Europe; our unelected Conservative prime minister has pledged our compliance as a nation with the Trump regime; Post-Brexit (itself, merely a smokescreen for the privatisation of the NHS?), the Tories are planning to turn the UK into a tax haven for the corrupt, a money-laundering hub at the centre of what we used to call ‘Europe'; and our heath and social care services are being dismantled to pay the interest on the PFIs forced on them by both Blair and Osborne in the nineties/noughties. Meanwhile, the citizens of erstwhile ‘Europe’ (surely it can no longer be called ‘Europe’ without us in it?) are buying up our infrastructure in a process that actually reduces the cost to them of their own nationalised service industries. As Trump’s executive orders fly out of the White House in the form of Tweets, the rest of the world cowers. As David Stubbs observed in his recent obituary of Fisher for The Quietus: “You can vote for whoever you like but capitalism stays until the end of time. Understand that democracy’s bounds preclude its removal. Your dreams of revolution and foment are buried in the 20th century. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a dangerous fool”. This is Capitalist Surrealism: There Is No Alternative.
As the pressure mounts, and the doubts stack up, I find myself retreating. Here, inside this frankly fragile mind, the art with which I brighten the corners becomes ever-more symbolic with each fake news broadcast. I have spent much of January immersed in a miasma of electronic white noise, searching for notes in the analogue gloaming, tracing their trails towards tunes: tunes often buried deep within my own subconsciousness. Foregoing structure in the interests of emotional connectivity, the eternal quest for the grail continues. Having lived with Helm‘s ‘Olympic Mess’ (Pan) for approaching two years now, the time it has taken me to fully appreciate its inherent emotional depth is indicative of the pace of my personal musical evolution, as much as my own social and spiritual development. New art forms should take time to digest, that’s exactly the point! New concepts and theories, likewise. If I get something immediately, I will doubtless tire of it within a dozen exposures. As culture duly evolves, we as cultural observers have to up our game accordingly. Over the last few years, The Lowest Form‘s bassist Luke Younger‘s ascent in the guise of Helm has been spectacularly organic. Exponential expansionism has enabled him to hone his craft, supporting Iceage across the globe, culminating in a performance that took place on a bill with Maurice Louca in front of a sold-out audience at the Rawabet Theatre in Cairo, on October 22nd, 2015. As a document, the cassette/digital release ‘Rawabet’ (Alter) encapsulates this period of growth, capturing logical progressions through the kind of ‘on-the-roadworks’ traditionally associated with rock groups. ‘Rawabet’ develops material from ‘Olympic Mess’ alongside newer compositions to point the way towards the next Helm full-length. Helm have become culturally embedded.
The dissolution of Danish band Lower in 2016 cannot be divorced from Age Coin‘s debut album, ‘Performance’ (Posh Isolation). Lower’s angular art, however proficient and Bunnymen-esque in its stature it undoubtedly was, was inescapably tethered to the past. Age Coin, conversely, embrace the disciplines of now and zen, staring intently into the future, however tenuous that future may be! Having run parallel to their work with Lower since 2011, Kristian Emdal and Simon Formann have developed Age Coin in the form of a handful of cassette releases/12″s for both Posh Isolation and Luke Younger’s Alter, marrying electro-acoustic practice and nascent industrialism to a strident club aesthetic. ‘Performance’ seriously ups the ante from previous Age Coin material. There’s a luxuriant feeling of superabundance throughout. ‘Performance’ is profuse, exuberant, teeming with flourishes of an external widening of the cultural lens. The cello of ‘Domestic 1′ and the piano of ‘Domestic 2′, for example, are tantalising glimpses of a diverse pantheon of influence that could arguably include Torbin Ulrich & Søren Kjærgaard‘s ‘Meridiana: Lines Toward A Non-local Alchemy’ (Escho) and Laura Cannell‘s contributions to Peter J. Evans‘ ‘Broken Telephone’ (BALTIC) project with Mark Fell and Rhodri Davies. Age Coin themselves describe ‘Performance’ thus: “Take in the view or let yourself be part of the language. Let the engine run and dip in to the swampy collective intelligence. ‘Performance’ is a hybrid memorial for all domestic actions committed in the name of love.” Initially available on opaque clear wax, as with nearly everything on Posh Isolation, these won’t hang around for long. Be nimble, be quick.
Skull Defekts’ member and iDEAL Recording‘s chief Joachim Nordwall‘s latest offering, ‘The Ideal Black’ (iDEAL Recordings), is a gruesome foray into the intense theatre of metal machine non-music. Feeding a bunch of tone generators through a wall of Marshall amps, Nordwall succeeds in making the emotional physical, with this relentless collection of terse, amplified electronic statements. Fundamental rhythms lock these five analogue emissions into something approaching anti-grooves, transmitting vitality through the animation of the abstract, with a spiritedness that somehow drags effervescence out of the gloom to create exuberance. ‘The Ideal Black’ is surprisingly way more fun than that process may suggest. The first time I heard this record, I felt it in my atoms, simultaneously. The tones oscillate across a dub landscape, hand in hand with Demdike Stare‘s early work and the sickness that informs Nate Young‘s ‘Regression’ outpourings: “I had to record something that was not music. Something pure, pulsating and far from any attempt to make it accessible in any way. I wanted something true, something filled with energy. A pulsating energy. To stop myself from working like I always do, I decided to record in a studio in Gothenburg, and send my sounds through a massive wall of amps, to make it direct and as organic as possible, and hard to control. The machines were in power. I was just assisting. This is my ideal black. A place I enjoy to place myself in” – Joachim Nordwall, Gothenburg, December 2016.
Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young’s ‘Regression’ series has pretty much established the template for dread-electronics since 2009. ‘Regression Vol. 1′ was originally released on cassette by Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL Recordings in the same year as Mark Fisher’s ‘Capital Realism’ was first published by Zero Books. 2017 bears witness to a vinyl pressing on iDEAL for the first time, on truly beautiful translucent purple wax. It could be argued that the horrific sounds contained within ‘Vol. 1′ represent the existential angst of a world coming to terms with the capitalist reality that there is no alternative. As a premonition of Mica Levi‘s future classic soundtrack to Jonathan Glazer‘s ‘Under The Skin’, the imagination of alien intervention is omnipresent in the grooves of ‘Vol. 1′. Nothing is as it seems. The mysterious hand guiding proceedings from behind a curtain has wider parallels that refuse to go quietly. Neither noise nor ambience, this is esoteric dub, an audio grimoire for a disaffected populace. Reminiscent in places of Kluster, there’s a Kosmische vibe bubbling away on the back-burner in the back woods log cabin of the Blair Witch Project of neoliberal dread.
Young Echo and Killing Sound member Sam Kidel’s sophomore solo album, ‘Disruptive Muzak’ (The Death Of Rave), is a subversion of the use of the kind of elevator muzak pumped into our ears whilst we languish on hold with the DWP, social care interfaces, and other local authority phone lines. Drawing on research by the Muzak Corporation and the tradition of youthful prank calls, Kidel rang a succession of aforementioned audio portals and played his own incidental music down the phone to them, recording their incredulous, and often ennui drenched, responses. These field recordings were later assembled into the 20-plus-minutes (plus instrumental version) presented as ‘Disruptive Muzak’. As a piece of social commentary, ‘Disruptive Muzak’ epitomises the very concept of capitalist realism. There is no alternative. I’m going to end the call. You either comply with this process, or you don’t. Somewhere Kafka is demanding unpaid royalties. The normalisation of alienation is complete. The emotional experience of listening intently to ‘Disruptive Muzak’ is really quite profound. Kidel is questioning our relationship with technology, economics and socio-political theory. The right wing austerity-led policies that dictate cuts in benefits, social care, health care and the employability of the nation through zero-hours contracts damage those on the margins of need, those most likely to require the support of services and state; the ones jumping out of the plane without a parachute, the ones walking the tightrope without a safety net. Sam Kidel’s ‘Disruptive Muzak’ is the soundtrack incarnate of capitalist realism.
- 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