Ossia/with support from: BOA/Drone/Jasss/Kahn & Neek/Robin Stewart/Serwed/Tongue Drum
“Coronavirus gives a new chance to communism . . . of course, I don’t mean the old-style communism. By communism, I mean simply what the World Health Organization is saying. We should mobilise, coordinate, and so on . . .” – Slavoj Žižek, Spectator US
I signed off last month’s commentary with the words: educate, agitate, organise. As Žižek attests, nothing has ostensibly changed in the interim in that regard, but just about everything else has. Sitting here, 28-days later, post-apocalyptic wallpaper fading to dull grey, it’s hard not to ponder. As we face impending martial law here in the UK (though, knowing the ineptitude of the current administration, it will doubtless be more like partial law), it’s almost impossible to know what to think.
Now we can begin to understand what 40-years of divide and conquer does to a populace. Behaviourally, it’s a free for all, a laissez faire sociological cluster fuck: no direction home. The plebeian cognoscenti, literally de-educated, systematically. Much of this has been about scattering the left, of course, to ensure little or no collective response: hence the ever pressing need for community, the rational imperative for radical reconnection. We can’t trust this PM (or, to be more precise, Demonic Cummings and his handlers); this Government exists to fuck the vulnerable in a co-ordinated and contemptuous manner; we can’t believe the MSM, on anything; we have no credible alternative in the sense of a universally reliable media; therefore we’re all making it up as we go along, to a degree. So, let’s take a look at what we do know:
“Coronavirus will slow the engine of capitalist globalisation as nation states seek self-sufficiency. It’s a time to rethink our world economic model – and ask whether a more progressive alternative is possible” – Ann Pettifor, Tribune
We are surrounded by politicians on both sides of the house who’ve spent the best part of the last five years telling us that Corbyn‘s middle-ground, Scandinavian socialist ambitions are recklessly unaffordable. These same people are now throwing money around like it grows on trees. Quantitive easing for the masses. Nothing like a national disaster to kick start a modest socialist revival. As our good friend Nev Clay pointed out on social media recently: “Everyone currently designated a key worker needs to join a trade union now. Because, when this is over, the Tories will be clawing back this £200bn+ with the sort of austerity not seen since the ’30s . . . workers, for the first time since the miners’ strike, have a chance to collectively exert pressure to retain and improve employment protections. After this, it’s goodbye to ECHR, goodbye to EU rights. Workers need to protect themselves and each other”.
In terms of ‘the fear’, it’s ramped up so high right now that even the most zen amongst us are spending disproportionate amounts of time staring out of windows. As Žižek astutely states above, this perfect storm presents opportunity: capital rarely misses a trick in that department. I shudder to think what’s being sneaked in under the cover of darkness as I type. This is their song from under the floorboards, a song from where the fourth wall is cracked.
Getting a handle on the continually shifting permutations of Covid-19 in terms of the eventual death toll is another constant. As is the best response strategy: social distancing versus social isolation; mitigation versus suppression. Time is such an important factor here, and as Žižek looks to the Hammer and the Sickle sociologically in the Spectator, Tomas Pueyo examines the biomedical realties of the next 18-months for Medium, with ‘The Hammer and the Dance':
Whatever the stuttering, tick-laden strategies of the few here in the UK have achieved thus far, the plight of the real key workers is raising major concerns amongst the many. United Voices Of The World are calling for six key amendments to the Government’s current plans: bypass the bosses, pay workers directly; offer all workers regardless of employment status the same deal; any worker who earns under £2,500 per month (equivalent to around £14.50 p/hr 40 hrs p/week) to be paid 100% of their wages; make it compulsory for employers to cease all redundancies and rehire all those already made redundant; don’t just suspend evictions, suspend rents; pay full sick pay to all workers.
“Can I give a message? Hello? Yeah, I’d just like to say, umm, let’s have some music now, huh?” – Joe Strummer/The Clash, ‘Lightning Strikes (Not Once, But Twice)’
The month had begun so promisingly. It had just started to feel like 2020 was finally kicking in. In the space of a week we’d made two trips to Cafe Oto in LDN: firstly for Demdike Stare‘s residency, followed by Young Echo‘s ‘Oto Takeover’. Both events were a literal joy. Cafe Oto is a fantastically relaxed venue, and the vibes on both nights were stunning. Like many independents all over the globe in light of the current crisis, Cafe Oto needs your help to survive. Every little bit helps, do what you can:
It’s only fitting, then, that we are blessed to feature Young Echo member Ossia in virtual conversation this month:
trakMARX: Welcome to the pages of tMx! To begin with, through the medium of your three favourite vinyl purchases thus far this year, how the devil are you?
Ossia: Hello boss. All good here, just keeping on, as they say. Long overdue addition to the collection: Prince Far I – ‘Under Heavy Manners’ (Joe Gibbs Record Globe) has been getting a good bit of rotation the last few weeks. Also found this gem from Speedy J (1997): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmEBT_fRA_k – and I decided Caterina Barbieri‘s ‘Ecstatic Computation’ (Editions Mego) was best listened to on wax, and haven’t regretted that decision.
trakMARX: Music is the great connector, and we’ve recently been reunited with an old sparring partner from our distant past, Mr Jim Pinckney, who these days DJs in New Zealand under the moniker, Stinky Jim. Exchanging communication for the first time in over 30-years, we discovered that not only do we share a love of Bristol sound systems, but that we were both in attendance at your Trinity bash with The Bug/Moor Mother last year! I mentioned that I’d be talking to you, and asked him if he had a question for you: “I’m kind of interested in how his Dad’s musical background has influenced him”.
Ossia: Nice one, I remember seeing on Twitter that he’d made it over from NZ for that gig. That’s special, I’m humbled. Yeah, my Dad definitely had my ears tuned in to sounds from an early age – still remember him playing the ‘Pink Panther’ bassline to me on the bass guitar as a kid, on repeat. And being stood in the street with him when he was busking with his sax. But as it is when you’re a stubborn teen, I was more interested in UK garage, grime, hip-hop and such things as a kid. Only in more recent years have I really started digging back into that early 80s post-punk-ish era that my Dad played a part in. I feel like I can relate to it and find inspiration from it much more now, for some reason. I like getting him to tell me stories from those times, like Mark Stewart camping on our sofa in London in the 80’s, helping himself to fridge contents. Definitely not advocating drink driving, but I think his story of driving the Pigbag tour van through NYC at night after a gig, so drunk he had to keep one eye closed to keep his vision focused, is probably my favourite story. It’s ok though, he became a motorbike instructor in later years and he can be trusted at the wheels, generally.
trakMARX: We recently discussed the lineage of Bristol record shops/independence in these pages with Chris at Idle Hands, and, considering your position as a literal one-man-cartel in Bristol right now, how influential have the practices of Pigbag, Y Records and the Cartel been in setting you on a determined path to independence?
Ossia: As I said above, I think it wasn’t until later years that I really started digging into these pockets. The independence thing just grew pretty steadily, and naturally – it all started by putting on a few nights in the basement of the Take Five Cafe in Bristol, and doing the odd radio show with Young Echo, making music, etc. Then came the idea to start a label. Then, with more music falling into our hands, came some more labels, then came the idea to open a shop and distribution through which to sell all these records directly, and to round up and shine a light on more sounds from the extended network of people putting out good stuff. RwdFwd.com is basically the roof for it all, and the machine that makes things move. I think the main inspiration, really, most of the time, is my friend Alex Digard, who I run all these labels and shops with, and the discourses we’d have about a DIY stance during a time when vinyl sales became a much more close circuit thing, which felt more within reach on a DIY level – we were able to contact enough shops ourselves, do the promo ourselves, etc, etc – as we were dealing with a few hundred records at a time, not tens of thousands, as it would’ve been in the earlier days of the vinyl industry.
trakMARX: We were out in Berlin last year and were totally blown away by the city. Considering the work involved in running a bunch of labels, your own music, and being a member of Young Echo: how does that all work? How difficult is it managing your concerns from a distance?
Ossia: Yeah, it’s got it’s pros and cons to be honest, been struggling with the balance a bit. It felt good to get out of Bristol a bit more, and to explore a city which is a lot more vast and ‘new’ (to me). It’s helped me focus a bit more on my own studio time, and also to gain a bit of exterior perspective on what we, and I do. Bristol is quite the bubble. I do love it for that though. Actually, I fell back in love with Bristol even more since leaving. I really appreciate the people there. The attitude is top. Lots of friends are doing amazing things there, with little expectation other than a genuine love for the music & the art of getting it into people’s ears and heads. And yeah, logistically, with RwdFwd and the distribution work we do through it, it means I come back to Bristol as much as possible, pretty much every other month, at least, to get stuck in hands-on. Otherwise I’m just sat here in Berlin on the laptop trying to turn the cogs from here, and I start missing that over-filled, compact HQ of ours, with all the records, tapes and things everywhere, and that stretch to the local post office and coffee stop.
trakMARX: Berlin v Bristol: compare and contrast, as they say in academic circles.
Ossia: Berlin has more spatial freedom, in terms of venues, and of course geographically. It’s more international than Bristol, and more 24/7. You can find yourself in a decent bar at 6am on a Tuesday morning, no problem. And pretty much every corner of the city is perused by people during summer. There’s hardly any CCTV, compared to the UK. I like that level of trust in the public. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. There are more large scale events that attract people from all over the world. People are attracted to this place from all corners, due to it’s history as an affordable city, filled with creativity and a bit of anarchy. That seems to be fading a bit, though. Rent prices certainly aren’t the dream they once were.
Bristol. Well, it’s basically just a town, not particularly pretty, or anything. In fact, it’s quite rough around the edges in a lot of places, but I do find that it gives a good sense of a more broad reality, too, and keeps us grounded. Personally, what keeps me locked in, is the people here. I’ve made so many friends since I moved there in the early 2000’s, and it really is a family vibe. So much talent in that city, considering the size of it. It’s quite mad, really.
Ok, but now let’s be real for a minute: Berlin doesn’t have a real soundsystem scene here, in the sense of actual reggae sounds, stringing up oversized systems in places – ideally two, to go head-to-head during the night. Bristol, like many other parts of the UK, still has that Jamaican heritage and you can find the continuation of this heritage at places like the Black Swan and Trinity Centre, and you can sense it physically, and even spiritually, with the music in a way that I can’t seem to find here. Germans are more concerned with clean, good sound rather than this definite body physicality with sonic vibrations.
So to me, Berlin looses, overall. Sorry.
trakMARX: We were particularly impressed with Atonal and Kraftwerk, we are planning to return this year: will you be playing a set?
Ossia: No idea. I’m ready when they are.
trakMARX: It’s now 12-months since ‘Devil’s Dance’ dropped (tMx LP of 2019) and that massive night at the Brunswick. A year down the line, it still sounds like nothing else out there, in particular it seemingly stands to one side from the EPs, ‘Red X’, ‘Control’ and ‘The Marzahn Versions’. Considering your documented lack of confidence in your own music, how have the last 365-days changed the way you feel about your art, and how are plans progressing for the follow-up?
Ossia: Ha. Thanks boss, really appreciate the kind support. Yeah, I’m proud of it, as I am of all the records I’ve put out so far. I think the process of actually releasing something is just hard for me, I really have to feel comfortable and ready for it to get that stamp of approval, and to be made eternal in that way. I’m hoping that this will mean that in years to come people can dig back through my discography and find a lineage and a decent level of quality that stood the test of time. I’m ready to record the new album now, and really excited to do so. I have some sonic exploring to do, and I want to pull in a even more musicians for this next project, that’s all I’m saying for now.
trakMARX – On a Young Echo tip, the recent residency at Cafe Oto felt like a big step forward. What’s the collective vibe like in the camp right now, and when might we be blessed with a third long player?
Ossia: Yeah, that was a good one, I thought! Felt good to take Cafe Oto through its paces a bit, and for everyone to represent together across two nights. That last album took so long to put together, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a new one anytime soon. We’re all too all over the place, and too undecided as a group, most of the time. But I guess it’ll happen at some point, and I look forward to it. It’ll have been 10 years of Young Echo soon. Should probably do something nice to mark that occasion.
trakMARX: Logistics: considering the Apollo Masters fire, the consequences of Brechtzit on touring musicians, and the folk devils and moral panics currently being ramped up around a certain virus, how do you see these factors impacting on your operations in 2020?
Ossia: Oooph. Yeah, feels like the world is turning so, so fast at the moment. A very interesting time to be alive. I feel like big changes are coming to society, politics. And besides all this, the slow, but sure departure of humanity as we’ve known it is already beginning. I mean, to be honest most of us already live in a virtual world a lot of the time, and it’s only a matter of time until we accept further technological and scientific ‘improvements’ into our lives, and perhaps, even, our bodies. I mean, even what we’re doing right now, this exchange, exists only online, even though we speak only of the real world.
And yes, now this COVID-induced reminder that the world and what we consider as ‘normal life’ may indeed not always stay the way we’ve known it to be. The virus is putting a lot of things into question, and perhaps also providing some answers along the way, isn’t it? For example, how important is it that we continue consuming the way we have been? Or perhaps better, how important is it that we make drastic changes to our consumer and lifestyle habits, not just for C-virus reasons? Then there’s this new realisation of strength in numbers, of community. I’m particularly enjoying seeing a refreshingly positive community attitude from many, since we’re all in this together. This virus is a fairly even playing field for everyone (although I do worry about the elderly, and the countries with less infrastructure and financial backbone) – and I think it’s a good reminder for us, about the fact that we’ll all die sooner or later, and in the meantime we should probably look out for each other, and treat each small thing with importance and appreciation. Now we just need to convince those who are controlled by greed and without care for others, that they will also die as normal humans, and that happiness is relative.
Regarding the music industry. It has survived many crashes and burns over the years – from ‘home taping is killing the music industry’ to Napster, through to Spotify. I can only really report on more current scenarios, but I guess what’s happening is that everything is being so spread out and made so readily available all the time now, with social media/streaming, etc, that it means it really is hard to sustain the individual amongst the masses. Maybe there are also just too many of us trying to be a part of the music industry and culture, and perhaps it was never going to work out this way. But arguably, the music scene is currently at it’s most fair, accessible and open, too. I’m seeing it become more of an international thing since the network has widened and everyone can contribute in some way. I just wish we could pull together a bit more, and each person who appreciates music and art would try their best to support it, however much they can – at least in some way that goes further than the assumption that the 0.1 pence you paid for those streams on Spotify is of any real, sustainable, help. Whether that support is being shown by buying a record; paying for a download via bandcamp; paying for a ticket to a show; buying merch, etc. It really does count. I know this from seeing it first hand. We rejoice at each order made through RwdFwd, for example, it really is a crucial time for support if you want people like us to continue doing this. We never got much financial benefit from it, but we do need to be able to sustain what we’re doing. The vinyl industry is really fucking hard to navigate right now. Records that would at least sell a bare minimum of three hundred a few years back, often struggle to sell a hundred copies these days. And that’s not helping us to keep the music affordable and available, and perhaps, most importantly: creatively unrestricted, for everyone. Can’t be that hard to muster up a couple hundred more vinyl buyers per record, surely. Come on!
And yeah, the Apollo factory, and with it 80% of all vinyl lacquer manufacture burning down, was really not what we needed after being slapped with increased prices and less room for negotiation with EU pressing plants due to Brexit. Hopefully some of the major labels will decide to back off from their needless reissues now though, at least, and give some breathing room to independent labels. And hopefully pressing plants will continue to keep their prices as low as possible, for the greater good of this struggling industry. I really hope it doesn’t, but if vinyl dies, it’ll be another step towards a total digital age, really – there’s not much art left, that has this physicality like vinyl does, and I think we need to nurture physical aspects of our lives more and more, in this age. We all spend way too much time in front of screens as it is. All that artwork that won’t even become physical anymore, the hands on work that is involved, and keeps lots of people in business; the time spent listening to music without staring at a screen; the (almost ancient!) craft of making a quality record, and these carefully reproduced artefacts for memory and sound – if that goes away, I certainly won’t be as excited about putting time into the pool anymore. I think it will take away a big amount of ‘human feel’ & craft in the music industry, and in turn the music will become even more disposable and undervalued than it already has become. Same goes for clubs. I hope DJs continue to at least play a few records in there. CDJs are great, and they do what they do very well, but I feel like we’re loosing a certain pacing, a perhaps less-fast-tracked attention to quality, and also an appreciation of imperfection and a certain ‘danger’ in DJ sets these days. I’d find it a shame if turntables are not a standard part of the set up in clubs anymore, and I don’t think it’ll help labels and artists be able to keep selling records, to be honest.
trakMARX – And finally, what’s in the pipeline across the board for your labels, and what’s the one big release you’re really looking forward to in 2020?
Ossia: Got old friend, and highly talented bastard Robin Stewart (Giant Swan/The Naturals/ATC) stepping up with a record for NoCorner which has been in the works for a long time now. There’s a new Manomars LP for Young Echo Records which is mastered, and ready to come out once this situation has calmed. Sounds next level good, can’t wait for people to hear it. Make sure you get his previous record in the meantime, it’s high art. Also working on a big compilation for LAVALAVA with a mad amount of musicians who’s music I love. Can’t wait to present that one actually. New record coming on Hotline soon, and on Mechanical Reproductions . . . more info soon. Besides that, I’m currently picking favourites of the past Peng Sound Records catalogue, along with some old crackly unreleased dubplates for a mix cassette which we’re releasing as soon as possible. Feels like the right time to do this. At that point we’ll be making the past catalogue available digitally (only via direct purchase from us though, for full support) – which has been a tough decision, but the financial fight is real, and we need all the income we can get at the moment, in order to keep this running. Plus, it’s nice to know that anyone in the world, no matter where they are, or wether they have a record player or not, can support the music.
BOA – ‘Outer Gateways’ (Styles Upon Styles): Gary Geiler (Ovis Aurum) and Kevin Palmer (BestAvailable Technology) reunite for the first time in 5-years, following up their ‘Warp Purpose Vol. I’ (Seagrave) 12″ with the expansively cinematic ‘Outer Gateways’. Over the course of eight mesmeric tracks, the duo deliver constant invention with their aural interventions: ‘They are friends who make music to fight a failing future’. ‘Outer Gateways’ has dropped on cue. Step through this portal, and together we can explore space:
Drone – ‘Flooded’ (System Music): Drone returns to System Music to follow up ‘Amphibious’/’Lucid Dreams’ after dropping ‘Horror’ for Sector 7 Sounds last time out. Four exemplary cuts of forward thinking dubstep here, plus an SP:MC remix. Sparse, yet rich, plenty of low end, sumptuous:
Jasss – ‘Whities 027′ (Whities): Jasss returns with her first solo vinyl offering since 2017’s sterling ‘Weightless’ (iDEAL Recordings) and it’s an absolute future rave heater. This has been bubbling around in lesser forms for a while now, so good to finally have it in a high fidelity format. Both sides raise the pulse along with the blood pressure. Here’s to a better future for all. Another Whities winner:
Kahn & Neek – ‘(Having A Sick Time) In The Mansions Of Bliss’ (Sector 7 Sounds): Bristolian institutions at the top if their game, with this super solid sub-bass four tracker. Been smashing this to bits all over the park for weeks now. You could say I’m hooked. Yes, I am:
Robin Stewart – ‘Time Travel’ (The Trilogy Tapes): Strongest gear yet from Giant Swan member Stewart, in my humble opinion. This grabbed me by both ears from the get-go at 8am in the morning the day it dropped, and when something lodges in my brain like that early doors, I’m rarely likely to let it go without a fight. Dubwise, justified and ancient:
Serwed – ‘Serwed 2′ (West Mineral Ltd.): When one of my favourite labels teams up with two of the most innovative individuals (Flaty & OL) on the Russian broken techno underground, its time to raise the red flag. I’ve been looking forward to this one so much. Their first for Asyncro was astounding, but this possibly surpasses it, time will tell. It feels more organic, but again plays the wild card approximately half way through, with the guitar flecked ‘In Spare’ this time playing the role of the funk-assed ‘Radiant’ from volume one. I’m up to my neck in Gost Zvuk right now:
Weird Weather – ‘Tongue Drum’ (Whip+Lash): They’re dirty, they’re filthy, they’re never gonna last. Straight out of the traps for Whip+Lash with this dapper three tracker. Expectations have been super high on this one following the impossible to scoop 10″ white label promo that dropped back in June of last year. Impeccable, grubby, gnarly ‘techno tonk’. Grab a piece of the action here:
Anunaku/Bengal Sound/CS + Kreme/Beatrice Dillon/Guilt Attendant
“A strange combination of sophisticated theory and technical incompetence” – Mary Harron, Melody Maker
Writing about The Mekons in 1979, Mary Harron inadvertently forged a template for many of us who prefer to toil ‘in the face of commercial and popular indifference’. Grubbing about in the margins researching this month’s column, I stumbled across the following article, and was reminded of a relevant anecdote from my own distant past.
The Mekon’s debut 45, ‘Never Been In A Riot’ (Fast Products), had been written in response to The Clash‘s ‘White Riot’ (CBS), a song that then Mekon, Kevin Lycett, interpreted as: “I want a riot for us poor downtrodden white people”. Back in June 1984, my then band, The Hop, supported The Three Johns at Leamington Spa Centre. I don’t recall that much about the gig itself, but I do remember calling round to see the collective Johns the following morning. They’d been put up by a local militant Labour activist, and were sunning themselves out in the back garden, casually reading political theory tomes, seemingly hangover-free. I stood there in my standard issue black leather jacket, the words ‘Gun Control’ emblazoned on the back in white paint, head throbbing, furiously bat-chain-pulling on a pack of Benson & Hedges, seriously considering my authenticity. Despite The Clash, Crisis and Theatre Of Hate badges adorning my lapels, I had to admit: I’d never been in a riot.
From that day hence I learned a very valuable lesson: there’s more to political activism than posturing. I had to wait a further 26-years for my first bonafide riot, the student fees protests of 2010 at the Tory party offices: 30, Millbank, Central London. The day itself had been largely peaceful, with around 50,000 students protesting against the proposed introduction of student fees at an event organised by the NUS and lecturers’ union, the UCU. I’d been a first year social work student at Coventry University at the time, and we’d mustered several coaches. I’d never even heard of interpassivity back then. Marching through the streets of the capital that day, it genuinely felt like we could achieve anything en masse, that the forces of oppression were no match for students armed with witty placards. The then Con/Dem coalition were proposing raising fees as high as £9,000, with cuts of up to 40% to university teaching budgets. The cost of an L500 3-year full time Social Work BA (Hons) at Coventry University for 2020/2021 entry is £9,250. Coventry University came 28th out of #132 in a league table of universities worst hit by budget cuts, according to a data set published by The Guardian in 2016.
As early as May 2010, British historian Simon Schama was predicting a new age of rage he dubbed ‘French Revolution Redux?’, in the pages of Dave Cohen‘s Decline Of The Empire blog. The MSM blackout on the ongoing le mouvement des Gilets Jaunes in France currently suggests that English citizens were more informed about social unrest on the continent back in 1789 than we are today, when they received regular updates by carrier pigeon. The English establishment circa 1789 were extremely concerned that the revolutionary fervour of France could surge into the country by osmosis, and they are equally scared today. From lazy cultural stereotypes of the hot-headed French in The Times, to Sunday supplement think-pieces on the cordiality of our British reserve, we are subliminally conditioned that we’re ‘not like that’. There will never be a general strike in the UK. We will never let you govern. In this post-everything era of fake narratives, it’s incomprehensible that a nascent revolution is once again simmering a mere 21-miles across the English channel, whilst we’re more concerned with hounding vulnerable TV celebrities to suicide.
“Self-taught photographer Andrew Moore grew up on Tyneside in the North East of England, in the early 1980s he moved to London to go to university. It was here where he picked up his camera, the first real photographs Andrew took were in 1983 to support a housing rights organisation, campaigning for better living conditions in the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets. From that point onwards he began to document the unrest triggered by the social and economic changes that came with Thatcherism” – Paul Wright, British Culture Archive
Mindful that under forthcoming internet regulation imperatives hurriedly being ushered in by the Tories, it’s a thin line between questioning methods of protest and incitement to riot, but the question is pertinent: interpassivity, what is it good for? Why do people record TV programmes instead of watching them? Why do some recovering alcoholics let others drink in their place? Why can ritual machines pray in place of believers? Why do people believe that liking or sharing something on social media will solve the problem? Why do people believe that an online petition can effect change? Why do those adversely affected by the policies of far right governments believe that some big other will ultimately save them? Increasingly, I haven’t got any answers. All I know is: educate, agitate, organise.
Anunaku – ‘Stargate EP’ (3024): Last year’s superb ‘Whities 024′ debut twelve announced Anunaku (aka TSVI) as a rhythmic don to watch. ‘Stargate’ literally picks the mic up where it fell, with three lengthy explorations on metrical measurement across the drum spectrum. Adorned with eastern promise, the titular ‘Stargate’ is the winner here for me:
Bengal Sound – ‘Culture Clash Vol. 2′ (Bengal Sound): blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cassette-only release that emerged from Farhad Ahmed‘s Bengal Sound Bandcamp page (second press incoming, keep ’em peeled) in January. If you thought Vol. 1 was dope, prepare to be literally sickened by Vol. 2. This is hands-down the sharpest weapon in the Bristol producer’s armoury to date. Prolific, six release across five labels in two years, Ahmed is possibly the most versatile of the current Bristol massive. Grinding up grime, dubstep, hip-hop, garage, Bollywood soundtracks and R&B in his petri dish, Ahmed is experimenting in a laboratory all of his own right now:
CS + Kreme – ‘Snoopy’ (The Trilogy Tapes): Utterly blindsided by this immensely seductive, incredibly sensual, mindfuckingly psychedelic debut long player from Conrad Standish and Sam Karmel. Elegant, mysterious, and blessed with some of the finest bass riffwerk this side of Tal Wilkenfeld, ‘Snoopy’ has my ass in a tailspin. With aspects of all, yet derivatives of none, devout genre sceptics CS + Kreme sound like they recorded ‘Snoopy’ in Melbourne, Berlin, Bristol, Manchester and London, simultaneously. With antecedents as justified and ancient as Suicide, Roland S. Howard and Ed Kuepper, there’s still room in the cans for some ‘Blue Lines’ era Massive Attack, and possibly even some Baxter Dury:
Beatrice Dillon – ‘Workaround’ (Pan): Universally lauded, highly anticipated, ‘Workaround’ arrives to fanfares from every quarter. I’ve been waiting with baited breath ever since Dillon’s ‘Two Changes’ (Paralaxe Editions) collaboration with Rupert Clervaux back in 2016, and with what amounts to childlike impatience since witnessing her 2019 ‘Ecstatic Materials’ appearance in Birmingham with Keith Harrison (who, incidentally, we bumped into again at Ossia‘s ‘Devil’s Dance’ launch night at the Brunswick Club, just a few weeks later). Needless to say, you need ‘Workaround’ in your life: “Working for a rise, better my station/Take my baby to sophistication”:
Guilt Attendant – ‘Suburban Scum’ (Hospital Productions): Nathaniel Young, aka Guilt Attendant, lives and works in NYC. He produces music under the monikers Hofmann, Kohl, Moral Extrication, and richard_p, runs the Severed Mercies and Blankstairs platforms, and designs artwork for both Dais and Hospital Productions. ‘Suburban Scum’ is his long form debut, delivering eight slabs of dank executive techno shaped by Young’s challenging Christian upbringing. Designed to slam warehouses crammed with revellers to the walls, Young himself poses the million dollar question: “Can one be truly redeemed if their sins and their present form of reality bear no distinction?”:
“Be realistic, demand the impossible” – Herbert Marcuse
Whatever you do, don’t do anything subversive this year. Please, do not challenge authority, defy expectations, offend anyone, or use music or literature in ways they are not ready for. Whatever you do, don’t waste your time listening to Ellen Arkbro, Satoshi Ashikawa, Shinichi Atobe, Bengal Sound, Bomb Sniffing Dogs, The Caretaker, Panos Charalambous, Count Ossie And The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari, Beatrice Dillon, Kelman Duran, John T. Gast, Heith, Catherine Christer Hennix, Huerco S, Inoyama Land, Jan Jelinek, Kamikaze Space Programme, King Midas Sound, Mary Jane Leach, Logos, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Madteo, Kali Malone, Kevin Richard Martin, Nozomu Matsumoto, Nkisi, Daphne Oram, Ossia, Perila, Bernard Parmegiani, Pessimist, Poet And The Roots, Prince Far I, Slikback, Masahiro Sugaya, Piero Umiliani, Barney Wilen, Xth Réflexion, Hiroshi Yoshimura or Young Echo. Make sure you download the specified number of hot albums from your Apple Music prompt list: ten selected titles per month, all the same genre. Ignore any temptation to think for yourself. Do not even dream of illegally downloading inferior quality files from minority blogspots.
Do not think critically. Do not develop a sociological imagination. Do not create disturbances. Do not deliver outlandish performances. Buy all your books from Waterstones, based on reviews read in the TLS, or The Observer New Review. Don’t read anything by Jesse Ball, James Ellroy, Mark Fisher, Byung-Chul Han, Srecko Horvat, Daisy Johnson, David Keenan, Raoul Martinez, Ottessa Moshfegh, Derek Owusu, David Peace, Max Porter, Roger Robinson, Jack Shenker, Olga Tokarczuk, Ocean Vuong, David Foster Wallace or Slavoj Žižek. This is only your life, not a protest rally, stage, or psychologist’s assessment protocol. Just listen to worthwhile music, read something of value, that’s all we demand. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. Together, we can make 2020 the year of the Second Great Refusal.
Since we last spoke, I’ve mostly been holed up in the tMx bunker, reassessing the various reassessments of my fellow cultural commentators from across the world wide web. Apart from a brief new year’s spiritual forage into Dumfries and Galloway for a little stone bothering at Cairnholy, it’s mostly been about coming to terms with post-election blues. Politically, my conclusion in that department has emerged as the realisation that I have spent the majority of my life thus far in opposition to one government or another, and that, all things considered, I’ll doubtless live out the rest of my days in a similar position: la lucha continua.
Musically, I’ve taken the time to declutter, to catch up with things I’ve either overlooked or afforded scant attention previously. I’ve spent time with Bomb Sniffing Dogs, absorbing the multitudinous wonderment of their beatifically poetic ‘Word Wall 2’/’The One Show’ (The White Hotel); toyed for hours with the complex and twisted techno of Konduku‘s masterful ‘White Heron’ (Nous’klaer Audio); immersed myself in the incorporeal incantation of Kali Malone‘s deeply affecting ‘The Sacrificial Code’ (iDEAL Recordings); skanked around the bunker endlessly to the life-affirming joy of JonnyGO Firgure‘s essential ‘Crucial Showcase’ (Bent Back’s Records); and curled up snuggly of an evening in the warm embrace of Ellen Arkbro‘s mesmerising ‘Chords’ (Subtext). On the incoming front, I’ve tempered the temptation welcome every newcomer that wanders aimlessly past my browser window, in the interests of maximum quality control:
FUMU – ‘Skinned’ (Youth): Strafing the industrial dancehalls of Manchester with the follow-up to 2018’s excellent ‘Sinuate’ (Youth), Turinn associate FUMU returns proffering 4-slabs of Teeside terror on 7″ wax. Blending collapsing house, contaminated power electronics and a 21st century punk rock attitude, FUMU blows the doors open to begin 2020 with a fuck-off-bang! Volatile.
The iDEALIST – ‘Anti-Fascist Dubs, Spiritual Electronics and Unconscious House Music (Malmo Inre): Joachim Nordwall‘s dubwise alter-ego’s output has been somewhat prolific over the past 12-months, and with this 8-cut excursion on Malmo Inre, he may well have landed his best catch yet. Undeniably sensual, this deeply psychedelic collection explores contemporary erotic tendencies compatible with artists associated with West Mineral Ltd, Motion Ward and Anno. Arousing.
TNT Roots – ‘Raw Dub Creator’ (Bokeh Versions): Much anticipated and endlessly rewarding revisionist collation of over a decade’s work from Northampton Earthquake Don, TNT Roots. ‘Raw Dub Creator’ compiles a handful of mighty tracks made from 2006-2018 that were all previously self-released on CDr via Roots’ own Lion Musik label: featured cuts span his TNT Roots and Yahweh Warriors aliases, as well as solo sounds released as Earthquake. Righteous sounds.
Ulla – ‘Tumbling Towards A Wall; (Experiences Ltd): Ulla Straus’ debut solo release on Experiences Ltd builds on the considerable erotic tension she’s amassed through her work with Pontiac Streator over the past couple of years. Deeply sensuous timbres and gossamer textures inspire soporific waves of sexual suggestion. For all the lovers in the house. Stimulating.
GE2019 Autopsy/Scores On The Doors 2019
“My good old prophet Marcus Garvey prophesised it/St Jago de la Vega and Kingston is going to meet/And I can see with mine own eyes/It’s only a housing scheme that divides” – Culture
Whatever it is that divides us, said division has never been more resounding. As those of us on the left pick up the shattered shards of an exploding ideology following the filth and the fury of a debilitating campaign that proffered a reasonably basic choice between compassion/function and dispassion/dysfunction, the country has spoken, and it said: “Fuck the NHS. Fuck public services. Fuck the EU. Fuck workers’ rights. Fuck our free movement. Fuck trade. Fuck jobs. Fuck immigrants. Fuck young people. Fuck disabled people. Fuck poor people. Fuck homeless people. Fuck honesty. Fuck decency”. England is indeed a bitch, and there is no escaping it.
As the post-mortems stack up, and the opinion pieces flood in like the rain water that already precariously fills the ditches of this weeping nation, we await yet another prolonged bout of precipitation, before said ditches inevitably disgorge their contents, spilling filthy, furious water all over the roads that are so vital in getting us to our commuter jobs, and into the consumer houses of leave voters built on flood plains. As we dig deep at this festive time of year to buy our loved ones NHS gift cards, it’s OK to hurl racist abuse at passers-by, because the gold standards have been set from above. All’s quiet on the capitalist front, once again. Markets responding. Pensions bubbling. Entitled sighs of total relief. As Jonathan Cook observes, the bubble has burst, like the banks that will doubtless follow. The illusions of the left fly like a tattered red flag, fluttering furiously in the nuclear wind of propaganda fallout.
Just a week ago, as I wiped the tears of laughter from my cheeks in Leicester Square, at the heart of the metropolitan liberal elite’s entertainment industry, Stewart Lee‘s Boris Piccaninny Watermelon Letterbox Cake Bumboys Vampires Haircut Wall-Spaffer Spunk-Burster Fuck-Business Fuck-the-Families Get-Off-My-Fucking-Laptop Girly-Swot Big-Girl’s-Blouse Chicken-frit Hulk-Smash Noseringed-Crusties Death-Humbug Technology-Lessons Surrender-Bullshit French-Turds Get-Stuffed FactcheckUK@CCHQ Johnson routine was already falling on seemingly deaf ears. Where on the ‘Content Provider’ tour, satirising the waxen-haired Etonian pseudo-dictator was greeted with rapturous applause and derisive laughter, this ‘Tornado/Snowflake’ audience were considerably less convincing in their veracity. As I laughed, I was increasingly aware that I was largely laughing alone. Tectonic plates had inexorably shifted, and I’m not eluding merely to the belt notch on Lee’s trousers alone. He’d hit the stage earlier with the quip: “Julian Assange has let himself go”, which is something the incarcerated and emaciated Assange most definitely will not be doing any time soon. The injustice surrounding the fate of the former Wikileaks founder and the fickle nature of a Stewart Lee audience surely set the parameters for what is to come? As Dan Evans-Kanu reports from Bridgend, “Boris has not been turned into a hate figure, quite the opposite in fact: his carefully cultivated image of the harmless, benign clown has been promoted relentlessly by the media, and this cosiness could not even be punctured by the rare occasions his mask slipped in public, revealing the sinister bully that lies beneath it”.
So, where do we go from here? Well, I for one refuse to get caught up in the blame game. It’s important not to vilify demographics, only to critique the system, not those trapped within it. We are the resistance now. I’ve heard defeatist talk of ‘one-party states’ and ‘being locked out for a generation’, but these perspectives are merely an extension of the propaganda that intricately weaves this fabric of interpassivity. Remember, if your various news feeds present a reality you don’t recognise, and scrolling through them leaves you desensitised, its important to recognise that we have retreated into a simplified and often completely fake version of the world. As rs21 states, “We knew that all the wrong people would be celebrating if Boris Johnson won this election. Donald Trump, the hedge-fund managers, the racists, the misogynists, the fossil fuel companies, Big Pharma, big agribusiness, the billionaire press barons. We all know the threat that a new Johnson government, and its supporters, pose to us, the people we love, live with, work with, care for. We are all too aware of the possible implications of a vote for these creeps in the crunch period of the climate emergency, after years of austerity, sadistic attacks on migrants, disabled people and the poor”.
Scores on the doors: Following the glowing response to last year’s tMx A-Z, we felt it only fitting to consign that particular format to the wastebin, where it rightly belongs. That’s the thing about being here now, it keeps you on your toes. The plan for a return to listmania with a raft of artist’s Top Tens was duly scuppered by a combination of time erosion and election fatigue. Instead, we’ve complied tMx Top Tens in LP, 12″, 10″, 7″, tome and celluloid flavours. It’s been a year of discernment here in the tMx bunker, where quality has prevailed over quantity. So, come with us now, as we dig through the crates to come correct with the very best in dancehall culture:
trakMARX: Long Players of 2019
1/ Ossia – ‘Devil’s Dance’ (Blackest Ever Black)
2/ Pessimist and Karim Mass – ‘S/T’ (Pessimist Productions)
3/ Logos – ‘Imperial Flood’ (Different Circles)
4/ Ulla Straus and Pontiac Streator – ’11 Items’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
5/ John T Gast – ‘5GTour’ (5 Gate Temple)
6/ Boreal Massif – ‘We All Have An Impact’ (Pessimist Productions)
7/ King Midas Sound – ‘Solitude’ (Cosmo Rhythmatic)
8/ Quirke – ‘Steal A Golden Hail’ (Whities)
9/ Tribe Of Colin – ‘Aquarius’ (Honest Jon’s)
10/ Rainer Veil – ‘Vanity’ (Modern Love)
trakMARX: 12″ of 2019
1/ Porter Brook – ‘Groundwork 001′ (Groundwork)
2/ Bengal Sound – ‘Never Mind’/’Short Stay’ (Bandulu)
3/ Ossia – ‘The Marzhan Versions’ (Berceuse Heroique)
4/ Al Wootten – ‘Body Healthy’ (Trule)
5/ Anunaku – ‘Whities024′ (Whities)
6/ Y U QT – ‘You Belong To Me’ (South London Press)
7/ Ghostride The Drift – ‘S/T’ (xpq?)
8/ Heith – ‘Stone Lizard’ (Saucers)
9/ Various Artists – ‘CL002′ (Cold Light)
10/ Logos – ‘Fifth Monarchy’ (Berceuse Heroique)
trakMARX: 10″ of 2019
1/ Kids C Ghosts – ‘Bankruptcy Dub’ (Not On Label)
2/ Bengal Sound – ‘Young Skeleton’/’Coroners’ (Innamind Recordings)
3/ Lapo and Ago – ‘Youth Pon The Corner’/’Legalise’ (Killa Sound)
4/ VersA – ‘Passing Light’ (At One Music)
5/ Adam Prescott – ‘Ism’/’Schism’ (Lion Charge)
6/ Bash – ‘Jubilee’ (Trule)
7/ Skeptical – ‘Musket’ (Not On Label)
8/ O$VMV$M – ‘CL002′ (Cold Light)
9/ Junior Dread and Halcyonic – ‘Can’t Hide’ (Firmly Rooted)
10/ HXE – ‘INDS’ (UIQ)
trakMARX: 7″ of 2019
1/ Roger Robinson – ‘Stay’ (No Corner)
2/ Tilliander – ‘Expect Resistance’ (Dub On Arrival)
3/ The Idealist – ‘Deep Shit’/’The Drop’ (iDEAL)
4/ Undefined (featuring Rider Shafique) -‘Three’ (ZamZam Sounds)
5/ Withdrawn – ‘Shelter’ (Empty Head Rich Heart)
6/ Andy Mac – ‘Dawner’ (ZamZam Sounds)
7/ Seekersinternational – ‘BadmanBoogie’/’KillDemSound’ (Future Times)
8/ Marcus Anbessa – ‘The March Of The Falasha’ (ZamZam Sounds)
9/ Jay Glass Dubs – ‘Thumb Dub’ (Dub On Arrival)
10/ Karma – ‘Crampton Beat’ (ZamZam Sounds)
trakMARX: Cassettes of 2019
1/ Ossia – ‘Live At The Brunswick Club’ (Tape Echo)
2/ Broshuda – ‘You Always Stay Beautiful’ (No Corner)
3/ Best Available Technology – ‘Broken Teeth And Dog Hair’/’Old Haunts’ (Plaque)
4/ Ula Straus – ‘Big Room’ (Quiet Time Tapes)
5/ Giant Swan – ‘S/T’ (Keck)
6/ Nammy Wams – ‘Yellow Secret Technology’ (GTI)
7/ Nkisi – ‘Destruction Of Power’ (Collapsing Markets)
8/ Zuli and Rama – ‘Noods Radio’ (Noods)
9/ Madteo – ‘Forest Limit’ (DDS)
10/ Salac – ‘Sacred Movements’ (Avon Terror Corps)
trakMARX: Book Of 2019
‘These Are Situationist Times! An Inventory of Reproductions, Deformations, Modifications, Derivations, and Transformations’ (Torpedo)
“I’m proud you call us gangsters, nevertheless you are wrong. We are worse, we are situationists.” — Jacqueline de Jong, 1962
“The Situationist Times was a magazine edited and published by the Dutch artist Jacqueline de Jong during the years 1962–67. In its multilingual, transdisciplinary, and cross-cultural exuberance, it became one of the most exciting and playful magazines of the 1960s. Throughout its six remarkably diverse issues, The Situationist Times challenges the notion of what it means to be a situationist, as well as traditional understandings of culture in the broader sense and of how culture is created, formatted, and shared. ‘These Are Situationist Times!’ provides an in-depth history of the magazine while probing its contemporary relevance. The book also presents the material De Jong assembled in the early 1970s in collaboration with Hans Brinkman for a never realised seventh issue of ‘The Situationist Times’, devoted to the game of pinball.
trakMARX: Film Of 2019
It felt visionary at the time of viewing, it now feels like a premonition. For all the reams of column inches etched in response to Todd Philips‘ ‘Joker’, none have been more poignant than those of Slavoj Žižek: “The three main stances towards the film in our media perfectly mirror the tripartite division of our political space. Conservatives worry that it may incite viewers to acts of violence. Politically Correct liberals discerned in it racist and other clichés (already in the opening scene, a group of boys who beat Arthur appear black), plus also an ambiguous fascination with blind violence. Leftists celebrate it for faithfully rendering the conditions of the rise of violence in our societies. But does Joker really incite spectators to imitate Arthur’s acts in real life? Emphatically no, for the simple reason that Arthur-Joker is not presented as a figure of identification. In fact, the whole film works on the premise that it is impossible for us, viewers, to identify with him. He remains a stranger up to the end”.
Final thoughts: this month’s header image features the home of Ronald Jarman Bridle, the engineer who oversaw the construction of Spaghetti Junction, at the heart of this broken nation. Whatever happens next, the solutions will be complexed. We are at a junction. The road out of this farce will require the massed vested interests of those who seek to inherit, not those who have cornered markets and entrapped the populace. They say that education is wasted on the young, but I suggest that’s largely designed to perpetuate this broken system, rather than co-produce something fit for purpose that could lead to greater equality and the redistribution of wealth. I, for one, will not go gently into that good night. I will continue to burn and rave at the end of the day. I will rage against the dying of the light. I raise a Beck’s Blue to education, agitation and organisation.
“The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side”