(You Can’t Take Back) Remote Control


A Column

Alter Echo & E3/The Caretaker/Sarah Davachi/Tim Hecker/Lonnie Holley/Manonmars/Teresa Winter

“Push a button/Activate/You gotta work/You’re late” – Joe Strummer

When Francis Fukuyama coined the phrase ‘The End Of History?’, he had no idea what a tough gig it was going to be to come back from that prophetic statement. With history stubbornly refusing to die, just about every statement he has issued since has subsequently been little more than a futile attempt to dig himself out of the perpetually self-refilling trench he dug himself (and us?) back in the early 1990s. This should act as a warning for those who skate the thin ice that divides prophet from profit. Back once again, with a new tome entitled ‘Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition’ (Profile Books), Fukuyama this time liberates Plato’s concept of ‘Thymos’ (a contemporary rival of Aristotle’s eudaimonic principle of flourishing) to suggest that all we really need is recognition and dignity. An overriding need for compromise connects thymos and eudaemonia, the concept of a third way that is central to any solution-focussed collectives planning on saving us all from impending doom. In the land of the blind capitalist, the one-eyed plagiarist is king.

“Ideas improve. The Meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea” – Guy Debord


When Nick Griffin appeared on BBC 1’s ‘Question Time’ back in 2009, Mark Thompson, then-Director-General of the BBC, defended the BBC’s decision to invite Griffin on to the program, stating: “The BNP has demonstrated a level of support that would normally lead to an occasional invitation to join the panel on Question Time. It is for that reason, not for some misguided desire to be controversial, but for that reason alone, that the invitation has been extended.” Considering for a moment the credibility of the BBC in 2018, that statement surely needs dragging out into the light and thrashing to within an inch of its life with an extendable pr-24x side handle baton. It could be argued that the Rise And Fall Of UKIP Perrin began in earnest with Griffin’s root-for-the-underdog mentality, brazenly flaunted that night, launching a race-to-the-bottom class-over-conscious submarine lifeboat weighed down by the ballast of nationalism versus localism. Questions asked on the night by the audience included: ‘Why is Islam a wicked and vicious faith?’ and ‘Can the recent success of the BNP be explained by the misguided immigration policy of the government?’ Sound familiar? Hidden in plain sight, the Hegelian dialectic: problem, reaction, solution.

Only when we see these manoeuvres as part of a bigger picture can we begin to comprehend the extent of the collusion. As George Monbiot sets out in his recent piece for The Guardian, ‘A Despot In Disguise: One Man’s Mission To Rip Up Democracy': “any clash between ‘freedom’ (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom”. The constitutional revolution of the last forty-odd years has been painstakingly executed with extreme stealth by a cabal of elite capitalists funded by the likes of Charles Koch, shadowy figures who make odious individuals such as Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman seem like Morecambe and Wise. This bonfire of regulations has everything to do with vanity, executed with the kind of impunity that only money can buy. The destruction of state architecture: austerity; dismantling of public services; tuition fees; the neutering of our education system; the debt-saddling of our young.

To see, or to not see, is that the question? Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous theatre, or to take arms against the eternal sea of dicotomy, and by opposing, end this duality? By Thymos or by eudaemonia, whether we demand recognition or dignity, moral absolutism or consequentialism, instead of the simplification of polar extremity, we embrace instead the space of spectrum advocated by Bill Hicks in ‘It’s Just A Ride: “Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead, spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would, many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace”.

To take back control, the concept requires control to have been theoretically relinquished at some stage or another. This has patently never happened, not once. The opposite of John C Calhoun’s definition of freedom is enslavement, the spectrum of collectivism in-between those extremes embraces possibility, potential, purpose and passion. To paraphrase the words of chairman Strummer: They’ve got you down on the killing floor, and they want to keep you there. Their bank accounts are all that matter, you don’t count. We can’t make any significant progress, we can’t get ahead. We can’t stop the regress, until we’re dead. Look out for rules and regulations: Repression, gonna start on Tuesday. Repression, gonna be a Dalek. Repression, I am a robot. Repression, I obey.


Forward thinking future dub made present; the oppositional possibility of duality. Be here now in this spectrum of sound, with Scrub A Dub Records. US tag team Alter Echo & E3 unite with Bristol’s Ishan Sound in a display of dub wise internationalism to fashion anthemic styles in two complementary flavours. Zam Zam Sounds meets Young Echo sounds. ‘Ah Mi Guide’ (Scrub A Dub Records) builds on the damage caused earlier this year by Dubkasm‘s ‘Enter The Gates’ (Dubkasm Records). A prophetic sample from Rider Shafique; a gargantuan basic channel; a brace of vershuns: equal in stature to the pillars of Jachin and Boaz. Chant down the walls of Babylon.


As The Caretaker‘s ‘Everywhere At The End of Time’ series enters ‘Stage 5’ (History Always Favours The Winners), parallels emerge from the gloom of confusion. Is the entire series a metaphor for the collapse of democracy? The connectivity of ‘Everywhere At The End Of Time’ to the totalitarian suicide note of Brexit cannot be ignored. They both began their inexorable destruction of relative reality back in 2016, and both are primed to climax in spring 2019. Nostalgia; collective amnesia; progressive dementia: all stations on Hick’s ride to oblivion. Considering labelling theory momentarily, isn’t it about time history was rewritten by the losers?


Renaissance is inevitable post-flux. As Zizek states: “What happens the day after the revolution?” With ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing Records), her second long player of 2018, Sarah Davachi poses theistic questions that challenge our perception of faith in an age of no universal truth. The sanctity we feel at the heart of the religious experience is the connection we lack at the heart of our commercial existence. The crisis of disconnection in an age of loneliness, the cancerous cells in the blood of an unholy communion. Davachi converts spiritual import to secular export alchemically in her most deeply affecting statement yet. There is a beauty here that arches back centuries to a time we all felt connected to ourselves. A time before the drought.


Duality abounds on Tim Hecker‘s masterful ‘Konoyo’ (Kranky): lone v collective; organic v synthesised; consonant v dissonant; Western v Eastern; abstract v concrete; past v present. The here and now for Tim Hecker is a riot of possibility, and in all probability if you’ve never dived into a Hecker ocean before then ‘Konoyo’ is the catalyst you need to get utterly drenched in potential. Both sonically, and visually (live at The Barbican, with Kara-Lis Coverdale), ‘Konoyo’ shatters every reconnection and trumps every expectation. A recent discussion I was involved in bemoaning the live performance music medium circa 2018 could learn a great deal from experiences like this. No matter where we’re from, where we’ve been, or, incidentally, where’re we’re at, there is always something new to learn. No one has seen it all.


I don’t buy many records with vocals on them these days. My patience at the demise of lyrical craftsmanship; the banality of verse/chorus tedium; the vacuous nature of the social commentariat; the total irrelevance of much of it. It is indeed a joy, therefore, to discover someone who can both sing and craft lyrics with the kind of assured presence one immediately relates to as authentic. Lonnie Holley is the closest thing fucked-up America has to a prophet right now. A 68-year-old artist and found-object curator whose third long player, ‘MITH’ (Jagjaguwar), is set to trouble the scorers on an endemic level come close of play, 2018. Compared elsewhere to Gil Scott Heron, James Blood Ulmer, Wesley WillisTom Waits, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Eugene McDaniels, Al Jarreau and Louis Armstrong, to name but a few, with an additional twist of lemon from the cosmic brotherhood of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Sun Ra and George Clinton. I’d add a smattering of Van Morrison, circa ‘Astral Weeks’ (for the improvisational aspects), and ‘In The Garden’ (for the meandering stream on consciousness sentimentalism). Wrap it all up with a gold bow as a future classic set to stride a universe of connectivity, with both those who’ve heard it all before, and those who haven’t.


One of a host of shining stars that lit up Young Echo‘s self-titled sophomore album back at the beginning of the year, Manonmars returns here to drop his s/t debut on Young Echo Records for our delight and delectation. Intelligent poetry, laconic delivery, exceptional musical content, courtesy of Amos Childs and Sam Barrett, Manonmars builds effortlessly on his contribution to the aforementioned ‘Young Echo’, and references to that record abound. One of the things I admire about Manonmars approach is his brevity. On first listen, I came away wishing some of it hard gone on longer, but now I’m settled into the record, like a comfy stained armchair, I realise that 30-minutes is the perfect length for a post-everything hip hop record. As we approach the season of lists, scoring, oneupmanship and holier-than-thou recommendation, Manonmars has already booked his place.


Teresa Winter returns, unexpectedly, with the follow-up to 2017’s uniformly excellent ‘Untitled Death’. ‘What The Night Is For’ (The Death Of Rave) again reflects the uncertainty in which we collectively find ourselves in 2018. Thematically, duality features heavily: freedom/repression; legal/criminal; theistic/occult; brutal/sensitive; insider/outsider. Mining the vast chasm of avant-classical tropes that have opened up around the likes of Kara-Lis Coverdale, Sarah Davachi, Felicia Atkinson, et al., Winter brings shards of chimeric popular intention and disturbing tabs of psychedelic discombobulation to the party. A dream made real, or a waking nightmare? I’ll leave that one to you.

Jean Encoule - October 7th, 2018

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