Never Been In A Riot

A week after the shooting of Cherry Groce in Brixton, Cynthia Jarrett died during a police raid in Tottenham. Everybody knew there would be a response, but nobody was prepared for the severity of what followed. Police saturated the local streets and waite

A Column

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 SuicideRoland 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?”:

Jean Encoule - February 18th, 2020

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