Thursday, January 31, 2008

Child perform

Proof were hardly further required but another example of club culture’s atrophy has been the appropriation of hedon’s space by the breeders. The newly-parent, media-organiser whordes are taking over some of the country’s leading autonomous spaces with their precious offspring, and getting down. Re-re-re-wind, says the annoying toddler and the funny yummy mummy. Now you and yours can Dance Like A Star.

Baby Loves Disco is one of the leading exponents of the new, er, scene and their sites abound with enthusiastic exclamation to the new must-do activity for your kid, or you must do. Economically, the tone is triumphant - we can fill the space and make the venue a profit unlike the clubbing contingents narking themselves to death (yes, that is the tone in British club scenes).

The argument for this quite-literally infantilist movement, that the oldies can keep their old habits “by still going clubbing”, is risible and not realistic. Setting may be similar – the DJ is present – but mindset is a little different. Your mate is little darling Nat, and it’s on the milk, rather than spazzed up on booze, drugs and sex objet-obsessions. Although as the Scotsman says: “The bar is in a separate adult-only room, where the alcohol must stay,” so you can feed the booze vice with more facility, but the ‘birds’ are your mother’s mother-friends, you don’t know them too well so you turn again to your childlings, and look at the time on their mobile. I saw them on breakfast TV and noted 30-something guys worryingly similar to me look into the camera while jigging with their kid and try not to cry through their bourgie playtime.

The craze is one louder than the blatant-but-understandable function theft of applying Ministry-type pounding commercial house to gymnastic CDs for fitness fanatics. Ok, so many dance songs have the word ‘Baby’ in their title, but again it’s a classic example of the klepto nature of the kapitalist – yeah, we can filch another area from a subculture; no-one will mind. We consume all in our path.

Yeah, it’s just another accretion from the dance-club world. Just as vinyl lps being framed and put on walls indicates that mp3s have really taken over (dance was the only area keeping this going but most DJs use alternative media now), this remodelling of one format shows that the rave dance era needs to move on and new spaces and formats need to develop, if it is to retain its old charge.
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Friday, January 04, 2008

House music all era long

Blackdown’s ‘funky’ convention raised so many issues which I'm addressing from my perspective as an aged raver on the margins occasionally dipping his toe in. It didn’t just discuss Wot Do You Call It?, although I would agree it probably needs to be denominated ‘funky’ for it to be specified away from mainstream ‘funky house’, if the main movers really believe it to be different.

It also raised issues of the Where Are We Now? variety. As Bliss suggests, this latest wave could be seen a sign of less ambitious, less demanding times. For old ravers for whom it is mostly about the music, the pressure drop, the euphoria, communo-mystical overtones and general socio-cultural flux, they may well be disenchanted by the need for a new shirt and shiny shoes the second time round, after UKG first demanded those. No bother, this is not reaching out to them.

Newer, or more realistic, crowds, however, will not be bothered by this at all as they may well see the great expectations of the rave/hardcore/jungle/2-step scenes as a false dawn, just a dash of fast-fluctuating transcendental with one’s materialism. A good club night now is a good club night full stop, it doesn’t have any wider resonance. If the times and the majority don’t mind buttoning up to get into a rave where champagne is at least as important as narcotics, then people will go with that. And people can get the more dirty vibe from the afterparty circuit anyway.

I think it’s disingenuous to say funky [house] stylings have never fed the indigenous London ‘nuum/raver crowd. Ever since garage lost its momentum there have been those type of nights from Tottenham to Croydon. And the Hed Kandi types of nights also take those locals who don’t want moody/druggy/innovation (delete as appropriate). But it is often at a remove from the motor of innovation, ie East London and E3 in particular.

House is also the default motor of all those very late bars and even later clubs in places like Brixton and Islington/Old Street, which again take some of that local dancing crowd and mix with it the middle-class immigrants from out of town. Let’s face it, house and garage also reach the wine bar/chrome bar/lounge bar crowd whether that’s uptown or local suburban bar; in this context it’s part of the line that includes soul, funk and jazz-funk. House can range from famed US producers (still) showcasing themselves to the most faceless of tracky cuts rolled out by producer/djs for specific audiences, but it’s still filling a need that isn’t for Hard, isn’t for Techno, isn’t for Garage and certainly isn’t for d’step, grime or jungle, as funky is too.

Though people are still talking about going to the rave, or going raving it now seems to be a generic term for a dj-led party, the same way the more corporate-speak and American-esque “going out to party” is a generic couch for getting way too pissed.

Listening to some of the myspace producers' numbers, it is all competent stuff around the house spectrum – far better than some of that weak Hed Kandi pish - but is not going to get any sound fetishists talking and will merely highlight the divide between real dancers and bedroom ravers. It’s not like producers have tried percussion, broken or otherwise, over a four-four beat before. Some of it has that accent on riff that a lot of London rave music had had; others sounded very much like deep house. Felt the MA1 production Tia Jean’s Walking Away. It has the e-driven deep bass pull.

Overall, this latest wave shows that the 4/4 bounce, note how bassline/niche bounces and eschews any hint of a breakbeat too, is king for the impact it has on dance cultures, and has been for a long time.
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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wriggling on in 20eight

Some or all of these beats were going through my head during the recent ambulations, as i formed my short-but-sweet highlights of 2007:

Retina It – Zucchine Alla Scapece. Glitchy ambience from the Hefty electronica label builds up to a nice suffusion.
Joachim – Lonely Hearts. The French producer’s reputation built over the year – Drumtrax was on Simian Mobile Disco’s Fabric comp – and it was this slice of uptempo and proud miserablism that captured hearts.
The Ghosts - Suicide Train. Professionalized, major-label ‘Indie’ as it-has-become continued to appal throughout and in this context labels of wilful amateurism and obscurity such as Stolen begin to matter. Their compilation was stoked full of punky garage bursts and synthy, acoustic and other weird-outs, and this stomp over the Stooges’ turf was one of the most effective.
Hadouken – Girls. The Dr Frankensteins of grindie lay down a bouncing paean to the varying lives of ‘girls’ Jamie Smith may or may not know.
Durrty Goodz – Boi Dem. Atrophic slabs of demented harmonica and dub stylings underpin Durrty’s riff on the unassailable ‘young and fly’ man.
Mala – Lean 4wd. Dubstep began to eat itself in 2007 and this was not a tune like Coki & Benga’s Nite to apply the genre to wider dancefloor concerns, but its nervous, quasi-medievalist tones worked well with the usual beat and overlying pen-tap percussion.
Various Production – Chief. Team Various came back with loads of releases in late 2007. This powerful slice of industrial ‘step with synth washes didn’t go anywhere but revelled in its own sound. Also liked Took, another of their medievalist conceits.
Battles - Leyendecker. The most accessible of the Warp experimental rock troupe's Mirrored album, a slamming trip hop-style beat, gooey pitched up vox and supporting synth lines make this a delight.
[The Djekyll – Revenge Brun (mp3). IF this were a mixtape, I’d need chopped up breakbeats, bass drones and Indian elements to push the feeling on, so I’ll stick my own spacey sitaricon in.]
Tomboy – Zamiang. Gomma’s happy dance too often looks to 80s New York, but this tune from the Italian producer forgot the party to concentrate on lysergic synths, snapping the synapses.
Bloc Party – Where is Home? (Burial rmx). Having still not bought Untrue (mainly due to diminished use value on current reduced tech set up), this would do nicely. Kele Okereke and co dematerialise and return only as apparitions in an otherworld of rave comedown unbliss.

Now let’s get the tech upgrade to do this as a compilation.
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Hampshire Follies 1 Suffolk Vistas 1

You’d expect a 218-foot tower to dominate a rural skyline, but that’s not the case with Sway Tower, Judge Peterson’s late Victorian spiritualist folly. The surrounding New Forest area undulates, trees and hedges are grown out and the roads bend round so that one minute the Victorian unreinforced concrete ‘scraper may be staring at you, the next it has disappeared.

Not only does its full bearing elude the eye from many angles, but the tower doesn’t deliver full impact in other ways. On a clear, bright day in Sway, you expect clear lines, vertical definition, the pride of the phallic shape. We walked the long way from Mead End: as we got closer, the brighter mirage from afar is muddied with the darker hues of the overhung trees and houses. When we’re at the closest, ie, still barred by the ring of houses, the Dorset and Hampshire-sourced stone looks dull.


This lack of substantial aspect lends itself to romantic interpretation of a building intended as a soaring mausoleum to its creator, and one whose is most subsequent use was briefly as a B&B.

Closer to a San Gimignano medieval tower than modern erections, this illusive building still pulled me in. While the others walk on, I can’t resist turning back, thinking on the chimera and the connections. Mary Girling’s Shakers, a major influence on Peterson, turned up down the road via SE London, she is buried in the church my sister got married in, there was the aristo spiritualists up on the edge of the New Forest at Broadlands while her early patron Auberon Herbert ended his life in reclusive architectural eccentricity round Burley. Moreover, Phillip Hoare, the chronicler of these fin-de-siecle religious shifts (and whose Spike Island book was cited recently by Owen) came from Bitterne in Southampton where my Dad was brought up.


Perhaps this building will always best fuel the imagination in its liminal status between living building and ruin. If the Trusts or Heritages did take over and the public were allowed in, it would surely be blanded out of existence by safety and security concerns, green signage at every corner and a tacky visitors’ centre on the ground.

Girling came from Suffolk, where our walks continued to liven up the snack-happy lethargy of the festive season as we moved to the near-Constablean environs of the southern edge of the county. Here, our ramble was extended by the overconfidence of my wife’s hazy reverie of the back routes from her late childhood (‘spliffs’, ‘hay stacks’, ‘boys’, ‘hypnotism’), and my faith in one’s own inner compass. The truth of where we were lay somewhere in between but the uncertainly led to another hour of hiking around the bridalways somewhere near but not quite in any of Leavenheath, Honey Tye and Assington.
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