Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Top off Ten

Calendar-serfs that we are, it’s yearly review time. Even though I can barely remember what came out in January or which events I attended even without extensive research, I’m pitching in. Some cybernauts, like Blackdown Clark , knock up quality reviews, some do interesting slants. This will veer to the latter: Drum break please…
this is my music profile as of 21 December, 2005.

1. Muzik Technocell. My loudest sonic boom was ripped on to a blank dvd. It contained a couple of days’ worth of tracks from my mate Seb in Lille, and was a veritable tresor trove. This was just one example of the different ways music is accumulated these days. The good stuff gets appreciated even more if it bypasses commercial channels. By its nature this kind of approach is retro-active. On this media, for example, were two Love albums and loads of 80s Belgian emissions that I am savouring (I reckon the New Beat revival is definitely here – jocks like Smagghe have been veering that way for a while). Generally I am finding myself spending more time than ever going back to the alternative canon, reappraising acts such as Joy Division or The Cure (augmented by K-Punk pieces).

2. Dread step variables. Particularly Coki’s Officer. Big tings bassline! This is a skanker’s anthem extraordinaire, and whether it’s me bezzing off slo-mo-style in my attic or the headz getting down at DMZ this track never fails. Also Jon E Cash’s Cash Beat, that sick bass splurt of which has been in my head and vocalised to my wife’s annoyance for most of H2. And various Bug productions.

3. Continued exciting-despite-themselves necro/cold housey doings. Particularly Pier Bucci’s album and Lazarus’s compilation, both through Crosstown Rebels. Clearly this German-led sound and culture is reaching an apex of decadence, and we are way past Wildean dalliance and into actual Des Esseintes dissipation (we can gloss over Doherty’s use of A Rebours on his new album as mere try-hard referencing). Elitist? Definitely, this is sophisticated output for experienced white bourgeois. No doubt the gorgeous synthetix will keep on coming.

4. New techno shapes. Specifically this Dan Curtin ep and the Green Velvet Love long player.

5. The Semitic Djekyll. Ok, this is me, but it takes up a lot of time in the listening as well as the engineering, so has been a major component of my sonic o-five. Done almost exclusively through Sound Studio, which was hidden away in the Applications of old iMacs, I’ll sample something off iTunes, build something around a beat box or a finger tap and inject some harsh technoid sounds somewhere along the line. Sometimes, I’ll go off on a comic riff. The limitation is actually an advantage, though there is some processing capability I’m not caught in the endless possibilities of a Reason or even a Garageband. I like the ill-produced, amateurish nature of the sound. I lean towards harsher noises, but I’m sure this is just the introductory period before the Djekyll goes after the Grayblunt Cullumelua market.

The fans have been several: This is what came in my inbox about Repudate, for example: “Works with nazi crank” – Sioux, Faceless Compound, Iowa; “Sure” – P Tong, north London; “Repudate mubarak akbar” – Bored Saudi youth, Yanbu; “Repudate? ja, bitte” – Hans, Dusseldorf; And of Reichubermenschen: “Repudate e la nouvelle holocaust. Je m’en mort” – Jean-Paul, Toulon; “Nishin'” – Ruud, Utrecht. Actual responses have been forthcoming from the likes of Czukay and Cull’s Cream 74, who remarked about the former: “Blah-tee hell Muzzlings – that's one heck of a stench you boiled up there for our ear tasting.”
Anyone who wants a comp ripped lerrus know at

6. Worst year for music in ages chat. A lot of this seemed to stem from grime’s stumble into the hit parade – the protoganists seemingly happy to peddle novelty to go top 10, but also from mates who actually buy dance records and go to events on a regular basis. Often the complaint was that although there’s no end to the new releases there’s not enough good stuff to buy, and the jocks are increasingly turning to old techno. Yet some of those moaning online seem to buy so much they must be losing focus. Then there was the Blissblog-documented continued deepening of the nostalgia market – as time goes by an inevitable-but-no-less annoying trend. For what it’s worth I think there’s still loads of new music coming through that turns heads and turns heads on.

Of course, the nearer to the populist centre it’s hip-hop and house-oriented sounds that still rule the UK, and if the unattuned punter wants a narco night on the dancefloor, they’re far more likely to turn to hard dance or breakbeat than any of these more rarified genres we give so much time to. In the centre of the storm, lazy British minds would rather get off on ballroom dancing on Saturday-night TV – knobbers!

7. Online distributed mixes. Particularly Doubt Beat from Beat Research, the Skream comp and Gutterbreakz’ monthly reviews, and many of those flagged up on Dissensus. Muito respeito, brodas. As suggested in one, this continued anti-marketplace dissemination is one of the web’s big pluses, and as long as you’ve got the functionality time is the only brake on appreciation. I’m hoping to add to the stew with some rewinds of techno and d&b soon.

8. Any schmindies? Well the Arctics Monkeys were a welcome feral blast, but as documented, Truth was not without reservations. I’ve just got hold of Canadians’ Broken Social Scene, and that’s good, and Afrirampo was my gig of the year. Maximo Park’s A Certain Trigger wasn’t often out of a cd player. But generally indie rock has the uncanny ability to sound utterly amazing and different on the first listen then quickly become terminally quotidian. Arcade Fire were a fine example. If that’s the case then the vocal content has to improve a lot.

9. You are now about to witness the strength of blog knowledge. Blogworld ebbed and flowed this year – some of the leading lights dropped out, but the mainstream press kept banging on about it and starting their own pale imitations. Then the leading lights came back and now everyone is blogging – here are some recent arrivals from real-world mates.

It’s scandalous that people on the NME or Mojo are getting paid for plugging the obvious when there’s online peeps offering genuine insights and awareness purely for the love. Think Woebot’s recent NDW proselytizing. Proof that sifting through the melting pot and curating a specific area is still better, even though it’s tempting to load your mac up with everything (I spent ages going through seb’s rip as I didn’t want all of it). Let’s hope even more in the ’sphere break through in the 06 and start influencing those who unlike us aren’t locked into the PC or Mac 24-7.

10. The Kollektive. Portal keeper Forrest’s new work, Especially the deranged Something Inside, and LondonunderLondon.

Non-sonics have been pretty much dominated by Peepshow, Nathan Barley and The Mighty Boosh. The latter should produce a Bonzo Dog-like compilation of their musical skits – ie, the Isolation tune when they were on a desert island and the goth thrash about the 666 old biddy. Whether on scheduled broadcast, DVD, video or online playback, the trio of comedies is filling my head with ideas as well as dialogue. Three series in, Peepshow has almost entered the mainstream with its accurate portrayal of two twats, one beholden to “the miracle of consumer capitalism” the other “to a higher law”, who are the antithesis of laddish determinism. It’s an, er, oasis in the broadcast world, so for now we’ll ignore some pretty slack stereotyping of drug users (Sophie turns hippy; drug people can’t handle work, you see) and some lame dialogue towards the end of the series. Oh, and one of them’s adverts for McDonalds and air conditioner, and love of Piss Hitchins.

11. The official reushering in of post-punk.

– worst – that would be the “Manchester City album”. In the satanic name of commerce, please stop these trance interpretations of terrace classics (with the offensive stuff taken out) and dumb rock covers. Fucking cack! I’ve heard on the music biz grapevine, where I got it for nothing, that it has sold in pitiful amounts. It deserved to, football fans will buy any old tat but most will draw the line at a desecration of their song traditions. It came out on Sanctuary, which understandably has been in financial trouble.

Lucky it’s not all about music – keep checking Cull for perspective. See you on the other side of the artificial festive break.
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