Old Mind Tapes Can Be Wiped Clean
I'm on the platform at Gunnersbury station singing ´California Girls', badly, out of tune, but I have to release all the Beach Boys songs in my head, not because they annoy me, but for the sheer joy of releasing them. I don't sing loudly because I know that despite hearing the perfect recorded renditions in my head the versions I reproduce will be bad. I'm singing Beach Boys songs because Alistair compiled me a couple of CDs. It's a warm sunny day and there's no better soundtrack for such weather...
If you're looking for:
Indie-hop Slipped-disc trickery R&B in a hall of mirrors (made fat, thin, ugly, stupid, funny & weird)
Whitewashed funk for people who don't dance much
Far Left rap tracks
A candidate for inclusion in an update of ´Mothership Connection' which refers to Prefuse 73 instead of The Doobie Brothers or Bowie
Occasional ´jazzy' grooves
A sound deconstruction job
& some clever sonic welding...
You'd probably enjoy One Word Extinguisher.
I'm DJ-ing and a guy approaches the decks. He says ´We've been sat here for two hours and we haven't heard one tune...' As he pauses I await the familiar refrain relating to musical ignorance and the relative obscurity of the music I play. He continues ´...that hasn't broadened our horizons.' What the...? Compliments like this don't come my way too often, although I suppose Pete Tong gets them every time he mans the decks, so I thank him and feel mighty pleased with myself, if you don't mind...
I was lying on the settee eating Freedom Fries and drinking Coke, watching war coverage on TV with the sound off and the headphones on, playing some Johnny Cash songs, when damned if he didn't start singing ´Goin' By The Book', which contains such lines as ´You can see it in the movies and the ´papers and the TV news / Somebody's army is always on the move', and ´There's armies in the cities and the missiles stand ready for flight'. He even sings about ´that rumbling in the desert like thunder getting closer'. Yeah, it was as if I was watching an anti-war video. It was one of those rare art/life interactions and it felt strange...
Now the war's over and spring is here and people talk about ´winning the peace', which is a stupid term but actually relevant to everyone because every day we're all trying to ´win the peace' in the battle between ourselves and the good old democratic capitalist society. I say ´we', but the world contains other places, places that are still violent and starved of essentials, and for them the ´war' really means life or death, whereas for us comfy people, us beneficiaries of well established democratic systems, the war is psychological. The war is financial, but doesn't involve not being able to afford a bowl of rice or a house with running water. It's about being more comfortable than we already are, and we're never quite comfortable enough, and the house is never quite big enough, and somewhere down the list of consumer essentials there might be music, and we've never got enough of that either...
Do you expect some kind of perspective on all this? Forget it. We can't help being stuck with who we are, or where we are. So the question of whether to buy the latest White Stripes album takes on an absurd kind of importance, as if it actually matters. But it does, and the reason it matters is because we're allowed the luxury of lending importance to things like music. Some of us take it too far and worry all day about a review that gets it wrong or the continued existence of Madonna's recording career. You see what ´freedom' brings?
So spring comes and I get the urge to sell a whole load of music, not because it's spring and I see the potential for some cleaning out of the collection, necessarily, although that's a valid enough reason. No, I just got bored of most of it and tempted to test the limits, to find out how far I could go regarding rejection and refinement. I've performed a less rigorous version of this exercise many times (haven't we all?), and, yes, written about it too. I get the idea to create a 100-strong collection of albums - that's all.
Another collection, much smaller, will be the new stuff that I'm buying all the time. It's unlikely that any would make the next essential 100 selection, which amounts to a declaration that ´nothing new will become classic', if you like. That's just me...or...just the state of things. No, every generation has its ´classics', by which I mean albums that are held dear by those of a certain age, of course, and not those which could objectively (eh? What does that mean in relation to music? Nothing. ) be compared to Kind Of Blue, Never Mind The Bollocks, Innervisions etc.
Autechre's Draft 7.30 proves that they haven't gone flabby, artistically, despite having been around for ten years. After all, emusic isn't like Rock, where players get the chance to become famous celebs and sell their souls at the crossroads of commerce for ultra-comfy careers, is it? There are no mega-stars of electronica, other than in the minds of those for whom the click and buzz forms a large part of their musical world. To them Autechre are the ultimate ´band'. They would be digital dinosaurs if others in the electronic evolutionary chain threatened to take over and make them extinct, but they don't because unlike Rock emusic hasn't evolved that way. In this world it's a matter of persist and survive, or simply disappear. Most, as with all ´pop' music, do the latter.
Whilst Alistair champions Pop as a very private affair I'd suggest that Autechre are the ultimate manifestation of ´private music'. Booth and Brown inhabit a very private world, sealed off from potentially corrupting influences such as commerce or changing musical trends. They sit below in a metaphorical bunker and rise far above most other electronic music.
Draft 7.30 is the ultimate headphone music. It's as if space and all that it carries (the noise of life, dust particles, even air) pollutes and dilutes the sound. I listened to half the album in the ´phones and it was engrossing. I played the other half through the external speakers and it sounded like an imitation of Autechre.
Draft 7.30 is immaculate. Autechre stay true to an ideal, even if that ideal is only musical. At least they stand for something, and those who don't fall for anything.
Did Elton John ever find that horny backed toad he was hunting as he walked the yellow brick road? It's a stupid question but it comes to mind all the same because Jane and I were in a shop that was playing that song the other day...
Apart from the Beach Boys compilation and Draft 7.30 my favourite album at the moment is Antagonist Survival Kit by Sixtoo on Vertical Form. The creator's name is Robert Squire, about whom I know nothing and don't much care to. I know the title's great. I know that to attempt a nineteen-minute instrumental and succeed takes some doing. I also know I really like the potentially cheesy and naff but actually enjoyable brief excursion into classical-piano-with-beat called ´Baroque'. I like the introduction of an acoustic guitar into the rap track called ´A To Zero', which could be about a teacher at the end of his tether, so I must send it to Alistair. The way it evolves into an instrumental is great too.
Squire peppers these works with subtle, effective instrumentation. He might be rapping about actual flying, or reluctance to take chances generally on ´Fear Of Flying'. Either way, I wouldn't like to hear it on the internal sound system when I take Ryanair to Italy next month. On ´Daggers On All Corners' he mentions watching Coltrane, I don't know why. Most of the sentiments are dark, but the production's so good that the effect is not negative. The long track, ´The Mile-End Artbike/Suicide Manual', includes a great bass line, a ´Dead on arrival' mantra, dub effects, mournful Morricone-style background vocals, and a section that features a repeated rippling electric keyboard.
This may amount to antagonism if you want predictable rap about guns and such shit, or abstraction all the way, but I think Sixtoo walks a perfect line between experimentation and the more (un)conventional hip-hop side.
There are no contents for number 10.
© 2003 Robin Tomens