Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Black Hole: Surviving The Cold Dark Months of December and January

I've felt myself falling into a bit of a black hole recently. No, not the 1979 Disney science-fiction classic, but a musical black hole. I'm getting excited about precious few new albums/tracks lately, and it's depressing the hell out of me. Like a junkie searching for a new hit, I'm searching around for new material to get excited about, but very little is coming to hand.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Maybe nothing. Reading the fourth paragraph of Pete's last post (from his Inpress column) I realize that maybe the black hole I'm in is not a personal one (although it impacts on me personally). Perhaps I'm getting excited about less releases at the moment because there are less releases to be excited about. Maybe we're all in the black hole at the moment.

Of course, there are indeed releases coming out in December/January. The Bruno Pronsato album, for example, as Pete points out. But when the "Best of 2008" lists begin emerging at the end of November, will anyone remember it? Will it get the props it deserves? Now, before you say "but of course it will" I recall plenty of critics/reviewers going apeshit over Pantha Du Prince's album "This Bliss" when it came out in January of 2007, but on how many "Best of 2007" lists did it end up appearing?

(Personal aside: I thought "This Bliss" was awesome, and was slightly ticked off that it received very few props at the end of the year.)

If a producer has an incredible release, can they really risk releasing it in the cold dark months of December and January? Will they stand a chance of being able to slap a "Pitchfork's/RA's/Mnml Ssgs' Album of the Year!" sticker on it?

And where does it leave us? Well, for me I'm realizing that maybe it's time to go digging back through my collection, finding those albums I skipped over before, and giving them a serious listen now. Around the middle of the year so much good stuff was coming out that I developed a mild case of musical ADD. I would only give new releases one or two listens to hook me before moving on. I've undoubtedly glossed over heaps of great stuff by doing that. Time to retrace my steps and listen more closely.

Perhaps it's also time to re-discover stuff I loved, haven't listened to in years, and then fall in love with it all over again.

Either way, the cold dark months of December and January seem to be a time for reflection.

PS - The February issue of British music magazine Mojo may be worth grabbing for the free covermount CD that comes with it. Titled "ok_computer" ("no surprises" who the coverstars of the issue are), it's a 15-track collection of electronica reaching back to the mid/late 70s through to 2007. Here's the tracklisting:

1. The Human League: Circus of Death
2. Gary Numan/Tubeway Army: Down In The Park
3. The Knife: Silent Shout
4. Fujiya & Miyagi: Ankle Injuries
5. Matthew Dear: Fleece On Brain
6. John Foxx: Burning Car
7. Arthur Russell: Place I Know/Kid Like You
8. Xela: Afraid Of Monsters
9. Tangerine Dream: Rubycon (Part One)
10. Clouddead: Dead Dogs Two (Boards of Canada Remix)
11. Severed Heads: Dead Eyes Opened
12. Farley Jackmaster Funk: The Acid Life
13. The Peppers: Pepper Box
14. The Gentle Rain: Plastic Man
15. The Sounds Of Tomorrow: Space Child

I haven't listened to it yet, but it looks like a fairly solid selection of electronic music, old and new. Personally I'm quite excited by the early synthpop. Actually, it may make a companion of sorts to Tobias Freund's recent RA mix.


  1. singles wise I've found the last two weeks or so to be full of great stuff, before that I just dug around last year to find stuff I'd missed out on.

  2. Hi Ronan,

    Any singles/tracks in particular that have really grabbed you in the last couple of weeks?

    In terms of digging around in the collection, I listened to Luomo's "Vocalcity" for the first time in ages from start to finish. Damn. Such an amazing album ...

  3. Yeah I got Sascha Dive's new one on Drumpoet Community and Mountain People's new one finally got a digital release.

    Other than that Substance/Vainqueur's "Emerge", a couple of Brothers Vibe releases, Lemos and Chevy's "Woman's Key" (I LOVE this track), and Damian Schwarz on Mupa.

    I guess that's a mix of 2007 and 2008 but loving all of those!

  4. I got that Mojo Cd, some real gems on there. Recommended.

  5. This also speaks about the rapid flux of information and music available on and via the internet. There is an omnipresence of constant stimulation which has mediated how we approach new music, the rate at which we consume it, and the importance we attribute to each release prior to moving on to another.

    Needless to say, MP3s are also criminal to the lack of honed attention on a single, important track or album. It's so easy, effortless and convenient to acquire a *ridiculous* amount of music, and it all so easily gets buried. People don't TREASURE new music as much because it's so abundant and abstract and non-physical and minuscule.

    I find it all very unfortunate. But.. I also think it's going to eventually consume itself. Just like China will.

  6. PS.
    "Vocalcity" is a very, very special album.
    As is "This Bliss", which certainly did not receive the much deserved attention towards the close of the year.

  7. @ thecoloroflight: i wonder whether these processes are really the fault of the internet and mp3s, or just amplifying or encouraging a tendancy already inherent in techno. i mean, long before the internet really took over as the medium for techno, i remember making a conscious decision that because of the huge flux of new music coming through, i'd only buy and listen to new stuff. of course, i disagree with that position now, but at the time it seemed like a very straight forward proposition. and now with the constant stream of techno the internet provides, it seems like each day you need a new fix. doesnt matter i have gigs and gigs of music on my hard drive, i wake up this morning and want to find something as fresh as possible to put on. it'll be interesting to see where all this winds up.

  8. re: ceh

    Yeah, I suppose it does also hinge on the fleeting qualities, characteristics, and elements so ingrained within the techno subculture. I still maintain that people are spending less time with music than they did before mp3s. Maybe one spends more time with their excessive hodgepodge of mp3s, yet less time appreciating individual tracks.

    I download and I also buy 12"s. I've been making an effort to support the physical formats, the small record stores and distribution companies (and international distribution itself, since I'm unfortunately located in the States). And furthermore, establishing a connection with a very multifaceted "scene" (albeit so far away.) I believe all this is important.

    Anyway, yeah, it will be interesting to find out where this is heading. Needless to say, it's interesting at this very moment.


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