I’d intended this post as some final words on 2011. But then two things happened. First of all, I listened to LWE’s Smallville ‘talking shopcast’ mix. Then, in lieu of an abortive graveyard shift on RRR (another story), I trawled through my early catalogue Dial records. Doing these two things stirred up some very powerful mixed feelings. So the final 2011 post – dealing with positive tropes and things that are really worth chasing if you haven't/didn't – will have to wait until next week. For now, here's me clearing the decks with some things I'd kept on not saying, but that kept on repeating on me...
Time is precious, time hurts. Time gives you erosion, loss, destruction and death. But for precisely that reason, you also get hanami, kittens, sunrise, and spring. On balance, I'd say it's worth it (well, consider the alternative). In 2011, Lawrence released a CD mix for Cocoon called Timeless. Conceptually, timeless ‘rhymes’ with priceless; something taken out of circulation as above and beyond, over and outside the normal ebb and flow of things (especially things touched and alienated by the grubby processes of production, distribution, exchange, consumption, wasting, neglect, disposal &c). That which is timeless, like that which is priceless, is not for sale, cannot be exchanged, will not perish. Even Mastercard concedes that such things are outside its grubbying purview. Timelessness is no mean feat; timeless makes a play for eternity. (To complete this thought, please master the moment by clicking through to the following encrypted page in order to purchase your own copy of Timeless...)
Lawrence’s mix was as you’d expect, if, like me, you're a long-time listener: it was well-programmed and well mixed. It's very 'nice'. It's also truly, 'deeply' repetitive in that, in listening to it, I not only had the feeling that I’d ‘heard it all before’, I even feel like I’d heard Lawrence play it all before. Would this play for forever have been okay if it were ‘just another podcast mix’? I’m not sure. But as a published work there was an affronting pretence to Timeless, both content and title. It was as if all the changes I know and feel about house music and the world over the past decade had never happened. It’s said that ‘still waters run deep’. But they also tend toward stagnation. I’m not sure if audacity has a true antonym, but Lawrence’s mix suggests it is: Timeless. Either that, or ‘timeless’ is just a very conceited way of saying: complacent. I gave it three careful listens to check if I wasn’t missing anything, then, out of respect for house music, my memories, and Lawrence’s back catalogue, I deleted and ‘forgot’ about Timeless. Forgot about it in a way that was not even poignant, merely... nothing... In fact, I ‘forgot’ about it until this morning (which also tells you something very important that Papa Freud tried to remind us, repeatedly, about ‘forgetting’).
The Talking Shopcast mix with Smallville goes even further down this road. It's so lovely, so tasteful. But it could have been mixed 12 years ago and not sounded any different. In fact, if it *were* mixed 12 years ago, it would be very likely to sound exactly like it does. I've been thinking about this for some time, and I've decided that it really matters. Making a mix from 2000 in 2012... it matters. Well, it may not matter to you. But it matters to me.
Like Timeless, for me there is something unbearably complacent at work in the decision to make this mix in 2012, and I find it affronting in a way that actually makes me feel very angry. It’s an attempted violation of my time somehow...(but time we share, however abstractly, by living through these times together) It's a kind of complacency makes me want to set fire to my records (in a pathetic version of Mizoguchi setting fire to ginkakuji). As if to prove some pyrrhic point about evanescence, memory, or forgetting. This weird over-reverence that makes you want to desecrate things you love and care about... (gobbing and safety pins notwithstanding, is this how punks felt?)
In my initial notes for this post, I wrote the following as prospective subheadings:
- a) confusing 'house' for 'home' (this house is *not* home, shut up): in most OECD countries the state will ‘house’ you, but if they want to enter, be in, or make a ‘home’ with you, this is the stuff of terror and nightmares
- b) from 'comfort food' to 'comfort house': what do we want when we want to be comforted by food? And what happens to house music when it just becomes a matter of comfort?
- c) all the comforts of home: the interview with Smallville stresses ‘cosy’, ‘deep’, ‘nice’. Okay, they're adults, these are clear artistic decisions, but: goodbye, fellas. I can't follow you that way. There is far too much reverence here, but it is sort of self-reverential, like a person hugging themselves. If I want to respect your past (in perpetuity), I think I need to do us both a favour and ignore your immediate future projects...
- d) cosy, timeless, complacent: the etymology of complacence is pleasing: mum tries to please with her cooking, and we return love by eating it. But you must 'clean your plate'. (if she's a traditional ‘homely’ mother, mine never made me finish my potatoes). Anything less is an affront to her ‘unconditional love’. This could make you feel angsty and aimlessly suffocated (like a teenager) but also wearied and resigned (like an old spouse), co-dependent but comfortable with their 'chosen' discomfort. ‘Don’t worry, mother, I’ll never leave you. Things will always be the same... feed me...’ Only: time is out of joint. There is a little of the placenta in this place and its complacency... And there is something awfully unheimlich about this home: actually, house and homes like this are uncannily like the home invasion nightmare scene from an American Werewolf in London (PS you need to leave home in order to have a chance with Jenny Agutter... NB: this also means risking becoming a werewolf).
If everything is broken, how come nothing appears to be falling apart?For me, the worst thing about the previous decade has been our inability to bury it: the GWOT has just turned in to ‘overseas contingency operations’, while the GFC has just rolled into what is not longer a crisis, but just chronic. The 10 year fucker is undead, monstrous, and keeps on rising, repetitively, to attack us - with a crate full of deep house records. For me, in spite/precisely because of their careful, crafted, reverent sounds, this was what I couldn't stand about Lawrence and the Smallville peepz decided to do with their 2011. At times it tempted me to go hide in my bongo closet, wait for sunrise, and hum the Talking Heads' Heaven to myself over and over. But no, that wouldn't be the right response to the times. The times is real. And the times is weird. Thank God John Maus gave me the strength to sing along to it in a way that meant something.