Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beach house, Playhouse, Klang! (bandwidth, bit-depth)

Every few weeks my lady and I escape the confines of unit and routine and head for the beach.

One of the best things about being away is having a circumstance-imposed break from email, broadband, and ‘keeping up’ with what’s happening.

Another thing that it forces me to do is listen to purchased CDs: the old CD player down there takes exception to CD-Rs, apparently, and won’t play them.

So I went over a few things, some of which are still amazing, some of which have lost a touch of glitter with the passing of years.

Here are a few that I was listening to:

Eight Miles High – Katalog: I don’t know why this collection isn’t more esteemed… or so I think to myself, then I listen through from start to finish and remember. It’s bitsy, doesn’t flow well as a collection, and has a few duds on it. Having said that, the best material here is just astonishingly beautiful. Roman Flügel’s is some of the most inspired and skilful sound design in the business – factor in some on-song writing, and you get some of the most astonishing pieces of chamber electronica written in the past decade. At the same time, there’s a weird earnestness to this record, as evinced by the stupid cover… to my eyes it reads like a piss-take, but… I think it’s actually for real. It represents the whole thing as an ‘important’ collection by a ‘serious artist’… the hard fringe, the black skivvy, the curator’s spectacle frames. But who cares when you’re listening to ‘Pure Beauty’, ‘Reflexed’ or ‘Told’?

Isolée - Rest: a lot of words have been written about this album. What can I offer except something like ‘Rest is so good that no hyperbole would be possible’. No, but seriously, this album is just so beautiful, and so thoroughly unlike anything else. Rajko manages to coax the most improbable sounds out of his machines. They’re interesting as sounds, they’re great as productions, but they’re also really amazing compositions. The disc is gold – it’s like they knew exactly the value of what they’re putting out.

Farben – Textar: I love all these EPs so much… but it just doesn’t work on CD. I don’t know why – it doesn’t flow, or something. Still, get it, chuck it on your file player, and when shuffle brings one of these splendid tracks out of the ether, you’ll be able to say ‘Holy fuck, what the hell is this shit’ and really mean it. It’s a shame Jan Jelinek stopped exploring house grooves… not for him, of course, but for us.

Losoul – Belong: ‘I don’t get why people like this album’, I say to myself, then I keep listening. The last few tracks are really good, but I dunno… something’s always missing here. I want to like it, but my ears say otherwise.

All these collections came out in the first half of the 2000s... many of them contain tracks from the late 90s. Some of them were the reasons I saw the beauty of the groove in the first place. Others appear completely different to the way they were (in my mind and to my ears) when I first heard them. The landscape has changed and, it seems, Playhouse and Klang are no longer on the ball creatively. I wonder what happened.

Having ample time to digest these records (the space of years) made me think about informational culture, and the demands it places on us, not only as listeners, but also as filters, hacks... perhaps even (oh ho) critics.

In the quick Q&A conducted for his RA podcast, Gerd Janson said something I thought was interesting, true, and applied to me to some extent.

You also do some music journalism on the side. Ever change your mind about a record review after turning it in?

Every time. Either I decide that I actually hate the record or that I should have hated it.

Apropos Jansens' point: I think I really disagree with what I was saying in the Devo post about 2008 - I actually think there have been some superbly creative albums released this year... next post I'll talk about some of them. But now I just wanna indulge myself... so stop reading if you can't be bothered engaging with my scattered speculations... I've got this growing archive of frantic notes, and I'm determined to get some of them out there, lest they languish on my hard drive.

I wrote this note to myself the other day:

Stories of judgement are murder as media; received as messages, contemplated in haste (and in a general state of distraction) the presentation of ‘the facts’ can yield no representation of pathos, no time for judgement, and no space for silence.

Of course, things change in your estimation, and us media proles are forced to make evaluations with incomplete information in conditions of haste. In a positive sense, you could say that the network provides the possibility of playfully retrieving fragments and recombining them in our own ‘mix’, which is fundamentally important for the repossession of understanding from information. Ad-hoc, rolling evaluation enables us to re-embed fragments of information into a personal space which can also become a new means of imaginative expression - the joy of blogging. Information becomes the raw material, the junk (not garbage) out of which new relations of understanding are potentially formed. The nimble tapdance of keys on a keyboard is emblematic, not of melodies, but of relaying moments into the non-purposive movement of information flows. As the creative re-possession of information it presents participants with a means without end, a non-purposive, non-linear affective relationship that contains the immanent possibility of relatively free association, of co-operation without restraint.

...either that, or, there's no time to judge anymore, no horizon for judgement.

Many people want soundbites... and they also want soundbites that just reinforce the opinions they already have – it's just a discourse of confirmation.

But who am I to judge?

Maybe the web, blogs, sites and so forth are inhospitable to bit-depth: maybe they can only accomodate bandwidth.

But what effects is this having on our ability to engage deeply with the fine grain of things? To listen carefully: to the music, and each other?


  1. re : eight miles high...

    one, most specifically "flow chart," is one of the more interesting idm / dnb tracks i think i've had the pleasure of hearing.

    re : isolee...

    "musik...", and the unbelievable "beau mot plage," will always have a huge place in my heart...but everyone looks past how fucking beautifully brilliant "i owe you" is!

  2. great albums. that farben collection was sound.

  3. i think a problem is the crazy consumption of music these days. this is made possible by mp3s moreso than any other factor: these huge collections of music that people DL and hit "shuffle" or whatever, just skipping through tracks randomly are not going to give you the same experience as listening to whole albums.

    you mnml ssg guys also go through an incredible amount of mixes that you listen to, i tend to take a smaller number and give them repeat listens until i know them extremely well.

    with new records, i have a pretty good track record of my opinion of them not going down at all after i buy them. usually my feelings either stay the same, or i end up liking them more and more. its just a matter of knowing what you want in music i think. i tend to take more chances on used records as they are very cheap (about $4 on average for me at the places i go) and those chances dont pay off nearly as much, they usually end up in the "to be sold back" pile.

  4. Pipecock,

    maybe you just prefer records because they're black... and are therefore inherently 'soulful' ;)

    Q: How can we hack all this information?

    Q: Are informational mediums inhospitable to depth?

    Q: How is our ability to read and evaluate being affected?

  5. Think pipey makes some really good points there.

    Don't think the 'safety wink' gets precents that opening comment being fairly asinine pc.

  6. FFS. I'll try again:

    Think pipey makes some really good points there.

    Don't think the 'safety wink' prevents that opening comment being fairly asinine pc.

  7. @ Asifindit, yeah, fair cop... safety wink, that's nice.

    Say something borderline offensive, then dissimulate using humour. and then when the person does take offence, you just say, 'hey, can't you take a joke?'

    ...or maybe inhospitable mediums are informational to depth.


Say something constructive, bitte. Or if you're gonna take a swipe, at least sharpen your nails.

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