Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Re-presenting representing music [how this PC feels right now]

~ Caveat for the harried and hurried: I know this is a long post: I’m not going to split it up, break it down, or sloganise it. I want you to please try to read, read slowly, even re-read. Or not read. This is integral. ~

For many years there have been murmured suspicions of something like a male menstrual cycle; for my part I know there are long ebbs-and-flows in my modes and moods, and I’ve learned to respect them. If something is giving me the shits, it’s usually (in retrospect) for good reason. The only sane and sensible thing to do is pull back, withdraw all affect, regroup, then make a decision to either incubate or jettison whatever it was.

Right now, writing about music has become one of these cyclical things. I want to state from the get go that the major reason for this – for me, personally – has been a competing list of other priorities and activities, all taking up headspace, each making an increasingly unavoidable claim on my time. After spending all day juggling the many balls of the Masters of the University (and believe me, in large part, it is mostly all complete balls), the last thing I feel like doing is analyzing, evaluating, and agonizing over music.

Of course this is not true, I’m just being precious and jaded about something I love, something I still love. Nonetheless, I am constantly dogged by a suspicion that music ‘criticism’, or just ‘being a music hack’, is something that has to be thoroughly re-thought in light of the present conjunction of factors: technologies, media, sounds, people, passions, etc…. in fact, I have three suspicions....

The first is that descriptive previews (as distinguished from critical reviews) are now thoroughly unnecessary. Writing for Rolling Stone in ’79, or NME in ’93, describing the up-and-coming, was a valuable endeavour (as well as being an act of audience shaping and, arguably, cultural gatekeeping). Music was relatively scarce, and most people hadn’t had the chance to hear the next big thing before it was grew and ripened to become ‘it’. In 2009, being descriptive amounts to guarding the already well-picked carcass of the (still officially unreleased) work from the vultures and trolls of the online forums.

This brings me to the second point, which is about how descriptive previews interact with their online audience, typically ‘forums’. I spend time (a lot of time, maybe too much time… I’ll come to this next) thinking about what I’m saying, trying to do justice to the release, then all the respondents want to do is shoot you down, they who already know the 'truth' of the release (their opinion, their mates’ opinions). Why have me say something different, just so they can vulturise it and review my review (the forum metareview, which places itself above scrutiny by placing the review[er] under scrutiny)? .... I'm so thoroughly, utterly sick of this. The online agora, such as it is, has become something I don't want to engage with at all or give anything to at all, for the simple reason that there is no engagement or debate: just contradiction, biting – nasty little shots across the bow, or (to mix metaphors) little anonymous text turds left on your interface doorstep.

I’m thinking here about RA in particular, but I don’t lay any of this at their feet. Todd and RA have done more than almost anyone to facilitate intelligent, interesting discussions about music on a free, open space, and have given a lot of people (myself included) an invaluable platform to put ideas out there. I sincerely thank them for it – and so should you! RA is an incredibly powerful connective, communicative tool... But! The question this immediately begs is simply how/why the overall quality of engagement with this platform is so low, so thoughtless, so, well, mean. A large minority within the apparent readership, and the way they read, is a big issue for me – actually, it’s close to being a dealbreaker. Again, the key factor is time. It takes months, years to write an album; it takes careful hour(s) to write a review; it takes 10s of seconds to read a review (it would seem), then single digits to say something thoughtless and nasty about it, just because you disagree… no, not disagree, because this would imply one haa a counter-interpretation. Mostly it’s just flat contradiction.

Overall, with regards people's online reading practice, the intense impression I have is that many people scan websites for reviews of new releases they’ve already heard based on the starring of the review: if it gets a high or low review, then, and only then, they click, and if the review doesn’t confirm their belief, if they even slightly disagree with the reviewer’s assessment (without reading closely to find the nuance and the connected chain of meanings in the flow of the words), then they reserve for themselves the sovereign right to unload. It got to the point where part of the reason I was missing deadline was that I was agonising myself into a ball trying to nail a review, because, unlike the way it was in print media, I knew the person who wrote the album was going to see it, read it, and, in some cases, take it to heart. This gets even harder when the work itself is thoroughly ambiguous and ambivalent… or you don’t care that much. But in any case, to agonise over an interpretation, then have to field (or simply ignore) attacks from thoughtless morons who know they know better (and we are ALL thoughtless morons who know they know better) is wearying, unrewarding, and ultimately untenable. The only way to psychologically survive in that environment is to become callous toward artists and contemptuous towards the audience… which was where I was headed…

...On the surface you might imagine this to be a good thing: the audience’s revenge, etc. True in theory, perhaps, and it would be true in practice - if only these wonderful online forums, these supposed havens of equality of voice and engagement, were not treated as they are – the hypertext toilet for a whole bunch of shit that people would never dare say to your face. I know I’m at risk of sounding precious here (I concede I am being a bit precious, in fact), so to be clear – I welcome agonism, disagreement. But it has to be respectful and engaged. What we get all too often online these days is a pale version of this, and I don’t want to play. Bad asssemblage, boring conversation, with Morrisey in my ear singing 'there is no debate, no debate, no debate....' and I haven’t got time. And, to return to the first point, we’ve all heard the album already anyway, right? Or we can find it with a click if we’re interested. I mean, it’s not like recorded music is scarce or precious anymore, is it?

What is precious though is time (and here we come to point the third): the expectation of reviews is that they’re written according to the dictates of publicity bubble manufacture, as anyone who's been grumbled at for reviewing a six week old record, or received a 'how very dare you' email from a PR company for saying something that wasn't on the publicity sheet.... In effect, as a busy reviewer, this typically means not only having to nail out an interpretation that does some justice to the artist’s work, but having to do so without having what is (in my view) sufficient time to allow sentiments to settle. Some of my favourite albums were bloody hard work: if I had only heard Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain of Slint’s Spiderland once, on shitty promo-quality mp3, rather than living with them to and from high school every day for months, I never would have really come to understand what’s so great about both works. My New Years’ Resolution commitment to some kind of listening discipline has been great for me, but it’s also meant my clearing folder of new music is running into the 100s of titles. It’s also meant having to ignore almost every piece of publicity and hype that bombards my inbox: once again, I just haven’t got time. I’m too busy trying to listen properly (I flatter myself, once again)… actually, this week I’m still getting further into Shed’s Shedding the Past.

Time, finally, also becomes precious because of a dearth-making glut. The glut is that, in 2009, there really is more recording than creativity going around… creativity takes the slow time of boredom, incubation and inspiration…. recording works in realtime… and with zip compression, one-click hosting, broadband transmission, and USB hard-drive storage, the time of three hundred years’ creativity is sitting on my desktop. Meanwhile, the dearth: I’ve still only got 24 hours in a given day, and somehow, we’re expected to listen to it all. That, just by itself, would be a full-time job.

There is no ‘solution’ (contrary to what the ICT industry would have you believe): technology is a pharmakon, a poisonous remedy. There is also no fixity and closure, though we’re constantly trying to attain some degree of it in our lives. We have to, if we’re to be able to function without breaking down. Unlike computers, we're not closed, logical systems - we're open and entangled matters (and we should try to live up to this). But given all the above, 'the way I feel right now' makes things seem to be necessary. The first is a constant work of presentation: Chris’ ‘set up’ posts are perfect in this regard. The second is a reflective work of analysis, the slow breakdown of the datasea into something resembling sense and meaning. I flatter myself (I know I’ve been doing that a lot with this post, I apologise) by thinking that last year’s End of Year wraps for RA were a good attempt to do just that, and I will, Todd willing, be doing it again this year. I think you will find that, if you read it slowly (please?), there’s some wisdom there, especially in Phillip Sherburne’s thoughts. The third needful thing is a positive, thoughtful engagement from you guys, who are not only some passive audience but also always actively the co-creators of this blog. So far, at least as far as all you SSGs are concerned, this goes without saying: and I thank all of you for your commitment to the potential of this weird media landscape we find ourselves in. And now, back to the music.

~ Getting to this point made me think: well, that's where I'm at, but is it representative of much? I wonder what somebody who's fist-deep in the RAviewing right now would think of all this? So I asked him to reply.... stay tuned for part two, next week. In the mean time, what say you? ~



  1. Although usually 'comment shy', after reading this article, I felt compelled to tell you how much I value your wonderful site. This is much more than a music-reviewing site because apart from thoughtfully discussing - and generously sharing (thank you for all the stunning podcasts!) - music that is in line with my own personal tastes and of which I personally seek out and purchase, the writers actually give something of themselves. This is a true weblog - a diary. Rather than using a 'cleverer-than-thou', sardonic approach to reviewing, your writers discuss music from the perspective of where they are coming from - at a given time, in a given place, in various states of mind. They don't hide behind the music, but instead discuss the way they feel in relation to it, which is something most reviewers (and commenters) would never dare to do.
    mnml ssgs is an oasis in a sea of shit. Cherish it. Thank you very much.

  2. @ Friendly Fire: well put, totally agree. PC, I value your reviews more than all the rest on RA as I know through the ssgs blog that your tastes are similar to mine. This is why relying on reviews is so difficult - it is obviously a very personal set of circumstances and tastes that defines whether you like or dislike a release. I think the problem with RA is that it is very popular. Forums on large sites dont seem to work, as you will inevitably end up with a bunch of disagreeable armchair critics arguing about nothing. On a smaller forum like these lovely pages, a more likeminded group of readers will seek it out as it is more niche and does not attract so a divergent audience. I guess this is why pitchfork dont have any forums in operation as it would probably be full of attacks on reviewers. For me, I rely on my ears to assess music before purchasing. The clip on juno or LWE is far better than any words from a reviewer in my book but that is not to say i do not appreciate the reviews, as they often point me to new music. I would MUCH rather see a list of reviewers' favourites, like a descriptive monthly chart as chris sometimes does on here. That way the whole reviewing world would be more positive and the poorer releases simply wouldnt get any exposure. I'm sure I have more to say on this but I think I'm about to miss my train, so anyway - massive thanks mnml ssgs and PC, keep up the good work - dont let the haters win. jp

  3. Fully agree with the previous two posters. MNML SSGS is so vital because of what is offers beyond what you call 'descriptive' article writing; a greater coverage of not only specific releases, specific artists, but the context of techno as a whole. further, that context is given not only through text based reviews, but interviews, podcasts (on site and offsite), sets, mixes, opinion articles, and on. i love this blog. a lot.

  4. PC - I'm sure the bulk of us totally hear & understand your pain and frustration. I absolutely take my hat off to you guys for doing what you do. Putting up gorgeous sets, that have dragged many of us by our nose rings, to glorious discovery of amazing new music, and generating great debates. That is such a cool and amazing, powerful thing even, to do.

    However, by stating opinion and making comment you do, as do the blogger respondents, leaves yourself / ourselves opinion open for negative comments, or an absolute barrage of self opinionated, uneducated or unqualified at least, b/s.

    Reality is you do this out of passion and power to you for it. Music is one of the most powerful and emotive gifts there is and like anything powerful and emotive, these can and will be ducks open to fire. Such gifts should also be shared and man, hasn't mnml ssgs done that !

    I used to say "I don't like that, it's crap" etc etc, but as was strongly pointed out to me, hey, that's YOUR opinion and many others will really like it. I remember that now and am much more guarded in passing on my opinions & comments as this is a very true statement. I much prefer to generate healthy debate and seek feedback; Break it down.

    Review writing - yes sure we all like to read reviews but it's a great thing when we hit on someone (or site) with whom's opinions we can identify with, and get to slowly, understand where they're coming from. Time is something we're all short of so with such reviews we can almost take a short cut to some great new discoveries. I think though that us with passion, also need explore reviews and check out music, that maybe doesn't appeal to us on initial read or listen.
    Case in point for me - Peter Van Hoesen. (Go figure / doh)

    It is fantastic the way your site generates such amazing discussion & debate. The passion with which most people comment and buy in to the discussions, is bloody fantastic to read and share. Oh that more people would show such passion and have an opinion rather than blindly following the pack.

    I sincerely hope the readership stays limited and we don't end up with the negative, ill considered dross we see from the likes of the RA masses. Why people even bother with such comments & one liners etc, is beyond me. They serve no purpose or value.

    Anyway you guys, don't let the bastards get you down. mnml ssgs is GOLD in a river of algae and thank you for doing what you do. Hang in there eh.

  5. PC, I wouldn't pay too much attention to what people post on RA forums. It's a great site and a wonderful resource, but the forums should come with a sign saying 'here be monsters'...

    I used to interact with some of the keyboard warriors who reviwed my reviews RA, but in the end, I just gave up, it's like banging your head against a wall. Life is just too short.

    Also, I have come to the conclusion that forums etc provoke a Jekyl & Hyde reaction from even the most polite, friendly people. Give them a keyboard and they turn into abusive monsters!

    As regards the value of reviews, I think they are still important. Like it or not, people still need filters, including the likes of RA, mnml ssgs etc. don't give up hope..

  6. 'I sincerely hope the readership stays limited and we don't end up with the negative, ill considered dross we see from the likes of the RA masses. Why people even bother with such comments & one liners etc, is beyond me. They serve no purpose or value.'

    Possibly the most obnoxious, unctuously snobbish remark I've read of any forum. As your opinion seems to be one borne of the worst kind of elitism - the type that mistakes fearful exclusivity as heroic individualism - I have no problem with calling you on it.

    I agree that there are idiots in the blogosphere who believe that to label something 'good' or 'bad' without explanation automatically makes it so, but to deny these people a voice is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You may find such comments vulgar or 'ill-considered' but you do possess the power to ignore them.

    We don't all have the time to write 5 point treatises, and if a pithy one-liner serves to sum up an article I feel strongly about then so be it. If the best I can come up with is 'it's class' or 'it's shit' then I would hope people have the good sense to ignore me.

  7. yeah I agree with most people here. If it wasn't for this site I wouldn't have come across Donato Dozzy or Cio D'Or... the amount of ssgs mixes coming out is pretty relentless, havent been able to most of them properly however these two stick.

    I go to different websites for different things, I like what I find here.

  8. One of the best things about the internet, as far as art is concerned, is that the critics can be criticized. Like you touched on, reviewing something that may have taken months or years to make in a couple of hours is inevitably kneejerk and cannot do justice to the record (especially when star ratings are involved). Particularly as certain records can reveal themselves to the listener over a prolonged period, while others burn bright initially before fading away. So there's no point in complaining about kneejerk reactions to reviews. Think how frustrated artists must get at reviews that they feel don't address their blood, sweat and tears in a fair and balanced manner. In other words just get on with it and stop lamenting the fact that some people may type before they think. All in all I think it's good that critics can't pontificate from a podium anymore. After all, it's just some other guy with an opinion.

  9. Mega-sympathies. Yeah, publishing on the all-hallowed world wibe web ain’t all that after all, is it?

    Online moron-ity has been much analysed, discussed and lamented,
    and only today:

    Opinions have ranged from the sad indictment that: Meanness through anonymity is a manifestation of innate human (male?) traits of aggression/power/ego (and cowardice?); to the qualified optimism of: It’s a phase in the evolution of ways of communicating in the digital/virtual era, and it will get better as social attitudes change as they have done about, say smoking, or racism/sexism. Hmmm...

    Either way, I reckon developing a thick skin and a light step are pre-requisites for authoring reviews, or anything that solicits comments, online. Skip merrily and quickly over the useless comments of unhappy trolls. I know, easier said than done when it’s your own writing on the line (regardless of how long it took to write), but if it’s a matter of sanity and survival...agree, life’s too short. And I agree that a well placed pithy comment also has its place.

    With all due respect to RA for its all round utility, I think they could do more to set a more thoughtful tone for the forums...

  10. Speaking as someone who reads and posts on RA every day, I want to say my bit. There are many people on RA, and on all forums, who think they know everything and feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I feel that the people who just baselessly reject a review or opinion AND fill their micro-responses with slanderous bullsh** are making themselves, their fellow respondents, and the site look like fools. One think I REALLY like about mnml ssgs is that, since I've been coming here, I've seen a lot of intelligent and well-thought out discussions and opinions being forged, such as the ones I see in this very post. It brings a refreshing change from trying to search for the gems, as they were, in the cesspool of PMSing in other forums. Yes, I've been on the receiving end of the stick both RA & here, but I won't kvetch about that. A reviewer doesn't need to completely avoid the online agora, they just need to know where to go. Don't take this personally, but from my cynical student's viewpoint, I see slanderous bullsh** as, sadly, an occupational hazard. There are always several bad apples in the bunch.

    End stream of clichéd expressions.

  11. I check RA for reviews and interviews everyday too. I don't post very often unless I've something to say that needs saying but I've seen some horrible things said over the last year since I joined. Like PC mentioned a lot of it is flat contradiction and sometimes I think people are saying what they say just to provoke others and this IS a pointless attitude to have and I feel your pain PC, I really do. If I don't agree with a review it doesn't matter. I love or hate the release being reviewed and that's all that matters. Although if a release gets a 4 or 5 star review that I initially ignored chances are I'll check it out but a poor review of a track I love doesn't bother me in the slightest. I didn't realise PC reviewed on RA so I'll keep a look out. As for mnml ssgs I've sung your praises many times and I feel I was very lucky to come across this blog, completely by accident looking for a link to Dozzy's Labyrinth set.
    Lucky me eh?
    Thanks a million and keep it up.

  12. Jesus said "... ye have the poor always with you" and on the Internet, you have the Sucker MCs always with you. They're there to ignore, and to complain about them gives them more attention than they're worth.

    You put a lot of words into talking about this phenomenon, and I know you're trying to give the subject its due. But attending to the vocal idiots means you're not considering the thoughtful replies, or considering how many people may have read your pieces and liked them without bothering to respond.

  13. wow. thanks for the beautiful comments guys. as pete wrote, a key thing about ssgs is that it is a team effort - all the readers contribute a huge amount to the direction, tone and pace of ssgs.

    to be honest, ssgs has turned into a bit of a techno crusade for me, and the big reason for that has been the reactions - positive and negative - we've received.

    in terms of reviewing, my main issue is that discussion too often turns to the reviewer, rather than the music itself. LWE is a place that seems to be a much better job of getting the reviews, and the interaction right. but that may be because it is not as big as RA.

  14. Phew! I read this entire article waiting for the punch line that you were going to discontinue this blog. That would be highly unwise. I for one highly value what you do here, it isn't really happening like it does here anywhere else (that I am aware of) on the internet.

    I don't always agree with your reviews or comments, I don't always like your podcasts, but I read and listen to them all.

    You guys are genuinely doing a good thing here. I can entirely understand your quandry with regard to the current mediascape and how it is shaping not only critique but also listening habits. Know that there are people out there who still value and cherish what they stick in their ears.

    Forums such as yours are what constitutes a 'scene' in our socially and physically differentiated world. What you are doing is more important than writing reviews, you are a mirror by which we, the electronic music community are able to see and recognise ourselves and to discuss what the future hold for what we share. Perhaps you should consider this when you think about where you plan to take the blog.


  15. this is a nice read , but i need to re-read it again, because its 5.30am here, but i got the main idea, and ill give it a thought..
    i also somehow thought that this might be the end of it all (ssgs). yes today music scene is shit we all know that, but you know ... never give up;)

  16. reviewing...
    having just started reviewing recently, various thoughts on the subject often float through my mind. what makes my opinion more valid than anyone else's? why should my opinion be placed online with some sort of veil of authority? obviously these are silly questions; of course i'm no more well informed nor more capable of writing a review than anyone else. i go through the same process of listening as everyone else, and my opinion of a record is just that: my humble opinion. hopefully i can turn people on to something good or hold producers accountable for lazy work, but i always want to know what others think as well. i welcome bad comments on my reviews just as much as good ones, so long as they're worthwhile.

    luckily, the discussions on LWE are usually on point (thanks for the words, chris), but RA is a different monster. yes, because it is a bigger site, though i think todd and crew do their best to curate good conversation. but one of the laziest and most ridiculous comments that i often see on RA is complaining about the timeliness of reviews. it says nothing of the record or the review. it takes awhile to review a record, from whenever you get the thing to when you've digested it, written and rewritten; it's not an instant process. but to be honest, i think sometimes late reviews are refreshing. i'm not interested in reviewing a record that is good for only a couple of months; a really great record should have the same review the day it comes out and years later (unless they just keep getting better). who cares if a record being reviewed is six months old? it's still deserving of a review. i'm glad you mentioned this, pc.

    i've been reading the ssgs for some time and would also like to join in praising you guys. if i ever want some good discussion on techno (or just some good sets), i always know where to come.

  17. you don't need to worry about ssgs shutting up shop yet. that is not really the source of frustration that motivated this piece (at least as far as i know). ssgs will not continue forever and there will be changes and developments (i.e. the mix series will not keep on going, it will be finite). but we have not completed our mission. still more to be done.

  18. why chris why's that? imho mixes should'nt stop , they make your blog special , not only talks but real exmaples

  19. @ rokas: this is something pete and i are still thinking about, but the mix series is - in part - supposed to be a statement. and an experiment. it is definitely not supposed to be indefinite. we havent decided when it will end, maybe 50, maybe more, but i doubt it will keep on going and going. we want to create something complete. anyway, don't worry yet, we've got a bunch of seriously heavy mixes in the pipeline.

  20. One thing I will say re RA & the ssgs. I quit any pro-active interest I had in club music around '99. Drum 'n' bass had become one long hoover bassline. Techno and house had lost their bearings. Hip hop had Timbaland & Missy and not a lot else.

    Clubs themselves had become consumed by our specifically Irish, Celtic Tiger hubris. Cocaine and alcohol were the substance touchstones and led to a 'last days of the Roman Empire' feel to most club nights.

    But then, in '07, I discovered the potential of on-line blogging and both it's fertile upsides and idiot downers. I came across RA and was immediately sucked back into electronic music, simply by the enthusiasm - from the artists, reviewers and humble bloggers alike.

    It's worth bearing in mind that RA was stuck in some minimal techno obsession at the time, much as it's stuck in its yawnsome minimal house obsession right now, but I still remember how mixes from the likes of Anja Schneider, Efdemin and Deadbeat seduced me back to the darkside.

    I only began to regularly read the ssgs blog when ye posted that awesome Marcel Fengler mix and I realised what I'd really been missing. Since then your open-minded stance, thoughtful articles and mind-bloody-blowing mixes have become a daily feature of my internetting experience.

    And what mixes. Donato Dozzy, Cio D'Or, Silent Servant, Benjamin Brunn and Fengler have been responsible for some of the most thrilling sounds I've heard in years.

    So, thanks a million for that saussie people. Ye have a blog here that I wish I'd hit before RA, but at the same time credit where credit's due.

  21. thanks marzie. i actually think RA is doing a very good job of managing to maintain a high standard given the huge breadth and diversity of their audience. for instance, with the podcasts i think our job is much easier - we are not trying to reach a large market, so we can be very specific. RA can't really afford to be so single-minded. I think it has done a great job of juggling appealing to different sounds, while introducing its readers to quality artists. and i would say you do sometimes get interesting discussion there, but it basically never happens around reviews, which tends to be problematic, as pete suggests. i guess what we are trying to aim for is an ongoing complementary relationship with RA.

  22. Grab your bucket before I say, and I mean it:

    Thanks, all, I'm really touched by all these comments.

    I'd intended this post more as a 'for-the-time-being' adieu to CD reviewing for RA and the street press... I didn't imagine it'd provoke such a strong response from all you people about the ssgs... makes me realise I'm doing something good here: worthwhile, stimulating, slightly unpredictable... what more could anyone ask?

    ...BTW, stay tuned for part two this coming week from someone fist-deep in reviews for the RA beast.

    ...and thank you, once again.

  23. PC .. I've quit techno now .. but still subscribe to your site .. If anything interesting happens in techno I know I'll find it here .. xx ehehe :]


  24. Think you guys do tend to veer into over-analysis territory of yourselves, the scene etc, but it does bring up some interesting points.

    Why do you go to the RA boards? Everyone knows they're a waste of time, and there are plenty of good forums like djhistory and 4four.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, the mix series is really enjoyable. Less keen on the meta ramblings but, as i said, it does raise some interesting points.

    Thanks guys,

  25. "I want you to please try to read, read slowly, even re-read. Or not read. This is integral."

    Whilst I understand your frustration that people are responding only to star-ratings or to the broad sense of approval/disapproval they get from a review or article, we all give up control over our writings as soon as we put them on public view. The standard undergraduate tactic of attempting to demolish a famous argument by quoting individual sentences and picking them apart, missing the subtelties and flows of an argument, is not far off. Indeed, a lot of these brief, one-line "this rocks!"/"this sucks!" replies remind me a lot of the marginalia I find in Faculty Library books, where they can be equally frustrating.

    But they do have their place - and as someone above noted, there isn't any way to discern how many people have been silently affected, positively or negatively, by your writing. Writing online you have the advantage of being able to see part of the reader-response to anything you write, and to interact with it: when it comes down to it, I think this is the reason why online discourse so often seems so, well, dumb. When I get frustrated by an academic book and swear at it, or throw it across a room, or find someone else has scrawled swear words over a particularly contentious passage in a library book, the response is no more discursive, nor more reasonable, nor more fair than insulting a reviewer on RA. But it is invisible.

    The kind of informed discussion which we *should* be able to find online is problematic, not least because its form is so unusual - with responses expected immediately on a set topic and activity usually dying down after a few days. The kind of threaded emails I send between a group of three friends (thank you, gmail!) seems better to me as a form of discussion - it's easy to move between direct question-and-answer, back-and-forth "instant message" style discussion, and longer, more discursive writing, and where moving between topics happens naturally.

    I guess this is to say that I don't think the internet is necessarily a great place for the publication of and response to detailed discursive writings, but it is great for more conversational writing. The ideal is something between these forms, of course, and whilst a blog is a decent compromise, I'm sure there must be other ways as well.

    Apologies for the length of the response, I'm currently hiding from some of those academic books I mentioned earlier...

  26. very nice read... it is, like you mentioned, a matter of peoples' time (or lack of time). i read your article thoroughly only to come to a page full of thoughtful comments from fellow readers, who are passionate about this music as well. There is so much value in what you and your colleagues contribute in this blog and in your reviews. i wish you the best in weathering the shitstorm of idiots, bad politics, thoughtless comments, and the like :) -ike

  27. I write reviews and have been doing them for a good while, for a number of sites/sources, primarily in order to get free stuff. I sometimes enjoy writing them, coming up with the odd insight that pleases me, and hopefully readers, but mostly I'd rather just get the free music and not have to do anything. Even with music as valueless and easily available as it is now it's still exciting to get it first, and to contribute to a community. The older I get, the less interested I am in writing reviews, but I still like the free music so will keep writing the reviews.

    I like reading other reviews but rarely finish a whole one, and I like them more for their own sake than for their 'review' value. However, I do use them as a filter, and will track down those that sound like my cup of tea, but I don't see the value in scores. Words achieve far more.

    I enjoy the comments, often more than the reviews themselves, as contrary or seconded opinions speak more than just one voice. Sure, there's a lot of stupidity out there, but there's a lot of that everywhere. I guess my point is that we do need reviews, and readers' comments, and I'd hate to see either of them disappear. Pitchfork for example is tedious mostly for its absence of comment (but perhaps we're being spared...)

    I'm interested to learn why reviewers write reviews. Speak up writers, that's what 'Anonymous' is for!

    Thanks ssgs for the debate - your site is a good one, particularly the comments section. I'd request more house from your casts' but this is your place and you know what you like.

  28. Hi there,

    As someone who has done but a handful of reviews on RA, I'd like to say I agree with all you have written here.

    I have been on the receiving end of much abuse, some of it really over the top, for a couple of reviews, and so immediately doubt myself and the point of it all, especially as there isn't even any money to soften the blow. Even after Jay Haze lay into me on the forum at RA he wasn't satisfied and emailed me to have another go - albeit off the back of gentle ribbing from me (i couldn't resit), i've quickly become immune but it's still a sad affair really.

    Anyway, love the blog and even started one off my own back (which has the Jay Haze exchange on if you're interested) as a result, so cheers.

  29. @ kristanjcaryl: as shed would say: take solo action. much respect for starting the blog and trying to engage in your own way. will be keeping an eye on it.

  30. As someone who blogs (on ISM), which sometimes includes reviewing stuff and also doing a monthly review column on bodytonic I can't say it's very much effected me, the wrath of someone who doesn't agree with me. Having said that I tend to focus on music I enjoy and don't have to put up with a ratings system. But if someone disagrees, big fucking deal?

    I don't do it for the freebies as most of what I review is what I've bought, and my round up is just that, of the last month. It means I don't have to be too worried aobut something being not hot off the presses 2 seconds ago.

    The reason I do it is cause I love music and I enjoy writing. It's pretty simple. Without being all arsey and "underground" some of what I listen to doesn't get massive coverage all over the music media and so much good music comes out that I just enjoy trying to higlight it and hope someone hears it and likes it who hasn't heard it before.

    If one has issues with what some one is going to say on the internet about them, be it gormless shite on RA or an intelligent reasoned response, this ain't the place for you.

    Finally, is what I do relevant anymore? Again I don't really know or care, I just like doing it, and hope it helps shifts a few units for artists I like.


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

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