Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ssg special - Rødhåd

Image: Sara Clarke

On my last few trips to Berlin I have been asking people there about what local DJs they rate. A name that kept being mentioned was Rødhåd. After seeing him play, I quickly understood why. Admittedly it is not the easiest name for us Anglophones to google, but I have a feeling Rødhåd is a name that we will quickly be getting used to... He is part of the Dystopian crew, which have been developing a strong reputation for quality techno events in Berlin. And while it is powerful, driving techno that Rødhåd is perhaps best known for, his tastes are much wider. When I saw him in Berlin last year, he played twice the same day at Berghain - first a house set in the garden, then a slamming techno set in the main room. So the man clearly has range. And with his mix for us he is showing another side of his musical palette. If you are interested in his dancefloor techno, you'll have to check one of his other mixes online, as this one is more introspective and downbeat. It is a personal, sincere mix, and one that is well worth spending some time with. It feels true to the Dystopian aesthetic (or at least what I understand it to be) but does so in a way that perfectly fits in here at mnml ssgs. PC and I are big fans of this mix and it is a pleasure to host it.

Tracklist up next week. Dystopian is branching out into vinyl, with the first release coming soon from Rødhåd. Keep an eye for that. For more info about upcoming gigs, Rødhåd's RA page is the best place to check, and there are some other mixes from him on the Dystopian soundcloud. Big thanks to Rødhåd for the mix. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This Terror of Silence is Golden

A few weeks ago I watched a soft-focus puffpiece on Tetsuya Wakuda, what a great guy he is. I am depressed that we live in an age of celebrity chefs and their acritical adulation and emulation by a whole culture of anxious, insecure aggressive suburbanites with eating disorders evincing symptoms of narcissism, but nonethless, Wakuda said something that is admirable. He does not have background music in his restaurants – because that is disrespectful, to music and to food. I wholeheartedly agree.

My DJ friend described his 'triangle' theory of love and hate.

Triangle of Love (in theory): venue owner hires DJ -> who plays music the punters love ->who spend heaps of money at said venue

Triangle of Hate (in practice): venue owner hires DJ (so far so good) -> who plays music the punters hate or don't get or can't hear properly, at which point ->they bust up with their iPods, demanding to hear their favourite music, then complain about the shitty music and stroppy DJs at said venue, on the internet.

A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant. Weirdly for 2012, the DJ was playing house. He was playing Herbert, actually. Dr Rockit. There were no acoustic tiles, there were hard surfaces, and the room was full of boozed, red-faced, well-fed middle-aged Australians with big watches and jowls and huge, huge glasses of red wine. Of course they were all talking so loudly. What's music for? Is it for this? We couldn't hear each other round the table; we couldn't hear the music clearly; we couldn't hear anything. The food wasn't good enough to distract us from this. Is this what we want? What was I supposed to be paying attention to in this space? Or was everyone supposed to be paying attention to me? It reminded me of the following quote from DF Wallace, from The Pale King, a novel where (this is not really a spoiler) said author concludes that he who is not terrified of boredom is capable of almost anything:

“To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it's because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that's where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of  us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly ... but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everybody knows it's about something else, way down” (85).

Not least of all silence.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Austere Anti Austerity Measures: a few good .zips, containing the possibility of sound and music

How do we 'get' music, in the sense of it actually reaching us? This good piece on RA the other day reminded us of the physics and physicality of sound, as well as the things we tend (not) to pay attention to: acoustics are really important. So is not being off your face. And yet we go to clubs with bad acoustics, and get off our face... hmm...

One of the things I love about sound is its physicality, the way your body responds. We're sensorily set up to apprehend sound directly, in the way that we just can't for, say, time: we need to wear a watch to remind us how humans socially measure duration by splitting it up so we can crash economies through hot speculation... and arrive for wage labour on time… but your ears, and your body, they have this incredible and direct experience of sound waves. The meat in you responds. Sound is phenomenal.

But sound and music are different, though inseparable. Music is also always-already social. Think of language; think of culture. It takes place in a given context that gives it sense and significance – and that *means* something. Of course the final music-effect has to reach you via a signal chain, which these days with most of the music we prefer is massive and complicated, predicated on all kinds of recording, archiving, and replay technologies, all of which mediate and translate the physical into the digital and back. But at the other end, we still have to interpret it, using 'hi fi equipment' that's millions of years old. That which was intended to warn us of predators and help us communicate can also allow us to enjoy Eleh. This is the paradox of the sound of music: its power comes from something directly physical, unmediated, phenomenal. But its final form – what we hear, as we hear, as it reaches us – is complexly mediated and totally dependent on our forestructures and skills of interpretation, our understanding and our ability to use it to actually give our attention to it, to, you know, listen.

The weird thing about music these days – one of the weird things – is how something so physico-social, something so spatiotemporal, has, in circulation, become so fucking abstract, so deterritorialized.  Over the years on ssgs I've talked at length about the side effects of what's happened as our archives have been transformed: from piles to files. How do you navigate the datasea without panic, ennui, anxiety, boredom setting in? One way would be through curation. Another would be to stop pigging out on downloads...  But/so curation might also have to contain a bit of austerity, if you know what I mean. Not the kind the sadomonetarists intend to administer to the weak... Just give you enough so that you can do the rest. Notes as instructions to something flatpacked, but something that isn't quite IKEA or Lego. What I mean is, that the person enabling the sound and/or providing the music, they've still got to give the potential listener some work to do, something to work out.

The following is a set of notes I gave a friend when he asked for some new music, on a relatively small capacity memory stick. The challenge here was to give him something he could relate to, something that wouldn't confront him as data, something that he could move into, relate to as music, with the hope he might also experience it directly as sound, be possessed by it. Stick his head into the memorystick, earbuds into a bassbin. It might be something to think about; this is how I might describe the following to someone who is, kinda, outside the ssg archive, but still a listener.  In any case, these are some recordings that deserve your undivided attention, that you should chase up. I'm not gonna give you hotlinks, because, you know, you have to get active. You have to do some work. This would be the first act of interpretation.

Nommos: Craig Leon was a famous producer in the NY underground in the late 70s. This is his solo synthesizer stuff. To me this is like the Shellac of synth. Early 80s?! And nothing sounds like this…

Wrk, Wrk Wrk: HTRK - these guys set out to make something. And they made it. It sounds exactly like it does. The coldest, bleakest, but also rawest album I've heard in ages. I mean, it's more or less the void you stare into when you really look at New Weekly.

Iko 83 - crazy and very engaging synth pop from '81. Like Kraftwerk's aesthetic, Devo's irreverence and attention to pop culture, and something else uniquely French Canadian perhaps. Learn the melodies and sing along: gonadotroposynthesis!

The Garden: John Foxx's second solo album. Incredibly well produced and diverse, this is a very wholesome and complete album. Spend some time with it. It's a lot to digest. And it's all in the details. Great lyrics, too.

Mark Hollis' post Talk Talk album. People say it's the most intimate music ever made. As if anything could fall apart at any moment. Fragile, tender.

Oren Ambarchi's most recent and most 'pop' album, but also has a 30+ minute guitar slowbuilding freakout track.

The OST from the Solaris remake, from the same dude who did the OST for Drive, which is also awesome, apart from that heinously bad 'real hero' song. A Winged Victory for the Ebbing Swoon.

Andrea Belfi is a percussionist from Italy who has developed these really weird ways of doing and micing up drums. This album on Lawrence English's Room 40 is very 'small' and self contained, but the more I listen, the more I love. Reminds me a bit of early Pluramon. 'Small and perfectly formed'. Can't recommend this one highly enough.

Talk Talk's ?best? album. Well, if you love this, Get Laughing Stock. Same band as did 'Life's What You Make It', then they made this. Astonishing for the time. Some say it's the first post rock album, but this is retrospective. I mean, it's actually post synthpop and pre noise/math/post rock. Proto. But again, like a whole genre of music that never got made apart from this (see also the Mark Hollis album)

Victrola -  Italy in 1983. Like Albini meets Italo Disco meets Factory Records sound. But there's a real unique energy on this EP. It's so bittersweet, and just keeps on building and trucking (the title track). And get this: this is the *only* thing they did. Ever.

Technodelic was the first retail CD, the first album to be made using almost entirely samples/samplers. And the sound design for 1981, fuck. And the songwriting is great. Ai rabu YMO.  If Tokyo is 80s future, this was Tokyo in the early 80s. And this is where Sakamoto started, too…

Monday, May 14, 2012

ssg special: Rene Hell presents "a large house full of beautiful furniture, a library & many other rooms revisited" – tracklist

• La Monte Young “Sunday Morning Blues” with “The well Tuned Piano”

• Alva Noto “Haliod Xerrox Copy 6”

• Robert Ashley “In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women”

• Ryoji Ikeda “Op. 1 [for 9 strings] II”

• Michel Redolfi “Immersion Partielle”

• Idea Fire Company “Life of the Party”

• Pascal Comelade “Good-Bye Wyatt Hat” {as damaged mp3}

• Atom TM "Mittlere Composition No 1"

• Steve Reich “Six Pianos”

• Hecker “Speculative Solution 2”

• Roberto Cacciapaglia “Sei Note In Logica, Part II”

• Ryuichi Sakamoto “Hibari”

• Stephan Mathieu "Promenade"

• The Lost Jockey "Phrase Book"

• Philip Glass "In the Upper Room: Dance II"

• Yasunao Tone & Hecker "Man'yo #36-37 / 750654 Zero Crossing"

• Tiago Sousa "Walden Pond's Monk IV"

• Sean Mccann & Matthew Sullivan "An Unknown Gentleman"

• Wordless Orchestra performs William Basinkski's "Disintegration Loops"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ssgs re-presents: Carsten Jost and Lawrence, Betalounge, 2002

Ten years. It seems extraordinary to me that it’s a decade this year since I first heard this set. I even remember where I was: I was in Cybac, an internet cafe – remember internet cafes? – in Shibuya, which was in that building opposite Tokyu Hands that stands near the corner of Inokashira Dori, that has the shop selling cheapo hip-hop clothes. In that building or maybe one next to it that’s been demolished. Somehow everything in Tokyo feels like it’s been demolished or I seem to recall I was there and it was scheduled for demolition, then I go back there and it’s still thronging and kicking. Nakano Sun Mall. I loved the set so much I stayed online from start to finish, long, long after I'd emailed everyone...

Ten years. There are mixes that sit with you, that stay with you. For me this is one of the few best, and its importance is threefold. The first is obvious and biographical: this was a set that stitched Cam and I together, Cam the co-founding ssg who went somewhere, who is presumably in London. Then I discovered how much Chris loved it, too. We’ve told one side of the story of ssgs elsewhere. I can’t say that this mix enabled ssgs in the way other contingent encounters and shared passions did, but if there is one set that perfectly captures the spirit of that time and the spirit of the music we all loved, this is it. And this connects to the second thing, which is that this mix captured a moment in time for Carsten Jost and Lawrence. But maybe they didn’t quite realise it? I don't know... There is so much fluid energy here, so much promise, and the mix just totally brims with all these wonderful selections, which get worked out in the interplay. We know what happened, and some of you will know my mixed feelings about that (I think it's still worth reading what I wrote about it in 2008 [in that my assessment was correct], the recent piece is just an angry afterthought to dead loss), but right here, with this, they hit it, they did something incredible and unrepeatable. To the third point: I don’t think this mix is just significant for Chris and I and Cam and David and Peter. I want to say that, fundamentally, this mix might be important. This is one set of connected moments where minimal – which was really what was *actually* interesting in European electronic music of the last decade – really found itself. All artistic expression involves finding a way of ‘speaking’; there’s a whole language here. And it still speaks, to me at least. But is kind of an abandoned language now. Why did the people involved stop speaking in this way? I understand that it got boring and bad or whatever, but I think it’s odd and a shame that one might find comfort in derivative decontextualised ‘deep’ house (3D), when really, what you have here with this set was and is an audacious and genuinely European form of new electronic music, one that contained and expressed all these directions and possibilities, one that had a unique energy, colour and bittersweetness. That's the thing, why it's important. It's not just a generic sound or fashion they downloaded. They developed their own syntax and vocabulary and tone - more than anything, tone - and they spoke well and spoke in their own voices. All this has been abandoned...? I don't know, I wonder... ...I make it available to you in the hope that, maybe, you can start speaking with it again? Or just listen...

Ten years. Fuck. We had posted this mix once before, but with a megaupload link. So many dead links. Another piece of collateral damage from the decade whose signature is collateral damage. When I think back... so much has been defaced and vandalised in the world since then. Other things have grown and developed in interesting ways. Here it is then: ten years. Not for nostalgia, but - I hope, I trust - with the right kind of reverence (the kind that has no reverends): my absolute respect to the time, place, memory and significance of this set, which still hits you right where it hurts.

Carsten Jost + Lawrence, live @ the Betalounge, October 5, 2002

Friday, May 4, 2012

ssg special: Rene Hell presents "a large house full of beautiful furniture, a library & many other rooms revisited"

Jeff Witscher’s music as Rene Hell is supple and intuitive; when it clicks into focus, it is also achingly beautiful. It demands your full attention. That’s its character.

Jeff’s many different works are not dance music, ‘cept maybe Cuticle. Nor is it ‘synth’ in a way that has by now become generic. The Terminal Symphony, which was my introduction, floored me with full, developed understanding. But it also possesses you, there’s an immediacy. The sound effects, they’re affective. But how they get from there to ear is really all about the approach: the fierce pursuit of intuition.

Check these three interview excerpts:

I had the cover [for The Terminal Symphony] in mind once the music was finished.  It was my violin which I’d bought it at a thrift store. I was taking some photos of it and then just decided to smash it. It started looking a lot nicer then (read more).

I don't consciously do that many things in general. You just work with what you have and that defines everyone. That's when your character shows. I've seen dudes kill it with a plastic bag live. It's because or their vision.

I bought this motorcycle once that I probably shouldn’t have. It was a sketchy deal but I just needed to have it, so I rode off on that shit and got it up to 100mph about ten miles from the dude’s house & then just realized it wasn't such a good deal (read more).

...I want to explore the idea of sound, especially when rich with texture, requiring longer windows of time to sink in & define itself {again, duration}. once it’s removed or transitioning you feel its power & how it was controlling you (read more).

This is as good an introduction to the mix Jeff has given us as any. I love the close attention to the recordings themselves, and the way they talk to one another. Spend some time with it, listen very closely, give yourself over to it and let it unfold.

ssg special - Rene Hell

For more ‘info’, check Jeff’s blog. Fans new and old should also note well a forthcoming split LP with Oneohtrix Point Never on NNA Tapes, entitled: In 1980 I Was a Blue Square

Tracklist forthcoming next week.

Many thanks to Jeff for making the time and effort for us.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


A couple of interesting and impressive albums have just come out, and these will shortly be getting a lot of attention. In particular, I am thinking of the Shackleton and Actress albums. I'm still making my mind up about the latter, but the former - and especially "Music for the Quiet Hour" - is a truly astonishing album. Mr. Shackleton has done something pretty special right there... But here I want to focus on another album, which might slip under the radar, even though it is by some big names, and happens to be very good.

Mohn is the new collaborative project between two Kompakt heroes, Jörg Burger & Wolfgang Voigt. They are responsible for a classic ambient techno album [Las Vegas] as burger/ink, and of course, Herr Voigt had a few solo contributions to the genre with his seminal GAS project... Working together again, with Mohn they revisit ambient techno and have produced a very worthwhile album.

Perhaps a good point of comparison is the Voices from the Lake album, which also draws heavily on '90s ambient techno for inspiration. Mohn is of a similar high quality, but the presentation and sounds are a bit different. It lacks that progressive, fluid continuity that defines the VFTL piece, but like the best of the ambient techno genre, there is a shared balance between groove and atmosphere. And one of the defining features of the Mohn album is the (re)appearance of that classic Kompakt charm, something which the label and its artists have unfortunately largely lost. But there definitely is an element of schaffel on Mohn... Perhaps this is the reason why I like the album so much: it is warm, friendly, inviting. It has a bit of that old Kompakt magic that I sincerely miss...

Mohn is not particularly innovative, it is certainly not going to blow your mind. Saying that, the track above - "Ebertplatz 2020" - is very special and the clear highlight. Overall, Mohn is a lovely album and something that I have been enjoying thoroughly. Don't let this one slip under the radar, it is worth your time.