Lloyd Cole, of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions fame (and of fame itself in his own right, I guess), has gotten together with legendary electronic musician Hans Joachim Roedelius and composed an instrumental electronic album. If you’re a fan of Roedelius’ many collaborations, you won’t be disappointed with this rhythmic and clear-toned chunk of induced hypnosis. I’m a Cluster and Harmonia fan, myself. You can listen and buy directly from Cole at his website.
Atom™ this week Monday released HD on indefatigably experimental electronic label Raster-Noton. It’s a 9-track, 40-minute guided meditation on the state of pop music, climaxing with the “Komputerwelt” homage track “Stop (Imperialist Pop)”. The vapidity and globally enforced sameness of commercialized pop media is the theme the record drives at, so as this RA reviewer so rightly observed, there is obvious irony in the fact that HD was released on the same day as the latest Justin Timberlake soporific. Among other sameness over substance acts name-checked on that track (with the demand they “give us a fucking break”), Timberlake carries the honor of being the name that makes the line rhyme. It is also ironic that this song’s obvious debt to Kraftwerk seems to indicate that the artist is under the yoke of another irresistible influence even as he decries commercial pop culture’s hegemony.
Third track “I Love U (Like I Love my Drum Machine)” features experimental electronic R&B crooner Jamie Lidell, a performer whose profession consists of recontextualizing a R&B mainstream pop thematically and sonically into the experimental and the underground. (Have a look at his video for “The City” wherein he has a shave outside a liquor store with a pink razor for an example of what I mean. Watching this again, with those brightly colored bottles hovering behind him and the pink ladies’ razor skimming across his face (we must keep up appearances!) I think, what a catchy little critique of urban alienation and domination by consumer kitsch!) The absolute genius of “I Love U” is revealed as it progresses toward a sample of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech:
“In the words of Martin Luther… (begin sample) I have a dream… (end sample) Now listen to my drum computer.”
By reducing the whole substance of this anti-war and human rights activist’s magnum opus speech to a sound bite before a command to check out how cool he is, this track masterfully exposes exactly what pop does best. It effects a pleasant, Warhol-esque emptying of meanings wherein the surface, in its vaguest recognizability, is king. This is the primary theme of tracks “Empty” and “Riding the Void”. (This idea should go some ways toward explaining the popularity of Girl Talk a few years back, if you’ll pardon the digression.) The assertion being made is that, in the context of a pop song such as this, there may as well have never been a King or a context in which he originated his speech. We should also mention that Dr. King is ambiguously, if not erroneously name-checked… Martin Luther wrote the 95 theses that started the protestant reformation. Martin Luther King gave the “I have a dream” speech. Perhaps this ambivalence is deliberate- after all, if we accept that this record serves as a protest of the hegemony of vapid pop written in the language of vapid pop, then it can’t be a stretch to imagine that Atom™ is, as Martin Luther did in Latin, nailing up his theses in the language of the church.
DyE has Frenchified your nostalgia.
This is a dance-oriented take on the whole electronic shoegaze thing happening out there in the world beyond the computer screen. In places it has that party-of-my-life as the sun’s going down someplace warm, the world and its ways have not yet given you permanent low-back problems related to sitting in a desk chair kind of feel, and in others its pure cold electronics. The opening track, “Nike”, and the excellent “Fantasy” fall into the first category. It also roams out of that sense of false nostalgia into homage to the goofy disco eccentricities of someone like Giorgio Moroder, as heard on Cristal D’Acier. What separates DyE from counterparts such as Small Black or Neon Indian is that his brand of step-sequenced goodness for the most part maintains a compressed, front and center allegiance to the four-on-the-floor dancefloor beat and a melodic structure tied back to Euro disco, while for the aforementioned it’s the shimmer and the atmosphere that get all the loving care. Dance music’s impression is all over this record – if you listen, Fantasy’s melodic keyboard progression plays like a half-time version of the keys on Black Box’s “Strike it Up”. Is that not enough pop crossover? The disturbing body horror of the video for Fantasy gives an interesting take on the Cthulu myth while touching down on Charles Burns Black Hole territory, to boot. You can get this from Tigersushi, linked above, or iTunes.
The British Expeditionary Force release their new record March 26, 2012, long years after they changed my world at first listen. That’s news that makes for a good day, isn’t it?
Igor sez: “Listen to anything on Waxtrax! instead.”
The other day I sat down before my computer, excited to write about the new Gatekeeper EP, Giza, released this past December 13 on UK’s Merok Records. What happened instead was that I spent the next few days reveling in Front 242’s back catalog. How could a thing like that happen?
Well, it’s because Gatekeeper is doing a lite take of an amalgam of artists that includes Front 242, Coil, and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. The difference is that with those other bands you could believe the artists had sacrificed something- or just gladly irreversibly given something- for the realization of an idea. To wit, at about 07:15 in this interview on Red Bull Music Academy, one of the members of Front 242 rebukes the interviewer’s insinuation that the band was in a privileged position to be making the music they were making with the equipment they were using in the early ’80s by saying, with not a little bit of apparent irritation, “An Emulator is about the price of a car and I decided not to have a car but have a machine. There are a lot of people who have cars here and would probably be able to buy an Emulator in the same sense.”
Like other musicians in their genre at the time, the expression of their art required something from them above and beyond the time put in. This was part of the fact that they pushed their art over boundaries, making it both artificially and intrinsically anathema to the mainstream. Wearing safely established symbolism doesn’t accomplish this same goal.
In the same few minutes of the RBMA interview mentioned above, he goes on to talk about the sense of freedom and opportunity they felt at that time as they were confronted with new synthesizer technology. (This exchange is featured in the first segment of the interview highlights video embedded below)
“…You have a new machine, a new concept, you can start from scratch. This is an opportunity for us. We felt maybe here we have a machine that is going to be able to express something of our culture because this machine is as naked as our musical culture… And so you think, ‘Here I have a chance to create a new aesthetic, to create new concepts, a new vision of music’.”
So, let’s look at Giza. The opening sound on the Giza EP is a sample of a motorcycle being started. Does the image of the burly dude on a hog still hold such strange and terrible Hunter S. currency that it’s going to send kids running from the dance floor to Mom’s skirts? Actually, that’s just what I’m getting at. On Giza you have several such samples vaguely evocative of “scariness” rooted somewhere in the familiar. However, without lyrics, an idea, a reason, a drive, a shaking fist or a primal investment on the part of the artists, this isn’t “Do you Fear for Your Child,” this is Adventures in Babysitting. There is nothing here to push the music on Giza out of the realm of the fear-ish, out of the category of the sinister-y. This is all just camp once the excitement of being reminded that you really want to listen to Front 242 wears off. There’s nothing electrically boundary-transgressing enough here to give you the surprising smack of satisfaction you’re looking for when, after your sojourn into the back-catalogs of the dread of the technological police society that Industrial music was a manifestation of, you remember to revisit Gatekeeper.
I like the stuff they seem to be into, but unless they push it their music, rehashed Twitch-era Ministry orchestra hits, Art of Noise et al-type vocal samples, and Front 242 background chanting/crowd noise and all, is just more Burning Man/Vegas revue weekend vacation dance music for deluded, self-assured careerists to use drugs to without making any significant changes in their lives. At least Enigma was doing this sort of thing at the tail end of when this music was actually being made.
Motorcycles! Brrrrrmm!! Hell and stuff!
Texture, prolonged tension, vocal samples, lyrics, message, and still unlike anything I’ve heard before or since.