Subscribe: (con)temporary
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
album  don  great  hip hop  indie  kind  might  moments  much  music  pop  rock  song  thing  things  time  whilst  work 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: (con)temporary


Updated: 2018-03-07T09:37:24.964+11:00




moving on:

making a commitment to write more regularly on my new blog.

many thanks for reading.

the party & the afterparty


Review: The Weeknd - Echoes of SilenceWhy not review an album hours after its release? Things move fast now, hype is warp-speed, so best enjoy it while its fresh. And aren't The Weeknd the most befitting subject for this kind of reaction? Abel Tesfaye's project feeds off the buzz, hate, love, etc. generated by the same dispersed online audience that he has offered up his immaculately produced, beautifully executed mixtapes to all year, and all void of a discourse save for Tesfaye's undeniably shitty Twitter account - Weeknd albums come to us as clean as the sound itself, shorn of any critical and promotional baggage - but one that is soon after filled in by amalgamation of all those little moments of reaction that his collective audience of critics and listeners (and it seems like a good chunk of these listeners are critics) have felt and expressed.And if general opinion is anything to go by, it's that general opinion is The Weeknd is amazing - various year-end lists with House of Balloons somewhere near the top have commented that Tesfaye's was the sound that united highly diverse and otherwise antagonistic listening groups in 2011. I feel like this kind of claim needs empirical evidence - insane blog and Twitter hype doesn't count, given as a fairly specific group of listeners are the ones producing this chatter. But I'll give in to intuition and say, yes, basically anyone who loves music will find something to like or even love in The Weeknd. And for free! And lots of it. Three mixtape albums in a year - and sure, whilst admittedly there's been signs of diminishing returns throughout this 'balloon trilogy', in isolation, anyone of these three would be more than enough to recognise that here is a prodigous, precocious talent. What anyone will also find in these three albums, if they care to listen, is I think a subtly executed but also oddly engrossing narrative, a tragic story of excess and its shadows. In this regard, if House of Balloons was the courtship - Tesfaye oiling us up with his debased but undeniably exciting ways - and Thursday was the party itself, then Echoes of Silence is the comedown, the morning after where you put some Sade on the stereo and nursing your heavy head, think about all the fucked up things you did and how your girl fucked you over last night and wonder about how soon you're going to do it all again. Each album in the trilogy has, somewhat amazingly, achieved its own specific aesthetic - from the alternating ecstasy-soaked epics and late-night slow-jams of his debut, to Thursday's faux-rock histrionics, and now Echoes of Silence, with its far more sombre tone, each song a kind of holding-pattern ("the same old song", as he sings on the track of the same name, that maybe "you don't wanna sing no more" as he admits on 'XO / The Host') of not necessarily great emotions - jealously, regret and loneliness chief among them. The album opens with a cover of Michael Jackson's 'Dirty Diana' - an explicit acknowledgement not only of the influence MJ's vocal style seems to have had on Tesfaye (there's a couple of seconds where the two are indistinguishable) but also of Jackson's tortured, existential romanticism that he perfected in songs like this and 'Smooth Criminal'. Later, on 'Outside' he's letting a girl use the same positions she liked with her ex as he tries convincing himself that it'll be okay once he's inside her and that he's the one she wants. Bitterness, jealously, the lovelorn run-off of one-night-stands - the dull glow of heartache pervades the atmospheres of Echoes of Silence, even if Tesfaye tries convincing himself otherwise, that he "ain't scared of the fall". The other side of the coin, the feeling of waking up. The balloon has been popped.What has unified The Weeknd's trilogy, apart from Illangelo and Doc McKinney's uniformly amazing avant-R&B production, is Tesfaye's ultra-seedy spin on the typical sex and drug signifiers of the genre, taking them into their most debauched and perverted extremes until something like a crypto-Surrealism is reached[...]

dope as dark


In lieu of a 2011 review, I just want to say a little bit about how amazing hip-hop and R&B have been this year. Mixtape with some of tracks mentioned throughout is below.These genres have always been musically promiscuous, hustling beats, samples and hooks from anywhere their producers can find them, but 2011 marks a year in which the boundaries truly exploded, where much of this music found itself drawing from the fringes and ending up in some bizarre and thrilling limbo between commercial boom-bap and truly outré esoterica, both and neither at the same time. This isn't the willed abstraction of a Shabazz Palaces or Antipop Consortium, hip-hop for thinking men, but neither is it outright chart-chasing rinse. Instead, this is music dripped in a thick haze of experimentation and sonic adventurousness that always keeps one eye on a listenable, rappable beat and structure. The result is something both immediately accessible - laced with gripping hooks and beats - and continually beguiling, ever deeper. At the core of this music is the way in which raps just melt into the lush, hazy productions in a way that's about ambience and atmosphere as much as the traditional concerns of beat and rhyme.There are a number of directions this thing has gone, and here I'm thinking about the more languid stuff that some have labelled 'cloud rap' - basically hip-hop's night bus or chillwave - which shares the same trashy, lo-fi aesthetic of Dipset trance but dials down the mood and pace, dripping plastic. That's why, unfortunately, I don't really have room in this piece for Araabmuzik - a dude whose MPC detournements of commercial trance music I've written about previously - despite the fact that he perhaps epitomises the paradox of epic roughness that I'm trying to get at here, where constant reminders that 'You are now listening to Araabmuzik' would leave you thinking you were listening to a hastily cut demo CD if every song on Electronic Dream didn't also sound like stars exploding. Nevermind, though, because the final word on Araabmuzik comes from the man himself: all you need to read are the choice quotes collected on his bio, nam sayin'.Anyway, the woozy aura of the hip-hop and R&B I'm thinking about centres around two poles. First, there's the 'based' sounds of Clams Casino, who typifies the duality of this stuff in that he produced beats for Soulja Boy whilst also releasing an EP on witch-house/drag label Tri Angle this year. He also did hazed-out work with dollar-sign rapper A$AP Rocky for the ground-shattering opening tracks of his LiveLoveA$AP and later track 'Leaf', which also features associates Main Attrakionz (released also on their 808s & Dark Grapes as 'Take 1'), the prime members of the prolific Green Ova Underground crew, whose swamped out, psychedelic indie-rap is another major touchstone here. Clams' Instrumental Mixtape collects various base(d) tracks he has made for Lil B, Soulja Boy, etc. and given their own room to breathe, the spectral aesthetic of his work emerges fully-formed as a singular, atmospheric take on electronic production.Then you've got the Canadian contingent, the OVOXO - Drake, The Weeknd and all the implausibly and consistently amazing Toronto knob twiddlers in their crew: McKinney, Illangelo, Zodiac, Boy-1Da and Noah '40' Shebib. Whilst the styles are distinct here, much of this stuff revolves around a less swampy, more immaculate down-tempo, ambient vibe marked by sexy synth and keys. This late-night slow-jam style is switched up with the occassional epic like 'Headlines' or 'Lonely Star'.Both these poles emphasise different elements of the new vibe - call it the cannabis-cocaine continuum - but there's two things that, at the risk of sounding glib, they both have in common: drugs and computers. Whether it's the psychotropic cloud of Clams and co. or the uppers, downers and coke-addled cornucopia of The Weeknd, this music seems to almost literally attempt to transubstantiate the experience of getting high, tripping, etc. [...]



HTRK - Work (work, work)

The problem with pleasure nowadays is that it’s just really hard work. When the injunction to ‘enjoy!’ is no longer optional but a veritable demand in all aspects of our daily lives, desire and its consummation are no longer something special and rare but just a grind. Grind, grind, grind. A relentless grind from which we cannot escape. Labour isn’t just something we do between 9 and 5, it’s constant, pervasive – at the gym, the club, in bed we’re always “Working that body out”, as Jonnine Standish intones through the distant haze of ‘Work That Body’.

“Girls move to the back / Boys move to the front”, she drawls elsewhere, on standout ‘Eat Yr Heart’, over some genuinely industrial beats, the sound of persons and machinery locked in some doomed sex/death march. “Your body’s so perfect”, “You fill me up” are heard later, Standish’s choruses are like bizarre snatches from the clichéd, ironically passionless language of porno talk, cosmetics commercials and R&B tracks. Work (work, work) is both a mirror of contemporary sex and its inversion, mercilessly replicating its hydraulic, oppressive character whilst also peeling back the true horrors that are its runoff: contorted, mechanised bodies ripped apart and reassembled with petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals so that they may continue their macabre dance of interlocked limbs.

Manufactured pheromenones, plastic breasts, “glucose, cellulose, saccharine” (‘Eat Yr Heart’) – not to mention Viagra, amyl nitrate, Ketamine – sex truly is synthetic and we’re all doing bondage, whether we realise it or not. Looking for an emotional statement or genre-defining moment on this record can only miss the point – that the languorous pacing, stubbornly-looped programmed beats and abrasive textures are all there to teach us but one thing: at the end of all this grinding, we’re emptied out, as bleak as this album’s undeniably desolate atmosphere.

say you'll remember


Lana Del Rey's overly-affected 50s Hollywood starlet with a dangerous smile kind of steez is just great. The reason her schtick works so well is because she has cunningly read the nostalgia that lies at the heart of all the recent powerful female soul vocalists for a kind of feminine origin, a Patti Smith or a Nancy Sinarta to take us back to some musical home we never had. Del Rey's approach is to take all such vocal and lyrical allusions - there's Smith and Sinatra, but also Cat Power, Tori Amos, you name it - and blender them into a kind of vocal melange that kind of leaves you insatiable - beckoning for a kind of fulfilment, a faint hint of 'that voice' or 'that chorus' that you have heard before deep in some past and know as a classic, but that isn't quite the same and that keeps you from bringing it up. In this way, along with her heavily generic lyrical references (her recent singles are unironically called 'Blue Jeans' and 'Video Games') and collage-heavy, faded video aesthetic - with homemade skate tapes and lovers footage interspersed with equally as temporally hazy snippets of old cartoons and films, Super 8 and moving pans of old but iconic US landmarks - Del Rey disassembles and reassembles our nostalgia for us in the very same movement. Our memories are all media now, not like they ever weren't, but it's in this longing for a home inside them that she exploits and caresses so smoothly that makes her work so immediately powerful.



What is it that makes Araabmuzik's Electronic Dream so immediately and uniquely brilliant? Coz in many ways its absolutely generic! With its nondescript divas singing about love-in-the-club, liberal use of easy-hitting trance euphoria, and some might say overuse of rapid-fire kick-drums. But in a sense, its convention is its invention - it sounds like a Cubase demo; it sounds like racing game music; but it really doesn't. Cop its absolutely cliched title too - there's nothing new here, but that's of little importance when all these familiar elements are used as sonic assault weapons.

Its unrelenting, this album, and the compressed length of the tracks only works to intensify this sweetly oppressive feeling that some of the best club tracks achieve. Part of the genius here is the alchemy Araabmuzik has discovered in mixing the melodic overtones of trance with the repetition and rawness of crunk beats - hip hop and dance never looked so good together. The other intensely brilliant technique is the shortness of the tracks - nothing is left around too long to gather a residue of monotony or boredom, everything hits hard and sharp and then bails, with the next same-but-different beat right behind it, abruptly beginning.

In this way, Electronic Dream feels not just like a club mix but almost like an album sampler - the constant replay of some chick half-singing "you're now listening to Araabmuzik" just like you get on a rap blend downloaded off the net or an advance album copy only increases this feeling. Maybe Araabmuzik has the 70 minute boring-as-fuck version of this album on his laptop somewhere. Probably not. He realises electronic music is like a hand grenade - the splintering harshness of his beats, shards blasting out my speakers, last only as long as an explosion - which is both miniscule and infinite.

Craig Mathieson on Authenticity


A little while ago I had a great conversation with Australian music critic Craig Mathieson to talk about the craft. Whilst it was for another project, he still had some great stuff to say and was as funny and insightful as his writing tends to be. Amongst other things he had a classic and concise take on the debates around authenticity, genres and who's footing the bill. Transcript of this section below.

What do you think of the popism and rockism debate in the US?
Well Americans came to pop music really late, and they always used to look at the British, because the British would write about anything, in their very British way, and the Americans were very unsure of pop music for a long time. It's almost an alternative badge now, in America, to be into pop - the more pop the better, you know, right down to this bizarre fetishising of Kylie or someone as being this completely authentic pop figure. Umm, well I used to fight about this when I was a kid, but I remember when people used to get upset because bands used keyboards on records. [Laughs] That's ludicrous to you probably, and it's ludicrous to me now, but you know we used to take that shit really seriously. So I don't get too bothered about it now. You know, music is more mashed up every year anyhow. But it's funny how indie attitudes and stupidity sort of hangs on, like "what's independent?" and "who should be in the AIR Awards?"

I find that stuff kind of exhausting.
It's just a sideshow. It's what's on the record in the end. I really don't care who drove the truck to the store. Unless it's paid with conflict diamonds or some shit, and I'm pretty sure Liberation's not doing that these days.

Well I remember the liner notes to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O had a diagram connecting major labels to arms manufacturers.
Well EMI used to make parts for nuclear weapons, a division, they made triggers or something in the 80s. But I mean I don't think a record company could afford to be in arms manufacturing anymore.

I love how disproportionate the cultural influence of the recording industry is, given how little money it makes. One oil company would make tonnes more than the entirety of the record industry.
Yeah it's like, no one worried about BP for a really long time, and you know, look what they were capable of doing once they fucked up. You know and everyone's worried about why Husker Du are on Warner Bros or something.



1 Drake - Over 2 Wavves - King of the Beach 3 Kanye West - Runaway (SNL performance) 4 Die Antwoord - Zef Side (YouTube version) 5 Die! Die! Die! - We Built Our Own Oppressors 6 Willow - Whip My Hair 7 Parades - Loserspeak in New Tongue 8 Otouto - W.Hillier 9 Duck Sauce - Barbara Streisand (video version) 10 Warpaint - Undertow 11 David Guetta - Memories (ft Kid Cudi) 12 Cyst Impaled - Spectral Bus 13 Crystal Castles - Empathy 14 kyu - Sunny in Splodges 15 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

twenty ten ten


Things are often said better by others, so in the spirit of Yeezy's infinite guest spots and as a half-assed concession to Nick Sylvester's particularly convincing call to left things unsaid on the Internet, I've pulled a quote from others more eloquent alongside my own thoughts on each of my top albums for 2010.10 Warpaint, The FoolIf music were vapor, Warpaint's would be a smooth, tasteless black and grey haze, clouding your latenight thoughts and sending you into a sublime stupor. This album is just the perfect concoction of mood and style, constantly aloof, perfectly crafted, sexily austere. Album highlight 'Undertow''s masterstroke is a lifted line from Cobain, "what's a matter, you hurt yourself" - though it has no debt to anyone, be it Nirvana, Interpol, Joy Division, or any others you might care to name. They simply they slide off - "open your eyes and see there's no one else".And so yes, it is cosmopolitan stuff, its sexiness an entirely stately thing that is built into the very DNA of the music. If it is sexy, it does not give a fuck, in other words. -- Clayton Purdom9 Drake, Thank Me LaterOn first blush I wasn't very taken with Drake's melodrama, but after overhearing 'Best I Ever Had' again recently I decided to make a return, stumbling on the perfect time and place for Drake in the process: at night, through laptop speakers. Because even though Kanye has been called the pinnacle of emo-rap or pain-pop, next to Drake, West seems like a stony ascetic. Drake's whole MO on his 2009 So Far Gone mixtape was these ambient-laced beats over digi-croons about how hard his not-gansta-but-still-rich-rapper life is. The lyrical sentiment hasn't changed much - he's just added to it with musings on how he might be thanked and remembered - but musically, his debut is much tighter, less of a drift - switching from meandering chills to properly sequenced, well constructed pop in the disguise of hip-hop. And to the extent he maintains the same woe-is-me drama and synthesises it with just really great hooks and lines, Thank Me Later deserves a thank you right now.@tabloidsores: Drake's a synthesis of early 00s emo-rap, the lessons of Kanye's 808s and Heartbreak and post-weezy mixtape hype8 Owen Pallett, HeartlandJust like Kanye West and Drake, Owen Pallett is obsessed with thematising the act of creation itself. But whereas for Kanye this means an aesthetics of ego and for Drake a lyrical preoccupation with his own uncertainty over 'making it', for Pallett it's a far more academic affair - a bristling, lavishly adorned concept album about the fiction overcoming its creator. Or, as Pallett explaions it, "a narrative [of] one-sided dialogues with Lewis, a young, ultra-violent farmer, speaking to his creator". It's already getting crazy I know, but consider this: on the first album Pallett slaps his own name on (dropping the Final Fantasy moniker at the threat of libel, or ridicule, or both), he kills himself. Well Lewis kills him, in 'Tryst with Mephistopheles', driving an "iron spike into Owen's eyes". Triumphant, he sings:I draw a bruise on your brawny shoulder,Scratch my fingers over your tattoosThe author has been removed Pallett takes Roland Barthes a tad too literally here, but the irony is that he is the one doing all the killing, Lewis belongs entirely to Owen. And in the end the former cannot help but re-erect the latter, not at least given how much 'Owen Pallett' there is all over this album - brimming with his best arrangements and some of his most playful and clever moments yet. Yet that's also why this album is so great, because it works as a piece of music as much as it does as a concept. A rare union, and a joy to listen to.If this all sounds too much like homework, it's worth re-reemphasizing that, whatever his protests against casual poignancy, Pallett has crafted an absorbing ge[...]

lost in the world


At 23, I'm discovering what it means to be a fan. Sure, I've enjoyed various different things intensely before, but I've never had that singlemindedness that attends the fan's relationship to his object of obsession. That object, of course, being none other than the work and persona of Kanye West. I've been doing all those things a fan does with his favourite texts - endless repetition ('Kanye megamix' playlist is on constant rotation), contextual research ("what the hell is 'Chi-town'?"), continual discussion with fellow converts (happily, my housemate - with whom I watch the 'Runaway' video every couple of days with), etc.And of course this has gotten out of control in the past week or so with the release of Yeezy's masterwork - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's getting perfect scores in reviews all over the place, and I'm not sure I'd go that far, but at the least it's the most ambitious, voracious, egotistic, political and emotional thing he has done yet - and all that is saying something. I've been devouring these reviews, desperately longing to add my own voice to the tidal wave of acclaim and discussion, but up until now I simply haven't been able to muster the courage or even barest ability.At first I thought this was because the album was so colossal, so definitive and defining of such big things - art, pop, celebrity, hip-hop, relationships, distortion - that I just wasn't up to the task. Where would one begin? How could I possibly even hope to do justice to this beast? To match up to even it's weaker moments (which it has, of course, but that's one of the things that makes Kanye so great - his brilliance and his inexactitude are mutually defining)?(I could say many things for sure, most of them disconnected tidbits - about how the production on the album shows evidence that he just couldn't help himself, his maximalist tendencies swallowing up every possible voice and sample he could find, adding more and more even after the completely acceptable cuts of the tracks we heard on the Runaway video (the 'so high' of Dark Fantasy case in point, shoved in between another vocal itself). About it's intense black consciousness, evident at every turn, moreso than ever before in West's rapping - as a unifying thread through the album, right up to the Gil Scott Heron sample that closes it off, 'Who Will Survive in America?' About it's incessant thematising of failure, musically and lyrically - how he feeds off the fuck ups in his own story to fabricate an epic tragedy, how he pushes his voice through filters and modulators til it's past the brink of legibility, as a statement of emotion, how everything breaks down but then just builds itself up even higher on the rubble. These are all interesting points, but they are not well-made, and they have been made better by others.)But then I realised why I couldn't talk, also why I will try again but probably fail - because that's what being a fan is. Being a fan deadens your critical faculties when it comes to the object of your fandom. 'But doesn't fandom make you want to understand more the thing?', you might argue - and of course it does, but what I've found is that this desire for understanding is matched at every point by being overwhelmed by the thing itself. Fuck it, by the music - by these songs, whose titles I just want to start typing out as if they possessed some kind of incantatory force, as if you would just feel the same way that I feel when I hear this shit. But they don't, you won't (you might?), and what one can't speak about, one must pass over in silence - and it's a kind of relief, a bliss. I've submitted myself to this album, and I'd be damned if I would even try to put into words just how this music makes me feel.[...]

japan four


Ghoul - '3Mark'

This is ridiculously good. Finally this group look like living up to their name; there's a muscle and colour depth to this track that their previous recorded forays - skittish if enticing one, two minute synth scribbles and vocal snatches - lacked. One might level a 'dubstep 101' at '3Mark', but I'd argue it's offering dubstep a place to go beyond its own border, a post-dubstep if you're okay with wanky prefixes. Sure, there's the obligatory glitchy basebeat and chipmunk vocal mirror, but there's also a palpable cleanliness and determination that a lot of dubstep lacks. It's as a poppy a dubstep track that you'll ever hear in this regard, yet one that maintains the enticing schematic quality of Ghoul that always gives the song room to breathe and burrow.

There's also a sense of the arbitrary or serendipitious about it - a nonsensical title, like it was randomly culled from the lettering on the bottom of some consumer electronics item or the strings of a webpage script - a vocal hook, that never quite provides the crucial second half of its own dictum. 'Choose life, / over...', 'over...', 'over...' - the fact that Ghoul never answer their own question is an indication of the group's philosophy, their sense of experience as stochastic, of music's ability to do justice to that which cannot be worked out.



Finally!,… a ‘kids’ mixtape that doesn’t feature MGMT’s ‘Kids’!!!

a minor place


Ah, moments, those little moments in music - they are the quintessence of the art, when things come together in perfect unity, expressing an emotion, an idea, a force, in the space of seconds. Often the entry of a song into the realm of the amazing hinges on such a moment, or moments, which form a fulcrum in the flow of sound and lyric that blasts open the meaning of the composition to shine forth in glorious harmony. Sometimes, though, they are disharmonious, antagonistic - they reveal the previous lines of the song to be a kind of ruse, a ploy, a trick, and split it at the seams to bare its true meaning.

Spencer Krug, of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, has always been a man of moments; I'm sure you can name your own artists or songs whose moments just slay you. But I come to this post today thinking of a different musician and a single moment: one Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Will Oldham, and that crucial turn in his masterful 'Hard Life', the closing track of Master and Everyone.

For the first few minutes, the song ambles along, a fairly pretty, subdued country pastiche, as Oldham and his vocal partner Marty Slayton meander through platitudes such as "And it's a hard life, for a man with no wife / Babe, it's a hard life, God makes you live" in that typically country way, where the emotion behind the lyric is one step removed from the voice itself, which remains composed. This continues, the sparse acoustic - the album itself is marked by a palpable spareness - gently strumming along.

And then it happens, around 1.59 - there is little forewarning, the bars immediately preceding have followed the established structure. But there it is, the slightest of chord changes, and the most poignant of shifts in the voice of Oldham himself, as his voice, always slightly rough, takes on an unmistakeable tenderness and sense of longing, the ends of words stretching out, as he sings:

But I ain't breathing, let me breathe
Let me go, let me leave
I don't know, but I might lose
I might bum, might blow a fuse

And then on the next verse, an electric guitar - both warm and cold in its tone (think of the same sound Oldham and Matt Sweeney achieve on Superwolf) - accompanies the acoustic, as Oldham becomes more insistent and yet somehow sadder, "So let me go, lay it down / On my own, let me drown", his voice taking on a an almost canine longing. And in a few dozen seconds, Oldham has somehow turned the mood of the universe around, and this is all the more amazing for the subtlety with which he does so. There is no hystronics or abrupt gear shifts here, just a slight tilt of the scales, a shift in the breeze, that brings with it an ocean of meaning.

feel right



from little things...



Anwyn Crawford has written a piece for The Age about alternative national anthems, and her mention of the continued misinterpretation of Cold Chisel's 'Khe San' got me thinking about what you might call counter-anthems. There are quite a few instances of this in Australian pop history that I absolutely relish; songs that speak of national injustice and the dark side of the Australian condition, but that like 'Khe San' end up being received in a state of hallucination as to their actual content. I'm thinking especially of Powderfinger's 'Like A Dog', an otherwise forgettable track thick with cliches - generic 90s crunchy guitar riff, intercom vox on the bridge - that nevertheless throws some brutally pointed lines at Howard's racist treatment of Aborigines; and Presets 'My People', that confuses dance floors and detention centres, globetrotting romances with heartbreaking political exile. It's the sight of a crowded room of inebriated revellers shouting along to this last track, in particular, that always throws me.

It's not surprising either that these sorts of songs tend to be high-spirited, chorus-driven rock and dance tracks, it's as if the force of the music itself overtakes the possibility of reflection on their lyrical musings. This itself probably makes their political impact all the more powerful, in a sense, or at least more attractive from where I'm standing. Rather than the (generally) earnest, sickly prosetylising of the traditional protest song, these songs mask their true intentions behind an insistently catchy chorus or overwhelming beat; politics by stealth, massaging the subconscious perhaps, if not it in the blissfully unaware audience then hopefully at least in that undefinable thing known as the national psyche...

dream factory


Saw Inception last night, quite simply a brilliant, epic movie. I can't remember the last time I watched a film that captured the experience of the 'cinematic' (as opposed to the merely visual) so well, in all the aesthetic dimensions this entails. The soundtrack, with it's ominous, brass-heavy score that impresses its weight on you. The performances, in which the actors didn't really have to do much considering the scenery and narrative basically overwhelmed whatever performance they gave, but they were nevertheless lean and accomplished (plus Joseph Gordon-Levitt's star turn from teen dork (10 Things I Hate About You) to ultra-slick sidekick is inspired, perfectly cast). The plot, which is schematically complex but not so much that you're ever lost - it's spatio-temporal structure replicates the diegesis itself so at all times you know what 'level' you are on, even if Nolan can't help himself and occassionally push this question (most brilliantly, frustratingly in the final scene).

Indeed, space and time are probably the two main preoccupations of the film as a whole, thematically and stylistically. The film flips and flops between conceiving of the subconscious as a mindscape or as a series of memories and events, and beyond that as a horizontal expanse or a vertical one. Regardless, within the experience of the film itself what is most fascinating is that the audience awareness of time alternatively telescopes and dilates in the exact same way that the characters explain dreamtime - five minutes of sleep feels like an hour in a dream, and if an agent pushes into a dream within a dream time exponentially increases, and so on. This effectively replicates the effect of cinematic time and space - many have realised that sitting in a darkened theatre, immobile, with giant sound and light filling our perceptual field is quite similar in many ways to a dream state, and in the two and half hours of Inception we effectively undergo many more hours and days of experience - through the usual editing but also through the more complex editing of different temporalities in the film - the plot of most of which takes place in the few seconds it takes for a van to fall off a bridge - a slo-mo shot that Nolan periodically returns to with great relish.

In many ways, one might conceive of Inception as an allegory of the process of filmmaking itself, about which I might have more to say later, but for now, why not read a highly technical and enlightening interview with Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister on the making of the film:

heads will roll



but then i find, just the right thing


Music always meets us at a certain time in our lives, and sometimes it's the perfect time. There was a time when I needed Children of the Wave's Carapace, when I needed Wilderness, and lately Noah Symons' Great Earthquake has just found me and lifted me right where I needed to be. It's not like I'm some narcissist when it comes to everything I listen to (though I wonder who isn't to some degree), but that certain kinds of chance encounters between one's mood and the music one finds to listen to at a particular time are often the times when I get most out of my relationship to it.

Great Earthquake's Drawings is an album of a similarly nocturnal, restrained and mainly 'instrumental' mood to the music I mentioned above, and it's resonated perfectly with my current feelings of ambiguity, of quiet solitude and a small, almost comfortable melancholy - a word I've always associated with a kind of happy sadness, a sadness that is never quite grief, or a happiness tinged by the realisation of what it lacks. Drawings is the perfect music for my current time of coming and going, of beginnings and endings, and it helps me feel my way - not think - through the things I'm currently going through. It illuminates - that is, throws a light on - my situation, my feelings, and for that I'm eternally grateful. In its cyclical drum patterns I find a kind of resigned drive, in its piano accordion that very bittersweetness that so grips me, in its plaintive guitar a plaintive state. It's that kind of later, quieter post-rock that isn't quite post-rock that I've always been drawn to, felt emotionally nourished by - a post-rock with far more heart and sense of wonderment than the serpentine and po-faced technicality the genre often descended into. Recalling expatriates Because of Ghosts in its evocation of the very slim distinctions between hope and sadness, a song like opener ‘Clap Clap’ has that very Australian sense of tone that always rests in melancholy. It's where I rest my head tonight.

donkey peacock goose


At first it was very difficult as we really didn’t know anything about opera. We’d never been to one. I didn’t even know what the word libretto meant. But after some studying, and just getting used to opera’s essence of pretentious and dramatic gestures, I found that there is a lot to learn and play with. In fact, our ignorance gave us a positive respectless approach to making opera. It took me about a year to become emotionally moved by an opera singer and now I really do. I really like the basic theatrical values of opera and the easy way it brings forward a narrative. We’ve approached this before in The Knife but never in such a clear way -- Olof Dreijer.

For the most part, The Knife's Tommorow, In a Year opera is an admirable failure. One cycle, however, stands out most clearly as a brilliant achievement, a synthesis of all that makes The Knife and opera and experimentalism worthwhile - 'Colouring of Pigeons' (available to stream here). This 11-minute epic recombines operatic voice, Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer's unmistakeable voices, alternatively gamelan-esque and martial percussion, and deeply moving cello and halldorophone into what is more or less a classical opera song refracted through the structures and dynamics of dark house. This is what makes the track so gripping - The Knife force all the melodramatic elements of an opera song through the prism of their equally melodramatic and atmospheric electronica. It's a perfect match, made all the more perfect by the formal experimentation and minimalist arrangements the track is formed in. Each genre illuminating one another in perfect symbiosis.



The artistic arc Joanna Newsom has displayed across her three albums is just beautiful, each work builds on and consolidates her aesthetic whilst introducing some amazing new element. I've heard lots of people arguing that Have One Me is a caricaturing and popularising of her style (i.e. she's sold out) but I actually think it's quite distinct. Anyway:

- The Milk-Eyed Mender's defining element was just that every song is timeless and amazing, and how it creates absolute beauty out of odd smallness. It's just this chick who sounds like nothing we've (but others probably have) heard, playing on a harp these beautiful songs.

- Ys was brilliant for the decision to do an album of extended songs, that spun out into cohesive, holistic musical and literary tapestries - just try not to get lost in Emily.

- The best thing about Have One On Me is that it's really composed of a series of little and intensely exciting to listen to moments - the songs are good, sure, but they are good because they are peppered with these bristling moments - that line, that vocal change, that progression, etc. Take 'Have On One Me', whilst it's of similar length to the songs on Ys, it's really quite different, it's just like a little treasure chest of moments: .50 as the harp starts to wind up; 1.10 'in the night, in the niiight'; 1.26 as harp resolves itself; 1.38 as the 'chorus' (?) comes in!; etc. etc.

There's very little else I wanted to say, just to get this down here. Joanna Newsom: amazing.

kill yr. idols


I have a personal bias against rock, classic rock, that is borne of the Boomer generation, and the continued reverence of it by my generation. It is regressive to constantly re-hash and pay tribute to our parent's (and grandparent's) tastes. The cult of Springsteen is the prime example here. Rock ideology is one of success and fame, white male charisma, counterculture as money spinner, etc. etc. But mostly, it's just sad because it means we basically confirm that old "back in my day" bullshit ourselves, by being like, "yeah - the past is where it was at musically, let's just play blank homage to it".

As such, my bias is not just a typical 'indie kid' stance, and this article by Zach Baron at Slate drives that home - in many ways, the indie and rock ideals have crossed - a certain version of indie is now the cultural mainstream, and it's bands and style are taking on the same bullshit myths and cultural centrality as the Stones, Beatles, etc. Reading this article kind of depressed me then - should I be holding up indie as the alternative when now it clearly isn't?

Nevertheless, two issues present itself here.

First, is Baron's claim that
There are very few successful young bands today that don't play some variant or descendent of indie rock. And the alternative musical culture that spent most of the '80s and '90s as the exclusive property of college students, critics, and independent labels is now a fairly uncontroversial, major component of pop music in general.
really that accurate? Is pop not still defined by, on the one hand, (electro) pop in the vein of Britney, Kesha, Gaga, etc. and hip hop and R&B on the other hand? Indie might be encroaching, but I think it's a slight delusion to argue that very few bands are successful without an incorporation of indie rock. As such, even if indie is dead (as an ideal - definitly not as a commercial genre, in fact that stage of its life is moving into full swing), then I still hold out genuine hope for more general pop as a potential site of generational difference and definition.

Second point, and further to the first, is that the success of indie is, as I said, a certain version of indie - namely 90's indie-rock. That's why Baron focuses on the Pavement reunion, and not say the success of Animal Collective (which is an entirely different story). And really, what we're seeing then is just the latest in the canonisation of a generation's music - no longer Boomer rock but now Xer indie. The trouble is for Gen Y basically to reject both.

talk like that


Intelligent music critic Nitsuh Abebe has a new column on Pitchfork, 'Why We Fight', that looks at discourses and conversations we have around pop. His first post begins to dive into the very thorny question of where the music ends and the discussion begins, and how the latter increasingly impacts the former with everything online:Because on the web, there's no such thing as silent dismissal, the invisible shrug of this-is-not-for-me: everything's verbalized. Casual dismissal-- "this bugs me," "I can't stand that voice"-- starts to look more like active criticism. People snipe or worry about whatever seems to be at issue, even if what's at issue has more to do with our arguments than what's happening in the music.Beyond that, it seems to me that Abebe is grappling with the very thorny issue of how exactly to write about music. Clearly his notion of criticism transcends mere evaluation (criticism as consumer guide), but as soon as issues of representation are brought in, then with it comes the question of whether pop (I'll leave out indie for now) should even be amenable to intellectual discussion. Or, to put it more simply, isn't it just about the music maaaan? Of course not, but whether picking the eyes out of popular texts either by constant bitching - "simply locating what's different or notable about a given act and then chipping away at it, finding the most efficient way of mocking it, ferreting out the exact interpretation of what's happening that best allows us to critique it" - or by treating it as a given semiotic system just waiting to be unpacked, as academics do, really amount to anything different is another question. I cannot say in any way, shape or form that I'm not guilty of this exact thing, but I think criticism (mine included), needs to find a way to incorporate intellectualised discussion with appreciation for - and moreover, articulation of - the pure affective force of pop, and music more generally.I was thinking about this when reading Robin Jame's wonderful post on 'Single Ladies' and the way she couched the discussion:Beyoncé is an amazingly talented artist who plays around in very subtle and nuanced ways with “serious ideas” – all while singing some damn catchy hooks. It’s REALLY HARD to make delectable pop that also problematizes ideas in ways that are interesting to academics.And I wondered to myself, 'is that what pop music should do? Make itself "interesting" to academics? Isn't this kind of depressing?'Anyhow, I'm not sure if this whole issue is just one that anybody thinking about pop music in a theoretical or philosophical way inevitably comes up against, but I'd very much appreciate anyone's own experiences and take on the whole thing, please, to help clarify my own.I'll leave the final word to Philip Brophy:Time has well passed for the need to analyse pop culture, as if it were a frustrating closed system of signs proliferated through each wave of subcultural commodification. Pop culture is too pervasive, rampant, eclectic and polyglottal to unravelled and remade into an academic macramé pot holder.[...]

don't stop / can't stop


Have you ever had that experience where you're in a hyper-audiovisualised location, usually a city bar or garish chain store, and there is the latest robo-pop/doof playing over the speakers, filling every bit of space that hasn't yet been occupied by commodities, whilst numerous flat-screens in the same place play a video music channel with the sound turned down? It's a crazy, aberrant synaesthetic experience, listening to - as I found myself, a few days ago - say Ke$ha's 'TiK ToK', whilst watching the video clip for Ne-Yo's 'Closer', but one that strangely seems to make sense. Recreate the experience for yourself below, and see how it actually took me a good ten or twenty seconds to realise that I wasn't listening to the audio of the video but an entirely different song:

Listen to this...
(object) (embed)

... Whilst watching this:
(object) (embed)

There are strangely a number of quite logical audio-visual connections in this song, to the point where they seem kind of interchangeable on one level: shot cuts seem to roughly follow the beat, Kesha sings "don't stop" as Ne-Yo mouths "can't stop", handclaps sound out on 'TiK ToK' as they appear on the video... I'm not entirely sure what this might point to - the ultimate formal similarity (both musically and visually) of all pop? Or simply a forced intertextuality? Either way, weird coincidences.

talkin' bout my generation: SLAM Rally, Melbourne, 2010


I've been thinking a bit about the whole rally yesterday, and after posting my initial elatedness to Facebook my friend mentioned his cynicism about the whole endeavour. I pressed him on why exactly he was a bit jaded, and he duly listed the reasons, which I'd like to use as a bit of a launching pad for my own thoughts on the whole event. Please bare in mind that I'm not targeting any of this at anyone in particular, and I understand that my arguments brush over many of the subtleties of the whole schamozzle, but I felt like I had to at least air my reservations.Here's my friend's list of gripes:1... The people loudly retching and complaining during the short free-jazz piece that was performed, EVEN THOUGH several of the speeches had just taken great care to praise the diversity of Melbourne's music scene.2... Every part of every speech where people were prodded to BOOOO. I mean Christ ~ we're adults, legitimately protesting; not 6-year-olds at a skeezy pantomime....3... The Socialist Alternative douchebags trying to co-opt the rally, sullying the power of the number in attendance and diluting the unity of the message.4... The backward-focus of most of the speechmakers. There were definitely some exceptions (Pikelet, Tim Rogers), but it seemed like most of the speakers were more focused on talking about some amazing gig they saw in 1976 than talking about Melbourne music's *future* -- which is what is at stake.5... The inflated estimates of how many people were there. It was a big fucken turnout, but there is *no* *way* that there were 20,000 people there. (And they're the more conservative guesses ~~ Amanda Palmer claimed upwards of 70,000.)6... The low-sitting shame and disappointment that comes with knowing that this rally will almost certainly succeed ... (I'll be astonished if we don't see a direct effect of this in liquor license policy in the next 6 months) ... while the just-as-big rallies for climate justice have led to absolutely nothing. Why can this succeed where the far-more-crucial one was doomed to fail?...Maybe I'm just in a bad mood. I did like the rally, by and large, and I thoroughly support its cause.Stuff just annoyed me, that's all.Some great points in there, and I have to say I more or less thoroughly agree with his ambivalence, and especially with points 1 and 4. My major issue was how there was this sustained undercurrent about the 'authenticity' of live rock music as opposed to other forms of musical participation and creative expression in Mebourne. I find it kind of sad that it was the proponents of this bloated rock myth - the Boomers and the Xers collectively known as "Melbourne's rock royalty" (a phrase that couldn't be more apt) - that mostly held sway in the speeches, and who set the tone for the rally, as some kind of repairing of this great big rock establishment in Melbourne. If you don't believe me, look at the performers (the RockWiz orchestra of old dudes) and the speakers, all generally in the Xer or Boomer category (Rick Dempster, Paul Kelly, Irine Vela, Jon Von Goes, etc.), or better still the 'supporters' on the SLAM home page. And it's sad that most of the indie kids (i.e. young, Gen Yers) were mainly happy to go along with this narrative and fold their own cause into that of some nonexistent rock utopia that apparently existed in Melbourne in the 70s or some other ill-defined era. So whilst I agree with Crikey's Charles Richardson that the generation gap was o[...]

watching you run


you want a man full of love
more dangerous ways
you're guarding your ground, that i'm sure of
you're cutting your gold with grey
and you're showing your pinkest parts in my absence
and telling nine lies in the moonlight
and you're showing your pinkest parts in my absence

you slip on the yoke like it was a cute top
and drag a frozen lake full of fish and whatnot
across a living bed of flowers
and you leave it laying heavy on the bed of ours

do you see a cold floor in your future?
or do you sleep sounder when the sheets are sour?

you wanted a man, i showed up
and gave you a rib from my cage
that rib went bad, you let 'em all rot
replaced with tattooed snakes
may your bones turn to rope and go limp inside you
if you were burning me boy you'd get ice
may your bones turn to rope and go limp inside you

you slip on the yoke like it was a cute top
and drag a frozen lake full of fish and whatnot
across a living bed of flowers
and you leave it laying heavy on the bed of ours

i lit a match and watched it throw shadows
while you grew a hell on the top of our kingdoms

and you are
your father's daughter
and i am (i am)
no runner

study an affair and contemplate how a complicated train of events that ends in a final result of men's flesh becoming stairs

--Why? & Themselves, 'Canada'
(corrections welcomed)