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July 29, 2006

No Protection

While I didn't articulate it well at the time, I still think Sasha and his editors missed the point with his recent article and subsequent Q&A on "Americans' fitful appetite for British pop."

Most of what Sasha wrote and said is on point, but I still disagree with the frame: why stick to this outdated binary, the major supporters of which seem to be George Bush and Tony Blair? Yes, the pop-music traditions of both countries are inextricably intertwined, but maybe a little extrication would be useful at this point. Giving the UK a kind of most-favo(u)red-nation status may be commonsense, but I wonder if the two countries really have more in common than the US does with, say, Mexico, or any other country whose immigrants have populated North America (north of the Texan border) over the years. Yes, both countries host majority-white populations, and English remains the dominant language in both countries; pop music throughout the 20th Century was largely a conversation between American and English idioms (or perhaps more accurately: Anglo and African-American idioms). But restricting one's focus on the whens and whys of cultural crossover to the US/UK dichotomy feels not only a little silly—does it really matter how many units the Arctic Monkeys shift in the US?—but also a bit like a willful attempt to shut out the rest of the world.

Je n'accuse pas; Sasha, as much as any high-ranking music critic, has always remained open to music from the whole world, so it's not that I wish to brand him an Anglophilic xenophobe. (Great name for a band with a van and a heavy Myspace presence, that.) But I do increasingly wonder if fixating on the mercantile exchange between the US and the UK obscures more important questions about internationalism, and North Americans' resistance to it. I was spurred to post this reading today's NYT piece on AZN, the Asian-American channel, formerly known as the International Channel. The International Channel, according to the article, "aimed to appeal to all immigrants" before narrowing its focus. What's disappointing isn't just the downsizing of their aims, but the limits of the original frame itself, unless they really did mean all immigrants and their kin, eg anyone not of Native American descent. Why, among US inhabitants, should only immigrants be expected to care about the outside world?

Obviously, the "immigrant" market is growing in stature and buying power, so the idea of marketing a TV channel to them (because TV channels, ultimately, are about nothing more and nothing less than marketing demographics) is a bit of a no-brainer. And in an era where even a universally appealing comedy like The Office needs a line-by-line US remake to appeal to domestic audiences—an era where bearers of a stamped passport are branded Bordeaux-sipping, coastal-dwelling, freedom-hating elitists by the country's true elite (eg, the blue-blood scions of wealthy, Yale-educated dynasties who paint their necks red every morning to appeal to the perpetually condescended-to NASCAR demographic)—perhaps it's no surprise that there is no International Channel to appeal to anyone with an interest in the world outside the Lower 48.

But let's remember that reggaeton—which appeals to "immigrants" and others alike—jumped from underground whatever to moneymaking opportunity almost overnight. Reading last year's many reggaeton profiles, one is struck by the fact that it caught the moneymakers by surprise. Likewise, the moneymakers might be surprised to find that there is a market for subtitle readers and eager Babelfishers. (I'm probably wrong, but grant me my wishful thinking.)

Of course, poor capitalist that I am, I'm conflating market impulses with my own (naïve?) pluralist ethics. And if the demand drives the market, ultimately my beef remains with the folks that get their yuks from "freedom fry" jokes. An article asking what's up with the Arctic Monkeys' sales isn't going to carbomb the United Nations—these are New Yorker readers we're talking about, after all. And perhaps Sasha's piece is more in line with my position than I initially suspected: it refuses to take the US/UK cultural conflation as a given. With the trans-Atlantic vapor trails being whipped to the winds, it might make for a good opportunity to lobby for more cultural criticism of non-North American phenomena. America's isolationist fantasies are getting old.

Getting physical, and other recent bits

I've been slower than many to warm to the Get Physical label, but I come around in this recent eMusic spotlight on the label. (Next up in the eMusic column space is a thinkpiece on aliasing -- not digital artifacts but rather electronic-music's propensity for nomes de plume, or at least de keyboard, as it were.)

For those of the URGE persuasion, my blog there has recent bits on Loscil, Luke Vibert, Soulphiction, Quodeval, Thom Yorke, Innervisions, Audion, Tortoise, Hot Chip, Trentemøller, My My, and more -- basically, all the stuff I'd be covering on this blog if anyone, uh, paid me to. (Sorry, but some of us have vinyl habits to support!)

Finally, if you're in Barcelona, you can catch me play the "Bad Room" at Fellini on Saturday, 5 August; Berliners and those that love them can catch me with Deadbeat, Phon.o, and Daniel Meteo at Josef (inside Maria am Ostbanhof) on Friday, 18 August.

Otherwise, see you at c-o pop!

July 26, 2006

You beetha, I beetha, we all beetha for Ibiza

Color me converted: after damn near 10 years of writing about dance music—and three and a half times that being one of the more cantankerous, irrationally prejudicial people I know—I finally ventured off to Ibiza to see what the fuss was all about. Incredible as it may sound, even a notorious fussbudget like myself couldn't stay mad at the island. The landscape was ten times nicer than I expected, there wasn't a fish and chips shop in sight, and I only saw two cowboy hats the entire time I was there. Granted, the only party I attended was Sven Väth's Cocoon blowout at Amnesia, which was hardly the bangers'n'mash set; I heard more Italian (and German, duh) in the audience than English.

I'll have more to say about Cocoon @ Amnesia in an upcoming review for Groove and possibly the next "Month in Techno" column. A few highlights will suffice: Roman Flügel's main-room DJ session, a good three hours at least, split the difference between "Rocker" and his Soylent Green project to turn out a set that was bristling with tough rhythms and tender atmospherics; his peak moment was undoubtedly dropping Radio Slave's remix of Chelonis R. Jones' "Deer in the Headlights," which remains my peak-hour track of the year. (Listen or purchase on Beatport or, for subscribers, eMusic.) Was pleased and surprised to run into a couple of Kompakt hochos in the upstairs VIP—Reinhard Voigt, promo goddess Jeannine, Wolfgang and his girlfriend Claudia, of c-o pop. The spiky-haired former Mike Ink was enjoying his first visit to the island, suggesting that the Germanification of Ibiza may be almost complete. Reinhard "Baby" Voigt, meanwhile, couldn't stop enthusing about the island's food, as well as its celebrity—they had just come from a restaurant where Kevin Spacey was seated at the next table. If Mr. Lex Luthor took up Väth on his offer of guest-list, though, he must've been socked away in one of the super-VIP hideaways, because I never saw him. (That is, unless Spacey made like the many Cocoon fans that came to the party in full "Wildlife" mode, made up to resemble the (in)famous press photo of Sven, Richie, Ricardo and André Galuzzi in Kiss mode.)

Villalobos and Luciano tag-teamed away the night in the terraza (slightly misnamed—the island's laws prohibit open-air clubs, so everything these days is roofed), interspersed with several sets from Playhouse/Ongaku/Klang co-founder Ata, who proved himself a fantastic selector and nimble mixer, teasing out hidden threads and rolling between peaks and valleys so subtly you hardly notice you've changed altitude. The dynamic duo, meanwhile, were in fine form for about two thirds of their set, opening with slinky, sexy funk in the vein of Daze Maxim's unbeatable Simply Driving Gold; by the home stretch of the night, though, the two were solidly in bang-bang-bang mode, with an infernal, overdriven kick obliterating all details and any semblance of a groove. Ata's return to the decks put the party back on course, and things ended promptly—way too promptly—at 7 a.m. with the lopsided disco of Soft Cell's "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye."

The first thing you notice on arriving in Ibiza is the publicity—every billboard, it seems, is given over to club advertising, and every taxi is plastered with magnetic panels emblazoned with still more club adverts. Even sugar packets turn out to be valuable promotional real estate.

Make no mistake, Ibiza has some of the most stupidly named parties in the history of clubbing. These doozies were painted on the outside of Fun Factory Morning Club, the afterhours spot in the basement of my hotel.

Roman Flügel gets his crowd noch-ed up.

Those charming men.

Ata at full attention.

Just before Ata was beamed back up to the Mothership.

Ricardo reaches out for a little crowd support.

Waiting for taxis outside Amnesia, as glimpsed from inside the "disco bus." Not as bad as the line for the bus home from Sónar Noche—but under a much, much hotter sun. Who can even think of afterparties in heat like this? (Obviously, a lot of people. Me, I hit the hay for three creaky hours of sleep before catching the flight home. Recovery: still in progress.)

July 22, 2006

War is hell heck

"Gee, maybe if they take out all the swears, no one will realize that war isn't just a matter of fireworks and post-battle brewskis," mused President Bush to Tony Blair over lunch at a G8 session last week, unaware that his remarks were being picked up by microphone. "Those libbers, liberals, those libbers just gotta realize they gotta stop doing this shit," he added, playfully holding up a lighter to what he apparently thought was PBS's 2007 budget. (The document in question turned out to be the NASA mission statement.) "Condi's gonna go over there pretty soon, I think."

Ken Burns was spotted mouthing something across the room, apparently beginning with the phrase "Read my lips." However, due to the digital filter superimposed over his mouth, it was impossible to decipher what followed.

Private Lynnie England could not be reached for comment.

July 19, 2006

Slowly synching in

Current and former residents of the Hudson Valley would lose their shit upon visiting Athens; this place is full of Hellenic diners! This one, currently under restoration, appears to be modeled after the famous Acropolis Diner in Poughkeepsie, New York, where I worked off many a Vassar bender.

(Those Bucci boys, one of the artists I'd come to check at the fest, are funny guys, by the way. Andrés and I were discussing our sightseeing options early in the trip; I'd mentioned that I'd likely skip the Acropolis, having seen it once before. "Yeah, but it's pretty different now," said Andrés, straight-faced. Beat. "They moved it!")

Speaking of Hellenic diners, my highlight from the trip was undoubtedly a 5 a.m. stop at a crepes joint on the outskirts of Athens, a weird little hut nestled in a "miracle mile" of car dealerships and shiny glass boxes. The crepes were salty. You sat on the ground on Turkish (or Greek?) pillows. The soundtrack was vintage American jazz and recent American R&B. The woman wrapping crepes, lickety-split and with a muscular grace usually reserved for kung-fu moves, was a maestro. (Maestra?) "She's a crepes queen," I exclaimed to my journalist friend. Her eyes narrowed and he translated. "Yes I am," she said, looking me straight in the eyes and nodding her head.

My days were spent more or less aimlessly wandering without around Athens, unable to recognize anything since my previous visit, 12 years ago. I'm told the city has changed, modernized or commercialized or whatever you want to call it, and there was certainly no lack of Zaras and Starbucks dotting the Plaka quarter. But Athens still felt like I remembered it, a city of empty shop-windows and collapsing buildings, be they from the 19th Century or the 1960s. Flat rooves and concrete and mystifying signage. A city resigned to ruin.



The Synch fest--their third, my first—was a rousing success, even if some of those in the audience didn't seem to know that it was. (We'll get to them in a minute.)

For starters, you couldn't beat the lineup: Vegetable Orchestra, Biosphere, Animal Collective, UR Presents Galaxy 2 Galaxy, Argy, Bucci Brothers, Vector Lovers, Alex Kid, Dexter, Amon Tobin, A Guy Called Gerald, Aux 88, John Duncan, Mouse on Mars, the Chap, Mark Stewart & the Maffia, Afrika Bambaataa, Henrik Schwarz, DJ T., Legowelt—among others. Ware's And.ID and Ziggy Kinder repped the local (and apparently miniscule) minimal scene. Brinkmann and Chelonis R. Jones were both no-shows, which was a bummer, but whatever—kudos to Synch for the tight curation, broad and deep but focused.

I found myself surprisingly enthused at thee rock—Animal Collective and the Chap in particular. (Those Chappies do rock, by the way, even in 7/8 time.) Bambaataa played a fairly run-of-the-mill oldies/hits set (on Final Scratch, which seemed odd) that left me wanting, but the crowd seemed psyched. I was also underwhelmed by Galaxy 2 Galaxy; the playing seemed sloppy, the band+machines equation didn't work, and the hypeman front and center (I should know who he was, I don't, so sue me) veered dangerously close to schtic for my tastes. "Any Star Trek fans in the audience?" he asked during one of (far too) many pauses in the music. Audience response: slim to none. "The final frontier…" Slight pickup in response. "The final frontier… Quiet as it's kept, it's not space, but the soul that's the final frontier!" Cue Rhodes, you get the picture. Maybe I'm being churlish; Henrik Schwarz loved it. Maybe it's a cultural/racial/regional thing? (Eg, I have no connection to stage traditions where the hypeman is key, which I suspect is an element in many African-American musical cultures; I don't even want my artists to be "entertainers," per se. So what do I know.)

Mouse on Mars were cracking as usual; they'd left the band at home, so it was just the two of them with a bank of machines and effects boxes—my favorite MoM setup. They were loud, rude and banging, and you could tell were making it up as they went along. Would love to see them jam with Jamie Lidell sometime.

The Audio Bullys should retire immediately.

Sadly, missed A Guy Called Gerald and Aux 88 both—especially on the second night, sets were running ridiculously late, and by 4 a.m. I was tired and drunk enough that I grabbed a ride rather than wait for the 6 a.m. bus back to Athens. (I heard later that Gerald didn't play til 6 anyway). Actually, pretty much everything ran late, which a friend had warned me was rather the Greek way. I was slated to speak on a 7:30 p.m. panel, but my bus didn't arrive til 8. At 9 I found the panel organizer backstage; at 10 I was informed that the event had finally been cancelled. For the most part, all you could do was grin and roll with it (no, not like that—Synch was one of the most sober, at least pharmaceutically speaking, fests I've ever been to). But sometimes the delays proved fatal. Mark Stewart and the Maffia were delayed by the late arrival of a bandmember (their bassist, I believe, who was flying in from Living Colour gig he'd played with Guns'n'Roses); a late soundcheck after Bambaataa's set ensured that the thousand-person amphitheatre cleared out almost entirely. I watched the band play to a crowd of 80 people, I'd guess; I thought they were masterful, with Adrian Sherwood on the boards behind dubbing Keith LeBlanc's drums to hell and back, and Skip Williamson proving himself one of the most empathic guitarists I've ever seen, all silence and filigree and a grimacy smile to show that he knows you heard it that way too. As a ranter, Stewart was masterful, but whatever energy the band had that night came from the fingers and the forearms and the amps; Stewart, trashed, ended up quitting the stage, leaving the band to trail off anticlimactically. But whatever: warts and all, they're still a fucking monster.

Vegetable Orchestra: great concept (playing instruments made out of, duh, vegetables), expert visuals. Playing time: at least 30 minuteus too long. Chops: underdeveloped. Bring in some salsa percussionists (no pun intended) and then we'll see some greens fly.

Extra points to Synch for the weekend venue, an industrial complex with a sort-of-not-very-renovated factory at the center of it, located along the water in Lavrio, outside Athens. They used the complex well, with experimental performances and installations in a machine room, and a tent, indoor stage and amphitheatre to break up the experience. (Cooler still was that there was no "rock stage," "techno tent," etc.; you could enjoy a wealth of styles just by remaining rooted in place all night.)

And the public? I get the sense that there's not much scene in Greece yet; the crowd seemed curious but uncommitted, doing more roaming than raving, generally. Then again, Sónar isn't so different sometimes; but here you had the sense that the night out was a lark, a peepshow if not a freakshow, where a quarter bought five minutes of watching, after which it was time to hit the bar. Tents emptied quickly, even during some of the best sets. Amon Tobin totally owned his room, it must be said, playing blistering breaks (including, I could swear, an Anastasia remix); what is it about breaks and people that aren't otherwise down with electronic music?) Still, those that stuck around—including a few clapping, chanting holdouts hoping in vain for a Maffia encore—got what they were hoping for.

All that was missing, in the end, was an afterparty on the water.

Thilo and friend on board the night bus to Lavrio. Dude's wearing a New Kids on Acid shirt that I covet the fuck out of.

Synch's Sofia Ignatidou shoots Herik Schwarz.

Angie Reed ain't afraid to die for art. Or "aht," which is probably how she'd pronounce it. Great show, Angie's, full of bizarre animations, Pee Wee Herman impersonations, references to Situationism, Paul Klee and Lacan—in other words, par for the course for a collaborator of Chicks on Speed and Felix Kubin.

Animal collective were, like, way better than I expected—their skronk is surprisingly (to me) structured and melodic, and they did great things with pipsqueak vocal noises. (Mark Stewart made fun of me backstage, wincing, when I tried to express my enthusiasm for the pipsqueaky bit, so I'm not even going to try here. You'll have to trust me.)

Buccis rocking it. One of the better laptop sets I've seen in a while; it felt improvisatory, whether or not it was. (Mark Stewart (this is he of "–and the Maffia" fame) also made fun of me for using the word "improvisatory." Onstage he came off a bit like an alcoholic Henry Rollins who'd let himself go, but backstage despite the grough exterior and sexual innuendos directed at just about any woman in hearing range, he was kind of a pussycat.)

Edwin van der Heide's total laser immersion experience. This weren't no olde-tyme laser show, planetarium stylee; this was some new-time shit, all hissing midrange and strafing beams. Even better was his Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100km/h), a robotic speaker mounted on a spinning arm; when it senses the presence of people, it slows before them, growling menacingly, before returning to its breakneck spin. One of the most frightening things I have ever experienced.

Seeing shows in a disused machine shop is way cooler than seeing shows on a stage, any day.

July 04, 2006

Minimal is fine too

minimal is
minimal is 0
minimal is 1 user
minimal is 2
minimal is a >classic
minimal is a classic
minimal is a lightweight module for cgi form processing
minimal is a long daily walk
minimal is a long way from surgery
minimal is a traditional full
minimal is about the smallest pythoncard program possible
minimal is almost the smallest pythoncard program possible
minimal is always sufficient for the egd to be equivalent to a set of fd's as shown
minimal is an overstatement
minimal is an svo
minimal is assigned when the sum of the ratios is less than 2
minimal is available in three lady sizes
minimal is beautiful because
minimal is begin
minimal is both necessary and appropriate?
minimal is certainly not mine
minimal is defined not by the budget and the time in the space
minimal is dense on the torus
minimal is fine too
minimal is glowing glisses new 12" on poker flat; and in the more funky department there are brett johnson's sweet & sour sessions ep and a 12
minimal is greather than maximal or there is no network structure
minimal is important in many areas of computer science
minimal is less than $1000
minimal is located at 81 avenue a
minimal is looking for labels interested in releasing the ben johnson cd internationally
minimal is my main site
minimal is not an option to hostnamelookups
minimal is not contained
minimal is not opposed to the maximum because the opposition can not be measured
minimal is not so
minimal is now derived from berkeleybase instead of base
minimal is on by default
minimal is panoptic
minimal is required
minimal is selected
minimal is simply a bar containing two buttons on one side to switch between virtual
minimal is small enough to be used with this version of gempack
minimal is so basic
minimal is something akin to selecting "prime numbers"
minimal is specified
minimal is that i don't know what the opposite of minimalism is
minimal is that name authority work and subject analysis are not required
minimal is that one has to check that a certain finiteness condition
minimal is that some of the components are inside the monitor and "shared" by the computer
minimal is that when business
minimal is the orthic
minimal is the sound
minimal is to prove
minimal is used in the "initialize
minimal is what is reasonable
minimal is where the calculus comes in
minimal is wonderful

Minimalism is the one we know about

minimalism is
minimalism is "thought"
minimalism is a calling
minimalism is a calling by julie v
minimalism is a commentary not only on specific
minimalism is a crucial design value
minimalism is a cult style of the moment
minimalism is a dominant aspect of this release
minimalism is a hedged and less testable version of an older theory
minimalism is a large
minimalism is a lost art
minimalism is a significant tendency in our art
minimalism is a somehow optimum stylistic choice
minimalism is a style composed of simple geometric forms and the fewest possible elements
minimalism is a style of art in which objects are stripped down to their elemental
minimalism is a style of writing characterized by spare use of detail
minimalism is a theory specifically about inference making and
minimalism is a training method that could potentially alleviate some of the problems older adults experience when training
minimalism is a way of achieving enlightenment
minimalism is about
minimalism is against that minimalism is against personal expression
minimalism is all about
minimalism is also key to getting the maximum benefit from your single sourcing effort
minimalism is also known as "abc art" minimal
minimalism is an action
minimalism is an adherence to the
minimalism is an essay by kyle gann on postminimal and totalist music written for the program of a 1998 minimalism festival of the
minimalism is announced regularly
minimalism is capitalism's privileged monoculture
minimalism is concerned more straight
minimalism is connected to the following things
minimalism is currently in press; you can access a draft of one chapter
minimalism is described in the text as an action
minimalism is evolving
minimalism is familiar enough by now that i will spare you a recapitulation; suffice it to say that minimalism is for fried irredeemably
minimalism is generally known as neo
minimalism is identified as an american phenomenon
minimalism is in
minimalism is in "intensive care" and that the time has come to switch off the heartlung machine
minimalism is in no way a term with a fixed or scientific status
minimalism is in the closer examination of the elements that make up the whole
minimalism is its extensive use of features
minimalism is less of a school or movement in any one art form
minimalism is like being asked if you've stopped beating your wife
minimalism is many things
minimalism is mass production in music
minimalism is matched by the humanity of its invention
minimalism is meant to be simple
minimalism is no longer avant
minimalism is not based on inidividual notes but rather on musical patterns
minimalism is not enough
minimalism is not simplicity
minimalism is not simplicity by the advocate
minimalism is not used in a linear sense — grubbs explores the idea of employing repetition on act five
minimalism is often said to have a hypnotic or mantra like quality and
minimalism is often seen as a move away from brash
minimalism is on its way out
minimalism is one of the more challenging directions to go in music because there is no room to colour or cloud
minimalism is plain and colourless surfaces
minimalism is punctuated by moments of terrific humor
minimalism is pure simplicity — breaking down a work of art into its minimum components
minimalism is related to reductionism
minimalism is related to the distinction between weak and strong minimalism
minimalism is so far an incomplete and flawed strategy
minimalism is that people need to engage in real tasks
minimalism is the answer to task
minimalism is the built equivalent of artistic abstraction and the anti
minimalism is the idea of "order"
minimalism is the idea that decisions should be narrow in their impact and shallow in their justification
minimalism is the implicit heresy that scales down the bible's teaching and the christian faith to its bare essentials
minimalism is the latest
minimalism is the one we know about
minimalism is the only fruit of what has been known as beat
minimalism is the return to simplicity; it is reductionist compared to the world of the ego
minimalism is the roughly the representation of life around us in the most basic of forms
minimalism is the same thing as simplicity
minimalism is the sometimes undesired name given to the movement in avant
minimalism is the word of the day
minimalism is therefore one of the greatest challenges and achievements of the contemporary haiku
minimalism is thorough and
minimalism is to allow the viewer to experience the work more intensely without the distractions of composition
minimalism is to develop a protocol or guidelines for making the decisions the ward cannot make for himself
minimalism is to provide a
minimalism is to try to provide well
minimalism is trumps
minimalism is virtue