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Why do people keep giving me stuff?? Stop It you Bastards! Trawling through my pile of music gifts….

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It’s always the way when you start a career in writing about music, that while you will almost certainly get paid fuck all (That is if you get paid at all!), you will find that people, from musicians, to their managers and PR guys,  will just happen to message you to “give” you stuff, even if you don’t ask for it. This is what i often call Hey-check-us-out-itis. It’s a fairly standard ailment, along the lines of tooth decay, or gout, and it’s something you inevitably will need to get used to.

Despite doing this for what seems to be like years, I’ve always felt slightly ambivalent when people just give you music “with no strings attached.” This is not to cast aspersions on the people giving you stuff. some of them are indeed very nice people. But I’ve always felt that such an transaction/encounter comes with a certain quid pro quo attached to it, that I find myself in the position of being compelled to say something about the music as a form of thank you, which has always made me feel uneasy (hark at old prolier than thou here!)

Over the past few months though, the amount of records, CDs and digital files have grown into a slightly large pile near the record player and on my desktop. and despite my best efforts, I can’t ignore them any longer, as the compulsion to play and write about them growing stronger by the day.

So with that in mind, Iet’s have a look at some of the stuff that has come my way from the UK in the past couple of months, And before you ask, an Icelandic version will be following in the next week or so…

OK first up are a couple of tracks that were sent to me by the lovely Sophie Cooper, who you may remember (probably not) being featured as part of an Exotik Pylon label review way back when. Well she’s fast becoming a major linchpin in what is the most unlikely cultural hub in the UK. No, no Deptford or Dalston, but Toddmorden in West Yorkshire. A few months ago she sent me a few files for some music that was being released though her work with the bombshop arts collective, something that she said I might be interested in. The files have petrified on my desktop for weeks, but it’s only now that I’ve got around to giving them a proper listen!

The first act is the self titled release from MOSAIC OF TEETH. A motley band of improvisational musicians that include Justin Wiggan (Roadside Picnic), Nicholas Bullen (Napalm Death), Keith Moliné (Two Pale Boys / Pere Ubu), ILIOS (Mohammad/PAN), Anthony Donovan (Murmurists) and Antonio de Braga. According to the blurb, this collaboration came about due to the Eyjafjallajökul eruption in 2010. Wiggans finds himself stranded in Norway for a few days, so he spends his time getting a loads of crappy cassettes from the local fleamarkets. the tapes are then morphed, edited and passed around the cabal who warp and flail at the sounds with febrile glee. the result is a 40 minute sound sculpture mindfuck that sways and tilts all over the place, from poised, polished blocks of sound, to corroded shards of noise rock jazz jams, to bastardised Bond Soundtracks being passed through a grunge filter. After listening to it a few time, I have no idea what’s going on, but that’s all part of the fun of this collaboration – Defamiliarisation and Destabilisation is the name of the game. There are still copies to order, and physical copies come with a phial of volcanic ash! Hope they got a permit for that.

(Alas there’s no soundcloud link available, but you can here an excerpt HERE)

 

The next up is FUSE 004 by Petrels, the latest in the series of recordings from the FUSE multimedia art space in Bradford. It’s a live recording by noise artist and composer Petrels aka Oliver Barrett. Over tow long form tracks of densely layered harmonic compositions, we hear two components at play. On the one hand you are gently assaulted aurally by overloading, sometimes jarring electronic textures and waveforms, but at the same time they adhere to the core harmonic principles that lay down a lot of raga infused folk musics. the result is music that is both harsh and melodic, stinging walls of pure sound a colour that trigger a painful delirium of the ears. I can only hope that there was a light show that came with it that blew out the eyes as well. If you fancy something that’s along the lines of Fuck Buttons or Oneohtrix Point Never at their harshest, then i think you’d be interested in this.

 

Now I turn to a bunch of releases from the only and only Andy Cooke from JUNIOR ASPIRIN records in London, a repository label for some frankly weird and disturbing music that should come with a govt warning. Simple story this – I got an e-mail from Andy a few months ago thanking me for using a track from the band The God In Hackney in one of my Nordic Interstitial Thresholds mixes. He then goes. “Would you like me to send you some music?” to which I reply “Sure, why not?” Now what I was expecting was for Andy to send a a CD of 12″ or two. Imagine my shock when a week or so later, I received a rather hefty package (well it was more like a box) from the mail courier. opening it, I see not one, or two, but TEN albums (See the pic at the top), pretty much the entire discography of Junior Aspirin records! I won’t be going into some of the records he gave me, such as the releases from Skill 7 Stamina 12, and The Rebel, but instead point you towards the following 3 groups.

Fist up is Big Legs and their self titled debut album. Two Englishmen stuck in NYC who have decided to make some decidedly off-kilter pop ditties in an attempt to articulate their lives in their adopted hometown. the result is one of wibbly and contorted home studio beats electronics and samples, woodwind sintruments, surrealist spoken word mumblings and vocal cutups that are of a decidedly English monotone bent. The album’s highlight is a cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” that descends into a loopy, haunting intermission. Pop music for people who don’t like people.

 

Next up is Cave Moderne, by The God In Hackney. A four piece that contains Label owner Andy, the album is meant to be a concept album that imagines the Flintstones for real, a contemporary neolithic period where avant pop/rock sounds are performed “with chants, drums, guitars, synths, shells, earth, teeth, bits of tree and crap music apps.” the result is an bricolage album of songs as sound assemblages, held together by dinosaur gut twine and duct tape. Looping and clattering drum rhythms mix with deadpan vocals, churning keyboards drones and broken guitar riffs. An alternative album title for this could have been Prehistoric Modern Life Is Rubbish.

 

Finally we have Further Conclusions Against an Italian Version (BAT) by the wonderfully named Socrates That Practiçes Music. Another band that contains label owner Andy Cooke and his mate Alex Ellerington, they call their music METAGOTH, which if anything is at least one of the best ideas for a band name I can think of. And like Big Legs, STPM are a band that take a simple base structure/genre of music (in this case goth and post-punk) and smashes it around the room with an English approach to DIY music and songwriting. this sort of approach has a long lineage from The Fall, The Fates, Cleaner From Venus, and The Nightinggales, all the way to Grumbling Fur, Officer! and Daniel Patrick Quinn. A track like “Mrs Hammersmith” for example reminded me a little bit of  the early music that the likes of The Young knives were putting out years ago. Despite the obviously avant-pop structures and the woozy use of samples and gothic atmosphere, there is definitely a strong, decidedly grounded, pop sensibility that shines through the tracks. It’s suburban garden/kitchen sink goth music, where the magic comes from performing divining rituals on utility bills and clairvoyance using Tetley tea bags. Recommended.

that’s your lot for now. I’m back off to work!!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in music, Uncategorized

 

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Musings and Shit: Compare and Contrast: It’s hard livin’ in teh Ghetto….

Music videos str8 from da hood lol (*cough* “brand partnership” *cough*)

Some of these displays are not quite like the others though….

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Sunday Afternoon Listening Post: Let the Feelings of Futility Commence!!

Luckily enough I’m able to be compus mentus enough to perform tasks on a Sunday these days.

But why would I want to do that?

Mind you I have the full Sunday afternoon/evening shift on at our beloved Bravó Bar in a few hours, so now is all about listening to a damn fine playlist, while trying to decipher this unwieldly piece about tourism and music venues in downtown Rvk, that’s got quotes from your truly on it (Warning: Icelandicness language!).

So whats on the stereo this afternoon?

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Album Reviews: The Reykjavik Grapevine: Buspin Jieber, ‘We Came As we Left’

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A while back I reviewed Buspin Jieber’s We Came As We Left, the latest release from Icelandic electronic label Raftonar for the Grapevine. Go and read here.

It was OK. Some really excellent production touches, but as an exercise in retrofuturism/memory as inspiration it wasn’t that much of an immersive experience.

But take a listen for yourself and see what you think.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in music

 

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Killing Them Softly – The art of Mellow Soul

So this appeared in the last few days. Ghostface Killah calling out Action Bronson on video after Bronson dissed him on EPSN recently.

Cue all the back and forth arguments in the socmedia thread about whether Killah “still got it,” or whether “Bronson ever had it.” yadda yadda, etc. Snoozarama

But what really caught my ear was the song that Killah was syncing his calling out to

Ahhh Harold and Dem Blue Notes. True true mellow/Philly Soul of the highest order. and what a song. Pure emotion – heartfealt, pleading, relationship advice, and, most importantly, FOR REAL. oodles of social commentary in there as well.

And this song too…. Feels beyond feels

Reminds me of that great piece David Toop did a while back for the Wire back in 2011 (I think) on Mellow Soul and it’s position in black/latina culture. What was interesting in his speaking to people and hip hop musicians their comments that in a music culture and environment of hyper machismo, violence, brooding and keeping it real, Mellow Soul was the only channel where black men could be exposed to music of  a male POV that showed fragility, vulnerability, that they could love, be hurt, even let out a tear and still “be a man.”

some of the top trax from that time. and there are loads more where that came from….

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Live Reviews: The Quietus: Eistnaflug (plus some extra notes)

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Ulfmessa II by Johanna Perssson

Realised i hadn’t updated this in a while, but I went to Eistnaflug last week (first time in a couple of years) and I wrote a review about it for The Quietus. Go and read it HERE.

There were a few things that for space or initial laziness I left out. But I can put them in here.

– If there is a “Big” band that is not mentioned then it’s because I was simply elsewhere putting out organisational fires, or I just didn’t fancy watching/writing about them. Make of that what you will. I will say that I was a bit miffed at missing ICARUS and VALLENFYRE but them’s the breaks I guess.

– Despite the fact that some people were getting wistful for “the good ol’ days” of hanging outside of Egilsbuð and going in and out whenever you wanted (Me included), the change to the sports hall was going to come eventually. and Stebbi and the guys did a very good job of it. Despite the lower levels for bands lower on the bill, the quality was overall pretty good (despite hearing things such as Sinmara say they didn’t even do a line check, never mind a soundcheck!). Things such as the quality of the food available (more options than the “Burgers only” of previous years) to the efforts of the staff were just on a higher level than before. This shift in size could have made things go really tits up. It didn’t.

– I’m not going to go into our off-venue shenanigans because the fact is that everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did! and it was still fucking AWESOME. We will be much more in your face next year, but some of the music that FALK and Vánagandr put together was definitely on a par with the main stage. and this was helped by the light/soundsystem which mean that instead of sounding like a bee in a tin cup, everything instead sounded like the coming of the end times.

My highlights? loads, but 2 stood out – MARCELLVS L was something else. More a visual artist than a musician, his whole philosophy to performance pretty much destroyed all those who came to listen to him. In complete darkness (apart from a single flashlight), and on the stage floor, he was incredibly loud and punishing, but instead of using noise artist things like feedback distortion, he simply used things such as a whistle and field recordings he took from a nearby horse farm. Have you ever heard the REAL sound of a horse that loud or close up? I hadn’t, and nether did everyone else. It must be something about hearing animals in fear or distress that brings out something in us, because it brought several people to tears. One friend broke down and had to leave, it was just too much. The poor family who came early to see CHURCHHOUSE CREEPERS got the shock of the life. Their daughter burst out crying in the foyer. The fact that it looked like he was going to set himself on fire (!!!) and ended up nearly shutting the place down due to petrol fumes was… different. I admit to being almost ready to punch him on the spot, but now I think… what a guy!

the other was of course was ÚLFMESSA II. I pretty much wrote all of it in the quietus piece, but it other things, such as the light show, the mixing of dark, gloomy, bleak musical textures and instruments (drones, dusty old organs, etc, etc), the fact that one of the ULFMESSA members was going into the crowd with a staff and eyeballing/provoking people to react, either to himself or to the music. Intensity can be an overused adjective, but that was the whole point – to shake the audience out the usual bored torpor and make them react  to what was going on around them. I often hear so much guff from artists about them wanting their music/art to be an involving experience, but they often lack the ability/guts to work out what that actually would entail in the first place. These two acts alone rendered pretty much everything you’d get from the likes of LungA or the School of Art as obsolete.

Oh here’s some video from Days Two  and Three of Eistnaflug that contains some choice highlights that I wrote about.

Other fun highlights

– the closeness of Iceland in a nutshell. Before MANNVEIRA were due to play, I spoke with Kim Kelly about them.

“Yeah, them and all the really cool metal sounds are coming from these group of guys who come from Akureyri and have known each other for years.”

“Wow, that’s really cool!”

“And see Mannviera’s singer? I know him really well because his mum is best friends with my wife!”

“Awww! that’s so sweet!”

“Yeah. But the boy still has the darkness in him (put up my fingers in a cross shape in his direction going “Hsssss!”)”

– Our summerhouse had no toaster so it was friend bread all weekend. I forgot how good fried bread was. Drooooool.

– Having Dagur form MISÞYRMING on my shoulders while BEHEMOTH were playing. It’s just a thing, OK?

– This track was pretty much the Official Anthem of our car. Aðalsteinn played it a Gazillion times. Helgi Örn called it “the greatest track he’s heard in a long time!”

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Saturday boring place holder blog post…..

Afternoon all.

Waiting for bacon to cook so I can achieve sustenance…

Mrs Sex Farm is away in the country till this evening.

Might go and read a book. Or look at some youtube videos of Shiba Inu dogs…

But until then here’s what has been playing this morning on the Stereo….

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The Quietus: Album Reviews: Shiny darkly, ‘little Earth’

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I recently reviewed Little Earth, the debut album from SHINY DARKLY for The Quietus. You can read it here.

Interesting album. heavily signposts its influences. Is very much cool sexy goth for 21 Century – not in that they are Joy Division (As one music writer noted in their press release), but more of a cool Clash Magazine photo shoot way. Darkness as pure surface sheen, gothic transgression as affected pose.

And yet i did find myself enjoying the album in a few places. Might whip it out at a few goth parties! If anything it made me fish out my old cop of Primary Colours by the Horrors. Forgot how good that album was…

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in <

 

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FALK News Alert: ULTRAORTHODOX Album Release Concert

VITAL ORGANS PROMO VINNSL FIN-6

This is happening next week!!

We unleash ULTRAORTHODOX upon an unsuspecting world!!

Invite your friends! Your enemies! Random strangers!

Listen and bow in reverence!

See you at Hurra!

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in live music, Uncategorized

 

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Musings and Shit: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Mind wanderings on the “reality” of our modern cultural landscape…

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Been spending a lot of my time recently poring the numerous, dense posts from S.C.Hickman’s deliciously gothic blog Alien ecologies ~ the carnal edge of posthumanism, casting a light on the dark, manky pools of thought and conjecture that centre around the inhuman (technocapitalism, speculative realism, Lovecraftian horror, and much ,much more).

One series of posts really caught my attention, his thoughts on, and review of the latest work by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Heroes; Mass Murder and Suicide. In the book Bifo casts his eye on modern US culture and states that murder and suicides, especially ones that garner a huge amount of media and internet attention, are developmental signs of a vast kingdom of nihilism powered by a virulent death drive, and that we should map this corporate waste land of imagery in order to replace “Art, politics and therapy with a process of re-activation of sensibility, might help humankind to recognize itself again.” It’s a book I actually saw on sale in Mál og Menning and one that I’m going to have to buy and put on the massive pile of books in my in-tray that I’m slogging my guts out to read this summer.

In his piece, Hickman notes that both Bifo (and Zizek for that matter) have rather warped ideas on America in that “any form of critique is based on a necessary fiction, an illusionary simulation of the facts rather than the facts themselves.” But it was the following sections from Hickman that really caught my eye

The point here is that we are all living in artificial worlds whether we think so are not. Even the supposed natural world is a fake. Nature no longer exists. It’s all controlled by specialize access, government funding, caretakers and regulatory systems. Even the most isolated places on the planet are under someone’s control. There is no wild nature left. And, know one even remembers what that meant? Reality is produced for us even against our will. We are all will-nilly thrown into simulated realms through the meditainment networks of parent, schools, government, music, art, society…. the whole cultural nexus is one giant psychosphere. I’ve written of another Italian, The Onlife Initiative: Luciano Floridi and ICT Philosophy for whom the complex of Information and Communcations Technology spanning the globe (ICTs) are not mere tools but rather social forces that are increasingly affecting our self-conception (who we are), our mutual interactions (how we socialise); our conception of reality (our metaphysics); and our interactions with reality (our agency). In each case, ICTs have a huge ethical, legal, and political significance, yet one with which we have begun to come to terms only recently.

Of course reading this, you’d say that we need to return to reality, to nature and to “get real” and step outside of this corrosive, oppressive cultural order, this web of simulation. But then Hickman notes…

But can we? No. The notion of stepping outside of the simulator is to suddenly enter the zone of pure madness. Who would you talk to about reality? Once you left the simulator who would you be able to communicate with? What language would you use? And, most of all, if there was an “outside” – would there be a return door? Or would such an exit from the simulated world of late modern capitalism be a one way exit with a sign posted: No Returns. I sometimes think about the thousands of new dystopian YA novels being published. So many of them just pure bunk, not worth the paper their written on, not even good stories. But here and there you discover one or two that actually expose the truth of dystopian critical visions: it’s not about how bad hell is, but rather how we can in this dark hellish landscape of our own making create or invent a space of freedom, a place within the false world to discover once again what it means to be real – not human… but real. Maybe we need those boundaries between Mind and World, thought and being, artificial and natural… maybe it was the very effort to cut the fences down between them, to force a merger between thought and being that has brought us to this world of simulated realities in which nothing of the real is left. What to do? In a world where the boundaries between mind and world, thought and being have already lost their force and merged who will be the one to discover a way to cut them in twain again? Are we doomed to a simulated universe of nihilistic noise where the only escape is as Berardi forecasts: mass murder and suicide? Or is there another way?

You see it’s at reading stuff like this when I think about the material “reality” of Iceland, my adopted homeland. It’s often been noted that in terms of politics and economics, Iceland has been like a test-tube, a petri dish where the most destructive form of neoliberal policy could be enacted on society and bean counters and academics could examine what happens. A controlled study so to speak.

At times I wonder if the same thing hasn’t happened with art, philosophy,and culture as well.

For example, a couple of weeks ago some regulars at the bar I work at asked in all seriousness if Icelandic rapper Gisli Palmi was a joke character, in the same vein as Silvia Nott or Leonice. Well taking into account that Leoncie is actually “real” (just really shit at what everything she does), this question/comment got me thinking. There is often huge amount of discourse about Iceland about how Icelandic culture is so important, how we need to protect it, how it provides money and jobs. Often people ahve said that so many people come to Iceland “For the culture.”

But often I just reply, are they coming to Iceland for the culture, or are they merely comping for a marketed image they been provided of what Icelandic culture is?* When most artistic acts in Iceland come with a jokey, ironic aside (with the artist often emphasising that “it’s all just a bit of a joke”); where postmodernism, masked in the historical actions of the KUKL/Smekkleysa gang has completely obliterated any concrete interpretations, low/high art boundaries, or referrents to reality and essence, meaning that styles and personas can be changed and traded on a whim, that history can rewritten or forgotten completely;When every artist now creates and disseminates a social media “brand,” mixing their artistic and real-life personas into a continuous flow of images and soundbites; when agents and institutions of the real (police, politicians, etc) become active participants in TV, film and media satire, being the subject of joke while also in on said joke at the same time; where sounds and images are pilfered from the internet with ease; when concepts such as “nature” and “purity” itself becomes raw corporate imagery to market everything around us; when the tools of Icelandic culture, even social movements from feminism to equal rights become mediated by a web of corporate, state and quango interests; when there is almost psychopathic dissonance being exhibited by ALL of us involved in the cultural industry that allows to state/believe that we are unadulterated, autonomous, artists and scholars, allowing us to look away/ignore our own positions in the machine as uber-capitalist entrepreneurs, so that The system is no longer visible qua the system, then you have to ask yourself, just what IS real? Do we even know where the boundaries are any more? When Icelandic culture tries to “get serious,” all too often it merely consists of angry but ultimately meaningless social media rants (Like this one!), or often performance art actions of pious inconsequentialism, easily brushed aside and ignored.

All too often, I’m discussing the significance of a certain image, or song, or motivation behind a piece of art with someone, and all too often I’ve been told “But, does it have to mean anything?” And for many this means that you have artistic freedom to do whatever you want. But all too often what it means that it just becomes more fodder to feed the monster of Icelandic capital markets. 

Right now, the idea of total madness in stepping outside the cultural is preferable to the hall of mirrors that seems to constitute each new record release/gallery opening/facebook discussion thread. But i know that way is a fools errand. The quest for the inhuman real goes on….

* – apparently Paris Syndrome is a real psychological disorder. I wonder how long it is before we start seeing some cases of Iceland Syndrome?

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Iceland

 

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