Friday, July 30, 2004

This mix from Theo Parrish has been killing me lately.
Was recorded a week or two after he was here in Melbourne earlier this year. He opens with the same song he did here, and does this thing with the Quentin Harris remix of Donnie and the Carl Craig Cesaria Avoria mix which has not failed to make me feel better every time i hear it.
The deep house page has been making the internet a better place for at least half a decade now, and all respects are due to the Gman for selflessly bestowing upon us such goodness.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I've been letting this languish, partly because I've been making an effort to spend as little spare time as possible in front of a computer, but also because when I do, I read things like this (courtesy of Wonkette) or this (courtesy their bad selves), which make me want to leave this planet, and all the trouble that's in it.

In an effort to combine both planet and computer leaving urges and having a free Monday with not much writing to be done, a hunch that the surf was probably good and a borrowed hatchback, I drove through the rain down to Bells. The wind swung from NW to SW (bad) during the hour and a half on the road, and I arrived to find big, messy slabs of blown-out ocean unloading on the reef at the bottom of the cliff. The swell was still relatively straight and it looked okay despite all the chop, so I paddled out and joined a handful of locals braving the mid-Winter cold to get a few waves, and spent the next hour getting dragged down said reef by afformentioned large bits of ocean. While any time in the water is time well spent, sometimes; say, when you come to the surface after half a minute underwater having had a thick Bells lip land on your head only for the next three waves in the set break in front of you; you feel all you're doing is paying your dues.

Also though, Tamas and I have been working on a love and the rough mix CD. It's ridiculous how much time we've managed to spend working on this - off and on for three months at least - but unlike previous efforts we've managed during this time, I think we've near enough settled on a tracklisting that reflects pretty much everything we play, and sounds nice into the bargain. If we manage to get it recorded this week, come down to Republika this Saturday and we'll give you a copy. You should come anyway - we're playing with Damian Laird - a proper Melbourne legend who's been a bit quiet of late, so no doubt it'll be worth hearing what he's into these days.

Speaking of techier house DJs, we went by Honkytonks to catch DJ Diz on Saturday night. It's enough to make a chap wonder what it is about your city when so many people you've heard be ace somewhere else come to town and play such uninspired, workmanlike sets. I won't get started on Darshan Jesrani (although I'm more into placing blame for his Melbourne appearances here on the promoters, venues and warm-up DJs than the bloke himself), but I'd caught Diz a couple of times in London and have been keeping up with his productions since, and while there was nothing wrong with what he played on Saturday, it just wasn't particularly interesting or engaging.  I guess I just don't expect a DJ to get less musical and less adventurous as they get older, but a few Chicago house DJs appear to have done just that. Maybe they're just feeling trackier music these days, but when Diz, having essentialy just played bonus beats and tools for about half an hour, finally played a track that sounded different (in this case, one with an interesting bassline and a bit of warmth), it was JT Donaldon's Vanguard Nights, a record I passed on when I heard it because it didn't seem different enough to any of the hundreds of tougher jazzy house records like it.
Maybe I really don't get it, but doesn't every DJ want to play sets where each record is interesting and has life, and soul, and takes the room in a newer direction to the previous one, instead of sets where you take the dancefloor into a dark, linear tunnel with only pots and pans percussion to supply the drive? I guess if you do that then the records that have a bit more life will make a greater impact, but all the music you play should have a bit more life, shouldn't it?


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The best request asked of a DJ is no longer a wearily amusing 'can you play something with beats?' or 'do you have any dance music?'.
Asked of Tamas while playing at Bimbo last night by an apparently deadly serious (though polite) young lady:
Do you know what song is next?


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

And alone,

I interviewed Money Mark last week, so pulled Mark's Keyboard Repair from the dusty spot where it'd been languishing with other pre-loved lps, waiting for its day in the sun to come around again.
I hadn't forgotten how sunny that day was, but you know, you move on and records, despite their greatness and relevant to you right nowness, get passed over by new discoveries.
Listening to it again reminded me of discovering Mo Wax and those mid-90s records by DJ Shadow and Krush, the early Autechre - music that made you feel like you'd stumbled across some secret cubby-house society and for some reason even you couldn't understand, the kid who built it deemed you cool enough to join.
Those records were an epiphanical moment, when I heard something that changed the possibilities felt and seen in music. It was real nice to dig out the Headz comps, and Some Scientific Abstract Type Shit - You can still feel the weight of that music, seemingly worth more than anything else i was listening to at the time.

Mark is a sweet guy, and told some great stories about recording with Yoko Ono and Femi Kuti, who was in semi-exile in Paris when they worked together on Fight To Win , Femi having had half his band defect from Nigeria on their first US tour, and so had to escape an irate government and even irater bandmate's wives, pissed off at him for giving them the opportunity to leave and never come back.

We didn't get onto the Beasties for awhile - i figured maybe he was sick of talking about them and he's an interesting enough guy in his own right - but he did say the years working with them, in his life, were perfect. He also made it very clear that he was Not Around (full stop) while they made their new record, but i guess that's clear enough to anyone looking forward to listening to the 5 Boroughs as little as i am, or anyone unfortunate enough to have heard it.
Speaking of, this review on pitchfork deserves mention for niceness, and for being a review that doesn't ask to be agreed or disagreed with. Whatever your thoughts on the record or the idea of using a review as a swan-song, it's an most agreeable piece of writing, its out of context personal mumble forgiven.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Here then, in the red corner, are Tamas' thoughts on Oliver and Jay's thoughts on my thoughts (see below for context).

It's great that we get to ramble-on with other people who live on the other side of the world and who also like to ramble-on. Tim, Jay, and Oliver - hats-off to you all for loving music. The writing thusfar has made me think a bit about hip-hop in the context of a few of my pet interests so I'd like to put some of these thoughts out there as a further provocation.

When Tim referred to 'the nerdy, beat-digging, wax poetics-theorising culture, thanks; no guns, misogyny, bling or hand-jive posturing for me, no sir,' he was, if the comment is taken in a literal sense, presenting what Jay in his response views as a 'false dichotomy,' but Jay's impassioned response got me thinking; firstly because it was obviously an informed view but secondly because it seemed to signify something aparent and yet actually downright cool; some implications of the cultural distance between Tim/Me and Jay/Oliver.

I get to hang out with Tim a bit so I know that he was not speaking literally but more generally about a gap in the culture of hip-hop, which I think is inevitable as a result of talking about it from an Australian perspective. The way in which an Australian receives / processes / understands and then appreciates the culture and the sound of hip-hop is inevitably and fundamentally different to an American. Jay and Oliver I'm sure are aware of this but choose to overlook it in their response. I've spent no more than a year or so in the US and have always found hip-hop to be immensely political and racial in the context of that country - even when it's just 'wave your hands in the air etc.' type stuff - because that racialness and politicalness is so ingrained in the physical substance of the music... and yet I also notice that the reception of that whole side of the music is altered if you're an Australian Kid who hasn't and potentially might never, meet, a Black American or indeed any American (a generalisation that, it may as well be added, does not include either Tim or I). Yet I would argue that this makes AK's appreciation of it in no way invalid or naive because AK could have the internet and (on this point we all agree) the shit-hot Wax Poetics magazine etc., and as a result might a) actually know a truckload about the culture factually, technologically and historically and, b) might have an acute appreciation of it from a rhythmic perspective which (we probably all agree on this point seeing as we all love hip-hop beats worth dancing to) is an essential and good manner in which this, and indeed all dance music is understood and it is mostly intuitive so it is not much of a geographically or culturally sensitive trait, especially now that hip-hop is one of the dominant contemporary music forms.

Now Tim's no AK but I think I'm mounting a decent arguement why his separation of hip-hop's hard posturing and/or gangsta culture from what he perceives (from afar) as a more general, intellectual interest in the music viz. Wax Poetics, might be a 'false dichotomy,' for those at WP, but that this doesn't hold when you find yourself on the other side of the globe. Further this is only one of many ways in which Australia, or any other country other than America is opening-up hip-hop culture. But unfortunately you're going to see a lot of AKs pretending to be American and rhyming in a false US accent before there's a greater acceptance of this fact. So I'm thinking it's precisely his geographic location that enables Tim to ask the sort of questions about hip-hop that American blokes like Jay and Oliver are likely to have some problems with.

At this point a quick aside; does anyone else except me think that it's incredibly cool that a song titled, of all things, Synthetic Substitution, would come to be so heavily sampled?

When Oliver writes of Tim's blog-blurt that 'Ideologically, I find that opinion to be problematic, especially b/c your explanation of how you arrived at said conclusion is quantitative rather than qualitative,' I felt that something was being side-stepped. Yes, it is problematic, but in the best way possible. The interesting thing about what Tim raises is precisely the 'quantitative,' and not 'qualitative.' To bring it back to a discussion of the qualitative I think overlooks that Tim was clearly not taking aim at cutting-edge producers when he wrote this (even a cursory scan of his blog shows he has a keen, thoughtful, broad interest in dance music) but about mass recycling of obvious source material, and Oliver and Jay appear reluctant to concede there's anything much wrong with this for reasons I don't yet understand. One responds with yet another comparison between hip-hop and jazz as if hip-hop needs the legitimisation (they're more different than alike but more about that later), while the other treads the path of qualitative vs. quantitative. It almost appears as if Oliver and Jay are apologising for the standards that Tim justly critiques, if a little haphazardly. Tim's question 'What does this say about hip-hop and what they're trying to sell us?' is a worthy one. Granted, on a fundamental level hip-hop is precisely the same as rock'n'roll when it comes to nostalgia for the "classics," but this music is for sale to a public and as Oliver points out, most of us don't notice when someone 'flips the same break twice.' This proves to be the Achilles's heel of hip-hop (and in another way a strength, but I only have so much time and space) because producers are excused of their laziness. And record companies realise this. Compared with the jazz days where they always had to pay a full band of trained musicians interacting with one another spontaneously to create music (afterall at base level this kind of communicative improvisation amongst fellow musicians within structure IS what I believe jazz is about and no, one person or even three in a studio cutting up samples is not the same as that. Jazz standards or not, the dynamic of its making has to be different, and any person with some sense of intuition and/or experience playing a musical instrument in an ensemble knows this), it might prove to be a comparatively efficient economy and, more relevantly, expedient to pay a lone producer with kick-ass modern equipment in a studio, to flip the same break twice.

In the early twentieth century Marcel Duchamp, the granddaddy of sampling, put a urinal in an art gallery and blew open modern art. This work was of immense rhetorical power and resonates still precisely because it tackled what Oliver succinctly summarises as a 'high culture/low culture binary about how "art," should be properly produced.' If an artist in the 21st century did the same thing the rhetoric would be limp; at best naïve and at worst stupid or lazy. That does not mean that the binary is tired, quite the opposite; it proves to be a source of inspiration for artists in media as diverse as architecture, film and music and seems especially relevant now that we're aided by computer software that dramatically levels the playing field. It also proves to be a good source of discussion I'm told.

If you'd like to weigh in - by all means.

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