22 May 2013

Grammy.com (A Big Fuck-OFF)

I'm almost speechless at this, found via Blissblog (who's also almost speechless - unless he's saving his ire for a paid ranting).


Actually, that's a lie.

I'm nowhere near speechless. I'm full of words. I'm suddenly thick with them; they are stuffing into my skull and more are coming. This has made me really angry.

That face when David Tennant's Doctor goes: 'What?!!? What?!!?' over and over again. Yeah, that face.

I know this isn't worthy of such vitriol. I know there's stuff everywhere more painful, more important. Of course, this kind of thing doesn't matter, not in the same way that those workers in Bangladesh getting compensation matters or even in the same way that Sophie Stewart's Matrix win matters. Except, it does because it's related. It's part of the problem. It is the problem. It just happens to be about post-rock.

I've never exactly understood the frantic, journalistic rush to name things or to create genres. It made sense to resist labels right from the off (my off, not your off): when punks rejected Punk, Goths rejected Goth and so on. Now, with these little micro-climates like the H words, even Grime (the 2.0 is revealing) we have similar causes and similar effects:

1)I need to CREATE
2)My CREATION (I prefer CREATURE) needs a label
3)I need a label to MARKET
5)I need to MONETIZE to CREATE
6)After I've MONETIZED I need to RESIST labelling
7)Because to REALLY MONETIZE I need to BE a label

Maybe. Maybe not. It seems that way sometimes. Laughable watching bands adopt all the tropes of a scene and then pretend they haven't - and even to pretend that they're somehow distanced from that scene; developed independently, weren't using it as a springboard at all.

I guess it's also partly about journalists / theorists playing at Philosophy, trying to make signfiers out of signifieds, trying to be talking about something better, bigger, more eternal, more transcendental than music. About writers wanting to be writers rather than music writers. Writers ever-so-slightly ashamed of their genre non-fiction writing*. Wanting their understanding of life to be the key, rather than their love of music. I'm triple-guessing here and getting distracted but... A quick heads up guys: there isn't anything more eternal or transcendental. Music is that thing you're thinking of; you don't need to sublimate your musical vocabulary to an ethical one, or a political one or even a purely aesthetic one. You are already taking about those things - it's Sublime (in Burke's sense and in all other senses too) and it's ridiculous and you couldn't find a better description of Post-rock.

I digress...

Let's dig a little into that Grammy.com article. Rub it 'til it bleeds.

Over the past two decades, a curious musical insurgency has raged on the outermost fringes of the international music scene.

International = Multinational. Scumfuckers eating at the world, territory by territory. This Globablized game of Risk, leaving bust entrails and Globally-recognisable gloop everywhere.

Dubbed "post-rock," this burgeoning movement was pioneered by ambitious bands who largely discarded vocals and traditional verse-chorus structures in favor of euphoria-inducing song cycles.

Song-cycles? Hey let's look these guys up with the same peeps who bought those Gorecki CDs... let's invent a SubClassical genre; let's make Bliss itself something we can all share around a coffee table. Now, lets just take a little ROAD TRIP to see the members of these funny little bands, hand em a cheque, see how REVOLUTIONARY they really are...

Burgeoning? Burgeoned.

Now, eccentric outliers such as Canada's Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Scotland's Mogwai, Iceland's Sigur Rós, and Chicago-based Tortoise are increasingly being recognized as rock visionaries.

By people who matter. By Industrial people (cf. Industrial people). There's no particular reason why visionary ought to mean difficult, I've been to dinner parties with Godspeed / Sigur Ros et al and Trout Mask Replica / Bernard Parmegiani just doesn't allow for chatter, but here visionary seemed allocated to the ranks, just another subgenre of the Rock pantheon, an attempt at patronising ingratiation and assimilation. Just because these bands are visionary it doesn't mean you recognise why. You still don't know what you're looking for, you fuckwits.

This isn't just music; music is just a symptom. Consider how the Film Industry tries to understand and recreate the sleeper hits, the films that strike chords when the right chords haven't been struck. Consider the endless attempts to recreate (no, reproduce) hits like Trainspotting, Reservoir Dogs, even Four Weddings and The Full Monty. Consider all the failed attempts to distil their essence.

Having paid their dues performing in more intimate venues, many post-rock artists are now performing at international music festivals such as Coachella in Indio, Calif., Glastonbury in the UK and Spain's Primavera Sound, as well as at jazz festivals in several cities around the world. Sigur Rós' headline concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006 marked a watershed moment; a relatively obscure post-rock band performed on a historic stage often reserved for philharmonic orchestras and bebop ensembles.

Paid their dues? To whom. The Big Other? The Canon itself? The Hall of Fame?


And, Christ, just because a Festival is International (what the hell does that mean anyway?)... well, what does that mean? I mean I've seen hedgemonkey mates playing bin-lids and drainpipe didgeridoos at Glastonbury... away from the big corporatized / sponsored stages there's still plenty of scope for every kind of act (that's the whole fucking point of a Festival!) - don't confuse the high prices for Glastonbury (and I'm assuming Coachella et al) to mean that this is somehow a sanctified place, a residual of Capital-established worth.

"They're brilliant musicians," he says. "What they're doing is almost mathematical, or classical-based. It's not just simple chord progressions on a guitar. A lot of these musicians can play many, many different instruments, and they're knowledgeable in classical music and all types of jazz. What all these bands do is unique and fascinating."

Mr CEO, you are fucking killing Godspeed for me. Please, please don't reduce the Bliss (the Infantjoy) to musicality and skill. I work in FE, you mention 'upskilling' or 'skillset' one more fucking time and I'll write a very stern letter indeed.

They're also eclectic, Windish might add. So eclectic, in fact, that questions of what defines post-rock are constantly debated. Depending on whom you ask, post-rock is either a spinoff or a contemporized cousin of progressive rock. But such notions seem simplistic as post-rock artists such as Caspian, Explosions In The Sky and the Album Leaf also draw on influences from ambient, psychedelic rock and shoegazer, to jazz, space rock, minimalism, krautrock, classical, and noise punk.

Wow. Musicians influenced by... music? Just because we're used to the BEATLES - OASIS - PEACE axis of musical progression doesn't mean everyone uses it. It'd be foolish not to at least be a sum of your influences - it would require you to disregard them as influences - but, there can be many and the many can be non-compatible, they can be dissonant and from that the new can be formed.

While post-rock bands run the stylistic gamut, some elements are common to the subgenre, including effects-laden guitar, slow-building song arrangements, sampled sound bites, and judiciously applied strings. These and other ingredients combine to create sounds that can be both pastoral and almost hallucinogenic.

"When you listen to it, you are able to feel whatever you're feeling just a little bit extra," says post-rock fan Steven Anderson of Toronto, Ontario. "Drugs were in no way involved in me getting into this style of music. You can listen to this and feel like you're flying, no matter what mental state you're in."

But they help, Steven. They really do.

One of Anderson's favorite bands is the American Dollar, a Queens, N.Y., duo who is winning critical plaudits while demonstrating post-rock's commercial potential. Consisting of multi-instrumentalists Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele, the duo were just beginning to compose original material in 2004 when they posted one of their songs on Myspace.

"Literally the very next day we got a licensing request from a producer over at MTV," Emanuele recalls. "That request was pretty much one of the motivating factors for us continuing to make the first album. It was obvious that we have something here."

Some nine years later, Cupolo and Emanuele have licensed their music to movie trailers, TV shows such as "CSI: Miami" and advertising campaigns for global brands. Their music licensing venture has helped fund their independent record label, Yesh Records.

What makes the American Dollar's songs well-suited for TV and film is how the music conveys varying states of consciousness, as suggested by album titles such as The Technicolour Sleep, A Memory Stream and Awake In The City.

And there is the New Dream: maybe I could get used in a commercial and that would make me be commercial. I guess that is the dream - the best version has your track used in a film, the ultimate is that it's used in a film that you like - but to wish that dream out loud is another thing entirely, an extra sad bow. Don't let this be the guide, people. Don't let this guide your reasoning, your placement of sounds. The BBC were right, that Sigur Ros track worked wonderfully with some of their Wildlife programming but don't trap them into desiring that machine by making it seem like this is the thing to be desired, that this is the purpose of the music, it's pre-ordained intention.

Anyone can be trapped like this, don't make it seem like they're not being trapped.

"Nostalgia is a large part of the feeling that we try to emphasize," says Cupolo. "We try to create an organic sound that has both the modern and the more traditional instruments mixed together."

Empathy, Check. Nostalgia, Check. Organic, Check.

Far from the early '90s when bands such as Talk Talk and Slint were unwittingly laying the foundation of post-rock, the genre has since spawned a growing subculture. Similar to the psychedelic bands of the '60s, many post-rock performances are multimedia affairs during which artists play amid dim lighting and projected images. Chicago-based post-rock trio Russian Circles are known for their energetic live shows and are noted for being able to expand upon their recorded material through the use of sampling and an extensive array of effects and loop pedals.

The 'unwittingly' is key here, yet this seems almost anathema. It's anti-managerial, not at all on message. It's an impossible child.

Perhaps due to the music's radio-averse arrangements, post-rock artists often sign with well-regarded experimental rock labels such as Constellation Records, Kranky and Thrill Jockey Records.

"There are artists and audiences all over the world, but I think there's kind of a home for this music in parts of Europe like Germany, France and Scandinavia — countries where avant-garde jazz and jazz [are] more established, accepted and funded," says Windish.

Radio-friendly? Radio-friendly? Keep saying it over and over again and it will continue to mean something. Or maybe just stop saying it.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

And this tilt at the Europeans (oh, I see; avant-garde's written in foreign innit?) - what is this? 1920? Is Henry Miller about to head to Paris again? Is it the 50s? Is the Beat Hotel still open? Even the colonials do avant-garde now... this kind of headless subservience to the old European masters just isn't helpful at all... Hey, come to Britain and laugh along with the Arts Council trying to get anything funded that is an any way actually avant-garde.

And then:

While Europe and Canada may be the more fertile performing markets now, increasing awareness has led some to believe that post-rock's global breakthrough is imminent.

"It's definitely encouraging to see more and more of these bands playing around the world, and gaining lots of followers on different social media," says Emanuele. "We kind of feel that [popularity for the genre] is in the cards. Mostly, it's just a matter of time."

Daft, just daft. Encouraging - such a balmy word, such an Agent word. Markets - so warm, so comforting (we all live in a yellow shopping mall, a yellow shopping mall, a yellow shopping mall). And Fertile - fuck's sake, someone get a Freudian back on the case. It's great that lots of people are listening to stuff that they didn't always listen to - there is a marketplace, of ideas, of collaborations, of open-source ravaging - but don't reduce the listeners to the listenable.


Speechless again.

*actually this is the reason I still can't stand bands playing in Art Galleries; it doesn't do either party any favours. It smacks of something... awful and sweet, that Orange Tango smell of a dead body. The power of, for instance, Throbbing Gristle come from them playing with/in the ordinary - in a Gallery setting it's not just preaching to the perverted, it's allowing them to accomodate you...


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