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Techno Diary, Installment 3.
Here's a list of music I picked up today at Throb, an excellent dance disc shop in Manhattan specializing in electro and tech-house tracks:
Drexciya Grava 4 2LP. Electro, begat by Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa and New Order and still thriving in the digital age, is dance music at its most defiantly synthetic (as Kodwo Eshun puts it, "there are no snares--just waveforms being altered. There are no bass drums---just attack velocities"), and Drexciya is the Detroit variety at its most beautiful and pure. The following may be the world's wordiest sample: "Use the star chart to fix the celestial navigation point and from there you should be able to plot a path back to earth using rudimentary astronomical guideposts." (From the track "Astronomical Guidepost.") Amazingly, the Drexciyans make this sound incredibly funky.
DJ Assault Jefferson Ave CD. Not as hard-sounding or vital as the singles in Belle Isle Tech. A kind of studio concept album, with skits, like a potty-mouthed 3 Ft High and Rising. The sexual imagination on display is strictly Vivid Video, and the misogyny wears thin, but there are nice melodies sprinkled throughout.
Herbert Bodily Functions CD. More lovely vocals from Dani Siciliano. I'm indifferent to Herbert's clicks and coughs and clattering dishes as percussion, but they don't ruin his music for me either. I like 1998's Around the House better as a whole, but both that and this one are worth owning.
Ultrasound, Hospital Records compilation CD. Jazz hooks intertwined with drum-and-bass beats in this 1997 collection of UK artists: predominantly tracks by London Electricity and The Peter Nice Trio (how could anyone dislike something called "The Peter Nice Trio"?). I go back and forth on this stuff: when it sounds like fuzak (or has flutes) I hate it, but when it's a nervous, staccato, techy retake of Canterbury-style riffs from the early '70s (Soft Machine, Hatfields, Caravan) (which is often), I'm on board.
Volumes C-D, G-H of Berlin 2001 Compilation Bpitch Control label (2LPs). Speaking of electro, here's some great Berlin variants. Favorite tracks so far: White Dolemite "Nice Acid (2001)," Toktok "Sekker," Barbara Morgenstern "Dr. Mr." (the latter with Michael Nyman-esque strings--most odd).
Marin-Go-Round. Derek Marin "Inhale/Wanna Get Wit" EP. Marin works at Throb and also djs. He's got the tech-house thang down cold. Not sure if Lap Dance Records (with graphic of dancer losing bikini bottom) is the right look/label/image for sounds this lofty. Platonik "Don't Look" EP. Marin again, on Intrinsic Design, a label whose previous releases include the "Galactic Schematix" EP by Entity (aka Lucas James Rodenbush aka EBE). This is total class. Here's what djonline.com, out of the UK, had to say about the disc: "This torrid tech houser comes from Derek Marin under the Platonik moniker. Here are three bonafide stompers that will fire up your dance floor in a hurry. "Don't Look", "Skeptic (Was It Good For You?)" and my personal favorite, "Friction" should be included in ANY dj's set. Deep, dark and tribal...doesn't come any better." Clock Punchers "In-Just" EP. Marin and dj/fellow Throbster Carter Reece remix tracks. I really like Reece's contribution. Very minimal; kind of simple and mysterious at the same time. it makes me think a bit of Trike's "Country 3000" but with a lot more pep.
[Addendum: Here's a review I found (cached) from the "starbass" website describing the Clockpunchers disc--I love this writing.]
carter reece and derek Marin (known for his work as platonik and modest d on the plastic city, intrinsic design, red menace, and a touch of class labels) drop their latest release supplying three cuts of potent tribal tech-house. the ep kicks off with a full-sided mix that works a driving progressive house edge as resonant percussion and bass-driven atmospherics intertwine to form a building, flexing groove echoed with hypnotic vocal snippets in a heavy 4/4 flow. the b-side kicks off on a morphing liquid tech-house tip rippling with dubby fx and tuned log-drum percussion, finishing with a slick minimal thumper building up a focused percussive format and layers of radiant loop manipulation.
Please note that future posts about electronic dance music will appear at my newly-created weblog technodiary.
I'm pleased to announce that I made the La Femme Nikita fan page! (Scroll down.) I drew that image freehand, on a computer at work, while looking at a poster I found lying on a Metro North luggage rack and dragged back to my cube. I wasn't trying for a likeness, just a "pretty face." The hair's kind of stringy--I think of her more as a hippie/flower child with larger-than-life Nordic features. Lots of people, especially women, can't stand that series of portraits. The fact that I showed them under the name "Polygamy" didn't help. In my own defense, I came up with that name after reading an interview with Camille Paglia. She and whoever she was talking to were defending polygamy on the grounds, basically, that it keeps men off the streets, and keeps older women in a family unit so they don't have to a join a First Wives' Club. Hey, they said it, not me! So I started thinking about the male predilection for serial affection, and our society's current obsession with child-models, and applied it to the portraits of women I was doing at the time. The art world is a fairly tolerant place, but I think I hit some taboos. You're supposed to put clear brackets around work that says "this is a critique," and I didn't. The fact that the images drew a reaction strikes me as significant, but they've created a lot of difficulty and misunderstanding in the short run.
A short refresher on how our system of government works. The country belongs to its citizens. The citizens elect representatives (Congress) to perform chores necessary to the common good. One of the powers given to Congress by our Constitution is the ability to declare war. The President can only implement, not usurp, this power.
So what is this we're reading today about plans for a full-scale invasion of Iraq, devised by the executive branch? Looks like Bush Jr. and his henchmen have it all mapped out: first they leak that the CIA has a license to kill Saddam, anytime, anywhere. The most likely point of entry for these trained killers would be with the inspection team going in to Iraq to look for nukes and germs. So of course Saddam refuses to allow the team into the country. Jr. says "Aha! He must be hiding weapons of mass destruction!" Polls show most Americans think this is bad--even though 10 years of sanctions and bombing have reduced the country to a fraction of its former power. Then Jr. goes before Congress and requests the necessary authorization and funds to start a war. Meanwhile, those of us who never once get called by a pollster and receive back only form letters from our elected representatives watch 200,000 citizens go off to die or be gassed. And why? (1) So Jr. won't be embarrassed anymore that his Dad didn't "finish the job" 11 years ago in Iraq and (2) so Jr.'s buds in the oil business will benefit from the extraction of Iraqi oil, once it becomes available from the new client government.
Are we really such big suckers? Or is it that we want the oil, too, so we can keep playing with all our toys? If it's the latter, maybe we shouldn't get our BVDs in a twist when a skyscraper or two gets toppled by the enemies such activities inevitably create. What's the loss of a few thousand people when millions continue to enjoy videos, nice cars, and gourmet meals? If this logic sounds repugnant, then perhaps the best thing to do is: start looking for other sources of energy (cultivating Russian and other non-Middle East/non-Caspian sources in the short term), and demand that Congress pull the plug on these ill-considered invasion plans. Oh yeah, and quit funding the military occupation of Palestine.
Lovely and Amazing, directed by Judith Holofcener (Walking and Talking) is highly recommended: it helps to clean the toxins out of your system if you've recently seen the awful Minority Report. Don't go see the film expecting a neat narrative arc, though: it just kind of ends. But the details and performances are wonderful. Think Ghost World without the male menopausal bile; Magnolia without the apocalyptic pretensions; Short Cuts without the length. Stroke of genius: casting the formerly dapper Michael Nouri (Jennifer Beals' sugar daddy in Flashdance) as Brenda Blethyn's liposuction doctor. The man has a gentle voice, competent bedside manner, and eyes of pure burning hate. Blethyn plays a wealthy woman with grown daughters who adopts a little black girl; the kid freely tells everyone her own mom is a "crack addict." The stolid, Buster Keaton face of this 8-year-old, passive-aggressive Holy Terror has to be seen to be believed. In one of the running story lines, Blethyn enrolls the kid in the Big Sister program so "she can have contact with black people"; the family is outraged, however, when the Big Sister straightens the girl's hair. Artists should get a kick out of the scenes where the oldest daughter, knickknack sculptor Catherine Keener, shops her wares around various arty retail outlets: the rejections she gets are priceless. ("Fine, get out of my store," says a snotty German in a fashionable eyewear, after Keener backtalks him.) In another awkward scene, the middle daughter, a neurotic, starting-out actress, stands nude in front of a Brad Pitt type she's just slept with and asks him to critique her body. He briefly wakes up from his narcissism to tread through this dangerous minefield, in a scene women should find amusing and men captivating. (She's the "lovely and amazing" of the title.)
On 6/30/02, Media Whores Online posted the following notice by yrs truly in The Record, which documents "egregious press whore misbehavior":
In a piece that read like it was geared towards viewers of VH1, his new employer, Salon writer Jake Tapper recently trashed Al Gore's appearance at Lot 61, an arts & entertainment oriented Manhattan bar. He quotes large-tongued Kiss singer Gene Simmons very admiringly on how great Bush is and how irrelevant Gore is. Tapper is obviously really proud to have gotten this quote: he refers to it again later in the article. He appears to be offering it as evidence that the young and the hip don't like Gore, but the only problem is Simmons is just another aging redneck at this point. The article is incredibly snide; it's obvious that soon-to-be-tanking Salon is starting the cycle of Gore-bashing all over again. Of course, Gore's cogent criticisms of the disastrous Bush regime got swallowed up in all the bile.
So now that Bush Junior is firmly in power the press is finally focusing on his shady financial past. Where was Paul Krugman when we needed him, prior to the election? Oh, yeah, enjoying his FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS in speaking fees from Enron.
Most of the Harken Energy story was reported in 2000, in the late S.H. Hatfield's excellent book Fortunate Son (which you may recall, was "discredited" by Rove & Co, thus getting Jr.'s cocaine use out of the papers). The Aloha Petroleum deal isn't mentioned in the book--only a series of questionable insider loans and what one Wall Street analyst called "unusual" stock swaps. Krugman's account creates the impression that the Aloha deal kept Harken afloat and was somehow connected to Bush's sudden stock sale. But that's not really accurate (it's even worse):
Harken was tanking in late 1989 and was miraculously "saved" by the granting of drilling rights in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, which I'm sure had nothing to do with Jr's Dad being President. While the stock price was high after that announcement, the State Department informed Bush Senior of Saddam Hussein's plans to annex Kuwaiti oilfields. Obviously war in the Middle East wasn't going to help an uncommenced, speculative drilling project. Using his precognitive powers, and not based on a tip from his Dad, of course, Bush Jr. unloaded his Harken stock in June 1990. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and the Harken stock went south around the same time. In 1991 the SEC investigated Jr's late-reported, insider stock sale, and again, for reasons having nothing to do with Jr's Dad being President, said "no enforcement is contemplated at this time" without fully exonerating Jr. When Jr. says "it's been vetted" that's what he's talking about.
Krugman got all his information from a story that's been posted on the Center for Public Integrity website since April 2000. That piece doesn't mention the Bahrain/Gulf War angle, but Joe Conason's pre-election story in Harper's did. Regardless, the facts of Bush's shady corporate history were on the table before the election, and no one gave a shit. The Washington Post, which, like Krugman, is just now bringing the Harken story to light, admits that the CPI website "attracted little attention" before the election. Instead, the press talked about important stuff like Gore's too-heavy makeup and sighs during the debates.
Saw an unspeakably dreadful movie yesterday. The lead actor can't act his way out of biodegradable Hefty bag. He spends most of the film shouting, and is completely unconvincing as a real person. The film is touted as "science fiction" but is full of logical fallacies and absurd predictions. Some of the characters fly around with Flash Gordon rocket belts, emitting blue flames, which inexplicably don't set their pants on fire or cook their asses like rump roasts. The main character has his eyes surgically removed and replaced to avoid retinal-scan IDs, and then uses the old eyes (twice!) to get back into his former place of employment--a police facility that is supposedly hunting him relentlessly. Wouldn't the first thing they do be to (optically) "change the locks"? The psychic "precognitives" floating in an indoor swimming pool keep sinking underwater for long periods of time--no explanation is given why they don't drown. When one of them is removed from the pool after years of floating she has enough muscle tone and stamina to walk around the city for hours (assisted by the lead actor, but c'mon). When the precogs envision a future murder, a Rube Goldberg contraption carves a wooden ball on a lathe and sends it spiralling around a Plexiglas habittrail, zooming around curves and then coming right at the viewer: this serves no purpose except to be "cinematic": as if the viewers are all big babies who have to have objects dangled over their cribs to hold their attention.
More crap: The film envisions we'll have superconducting or MagLev transportation in place by 2054, with cars crawling down the sides of buildings and feeding into Hot Wheels-track spaghetti-bowls. This is a vision worthy of pulp "scientifiction" of the 1930s, which William Gibson brilliantly parodied in his short story "The Gernsback Continuum." When are we going to get past this model? The scenes of the lead actor jumping from hovercar to hovercar are completely fake. The chase/fight scene in the robot car factory is a swipe from the clocktower-battle in Hayao Miyazake's anime Castle of Cagliostro, a far superior film. There's some supposedly "noir-ish" stuff involving a Hannibal Lecter-like doctor and his "decadent" German nurse--an ethnic parody worthy of Mel Brooks. When the lead actor solves a precrime using projected images from the psychics, he "conducts" the pictures on a widescreen monitor with a virtual data-glove, like a symphony conductor waving a baton--this is pretentious and laughable and almost unbearable to watch. The movie borrows from dozens of better films but it's hollow at the core. The director hasn't made a good movie since the one with Dennis Weaver being chased by a Mack truck, and the lead actor has never made, and will never make, a good movie. Please don't go!
Two works by Cory Arcangel:
Carnivore: "This project is a standalone home TV unit which connects via Ethernet to a packet sniffer and counts the number of times the phrase "boo yaa tribe" is passed through the network displaying the result on a television screen [note: the television is woodgrain!]. It is done in collaboration with RSG and made entirely out of discarded computers and salvation army bought equipment."
Landscape Study #4: "Essentially I decided to create a background for a game that doesn't exist about my home-town of Buffalo, New York. To accomplish this feat I took 360 degree landscape photographs of a neighborhood in Buffalo and scanned them into a computer. I then formatted them to fit the graphics format of the the Nintendo Entertainment System which because of its severe hardware limitations can only hold 8K of graphics. Once formatted for the Nintendo, I wrote a program that would scroll the graphics [remember Mario?] and my partner Paul Davis wrote a sound track. I then melted the computer chips off a Super Mario cartridge and replaced them with chips I manufactured." (This piece is currently on view at Bitforms gallery in NYC.)
Another Arcangel project (with others): A vinyl record called 8-bit Construction Set ("Atari vs. Commodore").
Interesting interview with Arcangel, Davis, and other artists on the Beige label expressing their "fat bits" and "post-data" philosophy of art/music, and dissing Oval's Markus Popp for using pre-programmed software.
Much of this material on Arcangel, et al, can be accessed through this page hosted by a major museum.