Sunday, October 17, 2021

Hardcore Continuum Exhibition

Catch is, you have to go to the Nuum's own Ibiza to see it

From the Cyprus Mail, Eleni Philippou reports

"A two-week exhibition comprising of a time-based performance and installation by Emiddio Vasquez is coming to Limassol’s The Island Club and will present a sonic and conceptual experience.

"Hardcore Continuum’s point of departure is a recorded factual encounter between grime music producer Skepta, his young Cypriot cellmate George and a policeman at the Ayia Napa police station. During the conversation, George is asked to say something into a snuck-in voice recorder for Skepta’s future album release, to which he replies “I don’t understand”. This recording made it into the track, Ayia Napa Skit, which was released on Skepta’s debut album, Greatest Hits, in 2006.

"In the first week of Hardcore Continuum Vasquez will speculate on George’s position and train himself on producing UK garage and grime music. Streams and references from music production and pirate radio subcultures, as well as the UK rave culture, will unravel and connect during the week. The performance will be documented on tapes and parts of it will be live-streamed from The Island Club’s Instagram account.

"In its second week, the exhibition will carry on without Vasquez’s presence, transitioning into an installation with the material and sonic leftovers from the artist’s performance. The show will conclude with an event featuring Vasquez’s DJ partner Veronica Georgiou taking place at The Island Club on Saturday, November 6.

"The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Simon Reynolds, who employs the term ‘hardcore continuum’ to delineate what he takes to be the continuous development of UK dance music genres – hardcore, jungle, UK garage and grime – in the 1990s and 2000s. UK garage, in particular, reached its apex in, and due to, the exoticised and mythologised environment of Ayia Napa, but the latter also served as a turning point in the genre’s darker and grimier developments.

"Hardcore Continuum reflects on that turning point by directing the academic term towards the history of radio in Cyprus. In the 1950s, radio transmitted by foreign political actors in Cyprus helped shape ideologies in the Middle East and North Africa, arguably leading to the Suez crisis and complexifying the island’s role in the Levant. Today, radio transmission in Cyprus is closely associated with the ongoing presence of foreign military infrastructures.

"Through a series of sonic and conceptual deconstructions of radio (featuring bat recordings, online videos, ELF radio recordings from Lady’s Mile and Troodos and field recordings from the empty alleys of Ayia Napa in the 2020 summer lockdown), the exhibition tests the notion of a historical ‘continuum’ against the continuously permeative material properties of radio – properties also expressed by the forces of capital, extractivism, and colonialism.

"Exhibition-installation by Emiddio Vasquez. October 23-November 6. The Island Club, Limassol. Opening hours: October23 – 29: 12pm–8pm, October 30 and November 1 – 5: 12pm-6pm, November 6: 12pm-9pm. Tel: 25-252010"

Monday, September 27, 2021

Chic are a proof of my theory-stance-contention that the best disco is the the disco that made the charts

there is a logic to the syndrome of "the best stuff crossed over and became pop"

for what are the premises on which disco is based, its metric?

Good beat, good groove

Strong vocal performance

Great melody

Cool shiny production

Those happen to be exactly the same premises on which successful pop music is based - a beat you a dance to, a tune you can sing along to it, a certain conventional idea of vocal power, bright slick shiny production, well played etc

up to a certain point, you can say that disco-ness is poptasticness

so underground disco means simply not known by that many people, means not that successful on its own terms

Underground disco cultists are very similar to the Northern Soul thing

The Northern Soul people liked Motown-type music. But Motown they considered “commercial” – meaning, simply that ordinary kids knew about it cos it had been in the charts. So they formed a whole cut around either Motown releases that had not been hits (cos they weren’t quite good enough)  and then the Motown-wannabes, of which they were droves. And there was so much of this second-division, solid uptempo soul made then that they could sustain a whole culture based on it, and never play the Four Tops or Martha and the Vandellas or the Supremes.

Eventually they moved into the third-rate and the overtly substandard.

You get the same thing with garage punk of the Sixties – which I was really into and I went pretty deep into the second-rate zone, cos I loved that particular energy and set of noises and vocal aggression

But the best stuff  - objectively - was either the British groups who inspired the garage punks or those one-hit wonders like Count Five with ‘psychotic reactions’

Oh here and there you’ll come across something you think ‘this could have been a hit, should have been a hit’

But the bulk of it is determinedly second-division and enjoyable on that level if you are that obsessed with the sound

Same with disco

Thursday, September 16, 2021

melodic spacing in postdisco

In the piece on Chic and Sister Sledge et al, I note of Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards's songwriting: 

"Chic favored chord changes sublimely poised between happy and sad while the choruses were staccato, the spaced-out notes seemingly plotted on graph paper."

Listening to all the ChicOrg classic-era tunes, it struck me that Rodgers & Edwards were among the pioneers - perhaps the pioneers - of a stylistic feature of writing during the postdisco era, something I'd noted earlier in the year when listening to a ton of Eighties boogie and club tracks. 

On Dissensus I observed:

One thing I've noticed recently listening to 80s club faves, is that a lot of postdisco / boogie tunes have this thing where the chorus is rectilinear - regular and spaced out notes - which creates a delicious tension with the grooviness of the music. The verse melodies tend to move in this more fluidly shimmying soulful way.

The choruses sound clipped - there don't tend to be long held notes, and there's rarely melisma or trills or any kind of flourish. Instead it's all about precision and staccato starkness.  

Odyssey's  "Inside Out" is a good example - and a wonderful song / vocal performance, from Lillian Lopez (with this ever-so slightly harsh nasally timbre and sort of yearningly imperious tone). 

(Also the lyric is a bit peculiar, if you pay attention to it - "When you're lying in her bed / And you're in her arms instead of my love /As you feel her tightening grip...."  Beg pardon ooer missus ....  and then "And she's always on that phone / And you just don't think that you got the strength to fight it" - the fantasmic scenario dreamed of by the rival-in-love singing the song seems to be "hold on, I'm coming to your rescue", which may not be the male's feeling about the situation at all)

Cheryl Lynn's marvelous "Encore" is another prime case, with the spacing-out effect exacerbated by breaking up the chorus so that it's a sort of lurching back and forth between two voices (Cheryl and a backing singer, or it is Cheryl multitracked?).

(Listen to the fade of the 12-inch for the "all right!" as used in "Radio Babylon" and a thousand (slight exaggeration) rave tunes)

Change's Chic-like "Change of Heart" has the melodic spacing in the chorus in full effect. But the verses are also quite rectilinear (not sure if that's the right word but I'm sticking with it).  It's a very controlled sounding record. 

This kind of chorus was a 
hallmark of Jam & Lewis's writing, as with S.O.S. Band and particularly this tune "The Finest"

Melodically "The Finest" has that "plotted out on graph paper" quality - and Mary Davis's singing is just as restrained and near-formal as the melody is - which suits the kind of amorous constraints under which the song's character lives, a satellite of love. But then that exquisitely prim poise is blown with a horrible section that's all melismatic and oversouled, shattering the mood completely.

Apart from that thankfully brief excrescence, the whole of "The Finest" from the drum machine rhythm-track upwards, feels like a grid - or like a set of grids superimposed over each other.  

And of course nuumologists need no reminding what eternal anthem it led to... 

Jam & Lewis have similar things going on with certain Janet Jackson tunes and also Human League's "Human".

Rewinding to a few years earlier - Kool and the Gang's "Get Down On It" - I remember at the time this originally came out thinking that it had a curious quality of geometry, an oddly orderly symmetry.... but in this case that tension, the play of rigidity against loose 'n' groovy, is at work at all levels of the instrumentation not just the vocal melody.


A recurrence of that kind of feel - spaced-out, tautly controlled, geometric - comes in the late '90s with Timbaland, especially the Aaliyah tunes. Here the spacing is even more strikingly stark, huge gaps in the drum programming. Aaliyah often sings as if she's tip-toeing, the voice padding across the stave with a feline wariness

Bringing it around to where we started, I discover that Timbaland engineer Jimmy Douglass actually produced Odyssey's "Inside Out" (one of his other clients around that time was Gang of Four for Solid Gold). "Inside Out" was actually written by Jesse Rae, a Scotsman so steeped in funk and R&B that he could fluently write in the idiom and pass for the real thing (in the late 80s I  interviewed him about his own excellent music). 


Here's a rather good white copy of postdisco geometrics - the tune feels like glistening planes intersecting in space, like a mobile made of colored glass

Sunday, September 12, 2021

the politics of dancing

A podcast conversation about rave culture and the politics of dance music I had with Francesco Tenaglia and Reece Cox as part of an exhibition / event series / program at Museion in Bolzano.

TECHNO Conversations” is a series of periodic podcasts in which some of the many aspects linked to the history of raves and clubs, such as communities, economies, stories and trends are investigated through the testimonies of protagonists including theorists and reporters. The series focuses on key historical moments and nightlife geography. A series of podcasts conceived and authored by Francesco Tenaglia."