Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Dark Enshitenment

More neuroshame!

Exhibit 1 - the Graphic Language of Neurofunk


The gas mask / chemical warfare protection imagery seems to be a bit of a visual trope signifier thingy with this genre - wonder if it some kind of slippage of nerve gas / neurochemical

also fits the "military are the avant-garde of science" type vibe as clearly part of the fantasy self-conception of neurofunk producers (see quotes below in Exhibit 4)

Interesting to see that you can get samplepaks with all the drum sounds, bass tones and synth pads to get the correct neurofunk finish to your tracks. Even Industrial Strength - a gabber label - getting in on the action there. 

Exhibit 2:  The Neurofunk Canon - a selection

from the Dogsonacid thread, tunes commonly agreed to be zeniths of the form 

Konflict - Messiah


Rregula & Dementia - Humans


N.Phect - Voices 


Catacomb feat. Kantyze & Morebeat - Hammer 


Sinthetix - Cryogenic


Corrupt Souls - Torque

 Insecticide · Proktah and Future Signal


Glitch and SST - Ten Plagues

Sinthetix and N.Phect strike me as the ultimate neurofunk names

Exhibit 3

A comp that 8 or 9 years later fulfilled my fantasies of Neurofunk Flavas, more or less: 

DJ Step – Neurofunk Pleasures

Label: MacroVision Records – MV-169

Series: Drum'N'Bass Vision

Format: CD, Mixed, Digipak

Country: Russia

Released: 2006

1              Unknown Artist–              Queen Of The Night        3:22

2              Rawtekk–            Open Borders    2:40

3              Jade (10)–           Bitch      3:46

4              Amex & Kaiza–  Sourcream          2:30

5              Kryptic Minds & Leon Switch–    More Like You (Unknown Error Remix)

6              Current Value– Mind Bullet         3:44

7              N-Phonix–          Transfix 2:08

8              N.Phect, Dizplay*–          Outspace             3:33

9              N.Phect, Phace–               Confront              2:07

10           Mayhem (7), Codex (9)– Conform?            3:22

11           Unknown Artist–              Untitled               4:14

12           Stakka, Skynet* & DJ Red–           9000 Series         2:26

13           Munk– Spearhead          2:09

14           Optiv–  Circa      1:45

15           Silent Witness, Break*– Hollow  1:57

16           Break–  Catch Off             1:45

17           Afghan Headspin–           Stay Young          1:56

18           N.Phect, Dizplay*–          Brute Force         1:56

19           Gridlok–               Fifth Dimension 1:13

20           Brainfuzz, Kenei–             Welcome To The Game 1:56

21           Prolix–  Choke   2:27

22           Budoka–              Whiplash (Remix)            1:24

23           State Of Mind (8)–           Money Train       2:06

24           Nico (4), Rukkus–             Smartbomb        1:24

25           Noisia & Phace–               Thrillseekers      1:55

26           Rob F & Impulse (3)–      Fallout  2:31


Exhibit 4 - from the horse's mouth

From a UKF feature by Dave Jenkins about how 2015 was a great year for neurofunk

quotes presumably from leading producers and/or deejays

"Neurofunk to me: you wake up, it’s 2pm it’s already dark, you get your breakfast and sit in front of a big computer. You don’t talk to anyone, all you can think of is yesterday’s frequency and you start working around it. It’s a lifestyle that’s similar to hackers; you’re surrounded by technology, you’re obsessed with searching. You’re inventing and you’ll never stop. You’re not social too much. You’re more of a scientist”. – Billain

 "To me neurofunk is a way of life, since I’ve been producing it I’ve been no longer able to listen to the music in a “standard” way, you become a kind of scientist who analyzes and makes experiments in laboratory daily, you become the neurofunk”. – Maztek


also from the feature 

 Neuro: the church of sound design

The key characteristic of neuro: sound design. Noises you’ve never heard before, mixed at degrees of clarity previously unknown to producers before. We’ll let the masters explain why sound design in neuro is so exciting….


Exhibit 5 - Noisia - the most noisome sound in the world!


Noisia - Noisia - Split the Atom 

Noisia - Mantra (Official Video)

How strange to think that a genre that once meant things like Dillinja "Sovereign Melody" or Code 071 "London Sumting Dis"  could end up with this rank wank....

Exhibit 6: The Neurofunk Canon

The Dogsonacid dude Gilius's list of the neurofunk canon and the chronology of the genre's emergence and consummation 



Ed Rush & Optical - Funktion

Ed Rush & Optical - Razorback

Jesus Jones - Chemical #1 (Optical Remix)

Optical - The Shining




Absolute Zero & Subphonics - The Code

Bad Company - The Nine

Calyx - Distopia

Calyx - Octane

Calyx - Reaction Time

Calyx - The Root

E-Z Rollers - Weekend World (Calyx Remix)

Ed Rush & Optical - Compound

Ed Rush & Optical - Slip Thru

Ed Rush & Optical - Splinter

Ed Rush & Optical - The Medicine

Fibre Optix - Sin

Optical - Can U Read

Origin Unknown - Sound In Motion

Psion - Reverse Engineering

Ram Trilogy - Scanners




Acetate - Nyquest '99

Bad Company - 4 Days

Bad Company - China Cup

Bad Company - Morphine

Bad Company - Refuge

Bad Company - Seizure

Cause 4 Concern - Phat Cap

Decorum - All Mighty

Decorum - Contrax

Decorum - In Sanity

DJ Reality - Music Maker (Shimon Remix)

EBK - Vision

Ed Rush & Optical - Bacteria

Ed Rush & Optical - Funktion (Remix)

Filibuster - Don't Give Up

Fortran - Sardines (Bad Company Remix)

Fresh & Vegas - Meekon

Grooverider - Where`s Jack the Ripper (Origin Unknown Remix)

Grooverider feat. Optical - Where's Jack The Ripper

Hopa & Bones & DJ Phantasy - The Crow (Stakka & Skynet Electronic Dub Mix)

Karl K - Synapse (Konflict Remix)

Karl K - Synapse

Kemal - Animation

Kemal - Mechanism

Konflict & Usual Suspects - Contact

Konflict - Bad Acid

Konflict - Cyanide

Konflict - Outpost

Konflict - Phobia

Konflict - Roadblock (Matrix Remix)

Konflict - Roadblock

Konflict - State of Mind

Kraken - Analogue Spikes

Kraken - Meatball

Kraken - Side Effects

Magnetic Media - Robotics

Matrix - Six

Matrix - Sleepwalk

Matrix - Temperament

Optical - The Shining (Ed Rush & Optical Remix)

Pantera - Fucking Hostile (Kemal & Rob Data Remix)

Pressure Rise - Let Go (Usual Suspects Instrumental Mix)

Pressure Rise - Let Go (Usual Suspects Remix)

Pressure Rise - Stranger (Bad Company Remix)

Psidream - Dystrophy

Ram Trilogy - Flip the Traps

Ram Trilogy - Human Future

Ram Trilogy - Iron Lung

Ram Trilogy - Snake Bite

Ram Trilogy - System Error (Y2K)

Ram Trilogy - Terminal 2

Ram Trilogy - Time Chamber

Shorn Doda - Merky

Shorn Doda - Red

Spy - Vapour

Spy - Z-Plane

Stakka & K-Tee - Synthesis

Stakka & Skynet - Pathogen

The Playboy Revolutionary - Burning Chrome (Matrix remix)




4 Red Eyes - Signal

Absolute Zero & Subphonics - The Code (Usual Suspects Remix)

Absolute Zero & Subphonics - The Code (Usual Suspects VIP)

Accidental Heroes - Sirus

Acetate - Genetic Engineering

Acetate - Platinum

Andy C & Moving Fusion - Foul Mouth

Appleseed - Please The Keys (Rascal & Klone Remix)

Arkane - Fever

Bad Company - Brain-Scan

Bad Company - Colonies

Bad Company - Dead-Side

Bad Company - Navajo

Bad Company - Night-Train

Bad Company - Rotor

Bad Company - Sentient

Bad Company - Son of Nitrous

Bad Company - Trick of the Light

Black Sun Empire - Skin Deep

Black Sun Empire - Voltage

Boomish - Philly Steak (Matrix Remix)

Budoka - The Unseen

Calyx - Catapult

Calyx - Decompression

Carlito Ft. Rascal & Klone - Like it Like That

Cause 4 Concern - Angel Dust

Cause 4 Concern - Develop

Cause 4 Concern - Epox (Remix)

Cause 4 Concern - Future Funk

Cause 4 Concern - Just Cause

Cause 4 Concern - Projection

Chris.Su - Angel

Chris.Su - Time Warp

Decoder - Bountyhunter

Decoder - Defender

Decoder - Scissorhands

Decoder - Silent

Decoder - Tag

Drum Kru - Thin Air

E-Sassin - Wireframe (TeeBee's Total Transformation Mix)

EB1 - Mamba

EB1 - Shiver

Ed Rush & Optical - Crash

Ed Rush & Optical - Fastlane (Alternative Mix)

Ed Rush & Optical - Syringe

Gridlok - Dilusion

Gridlok - Soul Sucker

Hybridz - Eyewall

Juju feat. Lisa Talev - B-Juice - (Skynet Remix)

Kemal & Paul Reset - Kontempt

Kemal & Rob Data - Hybrid

Kemal & Rob Data - Konspiracy VIP

Kemal & Rob Data - Konspiracy

Kemal & Rob Data - Lime

Kemal & Rob Data - Star Trails

Kemal & Rob Data - Test Tube

Kemal & Rob Data - The Mummy

Kemal - Animation (Konflict's Re-Animation Mix)

Klute - Phone Call (Matrix Remix)

Konflict - Celestial

Konflict - Maelstrom

Konflict - Messiah

Konflict - New World Order

Konflict - Obsidian

Konflict - Pendulum

Konflict - The Beckoning (Usual Suspects Remix)

Konflict - The Beckoning

Kosheen - Demonstrate (Decoder & Substance remix)

Kosheen - Empty Skies (Decoder & Substance Mix)

Kraken - Side Effects (Stakka & Skynet Remix)

Kraken - Spinal Chord

Kraken - Spinal Cord (Remix)

Matrix & Fierce - Climate

Matrix & Fierce - Tightrope

Matrix, Fierce & Ryme Tyme - Light Sleeper

Mo-Funk - Slipstream

nCode - Traction

Profound Noize - Luminous (Remix)

Profound Noize - Nu-Level (Remix)

Q Project - Champion Sound (Bad Company Remix)

Ram Trilogy - Incarnate

Ram Trilogy - Reflection (Shimon Remix)

Ram Trilogy - Reflection

Ram Trilogy - Undergrowth

Random Soundz - Pulverize

Rascal & Klone - Love Story

Rascal & Klone - The Source

Red One - Hotwire

Red One - Kung Fu Fresh

Red One - Playground

Red One - What You See

Sonic & Perfect Combination - Structure

Sonic - Aspect

Sonic - Dark Star

Sonic - Destination

Sonic - Hostage

Sonic - Nautilus

Sonic - Octagon

Sonic - Termite

Stakka & K-Tee - Auto Ignition

Stakka & K-Tee - Synthesis (Remix)

Stakka & K-Tee - Territorial

Stakka & Skynet - Clockwork

Stakka & Skynet - Global Report

Stakka & Skynet - Logistics

Stakka & Skynet - Molecular

Stakka & Skynet - Nightlore

Stakka & Skynet - RF Freq

Stakka & Skynet feat. Keaton - Isolation

State of Play - Poor Mans Deal (Konflict Remix)

State of Play - Searchin (Matrix Remix)

Static-X - Love Dump (Optical Remix)

Stratus - Let's Go Crazy (Skynet Remix)

Substrata - Sunlight Into Shadow

TeeBee - Future War

TeeBee - Gathering Of Developers

TeeBee - Gravity Distortion

TeeBee - Let Go

TeeBee - The Execution

TeeBee - The Gateway

TeeBee - Unknown Approach

Tha Countamen & Alley Cat - Payload (Konflict Remix)

UFO! - My Personal Blackmail (Konflict Remix)

Usual Suspects - Killa Bees (Konflict Remix)

Usual Suspects - Shrapnel (Stakka & Skynet Remix)

If someone was to  make a playlist of all this stuff, then I would... probably listen to the Caravan box set instead. Much better use of my time. 



Monday, May 24, 2021

"I curse-christen thee... Neurofunk! May you go forth and wither"

One of my more successful coinages - strangely - is neurofunk. Unlike the even more flourishing post-rock (a term that existed for decades prior to me repurposing it) as far as I know I came up with that term whole-cloth. And what's more - I discovered recently - I actually came up with it almost a decade before applying to a phase of drum 'n 'bass. In this live review of Meat Beat Manifesto from 1989.

"The neuro-funk ideas of the early Eighties" - well, that makes sense because one of the things that I said about neurofunk the drum 'n' bass substyle in The Wire nuum-piece is that its dank fixated aura, its clinical feel and (f)rigidity, reminded me of Cabaret Voltaire, Front 242, et al...  

So the term must have lodged itself in the back of my brain after that one use in '89, waiting latent to be reactivated when it was next needed. 

Once re-loosed into the world, the term achieved traction. And still has currency even now - I believe there is a forum dedicated to the genre online; producers make neurofunk tracks; exponents and fans debate what's neuro and what's not neuro.  

Yes, I'm as surprised as you are.

Take this discussion at the Dogs On Acid forum. This fellow Gilius wants to get a debate going on what defines the genre kicks off with the parameters of the style as he sees them. A key one is that true neurofunk expunges the Amen breakbeat from the music completely (Amens had continued to be an element in techstep, the immediate precursor to neurofunk)

"In late 1997 Optical - considered by many to be one of the greatest DnB producers/pioneers - began experimenting with what we now know to be the Neurofunk style of DnB. And it's worth mentioning that he was one of the few artists at the time to have been producing DnB music without amens since around 1994.

"Optical appears to have been the only artist to have produced Neurofunk in 1997 - perhaps in collaboration with Ed Rush. The first Neurofunk track is often considered to be To Shape The Future (or it's remix), but I personally think that only The Shining (released 10/11/97) and Funktion (released 16/12/97; with Ed Rush) qualifies.

"What is interesting about the early history of Neurofunk is that contrary to Techstep only a few artists appeared to have had the technology (what exactly?) and perhaps skill(?) required to produce such cutting edge experimental electronic sounds. This fact alone means that Neurofunk is a cut above Techstep, and so it should be easy to differentiate between them...."

There follows a long list of exponents, year by year emerging in increasing number, as well as the  key tracks ... but we'll skip that as the music is almost certainly deadening shite, and get on to the interesting bit, which is when the commenter takes issue with, well, with moi -  only the bleedin' coiner of the term!

"In 1999 Techstep began to change as Amens were dropped from most productions, but that did not mean every Techstep track automatically became Neurofunk just because they had funk sounds without Amens. Most tracks in the Simon Reynold's article (in hindsight) simply do not qualify to be called Neurofunk

"The laymen's definition of Neurofunk might be Techstep with funk sounds albeit coupled with a few more clauses:

*A whole new quality of sound compared to the "tinny" sounds of Techstep, with specially engineered bass

*An engine of "rolling" (and not so much "stepping") that is very consistent from start to finish instead of just momentary injections of funk sounds

*Predominantly non-amen

Dude then starts going into this whole golden age of neurofunk that starts when the already neuro-Euro-sounding genre gets taken up by European producers: 

"It's around 2002 that Neurofunk suddenly starts to gain tremendous popularity - coinciding with Russian (and other European) producers appearing on the scene after TAM record label was established the previous year, etc. These guys contributed so many ideas to the experimental aspect of Neurofunk, with tracks described as "Future sound", and (one might argue) too ahead of their time to even be considered for release by mainstream record labels. We are talking about artists like..."

Again we'll skip that list and later lists too:

"With so many producers on-board globally and with greater separation from Techstep than ever before, the number of productions began to soar exponentially in 2003 onwards, leaving behind a treasure trove of forgotten dubplates for the period 2003-2010 (if they were not lost to hard drive crashes).

2010/11 is considered to be the golden year of Neurofunk with tracks like "The Hammer" by Catacomb, Morebeat & Kantyze - but that would not have happened without the Eastern European involvement IMO in the years leading up to it - and it would certainly not have happened without Corrupt Souls from the US, formed out of Sinthetix, who came on the scene in 2004. The rest is history!

Note: after 2011 Neurofunk sadly began a steady decline, but there are still producers out there, and the sound has been described as evolving further into Energostep/Electrotech (unofficial terms for now).

Energostep  - good luck with that one, mate! (Although neurofunk is honestly not much better)

Of course, I hadn't noticed any of that -  the waxing and waning of neurofunk. Its prime occurred long after I stopped paying attention. I wonder if any of it could possibly be worth hearing? I'm almost tempted to check it out... but nah! 

See the joke of it is that I fastened on the off-putting clammy-sounding term - which resurfaced in my brain and seemed like an all-new word that had come to me, but clearly not, as I've discovered recently -  in the anticipation that some label would promptly issue a Neurofunk Flavas compilation and this would help to hasten the supersession of the sound, which left  me cold, and that everyone would move on to some other direction hopefully more to my liking. 

Instead, neurofunk only goes and prospers, propagates, enjoys another 13 or 14 years of vigorous and fecund life.  Pah!


As it happens, someone recently asked me about neurofunk for a project they were doing - here is my memory of how it came to be and what defined it, in my eyes / ears. 

What were the key stylistic differences between neurofunk and techstep?

Techstep, in the No U Turn sense, was a more bombastic, blaring sound  - something like “Squadron” is archetypal techstep. Doomy and with this simmering sense of latent explosion.  

Nico the maestro / engineer of No U Turn fed the bass through a guitar-distortion pedal and some of their tunes actually remind me of the apocalyptic postpunk / Goth group Killing Joke, particularly their sound circa Revelations.

Neurofunk evolves out of techstep – the chugging, simple beat is the same – but in neurofunk it becomes more rigid  - the way it makes your body move is like jack-knifing at the waist. And the whole feel of the music is more neurotic and inhibited. The archetypal track would be Jonny L’s “Piper”.

Neurofunk also had this kind of scientific aura – you could see that shift come through in the artist names and track littles – Genetix, Virus, Wormhole etc.

If techstep has an aggressive punk energy (as well as K.Joke's doomfunk I also think of Black Sabbath, the Stooges etc), then neuro is closer to the danceable side of industrial and Electronic Body Music – groups like Cabaret Voltaire, Front 242, etc.   Lots of cold, slimy electronic textures.

I feel like techstep rocks out, whereas neurofunk is more repressed and clinical. The ultimate neurofunk name is Technical Itch. That perfectly captures the mentality of the makers of the music, and how it makes the listener feel.

 How much was neurofunk's formation and evolution away from jungle a representative of changes in society and the community that it grew up around?

Well, it feels fairly obvious and undeniable that the music was becoming whiter. You had the dropping away of any reggae element in the music (no more rolling roots reggae basslines or dancehall bouncy kind of B-lines), no more samples from Jamaican singers or ragga MCs.  But also hip hop gradually dropped away, in terms of vocals samples. The breakbeats got simpler and the whole feel of the music was linear. You also didn't get the very musical syncopated relationship between the half-speed basslines and the breaks anymore. 

 “Linear fastplod” is how I described it on my blog once. The feel was less internally turbulent and polyrhythmic, and more like an endless chase scene.  Words like “rinse out” and “mash up” no longer applied, that feeling of collapse in the music.

I think this must have something to do with the gradual demographic shift with drum and bass picking up a following among students. It also became more of a nationwide scene in the last years of the ‘90s. Before that it had been clustered in London and a few other cities with a multiracial population – Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, etc. It started to become an international phenomenon too. So you get this kind of feedback process – the DJs pick up on what the audience is responding to, and this governs both the productions they make themselves, if they produce tracks, or the kind of tunes that they make into dubplates when offered tracks on DAT by their coterie of producers. It costs money to make a dubplate, you’re not going to bother if it doesn’t sound like a track that will work in a dance. And the audience, by their reactions, govern what tunes get repeat-play. Plus it affects sales too, which is another form of feedback that influences labels in their A&R decisions and what tunes to make the A-side of a release.  So it becomes a kind of cycle -a gradually whiter audience, leads to a whiter sound, which then draws more white people (and pushes out black listeners, who might drift into other scenes that still value groove, syncopation, diva samples, licks or tonalities derived from ‘70s fusion and 80s soul-funk etc –  they migrate to UK garage, broken beat, R&B etc).

 How much has neurofunk's evolution from the late 90s to the present day been a representative of the technological shift in terms of production that the music industry has seen?

I haven’t been following drum and bass very closely in the 21st Century so I couldn’t say anything about that. It does seem like generally with electronic music, the level of intricacy in arrangement and production has gone through the roof, and there’s a huge emphasis on sound design – a lot of beats that feel 3D, like the kind of sounds you get in CGI-heavy movies or in videogames.

I am just surprised that the term “neurofunk” has stuck. I came up with it partly because I needed a name for the piece and I wanted to capture what I felt was the defining quality of the music – this neurotic, anxious,compulsiveness. While I could recognize the technical accomplishment of the music and was really impressed by a few examples of it (Jonny L’s stuff, a few things by Grooverider, Optical) for the most part I didn’t really care for it as a direction.   I think semi-consciously I hoped that someone would rip off the term and do a compilation with Neurofunk in the name – and it would help to hasten the end of that direction! 

I guess Bad Company were kind of a move away from neurofunk back to a more aggressive, riff-based sound (a bit like No U Turn but less blaring and bombastic) and the fact that they shared their name with a ‘70s rock megagroup that played arenas seemed really appropriate.  But generally it seemed like by the early 2000s your choice was either the linear fastplod sound with increasingly baroque basslines OR a much smaller scene of pretty tepid sounding liquid funk Fabio type d&B.  There was a little micro-scene of “back to chopped-to-fuck breakbeats” that recovered my interest a little, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. Oh and running parallel but really a different scene altogether, there was breakcore – but that was just mostly too daft to dance to.  

 Although being founded in London, why more than any other sub-genre of drum and bass, has neurofunk found such a global appeal, particularly in Europe, while in England its appeal has stagnated?

I’m just speculating here but the fact that it's a whiter sound and connects with the sound palette and vibe of other genres like industrial, hard techno, even trance to a degree, would help to explain why it’s become international.  In a similar way, dubstep went international when it gradually lost most of its sonic connection to roots reggae and dub. It became this cold, hard sound with these blasting basslines that sounded very inorganic and 21st Century.


an earlier post of mine marveling at the uncanny persistence of Neurofunk (showing my own static churn maybe)

Saturday, May 22, 2021

lo-energy music

While I was writing this piece on musique concrète and its pop-collage sampladelic descendants, I was looking up stuff about Pierre Schaeffer and stumbled upon an assessment of various pieces by him  at a site that measures beats-per-minute and other properties of dance tracks. I assume this is done through the agency of an algorithm, as it wasn't astute enough to twig that Pierre Schaeffer is not in the business of rocking a dancefloor. 

Here's one of the verdicts: 

Tautologos II is a very sad song by Pierre Schaeffer with a tempo of 59 BPM.It can also be used double-time at 118 BPM. The track runs 14 minutes and 51 seconds long with a C♯/D♭ key and a major mode. It has low energy and is not very danceable with a time signature of 4 beats per bar.

There was also an assessment of "Etude aux chemins de fer" that claimed it would work better on the dancefloor: 

"Etude aux chemins de fer" is a very sad song by Pierre Schaeffer with a tempo of 78 BPM. It can also be used double-time at 156 BPM. The track runs 2 minutes and 53 seconds long with aA♯/B♭ key and a minor mode. It has high energy and is somewhat danceable with a time signature of 4 beats per bar.

I meant to go back and see what had to say about other giants of musique concrète and electronic avant-classical, but the urgencies of deadline pulled me away. 

These weird breakdowns of mood and tempo (including internal changes -  a little bit like a robot version of James Hamilton of Record Mirror disco reviewing legend)  got me thinking of the various convergences between musique concrète and dance music - not so much the many high culture ones involving ballet and modern dance, but the far smaller lineage involving pop shots aimed at the young dancefloor. 

Pierre Henry's "Psyche Rock" collaboration with Michel Colombier is well known and well-loved for its kitschy shindig energy.

I knew that this goofy, wonderful moment of 1960s concrète pour la discothèque was revisited in the late '90s off the back of the interest in EZ listening / Moog Records / exotica etc, with a bevy of a famous DJs and producers remixing (more on that below).

But did you know that there was actually a reboot of the tune connected with the New Beat moment? 

This is the better known of the late '90s remixes (I bought these at the time, have never listened to them since that time). 

But back in 1973 Henry made another attempt, on his own, at reaching a young discotheque-going audience (well, I assume that was what he was trying to do). 

The closing track on the album has "danse" in the title but is more like an Add N To X freakout interlude or the master computer goes insane sequence in a s.f. movie 

The whole Machine Danse album


Friday, May 14, 2021

My Brilliant Friend

I don't think Paul Oldfield spent much time in clubs. And I'm almost certain he never went to a rave. But for someone who never got "right on one, matey," it seems to me Paul got deeper into the essence of acid house, techno, etc, than anyone else covering that beat at that time in the music papers, style press, and what then passed for dance magazines. 

Below you will find near enough his complete works on the subject from that time, in approximately chronological sequence. Enjoy.

Slight diversion to another "brilliant friend" - P.O. in the review above refers to "all David Stubbs's metaphors", he is nodding to a recent review of the Jackmaster comp by DS:

Back to the 
Back to the P.O.-verdose


Paul Oldfield, Royal House, Melody Maker, autumn 1988


Melody Maker, 1990

by Paul Oldfield

Put A Guy Called Gerald beside the beatmasters, radical rap and survivalist electrodub that make up the rest of tonight's acts, and you'll see that he's somewhere else. Their urgency and agency, their in-your-face imperatives are replaced by his new narcosis and lotus-eating, becalmed passivity. It's all embodied in Gerald himself. There's none of the "front" or danger of the crews that precede him, just a familiar, somnolent Mancunian accent and patient behind-the-scenes programming. If it weren't for his singer up front, and the crowd downstairs setting up an incongruous terrace chant for ''Voo-doo Ray", it'd be more ambience than act.

That's appropriate. Gerald and his northern satellites launched New Age", aka "ambient" house, the phenomenon that emphasises the trance in trance dance, and should reconcile House music with "head" rock. Both musics can offer the same fix, or rather un-fixing of consciousness. Both can free you from the co-ordinates of the here and now, and let you attain oneness with the world and peace.

Gerald translates House music from urban night-life to paradisial, pacific (often literally Pacific, with a capital P) scenes. Tonight there's "Eyes Of Sorrow", with its rainforest percussion and pipes; or 'Voodoo Ray", with its slow-scanning ritual limbo from the tropics; or, as an encore, Gerald's own reading of the halcyon surf of "Pacific State". While rock, rap, dub have kept faith in Africa's heartland, the place of origins and history, House has escaped to the southern hemisphere's soporific, out-of-time innocence and unworldly primitivism.

That shows in the minimalist fluctuations and meander of "Subtopia", a serenity you can lose yourself in. Gerald's visual effects confirm this mesmerising tranquility at the heart of House too. They look as if they're influenced by the new model for the natural sciences, chaos theory (very much a buzz concept in club culture): instead of predictable forces and counter-forces (the grammar of "techno" music), there's indeterminacy and turbulence, back-projections of vapour, clouds, shoals of fish, self-ordering but unpredictable organic forms that fascinate.

But Gerald doesn't celebrate just nature or an Edenic past (none of rock's third-world heritage industry here). He's an unrepentant futurist. Just hear "Automanic", his preview of the forthcoming album: all print-out chatter, split-second samples and arc—light strobes on stage. Or "FX", an ascent through a Lloyds-building ziggurat of glass and steel. Think Tokyo, think Ridley Scott. It doesn't contradict his Pacific states, though. He's found tomorrow's paradise, where hi-tech achieves voodoo's instantaneity of communication, and where cities dematerialise into flows of light and information (think Kraftwerk), a mosaic of signals as mesmerising as the time-lapse record of city life in the film "Kooanisquatsi", but without that film's technophobic undertones.

Gerald's performance is "plastic", as his music's often been called. Plastic in the original sense, of course: adapting to all kinds of shapes, a hypnotic, becalming changeability. Go with the flow.