A Year In The Country - The Quietened Bunker / Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani - Sunergy

The Quietened Bunker cover art

.........all is relatively quiet around The Bunker, as I used to call our flat in honour of William Burroughs' New York place which, I believe, was also called that - but we now call our home 'The Cave', due to the damp on the walls and seemingly permanent chill about the place...perhaps it's haunted? I mention the street silence not only as a link to this album's title but to mark my relief from the noise of ongoing gentrification in our street, a cacophony of drills, hammers and stone-cutting saws, normally. Thank you, property developers...............

A more welcome noise has been this release from the dependable A Year In The Country label. Another comp to follow on from Fractures and just as good, possibly better, although my personal opinion means nothing......................................other than to say it is, of course, everything since music writing can hardly be 'objective', can it? .........................I hope my writings may persuade you to investigate the albums I cover........................................................the thought give me a good deal of satisfaction.................
.............Grey Frequency's Drakelow Tunnels is a stand out piece of work regarding atmospherics and Unknown Heretic's Crush Depth in contrast renders the air heavy with mechanoid industrialism...........the inclusion of Time Attendant once again is a reason to be cheerful as he displays an ability to organise sound above and beyond what most others a capable of doing. The track title, Crafty Mechanics, is a fitting description of the comp as a whole.

FRKWYS Vol. 13: Sunergy cover art

..................more joyful noise, this time from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani on Sunergy, which was sent to me today, thankfully, because I'd never heard of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith but research shows she's been busy over time without notifying me of her activities - shame on the woman..................the Buchla-powered energy emanating from this is irresistible.................it really should be harnessed to light up the world..........can you imagine Buchla farms dotted around the planet? trouble is, you'd need someone as good as Ciani and Smith to power them.........................OK, a stupid idea..........................A New Day dawns, somewhat subdued, like the deep red sun behind lines of grey cloud, perhaps, but when it breaks through.......................................you're lifted into an ecstatic land of shimmering leaves, dancing flowers, dazzling green hills, roaring waves, a breathtaking breeze and time-lapse clouds racing overhead - yes! you are. it's feel good music. without being too fluffy. Here's the other track......TTFN

James O’Callaghan - Espaces tautologiques

Espaces tautologiques

You don't need a degree in audio science to appreciate the works presented here by empreintes DIGITALes and I doubt that it would help - just a set of ears (open ones) - now saying that, I remind myself of when I'd say a similar thing about Jazz in the 90s whilst trying to convince those who's taste was pretty indie that ornette Coleman was worth a listen - well, that battle's been won (he says, sarcastically), so how about this electroacoustic thing?

There comes a time to hang up your dancing shoes (what do you mean you never had a pair?) and stick with home listening, which for most will mean either listening to what they danced to before they got fat/tired/old or Country & Western, or Classical or, god forbid, Ambient and so on. I still love a good beat but also music like this by James O'Callaghan - if it can be called 'music' - it is, after all, in defiance of recognised characteristics which constitute that thing. It is sound, yes. Sounds...but what those sounds are remains a mystery and it is this unknowable element that makes it all so intriguing.

We might sense objects being moved, the sound manipulated...a stretching, not only of sound waves, but time, somehow, even the tautening of a rope to breaking point on Empties-Impetus, then the release and the rolling groan of an electroacoustic ship, perhaps. You see, this is not easy to describe. I'm a fool for attempting to do so...but there are detonations, a bowed instrument, scraping strings, the patter of objects and tension akin to Bernard Herrmann's psycho-tic orchestration.

Espaces tautologiques can be bought at electrocd 

And now I find this 'live' performance and see how some of these sounds are being made...a chair is being 'played'...a balloon popped on the strings of a piano...this really is a magnificent performance...

The Gaslamp Killer /Bunny Wailer/John Coltrane/Art

Instrumentalepathy cover art

......wass new? The Gaslamp Killer's latest, Instrumentalepathy, which hits all the right spots with prime samples, wacky grooves and, you know, all the things he's known for and I don't care if he's a kind of 'hipster' god (is he?) or that he's still doing what breakbeatist legends such as DJ Shadow were doing a hundred years ago it's still a great album (even that old break he uses on  Residual Tingles) - yes - mind you, the subsub-bass on The Butcher is a little way different for him but those deep stabs strike right into me heart - he threatens to Shred You To Bits and for my money his beat/sample constructions frequently do - so good on him.........

..........Lee Perry instrumentals and some King Tubby are pretty much all I listen to reggae-wise these days but this Bunny Wailer comp Solomonic Singles 1: Tread Along 1969-1976 is damned good. His Blackheart Man album (1976) was on my turntable loads at the time as I warmed up for the Punky Reggae Party to come so it's good to revisit Bunny and discover vocals tracks such as Bide Up and dubs like Trod On - there's Amagideon Dub too...

..........it was John Coltrane's birthday the other day - well, as you might know, he's dead, but we celebrate anyway, even with people saying things like 'Happy Birthday John!' on the social network as if he can hear - perhaps he can - he's a god, you know, and they can hear everything. Well, it was a good reason to break out the Village Vanguard box from which I've chosen Greensleeves, especially since Reggie Workman's bass-playing is so out of this world and I love McCoy Turner's solo and it's John Coltrane with his best band playing out of their skins, aided sometimes by Eric Dolphy who, as you do know, had the most lunatic/genius individual chops in Jazzdom....

.......there are two types of people in the world: those with Coltrane albums and idiots. It's possible to be both, of course, like people who still blog and have Coltrane albums. The other day someone asked me why I blog and I had no answer but the fact is it keeps me off the street and therefore out of trouble because if I didn't do this I'd spend the time tracking down every current Pop star starting with the biggest-sellers of the year and assassinating them - trouble is I suppose I'd never reach Number 2 before being caught and jailed - still, I'd be famous...................
                                              .....thing is, I'm waiting for the Blog Revival (you larf - it's coming!) because I'm not good at posting hundreds of photos on instantgram or Tumbeler therefore I miss out on the chance of acquiring millions of followers and being famous for that - because people are, you know - but I don't like spending time thinking about the fact that millions follow and hang on the words (tweets) of people who've achieved nothing other than celebrity status because it's depressing (and I'm jealous - I want millions of followers!) - not that I was smart when I was a teenager but I'm damned sure I wouldn't be following some talentless cunt on the internet - see, I told you, it depresses me and makes me angry - a waste of thought/anger.......................
                                          I worked on a picture today...a print experiment using a photo I took. I have no Followers. I am an unknown artist and you are an unknown viewer. Here it is:

There's more work over here
Thank you. 

Viv Albertine/Jon Savage/Punk an' all that...

Me, ten years after Punk

Listened to interviews with Jon Savage and Viv Albertine at The British Library today. I don't know how I got there. How do we get places?...........
                                                              Oh yeah, I just searched for Savage on YouTube because I'd looked at a book of his yesterday in a shop and almost bought it, then decided to resist the old tendency to buy music journo collections which briefly returned because I do like his writing but don't buy that sort of thing so much now....
................................they're talking about Punk. I don't really want to hear anyone talking about Punk any more but I was at Work, so _ and _ I'd not heard Jon Savage talking. He was as erudite as I'd expect, even playing for larfs and getting them a few times, although, to be honest, the one about mid-70s albums as the anti-christ/inspiration (partly) for Punk is a cliché - I should know, I've used it often enough..........
                                                                                                                                                  do people really ask Viv when/if Punk will happen again? They probably do, the useless wretches. I feel sorry for them. sat there with iPhones & EVERYTHING at their fingertips - they've become bloated with product & information to the point where their brains drown in the digital tsunami so they loll (and LOL) around like the broken victims of capitalist consumer culture that they are - yeah...............
                                                                                                   ............as they say, my generation had to work a bit harder to find the culture we craved. And as Viv points out, we all stank. Is that part of the problem today? Everyone's too busy showering (I didn't have a shower until the 90s because we (proles) only had baths) & spraying themselves & getting their beards clipped - thus, you see, the personal cleansing mirrors the cultural cleansing, the musical world reeking of chemical odours - no stink, no dirt, no crusty pubic hair (as Viv also mentions)..........like Jazz today, bereft of substance abuse (you can't even smoke in the clubs! Imagine Charlie Parker et al having to go outside for a fag!) - all the players are 'clean' and won't die from heroin....although I wish most would...........(no, I don't mean that)..........
                                                                                                           ...............if anyone asks me what Punk was like I don't know what I'll say - I wasn't 'there', I was in Aylesbury, which did host a lot of the bands, so I was there, in a way, as an observer (even with trousers from Boy), but partly, not part-time, just uncommitted, although I could see and hear a lot of good in what was going on. Unlike Jon Savage, I followed The Clash well after their first album, partly because I became very Left politically (Sandinista!)..................what young folk will never appreciate is how threatening Punk was to ordinary people. Just the very act of wearing straight-legged trousers as opposed to the flares everyone else wore was a red rag to a bull. I ain't kidding. Every drunken twat in town enjoyed the sport of Punk hunting. All these years later, the same ones no doubt sing along to The Jam given the chance....so it goes..........


On Modern Novels & Smelly Old Books

Image result for hollywood charles bukowski

Are novels getting longer? I wondered as I stared at loads in Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town the other day. Films are, I think. Don't they average 2hrs now instead of the old 90 minutes? I'm not sure because I rarely watch new films. I rarely read new novels either. So I looked at loads of them laid out on tables in the shop like a man who'd just fallen to earth...what's it all about?

On the covers were testimonies to what I was missing out on...all those thrilling, engrossing, heartbreaking, joyous, profound work of genius...all those 'books of the year'...had I weakened the cover blurb may have snared me, but I didn't. I was looking for the novelty of it. The books I normally look at are a lot grubbier; their titles discernible through creases in their spines, the pages often yellowed with age, their odour somewhat musty. But you know what? I'm sick right now of musty old books. Yes, I am. This means I'm more likely to buy new copies of old books, not new copies of new ones.

Why I only read 'old' books is a mystery even to me. By old I mean at least a couple of decades, usually four to five. So thinking about that, is it because novels didn't used to be so long back then? I know big ones have always been written, I mean on average. Under 200 pages is the right length for a book. I must being going mad. Am I imaging all this? Next time I'm in a charity shop I'll take a ruler to check dates and sizes.

Novels with too many words in annoy me. I tried reading one recently called The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk but only got as far as page 36...too many words...too much information, as they say. It made me hate novels, just like a friend who only read non-fiction did, telling me they were all made-up nonsense. I'm beginning to think he was right. Mind you, he read books on conspiracy theories, so...

Why anyone would want to take in so much detail about non-existent lives is beyond me...other than I know great novels are supposed to illuminate the mysteries of real life, or something...that and tell a good story. I like a good story, but it has to get on with it because it's all lies, right? Give me a cracking crime yarn that comes in at under 200 pages and I'm happy. The Great American Novel hasn't been written by Mailer, Wolfe or DeLillo...it was penned by Raymond Chandler and it's called The Big Sleep. End of story.

Talking of American novels, I pulled Charles Bukowski's Hollywood off the shelf today. It's been sitting there for over a year whilst I started dozens of unsatisfactory works, like the forgotten thing that it was, whilst I threw books across the room in disgust. That's the thing second-hand buyers know all about; buying a book because it's cheap then shelving it with the rest where it's easily be forgotten. The thing about cheap books for me, though, is that they really are the only ones worth buying because the chances of a novel meeting my requirements are slim.

Sometimes I consider buying a new novel just because it is relatively expensive and the financial outlay will force me to finish it. But what's the point of just finishing a book for the sake of doing so? More to the point, for the sake of getting my money's worth? I have even done that. Bought a new book, I mean, for that reason. And still not finished it.

As I said, smelly old books are annoying me at the moment. I've got loads of them. They stink. I just threw some out and stuffed others in a bag to go to charity. I've even read a few of them. I desire something clean and fresh. So I picked out Bukowski's Hollywood because despite being nearly ten years old this copy's clean, with only one faint crease down the middle of the spine. It starts with the sentence 'A couple of days later Pinchot phoned'. I know, having read one chapter, I'm going to enjoy it. There are no superfluous details. It's witty and sharp. I loved Pulp and Post Office too.

If you want to recommend a good novel (old or new) that doesn't waste words, feel free.


Art Book: Too Much To Bear / EP: Revbjelde - For Albion

.............er...what? Oh, hello, I've been busy over the last few months with the above product, a book of my art called Too Much To Bear. 24 full-colour collages which have not been seen anywhere before, not even on this thing called the intern-et. You can buy it here. Not that people buy things any more...things like art or music anyway. Buying is so-o-o last century, isn't it? Well, you'll never be able to download Too Much To Bear and with only 100 copies made if you want a thing you can hold, feel, flick through etc, go ahead!"


FOR ALBION cover art 

For Albion by Revbjelde is a thing you can buy and download. I suggest you do because it's very good. They make thrilling sounds for modern swingers....hold on, that's not right...they do make a thrillingly new thing out of the haunting genre (is that what it's called?) on Agrona Wuhhung, for starters; the spectral voice, chopping (?), creaking, groaning thing of beauty that it is. Faran Ofost is a splendid fusion of post-Disco bass with other noises and...oh, just listen and get it.

Thomas Brinkmann - A 1000 Keys (Editions Mego)

A 1000 KEYS cover art

If John Cage had access to digital technology when thinking of producing music for a prepared piano it might have sounded like this. As it is, some of Thomas Brinkmann's A 1000 Keys does sound like certain Cage pieces. That's a good thing. Another good thing is that Brinkmann isn't content to just translate the hammering of keys into a technological version but instead exploits the percussiveness to maximum effect, so much so that a track such as LHR might leave your senses reeling; it does mine. When the piano is doubled up, as it frequently is, the effect is even more thrilling as each repetitious phase morphs into the other to form a rhythmic barrage. There are quieter pieces, creating space in which those wonderful deep chords can drop along with electronic touches adding depth and colour to what is overall an impressive, singular exploration of sonic qualities inherent in the piano. 

23 minutes - 23 tracks - 23 artists

23 minutes - 23 tracks - 23 artists cover art

(blows dust off site)

Not posted here for a while - too busy with art - but 23 minutes - 23 tracks - 23 artists is too good not to plug. Eastville Project in the area and proving that most modern music is at least five minutes too long. Perfect for the low attention span age. What caught my attention was the Howlround track, just because it leaps out sonically, but most of what's on here is very good. 

Album: Rook Vallade - Vestiges

Unheard works from 1992-2000

Exiled in Berlin - exiled from 'the scene' pretty much, aside from releases under other pseudonyms, the sound of which won't have raised his profile or won him new fans - like he cares - as I said a while back about the People of the Internet, so many interesting ones say so little if they exist in that alternate Real World at all. Chris Douglas stands outside the outside. Vestiges should/could be a good entry point for beginners, containing as it does the kind of glitchy beats that have long since become accepted, a cosy genre, an old genre; except to say that Douglas naturally doesn't conform - hear the space-age crunch deconstruction of Gailfld, for instance. Or Aemlldr, which I mention just because it's a favourite of mine. Douglas collages brilliantly, pasting drills, thuds, crunches, brutal whacks and melancholic ambience better than most. Older ears may recognise signs of the times but they all lead to roads less travelled by his peers.

Printed In Watford book

'A TRAVELLING EXHIBITION OF BOOKS PRODUCED OR PUBLISHED AT WATFORD SCHOOL OF ART BETWEEN 1966 AND 1974' as every description on the internet says. No idea how many were made but it's worth every penny if you can find it at a price you can afford. I got mine from an American dealer and sold a load of vinyl to pay for it.

Pan Sonic - Atomin Paluu

Pansonic atomin paluu

Me: "no new albums to review - nothing"
LJ: "that's a shame, innit?"

Hold on, a quick look at recent addictions reminds me that PAN SONIC's Atomin Paluu came out recently. It's old (2005 - 2011) material but since when did time matter to Pan Sonic's music? It shrugs off time, sneers at it, spits in it's face and carries on. In relation to the UK, it's timely, being the soundtrack to a Finnish film, Atomin Paluu [Return of the Atom] about construction of the first nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl - because the £18 billion Hinkley Point deal has stalled. Our new prime minister, Teresa May, should hear this album, not because it's sheer heaviness will make her think thrice about the dangers of nuclear power, but because it's good. Do you think she'd like it?

You know Pan Sonic. You know it's good. You know Mika Vainio (he edited it). What more is there to say? I should give up 'reviewing' albums even though, you might have noticed, I don't always/usually review them in the classic sense. Perhaps that's why online magazines, you know, 'proper' ones, haven't come knocking at my door offering 2p-per-word for reviews. Did I ever tell you about the time I wrote off to the NME in a bid to become a Rock journalist? Oh, those were the days (late-70s) when the inky world was not only real but really important; our only source of opinion about music/new releases. Yawn. I know, you've hear all that before...perhaps you were even there.

Part 5 is playing, a perfect mood for a forthcoming nuclear meltdown...feel the atmosphere...the frisson...or should that be fission? If electronic music is the crucial soundtrack to futuristic imaginings, Pan Sonic on Atomin Paluu prove it's just as suited to present day industrial 'future' power. That and the means by which it's built, those monolithic iron/steel machines, which to many might also symbolise the outmoded concept of nuclear power itself. Mind you, how are wind farms at sea built? That's what I wondered as I gazed at three off the coast at Herne Bay the other day.

How was this album built? There's another mystery. Should Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen invite me into the studio to explain I'd refuse for the same reason I don't want to know how magicians saw girls in half. The otherness of electronic music remains a large part of its appeal. Whilst it's great to know how Roland Kirk got that sound, conversely, ignorance of electro-digital kit is a kind of bliss.

William Burroughs - Curse Go Back (Paradigm Discs)


'To stay present / To stay absent'

Word falling, captured on tape; Burroughs works the play/stop button here to create repeat cuts that become mantra-like, meaningful only to him, perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless. There are glimpses of personal significance in talk of 'spirit past, the chaos spirit' in relation to the Ugly Spirit which he claimed haunted him for much of his life. As with some earlier word experiments with Gysin, there's the word swap routine in the quest to wring altered meaning from simple statements. Repeating 'the conditions' it's as if Burroughs was still trying to escape those imposed by words even after a decade spent fighting the 'virus' by cutting them up, like a doctor trying to cut out an illness. Unlike his famous creation Doctor Benway's medical efforts, Burroughs was a successful 'surgeon' in the literary sense. Even so, the recordings on Curse Go Back suggest the 'cure' was nowhere in sight. 'The words...the words...the words' he intones, sounding like a soul lost to them. 

'Recorded in Duke Street c1968, the tape was then passed on to Brion Gysin in Paris where it remained in his archive until 1998. This is the first readily available edition of an hypnotic and meditative recording that examines the hidden power of words. Closer to a work of sound poetry than anything literary.
The album includes a 12”x12” insert with an essay by Ben Harper and several previously unseen portrait photos of Burroughs, taken by Harriet Crowder in her Hammersmith flat during a drug experiment. The back cover uses another Crowder image - the very next frame after the famous shot that appeared on the cover of the English Bookshop/ESP “Call Me Burroughs” LP.
Pressed at Optimal on transparent vinyl in a numbered edition of 500.' From Paradigm Discs site

A quick visual tribute I made...

Is Jazz More Punk Than Punk Rock?

It (Jazz) is a feeble and silly art at best, and so its decay need not be lamented. It comes naturally to the young, whose excess of energy demands violent motion, but when it is practised by the mature it can never escape a kind of biological impropriety, verging upon the indecent. The real damage that the new mode has done is to music, the cleanest and noblest of all the arts. - H.L Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1934

'No Parker, Coltrane or Thelonious Monk - in 1977!' As you know, Joe Strummer never sang that. Had he done so, he would have changed the meaning of the song, 1977, completely, causing many Punks to scratch their spiky heads and set about finding out who the hell The Clash were rebelling against. It would also have signified another battle cry against Jazz as part of a tradition that began when the music itself began at the start of the century. 

Why am I even imagining that lyric? Well, it began with a Facebook friend's statement that he was 'allergic' to Jazz, which set me to thinking about the reaction Jazz evokes in many people. A few days later I could here Strummer railing against Jazz in 1977 after wondering what most of the Punk generation (musicians and listeners) thought about Jazz. As I recall, it was never discussed among the people I knew. It wasn't on my musical map. It wasn't until the dawn of the next decade and the revival that anyone under 50 mentioned the J-word.

The train (Trane?) of thought...

...hardly logical, but I found myself trying to place Jazz in the same time frame and social milieu as Punk Rock...what would the characters in Aylesbury's Green Man pub circa '77 have said if I'd told them I was into Charlie Parker? A shrug in response. Five years later, still in Aylesbury, I would start telling everyone that Jazz could save their lives, being the greatest music on earth...words to that effect. Yes, I was a Jazz bore, probably (though I like to think not). Anyone spouting Jazz as religion is a bore to non-believers.

Today, more imaginings: Jazz is more Punk than Punk Rock. Eh? I know, a ridiculous idea...and yet...look at the response Jazz receives from the average listener...bewilderment and even hostility. Yes, you could say the same about Classical music, minus the hostility, except if you played them Schoenberg. Jazz can be easy to listen to, of course, but it's the deeper stuff that's the issue. Not even deep, but let's say tracks of sufficient length to involve three or four solos, like a 60s Blue Note tune.

Jazz spans both Pop and the Avant Garde and therein lies some confusion in the minds of the uninitiated. They think Ella Fitzgerald is Jazz (she is), but then what the hell is Andrew Hill? I usually compare it to Rock when this question arises. Few question the diversity in that genre.

'It comes naturally to the young, whose excess of energy demands violent motion,' - Mencken's words resonate, surely. It's the same response Rock 'n' Roll provoked. Some would say Elvis and the birth of all that was 'Punk Rock' way before the actual thing, which it was, to a certain extent. But to simply say that is to disregard the socio-political commentary of Punk. As for Jazz, in it's early days, it didn't need voices of social unrest, merely had to be (black music) to stir hatred in the form of racism and reactionary criticism from lovers of formal music, 'the cleanest and noblest of all the arts'.

Jazz went on to disturb ordinary listeners and Jazz fans alike as Be-Bop developed. "To say that jazz was divided about the validity and desirability of bebop would be seriously understating the case. It would be like saying the Americans were a tiny bit cross with the Japanese after Pearl Harbour, or that Hitler was unkind to the Jews", as Johnny Dankworth put it. Humphrey Lyttelton faced protest in the form of a placard in the audience that read "Go home, dirty bopper". Laughable, these days.

It would be easy to annoy/shock someone by playing them Cecil Taylor, or any 'Free Jazz', but that's not really the kind of Jazz I had in mind. Despite seemingly being 'accepted' by most, if not welcomed, personally, Jazz remains outsider music. Whilst Classical music clearly inhabits a world far away from Pop and Rock, Jazz constantly creeps into all genres, from Pop to Techno, Drum 'n' Bass and Hip-Hop. Despite that and references made by young producers in interviews, it remains 'difficult' for most to appreciate.

If Punk was rebel music, the mark of outsiders and the discontented, it's now accepted as just another page in the musical history book. It might be lumped in with 'Dad music', that horrendous label attributed mainly to Rock made in the late-70s and 80s (I think that's right, but please don't comment to correct me). Jazz meanwhile resists the softening effect of retro-affection, the castration of it's original energy. The power of Charles Mingus band in full flow remains. Ditto 60s Coltrane, electric Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey at his most intense and so on. Proper Punk music, immune to time, market commodification and gradual acceptance over time by ageing generations. Jazz remains awkward, 'difficult', complex, bawdy, noisy, defiant. 

What else can explain the inability of so many people with supposedly eclectic and 'advanced' taste to embrace it? If there's a tune it's 'ruined' by solos. If there isn't one, it's beyond being 'music'. As for those disciples (fans), they're plain irritating - that's true. What's more, they think they're 'cool'. True again, in many cases. But there are poseurs amid fans of other genres. A word, finally, about Jazz and Cool. Yes, we know it's the coolest music ever made, right? But we also know it attracted social outsiders from it's early days. Before Punk, they were dressing outrageously, taking drugs and speaking their own language. Before Beat, these 'hipsters' had dropped out, shown a middle finger to the 'squares'. 

OK. I've almost convinced myself that Jazz is more Punk than Punk Rock. 

London Falling

It's Cool To Be Conservative (version), RTomens, 2016
More art here

London is open for business. And nothing else. Sorry. Don't try starting up an art/music/film etc space unless you have the money. You need money. We all do. You need somewhere to live. Just don't think you have enough to find somewhere in London.

Is London as dead, culturally, as I think it is? Or am I not looking properly?

Remember when listings magazines (City Limits & Time Out) were bursting with events? Perhaps you'd just found a Soho basement bar in which to spin tunes. Phone up a listings mag, get it placed there. Charge a few quid to get in and maybe you'd have a good night going. That's how it worked for me in the late-80s. A basement on Frith Street, £2 entry fee. The owner took a cut of the door. That all seems so long ago now, so impossibly easy that I must have imagined it.

Perhaps it was watching the new Julien Temple film about Keith Richards, Origin Of The Species, that got me thinking about cultural London today. In it Keith (sorry, 'Keef') talks about going to art school as if it was the last refuge of all educational drop-outs. Those were the days. That still was the case until tuition fees and the business bullshit careerist investment art world paying-for-the-privilege (Mummy & Daddy) situation today. Art's fucked in London; talk about monetised.

What else? I wondered if there were any alternative scenes happening and whether I was just too out of touch to know about them. The optimist in me says there must be, but the overriding cynic disagrees. How can anyone afford, let alone find a space in which to make an alternative happen?

Even the idea of 'alternative' feels outmoded. Each new generation just seems to embrace a world where music festivals, for instance, are corporate-sponsored displays of mediocrity which, as each generation knows no better, is thought to be exciting. Festivals for the whole family! That's a thing now. The gathering of the trendy parent tribe, for Christ's sake.

Note the supposed rise of the 'independent' bookshop. Sterile, squeaky clean, selling safe literature and with special events for the whole family! Perhaps a few nice zines made by Tabatha and Nigel too! Like everything these days, the places have no 'vibe' (ma-a-an), except that of clean-thinking, moderated independence overseen by Glasto-loving post-grad 'hipsters'.

From the post-war years of Keith Richards' youth would bloom a million flowers in the bombsite-strewn dustbin that was London. Bloom into a technicolour explosion of style, anger, wit and imagination that made the 60s what it was. Grotty 70s London, as well as housing William Burroughs for a while, gave rise to Throbbing Gristle (you know the connection) and Punk. A different reaction to society of the day from the previous decade, certainly, but at least another burst of energy and creativity, albeit 'negative'. At least it was angry.

These times can only spawn despair and docility. Despair by those who crave something else and docile acceptance of the status quo by everyone else, seemingly. Mainstreamers have always merely accepted and consumed what's normal, of course. The difference being that often, in the past, the underground would somehow break out and infiltrate their homes via TV, radio or magazines. It even changed a few minds in the process.

Well, goodbye to all that. Let's enjoy a Grime night at The Proms, shall we? Or Adele at Glastonbury! Did you see the Norman Cook set, by the way? If you can listen for more than two minutes, you're reading the wrong blog.

Did I tell you about the first time I went to the China Town dive bar on a Friday night  in 1988 and, whilst walking down the steps, was greeted by the sound of the DJ playing The Art Ensemble of Chicago? No? Never mind, it was just a dream...surely...

Punk: periodical collection

Edited by Paul Gangloff, featuring discussions with Stephan Dillemuth, Martijn Haas, Dominique Hurth, Eleonor Jonker, Gee Vaucher and others on zine-making, distribution and the ethos behind them. Very good book this, with some superb images made especially for the project.

'Stephan Dillemuth: One thing I think is important about these publications is that they serve a certain purpose, there’s a need to make them and there is a certain context for that need – that’s important. A lot of publications today are not made anymore out of need, but just to make money with advertising and for that they need “content providers”, that’s what writers and artists became. Service industry serves the manufacturing of redundant information, in order to generate revenue with advertising. There is no other inner need, no inner drive, no other purpose behind it and that’s also visible in the design, no simplicity, no directness, just packaging and hollow inside.'

Visit any zine fair today and you'll see a lot of material that's all 'packaging and hollow inside', despite being personal and handmade rather than to 'generate revenue with advertising'. For some, small press is on a par with cake-making and other crafts, hence it's popularity. The political or cutting-edge art aesthetic is largely missing. It's as if makers long for the old ways (of production) in this age of technology, but use them to create little more than pretty, vacuous product. 

The obvious difference today is that the overriding spirit of the era from the 70s to mid-90s is absent. The politics of living then (on the dole, protest, rebellion), fuelled in part by music was of it's time. Today, 'protest' or artistic rebellion is more likely to take the form of memes that clog your Facebook wall...oh, and those petitions. And Tweets, of course. Hardly substitutes for hand-crafted images and stapled pages which you can hold and feel in more ways than the purely physical. Punk: periodical collection is freely available in PDF form, but having the book is better. Read more and buy it here

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