Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 round-up

This year was plagued from beginning to end with images of Armageddon, the apocalypse and the end of the world. It began essentially in the Micro Mutek festival back in February and appeared and reappeared at various intervals until last week’s poor and/or misunderstood prediction of the end of time by the ancient Mayan civilization. Check out three end-of.the-world science videos at The Guardian.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

Check out the free 11 track Pseudogeddon compilation  with the likes of Machinedrum and Chrissy Murderfoot over at XLR8R.


Kicking off this feeling musically was Lucrecia Dalt playing at Mutek to an edited Werner Herzog film of oil fields on fire in Iraq. Her intriguing album "Commotus" followed with its beautifully poised and intense cover image of dust storms in great depression era America. Although she claims it has no significance to the crisis, the influence of the crisis and its sinister Thatcher-esque methodology on Spanish culture in particular was heavy and profound (and still looms like the picture frozen in time). Personally, Lucrecia became and unwilling symbol of the apocalypse for this and more: when I did a still unfinished interview with her back in July (apologies Lucrecia) I had been told the same day that I would lose my job by the end of the year. We were bitten intensely by mosquitoes up in the park and then I had an attack of jealousy from my girlfriend as a result that was also another unnecessary blow. All resolved now, except for the interview, but for me then, it was hard to separate Lucrecia from the feeling of doom and certainly for this and more her music carried a strong personal resonance throughout the year.


It is somewhat ironic then that my career did finish only days before the Mayan apocalypse was predicted, coming to an ugly head on the 19th. I will post more ideas on this in the coming weeks as there is a number of general issues related to science that are important for me to express and for a broader public to begin to understand. In looking for a music to represent this I am drawn again and again to Oppenheimer Analysis who are one of the few artists I have encountered to deal directly with the idea of science as a theme, and not just a symbol. Their track “Radiance” comes to mind particularly when thinking of Armageddon.


It shouldn’t need much context in terms of modern politics with plenty of tension between Israel and Palestine and their neighbours that will not go unnoticed in Iran especially, and the forever unstable Egypt, whereas the bizarre North Korean government continues to test missiles capable of attacking invisible enemies. In the same year we also had continuing fall-out (sic) from the nuclear disaster provoked by the Tsunami in Japan. I noticed that Fushitsusha’s Keiji Haino was complaining about the Japanese protestors with an anti-nuclear agenda who were still content to go home and plug in to their electrical world afterwards. The key here is lifestyle. We have reached, in my opinion, the point of turning back. The future does not exist without a change in lifestyle, or a cultural recognition of wrong and wholesale changes to the pace of living. Time to slow down.


Musically then it is possible to relate all this anger, repression, protest, hopelessness and absurdity to the dominance of noise in techno music this year. This is a phenomenon that had a first flutter back in 2010 with artists like Ancient Methods, Traversable Wormhole and the like, but seemed to grow quiet in 2011 before achieving an explosive fusion in 2012. The two defining incidents must be Dominic Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project releasing an acclaimed album “Ornamented Walls” on Modern Love, although to many the “September Cell” EP on Bed of Nails was perhaps even more of a highlight. The marriage in reverse saw Sandwell District’s Juan Mendez aka Silent Servant release his exceptional and concise “Negative Fascination” album on Fernow’s own Hospital Productions label.


That many of the artists pushing such a harder and more industrial sound should be UK artists is also curious and deserves attention in the year that also saw the final death of Throbbing Gristle. Highlights from the UK scene are clearly Shifted, who combined elegance with brute force, AnD from Manchester, Blawan for crudity and Pariah for balance (his remix of Lucy on the recent Curle single is as sublime as the original). One cannot also forget Ren Schofield’s second untitled album for Spectrum Spools as Container. 2012 also saw the return of the British Murder Boys (Surgeon and Regis) as well as the most vocal praise for the Birmingham Downwards imprint, completing the cycle that Sandwell District initiated many years ago. Speaking of Sandwell District, while many of their offspring went harder and harder, many also continued to adopt and develop, while others merely imitated their sound. While many of the influenced artists produced great albums, like Spanish producer Oscar Mulero, there were many more that faded into the background while not necessarily being bad. It is also worth mentioning that US art rockers The Swans seem to have exerted a particularly profound influence over both guitar and electronic music over the last 18 months. One reason is the growing fame of their live show which works off noise, power and transformation, similar ingredients to the success of good psychedelic techno, whereas their noisy and lengthy album “The Seer” carries a similar torch of inspiration to the noise-techno artists. A critical aspect of their image and performance is the idea that Michael Gira is also some sort of shaman, or indeed, has taken the Seer role of the album name. This is a concept that was lightly flirted with in techno as well, particularly on the Prologue label with Dino Sabatini being most obvious, whereas Voices from the Lake clearly aimed for and achieved a trance state of mind. African rhythms and magic also snuck their way into fringes of other releases from Cut Hands “Black mamba”, Demdike Stare, Shackleton, Emptyset, Innervisions (last year as well) and perhaps even Juju and Jordash’s “Techno primitivism”.


Industrial and noise music has always somehow been the political arm of electronic music, particularly to techno as house has always had a proximity to protest, just as it has its side far removed in the realms of triviality. It is tempting to interpret this rise in noise/industrial techno as a parallel to the ascendance of the protest movement (Time’s Person of the year 2011) and the dissatisfaction with the current political system and the political class. However, the dancefloor and a party are still not the best places to have intellectual discussions and even the idea of this incites scorn in many people whereas others still complain that clubs are for escapism and not confrontation. But the absence of an intelligent dance floor is a hell too frightening to consider: just listen to Teengirl Fantasy’s “Do it” with vocals by Romanthony released on R&S this year and you will be in that bad place.


The groups name should tell you all you need to know, but the cringey and vacuous autotuned lyrics could be Black Eyed Peas or Rebecca Black they are as bad as the plodding and comfortable music. Besides, if I am unemployed and lucky enough to afford entry into a club, I do not want to escape my life by listening to something as trivial as that. I would rather some positive reinforcement in hearing noise and industrial techno, turning the machines against themselves and against society for its own good.


A less social association of this trend may also be in the improvements to sound design across the board and the possibilities that noise, force and silence have to play in the listening experience. Bedroom studio production has now reached an important and perhaps critical level of quality. While there is still a plethora of by-the-numbers producers, who still seem to top all the charts, there has clearly been an exponential growth in quality and diversity of production stimulated at first by dubstep and now in the post-dubstep era where genres blur more than ever, it informs all fields and genres of production. While not considered industrial or noise, the work of Rene Pawlowitz is certainly only one step away. The bigger numbers off “The Killer” like “Ride on” and “I come by night” are a case in point, gruff, granular and forceful.


Many other artists have also created their own sound world where high fidelity and texture is just as important as volume or functionality. The success of Ricardo Villalobos’s “Dependent and Happy” across the board, from Resident Advisor to The Wire is the most obvious example (remember last year they also had Margaret Dygas’s under-appreciated album as well, also from Perlon). Still close to the dancefloor, Andy Stott and Claro Intelecto made plenty of space by slowing things down a lot whereas It is also interesting to note that many albums making the top of the best of lists are fairly experimental as well as packing good sound design, suggesting that (a) the critics are ahead of the game or that (b) the audience has finally caught up (more on this point below). Actress is well known now, but he still stands apart from so many for his vivid imagination. Raime as well as Emptyset can feel like very dry music at times, and yet their appeal seems fairly universal. Plenty of other artists made an impact without hitting the lists: Ricardo Donoso’s second electronic album rightly caused a bit of fever on its release, whereas Bee Mask must be poised for greater things too. Australian Oren Ambarchi seemed everywhere in 2012 and many of his releases have become essential and on occasion left me reeling with surprise at their invention and execution, the long track “Knots” on “Audience for one” on Touch being a particular delight. Another man who seemed everywhere and anywhere in 2012 was Mark Fell, who just played an amazing night here in Barcelona with Lee Gamble who, alongside his colleagues in the PAN label, seemed to somehow reinvent electronica late on in the year. Fell in particular pushed the boundaries of experimentation and the dancefloor like no other and will hopefully have a show of his own soon on Cabeza de Vaca.


We also have heard over the last year or two about how Mike Dehnert and others have forced people to consider upgrading their Hi Fi set up in car or home to get the most out of their music. Ben Klock also stated recently that DJing can be hit and miss for some artists depending on the capacity of the sound system and requires an open mind to tailor the set accordingly and to tease out the best frequencies. Many artists also still make music and tailor their sound for the legendary Berghain sound system, amongst them the aforementioned duo AnD. Given this, and after seeing the aforementioned Fell/Gamble show and still feeling the positive effects of the LEV Festival this year it seems more and more clear that club culture is at a juncture. While volume is essential and while it is also true that many artists do not strictly need high fidelity, there is a nagging sense that sound systems in clubs are becoming incredibly inadequate. One reason is their apparent and alleged lack of sensitivity and directionality for reproducing such beautifully constructed and intricate music in a special manner. The other is space and architecture. Electronic music still feels obliged to exist in the club setting, but somehow a club feels like a ball and chain as well. Where are the venues for ambient music? Why does the club have to always be a party at night time and not earlier or during the day (at least for older people like me?) Why are there no high fidelity listening places for concerts and even “reproduction parties” for new releases, for example? Listening to music live is about sensation and experience, not only hedonism. Why is it not possible to invent a Hi Fi Lounge where people would pay to go and hear a new album, for example, in all its stereo glory at volume as well as a live show?


This brings us to the next concept which is the live performance in electronic music. Two issues came to the fore in 2012, one an old one and a never ending one it seems, which is the issue of playing live versus pressing play. Back in June Deadmau5 made the allegation in Rolling Stone  that many artists are pressing play and there is less live performance in electronic music than appears. This may be true for some and more so for those who involve the use of complicated visual elements in their shows, like Amon Tobin, Squarepusher etc who require complicated synchronization to make the show work. Indeed, this brings us to the second point which is the tendency for over reliance on a visual element to make an impact as a live electronic show. Sure, there is nothing worse than watching a person hunched over a laptop during a performance, but there is something not right about seeing an artist swamped by an overblown and over conceptualized set up. My thoughts go to Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher who had his huge banks of LEDs and his custom designed helmet at Sonar to accompany his neo-rave IDM, but a paltry audience, who were all sadly at Fatboy Slim, a mere DJ with no special live show, or indeed music, at all. Intriguingly, the best live show of all at Sonar this year was Mouse on Mars who clearly do not press play, jamming on stage as a three piece and even changing instruments. They use only a minimal, but effective visual display. The LEV Festival clearly aims to fuse the visual and audio elements of electronic music with as much an artistic approach as they can allow and can afford. Yet there appears to be a tendency, perhaps growing, for the visual to trivialize the music or at least supersede it in importance. 2013 could be a critical year for this phenomenon in which it may arrive at one step too far or become inseparable forever. The subtext of this is a growing divide between the classic club and the festival, where the former can work just as effectively with a red light in a room whereas the later seems to depend on visual spectacle.


A parallel element this year has been the return of the real vocalist. The impact of Burial over the last few years has been profound, but his trope of the pitch shifted and cut-up vocal had reached epidemic proportions in recent times and now feels hideously overdone (Holy Other’s album had one foot in this trap while also somehow managing to break free of it). Thankfully then, 2012 saw the predominance of real singing. Highlights were Cooly G’s sensual album “Playing Me” and her astute and captivating performance at Sonar. Laurel Halo’s “Quarantine” album seemed to finish in all the lists. While it didn’t quite do it for me as much as the rest of the world, its sung vocals were nonetheless an important touchstone of the year. Jessie Ware was a personal favourite for her voice but also for the sheer surprise I had in myself for finding so much in music that on surface I should not be so close to. The myriad of excellent remixes also helped to cement “Devotion” as stand out for the year. There was also Brackles, Julia Holter, Nina Kraviz album with guests, San Proper going it alone with mixed results on “Animal”, Lucrecia Dalt (of course; I say her here as well since I think she would be a great collaborator for a dance project too) and more.


Looking through the best of lists in the different media sites it seems clear that there is almost a consensus as to what was the best in 2012. Furthermore, if you scroll through the comments lists you also get the sense that the public agrees, with a certain exception (see below). First thought would be to say that these were indeed the best albums of 2012, but perhaps the consensus also comes down to the fact that they were in many ways the only good albums of 2012. This is harsh and a bit of an over statement, but it did feel that this year took a long, long time to get going and then it all seemed to get exciting in a flurry at the end of the year. The albums making the list are also hardly ground breaking in many ways, although good, and there were also plenty of decent, but not amazing albums by big artists. I am thinking of Redshape, Christopher Rau (I would also add Smallpeople although they did end up on the proper lists), Tinman, Emeralds, Forward Strategy Group (great in moments, but a little stilted at times), Holy Other, Juju and Jordash (intriguing and worth going back to, but somehow unfulfilling or a bit clumsy at times), Sigha and Scuba amongst others. One noticeable trend was the absent of many real (or should I say classical) dubstep albums in the final lists with the exception of perhaps Jam City. Peter van Hoesen’s “Perceiver” is a good example of a totally cohesive and well-made album that really doesn’t add much more to the IDM-styled techno that has been prevalent for the last two years or so. The Prologue label stuff seemed a breakthrough this year as it combined home listening depth as well as dancefloor functionality without sounding like this IDM-techno or post-Sandwell District techno. Similarly, PAN really caught the imagination by reconciling complex experimentation with the compelling urge to listen. Their emphasis as well on collector records and design was also fundamental. As an aside, there was a modest trend for picture discs to emerge as well, with the CLR label doing it for the Motor releases and also the Deepchord “Summer night versions EP”.


L.I.E.S. was by far the best label for quantity and quality. Their importance as well comes from breaking Rush Hour’s stranglehold over the retro house sound, now moved from Chicago to New Jersey. Using the same palette they somehow broke through to the other side and in the process expanded their A&R remit to dislodge the label from any simple classification. Just look at Torn Hawk’s filthy space rock sound or Professor Genius’s hashish inspired ambient album “Hassan” to see how far the label has gone. It is also worth mentioning how much of this stuff sounds like "hipster house" and gets closer again to the dirtier, lo fi sounds of the Not Not Fun underground. The caveat of this is that judging by the comments pages, many listeners were strangely unaware of many of these labels even until the end. This is perhaps no surprise looking at what charts and what DJs made the top of the list suggesting that there is a great divide between critical acclaim and the real audience.


In short, 2012 was not the vintage year that 2011 was and saw more a stabilization of current trends than important advances. Predictions for 2013: I predicted the return of drum n bass this year and was almost right. Certainly it returned to the consciousness, but still lacked a really big cross over album or single. Lee Gamble’s “Diversions 1994-1996” was probably the closest. But the trend will continue and drum n bass to keep making a bigger impact in 2013. I also predict a big increase in the number of Asian producers influencing the scene next year. Resident Advisor has been in Japan since 2011, but it might be time to see some rewards from that connection. Techno will continue to get louder, faster and harder on one side, but on the other will develop into a more elaborate, long-form electro style as the continued influence of the Drexciya reissues becomes consciously apparent while the urge to copy the Sandwell District style diminishes (see Delta Funktionen and the recent Killekill label compilation for the first steps). House music will pursue the New Jersey garage line, but take up Mark Fell’s cut up vocal line style and angular melody structure from the Sensate Focus series to another level, like Huxley and Bicep gone hypercolour (sic) and hyper geometric.


Peace and tranquillity.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P013 – Celebrity Christmas special

The new program is now fully ready at the revamped Scanner FM! A pretty light-hearted show this week for Christmas in order to have something of a breather as well as to have an excuse to collect together some of those artists who use modifications of celebrity names. More of them out and perhaps we will do it again for 2013?

Next show will probably be a limited wrap-up of 2012 in terms of concepts rather than a best-of. Why? Well will never fit all the best of in 60 minutes (and now we have strict time orders as well) and there is still a few tracks that might make it to a best-off that are still to come and that way I can avoid a bit of content repetition.

Hopefully there will be a few more normal posts in the weeks to come as well as I take some holidays and change jobs and life rhythm.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all and lets hope 2013 shows some improvements.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P012 – 7even Recordings special

We didn’t play much dubstep or bass music so far on Cabeza de Vaca, but this weeks mind blowing show on Scanner FM  is almost all that, albeit on the fringes somehow. This is really the problem with the “genre”: trying to locate a centre now is impossible. Indeed, this is what makes it so intriguing if impossible to keep up with. I got lost somewhere around the time when footwork came in. Indeed, it is the power of different electronic styles to draw from each other like the cloning monster in The Thing that makes them so interesting. But while all genres borrow and change parts, it is arguably bass music that is the most dynamic and hence the most formless since it has less functional and stylistic pressure in many ways. Techno, for example, borrows heavily, but must always remain rooted in 4-4 and retain its modular flexibility to keep the mix from falling apart or showing too many joins. Bass music is the equivalent of a four wheel drive all-terrain vehicle: adaptation to environment, palette and BPMs is essential.

It is perhaps this reason that we also end up playing drum n bass. The original idea was to finish with Bass Clef, but somehow the lure of drum n bass got too strong, especially after hearing the promise of Lee Gamble’s EP on PAN which is more evocative than representative. One curiosity of this release is that it seems to be almost a rememberance or memorial. It acknowledges the existence of drum n bass as a ghost, suggesting that it is truly dead. Not entirely true of course, but fascinating. Nobody seems to be invoking the ghosts of Chicago house or Detroit techno, for example. But jungle…

As for the 7even Reecordings label, I was under several misconceptions before starting out my research based on failing memory most likely. I was under the impression that the label was run by Florent Aupetit out of Toulouse, but it seems to have always been the dominion of Greg G from Nantes and now in Tokyo. Aupetit under the artist name F has certainly been responsible for some of the labels signature moments, but their early days in the dub techno influenced wave of dubstep are given rise to more diverse possibilities. Russian producer Oceania (who I assumed was a woman from the cover picture of his EP) brings a more James Blake-ian balladry, Makoto keeps a foot in the drum n bass camp whereas up-and-coming Japanese producer brings something different altogether. Except for the absence of real footwork or UK funky styles, 7even is pretty representative of the diversity of current bass music and its ongoing potential.

For more details on the label and history check out a recent interview and mix (including some unreleased tracks) at Inverted Audio.

As promised, new technology should be available at Scanner FM within a week or two to increase your listening experience.

Dont forget to check out the other electronic music shows on Scanner FM, that amongst others include Feedback, Störung Radio and more.

Information about the massive and cheap Electronic Explorations compilation can be found here. With regards to the discussion on the market value and colectibility of vinyl records it is worth reading the discussion for the vinyl release of four tracks from this collection by clicking here.

Also we make an announcement for two pending shows.

The first is by the L’ull Cec promoters and will feature Lee Gamble, EVOL, Mark Fell and Yutaka Makino in Barcelona on the 22nd December. More details here.
The first announcement for the L.E.V. Festival for 2013 has also been made and as always looks interesting. Two videos have also been published with highlights of the 2012 line-up.

LEV 2012_Day 1 from LEVFestival on Vimeo.

LEV 2012_Day 2 from LEVFestival on Vimeo.


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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P011 – Rene Pawlowitz special

A whole program of Cabeza de Vaca  on Scanner FM dedicated to the music of Rene Pawlowitz!


Pawlowitz is from Schwedt in the former GDR right on the border with Poland and spent at least some time living in Frankfurt Oder, a larger town slightly to the south of Schwedt (and not Frankfurt am Main on the west side). He doesn’t always give a lot away biographically, but his formative years seem spent acquiring the usual influences from the main stream (Pet Shop Boys) until being old enough to attend raves in the relatively near-by Berlin. It is probably his term working at Hard Wax that left the biggest mark on him and the shops focus as a communal hub as well as a record store comes across strongly in interviews. In the show, the last two tracks I play re named in homage to the store.


Pawlowitz started out releasing on his own Soloaction Records in 2004 before a breakthrough single on Delsin set him well on the way.


He claims that the name Shed comes from the phrase “Shedding the Past” although the album would not appear until 2008. He would also go on to use STP for Shedding the Past as a further name. However, the term “Shed” used like a snake shedding a skin is clearly something that he had in mind when adopting the name and one that works in his favour having employed so many monikers. One aspect of techno anonymity has also been the white label or the hand stamped 12” in a white paper bag as a way of hiding artist identity. Another is to employ so many names that the listener (or critic) does not know who the real artist is. I also like the interpreatation that Shed couldrefer to a shed like a workshop, like where my father repairs things for his farm or builds something to help him go fishing. Shed tracks are often like little inventions with moving parts, but sometimes a little clunky.


Indeed, Pawlowitz has masked himself in public by adopting a vast array of alternative names and on the show we play one track from each of them as a way to compare and contrast. There is not always a lot of difference in sound between the different names, perhaps Equalized is a lot smoother-sounding, The short-lived Panamax Project is clearly more dubstep, although dubstep also heavily marks the sound of Shed. It is in then curious to hear him say a line like this:

“These things like Wax or EQD — there is no artist behind it. It’s only tracks for the dance floor. That’s all. There is no artist behind.”

One does get the feeling sometimes that Pawlowitz does not want to be considered an artist almost. It is not a mantle of responsibility that he seems comfortable living with somehow.

One thing that is particular to the Pawlowitz aesthetic, however, is the balance between the drums and the synths. The rhythm section is generally always high in the mix and cut quite roughly, and almost rigidly without much elasticity between the parts. The percussion doesn’t move like a complicated machine or a watch, but it moves with heavy and calculated force almost in stop-motion fashion. The roughness imparts a sense of stoniness, of a literal underground or cavernous sound decorated with hints of metal, but metal is not always the dominant sensation and the stone feeling is organic and elemental and dismisses any desire to label the music as industrial. The synths used are generally abstract, infrequently employing overt melodies or pop techniques, though there are exceptions such as “Rave (dirt mix)” by Head High. Most of the sense of movement is carried in these sounds, however small or angular, despite carrying little emotional information. Their fluidity at times only emphasizes the sense of stasis in the heavier percussion and their respective balance in the mix further exaggerates the tension between the parts. A necessity to produce this type of sound design is the breakbeat. If Pawlowitz had been a conventional 4-4 techno producer, a lot of this tension and stasis would not exist (look no further than the opening track “Sweep dreams” for example). Pawlowitz expresses more love for dubstep in interviews than he does for techno which makes it something of a surprise then that his dubstep identity Panamax Project is arguably his least successful and one of his least used. In any case, all the Shed albums are heavily populated with breakbeat tracks.


One of the key concepts when talking about Pawlowitz is also his approach to what an album is. The best place to start is the text quoted on the back of “The Traveller” album from 2010.


“Does techno music really need the concept of the album format? Let’s put it differently: can techno work outside the established boundaries of the 12”? A look back into the history shows little convincing examples. Dancefloor tracks, made for DJs, follow a structure which requires a damn perfect dancefloor in your living room in order to adequately absorb that energy. A good album must offer more than a couple of dancefloor anthems, mixed with some ambient interludes and the obligatory downbeat experiment, has to be more substantial than a paint-box for your euphoric memories of perfect nights long gone.”  TH


I am not sure who TH is although I read that the text was also included in the press release for the album. Whether this was the press releases quoting the album or vice versa is unclear, but it is also possible then that TH is someone from Ostgut Ton. In any case, the issue raised is whether an album is more complete being stuck together with ambient interludes and a downbeat track and whether this somehow makes it more artistically sound. It is true that there was a time when every electronic album had on it a track called “Intro” and “Outro”, something you don’t see so often now. But the question about “The Traveller” and “The Killer” is whether they do really form cohesive albums or not, or whether that is the point. With “The Traveller” it is much easier to understand the album by taking each track as a point of departure and a point of destination, since their extremeness and their often dissimilarity makes it difficult for them to flow together in some instances. “The Killer” is less extreme, but not always more cohesive in its final totality. Judging success here is tricky. There are plenty of good pop-rock album’s that are just great collections of tracks that do not necessarily form a concept, so why can’t an electronic album be the same? Of course the greatest albums are those that usually tell a story and work like a novel from beginning to end and offering somewhere a turning point or a moment of transition.


“Shedding the Past” is an altogether other problem of interpretation. As I mention at the beginning of the show, the vinyl and CD versions are vastly different. Not only is the number of tracks different, but the tracks they contain are not the same and in different order. Reviewing the album, which one would you take? When referring to the album should we specify which one we mean? The notion of a changeable album is not unique to Pawlowitz, but given the above quote about the album format in techno music, it is something that he obviously does not take lightly.


But should an album be changeable? It is impossible to imagine “Sgt Peppers” working in a different way, but “Rubber Soul”, how much does it really matter in the way that the songs go together? There are many reasons why an album could change in this day and age. A generation has now grown up with CDs and skipping tracks, whereas almost every other format of art now offers the choice of versions. Films have director’s cuts and even books appear with new and definitive texts. William Burroughs is a key example of this not only for his and Brion Gysin’s cut up method which is fundamental to this idea, but that many of his books have appeared in multiple versions as new parts are discovered or as Burroughs changed the text through desire. An interesting counterpoint is perhaps painting. I am not aware of any panting that has been systematically or occasionally modified in time once presented to give it new meaning.


A minor sub point of the changeable album idea is format and running order. Quite often the definitive running order is on the CD as opposed to vinyl versions as vinyl will often cut out tracks, such as on the recent Shifted album, something I referred to in the ambient show a few weeks back. This is frustrating, but obviously an artefact of the physical limitations of vinyl. The running order is also often different which has as much to do with the sound characteristics of the grooves which changes from the outside to the inside as any Masterer will tell you. I personally like the fixed idea of an album as a work of art, as something takes on a configuration of its own and acts almost as a symbol of an artist and his time. But perhaps this is the point of Pawlowitz and his album work: the times they are a changing.

It is also worth referring briefly to some Pawlowitz collaborations and aliases that I didnt play in the show. There is obviously Deuce which he dd with Marcel Dettmann.


There is also the collaboration with Modeselector and Marcell Dettmann called A.T.O.L who had their debut at the Melt Festival, but have so far not released anything.

There are two new names that appeared on Pawlowitz's Discogs page even as I preparedthis show, one which is Zigg Gonzaless/Sigg Gonzalez which links to a track just on Ben Klock's Fabric mix (not to be confused with Ziggy Gonzalez who is another artist) and released on Belgian label H2, whereas War Made Easy appears to be a new alias that accompanies a new 12" on the War Easy Made label.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P010 – Mathematics

Latest Cabeza de Vaca show at Scanner FM focuses on some new house tracks and the Mathematics label. By coincidence, Resident Advisor published an RA Exchange  with Hieroglyphic Being on the same day! Most of my information has come from the web or the interview in the Wire from late last year, so will be interesting to see what new stuff comes out of that. It was of course them wh published a few confused reviews of Mathematics stuff recently, making it sound wonderful and then scathing it with a pithy score. It seemed funny as a lot of weird stuff like Oni Ayhun, Kassem Mosse and some of the L.I.E.S. stuff can be pretty weird too, but seems to be highly regarded. In any case, some of the label’s output is quite conventional like Andrea Gehm’s recent 12” which was decent but unremarkable in many ways.

The Spanish text read (and written?) by Alex Rufí can be viewed on his blog


Track list is below and more information at Scanner FM of course.


Always looking for promos and new material so don’t forget to send anything if you think you could have some of your music on the show.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P009 – Deadbeat and Danuel Tate interview

A new Cabeza de Vaca show already at Scanner FM!!! This week a short interview backstage of BeCool with Scott Monteith aka Deadbeat and Danuel Tate aka Danuel Tate. The focus on the interview is on playing live and a little at the end on being Canadian since the rest of the show is some newish Canadian music and also the show was to celebrate the new Micro Mutek line-up which is partially announced. More details can be found at the Official Mutek Site.

Click here for a partial transcript of the interview.

Some points of discussion arose from several things that appeared on Resident Advisor recently. Scott mentions the Blawan interview and was aghast in particular at the following answer from Blawan:


Q: You made the move from using a laptop at first on this project, then on to a completely analogue set-up, right? Why? What is the appeal?

A: We were so frustrated by the writing process on a computer, I think I was coming to the limits of what I could do with a computer because I felt like, not in a big-headed way, but that I knew the software that I was using, Ableton, well enough that I could do anything. I didn't really like that.”

I also mention a few comments from the recent Critics Round Table podcast  with guest Kirk Degiorgio who mentions something that Scott interprets to be Alexkid’s Insta-Haus a Max for Ableton device while one of the other journalists enthuses over the recent set of Bass Clef at The Wire Magazine’s recent Rewired night at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

There are several contradictions here, rightly pointed out by Scottt and Danuel all to do with the technology fetish. Bass Clef plays without a computer and it is credited as amazing when many groups made electronic music for many years with no computers. Similarly, Blawan’s comments come across as somewhat extreme too, ditching the computer for lack of creative potential when it is likely that it is his use of the computer that has become static. However, the other side of this is that the analogue machines these people use are essentially “stupid computers” as Scott says. So what is the difference? Alexkid shows here how his Insta-Haus set up for Ableton works and indeed it seems quite a simple set-up but one could easily find limiting creativity at a certain point.


However, it may be that Kirk Degiorgio was also talking about something like this Vintage House Construction Kit which has helped all the Rush Hour et al. artists to sound the way they do. I am most definitely not familiar enough with the technology to know its limitations and how it really works, but having thought more about it in the interview, it does seem true that the man vs machine debate is far from over, but it nonetheless has been a hot topic in 2012 especially after Deadmau5’s comments earlier in the year  in Rolling Stone  about pressing play.

Scott and Danuel also talk about the Pure Data (PD) visual programming language developed by Miller Puckette for making music.


Peter Brinkmann has also been credited with bringing PD to Android devices that I also do not fully understand, but it is perhaps these kind of things that Scott was saying that Mathias Aguayo was using?


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cabeza de Vaca P008 – Industrial techno and Factory Floor

“I shouldn't mind learning why--why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike, [...] but that's what books will not tell me.”

- Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Latest Cabeza de Vaca show is up at Scanner FM  after a few delays with FTP.

A couple of extra things that are worth pointing out. Most obviously is the connection between Sasha Grey of aTelecine and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle/Carter Tutti Void and more fame. The fact that both worked in the pornographic industry and, in Tutti’s case, also in sexually-orientated performance art (and more) as part of Genesis P. Orridge’s COUM Transmissions brings the relationship of sex with industrial and noise music back into focus.

Click here for a Cosey Fanny Tutti interview.

One of the problems of the genre has been the weakening of the symbol of bondage imagery by over use and of course a more male-dominated perspective of it. The two women in question bring the uneasy relationship with sex and gender back to a more personal level. One’s interest is one thing, but public participation (performance) is another and is much more important than elevating symbol to the echelons of art. It is a form of acting, after all, to appear in a pornographic movie which has its own symbols and extended culture, including its version of the Oscars system, of which aTelecine’s Sasha Grey has won several. In her case one hopes it does not become the only talking point in a fledgling career yet one full of releases that suggests a real dedication. Certainly she drops enough names that she might enjoy the odd piece of literature too, as well as a bit of industrial music. The appearance of aTelecine at this year’s Unsound Festival in Krakow, Poland also heralds well. Coincidentally, Sasha Grey also features as a guest vocalist on the just-released "Desert Shore/The Final Report" album by (Ex) Throbbing Gristle, minus Genesis P. Orridge, originally envisioned as a tribute to the Nico album of the same name as well as being the final TG album. Due to the untimely death of Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson during the album's preparation it has also come as something of a homage to his life and work as well. Yet returning to the point, one cannot ignore the sexual elements either since it is forever entwined in the mythology and DNA of the music and culture. Let us hope that Grey and Tutti can continue to bring new and real perspectives to it.

The sexual element of DH Lawrence’s scene from “Women in Love” (1920) is also important. The black metal train and the green English countryside are obvious elements, but it is the metal on flesh image again, as Gerald Crich unleashes his stirrups on the trembling red Arabian mare (a female horse of course), that is more open for interpretation. Some have likened the drawing of blood to loss of virginity and even rape since he uses force. It is then easy to move back to the train and see its shuddering, throbbing gait to be phallic.

“The connecting chains were grinding and squeaking as the tension varied, the mare pawed and struck away mechanically now, her terror fulfilled in her, for now the man encompassed her; her paws were blind and pathetic as she beat the air, the man closed round her, and brought her down, almost as if she were part of his own physique.”

Read the full chapter here.

The book is also famous for the scene in which Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin, played by Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, respectively, in the 1969 Ken Russell film version, wrestle nude in front of a fireplace.

Shown here from 8:20 onwards.

The homosexual image is integral whether intended or not, but the scene must also be seen as something merely animalistic, more innate, just men, after all. There are more complications, however. The movie also features a scene where Birkin, a thinly disguised Lawrence himself, shows an aristocratic audience at a grassy luncheon how to unfold a fig like a vagina. Birkin also runs naked through the long grass and woods to absorb its scent. Thus, the symbols have always been confused it seems, man and machine, terror and pleasure, nature and creation.

The fabled magician Aleister Crowley seems to have understood this contradiction deeply. The fervent optimism of Crowley’s piece generates its own intensity from within and is meant as a ritual, a transformation, at worst, theatre.

“Ever worth the passion glowing to distil a doubtful tear.
These are with me, these are of me, these approve me, these obey,

Choose me, move me, fear me, love me, master of the night and day.
These are real, these illusions: I am of them, false or frail”

- Aleister Crowley

Click here for full text of the ritual.

Interestingly the stage design includes plans for a swastika. It is somewhat ironic that the Punk’s intention to undermine the power of the swastika by wearing it, and thus wearing it down, bears similarity to the way that the bondage/fetish image has also faded in power with the same scene and its off-spring by over dissemination. But Crowley is forgiven of course as the piece “The Rite of Jupiter” from “The Rites of Eleusis” dates from 1910. It is probably only for this reason that he also uses the phrase

“Of the East and all its splendour, of the West and all its peace”

 One wonders what his attitude to industrialization really was? Certainly Lawrence is much clearer, yet both seem like they should come from similar perspectives on nature in many ways. It seems somehow fitting that Emptyset, by their mere geographical sitting in Bristol and via their recordings in the nearby countryside also invoke images of Stonehenge in nearby Wiltshire, the place where Thomas Hardy’s famous heroine Tess of the D’Urbervilles met her end, in the arms of nature and paganism.

The subtitle of the book (published first in 1891) is “A pure woman faithfully presented” and given the story, brings to mind the films of Lars von Trier. Yet the major theme is the same, the anguish at the growing segregation of man and nature.

“Beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”

- Thomas Hardy

Factory Floor also keep the sexual question alive and open in their video for “Stereotype”, their collaboration with the Pop Group’s Mark Stewart. The androgyny of the protagonists recalls the cult film Liquid Sky while the fashion is slighter more cyber and Blade Runner-punk style.

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