Various Artists – Singles & EPs

At under fourteen minutes for six tracks this EP bucks the trend toward lengthy pieces of progressive and experimental work in heavy genres. I’m easy either way: briefly stated, separated ideas can be effective in one way, and longer forms that develop and transform themes can be good in another. Barren Waste’s brevity is not of the ‘hit ‘em fast and get the hell out’ variety practised by acts like Napalm Death, and in fact there are enough ideas in some of these short pieces to have allowed them to stretch out for a good while without palling.

Monday Musings: Music, Politics, Subculture and Resistance

My thinking in various areas has been converging in recent months. For a while this weekly series of essays was alternating between pieces on the music industry, and pieces on music criticism: it’s getting steadily harder for me to maintain that distinction. For one thing, my valuations of music are not entirely independent of my position on various aspects of musical production: recordings that contain audible signs of artistic integrity tend to sound better to me than those that sound as though they were made with the market in mind.

Saturday Summary 018

A few scattered shots in the long range artillery duel over free music this week, but nothing dramatic. Lots of interesting articles though, on various topics. http://dj.dancecult.net/index.php/journal/article/view/81/134 This is a really interesting and in depth article on the role of militarist imagery in industrial music, but its observations are clearly applicable to other musics that utilise similar visuals. There’s often a deliberate conflict between the associations of imagery and the use to which it is put, but often it is a less aware appropriation, as made clear by the musician in this article who seems to think that saying he uses military uniforms because he finds them sexy is the end of the debate…

Matt Stevens – Live In Blackpool (progressive/ post-rock/ acoustic)

What’s the point of live albums? As music fans, we usually hope for a number of things, but they mostly revolve around an anticipated sense of greater authenticity. This is the musician doing it for real: you can hear whether or not they really know their stuff, or whether it was all studio trickery. If you’re a real geek for a particular artist, you’ll want to hear how they vary their performances, both from their studio recordings and from other live shows; it’s also an opportunity to hear how much they improvise; to hear how the band interacts on stage…

Paranoid Android – Paper God (new wave)

Punk was like some kind of natural catastrophe: in terms of the frantic pace of pop-music it happened an eon ago, but the shockwaves that spread outward from its point of impact, like a tsunami, get more powerful the more open ocean they traverse. Our understanding of popular music before punk is now characterised by a growing awareness of its crypto-oppositional qualities; and the narrative of its subsequent history is dominated by its influence on all kinds of rock music, and a lot of electronic music as well.

Doll Fight! – Morning Again (punk/ riot grrrl)

It’s easy to form a punk band: just get some drums and guitars, make up some punk songs, and play them at some punk gigs. If you’re not too sure exactly how to do it, just listen to some Lagwagon or Blink 182 records: you can sing about getting drunk and being a bit naughty in a car; if you’re boys you can sing about girls; if you’re girls you can sing about boys. Perhaps you can get your parents to pay for a ‘top local producer’ so your recordings can have that slick, glossy sound with rich, full range guitars, tight drums and perfect harmonised vocals…

Heidi Harris – Underneath The Grass And Clover (folk)

Heidi Harris works with a palette of folk and Americana pigments, but she doesn’t paint quite the pictures you might expect. Folk music is a collective aurality, the sonic expression of an orally transmitted tradition, and as such, it daubs its canvases with the colours of communal experience: even when it trades in specificities, perhaps the transportation of a loved one in punishment for a minor crime, it is a shared misfortune that is lamented, and it is its similarity to the experience of other participants in the music that is important.

Monday Musings: The Myth Of Popular Music

Myths are everywhere, wrapped around common currency ideas, giving shape to our cultural narratives, and putting filters on the lenses of our minds. There’s a ‘myth’ about myths: it says that a myth is wrong. The term ‘urban myth’ perpetuates this usage, but that kind of a myth, the erroneous legend, is just a part of a broader class of ideological structure. King Arthur is a myth: a powerful narrative and conceptual complex, structured around the locus of a figure that may or may not have existed.

Saturday Summary 017

This week, Myspace gets humiliated again, and lots of people have thoughts about new models for the music business. http://blancomusic.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/whats-all-this-about-spotify-again/ An enlightening perspective from an independent label on Spotify’s business practices. While there is an undeniable parallel with radio, and presence on streaming services may be of real promotional value to some of the smaller players, unless you’re a major then the paid streaming model is essentially based on theft: someone other than the rights holder being the financial beneficiary of distribution.

Another Dead Hero – Children Of The Witch (metal)

Ominous, dissonant, powerful, and employing a vocabulary that predates any form of extreme metal, it would be easy to class Another Dead Hero’s music as epic doom, for its atmosphere and for its approach, but it’s not so easily pigeonholed stylistically. It sounds like Another Dead Hero, which is to say that it doesn’t sound immediately unlike anything you’ve heard before, but on closer examination it sounds remarkably little like anything you’ve heard either.