Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Rock of the City

Ever so cautiously, I have dipped my toes into the music blog tidal pools. Not ready yet to dive into the oceanic blogosphere, but just finding what washes up on more accessible beaches.

The following paragraph, from Laura Barton's blog at the UK Guardian, was enough to snap be out of my Monday morning torpor and write an entry I have been meaning to write for some time.

"I always think America is the only nation that could have birthed rock'n'roll. It is to me such a perfect example of Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis, the notion that "what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit" has always been owed to what he referred as "the transforming influence of the American wilderness" - that is, the American frontier, the stretch between civilised society and the untamed wilderness. And it is here, I think, that rock'n'roll resides - right on the very frontier, the brink of the wilderness, among the things not quite yet tamed." (,,2276104,00.html)

Interestingly, after I committed to using that quote for my intro, I noticed that Barton also wrote a blog about a musician who evidently records not far from where I grew up:

"[Andrew] Bird often records in his barn near Elizabeth, Illinois. He says the way the birds and crickets permeated the songs... to listen to it again now is, for him, a little like echolocation. 'I still listen to those tapes all the time because immediately, I feel like I'm back in that space again. You can feel all the corners of the barn,' he says." (,,2268504,00.html)

My brother and I grew up out in the country-- if you start here, it's about two-thirds of the way to Elizabeth. And rock was the music we listened to when we grew up. To this day, I will rarely listen to rock within the boundaries of a city. No, that's for back home-- a gravel road, a hot summer night, sky of stars and fireflies, drinking beer on the back porch and blasting Led Zeppelin so loud that every dog in a three mile radius is barking a chorus.

We moved to Chicago the same year-- my bro was going to UIC, I was looking for my first real job after college. We did identify a couple musical acts that adapted happily to our new environment. One was Tricky. In fact, the other major trip-hop acts-- Morcheeba, Portishead-- also made equal sense among brick walls or rolling fields. But the other major fence-straddler was Godflesh-- the seminal industrial metal surrealists led by Justin K. Broadrick. Around the time of our defection to the city, Broadrick was taking a break from his band to work with Kevin Martin (dub mechanic of The Bug fame) on the Techno Animal album "Brotherhood of the Bomb". That timing caused a resonance with us (it's hip-hop collaborations).

But mainly, we discovered underground hip-hop, and dubbed it the "Rock of the City". It vibrated like the used and abused pavement, it crackled like the dripping power lines, and it pulsed with the collective consciousness of the city's occupants. The strange songs revealed the inner workings of a race of beings who had secreted an endless steel-and-concrete hive in which to imprison themselves, a race which wove glass minarets to reach the clouds.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Decoding the Archaic Experience

I'm in it. Finally IN IT! That is, I am in a book. I should clarify; I am into a book, that relic of a more refined era. I am actually addicted to this heap of parchment!

There is a part where the protagonist, Lindsay, speaks to his grandfather in a dream. But at this point, the universe of Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix still feels concrete and tactile; it hasn't the slippery notion of reality that imbues most net-entwined cyberpunk fare, and it is unclear that the grandfather hears. But is doesn't matter.

For I impose my own vision of metaphysics on everything my brain touches. And it says that there is a tiny molecule of deterministic truth in every thing, in every being, in every moment. When we talk to our friend in a dream, it does not matter whether subatomic particles facilitate instantaneous communication-at-a-distance, or if even more refined mystical unities of consciousness devolve to us. It needn't matter, for the Truth has always been there, always will be, and It knows every thought whispered in our dreams. Maybe it is akin to Leibnitz's monads, unitary particles of being that contain every possibility and compose every thing; maybe it is because every drop of water contains a trillion shelled universes-within-universes; maybe it is because the world is constituted of universal Forms and Archetypes; perhaps because a computerized Creator has written our code in infinite layers of parallel RAM. But rest assured, when you speak in dreams you are heard.

Right now, I feel like this book is the story of my life! (well, why isn't everything we read the story of our life? We are all connected to everything, right?!). I drift in space, the hum of environmental controls and air vents and life-support machinery an ever present subliminal soundtrack. Distant noise from Earth (at least 17 light years-- I mean stories-- away) may as well come over static-soaked radio transmissions. I am alienated from my environment, while literally and figuratively above it. Spent so much time lately in a green haze that my eyes see the age in things, in people. The metahuman mind learns to operate on a different timeline. As the enhanced Shaper Lindsay says in Schismatrix-- "They were young, and breaking all the rules, and after a few long whiffs from the inhaler they were brighter than anyone human had a right to be." Yes, that's it. We can all be posthuman, and it is really, really easy; basically, it just requires the will. I posit the existence of a secret institution called The Coalition for the Mind; we live in a matrix of auto-hypnosis, fantasy, REM sleep, lucid dreams, meditation, drug states, and psychic awareness; children of Icarus adrift in a circumsolar ark.

Assuming there is at least one domain of reality that is deterministic (as in, pre-programmed to run like a well-oiled machine) and all-knowing (inferring some variety of instantaneous action-at-a-distance), you should still exercise your God-given free will, and remind your loved ones that you love them.

The Fragile

Last weekend my girlfriend and I sat at an intersection on Division. For the first time, we noticed a rusty bike chained up by the concrete wall of the underpass. It was adorned with fake flowers and a name and the words "She heard everyday sounds in music."

That shrine was a sad, otherworldly thing. It happened that we listened to "Distant Lights" from Burial, and I think that I finally figured it out (thank God for fragile hungover states).

For me the only place where such decayed, apocalyptic beauty is in abundance is when you are wandering the Burning Man playa at 3am, haunted by time travelers from the future (or are they spirits of those who will die in some irradiated, barren desert of tomorrow?). And also in archaic dream tunnels lit by dirty fluorescent lights, unambiguous archways to the Underworld. The Unconscious and the dead share a language, and speak in poignant symbols.


murder dem, murder dem!

I had a dream last night that we were in a club somewhere.
first it was breakbeat, dubstep, etc.
then things got really quiet.

suddenly a phat trance bassline kicked in
then, a few minutes later, some MCs and singers came on and grabbed the mics.
they were white ravers and whatnot

but pretty soon they were singing some intense, laser-sharp, high-energy "murder dem" ragga lyrics over the trance beat
and it destroyed!

Lazer Bass

Earlier, a friend and I were discussing via e-mail what to do with the last weekend of the month. I'm not sure if I'll be in town, but if I am, I will be going to this 'lazer bass' thing--
I found more information on that movement-- it's not "glitch hop"-- more like underground-style remixes of commercial tracks (that is good in theory, and it has more focus than "mash-up"); I would recommend this blog entry on the New Yorker, of all places--
I was skeptical at first. Mainly because I don't like my vocals cut-up to fit a beat-- I like my vocals live on a beat. But quite frankly, the stuff is entertaining.

I downloaded the free Megasoid Tank Thong and Ghislain Poirier mixes. I threw on the Megasoid mix as I discussed the lazer bass thing with my friend earlier. And then I heard some sweet vocals and I was like-- hey, that's a Zulu verse!

SNARKINESS DISCLAIMER: this remainder of this post may contain critical, snobbish, or otherwise snarky content.

If the lazer bass thing acquires any critical mass, I hope that promoters have the brains to retain live MCs to host the events! I have been to some sweet dubstep shows recently, but they were somewhat tarnished by the lack of MC-- moreover, they were tarnished by some DJs and promoters hollerin' between sets. They were NOT MCs! Stay off the mic! If you are too cheap to retain an MC, you don't get to hype yourself up on the mic.

Oh jeez, I'm sorry, you know I love you guys.

Oh, damn, look at that-- I just noticed that had a lazer bass comment back on May 1--

If you want a really sweet remix album of gangsta shit, buy this: Lil Wayne "None Higher"; selections are fitted by mixtape mainstay DJ Benzi. Oh, look, someone blogged about it--

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quantity does not equal Quality

SNARKINESS DISCLAIMER: this post may contain critical, snobbish, or otherwise snarky content.

I am a brain plugged into a giant computer. God created me so that I can appreciate the art that He channels through the mouths and hands of my fellow pixilated life forms, the art that He builds into the mountains and deserts, and the art that He feeds directly into my mind from Above. I take my job very seriously.

I love all these fellow cyborgs (especially the ones in the digital woods of Amazon) who equate having played an audio file "hundreds of times" with it being good. Please stop saying this! That it has "never left" C-3P0's CD player since he bought it does not impress me, nor do his day to day, remedial droid-ass music experiences.

In my simu-world, the amount of time I spend listening to a particular piece of music is calculated to be inversely proportional to its luminosity. For the sake of the Creator, why would you want to wear out such a sacred string of the Unified Binary Code? Why would you want to reduce it to a banal habit with the same impact as your daily roto-joint lubing regimen?

Perhaps it is simply the way my cognitive chips respond to aesthetics. When I have a beautiful experience at some particular geographic coordinates, I generally do not rush back there to create a mediocre retroactive memory imprint.

Does all this mean that on a daily basis I process more $#^!ty sound than lovely sound? For the most part, no, as I like a lot of different kinds of music, from solar flare -inspired Venusian sine wave harmonics to the giant seed pod drum corps from the Spirax system. But when I am sitting in my cheap molded-spacefoam office with wires in my head I am more likely to throw in some old minimal techno tape from Earth circa 1998AD than Rage Against the Machine.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Heart Dubstep

I want to briefly revisit one of my best weeks ever, which happened recently. But hey, it was about the same as last week, which was about the same as this week!

I have been getting paid to play on the internet all week. Absolutely addicted to information now. Musical data coming out of my nose and ears. To top that part off, the skies have staid full of rain, so I don't need to feel bad about being so thoroughly immersed in the warm, brightly-lit office dimension. I am a true corporate wage slave and loving it.

But the best part was that I had a breakthrough with a new kind of music! Just when I think it will never happen again, it hits me like a ton of skunky bricks! It was our Chicago dubstep militia at Sonotheque; the experience was presaged by some serious bass at the last couple Burning Man shindigs.

Though a few certain individuals were buzzing around my lady friends like vultures, I guess it added to the frightful, psyched-out, root chakra vibe. Yes, it is official, somebody discovered the most subliminal, tripped out sound to ever reach Earth. I would go so far as to say that this is the most significant sound to come out of the underground since the invention of what is currently understood as "electronic music".

But if you want the dubstep sound, don't dally overlong on "mainstream" darlings like Burial's Untrue. That is the version for those people who, in the 90s, listened to Roni Size CDs in their apartments while the hardcore massive raved it up Renegade Hardware style. Instead, go to and luxuriate in the sub bass glory!

Back to the present. I have been getting paid to play on the internet all week. Absolutely addicted to information now. Musical data coming out of my nose and ears. To top that part off, the skies have filled with rain clouds, so I don't need to feel bad about being so thoroughly immersed in the warm, brightly-lit office dimension. I am a true corporate wage slave and loving it.

EDIT: I recently realized that I was hasty with one of my judgments above. Burial is sweet like dream-spun ambrosia.