Monday, June 27, 2011

Ssg special - TVO

TVO (The Village Orchestra) came onto our radar about 2 years ago care of an excellent mix that reminded us a bit of Rob Hall, but with slower BPMs and a generally more ssg friendly vibe. Since then we have been closely following his work as both a DJ and a producer. As a DJ, what stands out is his ability to combine techno, IDM, bass music, some ambient and more into a coherent and powerful narrative. As a producer, his sound can be a bit more abstract, exploring ambient / IDM / drone, but he definitely also creates more dancefloor-orientated music. An excellent introduction to the productions of TVO is his album from last year on Broken20, "We Can Remeber It For You Wholesale", which is made up of a 1 hour live ambient / drone / experiemental live recording along with 4 edits for DJing. I recommend spending some time with his productions, there is something about TVO's music that really appeals to me - they feel like they are very honest, unmediated expressions of himself. And this is certainly what you get with the TVO ssg special mix. He has put together a 2 hour journey that traverses a wide range of sounds and styles, and does so in a way that the mix never quite settles, it is always on the move. One aspect of the mix that I deeply appreciate is that it definitely sounds different from other mixes of his that I have heard, not only in the way it is structured, but also in the tempos and tracks selected. I have definitely learned more about TVO from listening to this. A diverse and interesting mix, perfect for the ssgs:

ssg special - TVO

As usual, tracklist to follow next week. TVO started the Broken20 label last year, and it has begun well with great albums from TVO and Erstlaub, and the 3rd release will be out pretty soon from another ssg contributor, Patrick Walker, under the alias Isodyne. And for more info on TVO, check his home page, RA page, and his twitter. Big thanks to Ruaridh for this mix, we have been wanting to do a TVO mix for a long time, and it is a genuine pleasure to now share this with you all. Enjoy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

D&E: we need to talk about Blando...(scattered speculations on why the d&e soufflé ain't rising in 2011)

In the past month I’ve had three searching conversations with music nut friends of mine. All of them were saying the same thing, more or less. The 2011 house/techno soufflé – it ain’t rising. Weirdly, in a year when electronic music writ large and wild is moving through one of its most fluxed up, interesting, future-facing, future-making phases and terrains, its groove-based relative (let’s call it dance and electronic [d&e for short]) has never been more blando, nor more boring. Next week, a big, fat, juicy post dedicated to everything that’s contributed to my sense of 2011’s being one of the great vintages in – and a real and exciting turning point for – electronic music. This week, it’s time for a d&m about d&e. It’s time to ask: why isn’t the soufflé rising? I offer ten possible explanations, in no order or emphasis, & without trying to force any single one of them as thee reason for our present discotheques’ discontents.

1) the medium is the context is the massage is the message is the messenger is the instrument is the producer: laptops

A primary part of the problem, surely, is the fact that everything is mediated by networked laptops, and now mobile devices with tactile GUIs. The whole thing was about laptops and networking, really. Minimal, I mean. Which was what was interesting about d&e in the 00s, let’s not disavow it. In fact, it is the genius and folly of the leaders of the minimal pack to have understood, enacted and, shit, totally embodied this. Its cold rise and fall - what pulse? - also tells us that, really, we were all just aping silicon valley. We’re all on Steve Jobs’ emaciated dick, one way or another. Jumping up and down and hooting like gibbons. We are all of us, mac monkeys. Some of just make money off it, that’s the difference. But at the same time: gosh it is just so fucking boring these days.

It’s not the technology in itself that’s the problem, but our use and abuse of it, and what motivates that. Have a listen to this and this if you’re interested in following it up, and/or watch this, read this, and definitely make the time to read this if you really wanna get down to brass tacks. Point is: technologies are more than merely technical: they embody certain politics, embed a certain ethos, and shape and constrain action in certain ways. Your controller might be more controlling than you think – and who’s controlling the controller? We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us, and then, somehow, most of us become tools holding tools, tweeting each other about the latest mix tools made on our favourite tools, which we play and send to each other – on our tools. What a bunch of tools. Lonely, needy, compulsive tools. The alternative to this might be about asking ourselves what we’re using how much and why, and why using might just make us all into a bunch of users, and why that might be terminal. There is nothing inherently good about networking, or the internet. This does not it mean it’s not useful and interesing. But it does mean that ‘it’ is not democratizing or liberating shit. Technology will not save us, no matter how many times we hit save.

2) media’s historical/social context (and lack thereof)

This from a Guy (Debord) who was alternately incredibly grumpy, then prescient, and finally killed himself.

“History’s domain was the memorable, the totality of events whose consequences would be lastingly apparent. And thus, inseparably, history was knowledge that should endure and aid in understanding, at least in part, what was to come: “a possession for all time,” according to Thucydides. In this way history was the measure of genuine novelty. It is in the interests of those who sell novelty at any price to eradicate the means of measuring it. When social significance is attributed only to what is immediate, and to what will be immediate immediately afterwards, always replacing another, identical, immediacy, it can be seen that the uses of the media guarantee a kind of eternity of noisy insignificance.”

To some extent this points toward the failure of contemporary d&e to be contemporary, and of our inability to protect the past and our common memories of it from being preyed upon for hack pastiche and cheapo nostalgia. Two recent artefactual examples of this are Andy Stott’s new albumette Passed me By, as well as Games’ Channel Pressure. Each is a release with merits and worth spending some time with. But what’s more interesting is the way each has been treated, framed and ultimately received as an artefact that’s ‘worthy of consideration’. The former, to me, is lazy in its positioning. For what it’s worth, I also think that being muddy and having a black guy on the cover is a failure of creative nerve, actually. And one that no amount of Sherburnizing eloquence can quite cover. Honestly, Philip’s review for Pitchfork is, you know, way too good for this release. Sisyphus?? Maybe he’s just out of ideas...? Maybe it’s a bit boring? Maybe it just doesn’t merit this kind of attention? Maybe that is the real Sisyphean task here, to give attention, imbue worthiness and praise on something that, you know, is 'kinda interesting'. There is a lot of lapping up going on between laptops at the mo’. And the latter, Games - it is beautifully done, but adds nothing: why not just listen to Bill Nelson, Rupert Hine, Heaven 17 or, shit, even Jan Hammer? Taken together, the receptiong of both these releases suggest to ‘us’ – remember, I’m trying to get at our reception of these as artefacts, what we expect to ‘get’ from them – a huge desire to get out of the torpid doldrums of po mo. But neither can, and nor can we. To build a future you need to understand the past, but not repeat it, or flog its corpses. And enjoying doing either is likely a sign of perversity.

3) the socio-dynamics of the album review: of peer acceptance, boot lickers and boosters

This point builds upon ones Chris has made before, but bear re-saying, if only because we appear to be forgetful (I know I am). Once upon a time, there were journalists. These near mythical creatures expressed talents creative, critical, crafted and vocational. They developed their chops over many years. And they understood the difference between editorial and advertising. They thought advertorial was something disgusting, something glocal, something grownups expressed quietly on the toilet. Perhaps it was always a big ask for d&e to produce a culture of journalists and journalism, let alone a milieu that fostered, cherished, loved and respected proper journalists. You know, the kind of people who asked tough questions, did research, brooked no bullshit, and got to the bottom of things, even if it broke them. These days, almost without exception, what we have is a bunch of wannabes who are so starry-eyed from getting tweet highfives from the artists that they love, and so addicted to the promo .zip files they receive, and so utterly compromised through their cosy relations with promo, that they either cannot and/or do not ever say anything critical. The surface effects of this are subtle, but the long term implications might be profound: no critical horizon, no contextual frame, just one big anus that a bunch of invested boosters are morris dancing around, alternating between circle jerks and high fives, waiting for the next ‘release’. As Shed so aptly put it in his LWE interview, which bears close, repeated reading (especially for the way the inane questions provoke him to interestingly grumpy responses): I think it’s spam. And Philip Sherburne and Simon Reynolds, as the two journalist/exceptions to this, cannot save us on their own. Nor should they have to.

4) promo: pervasive churnalism

Promo has its fair share of responsibility for this, too. This is no ‘one’ agent’s fault, as Chris pointed out in the piece linked above, it’s a systemic issue, but at the same time, the cottage industry that is, and the cosy cottaging (by proxy) that they support, has contributed to the pervasion and entrenchment of a distro system (and culture, and entourage of profiting beneficiaries) that has progressively eroded the boundary between information and PR, between journalism and advertising. The best example of this is boomkat, and by extension Modern Love. Read me carefully: it is not ‘their fault’ – boomkat are in the business of selling music, mostly excellent music that they are genuinely passionate about. I support them, and think you should too. But I choose them deliberately, as to some extent they are the dudes servicing the ‘aficionados’, the geeks, the maniacs (us). Thing is, get this right: they are trying to sell you things. And, you know, they are Modern Love, more or less. We know this, but keep forgetting it. It reminds me a bit of the 14 year old girls on the school bus, reading Cosmopolitan. Trying thereby to somehow be cosmopolitan. They were all smart girls from a selective high school, and read it ‘critically’ together, brutally taking the piss... But they also, without fail, bought it each month. And they also, quietly, internalised the sex tips and expressed the overall effect of the magazine through their bodies, mostly via bulimia. Cosmopolitan is evil, boomkat is emphatically not – clearly. And yet, and yet... how do we read them, and how/what do we need them as we do?

5) churning and churning in the widening gyre (the falconer can’t be bothered listening to falcon podcast [#197])

But, you know, the rats will have their charlie, will they not? I think we’re all in on this. This gross hunger for novelty, and the rate at which we churn through podcasts, and the horrible hangovers. Which is surpassed only by the thumping rate at which podcasts are released. And you’re still expected to have appetite enough to buy some music? A friend of mine confided: he can now no longer be bothered pirating. The very thought of it fills him with an unspeakable ennui. It’s so weird, isn’t it? It’s almost as if we don’t know how to operate outside an ‘economy’; without scarcity, how do you build evaluative hierarchies? And why cherish anything? This strange proliferation of simulacra, a veritable free for all... and yet, almost totally unappetizing – while it also tends to make people go on horrible binges, orgy without appetite, after which they become wracked with guilt, and feel the need to buy merchandise and attend live shows to atone for their sins...

6) studio time, headspace – and lack thereof

...but little wonder, when, really, so much of the music that is released appears thin, underdeveloped, in need of some slow time in the oven. Creativity takes time and headspace, lots of it. And unique creative sounds, embedded in scenes with their own non-generic locality, that likewise takes years to be able to make and support healthy young’uns. What we have now is a system that eats its young instead. Because production is now ‘worthless’, in a market sense. So producers have to be touring perfomers, constantly in long-haul motion, moving between endless stages in evermore bigbox festivals, where they gyrate for your pleasure. Some might like this, but I think it’s a bum deal: it’s bad for the environment, it’s extremely tiring, and, ultimately, it burns people out. Maybe the stupidist thing musicians ever agreed to was letting people record their shit. See the movie Diva for a full working out of this. And the second stupidist thing was the embrace of mp3. But, you know, we all prefer convenience, don’t we? ‘Ennui, and anomie/goes together in perfect harmony/side by side on my midi keyboard, oh motherboard/ why can’t we?’

7) hype bubbles, or: the temporality of microfame in the public sphericules

Pervasive promo, morbid appetites for novelty, and a lack of quiet space for reflection and creativity also mean that the hype bubbles are blowing bigger and popping faster than ever before. I hope they prove me wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never hear from Mount Kimbie again. And what about Kyle Hall? Kyle who...? Or, for that matter, most of the younger post-dubstep producers? Or people who appear to have been claimed by soul sucking combos of scene vampires and their own egos, which, being invested in and supported by aforesaid hype bubbles, are both massive and fragile, ready to (release) pop at any moment. You need a very steady grip on yourself and the world not to fall into this trap in 2011, especially if you live in Berlin, where the fantasybubblediscoball is vaguely supportable. You certainly need more grip than most vulnerable, attention-and-recognition-craving people (and who isn’t?) possess. And who cares for the trainwrecks? Red Bull Trainwreck Academy/Grouphome, now there’s an idea.... for some reason I think it won’t fly...

8) whither the audacity?

Years ago, a famous German DJ, drunk and confessional in a Tokyo nightclub, confided to a friend of mine something about his countrymen. ‘Most German DJs... they do not dare. They do not DARE!’ Now, this isn’t a German-specific issue, I don’t think (we love you guys). It is about a general lack of audacity. I’m happy to call it balls, provided it be known that they do not inhere in (or adhere to) the male of the species. Back to Shed:

“I think that some other artists think they don’t have any freedoms, and they keep themselves inside of some borders, I dunno. They don’t want to have these freedoms, because they feel safe within these strict lines. They can do more, but they don’t. They think too much about it. They can do more than they are doing. They think that anybody out there wants… ah, forget it [stops himself]. They can do more, but they think they are not in the right position to do something free, something new. Because other DJs are doing the same thing, so they have to do things the same as the others.”

Why? I’m not sure. But I am pretty certain that a fair portion of what’s getting put out really lacks the fundamental audacity that is the mark of creative brilliance. In order to ask ourselves about what’s possible, we have to think to the edges of the impossible. And then just fucking relax. And stop being so fucking normative about the way we make music. Yoda it: ‘do or do not, there is no try.’ What I see is a lot of vague ‘ought’ and ‘should’ floating about, but not much do, not much WILL. Kraftwerk built their own synthesizers. Kraftwerk built their own synthesizers. Or: ask yourself why Mika Vainio, Sasu Ripatti or Sam Shackleton are so incredibly creative and prolific, and why their music is not and will never be confused with anyone else’s. They don’t inhabit this stupid frame. But you don’t have to either. We are freer than we often imagine.

9) But the real problem is ‘us’: we’re not listening

The common relay point in this whole clusterfuck of relations is us, the audience, the receptors. How receptive are we? And, well, how well are we listening? My sense is: most of us = not very well at all. When was the last time you really sat down and gave your undivided attention to a recording? When was the last time you got a bunch of people together and gave yourself to the unhurried sharing of some great music? I’m not talking about using music as a ‘do while’ noise filter for commuting, mac monkeying, internetting, helping you relax and circle jerk w/ your online homies. I mean music taken out of its relation as an audible beta blocker for the viccissitudes of contemporary capitalist work patterns. Fact is most of us ‘use’ music, and at the moment, because of convenience and overwork, we do so in an aesthetically, haptically and, moreover socially impoverished way. I think we’re all responsible for this to some extent. I know I feel it. And I also think it is a fucking waste of one of the most incredible things we’re capable of, flawed though interesting (and somehow sexy, some of us) monkeys that we are. It’s time for us to try to learn to pay attention. Wake up. And pay attention. The music we make between us can be the most wonderful thing, if we let it, if we make it. So let’s.

10) add your own reason, fellow ssgs... I beseech thee; and please disagree with me...

But please do me the courtesy of reading me carefully. If you read this on your way to work, hastily, on a device, and are now ready to type angry, that would be both tragic irony and strong evidence... so please: your best fire, but no flaming...

Monday, June 20, 2011

TodaysArt 2011

For those of you unable to attend the Labyrinth in September worry not, MNML SSGS are working to make sure there is another great option available. The following weekend on the 23rd and 24th September 2011, the TodaysArt festival will be taking place in The Hague. Since 2005 TodaysArt has been one of the leading art festivals in Europe, bringing together forward thinking and innovative visual and performing arts. A central component of this is the music programme, and MNML SSGS is proud to announce that we will be involved in programming one of the rooms over the two nights. We are still in the process of finalising the lineup, but so far confirmed artists include: Delta Funktionen, Oni Ayhun, Senking and Ulf Eriksson. Other ssg friendly acts playing at TodaysArt 2011 in The Hague include: Kangding Ray, Luomo, and the Vladislav Delay Quartet. Once it is all finalised, we'll make sure to update you with the full lineup, but suffice to say, things are shaping up very nicely...

So for our European friends who can't afford a trip to Japan, perhaps the Netherlands might be much more manageable. Presale tickets are only €35 for a weekend pass, or €25 for one day. Excellent value given everything it gives you access to. Presales are now available to purchase online here. For more info, check the TodaysArt website and twitter. And for our Belgian friends, TodaysArt will also be extended this year to include an edition in Brussels the following weekend (30 September and 1 October).

We will keep you updated here as it all comes together. MNML SSGS are very excited to be working with the TodaysArt Festival in The Hague and hope to contribute to making something very special. September is going to be a big month!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Labyrinth 2011

Just a quick post with more information on Labyrinth. So far the first two artists that have been announced are Morphosis and Kangding Ray. Considering they are responsible for two of the best albums of 2011 so far, this is not a bad way to start... Mindgames will be announcing the artists slowly, we will post the full lineup once it has been announced. It is at least as good as last year, if not better...

*EDIT* Also confirmed for 2011 are residents Peter van Hoesen, Donato Dozzy and Function. These guys have a track record of owning Labyrinth. Can't wait to see them back in action!

For overseas visitors coming to Labyrinth, mnml ssgs have 50 early bird tickets (14,000 yen) that can be reserved by emailing us. Please title the email "Labyrinth tickets" (or something similar) and include the name of each person that requires the ticket. You will then pay for the ticket at the door.

For people inside Japan, there are a limited amount of early bird tickets that can be purchased through Lawson (L-Code: 72535). There will also be 100 special discount ticket & room packages available through the Labyrinth hotel booking website. Hotel & Discount Ticket package Booking starts on June 17th. You can also reserve / buy a ticket, and book hotel rooms separately at a later date. The hotel booking is in Japanese, so I'd suggest using google translate, you should be able to work it out. The hotels are a bit removed from the venue, and you need to take a shuttle bus to get to the grounds. The alternative is camping at the site, which is what most people do. And for people worried about getting to the venue, you can do that with a train and a bus. It is pretty straightforward.

For people coming from overseas, and other first time visitors, we will try our best to keep you updated and provide info on mnml ssgs. You can also check the Mindgames homepage and twitter. Please keep in mind that we all work full-time, and don't have spare time to answer specific travel questions about coming to Japan etc. Between google and Lonely Planet, you should be able to work it all out.

The countdown has begun. Looking forward to seeing everyone in September!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ssg special - Einóma

Einóma might not be a name that many of our readers recognise, they certainly were new to me when a promo arrived from them last year. But they are not easy to forget after hearing their music. Listening to their "Tvenna" EP (on la madame avec le chien) I was immediately interested, as it had a very distinctive sound: it has a real theatrical feel to it. The music just grows and builds, it enthralls. These guys are making dramatic techno. We always place a high priority on showcasing artists that are forging their own sound signature, and we were keen to hear what they would do in a live set, especially as their releases already feel pretty live in structure and presentation. The results here confirm what we thought: Einóma are creating a distinctive world; it is restless take on techno that continues to evolve, shift and morph. "Music that lies in between" is the description they give to their own music, and this seems about right. It is hard to completely place, but it definitely has something that captivates your attention. 

Ssg special - Einóma

No tracklisting for this as it is a livepa, but it based mainly on their most recent releases. If you are interested in hearing more of their sounds, I'd suggest trying to track down their "Tvenna" EP and also the "Lost & Found" EP they released earlier this year on Shipwrec. You can get their releases at the Einóma bandcamp, and for more info check their homepage. Big thanks to Bjarni and Steindór for making this recording for the ssgs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kangding Ray tracklist

Last week Kangding Ray released one of the best albums of 2011: "OR". He also released of the best mixes of the year right here at mnml ssgs. Not a bad week... Then again, this is totally in keeping with Kangding's track record, perhaps his defining aspect as a musician is less a certain sound or approach, and more the overriding quality of his music.

And I think revealing the tracklist shows the full brilliance of Kangding's mix, the way he managed to successfully layer and combine different compositions to make something wholly new and unique. This is exactly the kind of mix where delaying the tracklist makes sense. I know I gained an extra level of appreciation for the mix after I saw what he had done.

Steve Reich "Come out"  +  Rhythm & Sound "Outward"
Oneohtrix Point Never "Returnal feat. Antony (Fennesz Remix)" + Mark Fell "Multistability 1-B"
Deadbeat "Loneliness and reverly" + These New Puritans "Drum Courts - Where Corals Lie"
Coh "Andante Facile" + Pole "Alles Klar"
Nam June Paik "My jubilee ist unverhemmet" + Alva Noto "Future"
Ben Frost "Leo Needs A New Pair Of Shoes" + Ricardo Villalobos "Fools garden (black conga)"
Ø "Ionos" + Emeralds "It Doesn't Arrive"
Richie Hawtin "00:24" + Deaf Center "Lobby"
Various Production "Infinity (xx cover)" + Senking "Breathing Trouble"
Pomassl "Tandem distiller" + Lissom "Bask"
Fever Ray "If I Had A Heart (Fuck Buttons Remix)" + Ital Tek "Tokyo freeze (Remix)"
Codes in the Clouds "The Distance Between Us (Nils Frahm Remix)" + Vex'd "Slime"

If you haven't heard either "OR" or this mix, I would strongly encourage you to rectify that quickly, this is music you should hear.