Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Billboard Power 100

This list was published about a month ago, so this is a bit of an old story.  I've been browsing through it from time to time and there is a lot to process. Here are a few random thoughts:

-- Everyone in the top 10 is male, and there are just five women in the top 50.

-- The "I want to fuck you like an animal" guy is the third most powerful person in music as part of a digital sales and streaming conglomerate.  Happiness in slavery indeed!

-- Lucian Grainge, the CEO of UMG, the most dominant music company in the history of the business, and the most powerful person in music according to this ranking, sees himself and his company as underdogs.  No really, he said it!

-- About half of the top ten are in the live music promotion and management side of the business.  That seems about right.

-- The teen pop svengalis like Scooter Braun and agents to the megastars like Jonathan Dickins (Adele's manager) start showing up in the 30's.  These are the people filling the classic, old school management roles, whose job is to make their clients as famous as possible.  None of them make excuses about being underdogs and having to take on multimedia empires and navigate labyrinthian revenue streams to make a living.  Maybe because nobody wants to hear stars and their managers complain about how hard it is to become famous, so they learn to shut up and deal and exude confidence at all times.  But in the upper strata of the list, a good many execs seem to want genius credit for diversifying their business model.  Like in the good old days we could sell millions of CD's and artists could sit at home and make videos, but now we (reluctantly) have to do so much more to make our millions.  Perhaps this is where the underdog mentality comes in -- they've had to leave their comfort zones and adapt in ways that two generations of predecessors haven't, and they see themselves as playing with a disadvantage because of it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast Episode 29

"UFO tribute mix, 74 minutes"

This isn't a tribute to unidentified flying objects, or anything mysterious or supernatural, rather, it's a mix that was inspired by this record that I bought over 25 years ago.

The track on the B-side of the single is called "It Must Be Obvious (UFO Mix)", and for some reason it popped into my head for no discernible reason several months ago.  It's a strange and curious remix no doubt, and can be heard here.  It straddles a line between the cut and paste chaos of "Revolution 9" and the hazy weirdness of KLF's "Chill Out".  There's an incidental connection at best to the Pet Shop Boys song that is nominally being remixed.  A short snippet of the song appears at the beginning, halfway lost in a haze of buried voice samples, as if stuck between two imprecisely tuned radio stations.  Six minutes of wildness later, the original song reappears.  The Pet Shop Boys are essentially irrelevant to the story, it could be almost any song bookending the middle part of the track.

It has never been one of my favourite remixes, but it's always been a memorable one.  I could say the same about the KLF's "Chill Out" -- the concept is better than the results, which makes it a memorable and enjoyable album, if not necessarily a great one.

This mix was meant to be a stylistic cousin to that 25 years old (!!) UFO mix, stretched from nine minutes across more than an hour of ambient noodling and crackles of noise and static.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

D. Glare, "68 Samples at 68 BPM for Phased Heads"; Damaskin, "Our Shadows Will Walk"

Two awesome new releases by two acts I know almost nothing about ...

In terms of a record delivering on the promise of its title, this debut (?) album by D. Glare is about the best example of truth in advertising that you'll find.  Schwarz/Ame/Dixon's "The Grandfather Paradox" mix is an obvious touchstone, but I'm hard pressed to think of another example of album that takes such a seemingly random assortment of source material and transforms into an unexpectedly rhythmic whole.  The early going focuses on looped drones and snippets of electroacoustic music, gradually transforming itself into percussion-led passages that have a snowball's chance of moving a dancefloor despite the watery bass thuds and pinging, scattershot vocal samples.  It takes a long time to reach this point -- about 15 minutes -- and an equally long time to wind down into something vaguely approaching a free jazz-reggae fusion with shimmerings of flute and other uncategorizable noises.  And yet the entire 36 minute run time of the piece seems to fly right by.

The second track, "Improvisations in Phase", ditches most of the insistent rhythmic elements of the first and evolves in a more free flowing way (again, as the title suggests).  It's generally noisier and more difficult to chew on, but its lo-fi, enveloping sounds maintain a clear consistency of purpose that runs throughout the entire album.


I've long been a fan of the Electric Deluxe Podcast for its consistency in posting mixes that mine the links between noise music and rugged, industrial techno.  That combination is very difficult to find in an album though.  That's partly a format issue -- DJ's who spin vinyl want club-ready recordings, not albums half-filled with beatless music that isn't worth lugging on planes and to the clubs.

Damaskin's second album contains one side of the most punishing, brutal techno you'll hear this year, and one side of brain melting, pulsing, maximalist electronic drone music.  He solves the schizophrenia issue by literally separating the two on opposite sides of a limited edition cassette release.   You can listen to either the noise side or the techno side as complete, standalone wholes, or mash them together in a longer listening session as I frequently do (both with this particular album and with these styles of music in general).  I'm hard pressed to pick out highlights because the whole album is so damned good, but I'm partial to "1916" and "We Want Truth" on the techno side (still maintaining some wisps of melodic techno before the rest of the side careens into a more industrial, metallic crunch of rhythmic noise) and the low wail growing into exploding feedback of the 13-minute "Repetitive Transformation" on the noise side.