Sunday

Killing music

Streaming services are killing music

Reissues are killing music

Laptop speakers are killing music.

If anyone wants t-shirts with these slogans, please send me your address.

From an improvised email:

'Reissues are killing music (and they should be illegal)'
I wish there were no reissues/repressing. i wish if you wanted to find that archive record that Mojo magazine had on the cover, you had to get out to a record fair and dig on your hands and knees until you found it (like in that episode of black books), churning up loads of other lost gems in the process.
case in point: I recently acquired an LP of Julie Tipett's record "sunset glow" for the sole reason that it is mentioned in Robert Wyatt's biography as 'a companion to [his magnum opus] Rock Bottom'; perhaps they were written about the same holiday in Tenerife, or just capture the same vibe? Julie tippets seems to have only three mentions in the biography but they appear to have been very close.
According to discogs, the album has only been reissued once during the 90s, and then only on CD. 
The sender included the original inner sleeve, as well a more recent improvement to actually house the disc. It is an utterly excellent record, heavy psychedelic jazz. No-one I know (outside of the bloke in the record shop) has heard of it. It's not on Spotify.

my local record shop is drowning in nostalgic deluxe reissues and carrying very little actual new music. new artists are strangled like by the parasitic vines of their parents' and grand parents' back catalogues. Old records should just https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E54m7vgqXUY. I saw that SFA were putting out a reissue of Radiator, with a 2nd cd of all the bsides. Great, I thought, at last, I could get all the SFA b-sides I always wanted. basketed it. and then... realised I neither needed nor wanted nor deserved it. I decided not to go back, dwell in the past in the familiar warm glow of 90s necrostalgia, but save my money for new and informative experiences. Experiences that make me feel like I'm still alive, rather than that life was something that happened when I was young.

What's more, what you say about the sounds quality is critical, but you forget that 90s records were mastered for 90s stereos and 90s ears. you physically can never hear those records again, even with the unremastered version in your hands. I never heard much of Smashing pumpkins or Manic street preachers at the time; they sound terrible to my new ears now. you can't go back.

CEX have stopped selling CDs. that's how bad things have got. there is such an incredible glut of physical media that it's impossible to even sift through anymore, unless the stock is curated. So reissues are criminal, in a world of landfill-oriented music product.

The same problem in computer games, where backwards compatibiltiy is not remotely a thing; Try to track down Tony Hawk 3 (the best in the series, according to considered opinions); all you can get these days, unless you buy an actual PS2, is the HD remastered collection that grabs bits and bobs from different games (despite this being inferior to TH3). These nintendo things they're bringing out now have an air of completeness, but it's a complete illusion, like the idea that spotify is 'all music ever'. It's not, and it's dangerous to think that it is. it's revisionist necrostalgia. it's how the past gets massaged into an easily digested narrative that ignores the real richness, fertility, of cultural history.

Just don't get me started on streaming music services. They offer all the convenience and none of the support. They are murdering music.

I don't know about Bandcamp. I like what they do, I like what they offer, I like that they stop you freeloading if you try to listen to something more than a few times without paying. But what appended to taking a risk? Buying an album because you liked the singles? I'm inclined to return to an older model with my next release: put up a shareware version, which is the first three-or-so tracks. Buying the record gets you access to the whole thing. This is basically what singles, or radio play, used to function as.

the confounding thing is earache records' "high dynamic range" master series - reissues that are meant to sound as un-compressed as they did back in the day. a brave thing to do in the metal world arms race. 
"what's this? [holds up finger horizontally]"
i don't know..?
"a babymetal waveform".
I think that's actually a very good joke if you visualise it. also it's a reference to a series of jokes in Asterix (where the finger represents a how a very strong man might hammer in a a nail) that might be a bit a obscure.

New standards of revue 2

A few posts ago (about 18 months (at time of writing, many more have passed) I wrote about new ways of looking at reviewing; so i might give a numerator as well as a denominator, to reflect the scope of the art i was reviewing, so that we could give a small mobile game 2/2, which sounds good but limited, compared to giving a terrible film 2/10.

I've a couple more here.

The first is a biggy and has been playing on my mind for awhile; it came up in conversation today when I thought everyone knew I used it, and it involves moving out of just one dimension of quality.

When I'm evaluating something, I've noticed there tends to be three dimensions I judge it on. These are Quality, Fun, and Novelty; and by separating them out, wecan be more precise about exactly where things succeed and where they try to succeed.


This three-mark way of looking at art was inspired by 'school of saatchi', which for its faults, tried to grade different artworks by looking at three criteria, which I cannot find the exact wordings of, but I belive to be technique, originality, and emotional impact. I've adapted them.

Note that I'm not suggesting everything has to have all of these elements every time, but if it doesn't have any, then what you have is simply filler. Something that's only good for dodging the void with.

Quality sounds straightforward, but we need to be careful what elements fall under it; it's a purely technical achievement. So quality is a matter of technique; it's craft, not art, and should be quite objective to measure. Quality is the difference between a record sounding like a demo, and sounding polished and professional. It doesn't affect the content. So beyond just looking professional, this aspect deals with how proficient the craftsmanship, and how many technical skills are on display.

Of course, there can be many dimensions to this; early Billy Bragg recordings are very lo-fi, and 'The milkman of human kindness' wouldn't be improved by adding a 4-minute shredding solo, but they're still well-crafted songs, that are professionally performed. That might unravel this whole sytem, I'm not sure.

Next, how fun is the work?
Is 'fun' subective? It might sound like it, but I think you can quantify the fun in something.
It's not just how many laughs are in a work, but I think it's analogous to how much love the work was made with. This is why I find Bal-sagoth fun, even though they make their music with po-faced seriousness. You can usually spot fun as 'how much fun do the people creating it appear to be having?' An injection of fun should never take away from an overall serious piece; The Wire (more on that later) has elements of humour, without which it would be unbearable. A smattering of humour, of clear love for subject matter, can get you to carry


lastly, how interesting is the work?
Interesting comes in a number of names. Shannon called it 'information' and defined it as how predictable a message is - in other words, what were the chances of sending that exact message?
For me, this is the difference between Art and Craft. Craft is all about technique, about predictability, reproducability. It should do the same thing every time. Building a piano is a craft. Writing a song on a piano is an art, because there's no point in writing the same song twice.

This is exactly why some music, some film, some games, definitely are craft more than art. I've danced to music for half an hour that went nowhere; every bar was the same as the last, and there was no information in the music after the first 10 seconds. That's fine if that's what you want, but its not art, its a workout. Compare this to a well-worked track like, i dunno, 'Sidewalk Serfer girl' by Super furry animals, where every single bar sounds different; every reprise has something different in its production, and you can tell exactly where you are in the song just by hearing one fragment.

Free Jazz has a problem with this, because while like white noise, it is inherently unpredictable, it can end up sounding samey. Even though noise is random on a bit-by-bit basis, it is entirely predictable on a second-by-second basis. So this one might depend on your expertise. And of course, recontextualising something can be an interesting thing to do. that depends on how it is done.


Interestingness is what T. McKenna would have called 'novelty'. How new, how much rich information, how radical, original is the message? These are the works that stick in your head, the ones that change direction or surprise you. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Ephel Duath's 'the passage'; from the first notes, it did not sound like anything else on the sampler I was listening to, or anything else I'd heard before.

I think this interestingness is what I meant by the 'fuckin ell' test I wrote about last time. So an emotional reaction is also a mark of being interesting.  I mentioned fun, but emotions

The Wire ticks all the boxes like nothing else.

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Another way of looking at culture: A test.

I had a conversation with a friend some years ago, about (i think) the film 'chronicle': the end result was we wished we'd just watched 'Primer' again.

Today I am faced with the same problem: Do I watch Gilliam's 'Zero Theorem' for the first time, or his classic 'Brazil' for the maybe 5th time? Should I watch 'The Fog', or 'Wild Zero' for the 3rd time?

In this age of having the choice to program our own entertainment, would I get more out of watching a rich, well-loved classic again, and reliving it, or injecting a new and different work?

In the bit above where I talked about the novelty, or interestingness, of a work as one of three strands to its success, it not be obvious that some works are rich enough to give more information on subsequent viewings (for instance), than others on their first view.

This is something you can only know in retrospect. Like the "fuckin' 'ell!" test, it's worth just checking after you've experienced something.

Squid joke paradox

how do you tell the difference between two squid?
You can't, they're itentacle.

But that doesn't quite work, because 'identity' implies they're different, and makes me want to change the joke to the opposite meaning 'check their identity card',  and any way squid don't have teeth so you can't check their dental records. anyway.

Lost in meaning and semantics and etymology.