Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

THE F.U.N.K GUIDE TO THE BEST MUSIC OF 2016 PART II - A HIP HOP ADDENDA

09:59 Posted by neil kulkarni , , 1 comment
Yup, inevitably I forgot loads in my first end of year list. Here's everything (I think) I forgot with wee quotes of what I wrote at the time of release.  Doubtless PT III will be here anon. Anything I've missed let me know. 

APOLLO BROWN & SKYZOO EASY TRUTH (Mello Music Group)
" wonderful, including a gratifyingly rugged cameo from Griselda Gang's mighty Westside Gunn that's almost worth the price of admission in itself. Great hip-hop is still being made in America. Don't let the media tell you otherwise." 


CAPPO ETHER (YNR Productions) 
"Though he's not a rapper who shouts about his talent, Cappo really has produced some of the finest rap music of the decade so far, so always glad to hear he's still making incredible tracks like this. 'Ether' has a truly startling production, a beat over which gorgeous sighing humming synth textures ebb and flow with real mystery and magic and suggestiveness, like a Kevin Shields production or a Boards Of Canada track. Cappo's flows are, as ever, utterly engrossing and the way the track fades with each fourth snare hit, accompanied by the sound of smashed glass, is just astonishing. Cappo doing what he does — don't let the 'customary' nature of his brilliance stop you listening. A national treasure."

CZARFACE  A FISTFUL OF PERIL (Silver Age) 

"Didn't think they'd be able to pull it off but Inspektah Deck, 7L and Esoteric have done it again. The new Czarface LP, 'A Fistful Of Peril' is perhaps their best yet"


DABBLA YEAR OF THE MONKEY (High Focus)

"What a year for High Focus. Too many classics of which Dabbla's was the latest to break but perhaps the most satisfying and enjoyable."

DA FLYY HOOLIGAN YAMATA NO OROCHI (GourmetDeluxxx) 
"It was the Chemo production-credit that made me explore this and I'm so glad I did. 'Yamata No Orochi' is a follow-up to 'Wu-Baby' and is a homage to DFH's primary influences, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah — great sharp rhymes and sublime production throughout. I'm gagging to hear the debut album not only cos if it sounds like this it'll be awesome but also because it's called 'SCUM — Supreme Cut Untouched Magnificence' and it may well prove useful in the apocalyptic shitfest that 2017 is surely going to be. Arm yourself."

DUMBFOUNDED WE MIGHT DIE (Soundcloud) 

"If you haven't heard Dumbfounded's 'We Might Die' set get online and download a copy as soon as you can — not only does the production find fresh life in trap-paced beats, it also injects real oozing vibrancy into its bass frequencies and snare-hits, an addictive soundworld that booms in headphones and in your car with equal suspension-worrying brilliance. 'Harambe' showcases not only Dumbfounded's on-point rhyme skills but also gives you a hint as to the dark, doomy, supra-aware world his verbals emerge from. A talent to watch in 2017."

ED SCISSOR & LAMPLIGHTER TELL THEM ITS WINTER (High Focus) 
 "Last time we checked in with Ed Scissorhands (2014's imperiously odd 'Theremin EP') he was getting weirder, detaching himself from conventional hip-hop instrumentals and stepping out into his own territory, carving out his own path. He continues to tread that uniquely wayward journey onwards on his startling new full-length LP for High Focus, 'Tell Them It's Winter', allied with Weegie beatmaker and like-mind Lamplighter. Over an arrestingly lo-fi backdrop of nylon-string guitar, gently unhinging radiophonic keyboards and brute-basic electro beats he intones lines of true poetic depth, lines about despair and inertia and nightmares and visions that are never afraid to silence themselves and just let the music build the mood. I'm so glad that in an increasingly identikit UK music scene, Ed is involved in making rap music — and you will be too. Listen." 


FLATBUSH ZOMBIES 3001 A LACED ODDYSSEY 
(Glorious Dead Recordings) 
'My semi-automatic will splatter a n**** like Jackson Pollock/LSD drops in my eyelids...' Predictably hearing a lot of comparisons to Wu-Tang and Gravediggaz regarding Flatbush Zombies' new opus '3001: A Laced Oddyssey'. Truth be told, what this recalls to me is the bleaker parts of the Pharcyde's best work — elegiac, mournful and yet possessed of a life and a terpsichorean urge that's irresistable, enough diverting characters and back-and-forth intrigue to keep you hitting that rewind button. The beats are hard, the loops spooky and spaced, the final effect devastating. Get the album. Superb."

FLIPTRIX PATTERNS OF ESCAPISM (High Focus) 
"'Patterns Of Escapism' absolutely nails a recurrent subject for High Focus artists — the desire to escape reality and identity in a world getting increasingly harsh and difficult to survive in. Great stuff from a great artist on a great label."

GIGGS LANDLORD (SN1 Records) 
 
"Giggs doesn't have "keeps the vibe both hot and ice-cold — lyrical slackness that makes you giggle as much as it makes you check your wing-mirrors paranoically. Get the album 'Landlord' on your Xmas lists now."

JAMBAXTER x LEE SCOTT x TRELLION
MANSION 38 (Soundcloud) 


"A Chemo production nuffsaid - ESSENTIAL"

K-DEF THE UNPREDICTABLE GEMINI (Redefinition Records) 
 "Yes, THAT K-Def, of Real Live fame and with Damu Tha Fudgemonk on vocals you just know this is going to be a scintillatingly hot, massively rewindable, hugely-bumping stagger-n-stumble into summer. Love the way, just as he did back in RL days, K seems incapable of giving his beats anything but the heaviest thump, the snare and kick a dancer's delight of humming depth and neck-snapping treble, even as the loops are such a dreamy-lush delight.Someone get this guy working with rap's biggest names right now — he's lost none of his grace and power."

LMNO MOTHERBOARD (Urbnet) 
"While mainstream rap deoderises and cleanses itself ready for crossover in a permanently constricting hell of autotune and EDM-style 'state of the art' over-texturalisation, loving the fact that out on the edges hip-hop is getting even fucking noisier, darker, angrier and more fucked up (Charles Hamilton, Conway, Westside Gunn, Slayter) — as heard on this latest from ex-Visionarie LMNO. Dutty dutty dutty beats, a filthy bass-saw as thick as a whale omelette, freaky wibblery and loops sparking off in every periphery. Love it."


L'ORANGE & MR LIF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SCENERY (Mello Music Group)
 "Bizarre. Conceptual. Esoteric. Compelling. Orange & Lif were never going to create just another set of jams and their new opus 'The Life & Death Of Scenery' is a cerebral masterpiece portraying a world in which art has been banned on threat of death: DJ QBert, Gonjasufi, Akrobatik and Insight are some of the guests which should give you a hint as to what an eclectic stew it is. Tantalising glimpse of a wild world of weirdness from these two. Get bit by it and then dig into the full-length. And can I just say — GOD BLESS MMG? Always bringing the intrigue."

MORRIARCHI BUGGSVILLE SESSIONS (Blah!)
  "...like Hunter S. at his blunted best..." — Morriarchi's 'Buggsville Sessions' is probably the greatest set the inestimable Blah Records have ever given us . . . .Sublimely effective production from Morri . . . absolutely nothing stopping this being huge, bar media silence and our own inaction. Make it as big as the pictures it draws in your head."

PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS THE GETTING OFF STAGE PT 2 (Soundcloud)


"I feel like fuckin' SISYPHUS", oh god, so great to hear Thes One and Double K back together under the PUTS moniker, dropping a new EP every now and then as part of series of six-track EPs they're calling 'The Getting Off Stage' (this track is from 'Step 2', the latest in the series). If you've heard PUTS before you know what to expect, jazzy, psychedelic beats and loops and razor-sharp back'n'forth between the two MCs — if you're not familiar with PUTS go get 'The Next Step' or 'Question In The Form Of An Answer' and work your way forward from there. LOVE the radiant rhodes and deep funk cuts going on on this track — somehow they always manage to balance their internal intrigue with a real sense of their Cali roots. We've ALL got some catching up to do here. Seek and be blessed again." 

PHANTASM & SOUL BROTHA  LOUDER THAN EVER (Ill Adrenaline) 
"...had to pen them bars/got out the street life had to mend them scars/Praise God or Allah whoever sent us Nas".One of them there Euro/NYC hook-ups that occassionaly deliver embarassment, but sometimes straight-up gold as we have here — Phantasm you might remember from when, alongside partner UG, he made up the Cella Dwellas, one of Loud's impossibly impressive roster from the late '90s. 'Louder Than Ever' is the result of Phantasm hooking up with Germany's own SP1200 maestros 12 Finger Dan and B-Base (aka Soulbrotha). True school feel, dope scratch hook, sharp delivery, this is unforgivably unfuturist and therefore massively enjoyable as just a boombap blast. Tuck in. 

PROBLEM CHILD CREEPER (Par Excellence) 

"'Line up your poo and get your shit straight...' — fucking hell man, when Problem Child get round to dropping their next album it's going to be utterly astonishing, and if 'Creeper' is on it consider it essential already. Twisted production, hysterical and massively incisive rhymes, you know the score. Absolute fucking dons." 




PUSHA T H.G.T.V (G.O.O.D/Def Jam)
"I find PT's voice remains one of the most compelling in hip-hop. The music here is as basic as it can get, a single bass note repeated from which the programmed snare and hi-hats seem to to flow with a truly awesome anti-groove that's so reminiscent of the kind of polyrhythms Miles used to fuck with in the early '70s. Thing is, cos it's so short, I've already played it a dozen times in the last half hour. Goddamn. Muhfukka's got me addicted like crack.For all those who really, really couldn't give a shit about the latest Cudi/Drake beef, pump this LOUD."



REMULAK/M9/SKRIBLAH HIGHLIFE (Village Life)
 "Oh my word — WHAT a stunning production. Remulak, Cappo & Lewis Parker recently released a stunning seven-inch called 'Karma/Maintain' on Village Live, and here the label deliver the next bomb-drop from this previously unheard but astoundingly accomplished-already producer. The loops and beats on 'Highlife' are just utterly sublime, gorgeous unfolding shadows of stealth and shade, thrumming cello and delicate percussion swooping with an orchestral beauty redolent of Vaughan Williams' folkiest work, a beat plucked from a gorgeous place somwhere between Canterbury and California. M9 comes more than correct as usual with Skriblah on the hook and the mighty Evil Ed lacing together a gorgeous re-rub on the flip. A slick full colour cover with free stickers shows that Village Life are clearly a label who CARE about every aspect of what they put out — from front to back and everything inbetween. Essential, and a label to definitely watch."

RUSTE JUXX & KYO ITACHI METEORITE (Shinigamie Records)
Great combo this. 'Meteorite' is the single from the album of the same name and it's just wonderful. Great full-fat loops and beats from Itachi and Juxx snarling with real aggression and bite. If it's any pointer to the long-player, it's going to be an essential.

SLAYTER DIRTY GAME EP (Cold Game/Home Team) 


"because fuck you, that's why."

SLEAZY F BABY ALL BLAHK TRACKSUIT (Blah!) 
 "I'm looking in the mirror like, Well, well, well — you're a handsome fucking devil and you're going to hell'". Like Black Josh, what raises Sleazy above the herd is his compelling stage presence and delivery. Where alot of the greatest UK rap this year, understandably given current events, sounds broken, hopeless, strung out, Sleazy still sounds close to fury, close to exploding outwards, close to the edge rather than already fallen over it. Essential music from an essential label for anyone wanting to hear the true sound of the UK in 2016 and onwards." 

SMOKE DZA GEORGE KUSH DA BUTTON (DON'T PASS TRUMP THE BLUNT) (NA) 
"because it's funny and fierce and sharp and fuck Donald Trump obviously."

SOFA KING AND BIG TOAST SAVE YOURSELF KILL EM ALL (Revorg)
  "Raw, raucous, fuzzy, fucked-up hip-hop from the superb 'Save Yourself Kill Them All' EP. If you like that Action Bronson, Roc Marc thang then I consider you a traitor to this country if you don't support their UK equivalents! Get on it immediately."

SONNYJIM MUD IN MY MALBEC  (Daupe!)
 "Utterly unmissable release from The Purists' ever-reliable Daupe imprint (you haven't picked up the Westside Gunn reissues? Y'eejit! Geddem!). Sonnyjim, as any fule kno, has been spitting out flames from the UK's second city for some time now but here he brings together a selection of self-produced tracks that's just devestating — musically as fired by Ka and EL-P as Roc Marc, lyrically as scattershot yet lethally devestating as we've come to expect from Sonny. Fantastic cameos from Westside Gunn and the unimpeachable Quelle Chris seal one fucking beauty of a deal. Essential release of the month by miles. Do not pass summer until you've scored yourself a fix." 

SPLIT PROPHETS DELTA BRAVO KILO (Split Prophets)
 "A heads-up that alongside that astonishing Ocean Wisdom LP — another UK release that should absolutely be dominating your days right now — is the astonshing 'Delta Bravo Kilo' from Bristol's mighty Split Prophets, of which 'The Mo' is just one among an array of highlights. A totally in-house production throughout its score of tracks, the album is a refreshingly focused and incisive listen and 'The Mo' showcases exactly why — fantastic production and rhymes from all involved. Like Manchester's Levelz, Split Prophets aren't from London and so consequently won't have the mainstream press or radio paying them much attention, but anyone who wants to hear the true sound of the UK right now should be tuning in (and nary a fucking guest pop vocal or mind-numbingly dumb cameo in sight). Stupendously good."

Monday, 28 November 2016

THE F.U.N.K GUIDE TO THE BEST MUSIC OF 2016


Don't need to go into why 2016 was the shittiest year in living memory for the planet and its people. Here's my best of 2016 i.e the music that helped me through it, with my thoughts at the time of release.  If you have anything you think I need to know about before we call it a day on this year, please let me know in the comments. Doubtless there'll be part 2 along soon when I remember everything I've forgotten here. 



50FT WAVE BATH WHITE (StrangeAngels)


"The heat remains, the thump, the fuzz, the noise, the sharpness, the blast. What Bath White also gives is space, dazzle, a little more psyche, a little more shape, a little more glimmer. It's a total delight from front to back."


BELFRY MESSA (Aural)



"I'm an old man, if guitar solos and dead-obvious riffs can be done with the kind of full-tilt gusto displayed on 'Belfry' give me more give me more."

BISK  RAW SHIT EP (Blah!) 

 

"stoner-estate doom and despair, fractured fucked up sounds that mirror the slow unpeeling of one's own eyeballs, loops and beats that sit in this strange queasy place dead-centre between old-skool grit and nu-skool electronics."

BLACK JOSH APE TAPE (Blah!) 


"Loving Black Josh's 'Ape Tape' — just one in a welter of ace releases from Blah of late. Beats and loops that make Danny Brown sound like Drake and rhymes that cut like a scalpel to your skull.  Don't leave 2016 behind without it."

CATS OF TRANSNISTRIA DIVINE (Soliti)

". . . them and you perhaps truly over on the other side of life, perhaps finally rewound/fast-forwarded into the freedom of total disappearance. Beautiful music for the doomed. That means all of you. Seek and get lost."


Thursday, 10 November 2016

TWO WORDS THAT SHIT ON MY SOUL: 'COPY APPROVAL'

Don't get me wrong, press releases, sleeve-notes, ad-copy, that's different, I seek copy approval in those instances. No, what I'm on about is something that occurred to me yesterday, something that's never occured to me before in nigh on 25 years of doing this. Something I'm alarmed to find is happening increasingly in the world of mag journalism, specifically music journalism. And I blame it almost entirely on 'creatives'. Beardy fuckers. 




Long story short - I pitched a feature on a label I've loved for a while to a mag I've written for for awhile. The editor, a long-term colleague and friend and all round ledge yayed it, and actually gave me more pages than I expected. Started compiling interviews with label boss and roster. This is where the oddyssey of bullshit started but you don't need to know all the details - suffice to say the finickity sense of maniacal control over me (coupled with his operational ineptitude) that the PR seemed to be demonstrating was already ringing alarm bells through the whole process. The artists also showed signs of that generational gap between my generation of writers and artists and the current self-regarding fuckers currently calling themselves 'creatives'- the old pros on the label were swift and sure, knew the process, played the game like pros. The rest moaned about the questions, only got me answers three days after deadline day and generally acted like the spoiled little bitches they clearly are. 


ANYHOO - before I disappear up that particular alley of anger (been very radgy this week tbh) the crowning turd in the whole shamoli was 3 days after deadline day when I got this e-mail. Remember, I fought for this feature. I pitched it and secured it. I've been positively and proactively writing about the artists on this label for nearly a decade cos I think they're ace. And liddrally a minute before I was gonna click on 'send' I get this e-mail. Not from my editor, or a section editor or anyone from the mag. From the fucking PR. I quote it verbatim and with its original spelling. 


"Can i PLEASE have a look at the final piece before you submit it. We definitely need approval. This is very importnat to us!"


I know. 
I know. 
I couldn't believe it either. 




Exclamation marks, the last refuge of the scoundrel. TBH, when I first saw that it was like someone shat on my soul. I was shocked. I felt violated. And fuck you if you think that's an overreaction. Almost immediately fired back the following. 


"Approval? Never ever in 20 odd years of writing had to send a feature for approval first.   By the way,  I am the writer of the article. I pitched it, got commissioned and now I'm delivering it. This is called 'journalism'. If you wanted an advertorial you should've paid for it.  Or perhaps you would've rather written it yourself?"


Was trembling with rage. Still am, recalling it. I'm sorry but the fucking ENTITLEMENT of this generation of 'creatives fucking STAGGERS me. Unsurprising when they've told themselves and are told by others of similar guilessness and gauch that they're special, superior to those drongs in 'non-creative' jobs (i.e people who have to survive without pater/mater's help).

E.G - check THIS out and see if it doesn't make you simultaneously want to vomit and kill. 

What's perhaps more disturbing is the utter obliviousness as to why seeking copy approval for a mag-feature might snag so much, is actually so totally offensive for any writer. For so many of these cunting new 'creatives' the idea of 'journalism' is indistinguishable from PR, synonymous with the regurgitation of press releases to the point where they can see no reason why final say-so of the copy shouldn't be down to them, just as it would be with entirely corporate work.

This wasn't someone overstretching their bounds, rather for this generation of 'creatives' the map has been redrawn - copy is something they feel they can dictate if they are involved in any way in the process. The idea of stepping off and back and then trusting the writer to do his/her thing is anathema to them. Writing has to, at some point, be a private non-collaborative act, and for magazine work it's between the writer and whatever ed has commissioned it. Modern creatives, and I'm including some new eds as well as PRs in this, simply don't understand this. The writer is a lackey to them, and consequently can be treated with nil respect, just ground like a barrel-monkey, puppet-stringed through the writing process. This is what happens after a whole decade-long generation of people involved in magazines have all been all too happy to talk about content-provision and s.e.o: with mercenary pusillanimity smearing and blurring the lines between ad-copy and editorial to the point where the writer's job, his or her task, is simply to be the workhorse behind cranking the words out, collating the PR guff and turning it into copy. 



 With such a degenerated role - which I entirely blame not on PRs or publishers but on the craven fucking cowardice in not standing up to these cunts of way too many magazine editorial staff in the past decade-odd - the writer should presumably just acquiesce, reduce their writing to something almost 'guided' by the PR, surrender any creativity and any actual pleasure in writing to the business of keywords, target-reach, marketing and managing 'the message'. I can't stress to you how depressed this tiny wee e-mail exchange (and of course, my e-mail was ignored/breezed over) left me. Cos if this is what writing means now, magazine writing - fuck it, I don't wanna fucking do it anymore.



That's what was so soul-sappingly depressing about this tiny little aperture through which I glimpsed the world of modern journalism. I realised that now, I'm dealing with a different type of PR, and a different kind of conception of what writing and press coverage is about. What simply didn't compute, doesn't compute with these people is the idea that a writer might actually care about what they create for money. That a writer might actually have their own things to say within their writing which might not entirely tally up with what's in the PR strategy. Because I still believe this, my communication with this new generation of media-people suffers from a definite gap in our thinking, our syntax, our meaning. For this particular guy I was dealing with a category error was going on in his thinking, and my thinking - it felt like I might as well have been talking Swahili . For him there was NO difference between writing a press release and writing a feature. For me, obliterating the difference between the two is equivalent to obliterating my identity as a writer. Yes I'm aware that I should just get with it. I'm aware that those getting ahead are precisely those people who can synonymise ad-copy and editorial. Too late for me now. Thank fuck.

Of course, what this largely rests on is a breakdown of trust - and for anyone who's worked in an institution that's dying you KNOW that breakdown of trust is one of the first signs and symptoms of deterioration. I think increasingly PRs don't trust writers anymore and they've learned not to, encouraged by editors and magazine staff who also don't trust writers anymore. Once that trust breaks down there's no rebuilding it. And so the media conducts its work in a constant air of suspicion and second-guessing. Everyone tries to interfere in the writing process. And at no point is the writer trusted to simply get on with their job. At all points the writer is prodded, pointed, guided, dictated to. And so what emerges from such a process is anaemic cowed writing. Don't get me wrong - there's a ton of great PRs out there who understand what a bad idea for their strategy asking for copy approval can be. But I think those kinds of PR are a dying breed. Partly also it's down to a movement I detect within PR and PR training in which writing skills have become less important than general management skills - consequently there's a farming out of writing to copywriters and hungry hacks. When those same hacks are used by papers and mags for writing editorial, PRs increasingly see no reason why their presence during that process shouldn't be exactly as over-seeing and intrusive as it is (and should be) for corporate work.





Us hacks are outnumbered massively now. There are way way more PR people than journalists in the UK and inevitably this poses dangers for journalism.  The growth of 'native ads' (shudder) and their commercial success is going to further blur the categories for this generation of PR and writers. For readers, used to clicking and digesting stories quickly, the checks for authority, veracity and motivation I try and teach my research students simply won't occur. Existential threats like native ads are not normally responded to well by journalists or print-media organisations. If those organisations recruit their management (as is increasingly happening in all management) from purely corporate non-journalistic backgrounds then why should we be surprised if within print journalism corporate etiquette changes in coming years in favour of cutting costs and purely acquiescing to PR? If editors increasingly see no reason why editorial staff shouldn't be primarily engaged in the worlds of marketing and advertising, lubricating the cashflow from corporate coffers to publishers by generating the correct content, to the detriment of less-lucrative actual opinion and investigation? Currently everyone seems to dictate 'content' apart from the fucking writers - the idea of 'reader-led' content itself seems keen to obliterate the notion that now and then as a writer there are things you WANT and NEED to tell the reader about, even if the reader hasn't previously expressed an interest in that subject. In truth readers NEED that, want occassionally to be told about things they don't know about and about things they haven't already expressed an interest in via clicks or social media interactions. The language of empowerment-of-readers masks a huge underestimation of readers, and a fundamental misunderstanding of what reading can feel like precisely because it's those intangibles, those affections and relationships we build as readers and writers that are unquantifiable and unamenable to statistic analysis.




The revelatory power of journalism will be extinguished if readers, or rather the algorhythmic agglomeration of reader-interaction (which is a totally diff. thing from an actual reader but is handy for ed's and publishers bereft of imagination), becomes the sole consideration of mags and papers. The youth of those involved, the shedding of old heads for new shills, also worries me because I remember being a young writer and being scared - wanting to get everything right, wanting to stay a writer. 24 hour news cycles means that press-releases, things that journalists used to disregard now go straight from e-mail into print saving time and money. Because it's assumed that the young are more 'in touch' with the digital world young writers with few contacts are learning that as a writer they have to suck up to PR, agree to things like copy-approval, skewing of stories, keeping questions easy. Again, don't get me wrong -  PRs should certainly be a source for journalists and some of my oldest and dearest friends in the music industry are PRs. Some of the most exciting writing I read is from young journalists. It's just that increasingly I feel the new generation of PR is all about bossing the journalistic process itself and is finding increasingly that young journalists, keen to keep what precarious toe-hold they have in such a nepotistic and incestuous industry, are more than keen to play ball. These are not 'transitional' times. They're tragic times. 

What startled me, in online discussion with editors and colleagues, was the stories I heard about demands for 'copy approval' becoming a fairly common occurence - not just from the big names and stars but the tiniest poxiest little labels and artists. Undoubtedly fear of stitch-up is a driver too, and the press can't exactly cover themselves with glory on that score. But the ASSUMPTION behind the e-mail I mention, the sickening feeling that THIS IS THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE NOW GRANDAD really shocked me to my core. With increasing amounts of journalism students seeing Marketing & PR as more viable career roles than the dwindling amount of remaining writing jobs we should be worried about how soon unfiltered corporate communication will entirely replace journalism altogether. 




For now - Hacks - if a PR seeks 'copy approval' grass them up to your editor like I did and then tell em to go fuck. We are NOT fucking finished yet. 
NB: At least the whole experience inspired me as to an easy starter for my next Print Media lesson in my proper job. Gonna sling up on the board 'Publisher', 'Editor', 'Advertiser', 'PR', 'Section Editor' and ask my group - who is your PRIMARY responsibility to when writing for magazines? 

I hope one of them gets the right answer which is of course not even on the board - the reader. The writer and the reader are the two most devalued people in current media thinking. But THAT is who any writer should care about first and foremost, the reader. Cos unlike all the other people in that list the writer and the reader BOTH WANT THE SAME THING. Friendship. The chance to say and hear things you won't say or hear anywhere else. The chance for intimacy, for sharing, for making someone laugh, think, feel. Friendship. Never ever ever fucking forget it. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

POP GOES THE WEASEL WORDS #3: 'ICONIC'



Writers! Use the word 'iconic' when NOT talking about religious art of the Eastern Orthodox Church?

THEN STOP WRITING. NOW. AND NEVER WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN. I MEAN IT. CLOSE YOUR LAPTOP. WALK AWAY. YOU HAVE SURRENDERED THE RIGHT TO EVER USE THE WRITTEN WORD AGAIN. YOU MUST NOW COMMUNICATE PURELY THROUGH A SYSTEM OF GRUNTS AND FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND PRAY THIS WILL ENABLE YOU TO SURVIVE. YOU HAVE EXCOMMUNICATED YOURSELF FROM THE WRITING AND INDEED THE HUMAN COMMUNITY AND FURTHERMORE YOU ARE A LAZY HACKNEYED CLICHED DICKSPLASH FOR WHOM SHOOTING IN THE FACE WOULD BE TOO MILD A REBUKE. STOP WRITING. I MEAN IT. YOU ARE SCUM. YOU ARE DERMOT O'LEARY. YOU ARE CHRIS MOYLES. YOU ARE FIRST AGAINST THE WALL WHEN WE THIN THE HERD AND YOU WILL SPEND ETERNITY ROARING AND ROTTING IN THE HELL THAT SURELY AWAITS YOU. LIKE THIS DIPSHIT.



I first started noticing 'iconic's increased use in the gruesome deathspiral of non-vegetative thought that was the late 90s, together with other soubriquets of meaningless cheerleading like 'legendary', 'top' and 'quality'. Its rise to linguistic pre-eminence can be closely traced to the simultaneous rise of stercoraceous fucknuckles like O'Leary and Cowell and Moyles and Vernon Frigging Kay and Fearne Pissing Cotton and Edith Shitting Bowman, that generation of pop's curators who supplanted the tedious old likes of me and replaced our windbag tldr verbiage with a checklist of approbation they could rotate on pretty much a permanent basis no matter what poopamadoop they were playing/boosting. Legendary. Classic. ICONIC. LEGENDARY.

What these thick bastards needed was a word that could perform a dual function.

1. In use, give the appearance of aesthetic appreciation and cultural understanding while handily being as close to meaninglessness as possible.

2. Laminate and varnish something as so assuredly beyond critique that any further discussion of it could now STOP,  safely placing it in an untouchable roped off zone which enables no further interrogation and prohibits any further explanation.

A sanctifying, censorious word despite its facade of fanboy rhapsody. A word that makes its user appear articulate while handily offering the chance for no further articulation. And because there's so much fucking laziness out there now, because there's so much shite to generate for so little money, 'iconic' is perhaps now the most overused word in pop critique. In Cotton and Kaye's world, the NME/late-MM world, the Radio 1 world,  which is now the grisly matrix of prosaic confines and dumbed-down poverty-of-expression that pop criticism exists and excels in, EVERYTHING anyone makes is BRILLIANT and EVERYONE who makes ANYTHING is a GENIUS. New Kings Of Leon album? GENIUS. New Ed Sheeran single? BRILLIANT. Noel Gallagher's pinched off another sweetcorn-laden rhombus of ordure to send down the pipe to his record company? LEGENDARY. Adele seen out shopping at Primark? ICONIC. After so many years in which so many of these enemies-of-humanity have been overusing 'iconic' to such nauseating effect we now have restaurants serving 'iconic Vietnamese cuisine', lists coming out of our arses of the most 'iconic . . . ,  the word basically seen as interchangeable with the words 'old and 'famous' and synonymous with 'well-known'. We have music writers so terrified of actually having to think and write about music that they reach for 'iconic' like a junkie reaches for his works - feeling the blissful hit of tranquility when 'iconic' delivers its numbing mind-paralysis on thought and expression. ANYONE still using this word after even the Daily Telegraph and Beyonce have spotted its ubiquity doesn't just need to stop writing, singing, doing whatever it is they do - they need to go to a dark lonely place with a bright shiny gun and seriously consider if their paltry worthless existence is worth not rubbing out altogether. If you read 'iconic', rip it out, burn it down, eject that writer from your world firm and fast. It is nought but an immediate signifier that the person you're reading is a copper-bottomed cunt and what they've written only has one intent - the death of truth and the victory of Satan.

Keep em peeled.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

"BUMBLING INEPTNESS & FASCIST INTRANSIGENCE" - I WAS THERE, EUROVISION, BIRMINGHAM, UK 1998


WE WUZ robbed. Christ, not the UK, I mean Belgium. Did you hear the gorgeous Melanie Cohl's gasping sigh of Saint Etienne-style cine-pop, 'Dis Oui' ("Come, if you are tired of your vacuous loves/Come, the world needs reconstruction/You can't stand those bombs that explode around us/You know it's enough to be two/To believe we are already stronger")?

It was the only truly great pop song in this year's contest, and fulfilled that function every Eurovision needs: the lost classic, the cruelly overlooked mini-masterpiece lost to the annals of pop oblivion. Last year, it was Hungary's 'Nincs Semmi Baj', the year before, Switzerland's 'Hast Noch Viel' and, yes, I am a Eurovision fan, and I'm nearly in tears.
Not just because of the heartbreaking sight of Melanie seeing the initial rush of votes peter out to a trickle (what the f*** do the Finns know about pop, anyway?), but because this was the year I got to actually go to Eurovision, and demystification doesn't even begin to tell my sad story. It was exactly what I expected. Watching on television, the one thing that comes across is just how hideous the scene behind the perfect facade must be. Trapped behind the scenes, you can't get away from it. Eurovision is hell.


The running of Eurovision is an odd mixture of bumbling ineptness, fascist intransigence and outward pristineness. Onscreen, it's clockwork, backstage, it's a cruel lottery, where careers are snuffed out by chance, journalists openly cry in frustration and photographers wrestle each other to the ground and break each other's glasses. First off, don't assume that, just because you're covering the event for your national newspaper, you're actually allowed to enter the auditorium. By the time I get to the press area they're raffling entry tickets in a bucket and a woman from Switzerland is banging her fist on a counter screaming "Fine!! Zurich's premier paper will have a blank front page tomorrow!"
"No photos inside!" barks a security guard as I make my way into the arena, and get frog-marched to my "very last" seat, wondering why there's around 20 empty places around Jonathan King. Smirking twat. Before the contest proper starts, the lamentably unfunny warm-up man punctuates a series of films about the supposed "rebirth" of Birmingham (a few new restaurants for the rich, a few new "themed heritage centres"... anything to appeal to media scum and f*** local public services, as far as I can tell).
And then we're off, Terry "Weave" Wogan's shit-eating grin beaming at us, that talentless ******* Ulrika Jonsson beaming even harder and I immediately realise what's wrong. Everyone here hates Eurovision. Everyone here despises what it was, wants to save it, or smirk at it, or in some way express their "opinion" on it.


THIS IS fatal. The whole point of Eurovision is in a two-fold romanticism — a belief in the transnational, post-literary power of great songs to move a whole continent; and a belief in a nu-Europa world of feckless leisure and unity-through-the-ephemeral that links us from Dublin to Dubrovnik. That imagery, that charming faux-sophisticated Ferrero veneer, that innocence has dropped out of Eurovision, what's on show tonight is something altogether harsher, crueller, entirely in service to the PR opportunities it offers Birmingham and the BBC; from Tony Blair's creepy intro to the programme ("What better way to promote good relations and reaffirm trust and friendship than through the power of music?"), to the godawful postcards that separate each song with a benign image of Britain changing for the better.
So, the music, and, my God, it's weird and wonderful to hear it without Wogan's wanky commentary (like an eight-year-old jabbing your ribs at the cinema and giggling). Croatia start a trend that disturbingly continues all night — a big shitty ballad — and even a Bucks Fizz-style sudden disrobing can't save her. Greece have bad eye make-up and a horrible Heart-style pomp. France and Spain clearly don't care any more and chants of "Guildo!! Guildo!!" are already booming from the German camp to my left.

After a Slovakian folk monstrosity and a pleasant enough Polish indie band, Israel's Dana International and Germany's Guildo Horn and The Orthopaedic Stockings raise the first and only shot of bedlam in the entire show, but even then it's entirely disappointing. 'Diva' is limp Eurobeat only worthy of 20 seconds on Eurotrash, and Guildo seems just too damn knowing to be a genuine maverick. Malta's Chiara is lovely, the rest slips through dully (including Imaani's shamefully thin 'Where Are You?' — a title that may haunt her sooner than she thinks) until that lost Belgian classic. For the voting, I head backstage to soak up the tension with my fellow scribes.

I roar for my Belgium, they throw individually wrapped fruit-salads at me when I boo the Norwegians: it's actually turning a bit nasty, when a big German snapper tells me to "Please be sit down, please, f***ing crazy asshole guy" as I do my touchdown dance when Melanie gets 10 from the Slovenians.

Israel inevitably win, everybody nods agreement and then hostilities are resumed 'tween us hacks and the BBC junta. Do we get to go backstage? No. Do we get to meet any of the artists? No. Is there an aftershow party? Yes, but only one person per nationality is allowed in, there's no photography allowed and there may not be any actual artists there. I'm pissed off; the Austrian Pepe Le Punks who've been here for two weeks and have their T-shirts, shoulder-bags, lighters, caps and beach-towels to prove it are fuming.
"Thees ees forking chaos!" they bray, before stampeding over to the photo-pit in prep for Dana's two-minute press call. She shows up and throws a few shapes and, when asked: "Have you a message for the people?", replies, "We are all one universe", and then scoots off in a haze of eyeliner and Blue Stratos.
True to form, the aftershow party is grim, Guildo pretends to be a dog for a whole hour, Dana's swamped and protected, and I ask Melanie Cohl if she's got a light. Somebody Belgian says something in Flemish to her, and she swans off, ignoring me utterly. Cow. Goddess.
OK, here's the lesson here: in the making of television — which is all Eurovision is — nothing matters other than the final delivery of those perfect images to the screen. If you watched it at home, you were closer to the Eurovision ideal than we who saw the belly of the beast, and when you've seen Jonathan King swamped by desperate hacks eager for any scrap going, you've seen the pits. I'm staying at home next year because I still believe. Just. 
Those choice EUROVISION lyrics in full
IF KAFKA was still alive he'd write Eurovision lyrics. Eurovision lyrics make Smog sound like Aqua. This year the continent-wide misery level reached new depths of anguished agony.
CROATIA
"Pain has led the way/May the sun never rise/May I cease to be"
FRANCE
"Your manners are well assured/ But your heart bleeds"
SWITZERLAND
"He'll take you and he'll break you/Because it happened to me"
POLAND
"The wind has blown our joy away and brought us only pain"
SLOVENIA
"And my heart lays down and dies/Will the gods not set me free?"
ROMANIA
"If I could touch your world/ I'd call you back so help me, God!"
ESTONIA
"Riding on the depth of our despair/Our waiting sailboat rocks impatiently"
TURKEY
"My loneliness knocked my silent door again/This is the final storm, cry my heart"
MACEDONIA
"Somebody stop the dawn outside/Wishing this red wine would kill the pain/I may be breathing, but, frankly, I'm dead"
GREECE
"Rules my soul like the furies/With a fear as hard as stone"
© Neil Kulkarni, 1998

Monday, 10 October 2016

METAL I'M DIGGING AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN

[OK, lots to catch up with from 2016 thus far but fuck me - first WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT SWALLOWED AND THEIR ALBUM 'LUNARTERIAL' FROM 2013? I CONSIDER THIS A MAJOR DERELICTION OF DUTY FROM ALL OF YOU. FOR SHAME!Seriously, this is a twisted, evil, revolting, primordial, unholy fucking death-spiral of an album, an album so hostile to life, hostile to music, hostile to not flaying yourself inside out it almost makes me wish I was 15 again so I could walk the streets with it as my permanent soundtrack. Flamethrowers in the mind. A self-pity so extreme it immediately transcends self-loathing and jumps straight into self-immolation. Seriously, just put yourself in the way of this shit.]


Now that small bit of metal-related housekeeping is out the way - a few things from recent months that have been caving my stoopid little skull in.


ORANSSI PAZUZU 
VARAHTELIJA 
(Svart Records) 

Top of this list cos it's SO FUCKING GOOD and yup, sorry I'm late on this (it came out in March) but holy fuck what a great oddly-funky psychedelic doom metal record this is. Opener 'Saturaatio' hips you that something unique is going on here, a feral howl of Uffomamut-style motorik-psyche, vocals with those essential blood-caked cracks inside the grain. Five minutes in it switches into spellbinding Goblin/King Crimson-style harsh-prog (replete with organ so Hammond-hammy you can practically see John Lord leaning into the blacks'n'whites). OP are capable of an awful lot as a band - squalid 70s-Miles-style funk, mind-melting motorik psyche, brutal metal, crucially their stylistic freedom never comes across as showboating, always seems a totally natural emanation from the previous moment, creating songs of monumental length that don't waste a second and that remain absorbingly odd and lysergic throughout. For me, best metal of the year thus far and I can't see it being surpassed. E-fkn-ssential. 

INTER ARMA 
PARADISE GALLOWS
(Relapse) 

A little preposterous (if opener 'Nomini's portentous dual guitar lines don't have you giggling you're a frownier man than me Gunga Din) but crucially it's the preposterous DONE WITH GUSTO and BELIEF and nary a smirk. Inter Arma do this weird mix of the worst/greatest excesses & ambitions of 70s prog with the heaviest murkage of 80s & 90s doom, black metal and sludge which shouldn't work but works a freakin' treat throughout 'Paradise Gallows'. Crucially - every single musical element, from the insane solos to the arrthymic cesspit of the riffs and grooves, has clearly been painstakingly rehearsed to the point of diamond-tightness, Mike Paparo's stunning guttural voice veering between dubbed-out reverb-space and being so in yr face you can feel his acid spittle melting your eyeballs. An epic deserving of the name. 


SUMAC 
WHAT ONE BECOMES 
(Thrill Jockey)

I know I know, you see the label and you think - this aint gonna be proper metal, fuck that. Don't let it fool you. I too get bored of post-rocky spins on metal but detach it from those prejudicial referens and 'What One Becomes' takes on its true stature as simply a molten planet of heaviosity, v. reminiscent of Yeasayer and American Heritage for me. Scalding, defiantly unwestern guitar work and a real sense of pindrop silence and mahoosive space - when it crunches hard you forget this is called 'experimental' and just enjoy the fucking whallop of it all. Also the passages where it does just slip into noise are tactile and bracing and scratch at you like Caspar Brotzmann Massaker. I'm digging it.

VAINAJA 
VERENVALAJA 
(Svart Records) 
I love the fact Bandcamp allows bands to write their own blurbs. Here's Vainaja's explanation of their new 2nd album's title . . . .

Verenvalaja” translates into Blood Caster – the twisted one derailing the flow of life to stream towards his own creation.This noun is also the title of a tome, presumably written by Wilhelm Waenaa, a mystic figure of Finnish folklore. It is known that Wilhelm was one of the leading forces behind the 19th century cult of Vainaja spreading terror in rural Finland. 

So that clears that up then - these Finnish loons actually use the text of the Book Of Wilhelm as their lyric sheet (and if you dl the album from Bandcamp you get a pdf of the text - bargain!). To an extent this will barely impact on your listening cos if you can make out anything Wilhelm the singer (actually credited with 'vocals, bass and preaching') is singing over Kristian's ('guitars and cantoring') wankfest of riffage and mayhem and Aukusti's ('drums and gravedigging') slo-mo doom and light-speed blastbeats you're either Finnish or mad. Possibly both. Massive 90s black/death influences going on here - I'm reminded throughout of Celtic Frost, Type O Negative, Amorphis' still-untouchable 'Karelian Isthmus'. The synths, occassional blasts of orchestral arrangements & spoken word moments only amplify the sense that these sick twists had to eject this bolus of aggravation before it bloated them like a floating corpse. Superb. 

UNFATHOMABLE RUINATION 
FINITUDE 
(Sevared Records) 

BLOODY NORA. Death metal so technically ruthless you're reminded that part of the reason metal continues to be so absorbing where the rest of guitar rock seems to be pootling itself into oblivion is that metal, because of its endless distillation and purification, can sometimes set itself purely technical targets. To be faster. To be heavier. To link kickdrum to basspart to riff with such mathematical precision and lunatic rapidity it's fucking frightening. I have no idea HOW Unfathomable Ruination (whose last album bore the wonderful title 'Misshapen Congenital Entropy') play this music as it sounds beyond human capability but somehow Frederico Benini's unholy bass, Doug Anderson's staggering flawless drums, the guitars of Ross Plazza and Daniel Herrera and Ben Wright's cadaverous vocals coalesce into a truly demonic swirl, no wastage, no moments of drift, just everything upto 11 and pitched with an unrelenting riff-swallowing intensity determined to make deep fletchette incisions into your soft temple. Can't see a more brutal, perfect death-metal release coming out in 2016. Submit. 


IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT 
INCESTE EP 
(Redefining Darkness Records) 

25 minutes of deeply disturbing terror from NYC that dives even deeper into the demented antechambers of dread Imperial Triumphant opened up with 2015's 'Abyssal Gods'. As with Oranssi Pazuzu some mushrooms and microdots have been stirred into the sonic cauldron - opener 'Libertine' is a weird peal of echoplexed harpsichord akin to a black-metal Sparks that creeps you the fuck out before 'Kaleidoscopic Orgies' bursts into your day n night with an unsettlingly wonky walk like the woman walking out the TV screen at the end of 'Ringu', the groove so twistedly WRONG you're reminded of Scratch Acid and The Butthole Surfers, the vocals so deep and French it sounds like prime Franz Treichler, a jazzy breakdown stereo-strafed into pell-mell carnage, a coda that goes from slambang monstrosity into a crackly Piaf sample with cinematic brilliance. You can hear way more than just metal going on here, groggy industrial drone, Xenakis-style racket - vocals come from all directions and all registers, it's a record that gives you no familiar ground to stand on, a record that absolutely puts you psychologically in the same prone place as the hebraphrenic narrators. IT avow that their intent with 'Inceste' was to create 

"an interpretation of the works of French aristocrat Marquis de Sade. We wanted to make a record that was sordid, invasive, and child like at times. Extreme highs and lows are everywhere on this EP. The music always reflects the lyrics. Nothing on Inceste is stable. Everything instrument bends and twists and wrenches, forcing its way inside of you." 
Mission fkn ACCOMPLISHED IN SPADES. Get violated soon as.

ECFERUS 
PANGAEA 
(I, Voidhanger Records) 

Everyone likes a musician who can do everything, Roy Castle style, and Ecferus, despite sounding thoroughly like a black-metal band is  actually just one guy from Indiana called Alp, who plays everything. Listening, it's an astonishing feat of painstaking creation, so welded together is every part of 'Pangaea', a geological & spiritual concept album about the formation and dissolution of the supercontinent. Pure black-metal dynamics, but self-produced with a minimum of obfuscation and maximum clarity, it's a punishingly fast but fantastically dismal suite of primitive fear and primal disgust. 

BHAVACHAKRA 
BHAVACHAKRA 
(Bandcamp)
Always loved the fact that Florida - for so many of us growing up over this side of the pond characterised as a sunshine state fulla Disney, fulla beaches and surfers and bikinis and LIGHT, has produced so much of the darkest gnarliest hate-fuelled extreme metal of the past few decades. The duo Bhavachakra don't sound like they're in a lineage that includes Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation etc but they share those bands hermetic retreat from Florida's outward facade into its bible-belt fear-mediated innards. This s/t album sounds like a filthier more frenetic early-Mastodon and is recorded with a great sense of propulsion and incisiveness. Just the right side of 'technical' i.e still sounds like kick-ass music, not just virtuosity.


YONDER
DEMO MMXVI
(Bandcamp)

'Blackened neo-crust' it says here and I have no fucking idea what that means. Suffice to say I'm so GLAD that this venal transmission from Stuttgart does sound like a demo i.e a little too loud here and there and gloriously unmannered throughout. What I love about Yonder is their absolute refusal to attempt anything that stretches their abilities - when they need to just settle into a two-chord Stooges-style riff they will, when they want to come on like an even more inept Sarcofago they can do that too. Raw, raging, diseased bleakness (at least I think it's bleak - they could be screaming about fucking cupcakes for all I know) from a band that I hope is about 12 years old. 

PLEBIAN GRANDSTAND 
FALSE HIGHS, TRUE LOWS 
(Bandcamp) 
At first of course, it comes across like sheer bloody-mindedness. This French (from Toulouse actually) four piece seem so determined to NEVER GIVE YOU A TUNE and make every single noise they make dissonant and 'difficult' it's like they don't just want you to listen attentively, they want to CHANGE the way you listen. And they do. A mighty sound here, big and wide but eventually, like Trout Mask, the melodies start snagging you, start making sense. Their previous two albums 2014's 'Lowgazers' and 2010's 'How Hate Is Hard To Define' gave hints but 'False Highs' feels like PG's fullest filthiest flowering yet, they've shorn themselves now of anything approaching conventional riffs, anything that doesn't crumble into dust and despair before you can grab hold of it. A bleak transmission from the edge of male psychosexual collapse. I'm having it largestyle.

EIGHT BELLS
LANDLESS
(Battleground Records)

One of the things that links most of the metal I'm enjoying at the moment is its narrative sense - concepts and stories carried over the duration of an entire album that gives things a lyrical focus and a cumulative musical build sadly lacking in so much guitar music at the moment. Melynda Jackson of the now-defunct SubArachnoid Space has jettisoned that band's instrumental focus and launched her doom-metal project Eight Bells as singer and guitarist - the trio's 2013 debut 'The Captain's Daughter' spun an absorbing tale about a character lost at sea, on this newie the castaway makes it home and slowly, over the course of a spellbinding five tracks, discovers that the life less alone is the life suffused with intolerable pain. The storytelling, cinematic vibe extends beyond the deeply suggestive lyrics into the sounds as well, sometimes the surge absconding into pure atmospherics - I can hear Cocteau Twins, Windy & Carl, MBV-style moments of dirge and dazzlement pop off inbetween the riffola. And Melynda's voice is just gorgeous, able to multitrack itself into beautiful plainsong, leaving just whispers and hints as to what the protaganist is seeing and feeling. Mysterious and moving to the end.

CAïNA 
CHRIST CLAD IN WHITE PHOSPHOROUS
(Apocalyptic Witchcraft Records) 

Truth be told, though the vocals keep this deeply odd album firmly in the black-metal category I've never heard black-metal like it, primarily cos the drums occupy such a strange exquisitely razor-like filamental presence in the mix. Not a thud, more like a recurrent papercut to the eardrum, slicing across the mix as the textures around it blend and build - Caina's combination of black-metal riffs, Sonic Youth-style refracted dissonance, and vocals with an almost post-punk sense of electronic rhythm makes 'Christ Clad In White Phosphorous' (WHAT a title) the black-metal Skinny Puppy album you've been dreaming of all your life. Love the way the vocals can also suddenly turn into an absolutely central muttering into your ear - the whole record fucks with your sense of space just as it plays with your traditional expectations of how a 'band' should sound, structurally and textually. Like Anaal Nathrakh rerubbed by Kevin Martin. Diggit.

(Thanks to Angry Metal Guy and Cvlt Nation for being the best goddamned resources for metal fans on earth in 2016)