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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Loops Cover.qxd

Having posted that last piece, I dutifully picked up my copy of Loops and commenced reading Matthew Ingram’s ‘Switched-On’ article, about the history of the er, tech-y side of electronic music.

I shall draw your attention to the following paragraph:

“A Google search of the term ‘Flying Lotus synth’ brought up a cornucopia of journalistic slang: ‘liquid synths’, ‘butter synths’, ‘dynamic synths’, ‘floaty synths’, ‘mercurial synths’, ‘hard-edged synths’ ‘maniacal synths’ and ‘dusted synths’. All of which foregrounds the occasional paucity of music journalism.”

Wicked. Not just me, then.

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As would happen rather often whilst I wrote for Plan B magazine, it was the esteemed and lovely Frances Morgan that managed to put into words the conglomeration of alphajumble that I filed under ‘how I feel about…’ On this particular occasion, the subject at hand – which had been bothering me at the same rate of acceleration as a mild rash on the inner elbow – was how I felt about the difficulties of writing about electronic music. I think it was on a forum post and I can’t quote her exactly but the gist of the argument was that whilst some of us feel utterly comfortable, confident and ever so slightly arrogant about describing the sounds, the patterns and the subsequent emotions of the ever-varying genres of rock music, when it comes to electronic music, we are lost.

We have no reference points, no writers to refer back to, no-one to thieve from, outright and not really anyone to subconsciously inform our sentence structures. Who are the Lester Bangs, the Nick Kent and the (oh, go on then…) Everett True of electronic music? How best to describe those fabricated squelchings, tidy drum beats and clinical time signatures. Will some dude bitch-slap me if I get my reference points in a jam? Can’t I just say how it makes me feel?

Well, can’t I? I got through three years of a literature degree and I couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from a single book that I read. I’d struggle to tell you who wrote them, after a glass or two. I could tell you how they made me feel, though.

I’ve been doing bits and pieces of work for Alter Ego Management in Detroit (it’s a hell of a commute from Leeds, I tell ya) and you know what, it’s done wonders for many aspects of my life but not my vocabulary.

So, I’ll just say how it makes me feel.

Aaaand first up on the Wheel of Feel is Gregor Tresher’s The Life Wire (Break New Soil Recordings)

Firstly, I feel like I like the first track of the album way more than I like any of the rest of it. ‘Ghosts’ is swish and meaty, kicking off like one of those horror movies that actually scares a hernia out of you. Turned up loud, the bass unsettles the carbon I’ve just ingested, it dominates the track and goes everywhere and nowhere, leaving behind it a supreme sense of unease.

What starts off so promising ends up with me regressing to my summer holidays circa the age of about 11, or some rubbish age like that, waiting for my dad to take me to the swings. Big fucking let-down. Thanks, Gregor. You got me all upset now. You see the vocals on ‘The Very End’ are so thoroughly bog-standard, generic, lifeless, meaningless and sterile, they make me want to string Dave Gahan up with that noose I’ve still got left over from when I was 11. He’s got a lot to answer for.

Following such puerile vocal displays, I cannot sustain any serious interest in the rest of The Life Wire. It begins to remind me of the kind of music that they play in clubs that I don’t really enjoy being at. Where the boys’ naked chests glisten with wax and vomit and you could have your eye out on their sculpted hair. It’s kind of like the soundtrack to those moments when you’ve had enough but the chemicals haven’t quite finished having their wicked way with your psyche. 6am and you’re twitching, turning, dreaming of dreaming, sleeping awake, replaying a 30-second segment of your life until it turns sepia and septic. I would imagine that you will like The Life Wire if you like spending more money on t-shirts than I do on mid-priced wine. I guess I should add some kind of disclaimer, in the way of fairness: this is not a bad album, by any means. I’m just not feeling it.

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I was going to call this piece of writing ‘QWIM: Questions – Women In Music’. I backed down on the grounds of it being a) a bit crude and b) a pretty shit acronym. 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have given a fuck. 10 years ago, probably no one else would either. When Donita Sparks was flinging tampons at festival crowds, then a crap play-on-words about cunts was hardly anything to be worrying about. Okay, that was more like 17 years ago. Shit. I’m getting old.

When I started to listen to music in earnest, I was probably just a bit too young and too bogged down in surviving adolescence in a middle-class town to have been caught full blast by the riot grrl movement.  But I quickly became aware of it. The politics and debate that it inspired informed the records that I bought, the way I thought about music and the way that I thought about myself. It only took one listen to Pussy Whipped to become engulfed in the flames of my own potential.

The music papers that I bought in the newsagent next to my school were bursting (or at the very least, bubbling away) with comment about feminist politics and making gigs inclusive spaces for male and female alike. When my friends got into Nirvana, I bought ‘Doll Parts’ on “7. A few months later, I bought myself a record player so that I could actually listen to it (I was already acutely aware that my cassette player probably wasn’t going to be sufficient equipment for the record-buying mission I would shortly embark on).

I saved up and bought myself a Fender JagStang. The boys were jealous and I loved it. And no fucker was carrying my amp anywhere for me. And you know what? I had an army behind me. A stack of fanzines, emblazoned with feisty women in babydoll dresses, I had people speaking to me in the ‘alternative’ music press, I had Polly Jean Harvey, I had Patti Smith, I had Bikini Kill and most importantly, I had Courtney Love (though it’s hard to believe it now).

Fast forward though jobs, university, playing in bands, debt, writing about music, more jobs and even more debt.

What I see around me now makes sick to the marrow. Ladies, it would appear that we had our voice in the 1990s. Now it’s back to playing nicely for the boys.

I recently half-heartedly engaged in an online debate about what I considered to be an overtly macho, testosterone-heavy culture at Leeds festival. I think I was supposed to be happy because Brody Dalle was allowed to play, and they let Karen O run riot on the main stage. I was very kindly informed (by a girl, if that’s relevant, which it probably fucking is) that liking music just because it’s made by a woman is just as sexist as not liking it because it’s a woman.

Brick wall? Head? Bosh.

It’s hard to be intellectual when you’re seething with rage.

Oh, and apparently, the lineup at Leeds Festival is kinda cock-heavy because, you know, that’s just what the industry’s like…

UUUUGH… Yerrrr, (adopting Bill Hicks-style microphone-halfway-down-gullet-technique)…(ready for the distortion, now) …THAT’S MY FUCKING PROBLEM!!!

This whole thing runs deeper than what we like and what we don’t like. It’s about what we ALLOW and what we prohibit. And women aren’t allowed, right now, to be anything other than polished, pretty, well-dressed and utterly, utterly marketable. I’m listening real hard and I can’t hear any of these trussed up starlets saying anything I want to hear about, nothing I care about. None of it relates. None of it translates.

In fact, what I am hearing, is this: “I know that there’s far more ways to be sexy than to dress in a miniskirt and a tank top… I think you attract a certain kind of man by dressing like that…Women wonder why they get beaten up, or having relationships with arsehole men. Because you attracted one, you twat.” (ripped from www.thequietus.com)

There you go, girls. There goes Elly Jackson from La Roux: your new role model. Good luck with that one. Hope it works out well for you.

At the start of 2009, a group of people (the dudes that hold the strings… purse strings, puppet strings… they just like strings, really) decided that the Next Big Thing was going to be… Women!!! Women that sing! Women that play instruments! Well, fuck me sideways. Now, excuse me if I’m wrong but I was under the (clearly-misguided) impression that we’d been around a little longer than since the arse end of 2008. So I see headlines and cover shots documenting this new phenomenon. Where is the backlash? Where is the argument? Where is the voice of reason? We’re a gender, not a genre, douche-bag.

I never really felt like I fitted in with any of the feminist / grrl / queer groups around. I’m not queer, for a start. And I always figured I’d wasted too much of my early 20s shagging my way to enlightenment, rather than learning to DJ, putting a ‘zine together or throwing tampons at people. But it was always kinda reassuring to know that they were there, fighting their (our) corner, being kinda pleasant when I did show my face. Now they just feel like a dying breed. I’m not digging deep enough because I’m not used to having to dig so fucking hard.

I know, girl, do I know that there are girls, ladies, women, whatever, out there, out here, making music, fitting in seamlessly with the boys, the men, whoever. I can think of a bunch here in Leeds. They don’t stand out because they’re female, they stand out because they’re ACE. But you know, the scales are still tipped, it’s still fucked up. And there’s no discourse anymore. It’s not cool to talk gender politics anymore.

We just make do. Make do and mend.  Fuck you, La Roux.