I’m in trouble now…

I’m beginning to really like the Scissor Scisstors. I know this is against K-Punk-approved orthodoxy — and of course Mark’s the MAN now that Matt is beginning to tire of the burden. His comments boxes are busier than Barbelith and would get better rates from Double-Click than most of the communities on the web.

But I can’t help it. That version of Comfortably Numb is just pure disco heaven.

On a similar tip, I just heard a big beat version of Sattelite of Love that was great.

I guess I’m on safer ground with the new George Michael. That’s a classic, isn’t it? And there’s a man who understands dance music. Take someone else’s track — that “absolutely perfect” track, never did find out who it was — cut it up a bit, and stick some of your own singing on it. Class. Talk about versioning. The video, which I saw on ToTP — n0 multichannel nonsense here! — was great too. Genius for four minutes — just what you want.

Summer breakbeat madness

It’s getting sultry, the trees are overburdened with erotic flowers,
sweet sticky fragrances everywhere invade the nostrils, and the moon is
waxing just past the crescent — it is, in short, time to get down to
some funky breakbeats.

This is a fairly banging selection of hyped up, ragga-flavoured
breakbeat cuts that have, in the main, been fucked up almost beyond
recognition. Most are fairly old school — some very old school — and
all the better for it.


Pirates of the Caribbean Vol 2: U Won’t Get Away
Selectah: Wede Man
RhythmMasters: The Rush
Kicks Like A Mule: DJ Talk
The Ragga Twins: Illegal Gunshot
Renegade Soundwave: The Phantom
Dee Patten: Who’s the Badman
Meat Beat Manifesto: Radio Babylon

A missed opportunity?

There’s been some discussion around the place about the Late Night Blues article by Penny Reel. It’s a Black Echoes article from 1997 which, broadly speaking, laments the fact that nothing much changes as regards the white majority’s understanding and appreciation of reggae. I believe John Eden linked to this recently.

And… it’s alright. Well, it would be, it’s by Penny Reel. Lots of interesting observations from a lifetime spent in reggae. But I can’t help feeling it’s pretty hazy about its targets, and pretty lazy in developing its argument. I find it hard to understand just what Penny Reel’s point is.

The bugbear for Reel seems to be that white people don’t “get it” as quickly as black people. Much of the article is a rehearsal of various observations of how white and black audiences have different tastes in and appetites for reggae. He seems to laugh at how whites have different levels of knowledge about reggae and very different cultural experiences and attitudes — well, what would you expect? I mean, to address an example Reel cites, of course there aren’t many white people at a Luciano show. For one thing, looking at the matter pragmatially, it’s hard for white people to know there’s one going on. That’s not blaming the reggae scene for not marketing Luciano well enough to white people — it’s simply a statement of fact.

There’s an issue of market evolution and message dispersion: put crudely, black people are early adopters of reggae, and white people are late adopters of reggae. If you have black and white audiences consuming an artist at the same time, what do you get? Answer: Shaggy. Of course our analysis should go deeper than mere empiricism — but what analysis is being made here? I find it hard to detect any.

Penny Reel doesn’t even try to land the assertion that the white music industry has ripped off black reggae musicians — even though, and this is irritating, I’ve no doubt it happened. Yet there’s a defensive undertone to the piece which would imply that this is common. And the answer to that vague assertion are only to easy to provide. How much greater is the exploitation of black reggae musicians by black entrepreneurs in Jamaica, for example; the economics of the copyright-owning producer ensure that. And say what you like about while record label owners like Mick Hucknall, but his label Blood and Fire has gone to great lengths to ensure that PEOPLE GET PAID. Would that all JA re-release labels did the same. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that Blood and Fire have been something of a life-saver for some people. And again, Soul Jazz — about whom Reel could conceivably be making snide comments (“Music lovers [can]add … to a compact disc collection [of] boogie woogie piano … classic blues … gospel … Sixties soul and Seventies funk”) — cannot be criticised for ripping off JA artists. Again, they make sure people get paid.

And this is merely an updating of an old story. “Bass Culture” details repeatedly how many reggae artists of the 70s could only survive on the income made from selling records “a foreign” — frequently through Trojan re-issues.

Throughout the piece, Reel reiterates that white audiences are never up to date with the latest reggae innovations, and don’t participate in the rituals and venues of black reggae audiences. This is true. Unlike dance music, reggae has continued to maintain its distribution channels and performance venues. Yet one wonders how, given the tone of the article, he would feel if lots of white people did turn up. As at, say, Shaka gigs. Or Iration Steppas shows. Or, these days, Elephant Man shows. Or, certainly, Sean Paul shows (who is still popular with black reaggae fans).

In the final sentence — and not before — Reel suddenly introduces the concept of cultural colonisation, as if that is the logical corrollary of all that went before. It isn’t. Describing differences in cultural consumption does not equate to demonstrating cultural colonisation. Cultural colonisation would arise when the dominant culture’s consumption of reggae would result in the demolition of the communities and conditions that gave rise to that cultural artefact in the first place. A good example of this is dance music. The mass-consumption of the culture resulted in the erasure of raves and underground clubs and, rather than feeding the production and distribution networks that supported the original culture, from 1995 onwards they competed them out of existence. Dance culture has been obviously in decline ever since. In contrast, few of the waves of popularisation of reggae have resulted in that, with the possible exception of the roots / hippy wave (and I would probably argue with that anyway).

It would have been so much more satisfying if Reel had really got to grips with the issues. In particular, he could have done a lot better by really getting into the proposition that “White people don’t consume reggae until a decade or more after it’s made — so the threat goes away, and the original artists don’t get paid for their work when they need it.” There’s at least something in this. But he doesn’t develop his argument; he simply tells a few stories that don’t add up to much.

I have enormous respect for Penny Reel. But I have to ask, again — is there really a point to this story? What is he attacking? For it looks to me like there’s too much carping from the sidelines, and not enough meat. And yet it could have been so good. So it looks, to me, like a missed opportunity — albeit one that’s seven years old.

My cairn.

I’ve built a nice little cairn in one corner of my garden, which makes me feel all warm inside. Here’s a picture of it.

The cairn in the corner of my garden. Neat isn't it?

It’s oriented east, cos that was the best spot for it, but that’s kind of good for me — earthing air and all that. It’s right underneath an evergreen tree (dunno what kind — I’m not exactly druidic in my knowledge of trees, I just like hugging them ). There’s some wicked plants round it — I like the spikey ones!

I didn’t think at all while I was doing it — meaning I wasn’t mentally verbalising all the time, just using intuition. It hasn’t fallen down yet. The wooden icon (a glyph?) was a random piece that was hanging around which I just stuck in. I think it works well.

Junglist summer

As soon as the sun begins to take hold, right-thinking people everywhere
dust off their copies of Niney the Observer’s Blood & Fire to
sound-track those lazy hot days. But sadly, the fun has to stop when you
go out to your favourite jump up club nite, because there was no jungle
version of this track — until now. Grievous Angel has finally scratched
the itch and it’s pretty sweet.


Here’s the label of the 7-inch pre:

Blood & Fire 7

Yup, still gardening.

And doing a business plan.

I’ve got some mixes to post up but it would be nice to do them “properly”.

I’ve got some stuff to talk about but too busy right now, so I shall mostly be in the comments boxes of unclecarved, WWWoebot and Ker-PlunKKKP(n)KKK, and over on Barbelith — you do know about Barbelith don’t you? Better than it looks. Even.