Summer Breakbeats 2: Dog Days

Back on the 25th May, summer was taking hold, the moon was waxing, and it was time to throw all cares to the wind and bounce around to old breakbeat records, so I posted a mix of hyped up, ragga-flavoured tunes of the broken persuasion. A lot of people said they liked it and some were unwise enough to ask for more. So here we are at midsummer, with the moon waxing again, the Dog Days fast approaching, and an introspective, waning-moon industrial mix under our belts; it feels like it’s time for another breakbeat mix, this time of more recent vintage and of an even more banging nature.

This is a mix of breakbeat for big rooms — arenas even. The tracks are maximalist, flavoursome, dirty and above all huge fun. Where the reference points for the tunes on the last mix were ragga and hip-hop, here it’s funk, acid and, with not a trace of irony, hard rock. While you can mosh to many of these tracks as much as dancing to them, this is not music for acid teds. As with all great pop music, whether Sinnitta or Sonic Youth, Sister Sledge or Psychic TV, there’s a cartoon element to this music which absolves it of any responsiblity other than to evoke that transcendence that comes from dancing about like a loon and bumping into strangers.

Breakbeat’s not hip. But as the blogerati know, it’s no longer that untouchable, following John Eden’s widely read defence of it. As he said at the time, “It isn’t cool, but I worry about people who worry about that stuff. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.” I seem to remember Simon talking about breakbeat sharing many of the same features as our beloved ‘Ardkore: music that’s functionally designed to generate a buzz, a low-brow, orgiastic impertinence that revels in sounds and effects that are bound to irritate many listeners, while inducing grins of recognition from its targets. I therefore wanted to do a mix of favourite breakbeat pile drivers that emphasised the textural connection with ‘Ardkore without going the ragga route. Instead, the tracks in this mix represent a battle between funk and rock for the possession of dance music’s soul, with acid refereeing. It’s a blast.

Big Room Breakbeat
60 minutes.


Kasha Ft. Sarah Nelson: U
A picture of Shara Nelson. I can't remember who was in Kasha. Probably someone embarassingly famous.
Classy hyperkinetic soul to start off.

Leftfield: Dusted (Si Begg Mix)
Leftfield, wondering where that funny noise is coming from.
Yes! The Leftfield plodder from the LP no-one listens to gets twisted into industrial funk mentalism by hit-n-miss studio genius Si Begg.

Basement Jaxx: Jump’n’Shout (Boo Slinger Dub)
Basement Jaxx, in Brixton
The extra ruff mix. Familiar I know but there’s some interesting wrinkles here…

HardKnox: Come In Hard
Hardknox. MENTAL!!!
From one pub in Brixton to another. Absolutely mental heavy metal mash-up. I fucking love Hardknox.

Dylan Rhymes: Naked and Ashamed
Dylan Rhymes, DJing.
No I never heard anything else by him either, but this is the apotheosis of hard rock acid house.

S.I. Futures: I’m the Bomb (Grievous Angel Edit)
Si Begg, looking cheerful. Cute, isn't he?
The revenge of the funk. Awesome track. Dude.

Fatboy Slim: Michael Jackson
Norman Cook, acid house hero.
Saint Norman — who is still the most fun and therefore the best non-reggae DJ I’ve ever seen — in fine Negativ-land-sampling style.

Plump DJs: The Funk Hits The Fan
Plump DJs, embracing modernism.
I’ve danced around the kitchen with my wife to this track more than anything else in the past year. That’s really all you need to know about this one.

Plump DJs: The Gate
This is just a buzz track. Nothing else. It’s pure ear-candy. Obviously it’s just a re-working of an extremely well-known acid breaks track but that kind of versioning mentality tjust makes me love it all the more. Originality is the enemy of creativity in dance music.

Chemical Brothers: Loops of Fury
Just another huge, pounding, head-shredding buzz track. With extra guitar solos. It’s the dance music equivalent of Deep Purple’s Highway Star (the version on Live in Japan). The corruscating Hammond lines are replaced with wave upon wave of overdriven synths, and it’s just killer.

Way Out West: King of the Funk
Jody of Way Out West, DJing. No, really.
Under-rated act, Way Out West. Must’ve been that shite trance mix CD Nick Warren did. Still, this is a fabulously funky integration of dance music and metal.

Si Begg Vs T Power: I Like That
Si Begg, inventing another meaningless pseudonym.
Something twisted beyond all recognition to bring you down.

Hermetic radio

The man with the hair.

The best programme on the radio is In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg’s weekly surf through philiosophy and history on Radio 4. It’s a great programme — you get some of the latest academic work on a subject, packaged up in a nice, digestible package. I love it. I know Bragg irritates many but this is the best setting for him: his ego, which elsewhere can be overbearing, is essential to serving the interests of the listener when engaging with subject specialists. In terms of eludication, it works a treat.

Last week’s was an absolute corker: it was all about Renaissance Magic. This is an essential subject for understanding both modernity, or what passes for it, and pre-Christian history, in terms of science, art, philosophy and, quite rapidly, cultural theory. It’s a humdinger of a topic.

The central text of Renaissance magic is Frances Yates’ magisterial Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. I was introduced to it by my wife, who encountered it when doing graduate work at the Bartlett School of Architecture, at a time when the Bartlett was an inferno of intellectual energy; it still is one of the three or four most forward-looking and academically robust architecture schools in Europe. Architects have been enthusiastic recipients of Yates’ wisdom; so much of architectural theory is based on the neoclassical ideals of the Renaissance, and Yates provided a fresh conceptual model for evaluating the roots of modern architecture which was both persuasive and mind-blowing.

Its thesis is as startling as Yates is respected (she is THE hardcore authority on the history of Renaissance philosophy and art): that the Renaissance, far more than being simply a re-discovery of classical sources (though this was of course the central conceptual input) or a product of Arab technology (the use of the number zero for example, which was also covered in this series), was, in intention and in effect, a full-on pagan revival. Over and again, Yates demonstrates that the mantle of Catholicism, within which Classical themes were deployed, was largely a cover under which full-on practical magick flourished. I would happily split hairs about whether this magick was actually Christian in orientation and ideology, as is largely (if not comprehensively!) true of the cunning men, herbalists and midwives who are frequently and wrongly claimed by some Wiccans (for example) as being their explicitly pagan forebears… but such qualifications are scarcely necessary given the weight of documentary evidence marshalled by Yates to demonstrate the deliberate pagan intent of many of the Renaissance players.

 Frances Yates' scholarly classic. Buy it!

The programme doesn’t quite possess the sweeping authority of Yates, but it’s a hell of an interesting survey nevertheless. As with pretty much all the In Our Time shows, you can still hear it: go here and click on the listen again button.

Under new management.

It’s alright, you can put your hankies away.

I’ll miss the album art. Couldn’t take the heat from Grievous Angel’s gardening pictures and got out of the game, eh Matt? Wise move.

Anyway. “Crassly Loop > Main”. There was a period in 1988 when I worshipped Loop. Funky drug noise. Arc-Light and Collision are still killer. Main? Never got the bug personally. I like Genesis though.

Wicked piece over at da punksta on The Lull. He nails the nature of blogdom as a network rather than a community in that way he has of expressing what you always thought about something but never quite articulated. And he scores extra points for not pulling in an emergence / tipping point argument that wouldn’t have stood up anyway.

Now lets stop the navel-gazing and get out there and blog.

Gales of creative destruction.

We need new voices. What makes Woebot, K-Punk and Blissblog so good is that they already had a voice, an outlet, a personal mythology before beginning their blogs.

Yeah. Eden’s on point as ever. Marcello too of course, cos he’s thinking of hanging up his spurs too.

The surprising thing about Blissblog of course is that transcends the problems of being written by a pro. K-Punk, notably, is THIS close to being a pro — he’s a media lecturer, writing about media and cultural theory — but he is NOT, in and of himself as presented within the blog, a pro. Matt is, famously, NOT PAID TO DO ANY OF THIS SHIT (would that he were) but by god, if he doesn’t get a publishing contract from SOMEONE to write about music within the next 18 months then I’ll eat my shoes. Even so, only by post-rationalising from an imaginary future can one say he’s a pro. Marcello is of course a pro as we all know but at least half the time he triumphantly transcends his professionalism. If you’re motivated to write by feelings of grief, it’s hard to be anything other than authentic.

BTW Marcello, all writing is limited by experience, and life is always there for the living, and if writing suffers as a result of living, well good on yer. And on the second question, since your love for Laura was and is real, you cannot cannibalise it; real love is impregnable in this regard. But writing so inspired cannot be commemorative only; it must by its very nature be redemptive, a rebirth of the soul. You may not want to continue blogging, but you should rest easy when considering the ethics of widowhood. And, while wishing to tread carefully here, it strikes me that the current hiatus in blogging is, perhaps, a product of that blogging’s motivation: grief. TWANBOC certainly, and partially Woebot, CoM, and partially Naked Maja, and certainly Dubversion, and me, a little bit — all of us had a bit or a lot of grief in us to push us on our way. Maybe some feelings are getting laid to rest. But I digress.

Now, before anyone gets offended, I have no problem with the pros playing in the blogging sandpit. Just as long as they know that blogging is not about them. Delightful though it is to read the inner reflections of the print professionals — and Stelfox makes the world a better place, no doubt about that — I still would not look to them to generate heat as well as light. Can any of them light the blue touch paper in the manner of heronbone? No.

‘course, he’s fucked off to New Zealand.

Any bright sparks out there wanting to make a name for yourself — now’s your chance.

The lull.

Nobody posts seriously in the season of the summer solstice unless they’re very sure of what they have to say. I think that around the 28th there’ll be a bit of a rush. Then there’ll be a lot of weirdness and backbiting as we move up to Sirius rising, the dog days following July 23rd. For one thing people are having too good a time in the sunshine and — not to put too fine a point on it — they’re gardening. The next big phase of blogging won’t happen until we start to cool off in September, reaching a peak between the autumn equinox and Yule. People need to stop thinking about blogging now so they can build up the discourses that will take us through the summer.

And we need another London bloggers piss up to beef up the rhizome. Next time I’m going to be down with an evening spare I’ll drop everyone a line.

The First Taste of Hope is Fear: Ambient Industrial 1980 – 1987

I was involved in industrial culture for a long time. The music was really big for me right the way through my teens, since I got into Cabaret Voltaire when I was 13, and Psychic TV a year later. Almost a quarter of a century later, not much industrial music still sounds good, because vast amounts of it wasn’t any good anyway, but the best stuff has visceral energy, emotional impact, and the kind of transcendence most music simply doesn’t achieve. There’s been a frisson of interest in, or at least references to, the industrial scene, for a couple of years now, accompanied by the much anticipated and hyped re-formation of Throbbing Gristle. It seems like a good time for me to re-appraise and wrap up this period of my life and the music that went with it, and in the process share some the best of it with people who either weren’t there first time, or passed it by. As the mix’ title suggests, I hope that what comes across is the sense of hope that emerges from amongst the harshness; to me, it’s no surprise that many in the industrial scene were later to become involved in dance music. Perhaps they simply discovered ecstasy before most people – you wouldn’t blame them…

The emphasis here is more on the ambient side of industrial than the banging noise side of industrial. As ever, before I do a mix or a piece of music, I live with it inside my head for some time before committing needle to Mac, and it was the more atmospheric tracks that “came through”. Despite being largely ambient, it’s still highly dynamic. Atonal and beatless for most of its duration, there is still a sense of lushness to this mix, and the snatches of melody and recognisable beats have enormous impact when they do appear. The structure of the mix mirrors fairly closely that which we would follow when doing work in this period, and the mix could be used as a meditational tool. But then what couldn’t?

The First Taste of Hope is Fear is here.

(30 minutes 32 seconds long; 42Mb; 192kbps MP3.)
1. Einsturzende Neubauten: Das Schaben. 7” included with the original pressing of the “Halber Mensch” LP. 1985.

“In the beginning there was noise.” That’s not quite the first principle of industrial but it’s the first impression people tend to get. Das Schaben means “the scraping”, and it is literally that – a load of metal scraping. And it’s beautiful. For me it represents clearing the circle; clearing your mind so you can focus.

Einsturzende Neubaten at the time of Das Schaben

2. Throbbing Gristle. Heathen Earth. From the “Heathen Earth” LP. 1980.

Heathen Earth is probably my favourite TG album. Whether because or despite the lack of “songs” – and certainly it has no “hits” on it, no live versions of Discipline or Hamburger Lady for example – it’s glorious to listen to. It reminds me of Miles Davis. The performance is improvised, but it’s a focused piece of music. Here, this track creates the sensual space for what is to follow.

I’ve recorded it in slightly dubbed up form, reinforcing industrial’s obvious parallels with the Jamaican classics.

Heathen Earth

My favourite Throbbing Gristle picture

3. Coil. How to Destroy Angels. Laylah 12”. 1984.

A concept 12”: if that doesn’t define industrial I don’t know what does. The concept here being – according to the essay accompanying the record – the accumulation of male sexual energy, achieved through the gentle pummelling of gongs. This music is affecting and emotional in ways I can scarcely describe, yet there is nothing to it, just gamelan simplicity. It calls out elements.

The record is a great artefact, since the B-side is entirely blank, creating an ideal surface for scrying: pure, glossy, deep black.

The sleeve of the original pressing of Coil's How to Destroy Angels

4. Einsturzende Neubauten: Halber Mensch. From the “Halber Mensch” LP. 1985.

From the accumulation of male sexual energy to the half-life of masculinity. Half-life as in both the atomic decay of life, the realisation of mortality (“The first and only thing we know is that we all die” – GPO, roughly) and the realisation that one is only half alive. To me, it encapsulated he horror of looking in the mirror and not recognising who is there. Here, it is the charge: the human vocalisation of one’s self, a determined assertion of presence.

When I was 16 I went to see Neubauten at Heaven. They started with this piece and it was, predictably, awesome. They followed with Yu Gung and a brace of other classics before the PA exploded. I spent three hours on the night bus back home to Essex.

The front of cover of Einsturzende Neubaten's Halber Mensch LP

5. Non. Blood and Flame. From the “Blood and Flame” LP. 1986.

I’m not sure which particular track this is and I’m certainly not going to find out, because all the track titles are terrible on this LP, but if you like waves of pulsating white noise, this track is killer. It’s fairly tasteful though, as waves of pulsating white noise go. Here, it’s the silence after the charge, where all senses are engaged.

There’s a story Phil Hine often tells about Chaos Magick and the perils of paradigm shifting. One of the aims of chaos is to become informed about, and at least partly agnostic about, one’s own belief systems. One way of achieving this is to practice paradigm shifting , where one adopts belief systems that are different from one’s own in order to understand their relativism. Anyway, this associate of Phil’s decides to take up the paradigm of fundamentalist Christianity – and gets so carried away that he joins a church and is born again.

Oh, the risks of Occultism.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, there was a time when Non’s Boyd Rice was a bright young star of industrial, one of its formative characters, and capable of great work. He was also a Premier League piss artist, wind-up merchant, and prankster. Even more so than Martin Dust. And he liked to play the dressing-up-in-militaria-and-growing-a-beard games that are all part of the fun of industrialism, and very good he looked too. Then, at some point in the 80s, he seemed to cross over the line between irony and sincerity, and took to proclaiming his fondness for Hitler, how American culture is a victim of political correctness, etc. Yeugh. Eden’s take on all this is that he “has taken up so many ludicrous positions over the last 10 years that it’s impossible to think that he isn’t playing the game purely for laughs” . Eden / Kali from back in the day nailed the whole Cold Hard and Black Nazi / Satan schlock-slop here – read it, and see what real industrial philosophy was about. Personally I just think Rice is a wannabe-macho prick; and no doubt he thinks the joke’s on me.

Great tune though
Blood and Flame. As opposed to Blood and Fire, eh Boyd?

6. Laibach. Die Liebe. 12”. 1985.

To me this song is the pop music counterpart to Heathen Earth. In particular, it’s a pop music recapitulation of the question on the sleeve of Heath Earth: can the world really be as sad as it seems? It is this yearning which is the emotional well-spring of much industrial music, and which is often over-looked by the non-cognoscenti. After the assertion of life: reclaiming feeling.

Laibach history.

Laibach’s Guiding Principles, 1982.

Laibach in da house!

7. Coil. The Sewage Workers Birthday Party. 1984.

I was a teenage Coil fan. I used to exchange letters with John Balance and everything. It was a really big part of my life. All the usual teenage fandom clichés apply – I resonated with the songs emotionally, I identified with their ideology and belief systems, and their music provided me with a place of refuge. The track here is pretty much a song, based on a coprophagic gay SandM story. It’s very beautiful: squidgy, rich, and romantic.

The main Coil site.

8. Laibach. Vade Retro. From the “Nova Akropola” LP. 1985.

There’s an old Wiccan saying – it must date back to the seventies at least – that “Where there’s fear there’s power”. It’s very true and worth reflecting on, and I don’t mean that in the sense of knee-jerk teen age miserabilism or aggression. A lot of good industrial dealt with fear – not as a means of diminishing the listener, but of empowering them, allowing them to unpick their fear. This track is startling at least. The ritual enacted is unnerving, yet these are Yugoslavian materialists, not occultists – at least, I never heard anything about Laibach being involved in magick. Yet it still poses the question: what, and who, are you actually afraid of?

Neue Slovenische Kunst.

9. Psychic TV. In the Nursery. From the “Dreams Less Sweet” LP. 1983.

If Vade Retro plays at being fearsome, In The Nursery is the real thing. It’s certainly unsettling, but that’s not because of over-wrought spookier-than-thou occultnikism. No, this song is about responsibility. It’s about taking responsibility for your own feelings and desires – all of them – and neither erasing them nor being enslaved by them. What does “no guilt and no retribution” mean? Does it really mean horror? Is that really what happens when you get what you want?

Dreams Less Sweet.

10. Psychic TV. Eleusis. From the “Dreams Less Sweet” LP. 1983.

Burroughs said that art was what was left after the magick. Eleusis is Andrew Poppy’s art.

11. Test Department. And We Shall Return No More. From the “A Good Night Out” LP. 1987.

Industrial musicians always had a penchant for folk music, which was of course deeply unfashionable at the time, and this was Test Dept’s take. I saw them at Bishops Bridge Maintenance Depot, a vast train service space in the backwaters of Paddington. It was a vast performance, totally filling the space, with troupes of ballet dancers, huge metal constructions, enormous video projections, and armies of military drummers and bagpipe players. The brobdignagian scale of state power, and even more so of the potential resistance to that power, was artfully displayed. Here Test Dept deploy their full vigour, but filtered through purely organic tones and forms. This song earths the industrial current.

LP cover of A Good Night Out