Gohan Mix#22 - From Cheese To Sublime

Cover by Marz / credit: Tom de Peyret

Popular dance music is pharaonic, "dynamically sublime" as Kant would say, overwhelming the listener with shattering beats and sensational synth waves. 

The misinterpretation of this music is often purely contextual, eg cheesy imagery, fake tan, sunglasses in nightclubs, bling-bling artifacts and human beings.

But our perception of it can be far more subtle than you think. Really. Depends how you listen it.

Luciano Berio - Thema (Omaggio A Joyce) (Oh Bluuuu! Edit)
Pryda - Muryani (Peurbleue'd Edit)
David Guetta - Everytime We Touch (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Josh Gabriel - Tone Program (Style Of Eye Remix) (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Ernesto Vs Bastian - Darkside Of The Moon (Axwell & Ingrosso Remix) (Peurbleue'd Edit)
John Dahlback - Pyramids (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Steve Lawler - That Sound (Angello & Ingrosso Remix) (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Style Of Eye - Ona (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Axwell - I Found You (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Syle Of Eye -  Banned (Peurbleue'd Edit)
Eric Prydz Call On Me (Peurbleue'd Edit)

The Elemental Abstractions of Thomas Köner’s Novaya Zemlya

After a long silence - the endless summer truce - we are coming back today with something quite unusual in these columns: an album review. Some recent musical works spectacularly arouse a profound idea of geographical desolation in the listener's mind, a music sometimes called 'isolationist' by music journalists. We've always been intrigued by this relationship between music and a precise representation of space. That's precisely on which Hisham Awada long-standing Peur Bleue's friend, wrote a first article analyzing the elemental abstractions stunningly reached by Thomas Köner in his last work Novaya Zemlya (2012).

Hisham is a writer based in Beirut. His work investigates the intersections between philosophy, film, and sound. He completed an MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, London in 2011.

The Elemental Abstractions of Thomas Köner’s Novaya Zemlya 

 “If there is an actor in Too Early, Too Late, it’s the landscape. This actor has a text to recite: History (the peasants who resist, the land which remains), of which it is the living witness. The actor performs with a certain amount of talent: the cloud that passes, a breaking loose of birds, a bouquet of trees bent by the wind, a break in the clouds; this is what the landscape’s performance consists of. This kind of performing is meteorological. One hasn’t seen anything like it for quite some time. Since the silent period, to be precise.” 

 – Serge Daney on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet's Too Early, Too Late 

Thomas Köner’s Novaya Zemlya, released in 2012, is in the manner of Straub and Huillet’s essay film Too Early, Too Late, an exhumation project. The album is a sonic triptych designed as a probe rather than as a document. A field recording project that taps into the topographies but also the history of an archipelago in the Arctic ocean known as Novaya Zemlya, the record summons specters of human intervention, namely the detonation of the largest nuclear device ever detonated, but the expanses of precarious stillness that fill the three tracks evokes a geography that precedes human activity altogether, an unpopulated vista governed by an elemental choreography of wind, water, and earth. 

Opening with a series of thunderous yet muffled detonations reverberating in vacuum, the first track delineates the auditory attention that the record demands from the listener: a swelling of the senses, a hypertrophic ear. A pointillist precision, and a simultaneously downcast and ominous mood characterize the three pieces that bring to mind the electronic soundtrack composed by Eduard Artemyev for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), a cold war fiction set against the nuclear horizon. Artemyev animates the ocean of the planet Solaris, which a scientist in the film describes as a “substance capable of thought processes”, with a demonic rumble and a gaseous flow of crystalline tones fabricated using the ANS synthesizer, giving the liquid that bubbles and oozes on the planet’s surface a kind of malevolent intelligence, an ambient horror that threatens to mutate into a deafening incursion at any moment. 

Novaya Zemyla is sculpted with an inorganic sonic matter similar to that of Artemyev. Köner abandons a naturalist or documentary approach to natural elements in favor of a synthetic aural translation, an aerial malady by which electricity taps into the wind and disfigures it. The album finds Köner composing for heat, humidity, temperature, and density, constructing an ecology of sound that does not proceed by a method of mimesis either, by which, for example, tempo mimics the movement of a river stream, or a situation whereby the intensity of the wind is indexed with the quantity of distortion. Instead, he draws what Gilles Deleuze calls, in reference to the effect of the panning shots in Too Early, Too Late, an “ abstract curve of what happened”. Köner lays out in sound a lacunary landscape in which changes in volume, washes of static, and melodic undercurrents interact to render a place mineral, quiet yet alive with the motion of a soft torrent.

A faint narrative, a dramatic arc, trails across the three tracks. If there’s a story lurking beneath the thick air of Novaya Zemlya, it is one that bypasses causality and chronology, constructing instead a geological drama punctuated by ephemeral human traces. The first track expands like a microscopic geological study. Aquatic movement, tectonic activity, and glacial wind smoothly splinter into an ethereal electronic howl before a stifled melancholy tone slips into the air. The second track plunges the listener even deeper into the earth. The detonations become almost indistinct, rippling like amorphous mental images. Köner intensifies his process of effacement by unleashing a slithering radiophonic static and an onslaught of metallic voices, uprooted from radio communications and synthesized into the cold. The third and final piece is the album’s most textural and cinematic piece. It is as if the elements of the first two tracks are stripped down into marks of pure presence. Weather becomes theorized as a gush of hiss, a melody is cloaked in an ocean of soft noise, made almost inaudible, and a voice cracks into nothing but a strenuous breath, concluding Köner‘s experiment in processed elementalism.

(This piece will be followed by an examination of Thomas Köner and Andy Melville’s Biokinetics and a study of biological imagery in Techno)

Gohan & Peur Bleue on Radio Zero Zero

I was invited by my friends Paul and Benoit on the show "Je Brûle De Partout" broadcasted on Radio Zero Zero on July 21st. Fantastic opportunity to present Peur Bleue's vision as well as my debut album "Peur". I also shortly talk about my background and Peur Bleue Records' musical influences. Anyway, that was my first radio show, so I'm not sure I was very radio-convincing. Doesn't really matter... great vibe!

Huge thanks to Paul and Benoit from Midnight Trouble and to the folks from Radio Zero Zero.


Ps: we're speaking (a sort of) French in the show...

Peur Bleue night "Blue Fear" special this Saturday at the Horse & Groom, 26 Curtain Road, EC2A 3NZ (London). Hope to see there folks!

Gohan's debut album "Peur"

Cover: Zemar 

"Ne vous étonnez pas, vous n’aurez que la peur."
Honorat de Bueil de Racan, Bergeries, II, 4, Polistène (1619)

"Peur" has been conceived as an album with an emotional coherence. To be accurate, the feeling of fear (peur) is a primary human sensation caused by an actual or speculative danger. Musically, this proximity with a danger occurs through an ongoing tension – a tension expressible via a considerable variety of forms. To make this particular tension both tangible and familiar, it was necessary to incorporate external sound materials into the overall synthetic texture, especially fragments of human voices, whispers and hums. The most important was to settle the doubt. Then if the fear is not exclusively a human reaction, only humans seem to believe that they could potentially predict and reason it. This album is precisely built on this belief: fear in its whole complexity can be represented in introspective musical shapes.


Gohan - Peur (Peur Bleue Records / PB001)

Gohan's album "Peur" (Peur Bleue Records / PB001) from Peur Bleue on Vimeo.

We are pleased to announce the first release of Peur Bleue Records today. This is Gohan's album called "Peur". Thank you all for you support and do spread the word! 

You can listen and download the album on http://gohan.bandcamp.com/


Soundscriber Mix #3 - Spécial Peur Bleue

Cover: Zemar (from Cyprien Gaillard's work)

Third mix from our dear fella Soundscriber. Both majestic and punishing piece, as usual. We are extremely honored to receive this gift to celebrate the forthcoming launch of our label, Peur Bleue Records. Stand by and listen. This is atemporal.

"OK! Detroit, birthplace of this so called techno. So many things to say about it, lots of explanations have been given - such as the famous "Kraftwerk meet George Clinton in an elevator". To me "detroit techno" is more about a feeling than a genre or a predeterminated place where things happen. I tried to explain/show what this feeling is about through this mix... Can a feeling be described? Few authors have (perhaps) succeeded, but I'm not a writer and -between you and me - explaining by words something I intended to express in this mix is a bit pointless... I always perceived music as a timeless art. Ok there are periods you can rely on, but when it's good it goes through the years without any wrinkles. 
It's been a while I didn't post something on Peur Bleue, this mix was on my mind from a long time. I believe this is the right time to do it and that fits with the Peur Bleue's scope of interest  (melodic, minimalist, epic... atemporal!)."

01. Keith Tucker - Face Your Fate (Acapella) 
02. John Thomas- No past 
03. Marco Bernardi- Emitionle Part 1 
04. Baby Ford & Eon- Dead Eye 
05. Ultramarine - Hooter (Carl Craig Remix) 
06. Rhythim Is Rhythim - Kaos 
07. B12 - Obsessed 
08. Dark Energy - The Warning 
09. UR - Beauty Of Decay 
10. Infiniti - Techno Por Favor 
11. Joey Beltram - Orion 
12. Common Factor - Exploration Meaning 
13. Melody Boy 2000 - Sound Stealer 
14. Luke Hess - Leads To Life 
15. Drexciya - Lost Vessel 
16. Inner City - Pennies From Heaven (Reese Dream A Lot Mix) 
17. Robert Hood - Rhythm 
18. Sebastian San- Wuxia 
19. Slam - Dark Forces 
20. Octave One- I Believe 
21. Dj Bone - Music 
22. Tribeka - Trance

Gohan Mix #21 | The Castle

Cover: Zemar

Gohan Mix #21 | The Castle 

Assuming that the over-use of past sonic references in modern music stands more on a fantasied past than an historical truth, here is my new mix. It includes outdated references, as latent as intangible, just like these random, narrative fragments or the pre-industrial musical hints that appear all along. Overpassing the dialectic past-future on which music creation "should" lie with a misleading, and even dubious, referentialism, the challenge was also to maintain a certain dose of (frightening) truth. 
In other words, this mix is a haunting castle, as so beautifully described by Sándor Márai in Embers.

“The castle was a closed world, like a great granite mausoleum full of the moldering bones of generations of men and women from earlier times, in their shrouds of slowly disintegrating gray silk or black cloth. It enclosed silence itself as if it were a prisoner persecuted for his beliefs, wasting away numbly, unshaven and in rags on a pile of musty rotting straw in a dungeon. It also enclosed memories as if they were the dead, memories that lurked in damp corners the way mushrooms, bats, rats and beetles lurk in the mildewed cellars of old houses. Door-latches gave off the traces of a once-trembling hand, the excitement of a moment long gone, so that even now another hand hesitated to press down on them. Every house in which passion has loosed itself on people in all its fury exudes such intangible presences.” 
Sándor Márai in Embers

"Le château était un monde en soi, à la manière de ces grands et fastueux mausolées de pierre dans lesquels tombent en poussière des générations d’hommes et de femmes, enveloppés dans leurs linceuls de soie grise ou de toile noire. Il renfermait aussi le silence qui, tel un fidèle emprisonné à cause de sa profession de foi, dépérit sur la paille pourrie au fond d’une cave. Il conservait également des souvenirs, ceux des morts. Des souvenirs qui se dissimulaient dans les recoins, comme se cachent les chauves-souris, les rats, les cloportes, dans l'humidité moisie des très vieilles caves. Sur les clenches des portes, on sentent le tressaillement d'une main qui, dans un moment de révolte, s'était refusée jadis à achever son geste. Tous les foyers dans lesquels la passion étreint des hommes, de toute sa force, dégagent une pareille ambiance inquiétante."
Sándor Márai dans Les Braises

Gohan Mix #21 | The Castle by thisispeurbleue

Ursula Bogner - Illusorische Planeten 
Eskimo - Nageuse 
Sandwell District - Speed And Sound (Regis ZArts Lab Mix) 
Caroline Bergvall - Via (fragments) 
Bernard Szajner - Ressurector 
Gohan - AAOOO 
Ed Dorn - From Gunslinger, Book 4 (fragments) 
Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer - Reshadub (from Paul Giger's Ignis) 
Léo Delibes - The Bell Song from Lakmé (interpreted by Dilber and The Estonia Opera Orchestra) (fragments) 
Shed - Final Experiment 
Rrose - Pointilism (Variation One) 
Pauline Oliveros - Bye Bye Butterfly (fragments) 
Gohan - Hedge Fund 
Peter Van Hoesen - Axis Mundi 
Dick Higgins - Storm Riders (fragments) 
Pinch & Shackleton - Monks on the Rum 
The Black Dog - The Death Ov The Black Sun 
Dick Higgins - Storm Riders (fragments) 
Flourish - Heaven Tar 
Dick Higgins - Storm Riders (fragments) 
Model 500 - Starlight 
Ursula Bogner - Permutationen 
Paul Lansky - Six Fantasies On A Poem By Thomas Campion: Her Song (fragments) 
Terre Thaemlitz - Elevatorium 
Franz Schubert - Der Jungling Und Der Tod (interpreted by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau)

Peur Bleue Night - June 9th

Flyer by Zemar

Second Peur Bleue night in London. June 9th at the Horse & Groom (28 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3NZ).

Sexy, 75% British line-up...

Leighton (Keytars & Violins)
Alex McKeown aka McQueen (Most Wanted / A-Series)
Kolour (Toomuchposse!)
Gohan (Peur Bleue)

Facebook event page here.
Resident Advisor event page here.

Hope to see you around the decks mes amis!

lundi 7 mai 2012

David Meskhi

Resisting the Rhetoric in Retromania: Philosophical reflections on popular music criticism (4/4) 
Part IV: The Aesthetic Value of Limited Knowledge

The DJ mix that I have made to accompany this article is 'bookended' at the start and the finish by two vocal samples quotes that articulate opposing positions on the nature of time – namely that time is real vs that it is not. The quote at the beginning is sampled from episode 13 of the excellent philosophy podcast Partially Examined Life, the subject of which is Werner Heisenberg's 'Physics and Philosophy'. The sample expounds a view that is held by many physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and theologians and which is exceptionally difficult to disprove – namely that the concepts of time, change, and free will are logically incoherent and so do not exist in the way that they seem to, in spite of appearances to the contrary. The second quote is the vocal in Underground Resistance's 'Transition', and supports the opposing view – that time is real by virtue of there being some fundamental difference between the present and the future, that this future can be influenced and chosen, and therefore that free will is not an illusion, that change is possible, and time thus does exist in the way that it seems to.

Both positions are plausible for different reasons. The first because it is logically so formidable that it is almost impossible to defeat on purely rational grounds, the second because it fits with our intuitions and experiences and on this basis seems to supply a more recognisable picture of life from a phenomenological point of view. Frankly, however, there is no way to settle this dispute. Our perspective as human beings will always be too limited to find out which of them is correct, assuming that these two positions have even apprehended the two possible poles of the argument accurately in the first place. My argument is that it is the ability to ask questions such as these, along with feelings, beliefs, intimations, and moments of intensity or transcendence, which are responsible for driving human curiosity, imagination and creativity, and ensuring that they remain characteristics of our species. As long as humans possess consciousness and the capacity for self-reflection they will meet the limits of their comprehension and ask questions about it, and as long as this happens art will occur. As long as humans can ask existential questions there will be people who want to find solace or an answer to them, and as long as this is the case there will be people seeking to find new ways to provide answers using art. The opening of access to the archives of music of the past in digital format is itself one expression or iteration of human creativity, and whilst from a limited perspective it may be understandable why within our tiny frame of reference some people might conclude that it is a threat to creativity, I think this conclusion is implausible. 

Nonetheless, there is a sense in which the retromania argument contributes positively to the emergence of the next game-changing musical phenomenon or movement, whatever that happens to be. The book itself has been extremely popular, and judging by the majority of the reviews the retromania argument has many acolytes. Support has come from far and wide, and whilst I do not know the sales figures of the book, the reaction has been resoundingly positive amongst other music journalists, writers, and critics – i.e. people who inform the public about what music is 'out there' and describe the current pop cultural landscape. It articulates a view which resonates widely within this community. The problem - and simultaneously the opportunity - here is that with sufficiently wide support the retromania argument, or in fact any argument, can become an orthodoxy. Given the popularity of the book in combination with the reach available to music writers and critics via papers, magazines, journals and blogs, the retromania argument may be at a stage where it represents a hegemony of beliefs about what is happening to music, and which bits of it are and are not valuable. If this is the case then the argument itself is now not original but canonical by being the now conventional position held by the community of people who know a lot about music and whose job it is to communicate this knowledge to the world. 

As I have said, I believe the retromania argument is in some respects negative because it misrepresents the nature of creativity and suggests that originality may be under threat. Fortunately for music's sake this is a positive development, however. It is a truth to which any number of groundbreaking movements in modern music will attest - from rock n roll via rhythm & blues, prog rock, mod, punk, disco, new wave, electro, house, techno, rave, hardcore, jungle, breakbeat, grime, dubstep, all the way to whatever is emerging at the present and hasn't been given a name yet - that orthodoxy provides the conditions necessary for artists to be able to define themselves as different, conditions in which creativity can flourish, and originality can continue to occur. Episode 13 - Werner Heisenberg's 'Physics And Philosophy' (Excerpt) By Partially Examined Life 
Flickering Alderbaran # 3 By X-102 
The Avalanche (Original Mix) By Wk7 
“Thirst” Buy By Regis 
Solstice - Original Mix By Axel Karakasis 
Eat What You Kill (Kiko Remix) By Oliver Giacomotto & Dj Tonio
Jungler (Original Mix) By Victor Vera & Mijail 
Relate To Bongos (Original Mix) By Chris Chambers 
Geylang (Dub) By Dj Shufflemaster 
Killing All Anarchists By Takaaki Itoh 
Pounding Grooves 27 By Lawrie Immersion 
Contact (Original Mix) By Oxia
Refund (Dave The Drummer Remix) By D.A.V.E. The Drummer 
Logic Bomb By Dave Clarke 
Sneak By Mark Broom 
Re-Frame (Danilo Vigorito Remix 2) By Danilo Vigorito 
J'S Back (2008 Remaster) By Paul Mac 
Transition By Underground Resistance 

lundi 30 avril 2012

Paul White

Resisting the Rhetoric in Retromania: Philosophical reflections on popular music criticism (3/4) 
Part III: Metaphors, Undersights and Oversights

Two central tenets of the retromania argument are that I) digital technology is reversing society's perspectives away from the future and instead towards the past, and II) that this is problematic. I think that both of these claims are specious. In reference to the first claim, what the retromaniac position may overlook, or at least not award sufficient weight, is that the use of brand new digital technologies is itself a thoroughly up-to-date way of doing things. The significance of this should not be underestimated when it consists in using the new and efficient tools, for example finding old music on YouTube, or using torrents for tracking down recordings of obscure and deleted vinyls that enthusiasts have digitalised and put online. The tools being used are modern, and to the extent that they are it is wrong to say that there is something unreservedly retrograde about this change in access. Nonetheless the second claim pushes this point, and suggests that even if the means of access to music are new, the fact that technology is being used to revisit music of the past renders this meaningless. 

This second claim also has a flaw, however, which relates to the fact that our perception of what is 'really happening' is limited. The further we move from an event, or phenomenon, or cultural shift or movement, the easier it is to see its full impact and view it as a totality of causes and effects. When we are relatively near the beginning of an event / phenomenon / shift / movement and in the middle of it we can only see increments or groups of increments of the whole process. Moreover we approach new situations with a degree of cultural baggage, and a set of personal assumptions about reality that are informed by the contingencies of our own experiences. Indeed, as has been argued previously in this blog, ‘a work can only be perceived as original by its position in music history.’ All of these factors limit our view. We do not yet know what the long-term effect will be of the ability to more easily consume an increasing proportion of the music of the past, but we should not assume that it will necessarily produce a net deficit of creativity or originality. The most we can do is observe that our access to the music of the past is growing, as given the newness of this phenomenon it is not yet possible to view it from any kind of larger perspective with authority. With this in mind I think we should reserve judgement, or if we cannot do that then to err on the side of optimism about the persistence of originality. 

DJ Crystl - Warpdrive (LP "Meditation / Warp Drive", 1993)

Dave Clarke – Miles Away (Album "Archive One", 1995)

The first thing to say about this is that in one very basic sense we do not need to worry about newness, because what constitutes our past is permanently changing and being added to with every present moment that recedes into it. In the book Retromania and elsewhere, Simon Reynolds asks 'what happens if we run out of past?'. Whilst the question is easy to understand, it is again primarily a rhetorical question, rather than one that is properly rationally grounded. Given the ongoing production of present events, we can literally never ever run out of past. Every moment that moves from the future and occupies the present is unique. Although no single moment can be said to be any more original than any other, there is a fundamental sense in which newness is occurring permanently by virtue of the ongoing creation of unique moments which become the past. I admit that this is a somewhat metaphysical point, however, and is at risk of sounding obscure. We can ground it by reference to another quote from Reynolds himself: 

'Nowadays, [musicians are] no longer astronauts but archaeologists, excavating through layers of debris (the detritus of the analogue, pre-internet era). The exploratory impulse survives, but the accent has shifted from discovery to rediscovery. They’re questing not so much for the unknown as the lost.' 

This is a seductive argument. It sounds persuasive, in large part because of the metaphors that Reynolds has used. In reality though it is misleading. For example, in what sense can we compare musicians of the past to astronauts in a way that we cannot do now? In what sense can we even compare musicians to astronauts at all? Presumably Reynolds' argument is that astronauts operate at the very limits of man's technological capabilities and that space exploration exemplifies the human desire for discovery and progress. In this respect it might look like we can draw some parallels between pioneers of space science and pioneers of music, but my view is that is unfair to liken the two. Just as not everybody who would like to be a brilliant physicist can be sufficiently exceptional in mind and body that they can push the boundaries of space exploration, so not every musician can be Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, or Aphex Twin. There are many more musicians than there are astronauts, and all astronauts need to attain extremely high standards of achievement in their field in order to use the title 'astronaut', whereas a vast number of people can be musicians if they wish. Hence, the comparison is unreasonable. 

As well as being unreasonable, the comparison is also absurd, for the quote suggests that it would be possible for there to be no musicians who wish to push the boundaries of originality or are artistically capable of doing so, and I do not believe that this can be true. If we are being asked to believe this then we are being asked to believe that creativity itself could be expunged. Given the cultural, social, and moral importance that art has for humans and the societies in which they live the grounds for suggesting that digital culture or hyper-referentiality threatens its existence are weak. Even Reynolds himself does not believe this, as the penultimate sentence suggests: 'the exploratory impulse survives'. My suggestion is we should assume that creativity to be an immutable feature of mankind. The aesthetic impulse is a product of consciousness, and a means of articulating otherwise inexpressible attitudes, emotions, feelings, and beliefs about existence and what it is like to be human. I argue that as long as there are humans there will be art, and as long as there is art there will be art which finds fresh ways to say something newly meaningful about human life, and art which does not. In short, as long as there is consciousness, original art will emerge - even if we do not and cannot yet know what form that originality might take. 

On this final point Reynolds in fact concurs. At the very end of the book Retromania, Reynolds states he believes that 'the future is out there' . Presumably his view is that whatever is new and original will eventually emerge into the present. I think that this is absolutely right. Moreover I think it is important that this point is made, because in other respects the retromaniac position is unduly negative. My assessment is that it relies too heavily on a microscopic view from within new, rapidly changing socio-cultural and technological circumstances that we cannot yet fully perceive and which we may not yet fully understand, and it draws conclusions for which there is no long term conclusive evidence. It does this because it overlooks the crucial role that consciousness and the capacity for self-reflection play in defining mankind and what it is capable of. I will try to demonstrate this by returning briefly to the question of the nature of time. 

(end of the Part III on IV. next and final Part to be published soon)

Anthony Rother – Past Represents The Future (Album "Sex With The Machines", 1997)
The Cure – A Short Term Effect (Album "Three Imaginary Boys Pornography Tour 82", 1982)

jeudi 26 avril 2012

Stewart Weir
Resisting the Rhetoric in Retromania: Philosophical reflections on popular music criticism (2/4)
Part II: Exploiting Ambiguity

It seems easy to refer to the past. We have memories of it, we have artefactual and historical evidence of things having happened prior to the present moment, and we listen to music that was made in the past. To extend this a little further, people sometimes suggest that when we look at the stars we are 'looking into the past' by virtue of how long it has taken the light from them to reach us. The light that reaches us may have left the location of a distant star billions of years ago, and so what reaches us represents the star then, not now. All of these examples are in a sense misleading, however. It is not possible to directly experience the past any more than it is possible to directly experience the future. Wherever we are is the present moment, and whatever exists is a constituent of it. Although artefacts in the present were made in the past, we always experience them now. The present is the frame of our experience. There is, therefore, some confusion built into terms such as 'plundering the past' which are redolent of the retromania argument. It is not the past itself which is being referenced, revisited, plundered, or pastiched, just an entity or an idea that was created in the past but which we experience in the present. This might seem like a trivial point but it highlights an important ambiguity in the retromania argument. 

Dan Corco - Hold On

Perhaps the normative point of the retromaniac position is that musicians and artists ought to look forward rather than back, and should try harder to make music of the future than of the past. I have highlighted 'ought' and 'should' as a reminder that this position is not free of dogma. However much the argument might appear to objectively report what is happening and draw rational conclusions about what might happen next, we can doubt the veracity of the claims concerning the future as well as the ones about the referencing of the past. The scepticism can be expressed simply: all music, however futuristic-sounding, instantly recedes into the past as soon as it comes into existence. Thus there is no music that it is truly 'of the future', other than all the music which has not been yet created. This holds true irrespective of whether we are talking about somebody writing Beatles pastiche rip-offs, or composing music that is unprecedented in its other-worldly difference from what has gone before.

Only music that is potential can genuinely be described as music of the future, for all actual music has already been created. All music that exists is of the past and the present, by virtue of it existing. This is important, because once we realise it we can see that the exhortation for artists to make 'music of the future' is primarily a rhetorical device for advancing a normative argument that relies on just one particular interpretation of empirical facts. In the second of the two examples just given (i.e. the attempt to write music that is completely new) there is even a possibility that the pursuit of this kind of absolute originality is futile, since something can only be 'different' if it is preceded by a tradition that it can be different from. On this view a tradition or convention is a prerequisite for 'originality' without which the concept would make no sense.

It is important to take this into account, and keep in mind that there may be good grounds for disputing the suggestion that hyper-referentiality or the plundering the past could be genuine long-term threats to originality. What we should also be aware of at this point when we discuss 'originality' are the various contingencies associated with the word itself. Originality in the way that we understand it today - in the sense of meaning novelty, newness, a departure from earlier forms and so on – was not held to be of particular value until around the 18th Century. Prior to this, in relation to art at least, it was considered to be of greater value to be part of an established and already respected tradition. Viewed from a slightly different perspective, even a quick search for a definition of the 'origin' portion of the word suggests potentially contradictory meanings to the way in which originality is understood today. For example, to have 'an origin' is to have antecedents, or a bloodline, or an ancestry, and the meaning of such a relation is to bear similarity to others, rather than to be different from them. There is not space to develop this point further here, but it is illustrative of the fact that the way in which originality is understood and valued is not necessarily now fixed and may undergo further changes in future. Thus we should be careful not to valorise its current meaning unduly or assume that it will always retain its present socio-cultural value. For a fuller discussion of these questions click here for an edition of Radio 4's 'In Our Time' that explores them in more detail.
(end of the Part II on IV. Part III to be published soon)

lundi 23 Avril 2012

Guy Tillim
This month is extremely prolific for Peur Bleue. We are thrilled to welcome today a new and eminent voice in these columns for a series of four articles on popular music criticism. In the late 90s through to the mid-2000s, Alex McKeown was a key member of Leeds collective Most Wanted who ran the city’s influential Technique club night and introduced a whole new audience to legends like Derrick May, Dave Clarke and Richie Hawtin. With DJ partner Kid Blue, he was also at the heart of the then-burgeoning breaks scene: DJ-ing around the world, producing records and guesting on Annie Nightingale’s Radio 1 show. Towards the end of the 2000s he went into semi-retirement from DJing and producing and swapped music for academia, hanging up his decks for a PhD in philosophy. 

Resisting the Rhetoric in Retromania: Philosophical reflections on popular music criticism (1/4)

Part I: The Analytical Gap 

Pete Simpson - Philosophy (EP "Orbit E.P.", 2003)

The aim of this article is not to give opinions on new music and whether I think it is good or bad. My purpose is not to justify my own tastes in music, because taste is irreducibly a matter of subjectivity, even where tastes are shared very widely and over long periods of history. No music has objective – that is to say a priori – aesthetic value without the presence of a listener, and my view is that this is not the appropriate place to argue for why somebody should or should not like a particular piece of music. This article is therefore not a piece of music criticism per se, though it crosses over with one of the wider concerns of music writing proper, and that is the analysis of music as a culturally situated phenomenon. My educational background and my day job are in philosophy, and my angle is therefore philosophical, but there is an overlap in the Venn diagram of the various different approaches to thinking about music. 

By virtue of the fact that music is a cultural phenomenon it is hardly surprising that the majority of 'serious', academic or quasi-academic analysis comes from the perspective of anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies and so carries the assumptions and theoretical approaches of these disciplines. Whilst these perspectives have produced and continue to produce a wealth of useful socio-cultural and historiographical documentation, they also have weaknesses that are often overlooked. I suggest that these weaknesses can sometimes create a faulty analysis, hoodwinking the reader and leading him or her to erroneous conclusions that seem plausible but which in fact are not. 

The impact of this problem is amplified when these dominant forms of musical analysis migrate from the margins of academia and into the mainstream via music critics writing for papers and magazines and perhaps also writing entire books of their own. The greater the traction that these kinds of analysis acquire, the more that they come to constitute the received wisdom on how it is that music in culture works and what we ought to think about this. In this article I aim to use one popular current reading of current musical culture – what we can call the 'retromania' argument – as an exemplar for demonstrating the ways in which received forms of analysis can be predicated on faulty assumptions, and so lead to suspect conclusions. 

Demdike Stare - In The Wake Of Chronos (Album "Elemental", 2012)
Model 500 - Future (vocal) (EP "No UFO's", 1985)

The retromania argument is one that has been popularised by the renowned music writer Simon Reynolds in his 2011 book of the same name and in which he coined the term. The book's success is a testament to Reynolds' skill as a musical historian and reflects the widespread agreement in which the argument is held. It has been fastidiously researched and is so comprehensive in its reach that it is not possible to provide a response to every aspect of it here, so I will focus on one aspect in particular – namely, the impact of increasing ease of access to music via digitalisation and the internet upon creativity and originality. 

The central idea is quite simple: our ability to plunder the past is growing as a result of the digitalisation of music. This increased access allows us to revisit music of the past more easily, and so rather than creating new, original, and futuristic music, instead artists increasingly engage in pastiche and ape the past because it is easier to do this than to do anything else. The term 'hyper-referentiality' appears frequently to describe this reversal of perspective towards the past rather than the future and is, so the argument goes, one the key drivers of a diminution in creativity, and consequently a reduction in musical originality. Whilst I understand where this argument comes from and cannot disagree with some of the observations about what digital technology allows us to do, I argue that the normative conclusion – i.e. that new music is shrinking in quantity and decreasing in quality – is incorrect. I am drawn to this view because to my mind the retromania argument is predicated on philosophical beliefs about the nature of time about which there can be legitimate doubt. 

The philosophy of time is very difficult to understand, and this is partly because of the high degree of abstraction that thinking about it requires, as I have written elsewhere. For example, the reality of time itself is extraordinarily hard to prove as a matter of logic, and this is problematic. To conclude that time does not exist is deeply counter-intuitive, as a belief in the reality of time seems rational given its apparent omnipresence in our lives. How are we to go about resolving this tension? There is not space to revisit all of these arguments here, though this book and some information about the philosopher J.M.E. McTaggart and his work on the unreality of time may be useful if you are interested in pursuing these questions further. Nevertheless this gap between reconciling the difficulties in explaining time as a matter of logic, and the straightforward way in which we refer to time in everyday life is important here, and so we should focus on it. 
(end of the Part I on IV. Part II to be published soon)

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Reversing (Album "BTTB", 1998)
Regis - Slave to the Inevitable (Album "Penetration", 2001)

samedi 14 avril 2012

Photostatic n°9 - No One Must Know

Du fantomatique dans la musique : le cas Basinski (3/3)
Of Ghostliness In Music: The Basinski Case (3/3)

J'ai pour cette série d'articles pensé à écouter quelques morceaux qui me semblaient significatifs. Le plus marquant est Disintegration Loops de William Basinski, qui est sans doute un des évènements esthétiques les plus décisifs de ces dernières décennies. Basinski, minimaliste new-yorkais tendance Steve Reich / Philip Glass, fouille dans ses tiroirs, découvre des vieux morceaux qu'il avait enregistré vingt ans plus tôt. En les écoutant, il est saisi : ce n'est plus la même musique, ce qu'il entend n'est plus ce qu'il avait enregistré au départ, c'est autre chose, une tentative échouée de justement retranscrire ce réel perdu. À toute vitesse, Basinski se décide à numériser les bandes de peur qu'elles se dématérialisent encore.
For the prupose of this series, I listened few tracks that seemed meaningful. Here is a striking one: Disintegration Loops by William Basinski. This is probably one of the most decisive aesthetic events of the last decades. Basinski, a New-York minimalist influenced by Steve Reich / Philip Glass, rummages in his drawers and discovers some old tracks that he had recorded twenty years ago. He is stunned by what he hears: that's not the same music anymore, that's not what he had recorded, it's something else: a failed attempt to rightly transcribe this forgotten real. Hastily, Basinski decided to digitalised these tracks seized by their further dematerialisation.

Mais ce qu'il y a d'historique là-dedans, c'est que tout se déroule le 11 septembre 2001, et qu'en même temps qu'il essaiera de sauver ce qu'il lui reste de sa musique, Basinski filmera la nuit tombant sur Manhattan, scrutant d'un plan fixe ce qu'il pourrait encore rester des Twin Towers. Il n'y a pas de revenants en tant que tels, mais il y a bien les thèmes que nous avons abordé précédemment. Et cela m'évoque une des thèses phares du Docteur Geley dans son « Essai de revue générale et d'interprétation synthétique du spiritisme » (1897) : « Toute matérialisation s'accompagne d'une dématérialisation proportionnelle ». Chez Basinski la disparition du World Trade Center répond aux ectoplasmes de musique répétitive.
The historical feature here is that this experience takes place on September 11, 2001: while he was trying to save what remains of his music, Basinski filmed the night falling on Manhattan, scanning a fixed plan of what it could still remain from the Twin Towers. There are no ghosts as such, but there are many topics that we have discussed previously though. That reminds me one of the leading thesis of the Dr. Geley in his "Essay of General Review and the Synthetic Interpretation of Spiritualism": "All materialisation is accompanied by a proportional dematerialisation". In Basinski, the disappearance of the World Trade Center meets the ectoplasm of repetitive music.

mercredi 11 avril 2012

Photostatic n°9 - Manacled

Du fantomatique dans la musique: manifeste pour une musique spirite (2/3)
Of Ghostliness In Music: Manifesto For A Spiritualist Music (2/3)

Parmi les quelques livres de spiritisme que je possède, une description fait consensus. Les esprits, dans leur rapport à notre monde, vont et viennent dans un entre-deux qui n'est ni la présence, ni l'absence. Cet entre-deux fluctuant s'exprime par un double-processus de matérialisation-dématérialisation. Le spectral, c'est à la fois l'apparition imparfaite et la forme dégradée, c'est ce qui tend à être du réel mais n'y arrive jamais, bloqué dans une représentation altérée et/ou éphémère.
Amidst the few spiritualist books I own, a description is commonly admitted: the spirits, in their relationship to our world, are back and forth through an interval that is neither the presence nor the absence. This fluctuating interval is expressed by a double process of materialisation/dematerialisation. The spectral is both an imperfect apparition and a damaged form; this is what tends to be real but never gets it, stuck into a affected and/or ephemeral representation.

Sous cet angle, on voit bien où peuvent se construire les ponts entre théorie musicale et spiritisme. Il suffit pour le créateur ou l'auditeur de considérer la musique enregistrée non pas comme une banalité culturelle, mais comme un moyen de matérialiser l'absent : resignifier les distances géographiques, réévoquer les fractures du temps, souligner avec plus d'insistance les dégradations et modifications de matières. En un mot, restaurer à la musique enregistrée son étrangeté première, son caractère contre-intuitif et potentiellement inquiétant.
From this angle, one can see how the bridges between musical theory and spiritualism can be conceived. The creator or the listener just has to considerate recorded music, not as a cultural commonplace, but as a way to materialise the absent: reformulating geographical distances; bringing back on time rupture; stressing material damages and changes with more emphasis. I sum, let's go back to recorded music with its basic strangeness, its conter-intuitive and worrying feature.

Nous fonctionnons aujourd'hui dans une fusion totale avec elle. Zéro distance, c’est la révolution du sujet capitaliste: les objets ne sont plus différenciés de nous, ne sont plus en notre possession, ils font complètement partie de nous, ils sont nous. Avec la numérisation de la musique, les phénomènes conjoints de miniaturisations des objets et de maximisation de capacités de mémoire, avec également l’avènement de la gratuité « de fait », la musique est devenue avant tout une expérience narcissique, quasi-amniotique, où le consommateur baigne dans son propre plaisir avec une musique qu’il fait sienne.
We are operating in a total fusion with recorded music nowadays. No distance: it is the revolution of the capitalist subject. Objects are no longer distinct from us, no longer in our possession; they are completely part of us, they are us. With phenomenons such as the digitisation of music, the miniaturization of the objects, the maximization of memory capacity and the de facto advent of free music, music became mainly an narcissistic experience, almost amniotic, in which the consumer is immersed within his own pleasure vis-à-vis a music that he monopolized.

Si je milite pour une musique spectrale, en proie aux esprits, c'est pour renouer avec une altérité profonde, radicale, où le sujet est à la fois fasciné et oppressé par l'« ailleurs » qui lui est donné à entendre. Cette musique existe déjà, par-ci par là. Elle n'est pas exactement la musique hantologique telle que la définit Simon Reynolds, pour qui il s'agit plus de faire affleurer l'inconscient culturel en nous. La musique spirite serait plutôt celle qui s'intéresserait avant tout aux phénomènes de surgissements incomplets, d'apparitions manquantes, de résurgences hors-propos. L'échantillonnage et le sampling peuvent en être des outils, à condition qu'on leur enlève toute tentative de se montrer « entre trompe-l'œil ». Ici la clarté est l'ennemi, l'illusion est à combattre : il faut que différents niveaux de présences se fassent entendre, ou du moins que ce soit soulignée cette vérité selon laquelle la musique que l'on entend ne vient pas réellement de là où croit.
If I, beset by the spirits, campaign for a proper spectral music, it is for reconnect with a profund and radical alterity in which the subject is both fascinated and oppressed by the "elsewhere". This music already exists, here and there. It is not about the "hauntological" music as defined by Simon Reynolds, for whom it is more about cropping up the cultural unconsciousness in ourselves. Spirit music is rather the music primarily focused in phenomenon of incomplete or missing apparitions, of pointless resurgences. Sampling may be used as a tool, on condition that we removed any attempt to appear as an "eye-deceiving". Here clearness is the enemy and the illusion must be fought. Different levels of presence need to be heard, or at least, that this truth upon with the music that we are hearing doest not actually come from where we believe.

« Imperium III » de Curent 93, où les fantômes reviennent de partout – voix time stretchée à outrance, échos aléatoires de musiques anciennes : l'angoisse est totale.
Current 93 - Imperium III (Album "Imperium", 1987)

The Caretaker, dont le lien avec les esprits a dès le départ était posé par James Kirby (qui avait amorcé ce projet comme un hommage à The Shining). Le rendu est phénoménal : les spectres tentent de communiquer et échouent toujours par cycles de micro-apparitions informes et carrément flippantes.
The Caretaker - It's All Forgotten Now (Album "A Stairway To The Stars", 2002)

Un groupe français méconnu et pourtant absolument essentiel, Étant donnés, qui a par exemple collaboré avec Michael Gira, Alan Vega, Genesis P-Orridge et qui est également coupable des BO des films de Philippe Grandieux. Le morceau que je vous mets en écoute est une sorte de procession bizarre où les esprits sont invoqués et disent n'importe quoi. « Un gibier, un gibier », s'écrie la foule fantôme avant que la violence se déchaîne, s'abatte sur elle pour la détruire. Je vous laisse imaginer d'où vient cette scène, mais en tout cas on comprend bien pourquoi ces morts-là ne reposent pas en paix.
Etant Donnés - Part I (Album "Wonderland│1", 2001)

vendredi 6 avril 2012

Photostatic n°9 - Mentally Ravaged

Today, Peur Bleue is delighted to invite Julien Lafond-Laumond, co-founder of the blog Des Chibres & Des Lettres "amateur de musiques pointues et de phénomènes farfelus", and Clinical Psychologist for disabled and mentally ill persons. From its very personal approach, he offers us a brilliant series of articles on the ghostliness in music. What would be a better place to talk about that?

Du fantomatique dans la musique: la terreur des musiques enregistrées (1/3)
Of Ghostliness In Music: the terror of recorded music (1/3)

L'histoire de la musique est à peu près aussi vieille que celle de l'humanité. Pendant la majeure partie de son évolution, elle s'est caractérisée par son absence de matérialité et sa dimension événementielle : pas de musique sans quelqu'un pour la jouer devant moi. La musique, c'est alors l'éphémère, l'art qui ne trouve à se loger que dans l'insaisissable présent – à peine attrapée que déjà envolée. Ce n'est que très récemment que son expression et sa diffusion ont été bouleversées. Avec la naissance de l'enregistrement, le rapport à la musique a changé de référentiel. Plus besoin qu'il y ait un autre réel pour qu'elle existe, un simple installation machinique suffisait. Le progrès scientifique était bluffant, mais d'un point de vue sémantique, cela avait quelque chose d'étrange. Ce qu'a permis l'enregistrement, c'est en fait de rendre présente la voix absente. Ce n'est pas rien. Au bout du compte, cela signifiait que les morts pouvaient chanter.
Music history is almost as old as humanity. During a very significant part of its evolution, music was qualified by its lack of materiality and its factual dimension: no music without someone playing it in front of me. Music is ephemeral, as the art form that only occurs in an elusive present - barely caught it is suddenly soaring in the air. It is only recently that both its expression and distribution have been disrupted. With the first appearance of sound recording, our interaction with music has changed its referential basis. Needless to have another real to exist, as a mere mechanical installation was enough from then on. Scientific progress was thrilling, but from a semantical perspective, it was somewhat eerie. These sound recording technics have wiped the voice out - which is sizeable. In other words, it meant that dead people could sing.

Tout fin chasseur de fantômes le sait : les esprits sont toujours au fait des avancées technologiques. Impossible de nier par exemple la relation inquiétante qu'ont nourri des générations de consommateurs avec leur répondeur téléphonique ou les sautes de leur télévision. À mi-chemin entre présent impossible à quitter et au-delà inatteignable, le fantôme arrive à trouver dans les nouveaux objets de communication des moyens privilégiés de se manifester. Ce n'est pas du tout un hasard. Le progrès n'a en effet pas cessé de bousculer l'homme dans une de ses intuitions premières : la présence, c'est l'ici et maintenant. La science a ainsi inventé et défini d'innombrables façons inédites pour l'autre d' « être là », révolutions qui, pour le sujet ancien, pouvaient s'avérer inquiétantes.
Any experienced ghost hunter knows it: spirits are always aware about technological progress. Impossible to deny here the worrying relationship between generations of consumers and their voice box and their TV jumps. Halfway from the impossible present and the unattainable beyond, ghosts find out comfortable ways to appear through the new artifacts of communication. It’s not a coincidence at all. Progress has always hustled humanity in one of its prior intuitions: the presence, it’s now and here. It is how science has invented and defined countless innovative ways for the other one to “be there” that was both revolutionary and scaring for the old subject.

Je vous invite à écouter le tout premier enregistrement sonore où l'on peut reconnaitre une voix humaine. Il a été réalisé en 1860 par Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, qui y chante « Au clair de la lune ». Scott de Martinville invente et brevète au passage le phonautographe, 17 ans avant le phonographe d'Edison. Seul problème : le phonautographe enregistre le son mais ne peut pas le restituer. Et ce recueil papier de vibrations acoustiques n'a pu être retraduit qu'en mai 2010. En 2010, donc, nous avons pu écouter pour la première fois cet enregistrement qui surgit d'un passé extrêmement nébuleux, et la sensation est intense : ce passé qui fait retour ressemble bel et bien à l'au-delà. Et si cet effet se produit en nous aujourd'hui, difficile d'imaginer à quel point l'auditeur d'il y a 100 ans a pu être perturbé.
I invite you to hear the first sound recording of history. It has been designed in 1860 by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, who sang “Au clair de la lune”. Scott de Martinville invents and trademarks the phonautograph, seventeen years before Edison’s phonograph. Only problem: phonautograph records sounds but cannot diffuse them. This is why this paper piece of acoustic vibrations has been only transcribed in 2000. We were able to listen this recording emerging from an extremely nebulous past. The sensation is intense: this flashback sounds quite like the beyond. If we feel it in that way today, you can imagine how perturbing that was for the listener a century ago.

Peur Bleue night - March 24th - London

Peur Bleue night - March 24th

We celebrate our 3 year anniversary in London at the Horse & Groom on the 24th. We're delighted to invite such talented fellas for this very special event:

Coni (CleckCleckBoom)
At the age of 17, the french boy only gets in clubs to mix and already controls the turnables with an incredibly easiness. From parties to encounters, he is offered to play in places like the famous Club "Privilege" (Ibiza) or Social Club (Paris) besides artists like Sound Pellegrino, Pearson Sound , Julio Bashmore or Claude VonStroke.
Now Coni is 21 and just released his first EP on ClekClekBoom (Vinyl & Digital). He just moved to London and works on some new stuff with the well-known Sasha.

Casper C (BleeD)
Needless to introduce Casper C. Just for those who don't know him yet, he's a famous Londoner DJ who has played alongside Juan Atkins, James Holden, Four Tet, Pearson Sound, XXXY, Andy Stott and Actress. He's also the man behind the tremendous parties BleeD, Lanzarote and Field Day festival.

Gohan (Peur Bleue)
Founder of the blog Peur Bleue in 2009, Gohan is also a talented music producer who has remixed We Have Band, Crystal Fighters, Logo (Kitsune), Riley Reinhold (Traum) and Ghostpoet. He's now working on the release of his LP and the creation of the label Peur Bleue.

Kolour (San Fran Records)

Yann Edouard

Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/241734742587016/
RA: http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?345535

Promo mix: