Wednesday, September 17, 2014

retrodance (a partial flashback)

"In the last few years... that future-rush of exponential rhythmic complexification [that propelled the 1990s forward] has dissipated, reached a plateau or impasse. The most popular dancefloor sounds of the last four years- Big Beat, the "disco cut-up"/filter style of house, and the Eighties-revisionist styles known variously as electroclash or nu-wave--are retro-kitsch in flavor, imitating or directly sampling Seventies disco and early Eighties electro i.e. the pre-rave ancestors of house, techno, jungle,et al. 

This wave of "technostalgia" is reflected in recent videos, like the kitschadelic cut-and-paste of Cassius's "1999", where the pulpy visuals match the period associations of the track's disco sources: Pop Art/Lichtenstein style comic book appropriations, dated-looking typography and graphics redolent of early Seventies teenpop music annuals and heart-throb magazines, tacky sci-fi imagery, and so forth.

Similarly the video for Les Rythmes Digitales’ "Hey You What's That Sound" (directed by Evan Bernard) is a fond, knowing and immaculate parody of an early Eighties dancepop video (think the pre-megastardom Madonna of "Holiday" and "Lucky Star", or Shannon, or Bananarama). The primitive computer video effects perfectly fit Les Rhythmes Digitales's deliberately retro-futurist sound--stiff sequencer and drum machine rhythms, unwieldy geometric synth-riffs. What was once state-of-the-art retinal intensity returns under the sign of camp, signifying both bemused amusement that we could ever have been astonished by these clumsy visual tricks, and a yearning to experience once again that virgin amazement.

 by Simon Reynolds (Stylus, 2002)

Friday, September 12, 2014

infinite fungibility of the self versus collective movement forward

Choice morsels from Mark Fisher's interview at Crack Magazine

"The thing about retro is very interesting because there have been retro groups for a long time, certainly at least as far back as the early ’70s, but the thing is at least then they were positioned as retro. Whereas something like the Arctic Monkeys, there is no relation to historicity. They’re clearly a retro group, but the category of retro doesn’t make any sense anymore because it’s retro compared to what? ...  Arctic Monkeys airbrush cultural time out and appeal to this endless return and timelessness of rock"

"What we’ve got in the 21st century is a confusion of the contemporary with the modern, in fact the contemporary cannot deliver the modern...."

"... Things can’t carry on as they are on lots of levels. Politically they can’t carry on, economically they can’t carry on. Culturally they seem as if they can carry on forever. When I was watching Glastonbury a few years ago, my friend, the philosopher Ray Brassier, was saying, “this could go on for a hundred years like this”. It seems as if they can carry on forever, but I don’t believe that they will."

"What’s missing is a popular experience of newness. At the very least that is what has disappeared. But I think what’s also missing is this circuit between the experimental, the avant garde and the popular. It’s that circuit that’s disappeared. Instead what we have is ExperimentalTM, which is actually well established genres with their own niche markets which have no relation to a mainstream." 

"TV, or certainly public service broadcasting in the UK, is unprecedentedly bad. A lot of [Ghosts of My Life] s about TV as much as music actually. I think that one of the big exceptions to what I’m saying is American TV, HBO and the like, which probably has a claim to having produced new cultural forms in the 21st century. It’s good that those HBO things are happening, but I think that in the UK there’s this box set melancholy, as I call it, where you’re watching this stuff, but you don’t have the same collective experience of it as when you were watching public service television together. I think that’s why people like the X Factor because you know everyone is watching at the same time. And that’s an encouraging thing, that people are enjoying each other’s sociality and that a banal talent contest is only the pretext for that."

"My education didn’t come from school, which I hated, it came from reading NME. Which again, NME is like Channel 4 I think, if you want to look at the decline of British culture over the last 30 years look at what the NME was like then to what it’s like now. But there was that public service broadcasting via Channel 4 and the BBC, and this wider supporting culture." 

"Ostensibly there is this kind of infinite fungibility about the self, but what does that amount to? Actually it amounts to choosing from a set of pre-given options really, and the capacity to collectively produce something that didn’t exist before has radically atrophied. I think that’s what’s been underlying everything that’s been said today, that a capacity to make an infinity of meaningless choices has replaced the capacity to actually change things. And underlying this sense of infinite fungibility is that overwhelming sense that nothing can ever happen again."
"There’sa very moving piece that Jodi Dean wrote recently, which was ostensibly a review of Jonathan Lethem’s book Dissident Gardens, which bought out this thing about belonging to the Party. It would make things like the mundane drudgery of leafleting [tolerable]; when you have that narrative [of belonging to the Party] these mundane activities are radically transfigured – the whole of life is radically transfigured."