Wednesday, 26 September 2012

La Nueva Edad

There's a lot of wibble in the air these days. We're in the midst of a veritable glut of synth music these days, and let's face it, most of it's either crap or sounds like it's fucking 1973, and in some incurable cases, both. Other that that, an awful lot of it is just so terribly fucking boring*. As ever though, buried deep in the shit are a few nuggets of electronic gold.

Like Matt Carlson's All Moments LP (NNA Tapes), or Akashic Record (Spectrum Spools) and II (Blast First Petite) by Outer Space, created by musicians who actually realise that starting the arpeggiator on yr modular and mucking about with the knobs just doesn't fucking cut it anymore (and frankly, was probably getting a bit fucking boring by the mid 70s). Synthesizers are amazing things, capable of generating genuinely new tonalities and modes of expression in the hands of a skilled user, but also well able to just act as sonic signifiers for lazy hipsters record collections and their urge to display their "knowledge" to other, similarly limited dickheads.

I'm not saying that every single sound and idea has to be new and unheard, but I do find it somewhat amusing that instruments designed to break free of traditional performance and timbral modes are now so often being used to recreate their own past, especially as so much of the synth/electronic music of the 60s and 70s that's been reissued in the last few years perversely manages to sound more modern and certainly more daring than it's modern incarnations, and not just because the old stuff was the frontier then. There's both an edge and a sense of playfulness to much earlier synth/electronic music, elements sorely fucking lacking these days, a fidgety restlessness born of genuine experimentation and the knowledge that an experiment can fail which I'm just not hearing nearly as much as I'd fucking like to.

But no, so comfy and safe has this world become we've even seen the rehabilitation of new age music. Let me repeat and expand on that, with added expletives; the rehabilitation of new fucking age music, the single most irredeemably fucking self-satisfied, up-it's-own-arsehole quasi-spiritual ooh-aren't-the-natives-in-touch-with-nature-on-like-a-totally-other-level tinkly floaty crap that only the sort of cunt who takes DMT and thinks they have genuinely communed with an astral intelligence could make, and only the sort of fucknut who thinks that orgone energy can cure cancer and make it rain would listen to. Fucking hell people, really? Torpid fucking musical cotton wool as a soporific for the world's rough edges and rose-tinted arpeggios from a non-existent past are not what I fucking want to hear from "the instrument of the future" in two thousand and fucking twelve.

And it doesn't have to be like this. Like I said earlier, there's some beautiful stuff out there, and the albums I mentioned earlier are examples of that. I purposely chose them to highlight, because they aren't free of the presence of earlier musics, but neither do they slavishly adhere to previous templates, the synthesis of the past, the ubiquitous influences of Kosmische music and 60s tape music and whatnot are still there, but they don't constitute the whole, they exist as echoes, recontextualized in an unexpected fashion and embedded in a contemporary framework, allied to genuinely original compositional and sonic ideas. Outer Space's II is a case in point; it's liberally smothered in Mellotron, an instrument which screams loon pants and wizard hats louder than almost any other, but because the person playing it actually has a functioning, creative brain, it drags that archaic beast of an instrument kicking and screaming into the present. I have no problem with history, I just don't necessarily want to fucking live in it...

*That Steve Hauschlidt LP on Kranky manages to combine all three of these traits. I have heard Edgar Froese's Aqua you know. Please try harder. Or maybe not bother. Don't even get me started on Dolphins Into The Future. Even the fucking name annoys me.

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