Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Ms. Rylan is a singer/songwriter, sound artist, and noise musician who usually operates under the nom-de-plume of Can't and also builds her own synthesisers (including the brilliantly named Battery Powered Noise Generator; boy, I wanna get me one of those!). You can view her website here (oddly enough, there's no mention of this album there that I can find). Based on a musical interpretation of Chaos Theory (although I find her liner notes a bit glib and uninformative; it would be more salient to get details on how the pieces were actually composed, or generated) it consists of four roughly ten-minute-long tracks:
So what are you waiting for? Get thee to her website and do your bit to support the arts (and beat the recession blues) by purchasing some noise! Hell, buy a synthesiser and annoy your neighbours (their house will probably be repossessed anyway, or yours will, so either way it's not a long-term problem, and it'll take their mind off of their financial woes...)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
A note on the above, which follows the comment on taxation, states in part: "In the famine of 1847, produced by the failure of the potato crop, ten millions sterling [author's italics] was given from the British treasury to relieve the distress in Ireland, with scarcely any prospect of repayment; while Scotland, albeit afflicted by a similar calamity, got nothing."Perhaps no two nations ever exhibited a more striking contrast in national qualities than the inhabitants of Great Britain and those of the genuine Hibernian race in the south and west of Ireland. Unlike their countrymen in Ulster, who are laborious, active, and steady as their progenitors of the Norman or Anglo-Saxon blood, their character is the very reverse of that of the British, and much more closely resembles that of the French, though with some important distinctions from them also.Brave, both individually and collectively; kind, charitable, light-hearted, and grateful, they possess many virtues which, in private life, must command esteem or win affection. But they appear to be almost entirely destitute of those more commanding qualities which are necessary to success in the world, and which, for good or for evil, stamp a great destiny on nations.
Ever vehement, often impassioned, they yet want the regulated ardour which sustains great undertakings. Indolent and excitable, they seek gratification rather in taking vengeance on their enemies than in improving themselves. They are too short-sighted to see what is necessary to durable success - too volatile and inconsiderate to make the sacrifices necessary to attain it.Ever since their conquest early in the twelfth century by Henry II, they have never ceased to nourish a feeling of hatred for the Saxons, which has frequently burst forth in frightful acts of violence; but they have never seen that it was only by adopting the arts and imitating the industry of the stranger, that they would be enabled to contend with him. Though possessing more than double the population, and quadruple the physical resources, of the northern neighbours of England, they were conquered with ease by eleven hundred English men-at-arms and two thousand archers, who followed the Plantagenet standard; while eighty thousand English soldiers have been repeatedly hurled back from the comparatively desolate and ill-peopled realm of Scotland.They were for long after retained in subjection by so small a force, that even in the time of Elizabeth it only amounted to one thousand, and on emergencies to two thousand men. So true in every age has been the character given of them by Agricola: "I have often heard from [Agricola] that by a single legion and a few auxilaries Ireland might be conquered and retained in subjection." (Tacitus, Agricola, c. 24)They have proved themselves as incapable of rivalling the British in peace as they were of resisting them in war. They have neither imitated their husbandry nor adopted their manufactures. Their noble natural harbours are desolate, their maginificent fisheries untouched, their rich mineral fields unexplored. Nay, so far has their animosity gone, that, like the American Indians, they repel or shun the approach of civilisation. If an English manufacturer, bringing bread to thousands, settles in their country, they burn down his factory; if a Scotch farmer appears, capable of quadrupling the produce of the soil, they shoot him through the head.To maintain an idle and barbarous independence is their idea of freedom; to repel the first advances of industry their principle of patriotism. They have gained their object. Capital shuns their fertile and peopled shores; and the overflowing wealth of England seeks rather the risk of South American insolvency, or North American repudiation, than the certainty of Irish violence.Equal, perhaps superior, to the English in genius, they have seldom directed it to any useful purpose; this want of steadiness in pursuit, this absence of a practical turn, has been their perpetual bane. Constantly complaining of evils, they have never suggested any efficient remedy for them; ever exclaiming against misgovernment, they have never given the remotest indication of a capacity to govern themselves. With the exception of numerous brave recruits which they have ever furnished for our armies, they have scarcely at any time contributed anything to the general support of the empire. Though treated with extraordinary, perhaps unmerited, indulgence in taxation, their national resources are hardly drawn forth; and the most fertile part of the British dominions is disgraced by two millions of paupers, in a land which might with ease maintain three times its present number.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
An article contained therein filled me with a sense of outrage and disgust, as it describes what I feel to be an affront to human decency. There’s a club for the super-rich in London called Movida, whose claim to fame is that it serves the world’s priciest drink, a concoction that costs £35,000. Yes, that's 35 with three zeroes following it! It has edible gold leaf included in its recipe and comes with an 11-carat diamond ring thrown in (presumably the waiters are trained in the Heimlich manoeuvre in case one of the more intellectually challenged celebs in residence swallows this particular item). The first thought that popped into my head was that this drink costs more than I, in common with two-thirds of the Irish population, earns in a year, and the second which quickly followed was whether the gold leaf is actually digested into your system, or does it emerge from the other end intact? I suppose if you’re rich enough to afford one of these drinks you probably aren’t the sort who’ll be evacuating onto a clean plate the next day and picking through your own excrement with a tweezers and a diamond cutter’s lens, shining a torch to pick out those tell-tale glimmers. That’s what your entourage is there for! It’s could be a 21st century form of panhandling; after a trip to Movida, the personal staff of the rich are kept on standby in the morning, waiting for the gold rush to start… As Douglas Adams once put it, such a tipple seems to exist for the singular purpose of allowing rich idiots to impress other rich idiots, but there is something pretty despicable about squandering so much money on a cocktail when there are people grinding their way through lives of misery and hardship over debts a fraction of that drink’s cost. At the best of times I always find it risible, contemptible even, to hear rich people (like Bono) gassing on about making poverty history, but it’s an absolute certainty that as long as people are wealthy enough, and callous enough, to waste their fortunes on a luxury such as this while others can barely afford to put food on their tables, poverty will always be with us, and indeed will flourish like a poisonous weed.
(There was also an advert warning of the perils of STDs - a picture of a naked woman’s back with a label stitched onto it bearing the legend 'chlamydia' - which I found strangely erotic. Does this make me a pervert? It’s not a whole lot different from a tattoo, to be honest! It could be a whole new form of advertising; having actual messages sewn onto your skin which you can display as you strut around the beach (or wherever you feel the compulsion to strut…))
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
One of the most delightful aspects of the Internet (more than just a global pornography network, as Lisa Simpson once said) is how it allows the individual searching for more esoteric musical experiences the opportunity of connecting directly with small labels which specialise in such things. Or, to put it another way, it is a pathway to labels run by creative and intelligent individuals who release interesting, exciting, and imaginative music, as opposed to the mainstream's (more often than not) mass-produced pablum, recorded by worthless egotists (whose primary goal in life is to swan about in limos and have closets filled with designer shoes) and slurried out by major labels. One such specialist label is Pseudo Arcana, set up by a musician named Antony Milton and dealing primarily in what could loosely be described as noise, drone, and experimental, featuring artists such as Birchville Cat Motel, seht, Dead Raven Choir, Glory Fckn Sun, and Sunken (you can check them out here and here). They are also responsible for releasing Cows in Lye, the second album from the mysterious Dialing In, and one of the best I've heard (by a hitherto unknown-to-me artist) in quite some time.
Dialing In is the nom-de-plume of Reita Piecuch, a sound artist from Seattle who works in a record shop. This practically all that I know about her. The record label's blurb is short on detail bar a basic description of how the six tracks were created and a pretty accurate summation of the album's sound (an "ecstatic roaring psychedelic drone project"). She has no website or MySpace page, and there's no statement of work or interviews available (that I could locate) which inform us of her thoughts on life, art, music, George W. Bush, etcetera. Such reclusiveness is both admirable in our age of talentless media whores (and I use the phrase in a gender-free sense) and in keeping with the bleak and beautiful atmosphere of her music, where looped motifs (a piano phrase, a vocal fragment) hover over a blaring, turbulent wall of fluid noise which at times threatens to swamp and obliterate them, creating a sonic environment of hypnotic, unsettling mystery and wonder.
Some clues to her intent: her chosen name, Dialing In, suggests reportage; messages being phoned in from a place of anxiety and uncertainty, signals received through a coagulated sediment of interference, as well as an enforced distance from the person transmitting the signals, the source. The album's title (and cover, a close-up of a flayed animal's jawbone) provides more suggestions; lye is a corrosive substance used to dissolve animal fats in order to create soap, an interesting allegory to what the artist does in her creative work (taking natural sounds and rendering them into walls of clotted noise) but also leading to speculation about the artist's intended message. Organic matter broken down by harsh, destructive chemicals in order to create something purifying? The callousness of a process whereby, in an age where synthetic soaps can be easily manufactured, chunks of slaughtered animals are still used in this fashion? Such ambiguity is in keeping with this music, which is allusive, suggestive, sublimely atmospheric, and utterly brilliant.
Like any drone project (which, I believe, have their origins in non-Western forms of music where the goal of the performer is to transport the listener into a transcendental, ecstatic state of mind), these six tracks initially come across as deceptively simple. Create a thick wall of noise, generate a few looped motifs to hover on top of it, and just let it run for a while. But it's a bit more tricky than that! The first thing to state is that Ms. Piecuch, through her method of recording and re-recording real sounds until they're practically unrecognisable, buried under an accretion of hiss and distortion, conjures up a huge, almost overwhelming density of sound on each of these tracks, especially when played as I'm sure is intended (extremely loud). Against a turbulent, at times chaotic, carpet of howling, indistinct blare, often mournful and elegiac musical phrases repeat insistently, creating a mesmerising, almost oneiric soundscape that carries the attentive listener away and into a dark, desolate, and haunting world. As the compositions envelop you, one becomes attuned to the slightest changes within the initially indistinct, almost impermeable, knots of noise; echoes of melody, ghosts of barely-heard instruments, are glimpsed briefly in the tumult before disappearing. Although the tracks are actually quite short, they give the impression that they could continue indefinitely, working their subtle magic for hours at a stretch. They encompass a wide range of invention and emotion, giving lie to the (ill-informed) notion that drone need be dull or repetitive; one can choose from the melancholic 'In The Mojave' or the blistering 'Thorazine Eclipse'; the huge, forceful bass tone of 'Landfill' or the seething, Middle-Eastern-tinged tumult of 'He Just Fused Your Mind'; from the rushing, turbid mass of 'City of Dogs' or the very strange 'Diamante's Call to Prayer', which features a guy called Herb Diamante reciting in a stilted, Olde Englishe accent over an ebbing, uncertain blare backdrop with insistent loops, a bit like the soundtrack to a post-industrial noise remake of The Canterbury Tales. Throughout, Diamante repeats the phrase "what ails thee?" like a medieval preacher; if the answer is the post-millenial blues, brought on by the fact that the world's going down the tubes and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, the best way to combat the symptoms is to take this album at least once a day, at top volume, like vitamins (as Lester Bangs suggested that you do with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music). Cows in Lye faces the muck and horror of the world we've created for ourselves and wrings beauty, hard-won and demanding but there nonetheless, out of it. And, fundamentally, that's what all good music is for, right?