Monthly Archives: December 2007

SPAIN

I´m sitting in F and P’s living room. They were just robbed. Person or persons unknown broke into their Madrid apartment, stealing, among other things, their engagement rings. Pieces of the door’s lock scatter on the floor.

At this time of year Madrid is crisp and clear, with blue skies and little wind. Piles of fetid trash choke the entrances and hallways of the subway system: today the metro cleaners’ strike continues into its second week.

madridmetro-sagasman.jpg[Madrid metro huelga de limpieza, from Sagasman's flickr.]

The city — at least its outskirts, where I am now — is plastered with pseudopolitical stickers. The usual Spanish fascist graffiti has been supplemented by a much cannier strategy. Bigotry repackaged as national pride and anti-illegal-immigrant political groups. “Don’t be an ostrich!” goes one poster, accompanied by a child-friendly photomontage of a businessman with a bird’s head, “Face the dangers of illegal immigration.” Of course, these people make no distinction between legal and illegal immigration. “Housing for all SPANISH” goes another. Huge stickers adorn doorways, and if their rhetoric is (almost) subtle, the racist caricatures (eastern european, moroccan, black african, chinese) appeal to a more basic sense of literacy.

I don’t remember any of these stickers the last time I was here. Now they bloom like poppies. The spectrum fills with colors. Either post-Franco extremists have learned to groom themselves or someone lies adjacent. And it is cunning, to make immigration look like the spout from which all sorts of social and economic ills pour, and tie that to a throwback notion of ‘Spanish’ identity from the fascist 1970s. Watching cities slide. Feeling the climate change. Seeing the wrong people sharpen their marketing game.

But I was talking about robbery. About thieves. About a broken-hearted couple at the police commissioner’s. The news media is talking about a strange new thievery surrounding the assumption of robbery. It´s called the canon digital. This refers to a blanket fine levied upon all media and gadgets involved in possible music or film piracy. Starting on January 1st, the government will place a surcharge on everything from blank CD-rs to mobile phones, scanners, and hard drives. DSL internet lines may be next. The new Spanish intellectual property law assumes we all use all these items to make personal copies of copywritten media. A big assumption to say the least… Funds generated are meant to compensate for the cost of bootlegging. The money raised will go to the (already wealthy) SGAE, Spain´s national performance rights organization, who trickle out payment to labels and artists after recouping their considerable operating costs.

No, it doesn’t matter if you use USB drives for personal data, or purchase MP3s legally via iTunes, or if you run a copyleft netlabel… everyone must pay. The canon digital is built into the price, then taxed, upping the costs of digital storage media and playback devices even more. The canon adds about 38 cents per blank CD, roughly a 41% increase in total cost to consumer! Price list here. Nosoypirata (I’m not a pirate) blogs about these issues intelligently.

But I was talking about real thieves, the ones who enter your home, smash your sense of security, take the jewelry, make you wait for hours in the police commissioner’s to report a crime the cops will not solve.

I spent a year or so living beside the sea. The Mediterranean was literally a 2-minute walk from the flat (Barceloneta). On the corner stood another police commissioners’. In the summer months a line of people would stretch out onto the sidewalk — people in bathing suits and towels, who’d fallen asleep and gotten robbed of all they had with them at the beach.

Down the street from me (even closer to the sea!) was one of the saddest apartment’s I’ve ever been visited. Inhabited by a real live ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, a black musician from Ghana who liked Steve Reich tape pieces *and* Deep Forest. My friend was sick and his place was dark, so dark, almost unbelievably dark, especially considering he rarely left and the sky outside glared bright and overwhelming, all horizon and space and tourists walking and swimming and eating as if a vacation is a narcotic or a dream. He’d microwave me tea.

Barcelona´s leaders are doing their utmost to ensure that the city won’t survive a sharp drop in tourism. (Paradox being that no city can survive a sustained spike in tourism, survival in the spiritual sense). And Spain itself can’t survive without its immigrants (legal or illegal) — economic survival as well as actual, demographic survival.

On F and P’s TV (too big for the thieves to carry) I’m watching a travel show about a blonde Spanish woman trying local cocktails around the world. That´s all she does. She jokes with the bartenders or resort staffers (they don’t always understand her, looking awkwardly at the camera) and drinks and drinks. Angkor Wat, St. Thomas, Rio de Janeiro. She bubbles through a shrinking world, looking truly drunk.

I switch channels. Jose Luis Moreno appears in a wheelchair. A few days ago real thieves entered his home. They beat him brutally. Like in 24, these thieves used torture to extract quality information in a hurry. If you have spent time in Spain yet don’t know Moreno, perhaps you’ve seen his TV program, Noche de Fiesta. It aired on Saturday evenings. Each episode lasted hours. I’ve watched it (briefly) several times: a variety show featuring models in bikinis, muscle boys, a lingerie catwalk, treacly pianists, Moreno giving away gifts, and all the old people in the audience clapping, clapping, clapping. A very successful show.

Survival of a species. Survival of the fittest. National survival. Survival of stuff like TV, befriending young and old and outlasting us all. For individuals never survive. The arrival of a new year means one less day. Which house to rob? Which love to defend?

AGUINALDOS Y VILLANCICOS

si no tiene nada, nada nos dará, que lo que queremos es cariño y bondad.

Los Aguadillanos – Si Me Dan Pasteles

Last December, Chicago, everything freezing. Wayne took me to a cafe around the corner from his place — it was a Puerto Rican spot, and they were playing this beautiful music — aguinaldos. Lighthearted Christmastime songs with nimble acoustic guitars. Villancicos are the religious-themed carols. Los aguinaldos are their somewhat secular counterpart, entangled in a tradition of roving night parties called parrandas (not unlike carolling? do people still carol? did they ever? where?) .

navidadeneltropico2

[Navidad en el Tropico: Los Trovadores de Puerto Rico album cover]


A strong distinction between aguinaldos & villancicos doesn’t exist, although the terms aren’t as expansive as the nearby American category of ‘Christmas songs’ which can range from deeply religious hymns to adolescent sing-a-longs about flying livestock and a fat white man, old but mythically fertile, who surrounds himself with children in the wilderness, counting superhuman moral acumen among his many talents. The subject matter overrides the music’s stylistic genre too, and it’s seasonal. We have nothing else like it.

here’s a gift of several aguinaldos from Puerto Rico and an old Spanish villancico.

– ? (Spanish Villancicos LP rip)

Jose A. Salaman – La Mania (“listen to me, buddy – stop being neurotic, dance with your girl, I dance with mine… I’m warning you, for that obsession, many have ended in a cold grave”)

Julita Ross – Esta Navidad

Tonin Romero – De Tierras Lejanas

Ramito – A Los Boricanos

BONUS MIDI FILES!!!

De Tierras Lejanas

 

Si Me Dan Pasteles

DUTTY MOVES

OiNK is dead. In the past week, I was invited to 2 post-OiNK sites (by an altruistic stranger and the same woman who gave me my first taste of pig). Both sites are quite good. Together they have almost as many members as OiNK did, and they’re only a few months old. You can change the skin/stylesheet of each one to an ‘OiNK’ setting, so it looks almost exactly like our departed friend.

Cut off the head, several grow back.

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I’m playing NYC’s DubWar party tonite, with special guest Jah Dan blessing the mic. Details and ticket giveway over at Dutty Artz.

Matt Shadetek & I sat down and looked at our release schedule for 2008 – it is beastly. It is craziness. We are being topsecret w/ power moves for the moment but soon we’ll turn it on and it won’t stop. the label has a myspace, the iceberg’s tip.

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Alan blogs. And it’s great. sorry, gringos.

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Greg = gringo, but when he writes about funk carioca, he talks about contracts, which is wonderful. His post led me to Flamin Hotz, who talks about contracts, which is wonderful. The Flamin Hotz post is the best online overview i’ve seen of funk economics; before you can even talk about international exploitation/interaction, there’s a ton of Brasil-side madness to contend with:

When the artist in the favela sells the song, the contracts stipulates that he is signing over all of his rights to the music for a one time fee (roughly $1000 reais or approximately $500), the artist will not be allowed to play the song live any more, and that the artist will get no credit for the musical process that was put into the song. In the Baile Funk scene this is just business as usual and has created a huge divide in who actually is getting money from CD sales, radio play, and international licensing. Our goal with our international release is to combat this system where money is only filtering to the top of the food chain.

This touches on what happens in many musical ecosystems across the planet. Most of the classic reggae tunes, for example, are owned and controlled by the studio bosses, so when labels like Soul Jazz license material the studio bosses are the ones they must legally deal with — the ones who get paid. For example, if you want to put Sister Nancy’s classic anthem ‘Bam Bam’ on a compilation, you do not need her permission and she does not receive any money from it, even though she wrote and performed the lyrics.

The music business is a kind of pathetic vivid nightmare, run by greedy people, dilettantes, and people who don’t like music.

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Maga Bo knows incredible amounts about Brazilian music. A comprehensive radio show/podcast he’s done for years is now archived at Spannered.

MMVII LOOKBACK

it’s that time…

British contemporary art magazine Frieze asked me to write an essay on the year in music. Results can be found in the Jan-Feb issue on newstands now (or soon), and it’s viewable online.

The image “http://www.frieze.com/images/sites/covers/mag112.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

my Top 10 List for WFMU contains RealAudio links, functioning as a kind of dispersed soundtrack to the above piece.

tonite’s radio show can be listened to. Expect a few killer Low Deep tracks (see below), an exclusive remix by Sonido Martines, new tunes by DJ C, The Bug, Michelle, and – always – more.

My OiNK piece is being translated to Italian and will be republished soon, details on that as they come. I’ve been busy doing heaps of writing for various ‘real’ publications — expect a wave of articles in 2008. Plus a followup to the OiNk post soon here on MuddUp!

The Low Deep instrumentals album is gorgeous instrumental grime and grime/r&b hybrids, showcasing his distinctive take on time and melodic orchestration. Self-released, purchase links on his myspace.

i first heard ‘Straight Flush’ years ago and was floored. happy to say that a handful of cuts are as good as that or even better… this mp3 wont be up for long. seems that, outside the grime scene, folks aren’t checking for Low Deep, which is too bad… i could see him making serious waves in the mainstream R&B world:

Low Deep – Never See Me Fall

lowdeep

57 VARIETES SUB BIGAMIST

Karlheinz Karlheinz, one composers who helped shape a western at his home in Germany. He was audiences.

Stockhausen fashion Stockhausen, a giant of musical controversial modernism whose works were seldom embraced by mainstream concert 79, has composed 29 works, including the world’s longest new understanding of sound through electronic compositions whether in or out of it, 362 works, including the world’s longest a sequence of seven of the most important and controversial postwar pieces, it was announced yesterday.

Prolific, opera, Licht. 79 at the age of one for every day of the week. The 362 work lasts hours. he composed

AFRICAN-AMERICAN BURIAL GROUND

speaking of remix decisions (and burials), here’s a fresh interment from NYC’s Leif.

leif

Burial – Archangel (Leif remix)

Burial remixes must be a kind of cottage industry right now (if u see the Buddha, remixx the Buddha) but I’m drawn to the way Leif attaches a Baltimore-style kick pattern & interweaves new subtleties into the original while keeping the trademark muted clanky feel. Baltimore structure with Burial timbres – so much more interesting than the plain ‘add B-more break’ remix decision! Leif redirects the effete British rave nostalgia-pop (“ambient trance” a friend calls it) of Burial down a sweatier east coast US alley.

The aura of the original remains intact, just displaced. In fact, the remix meshes so closely with the album track that it eats my memory of that ‘first’ version and becomes the definitive one, for me.

speaking of wubstep & What Happens When It Washes Up in Amerika, i’ll be playing NYC’s DubWar on December 21, at this spot called Love that everybody says has the best sound in NYC. Alongside DJ Geko Jones and Jah Dan blessing the mic. We will crush you.

ENTIERRO DE LA SARDINA

A funeral where everything is fake and exaggerated.

It consists of pallbearers who carry the coffin where the sardine (supposedly) rests, before a group of women dressed in black. These are “the Sardine’s widows”, who cry and scream loudly, confessing their sins to a false priest. Some of the women may not be women. A group of police – also false – precede the convey, and the whole group is surrounded by a high-volume orchestra and people who slowly join the procession.

The streets lie in darkness and one can only see thanks to candlelight throwing shadows and glow across narrow streets. In seaside cities the sardine is taken to the shore and thrown in; in other cities a special burial ground is designated for it.

el entierro de la sardina

[Goya painting]

DECISIONS DECISIONS DECISION

so I was talking with Sonido Martines the other day, and he was upset that a M.I.A. remix he did that gets played alot at Zizek ended up on Diplo’s blog without any mention of Sonido. Here’s a version with metadata intact.

MIA – Paper Planes (Sonido Martines’ Paper Guacharaca remix)

It’s hard to know when the data gets corrupted. You can even think about remix culture as an ongoing exploration of the pleasures of rough data, scrambled bits, a thing’s integrity compromised by dirty outside info (or the impossibility of a thing’s integrity made apparent, take your pick).

But i mostly think of remixes as a series of decisions (even moreso than original music). Taken or not taken. The song already exists, what will you do to change it, and how much change do you need to enact before you can call it yours?

What makes the Sonido Martines remix so radical, in my opinion, is the flagrant simplicity of it: he added a short guacharaca loop to the original… and nothing else. One decision was made. One. The 1-bar loop doesnt even change or drop out, its just there. For the entire song. And, deservedly, he puts his name on it!

It helps, obviously, that Sonido’s decision involves a guacharaca* loop and (critically) not a baltimore-break loop or a disco-electro loop or rap vocal or any of the overrused initial decisions that kids turn to when doing a remix. The cultural context for his remix is foregrounded (loud in the mix, constant, repetitive, inescapable, and, before too long, invisible, inaudible). This is remix as placement, building context – even if you can’t pronounce guacharaca and don’t know what the loping scraping rhythm does in its other manifestations…

Screwed music & cumbias rebajadas (get Sonidos’ screwed cumbia mix for my radio show, thnx 2 WTC) also have that singular decision — slow it down. And honestly, given the wealth of possibilities offered by digital audio software, making a remix that involves only one decision is often a surprisingly lucid declaration of intent / intensity / focus. In this sense DJ Screw and Sonido Martines are philosophical remixers/producers: thinking seriously about one thing, thinking that one thing’s implications through, fully.

*speaking of guacharacas, Jerónimo directed me to this vallenato youtubery featuring incredible guacharaca and accordeon solos.