Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Macca and the Mystery Machine

Dear fellow bloggers,
I am posting something I discovered recently - I really dig this. I do not know whether it is lame to listen to McCartney but, frankly, I do not care and probably the album McCartney II (from 1980) is an exception anyway.

So here is the track "Check My Machine" from McCartney II. When I first heard it I found myself completely puzzled. This does not sound anything like The Beatles or Wings. The first thing it reminded me of was actually Ariel Pink. Probably because of the "white funk" falsetto-voice. And not the original white funk but namely the second hand, digested and drained version of it that we find in Pink. What also makes it Pinkish is probably the jokey-quality of this track. Of course Pink came later and this is from 1980 which is why it is odd.

The use of samples and the length of it makes it oh-so-contemporary. Goes well with the overall loop-loving lo-fi wave that we have atm. (Actually it was the Baltimore sample-wizard Jason Urick who said that I should listen to McCartney II and that the album has definitely had an impact on him).

I cannot understand what "machine" Macca is singing about. There is something porn-ish about this track, probably because it is rather long and laid-back; because of the bassline as well. So I came to the conclusion that Macca might be singing about something sexual. Classic funk: in 1971 James Brown asks us to "get up and stay on the scene like a sex machine". I do not know what that means but anyway; pseudo-funk: 9 yrs later asks Macca to check out his machine.

Googled the lyrics. And there we have it:
Check My Machine
Check Check Check Check Check My Machine

(Spoken) Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones
But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Check My Machine
Check Check Check Check Check My Machine

I Got A Woman A Long Time Ago
I Had Trouble
I Want You To See What You Can See

women, drive, machines - gonna stop here.


PS. A little ad for Jason Urick as well, I think he is great:
Jason Urick - Se Na Min (SPOTIFY link)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

"I really think ..."

Something mentioned in both More Brilliant Than The Sun and A Voice And Nothing More ...

The object laughs, the object screams

(from "The Object Speaks", given at the Philosophy and the Vernacular dayschool, at the International Centre for Music Studies (ICMUS), the University of Newcastle, September 2006)

In More Brilliant than the Sun, Kodwo Eshun situates Jones’ version of ‘She’s Lost Control’ as part of a tripartite moment, beginning with the death of HAL in 2001, and continuing into the Chicago House of Sleezy D’s ‘Lost Control’.

"The womanmachine Grace Jones' 82 remodel of Joy Division's 79 She's Lost Control updates the '50s mechanical bride. For the latter losing control meant electric epilepsy, voice drained dry by feedback. For Jones, the female model that's losing control induces the sense of automation running down, the human seizing up into a machine rictus. The model - as girl, as car, as synthesizer - incarnates the assembly time of generations, obsolescence, 3-year lifespans."

Jones as a model, then… again… Girl, car, synthesizer – the mechanical bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even.

Seizing up, indeed. To lose control here is not to attain the hyper-vital contingency of the aleatory or the ludic, but to be seized, to find one’s will interrupted and disrupted by the interposition of an Other agent; and to seize up, to feel one’s limbs becoming arthritized by the irruption of the mechanical.
In Joy Division’s original, Ian Curtis abjects his own dis-ease, the ‘holy sickness’ of epilepsy, onto a female Other. We may remember that Freud includes epileptic fits – along, incidentally, with a body in the grip of sexual passion – as examples of the uncanny. Here the organic is slaved to the mechanical rhythms of the inorganic; the inanimate calls the tune.

In Joy Division’s version, "She’s Lost Control" is one of rock’s most explicit encounters with death drive: it confronts the "edge of no escape", petil mals as petit morts, Poe-like cataleptic black holes in subjectivity, intermittent interruptions of the user-illusion of identity - She’s Lost Control – flatline voyages into the land of the dead and back, like Artaud miserably waking from the white-hot torture-bliss of electro-convulsive therapy, repetition-compulsion - She’s Lost Control Again -

Joy Division’s icy-spined undeath disco sounds like it has been recorded inside the damaged synaptic pathways of a brain of someone undergoing a seizure, Curtis’ sepulchural, anhedonic vocals sent back to him – as if they were the voice of an Other, or Others - in long, leering expressionistic echoes that linger like acrid acid fog.

Jones’ version transposes the song into the Black Atlantic dub of which Martin Hannet’s production was in any case a sombre Manchester doppelganger. Perhaps it is in dub that we come as close as possible to encountering the voice as object; for in dub the voice is estranged both from the body and from signification, even as it can be heard as what they have in common.

In her version, Jones’ voice is wreathed in echoes – of itself, of course; set adrift in a malevolent haze of eerily circulating vocal fragments, figments and FX. Is it an accident that amidst this vocal detritus are two of the limit-cases of the linguistic referred to by Mladen Dolar: the scream and the laugh? In the pre-linguistic scream and the post-linguistic laugh, the liminality of the language erupts in audible signs of the loss of control. ‘Laughter … often bursts out uncontrollably, against the will and intention of the hapless subject; it seizes him or her with an unstoppable force as a series of cramps and convulsions which irrepressibly shake the body and elicit inchoate cries which cannot be consciously contained.’ (29)

Where Curtis sounds already-dead, fatalistically mortified, capable of neither screaming nor laughing, Jones sounds crazed, deranged, in some state that, neither agonized nor ecstatic, is some sublime bitches’ brew of the two; jouissance, precisely. The screams and the laughter seem to come from some Other place, a dread zone from which Jones has returned, but only partially. Is it the laughter of one who has passed through death or the scream of a machine that is coming to life?

Jones changes the words, repudiates Curtis’ disavowal.

‘I’ve lost control’, she sings, repeating her impossible identification again, paradoxically asserting her subjectivity at the very moment of its erasure.

I’ve lost control

I have become the object.

I, the object.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Hot. Very hot. And 'vibey'...

I felt I had to post this song I've been listening to a lot recently. This is a fantastic example of 'new wave' South African dance music. This particular track is in the Shangaan tradition, which is fast, very hot, 'vibey' and uses Pantsula moves (made popular in the 80s among young men and women as a way of expressing frustration and anger in the townships. Its a seemingly violent, fast, aggressive way of dancing. 'When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones').

Shangaan differs from the sounds of 'the hip hop guys' or afro-pop, because its faster, and uses a different set of instruments. Nozinja argues that he revolutionized the Shangaan music tradition, because he deviated from the traditional set up of bass and lead guitar, by using marimba and organs instead, 'those are the new aspects they never had before. At first people thought I was mad, and now its the in-thing. You can play that music with bass, thats the old-timer music'.

Shangaan comes from the Limpopo province of South Africa. Nozinja describes the area as 'rural. Its hot, very hot and vibey. Shangaan music is about love'


Friday, 19 November 2010

Bicameralism: Auditory Hallucinations/Despotic Voices

From Wikipedia:

In psychology, bicameralism is a hypothesis which argues that the human brain once assumed a state known as a bicameral mind in which cognitive functions are divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys.

The term was coined by psychologist Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality, that is to say a mental state in which there are two distinct sections of consciousness, was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago. He used governmental bicameralism to metaphorically describe such a state, in which the experiences and memories of the right hemisphere of the brain are transmitted to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations. This mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought, which Jaynes argues is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language.

According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state would experience the world in a manner that has similarities to that of a modern-day schizophrenic. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands, and obey these voices without question; one would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se.

Jaynes inferred that these "voices" came from the right brain counterparts of the left brain language centres—specifically, the counterparts to Wernicke's area and Broca's area. These regions are somewhat dormant in the right brains of most modern humans, but Jaynes noted that some studies show that auditory hallucinations correspond to increased activity in these areas of the brain.


Even though Jaynes' theory seems to be more of a cult today, rather than the object of serious academic debate, this is still a bit interesting in terms of what was discussed during the last session. Also, Dolar's text, in particular, did help to clarify an aspect of both Jaynes' and Lacan's work that I had failed to notice prior to reading it - which obviously is the disctinction, or inner tension, between signifying language and asignifying voice.

If anyone is interested in this, Steven Shaviro has a brief but interesting discussion of Jaynes' theory on his blog. It's been a while since I read the book myself, but I remember it as a bit cheesy from time to time. However, anyone who's interested might benefit from checking it out.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


First of all - thank you so much for opening this space Mark!

I would like to share some Danish radio/sound bites with you. In this audio magazine you can find cool sound-stories: http://thirdear.dk/

Some of it is in Danish but some is also in English since Tim Hinman - the guy behind Thid Ear - actually is English and has been working for BBC before he 'got stuck' up north in the cold cold Denmark.

I actually heard him play sound scapes and radio bites tonight at Whitechapel Gallery. He used to work for the Danish national broadcast (a bit like BBC just a Denmark-size=smaller) and he played stuff he had made there too.

This way he actually told a story about how radio has developed in Denmark, a country which has a very strong tradition in that field. Among others he played a great piece about the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, one about the old part of Copenhagen - Frederiksstaden - and some more experimental sound stuff - all of it very well edited and very entertaining.

Like a true patriot I would suggest that we got him to do a guest lecture if possible? Let me know what you think of it guys and girls - and for the record he has got translations on a screen when Danish is spoken;-)

Best Kat

How could your nothings be so sweet? (You left your love letters incomplete)

Scritti's Sweet Sickness

    How could your nothings be so sweet?

    What to make of Green's voice, then? Or, to pose the same question from the other side: what is the minimal difference that has always separated Scritti's deconstructions from the Real Thing? There's a tendency to locate Green's undoings and unsettlings on the level of signifiers, as if his subversion were all to do with Wordplay, and his voice were merely a site for natural expressivity. But, as Dolar establishes, the 'object voice' is neither the voice stripped of all sensual qualities in order to become the neutral transmitter of signifiers, nor the voice stripped of all signification in order to become a pure source of aesthetic pleasure. With Green's voice, we continually slide between two types of Non-Sense: the nonsense of 'the lover's discourse', the nursery-rhyme-like reiterations of baby-talk phrases that are devoid of meaning, but which are nevertheless the most important utterances people perform or hear; and also the nonsense of the voice as sound, another kind of sweet nothing. That is why Green's lyrics look very different when you read them; the voice almost prevents you hearing them except as senseless sonorous blocks, mechanically repeated refrains.

    What is disturbing about Cupid & Psyche by comparison with the New Pop that preceded is precisely its lack of any self-conscious meta-presence. This is where I slightly disagree with Simon, when he argues that Cupid & Psyche is 'about love rather than in love.' It seems to me that what makes Cupid & Psyche so disturbingly depthless is precisely the absence of that space between the song's form and the subject; the songs instantiate the lover's discourse, they do not comment on it. Cupid & Psyche's songs, creepily, aren't about anything, any more than love itself is. Compare Cupid & Psyche with ABC's The Lexicon of Love (an album of love songs about love songs, if ever there was one), for instance. Martin Fry's presence is ubiquitous in The Lexicon of Love, manifesting itself in every raised eyebrow and set of inverted commas. But on Cupid & Psyche we get precious little sense of a 'real', biographical Green behind or beyond the record; as opposed to Self-consciousness, we have 'reflexivity without a self (not a bad name for the subject').' (Dolar) There is only the void, the voice and the signifying chain, unraveling forever in a shopping mall of mirrors, a whispering gallery of sweet nothings...

    I guess it's a sickness/ that keeps me wanting...

    The excess of Green's voice resides in its sweetness, a sweetness that seems unhealthy, sickly, which puts us on our guard even as it seduces us. Green's voice is synthetic, candied, rather than authentic, wholesome. It already sounds inhuman, so that, upon first hearing rave's pitched-up chirruping vocals, the obvious comparison was with Scritti's androgynous cooing.