Song Of The Day – Feel The Vibe by Loose Ends

From the EP ‘Love’s Got Me’ (1990)

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Essential Listening: Various Bandcamp Stuff

As with Discogs and Boomkat, Bandcamp looms as a potential worm hole for aficionados. Now, if you know what you’re after, you can escape quickly, and financially intact, but if you’re browsing you can easily get sucked in.

Not that this is a ‘problem’. Quite the opposite, nearly all of us will have extra time to do this thanks to working from home, or self-isolating to combat the spread of Coronavirus. There are worse ways to kill some time – well, unless you want to purposely infect a cunty neighbour who hasn’t returned that Parmesan microplane you lent them – especially as Bandcamp supports a lot of independent musicians, bands and labels, who, as so many do, need all the support they can get right now.

(I know we’re supposed to be vigilant and earnest about Coronavirus and its threat, but I did manage to amuse myself by reading the headline to this story as ‘A man has appeared in court charged with fake tits which claimed to treat Covid-19’. Hey, sometimes a little levity in uncertain times is necessary. Also necessary, that the scummy dickhead in question who made the fake kits gets what’s coming to him.)

Bandcamp’s catalogue is vast but it still retains a niche feel. Its skin and layout is favourably reminiscent of Myspace, which is now synonymous with the early internet’s look and feel (remember the days before ‘do you accept our cookies?’, ‘Please register with us’ and using your data consent bars incessantly popping up?) and as one of the first significant sites with which burgeoning musicians could self-promote.  Bandcamp is a business, and while it does take a cut of the proceeds, fifteen percent to be exact, you struggle to begrudge it this when compared to Spotify or fucking Apple music (*spits*), mostly due to its ease of use for both uploaders and buyers and having no adverts. Everything is linked by label and by genre, encouraging you to wander. Information and context are often sparse, and the (relatively) large media buttons are given prime of place at the top left of the page. Sure, there may be a soft-sell blurb from the producer, label or artist placed further down the page, and there’s a comments section from those who have tried it, but why would you read these instead of trying the music? Bandcamp succeeds in placing you vis-à-vis with the music and poses the important questions; is this interesting, do I like this?

Oddly, Bandcamp’s indiscriminateness reminds me of the Coronavirus. It’s a leveller. However, the simplicity of Bandcamp’s interface is a welcome inverse to the infuriatingly confusing coverage the pandemic has received in the media. The information matrix, that’s a euphemism for the internet kids – and it’s now the place where nearly all news is sourced, has become such a landfill that it’s never been harder to parse what information is genuine, vetted and given to you for your benefit.

Normally you’d trust the government guidelines, but their confused message at the start obliterated trust and makes people less likely to follow the medical advice tethered to it, no matter how viable or reliable it is. When Boris Johnson first announced his headline figure of two hundred-thousand deaths by the virus, that was based upon influenza data, a different affliction. Then came Dominic Cummings’ quickly aborted herd immunity ‘take it on the chin’ strategy (I’d pay good money to see Cummings’ head bounced off a kerb before someone in a JCB digger reversed over him), which everyone sensible recoiled at. Was this dogmatic, strategic Darwinist right-wing wet dream challenged as outrageous bollocks? No, and in the darkest of ironies they were absolved by the ground shifting too quickly. Now, in lockdown, we’re reduced to medical experts being wheeled out daily to offer speculative predictions. What good does this do other than fill news cycles?

In the absence of facts or even consensus, or, get this, actual news, you know, reporting of events, we get opinion. News as opinion is always editorialised, which makes it propaganda. Case in point – see the Daily Mail whipping up its readership with xenophobia, with the utterly ludicrous assertion that Michel Barnier infected Boris Johnson with the virus as revenge for Brexit.

While that might be the bottom of the barrel, the rest barely rise above it, we’ve had copious interviews and ‘what it could mean’ takes – answer: nobody knows, using the pandemic as a conduit for political point scoring (it’s the absolute worst), non-medical experts discussing the issue and asking inane questions of other non-experts. Such a circle-jerk of incessant news filler is the terrain where conspiracy theories, bad faith anti-vaccine nutjobs and mis-information thrive, and it spills over to social media, in the pub, at home or in your workplace. Worst of all, it helps breed the kind of ignorant contempt that sees people act without concern of spreading the virus to others.

It’s alarming, but no less surprising, that someone as lacklustre as Johnson, in a position with direct access to the best experts, initially struggled to identify and act on the correct information. While it would be facetious to blame the media directly in that case, the government’s dithering is indicative of how robust the current media’s propaganda model is and its ability to sow doubt. In Johnson’s case you wonder if a potential backlash from the ignorant talking heads who set the public tone encouraged him, and that nasty fuck Dominic Cummings, to prioritise optics, business, the market, way of life, instead of following the lead of other countries, like South Korea and Japan, and adopting the correct strategic approach. It’s fitting that the current government’s early handling of the situation; complacency, dysfunction, ineptitude, sycophantism, also prevail throughout much of the mainstream media. Its main job is to hold people and institutions accountable, and now it does everything it can not to, including, crucially, itself.

We are to blame here too, we don’t hold them to account. We’ll distract ourselves with anything to avoid holding ourselves to account. See the slew of self-serving arseholes going out and getting pished one last time when pubs were forced to shut, or doing a Kirstie Allsopp and contravening the current lockdown cause ‘not travelling to our second house is a bit inconvenient, yeah’.

Thankfully, not everybody is an epic cunt like Kelvin MacKenzie who’s made a career out of lying and saying anything to remain relevant, or the worst kind of self-interested shameless grasping cunt; Mike ‘I need to go on a zero calories per hour diet’ Ashley or Tim fucking Martin – here’s a naming and shaming spreadsheet for employee testimonies for treatment and conditions during the outbreak. There are sane, altruistic people in the public eye. They’re the folk who aren’t blagging, claiming to have expert knowledge. Take Gary Neville allowing NHS staff to use his hotel’s premises and just being a voice of reason generally, and Jürgen Klopp rightly refusing to give his opinion on the virus when some lazy arsehole journo looking for easy copy pressed him on the issue. Klopp had the requisite self-awareness to know he didn’t know enough about the subject and therefore it was irresponsible for him to give anybody advice. If only everyone else heeded it…

…anyway, down a different wormhole there, so, where was I?

Oh yeah, Bandcamp. The following is stuff I’ve found, or been directed towards, over the last few years that can act as jumping off points. Who knows where they’ll take you? That’s the fun of it.

 

 

There’s loads of Japanese Vaporwave on Bandcamp. Who knew? My initial exposure to Vaporwave was not favourable. It’s crap, as crap as a McDonald’s breakfast, and its construct is too – knocked off soul and R’n’B samples slowed down to half speed, often with the vocals distorted into sluggishness, and occasionally augmented by ambient collages.

Clearly an ignorant stereotyping. 2814 would be perfect as the sombre part of the score for one of the Yakuza games or one of Takeshi Kitano’s stylised hard boiled crime movies. The other one’s music to get down to, it’s twenty plus minutes long (take it as a challenge fellas) and is essentially two different mixes of the same track. It, and the person(s) responsible retains some mystery. There’s bugger all info provided, and the artist and album title haven’t been translated from the Kanji (I daren’t attempt this through Google Translate for fear of looking like a bigger fanny than usual).

However, the latter of the above shares a label with a bunch of other Japanese Vaporwave and this wee gem:

 

If I hadn’t noticed this was a Japanese/Chilean combo I’d think it was released by Star Slinger. The beats and abbreviated hooks are almost as delightfully garish as the cover art. The second wields eighties funk baselines with serious aplomb.

 

 

I discovered some KevinTheCreep stuff on an NTS mix, then Vector Graphics as they share the same label. If you’re so inclined you can buy the entire Sic Records discography for about £70 (subject to exchange rates). This presents a quandary, buy the whole lot based upon one or two you’ve tried, and get a discount, or buy them separately cause you like them. Who listens to seventy odd albums from one source? Who buys seventy all at once? Thanks to Coronavirus perhaps this will be our only chance.

Some other Kevin The Creep picks from the catalogue – Sic Oasis offers the kind of laid back yacht grooves found in eighties commercials or video game title sequences, while Marble Eternity’s beats owe much to new jack swing and nineties west coast rap’s jazz sampling, as does another Sic Records offering – International Jazz Playaz by the Jazz Playaz Quartet (why of course!)

 

And yes, I’m finishing with 1991’s bleak and austere soundscapes, with a dash of Vaporwave, again highlighting the genre’s sonic versatility. It sounds imposing, vast, even threatening at times. The title ‘No more dreams’ is topical. Are you dreaming of what once was? Being able to go anywhere at any time, for a meal, to the football, nightclubbing, following the herd down to Greece – on holiday, heaving up a rancid kebab, to the cinema, for normality to return? You know, the shit we take for granted? So fams, let’s not take Bandcamp, and what it can do for the music industry and your sanity, for granted either.

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Song Of The Day – Gradients Of Bliss by Barker

From the album ‘Utility’ (2019)

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Song Of The Day – What’s Going On by Donny Hathaway

From the album ‘Live’ (1972)

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Too Old To Die Young is boring, but worse yet, cynical

When’s the last time you watched something that surprised you? In a good or a bad way? For movies it would be The Skin I Live In. Deadwood was the last TV show, and that débuted nearly fifteen years ago. Never before had the English language been utilised with such eloquence, and interspersed with relentlessly profane scorn. It brilliantly represented Deadwood’s bleak setting and perfectly disseminated the pathos of its subjects.

So, what does this have to do with Amazon Prime’s Too Old To Die Young? Life’s enriched by art, and it’s even more rewarding when it’s unexpectedly good. Fashion and peer pressure often impedes artistic interpretation, it prevents you from trusting your taste, taste being the most innate of qualities. I remember buying Orbus Terrarum by the Orb, solely on the recommendation of a mate, partly to impress him and to feel sophisticated. I hated it, but I kept listening to it hoping I would get it. It can’t be that it was just rubbish. No, my taste was defective, unrefined, juvenile. I was like one of those try hard art students who think it’s cool to wax lyrical about how special something is, because they think it makes them look cool, even though they secretly detest it and you can tell that they do.

Too Old To Die Young genuinely confounded me in the same way the “genius” of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive did, yet I kept watching. I kept waiting to ‘get it’. Fifteen minutes in to the first episode I was wavering, and I should’ve trusted my instincts and bailed. It was agony; the slow panning shots, those elongated utterly absurd pauses in dialogue, nobody interacts in this way, not even when they’re baked. The scene was of two cops shaking down your generic wannabee actress for speeding when she hadn’t. She had a choice, either she blew one of them, or paid them to go away. The neon tinge and piercing synths attempted to create a disquieting ambiance and tension, perhaps dread. But it only made me question what was I watching, a post-modernist take on the porn industry? Everything looked pristine, glamorous, no litter on the streets, with perfect looking people taken straight from a Vogue cover shoot. Little did I know that this preposterous and pointless opening sequence perfectly encapsulated the show – inexplicable, boring, trite, grotesque, peculiar, nihilistic with graphic violence, sadism, displaced incest, elements of the occult and slapstick comedy entering the fray later.

We’re introduced to Martin Jones in this opening sequence. It’s fitting that, as a charisma vacuum, he’s analogous with the show’s marmite qualities; all surface, brooding, he barely speaks, spits a lot (as a tell for when he’s faced with someone or something he despises), and wears a blank expression throughout, except when he’s acting ‘normal’ to ensnare a pair of pornographers. These facets may make Jones sound mysterious (as does the cocktail I listed above make the show sound interesting), but he’s not (and it’s not). Within Too Old To Die Young’s matrix he’s normalised, just your average introverted, sociopathic hedonist who enjoys killing paedophiles and other assorted underworld degenerates. This should’ve made him a sympathetic figure, an anti-hero, but with no incision or depth to his or any character, his eventual revelation that he can no longer reconcile his job as a homicide detective with the necessity of his vigilantism appears hollow.

Jones dates the seventeen year old daughter of an entertainment mogul, played by William Baldwin, who steals every scene, and is the only highlight in this load of absolute bollocks. Baldwin’s absurdist caricature of an eccentric Hollywood producer type is a stark juxtaposition amongst all the angst of teens, twenty and thirty somethings. His creepy behaviour, however, is not, just overt; he masturbates in front of Jones, adopts a visual metaphor for Jones’ sexual prowess that’s both congratulatory and envious and made me laugh out loud, and describes Jones as pretty ‘like Elvis’. In this context, Baldwin’s character seems comparatively normal, somehow.

The second episode focuses on the other main protagonist, and plot strand, Jesus, and his fleeing from LA to Mexico in the aftermath of a revenge killing. It’s one of the most self-indulgent episodes of television ever curated, consisting of people sitting silently in rooms and an old man shitting into a colostomy bag retelling the same story multiple times. It could’ve been cut in half and still been too long.

If you can last beyond the first two episodes, and it’s a big if, the plot stands converge and things become more interesting, relatively speaking. Jesus returns to LA aiming to re-establish the cartel’s ascendancy. Jones is coerced into moonlighting for a Jamaican gangster who’s having a turf dispute with the Mexicans, and befriends isn’t the right term here, more happens upon and then appropriates a paedophile killing operation ran by an ex FBI agent and spiritually guided therapist for abused kids.

At no point do you empathise with any of the characters, because they give us no reason to. I suspect that’s Refn’s and Brubaker’s intended coda: we’re apathetic and heading towards being completely devoid of empathy. By presenting behaviour this violent and cuntishly self-absorbed through a dystopian extreme they can claim they’re altruistic, in helping create an aversion to it. Problem is, nobody remotely sane feels that way to begin with.

The jarring ultra-violence amongst the show’s sea of stodge gave it a Banshee on ketamine sensibility. However, that isn’t fair to the pulpy Banshee, which didn’t pretend to be anything else, and doesn’t deserve to be compared to this. It wasn’t cynical, Too Old To Die Young’s use of violence amongst its array of trite oddities is. This ‘throw some cool shit together and people will watch anything’ construct panders to wanky art-school voyeurs and luvvie fashionistas looking for a conversation starter. It’s the Patrick Bateman of TV shows. I suspect that’s why I’m being so hostile here. It made me feel like a sucker. I watched eleven plus hours of something wanting to believe it would deliver something interesting, but never did, you fucking dreamer, you poseur. Don’t make the same mistake.

If you say that you liked Too Old To Die Young, maybe my ability to be diplomatic about that and you would surprise me, but that aside, the worst thing I can accuse it of is robbing my capacity to be surprised by anything anymore. How on earth did this get greenlit?

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