Saturday, October 10, 2009


I run hot and cold on Mark Fisher's work (though the quality of the writing is never in dispute) but this is a case of hit -> nail -> head.

Monday, October 5, 2009


For your pleasure - and in lieu of written actual content.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Some recent writing:

On the Cluster & Eno reissues, for Little White Earbuds;
On Jim O'Rourke (more later), Onna, and The Clean for Dusted;
Plus if you feel like shopping around in your local newsagent (Australian only, mind) I review John Shand's patchy Australian Jazz book in Australian Book Review.

You should also read these:

Simon's excellent article on theory in music criticism for Frieze;
David Keenan and Daniel Lopatin's fabulous e-discourse on hypnagogic pop at The Hidden Reverse (though I have to say, we dealt with that rapprochement-between-mainstream-and-underground at least a decade ago, when R&B went avant and IDM/etc struggled to catch up);
and in tribute to Matt's Gasoline Alley, and my and Danni Zuvela's rampant obsession with all things 1970s Rod Stewart, watch this:

(Not mentioning the Paul Nelson/Lester Bangs book, though. Oh no.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


A lot of hot air about 'sound art' circulating currently in my spheres, most of it from funding humpers who're after the cold ka-ching of the arts funding body register. And I guess that's fine, really: I like the idea of people being given money to create art that pre-exists the funding application. It's when the shoe's on the other foot, and you have career fartists on the make, that things get ugly.

But 'sound art' is a complex beast that will not be tamed. I was recently invited to be part of this forum, which was an interesting experience to say the least. Plenty of good audience discussion which I thought became most interesting when it started to revolve around ideas of 'pleasure' in music - thanks to American artist (and all round swell guy) Loren Chasse being present in the room. I found it telling that the most immediately interesting aspects of Liquid Architecture were to do with its fringe programming, not immediately index-linked to the LA behemoth. It was also telling that I wasn't drawn to any of the LA events themselves (I mean, who really needs Perlonex or Thomas Koner in this day and age? Maybe if Jurgen Reble was out and about...)

Jim Knox wrote a particularly good piece on the Anglocentric, Western vision of sound art espoused by 21:100:100, an exhibition I visited late last year at Gertrude Contemporary Arts Space. Co-curated (there's another sick-making word, 'curation' - please bring your white cubes to bear on our DIY forms, our back passages are well-oiled) by Alexie Glass, Emily Cormack, Oren Ambarchi and Marco Fusinato, its sterility and tastefulness killed any anti-consensus thought inherent in the music selected, sterilised by the 'discourse of validation' that white cube contextualisation can't help but force onto the music in question.

Now, I don't think the art space a priori kills DIY/punk aesthetics in (what others call) 'experimental' or 'avant-garde' practice. There are framing devices that work, modes of presentation that upset or de-centre traditional practice. Sly subversion can work, even if it often ends up being temporally fixed, which means that last year's sly subversion ends up looking like today's unintended hilarity (the Philip Brophy/Asphixiation/tsk tsk tsk films that have been screening as part of MIFF's Post-Punk programme are salutary in this respect, though they are still quite appealing in their 'android'-ness, their lite-Brechtianism).

There was something in 21:100:100 that felt neutered, dead, soulless - which perhaps chimes in with Jim Knox's argument about the presumptions curators (I suspect unintentionally/subconsciously) make about sites of progressive culture (the assumption that progressive culture is "the exclusive province of white capitalists and the Japanese"). The validity of the project also lies in question - if its intent was to introduce new listeners to different music (an admirable pursuit) I'm not sure how welcoming it was, how its discursive framing ultimately helped - beyond appealing to a very particular demographic of poseurly art crowds and record collectors (umm, mea culpa) - and for anyone 'in the know', for want of a better term, well, it was all a bit ex post facto...

But then the struggle is - and to my mind will always be - how to present new and different forms of art outside of traditional spaces and discourses, so as to not neuter their power/impact, but still to offer both a space for engagement and a mode of remuneration for the artists involved? Answers on a coaster, please...

Friday, July 24, 2009


Sorry for silence.

A few things I've written recently:

Drowned in Sound, on music criticism, at the kind invitation of Everett True.
Post-punk and vision in Australia.
A fabulous new record by Fiery Furnaces.
A more than just fabulous new record by Pastels/Tenniscoats.

And, not related to me except that you'll find me in the audience, two wonderful programs at Melbourne International Film Festival, I recommend any locals attend both of these:

Australian Post-Punk
Eros Plus Massacre

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Quite unexpectedly shocked, and saddened, by the end of Plan B. My first boarding of the Everett True juggernaut was through the magazine's predecessor, Careless Talk Costs Lives, after Stephen Pastel suggested ET get me on board. My relationship with both magazines was always at a slight remove - sympathetic to their general approach, I often had a hard time reconciling my aesthetics with their choices for cover artists, features, etc. Nonetheless I admired their doggedness, their preparedness to take chances on groups or collectives whose art was still in process, which works as a keen analogy for Plan B's general editorial focus, its 'ideology'.

I also have some very fond memories of working with the CTCL/Plan B editorial team, whether unsuccessfully arguing the case for Roisin Murphy with Frances Morgan and Everett (which eventually came round full circle when Louis Pattison kindly invited me to interview my favourite pop star for The Revenge Of... column), writing columns on free jazz and improvised music (the lovely Stew Beard even dates his interest in Brotzmann to my writing, which is frankly a thought I can't really get my head around), and fulfilling one dream - to essay my take on the early history of Flying Nun in print form, something which is now 'mootedly' taking on the shape of a post-PhD book.

Towards the end of last year I bowed out of writing for Plan B as a slightly political unilateral disarmament with the English press, but I made sure to call Frances Morgan to talk to her - for the first time in the several years we'd been working together. I guess that says something about how bad I am at maintaining communication. But Frances was as warm and generous across phone lines as she was via e-mail, and reassured me I was welcome back at any time. It's sad to think there'll be no 'any time' anymore.

Truth be known, I'd been having a few ideological problems with the content of the magazine in the latter part of 2008, which also motivated me to take an extended break, but recently I've been enjoying Plan B again, feeling it was really getting 'somewhere', re-forming its character. Certainly, its warmth and generosity made for a nice change from some of its peers, and if some of the writing still felt a bit 'undergraduate', I appreciated that Plan B left some of its pages open for writing that was developing from word to word, exploring, searching - people finding and formulating their voices.

So, words of kindness to the people I worked with there - Everett True, Louis Pattison, kicking_k, Lauren Strain, Stevie Chick, and of course to Frances Morgan, who was the beating heart of the outfit. Thanks for offering me, and a lot of other writers (word to Ned Raggett, Doug Mosurock, and Daniel Barrow in particular), a platform from which to speak.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Good to see mates in the fray, particularly when it's David Keenan and his Hidden Reverse.