Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Love Letter to Coilhouse

So I’m quite fond of the blog, but I’m deeply in love with the Coilhouse magazine. It’s such a gorgeous, gorgeous thing, full of fascinating people and ideas and incredible imagery. The latest issue (already sold out) is all occult and haunted, with sigils and ghosts and hidden messages on every page. My favourite part is the Grant Morrison interview where he talks about magic, and talking to these scorpion gods who wanted him to become an assassin, to destroy people’s auras. The Famille Zaraguin, who he then wrote into The Invisibles.

Anyway, the point is that reading about all these people making incredible, unexpected things is really inspiring, which leads us on to…

…the lyrics for Swings, which are about that same thing, and were inspired by Coilhouse. These vocals are only a placeholder for now – there’s a second verse still to come, and I’ll do the whole thing again with my good mic rather than the SM58.

Then. A Flicker.

Building up to the release of the EP, we got together twice this week. First to update Swings, then RGB, which you can hear below in the nifty soundcloud widget.

For dinner we made a couple of pizzas.

A pizza patata, based on my recollection of a pizza I’ve had in a great Edinburgh restaurant, and a plain old margherita. The pizza patata is thinly sliced potatoes, mozzarella and rosemary on a pizza base, and we didn’t get it quite right. I think the base should have been thinner and crisper, it was a bit too doughy as it was.

The EP could maybe do with a little explanation – we’re going to release it on my record label, which I’m in the process of starting up. The first release will be an album of my own solo stuff as Giant Bears (beginning of Feb, hopefully), followed by this EP in March.

When my Mum told a friend of hers I was starting a business (albeit a tiny one that’s unlikely to ever turn a profit), the first question was; “What’s his USP?” (not unique selling point, USP -gag-). The label doesn’t have a USP, but it does have a reason to exist. When we think of music, we tend to think of it as this enclosed thing – it’s a sequence of notes, a particular collection of sounds, and that’s all it is. But there’s more going on than simply vibrations in the air.

What we see, touch and smell while we’re listening, all change how we hear those vibrations. Similarly, what we’ve read about that song and artist, the discussions we’ve had about them, change our perception. While you can technically argue* that there is an objective thing that is music, out in the world, that doesn’t change and is forever fixed, we do not perceive that thing as the fixed artifact it supposedly is.

The label is based on the idea that it is the perception of music which is the most important thing, and that therefore the surrounding material/discourse/etc. is every bit as important as the sound itself. So there will never be releases that consist solely of a collection of sound files uploaded to iTunes or wherever. A release will always be a mass of stuff surrounding the sound at its heart. Whether that’s an mp3 tangled within a mess of html and images, or a CDR bound up in a book of rough-textured paper, or even a game (and increasingly I’m thinking that games are the most interesting medium to work with – they can encompass so much).

This of course leads onto Marshall McLuhan’s theories of media. An mp3 is a fundamentally different medium to a CD. And how we perceive the music is different as a result (even ignoring mp3’s technical deficiencies – a lossless file format is every bit as different). The aim of the label is to release music that is aimed at a particular medium, in the same way as a painter would make a conscious decision to work with oil over watercolours. There will never be releases of the same music on different media, as (contrary to received wisdom) the media are not interchangeable.

That’s kind of a 1st draft of the label’s manifesto. There’s plenty of holes and contentious points, but I think it explains why the label exists (or is going to exist in a (gulp) week or so). And manifestos are meant to be contentious…

* – Or not, but for the purpose of the argument…

And also…

Forgot to mention, I want Florence to make music that sounds like this reads (see also the sad, bizarre follow-up).

Last post on Florence and the Machine, I promise.

Still Cold…

(apparently Britain was as cold as the Antarctic this week!)

Image from here.

We got together this week, but only to eat and watch The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. We made Lentil Stew (we really need to make some dishes that photograph better):

So I was following up my end of the year interest in Florence & the Machine, and I think visually her videos do get a bit more interesting after Dog Days:

I worry about her though. I think she’s possibly got the potential to do something really interesting, but I can’t shake the feeling that she’s doing exactly what you’d expect her to do. Her lyrics seem to exemplify the stereotype of women as purely emotional creatures, beholden to their feelings. And though she gets compared to Kate Bush a lot, it’s not a favourable comparison. With Kate Bush, right from the start you know that this is someone who’s interested in and engaged with the world, who has interests and obsessions. From Wuthering Heights, to Cloudbusting (all about Wilhelm Reich), to her interest in interpretive dance (and so on…), her songs lead places outside of themselves. Florence’s songs seem to be entirely inward looking – you don’t get any sense of her being a person in the world, just as an uncontrollable flux of emotion.

It feels to me that, where once an artist like this would have been expected to engage with the world in some way, now all we have is people stuck on the surface and going no further. This music is just music, nothing more. But the thing is, the best music, the music that sticks in your chest, that marks you and changes you, is never just music – it goes places, and drags you with it, it references ideas and creates new possibilities. It shifts the world ever so slightly on its axis.

None of this would matter, only her songs have caught hold of me in recent weeks and it bothers me, for the above reasons. Also, big disclaimer, I’m basing this on what I’ve heard of her on YouTube – it’s entirely possible there are far interesting more songs on her album.

Finally, I finished Tile Massacre SHMUP, you can get it here. OSX and Linux versions still to come, I’m afraid.