Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Dancecult 4(1): The Exodus of Psytrance?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Dancecult 4(1)

Indeed, it is out, issue 4(1) of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. This issue special edited by Graham St John on the question: The Exodus of Psytrance?

Btw, here’s how to get on Dancecult’s mailing list.

This issue includes a few contributions on my part (besides the PDF layout and overall HTML finalization), namely a few reviews and part two of my conversation with Bernardo Alexander Attias on turntablism and controllerism. It is well worth reading part one if you’re intrigued, otherwise what we have to say doesn’t make much sense off the bat, truncated as it is from what was published previously.


DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 4 * Number 1 * 2012

with Guest Editor Graham St John


## Feature Articles ##

Seasoned Exodus: The Exile Mosaic of Psyculture
— Graham St John

Full Penetration: The Integration of Psychedelic Electronic Dance Music and Culture into the Israeli Mainstream
— Joshua I. Schmidt

“What are we doing here?” Nostalgic Desires for a Cosmopolitan Sensory Aesthetic in the Amsterdam-based Psytrance Scene
— Eva-Maria Alexandra van Straaten

Spaces of Play: The Spatial Dimensions of Underground Club Culture and Locating the Subjunctive
— Alice O’Grady

## Conversations ##

Off the Record: Turntablism and Controllerism in the 21st Century, Part 2
— tobias c. van Veen and Bernardo Alexander Attias

## From the Floor ##

Unveiling the Secret: The Roots of Trance
— Dave Mothersole

Random Steps Through Boom Festival 2010
— Lisa Diotalevi

Aurora Festival and the Sacred Rituals of Samothraki: Past, Present… What Future?
— Chiara Baldini


Tribal Revival: West Coast Festival Culture (Kyer Wiltshire and Erik Davis)
— tobias c. van Veen

The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture (Steven T. Jones)
— Susan Luckman

Discombobulated: Dispatches from the Wrong Side (Simon A. Morrison)
— Bina Bhardwa

— Phil Kirby


With Deep Bass Rumblings

Graham St John
Executive Editor

tobias c. van Veen
Managing Editor

DANCECULT 4(1) 2012

espaceSONO resound

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Watching yourself later and over years past is not only like viewing yourself as another person, it is encountering yourself as a doppelganger, a completely distant other. An act, nearly complete. I wasn’t into this interview. It was formal and weird; and so was I. Which made it all the more weird. The point being, how can you film an aural exhibit? And so being-weird in the exhibit was the only answer.

Thanks to Renaud Kasma for capturing, editing & uploading this 2007 interview, shot in SAT’s now obliterated SAT_GALERIE, for the espaceSONO exhibit.

memory rewound: the space echo

Monday, November 14th, 2011

mnemotechnics interphase

This is a machine of mnemotechnics. Memory erased unto itself. The mystic writing pad looped in magnetic filament. A machine that spins tape back unto itself in a loop, eating itself, devouring itself, an interface of mechanical time, capable of repeating, reiterating, a sound, over & over, and sending it into space & echo. The Roland RE-201 Space Echo is such a machine. I have desired one for years. It is the basis of King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry. It is a channel into the technics of space and time… it is a time travel device, a memory palimpsest on rewind. It is beauty.

Too bad I don’t have a PhD expense account. I couldn’t finish writing about the tape loop echo until I simply had one. Indeed, the most valid research expense yet, save for the thousands spent in books thanks to lack of VPN library access from McGill.

afrofuturism on ice

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Frostbitten fingers not included—Paul Miller's The Book of Ice

In my hands now is Paul D. Miller’s latest project, the Book of Ice, a collage-work of manifestos, stories, photographs and texts on the southernmost point of this planet, that ice-bound and all-but uninhabited pole, Antarctica. This is something of an artist’s book, a kind of anti-book that collects exappropriated objects from elsewhere. In this context, by exappropriated I mean an act that samples without stealing, that takes part without taking away from the whole. So, like all of DJ Spooky’s work, images of Amundsen and Scott’s voyages are sampled much the same way that Spooky remixed D.W. Griffith’s founding racist myth of US history in Rebirth of a Nation. Though details of Antarctica’s history, discovery and exploration are provided, this beautifully designed and illustrated hardcover from Mark Batty Publishers is much more a meditation on ice through the sampling of Antarctica’s recorded history alongside Spooky’s exploration of design imagery in the melting/consumption of Antarctica.

The Book of Ice includes “Osmotic Strategy Machine—The (Flawed) Unfolding of Afrofuturism,” an interview I conducted with Paul for my forthcoming edited volume on Afrofuturism (Wayne State UP). The version presented here is somewhat staccato, but to the point through its brevity (the volume will include a remixed exchange and sampladelic text). This interview presents insightful reading, as it is one of the few times in which Paul has openly reflected upon his involvement with the 1990s email list and website, as well as situating his interpretation of Afrofuturism within historical, political and aesthetic contexts. I believe Paul includes this interview as part of the ethos explored elsewhere in the Book of Ice, where he talks about “thawing-out” the cold muthafucka’ aspects of black ice, as well as warming up the ice-cold brittleness of stark whiteness. Paul continues to forge a global aesthetic of remix culture that melts the divisions of colour, and in this respect, Paul remains an exemplary Afrofuturist—whatever he might say otherwise. Paul Miller is remarkable for creating bridges between disparate cultures, and in The Book of Ice Paul puts into perspective the greater forces at work in the melting of Antarctic ice, reminding us that the collapse of our polar regions also calls for the thawing of cold hearts and cultural antagonisms. We are like penguins caught in the flow of the impending great melt, and to move outwards, upward to the stars, we need to begin with swimming together through the thaw….

Osmotic Interview Strategies

Osmotic Interview Strategies

In 2008, Paul Miller spent four weeks in Antarctica, conducting sound recordings for his compositional work Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica. It is unfortunate that this book does not include a DVD of the multimedia work (understandably, it was probably not cost feasible for a book already colour printed on quality stock). Miller’s first book for MIT Press, Rhythm Science, included a CD mix which reflected his ideas through his DJ mix—I wrote a lengthy treatise on that book over on EBR. In any case, as Terra Nova is a full-fledged multimedia work that interrelates many of the cold concepts explored in The Book of Ice, here’s an insight:

What I like about The Book of Ice is how it rethinks what this cold space could be otherwise—a place, perhaps, of unclaimed exodus. What then, when it melts? When its resources will undoubtedly become exploited by competing interests, corporate and nation-state? Miller explores the dream of a “People’s Republic of Antarctica” through a series of campaign posters that alternate between early 20th century revolutionary modernism and monochromatic symbolism awash in blue penguins. The print posters call for a manifesto of Antarctica in different languages and national iconographies, from the Arabic half moon to the Chinese Communist red star.

Manifestos of a people's icepublic

The compositional method of Terra Nova is also explored here with a visualization of the score. Miller turns the elements of traditional sheet music into bubbles of chaos complexity, with the notation juxtaposed and carved into circular objects, as if spattered with the geometric shapes of water droplets from Antarctica’s melting ice caps.

Sheet music for snow & ice

Sheet music for snow & ice

Questions of climate change arise throughout the text, as Miller explores the economic, emotional and data landscapes of Antarctica through cartographic mappings of ice flows to dataflows. Aspects of this territorial mapping are reminiscent of Situationist détournement. Along this line, the visual icons of sell-by capitalism are explored in the juxtaposition of consumer-packaging barcodes and the increasingly ubiquitous QR squares with various linguistic scripts. Implicit among these image mixes is Miller’s interrogation of “hyperconsumerism:” is Antarctica for sale? If it can be mapped, can it be scanned and sold?

Antarctica 4 Sale

Antarctica 4 Sale

Ice maps and Antarctic cartographies

Ice maps and Antarctic cartographies

The closing section of the book is filled with full-bleed, full-colour images from expeditions mapping the great unknown ice, with double-page spreads of mountains and icebergs, explorers in ice-encrusted parkas and numerous penguins. Black-and-white imagery is contrasted with the subtle blues and grays of monochromatic colour. Night photography of modern research stations revels in the similitude between the neon-lit lighting of science and the southern aurora borealis.

Ice routes abound...

Ice routes abound...

Yet why this obsession with Antarctica? As Miller writes, ever playing the trickster, ice resonates with black culture. As Paul puts it,

Black culture loves ice. We name ourselves after it: Ice-berg Slim, Ice-T, Ice Cube. . . . So, yeah, there’s a long history in black culture of being a “cold muthafucka.” It’s about being a “frigid” person: the ice grill, bling bling, bounce off the light of diamonds in your teeth. Yeah, that’s ice (Book of Ice 10).

If urban black culture tends toward ice, then DJ Spooky aims to thaw it out with sinfonic soundwaves capable of collapsing cultural ice into global flows. If climate change is melting Antarctica, then the melting of ice presents an intersection between the geosphere and the sonosphere, between the axes of black and white ice, cityscape and icescape. Two compositional tools guided Spooky’s process in creating the Terra Nova sinfonia: repetition, on the one channel, and R. Murray Schaefer’s soundscape, on the other.

My concern here is how do we make music out of it, how do we thaw the process, thaw people out, and see the paradox of hyperconsumerism that this kind of stuff celebrates, while at the same time tying the conceptual issues of sound and contemporary art. It’s a Sisphyean task, but considering there’s not much more going on this planet than the ecosystem, I thought it was a worthwhile one. Hip-hop is always considered the soundtrack of the city’s geometric landscape. The grid of most American cities carries what I like to call an “orthogonal” logic. I wanted to take the “urban” concept of repetition and apply it to a different landscape, and see what would pop out of the collision. After all, music is patterns. And so is landscape. The common denominator here is pattern recognition.

And that’s what brings me to Antarctica (Book of Ice 10).

Explorers on ice/

Explorers on ice/

Dancecult 2 (1): we’re back

Monday, March 21st, 2011

For many moons now I have been toiling away on Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture as the incoming Managing Editor. Lo, this is volunteer labour, and a hearty dose it has been, from taking over the reins of our Open Access publishing platform, OJS—which is a cranky beast indeed—to completely upending the Dancecult StyleGuide (DSG) so that it conforms—well, almost conforms—to the Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed.. The kind of labour I perform is exemplary of the overeducated precariat: technical server administration; web production; design and layout production and direction; editing and copyediting; technical manual writing and production; human resources; workflow management; all-around tinkering & troubleshooting.

Here’s a slice into a typical Dancecult session—begin with double-espresso and/or late-night wine. Chat with Operations Assistant Neal Thomas as I edit PHP, tinker with TPL, use root SSH to get all CHMOD, manage a CPanel reinstall and transfer, setup MySQL databases and fix CSS, and do all manner of technical support for the Journal as we try to figure out how to upgrade this stubborn beast. At the same time, I am engaged in an email storm with Executive Editor Graham St John and the Copyeditors as we overhaul the DSG, where I act as a a senior copyeditor and the last pair of eyes for every single piece of text you see published. As my mind approaches meltdown, I run next door and meet with Art Director Cato Pulleyblank. We are transferring over the existing workflow to Adobe InDesign, redesigning the entire publication layout, from fonts to margins, styles to protocols, in the process. Cato redesigns Dancecult’s logo with Graham and I’s input, drawing up visual conventions for web promotions and style protocols, throwing down hours of pro bono in the process. And that is still not all. To get this beast underway, I check in with the Production Team, which has been assembled from a call for precarious labour. I check in on Director Gary Botts Powell to see how our new Production Assistants (Luis-Manuel Garcia, Ed Montano and Botond Vitos) are doing with the HTML conversions. From their feedback I improve the HTML production guide which I have writ to explain the rather complex process involved in converting Word’s garble to appropriate XHTML (Transitional, of course). Meanwhile I carry out all of the Journal’s InDesign layout for PDF production, and draw up a Guide for that too—though I doubt anyone else will be touching it for awhile, due to the complexity and attention to detail involved. As the midnight hour flips over into morning, I edit and fix all HTML returned from the newly-minted production crew. Eventually, after a few weeks of such routines, I publish it all on OJS and fix all the broken things. Graham and I celebrate over Skype. It is early afternoon for him, and a late night for me. We virtually clink the beers.

Now that would sound like a lot of self-aggrandizing hype if it wasn’t for the fact that all of us involved do all this unpaid and yet—damn straight—produce an extraordinarily professional Journal. Meanwhile, I watch other academic funding agencies throw down bloatware cash to pay the poorly-trained to pump out some pitiful excuse for a research platform. I’m not sure what my point is here, though I am looking forward to seeing some capitalist renumeration for such a plethora of skillz. Bring on the meritocracy, I say.

* * *

DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 2 • Number 1 • 2011

Dancecult returns with two themes: the dystopian and remix aesthetics of Detroit and a special section on the Love Parade.

While you read, take a look around. Dancecult has taken a new step forward in the visualization of the Journal, with a complete redesign of our PDF publications and logo. It is also our first edition featuring the volunteer efforts of our Production and Copyediting Teams. Congratulations to all for their efforts.

Graham St John
Executive Editor

tobias c. van Veen
Managing Editor


## Feature Articles ##

Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory
— Hillegonda C. Rietveld

Hooked on an Affect: Detroit Techno and Dystopian Digital Culture
— Richard Pope

Maintaining “Synk” in Detroit: Two Case Studies in the Remix Aesthetic
— Carleton S. Gholz

Festival Fever and International DJs: The Changing Shape of DJ Culture in Sydney’s Commercial Electronic Dance Music Scene
— Ed Montano

## From the Floor ##

Nomads in Sound vol. 1
— Anna Gavanas

# Special Section on the Love Parade #

Where is Duisburg? An LP Postscript HTML
— Sean Nye, Ronald Hitzler

Party, Love and Profit: The Rhythms of the Love Parade (Interview with Wolfgang Sterneck)
— Graham St John

Pathological Crowds: Affect and Danger in Responses to the Love Parade Disaster at Duisburg
— Luis-Manuel Garcia

## Reviews ##

Hip Hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification (Anthony Kwame Harrison) PDF
— Rebecca Bodenheimer

The Local Scenes and Global Culture of Psytrance (Graham St John)
— Rupert Till

Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound (Tara Rodgers)
— Anna Gavanas

Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures (Graham St John)
— Philip Ronald Kirby

Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Steve Goodman)
— tobias c. van Veen

Music World: Donk (Dir. Andy Capper)
— Philip Ronald Kirby

Speaking in Code (Dir. Amy Grill)
— tobias c. van Veen


head down, arms up, hands out

Monday, September 13th, 2010

What is it with hip-hop and the arm wave? Why wave arms side-to-side in the air? Is this a gesture of unity? Like crowds of the mid 20th century, the arms aligned in position, all are become one, in the movement of movements….

But why the arms? Why are emcees so concerned with aligned arms? Why should we not care about it, or rather, why are emcees telling us not to care about it?

Hands in the air, the transcendance of care.

Watching Kool Keith I would expect Dr. Octagon to ask us to wave anything but arms in the air. Or, if waving arms, to signal with inventive and improvised semaphore the coordinates of the next landing, infrasonic investigation of orifices, or otherwise booty call for the Black Elvis.

But he too (and all his selves) are concerned with the unity of an arm wave set to regulation appeal.

In 1998, in San Francisco, Black Elvis does not call upon an audience to wave. The audience waves itself (according to footage).

In 2007, Kool Keith unmasked in hoodie, still holding spit but seemingly no longer split into conscious costume (or is he?), requires ultramagnetic inflection to wave arms at his behest, of an audience now almost exclusively white.

Heads down bop up, beatdown backpacks on – arms up, salute? Wave like you just don’t care?


exodus & afrofuturism

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

interstellar tones transport Sun Ra offworld

But in reality, it is the inherent failure of representation, both in the visual and the political sense, that continually leads activist-artists to abandon their works and their familiar skills, and to dissolve once again into the intersubjective processes of society’s self-transformation.

This moment of dissolution is where one could locate exodus, not as a concept, but as a power or a myth of resistance. On the one hand, exodus is a pragmatic response to the society of control, in which any widespread political opposition becomes an object of exacting analysis for those who can afford to invest major resources in the identification, segmentation and manipulation of what we naively call the public. In the face of these strategies, exodus is a power of willful metamorphosis: the capacity for a movement to appear, to intervene and to disappear again, before changing names and recommencing the same struggle in a different way. (Brian Holmes, Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering @ 185)

Exodus is a movement — defection from the State, exit from the state of things, toward the formation of a “new republic” (as Paolo Virno puts it). While Virno and other Italian-based theorists of the Autonomia/Operaismo movement have traced exodus as a response to the factory regime of Fordist labour that saw its dismantling in the ’70s and ’80s, Brian Holmes has placed exodus within the artistic lineage of interventions and occupations, in which the fluidity of art, and of art as an occupation or role offers an exit strategy from institutionalized engagement. Holmes’ historical references are those of the alterglobalization movement, notably the public sonic occupations of Reclaim the Streets and the deployment of carnivale tactics in general, but also in specific art projects such as Nikeground. Here, art (and the artist) move through an interzone of activism and art, a zone in which intervention and representation are no longer distinct sides or sites of the work.


WANTED./ unfiltered & unrepentant.

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

WANTED — soulphiction collective — libidinal let-loose lounge — counternorm committee — black-tie dinner & mud wrestling.

cut it up & start again

Hi there — you nose down in your gizmo — status updated — you & your busyness ontology — sorry to hear — about your  bits & bytes of existential banality — interconnected — your life.


Cities of Rhythm & Revolution

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Voilà.! Some 5 years in the making, Circulation & the City.

With appropriate fanfare & deep bows, Will Straw & Alexandra Boutro’s edited volume entitled Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture (McGill Queen’s UP, 2010) now graces the shelves. This book has been quite a few years in the works. The earliest drafts I have of work for the volume date back to 2005, and by the time we went to press, the final chapter I submitted on Henri Lefebre, rhythm, and revolution in the city had been transformed entirely from the words originally writ on rave culture and rhythm (funny thing: the new article I am finishing for Dancecult picks up on these earlier themes  – sometimes work must encounter different sets of theoretical concepts, and years of reflection, for the excavation of the intellect to yield its bounty). The book forms the third in a trilogy of publications from the Culture of Cities Project, a multi-university research endeavour that sought to unearth “the mix of universal and local influences in the everyday life of cities,” with research concentrated in Toronto, Berlin, Dublin and Montréal, and with researchers across Canada and the Continent. So, with the intent of lurking y’all into picking this up (or perhaps unwittingly scaring you off), I offer the introduction to my chapter “Cities of Rhythm & Revolution.”


mauvais foi (Psychodrama Demons)

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Yet another bloodsucker dressing-up to play the Glamour game.

I think the motto of recent living for me could be DOWN WITH THE TROLLS & GREY VAMPIRES, BUT ABOVE ALL, DOWN WITH THE PSYCHODRAMA DEMONS. What’s these here Grey Vampires and Trolls? K-punk outlines the concepts:

Grey Vampires are creatures who disguise their moth-greyness in iridescent brightness, all the colours of attractive sociability. Like moths, they are drawn by the light of energetic commitment, but unable to themselves commit. Unlike the Toll, the Grey Vampire’s mode is not aggressive, at least not actively so; the Grey Vampire is a moth-like only on the inside. On the outside, they are bright, humorous, positive – everyone likes them. But they are possessed by a a deep, implacable sadness. They feed on the energy of those who are devoted, but they cannot devote themselves to anything. (K-Punk)

Psychodrama Demons are somewhere in-between a Grey Vampire and a Troll. A Grey Vampire appears somewhat romantic at times, caught in a melancholia, only able to live vicariously through others, even as their mode-of-being sucks away at the marrow of life, draining those around them. A Troll is more outright aggressive. As K-Punk writes, a Troll “above all wants to waste time, its libido involves a banal sadism, the dull malice of snatching people’s toys away from them” (K-Punk).