Close to the Noise Floor

Two years in the making, Close To The Noise Floor is the forthcoming 4CD (61-track) set exploring the origins of electronica in the UK… #cherryredrecords

Track Listing:

DISC ONE:
1. FIVE TIMES OF DUST – Computer Bank
2. THE KLINGONS – R.A.M.
3. CHRIS AND COSEY – Re-Education Through Labour
4. MALCOLM BROWN – Sedation Strokes
5. STORM BUGS – Little Bob Minor
6. THOMAS LEER – Tight As A Drum
7. BLANCMANGE – Holiday Camp
8. INNER CITY STATIC – Fractured Smile
9. WE BE ECHO – Sexuality
10. BOURBONESE QUALK – God With Us
11. NAGAMATZU Faith
12. O YUKI CONJUGATE – Disco Song
13. BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION – Optimum Chant
14. KEVIN HARRISON – All Night Long
15. VOICE OF AUTHORITY – Stopping And Starting

DISC TWO:
1. COLIN POTTER – I Am Your Shadow
2. BRITISH STANDARD UNIT – D’Ya Think I’m Sexy?
3. FIVE TIMES OF DUST – The Single Off The Album
4. SPÖÖN FAZER – Back To The Beginning
5. GERRY AND THE HOLOGRAMS – Gerry And The Holograms
6. THE PASSAGE – Drugface
7. JOHN FOXX – A New Kind Of Man
8. 100% MANMADE FIBRE – Green For Go
9. THOSE LITTLE ALIENS – Sentimental
10. FINAL PROGRAM – Protect And Survive
11. THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Being Boiled
12. INSTANT AUTOMATONS – New Muzak
13. CULTURAL AMNESIA – Materialistic Man
14. WORLDBACKWARDS – (Leaving Me) Now
15. ALAN BURNHAM – Music To Save The World By
16. ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – Almost
17. EYELESS IN GAZA – Kodak Ghosts Run Amok
18. SCHLEIMER K – Broken Vein
19. NATIVE EUROPE – The Distance From Köln

DISC THREE:
1. ZORCH – Adrenalin (Return of the Elohim Pt 1)
2. SEA OF WIRES – Robot Dance
3. RON BERRY – Sea Of Tranquility
4. MFH – Mistral
5. ADRIAN SMITH – Joe Goes To New York
6. MARK SHREEVE – Embryo (Extract)
7. EG OBLIQUE GRAPH – Triptych
8. CARL MATTHEWS – Encounter
9. PAUL NAGLE – Ynys Scaith
10. O YUKI CONJUGATE – Sedation
11. KONSTRUKTIVIST – Western Vein
12. ATTRITION – Dead Of Night (Excerpt)

DISC FOUR:
1. THROBBING GRISTLE – What A Day
2. A TENT – No Way Of Knowing
3. PORTION CONTROL – Go For The Throat
4. DC3 – Eco Beat
5. RENALDO AND THE LOAF – Dying Inside
6. BLAH BLAH BLAH – In The Army
7. LEGENDARY PINK DOTS – God Speed
8. MUSLIMGAUZE – Muslin Gauze Muslim Prayer
9. SUISSE – Live At Longborne
10. ALIEN BRAINS – Menial Disorders, Extract B2
11. STORM BUGS – Himeal (And She Blew)
12. THIRD DOOR FROM THE LEFT – In The Room
13. AL ROBERTSON – Dignity Of Labour
14. bcGilbert, gLewis, russell Mills – Mzui (Extract)

 

See also, Simon Reynolds: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/21653-close-to-the-noise-floor-formative-uk-electronica-1975-1984/

 

 

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‘The Puzzle of Königsberg’

m46Königsberg’s Berliner Schloss, 1945, shortly after the Red Army took the city from the Germans.

Few images remain of decimated Königsberg (the castle ruins, in fact, stayed up untiol the late sixties), but I was recently intrigued to discover* that the Soviet’s first town planner in the city renamed Kaliningrad, Arsenij V Maksimov, spent his leisure time painting watercolours of the Königsberg‘s ruins, including remnants of the Berliner Schloss which remained standing till the late sixties.

In the castle’s stead, from 1970 onwards, construction began on this infamous construction, the House of Soviets:

 

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*Thanks to Slovenian artist & architect Marjetica Potrč part of who’s work ‘The Puzzle of Königsberg‘ I saw on display at Melbourne’s NGV.

 

 

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‘Right’ Grrrl ascends

Adopting a cultural relativist position on the suitability of a Western normative rights framework when applied to global contexts, it can be argued that the diversity in how gender roles are defined and women’s rights are recognised throughout the globe exemplifies the difficulty in asserting the universality of human rights norms. Moreover, owing to a lack of enforceability of international human rights law, the practical struggle against gendered violations is largely taken up by domestic and transnational feminist movements operating throughout the global North and South.

When second wave feminism gained traction in the global North during late 1960s and early 1970s, its prime areas of focus included confronting the structural imbalance and gender division of labour in the workplace and at home, advocating for equal pay and reproductive rights (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2006: 7-8). In the North American context feminist activists found themselves operating alongside civil rights, gay and lesbian, and anti-war movements, however, white feminists prominent in this era were criticised by women of colour for showing a lack of understanding of the complexities when speaking out on behalf of their oppression (Herr, 2014: 4). Emerging from the embers of the second wave in the 1980s, a rejuvenated feminist movement, its proponents mindful of the earlier backlash, sought to build upon the achievements of the second wave, but incorporate a more nuanced outlook to diversity. Third wave feminism emerged in the context of globalisation which forced feminists to question their own privilege and agency, and to delve variously into areas such as postcolonialism, intersectionality and queer theory (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2006: 19)

In 1992, Rebecca Walker, American writer/activist and founder of the Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, wrote an article in response to the high-profile contemporaneous Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Senate hearings, in which she spoke out against structural sexism, proclaiming that, ‘To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into every fiber of my life’ (Walker, 1992). A prime example of third wave feminist activism surrounds the reclamation of women’s bodies and physical appearance from patriarchal societal norms and as a response to a lack of state protection and acknowledgement of sexual abuses and domestic violence (Nguyen, 2012: 178). The movement is characterised by an embrace of women’s individuality and diversity (Dunn, 2014: 322), but arguably the most difficult challenge for third wave feminism, existing amidst ‘unprecedented interrelation between the local and the global, between the West and “the rest’’’ (Woodhull, 2007: 165), has been to define whether Western feminist narratives can hold relevance outside of a white first-world setting.

From its onset the third wave cause in the US was taken up with particular gusto by young women involved in the Riot Grrrl punk rock and activist movement (Hanna and Klein, 1993) which sought, in particular, to empower the victims of gender-specific violations by focusing ‘more on the individual and the emotional than on marches, legislation, and public policy’ (Rosenberg and Garofalo, 1998: 810). Adopting a stance that was ‘anti-all-kinds-of-oppression’ (Rundle, 2005) in a political environment where declaring oneself as a feminist had become unpopular and sometimes dangerous (Marcus, 2010), Riot Grrrl communities confronted misogyny and taboo issues from deep within the private sphere to elevate everyday experiences into the activist realm (Dunn, 2014: 322). This was mostly facilitated at women-only gatherings where members were encouraged to discuss their experiences and express themselves through visual art, writing or music to ‘drive sex-positive first-person feminist expression into the grassroots of everywhere’ (Davis, 2013). Epitomised creatively by the US bands Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, as well as UK counterpart Huggy Bear (Marcus, 2010), Riot Grrrls tethered their performative activism ‘to assertions of their own desires and pleasures as well as to grassroots political movements against racism and class exploitation’ (Woodhull, 2007: 157).

Still, the limitations of Riot Grrrl as a feminist movement remained its lack of engagement with queer communities (Davis, 2013) along with the fact that most of those involved were white women for whom discussing difference did not come easily (Marcus, 2010: 121) Indeed, Riot Grrrl meetings reportedly became sites of intense debate regarding by and for whom this strand of third wave feminism was being activated, with white members sometimes uncomfortably reminded of their narrow perspective on the priorities and motivations of women from alternate contexts (Hanna and Klein, 1993: 6). In a broader sense, this marks an intersection where third wave feminist activists and women’s rights advocates generally, face a challenge to overcome what cultural relativists might view as a singular, racialised narrative of women’s rights claims (Barker and Puar, 2004: 609) Taken to its full extent, a feminist focus relying on a particular set of Western norms can be perceived as a form of cultural imperialism when removed from its origins (Ayubi, 2011). On the other hand, an unexpected clash of divergent feminisms or approaches offers the potential for cross-cultural understanding which can breathe new life into women’s rights advocacy (Valassopoulos, 2007: 210).

It is evident that despite its roots in North America, the Riot Grrrl movement, has had broader resonance (Davis, 2013; Dunn, 2014: 325). This has been most apparent in the activities of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist music and performance group which has taken a defiant stance against the state and church authorities in their homeland. Following their much-publicised incarceration, the core members of Pussy Riot moved on to campaigning for better conditions in Russian jails; thus extending the struggle for women’s rights into the broader human rights domain (Gentlemen, 2014). Meanwhile, further evidence of third wave feminism’s relationship to globalisation relates to a controversial punk movement in Aceh, Indonesia, which also took cues from the self-empowerment and DIY aesthetic espoused by Riot Grrrl (Dunn, 2014: 324). However, despite representing ‘one of the most potent expressions of third wave feminism’ (Woodhull, 2007: 158), Riot Grrrl’s own political focus remained contained with the context of the global North.

During the past 25 years, third wave feminism has directed its challenge towards the social constraints of patriarchy on women’s liberty, emphasising female empowerment and outspokenness on structural violence. Its achievements and energy may well have positively inspired women’s rights activists living in the global South, but the movement remains inextricably linked to the development of women’s rights as human rights in a Western liberal context. The question of whether women’s rights should ideally be mainstreamed within broader civil and political rights or upheld as a separate set of gender-based standards remains problematic. Mainstreaming has arguably assisted women’s rights advocates, supported by international human rights law and institutions, to be effective in raising awareness of a basic level of standards for states to protect. However, the limitations of the international human rights framework to maintain relevance in diverse contexts represents a microcosm of the cultural relativity of human rights in general.

*Edited extract from an essay I wrote for Human Rights, Peace and Justice course, University of Sydney, October 2014. A longer version appears here: https://davidhullwriting.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/womens-rights-as-human-rights-what-price-cultural-relativity/

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1980: The First Fifteen Minutes

sounds1-1

‘What they know of Sheffield who only Sheffield know?

‘The Sheffield I returned to in 1980 was briefly the most dynamic place on earth and I wrote about it in my fanzine…

‘He was sparky, bright, engaged, unpredictable, funny risqué and everything else you could want. Pulp weren’t as good as Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, New Model Soldier, Artery, I’m So Hollow, Vice Versa, Vendino Pact, De Tian, The Scarborough Antelopes, or even The Naked Pygmy Voles but Jarvis was far and away the best interviewee…

‘By early 1981 the hard-edged abstraction of the early electro scene was falling apart and many from that scene crashed and burned…

‘The indefinable Artery played a memorable concert at The Marples pub one winter night. The lead singer walked out of a second-storey window as the band kept playing. He was waiting for a bus to pass underneath so he could leap on the roof and make a dramatic escape, but none came. He reappeared several minutes later, having somehow worked his way along a narrow snowy ledge to come in at the other side of the building still singing.’

P.S:

‘I was living in a flat above a shop with a girl who had a bit of a Béatrice Dalle thing going on and was the object of much pining amongst local musicians, including Jarvis. In a bit impress her, he climbed Artery-style out of the window and made his way along the ledge, only to fall twenty feet onto the pavement…’

– Russell Senior, Freak Out the Squares: Life in a Band Called Pulp.

 

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gentlemen take polaroids

tumblr_mm7l218UKr1snk3oao1_500[1] Before Depeche Mode’s fruitful partnership with Dutch artist and filmmaker Anton Corbijn, the Mute Records band’s visual identity was partly shaped by photographer Brian Griffin who shot the series of high-concept images which adorn five album releases spanning 1981-1986. depeche_mode__a_broken_frame_by_wedopix-d3aq68i The influence Russian social realist art is strikingly seen in Griffin’s work for Depeche, though apparently the picture taken for A Broken Frame was inspired by German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. Depeche_Mode-Construction_Time_Again-Frontal For 1983’s Construction Time Again the photographer again references the socialist figure of the worker; this time via the political statement of construction worker-wielding-sledgehammer in a otherwise pristine Alpine location. some-great-reward Some Great Reward’s industrial backdrop ties in nicely with the album’s love-hate themes and sonic embrace of harsh found-sound as showcased on tracks like People are People, Master and Servant and Blasphemous Rumours. 2593r[1] 1986’s transitional Black Celebration followed in the wake of songwriter Martin L Gore’s relocation to Berlin. Depeche Mode’s darkest album to date drew heavily on the technological innovation of Alan Wilder, Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, and was suitably cloaked inside shadowy Blade Runner-esque imagery.

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photographic

“I would call what we’re into now a kind of experimental pop that reflects what goes on around us – industry, the electronic age, war – but we don’t want to lecture people about it, just tell them that it’s there.”

Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr, Record Mirror, January 1980

Empires-And-Dance-cover

The imagery employed to market post-punk and contemporaneous electronic records owes much to design and architectural philosophy, especially the distinct Supremacist and Constructivist art movements which sprung out of Russian Futurism during the 1910s. Most strikingly, the dominant aesthetic of synthpop fetishised a visual language with connotations of state control; under Bolshevism such art work was actually produced under repressive conditions, only permissible for its usefulness to propaganda.

Kraftwerk_-_The_Man-Machine

The likes of El Lissitzky, a key influence on Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine (1978), and German typographer Jan Tschichold (denounced by National Socialists as a ‘cultural Bolshevik’) were key sources of inspiration for designers commissioned by British record labels in the post-punk era to produce their acts’ sleeves and often their broader visual identities.

As Simon Reynolds puts it, “The record cover artwork of the period matched the neo-modernist aspirations of the words and music, with such graphic designers as Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville, and labels like Factory and Fast Product, drawing from Constructivism, De Stijl, Bauhaus, John Heartfield and Die Neue Typographie.”

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Saville and Garrett – along with fellow designers like Neville Brody and Barney Bubbles – enjoyed much creative freedom in the late seventies. Saville, who studied graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic from 1975-78, went on to become a partner and founder of Manchester’s iconic Factory Records and also served as art director for London’s Dindisc label from 1981-1983. He was driven by the belief that the visual language of new wave music needed to be distinctive, and made his name designing art work for the likes of Joy Division, New Order, Ultravox! and OMD, drawing from established movements.

Dazzle-Ships-CD-Album

“Punk itself, as a look, was really only a moment’s aberration,” Saville told Eye Magazine, “For six months, Punk was like the parting of the Red Sea and anybody who was fit and ready enough could run through. By association with certain people in Manchester I got pulled through the gap. But the look of Punk didn’t offer much hope for a fresh graphic language.

“Malcolm [Garrett] had a copy of Herbert Spencer’s Pioneers of Modern Typography. The one chapter that he hadn’t reinterpreted in his own work was the cool, disciplined “New Typography” of Tschichold and its subtlety appealed to me. I found a parallel in it for the New Wave that was evolving out of Punk. In this, as it seemed at the time, obscure byway of graphic design history, I saw a look for the new, cold mood of 1977-78.”

 

© David Hull. Known Pleasures. 2014.

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capital city

Several years after the 1989 fall of communist regimes, Zagreb native Slavenka Drakulic observed that in Central and Eastern European cities the more things were supposedly changing the more they remained visibly the same. Here she describes her impressions having alighted a train in Budapest:

“I arrived at midnight. From the railway station, I walked down Rákóczi U’tza , then József Körút Boulevard toward Nemzeti Hotel. The boulevard, the shopping centre of the city, was not only empty but almost dark. Or so it seemed to me because I experienced the ‘light shock’ that usually happens when one enters any Eastern European city from the West. The contrast in such that for a moment it has to cross your mind that either the city has had a power failure or there is danger of an attack from the air. The street lamps in Budapest were casting a yellowish light, and besides, every second one didn’t work at all. The shop windows were not lit, most of the neon signs were off, no streetcars passed by at that time, only a car or two – a ghost city.

“Living in a country where life functions in pretty much the same way as in Prague (or Budapest), all I could see was the saving of expensive electric energy, bad bulbs that burn out too quickly, broken lamps that take years to replace. I admit this might give a romantic impression of the city…but it is surely unintentional – has anyone ever heard of a romantic communist regime?”

Drakulic argues Eastern European time “runs differently”.

“As layers and layers of illusions are peeled away – the illusion of beauty, the illusion of power, the illusion of importance, even the illusion of meaning – time profoundly changes our view of life itself. The Austro-Hungarian Empire built up its signs of wealth and power for four hundred years. They slowly decayed, fading away. Then for almost half a century the communists tried to destroy the past and replace it with their own symbols – they faded even more quickly. Now the new governments are again changing the names of streets and squares, destroying old monuments and replacing them quickly with new ones, taking history and memory as their own little playground. The nostalgia and hopelessness of the Central European soul, its sadness and cynicism – the inner sepia, if you wish – all stems from this. So, I guess, we are something else, after all, something visibly different. In our cities, ‘renewal’ does not renew, it only points out the passing of time, the fact that there is no progress, that history repeats itself endlessly.”

– Slavenka Drakulic, ‘On the Quality of Wall Pain in Eastern Europe’, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

See also Thomas Dolby’s Budapest by Blimp:

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