Pirates, politics and art.

The world is a strange place. Unsure of what to do about my political frustration, I decided to nominate as a Senate candidate for the Pirate Party Australia in the up coming Australian federal election. I discovered late on Sunday night that I had been elected by the members as the lead candidate.

Coincidentally, last night (Monday) my partner got us tickets to see the Australian Art Orchestra with Nicole Lizée present Hymns to Pareidolia. Knowing nothing before we went in, it turned out to be an almost perfect live music experience for me. And while I was watching and listening, I realized that for some reason I hadn’t been open about my taste in big A Art to the pirates.

So I’ve decided to make a short list of artists that I appreciate for your delectation.

The very first artists this concert made me think of was a band I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing live and most likely never will, even in it’s reduced state – Negativland, a band I first discovered via their album Dispepsi, although were already semi folk heroes because of what I’d heard about their U2 EP which, thanks to the then newly discovered web, I’d downloaded via Napster or Gnutella. Then their EP with Chumbawamba became my jam for a couple of years – The ABCs of Anarchism.

It’s hard to know what came next, but suddenly I was listening to difficult music. The audio equivalent of The Illuminatus! Trilogy – some of it very very listenable, like 2manyDJs Radio Soulwax pt 2, some of it was understandable pop if hard for others to appreciate, like Cassette Boy (some songs available), and some was painful to others, like Buttress O’Kneel, John Oswald‘s Plunderphonics or The Evolution Control Committee. Their Rebel Without a Pause is considered one of, if not the, first mashups. And then there is DJ Food’s Raiding the 20th Century, an unparalleled exploration, history lesson, exposition, on the nature of music and remix – itself a remix of over 190 mash up tracks.

Thankfully, this new remix culture quickly became rampant – the tools were readily available to anyone with a computer, and the mash up was not only born but breaking out. While some went for the decidedly pop route (Girl Talk, Freelance Hellraiser’s A Stroke of Genius), some remained dedicated to the plain strange. It was around this time that DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album – mixing The Beatle’s White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album – became an unofficial hit.

The intrinsic sharing nature of the internet allowed a genre of music called outsider to spread more widely. Associated with the avant garde, mail art, surrealist and underground movements, most notable for it’s intense passion for the artform regardless of actual ability was refreshing for me. The Shaggs are the best example to my mind, and have one of the best back stories to boot, and we see this movement reborn as the Antifolk movement of the late 90s, but also side swiped by other pop weirdos – Singing Sadie (Everyone in town wants you dead), Toxic Lipstick (Slut cunt hairbrush), the unstoppable and ever loved New Waver from Spill records (check out Spill compilation 3), San Jose Cow Muzak’s Mrs Bronson’s favourite remains a….favourite. Also, anything on Dual Plover, including it’s peak moment, The Rebirth of Fool, vol 2.

And there were aficionados and curators that made things easier for us – I would religiously download (by hand! pre-podcast!) and listen to Some Assembly Required, or ABC Radio National’s The Night Air, and the revelation that was the first time I discovered WFMU‘s the 365 Days Project in 2004 (now UbuWeb‘s first 365 Days Project) and downloaded all of the songs over a week…so many of these songs have become better known now, but at the time, they were a revelation. It wasn’t piracy – this was the only place they were documented on the internet. It was curation. My go to piece from this period is the Van Morrison “contractual obligation record” – Ring Worm/You Say France And I Whistle/Want A Danish – although the project is literally littered with passionate brilliance. Louis Farrakhan singing calypso? The Frugal Gormets – Satan’s Blood (“Some kids try really hard to sound evil, these kids succeeded.”)? Bach vs Batman on the moog? Understanding Marx?

These days there are blogs that curate such weirdnesses abound, my favourite being Music for Maniacs, a haven of some of the strangest pop music available. Including  classics like Party Like It’s Only $19.99, the Prince tribute done by The Evolution Control Committee; OUTER SPACE MUSIC FROM OUTER SPACE!; two Sesame St Disco albums; a string of Xmas albums that aren’t really ever appropriate; maybe Halloween is more your thing?; American Standard by Thelonious Moog;  don’t like standards or Moog? What about some experimental bagpipe music?; or maybe your taste are more along the lines of the three album, 62 track compilations of Xanadu covers (More Xanadu)?

I’m going to close with the two stand outs. Vicki Bennett, performing as People Like Us, has been a consistent source of fantastic mind bending music and inspiration. Her Do or DIY with People Like Us radio show on WFMU is a stand out that I can’t recommend highly enough. You’ll never hear Percy Faith’s Summer Place ’76 (Theme From A Summer Place) in the same way again. This show has bought me many, many pleasures, but the top of the list has to be Caroline Bergvall’s Via (48 Dante translations) (mp3).

But sitting on top of all of this is the Australian art duo Soda Jerk‘s Pixel Pirate II: Attack of the Astro Elvis Video Clone. (aka Hollywood Burn). Taking all of these ideas, and doing it coherently, with film. It remains my favourite movie of all time, and I am still in debt to Jean Poole for introducing me to it. From the blurb:

Hollywood Burn is an anti-copyright epic constructed entirely from hundreds of samples pirated from the Hollywood archive. It pits a righteous league of video pirates against the evil tyrant Moses and his Copyright Commandments. Determined to alter the present by changing the past, the pirates travel back to 1955 to construct the ultimate weapon: an Elvis Presley video-clone.

Part sci-fi + rom com + biblical epic + action movie, this remix manifesto adopts the tactical responses of the parasite, feeding off the body of Hollywood and inhabiting its cinematic codes. The unwitting all-star cast includes Elvis Presley, Charlton Heston, Jack Sparrow, Monkey Magic, Bette Davis, Batman, Jaws, Jesus, the Hulk, the Hoff and the Ghostbusters.

What can I say? It’s essential viewing for members of the Pirate Party.

The Night Air – vale old friend

Having been away for the last year, I’ve missed a lot of news and media. When it happens  in the smaller corners of the mediasphere, it can be hard to catch up in a timely manner.

As such, I’ve only just discovered that the long running show The Night Air from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Radio National is no longer running.

Subtitled “Radio abstraction for listening pleasure“, it was a wonderful mix of sounds and songs and spoken word around themes:

Animated by dub versions of ABC Radio National’s distinctive programming, obliquely connected material is re-assembled with sonic glue allowing the listener’s imagination to build a new story. The Night Air is a space to find the music in speech and the poetry in ideas, a show that invites you to take time to unravel the usual media tangle.

For my money, it was one of the most innovative, fascinating and must listen shows of the entire radio spectrum available to me – and being from Melbourne that includes some of Australia’s very best radio – Triple R, PBS and SYN. Traversing similar though different territory to People Like Us (playlists from WFMU, or check out Radio Boredcast which includes some excerpts from The Night Air) or Some Assembly Required, the demise of The Night Air marks the end of a decade rich in assembled sound. Vale, old friend, and thanks.

If you’ve never heard The Night Air, but have an interest, all shows are listed on the site, and every show from 2010 onwards is available for download. Some recent highlights include:

A Spoken Word Remix on the 44th President of the United States of America Recorded live in an off-Broadway theatre in New York City, Darian Dauchan’s award-winning work chronicles the period of Barack Obama’s candidacy, to presidency, to the present day – at the time of his second inauguration. The piece is a rhetorical conversation between African-American performance poet, Darian Dauchan, and Barack Obama, now the 45th President of the United States. This solo show consists of live-looped songs, beat-boxing and a collage of satirical poems and presidential soundbites.

Krautrock
Krautrock was a pulse, a spontaneous eruption from the depths of the post-war German psyche, a seminal moment in the birth of electronic music. Bands like Can, Neu, Harmonia, Amon Düül, Faust and of course Kraftwerk coalesced around a common desire to take rock music beyond the blues into a realm of pure improvisation and experimentation. In the process they became sonic prophets, messengers from the future. Tom Morton and Timothy Nicastri take to the autobahn.

Library Music
In the shadows of pop music and on the industrial side of film soundtrack composition there’s the world of ‘production music’ or as it’s also known, ‘library music’. Composers and session musicians, often uncredited, create music to be used in the media – film, TV, radio and online.

Jamaica at 50
We’re in Jamaica to celebrate 50 years of independence from British rule. The Caribbean island may have the world’s highest rate of public debt and plenty of problems with corruption and crime but it also has the fastest runners on earth, untold cultural riches and the indomitable will to survive.

Mining Boom Boom Bang: Fistful of Dollars
To just pack your bags and fly-in, fly-out to the remotest corners of this dry continent is today’s version of the Gold Rush. Caught in the crossfire of this mad bonanza, Melbourne-based artist Moses Iten took cover by watching dozens of European Westerns from the late 1960s, the mood of which felt like a strange parallel to the push and pull of the current economic climate.  He also dug deep in the archives of Radio National to unearth ancient stories and hyped up myths of this great land of ours.

Media Mess Age
As Radio National acknowledges the centenary of the birth of the Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the Night Air listens to the great thinker speak (and sing) as he massages our minds into new shapes.And media manipulator extraordinaire, Buttress O’Kneel surfs the flux between truth and information and joins the virtual dots between Julian Assange and Charlie Sheen!

Tribute to John Blades
We pay tribute to structural engineer, award-winning radio producer, tape loop manipulator, disability advocate, spoken word artist, outsider art collector, experimental music and true crime aficionado, John Blades – who died in late 2011. We play material from John’s many radio programs, hear his friends’ and family’s accounts of his life and chart his history as a tireless supporter and exponent of ‘marginal’ culture.

The Brixton Insurrection + The last collage
It’s 30 years since the Brixton riots – also remembered as the Brixton Insurrection or Brixton Uprising. We listen to the songs, sounds and memories of this tumultuous time in England.

Then there’s the six part series Trouser amongst Blue Jeans #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, a history of the 1979 Triple J show Watching the Radio With the TV Off.