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.

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