Monday, January 17, 2022

A Guy Called Gerald (1994)

 A Guy Called Gerald

Melody Maker, October 8th, 1994

by Simon Reynolds

You could be forgiven for thinking that A Guy Called Gerald, the genius behind 'Voodoo Ray', had disappeared off the face of the earth. In fact, since his deal with CBS went sour, Gerald Simpson has being working deep underground. He started up his own label, Juice Box, and developed the digital-tribe vibe of 'Voodoo Ray' in an unexpected direction: hardcore junglism.

Gerald has this year issued a series of astonishing cuts such as 'Nazinji-Zaka' and 'Darker Than I Should Be'. 'Nazinji' starts with the declaration, "The first rhythms came from Africa", which is a big clue to Gerald's thang. The leap from 'Voodoo Ray' makes sense because jungle is Afro-futurist. Like dub, hip hop and ragga, it has the hallmark of African music. The complexity is rhythmic rather than melodic. Or, rather, the rhythm IS the melody. Gerald's tracks take the jungle mesh of polyrhythms, cross-rhythms and counter-rhythms to new levels of insane detail.

"I use five or six loops, add electronic percussion, pan 'em across the speakers and feed 'em through effects," he explains. "If people are gonna pay five quid, I'll give 'em their money's worth! I try to create as many dynamics within the music as possible and I have a personal rule that the samples must be masked beyond recognition."

Another key word for Gerald's aesthetic is cyber-black. Check out 'Gloc', the sinister, fucked-up flip of the jazzy, ultra-smooth 'Darker Than I Should Be'.

"The samples of 'You're gonna be a bad motherfucker' are from Robocop. It's the scene where they're rebuilding the guy as a cyborg after he was shot up. It fits, because the track is a remix. It's like I rebuilt it and armoured it with effects."

The sci-fi theme is continued on Gerald's forthcoming LP, Black Secret Technology, a title inspired by a programme on government mind-control via blipverts and other subliminal techniques. It also communicates a "Say it loud, I'm cyber-black and proud" message. But before the album, there's a new single, 'Finley's Rainbow', which is totally different to anything he has done before. It's jungle, but instead of drawing on ragga, the sources lie in the skankin' rhythms of roots reggae and the ethereality of lover's rock, all whisked by an irresistibly effervescent happy hardcore tempo.

As part of the intelligent/ambient vanguard, Gerald is making music which doesn't get played out that often, as pandering, play-safe DJs spin only proven crowd-pleasers, all obvious soul choruses, ragga chants and bouncy B-lines. Nevertheless, Gerald, who is about to collaborate with MC Navigator from Kool FM and has invited Goldie from Metalheads to remix 'Voodoo Ray', remains optimistic about the scene.

"So long as no one gets sucked in by the majors, it will keep progressing. People will realise they can't carry on sampling direct lifts from other records and become more creative."

Sunday, January 9, 2022

cultural striptease

 Cultural Striptease

for an Italian publication, 2010? 

NB this would need to be updated and amended if done now e.g. the iPhone has now entered my life, to ruin it

Your first cultural memory?

Probably The Beatles ("Yellow Submarine"). Unless we count British children's TV shows like Andy Pandy and Pogle's Wood.


The song where you would like to inhabit?

The second (subaquatic-idyllic) section of John Martyn's "I'd Rather Be The Devil", but I'd need to have gills instead of lungs.


A song you are listening obsessively on your iPod? (do you have one?)

I do have an iPod but hardly ever use it. The last song to obsess me was Black Eyed Peas's "Boom Boom Pow" which came out in summer 2009 but which I only heard this month -- that got several replays on YouTube.


An embarassing (or dangerous cultural) pleasure?

I can't think of anything that embarrasses me. I suppose I am ashamed of how much time I waste watching junk TV -- cooking shows, reality-type pseudo-documentaries, "Best Interior Design/Next Top Model" type contests. There really are so many better things I could do with my time.


The song/movie which changed your life (a quote from it).

Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the U.K."--no specific line, but the excessive demand in the song and Johnny Rotten's performance left me with excessive, unrealistic demands in terms of what I expect from music (world-shaking impact, breath-choking intensity)

A recent album/book/movie/author that you consider your personal discovery.

In the era of webbed music and hyper-hipsterism, it is very hard to be first on the block with a new group, or a new anything. Generally I am happy to pick up on things a little bit after the "new thing" hunters get there.


Things your children should read, listen and see?

The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.

The Railway Children.


If I say television: is there a sitcom or something unexpected you can’t stop to watch at?

Peep Show.


Music: the playlist/soundtrack of your life, in 5 songs.

The Slits, "So Tough"

My Bloody Valentine, "Slow"

Orbital, "Chime"

Omni Trio, "Renegade Snares (Foul Play Remix)"

Ariel Pink, "The Ballad of Bobby Pyn"


The ringtone you have on your your mobile phone, now?

The standard one it comes with.


What do you think of people who obsessively wear earcuffs while walking or other?

It's not how I would choose to live. I don't like to be insulated from the outside world. I was never a big fan of the Walkman and the only time I use my iPod is on long train or bus journeys, or late at night when I want to read while sitting on the sofa (rather than attached to the stereo via headphones).


A quote from a song to tell someone: you love him/her; you want to leave him/her. And a song (quote) to convince someone to stay with you?

"It's only me/Who wants to wrap around your dreams"--Fleetwood Mac, "Dreams"

"Lovin’ you...isn't the right thing to do"--Fleetwood Mac, "Go Your Own Way"

"I can still hear you saying/You would never break the chain"--Fleetwood Mac, "The Chain"


Your relationship with new technologies: do you have a Blackberry/iPhone, you are an email addict, what’s your opinion about Facebook or similar?

No Blackberry, no iPhone, only shaky command of my mobile phone to be honest. Email, addicted, yes of course. Facebook--coming up with clever comments on stuff is too much like work for me. I'm on it but I hardly ever update or leave anything comments. Twitter is another step in the ephemeralisation of everything: I can remember magazine articles and music paper record reviews from 30 years ago; I can remember certain blog posts and online essays from 7 or 9 years ago. But do people remember a Tweet for more than a day?

A stupid thing that you cannot stop to do online. Or a digital gaffe.

Saving articles and blog posts "to read later". "Later" never comes and I have a folder called Reading Matter with a couple of thousand files inside it.


Have you read books on kindle or some e-readers?


What you would have want to learn to do in life?

Practically: Drive a car (I've just moved to Los Angeles so this is essential). Play a musical instrument. Learn how to make beats. Learn how to beat-match as a deejay.

Existentially: Be more patient. Waste less time.


What did you learn from a book/movies/music about: sex?

There's no substitute for hands-on experience.


Do you read magazines?

Yes, but not as much as I used to.

What did you save/hated of our last ten years culture, the so called Noughties, Anni Zero.

Love: Music's inexhaustible capacity to come up with the unexpected, the revelatory, unknown pleasures (Dizzee Rascal, Animal Collective, Ariel Pink, Ghost Box, Vampire Weekend...). Blogging as a rebirth of music  journalism.

Hate: The effect on the internet on my attention span, which is shot to pieces (see above, about magazines). The wars and the propaganda machine that attempted to justify them. Still waiting for the future/the 21st Century to start, the first ten years just seem like the Nineties continuing. Twitter as the slow erosion of blogging

A word that you love. A word that you hate.


Root canal

Were would you go for a “cultural” tour? 3 places

Places I've never been -- Tokyo, Bombay, Beijing.

If you would have to write an autobiography, what could be the first line? And the dedication?


I will never write an autobiography. But the dedication would be "For Jenny and for Joy".

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Animal Collective - Feels

 Animal Collective


Spin, October 2005

by Simon Reynolds

Using song titles like “Daffy Duck” and cover art that features kids in a farmyard, Animal Collective are still working with children and animals. But the New York group’s vision isn’t a rose-tinted regression to a lost idyll. It’s more like their music is a child — angelic one moment, monstrous the next. Dulcet passages give way to tantrums of flailing drums and shrieks.

Kids see the world as a magical place populated with spooks as much as marvels. And on Feels, their seventh album, Animal Collective give that sinister side a subliminal undertow. Although the lyrics suggest it’s a love song, “Flesh Canoe” is actually a weirdly creepy thing — a grumbling mass of guitar drones that seems to shed lumps of itself along the way. “Bees,” with its hammered autoharp and piano trickles, sounds halcyon, but the lyrics could be a recovered memory of infant terror: “So sudden, the bees, they came flying / So violent, the bees, they came sly.”

At the core of Animal Collective’s music is the dragonfly wing-shimmer of frenetically strummed acoustic guitars, a peculiar mix of dynamism and delicacy. As ferocious as the playing can get, there’s no center to the sound, just an unmoored drift of song structures that rarely follows verse-chorus patterns. AC are all about the sometimes blissful, often uncanny intermingling of song and space. Tunes take shape gradually, like a figure approaching through mist, then dissolve into eerie incantations. The contrast between the winsome vocals of Avey Tare and the music’s vastness creates a sound picture of an ego engulfed by immensity.

Feels really enchants when space gets the upper hand over song. The tremulous tinglings of acoustic texture on “Daffy Duck,” “Loch Raven,” and “Banshee Beat” recall Brian Eno’s ambient albums far more than the freak-folk outfits AC usually get placed next to. The closer, “Turn Into Something,” starts as a jaunty ditty, then crumbles into a slow fade of reverberations, as if Animal Collective are blending into the scenery. Mother Nature’s sons in the grand psychedelic tradition of Syd Barrett and the Incredible String Band, they finally surrender to the void.