Monday, January 24, 2022
Monday, January 17, 2022
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."
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
18 May 2017
by Simon Reynolds
Black Origami, the title of the new album by electronic warrior Jlin (real name Jerrilynn Patton), is a perfect analogy for her creative process. It always begins, she says, with nothing: no formula, no preconceptions, no sampled materials, just the blind urge to make. Origami, similarly, “starts out as a blank sheet of paper”, she explains. “Which you bend and fold, and then you end up with this beautiful, complex thing.” Jlin’s elegantly angular beat-constructions rather resemble origami’s blend of geometric planes and exquisite delicacy. “Taking simplicity and making it complex – I got that ideology from Coco Chanel,” she adds.
The album title is an extension of an earlier and equally apt analogy that Jlin made on her 2015 debut Dark Energy, with the track Black Ballet. The ballerina’s movements look effortless and weightless, but the audience never sees the blood-soaked wraps around her feet or the stress damage to her spinal discs; likewise, listeners are transported by the eerie levitational grace of Jlin’s music but don’t hear the hundreds of agonized hours of detail-work and fanatical focus embedded in each track.
Footwork, the Chicago genre of fractured machine-funk with which Jlin is generally associated, but which she’s left far behind with Black Origami, is a functional style designed for dance battles. Jlin – who hails from Gary, Indiana, a 45-minute drive from Chicago – thinks “fighting forms and dance are one and the same, just like music and math are the same. I feel that dance is based off of fighting steps, and I reference both back to the way an animal moves.”
But where Dark Energy often made you think of martial arts or fight-dance styles such as Brazilian capoeira, Black Origami has a different feel: more ceremonial and ritualistic. The listener might picture drum choirs, street pageants, the courtly processions of imperial Japan. Partly that’s down to the glittering array of exotic percussion textures that Jlin has added to her arsenal, clattery timbres that evoke ankle bells, shakers, Tibetan bells, and “storm drum”. The latter was a gift from Avril Stormy Unger, a choreographer from Bangalore with whom Jlin has collaborated on performance pieces at the Unsound festival in Kraków and for a Boiler Room webcast transmitted live from India.
Working with figures such as Unger reflects the extent to which Jlin has left behind not just footwork, but club-oriented dance music altogether. Her collaborators on Black Origami are nearly all from the avant-garde: electronic experimentalist Holly Herndon, tape-loop composer William Basinski, French Gothtronica artist Fawkes. Jlin is also currently composing a score for contemporary dance superstar and choreographer Wayne McGregor.
But if Jlin has moved beyond the combat-dance of footwork tracks into an artier realm of album-length experimentation, she has retained the battling spirit of the Chicago scene. It’s just that for her it’s a more solitary struggle of creating something ex-nihilo. She’s likens the programming of each of her tracks to “a hard, dreadful birth, trying to push this thing inside of you, getting it out”. Throughout her conversation, there’s a leitmotif of self-overcoming. Jlin talks about creating from “the most uncomfortable space”; “when a person listens, they’re hearing my vulnerability”; “every time I create, it’s scary”. “I have no foundation whatsoever,” she adds. “I’m starting from ground zero. Literally every time I sit in this chair – it’s a fight.”
Despite the grueling nature of her process, Jlin says, “when it comes together, it’s very fulfilling, because you know you drew it from nothing.” But the feeling of triumph doesn’t last long. “Maybe for an hour afterwards. But usually I’m like, ‘what do I do next?’”
Some of Jlin’s track titles seem freighted with political intent or black power resonance. On Dark Energy, there was Guantanamo and Mansa Musa, the latter named after a 14th century ruler of the Mali Empire in west Africa, regarded by some historians as likely the richest man who ever lived. On Black Origami, the title 1% seems like a direct reference to America’s equality gap, and this time there’s no less than two tracks in tribute to African potentates: Nandi comes from the Zulu queen mother of the warrior-king Shaka, while Hatsheput nods to the female pharaoh who ruled Egypt when it was the most advanced civilisation in the world.
But Jlin brushes off any attempts to connect her frequent talk of “darkness” to real-world politics or apocalyptic fears that the world is heading into a new Dark Age. “No, no, no,” she insists. “This has solely to do with me.” At the same time, she says she doesn’t really draw from her personal life, from real-world problems or emotional conflicts. Again, it all goes back to that mystical, almost Nietzschean struggle against the self’s own limits. “It’s like jumping off a cliff - no cables, no bungee.”
Where does her tenacity and drive come from? Sometimes Patton’s patter has a slight flavour of positive thinking (the true American religion) and other times you get the faintest whiff of New Age (Kyanite, on Black Origami, shares its name with a crystal that reputedly neither accumulates nor retains “negative energy”, which makes it excellent for “metaphysical purposes.”) Conversely, it’s tempting to attribute it to the steel-town toughness of Gary, Indiana (where until fairly recently Jlin worked at a mill “driving a 50,000-pound tractor, transporting steel from one department to another”), an atmosphere that has only gotten harsher and more desolate with the closing of mills and the further erosion of jobs through automation.
But I suspect the real source of Jlin’s strength and will comes from her mother, who sounds like a formidable character and has played a key role in her daughter’s musical evolution at various points. “She’s never babied me, ever,” says Jlin, recalling a turning point when she played her mom a track that relied on a sample (from Teena Marie’s Portuguese Love). “I asked her what she thought of it, and my mum said she liked it, but then she asked me ‘what do you sound like?’. That was the moment at which my approach changed and my sound changed.”
More recently, Jlin’s mom helped her out by titling one of Black Origami’s best tunes, Nyakinyua Rise. “I was completely frustrated, I couldn’t think of what I should call the track, so I asked her to listen and she said ‘Ah, that’s Nyakinyua Rise.’ See, Nyakinyua Rise! Is the name of an organisation that my mom and a friends of hers in Kenya set up to provide solar lamps to kids over there, because when the sun goes down they can’t see to do their homework.”
Wherever it comes from - the woman who raised her, the tough industrial town in which she grew up, the war-dance spirit of footwork, or some mystical inner-zone of her spirit – Jlin is a steely-minded perfectionist who believes that failure – pushing yourself further than you’re capable of going – is the key to success. The last track on Black Origami is titled Challenge (To Be Continued) and it relates to Jlin’s belief in what she calls “Infinity”.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with my work. I don’t want to be satisfied with my work. I don’t believe in a concept like ‘the peak’. To me that’s an insult – who are you to say that someone’s at the height of their career, or has reached the peak of their art? For myself, I believe in Infinity. Once we start, we just keep going up.”
Sunday, January 9, 2022
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?
Music: the playlist/soundtrack of your life, in 5 songs.
The Slits, "So Tough"
My Bloody Valentine, "Slow"
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.
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
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.