Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 27, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Jun 03
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Warm weather music

(Source: Spotify)

Augustus Pablo dub
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Apr 18
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Anika - ‘Yang Yang

(from the previous post)

(Source: Spotify)

anika dub
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Mar 23
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Currently spinning: Horace Andy’s Dub Box: Rare Dubs 1973-1976
Continuing on from this previous post about Millenials’ emotional attachment to ‘physical’ things like vinyl, I bought this a few days ago and it hasn’t left my turntable for very long since. The ironic thing I suppose is that they aren’t very ‘rare’, at least not any more (although they’re not on Spotify). I downloaded them on recommendation a few years ago - I believe by velveteenrabbit - as dub isn’t much of an ‘album’ genre, aside from a few obvious things like Augustus Pablo and King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. I went looking for a dub LP to buy, and well, it seems risky to do anything other than buy something you already have and/or know digitally.
It’s been a wonderful experience listening to the familiar songs - not too familiar, as I’d been trying to get into other dub records since - in their new setting - a lot of the time I spend listening to dub is usually on headphones, walking home or on the night bus. There’s something about using a turntable that refocuses attention on the music, respatialises it (in the distance between the start and end of each side) and thus opens out the sound within it. Maybe it’s because it becomes more of a process than an instantaneous experience, I don’t really know (I’m still sober listening to them, by the way - although after the umpteenth spin all the echoes and delay do start getting to you and it almost feels like you’re not).
Download tracks: ‘Dub Larking’, ‘Dub Guidance’ and ‘Dub Letter’

Currently spinning: Horace Andy’s Dub Box: Rare Dubs 1973-1976

Continuing on from this previous post about Millenials’ emotional attachment to ‘physical’ things like vinyl, I bought this a few days ago and it hasn’t left my turntable for very long since. The ironic thing I suppose is that they aren’t very ‘rare’, at least not any more (although they’re not on Spotify). I downloaded them on recommendation a few years ago - I believe by velveteenrabbit - as dub isn’t much of an ‘album’ genre, aside from a few obvious things like Augustus Pablo and King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. I went looking for a dub LP to buy, and well, it seems risky to do anything other than buy something you already have and/or know digitally.

It’s been a wonderful experience listening to the familiar songs - not too familiar, as I’d been trying to get into other dub records since - in their new setting - a lot of the time I spend listening to dub is usually on headphones, walking home or on the night bus. There’s something about using a turntable that refocuses attention on the music, respatialises it (in the distance between the start and end of each side) and thus opens out the sound within it. Maybe it’s because it becomes more of a process than an instantaneous experience, I don’t really know (I’m still sober listening to them, by the way - although after the umpteenth spin all the echoes and delay do start getting to you and it almost feels like you’re not).

Download tracks: ‘Dub Larking’, ‘Dub Guidance’ and ‘Dub Letter’

vinyl dub Horace Andy
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Mar 04
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The chaos of a Tubby mix - the unexpected dropouts and surges and distortions - is indeed analogous to the political chaos outside those studio doors. But the real metaphor embedded in those dubs is embodied by the image of a man locked inside behind a mixing board as the bullets fly outside, his studio a neutral zone where you made your own laws. You can’t unfire a gun. The act of firing it is like a one-take live-in-the-studio recording. You live or die with what you get, and you can’t remix the past. Late at night at Tubby’s, you could imagine a better world, one where you had complete control - a place where even if the bullet had been fired long ago, you had an eternity to decide its trajectory.

Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever (‘Tubby’s Ghost’)

Another brilliant passage which calls back to this one. My heart sank a little reading it at first, because ‘white American journalist using Jamaican political violence to make philosophical point’ is not usually a good look, but he kinda pulls it off here? This is where I can see the political speechwriter history coming through - maybe if he’d worked for Michael Manley things would have been happier (that’s if you believe in the power of rhetoric to subvert structural politics, which in the post-Obamania age is a tough bet). That’s what I like so much about the book - jumping through history to tell breezy anecdotes can be such a hokey element of these kind of ‘popular’ science/culture books, but he seems to nearly always do it well. Here it’s the story of how Tubby “began the Pro Tooling of the world by turning his tiny studio into a musical instrument”.

The image, however, directly contradicts an even more powerful one from the end of Camus’ 1951 The Rebel, his essay on existentialism, and a humanity torn between warring totalitarianisms:

“Each tells the other he is not God; this is the end of romanticism. At this moment, when each of us must fit an arrow to his bow and enter the lists anew, to reconquer, within history and in spite of it, that which he owns already, the thin yield of his fields, the brief love of this earth, at this moment when at last a man is born, it is time to forsake our age and its adolescent rages. The bow bends; the wood complains. At the moment of supreme tension, there will leap into flight an unswerving arrow, a shaft that is inflexible and free.”

'Complete control' is as the 20th century demonstrated a political impossibility, and dangerous to attempt (the 21st century suggests increasing control by, or of, the individual, depending on one's view of technology; and an accelerating lack of control at the environmental level). But Perfecting Sound Forever is patently not about the ‘end of the romanticism’: it is the continuation of it, such as with the mystique of analogue sound in which Milner indulges fairly heavily, and it is admittedly a rather petit-bourgeois romanticism. We will listen to our sonic experiments encoded onto petroleum and/or transmitted through electricity and plastic, while the world burns and others starve, but we shall be free? Or can we transmute our adolescent rages into art with revolutionary potential, become the arrow of self-determination and not the targeted consumer?

perfecting sound forever politics HFN hitler runoff camus dub
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Mar 30
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The Revolutionaries - ‘Fletcher’s Land’ from Earthquake Dub (1976)

I don’t seem to have space in my head to listen to much else other than dub these days. 

(previously from this album)

60 plays
dub the revolutionaries
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Mar 29
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Augustus Pablo - ‘Black Gunn’ from El Rocker’s 

dub is always unseasonably-warm-weather music for me

1,539 plays
dub augustus pablo
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Mar 28
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Who claimed, That dubstep is related to reggae?? Them a city sounds, metro, elecric tools, traffic, hard drugs, all things that Man schould avoid. Reggae is Nature. King Tubby is a pioneer and Ruler of dub technique, great engeeneer, Hi is a Father. Ever living in this Music. Thanks 4 His blessed work.

Comment on a YouTube video for King Tubby ‘Flag Dub’, the first result for ‘dub’ that’s actually a classic dub tune. Which I went to after seeing this part of the Skrillex interview on Pitchfork where he mentions dub:

"I got a lot of reggae-infused shit. Still a lot of dubstep, but kind of going back to the roots of dub. It’s not as banging, but it is banging, if that makes sense. It’s like when you hear, [sings] "This is how we do it." It’s not as cheesy as that, but it makes you want to dance for sure. It’s my funkiest stuff yet, but I’m not trying to be weird and funky now, or something."

I guess those of you who don’t avoid YouTube, or at least the comments thereon, as much as I do won’t be surprised that this a major issue on dub tracks: nothing can survive on the internet without challenges to its authenticity being themselves challenged, but this is pretty hilariously extreme. I won’t make fun of the patois, as affected as it may seem, but the biblical language and religiosity of Rastafarian culture does lend it - if it’s not actually just a piss-take - a particularly potent intolerance. The line between the supposedly unnatural and natural ascends to theological significance, and the artificiality of electronic music casts it out into the sinful wilderness (compared to the presumably analogue dub reggae?)

That said, as fun as Skrillex’s music may be, I’d take the rhythmic bass drops of dub or the crackly expanses of pure dubstep over it on most occasions. That’s just personal preference, though, there’s no need to be dicks about it.

skrillex dub
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Apr 22
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Joy Division - ‘Decades’ from Closer (1980)

I really like dub, although I don’t listen to that much of it - a couple of albums each from Horace Andy and Augustus Pablo, basically. The originals are great, but its the dub influence on other bands, specifically punk and post-punk, that most interests me. It’s there in Fugazi, in Joe Lally’s bass which the Rolling Stone album guide describes as “three parts Joy Division to one part dub” on Steady Diet of Nothing; or in Hoover, whose guitarist Joseph McRedmond I asked to account for the influence, and he simply explained it as ”deep late night party music with your friends” and, perhaps referring more to the reggae side of it, “usually with a message”.

If the style is not perhaps very far below the surface on most Joy Division tracks, on this song it pretty much is the surface. Not so much in the bass which is usually associated with dub, but in the treble, the tinny melody and percussion that sits on top of a typical dub track, creating an epic contrast with the undulating subterranean rhythm; a kind of aural chiaroscuro, or Ansel Adams. Heavy skanking, gothic style. But just as dub creates an alternatingly oppressive and glorious atmosphere, so it is with this Joy Division album finisher.

60 plays
Joy Division dub 80s post-punk HFN
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Mar 26
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homeofthevain:

Burial, Street Halo
(Street Halo, 2011)

“You dozed, and watched the night revealing the thousand sordid images of which your soul was constituted; they flickered against the ceiling. And when all the world came back and the light crept up between the shutters and you heard the sparrows in the gutters, you had such a vision of the street, as the street hardly understands.”

— T.S. Eliot, Preludes

More Burial. More Eliot.

This is like that time I posted Camus with dub.

(Source: nikolatamindzic)

3,519 plays
dub books uk
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Mar 08
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I went looking to see if Skins had had any particularly good dubstep tracks lately, re: this cri de coeur from Philolzophy, but turns out I liked the witch house better - remember when Salem and Crystal Castles were THE SAME THING, rather than an argument about rap authenticity and a disappointingly vacuous duo of albums? - and this is where I wonder why. 

As it happened, the latest episode’s soundtrack was pretty much all about the dubstep, in the way the wholly unrealistic but affecting story of a farmer’s son in the rural hinterlands of collegiate Bristol can be; but to me all dance music is just a succession of impressionistic, whole-environment moments and not something that works when reframed outside of its context. In that sense dubstep shares a lot with dub, which rarely works as a series of discrete, isolated tracks beyond the initial pull of how one individual dub spreads out its aural strata into the listening experience. Thus the characteristic wobble of dubstep is little different from dub’s iconic layered echo, quite apart from its direct lineage, in that it forms the momentary reference point in a wider, fog-laden atmosphere, but rarely a workable hook (exceptions, such as Horace Andy’s ‘Skylarking’, form a gateway into the sound rather than a basis for its expansion).

Witch house, at least at its more electro/synth-pop end, is also about creating such an atmosphere, but unlike true dance music, extends it into the shape of a song, primarily a vehicle for reflection, rather than a dance, primarily a vehicle for action. Neither is in itself better or worse than the other, just different. But one functions better as an extractable, coherent text; and, boiled down, as a signifier for emotion. In the preceding episode which this track - originally released as a split 7” with oOoOO, on a label named ‘Emotion’, about this time last year, though the video above dates from much earlier - featured, it follows songs by the actual Crystal Castles, Salem and, in a minor gear shift, the National, charting the acute personal collapse of the jockish, overconfident but conflicted character at the episode’s centre. It’s a pity the soundtrack commentary, from the show’s music supervisor, is so blokeish, because the scene itself is OTT drugs and sex, even in the Skins context, and this just provides the rock’n’roll overload:

"If music has ever sounded like a gigantic looping ket hole to you then it was probably this song you were listening to. White Ring are making music in the same vein as Salem but with more comparison to bands like Crystal Castles. This is the track that is playing through the stereo when Nick gets down with a mother of three, until it all goes a bit dark. A word to the wise if you ever find yourself sleeping with an older woman and she puts a track of this nature on, get out of there, she’s either gonna slip you a finger or start crying half way through. Either way your day’s fucked."

It’s a New York track placed on a show with a very UK philosophy, but what dub(step) roots there are - this Pitchfork article does a good job of explaining the connections - can be traced back to London, before they’re mixed with the violence of the US rap influence. Witch house is several things overlaid at once, which forms its oppressive musical power, but it’s that same voracious cultural appetite which renders the simplicity of dubstep an aesthetic adrift in the Atlantic currents, a detached form of dance music looking for a meaning to attach itself to. Hence, a simulacra of a simulacra - when seeking to fold it into the -waves of -gaze, at least, rather than adapting the relatively simple technical formulations from overseas. Dubstep is real, hipsters aren’t - until you make them so.

skins dub uk tv electro salem HFN
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