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Monday, November 2, 2015

Numbers 225 - 201, "Things Fall Apart"

What were the noughties?  It's possibly a premature question to ask. Where we had a clear sense of what the previous decade constituted in 1995, we probably had a less clear picture of the 90s in 2005, and an arguably less defined one again in 2015.

So, in one respect the capabilities of a discrete ten year block to connote all of the aesthetic, social and cultural changes within it seem to be declining. And that's possibly part of what we're mapping. There is no question that the seemingly ever-accelerating pace of globalisation along with the rapid technological changes that have enabled it have produced an infinitely more complex world, and complexity is by its nature resistant to essentialism.

Complexity is also resistant to harbouring the sort of regionalisms that prosper behind protectionist walls. Discourse is now at least potentially more global than ever, and it becomes more difficult for regional discourses to exist in isolation from others that don't share a similar regional focus.

And you'd expect all of this to lead to a few things in the musical milieu:
  • A more globalised musical culture with less regional differences
  • A musical culture based less on discrete styles or genres than around interrogations between those styles
  • A musical culture less dominated by a small number of headline artists, and more by an undifferentiated mass body of artists
  • A democratisation of the process of music production enabled by advances in home recording technology and new distribution models
And largely we've seen all these things to one extent or another come about.

The noughties were arguably the first decade which saw no major new music genres emerge. This ties in with concepts a postmodernist would have no trouble at all recognising regarding the 'death of history' and our living  in 'an eternal present'. But it also maps a new form of discursive plurality that has perhaps almost  come to define the postmodern condition. The inherent intertextuality of all discourse is both highlighted and heightened by the new technologies used for its transmission. So no song exists independent of both the musical discourses that preceeded it, nor similarly the contemporaneous discourses within which all music is received. This would include all economic, political, social, societal, etc discourses.

And it's not surprising a model like that should turn out few new discrete styles and genres, where the production of  such depends more upon isolation and an environment in which similar discourses arising from similar inputs have their own discrete chamber within which to reverberate, wholly isolated from the larger body politic.

My thesis is that we've really only seen two significant new musical styles in the last ten years - Grime and Dubstep. Grime is hip hop with the postmodernism turned up to 11. Where hip hop was all about sampling and re-using found objects, it was thoroughly dada-ist in its aesthetic. So, what many posit as the ultimate postmodern musical style is actually thoroughly grounded in an aesthetic that dips its lid more in modernism's direction.

Grime appears to dissipate the entire possibilities of identity. Grime is Dizzee Rascall riffing on the same syncopated rhythm eight lines in a row, eight times the same statement, but with each line producing different meaning. Grime is complex triple-stepping  beats where High Modernist Hip Hop just needed a kickdrum on every 4/4 beat.

Where hip hop writes from the position of a vastly over-determined unitary narrator. "I" is the most routinely used word in hip hop lyrics. But that identity has thoroughly broken down in grime. Gone much of the "bitches and bling" bravado, to be replaced by a more humble, more polyvalent, less all-powerful narrative.

Similarly, Dubstep has its origins in drum and bass and allied dance styles. Accordingly, it's almost a completely post-linguistic style. Lyrics are minimal and exist more as just another sonic element. It's in many ways the apotheosis of the post-meaning, post-god, post-discursive style that one would predict emerging, given how many other aspects of contemporary complexity also exhibit these traits.

More on this to come. I thought you'd probably want some actual music in the interim.

#NameArtistAlbum (Year)
225.You Know I'm No GoodAmy WinehouseBack To Black (2006)
224.Letter from AbroadJohn Cale(2008)
223.Skip To The EndThe FutureheadsPromo Only Modern Rock June 2006 (2006)
222.Green AislesReal EstateDays (2011)
221.2080YeasayerAll Hour Cymbals (2007)
220.Postcards From ItalyBeirutBeirut (2006)
219.Body Language (Tocadisco Remix)M.A.N.D.Y. Vs. Booka ShadeBody Language (Single) (2007)
218.I Feel SpaceLindstrømSolid Sounds 2005.2 [Disc 1] (2005)
217.KnifeGrizzly BearYellow House (2006)
216.Pass That DutchMissy Elliott Feat. LudacrisRespect M.E. (2003)
215.Memorize The CityThe OrganGrab That Gun (2004)
214.Booo! (Radio Edit)Sticky Feat. Ms. DynamiteReal Garage [Disc 2] (2001)
213.Stargate of the HellAcid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.Glorify Astrological Martyrdom (2008)
212.HallelujahNick Cave & The Bad SeedsNo More Shall We Part (2001)
211.First Day On The RunThe FauvesThousand Yard Stare (2000)
210.So Many WaysMates Of StateBring It Back (2006)
209.We Own The SkyM83Saturdays = Youth (2008)
208.Make Out Fall Out Make UpLove Is AllNine Times That Same Song (2006)
207.Fell In Love With A GirlThe White StripesWhite Blood Cells (2001)
206.Cannot Get StartedHandsome FursPlague Park (2007)
205.As I Sat Sadly By Her SideNick Cave & The Bad SeedsNo More Shall We Part (2001)
204.Remember MeBritish Sea PowerThe Decline Of British Sea Power (2001)
203.Comfy In NauticaPanda BearPerson Pitch (2007)
202.A Lady Of A Certain AgeThe Divine ComedyVictory For The Comic Muse (2006)
201.Us AmazoniansKirsty MacCollTropical Brainstorm (2000)