Monday, June 30, 2008

A Pox on Both Your Eco-Houses

I'm unexpectedly torn on the kerfuffle over Eco-Towns. I agree almost entirely with Jonathan Glancey that this is little more than an act of urban offsetting, a vacuous gloss put on the simple act of expanding the commuter belt - and the woolly, woody, sustainability-miming architecture will no doubt be insultingly bad (see Mapping Melbourne on this from a little while ago). Also, the very idea that there should be environmental enclaves while the city multiplies its contradictions has a hint of Evil Paradises about it - those 'sustainable' outposts like Arup's eco-metropolis Dongtan, ecocities for the rich while the majority toil in grossly polluted conditions. Certainly if Brown's ecotowns weren't accompanied by the expansion of the road and air networks, the continued denigration and ticket inflation on the railways, the concentration of capital and employment in the South-East and a generally pitiful supine position before capital then they might have a modicum of credibility.

And yet - looking at photographs of the anti-ecotown protesters, reading their 'arguments', and noting their use of the term 'new town' (or 'new' in general) as an insult, one can't help but recognise one's natural enemies. From Tim Henman's Dad onwards these are the same people that fought against the mass trespasses and squattings of the 40s, who dubbed Stevenage 'Silkingrad', who oppose Wind Turbines but refuse to step out of their SUVs and who vote Tory in droves - motivated seemingly more by the fear that a) their fantasy of rurality might be impinged upon and b) the proles might move nearby than anything more altruistic. Morbid symptoms indeed.

A completely different - if perhaps equally ambiguous - view of the New Town has been brought to my attention by Collapse's Robin: this animated, hip-hop soundtracked site devoted to the Czech Modernist New Town of Usti Nad Lebem, where huge panelak estates were built in the surrounding countryside up until the Velvet Revolution. There's a rare, and unusual perspective on these (very common) places at this site - in place of the usual horror story, we have a beautifully written anatomising of the wilful historical amnesia that built it and the nostalgia for it today, combined with dreams of the new towns that could have been built in its wake, and never were. Though it doesn't sentimentalise the sometimes deeply unpleasant politics that lie behind these places, it wonders if they might have pioneered an idea of the city which we ought to be learning from - continuing, even. Not that anything so unashamedly machinic is ever going to get built in the Oxfordshire countryside today. More's the pity...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Library Addenda

Joel Anderson notes the following:

It is worth noting that Senate House is also the seat of power in the McKellen Richard III, and - more incongruously - is the location for Bertie Wooster's New York apartment block (I think it's also used for the interior) in seasons 3 and 4 of Jeeves and Wooster. I had no idea about the original plans for the site, but I am all for it, and I think eating Malet Street would be an excellent idea (RADA's theatre and ULU would both go!). It always looks to me, from a certain vantage point on Russell Square, as if the buildings are about to eat one another anyway, or like a pre-cgi dinosaur battle: Birkbeck v. Senate House. In fact, it turns out they are. And, if rumours can be believed, UCL is about to eat both of them.

You are right, also, about the BN. Even more than Alphaville, the interior (as you go down the ominous escalator with chainmail-clad walls, always alone), looks like the underground world of La Jettée (with a little bit of Metropolis, although the Ligne 14 Metro stations - part of the same project as the BN - are more Langian still). Incidentally, Orly - as depicted in the first shots of La Jeteé - is a very fine, and rather modernist, airport, possibly because it has jetties and not terminals. A shame that it's miles away from everything, doesn't serve any places one would like to visit, and - er - is an airport.
Image via

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Some Machines for Reading In

'Hitler's Headquarters'

What should a library look like? What are its functions, what spaces does it need, and what should it (sigh) symbolise? I'm writing this next to Charles Holden's Senate House. A portland stone skyscraper built in the late 1930s, it is best known as one of those urban-myth 'Hitler's headquarters' (there were a few), and was certainly the inspiration for Nineteen Eighty-Four's Ministry of Truth. Hearteningly, the actual content of this block is mainly educational, including two floors devoted to the University of London Library, which, if Market Stalinists have their way, will become fee-paying, thus shoving more people into the already cramped British Library up the road. When I was working in there on my MA, I loved the narrow alcoves, the endless Kafka corridors, the strange views - all free, unlike hoity middlebrow antiquarian arsehole-fests like the London Library.

With this building, all Palace of the Soviets/Hugh Ferriss stepping and Novecento bareness, Holden disappointed the Modernist following he'd built up via his fantastic tube stations, and it's a great what-if to imagine a University Tower designed in the same Commuter Belt De Stijl he'd pioneered on the Piccadilly Line - especially considering Arnos Grove was itself based on a famous library building (which I visited once: an oddly ceremonial sachlichkeit there). Senate House's severity still thrills, I must admit - sharp, bracing, its axial symmetries almost hidden in the middle of Russell Square, and annoying Simon Jenkins is another reason to love it. However, the original plan was far more grandiose and, shall we say, total. The picture here shows it as originally intended, a spine all the way along Malet St of Portland stone starkness, massively scaled down just to the tower and smaller wings, with Holden's sadly drab 1940s buildings now scattered around the area. In fact, library buildings seem particularly vulnerable to this kind of penny-pinching, de-scaling and general rancour, as if the very idea of devoting this much money and space to reading is somehow an affront to the economy. The buildings in this post (some of which I have used, some not) are almost all united by lengthy gestation, controversy, changes in design, and most of all squabbles over money.

Libraries Gave Us Power

Perhaps the only one of the grim, cultish memorials to Lenin erected in the Soviet Union that wouldn't have led to old V.I spinning in his grave, was the idea of a vast, free, comprehensive public library in central Moscow, 'named for Lenin'. The plan was first mooted in 1927, becoming a graduation project for students at the 'Soviet Bauhaus', VkHUTEMAS - the reason for Ivan Leonidov's famous proto-Buckminster Fuller dome and bookstack. The 1928 competition was held in two stages. The first, open competition was won by Fidman, Fridman & Markov, architects from the 'Psycho-Technical' ASNOVA Group, an intriguing clique fixated with stimulus-response effects on the building's users. Of the images above, the top one was likely to become the eventual library. It would have been the most technologically and aesthetically advanced building in the world. The jury, headed by 'Commissar of Enlightenment' Anatoly Lunacharsky, specifically criticised those architects 'still practicing in the old styles', which made what happened in the second round especially odd.

The second stage would be distinguished by the Vesnin brothers' cubic designs, shown in the public exhibition of the Leftist Oktyabr Group. Meanwhile, Alexey Shchusev and Vladimir Schukuo, two old Academicians who had entered in neoclassical entries for the first competition, now entered simplified, Modernistic versions of their original designs - leaving actual floor plans entirely intact, of course. Schukuo's entry won the second contest, leading to a united front of Soviet Modernists placing an advert in the architectural press, headed 'PROTEST' featuring a montage of the two old guard architects' designs with the words 'What can we do to oblige, sirs? We are not proud people.' Suggesting that eclectic architects were carrying out the bidding of powerful clients was obviously not terribly clever in a country rapidly veering into dictatorship, and the protests were ignored. Schukuo's building took 12 years to construct, and is still standing, its stripped classical volumes featuring much public sculpture (reading women!) and a statue of Dostoevsky at the entrance, rather incongruously. It seems pleasant in photos, if hardly the earth-shattering futurist monument to socialist learning it so nearly was.

Libraries as Terminals in London, Paris and elsewhere

Colin St John Wilson's British Library, on the face of it, is Guardian Modernism, best fit for visitors to the Hay-on-Wye festival, warm, comforting, uncontroversial, with a proper sense of historical place - replacing the rotunda where Capital was written, itself subsequently emasculated by being encased in Norman Foster's most kitsch, Speerian structure - with Alvar Aalto's ingratiating niceness. It took 30 years between planning and building, and by the time it was finished it appeared as a very late, softcore Brutalism in the midst of pomo, albeit with unusually lavish furnishing and detailing (Wilson had LCC and Independent Group pedigree, though neither the rigour of the first or the pop montage of the latter is immediately apparent). Martin Pawley fairly relishes pointing out, in Terminal Architecture, just how ineffectual the building was as a working space, outsourcing the real activity to depots in Thamesmead and Yorkshire: he recommended it learn the lessons of Cadburys' delivery centres. Nonetheless, after using the library a few times, I started to warm to it. Not for the redbrick 'harmonising' with St Pancras, or for the often overcrowded rooms, but for the ineffectual, functionless, generous spaciousness. In the main reading rooms a vast, airy ceiling provides all the space that is lacking on the ground, while the system of staircases and escalators is elegant, enjoyable and pointless, rightly recognising that a library should not be assessed by economic use-value (although it perhaps offers too much space to the ubiquitous wi-fi wankers). Naturally, as with Senate House, there are proposals to take away its free status.

I haven't been to either of the Paris National Bibliotheques, but I rather admire the fact that the original National Library, itself a pioneering structure (given much attention in Benjamin's Arcades) got replaced with something so fantastically uncompromising, un-user 'friendly' as Mitterand's Dominique Perrault-designed buildings - four glass blocks straight out of Alphaville, with no interest in scale, context or all the other pieties which obsess British architects. These truly look like machines for reading in, and accordingly don't possess the romantic patina that academic labour is apparently supposed to entail - one can't imagine the slightest speck of dust escaping here, no musty volumes or yellowing pages. Perhaps the inverse of this (which I did visit, before being told off) is Joze Plecnik's determinedly romanticist Ljubjiana University library. After going in past the rough, eccentric redbrick facade, you find yourself in a bizarre horror-classical space of black columns and crepuscular spaces. The eventual pay-off is of course a light, airy reading room, but it is the way in that everyone remembers: reading treated with a curious trepidation. The passage through darkness is so much more memorable than arriving in the light.

(Finally, petitions for the British Library and Senate House are here, and here, in lieu of direct anti-philistine action)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ville Radieuse, What Ho!

A very interesting post at Aggregat 4/5/6 about Alexander Korda's deployment of Modernist architecture in WWII propaganda, and more generally on the use of the 1930s English branch of the international style as an instrument of public persuasion - amongst other things making clear that, if the new architecture was considered useful in convincing people to fight for A Better Britain, then the still occasionally prevalent idea that it was all a conspiracy by continental intellectuals to shove the benighted working man into totalitarian boxes looks, as ever, a bit silly.

Narkomfin (not) Vanishing?

The BBC goes to the Narkomfin Building, Moisei Ginzburg's ruined Constructivist Communal House. It's nice to know this is now worthy of getting on national news (a welcome lack of Cold War guff here too), but sadly it doesn't tell us anything new: whether it'll get restored, who by, and what for. Ginzburg's grandson is interviewed, and he's been talking for years about restoring it as a hotel - here it's apparently for 'services', whatever that might be. What are the chances of it being restored as a Commual House, I wonder...(thanks to Kiri for the link)

Friday, June 20, 2008

So Far So Good

Ads Without Products warns against recession Schadenfreude, as the property developers will win out eventually, rightly pointing out that hoping for 'property bargains' in a recession is wholly idle. This wasn't entirely my point, however. Part of the reason for my Schadenfreude at the Credit Crunch is that it makes entirely clear that, no matter how much Gordon Brown as 'Iron Chancellor' claimed to have 'ended' boom-and-bust, capitalism's cycles of crisis and expansion have no more ended than has history itself. There really has been a sense over the last few years that this might go on forever, that the rich would continually get richer and the poor poorer but the phantom housing boom and virtual capital would, somehow, manage to keep the system going, at least until global warming stepped in, and opposition would constantly be stymied by the apparent evidence of 'growth', a 'strong pound' and other such occultism.

What's interesting about this story (the seemingly blithe consumer confidence in Britain) as far as I can see, is that people are still thinking like this. The call to tighten belts hasn't actually met with any response. My generation (the people doing much of the spending, I would imagine, given the high sales of stuff like video games), those born in the late 70s/early 80s, can barely remember what the last recession was like, let alone the major crises like 1929 and 1973. We simply didn't know that a capitalist economy works like this, and it certainly hasn't done so in our experience. No matter how much we're told that the party's over, the credit cards are still working regardless of the interest rates. We've always been told that the good days will last forever, that The Market Works, so the claims that it will stop giving up the goods just doesn't register. Until we start losing our jobs or until inflation makes a significant dent in the pocket (both of which will happen soon enough), the generation that has known nothing but neoliberalism is simply incapable of believing that buying new stuff won't make everything OK.

Monuments to Our Enemies, Pt 2: Lloyd George

If I keep this one up I should still be updating it in a couple of decades time. But aside from the odiousness of the politician in question - a man who prefigured generations of liberal imperialists by presiding over perhaps the most squalid and pointless war of mass murder in history, rightly remembered for an unguarded comment that 'we reserve the right to bomb niggers!' - what is interesting in this recent statue is how it exhibits the astounding, if occasionally amusing, decline in the public plastic arts under Social Thatcherism. There are loads of these things about, sculptures made by seemingly Jeff Koons-damaged supermarket decorators, scattered around the occupied metropolis. Most are distinguished by an icky sentimentality: 'Animals at War', 'Women at War' (incurring the ire of Private Eye's 'Piloti' for its placing next to Lutyens' minimalist, pre-kitsch war memorial on Whitehall), the Lawnmower Man canoodling colossi at St Pancras, etc. Seemingly shifted from a place on one of the eaves of Bluewater, this is a compendium of the style's mannerisms: cartoonish features, a hint of 'drama' (the tails of his jacket billow in the wind as he throws his biting rhetoric at Asquith!), the over-buffed Disneyland sheen. This is the public sculpture the age deserves - monuments to moralist mass murderers modelled by the artists of an idiot consensus.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Design for Fantasy: Lost Girls

(x-posted to The Weblog's Wednesday Sex)

Lost Girls is Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's pornographic/fairytale version of The Magic Mountain, in which Alice (formerly of Wonderland), Wendy (who used to knock around with Peter Pan) and Dorothy (for whom there is no place like home) all find themselves holed up in a Jugendstil hotel on the eve of the First World War, and spend their time recalling their previous adventures and generally being extremely louche. Today, when incessant artistic plagiarism and cross-referencing are so rife, it's bracing to find something which uses the past as a spur to making strange rather than smugly filing away old styles in the continuum. Lost Girls is an amalgam of all the fin de siecle fixations with aberrant sexuality, opiated decadence and ornamented obsessive elegance, on the eve of their destruction and replacement with a masculine machine aesthetic.

The book does this, interestingly enough, by using plagiarism as estrangement. The hotel proprietor leaves in each room a White Book (cunningly concealed in one of those perennially unread hotel Bibles) in which subtly reworked explicit versions of Oscar Wilde, Pierre Louys and Guillame Apollinaire are accompanied by hardcore parodies of decadent artists and/or lithographers like Aubrey Beardsley, Franz von Bayros, Alphonse Mucha and Egon Schiele (who have little in common other than their sinuous lines and prurience) - Alice uses this, amongst other things, to coax her friends out of the conformist identities they've set up for themselves. Of course, when questioned by Alice (a part-time pornographer herself) the proprietor strenuously denies these are forgeries. The book intersperses these morphings of original works with Gebbie's own stylistic promiscuousness to the point where they blur into one another. Decadent art provides a way for them to blur their fantasies and their experiences to the point where the gap between one and the other seems irrelevant.

'...I mean of course it's all terribly decadent, wallowing in the senses like that, all pleasure and no purpose. Everything just decoration and icing sugar...'

Wendy, who has attempted to become a suburban housewife after her days frolicking with Peter and his Lost Boys, is married to a Harold, a (seemingly asexual) closet case, who disapproves somewhat of the hotel architecture, which has many similarities with the work of Otto Wagner - a box where every surface is filled with tendrils and phantasmagoric embellishments. He dismisses this effeminacy to the proprietor as mere 'noodles', and continues: 'if you're talking about real artists for our time, you can't beat the chappies who design our ships'. As well a dullard and closet case, Harold is clearly a closet Corbusian, his gripes seeming like a declaration from L'Espirit Nouveau. Or even a Vorticist, the actual contemporary art of 1914: and with Lewis he would have disdained decadence and 'the mid-Victorian languish of the neck'. Lost Girls draws on an art that was already finished by 1900, and Cubism and Futurism are nowhere to be seen - the only concessions to the early 20th century are the odd lifting from Matisse and (of course) an orgy at the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps. The line of Lost Girls is nearly always curved, sinuous, no cubistic sharpness or rectilinear geometry to be seen. The art of the 1890s, still present in the minds of these older women (ranging from their 30s to 60s) holds out unfilled possibilities, of a world of untrammeled fantasy, of hallucinatory, languid sexuality unencumbered by work or by war (although colonialism and the approaching catastrophe are always lurking at the corner of the frame).

For the Lost Girls, then, all that will come after - from the war onwards - is by implication an effacement of fantasy in favour of a machinic empiricism. The irrationalist line, meanwhile, serves to take the characters out of the everyday lives they've imposed upon their fantasies, and return them to their real desires, those that they have to hide in polite society. Whether or not their fantasies could be imposed upon a machine aesthetic, meanwhile, is another matter. In short, can we imagine a Constructivist pornography, or would it have to be tied up with all the things - power and sadism, mainly - which are absent from the girls' fantasies?

What Have They Done to My Platz, Ma?

A bit late, this one - but go read the fine Architecture in Berlin on the filling-in of my favourite bleak windswept East Berlin plaza with all manner of expensive tat. Depressing. Where do those of us who like the Siberian air to run at us unencumbered in a massive parade ground go, nowadays? Why must all the wide open spaces be either a) outside of the city or b) green...?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pylon Poetry

The Sesquipedalist has a fine little vignette (originally in the AJ) on the way the onset of the Electricity Pylon was received by the British architectural press, and how such a project would be all but unimaginable given the tendency of those who live far enough from cities to despise anything that might improve anyone else's life. Certainly the mention of protests against wind turbines always brings out the dirigiste in me - a bit of compulsory purchase should shut up the bloody whiners. It's absolutely extraordinary that these structures were designed by notorious RIBA boss Sir Reginald Blomfield at exactly the same time he was writing the Blimpish, racist anti-Modernist screed Modernismus (which I have read, and it is exactly as you'd expect - like a sort of Herrenvolk Simon Jenkins).

Two interesting things not in this account that are worth mentioning - for one, the way Pylons were beloved of Continental Modernists. One of the strangest things about Walter Gropius' Dessau-Torten Siedlung, already a very strange place indeed, is the way it is arranged around electricity pylons, in very close proximity to houses, as if they were the 'temples to machinery in the abstract' that Wyndham Lewis once recommended as a solution to all architectural ills, in place of the parish kirche. Also, it made me think straight away of Stephen Spender's 'The Pylons', one of the more intriguing works from the Oxbridge Neo-Georgian Stalinist milieu. The poem posits the Pylon as the harbinger of the new age, rising out of a country tied to its local stone as a vision of a future less riven by shame and nostalgia, 'bare like giant nude girls that have no secret'. Spender writes of the Pylon as a prophecy, the outlines of a skyscraping metropolis that he dreamt would eventually engulf the British countryside. So with a traditionalist like Blomfield designing these millennarian steel skeletons, we have England killing the thing it loves, again.

Come and See the Violence Inherent in the System

So, the partially banned 'shout at W' fest, the first major public protest under Boris Johnson, ends in what the news has been describing as 'scuffles'. In fact, from where I was standing (and occasionally, running - I'm currently tied together with surgical wire, so a free ride in a riot van seemed ill-advised) it appeared to be a police training exercise. After the police refusal to deliver a letter to Downing Street and the failed attempt to remove a tiny part of what was an enormous police roadblock stretching all the way down Whitehall, what followed was people wandering about looking annoyed, with Riot Police flagrantly pointing people out who would then unsurprisingly be arrested and/or bashed with truncheons. The utter disarray of this residual protest meant that police tactics could be tested out on a tiny, unarmed, disorganised and ineffectual group (albeit containing one wanker with a megaphone and a Ron Paul sticker belting out RATM and 'All You Need is Love' from an attached iPod - there's always a bit of tedious acting out) all of which could then be used on a rather wider scale in the future - as, after all, the incoming recession is unlikely to pass without at least some 'scuffling'. It's no surprise that the a very bellicose-sounding Old Bill are considering an 'investigation', presumably to garner the lessons for the next time, wherever that will be.

Hansa Town

Apparently, Bowie in 1977 was so addled that he decided that it was worthwhile to make a video for the quintessential Cold War death dirge 'Sense of Doubt' - in fact, he made two, both of which showcase the best leather jacket in history and much German Expressionist-influenced gesturing. Enjoy:

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Until I find something that sufficiently interests and/or annoys me to write a real post (give it a day or two), there's the following:

More Schadenfreude chez the supposedly new novel-writing Impostume, who is also entirely correct about the fantastic new Tricky single;

The Institute for Conjunctural Research on Italian Communist Prog Rock, which hopefully is only the preamble to a future book on this subject, maybe taking in the non-Italian likes of Henry Cow, Matching Mole, Scritti Politti etc...Note also the mention at the end of a record with perhaps the greatest title in musical history;

New blog New Plastic Ideas, very promising so far, posts spanning from Bogdanov to Wal-Mart.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Schadenfreude Corner

Nice to know that 'creating mixed communities' has worked the other way, at least once. From yesterday's Metro, a story entitled 'Britain's Best Council Flats?' that has been doing the rounds of the rightist rags:

'They've got stunning views, en suite bathrooms and decked balconies - and they could be yours for £75 a week.
These plush harbourside apartments are thought to be the most luxurious council flats in Britain.
However, the properties - which sell for up to £525,000 - are causing a stink among owners say it is unfair that single parents and the unemployed can rent them.
One third of the 340 homes in the development in Poole harbour, Dorset, are social housing. Karla Whiffen, 23, who lives in one with daughter Millie, said 'I pay £75 a week using my housing benefit, which is very good.'
However estate agent Tom Doyle said 'Is it right to have an unemployed person paying £75 a week for the same flat that somebody else is paying £500,000 for?
The Tax Payers Alliance suggested the social housing could have been built elsewhere in the area.'

(the ironies of this are pretty rich, to say the least, particularly considering what estate agents have done to the national stock of council housing...note also that the opening paragraph describes many council flats anyway)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Generic City

'In bygone days, when someone found himself in a strange city, he felt lost and lonely. Everything around was strange - houses, streets and life itself. But it's all different now. A person comes to a strange city, but feels at home there. To think what lengths of absurdity our ancestors went to when they designed different architectural projects!'

Friday, June 06, 2008

Kino Fistula

Am currently recovering from this operation (thanks very much, Hippocrates) so there will either be very few posts, or far too many, over the next few days, depending on my codeine intake. I'm being well looked after, but metaphorical cards and grapes are always welcome. The last of the current round of essays and papers is now at the Measures, and is both my (entirely non-cinematic) contribution to the Work edition Kino Fist, and a belated full reply to my enemies over the Jobseekers' argument a few months back. most of the other essays are here, apart from Emmy's and I.T's, which are to be found at their respective usual places. Profuse thanks to everyone who answered the call of non-duty.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Art History as a Nightmare from which we ought to Awake

More long things: a paper I gave last week at a UCL conference called 'Urban Artscapes'. Lots here reprised from this blog of course, but marshalled into something hopefully rather more sustained.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Meme: Audio Virus

My flatmate, an esteemed music maker in his own right, recently accused me of only listening to 'music that was either an influence on or influenced by David Bowie's Berlin period'. This may well be true. However, as I was chucking memes about recently, I feel obliged to reply an invitation from the fine End Times (though Dan, as payback for this, can you use normal sized type on your blog henceforth? Please? I get half way down a post and start hallucinating). Apologies if this is all insufferably hep. Video links when available. Gist of meme:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam - I Wonder if I Take You Home
Practically the only thread I've enjoyed on Dissensus for an age was one on '80s R&B and Electro Soul', which showcased a huge amount of fantastic Magic FM Electro (think 'Somebody Else's Guy', 'Forget me Nots', etc). My favourite of these has to be the freestyle joy of the above: New Order circa 'LowLife' clatter mixed with the Shirelles' 'I'm not that kind of gal' schtick, plus the all-important talky bit. Thanks to Luke for alerting me to it...Strangely poignant, as is:

Joe Jackson - Stepping Out
Which I heard for the first time since I was 2 (probably) in a pub about a fortnight ago, and find oddly wrenching. Morley description: Neu! doing Cole Porter. Also notable as a rare example of Portsmouth futurism. Like the Tricorn centre.

Prince - Girl (no link, as Prince is on the internet 24 hours a day, watching)
As mentioned somewhere on the Impostume, I've been having one of my periodic obsessions with Prince (there will be a post eventually, maybe after I finally write my Pulp piece - maybe at once, with the common factor being very sexual effeminate heterosexual men at their best when accompanied by synthesisers). So I've been listening to Vanity Six, Sheena Easton, Wendy & Lisa: and the B-Sides collection from the early 90s. 'Girl' is B-Side to 'Pop Life' as I recall, and is obsessive supplication ('I'd be the water in your bathtub' etc) and weightless technosoul.

The Fall - Wings (alternately: Is This New, Taurig, Ol' Gang, Pilsner Trail, Cash & Carry, Ludd Gang, etc)

Simple Minds - Glittering Prize (Theme)
The link is not the 'Theme' of course. A recent 12" purchase, with the epic glorious etc beauty of a band who would be one of the hippest names to drop imaginable if they'd split in 1982 denuded of their occasionally vainglorious vocalist. Works perfectly well with Jim Kerr, but it's sometimes preferable to view the artwork without an accompanying description.

Basic Channel - Phylyps Trak (and variants, but not 'Phylyps Trak 2, no sir)
Uncharacteristically propulsive, driving, euphoric early BC. In fact, this squares a couple of circles, by being both saturated with hauntological hiss - and futuristic force, relentless forward motion.

Roisin Murphy - Primitive
A lurching, atavistic, sultry thing, oddly out of kilter among the brightness of Overpowered.

Slick Rick - The Moment I Feared
Which I returned to after returning to Tricky's 'Ponderosa' and remembering what it reminds me of (obviously I heard the later of the two first). Maxinquaye's whole sound in embryo, with its paranoia and creaky breaks, and a clear, droll account of all kinds of horrors: our protagonist is mugged, murders two people, and ends the song being raped, never seeming fazed by any of these things. Is this a bit less appalling when related with this much wit and elegance (two things decidedly lacking in his equivalents today)? Worth it at least for the pay-off, 'I was the main event on the TV for a while'. Curiously, Tricky's frantic later cover misses the point entirely (link is 'Children's Story', which is almost as good).

After last time I might have over-tagged as it were, been a bit intrusive, so a tentative tag at: Voyou, Poetix, Impostume, Beyond the Implode, OST (a long shot), Attic Plan, and Mentasms.
(images via)

A Critique!

Peter Eisenman has a new 'Six Point Plan' for architecture. It's rather interesting. Choice quote, which could nicely be adapted to the current phenomena of 'consultation':

The more passive people become the more they are presented by the media with supposed opportunities to exercise choice. Vote for this, vote for whatever stories you want to hear, vote for what popular song you want to hear, vote for what commercial you want to see. This voting gives the appearance of active participation, but it is merely another form of sedation because the voting is irrelevant. It is part of the attempt to make people believe they are participating when in fact they are becoming more and more passive.

There's much wrong with these 'Six Points' of course, but when a gleefully apolitical smugonaut like Eisenman starts getting itchy and talking about what is so readily ignored by the architectural fraternity, then there's something very strange going on indeed...

Communists are just Part-Time Workers

The neglected Measures Taken will be given a rare reactivation, as repository for a few recent academic papers and other such things: first, my paper for the Salford Fall conference Messing up the Paintwork. Obviously even for such a seasoned dabbler, this isn't my usual area, so is pretty shaky, even after some extensive rewriting, and is basically not much more than footnotes to K-Punk's essential essay-series on MES. Although it cleaves to the Dragnet-to-Perverted-by-Language-are-the-masterpieces line (which I only mostly adhere to - the John Leckie stuff is a bit too much like normal music, but I hold Levitate, The Unutterable, and even the new one in high esteem, though they become a very different beast by this point, less about brilliant texts and more about cadences and aphorisms) the title is from 1992's 'The Birmingham School of Business School', a fantastic song which is alas entirely irrelevant to the paper.