I can't tell you anything at all / And that's the biggest joke of all.
Posts tagged Jonas Bjerre
Tracks of 2011
…and, with this, I promise that’s the end of the lists. There won’t even be a rundown of the bands that have been permanently ruined for me by shambolic live performances in 2011. No sir. Not Pulp, Santigold, M.I.A., Asobi Seksu and Tom Vek. Nope.
In no particular order…
Apparatjik - Do It Myself (Draft 1)
So then, the new Apparatjik album is being de facto mixed and edited with everyone hearing the work in progress at every stage and being invited to contribute. To what? In part, to a fucking batshit nuts piece of chart hip hop sheen with an autotuned Jonas Bjerre drowned out by some phat rhymes. Total insanity. It’s amazing.
Violens - No Look On Your Face
The standout song from Violens’ series of nine monthly downloads, which was as bold as it was patchy. When it got good, however, it was more than a rival for 2010’s sensational Amoral. No Look On Your Face is a nugget of chart-bothering magic that neatly proves Ian Svenonius’s theory that pop music is based on a sadistic concept - offering the hook, all tantalising, then withholding it. This tune is different; the extraordinarily catchy hook doesn’t even appear until a minute and twenty seconds in, floats for two bars, and is then abruptly snatched away again, surfacing again later, non-committally. Jorge Elbrecht, take a bow. The b-side is a sultry, slow remix, every bit as good in its own strutting, mood-ridden way.
Ringo Deathstarr - Two Girls
Let it never, ever be said that the kids these days will let shoegaze die. Hardly anyone understands the aura of the tones better than this mob, gleefully ripping off Cigarette In Your Bed to the point that the result is something better than affirming; salvation in thievery. For every few instances of the dire piss take - Joy Formidable, say - there’s youth that just knows.
Lana Del Rey - Video Games
More or less the best manufactured music I’ve ever heard. This has been written by an absolute pro, with a delivery more like a weary Dietrich than a detatched talking head. It’s eerily good.
Esben And The Witch - Hexagons V (The Cast)
A band so much more inventive and intuitive than their peers it’s almost untrue, my highlight from their ridiculously prolific 2011 is not from their breathtaking Violet Cries, but from the subsequent Hexagons EP. “Blind. Blind.” Rachel shudders; it’s difficult to imagine such a tortured cry sounding so dispassionate, but then, like all the best bands, that’s part of the point. Duality, contrast and the posing of further questions, not the answers.
Epic45 - The Village Is Asleep
Just as Ringo joyously celebrate the scene that celebrated itself, Epic45 live Graham Sutton’s dream, won’t forget Bark Psychosis and won’t let them go, no matter what. I really didn’t think anyone made music like this. I’ve seldom been happier to be embarrassingly wrong.
A year and a week ago…
… as I’m feeling vaguely nostalgic, here’s my review for MewX.info of the last show Mew played on these shores, at Truck Festival on 24th July 2010.
"Light a small fire. I don’t like his sparkles at all - guitarist and his centrefold. Why’s that fire old? A green light is a red light in your dreams tonight."
I’m on a train just leaving Darlington - feels like I’m always on a train these days. More than in the old days where I actually was always on a train - feeling was a subsidiary notion. I got numb to it. My creativity, of any sort, lapsed into domestic blassé - I had to end the relationship of years. It was my fault far, far more than it was hers. She merely, through habit, allowed adventures to be turned into something ordinary. I’ve been paranoid ever since. Analysing. Analysing.
I’m listening to Mew’s Wherever, the re-recorded version they churned out in 2003 for the Comforting Sounds EP. For the first time in aeons, I feel pangs of what it was like in 2004 - falling deeply, irreversibly in love with this band. It was a childish OCD thing - an uncontrollable expansion from the initial kick of Am I Wry? No, a piece of music that had an almost physical effect on 17 year old me. It was the textures of the sound that did it - moreso than the melodies, moreso than the beats. I’m sort of tired of Am I Wry? No now. Because of greater economy, I’m not tired of Wherever; a piece of meticulously judged dream textures which are collectively cathartic enough to entirely envelop Jonas’s teenage scrawlings.
"I’ll be waiting around your house - I don’t mind waiting around your house".
In my favourite film, Charlotte informs her temporary best friend that they should never go back to their displaced location again, because it would never be as much fun. But, as surely as I can occasionally hear the headboard banging against the wall, I still perenially search for what it must feel like to find something that defines you at age 17. Because that - that simple, overbearing objective - that only gets harder. I think it could still be fun, if you do it right. This fleeting feeling has been wonderful, and possibly all the more wonderful for its momentary nature. I may not listen to Wherever again for years now - who knows. Discover, re-discovery, and don’t break the cycle.
Do You Live It?
[Originally written October 2010. It’s about the Mew song Do You Love It, by the way.]
The riff of Do You Love It originally turned up at a handful of rare Mew appearances back in 2007, introducing the shows at Quart and Beatday festivals in a more stripped down, scratchy-sounding form. The guitar line itself is unaltered in the final edit that has popped up on the slightly pointless, contract-busting Eggs Are Funny ‘best of’, and the background ambience follows much the same structure. It’s a swirl of nostalgia. That was a great trip, in 07. Not a great gig, but a great journey.
Wandering through Hellerup. Getting the S Train out to the fringes of the city (beyond the City, I’m actually told), to the fuzz of a border; where are we? Recognisable as a country, as Danish, maybe, but Copenhagen in particular…?
This is what Win and Regine are now getting at. Non-spaces. Their effects on people. Faceless sprawl - the sociology of the suburbs.
”Footsteps shuffle down the stairs.”
Someone once told me that More’s idea of Utopia is actually a slight mixup of the original idea. Originally, she said, there was a distinction - Utopia is the theory of a place - a non-space, an idea without a physical realisation. Eutopia is the blissful, ideal place itself. What we understand Utopia as today, according to her, is a blend of the two; cheap whisky. Line your stomach beforehand.
I can’t be arsed to check if that etymology is really accurate, but the idea is nice. It would help explain why things go wrong. I’m interested in dystopias, but especially ones that mutated out of real life attempts to create the eutopia. Most terrifying of all was Le Corbusier. I stumbled across something the other day that made my head spin a little, mostly because I’d never seen it before - Plan Voisin. Le Corbusier wanted to gut out a gigantic section of Paris, the north side of the Seine overlooking Notre-Dame, and replace it with horrifying concrete ultra-high rises.
Like a cemetery for living in.
The only kind of genius loci here is one of total, utter paralysis. Brasilia is probably the closest city-wide realisation of Le Corbusier’s ideas. I haven’t been, surprisingly. The Nazis - Godwin would be so proud - used the theory of ruin value in their architecture, where the only reason that significant buildings should not be banal was to ensure they carried a guaranteed legacy, a monumental purpose into the future. Le Plan Voisin is terrifying in a different way. An opposite way. It was willing the hyper-banal into existence. Making lives formulaic; organising mundane functions and segretating classes. I think that, ironically, the legacy of this has lived longer. The idea crops up all over. Gilliam’s Brazil, the story Paradise Towers from Sylvester McCoy-era Doctor Who… look at Pure Reason Revolution’s newly-developed fascination with the grimmest of Cold War-loss aesthetics;
It seems eternal, in a looming, inevitable nightmare kind of sense. Turn any corner and you might find it. It’s one of my greatest fears - one that was partially realised when in Krakow for a few days. That ain’t no utopia, folks. Throw away the guidebooks.
Why am I going here, anyway? Why does all this matter?
Because Mew are often, to me, the sound of kids failing to fully get to grips with the city.
Blues is the same, essentially. You can trace the evolution, from the truly awesome, haunting spirituals sung in the cotton fields, to Charlie Patton’s gravelly semi-rural narratives, and then Robert Johnson, hitching a ride to Chicago with the Devil and reporting on the dismal state he found there (and on everything in between). Chicago blues is firmly the sound of kids latterly enjoying themselves amidst electricity, neon, social excess.
To indulge in a spectacularly obtuse segue - if Klaxons, say, are, Stevie Ray Vaughan with their flashing neon brashness, then Mew are certainly Robert J. Caught between spaces and times. Confused.
”I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space, no doubt a great deal more than with time.” - Foucault, Of Other Spaces.
This is the beauty. I do not believe that Do You Love It is a great Mew song. I think that, for the most part, it is what it is - a clearly inferior version of Introducing Palace Players that was ditched when the tracklist was decided on, for reasons that no-one is going to have to strain too hard to hit upon.
But, but… there is something more here. Mew, to me, manifest their ideas about the city through structure, not necessarily overt narrative. Expressing ideas through accumulating ideas; all those things that shouldn’t fit together. It would be difficult to narrate that anyway, no?
For once, I don’t give a damn that I can’t make head nor tail of most of the lyrics. Just once, just this time, that seems about right.
“The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another; thus it is that the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space.” - Foucault, Of Other Spaces.
The amount of stuff happening in Do You Love It is absurd. This makes it inevitably very dense - Bo has talked about leaving new spaces in the sound, and similarly, Jonas has mentioned that No More Stories is more “spacious” than Kites, but this is a conclusion I must confess I don’t really understand. It sounds like architects’ rhetoric - a natural justification when creating a new town, giving citizens something divergent. Even if this isn’t the 60s any more, and no-one, surely - SURELY? - could possibly be deluded by the scandalously false allure of anything like this -
(Milton Keynes, by the way. Lots of ‘spaciousness’ there)
In places, to my ears, No More Stories sounds as dense as dense can be. It was why I thoroughly, utterly hated it on my first listen. it was a sludge, a mess. The challenge was managing to return and slowly unpicking it all, one listen at a time.
It’s all about the melody - if there happen to be five of those going on at once, around each other, then more luck to you. That’s what longevity is. Melody is king.
So on this apostate track, jettisoned off the last record, we have a pop tune where the verse may as well be the chorus. All the melody is there. The monster of a riff is there. The texture is there. The beats that are actually memorable, that carry the tune, are there. And then there’s that one moment, where Jonas sings ‘feline smell’ and the ascending shimmer hits the perfect note at the same time as everything else does…
… and they don’t linger. The sound of a theory being nailed is actually only one note, one beat. Then they’re off again. To segments less memorable, yes, but ever-changing. Mew’s songs are not straightforward; they chameleonise within themselves. They are never content with a single hook (except maybe Snow Brigade). Move on.
Build something else.
Urban design has no consistent pattern - consecutive generations don’t really know what the previous one was really trying to achieve. There’s no blueprint, no grand scheme. No-one is omnipotent. That’s why we have interesting places to visit. No-one wants order. Not really. Not wholly.
And there’s the crux. Marc-Antoine Laugier wrote how the city should essentially be a fractal, a reflection of nature, an artificial park.
”There must be regularity and fantasy, relationships and oppositions, and casual, unexpected elements that vary the scene; great order in the details, confusion, uproar, and tumult in the whole.”
It had better be beautiful, otherwise people would suffocate. A machine for living in?? Populism is a machine. Scientific rationalism… La Corbusier thought he would save cities. Instead he would have subjected them to a slow decay, a gradual, generational blitzkrieg. Coldplay, Glasvegas, Kings of Leon… just sit back. You can’t absorb that fucking crap. You become disenfranchised with your own diet. Creating music for people who don’t really like music is actually a rather difficult art in itself. Those laymen who just observe - passively, in a car or in a busy pub, letting the ease (laze?) wash over them, and draw their fearless conclusions based on convenience. The ability not to offend the subconscious. The ability to switch off. We are the sleepwalkers. The true Kings of Convenience, minus the pathos.
No, no. People need to think and move and feel and propel and aspire otherwise the city would die. Ditto above, otherwise music will die. There’s a finite audience for Kind of Blue. But while Kind of Blue exists, there is always hope for any form of truth. It can’t just vanish. Get over it. Miles will always win.
”I was so scared you’d disappear… did you know that?” - JB.
No matter how much of London may be vicious, brutalist, barely-planned excuses in cod-civility and fad-following, dated and lumpen - I never find it boring. Ever. Not once. More than that - I don’t understand how anyone else could. Don’t trust those City Voices - but that unease is why we love them in the end - even when they are average, or worse.
“We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment.”
City Kid PM x
Top 10 Albums of 2010 - 3
3 - Apparatjik - We Are Here
A side project of Jonas Bjerre from Mew, Guy Berryman from Coldplay and Magne-whatsissecondname from A-Ha? It sounds like the stuff of C-list collaborations - the Bryan Adams and Melanie-C-list, perhaps. Add to this a deliberately and obtusely unnavigable website, a set of Stalinist propaganda films depicting the band members as mutated alternatives to humans and a refusal to sign a record deal with anyone, and this collective should have been an embarrassing mess. But what happened was magic. Here’s how.
Apparatjik were put together to record a one-off theme song, Ferreting, to soundtrack some BBC docuventure, Bruce Parry’s Amazon Tribe. The song was nice enough, failing to possess the masterful depth of Mew’s avant-dream world, nor the cartoony humdrum of A-ha, nor the sheer vomitousness of Coldplay. It was just a nice little pop tune, given a little more staying power than usual fodder because of Jonas’s sky-scraping vocals.
But in the absence of a Mew record in 2010, Bjerre turned his hand to a project with more confinement, with far more rigid limits. Mew essentially have no limits, sonically or thematically, beyond the musicians’ imaginations; the Danes are indefinable beyond chucking in any old epithet and prefacing it with the word “dream”. Apparatjik are a lot easier than that. They make music for chicks to dance to.
Maybe it’s my own outrageous bias, but I can hear Bjerre’s fingerprints all over We Are Here. His little, signature, trademark melodies - the twinkling little intro to Quiz Show, the ‘chrous’, such as it is, to Datascroller. Rest assured - this is not a Coldplay side project. None of that disgusting manufactured angst-lite that’s now so staid that even Brian Eno - the shame - bought into the mouldy pie, correctly deducing that it had decomposed beyond the point where anyone actually bothered to complain any more. No, Berryman is so divorced from his compost of a source band that I don’t even think there’s a root note-only bassline on any of these songs! He must have exercised a tremendous amount of restraint in allowing the release of attributes that could in some way be deemed creative. Very impressive. *ruffles hair*
Instead of representing a familiar sprawl of reference points, this is a straight-up album of almost pure electro-pop - but of the very highest order. The opening track, Deadbeat, is astounding - drums and riff flanged within an inch breaking point, Jonas half-undetectable, floating over it all, repeating my favourite little lyrical mantra from this year, mindlessly, angelically - “In bubblewrap/safety…” It’s a clawhammer of unsubtlety, a mission statement of some intolerance. It’s aggressive and unhinged and feather-light. It elevates certain elements of throwaway mid-90s chart dance music high up into the mix; the dichotomy of the trash aesthetic that contains some pleasures too great to discard.
I could describe these tunes as Mew songs given the electro-go-go-good-time treatment, and that wouldn’t be inaccurate. It’s not that We Are Here contains *more* than that - it’s just that it’s slick, and stylish, and knowing, and immediately likeable. It’s not that it doesn’t have a bad track on it - it’s that it doesn’t have a bad *moment* on it.
I saw Apparatjik live in London in September, in the midst of some sort of private artcunt illuminati shindig in the Serpentine Pavilion (long story) - they performed in the middle of a giant cube, visible only as shadows from within whilst the outer walls projected dizzying, epileptic abstract films with their signature iron curtain propaganda theme.
The message? It’s merely this - analyse it, if you like. But it’s just aesthetics. And nobody trusts anyone who puts that ahead of dancing. Nobody trusts anyone who thinks they’re cool.
Only JB & co. could make a place this bleak, this foreboding sparkle. A challenge eh? Cube it.
Long weekend, Berlin, 25th - 29th March, with not one, but two Apparatjik performances. The second of which is with these undoubtedly jolly folk.
There is, thus, a high possibility that this may be a joyous weekend comprised mainly of amazing beer and cheap kebabs.
Time goes Marching on. Let’s move apace, pace by pace and forget we ever had to change.