EPISODE 8: MURKING K-PUNK V. SOCA AEROBICS
It’s been almost 2 weeks since K-Punk and friends decided to put on a 1-day conference at the University of East London in response to Simon Reynolds ego-exercise, sorry ‘why we still need the hardcore continuum’ 1-day conference at Fact in Liverpool. Apparently I murked K-Punk. I wasn’t so sure at the time but everyone said I did so it must be true.
All I said, basically, was that I was a young person and he sounded a bit bitter about his age. I am actually gonna be 30 next year but I was just taking advantage of the fact that my appearance is such that I still have to take my passport to Tescos to buy a packet of cigarettes. (I guess if I carry on smoking that might not last so long. Hey does anyone wanna help me stop smoking?)
Anyway, I’ve basically said everything I have to say about the whole ‘nuum debate* in my Paul White interview. Except a couple of things. There is nothing spectacular about the theory of the hardcore continuum. I was at a – totally unrelated – seminar last week and afterwards me and some other doctoral researchers (lol, ego) went to the pub and I started chatting to them about this and explained the concept, that one form responds to a lack in the other and replaces it, and one of them burst out laughing and said ‘well isn’t that true of all art forms’?
Durrr. Baroque – Classical – Romantic… etc.
Further to that, if the ‘nuum is a thing – and I have to say K-Punk was ridiculously unclear as to what the fuck he was talking about on this point – it’s only a thing in so much as the people involved subscribe to its thingness. Reynolds seems to be saying as much in this post.
OMG talk about over-theorising? So what am I supposed to sit down next time I write and go, “hmmm do I want this to be centrifugal or centripetal?” YAWN!
Last week I was reading an amazing little book by Al Alvarez, ‘The Writer’s Voice’. It’s all about how the best writers have their own voice.
In it he also talks about the hubris of New Criticism – we’re talking T.S. Eliot, I.A.Richards, Cleanth Brooks, and in their wake Harold Bloom – the kind of critics that made criticism a serious practice and relevant cultural form. The cardinal sin that they committed, as Alvarez, who happens to be one of the greatest critics of the 20th century, points out was assuming the primacy of the criticism over what it criticised. They thought their criticism was more important than the art. Harold Bloom is a towering figure who has done many great things, but he’s also a bullying exclusionist. Bloom used Freud’s psychoanalytic paradigm of Oedipal competition between and son and father to describe the way that artists respond to their influences. Sons both emulate and usurp their fathers. So far so good. But then he became an unbearably arrogant egoist who assumed that this was the only relevant paradigm for describing worthwhile art, got really powerful, and excluded art that fit into his ridiculously over-worded paradigm from what he called ‘The Western Canon’. He also failed to come up with a better way of responding to those – especially feminist – critics who challenged his model on the basis of its all-white all-maleness. He just dismisses them as ‘screeching women’. Clever.
Simon Reynolds is the Harold Bloom of rave because he has come up with a very specific paradigm and his status has got to his head so much that he thinks it’s the only valid way of seeing the world. The words omnipotence and delusional spring to mind. Reynolds has been saying that the reason the music isn’t as good any more is partly a failure of criticism. Artists and critics have never been at one with one another. So The stupidest thing about what Reynolds has done lately is that by derogating everything that people now are making he’s hardly likely to make artists more responsive to criticism.
Also when I was reading Reynold’s centifungal thing, the words ‘community’ and ‘communitarian’ started to float in close proximity before my eyes. What kind of a threat lies behind “we all know what happened to Goldie when he disconnected from the nuum?” What if what happened to Goldie had to do more with fame and complacency than failing to perform his alloted role?
Here’s a question. If the ‘nuum has been going on so long and it’s an inclusive community why are there still so few women involved, either in making the music or in the criticism? Where were the discussions about this in the debate?
What would happen if three women really into raving got together and stepped outside of the continuum?
Dare I disconnect from the ‘nuum?
As a matter of fact me and my friend Cora (two weeks ago) left the nuum debate early and went, instead, to Soca Aerobics at Peckham gym. On the way we met up with Manara, who you will be glad to know I found (on facebook). We left a room of arguing, theorising mainly men in favour of a room of batty shaking, sweating, raving women.
Me, Cora and Manara after Soca Aerobics. Can you believe the guy we asked to take this photo for us flyered us for some shit indie night?!?! Oh yeah, and if you look at the side of my head you can see my hair is all dark from the sweat.
A week later I got a text from Kode 9 asking me which was better? Well, here goes. I loved 9 and Kodwo’s paper at the conference. It was everything K-Punk failed to be. Oh, btw, K-Punk was deriding all the younger people there by saying ‘when I was young I never tried to claim that the Boo Radleys were as good as The Beatles’. This was utterly ridiculous because I’d be the first to say that DMZ is no Metalheadz! Or that I wish I’d been there for Bukem. So what it was was that K-Punk was imagining things we’d said that we hadn’t actually said. He was attacking a wholly hallucinated enemy.
Hey I’ve just been reading ‘A Case Of Paranoia’ which relates paranoia to sexual frustration. Actually when you get to Schreber later on its to do with homosexuality.
Come on there’s nothing wrong with being gay!
Anyway. As a true raver who loves to shake my batty, I realised I could only answer 9’s question on an unfair basis. Of course I would love Soca Aerobics more. There was actual music, playing! I got to wear my Missy Elliott RESPECT M.E. shorts that I bought at Sonar in 2005! I wouldn’t have been comfortable wearing them at the conference.Initially I was going to try and theorise how Soca Aerobics fits into the ‘nuum. But when I read Reynolds theorising writing it made me feel a little sick. So what I decided to instead was to take the best bit of the conference, which was 9 and Kodwo’s paper, and see how it compared to the best bits of Soca Aerobics.
9 and Kodwo’s paper was the best bit of the conference because it was not only about finding other ways of theorising the music, but because it neither prioritised theory over art, nor made theory appear as a useless, self-referential wanky thing that only the initiated can get involved in. Instead they proved it an inventive, creative practice that complements art, adds to its life, and helps us think about how we think about culture, rather than strangulating and straight-jacketing it.
Now my favourite part of their paper, apart from when they talked about the “poverty of our discourse networks”, was their description of “synaesthetic signatures” such as “day-glo tone-colour”, where the sounds are as toxic as colour; “metric drift within insistent metric stricture”, which is pretty self-explanatory; “animatic apparatus”, where the songs take on the outline of sonic animism, with all the biological indicators of life such as breathing and reproducing appearing in the music; “machinic orality”, e.g. the use of vocoders; “and cosmic sleaze”, which seems to have distracted me so much I didn’t write anything else down, but I remember some stuff about that 200F tune and space age pimps.
Manara and Cora outside the gym trying to make up for the fact that we couldn’t take any pictures of the class due to our legal issues, and they would have made us pay £100!
Soca-Aerobics happens in quite a few community centres throughout London. Here is my theory of Soca-Aerobics.
“Aggressive gynaeo-circulation”. In music theory ‘feminine’ always describes soft, passive qualities. Jumping up and down with your legs out wide, your thighs burning and your forehead dripping sweat, is neither soft nor passive. But there were lots of women doing it. It was also kind of circling because we were doing different kinds of whining.
“Vivification”. Much more fun than listening to K-Punk.
“Alien teleological tautological extrapolation”. The trend towards Soca-Aerobics has everything to do with London’s African-Carribean communities. Most of the women in the room were black. So the phenomenon is definitely derived from the presence of people living in London, who have absolutely nothing to do with the continuum as defined by Reynolds, but have been here quite a long time and rave nevertheless. If you go – Actually Go To A Rave! God That Must be “Buffoon Empiricisim!”- a funky rave you will notice that people dance in very similar ways to how they do in Soca Aerobics. So there is definitely some kind of teleology/tautology thing going on there. I wrote extrapolation first and I like the word most so I just left it in there.
“Non-communitarian authentication”. Everyone was welcome, and immediately granted the status of auteur of their own style of soca-aerobics. This was largely because there were so many people in the room that you couldn’t see the teacher, so you had to kind of try and follow what everyone else in the room was doing, which gets really confusing, because everyone’s doing it differently, so you become the auteur of your own soca moves. But no-one laughs at you so it’s all good.
“Perspiratory disinhibition”. Soca-Aerobics was like raving but better because I must have produced about 2 pints of sweat, whereas at a rave I always feel inhibited and like I have to stop when I sweat too much.
“Free batty respeculation”. There is a hidden reference to Irigaray’s speculum of the other woman in here. Mostly it refers to the fact that Soca Aerobics is liberating for women in the most urgent, up-to-date sense. For all the changes feminism has made, the one thing that we haven’t got over is that we are still judged more than men and consequently judge ourselves according to what we look like. We’re still trapped in the visual. The women in Soca Aerobics probably mostly go in there worrying about what they look like. I definitely went in there worrying about what I looked like, but as the moves went on and I was slapping the floor with one hand and the opposite leg up in the air, I totally forgot about what I looked like because I was having too much fun making bare noise on the floor. The batty bit is because our instructor had an absolutely incredible, big tough round ass, but I’m sure it didn’t come from worrying what she looked like. She was too busy marching round the room telling us not to be lazy.
On that note, I have to go, because it’s time for me to go to the gym. Otherwise I wont have the energy to spend all afternoon reading Lacan (oh yeah I do!). Just remember, Soca-Aerobics: it’s more than a bunch of sweaty bitches. (more…)