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8th Mar 2012
The Army of the Broken Hearted as an arts collective has taken a particular approach - the school of artists as the school of prophets. For now we will call it the prophetic aesthetic.

• The art of the prophetic aesthetic is concerned with its own moment in history.

• The art of the prophetic aesthetic is concerned with how its own moment in history fits in the wider historical process.

• The art of the prophetic aesthetic is concerned with its own people - that is, the people it manifests itself among.

• The practitioner of the prophetic aesthetic tells the people's story to the people and so reveals their identity as a people by virtue of their shared story.

• The prophetic aesthetic distinguishes between the sheep and the shepherds, between the people and their leaders. They hold the shepherds accountable in the eyes of the sheep for their actions regarding the sheep. They energise the sheep towards a critical consciousness regarding their shepherds.

• The prophetic aesthetic tears down and it builds up. It deconstructs the oppressions and illusions that hang over the people, and it construct the alternative community: the people of God.

• The prophetic aesthetic aims to give solid form to the apparent and yet elusive power structures which oppress the people, since it hard, as they say, to kill a phantom.

• The prophetic aesthetic asserts that a people who no longer participate in the creation of culture are, in that respect, a dead people. Therefore, the rich minority who hold the monopoly on the creation of culture through mass mediums in the name of profit are, in that sense, killing the people. This is the essence of mass culture.

• Therefore, the creation of culture must be restored to everyday people outside the absorbing and monolithic structures of mass culture.

• Therefore, art itself must be wrestled free from the pacifying and compromised narratives of mass culture.

• The work of the prophetic aesthetic is forged in dialogue with God.

• The work of the prophetic aesthetic is forged in dialogue with each other.

• The practitioner is the least important party in his/her own work. The art of the prophetic aesthetic is for God and for the people. Both, equally, necessarily. It is the relation between these two parties that definitively concerns the prophetic.

• On the other hand the practitioner is utterly indivisible from his/her work. They are not an impartial conduits for a message. They themselves are the message. The word they speak must be absorbed into their life and their life must be absorbed into the word they speak. This is the essence of authentic culture.

• The practitioner of the prophetic aesthetic probably has a day job. Their art must grow out of the common experience of the people. Their art cannot be pursued as a career path out of the common experience of the people. The prophetic aesthetic is for the people and of the people.

• The work of the prophetic aesthetic is not designed for dissemination via the mediums of mass culture. Its fulfillment is in its actual, local and vital manifestation, among the people who may be met and known by the practitioner. Any mediation of the work must be strictly understood as replication and not the work itself.

• The work of the prophetic aesthetic is not designed for consumption by a mass audience. The work of the prophetic aesthetic must always be for the edification of the people that the artist lives alongside, face to face, in dialogue. Family, friends, enemies, colleagues, and the other dwellers of their own towns and cities etc.

• The prophetic aesthetic treasures public space for its expression.

• The prophetic aesthetic treasures domestic space for its expression.

• The prophetic aesthetic does not treasure commercial space for its expression.

• Since the prophetic aesthetic necessarily concerns the people, it is not to be merely received. It invites dialogue, response, and participation. The prophetic aesthetic seeks to pose questions to be answered and problems to be solved, regarding the moment of history that we occupy as a people. It invites everyday people back to the humanising commission - to create their own culture.

• The prophetic aesthetic begins and ends in God who precedes and outlasts the present empire and all its constructs - that the oppressions and enslavements of our times might be subject not only to scrutiny but also to power, and that the Source of liberation might be different in kind to the source of oppression.

20th Feb 2012

Among the few critics of Web 2.0 is author Nicholas G. Carr. In his book "The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains" he argues that the internet, with its constant bombardment of information is reducing our abilities, young and old, to think more contemplatively and with greater concentration.

In the brilliant documentary, Press Pause Play, Anne Hilde Neset from the Wire magazine had this to say:

"People don't really sit at home and listen to a record from track one through to track 15...
I remember when I was a kid and went out and bought a record and it was this moment of pure concentration and joy of listening to every little bit."

I remember being able to just sit and listen to a record and CD but nowadays it feels like too much concentration, an album seems like too much hard work. Have I been de-skilled by the internet? Have I lost the ability to concentrate?

Even whilst writing this there are four other tabs open on my browser and I'm constantly tempted to check them for email or facebook updates or follow different links on youtube.

Is the internet training us all to be shallow thinkers?

Nicholas G. Carr - http://youtu.be/T_3YK89E8ik


20th Feb 2012

-What is the Revolution in Your Pocket?


It is revolution with a small r, one that makes things more convenient for the individual. We can now customise music to suit our individual needs. Apparently this technological advance is what is amazing about music today, not the music itself.
It makes the idea of revolution personal and inward-looking -Not "Change The World" but "Change Your World".
It makes it normal to want to change culture to suit yourself rather than making the inconvenient demand that people change themselves.

-How did the idea first dawn on you? Or, when did you first coin the phrase?

It was when the iphone first arrived in our shops. The arrival was heralded by a marketing whirlwind that kept telling us how revolutionary this new gadget was. Like all the best songs, it started with mild irritation. If a word gets used over and over, its meaning is in danger of being devalued.

-The song has been around for a while in different forms. It feels like it might be your signature song...


Yes - it nearly drove me insane.

-Which musicians and thinkers have influenced this EP?

Obviously the spirit of Gil Scott Heron hovers over it. The main idea lyrically was a reversal of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, as in the line, "Its been televised so many times that I have memorised every line". This is not a criticism of Gil Scott Heron but an acknowledgement that we live in constant faux-rebellion. There is constant reference to it throughout culture. From Rebel without a Cause to Rage against the Machine. "You can't rebel against the system because rebellion is the system." This is from The Rebel Sell by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, about the marketing of rebellion in pop culture. We have been raised on rebellion from an early age. We have been instructed to rebel, which is of course ridiculous.

-There seems to be a lot of work coming out of Zang these days critiqueing pseudo-rebellion...

Well there's a lot of it about. I think it will get to a point, in fact it is already here, where people won't be able to tell the difference between a "revolutionary" aesthetic and genuine revolutionary material. This is because everything comes through the channel of corporate rock. We have forgotten everything we learned from Public Enemy, Bob Marley, the Beatles etc. We've got to learn it all again.

-Do you believe that music could ever be a revolutionary force again? How?

An individual-centred approach to music consumption has led to a highly fragmented scene. We will have to realise this if we want musical movements to come back.

-Does it bother you that many people will listen to this EP with their ipods?


I don't necessarily have a problem with ipods themselves. I'm questioning the cynical appropriation of the language of revolution as a means of selling products.


6th Feb 2012

...An absurd title since we play our music in venues quite often. We only just played the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath the other day and we had a good time. It was there afterwards we were discussing the question of whether or not it was our business to play in venues at all. On our more radical days we say No, never! On other days we say sometimes... if its purposeful and if its fun. But either way, we all know that the home of our music is in public space and in domestic space. Our forays into commercial spaces can only be novel excursions to where we don't belong, because the commercial spaces, as they stand, cannot be the forum for the authentic culture of our people. And why not?

There is a tension on the lower rungs of the music scene's ladder between three parties: the band, the audience and the promoter (and all the while a fourth party hovers invisibly over the whole thing). It is the promoters' general method to ask the bands to bring an audience. Oddly, there is little pretense anymore that the bands are there to entertain the audiences. The "audiences" dutifully show up at the request of the bands, to pose as an audience so that the bands may entertain their own vision of themselves as cultural deities (as rock gods, or pop idols, or bohemian poets or what have you) - a vision that we've swallowed whole from the ever present fourth party, mass culture. Not only has the audience become a means to the bands' ends for the evening, it is usually the case that the evening is not an ends in itself either, it has become the means to a higher goal. We are not partying for the sake of partying, we are merely creating the illusion of a party as a fanciful launch pad toward careers in the music business, and this whole notion is yet another vision swallowed whole from the narratives of mass culture. The poor terracotta audiences, stood there with beer in one hand and coat in the other, are under no illusions that they're there to be entertained, energised or edified - or that they're there to party. This is so horribly obvious from the rotation of three or four or five different audiences in one night, standing patiently to gratify the vision of their friends' band and disappearing long before the next band has plugged in.

This means two things. One: the music scene is not for the people. It exists to aid the bands' (usually vain) attempt to escape the cultural insignificance of the people, and to enter mass culture's designated realm of fame and glory. Two: the music scene is not for the moment. These moments are contrived as mere stepping stones towards a career path misleadingly dangled before the people. The whole structure affirms and reinforces mass culture's stranglehold over the people. The whole structure asserts mass culture as the only realm of significance and power, and as the ultimate judge of the legitimacy of all cultural expression. The whole structure presumptuously assumes the total cultural insignificance of the life of the everyday people - the hair dresser, the bus driver, the office worker. In this structure, the only possibility of realisation is that an 'artist' might propitiate mass culture enough, and that mass culture just might graciously respond by sweeping the person up out of the venue and into their celestial place.

The venues of the music scene are generally complicit with this structure in their imitation of mass culture's theatrics. The stage - that the artists might be elevated above the audience, the lighting - that the artists alone might be shrouded in the illusion of glory, and the PA - that the artist's voice be given the illusion of a god-like prescience over everyone else's. Obviously we buy our ticket to see and hear the artist, but it is the familiarity of this scene as a pale replica of mass culture's realm of glory that reveals it to be, not an entertaining show in the manner of the circus or the stage play, but the yearning of an oppressed people who would prefer to be in the seat of the oppressor. Even if the artist truly innovates, the scene still imitates and the artist is stuck within that narrative.

Up the ladder a few rungs there are artists that we see because we are genuinely edified and energised by what they do. But even so, mass culture's oppressive structure still looms. I saw Carina Round play a set at the Hare & Hounds a while ago, and we the audience were there to see Carina Round (and not to entertain her vanities!). The guy from the Wonder Stuff got up to do a song with her at one point, and before he left the stage he gave his final word down the microphone. His sentiment was roughly this: that Carina Round is an exceptional artist and sooner or later the media will wake up and realise that. But what a patronising and presumptuous message! It asserts the oppressive dogma that Round's art is illegitimate until acknowledged and canonised by mass culture. And it asserts that this electrifying evening was merely a means to an end, that all we were participating in was part of Round's ongoing process of propitiating the oppressor (an assertion that does her art no justice). Those words spoken turn the whole thing into a sham. They relocate the place of meaning and vitality out of that room and into the mysterious and god-like will of mass culture.

The structure is the same on every rung of its ladder. It hangs oppressively over the bands who have fans, and those who merely have friends. It hangs oppressively over the artists we think are good, just the same as those we don't. It hangs oppressively over the music scenes we call 'dead', and those we call vibrant, since we only call them vibrant because some of the local acts have been accepted by mass culture into its inner ring. In the X Factor, that most diabolical expression of this oppression, which the bands, promoters and audiences alike all despise, the structure stands just the same as it does in the local venue. Both say that the people have no culture except that which mass culture recognises, and that the songs of a hair-dresser do not count until her face is coopted into the visage of mass culture and her songs are coopted to generate capital - until she is no longer a hair-dresser and no longer one of the people.

It is this assumption of the artist's mercenary self-interest (which is synonymous with our waning late capitalist era) and of the artist's obedient recognition of mass culture's hierarchical order, that made our words and music quite impotent in many venues. The ABH is unambiguously a spiritually and socially motivated collective. Our interest has been in our people, in our social awakening, in a spiritual liberation, and in the subversive and critical power of our repentance. But whatever radical, revolutionary, compassionate or offensive word we wished to speak in the commercial venues of the music scene, they seemed to be immediately emptied of any significance, because the structure doesn't allow for the possibility that the word spoken is ultimately for the people and not for the artist's own glory. Indeed, whatever vile and disgusting sentiments might be expressed are equally tolerable, because any word spoken in that realm is meaningless by virtue of the whole charade.

So it was for these sorts of reasons that the ABH took to the streets. People join in with us when we play on the streets, because the environment carries none of the alienating exclusivity of the venues. People dance to our music on the streets, because it is clear that we came to the people's realm to play for the people, and not, in some underhand way, for ourselves. People discuss, debate, agree and disagree with the words we speak onto the streets, because outside of its designated forums mass culture loses its remarkable power to translate the word of the people into nothingness and insignificance.

There are certainly venues, promoters and acts which are striving in various ways to overcome - the forerunners of new things, I hope. In order for the people to recapture a culture that is genuinely of the people and for the people - a culture that is genuinely our own and not some bid for acceptance by the mass culture that bears over us - we need to work outside mass culture's spaces, outside mass culture's mediums, and outside mass culture's narratives of fame and glory. It may be that there, speaking our own word in our own space, we might begin to ask ourselves the questions that truly concern us.

This is a call to practitioners. We will not suggest giving up using commercial spaces, or pusuing commercial aims. But if our work is in any sense, for our people, the dare is to take it to the people. To play where we shouldn't - in the unauthorised venues of public space, where our voices are somehow our own again.

27th Jan 2012

Somewhere in either my loft or in Joel’s house (or possibly in that mysterious netherworld where lost things go) there is a minidisc. It is dark red/purple and has something scrawled on it- possibly ‘Irwin Maxx’ or ‘beats for Jonny’ or something like that. There may be a green one as well. Anyway, it/they feature/s a whole load of Ian Murphy’s finest beats and I fear they are lost forever. He doesn’t have them anymore. He spilt a cup of tea on the original disc. Ian has been a mate since we were young’uns and is primarily remarkable for growing a beard before anyone else I knew (by about 4 years). I first became acquainted with his musical skills on New Year’s Eve 1999, when I spent the evening freestyling to the seemingly unending selection of bangers emanating from his MPC. A couple of Michaelis tracks resulted (one is, like the minidiscs, lost forever), but his two tracks on ‘Life on the Ground’- ‘Photophobia’ and ‘Blue lights’ are two of my favourite all time beats.
Ian is now releasing music as Hobo Sonn. I have very few reference points at all to help me describe his sound. The best I can do is: Hobo Sonn sounds like the soundtrack to an early David Lynch movie. Its intriguing and oddly compelling. I like listening to it but I'm not sure I totally get it. Then again, since I met him, he’s always been about three steps ahead of me, so I’m sure one day I’ll catch up.

Favourite collaboration: ‘Blue Lights’
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- http://www.zangproductions.co.uk/roster/barrowclough/ )

Other listening: Wary the mind/swarm EP (you can listen to tracks on http://www.rottenslushy.co.uk/available.html )


20th Jan 2012
"I just wasn't prepared to join the system".

Even Rupert Murdoch sees himself as a kind of rebel. More proof that our system relies on the individual's image of himself as a rebellious outsider, even if he's one of the richest men in the world.  Adam Curtis's "A Short Film About Rupert Murdoch".

www.youtube.com/watch




16th Jan 2012


2001. DJ Log’s bedroom. Michaelis Constant band practice. Joel tells us something about some bloke from West Heath who just won a competition remixing a track for Ty or something. He sticks on a cassette. The first track is really just a dirty, distorted double bassline. Maybe some drums are in there somewhere. Funny thing is that it literally compels you to rap. ‘Who’s this dude?’ someone asks. Eliot Best.

Eliot has gone by a number of nom de plumes over the years but Nightstalker 5000 seems to have stuck. Some people simply loop some instruments and cobble them together like that’s a major feat. Eliot crafts beats. His love for 80s electro pop and horror movie soundtracks seem to be appropriate reference points, but really its just hiphop how it should be done.

He is ½ of the Custodians and provided about half of the beats on ‘Life on the Ground.’ He’s a generous fellow as well, so if you’re dope and want a beat, you may be in luck. The perfect match, for me, though would be if a certain Daniel Dumile would give him a call. A DoomStalker 5000 album would be ridiculous.

Favourite collaboration: ‘Centre of the Universe’
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- http://www.zangproductions.co.uk/roster/barrowclough/ )

Other listening: Eliot’s soundcloud page (start with ‘banger 101’)
http://soundcloud.com/eliotbest


15th Jan 2012


At last! Someone's decided to take the time to list their nine favourite unsuccessful albums. Well here it is folks...

1. Captain Beefheart - Shiny beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Supposedly part of his less interesting period, Shiny beast actually represents Beefheart at his peak. All of his albums live in the shadow of the impenetrable Trout Mask Replica, which Beefheart himself admitted went too far. This penultimate album shows him at his most accesible, and arguably displays the perfect balance of pop and avant garde weirdness.

2. Bob Dylan - Shot of Love

The 80s meet Bob Dylan’s critically reviled Christian era. Chronologically, Shot of Love suffers from coming after some real stinkers (ie Saved) and has been subjected to the same vitriol. But in fact Shot is a fine album, signalling a return to form for His Bobness, including as it does such gems as Every Grain of Sand, In the Summertime and the anthemic Property of Jesus.

3. Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat

Proof that good songwriting can transcend twee production. Cat Stevens will never be regarded in such high regard as earnest songwriters such as Leonard Cohen or Kurt Cobain but his songs are simple, sweet and consistently good.

4. Adam Green - Friends of Mine

Disappointed a lot of Green’s fans as it was a bit of a tangent from the Anti-folk sound he’d helped to pioneer. Gone were the hissing Lo-fi recordings and in with lush, though simple, strings and crystal clear guitars and vocals swathed in reverb. Some argued that he’d sold out, I just feel that he’d identified a different problem with modern music, that of the gushingly ernest sickly indie anthems by the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and The Killers, and decided to make a very restrained, almost twee, sounding album.

5. Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow

A personal favourite, this is Blackalicious’ finest hour. They pulled out all the stops to create an album that gives hiphop’s boundaries a final push, just before the genre began its decent into irrelevance. On the wrong side of 2000, it did not acheive the fame it deserves. Featuring Gil Scott Heron and Ben Harper and introducing Lyrics Born to a wider audience. Just when you think it can’t get any better, Saul Williams pops up!
Its a very musical record for a hip hop LP and all the interludes are well integrated so they don’t get annoying.

6. Bran Van 300 - Glee

Everyone knows their song Drinkin in LA. It became quite a big hit after it was used on an advert for Rolling Rock beer in the late 90s. Its a crying shame that most people’s knowledge of this band does not extend beyond that point. The album it came from, Glee, is wildly experimental, varied and colourful. This album has probably influenced the sounds of Waler more than anything else.

7. The Beatles - Magical Mystery tour.

Not as well-regarded as say Sgt Peppers or Abbey Road but this one’s got all the best songs: I Am The Walrus, Blue Jay Way, Hello Goodbye... I could go on. I also toyed with listing Yellow Submarine. Far from just a novelty album, it contains some moments of genuine progressive psychedlia that, as usual, were decades ahead of their time. Just listen to It’s All Too Much.

8. Public Enemy - Apocalypse ’91

Perhaps they were repeating themselves by this point. It is a very similar sounding album to its predecessor - Fear Of A Black Planet - but tunes like Nighttrain and the alternative version of Bring The Noize with metal band Anthrax are just completely explosive.

9. Material - Temporary Music

This debut album by ZE Records (Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Was (Not Was) and John Cale) group, Material, sounds a bit weird when you first hear it but its one of the best creepy no wave disco albums I can think of (and there were quite a few!). I think perhaps their lack of popularity, even today, could be attributed to their roving palette of sounds. To me this is a bonus, but it does make them harder to define. Bands like ESG and Was (Not Was) fair much better because, although they’re just as avant-garde, their aesthetic is fairly consistent.


14th Jan 2012


In 1999, while I was DJing at some dirty basement venue at Birmingham University, Joel told me that DJ Pelt had agreed to work with us to make the first Michaelis album. He might have well have said that Michael Jackson would be doing it. I can honestly remember few moments of such intense delight.

Just to explain: in my mind at that time there were only two types of music in existence- American hiphop and British hiphop. American hiphop generally sounded better, but had the distinct disadvantage of being more popular. Its British cousin was my favoured variety. Perpetually overlooked as a result of a total lack of airplay and the awkwardness of the majority of British regional accents, British hiphop was the plucky underdog, the upcoming challenger, the Bolton Wanderers of world music. And Pelt WAS British hiphop. Sitting proudly next to my Cash Crew, Gunshot and NSO Force 12”s was 499’s ‘Still Waiting’ EP featuring the classic ‘499 is here’. The MC was nice, but it was the rasping drum breaks and urgent horns that made it. And the producer was one DJ Pelt. And I got to make the best part of 2 albums with him.

A quiet, thoughtful chap, with an encyclopedic knowledge of hip hop history, Pelt is an artist who deserves much more recognition for his skill. He has continued to work with 499’s MC, Logic, particularly with Section 13, and my best bet would be that at this very moment he is poring over dusty jazz records looking for that perfect break. I hope he finds it.

Favourite collaboration: Michaelis Constant- Parasites in Paradise
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- http://www.zangproductions.co.uk/roster/barrowclough/ )

Other listening: 499- ‘499 is here’
http://youtu.be/meFQjsarrIQ


10th Jan 2012
My wife has just released this collection of tracks that she has recorded over the last 7 years.

It's called Russian Doll and it is beautiful...and free!

Selina Blakeney - Russian Doll - Free Album


Benjamin Blower
Fiction Fight
Florent
Barrowclough
The Custodians
Waler
Josiah Gillespie
Greybeard
Bethan Marshall
University of the King
Selina Blakeney
The Zang Productions Ensemble
Ickberg
Vincent Gould