Thursday, June 17, 2010


So, according to Wikipedia--a newspaper of record, I assure you--Aaron Funk's new record, My So-Called Life, "sees Funk returning to concepts explored as early as 2005, revisiting themes from such albums as Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett and Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding," two ridiculously wonderful albums. I guess this mean that we, or at least I, can enjoy some wonderful orchestration, dense textures, and fucking ridiculous breakbeats.

I, for one, am down in a big way.

There are two tracks on his myspace, both hearkening back to the Funk of old. Of course I've loved everything he's done in the past few years, but my true affections will always lie with the orchestral complexity of Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett--which is pretty much entirely responsible for making my musical tastes what they are today--and the neo-jungle complexity of Detrimentalist--which pulled me back from the brink of becoming a fully-fledged Joanna Newsom fan and reminded me of just why I love breakcore.

Shitcore Part 3 - In Which Something of Substance Will Maybe Finally Be Written

So: From whence Shitcore?

Let's start in the 50's. Think about 50's Rock and Roll: a bunch of skinny white men standing stock-still on a stage, playing undistorted guitars, singing vaguely sexual/subversive lyrics to throngs of screaming teenage girls. You see, this was considered a moral outrage, to be so far beyond the pale as to be a scourge on society, a gaping wound through which the invisible bacteria of Communism could enter and wreak all sorts of malignant mischief.

In retrospect, this was all not only not subversive, but was actually rather stupid. Take a gander, for example, at some of the lyrics to Bill Haley and His Comets' non-hit "13 Women (And Only One Man in Town):"

I had two girls every morning Seeing that I was well fed And believe you me, one sweetened my tea While another one buttered my bread Two girls gave me my money Two girls made me my clothes And another sweet thing, bought me a diamond ring About forty carats I suppose Well, thirteen women and only one man in town There was a-thirteen women and only one man in town It was something I can't forget Because I think of those thirteen women yet Well, thirteen woman and only one man around

So...nuclear apocalypse, only people left on earth are 13 women and one man...and what is lacking? Sex. Fucking. Anything which is even slightly morally repugnant (at least not from a feminist view, but that point of view is safely ignored). Don't even get me started on how much more racy (again, relative to the 50's) the African-American music that all this was stolen from was. That was considered to be a moral H-Bomb of Soviet proportions, and was safely kept away from the nation's fragile young white women with a vigor usually reserved for homosexuality and meth.

Regardless of how lame all this was, it is interesting in the context of this discussion for being the first time (discounting the 20's, because those ended in such a spectacular fashion that their cultural developments were largely irrelevant post-1929, at least in my opinion) that threatening culture was viewed as a mass-marketable cultural development in its own right. Namely, this kicked off a rapid succession of generational conflict, in which young people embraced pop-culture which, at least superficially, appeared to be just subversive enough to assure them a distinct, rebellious identity. This was only in its fetal stages, of course, being far away from any sort of genre which produces lyrics like this:

Bash my intestines up my anus!

Diarrhea from my penis!

A A A A A A...

Diarrhea on my penis!

Obviously, there are a host of cultural and technological developments which made such music possible. So, we have to jump forward (ignoring the 60's and 70's, which sucked...I don't care how you feel or what you think or what your stupid yuppie parents told you, the 60's and 70's sucked, they were stupid and unproductive and we're all worse off for them, you fucking tie-dye wearing wannabe douchebag protoyuppies) to Plunderphonics, which in my mind is the logical fork in the road where electronic and experimental finally branched off into their two closely related, yet quite distinct, camps: the masturbatory and the fun.

Plunderphonics was the first genre truly dedicated to repackaging other music, to taking that which other people have made and mashing it together as a sort of aesthetic prerogative, turning pop culture into something obscene, exposing a sort of incongruously disturbing/absurd quality to pop that isn't quite obvious when viewed on its own terms. Simply put, it was both masturbatory and fun. If you are--as is quite understandable--bored with my overwrought prose, then check this shit out as a sort of oasis in the desert of wanky liberal arts undergrad bullshit that I'm spewing:

That is John Oswald's seminal (haha...semen) song "Dab", a pastiche completely sampled from Michael Jackson songs. Simultaneously experimental, pretentious, and entertaining in a sort of novel way, it was copyright infringement as artistic statement, a realization that the old could be transformed into the new without being derivative or subject to an easily described hierarchy of aesthetic/cultural development. Instead of following such a clearly defined path, it branched off at a a sharp right angle and defined a new niche from which a whole new hierarchy could develop. This goes far beyond the sampling of rap music, this is no Chuck D pretending to be in court being yelled at by "The Man" for using other people's music.* It is from here that I trace the beginnings of the wildly complicated electronic music scenes that seem to pop up every couple of weeks.

From these beginnings, there are several genres and subgenres of electronic music that are integral to the development of Shitcore: 8 Bit, Jungle/Ragga Jungle, Digital Hardcore and Breakcore. 8 Bit can be saved for last; that is probably the most peripheral, and is most important for its effects on the internet-based Breakcore/various other -core sub cultures which have popped up over the past few years. Of primary importance are the -cores; which are the most direct spiritual descendants of the ideals underlying Plunderphonics and the most virulently in your face (I hate that term) genres to gain even a modicum of popular awareness since the early days of punk.

Let's start with Jungle, which marks the beginning of lo-fi break cutting at high speed and mind-numbing complexity. The history of Jungle has been written time and time again, if you're here (and I doubt anyone is), you probably don't need me to tell it to you. Also, I am lazy, and have no desire to do so. Suffice to say, this is where it all started. Jungle was where cheesy Europeans with ill-advised dreadlocks first started to deal sampling as a means of creating uber-complex rhythms and beats that were, to say the least, acquired tastes. Where people first began to seek out largely ignored (at least in the west) foreign genres and combine them with modern technology and already established western genres to create something both familiar and novel. It is from the high tempos, rolling snares, and oddly sequenced everything that we move to the -cores.

Digital Hardcore...what is there to say that isn't obvious when one listens to just one overly sincere, disgustingly German ATR or Ec8or (or whatever, they're all the same) track? Think amens that no one even bothered to clean up or make interesting, sampled metal guitar tracks, sincere ultra-left wing rants calling for revolution without ever offering a coherent reason why disguised as lyrics. Trashy, stupid, confrontational, confusing in the extreme...I don't care what people who actually know what they're talking about say, this is where Breakcore started. Of course, it would be a few years after the advent of Digital Hardcore that digital music technology would get to the point that anyone with a decent computer, an internet connection and no qualms about stealing software/music would be able to make passable music without any sort of real training, and disseminate it without a label or hitting the pavement with a vengeance; but in DH one sees the beginnings of individuals being able to make sincerely fucked up music within small niches, and to view true (no matter how lame) subversion as a efficacious niche within a stagnant and homogeneous pop culture. That last sentence was terrible and pretentious: DH was fucked up, stupid, hardcore, and delightful. All told, within it wank and sincerity met entertaining and hardcore, setting the scene for the widely varied and usually fun-as-all-fuck breakcore scene.

***It's late and I'm tired. Tomorrow, or whenever, a few overwrought paragraphs about breakcore and 8 bit, then I'll actually do some research on shitcore and wrap this ill-advised venture the fuck up.***

*Chuch D might have the most blatant victim complex in the history of popular music; a rich motherfucker who just loved to pretend like he was being constantly held back. I mean, he's cool and all, and It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back was fucking ill from first to last, but come on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shitcore Part Deux - From Humble Beginnings

Ok. I'm back from Pittsburgh (for the love of God, never drive all the way across PA...just don't), back from work, and a few whiskeys deep...time to actually finish what I started for once.

Type "shitcore" into Google. Does anything useful show up? No. Nothing. No one really seems to know, or at the very least care to put into words, the who, what, when, where and why of Shitcore. In a way, that is what makes it so interesting; one must walk a mile in the moccasins of experimental coprophiliac noisecore to truly understand it, viewing its birth less as the painless c-section of most musical genres* and more as a back-alley abortion sought by scared teenagers in response to the failure of genres which make most people plug their ears and look at you askance to be truly, uncompromisingly uncompromising. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE ALERT: There are thus two problems to be confronted. The first, obviously, is to situate Shitcore in some sort of continuum starting with the earliest avant garde electronic pioneers* and incorporating punk, breakcore, metal, noise and the innumerable other -core's that pop up every couple of weeks on the internets. The second--and to my college-addled brain, most important--problem facing us, is to figure out whether or not it is pretentious. Does being intentionally bad, intentionally unlistenable, etc. etc. naturally make a certain type of music pretentious? To what extent is Shitcore derivative, and does that really matter? Am I a douchebag?*

***TOMORROW OR MAYBE LATER TONIGHT: A poorly researched article on Shitcore's pretentious ancestors.***

* A.k.a stolen from black people and marketed well.

* Who I will actually mostly ignore in favor of starting with Plunderphonics (you'll see...), since (with the exception, at times, of John Cage) that really marks the beginning of wanky electronic experimentation having a sense of humor.

* Yes

Friday, June 11, 2010

Inside the Wonderful World of Shitcore - Part 1

A week or so ago, I was hanging out with some friends on my back porch. In order to shift the conversation away from a heated and terribly misinformed argument between two people about the legal intricacies surrounding an underage person throwing out empty beer cans being stopped by cops and given an underage citation (don't ask), the topic of "favorite driving music" was proposed.

I, realizing the shitstorm I would be walking into if I chose to give a completely honest answer to this question, hemmed and hawwed somewhat, acknowledging out loud that my answer would seem to be pretentious. You see, my favorite thing to listen to while driving is Shitcore. Specifically the godfather of Shitcore, a certain Passenger of Shit. I'll be posting an album of his, but if you don't want to be downloading a whole bunch of stuff then here is a quick taste.

I know what you're thinking: " are pretentious. Ass, go get some skinny jeans and an ironic mohawk and write for Pitchfork where you and the rest of the hipsters can pretend to like things that are inaccessible." Hear me out though. This shit is brutal. I mean, it's like unadulterated, balls to the wall brutality without a shred of self-consciousness. As a complicated means of self-justification, let us take a walk down Shitcore lane, exploring the many wonders of one of the more, umm, unique of the homegrown, largely internet-based subcultures on the fringe of the electronic music scene.

***Because I have to get my shit together and start a 6 hour drive across the entire godforsaken hellhole that is Pennsylvania, Part 2 will come in a few days and will attempt to flesh out just how the hell Shitcore came to be***

The New Boxer Rebellion

So, since no one has posted here in, like, years, I figured it was time to bring it back with something epically irrelevant.

What I stumbled upon today, in one of my unemployed, bored-as-all-fuck internet rambles, is nothing short of the opening salvo of the East-West cultural war that has been inevitable since Marco Polo introduced Asia to Original Sin and opium. Literally. Imagine Eurovision, the quintessential example of why I am ashamed of my European heritage vs. whatever one should call Chinese pop, which makes me regret studying Chinese instead of, I don't know, Korean? I'll stop trying to be witty, and just let this speak for itself:

German: Dschinghis Khan - Moskau

This should be familiar to most connoisseurs of internet-meme videos, but it's so perfectly European that it merits consistent repetition.

Chinese: Da Zhang Wei - Fendou

This might be the best thing ever. I mean, they both have great dances, but this one is polished and ridiculous in ways that are beyond my comprehension. It just makes me happy; so, so happy.

I'm trying to figure out which one is better. If anyone but Nat would see this (HI NAT! REMEMBER HOW I POSTED THIS SAME THING ON YOUR FACEBOOK WALL LIKE AN HOUR AGO?) then I would ask people to vote. In lieu of that, I will instead cast my vote for the Chinese one, as an attempt to curry favor with the Chinese government because I'm kinda in their pocket. Also, because of that dance move where they do the mashed potato but do a little butt waggle, and it's just like nonstereotypically cheesy in a way that just blows Russian-style kicks out of the fucking water. Don't think this is a blowout though, look at the facial hair of the guy from Dschingis's fake, but I love it when people jab at Russians.


So at first I thought that the lyrics of the Chinese version were just a translation of the lyrics of the German version, but the truth is significantly more funny, and wayyyy more Chinese.

奋斗,奋斗, 为了欢笑而奋斗


Struggle, struggle, struggle for ideals/dreams/perfection
Struggle for the future
WOW (bellow of an animal/of rage repeated 4 times)
Struggle, struggle, struggle to laugh happily
Struggle for true love
WOW hou hou hou hou

Struggle, struggle, struggle in stubborn pursuit
Struggle for goals
WOW hou hou hou hou
Struggle, struggle, struggle for beliefs
Struggle for tomorrow
WOW hou hou hou hou

Ok, thats all that really needs to be looked at. What makes this so funny, to me at least, is how fucking sincere it is. I mean, its a cheesy cover of one of the most delightfully cheesy songs ever to be passed down from the people who gave you the Holocaust, who love David Hasselhoff (sp?), and who are entirely culpable for Atari Teenage Riot. The German condition is, and has been for years, to traffic in the most mindboggling sincerity (that is not a compliment), and to pursue that sincerity with a vigor and efficiency unmatched in the Western world.

So, to out-cheese and out-sincere the Germans is a hell of an accomplishment. This cover is kinda the lowest level of mindless synthpop, which for no discernible reason is turned into a vehicle for a kind of superficially uplifting didacticism. Think about what the lyrics to a song like this would be in America (and it would totally be a huge fucking hit)...probably something about dancing, Lil' Wayne would make an 8 bar guest appearance which would either be completely incomprehensible or an in-depth analysis of just how much money his clothes (which, rest assured, are very nice clothes) are capable of concealing at any one time, Timbaland would grunt over the beat in a crude and disturbing facsimile of spoken word get the point. I'm reminded of a line from the novel Please Don't Call Me Human, in which a parody of a Chinese intellectual says something along the lines of: "American entertainment is just as didactic as ours, but at least it's entertaining." What I'm getting at is that this song is entertaining as all fuck, but--except for the fact that, after writing it like 20 times earlier, I've come to realize that "struggle" is a hilarious and extremely fun to hear word--the lyrics are so incongruous and unintentionally hilarious that it basically ruins the song...making it so campy and overly sincere that it just can't be taken either seriously or as any sort of good, escapist fun.

Or maybe I'm just trying to show off the fact that I know Chinese. Did I mention that I know Chinese? Do you? Thought not.

On a final note: seriously, think about how funny the word "struggle" is. Just think about it. Say it aloud once or twice. Stuggle. Uggle. Ugg ugg uggle. Strug. HA.