Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The Primitives: A 1983 Pre-Gig Mix Tape

The Primitives have been invited to guest edit MAGNET this week, so we thought we’d spin right back through memory, as the line from the title track of our new album, Spin-O-Rama, goes (how’s that for a clever bit of crowbarring?), and revisit some music-related experiences from our childhood, youth and early days of the band. There’s also some other random stuff to do with the world of the Primitives. It’s been a pleasure putting all this together, as there wouldn’t normally be any reason to relay any of this stuff. So thanks MAGNET, we’re enjoying the delve.

Mixtape

Paul: The first gig I ever did was when I was 17 at the Hope & Anchor in Coventry. The date was April 7, 1983, and the band was called Pretty Poison—named after the 1968 film starring Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld. I was the singer. This playlist is side two of the tape we put together to play before the show (side one got taped over with the actual gig). The pre-gig mix tape was always a very important and obsessed-over matter, and I remember us trawling around the homes of various friends in the days leading up to the gig to record the records we didn’t own. A lot of the music Pretty Poison was trying to emulate is featured on this playlist. We weren’t very good, to be honest, though there were some very nice vintage, twangy guitar sounds, and we did have a song called “Drunken Butterfly” 10 years before Sonic Youth. Check out the mix tape here.

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From The Desk Of The Primitives: Two ’60s Female-Fronted Songs

The Primitives have been invited to guest edit MAGNET this week, so we thought we’d spin right back through memory, as the line from the title track of our new album, Spin-O-Rama, goes (how’s that for a clever bit of crowbarring?), and revisit some music-related experiences from our childhood, youth and early days of the band. There’s also some other random stuff to do with the world of the Primitives. It’s been a pleasure putting all this together, as there wouldn’t normally be any reason to relay any of this stuff. So thanks MAGNET, we’re enjoying the delve.

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Tracy: Here’s a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “It’s No Secret” by Susan Barrett. A minor northern-soul spin. The other side (“What’s It Gonna Be?”) is the better-known track, and it’s good, too—it’s debatable whether it beats Dusty’s version, but the aforementioned is a mighty tune and we never tire of hearing it.

In a similar vein, here is a song by British girl group the Chantelles, which seems to have all the components of one of those not-strictly-soul northern-soul floor fillers, but wasn’t. When I first found this record I played it about 30 times in a row. I get greedy like that when I hear something I really like.

By the way, check out the album we recorded a few years ago called Echoes & Rhymes, if you haven’t already. It’s a covers album and all the songs are girl-fronted obscurities from the ’60s and early ’70s.

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From The Desk Of The Primitives: Live In Session On Mike Joyce’s “EVR” Radio Show March 22, 2011

The Primitives have been invited to guest edit MAGNET this week, so we thought we’d spin right back through memory, as the line from the title track of our new album, Spin-O-Rama, goes (how’s that for a clever bit of crowbarring?), and revisit some music-related experiences from our childhood, youth and early days of the band. There’s also some other random stuff to do with the world of the Primitives. It’s been a pleasure putting all this together, as there wouldn’t normally be any reason to relay any of this stuff. So thanks MAGNET, we’re enjoying the delve.

MikeJoyce

The Primitives: We dropped in on ex-Smiths member Mike Joyce in Manchester in 2011 while on tour, and played three songs live on his radio show: “Rattle My Cage,” “Crash” and “Dreamwalk Baby.” Check them out here.

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From The Desk Of The Primitives: An Intro

Primitives

We have been invited to guest edit MAGNET this week, so we thought we’d spin right back through memory, as the line from the title track of the Primitives‘ new album, Spin-O-Rama, goes (how’s that for a clever bit of crowbarring?), and revisit some music-related experiences from our childhood, youth and early days of the band. There’s also some other random stuff to do with the world of the Primitives. It’s been a pleasure putting all this together, as there wouldn’t normally be any reason to relay any of this stuff. So thanks MAGNET, we’re enjoying the delve.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

NicholasCarr

Mark Hosler: New technologies enter into our lives (like, say, the ability to digitally copy and replicate things, and make new art and music that way) and, as a society, we do not tend to have very in-depth or thoughtful conversations about just what these new technologies might mean for us and our lives and well being.  What if, for example, upon the invention of the automobile, someone told us “Well, yeah, you do get to be mobile in this amazing new way, and see and do all kinds of things you never saw or did before, and you’ll get all kinds of goods brought to your doorstep that you never could get ahold of. But, well, see the trade off is that it will tend to atomize and fracture your communities and alienate you from one another, you’ll build your entire modern living infrastructure around the use of them, you’ll destroy your air quality, about 40,000 of you will die each year in accidents in them, and your country will repeatedly go to war and bankrupt itself to get the energy stuff you need to run those things. Oh, and yeah, I forgot, it will contribute in a major way to the end of your entire planet due to the climate change that those auto emissions cause. So enjoy that car, OK?”

So, just what is that harmless digital device, the one you hold in your hand right now and are using to read this article, doing to you? To all of us? Nothing? Something? Could using it possibly be chaaaaaaaaanging you at levels we are not aware of?  Check out The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr for some well-researched and thoughtful answers to that question.

In his very-easy-to-read book, Carr convincingly argues that Western civilizations’ now ubiquitous use of all these iDevices is a sea change in how humans think and relate to the world and to one another, one that goes beyond the ways that are commonly understood. It’s a change, he suggests, that is as sweeping as the invention of the book. Drawing on research into brain science, brain development, and neuroplasticity, Carr finds much evidence that the technologies we use to find, store, and share information are literally rerouting our neural pathways, and dramatically and even physically changing our brains. The author is no Luddite, but offers what is ultimately a damning and very disturbing perspective on where these machines seem to be leading us. It’s surprisingly scary stuff.

The prefrontal lobe is where we store our short-term memory, and the hippocampus is where we store our long term memories. Our devices and how we use them fill up the short term memory part of our brain with more noise and useless neural trash (more cat videos, please!) than ever before in human history. Our brains love the “hit” of instant information and novelty, and can’t resist it. The short term is useful for when you need to keep some piece of information in your head for just a few seconds. Maybe it is a number that you are “carrying over” to do a subtraction, or a persuasive argument that you are going to make as soon as the other person finishes talking. It’s useful for survival, but it is no good at distinguishing important long-term information from the noise and trash we fill it with. The long-term memory part of our brain, the hippocampus, does that part, especially when it gets information in a slow drip from things like reading books or writing essays. It’s where we thoughtfully sort through information to make smarter long-term choices about our lives, who we love, where we live and work, who we vote for, what our economy ought to look like, when to go to war, what laws we may or may not need, etc., looking at the big picture and into the deep future. Neuroscience tells us that the more we use the short term, the larger it gets. And the less we use the long term, the smaller it gets. (Yep, our hippocampus is actually shrinking and our prefrontal lobe is actually getting bigger! This factoid kinda blew my mind.)

The impact of this is huge and quite weird to learn about, though it is something I have often intuitively thought might be true, especially when I observe how people use their devices in public spaces. Our brains and even our physical behavior is being modified by these things, as if we are willingly turning ourselves into some kind of human/machine Borg-like hybrid. Or like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. We still look kind of human, but what are we becoming? I know that sounds a bit extreme, but read this book and decide for yourself if this what we want for ourselves and our world. I think it’s a discussion very worth having. If our long-term memory is vanishing, and our short term is full to bursting with useless distraction, how in hell do we run our lives, our cities, our states, our countries and our planet, and commit to the hard choices we clearly need to make as a species if we are to save ourselves? Essential, zoom-out-to-the-big-picture reading, The Shallows is one of the most thought-provoking and startling things I have read in many years.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: “Love Me Tonight”

LoveMeTonight

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

Mark Hosler:

This absurd, hilarious and inventive 1932 pre-code musical, starring then-superstars Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, was a revelation when I saw it for the first time. For its era, it’s as wildly inventive and avant-garde as you could get in a Hollywood film, bursting at the seams with new ideas that still surprise today. Containing astonishing uses of sound-as-music, inventive camera moves, zooms, slow and fast motion for humorous effect, dialogue that often rhymes long before erupting into song, unique sound and picture editing, dirty double entendres, a supporting character who’s a nymphomaniac, and lyrics that are often truly bizarre, director Rouben Mamoulian uses miniatures, layered visual montages, tracking shots and dolly shots that are as unique as any in Citizen Kane nine years later.

Videos after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: Cyriak

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

Cyriak

Mark Hosler: The undefinable and delightful bat-shit insanity of animator/appropriator/musician Cyriak is not to be missed. His latest from this summer, Malfunction, may be my all-time favorite of his. It visually feels like it is coming from the same universe as the earliest work of Negativland in the 1980s, pure suburban dada surrealism, yet still feels like it’s about something that is burrowed deep in one’s brain struggling to get out! And you may not survive when it emerges. Technically, Cyriak’s use of music, and matching of color, hue and film grain with the CGI stuff he adds, the way the whole thing structurally repeats and develops and expands as you watch it … it’s all genius!  His attention to creepy and unexpected visual details makes repeat viewings a must. Note the car door spanking the person loading groceries in the parking lot.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: Bruce Conner

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

BruceConner

Peter Conheim: I am not sure where many of us in the various worlds of art, music, collage and film—or art/music/collage/film—would be were it not for Bruce Conner (1933-2008). Conner was adept at all of these disciplines, not to mention painting and sculpture. He pioneered the use of “found footage” in short-form filmmaking. He unwittingly created the “music video” with early shorts of Devo and David Byrne/Brian Eno. He was old enough to be part of the thriving beatnik culture of 1950s San Francisco as well as the thriving punk-rock culture of 1970s San Francisco, and his work cleanly and neatly bridges divides between decades. In 1999, the Walker Art Center mounted the largest retrospective of Conner’s work, encompassing aspects of every discipline he touched. You entered the exhibit viewing his physical “assemblages” from the beginnings of his art and exited somewhere in the midst of his film work, which continued until his death, even after he declared his “retirement.” So, to many, Conner is remembered above all as a “filmmaker,” but this label doesn’t do him full justice. His pen-and-ink drawings alone are stunning to behold: a fine-point fountain pen drawing one continuous, seemingly unending line, around and around and up and down the paper, never breaking. (Conner would only stop to refill his rapidograph pen, then bring the point right back to where he left off to continue moving the line.)

My personal revelation with Conner’s work was seeing his longest film, 1976′s Crossroads. It is a masterpiece of “found-footage” filmmaking, though it is entirely based upon a single image: the detonating of an atomic bomb at the Bikini Atoll in 1946 as the U.S. Army’s “Operation Crossroads” experiment (a 1954 re-run of which would poison and destroy the lives of generations of islanders). Conner was granted access through the Freedom of Information act to scour through and reprint hundreds of different cameras’ silent-film recordings of this single blast, as it was shot from every conceivable angle via land, sea and air. Varying speeds of optical printing bring the explosion to our eyes over and over and over and over again, with new and minute details appearing constantly throughout its 36-minute running time. But the film’s true majesty is its seamless blend of image and sound, even though the “event” itself was only filmed silently. Electronic composer Patrick Gleeson and minimalist maverick Terry Riley each score one-half of the film; Gleeson creates a synthetic soundscape of chirping birds, droning airplane engines, radio transmissions and the “sound” of the bomb itself, all entirely synthesized. Nothing is real. Riley performs a swirling, churning, raga-like piece with organ and tape loops that would later appear in different form on his Descending Moonshine Dervishes LP. Truth, beauty, death and horror all sewn up together in a perfect ribbon. More info here.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: The Mutants

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

Mutants

Peter Conheim: They’ve only made one single LP, in 1982 (and it barely even got released at the time), but to my mind, San Francisco’s Mutants are the most eccentric pop band to ever come out of the city. Ostensibly lumped in with the punk scene of the time, starting as they did in 1977 in the first wave of the Mabuhay Gardens alongside the Avengers, the Nuns and the Dils (and, later, the Dead Kennedys and Flipper), the Mutants are really an edgy pop-music circus act, complete with three lead singers (Sue, Sally and Fritz, or Freddy, as he was sometimes called). Their unbelievably catchy, yet furiously double-guitar-driven tunes are about things as benign as furniture, clocks, magazines and wanting a new drug. (Yes, they really did have Huey Lewis rip them on off his peculiarly similar hit single.) But the songwriting and musicianship on display is anything but benign. Brendan Earley is a hooky genius of a melody writer, and the Siamese twin-like vocals of Sue and Sally presage the B-52′s and Crack: We Are Rock. And then there is Fritz, a good foot shorter than Sue, yowling over the top of it all like a terribly nervous advertising executive being shouted down at a staff meeting and having to rise above the fray to get his points across.

The original seven-piece band still plays together from time to time, though the group went through several dramatic lineup changes towards the end of their initial era that left the singers the sole original members. Those later iterations of the group were also startlingly brilliant, and they produced an EP that never saw release at the time. Most people are familiar with Mutants through their handful of pre-LP singles and compilation tracks, but their magnificent Fun Terminal album is worth tracking down, especially when it inevitably gets a proper re-release with some of the amazing bonus tracks that this writer has heard, but the world at large has not. Are you listening, “hip reissue” record labels? I have all the master tapes. You can find me.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Negativland: Ulrich Seidl

Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.

UlrichSeidl

Peter Conheim: Austrian “documentary” director Ulrich Seidl has yet to really “break” in the United States’ repertory/art-house-theater scene, but has been cranking out beguiling films since 1980, beginning on Austrian television and eventually moving into feature filmmaking. I first discovered his work in a retrospective at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley around 2003, confronted with a short portrait of a middle-aged high-school teacher titled Der Busenfreund (“The Bosom Friend”). The lines between fact and fiction are blurred in Seidl’s works to the point of literal, blinking incomprehension, and Busenfreund presents a man who illustrates laws of mathematics by carefully drawing brassieres on a chalkboard for his students (who may or may not even be sitting in the same classroom), and going home to his near-comatose mother who is “too bony” and, therefore, he has never established a close relationship with. I stumbled out into the night having absolutely no idea what constituted “truth” any longer.

Seidl’s Models follows a gaggle of coke-sniffing Vienna fashion models who may or may not be being photographed unknowingly through two-way mirrors; Animal Love charts the perilous course that masters of various different animals embark on with their “pets”; Fun Without Limits interviews the aficionados of a rural Austrian amusement park where a key attraction is a grotesque dummy “dying” in an electric chair on an endless loop. Seidl enacts “scenarios” with various non-actors in later films, leading to something vaguely resembling standard narrative fiction, but again, the line between fact and fiction simply never becomes clear. In this way, Seidl pushes Werner Herzog’s “documentary” style to a confrontational extreme from which Herzog generally steps back from the precipice. There is nothing like these films.

Video after the jump.

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