As a DJ, I very frequently punish my ears for the sake of pleasing the ears of others. It doesn’t have to be via bass or harsh noise; a night of constant babble screamed an inch away can work that drum ’til the skin feels ready to split. By the time I get back to whatever bed awaits me, there are very few sounds I actually care to hear—especially in the form of music. There are, however, a few albums I keep in my iPod that just click with my brain in the right ways, lending me some measure of peace, relaxation or a much-needed mental boost. Results may vary.
1. Belbury Poly – From An Ancient Star (Ghost Box)
Take a pinch of the midnight disco theatrics of Goblin, add a dash of Delia Derbyshire‘s sci-fi burnage, and combine with the star-soaked taste of cosmically psychedelic paganism. This is the recipe for a glimpse inside the mind of Jim Jupp, the man behind Belbury Poly. With moods that shift from the weirdly bouncy, such as the deranged ’70s children show theme “The All At Once Club”, to the downright eerie (“Time Scale”), From An Ancient Star isn’t necessarily soothing. What makes it so perfect for winding down is the detached sense of reality it gives you, a place out of time. The soundtrack Lovecraft might have made had he worked for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
2. Pocahaunted – Passage (Not Not Fun)
I really miss this band, but I’m grateful to have seen them several times in their first incarnation, and even happier to own this beautiful piece of vinyl. Unlike their previous work, Passage focuses less on tribal elements and more on pitch-painted dub and smokey raggas, evoking cold sand dunes and haunted desert cities. Much of the drone elements have been stripped away as well, possibly due to the influence of guest musicians Cameron Stallone (Sun Araw) and Bobb Bruno (Best Coast); the result is cleaner, but no less engaging.
3. Pukers – Born In The USA (Gel Tapes)
A harsh, shrieking noise rock cassette as a comedown album? Well, did you want to be down forever? When this comes up I’m upupUP, and relaxing was never my thing anyway. This tape was dropped into my hands one day in 2009 with the descriptor “Andy Spore from Racoo-oo-oon and his girlfriend playing drums and screaming”, and that’s pretty much exactly what you get. Fortunately that is my thing, and every time I play this I’m seized with a strong desire to hurl myself around the room. Throw in some synth twiddling and guitar punching and you have something to make even the most cynical art fuck sit up straight and clutch his head in agony. Difficult music made by actual weirdos with real life problems. Bruce Springsteen, eat your heart out.
Historically, prophets have been too holy to bet. But times have changed. Recently, Wired staff writer Steven Levy put his money where his mouth is after a discussion with Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly on whether live streaming would dominate online video in ten years time. Levy made his prediction official through Long Bets, a website promoting “societally or scientifically important” wagers with a minimum confirmation period of two years. Here he makes his case for why life is more live than ever before.
A.J. Samuels: Live streaming has become commonplace, but a lot of people still like their entertainment with some narrative. Do you think you’re underestimating the importance of scripts and editing in predicting live supremacy?
Steven Levy: Streaming encompasses more than just material geared for a broader public; it’s also as much about customized streams. We’re entering an era where everything we see can be captured and streamed live, whether it’s people holding up their smartphones to stream for friends and family, or something more professional for a wider audience. That said, I also think that we’ll soon have the capabilities of streaming our kids’ soccer games more professionally, with effects and multiple camera angles and all that. Our live editing capabilities will vastly improve and be easier to use—just like with photo editing or the professionalization of amateur recording with new plug-ins. I’m pretty convinced that there won’t be many family events in the future not being livestreamed.
AS: Is this just one more nail in the coffin for network television?
SL: Not necessarily. I think the bulk of television postproduction and movies will remain as is. But live will have more cache, and as that happens, pre-taped stuff will try harder to capture the feeling of live. Over the past few years you’ve seen network TV do a number of live series episodes—30 Rock’s done it, House has done it—and they’ve been hugely popular. People connect with the immediacy of live action, even if it’s simulated. I would also venture to say that it goes for movies and reality TV too. Shooting with handheld cameras might predate streaming, but it’ll also be bolstered by it. The same goes for reality TV. The grammar of live will permeate all forms of video.
AS: Which platforms are at the forefront?
SL: There’s still an enormous infrastructural challenge. Some of the big network providers simply don’t want to give up the bandwidth. That’s probably the biggest obstacle at the moment. But I would say Google has the best foundation with YouTube. There’s also Google+’s Hangouts, which has replaced Google’s traditional video conferencing tools that the company used to get from a third party. Hangouts has become the most important part of Google+ and I believe it’s merging with YouTube. To be honest, this is where I’d expect to watch my daughter’s soccer game in the future when I’m on the road. Other platforms like Justin.tv have been geared towards streaming for a while, but they don’t quite have the name or the following to be dominant players.
AS: I recently checked out a few Justin.tv users’ live streams and was surprised by being interrupted with ads at seemingly random intervals. Imagine missing your daughter’s goal because of a poorly placed VW commercial. Fahrvergnügen kaput. All parties lose.
SL: Streaming is still in its infancy, and continuous observation channels haven’t reached their full potential. Justin.tv was forced to adopt that business model to stay afloat, but randomly placed ads aren’t ideal. I can imagine streamers in the future with the power to block or indicate the right time for a commercial. Like television.
AS: Other than personalized streams, what are you interested in seeing live?
SL: I’d gladly pay five bucks to watch a well-shot concert stream with good sound, and soon, all concerts will be live streamed. I’m sure there are plenty of people wondering when they’ll be able to follow the Boss or Best Coast on tour from their computer. Personally, I’d also like to see more politics, on all levels. Oligarchs controlling bandwidth, like Berlusconi in Italy, is a scary reality. I guess it’s the same in the US, but instead of politicians owning it, private companies pay off regulators. Freeing the spectrum for innovation is the real struggle.
Illustration: Kraftwerk/Emil Schult, Antenne. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers, Berlin London.