Sunday, September 25, 2005

What Type Of Student Politics?

'University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small'. These are the words of the notorious Henry Kissinger US secretary of state). Scarily enough this has often been quiet true of students Unions and the politics around them. Personality politics takes over and it can descend into a farce. This year can't and won't be the same. The stakes have now been raised to the highest they've been in decades. The OECD has now said that third level fees should be reintroduced and everyone seems to be treating it as a fait accompli.

Basically the future of education is up for grabs this year. There are frightening prospects at stake here: Privatisation, reintroduction of fees and basic notions of democracy are on table and the student movement could very easily lose. This is one year college politics are important. This year you have a damn right to be vicious if the S.U. isn't doing its job and organising.
Students' Unions like trade unions, were founded to defend and advance the interests of their members against the attacks of the state and college. The college structure is un-democratic and hierarchical, and in contrast our unions are democratic and the officers are accountable, constitutionally at least. The unions are based on the principles of direct democracy, where the mass of membership have final control over what decisions are made, and representatives have to carry out mandates and can be hauled up to account. In this role the union promotes self-management and empowerment among students. However, with a high student turnover, the only permanent force in the unions is elements of the college authorities them-selves.

Taken aside and fed bullshit about their own importance by the college, many union officers end up as apologists for actions taken by the college authorities, instead of standing up to them for their members. The union ends up filling the gaps left by the college and state, putting band-aids over symptoms instead of striking the root cause. For instance, instead of tackling the housing crisis by combating property speculation and fighting for an extension of rent allowance to students, unions play the role of agencies in advertising houses.

Where the unions should be fighting on issues, instead it ends up managing them on behalf of the college and state Often with a leadership who's main priority seems to be keeping things ticking over, rather than acting to empower the membership in fighting for a better life and a better education.

As anarchists we argue for mass based campaigns that involve general participation in making decisions as well as implementing them. This means organising from the grassroots up. Involving students in the decision making process through open non-hierarchical meetings, where anyone can get involved. Instead of expecting them to show up and passively take part in events they have no control over. A union's strength lies in the mass of numbers it contains, not in the limited abilities of individual officers.

One of the greatest tricks the right tries to pull at every union election is to convince us that politics should not come into student unions. What sort of bullshit is that? Everything is political and the issues facing students are loaded with political content and they need a political response. Unfortunately, the student unions are lacking a sense of political purpose. Overall the movement has no clear aims, it is more concerned with making 'bad things go away' than actually identifying what the core problems facing us are and fighting on them. When ever the state plans something dodgy around education, our leaders can be heard criticising it on the radio, and usually that's that. There is no one putting across a clear perspective on what we actually want to see happen in education. The student movement reacts to the state's agenda instead of attempting to set the agenda.

The state and college can easily close it's eyes and ears to the student movement and ignore the union's lobbying. But what they can't afford to do is ignore direct action based tactics, which disrupt the college structure and force them to give into demands. The recent successful UCD library occupations over opening hour cutbacks is an example of this. These sort of actions threaten the college more than anything because they are the ones that involve students alongside staff and give them a taste of their own power. And that is what the college and state are afraid of most of all.

For the past few years, the student movement has been struggling to retain many of the victories of the past such as free fees, if we continue to act defensively we can expect to get no where. Now more than ever we need to be on the offensive, putting forward a vision of education where the participants in education, workers, students and academics have a direct say in the decisions made. After all, regardless of how much we whinge about how we are being treated by the powers that be, in the final analysis, the problem comes down to one of control over within the decision making structures.

Currently our colleges are ran by faceless bureaucrats and un-representative decision making bodies which consistently act against our interests. Most governing authorities, while giving token representation to trade and student unions, are dominated by people appointed by the state. Even then they just act as rubber stampers for various practically anonymous committees running our colleges. Would UCD Governing Authority have made the decision to increase post grad fees by 10% if it was composed of people directly elected by students, workers and academics instead of cronies of business and Fianna Fail? I think not. Why was '1.6m spent on Hugh Brady, the UCD president's house, when the college can't even afford to fund the library for books?

And then, there's the state, and institutions like the OECD, in whose interests do you think they are being run? The OECD recently recommended the re-introduction of fees dressed up in the usual bullshit about social inclusion. But a peek at whose running the show, a former Australian minister of education Dawkins and his track record back home, shows that such changes only benefit the well off. Why has the Irish state being so reluctant to properly fund grants, student accommodation and to tackle the wider inequality in communities which is where educational inequality really begins?

If you're one of the thousands of people who see the reintroduction of fees as the end of your third level education there is no use moaning about it when it happens- get out there and stop it. Go to meetings or even better organise one yourself, go to the protest you organised. Get stuck in because if you don't your about to get royally shafted. Don't forget it was beaten by students just like you two years ago. Those in control of these decisions are making them in the interests of business and the rich, that's quite clear. We need to stop them.

An article from No Masters Issue One

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

What Don't They Teach In School?

Lets face it - this bloke did himself no favours whatsoever with the release of "Dublin Town" a few years back. Recieving saturation air play on 2fm, as Gerry Ryan audibly tried to prole himself up through association, most of us were only too right to dismiss him as a purveyor of inane Guinness soaked folk that was dangerously veering towards the Richie Kavanagh novelty market.

Hearing auld Damo was playing in the UCD Student Bar last week - I was hardly going to give a fuck untill a free ticket sprung my way. Saving himself from the one hit wonder wilderness with They Don't Teach You This Shit In School and Seize The Day, a following seemed to sprout around Damo that I just couldn't understand, well why would I? As people earnestly put it, you'd have to be from the Northside (D4 would suffice as well though) before you could get Damo. So with my head full of ghastly images of sweaty blokes in football jerseys with their arms around each other like a nightmare vision of an Aslan gig I headed on in.

My head was brimming with pre-prepared sarcy put downs - "who let this bloke think he's Bob Marley?" The wind was pleasantly knocked out of my usual guff from the off, after a fair few gigs in the UCD Student Bar, this was definiately the most kicking. Despite supporting Morrisey on tour the bloke remains a relative unknown outside Ireland
and remains fairly bashful . Its easy to see why many rush to crown him as the bastard heir to Strummer or Marley, but such talk is rather delusional. His gimmick is the hackneyed, delivery of heart wrenchingly proud lyrics of survival while the world shits on you, setting himself against the rest of the Dublin singer songwriter mileu by emphasising the stutterings of his north of the Liffey brogue. The traumatic passing through girlfriends is jettisoned for a peek at the underside of the Celtic Tiger: "The cost of a run-down house is absurd, what we gonna do, have to move in with the woman in the shoe." The lyrics are patchy, as he sings of coming down, the self consuming Celtic Tiger and the corruption of the city.

Dignity, honour, pride are all words that bristle in reviews and articles lauding Damien Dempsey, so it's not his musical skills or qualities that earn him his fan base then? From what I could see at this gig, its the role he has taken on within post-celtic tiger Ireland as some sort of signifier for the remnants of an old idea of what it meant to be Dublin and working class.
Latching on to this idea allows people to define themselves with an identity seperate to the success of the Celtic Tiger, but neither the music or this approach to looking back to a historical image based idea of what it means to be on one end of a social relationship offers a way out. If Damo has sussed out a market in this, then it is a con job that can easily take you in. Helped of course, by the powerful delivery of some pretty thought provoking songs.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Housing Crisis Me Arse.

Its that time of year again, when a vast majority of students realise one simple thing: we are being ripped off by our landlords. You've probably couch surfed for weeks, or ran around trying to open accounts in what ever bank it is that will extend an immediate over draft. Whatever you've done, you can be sure you'll be fucked over once a month for the coming year for a substantial amount of cash. And it feels like plain fucking legalised robbery.

If you are lucky enough to receive the pathetic grant, you'll realise that with average rents well over '350 and spiralling, the state is leaving you ripped off. The options facing you are living at home and commuting long distances. Skipping classes and working long hours to pay rent. Or simply living in over crowded and cramped gaffs in the 'student land' of Rathmines or the like. None of these options are pleasant, and nothing is more distasteful than the accommodation crisis so many of us are forced into because we don't have access to the cash to by pass it.

One thing is certain, this crisis is artificial, the resources are there, its an issue of how they are being used. We are being held to ransom for higher rents, at the threat of having no where to stay, landlords inflate rents on their own personal whims. Buildings through out the city are left derelict as developers take advantage of the fact that property prices have risen a staggering 166% over the past six years, while your usual bank interest rate is around 6% for investment. The state which has long since defended the interests of these cartels, refuses to move against the derelicts and only a tiny percentage of them are forced to pay the 3% tax the law prescribes.
Why should we expect any different, senior council officials have acted as paid advisors/ facilitators to property hoarders for years. Lest anybody should question the link between house builders and Fianna Fail, the names of Burke, Lawlor and Reilly are clear examples of the corruption involved. Ray Burke received over £1 million from a single builder alone. Liam Lawlor, acting as an extremely well paid agent for various builders, distributed massive amounts of cash to corrupt politicians and council officials in return for the re-zoning of designated tracts of land owned by his paymasters. Paddy Reilly, a former election agent of Bertie Ahern, was involved in the cheap purchase of a large number of premises in central Dublin and renovated them for resale.

The recent revelation that over 20 people named in the Ansbacher fraud were builders and developers should come as no surprise. Neither should the fact that while the state provided 6,133 social houses last year, 62,686 private ones went up. So before its even finalised the state have broken the last bout of social partnership. A telling indictment of who it really benefits. Any attempt to reach similar agreements with authorities ends up in similar farce. Where as UCD have promised to build more student accommodation for years, they haven't bothered and just let the issue slide. Instead they are happy to do land swaps with developers, and sell off land for private apartment complexes instead of build student housing.
The worst part about it all is how the issue is being dealt with by our representatives. They seem only happy you just redirect us to the same websites we've been scouring for gaffs already. Attempts to even tackle the issue politically consist of tokenistic stunts at the usual time and place every year, expect tents, posturing and not a whole lot more. These is no real attempt made to challenge the monopolistic behaviour of the landlords, no attempt to link in the fact that more than just students are being fucked over, but anyone who can't afford housing at extortionate rates is.
Last summer a group of young people squatted one of these derelicts, making a home and a social centre in the process of renovating it. The landlord didn't even notice, he had been in South Africa for over a decade, and had forgotten about this four story Georgian building on Leeson St. This happens all over the city: the next time you take the LUAS, have a gawk and see the derelicts fly pat, left abandoned until property prices shoot up. Of course these kids were thrown out by the cops.
The state is there to protect the hoarders, introducing the 2002 Anti-Trespass Act to move travellers off illegal halting sites, but potentially directing it against squatters as well. The core of the issue is how our society sees property, at the moment it is an individual thing. Housing ties into everything else, it is one of those ridiculous situations that our rulers persist in forcing on us. The notion that one class of people have a right to deprive another of a home, for the sake of making money playing the property market. Instead, like education, housing should be treated as social thing not something to be exploited for the private gain of an enriched few.
Once my own landlord demanded bank receipts off us because he has so much money coming into his accounts from various houses he was failing to keep track of it, and this was in a house where sellotape was used on the windows to keep the dampness out. We are being ripped off and its about bloody time we did something about it.

Usually, we seek the easiest option. When it comes to housing the easiest option is working more hours, or getting into more debt. Individual acts that sort the problems temporarily for ourselves, but allow them, to fester and worsen. We are increasingly being pushed to a situation where these individual solutions are exerting an unprecedented pressure on us. When that happens, we need to realise the political problem that lies at the root of this housing crisis. To be blunt, property is theft and nothing is more outrageous than leaving buildings dormant around the city to make a quick kill on the market when others go homeless.

If we want to do something about the housing crisis facing us, we need to start facing it head on. Highlighting the ridiculous nature of it, how buildings lie dormant to jack up rent prices, who's doing this and what we can do to sort it. In three words. Squat the lot.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Interview: Noam Chomsky Speaks Out On Education and Power

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the 1950’s he redefined the field of linguistics, but outside of his linguistic work, he has become famed as a political dissident for his work in exposing the reality of American foreign intervention across the globe and in his analysis of the power structures governing the media machine guaranteeing the proliferation of ideas benefiting the established social order and elites. The New York Times described him as ‘arguably the most important intellectual alive.’

Last year in UCD, he received an honorary fellowship from the Literary and Historical Society, when a packed out Theatre L gathered to watch him speak on US intervention in Iraq, the media, the Regan administration and its undermining of democracy in South America. Among his books are Necessary Illusions, Deterring Democracy, Rogue States, Understanding Power and Manufacturing Consent which has become a standard on sociology courses. We managed snatch an interview with him over email for the ever controversial 2004 UCD Freshers’ Guide about how he sees education.

What purpose do you think current education systems serve in Western society?

Multiple purposes. One is to provide students with the capacities to fit into the existing society at some level regarded as appropriate -- different for Yale students who join the Skull and Bones secret society and those who attend state colleges with the goal of becoming police officers and nurses, just to take two cases. Another is to enable students to enrich their lives by exploring human cultural achievements, and to participate in them. Another is to advance science and scholarship. Another is to socialize the costs and risks of economic development while privatizing the profits, by research and development under government contracts; these are core elements of modern economies, including the parts you and I are using right now: computers and the internet. And one reason why one cannot speak very seriously about "free enterprise economies," "entrepreneurial initiative," "consumer choice," and other familiar mantras, except in a rather limited sense.

Do you think third level education is limited by those with a vested interest in maintaining the current system?

In every society, domestic concentrations of power influence and seek to constrain the educational systems. Sometimes this is quite explicit, particularly when it seems that ordinary disciplinary measures are failing. The activism of the 1960s, for example, was very frightening to those in power. One very enlightening illustration of their thinking, which should be widely read, is the first report of the Trilateral Commission, called The Crisis of Democracy. These are not reactionaries; rather, liberal internationalists from the US, Europe, Japan. The Carter Administration was almost entirely drawn from their ranks. The "crisis" they perceived was that the industrial societies were becoming too democratic. Special interests were having too much influence: young people, women, minorities, farmers, workers, etc.; in short, the general population. These normally obedient and apathetic sectors were even entering the political arena to press their concerns, causing an "overload." They therefore counselled measures to bring about more "moderation in democracy," by restraining such unseemly behaviour.

To be sure, there was no recommendation that corporate power turn to apathy and obedience. Quite the contrary. That is not a "special interest"; their interests are "the national interest." At that time, the highly class conscious business world was rapidly escalating the bitter class war in which it is always relentlessly engaged, with a huge increase in the number of lobbyists in Washington, an explosion of ultra-right "think tanks" seeking to shift the narrow spectrum of mainstream discussion very far to the right, domestic and international policies (such as neoliberal measures) designed to reduce the threat of democracy, etc. One of the Trilateral recommendations had to do with the institutions responsible for "the indoctrination of the young," as they put it: schools, universities, churches, etc. They were allowing too much freedom and independence of thought, and that cannot be tolerated in a "democracy," because it might lead to consequences.

Measures have been taken since to overcome these deficiencies in the educational system. One is to increase tuition so that students incur serious debts, a very good disciplinary measure. And there are many others. In moments of perceived crisis, these ideas are actually articulated, but they are always operative to some degree or other.

As an academic you have proposed quite counter- hegemonic theories on the role of the U.S. government in world affairs. Have you ever faced censure within M.I.T. due to this?

Never. MIT has a very good record on issues of academic freedom, not perfect, but very good. That is a striking and instructive fact. Thus in the 1960s, MIT was one of the major academic centers of resistance to the Indochina wars, not just protest but direct resistance, and some faculty members were quite extensively and openly involved: I escaped a probably long prison sentence largely thanks to the Tet offensive, which turned the business community against the war and led to the cancellation of trials. At that time, MIT was almost entirely funded by the Pentagon. But it was very free internally. Those facts merit some thought. They reflect facts about our societies that are not always understood.


If so how have you dealt with this?

It hasn't arisen within the university. Of course it does elsewhere all the time. The best way to deal with it is to ignore it, as much as possible, and continue doing what one thinks should be done.

Students in Ireland and in the E.U. may soon be facing the privatisation of third level education. Many Irish students are opposed to such a move. What is your personal opinion of the Private education system?

The right to education is a fundamental human right, which should be enjoyed by everyone. Providing it is a community responsibility. Forcing people into private schools is highly improper, in my view.

Based on the current political climate, (where all western economies are endorsing neo-conservativism to vary degrees) what do you see as the future of Education?

That's for us to determine, not to speculate about.

Do you think students can have any say in its future?

Sure, as often in the past. College students are, in many ways, more free than at any other time of their lives. They are to some extent on their own, for the first time, and are not yet under the discipline of the job market. Particularly in their own institutions, they can have a substantial effect. Colleges today are far more civilized than they were 40 years ago, in large measure because of student activism. And the same is true of the larger society, in significant respects.

What is your ideal vision of education? Who should be the decision makers in universities in such a system? How do believe such a system can be achieved?

I'm not smart enough to contrive ideal visions. In any institutions, the decision-makers should be the participants, in coordination with the larger community of which they are a part. Within the university that means faculty, students, staff. Exactly how this should work out raises all kind of questions to which one cannot give answers in abstraction from specific circumstances and conditions. I do not know of any reason to doubt that more freedom and democracy can be achieved, without known limits.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

After The Kitten Gig We Talk To Chymera

For years the Dublin axis that is Wealans, Hot-Press and Phantom FM have spoon-fed the tastes of the indie rock hordes in a marriage of convenience that sees singer-songwriters and anything Frames-esque rise into the sort of home spun heroes that every sauve fresher from down the country just has to buy into. Much else is left behind. Lacking any such monolithic axis of cultural filtration, in the world of Dublin electronic where just about everyone is a producer, its hard to separate the chaff. But the recommendations of friends and the free availability of live sets and tracks on sites such as www.invisibleagent.com, can lead to the uncovering of some gems.

One of these being the Cork born Brendan Gregoriy, who delivers lushly layered techno and electro sound-scapes under the Chymera moniker. Some of his Electric City sets you leave you grimacing with suspense, or that elated but fearful feeling of returning home on the first Luas just as paranoia from the party the night before builds in the back of your mind. It's the aural equivilent of staring out the window on a rain splattered day. He weaves samples from Tool over layered beats that induce mode changes as a silent contemplation shimmers along before pulsating hints of electro break over the top to carry you to a rushy dawn. The chimera, a mythical Grecian creature assembled from various animal limbs is an apt metaphor for the muli-layered sampling of his work.The Twelve Monkeys Theme, even the whirring first seconds of synth on the MacGyver theme are thrown in alongside odd time changes, the quavering melodies and an almost acoustic percussion to fuel wonderfully textured layers. This style has led many, like Hot Press, rushing to heap Orbital comparisons on him. “Strangely enough” he admits, “I don't even own a single orbital track or album. in fact I couldn't name a tune. but a few people have commented on similarities, and its very possible that there are, but if so, they are purely coincidental.”

His recent Iterate Recordings release Everybody Dies...Including Horses is a complex emotionally, charged one that sees old material from past Dublin Electronic Art Festival (DEAF) compilations, alongside what Gregoriy considers to be the finest tracks of the past two years worth of production. Amazingly while live standouts like “Hearts In Atlantis” make it on, there's so much quality material that sensory pleasure-dome gems like “Bubblebath” and thumping electro beasts like “Paloozah” have just been dumped. The album title hints at the quiet truth of shattered innocence butactually came from a line in an underrated, ill-fated tv show called 'the tick', based on a comic of the same name.” Chymera seems to bore of his music easily, and is always trying to push it forward. “I like to keep my sets as fresh as possible. chances are if it's a track you know, then its already been caned by myself in many sets previous, and I'm just not interested in playing it every time. but that doesn't mean I won't play it again.”

With that attitude and a link on the Chymera site leading you to the homepage of Tool, where nu-metal meets Radiohead it becomes more difficult to label him. His set last week in support of Miss. Kitten veered totally from what regulr fans may expect but he felt it went “surprisingly well in fact. The first half of my set was quite minimal, but minimal melodic, which is probably my favourite style at the moment. The melodies always go down well at a wide variety of gigs (bar banging outdoor raves!) It's always a good sign when you can pull something like that off. When I dropped in my own productions that I played on CD, the tracks got exceptionally good reactions, which is inspiring and humbling. And also a sign of a great crowd - they will dance and appreciate any good music, whether they're familiar with it or not.”

The Kitten set had left some grumbling, with the obvious highlight a Prodigy track feeding into Aphex Twin's “Windowlicker.” The way Chymera saw it : “to be honest, I saw her first at Sonar 2 years ago and she rocked. She totally captured the spirit of the moment. The 2 times I've seen her since then, she's never quite lived up to my expectations. The atmosphere was electric in the music centre though. Also she will forever be associated with The Hacker and Felix the Housecat, through her collaborations. Both part of the uber-trendy, electro-clash scene, which does pull in the 'trendy' crowd, most of whom wouldn't be seen at normal techno events. I think it's good though, because in fairness she exposed them to some decent techno and electro and they did all seem to enjoy it.” So after the piece of wonder that is Everybody Dies...Even Horses where can we expect Chymera to take us next? “My future endeavours promise to be radically different”. Here's looking forward to that.

Chymera's Everybody Dies...Including Horses is available in these Dublin shops: city discs, selectah, freebird, spindizzy, road records, tower and in cork: plugd. it is also available online from www.roadrecs.com and coming soon, the invisible agent shop at www.invisibleagent.com. See www.chymera.org for more info and live mixes etc.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh Babylon Bwoi..What A Piece Of Brightness

Breakcore as a genre developed relatively organically since the late nineties. Utilising the peer to peer file networks of the net and the DIY ethos of hardcore punk as a distribution mechanism. It bubbled away in the underground gabber sound system scene of the mid-nineties and amidst the pathologically violent sounds of digital hardcore in Germany. A genre with a high producer/consumer contention ratio it veered from the early influences of an extremist axis of Atari Teenage Riot/DJ Scud on the European and the schizophrenic death throes of 'appy 'ardkore in the UK to quickly became a point of shelter for music fans of an extreme bent who delighted in its culminating formulae of mashed up, twisted samples from a disorientating array of different genres.

With an armoury consisting of elements of early rave, punk, ragga, and cheeky pop samples in a DIY explosion of beats mangled on cheap, or pirated software like Sony Acid - a monster was born. Like early nineties 'ardkore it can be tempting to dismiss it as the soundtrack to a shopping centre being invaded by legions of Burberry hat wearers trying to simultaneously eat their own jaw. You'd be mistaken, considering the production qualities of recent developments in the genre. Meshing wrenching, classical string soundtracks to wavering breaks in an intricate hyper edit, Venetian Snare's latest “Rossz Csillag Alatt Született” leaves no one in doubt that we are just going to have to re- assess what is being passed off as proper dance music. After Snares pounded the TBMC to dust last April, its his bad “bwoi” renegade laptop, Planet Mu label mate Shitmat's turn to do the business on an Irish crowd down in Galway on Friday, 26th.

Residing in Brighton, one of the scene's key geographical nodes, this master manipulator of the amen beat and rapist of cheese pop, takes his impetus from Tigerbeat 6's Kid 606 and catapults the genre breakdowns of dance music through a window. With the broken shards he starts afresh. Meshing the DIY impulse of old school techno together with ragga, the delirious kicks of gabber and the infectious breaks of jungle, his 2004 Full English Breakfast release saw the Big Ben chimes, the English Anthem, Aerosmith, the Snowman song and Rage Against the Machine kicked to death by the bastard off spring of an early Prodigy with the pop sensibility of 2 Unlimited. The standout track The 1995 Morris Dancer Massacre dug a hole for itself on many underground DJ charts. His earlier Killbabylonkutz release took the infamous “Babylon Bwoi” vocal and cut its throat across an albums worth of material. From the cheeky Jackson$ with Michaels finest melodies soldered on to a ragga vocal collage, with Ace of Bass Babylon cheekily reworking the early nineties chart monsters. None of this should work, but believe me it does.

Gig promoters Suitementale have being blowing the roof off sweat box venues in Galway with nights of breakcore mentalism for the past few months and all reports are good. After Duran Duran Duran and Donna Summer breaking venues there down to their very last compound, Shitmat's next up to the mark. Support on the night comes from Keanie and NoizeReducation 1 regulars from the Leechrum roster who put on the daring Leechrum crossover fest in August, and Herv, Dublin label Risc's glitchy gameboy guru who has been making overtures towards a harder sound recently. After his Lesser Spotted Burberry Hat EP, with its wink and nod to the excesses of gabber, complete with monged pill-head rantings over the top received regular airplay and frantic promotion by the late John Peel, resulting in Shitmat DJ-ing at the RADIO 1 celebration of his life work, you can be guaranteed that this is a night of ruthless sampling and frantic bpm's not to missed.

Shitmat plays The Boat Club in Galway City on Friday, September 23rd. Tickets are €10 on the door. See http:www.shitmat.co.uk

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Someone Lost Their Junior Cert Art Project

It's meant to be bronze, but reeks of imitation plastic, if this were in papier maché and designed by a fourteen year old it might have something going for it. But as it is, it stands outside Bruxelles with all the quality of a junior cert art project that accidently made its way on to the set of "Honey I Blew Up The Kids" and got morphed seven foot upwards. The collar on it hangs on brittle and ready to be snapped, the hair has the same texture as a head of broccollii while the bass strings could be severed by rabbit headed plastic scissors. If I were the manager of Ad Lib or any of the dozens of music stores around Wicklow St, I'd be well pissed off at the prospect of faded denim rockers from the eighties leaving plecs in the bass-strings in honour of "Philo ooo Philo ooo." Every cheap ass teenager in a band's just going to be down there, pilfering them back to strum out lazy Nirvana songs while screaming at their wardrobe. Sure ya can't even see the abcesses on his bloody feet from the gear.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Candy: A PDF Of A Magazine/This Way Up: A Wall Of A Magazine

Candy: There's no doubt that technology has hugely impacted upon the media world. Before anyone says anything, this isn't going to be one of those rants on the mangling effect of a biased corporate media on current affairs (- there i got it in anyway, says he). The PDF has long been industry standard for shipping documents intent for physical reproduction back and forth across the electronic frontier.

Off the inter-web highway and back to the terrestrial domain, stark black and white photocopies have equally been the fuck-the-industry-standard for zines of all shapes, sizes and ilks. Back in the day, one way of judging the health of a music scene, was through gauging the producer/consumer ratio through counting the number of fan-zines knocking about. This all changed when the net and the use of bulliten boards on line created a ready made form of distribution and a forum for obsession. Over at Backlash there has been a marriage of these new technologies in the production of Richard Seabrooke’s Candy - a magazine designed like one heading for the printers but distributed directly into your email address. An online zine, for you to print off DIY desktop stylee. The advantages of this are obvious.

While on web forums you have to wade through endless amounts of clique based in-jokes, other people with crap humour and the tiresome guilt of just lurking and not contributing,. Then there's the pain of static pages which never change. By the time they do, you've lost interest. Candy is the best of the web, with the option of printing it off on your desktop for viewing straddled across the toilet. Cost-free the designers can wank off to their hearts content with full colour exposure of their ideas, and no requirement to chase ads. If the thing gets a readership base, and there's a rumour 2,000 people already subsribe, it has a ready made format to chase up the ads with.

Aside all that is the magazine worth your "right click save as"? There's been two so far. With the first topping the second in quality. With roots somewhere within the regular nights organised by Backlash in Wax (I'm guessing kids, they give the mag it's webspace....) it betrays something about self-perception within that particular zeitgeist. Unfortunately, without being a cruel auld wench, like Mongrel I’m divided -design and the means of production are the best thing this magazine has going for it - no doubt. As with content, it gives some insight into what you can expect Totally Dublin to be covering three months down the line.

It lazily tries to come to grips with street art by harpering on about Asbestos and by cuting and pasting the front of his webpage in to the mag. It does have some really beautiful spreads on graphic design. Something to relish when its coming for free and without any of the industry jargon you get in mags like Computer Arts. Musically its focus is more Electric Picnic and Sonar than Witness or whatever the hell the kids are calling it now. I have to hold back: this magazines is the work of one bloke, and while it totally apes the trend of publications like Mongrel. It is beautifully designed, and as a testament to the interests and loves of one head, then it gets a props from me. The next issue hits the Backlash site mid September.

This Way Up: Another crowd who are doing themselves no favours with a shoddy web presence but really can be said to have their finger firmly stuck on the pulse of Dublin are This Way Up! Coming from somewhere out of the Blackfortmileu (who recently put on Planet Mu's excellent Chevron to a moribund Eamon Doran crowd) they take the aesthetic of street art and apply it to a comic strip. I fell in love with this from the off - their logo is a stencilled series of arrows around a circle, which can be seen graffitied in the Liberties. The second cover was perhaps the best representation of Dublin I've seen graphically in sometime, as several shades of black and white cranes tower over a defeated Georgian landscape. All framed in a mucky burnt orange flower print wall paper from your granny’s parlour. Inside its common to find ICN scrawled on every wall in the background. The Ha’penny Bridge is out and the garden at St Pats gets a look in once when a character is coming down from mushies, other Dublin city tourist spots are similarly resigned to debauched splendour.

The idea behind the comic is unique. A cabal of street artists, graphic designers and illustrators all agree collectively on a plot line and then take separate responsibility for illustrating various parts of the script. This mag just drives me the compulsive belief that working for a corporation design wise is equivalent to sucking Medici or the church's cock medieval style, or fawning over bourgeoisie wedding scenes in the 17th Century - shit happens - if you produce things like this by night, then fair play. Record stores have always been the best art galleries anyway.

The magazine is chocker full of advertisements, with Tiger beer again playing a special role in prompting the solvency of an edgy Dublin art project. There are other ads from All City, purveyors of spray paint and on the run markers to the Dublin tagging scene, Red Ink the local anarcho bookstore gets a look in as do such regular sponsors as the Hemp Store. Just goes to show that even the oddest of ideas can get financial backing in a city seemingly enamoured with bohemia.

The characters are life-like. A white bearded old miscreant James haunts the old scenes of the city, where tourists stalk. He's like some escapee from Joyce's notes that will never make it into the hands of David Norris. The illustrations that frame his day achingly betray his perception of reality lost as he is in the past, plodding around the tourist brochure style colour pencil drawings of popular landmarks. There's Jimmy: who has scored his ideal job as a postie and sweeps through the city at night on his bike, home to his pirate radio fantasies and beautiful dreamscapes. There's Declan the pirate radio engineer, reminiscing about the first RTS in Dublin in 2002. The design itself drops back and forth from playful Photoshop driven filtered photos and cut n pastes, to stark black and white charcoal. The continuous changing of the guard when it comes to design has left quite a few rather baffled about what’s going on with the script - but stick with it, its well worth it.

Candy is available for download at http://backlash.ie/candy.html while This Way Up can be picked up in the usual spots like Lasar on Georges St or similar haunts. If its too late try your best at http://things.vm.bytemark.co.uk/~thiswayup/index.html

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Welcome To The New Look

The hideous orange back ground and blurry night time Dublin street scene banner has been chucked out the window, and just for good measure we're going to ensure a regular flow of material on the blog for the next while.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Going Underground

At the turn of the millennium, dance music was pronounced dead by its industry and music hacks alike. Dance music in terms of techno and house became stagnant, victim to its own hype in a bland corporate rave process, as the industry waited for a ‘next big thing’ that never happened. Clubs such as the Kitchen, the Tivoli and the Temple Theatre all closed in the wake of this decline and labels internationally, particularly independent ones, struggled as record and CD sales fell down by 25%.

Profit driven club owners and the major promoters in Ireland laid their foundations on bringing in the ‘Superstar DJs’ from abroad, for ludicrous fees and subsequent admission prices, instead of developing the profile of the wealth of great talent emerging from the burgeoning electronic music scene at home. Fixated on new crazes and trends, rather than what is good and innovating, it was no surprise these clubs imploded once the fickle mainstream grew bored of progressive house and discovered the new rock revolution.

Despite the obituaries, techno didn’t die. Impervious to the rise and fall of dance culture and its cult of the superstar DJ, techno remained a constant heartbeat in the real underground. It’s kept alive by dedicated vinyl junkies who prop up the counters of record stores, people in dark recording studios who have day jobs and don’t believe in selling their work as a target-marketed package, and promoters who run nights such as Electric City and Model One. Back to the underground, back to the people who care. The most interesting music was always coming from the peripheries and the past few years have seen a deluge of exciting releases from Dublin’s thriving electronic scene and from home-grown labels such as D1 Records, Frontend Synthetics and U:Mack.

Prolific producer Donnacha Costello has been doing his minimal thing on his own label Minimise and D1 Records for years now, as well as releasing his debut album, Growing Up in Public, on German label Force Inc. Minimal and experiment are key, like on his internationally acclaimed Color Series. David Donoghue covers similar territory and his 2001 debut album on D1, First Course in Hygiene, was heralded by the Sunday Times as “the development the Irish music scene has been waiting for”.

But it’s been Decal, aka Alan O’Boyle Dennis McNulty, who have been central to the progression of electronic music in Ireland. Their debut album Ultramack 004 released in 1994 caught the attention of Andy Weatherall, legendary pioneer of the international dance scene, whilst their 2002 album 404 Not Found, hailed as a landmark album, was released on Mike Paradinas’ label Planet Mu. Versatile and adventurous, Decal (now ex-McNulty) throw different electronic styles into their sets and production, swapping minimal techno beats for an ambient sonic soundscape and then back again. Their sound has inspired daring and exciting releases from a number of knob-switchers and laptop performers such as Phil Kieran, Ambulance, Herv, Americhord, Spectac and Chymera.

This has created the basis for a vibrant club scene, buoyed by the selfless efforts of small time promoters who invest enormous energy into running nights that yield very little, if any, financial return, whose only reward is personal satisfaction and seeing others having a good time. Model One, hosted by D1 Recordings, and Electric City have established themselves as techno’s mainstay nights in the city, while Undercurrent presents live and inventive musical stylings. The introduction of the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival (DEAF) is further evidence of the indigenous electronic music scene’s mounting confidence, providing a platform for Irish artists and DJ’s and a networking opportunity for the Irish and international electronic scenes. Raves are also making a very welcome return to our countrysides.

Electronic music culture started growing with minimal means and independent from studios and investors, taking place mainly in the underground culture until its commercial heyday at the end of the previous millennium, before returning underground again. It has survived because it’s proponents are dynamic and innovative, unlike the hair-saloned chancers with guitars who are leading the so-called rock revolution, regurgitating stateside punk from the seventies and new wave from the eighties. Yawn.

This techno culture has led to a renewed interest in instrumental electronic music that is not necessarily to be played in a club or concert hall. An example of this was BLIND, an audio visual platform of DEAF, including VJ performances, screenings, exhibitions, workshops and multi-media events. Such explorations of the relationship between sound, image and space are infrequent in Ireland unfortunately, though the audio-related arts are at a peak right now on the continent.

During my Erasmus year in Amsterdam, I saw Andreas Otto and Florian Grote from the German Pinipung label turning the Melkweg venue into an enormous sonic installation, making the room literally pulsate, as well as seeing Speedy J and Richard Devine play music composed in Surround Sound 5.1 format, consisting of a 5 speaker alignment around the listener and a sub-woofer for bass sound effects.

Along with the broadening of the electronic music world, personal computer technology is developing at a dazzling speed. For little money if not for free, via open source or even through illegal copying, one can get any kind of hardware and software, such as Traktor and Reaktor. With the technology now readily available, the quality of the material can compete with that of the professional studio, so the opportunities for self-expression have never been greater. Music production is now possible without the mountains of hardware most of us couldn’t afford.

The topic of downloading is now a hot topic and a new business model is taking shape. Artists can now exhibit and sell their work online, bypassing the huge production and promotional costs of releasing their records on vinyl or cd’s. Websites such as http://www.invisibleagent.com/ host a wealth of Irish electronic music and provide a pad for producers and DJ’s to showcase their talents.

Electronic music in 2005 is in a ruddy good state, but has a long way to go before realising any pretensions of those who once said that Dublin had the potential to become known as a city of electronic music. With a greater emphasis than ever on promoting both emerging and seasoned artists, and with the upcoming DEAF to showcase their talents, perhaps 2006 will be the year they become the successful exponents of Dublin’s thriving production scene and receive the international acclaim they deserve. Bring it on!

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Friday, September 02, 2005

A Fan Base Aping Richey Edwards On A Good Day

This being their first time ever in Dublin, and the first tour since the release of their Sub Pop debut “The Woods”, said to be a Sleater Kinney state of the nation address to post-Iraq America, there was quite a hopeful hype built up prior to this one. As well as the usual disappointment that the gig was with MCD rather than an independent promoter like U:Mack, a fair criticism given the political edge many like to attach to the band. It would seem Sleater Kinney are a tough 'un when it comes to touring, so the opportunity to see them live on home turf must be leapt at. Like most bands that at one stage answered the angst of teenagers, you have some vague idea of exactly what to expect from a Sleater Kinney gig. The crowd was made up of people using this gig as an opportunity to see a band they once loved, but now could only be bothered to stand around and fold their arms. There was also a small scattering of young devotees, bedecked of course in the bands uniform – some with “SK” marker-ed across their breast plates - all dressed up thrift shop sophisticated, but just looking like those lost old Manics at gigs in the point screaming for songs off the “Holy Bible.”

Despite all the prior excitement, did they live up to expectation? This just turned out to be another indie gig in the soul-less black cube that is the TBMC when it does indie. Awkwardly timed to end minutes before 10:30, giving management enough time to fling us all out before trying to pack the place back up again for whatever crap Tuesday night club they put on after the gigs. If you are not familiar with Sleater Kinney, and I have only ever slightly dabbled in them – imagine the Riot girl dual vocal mechanism bouncing back and forth between jangley rhythm guitars. Corin Tucker's vocals seem like more potent Patti Smith, whereas Carrie provides the cutesy/angry dynamic of bands such as Bikini Kill. like while the lyrics seem to be shot through with the “personal is political” politics and attitudes of the early nineties Olympia scene.

With just one track off “All Hands On The Bad One” and the encore made up primarily of older material, it was surprising to see the crowd so familiar with the new stuff so soon after it's release and lapping it up they were too. Sleater Kinney are one of these bands that can grip you if you are in the right mood, if the venue was smaller maybe more of their power would have carried, or if the crowd wasn't of such an obvious demographic that'd they'd all clearly moved on from the band. For most of the gig it felt like I was revisiting the less grungy moments on Hole’s “Live Through This”, only half livened up by staccato power-chords and thumping percussion that never exploded in the direction I was hoping despite many assertions that SK's Janet is one of the best rock drummers about. Then maybe thats the problem, this is just rock, and at that they are no L7. Carrie Brownstein managed to pull off some rather impressive Angus Young moments, gripping her SG pogo-ing on the spot, before bursting into the occasional improvisation as the rest of the band followed her leads. One such tortuously long spur of the moment song intro, prompted one young fan to scream “you're just teasing us now.”


Post gig there was the plenty of fan's fawning over how gorgeous the band were on-line after the gig, especially taken as they were with the head turning in unison routine during one of their songs. But the general assessment was divided. Of older fans I knew, most were unmoved including die-hards who's travelled abroad to catch them in the past. To begin with they'd either had no expectations and this was a nostalgia buzz, or it was an expectation of greatness spurned by diminishing marginal returns. The young 'uns? Well they were rapid with excitement after it. Thinking back to the last gig I went to in the TBMC - the Hacker - it's easy to come to the opinion that once you've seen one pulsating act with electro bass lines by the bucket load in a venue, then whatever the gender make-up of a guitar based band it seems it can never fill the same void again, unless of course they are really something spectacular. In the wake of groups like Le Tigre, its worth asking the question does a group like Sleater Kinney have anything to offer us while selling the same essential formulae since the early 1990's?

Sleater Kinney Played The TBMC on August 30th.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to antropheatgmail.com

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