A quick ‘what writer friends of mine are up to’ post

Because there’s some great stuff happening, even in the midst of all the crud. (But isn’t that always the way?)

  • Tom Ewing of Freaky Trigger‘s had a great week — amazingly he ended up on BBC Radio 2 to talk briefly with the rather horrifying Chris Evans about Popular, which I can’t stress enough as being the best long term collection of pop music reflections from a single artist out there currently under way. I caught the live broadcast but you can listen to it here for the next few days, his bit’s about an hour and ten minutes in, apparently. Meantime, FT has started a wonderful new series of posts dedicated to reading all the stories by one of my favorite authors, M. R. James. Given the excellent quality of the commentators this will be a treasure, and I’m already looking forward to seeing how some stories I absolutely adore will be given new insights.
  • Tim Finney, who bounced back from that operation a year ago without a trouble, is part of a new televised panel that will be running down in Melbourne in March, Dancing About Architecture — no word about whether it’ll be streamed or not but I have hopes YouTube or the like will be of assistance. Anyway, more news via their Facebook page and, I presume, their just-started weblog, but for now I just want to publicize this all-too-perfect promo image, one of three done for this:
    Tim Finney feeding his habit
  • Finally, Bill Brewster, co-author of the essential Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and one of the folks behind the excellent DJHistory site, has announced the forthcoming publication of Vince Aletti’s The Disco Files 1973-78, a collection of the many pieces Aletti wrote during that time on the music and the clubs and so forth. In ways, this is the equivalent of the work Tim and Tom have done over this decade, observing and commenting on pop as it emerges and is codified — what Aletti was doing was no different, if in a much different context and with a different readership. But all three sought to capture lightning in a bottle, and while Tim and Tom have the advantage of the Net to draw everything together under one roof, Aletti’s work needed this kind of effort to help make it known again. You can read a sampler of the book here — this already looks like an essential publication, and while I’m not sure of US publication details yet, personally I think I’m going to splurge for it — though only after my birthday!

For music today, it’s off to Idolator and Tim Finney’s latest piece

Sparks are taking the first of their well-deserved breaks during the concert series and I’m currently embracing my Billy Mackenzie fetish once more, so better instead to read Tim’s latest piece over at Idolator on funky house. As ever, the man sums up both the appeal of what’s going on, with a couple of links to boot, as well as actualizes the dilemma of describing a scene and style that is evolving without restraint of expectation even as he types. A quick sample:

In an odd way, it’s the relative conservatism of the music’s starting premises that allow this to happen. House always seems so timeless and perfected that it’s easy to assume it’s also creatively exhausted; and admittedly the specific appeals of this brand of “funky house” are clustered around the style’s gross distortions of its original house template. But, as with speed garage in 1997 or so, it’s precisely that obvious, unthreatening universality that is key here: the phrase “funky house” acts a reset button, opening up a musical space that is shorn of the biases, pretensions and presumptions that inevitably grow up around any established genre and narrow its field of possibility. Few people expect anything in particular of funky house, beyond vague notions of good times and female-friendly singalong tunes; it’s even lost the veneer of glamour it might have once had. Freed from the weight of expectation, producers can get away with a great deal more.

Read, listen, enjoy the present before it becomes the retrospective future.

Some updates on past post subjects

Just a little catchall here on a full day!

  • Tim Finney’s doing very well after his surgery and has resumed posting his best-of-2007 series. You can follow it on ILX here.
  • Michael Carona has returned to work. The atmosphere around there must be ever so happy.
  • Iraq is still there. People are still dying. And stories like this one don’t leave me happy.
  • New Hampshire down, yet more primaries and caucuses to go. Now that things are actually in gear I admit to a little excitement, just because things are so fractured right now. For a variety of reasons I think this is a good thing.
  • Current reading: this. Looks good so far.

Hope your Wednesday is going well!

And a quick Tim F. update

Word has been passed along from his family that the surgery’s gone well, the tumor had not spread and that things are looking very positive indeed. Now there’s a Christmas present! We’ll all see where it goes from here.

Best wishes for Tim Finney

Yesterday Tim mentioned in a note on ILM that he’s facing a bit of hefty surgery:

After a month-just-gone of increasingly severe headaches, this week I was diagnosed with an impressively large, but hopefully benign, brain tumor lodged in my cerebellum behind my right ear.

I’m having this removed on Monday, in what will hopefully be a fairly straightforward operation – the tumor is fairly close to the skull so the surgery will be on the less invasive side of things.

All things being equal I can expect to be fully recovered in about two months. If worse scenarios move from faint possibility to unavoidable reality I will certainly let people know, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason to panic at this stage – I’ve met with my neurosurgeon and the signs are all fairly good in this case.

The positive comments and best wishes have been rightly pouring in. Tim’s perhaps most well known for his regular work over at Pitchfork — here’s a link to many of his excellent reviews — but I’ve had a chance to know him, as have a number of friends and fellow writers, for almost a decade now.

We all got to know him when he appeared towards the end of alt.music.alternative’s run at being a good place to hang around towards the end of the nineties — Tom Ewing had started Freaky Trigger but ILX wasn’t around yet, and we used the newsgroup as a general discussion area. Into it all came this enthusiastic and very well-spoken fellow from Melbourne, Australia, talking about his love for a variety of things with energy and deft observation. The fact that he was only something like 16 at the time made us all feel very old and very jealous. At the time his greatest touchstones could be described as female artistes in a broad vein — Joni Mitchell, Ani diFranco, Kate Bush, Björk — as well as the continuing impacts of post-punk and shoegaze on a wide front. However, as both he and I remember it, one time we were talking either on the board or on private e-mail and he ventured that he really would like to see what dance music was all about beyond the general hybrids he’d already encountered. I strongly encouraged him — and I’m sure I was but one voice of many, and after all he’d already figured out something was up — and soon he was off to the races.

And how. Over this decade he’s easily made his mark as one of the finest pop and dance writers on the planet — the archives of his blog Skykicking, in both its initial and later incarnations, makes for essential reading, there’s his Pitchfork work as mentioned, while over on Facebook he’d recently started a year-end overview for 2007 that shamefully I’ve only just noticed — and in all cases his unbridled passion for documenting things as they happened meshed with an original style all his own, erudite, informed but aimed at all readers rather than an academic subset. Another good recent example can be found over at ILM on the thread for the new Burial album Untrue — I’m not a fan of it beyond general moodiness but Tim’s comments and back-and-forth debates with others not only covers his larger thoughts on the album and creator but the scene it’s situated in and the roots of the music over the last ten years, and much more besides. It’s an instant history lesson and it’s one of many he’s provided — and I still regret we were never able to work out a proper pitch last year for EMP on Disco Inferno as a joint presentation.

Some years back I had the pleasure of meeting him in Melbourne on my brief visit there — I remember one of the first things we spoke of was Mya’s “Case of the Ex,” always a good beginning — and found that in person he’s just as remarkable a fellow, friendly and considered and in love with life. We and others had a fine day out and I’ve since envied people who’ve had a chance to meet with him either in his home city or in his visits to London. One day when I finally get back there we’ll chat again. As his note indicates, he’s sounding very confident about this situation and I’ve no doubt it’ll all be put right. He’s one of the good ones. My best again, sir — and if you’ve not had a chance to read his work, take the plunge. You will find yourself rewarded.

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