Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Thursday, 30 June 2016


09:35 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , No comments

Listening? Good, then continue. 

Lately, I’ve been transfixed by a transmission I have no desire to stop listening to. Crucially, listening, I have no desire, because every desire my heart ever had is expressed far clearer than I ever felt it in what I’m hearing. There’s something about the music on Radio Golha that makes it perhaps the most violent assault on your ongoing desensitisation to sound, a reconfiguring of your most ingrained listening habits, and a factory-default reset of your expectations when you retune to Radio Realworld, like a fallen angel, a wiped-away tear. In an age where every radio station is trying to exceed its own expectations/ RAJAR predictions, Radio Golha is, by intent and necessity, entirely limited in output. It has 200 hours of programming that it broadcasts in rotation. Those 200 hours are a mere fraction of 1500 hour-long programmes recorded over the course of 23 years, 1956-1979, for National Radio in Tehran. The ‘Golha’ (‘Flowers Of Persian Song and Poetry’) broadcasts comprised 1587 transmissions of Persian music and verse, ancient and modern, making use of a repertoire of over 250 classical and contemporary Persian poets, and innumerably more musicians, singers, orchestras. What you hear in the Golha is a combined effort of vision, preservation and innovation that changed the perception of musicians and poets in Iran (music was on the brink of illegality before the programme’s success), and an encyclopedia of traditional Persian music and ideas.

Beyond that, you get goosebumps, an arched back, the starriest romance, the calmest voice, the most cosmic awe. Broadcast from an ex-pat Iranian site in the Netherlands, Radio Golha provides a tantalising snapshot of a touchstone in Persian culture, a touchstone in danger of disappearing off the map. I spoke to Jane Lewisohn, a former SOAS student given a grant by the British Library to save the Golha archive from destruction. For her, the programmes are an untapped treasure trove imperiled by contemporary indifference in Iran.

   “I’ve spent 20 years collecting tapes of the Golha broadcasts from private collectors in Iran and elsewhere and what always shocks me is how dangerously close to vanishing the Golha really were. Private collectors, who taped the shows when they were broadcast, die and their kids just junk them. I’ve still managed to retrieve 1500 hours of original broadcasts. It’s been an urgent process. Which is odd considering the Golha programmes used to literally stop traffic. Every Thursday and Friday night for an hour Iran would grind to a halt so people could hear the Golha. It is a shared national memory that could’ve quite easily, in a physical sense, have simply disappeared. That would be a crime.Iranian music only started using notation in the Twenties. Before then this music was purely passed down ‘chest to chest’ as the Iranians say, heart to heart. Some of the music you hear in the Golha is truly ancient, older than ancient Greek music – of which none survives.”
The 1979 revolution returned the Golha musicians to the same status they held before the Golha programmes started. By the 20th Century, musicians were denigrated as minstrels, had to use pseudonyms to avoid disgrace in everyday life, and developed as musicians under the private, reclusive tutelage of elder musicians who had carried the old songs for their whole lifetimes.

Jane: “Performance in public was unknown, this was a private, court music. At one such private party at the Italian Ambassador’s house in the early Fifties, Davoud Pirnia, the eventual producer of the Golha, hit upon the idea of mixing contemporary poetry with this music and modern orchestration, and actually bringing this music to the public. The first Golha programmes were extremely scholarly, intellectual and highbrow – pretty soon the producers realised the incorporation of modern poets and orchestras interpreting the ancient forms would be more interesting. We’re talking about Fifties Iran here, a nation in which public music was banned, in which 85 percent of the population were entirely illiterate – so the Golha became something the whole nation enjoyed and made time for. It was a sudden supreme flowering of Persian culture.”

So is the music and poetry you can hear in the Golha ancient or modern?
   “Persian classical music, especially because it survived for so many thousands of years without notation, hasn’t really progressed through key ‘works’ or key composers as such. It’s a different notion of music than we have in the West. Here we think of music constantly developing new forms – in Persian music, as well as the Indian and Afghani classical traditions that grew from it, we have an alphabet of music that was laid down millenia ago, mainly by Sufi mystics, and then everyone who plays within that musical vocabulary is free to interpret it. So it’s always an ancient music but it’s always totally brand new and unique to the person playing within that tradition. Tradition isn’t a creative straitjacket in Persian music, it’s the building blocks from which you can make anything.”

   For over 30 years the Golha programmes explored that tradition, committing some of the most astonishing music you’ll ever hear to tape. After a few hours in Golha’s company even the snatches of Persian poetry start making total sense – the cadences and suggestions are unmistakable, and the way they occasionally blend with the full-blooded orchestral or solo piano renderings of old Iranian music makes what you’re hearing blessed with both ancient glamour and postwar/ pre-revolution grit. These heartstopping intros then give way to a longer musical performance within which you might get Sufi setar, a solo ghazal, a Santur-backed torch singer or Khamenchi solo firestorm, or a nomadic love poet backed by the Golha-orchestra. 

   Sometimes only God is meant to be listening.
   Sometimes only a lover. All of it would be silenced by the ‘79 revolution.

   Jane: “Because all of the music played on the Golha comes from the Sufi tradition of Islam, Khomeni was quick to stop the programmes, and pretty much outlaw all forms of musical expression for over a decade. When he finally relented to let musicians create again, he gave only 12 musicians in the entirety of Iran permission to play music – with strict curtailments that they couldn’t play anything ‘provocative’. Inevitably, the love poetry and songwriter tradition died a death – female singers, truly amazing voices who had contributed to the Golha’s most incredible programming, were banned from performance, and still to this day women can’t perform for mixed audiences in Iran.”
   Would you say that this music is now entirely forgotten in Iran?
   “A very small group of musicians are still playing it, but with a disconnected emphasis on technique and abstract academia – that ’chest-to-chest’ communication between elder and learner has gone. The memory is being erased. My final goal is to create an online database of the entire 1500 hours of programming, so people like you, like anyone, can explore this treasure trove. That’s the dream – it’s just sad that it takes people from outside of Iran to maintain this, because for Iranians the Golha are part of the national bloodstream, these songs are iconic to Persian culture. No one had bothered to make sure it wasn’t lost forever.”

If the Iranian revolution was prophetic, then the music contained in the Golha archive sadly isn’t: I hear very little else from anywhere right now that quite matches its mysteries and magic, it’s compassion and transcendence. Last word to Jane. Historical analysis aside – how does this music make you feel? “This music makes me travel. It takes me somewhere inexplicable, incredible – it links anyone with a heart to thoughts and longings as old as civilisation itself. It’s basically one of the most deeply beautiful creations of the last century. It’s up to the world to listen to it, learn from it and preserve it.”

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


"Enoch was right" 
Even a stopped clock etc. 
This is all good but skip to 37 minutes. 

Was I really so foolish to expect this kind of standard of debate in the hastily called EU Referendum? Perhaps so, but perhaps I was just foolish for watching this clip in the first place, especially way back in January, when I was (seems insane to recall such daffy hope) actually looking forward to the referendum campaign, not knowing then exactly how cretinous and contemptuous the campaign would get, thinking it might be bad for the Tories when in actual fact it's been bad for both parties (or rather all 4 parties i.e the two Tory and two Labour parties we have now), and us as the electorate. Politicians would be better judged by actions than rhetoric but when did rhetoric get soooo dumb? It's been a nigh-on 40 year process now & I'd say the biggest moves towards the current glossolalia of guff our great and good generate began in the 80s when Thatcher's govt and Murdoch's media made sure a mutually-assured destruction of nuance and a rush to the bottom of stout commonsense was in order. Any obsessive viewer of BBC Parliament's election-night repeats from every election 60-82 (c'mon I KNOW I'm not the only one) could see that weirdly, once upon a daydream when we had iron and steel and coal, politicians weren't trained to habitually talk down to people, dumb everything down to soundbite brevity and emptiness. Watching footage of the 75 campaign what strikes you isn't just the uncanny similarity of arguments but the different-league eloquence of politicians, the lack of intellectual fear, the collosal regression in oratory since then. Of course spin and lies have always been an essential of political discourse but since when did elegance, clarity, concision and incisiveness have to be written out of rhetorical stances and public debate? This is the full Oxford Union debate from 1975, with just a few days left until the vote. Peter Shore, Jeremy Thorpe, Barbara Castle, Ted Heath, FEEL. THE. HEAT.

A withering condemnation of our current political realities that the above 41 year old vid is by far and away the best EU debate I've seen in 2016. Although I admit I'm perhaps indulging in the same kind of cultural nostalgia for a lost epoch that fires the 'kippers I ask you to note that nothing that is said by anyone in this video could not be immediately understood. This isn't about obfuscation. It is clear and direct talk, intended to be heard beyond the debating chamber but not feeling the immediate need to get out the crayons and the fuzzy felt in awareness of that wider audience. It also demonstrates an innate respect between its combatants - what the debate reveals, in marked contrast to much of the debate in this year's referendum. is that impossibly, back then, politicians didn't think of the electorate as needing slow-talk and head-pats and simpleton sloganeering. All year the seriousness of the referendum, this crossroads moment, has been emphasised by both sides. Yet the way both sides have conducted their campaigns has been clownish, not worthy of us or the supposed immensity of the decision, always emphatic about the 'power' that has been put in our hands while treating the public as nothing more than docile cattle, easily mollified by bullshit promises, easily panniced by scarifying warnings.

In that sense, in making us gruesomely aware that we're getting the campaign and the politicians we truly deserve, the 2016 referendum has undoubtedly been the single most depressing political event of my lifetime. Perhaps inevitably, because it's the only referendum that I have memory of. I don't want another one. I don't like referenda, by definition cowardly derelictions of parliamentary duty, and this one in particular is borne from the grisliest of selfish motives, causing long-term damage to the country for short-term benefit to a single party. There was no EU treaty or proposal that demanded a referendum should take place in June 2016, but the divisiveness of the Tories and the rise of UKIP meant that Cameron needed a quick fix, and so he put party and immediate self-interest before long-term national interest as you'd expect from a PR man. Thanks to a non-legally binding, purely advisory referendum the country has been spun round, force to apprehend itself, forced not only to see itself break apart but actually choose a side and contribute to that divisiveness, whether WE wanted to or not, just so Cameron could buttress his position, or give himself an 'honourable' reason to disappear.

Britain see thyself. Looking at the debate this year, and contrasting it with '75, it's the infantile hysteria from both sides that most characterises both us and our times. It was a hysteria that didn't so much build slowly as start at a frenzied windmilling pitch, tighten and ramp up ever since, encoded into the terms of the debate by the decade-odd suffusion of social media into our habits and our personas and the obliteration of subtlety this entails.  I think it was round about February I realised that the absolutism of the 'debate', the way it had turned not into an adult conversation but an infantile series of monologues,  was destroying nuance, and actually destroying our ability to learn about those issues that are important. Personally, I rapidly gave up on the idea of 'discussion'. Wanting to at least debate the referendum with someone, anyone, I found that even venturing the suggestion that I hadn't made my mind up was enough to cause friends, family, most of whom seem to have made their mind up to Remain before the campaign began, to be appalled at me, 'disappointed' that I couldn't 'see'. That same tone of patrician disappointment I've heard alot in my life, that same exasperated tone that laughs at racist spelling mistakes and racist stupidity and racist poverty while never actually questioning how such opinions, such devastating pretty passes are arrived at, probably because those expressing that disappointment would never be directly affected by poverty, or racism. At all times I looked in vain for constitutional guidance, hints at the ramifications and meanings behind a vote about an eternal principle. Instead I found no-one willing to stop talking about the here and now, no one willing to stop exploiting present ills for political advantage.   The remain camp kept churning out lists of businessmen who were on their side as if that would convince anyone but the most glassy-eyed capitalist. The Brexit side had their own 'experts'. Both sides bleated loud about 'facts' they could never know and futures they could never predict. The campaign, very quickly, settled into its holding pattern, squawking from beneath us, a colossal noisy cajoling. Keep Calm And Fucking Kill Me.

I kept waiting for personality to disappear from the debate instead of steadily impose itself. I kept waiting for prognosticating claims and their counter-claims to quieten down so we could get to the nub of the debate - what power means and with who it lies and how the EU affects it. This never happened. At all times the pressure of the debate was towards discussing short-term economic and political realities. At no point was discussion allowed to become conceptual or principled - rather what was emphasised was the NOW-ness of the debate, how it must be in response purely to current events. The issue of sovereignty, which is  the issue I was most interested in hearing about,  received pitiful lipservice from Brexiteers with vague talk about 'taking control back', nearly always combined with anti-immigrant rhetoric as ever in response to current 'crises', not as an impassioned statement of political principle. The limpness of the way the Leave campaign actually talked about the constitutional realities of sovereignty suggested to me they'd worked fuck all out and would be happy post-Brexit to see the UK further surrender what meagre sovereignty it has left to business and asset-strippers. As a lover of parliament, as someone who prefers my democracy in its most direct and closest form, I also searched in vain for a single remain-camper who could explain to me how any of their listed great-things-about-the-EU could not be achieved by us on our tod. Always the talk was of the present government, not possible future governments, and I found myself getting nauseated by the idea that this vote is basically about what kind of fucking Tory party I want.

Everyone in the debate has claimed a monopoly on facts about the future, 'facts' that (like possibilities about the past) simply weren't logically sound or even factual. Both sides screamed about risk, while never actually crediting the public with the ability to cope with the concept of risk, and how crucial it should be in such a vote.  That tone of endless condescension was also the hallmark of the well-meaning liberal left Remain case throughout the campaign. Much talk about how many people shouldn't be ALLOWED to vote (the old, those resistant to immigration, basically those who think differently from a vaguely internationalist/liberal-capitalist standpoint), about how lovely lovely pluralist righteous London should secede from the UK,  long lectures about business and economics (none of which left me thinking anything but that I'd be fucked either way) from the IMF and the CBI and other assorted cabals. Even suggesting on social media that the EU had plenty to not be proud of, in the treatment of Greece and others, the two-tier discimination against non-EU migrants,  in the sham(e) of the Turkey deal that basically leaves the legal door open to mass-deportations and dehumanisation, led to accusations that I was a freedom-hater, a racist. a Tory, a bigot, someone who wanted to destroy people's lives - always with the assertion, 'why would you want to take away my freedom to travel around Europe?' Not a single Remainer seemed even dimly aware of how their assertions of that freedom might sound to anyone who couldn't even dream of affording travel to a different city let alone a different country, how their positing of a beautiful beckoning Europa where the young and sexy and creative could travel to any point on the Gare De Nord destinations board might actually sound to those of us daily scraping up pennies for bus-fares to another 12 hours of wage-slavery every day. If there was one thing you weren't allowed to be, without being condemned by both sides, it was 'undecided'. If you were undecided, with Remaincamp looking more and more hysterical/scaremongering to Brexiteers and Brexiteers looking more and more deluded/xenophobic to Remain-campers, inbetween them you felt well within your rights to stick your fingers in your ears and plan on staying in and washing your hair on the 23rd, the lookout for the future reduced for a while to the brute realities of a  Brexit accompanied either by a swing right by the Tories, or the rise of UKIP, perhaps with a new name, as a national force for social conservatism a la Front National, pulling working class Labour voters away from Labour until Labour dies roundabout 2021 after an even more devastating election. Whichever way I looked, the referendum increasingly insisted that the future, no matter the outcome, would be horrible. Two Labour parties. Two Tory parties. An entirely depressing notion of ourselves as incapable of sustaining peace, rights, freedoms, without the comforting headlock of the EU. The remain picture would've still not have convinced me, would have had me merely spoiling my ballot or not voting if the Leave campaign hadn't been swimming on such an ever-darkening plateau of ordure. Lead, whether the Leave campaign wanted it or not, by this 'legend', one of the most duplicitous, mendacious shitbags in British politics. His utter cuntishness, even more than Farage, will force my hand in the booth tomorrow. The public love him. Britain see thyself.

Of course, even back in March I expected the likes of Johnson, IDS, Gove, Farage, to quickly start snarling about immigration control, bitch about the free movement of cheap labour that has benefitted so many of them in their 'other' jobs. A more loathsome pack of populist  rats would be difficult to conceive, even if one of the earliest and most persuasive statements about Brexit was actually from Gove (like most persuasive Brexit cases, a positive statement of confidence rather than a negative statement of fear and hatred). Though the left-wing case was barely stated I found myself cocking an ear towards  the likes of Frank "The Undertaker" Field and his gloomy predictions about Labour failing to connect with the working class, I went and saw speeches by Dave Nellist and TUSC in Coventry which persuaded me way more than Labour leavers. Though doomsayers like Field and Cruddas have a vague point about Labour divorcing itself from its core electorate I still smell rats, see without a doubt a desire to simplify and generalise about working-class responses to immigration that simply doesn't marry with my observations at the frontline that most of us are at. In my experience real racism towards immigrants comes almost universally from those classes who don't actually live next-door to immigrants, the middle-class who don't like the idea of those inner-city neighbourhoods where immigrants are placed percolating into their own leafy suburbs. I read with interest about groups of builders busy unionising arriving construction workers in order to combat their poor treatment and wondered whether EU migration policy was just another step in dehumanising labour, another brutal equation of people with capital. As the campaign progressed however it was the unremitting nature of the talk about immigration, Farage in particular endlessly dragging things back to it, that persuaded me Remain would have to be how I voted. People will keep drowning, children will keep starving in inhumane conditions as the EU make shady deals and avert their eyes and yet I will still have to vote Remain. I am not a success for the Remain campaign. I am the failing of the Leave campaign, a campaign so squalid, so wretchedly small-minded and divisive it has me voting for an institution I don't trust, for a relationship I see as helpful and empowering only to the already powerful. A vote utterly without joy. 

Without joy, with a slight sulkiness that I've been forced to vote Remain because of who I'd stand with if I didn't. A sulkiness that the Leave campaign was so comprehensively hijacked by Little-Englander racist fucknuckles like Farage. A sulkiness that Europe, and being a European, as I proudly am, had become over the course of the campaign entirely equated with the EU, with supporting all those unelected rich white men who control it.  A sulkiness that even though I consider the EU a non-progressive shoring up of the same old interests in the same old hands, I simply can't vote to leave when contemporary political realities make such a choice stomach-turning and repellent. Eventually your gut has to kick in, no matter what your heart says. I cannot vote for anything that even remotely would make Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Britain First, BNP, UKIP, the Tory right, happy. It's a shitty reason to vote the way I'm going to vote, but the campaign has broken me, has thrown my pretensions to making an intellectual choice on the bonfire of its lividity, its witless monotony and cant, a campaign that has reduced this vote to the pitiful status of another general election, where like any member of a minority has always done, I vote not from hope but purely tactically, purely from fear. And I vote knowing that we have all learned a bit more about ourselves this year. We are nationally proud of our belligerence, doubtful of doubt, sure that we can quickly, easily learn everything and know the facts, hungry for prevarication so long as it shores up our opinions. We are torn apart, perhaps fatally. We are deaf as a post, perhaps terminally. Britain see thyself. 

Monday, 20 June 2016


Part 1 of several - everything I've been digging thus far in 2016 in one pocket-sized hour of sound.

1. Sittin By The Radio ft. Lauren Oden by ADRIAN YOUNGE
2.End Your Life by SONANCE
3.The Banjo ft. Westside Gunn by ROYCE DA 5’9
4.Runt ft. Stinkin’ Slumrock by BISK
7.Asked About by ODDISEE
8.Fat Albert by CURREN$Y
9.Black Sinatra by NICK GRANT
10.Hornsey Dub by BATTERY
11.Cataracts by NEDLOG ERA
12.Tenchu (BBGDub) by GEN. UCHIHA
13.You Dig Raps by MONGRELS
14.The Five Thing by THE HELIOCENTRICS
15.Savage (Freestyle) by LIL’ SIMZ
16.Look Who It Is by LEVELZ

Thursday, 16 June 2016


(2013, reprinted from GodIsInTheTVzine.co.uk without permission, hope it's ok Sean) 

In your capacity as a music critic, you are known for your intolerance of reviews you see as 'boring'. What's your criteria for boring or engaging?

“Well, that doesn’t come from any ‘capacity as a music critic’ at all; it comes from being a reader and a listener first and foremost. When I wrote that blog about the NME I was totally shocked,  (as I’m always genuinely surprised that anyone, particularly successful writers,  give a toss what this old knacker writes)  by people’s shock – this idea that critics shouldn’t criticize other’s writing but that was exactly how I started out in this malarkey, writing to the music press to criticize them.  I’m still really just another powerless reader. As a reader & listener you develop a taste for writers as you do for music. Simply put - I like writers who feel like friends, who give you a laugh. Writing that makes you feel better in some way for having read it. Writing that talks to you as an equal, not someone who’s there to be dazzled by the astonishing wit & smartness of the writer (as a rule writers like this tend to be neither smart nor witty). A flaw of mine is that I definitely judge people by what they make, I find writing, in particular music writing, actually reveals a truth behind people way more than any other art-form because music cuts right to who and how we are – it’s the playing out of a person’s moral sense. The expression of taste in music should tell you a lot about the person writing it, for ill or good, in the style of it, and in the generosity – where that’s directed. If it’s directed towards the writer themselves that’s probably going to be terrible clever-clever shit that reveals nothing but the writers own emptiness of thought and overabundance of smarm. As a reader you have to feel that the writer has a right to his or her opinion and that you want them in your home and head, not that they’re the kind of unfunny wanker you’d want out immediately. The generosity in the writing has to be towards the reader, not by eliminating style in favour of ‘accessibility’, but in not underestimating them or pre-judging them and being honest about everything you think. I am not some bellyacher about ‘passion’ missing in music writing at the moment – I just miss laffs and mind fuel – passion shouldn’t be used as a mask for inexactitude or wooliness. It’s that crucial thing of finding that point between being informative and imaginative but also expressing WHY you care, what stake you have in the music. Too often in rock writing I get the feeling writers would rather be doing anything else than writing and even more fatally, feel massively superior to the reader. Hate that shit and always have. Writing is a performance. I read too many people who shouldn’t have been allowed near the stage.
    Of course, basic editing skills are crucial, being able to not be precious and cut things brutally and being rhythmic with prose is all-important as a writer, and you learn those skills through being a good reader who can absorb other people’s styles but find their own. I’m not entirely sure I’ve managed that yet. As a reader it comes down to hearing a real persons voice, not just more keyword-heavy content, and wanting to listen to what the writer has to say. Knowing it’s them after a few lines, wanting to be in their company. Because I’m old when I say this stuff I’m accused of harking back but I just think that’s massively condescending to young writers, hugely defensive and defeatist. All writers should want to do more than just pay the rent, and all writers should occasionally question their purpose. I’m sure that for the people within the nexus of buddies that is the London ‘creative sector’ it’s difficult to be aware of how cut off they are - as an outsider it’s just always seemed like a bubble that benefits all within it but that ill-serves British music massively. Even if it’s a fiction to think critics can change the culture they’re criticizing I’d rather read writers who at least partly think they can, not just that they’re at the teat end waiting to get fed.
   It saddened me a lot after that Peace review that my perceived inability to make a living from writing was used as a way of dismissing what I said, and I bitterly resent the idea that I can’t turn in copy to word count and deadline. I’m a professional and still getting paid to write as I have been since 1993. I work to tight deadlines and word counts all the time – this notion that I’m just some mad old fucker jabbing at a keyboard until the wee smalls . . . I’ve got to be up every morning to go to work and get the kids to school. Massively patronizing also, I thought, that idea that cos I’ve got a ‘proper job’ I’m not allowed to critique culture anymore or that if I do I’m somehow raging against my unemployability & powerlessness– that response really revealed to me what a lot of those journalists really think about their readership, and what they really think about themselves. I don’t know, it just wouldn’t ever occur to me or anyone I know to criticize someone cos they’re poor, or take the piss out of someone cos they’re not getting as much work as you, or not listen to someone cos they’re too old. I found it quite upsetting but ultimately have to accept that if music writers think everything’s tickety-boo with music journalism at the moment they must be right & I’m probably best off out of it, and it’s confirmed something I’ve been thinking about for a long time about giving up soon and disappearing. What I would say though is that pieces like the Peace review, the NME thing – I would never dream of pitching them to anyone, or hoping for a commission or payment for them, let alone proffer them as some kind of writing model. They are what they are – blogposts. I’m kind of sick of the idea that those pieces have created i.e that all I do is rant. I also write about music I love, and try and listen to pop and write my thoughts, same as always, I’m not always slinging shit at people like some irate gorilla. If I want to write about Nick Drake or HMV or singles reviews of what I’m loving at the moment - something different in tone - I will but it doesn’t seem to register with those who want to caricature and misread me. My blog is a blog and is precisely where I feel I should be ignoring constraints, yet still pruning where I see fit, it’s my black little garden. I always get a panic attack 2 hours after posting (I always post in a rush, before doubt hits) where I re-read it and think ‘no, you can’t say that’ and that’s normally a tip-off that I might be on the right track. I can’t pay myself a wage for it so why be counting words or watching my lip? I was genuinely saddened that Dorian Lynskey finds me such an embarrassment cos I’ve liked his writing for a long time, it was his general tone of embarrassment with the sheer fact that I still write, that I didn’t crawl off and die sometime in the last decade - that really upset me. The rest of them . . . if I wasn’t annoying them I’d be worried. Yes, there’s plenty of ‘wry’, ‘illuminating’ writing out there but there’s so much amazing fucking music that needs a little bit more than that, and there’s a government & a pliant silent music industry we have that needs attacking. I see no political purpose or drive in music writing at the moment and that’s a real dereliction of duty I think. That said,  judging the health of music writing on what you can find at the NME or newspaper sites is a bit like judging music just by what gets released by labels. It’s not like that anymore. There’s shitloads of genius stuff going on without any of those ancient strictures/structures. Eventually I hope writers, like musicians, can genuinely find a d.i.y way that pays. Until then I wish the writers I love would get more work than the writers I don’t, just like I wish the bands I love would get more love than the bands I don’t. Because I’m a reader, and a listener.”

Would you say the state of tedious white-boy indie is in even more of a parlous state than when you railed against it while writing for Melody Maker?

“No, it’s not in a parlous state, it’s doing alright, it’s got so much support, it’s doing ‘intimate, homecoming’ gigs and it’s ‘appeal is becoming more selective’ maybe but so long as labels keep signing it and writers keep writing about it it’ll be fine. For me, labels are not my go-to place for music anymore, it’s soundcloud and mixcloud and bandcamp and youtube. Musically, lyrically, spiritually and politically that Arctic Miles Bugg shit is like fucking kryptonite to me. Until the music press cuts its umbilicus with it, demonstrates some discernment at least, and really starts fairly but firmly engaging with the music made by the whole country and all its people I don’t think the music press will ever attain its true, almost revolutionary, possibility. This is not harking back, it’s harking forward. A diverse music press would be a better, more fit for purpose music press. And the writing and music would improve if more people were willing to read and write outside of their comfort zone. I certainly hope for  a great white rock and roll band again, a unifying force for good like Pulp were, but I also know that a music press that rejects diversity, like Melody Maker did in its final demise, is a music press that’s fatally fucked . I just don’t see why time and time again we have to keep liking horribly derivative shit and pretending it’s gold, and I don’t see why lame pastiche of such tired flogged-dry sources repeatedly gets so much support and attention. For me it’s a deliberate shutting out of a whole swathe of British music, British people and British culture in the desire to chase and keep a demographic the music press would be best off challenging a little. Losing a few reactionary lads, of which there are many in the readership of the music press, would be worth it if the music press could be turned into a real vibrant vivid cultural force for all young people into music. I won’t say ‘again’ because I don’t think it’s ever fulfilled that possibility. It’s unlikely at a time where there’s so much fear of risk but until that happens the constant boosting of that shriveled withered bigoted corner of UK music is all just more Mark Sutherland-style racist fuckwittery as far as I’m concerned. Playing to the kind of twats who thought Noel Gallagher was right about Jay-Z. I don’t see why wankers like that should be kowtowed to.”

How have the combined effects of the London riots a couple of years ago and this years' killing of Lee Rixby affected race relations culturally speaking in the UK, in your view?

“In both cases, beyond the people directly affected, life was made more difficult for minorities in the UK. Race relations, between the overwhelming majority of people, are fine. Race relations, as reported by the right wing press and believed by the divide-and-rule likes of the Tories, UKIP and the EDL are at constant breaking point, something that incidents like 7/7 & the killing of Lee Rixby provide ‘back-up’ for. All I have to go on is my experience and in the main, at work and in the street and among friends, race-relations are fine and not adversarial. I will say though that the constant pitch of rhetoric against immigration and the endless promotion of spurious notions of Britishness is creating an atmosphere and environment whereby minorities in this country are being told louder and louder that they’re a ‘problem’ to be dealt with and ironed out. Music and art can perform a vital function in answering some of the questions young people have about their senses of identity and self, or at least in providing an equally confused mirror wherein anger can find its reflection. That kind of music is absolutely marginalized at the moment and a lot of young people will find those answers and those questions about their past, present and future being answered by other, far more dangerous people. That worries me quite a lot, because I remember how angry and confused I was growing up and how much writers like Ralph Ellison and A.Sivanandan and bands like Public Enemy, Fugazi, Consolidated meant to me, helped me and sent me onwards to learn more. Music, because it’s essentially suggestive rather than dictatorial can perform a vital function by raising more questions, encouraging wider reading and understanding – it’s essentially communication over divisions of time, race, class etc and I would argue essentially an anti-racist activity apart from extremist exceptions. I’d rather people schooled themselves with the indefinite, inspirational answers of music than have their anger answered by the definite, dead-end rhetoric of gurus, imams, priests, politicians and other dangerous psychopaths.”

 You have a fair claim to be Coventry's most (in)famous resident. What's your opinion on one of the city's past Great White Hopes, indie-rock trio The Enemy?

“Firstly, no way am I ‘famous’, I’m some guy with a blog and a tiny toehold in the media. The writers I’ve criticized, the bands I’ve criticized are all winners really and far more famous than I could ever dream of being. Bar the tiny tiny world of music writing no-one in Cov or anywhere else has a clue or gives a shit about anything I do. For what it’s worth,  I militantly chose to remain in Coventry when all kinds of people in London were telling me that if I wanted to stay in ‘this business’ I’d have to move down to the big smoke. Part of that decision to stay here was down to shyness and sheer fear, partly down to a dim awareness that if all my friends were other journalists, PR people, people in bands, my writing would go down the tubes. I think I’d feel utterly paralyzed as a writer if I ever felt I was ‘part’ of anything. Coventry’s home, the one place on earth I feel comfortable in, I have family and friends here and as technology’s changed it’s become increasingly irrelevant I think, living in London. If anything in terms of work outside of London, live reviews all over the country and elsewhere it was actually a benefit not being from London.  As for the Enemy, like most Coventry people I’d just think they were rubbish knobs if they didn’t so consistently try and use their Coventry connection as proof of some kind of bullshit ‘mean streets of Cov’ attitude. It shows a total lack of understanding and a cynical exploitation of the city and so I’ve mentally downgraded them from just being twats to actually being cunts.  They’re playing shows and making money and their false narrow portrayal of ‘working class life’ is going to continue to be boosted and supported by the press. But don’t expect anyone who knows jack shit about music to take them seriously. They’re just consistently stolidly dull as fuck, that’s the main thing to remember. That kind of music is just so fucking boring.”

 Could you respond to these cues with some one-word answers?

 Westboro Baptist Church: cunts
 Anders Brevich: cunt
 Syrian rebels: dunno sir
 Nick Clegg: cunt
 Coldplay: cunts
 A pleasing symmetry there. Although actually all them could be summed up with the same 5 words. “Future Vice Magazine Cover Stars”

 You have written a good many words about music in your time. Could you give your top five desert island discs – five singles, and five albums...
1.      Upside Down – Diana Ross
2.      Teardrops – Womack And Womack
3.       Ghost Town/Why?/Friday Night Saturday Morning – The Specials
4.       Give It Up Turn It Loose 7” version – James Brown
5.       Good Times (full 12” mix if possible) - Chic

(impossible but these 5 would somehow remind me of all the others I’d have to leave behind)
1.     Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
2.     Throwing Muses – House Tornado
3.     Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
4.     Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure
5.     Miles Davis – Bitches Brew



Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Sometimes, like a retired bricklayer peering through a wire-mesh porthole in the temporary wall around a construction site, I peer back at the world I used to work in, mainstream music journalism, just to see how it's getting along. I nearly always regret that glance but perhaps this piece, more than any other, widened my eyes with the realisation that the people who populate that world now, are not my kind, are not my type, are a different new breed. The sound of an inexhaustible entitlement, a braying, whiney, superficially-lol but utterly humourless in the soul voice, a voice that I hear when I go out, and the major reason beyond sheer poverty that I stay in.

Here, see if you can read the whole thing, a review of Flume's "Skin" from The Independent. Same fucking paper that sacked Pricey.

Read it, hear that voice, it's the modern age, and if you bristle at it thank God that you will be leaving the world sooner than the writer.
This is all we have left.
The 00s will never end.
The steady, total gentrification of pop and its discourse is all we have left.

I'm not saying the writer shouldn't write. Indeed it's rare that copy this stylised makes it through anymore. I can't applaud it of course, cos it's fucking unreadable shite, and though it's like this guy is talking to/at you, you don't actually want this prick anywhere near you . Cherish it though because what it really makes you apprehend is that culture, and its critique, is not about old antiquated feckers like us anymore. It's about kids like this, and kids who can read stuff like this without vomiting their innards out. They're the only ones who can afford to do this anymore. Increasingly they'll be the only ones who can afford to make music at all. They're already the only ones who can afford to call themselves a writer.

It's their world, it's slimline and connected and we dishonour it with our continued shabby existence. Keep hiding.

It's their world now.

Friday, 10 June 2016


11:30 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , 3 comments

The sleeves have been a dead giveaway haven't they? As have the shots of the reconvened lads. The thought that John Squire looks at the sleeves of the two comeback singles thus far and is happy is quite staggering really. The sleeves look like they were knocked up in about 20 minutes in MSPaint by a particularly bored intern. As such they summate the laziness, cynicism and cheapskate bankraidness of the Roses 'comeback' perfectly. The equally revealing new shots of the Roses show middle aged men having a laugh. Nowt wrong with that but if the modus operandi of making new music was simply to say bye to the wives and kids, tool along to a studio, smoke shitloads of weed and jam . . . well, I could say that's not going to work anymore but clearly it will work for them, as there's so many dewy-eyed nostalgic pricks out there willing to waive any old shit they churn out through, giving it a pass cos it's by these 'legends'. The fans know this. The Stone Roses themselves know this. And I think it's that utterly naked cynicism, the purely mercenary intent, that's so startling about these singles. It's the only way to explain songs of such dreary, unedited flabbiness. Utter contempt for the fans, safe in the knowledge that the fans will bend over backwards to like anything the Roses can still muster.

"Beautiful Thing" is not as bad as 'All For One' but really this is akin to saying Hitler wasn't as bad as Stalin, or dysentery is a 'massive improvement' on smallpox. We're still talking about a track that sounds like that most horrible combination, a jam that should've been cut to fuck, but a jam that's been recorded with a slick, horribly 90s sheen to eliminate any actual tactile rawness or feel. Given the paltriness of ideas on display, it's also 6 minutes too long. What 'saves' it in the ears of those desperate fans who'll cling to ANYTHING they can remember, at least as a sign of life, is the hook. It's a shit hook, an obvious hook, a catchy hook in a chlamydia kinda way, and the Roses pootle around waiting to reiterate it whenever they can. The pootling is utterly dreadful. There's a guitar solo from Squire that's so appallingly inept and awful you just can't believe they're surrounded by so many yes-men that no-one sidled up and had a word in his shell like 'sorry John, you might want to think about going for another take of that'. Jaw-droppingly bad. Mani & Reni are locked in to their usual groove, aiming for Liebezeit/Czukay spaciness and punch but flailing a little like an offcut even Kula Shaker would reject. Brown's voice sounds autotuned a little, and when its melodic failings become in danger of becoming too apparent the producer smartly multitracks the fuck out of it to fill out the sound. There's a heavily-reverbed section that threatens to be interesting for a millisecond before it all plummets back into the same plateau of ordure the rest of the song bubbles along in. To nail what's really wrong though, just dig the lyrics and Brown's vocal. In the verses he rap-sings like fucking Robbie Williams, like what he is essentially - someone's auld dad trying to sound relevant. That limply attitudinal 6-syllable-then-5-syllables-EMF-Unbelievable-meter all bad singers cop when they're trying to sound like they still live in a street and not a gated community.

Sister must have missed ya
I don't wanna steal your shine
There's method to my madness
Yes, there's reason to my rhyme

It's a beautiful thing
And I say bye bye
Hear me
It's a beautiful thing
So I stay so high

Brown can't be happy with these surely. The Ian Brown of 89 would vomit at the thought of what the Roses have become. But the pervasive feel of 'that'll do' suffuses everything the reunited Roses have given us, the rather sad reality that lame attempts at reconjuring a loose-limbed e'd-up wicket-keeper-hat-wearing vibe are really all the Roses' collective lack-of-imagination can manage. I don't resent the Roses their bankraid, I hope this secures them the pension they're after. But don't anyone pretend that what's going on here has anything to do with music. 'Beautiful Thing' and 'All For One', in their lazy attempts to sound like old Stone Roses records, may well win over some fans dopey enough to think the Roses were ever just about the music. There'll be plenty of other fans out there who see both these comeback singles as a massive betrayal, a shitstain on their recollections. 

Not me you understand, I always thought they were cack. For me, these singles only confirm that. But I take no joy in seeing people's fond memories being trashed like this. Honest. 2/10

Thursday, 9 June 2016


09:13 Posted by neil kulkarni , 1 comment
cos it's great and already picking up comments about it being old fashioned from young idiots

 because last year's 'Away' EP was sublime and this is almost as gorgeous - Tarnation vocals meets Windy & Carl sonics = pleasure centres caressed deeply.

CURREN$Y Bourbon St. Secrets

cos the seemingly-endless series of projects Curren$y has bought out this year have been his most sublimely consistent set of aceness since he first emerged (make sure you get 'Carrolton' and 'Weed Instrumentals' as well).

CONWAY Reject 2 

cos if you're not listening to Griselda Gang you're dead to me


because in a year in which High Focus have already given us astonishing albums from Onoe Caponoe and Ocean Wisdom, this is the oddest of the bunch and should keep you hooked until the snows return.

ELZHI Lead Poison 
because you've been waiting what seems like aeons for new shit from Elzhi and it's here and it's incredible.

50ft WAVE Bath White 
because you love how unhinged and unleashed and livid Kristin Hersh sounds in 50ft Wave, a sheer joy in the fury that goes from her guitar playing to her singing to her songwriting itself.

FLATBUSH ZOMBIES 3001: A Laced Odyssey 

for the wake and bake laziness and the heavy heavy Pharcyde vibe

FRISCO System Killer 

for the confidence and the polish and Shola Ama and the shades of Saxon Sound

GAIKA Security 

because you mustn't let hipsters put you off stuff - this is cinematic, synaesthetic, abstract, blissful, a twisted refraction of his sources. 


for some of the Alch's most twisted droney productions yet + Havoc absolutely fearless

KALO  Calvary 

because goddamnit I'm ADDICTED to everything coming from Nedlog Era and their fellow Stone Mountain psychonauts right now (Part 1)  

K-DEF The Unpredictable Gemini

because yes it's THAT K-Def, of Real Live fame and he still seems incapable of giving his beats anything but the heaviest thump, the snare and kick a dancer's delight of humming depth and neck-snapping treble, even as the loops are such a dreamy-lush delight. Someone get this guy working with rap's biggest names right now — he's lost none of his grace and power. 

LMNO Motherboard 

because out on the edges hip-hop is getting even fucking noisier, darker, angrier and more fucked up (Charles Hamilton, Conway, Westside Gunn, Slayter) — as heard on this latest from ex-Visionarie LMNO - dutty dutty dutty beats, a filthy bass-saw as thick as a whale ommelette, freaky wibblery and loops sparking off in every periphery. Love it.


because with Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Large Pro and DJ Muggs on desk-duties you know this is going to be dated yet essential.

 because goddamnit I'm ADDICTED to everything coming from Nedlog Era and their fellow Stone Mountain psychonauts right now (Part 2)


"Last seen urinating on your left leg" — everyone on top form here hinting that their ongoing '730' project could be one of this year's UK rap essentials... sheesh man this is a GOLDEN year for UK rap. Don't miss out on a single facet of it.

QUELLE CHRIS Lullabies For The Broken Brain 

 Because, let's face it, that's exactly what we all need right now.

ROYCE DA 5'9" Layers 

because, as the 'Trust The Shooter' mixtape suggested, this is way too good to be ignored. A great, vibrant, hilarious, lively, lyrical LP. Get it.

SLAYTER  Dirty Game EP

because fuck you, that's why.

SMOKE DZA George Kush Da Button (Don't Pass Trump The Blunt) 

because it's funny and fierce and sharp and fuck Donald Trump obviously.

SONNYJIM Mud In My Malbec

'too weird to live, too rare to die'- he's right y'know. Superbly darkened, deranged rap from Brum.

SPAIN Carolina 
because shitty sleeve aside there are moments here as beautiful as anything from 'Blue Moods Of Spain' that first made you love Josh Haden's band 2 decades ago

SPARK MASTER TAPE Silhouette Of A Sunken City
 because if you're in the know you'll have been waiting years for this and if you're not in the know you need to get in the know, NOW.

SPECTRE The Last Shall Be The First 

because those weirdbeard Wordsound illbient freaks never went away, they just keep knocking it out.

THE UNDERACHIEVERS It Happened In Flatbush

because when *itchfork are calling it an unimaginative TDE rip off you KNOW it's gonna be ace.

VARIOUS ARTISTS  Boombox 1 (Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro And Disco Rap 1979-82)

Because summer's here and the time is right for shrimping in the street boyyy

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


(written in 2011, suffice to say things've got no better since, quite the reverse in fact) 

Hey. Wake up. You fell asleep. I’ve been for a walk, down the hill, up the hill, through the entry, past the old school and home again. S’the same walk I took an hour after my dad died, trying to clear my head, finding a daze I’ve tried to stay in since, worried of what horrors lie in self-realisation. Tonight, on balance, has not been good for me. Dawn will be here soon. My friend came whilst you were out, popped in, he’s gone now. He recommended a note by way of explanation. Read it back to me.

Monday, 6 June 2016


Been a while but uploaded another one of these - no mixology, no talking, just music, for use at work home and play. There's shedloads of stuff on my mixcloud page to explore, dig in.