Fin, Talabot's classic house and modern music mix has both an urban and knowing sensibility that produces dance all over my body. Nevertheless, a subtle play on what is fast becoming the most creative space for the future.
Never tell John Talabot his music's cozy. In a recent interview with Juno Plus,
the Barcelona-based producer expressed confusion over many of the
labels applied to the music that has made him such a presence in
electronic music over the last few years—"tropical" being the most
obvious. He insists that he always thought of his productions as kind of
shadowy. It's an interesting objection because you can hear what he's
saying: There's always been a sly melancholy, a kind of sonic withdrawal
and itchy discomfort, to Talabot's material that belies the shimmer at
Regardless of how you view these timbres though—and, clearly, one man's
beachbum anthem is another's depressive tearbait—Talabot's been
omnipresent in sets, mixes and compilations for about three years now.
Across well-caned favorites like "Sunshine," "Matilda's Dream" and
"Families" on labels like Permanent Vacation, Young Turks and Spain's
Hivern Discs, Talabot's established his own brand of sandy haired
electronica that owes as much to the jumpy Balearic strains of fellow
Spaniards like Delorean and Hamburg microscopic deep house as they do to
the melodic swellings of early to mid-00 heavies like Kompakt and Get
Marked by his keen sense of songcraft, Talabot's tunes are just as good
(if not better) for country day strolls or evening reading than peak
night hedonism. And with his debut album, fIN, finally arriving
on Permanent Vacation, it's obvious from the outset that he's
constructed a fifty-odd minute piece of music as cohesive and
narrative-oriented as some of the best electronic full-lengths of the
last few years. There are stepbacks and detours—the ambient whirl of
"H.O.R.S.E." and the garbled dystopic blur of "Last Land"—that lend
moments of sonic reprieve against the album's heartiest tracks. Fellow
Spaniard and recent Permanent Vacation standout Pional turns up on the
sultry vocal-bent house of "Destiny," with its brief lapses into
bell-laced ambience that almost resemble Pantha du Prince, while "Depak
Ine" opens with brief night calls—birds, frogs, all manner of cries
unseen—before slipping into an eclipse of pitch-shifted vocal blurs and
fuzzy synth blurts (surely one of the songs Talabot had in mind when
referring to the album's blacker hues).
Barcelona house producer John Talabot has a knack for capturing the very
specific kind of bliss associated with dancing on Mediterranean beaches
at the height of summer. A penchant for rising chords means that all
his melodies make you feel like raising your arms and face to the sun.
Talabot also has arguably the greatest sense of build-and-release in dance music
since prime Booka Shade: ƒin is full of incredible tension-releasing
moments, from the extended break in Destiny to the entrance of Missing
You's bouncing bass. The generosity of Talabot's sound can also be
ascribed to the amount of disparate ingredients he puts to use in
service of his aesthetic – particularly the variety of human voices on
display. There are wordless chants and bright, optimistic pop hooks; an
echoing scream is plucked from a horror film and deposited in the middle
of a carnival on Oro y Sangre, while on So Will Be Now, cut-up vocals
coalesce gradually and gorgeously into recognisable language. All of
humanity seems to be here – and it's busy celebrating being alive.
The Catalan producer hails from a sound stable saddled with the early
moniker ‘Balearic’, named for the collaborations conjured up between he
and his Basque country brethren – check out his shimmering remix of
Delorean’s “Sunshine,” and his mate from Madrid, Pional’s many vocals on
Fin. His oozy, woozy take on ambient house evokes the sun sinking below Barcelona’s rooftops, so effortlessly captured in his EP Families - yet save for the song titles, somewhat surprisingly there’s no Spanish on the album.
But for all the deliciousness and delicacy, the record is interlaced
with moments of darkness – something Talabot is determined to cling to.
‘Why am I always tagged as house, or tropical or happy music when I’m
making dark tracks? ’, he said in this interview. ‘I don’t understand’.
Perhaps that’s why opening track “Depak Ine” begins in the way that
it does, with a haunting jungle-like atmosphere where the skittering
hoots and hollers of unseen wild beasts are offset by a pounding
rhythmic drumbeat. This seven minute extravaganza fully immerses the
listener into the record as layer upon layer is gently spliced together,
until all the slivers make up a complex, melodic slice of sound. It’s
an method that’s equally well wielded on album closer “So Will Be Now,”
that cuts samples of Pional’s vocal with a groovy, bouncy bass and tight
Better at layering than any fashion editor, is Talabot. In the same
Red Bull interview, Talabot admits he likes to sample – ‘it’s something
more creative’, and this is exemplified on ”Last Land.” There are sounds
you recognize and yet can’t place – it’ll make you gurn in that
desperation to identify it – rounded off by a sequence that recalls Arabian Nights, all twinkly bells and twisted synths.
I hardly ever watch network news, but I happened to stumble across
this appalling report on NBC's "Rock Center" last night. In
this clip, reporter Richard Engel blames this week's anti-American violence on "conspiracy
theories" that Arab populations have been fed over the years by their
rulers, including the idea that the United States and Israel are colluding to
control the Middle East.
It's no secret there are conspiracy theories circulating in the Middle
East (as there are here in the good old USA: Remember the "birthers?")
I've heard them every time I've lectured in the region and done my best
debunk them. But by attributing Arab and Muslim anger solely to these
ideas, Engel's report paints a picture of the United States (and by
implication, Israel) as wholly blameless. In his telling, the U.S. has
nothing but good intentions for the past century, but the intended
beneficiaries of our generosity don't get it solely because they've been
by their leaders.
In short, Operation Cast Lead never happened, Lebanon wasn't invaded
in 1982 or bombed relentlessly for a month in 2006, the United States
turned a blind eye towards repeated human rights violations by every
of its Middle Eastern allies, the occupation of Iraq in 2003 was just a
and the Palestinians ought to be grateful to us for what they've been
left after forty-plus years of occupation. To say this in no way
absolves governments in the region for
responsibility for many of their current difficulties, but Americans do
themselves no favors by ignoring our own contribution to the region's
In short, you want to get some idea of why most Americans have no idea
why we are unpopular in the region, this example of sanitized "analysis" is
illuminating, though not in the way that Engel and NBC intended.
The chance to snap out of our numbness, provided by processes of break boundaries or hybridization, is one of several possible antidotes to the narcotic effects of media. McLuhan wrote Understanding Media, in part, as a warning about the effects of media that we are ignoring. One of McLuhan’s antidotes is awareness; by being aware of the effects our media have on us we can be in a better position to counteract them. But that is only the first step. Awareness itself is not enough. McLuhan writes in chapter 31 on television:
It is the theme of this book that not even the most lucid understanding of the peculiar force of a medium can head off the ordinary "closure" of the senses that causes us to conform to the pattern of experience presented. . . . To resist TV, therefore one must acquire the antidote of related media like print. (329)
So one antidote to the numbing effect of a particular medium is to use another medium that has a counter-effect: “When the technology of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction, wisdom may well call for a countervailing thrust” (70-71). So turn off the TV (or the computer or the cell phone) after some time and read a book or take a walk in the woods. After enough reading, have a conversation with another human being. McLuhan thus is arguing that a “cure” for the effects of a dominant medium or pattern of the time can be a countervailing force in the opposite direction of the dominating force.
Another antidote to technological narcosis is for people to assume the attitude of the artist. McLuhan writes:
The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinion or concepts, but alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance. The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception. (18)
He further claims that the “artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs” and so “the artist is indispensible in the shaping and analysis and understanding of the life of forms, and structures, created by electric technology” (65). But by “artist” McLuhan does not mean just the person who formally engages in some artistic endeavor as a profession but the person of “integral awareness,” a point he makes clear when he says: “The artist is the man, in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness” (65). Thus, the artistic perspective serves as an antidote to media narcosis because it allows us to see the big picture and the interrelationship among things, as well as to anticipate technological changes, and their social and cultural implications, before they happen.
During this last week our U.S. media has performed admirably monopolizing all air time with an idiotic focus on a ten year old crime featuring a rich midwest family and a young girl. A much more gruesome crime, involving the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl and her family was on the news briefly but even though we know who may have commited the crime, people working for us, it seems there is little interest among our own. Juan Cole has an excellent write-up on the reasons for this paradox:
That is frankly because the victim was not a blonde, blue-eyed
American, but a black-eyed, brunette Iraqi. Both victims were pretty
little girls. Both were killed by sick predators. But whereas endless
speculation about the Ramsey case, to the exclusion of important real
news stories, is thought incumbent in cabalnewsland, Abeer al-Janabi's
death is not treated obsessively in the same way. In the hyperlinked
story above, CNN even calls the little girl a "woman" at first mention,
because the US military indictment did so. Only later in the article is
it revealed that she was a little girl. The very pedophiliac nature of
the crime is more or less overed up in the case of al-Janabi, even as
looped video of Ramsay as too grown up is endlessly inflicted on us.
message US cable news is sending by this privileging of some such
stories over others of a similar nature is that some lives are worth
more than others, and some people are "us" whereas other people are
"Other" and therefore lesser. Indeed, it is precisely this subtle
message sent by American media that authorized so much taking of
innocent Iraqi life in the first place. British officers have
repeatedly complained that too many of those serving in the US military
in Iraq view Iraqis as subhuman (one used the term Untermeschen). Where
did they get that idea?
On the day we arrive at 7:30am, we are told by our taxi driver that the party in power will be voted out. They have done nothing during the last 4 years. He believes that Spain is quickly encroaching on Portugal and controlling its economy.
Stated simply, the thesis offered by many popular culture scholars is
that TV is a positive and democratic source of communication due to the
shared language and experience that ‘ordinary' people can enjoy through
such widely viewed ‘populist' programmes as soap-operas, game shows,
police series, as well as via identification with the characters and
But the premise that popular culture is a
truly “democratic” force in society is very suspect, even if only
because its PROCESS and FORM are in themselves the complete antithesis
of a truly democratic experience.
The very process of
receiving popular culture messages from the MAVM is experienced and
known to most people only as coming from within, and entirely framed
by, the present hierarchical relationship of the media towards the
public - by which I refer not only to the kind of images that appear on
the screen but also to the entire social and political interface
between the media and its audience. Much of this hierarchical
relationship is an invisible social process which constantly surrounds
The invisible framing of this process - and what we
subconsciously feel about it - is like a supplementary hidden code,
deeply colouring the way we receive all messages from the MAVM. (Part
of the invisible hierarchy is the strict editorial control placed by
the media on the issues they are prepared to raise with the public, and
the members of the community they are prepared to address.)
the seemingly up-front messages of the media are coded by yet another
hidden, background frame - the rigid, hierarchical structure of the
Monoform. This special language-form has not only had devastating
social consequences, but its compulsory presence throughout nearly all
audiovisual broadcasting and cinema production has prevented the
emergence of alternative forms of media experience, process, or
relationship for the public.
As I describe here, the
dominant forms of media education - the teaching of popular culture,
and vocational media training - have largely succeeded in convincing
several generations of students that the questions of media process and
form and their relationship to ideology are not problems, indeed they
are not even issues. One can enter most media classrooms today and find
that these concepts are not even vaguely understood. Teachers do not
mention them (which raises the question - do they know them in the
first place?), and/or they ensure that media students are not exposed
to alternative ideas and critical concepts.
Part of the
contemporary tragedy is that the audiovisual popular culture is taught,
especially at the tertiary level, as a model to be achieved. Many
academics appear obsessed with what they call the “aesthetic pleasures”
of the media, and are (or have been) particularly fascinated with TV
soap-operas, which have represented a considerable proportion of
academic study and writing since the 1970s.
devotes a great deal of time to explaining that soap-operas - popular
culture in general - are positive, sharing experiences for the
audience. Little attention has been given to the down-sides of popular
culture, and there has been almost no attempt to critically evaluate
its impact on society.
One of the many devastating aspects
of the mass audiovisual popular culture has been its effect of
prioritizing the trivial for many people. It focuses on creating
massive public interest and attention on the lives of fictional people
(in soap-operas), and certain public figures and celebrities.