December 3, 2019

Snakefinger: Disco-blues-rock Expressionism

While most avant-garde cultural production is too cerebral and conceptual to make good art -- which is fundamentally corporeal and immediately arresting of the senses -- there are exceptions, both individuals and sub-groups within the broader movement.

Beginning with the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early '70s, several musicians founded a new avant-garde for the rock era, first Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, later joined by the Residents. None of this music could be played in a dance club, whether rural or cosmopolitan, and get the bodies of the crowd moving along in fascination. And it's hard to find fans of it who didn't attend Ivy League or elite lib arts colleges.

Music and dance are as interconnected as the senses of smell and taste. Songs that don't provoke a body-movement response are like some strange food that only pleased the nose, without making the mouth water or getting the taste buds excited, and that you not only did not eat -- but that was explicitly intended not to be eaten. What the hell kind of "meal" is that, then?

The dance scene, as the '70s wore on, was dominated by disco. Some groups were eager to mix disco with earlier counter-cultural approaches, such as Talking Heads, but these were mainline rock groups first, with avant-garde pretensions coming second.

What about the members of the avant-garde itself -- was no one willing to incorporate mainstream disco danceability into their counter-cultural project? In fact, there was a fellow traveler of the Residents -- an actual, skilled musician -- who distinguished himself by making body-moving music whose roots were in the counter-culture: Snakefinger.

Distorted, moody blues rock from the glam phenomenon, surreal and fantastical lyrics from the psychedelic heyday, shamanic guitar solos of the then-current rock gods era -- these could all appeal to introverts, druggies, lib arts students, and guys. What set Snakefinger's music apart from the Beefheart / Zappa approach was the danceable grooves that opened up the avant-garde's appeal to extroverts, normies, girls, and people who don't need drugs but music-and-dance in order to achieve altered states.

Not that his music ever hit it bigtime, but if you were to play anyone connected to the Seventies avant-garde to a normal person, he would enjoy the greatest resonance, hands down. Indeed, sub-cultural types look at him as at best an also-ran in the weirdness contest, and at worst a traitor -- someone who deliberately tried to court the normies with danciness. Someone who didn't want to keep the avant-garde weird enough. See this overview of his music, for example.

True rule-benders enjoy the carnivalesque appeal of dance, though, bringing together people from all sorts of backgrounds, as long as they're willing to temporarily submit their individual autonomy to the superorganism of the club-crowd, moving along to the same melody with the same rhythm. Keeping a movement insular, on the other hand, reflects a puritanical undercurrent.

But far from cheapening the counter-cultural attitude to appeal to mainstream audiences, Snakefinger's music spoke to their feelings of dread, anxiety, and alienation. It was a dizzy, evocative portrayal of the topsy-turvy times -- not a celebration or encouragement of deviance and disorder per se, unlike the anarchic attitudes that pervade the avant-garde.

In this way, his music had a heavy Expressionist character to it, and in fact there was a neo-Expressionist revival surging in the visual art world at the same time (late '70s, early '80s). Several older posts detailed the rise of such art movements across two waves of rising-crime times, roughly the '60s - '80s and the 1900s - '20s. See especially this post for its quoting of contemporary sources that reflected how novel and exciting it was to see Expressionism make a comeback after all the boring cerebral stuff from the falling-crime Midcentury art scenes. (See also here, here on Art Deco, and here on Fauvism).

You might raise Kraftwerk as another exception to the trend of '70s avant-gardists avoiding dance music like the plague. That's fair enough, but they're really more Art Deco than Expressionist or Fauvist -- not as wild, primitive, fever-stricken, and desperately yearning for an end to their alienation. And by the time they were making danceable music, they were no longer members of the experimental or avant-garde scene, and had broken into mainstream distribution channels.

That makes Snakefinger sui generis, although there is an interesting crossover between the two, as he covered "The Model", which sounds like the soundtrack to a Kirchner street scene, and thus better than the original in rendering the ideas.

Below are links for listening to his first two albums, which embody the unique mixture detailed above, along with three embedded videos per album to showcase the variety of his output. After these two albums, he returned to a more purely experimental sound, then incorporating jazz, without leavening it with the disco-friendly grooves of his "hits," as it were.

* * * * *

Chewing Hides the Sound (1979)

Playlist and single video

"The Model"



"Here Come the Bums"



"I Love Mary"



* * * * *

Greener Postures (1980)

Playlist and single video

"The Man in the Dark Sedan"



"I Come from an Island"



"Living in Vain"



* * * * *

Before he returned to the purely avant-garde, Snakefinger released a new song for a compilation of his early music, which retains the funky, groovy, blues-y beat of that style:

"I Love You Too Much To Respect You" from Against the Grain (1983)



November 29, 2019

Dream poppiest movie theme: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, to distinguish it as a dramedy

In the next of an ongoing series on the rise of dream-like pop music during the vulnerable, refractory phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, let's have a listen to the most dream poppy movie theme of all time.

If enough of your family are Gen X-ers, you've made it a tradition to watch this movie every year at Thanksgiving -- Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This came from the all-time peak of dream pop as a mainstream phenomenon, the second half of the '80s (as detailed here). The original (also used in the movie) is from '86, while the more heavily featured instrumental remix is from '87.

"Modigliani (Requiem Mass)" by Book of Love (1987)



Although Top Gun from '86 does showcase the dream pop anthem "Take My Breath Away," its main theme is the less layered, faster-paced, melody-over-harmony rock song "Danger Zone". Planes, Trains and Automobiles also uses a dream poppy instrumental version of "Power to Believe" by the Dream Academy (1987):



Why such a dreamy soundtrack for a fast-paced comedy movie? During the action-driving scenes, they play the rollicking melody of "Red River Rock". But this movie is a dramedy, requiring those key moments of reflection, moodiness, and vulnerability. That's when you need the multiple layers of sighing and droning voices to wash over your mind and carry it away on a lazy river ride, to give it the proper tranquility to come to an epiphany.

November 24, 2019

Bernie a member of the class-reductionist dance crew

Videos are circulating on Twitter of Bernie dancing carefree with fellow attendees of a labor solidarity event in New Hampshire. How refreshing to see from the Left.

This could not possibly have taken place in an intersectional space, since now everyone knows what a DSA convention looks and feels like -- a crushing, joyless, humorless, brutally cerebral, anti-corporeal scold-o-rama. No clapping! No loud noises! No strong scents! No touching of any kind without continuous affirmative consent! No talking without adhering to a million micro speech codes! No friendly informal addresses like "hey guys"!

It had to be some place where normies congregate in order to tackle real, material problems facing the entire collective -- labor unions, churches, local schools, anything but an incestuous narrow clique of weirdos making a culture war of foisting their individual deviances onto the collective.

The cerebral radlibs at Current Affairs -- who have been concern-trolling Bernie throughout his campaign to "keep socialism weird" -- are trying to obfuscate about the Left promoting dancing, when they're the number one social pressure against corporeality in general and boy-girl touching in particular. "The man leading the woman's physical movements? Uh yikes, violation of her autonomy much?"


From a comment I left to a recent post on the topic of dance music, corporeality, and the puritanical Left:

The real sexual repression in 2019 is not from Christian fundamentalists toward gay furries, but from irony-poisoned leftoids toward thicc-booty cuties who just want to get their groove on.

"Trance-inducing dance music -- yikes, horny on main much?" Shut the fuck up puritan. You're just jealous that your nerdy little body has no rhythm (you're bad in bed).

Dancing is not going to the opposite extreme, though, of slutting it up in defiance of the horny police (whether on the left or right). It's corporeal, even ritualistically sexual, but not actually sexual. It channels the libido and allows for catharsis after the night is over, all without having to "have sex".

The volcels have already promoted weightlifting and exercise -- now it's time for them to reclaim dancing in order to live a proper full life, neither puritanical nor debauched.

Current Affairs has also got the nature of dance completely backward, framing it as something that is liberating of the individual, when it is fundamentally a subordinating of your very bodily motions to something beyond yourself -- the rhythm -- and having your movements bound up with those of another person, whether you're dancing one-on-one or within an entire group, as in a circle dance.

Dance is part of a broader class of kinesthetic activities that are designed to de-individuate the participants and promote group cohesion, along with military drills and marches, the wild movements of a spirit possession cult, "the wave" and "stomp stomp clap" to "We Will Rock You" among a team's fans in a sports stadium, and so on and so forth.

Far from heightening an individual's autonomy, they are about surrendering self-control to the will of the superorganism. That's why every liberal individualist who makes up 99% of the current Left feels awkward and downright frightened when they find themselves in such a situation. "It was so fashy, all those normies pressuring me to join their mindless mob!" In contrast to these SJW-ists, true socialism (populism) demotes the individual values of liberty, autonomy, etc. since they conflict with solidarity, cohesion, and other interpersonal and collective values.

That's why there was a more thriving collectivist dance culture during the Great Compression / New Deal era -- from the Jazz Age and swing, to disco, new wave, and Latin freestyle / breakdancing -- unlike today's thoroughly neoliberal culture of posting videos of you dancing by yourself to the internet for virtual validation. Today is terrifyingly like the first Gilded Age of atomized laissez-faire subjects joylessly watching exploited sex workers dance on stage in some fin-de-siecle red light district.

During these dark days of the second Gilded Age, would-be realigners must always keep the focus on making populism or socialism both fun-loving and normie-friendly, and prevent the scolds and weirdos from hijacking any mass movement. The proto-socialism of the Midcentury resulted in wholesomeness, not degeneracy, which was instead the result in the libertarian Gilded Age. We can still see that legacy in the labor solidarity dance with an old-school socialist, and we ought to follow his lead.

November 18, 2019

Dream pop vestiges in the post-emo phase, across 4 waves of the cultural excitement cycle

Earlier posts here and here have detailed the regular appearance of dream pop music during the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle.

The features of dream pop are a slow tempo, and multiple layers of repetitive drone-like "voices," whether human or instrumental. Harmonies (relaxing) over melodies (stimulating). The singing has an ethereal timbre. These features give it the subjective quality of being lulled into a meditative trance, and floating through an other-worldly space, where the multiple voices provide a rich array of distinct "textures" to the place, making the exotic dream-world feel palpable and relatable, akin to a lucid dream.

Anything with too much of a danceable or body-moving beat is excluded. The feel here is a passive rather than an active trance.

However, the disappearance of this style is not day-and-night during the restless warm-up phase that follows. There's still a lone hold-out for the style, even as the emo mood has gone away, now that people are no longer in a refractory period where they just want to be left alone and float off into a cozy dreamscape. And since the hallmark of the restless warm-up phase is a new-found craze for dancing, some of these dream pop hold-outs now actually do have something of a beat to them, albeit not as much as the disco-friendly songs of their time.

So, to round out our look into the cycles of dream pop, let's look at these hold-outs. They appear during the first or second year of the restless warm-up phase -- they don't drag the style all the way through the phase, but just over the boundary line. And there really is just one example per phase, plus maybe an honorable mention -- they're vestiges.

As we close out the current vulnerable phase in 2019, we can still expect an ethereal spacey hold-out for 2020 or '21, in the vein of "Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello.

To see what particular type of dream pop these ones are developing from, see the earlier posts, especially the one on mainstream hits. The following were all entries on the year-end Billboard charts, though dated by their year of initial release (on either an album or single).

"My True Story" by the Jive Five (1961)

Keeping the flame alive for the moody, harmony-heavy type of doo-wop from the late '50s, even as the mainstream was shifting toward a more upbeat, energetic type focused on just one singer.



"I'm Not in Love" by 10cc (1975)

The soft rock heyday of the first half of the '70s was already over, shifting radically into the disco age. But not without one last spacey soundscape more at home in the early '70s. This is the purest example of dream pop lasting beyond the vulnerable phase -- no disco-friendly beats to accommodate it to the new restless warm-up phase, just zillions of layers of ethereal sighing vocals.



"Sadeness" by Enigma (1990)

New Age mania of the late '80s had peaked, but give the style a more danceable beat, and it could last another year into the neo-disco environment of the early '90s.



"Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado (2006)

As with the previous song, just giving a basic dance beat to a dream pop song could make it catch on in a phase that had mostly left behind the emo-ness of the early 2000s. Honorable mention goes to "Speed of Sound" by Coldplay, but the Nelly Furtado song has more vocal layers, each having a more ethereal timbre as well, the voices and instruments are less melodic / more droning, and the overall tone is more enigmatic, moody, and New Age-y than the Coldplay song.



November 12, 2019

Snow Day tribute to Tulsi d'Arc

On this first heavy snow day of the season, a music video that concentrates so much evocative wintry on-location footage, both interior and exterior, into just a few minutes. The music is part of the folk revival that appears during the manic phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle.

I imagine Tulsi Gabbard in the role, however strange that may seem for an aloha-state babe, since she's a literal member of the military. But you could also indulge your figurative side and imagine Aimee Terese, Anna Khachiyan, or Angela Nagle playing the honor-bound woman martyred during a war for the entire nation (not just some inbred little faction).

"Maid of Orleans" by OMD (1981)



November 10, 2019

Alison Balsam's dance mixtape for depressive cerebrals, to block out their self-consciousness and let the music take over their body

An intriguing character from the not-so-woke Left is Alison Balsam (@foolinthelotus on Twitter). Her persona is a depressive, cerebral wordplayer whose disillusionment with horniness is leading her to becoming a spinster (volcel). Although not-so-woke, she attracts followers from the liberal and radlib parts of the Left because the online Left's fundamental shared trait is mental illness of one kind or another -- so someone who makes depression central to their persona is bound to have broad appeal among leftists.

I use the word "persona" because there are times when she breaks character and we get to see her passionate and corporeal side. It's not often, but regular enough to know that it's a core part of who she is, always stirring beneath the surface. This makes her unlike the depressive leftoids who just whine and rage all day long, and whose light moments only amount to numb, mumbling sarcasm. Thoroughly depressed people are boring -- they may or may not be insightful, but not entertaining. And Alison is entertaining even to non-depressives, especially the recurring theme of her charming yet exasperating encounters with the critter world.



If she hadn't mentioned it, I'd have thought she was 10-15 years younger. She has a distinctly youthful mode of expression, which I attribute to her post-horny / volcel tendencies. Not piling up a certain body count has kept her from sounding jaded, weathered, and grizzled. Her tone is more like a precocious college student -- and so is the eagerness and yearning for something fun to happen in life, in contrast to most depressive cases. She's more of a frustrated fun-lover than a numbed-out buzzkill.

And if she were a total cerebral, she wouldn't have such a fondness for physical, tactile objects like old editions of books, vinyl records, and vintage furniture. If it's only the informational content that counts, who cares what material form it comes in?

She also wouldn't have such a weak spot for dance music:


I can overlook the minimalist euthanasia soundtrack stuff she posts in a depressive mood, if she overcomes that with body-moving lose-yourself music like that. She's really fond of the second half of the '80s, the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. That was the hangover after the manic first half of the '80s (which overall would be a little too bouncy and upbeat for her personality).

An earlier post examined the turn that dance music takes toward minor-key, start-and-stop rhythms, and heavy layers of repetitive trance-inducing hooks, during the vulnerable phase of the cycle. This appeals to audiences who are in a social and emotional refractory state -- and so, most like a depressive and socially anxious person. They aren't feeling invincible like in a manic phase, so they can't just throw themselves out there on the dance floor -- they need to be coaxed and comforted, and to feel like they don't have to make a firm decision. Rather, their body is merely being possessed by some spirit or force, and they're passively going along with whatever it's making them do.

I think the late '80s vulnerable phase has songs more to the liking of someone like her, instead of the early 2000s or the late 2010s, because they built up more slowly and steadily back then. Someone who feels awkward about putting themselves out on the dance floor does not want to be overwhelmed by a sudden maximum level of energy, right as the song begins. They can ultimately resonate with a high energy level, they just need more time to get comfortably immersed in the groove, one level at a time. And it can't ever get too fast of a tempo, or too major-key of a tone, or else it wouldn't strike a chord with their fundamental depressive core. It needs to stay moody.

Since the late '80s is tailor-made for these types, let's explore further examples. This isn't so much of a standalone mixtape -- it's more of a list of initial songs to get the person to loosen their inhibitions, dissolve their self-awareness, and just let go of their cares. Then other higher-energy songs could fill out the playlist.

First, a precursor that still belongs to the new wave era of the early '80s, but points the way toward the second half. Laura Branigan's cover is even more early '80s, way too overpowering for a depressive cerebral. The original by Raf is slower in tempo and in its build-up, it's more moody and haunting, and the vocal delivery is more anxious and insecure.

"Self Control" by Raf (1984)



And now for the late '80s proper, dominated by the freestyle genre (I chose extended mixes for their even more gradual build-up, to ease the listener-dancer into the mood).

"Dare Me" by the Pointer Sisters (1985)



"I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz (1986)



"Fascinated" by Company B (1987)



"Show Me" by the Cover Girls (1987)



"Cross My Heart" by Eighth Wonder (1988)



It's only Sunday, so that leaves plenty of time to get familiar with these songs in order to use them as inhibition-dampeners by the coming weekend.

November 4, 2019

From status contests over wealth, to lifestyles, to personas, as each generation gets poorer

Related to this thought from our anti-woke Left princess:


Five years ago I detailed the generational structure of status contests, where Boomers competed over material wealth and careerism, but after they had saturated that niche, the Gen X-ers had to find a new niche to compete within. They chose lifestyle contests instead, which don't require nearly as much money as material possession contests.

In a follow-up post, I detailed the invention of persona contests among the Millennials, who don't even have enough money to properly pursue lifestyle contests. Crafting your persona and projecting it into the public arena for competition only requires time, effort, and enough money for wifi to connect you to social media.

The "currency" of status has gone from material wealth, to lifestyle points, to persona points. But within each niche, most people are hyper-competitive pigs struggling to over-feed themselves at the trough. Within each domain there is an over-production of aspiring elites, leading to maximum chaos and fragmentation.

And within each niche, if you rob the competitor of their "currency," they take that as a mortal threat. Millennials don't care if you take their wealth, since they have none and don't compete over that resource. But if you threatened their persona on social media, let alone got their account suspended, that's the end of the world to them. Banned from competing in the persona-construction status contest.

You can use Google to search this blog for other posts on the topic, using "lifestyle strivers," "persona striving," etc. One of the more original and insightful projects I've undertaken, if I do say so myself.

Each of these qualitative shifts began at the grassroots level among individuals whose overweening ambition required an outlet. It's only after that groundswell that business owners capitalized on the development -- they did not invent the trend and get customers hooked on it. Most professionals and owners are too lazy and incurious to invent anything, they just chase after popular trends for as long as they seem profitable.

What will it take for individuals to dial down their overweening ambition and hyper-competitiveness? Material conditions must get so disastrous, and the fabric of society torn apart, that they realize where the worship of competition leads -- to their own destruction. Only then will they adopt the opposite norms, based on humility and harmony, leading to more egalitarian material outcomes.

Obviously we all wish you could just tell people where it has always led, and will lead again this time, but those words are just pointless speculation to the hyper-competitive striver. They need to get their block knocked off before it feels real to them. See Peter Turchin's work on the dynamics of ideology and material outcomes, linked in the first post above.

November 2, 2019

Aimee Terese, Apostle to the Deplorables, hits milestone

The princess of the anti-woke Left, Aimee Terese, officially hit 10K followers on Twitter. She never would have come close if she'd stayed cloistered within the online leftoid bubble, a niche that is beyond saturation, and impossible to break into without social or professional connections to established leftoids.

She did it by appealing to a whole new audience, carving out a new niche. It's composed not only of her fellow lefties who are sick of identity politics, polarization, and so on. There are plenty such figures, and some host podcasts that get as many clicks as hers and Benjamin Studebaker's (What's Left?). But they're not going to hit 10K followers and beyond, because they can't take the leap of faith to interact with people who are not already fellow travelers, and who may even be vilified by their in-group as sub-human.

Here's a recent popular tweet of hers about alienated young white males on social media, who most leftoids would write off entirely, and the only debate would be whether to condemn them outright or just ignore them.


It takes courage to pursue what seems like a lost cause, in the hope of a greater good down the line, perhaps that she will not see herself. An earlier post drew attention to her role as being similar to Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, where she is the socialist Apostle to the Deplorables. And it's bearing fruit! For every libtard fanboy of Chapo Trap House that she loses, she gains two posters of frog memes.

Bernie was meant to do likewise for 2020, but he, his campaign, and his supporters have steered him away from a successful mission to the flyovers. That project is not bearing fruit -- his support is half what it was in 2016. He lost the libtards, but did not appeal to the deplorables to shore him up when the yuppies dumped him for Warren.

Where Bernie faltered, Aimee has been steadfast and tenacious. Reminds me of a song by another Mediterranean Australian, "On a Mission" by Gabriella Cilmi, who's Italian with some Albanian. From the most recent manic phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, 2010:



November 1, 2019

Weakest Halloween ever, during final year of vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

Last year I wrote a comprehensive post on our affinity for Halloween's social and cultural rituals, over the phases of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. It peaks during the manic phase, and falls off a cliff during the vulnerable phase. That has left cultural commentators with little to discuss over the past several years, because nothing is going on with Halloween anymore.

But just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it's almost as though the holiday didn't even happen this year. About 5-10 years ago, Halloween-themed decorations went up at the beginning of October in most houses in most neighborhoods. I don't care for such an early date because it robs the holiday of its uniqueness by the time October 31 actually arrives -- you're habituated to it, and it's not a carnivalesque break with the ordinary.

Still, this year there were hardly any decorations anywhere -- including on Halloween night, so it's not that they just waited till the bitter end. I drove around different places just to be sure. Having a pumpkin or jack-o-lantern on the porch was common, but nothing more. They used to put up all sorts of other decorations on the porch, the front windows, driveway, yard, anywhere. I counted 1 or 2 houses per street, in between cross-streets, that had similar decorations as 5-10 years ago. Otherwise it looked absolutely dead.

Of course, no trick-or-treaters to be seen roaming around. Not only is it not the rising-crime and outgoing atmosphere of the 1980s anymore -- it's not even a manic phase of the falling-crime, cocooning atmosphere of the '90s and after. At least during the early 2010s, there would be a handful of kids out and about, albeit few in number and constantly supervised by their helicopter parents.

(I still can't forget the parents who were driving their kids in the family car, house by house, keeping the car on the whole time. Bam-bam-bam, we're gone -- and without having our kids spend any time in a dangerous public space like, dun dun dun, the sidewalk!)

The only -- and I mean only -- place where I saw any trick-or-treaters tonight was in the public library, where I was dropping off some horror movies and looking for new ones to check out. The workers were in costume, with candy ready. There were nearly 10 families that showed up during the half-hour that I was there, vs. literally zero that I saw on the streets anywhere. And this was all 7-8pm, not when it was too late.

Helicopter parents are so paranoid during this vulnerable phase that they've consolidated the holiday into what was only a major trend during the earlier manic phase -- taking kids to trick-or-treat centers that are supervised by some institution. Mall, business district, library, etc. Any private residence is too suspicious, likely concealing a bunch of child molesters -- that's who these freaks think their neighbors are -- so they can't trust them with hosting their kids for 30 seconds while the trick-or-treat ritual takes place.

I didn't see many young adults out and about either -- maybe a couple dozen, in the most youth-packed area of downtown, right on a major college campus of tens of thousands.

I observed back in 2012 that Millennials were shifting the main party night to "the Saturday before Halloween" rather than October 31, because they're OCD pussies who can't tolerate partying on a night other than their routine night. That's the whole point of carnivalesque rituals -- up-ending the usual order of society. There's nothing beyond the ordinary about partying on a Saturday night, dorks. (Link in appendix to post above.)

At least I got to go to a late night screening of Psycho, and on film rather than digital. Three other parties there, totaling 7 people including me. Not the greatest turnout, but I'll take it in this climate.

This ought to be the last year of uneventful holidays, since this is the final year of the vulnerable phase. I don't expect it to really pick up until around 2023 -- it has to rise gradually while people are starting to come out of their shells. I seem to remember 2008 being the first year I really noticed the return of Halloween as a mass public ritual, which was a few years into the restless warm-up phase of the late 2000s. From there, it'll soar again until a new peak in the late 2020s.

Until then, some manic-phase Halloween music to tide us over...

"Every Day Is Halloween" by Ministry (1984):