by carl wilson

The Counterfactuals of Bleep


In today's Globe and Mail: The Overtones Guide to Music Jargon. If telling you what "ragga" means insults your cognoscentiness, you might wanna skip this one, though it has its share of tongue-in-cheek. Still, two caveats: 1. I know there was already a band called Tsunami. That's them at top, starring Jenny Toomey. But now there will be many many more. 2. It was strictly inaccurate in the "rockism" entry to say rap doesn't "romanticize authenticity"; hell, that's all it ever does. But it doesn't do it on an "individualist" basis, which was the context. The better summation: Rockism= romantic modernism. The other arts are over it, oh lord, why don't we?

Omitted: Extinct terms for 2005: Glitch (not as dirty as "bleep," plus no one care), backpack (if it now means "Kanye" it sure as crap doesn't mean "underground"), Torontopia (at least without Montrealshangrila), anything-"izzle" (isn't Bush opening his inaugural speech with a "fo'shizzle" joke, or am I wrong?). Free jazz and indie rock: So damn dead.

What's still in play? Read on. [...]

A guide to music jargon

The Globe and Mail
Saturday, Jan 8, 2005

Check this out. Here's part of an actual sentence from an actual music critic's recent review of 2004: "Whereas most neo-electro-house is minimal . . . Brooks is a maximalist to the core, suggesting an alternate path bleep could have taken, incorporating Hyper-On Experiences' spastic bricolage and deep house's sensurround production."

Rather than journalism, this may sound like a dada performance at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. Yet, as technology causes music to mutate ever faster, and former niche genres migrate into the pop charts, inevitably the process brings in da noize, brings in da jargon.

If you somehow didn't find time in 2004 to ponder the counterfactual mysteries of bleep (hmm, how might bleep be different if JFK had survived?), never fear -- the Overtones Jargon Glossary is here to pump you up to talk music in 2005. This neologistic abcedary is regrettably incomplete, but I suspect you can survive not knowing, for instance, of the alloy of Gary Glitter glam and Teutonic electronics briefly hyped last summer as schaffel. So let the lexiconjury begin.

Audio Blog. Music blogs (sites where people post links and chatter) have been chugging along for years, but in 2004 the Internet went gaga for bloggers who let visitors listen in on selected songs each day -- like having everyone over to listen to records, rendering critics a tad redundant. Ottawa's Said the Gramophone was the original non-U.S. audio blog, and kick-started Montreal band the Arcade Fire's conquest of 2004.

Bit Torrent. Napster's Revenge: New file-transfer tools made it easy to download bands' entire discographies, undetected, leaving the music cops spinning their wheels.

Bleep. Not the sound that masks naughty words when a Snoop Dogg track is on the radio, but the avant-electronic style formerly known as glitch, composed of patchworks of malfunctioning-machine noises. Near obsolete, as half the Top 40 now has similar banged-up beats.

Booty Bass. Any music -- American crunk, Brazilian "baile funk" -- built on 1980s Miami bass and its android-rump-shaking groove. (Remember 2 Live Crew?)

Breakcore. Dance music and industrial-noise samples radically blenderized for maximum disorientation. Comes in dance-floor and art-house. Winnipeg's Venetian Snares is a favourite; also Philadelphia's Duran Duran Duran (at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto on Friday), whose debut disc, Very Pleasure, will give not-very pleasure to fans of the just-double-Duran'd 1980s band. I consider renaming myself Carl Carl Wilson Wilson.

Creative Commons. Alternative to copyright for creators who want to grant other artists permission to sample and build on their work. Participants include the Beastie Boys, Gilberto Gil and David Byrne.

Crunk. Southern U.S. rap style marked by booty bass, rap-metal-style racket, 1980s synthesizers and, if it's hitmaker Lil Jon, yelling "yeeeeaaahh" a lot. Critics either admire its aural intensity or loathe it for trashing rap's (New York-bred) verbal tradition. Melded with R&B; balladry, in which case it's known as CRunk & B or Bubblecrunk, it yielded 2004's biggest hit, Usher's Yeah. A new low in product placement: Lil Jon's Crunk Juice was both an album and a beverage.

Dancehall. Heir to Jamaican reggae, a thudding bass-and-patois form a.k.a. ragga, it's come to permeate all other dance genres, despite even worse sexual politics than hip-hop. "Riddims" often recycled among various hits.

Dance Punk. New York-based indie rock is fixated on the moment when disco-new-wave fusions left off in the early 1980s. "Teaching the indie kids to dance again." Well, better than 2001, when every band sounded like a lazier Blondie. Key discs: !!!'s Louden Up Now and a three-CD compilation by producers DFA that puts the "over" back into "kill." Talking Heads still did it better. (Cf: Slippery People.)

Desi. Ragga-fied hip-hop filtered through South Asian migration, Bollywood movies and bhangra beats. Huge in 2003, due for resurgence in Asia-aware 2005. Listen for an especially wild U.K. variant, Galang, by Sri Lanka-born M.I.A.

eai. The new-new-thing in jazz/improv -- "electro-acoustic improvisation" or "lowercase" or in Japan, onkyo, or "the New London Silence" or "Berlin reductionism." Usually quiet and still (but not always) coaxed from disassembled detritus of the digital era -- "empty sampler," turntables without vinyl, "no-input mixing board." Names: Kevin Drumm, Keith Rowe, Otomo Yoshihide. Boutique labels: Erstwhile, Grob, Hibari.

Emo. Boys whine about girls over slam-bamming punk guitars. Not advised for those over or under 16.

Grime. Fusion of U.K. dance with U.S. hip-hop, pirate-radio tracks like a dozen video-game soundtracks playing at once, crunkish yelling but in heavy London accents. Available in North America mostly via Dizzee Rascal albums but more diverse compilation, Run the Road, due in March.

Grindcore. A giddy extreme of blazing-speed metal crunch from bands such as Pig Destroyer and the Blood Brothers. Dare we say crunk metal?

Handclaps. Now a staple in every genre except Baroque organ.

Hyphy. San Francisco-area brand of crunk, boasting spontaneous street parties called "sideshows." One to watch: the Federation.

iPodspace. Critic Justin Davidson's label for where the music "happens" when you rock your earbuds -- a cyberspace built for one. Also: Podcasting, sending music and talk out to audio subscribers' iPods via the web, is the latest harbinger of doom for radio.

Kwaito. South African hip-hop, along with baile funk, dancehall, desi and other postcolonial urban frontier beats, proves "world music" is a tougher (and better) nut than Peter Gabriel ever cracked.

Laptop. Top DIY instrument; acoustic guitar of the mid-noughts.

Mash-Up. Two or more songs by disparate artists recombined into new ones using (usually) home-studio trickery. Trend has long since crested but gained publicity in 2004 due to The Grey Album, a middling mash-up of Jay-Z and the Beatles by Danger Mouse -- because doing anything with the Beatles gets noticed, at least by the courts. Genre slain, late 2004, by MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups, Vol I., Jay-Z and Linkin Park.

Mix Tapes. Now mixed CDs, still the method of choice for releasing hip-hop sounds to the streets; in 2004, fans often complained official albums (by Cam'ron, Kanye West, Ghostface) were weaker than the mix tapes put out to generate advance buzz.

Muzik Mafia. New blood in Nashville, Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson, bringing a New South cockiness that's part rock, part hip-hop and part proud hillbilly freak parade to the Red State country capital, a town at its best when it is its own alternative.

New John Peel, The. Everyone knows the late BBC announcer and Peel Sessions producer is irreplaceable, so they'll keep nominating replacements. (Think "New Dylan.")

Noise. As anti-musical music genre, goes back to 1913 Futurists, but lately a beloved element in a range of genres and even all by its ear-splitting self.

Northern Europe (New Britain, The). Mounting geyser of talent from Finland (Fonal records), Sweden, Norway (Annie-mal, and Susanna and the Magical Orchestra).

Paris (New Berlin, The). Canuck musicians have been pitching camp in Germany for years. Now, led by Leslie Feist and Buck 65, the compass needle swings back to the old-school expat magnet.

Psych-Folk. White-kid collectives in animal disguises, muse-maddened troubadours, narcissists and intrepid introspectionists, across the Western world -- sometimes it seems like a daring acid test, other times hippie redux. It ain't over till the fat lemur sings.

Reunions. Après les Pixies, le deluge: Unpopular-music legends Gang of Four, Slint, the Wedding Present, Van der Graaf Generator, Erasure, Kate Bush, Camper van Beethoven make comebacks in 2004-05. Holding out for Scritti Politti reunion.

Reggaeton. Puerto Rican dancehall/salsa/hip-hop hybrid watching from the wings.

Ringtone. Big new source of music-biz revenue - hit songs become boop-beep-bip rings you download to your cell phone. There's even a Billboard chart. (Snoop's Drop It Like It's Hot is this week's No. 1.) Do labels now assess potential singles on whether they'd sound good through a thumb-sized speaker at the bottom of your purse? And is that so bad?

Rockism. Delusion that all musicians are best measured as rugged individualists, as if all groups were the Rolling Stones (and as if the Stones didn't have producers and never played disco). Used to cudgel pop, dance, rap and other un-rock that doesn't romanticize "authenticity." Nearing extinction (thanks in part to a New York Times rhetorical-meteor strike this fall) but still distressingly hale.

Sizzurp. Cam'ron's cognac-based purple punch, mimicking cough syrup, outdoes Lil Jon's Crunk Juice in audacity and colour-saturated screwed-upness. Which also goes for their music.

Tsunami. Tasteless yet inevitable new band name of 2005.

The Letters U through Z. Totally out of fashion in 2005.

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, January 08 at 3:10 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



Indie rock, rap tribes, podcasting, et al are all by-products of the "Post-popular" reality. "Rockism" is the "Pop narcotic" brigades response to Carducci's punch to their now very-vulnerable breadbasket..

Posted by bruce"fearless leader" mowat on February 5, 2005 1:54 PM



Thanks for the mention. It's much appreciated.

Posted by Said The Gramophone on January 11, 2005 3:24 AM



1. let's disallow the use of the word 'rockism' this year. what a strawman. never before have i seen such rhetorical and discursive might employed to big up lip-syncing.
2. until i hear MIA rap in punjabi i have trouble accepting her as desi.
3. owen: i don't know about everyone's faves. my favourite records of the year sounded pretty good. and i've been thinking re: the artist/technician divide we spoke of... is it that clear cut? where do you put phil spector? kevin shields? matt smith? (harhar)

Posted by captain easychord on January 10, 2005 11:23 AM



Kate Bush for sure for sure

People are getting back into Kate because "production" is on the downswing.

Everybody realized that all their favourite records of 2004 sounded like shit.

Carl, look at your top-ten! Every one of those records has trashy trashy drums and/or MIDI.

Don't hold your breath for the new Kate. It'll probably sound like Sarah Brightman. But everybody should dust off "The Dreaming" and "Hounds Of Love".

Posted by Owen on January 9, 2005 5:54 PM



Damn, I hadn't thought that about the picture, but you might be right.

Michael - Kate Bush reportedly has a new album coming out this year. And I've noticed little bits of what seem like K8 influence all over, such as in TV on the Radio, and OutKast has declared their KB luv... Zoilus on K8 is here: To keep up with K8 news, check here:

Posted by zoilus on January 8, 2005 2:47 PM



Thanks for posting the article which doesn't appear in the Vancouver Edition. Why? I haven't a clue.

I was a bit suprised to see the photo of Tsunami (the band) on your site. I just wrote a little post on them the other day and was questioning the level of "good taste" or lack thereof I was excercising when I posted the very same picture and a couple of MP3s. My self questioning was not helped by the picture itself which I imagine is meant to look like a tsunami is coming towards them.

Posted by five on January 8, 2005 1:34 PM



did i miss the kate bush comeback?
and am i the only one that thinks the first movement of fiery furnaces' "quay cur" sounds remarkably like ms. bush circa "the dreaming"?

Posted by barclay on January 8, 2005 11:25 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson