Wednesday, 12 February 2014

80’s Disco & Gloss Pop! (a mixtape)

Tony Benn: National Treasure status was a sign of failure

Tony Benn was a mediocre minister when in power, a terrible grandstander once out, and a leading figure in a generation of failed Labour politicians that left the way open for the rise of Thatcherism, neoliberalism and the toxic strain of Capitalism that persists today, and a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher herself... no wonder he was the Left-winger most admired by the Right in general and the Daily Telegraph in particular. His elevation to tea-drinking 'Nation Treasure' status was nothing more than evidence of his complete failure as an advocate of Socialism and irrelevance to the shaping of the national discourse. It is when the right-wing press hate you that is a sign that they see you as a threat and take you seriously enough to fear you, that is the sign that you know you are doing well, not when they pat you on the head and patronise you. This is the thing to remember as we await the string of sycophantic tributes from across the political class's that will now inevitably follow his passing. We live today in a country ruled by a bunch of incompetent Old Etonians where the poor, the sick and immigrants are punished for an economy brought to its needs by the incompetence and avariciousness of a venal and corrupt 'greed is good' banking class. Despite her passing we are still living very much in Thatcher's Britain and as much as Thatcher is seen as an icon of the triumph of the Right, Benn can be viewed as a symbol of the abject failure of the left.

Monday, 5 August 2013

On Art and Music: Making Dance Music & Producing Artworks

Keith Haring: Untitled (Palladium backdrop), 1985

At the birth of, what is now usually referred to as, 'dance music' at venues such as The Loft and The Gallery in 1970's NYC, it often inhabited a cultural arena congruent with the city's art scene and artists, along with both New Wave and nascent Hip Hop. Arthur Russell, for instance, one time musical director of avant-guard downtown performance space The Kitchen, made disco records with early innovators Nicky Siano and Francois Kevorkian, Keith Haring decorated the interior  of The Palladium nightclub and Jean-Michel Basquiat executive produced an early electro-rap Lp.

As both a producer of dance music and art the relationship been the two has always sat comfortably with me. My art work is conceptual, idea-based, de-skilled (de-crafted would be a better term) so an artwork's creation, bar the practicalities of some perfunctory post-production, may only take a fraction of second (while obviously the background that enables an idea to pop-up i.e the *research* - reading and thinking about that which interests me, is continuous). Therefore my practice is generally a very cerebral thing and a non-craft based thing. The music on the other hand, being 'dance music' (I dislike the term), is ultimately located in the body. Therefore while a viewers engagement with the art is extremely subjective/contingent/contextual, with the music it operate at a more primordial, visceral, and in a sense 'pure' level i.e a person will either 'feel it' or they won't. While language, discourse and discussion are integral to a viewers engagement with the artworks they are, to a large extent, superfluous in relationship to the music. So to be a little bit simplistic one is 'mind' - the other ‘body'.

On a practical level while I find making art (as opposed living life!) very easy - this leaves me with a pervasive feeling that maybe it has no value. While having a basic 'feel' for music is something one is born with I've enjoyed the challenge of learning the technical aspects that are essential in modern dance music production, and cultivating the skills to listen analytically and craft sounds - 'sound design' and getting these sounds to sit together is very much a *craft* just like a carpenter developing a feel for different timbers or a painter developing an understanding for how different oils mix.

Having said there are also projects where the two have come together: In a piece I did for my MA show at Central Saint Martins with Paul Abbott, we performed a live audio/visual 'set’ mashing together randomly selected youtube clips with software we had developed ourselves. In a recent piece I performed at the Vibe Gallery I mixed 'spiritual' music from around the world, such as Japanese rieki, Tibetan singing bowl music and Estonian sacred classical, in a dj set applying the techniques and effects of Jamaican dub such as delay, frequency modulation and extreme reverb. ‘Live Sonic Arts Event’ was a performance evening I curated at Chelsea College of Art. The evening aimed to explore the space between the divergent audience expectation’s of a dance music event and and a sonic arts performance. It included performances by Julian Doyle AKA Filter Feeder and Pete Caul AKA Pseudo Nippon. One of my earliest pieces consisted of 5 wall mounted 12" x 12" panels each coverd in a different coloured layer of hi-gloss paint, each titled below after an underground dance record from early 1980s NYC.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Brutalist Architecture, Photography & Memory.

The photographs of Brutalist Architecture I find most engaging are those that have a significant people and/or nature presence. Dappled light refracted through trees, the warmth implicit in the stark contrast of light and shade caused by the sun and its shadows, or kids hurrying to class. Concrete's monolithism can be oppressive in urban areas were there is little nature to soften its brute force, but I also find nature oppressive in its 'authenticity' without the contextualisation brought about by proximity to the man-made. It is this juxtaposition that causes me to love airplane vapour trails, Hammersmith Flyover and the Westway (low level auto-mobile flying on concrete).

My warmth towards Brutalism may also be auto-historical. Born in the winter of 1969 I was a child of the 70's when it was still 'in' (in the 70's cinemas still occasionally showed B-movies to support the main feature and I once witnessed a corporate style documentary called the 'The History of Concrete' - I found its boringness absurd). I would also play with Tess and Mark Tinker, the children of Tim Tinker, the lead architect of the recently demolished Heygate housing Estate in Southwark, It had been completed in 1974. Brutalism also has a boldness and bravery that embraced the future: sci-fi realised. These are some of the reasons photographs of Brutalist Architecture evoke in in me feelings of warmth, hope, idealism and utopian progress, and sunlit days.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Classic House, Garage & Techno Mix - Westlake72

Track Listing:
I Found It (Accapella) - George Morel feat. Shadii
Take Some Time Out - Arnold Jarvis
Fate (Todd Terje Edit) - Chaka Khan
Animal Rights - Deadmau5 featuring Wolfgang Gartner
Bizarre Love Triangle (Westlake72 Re-Edit) - New Order
The Electric Dream - Mord Fustang
Tormento De Amor - Salome De Bahia
Everybody (All Over The World) (Accapella) - FPI Project
Don’t Turn Your Back On Me - Sax
Strick Machine (Stripped Machine Remix) - Goldfrapp
Together In Electric Dreams - Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder
Lay Me Down (TE Dub Mix) - Surkin & Todd Edwards
Two The Max - Adonis
Make My Love (Stonebridge Main Mix) - Shawn Christopher
Sex In Zero Gravity - Lbh - 6251876 (The Martian)
Numbers - Man Ray
If Only You Knew - Chip E
State Of 727 West - QX1

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Dark Soul Night:Inner Reality Set [Part 1]

This is studio version of the first half of a live Laptop/DJ set I did at Dark Soul Night: Inner Reality event at the Vibe Gallery on the 23rd of March. This was the blurb introducing the set the set…
“Artist Dan Westlake will be play a Laptop/DJ set exploring the spaces, links and relationships between sacred and secular musics. Expect a spiritual journey that maps the connections between the polyrhythms of West African drumming and the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, the meditative chordal progressions of Arvo Pärt and Górecki, and the Drum and Bass of Goldie, the ragas of Ravi Shankar and the free jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Also en route the Shinto music of Japan, the roots reggae of Augustus Pablo, the celtic folk of the Cocteau Twins and all destinations between on this mystic voyage. The set will include special re-mixes, re-edits and dubs created exclusively for this event.”
Track Listing:
Alan Watts: Lecture on Ecstasy
Pauline Oliveros: Lone
[unknown artist): Heart Chakra Resonance
[unknown artist]: Tibetan Singing Bowls
Tajima Tadashi: Ukigumo (Floating Clouds)
Ravi Shankar: Raga Kausi Kanhra
Badmarsh  & Shri: Appa
Steve Reich: Nagoya Marimbas
Steve Reich: Music For 18 Musicians
Terry Reily: a Rainbow In Curved Air
John Cage: Dream
Gorecki: Symphony No. 3
Augustus Pablo: Nature Dub
Scientist: Dematerialise
Scientist: Cloning Proccess
Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes: Meditations
Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes: Devika (goddess)
John Coltrane: Body & Soul
Effects, Delays & Sonic Manipulation… Dan Westlake

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

On *Art-Speak*

The language used by commercial galleries’ to describe their exhibits purpose is to imbue the art objects that they are selling with a faux-intellectual rigour to flatter the kind of, *more money than sense*, clients who tend to buy contemporary art. But in defence of *art-speak* much art IS intended to in someway be a critique of, or at least perform at a critical distance from, mainstream culture, i.e the (invisible) ideology of Late Capitalism, therefore it is understandable that its discourse adopts a language that is deliberately ‘distancing’ from that mainstream. Also many words that tend to crop up a lot in art-speak, often drawn form critical theory, are not used in everyday language but are appropriate and functional in the context, though such words are, of course often horribly, and liberally, misused.

users guide international art english
(pic by Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Dan Westlake Laptop/DJ set at Dark Soul Night: Inner Reality

On Saturday 23rd of March I’ll be playing a Laptop/DJ set exploring the spaces, links and relationships between sacred and secular musics at the Dark Soul Night: Inner Reality

Expect a spiritual journey that maps the connections between the polyrhythms of West African drumming and the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, the meditative chordal progressions of Arvo Pärt and Górecki, and the Drum and Bass of Goldie, the ragas of Ravi Shankar and the free jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Also en route the Shinto music of Japan, the roots reggae of Augustus Pablo, the celtic folk of the Cocteau Twins and all destinations between on this mystic voyage. The set will include special re-mixes, re-edits and dubs created exclusively for this event.

I’ll be on from 6pm - 7:30pm

Vibe Gallery
N001The Biscuit Factory
Tower Bridge Business Centre
100 Clements road
SE16 4DG

For More Information Dark Soul Night: Inner Reality

Why You Should Not Give Money To Red Nose Day

Please don’t give money to Red Nose Day this year, the whole thing is a disgusting spectacle of narcissistic self-promotion for the entertainment industry and big business that raises an absolutely pitiful amount of money while giving the participants the reams publicity and PR spin. To give an idea of the figures involved Tax dodging/Tax Avoidance costs UK around  £70 BILLION per year, Comic Relief/Red Nose Day has not even raised £1bn in TOTAL in over 25 years. Or to put it another way a single failed and bailed-out bank (RBS) last year paid out more than £600m in bonuses to staff just last year. That is almost as much as Comic Relief has raised in it’s quarter of a century long history.

The whole thing is a disgusting farce used by big business’s such as BT and Sainsbury’s to exploit those in need on order to present a false picture of corporate responsibility. The money these companies “give” doesn’t go to good causes but paying for things such as Chief Executive Kevin Cahill’s wages (over £250,000 every 2 years - nice work if you can get it!) and subsidising free adventure holiday outings for TV celebrities, such as this years white water rafting expedition for a bunch of millionaire, once funny, comedians. David Cameron’s involvement this year just makes this big con even more explicit. His government have recently  admitted that their introduction of the so-called *benefits cap* will plunge 100,000 more children from working families into poverty. Irony is not dead.

On the subject of children the coercion of schools into the Comic Relief hype machine is bad enough in that it indoctrinates relatively wealthy children into the belief that the poor and disabled are to be viewed as powerless victims, second class citizens, requiring hand outs - not as human being with rights, who, as such, have every right to demand social and economic justice. But the involvement of schools is even worse for children of poorer parents who may be struggling just to feed themselves, their children, and keep their homes warm. Think how it must to feel to then be hounded by millionaire Pop-Stars, TV personalities and Politicians into giving a slice of what little they have to avoid the shame and stigma that is the inevitable result of the social pressure to *join in* created by this mass media onslaught of hype.

For the vast amount of free air time, publicity, celebrity endorsement, time, energy and goodwill, not only is the pitiful amount raised embarrassing but the whole event propagates the idea that real lasting change is impossible. Real change IS possible but it won’t come through charity but from a re-adjustment of the political landscape. Now imagine if the vast amount of time and energy put into comic relief was put into campaigning for real political change because big, vital and necessary changes are not only possible but easily achievable if the political will is there. For staters we need the introduction of A) a mandatory living wage B) a redistributive tax on the obscene bonuses the bankers who brought this country to edge of bankruptcy are still paying themselves, and C) an immediate end to those tax loop holes that cost us £70 BILLION PER YEAR. Just these three steps would bring about real lasting change by redistributing wealth from the parasitical classes who steal it, to the working people who not only create this wealth but deserve their fair share of it. Also we wouldn’t have to watch Lenny Henry in a bath of baked beans (or whatever) every two years.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Why the Right-Wing demonise the poor and why Ed Balls is an idiot.

The Tories have no real intention of winning the ‘debate’ about the long term unemployed by means of reason, statistics or even anecdotes. They can’t because they have no sustainable argument whatsoever, but they don’t have too. The point is simply, with the craven support of the overwhelmingly right-wing media, to shift the agenda away from the failures of so-called ‘laissez-faire’ Capitalism (what a charming term) in general, and this Government's abject failure at revitalising the economy in particular, as much as possible. Therefore causing resentment, anger and energy to be (mis)directed away from them and those at the top of the socio-economic ladder and onto those at the very bottom. And here comes Mr Balls playing right into their hands ensuring this phoney ‘debate’ runs and runs…  If the Labour Party’s leadership continues to slavishly follow that of the Tories/Tory press it may as will give up. I really do despair.