Itchy / Cornerboy

I really like this song and clip, especially the way it melds two distinct feels together and ends abruptly. The first one (Itchy) has just enough timbral and rhythmic variability that it never gets boring or too predictable – it reminds me of a Skrillex track, actually, but less flashy-sweaty-on-drugs-excited. Lots of shifts in rhythmic emphasis too – lot of emphasis on the 4th beat in the bar, and then one section where it deliberately doesn’t emphasize the 4. Really cool. Clip is edited too to reflect the kind of bouncy rhythms as well. V neat. New rhythms when the Cornerboy rap comes in, but then we also get a sonic throwback to the Itchy beat.

A note on the NSW election (2015)

Look okay, so the thing with the NSW state election is that it was never going to go Labor, as I said a couple days before the election:

My reasoning here is that the memory of being burned by the farcical parade of labor premiers for the past decade is still too fresh (we had three premiers in the space of 5 years, which is enough to disrupt any legislative agenda), and NSW Labor still hasn’t done anything to significantly separate itself from that era. There has been no break, no repudiation of what went wrong, no communication of having ‘learned their lesson’ (whether that really is the case or not, I’m talking purely about the realm of perception).

Add to that situation the fact that the ICAC affairs and resignations were only last year and you can understand why, actually no, maybe NSW voters aren’t being completely fucking stupid and maybe it’s fairly sensible to think that Labor maybe shouldn’t be in government again just yet. People don’t seem to love Baird – there’s no widespread sense of identification with the son of a former politician and career banker, try as he might to SMS his way into the minds of everyone in the state – but they sure as hell still dislike NSW state Labor. And that dislike seems mostly entirely reasonable to me. In my electorate even a ten percent (!!) swing away from Stuart Ayres to the Labor candidate Emma Hussar wasn’t enough, because of the cataclysmic landslide Ayers benefited from after Karyn Paluzzano resigned in disgrace back in 2010 (Paluzzano presented me with awards at my High School graduation in 2004 – mum & dad have the photo on the fridge), with Ayers at the time picking up a twenty-seven percent swing (!!!!) signalling the beginning of the end for Kristina Keneally’s government – the point at which the cat was finally out of the bag that Labor was about to get fucking whacked later that year.

Heck, even Jackie Kelly picked up 10% of the vote in Penrith which goes to show the hunger there is in the electorate for third parties and alternative (and lol no the greens don’t really count out here). Also the west has almost completely lost it’s distaste for the idea of a second airport in Sydney, which is why Kelly couldn’t really muster up a solid protest vote.

Anyway, Baird looks set to begin preparing to sell off the NSW power grid which is exactly the wrong lesson to take away from his electoral victory and for which I am absolutely sure he will be massively punished at the next election. Electorates as disengaged as the state of NSW (particularly out here in the west) electorates aren’t willing to vote anyone out to pre-empt bad shit like the power sell-off, they’re only ever going to do it reactively, not proactively. Especially when doing so means going back to what seems like a political abuser who hasn’t really convinced you they’ve learned their lesson yet.

 

Music criticism/game criticism

So this was a really quite interesting essay (which I’ve come to quite late) by James Parker and Nicholas Croggon about music criticism, and I think it has interesting stuff to say to games criticism too. I’m thinking here about that piece by Anthony Burch recently that was very much a case of him retroactively rejecting much of his previous work as a game critic in light of his newly gleaned experiences as a game developer.

After reading this essay, what I feel like the really interesting point Burch could have approached was something like what Parker and Croggon get at – the fact that a lot of what passes for criticism at the moment really is just “human reactions” and this kind of adjective salad that results from this approach:

rather than confront the possible meaning or significance of the artist’s choice of sample (whether or not they know exactly what is being sampled) and address how that might impact our understanding of and relationship with the work, we get a flurry of adjectives. The music is “romantic,” “mesmerizing,” “intense,” and the unknown orchestral sample is an opening onto something “personal and momentous.”

It’s the “feelpinion” version of criticism – and though it sounds a bit pejorative, like the authors of the piece I’m uninterested in shutting this type of work down. It’s great and important and even awesome – it should not go away – it’s also not quite sufficient for a really well developed critical perspective. The conclusion that Parker and Corggon reach is that it takes real work to develop that insight and expertise, and I think the error that Burch made was thinking that it took literal work – making games. He was really quite horrified at how dismissive he had been as a games journalist and how much he underestimated the work that went into even seemingly small issues.

But how the sausage is made is not always important, or even relevant. Just like how we wouldn’t really care about whether the musician inserted the sample with Logic or Ableton – that’s not the important detail to focus on, and it’s actually fairly telling that the games industry (as embodied, partially, by Burch) still cares a great deal more about how the “sample” is inserted than what that sample says or its history and place within a larger history and trajectory of games/music/etc.

But I also don’t know what forms of knowledge and experience, exactly, about games (or about players? game culture? developer culture? all of these things?) is important for a critic. I’ve read some really fucking great pieces that do design analyses and intensely detailed breakdowns of certain game mechanics that go nowhere near the development process, but which do really, really illuminating work to get closer to the heart of the game-object without obsessing over the utterly boring (yet downright impressive) technology. I’ve also attempted my own Latourian thick description style analysis with limited success. Frankly, I mostly couldn’t care less about how a game is made, unless it’s under conditions of exploitation.

The necessary caveat, of course, is that design thinking goes into the development process (or should) and that might be worth knowing about, but again that’s not the same as letting your knowledge of the very human, and very sympathisable, difficulty of just making games dull your critical faculties. Yes, making games is hard, but if you don’t like the conditions, change them, or do something else.

Aesthetic Seriousness

“Over the centuries, empirical, clear thinking has become branded with the image of Default Men. They were the ones granted the opportunity, the education, the leisure, the power to put their thoughts out into the world. In people’s minds, what do professors look like? What do judges look like? What do leaders look like? The very aesthetic of seriousness has been monopolised by Default Man. Practically every person on the globe who wants to be taken seriously in politics, business and the media dresses up in some way like a Default Man, in a grey, western, two-piece business suit. Not for nothing is it referred to as “power dressing”. We’ve all seen those photo ops of world leaders: colour and pattern shriek out as anachronistic.” – Grayson Perry’s editorial intro ‘Rise and Fall of The Default Man