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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… the Black Dog, Further Vexations… May 16, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

If there was a moment when a light-bulb marked ‘electronica’ went off in my head and I could say “I got it” after years of listening to rock, indie and new wave I’d think it was an edition of John Peel sometime in 1994 or so. It was one of those shows where you hear a lot of good stuff. There were a couple of tracks from the Manics “Holy Bible” which had me reassessing them completely. But also were a few numbers, possibly Peel sessions, from The Black Dog which blew me away. Stripped down electronica with loping basses, tricky keyboard lines and found sounds and odd samples.

Yep. The Black Dog (or Black Dog Productions) are the quintessential techno/IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) band, long compositions, a shed load of blips, anonymity as a given. And to top it all they were on WARP records during the early to mid-1990s.

Two excellent albums, Bytes and Spanners, followed in relatively rapid succession and then they split up, fairly acrimoniously as best as can be judged in the mid-1990s with two of them decamping to Plaid. Plaid were great, but Plaid have always had a touch of more a commercial aspect to them – in so far as any of these groups can be said to be commercial. Consequently for Plaid there were collaborations with Bjork, amongst others.

Whereas by contrast the Black Dog after one fine album, Music for Adverts (and Short Films) – a joke at a certain Mr. Eno’s expense – seemed to drop off the face of the planet for a little over a decade.

It’s not quite that simple. There were records released, and a bunch of collaborations (with people like Ofra Haza who had previously worked with the Sisters) but these were low-key affairs, tending towards the experimental. Which is a mixed blessing.

Anyhow, they returned as a threesome, with two new additional members, in the last couple of years and have been putting out some interesting material that remains rooted in the IDM style of the 1990s. I won’t say that it moves beyond it, but there’s a nice reappraisal of the Detroit sound for the 2000s. I think it works well.

Their latest is Further Vexations which adds to this is a political message that goes as follows:

Further Vexations is our artistic response to 21st century rat on your neighbour smokefree britain. It is an attempt to capture and express our emotional frustrations, and the trials and tribulations of living in an un-democratic surveillance society.

The seeds of nihilist despair and apathy are well and truly sown amongst the citizens of Airstrip One. We’ve helplessly watched with mounting horror, while the government trashed the country, signed away its sovereignty to Brussels (with a flourish of a specially minted silver pen), sold off precious national industries and assets at next to bargain basement prices, and indulged itself with two utterly pointless wars which it couldn’t afford. We were promised a vote. A referendum. A chance to change things but an unelected politician chancellor man decided not to bother. To say we are pissed off about it, would be an understatement.

Okay. That could go a number of ways. Although, given the events in the UK this last week (or should that be this last decade or so?) ‘a plague on all your houses’ seems more rational than it used to be.

Here is a piece that gives you a sense of where they are now…

…one which tells you where they’ve been recently…

…and here is one which gives a sense of where they used to be…



1. nailik - May 19, 2009

Good choice, Further Vexations is my album of the year this year already, and Radio Scarecrow was top five last year.

The We Are Sheffield EP out in July features an Autechre remix. Nice.


2. WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2009

Ah, thanks for that nailik. Nice one. I’d agree, FV is well up there on the list of top flight albums of the year. Indeed just thinking about how it’s already May it points up how poor this year has been.


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