Posts Tagged ‘Signal to Noise’

Progcrit boneheads

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

It doesn’t seem particularly appropriate for me to identify myself anymore as a “prog fan” in the sense of a fan with a single genre focus — that stopped being true four or five years ago. Yet I still perk up whenever I see prog mentioned in non-prog media, and such was the case when, in reading the new issue of Signal to Noise, I ran across a very provocative review by Mark S. Tucker of Ed Macan’s new book, The Endless Enigma: A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This is a fun review that includes things like this:

[Macan's] Rocking the Classics offered much-needed relief from silly magazinic “What is prog?” maunderings and it alone may explain why authors like Jerry Lucky and sites like Gnosis have remained completely irrelevant… as a platform from which to consider aesthetic questions, Endless Enigma is hardly being touched by progcrit boneheads… The book is a high-water mark in progrock literature, and I’m afriad we’ll see little of its like in the future.

It’s an article about prog in a non-prog publication, so there has to be some dissing going on. But Tucker isn’t poking a stick at prog fans per se, the way most non-prog media does, so much as he is doing so at prog critics. “Progcrit boneheads” is a pretty great phrase that I wish I could use as a Ground & Sky subtitle; but alas, I think Tucker might actually like this website, or at least applaud our general refusal to treat with the whole “what is prog” nonsense. Other than that one thing, actually, it’s not really clear why he considers prog critics to be “boneheads” and “completely irrelevant,” but tossing around such perjoratives sure does make his article more fun to read.

Of course, the rub is that Tucker is actually a pretty “true” prog fan, whatever that means, having written for such publications as, uh, Exposé and Progression (what makes these magazines more “relevant” than sites like Gnosis is unclear to me). In this article he namedrops Porcupine Tree, Univers Zero, and Henry Cow, and in reviews elsewhere in this issue of Signal to Noise alone he mentions Tasvallan Presidentti and 5uu’s. This makes his critique of prog critics, such as it is, much more interesting than it would be if it had come from a total outsider. In any case, he spends a lot of column-inches lauding Macan’s analytical style mostly through trashing progcrit boneheads (and Chris Cutler and Dave Kerman for their “weirdly perjorative” takes on prog as a genre), and pulls off a near-miracle in getting me actually interested in reading this book. Considering that I hate ELP with a passion and basically regard them as concretizing everything I don’t like about prog, that’s quite an achievement.

You should read Signal to Noise

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

If you enjoy the sort of avant-rock, avant-jazz, free improv, and other “new musics” (post-rock, various more experimental kinds of indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, and so on) that I enjoy, I implore you to check out the second-best publication in the English language that covers these kinds of music (behind Exposé, of course!): Signal to Noise, the “Journal of Improvised and Experimental Music.” Much more accessible to folks like me than the sometimes inscrutable The Wire, Signal to Noise is a real joy to read and reviews all kinds of stuff we like. The latest issue, for instance, has reviews of Charming Hostess, lots of Cuneiform releases (Machine and the Synergetic Nuts, John Surman, Radio Massacre International), Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, all the latest Cryptogramophone releases (Scott Amendola Band, Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney), Fred Frith, and a big feature review of Miles Davis‘ forthcoming Cellar Door Sessions.

Best of all, they offer the best deal in magazine history — $50 for a complete set of back issues, which is nearly 40 magazines. Jump on it. I did.