Good and ugly.
The three CDs offer aural evidence of all that: garbage versions of electronic music (linked to Kelley's involvement with DAM), noise, prototrance, instrumentals, both aggressive and sad stints with a singer-songwriter style, music as a dysfunctional standup routine (half lounge, half rock). In other words, punk rock deconstructed. The result is hours and hours of a monster being created and released. Oursler is the main vocalist delivering the half-sung, half-spoken lyrics (Kelley and Jim Shaw are also heard on some tracks), and band members include (on various cuts) John Miller, Mark Madel, Tim Silverlake, and Bill Stobough. Each of the ninety-one pieces are quite short (only one is longer than six minutes), and all are remixes of work that seems here like raw material compiled from even rawer material, most of it taken from the cassettes that had been the Poetics' way of recording. "Setting it right" didn't mean cleaning up the mess in a high-tech way, but retrieving it from the dustbin while keeping it dusty, creating enough tension to make one listen and listen and listen. What's heard is a torturous and beautiful monotony, incredibly self-contained yet incorporating a vast set of recognizable styles, like some condensed version of world music. The experience throws its listener for a loop for the longest stretch, but then . . .
"It only masquerades as period music for its true reception is in the present. And the critical analyses which accompany it, though reflective of period issues, are colored by hindsight. It is . . . a fiction. The very mode of the music's presentation is of the present - CD box sets did not exist in the seventies; the packaging itself tears the music from its historical frame. Thus the music is revealed as not being 'popular,' that is - designed to produce instant gratification, since it gratifies fifteen years too late. Instead it is art, it is facade." (MK). Well, it is a kind of etching in stone, and perhaps it's intentional on the part of the Poetics that treating history this way might be a good idea when so many others are busy securing their place before the turn of the calendar. This one's no administrative job, but an ugly labor of love.
Jutta Koether is a painter and critic who lives in New York.
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|Title Annotation:||Poetics music group|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1998|
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