One does not automatically connect Radio 2 with the avant-garde. But every so often it happens that a slot for it is made available, and the collision of the two makes for enormously uplifting radio. Such was the case with this week's Paul Morley's Guide to Musical Genres, which went out last Tuesday at 11.30pm, so as not to scare the infants.
The title needs no gloss. But the genre being discussed this week was ... well, "glitch". Now, I like to think I can still roughly locate the pulse of contemporary culture when pushed, but until last Tuesday night I was unaware that there was such a genre.
I am grateful to Paul Morley for making good this lacuna in my education, but I must confess to being taken off my guard. Glitch, we learned, emerged in the 1990s, although its roots extend far further back, and will be familiar to you from the stuttering of Cher in "Believe"; "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott; numerous car advertisements; and, for the older listener, Max Headroom, who is, as Paul Morley put it, "the Benny Hill of glitch".
Paul Morley, I have to say, was wonderful here. He strives with his language, to the point where some people snigger (and even I have sniggered on occasion, in a friendly way); but at least he's making it work for him, getting it to do interesting things. And it bespeaks an intense engagement with his subject matter. If you think the phrase "the shredded dreams and nightmares the machines are having about human desire" is worthy of Pseuds Corner, then shame on you, for it is a long time since I have heard such poetry on the radio. You are treated to lots of it on this programme.
"Disorienting, sensational otherness, artificially layered and willed into shape" is another one – or, and this is possibly my favourite, "the sound of dust mating". If I ever run into Paul Morley, I am going to buy him a drink for that phrase alone. And when delivered in a Manchester accent, with a twinkle (there was lots of laughter as he interviewed various musicians, and it was infectious), you just end up delighted.
The programme was perhaps not quite informative enough, although it was clever of Morley to get his interviewees to point out Thelonius Monk as a patron saint of glitch, or Howlin' Wolf as an example of how to mould sound, and the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" as the beginning of it all ("the first track", as one guest put it, "that couldn't have existed outside of a recording studio").
But where, I asked myself, were Afrika Bambaataa, who blew everyone's minds in 1982, or Kid Spatula, or ... oh well, at least they had Autechre. And the subject is larger than you think – so perhaps Morley's rambling, free-associative style fitted it very well. It was an example of the very thing he was trying to describe.Reuse content