Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why Go Beardo?

The Casual Wizard - Weekend Prince

Cosmic Parsley – Daniele Baldelli
Never Satisfied – Sarah Dash

We Can Make It – Purple Flash

Evening Standard – Jesse Rose

Flashing Lights – Kanye West

Stick Up Kid (Weekend Prince Remix) – Lyfe Jennings

Train (Ewan Pearson 6/8 Vocal) Goldfrapp

Walking Through Heaven – Chris & Cosey

I Wanna Dance With Numbers – Girls on Top

The Devil in Us – Black Devil Disco Club

Front Man (Idjut Boys Girthius Maximus Mix) – The Emperor Machine

Effective Placebo Affect – In Flagranti

All Flowers Must Fade – Daniel Wang

Lily was Here – Dave Stewart & Candy Dulfer

The Zoo (Weekend Prince Remix) – R. Kelly

Commune – Rub N Tug

Sorcerer – White Magic

Life’s a Beach - Studio

Mary Jane (All Night Long) – Mary J. Blige

It is generally believed that the father of beardo disco is Daniele Baldelli, DJ of the Italian club Cosmic in the early 80s. When referring to current subgenres of danceable electronic music that derive from Baldelli's sound, 'space disco', 'cosmic disco' and 'beardo disco' are all more or less interchangeable, the last of these terms stemming ostensibly from the appeal that such dense, trippy sounds have for a particular brand of grizzled layabout.
This musical strand and Baldelli's influence have in the past two years or so come again into cultural consciousness, in part because of the sheer sonic experimentalism that its purveyors are afforded. Here is Baldelli, describing his mixing style in an interview with Daniel Wang, himself a current producer of space disco who has recently relocated to Berlin:

For example, I used to play Bolero by Ravel, and on top of this I would play an African song by Africa Djola, or maybe an electronic tune by Steve Reich, with which I would mix a Malinké chant from New Guinea. Or, I would mix T-Connection with a song by Moebius and Rodelius, adding the hypnotic-tribal Izitso album of Cat Stevens, and then Lee Ritenour, but also Depeche Mode at 33 instead of 45, or a reggae voice by Yellowman at 45 instead of 33. I might mix 20 African songs on top of a Korg Electronic Drums (machine) rhythm pattern. I would play a Brazilian batucada and mix it with a song by Kraftwerk. I would also use synthesizer effects on the voices of Miriam Makeba, Jorge Ben, or Fela Kuti, or I would play the Oriental melodies of Ofra Haza or Sheila Chandra with the electronic sounds of the German label SKY.

In part Baldelli's efforts produce a kind of short-circuiting of what's called 'world' music, because the mixes and effects interrupt the ear's understanding of the 'world' and of the different exotic music styles which represent it. It's no-world music, or end-of-the-world music, producing countries that don't exist, much like Eno & Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was designed to, and much like some of Werner Herzog's films like Fata Morgana or Lessons of Darkness, which take images of distant lands and alienate the viewer from them until they seem to longer to be documents of reality but emanations from a realm of strangeness.

Beardo Disco, however, does not begin with Baldelli, in Italy, in the 80s, or as music. It begins in a posthumously published story by Franz Kafka, "Homeless Wizards and Casual Pansies", in which the enmity between these two cultures is portrayed as a fable in the desert. The Wizards tell the Beardo Disco DJ he is the only one who can murder the pansies and liberate them, and the pansy scoffs and dismisses this as fantasy. In fact, the only solution to the deadlock, so palpable by way of its concentrated absence in the story, is a dialectical synthesis of the worlds of homeless wizards and casual pansies in the form of beardo disco. In other words Baldelli is the story's unnamed narrator:

Excerpt from
Homeless Wizards and Casual Pansies
by Franz Kafka

“..We know,” the oldest began, “that you come from the north. Our hope rests on that very point. In the north there is a way of understanding things which one cannot find here among the Casual Pansies. You know, from their cool arrogance one cannot strike a spark of common sense. They kill animals to eat them, and they disregard rotting carcasses.”
“Don’t speak so loud,” I said. “There are Casual Pansies sleeping close by.”
“You really are a stranger,” said the Wizard. “Otherwise you would know that throughout the history of the world a homeless wizard has never yet feared a casual pansy. Should we fear them? Is it not misfortune enough that we have been cast out among such people?”
“Maybe—that could be,” I said. “I’m not up to judging things which are so far removed from me. It seems to be a very old conflict—it’s probably in the blood and so perhaps will only end with blood.”
“You are very clever” said the old wizard, and they all panted even more quickly, their lungs breathing rapidly, although they were standing still. A bitter smell streamed out of their open jaws—at times I could tolerate it only by clenching my teeth. “You are very clever. What you said corresponds to our ancient doctrine. So we take their blood, and the quarrel is over.”
“Oh,” I said, more sharply than I intended, “they’ll defend themselves. They’ll shoot you down in droves with their guns.”
“You do not understand us,” he said, “a characteristic of human beings which has not disappeared, not even in the high north. We are not going to kill them. The Nile would not have enough water to wash us clean. The very sight of their living bodies makes us run away immediately into cleaner air, into the desert, which, for that very reason, is our home.”
All the wizards surrounding us—and in the meantime many more had come up from a distance—lowered their heads between the front legs and cleaned them with their paws. It was as if they wanted to conceal an aversion which was so terrible, that I would have much preferred to take a big jump and escape beyond their circle.
“So what do you intend to do,” I asked. I wanted to stand up, but I couldn’t. Two young wizards were holding me firmly from behind with their jaws biting my jacket and shirt. I had to remain sitting. “They are holding your train,” said the old wizard seriously, by way of explanation, “a mark of respect.” “They should let me go,” I cried out, turning back and forth between the old one and the young ones. “Of course, they will,” said the old one, “if that’s what you want. But it will take a little while, for, as is our habit, they have dug their teeth in deep and must first let their jaws open gradually. Meanwhile, listen to our request.” “Your conduct has not made me particularly receptive to it,” I said. “Don’t make us pay for our clumsiness,” he said, and now for the first time he brought the plaintive tone of his natural voice to his assistance. “We are poor wizards—all we have is our teeth and our epic beards. And our robes and sneakers.” “So what do you want?” I asked, only slightly reassured.
“Sir,” he cried out, and all the homeless wizards howled. To me it sounded very remotely like a melody. “Sir, you should end the quarrel which divides the world in two. Our ancestors described a man like you as the one who will do it..."

As concerns the Casual Wizard mix, let it serve as a primer for the curious and ill-informed. My own contribution here is not the inclusion of a number of beardo heavy-hitters and usual suspects, but that of a handful of r&b vocals and remixes - this kind of disco does have a kind of sexuality to it, but it's a white european sexuality, sleek and drifty. Thus the goal is to inject a foreign element, in this case the sweat and sweet musk of American R&B....Rhythm and Beard?

For more on beardo/space/cosmic disco see:


Alex B. said...

This Story is too close to the truth. As though encoded into our DNA. Much like the Emperor Penguin brought into turbulent life, with proper breeding knowledge, Baldelli is thrust unto this world with both healthy skepticism, and latent talents for unification. Striking, yet eerily familiar.

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