Clear the Decks, Porcini Ahead!

The arrival of a new Funki Porcini album is enough to clear aside whatever small stack of CDs may block safe package between mailbox and stereo system. Porcini has built up a body of electronic pop that truly distinguishes itself, not only from the work of his contemporaries in general, but also from that of his talented Ninja Tune peers — Ninja Tune being the tightly knit label that has issued most of his recordings, as well as music by Amon Tobin and Coldcut. Popular electronic music today consists of a continuum from avant-garde to dance music that’s weighted fairly heavily at either end, and Porcini enjoys a rare free-floating vantage point above the goings-on.

His latest, The Ultimately Empty Million Pounds (Ninja Tune), touches on the obsessions Porcini fans have come to expect: the jazz flourishes; the nods to cinema, especially John Barry’s modish soundtracks; the purposefully mixed bag of samples, shop-worn beats and experimental passages that promise some reward in trade for a bit of work on the part of the listener. But the only deep funk to be reported in regard to Empty Million Pounds, at least at this pre-release date, is that experienced by a too expectant listener. Perhaps one can only hear smoky old blue notes filtered so many times through readymade synthesizers, but for all its spy sounds, the album plods more than it swings. Bob Barker’s voice is just one of many all too familiar samples. And a track that turns an old musical-instruction LP into a ditty begs comparison to the Big Audio Dynamite hit of years back, “Rush.” Certainly it’s fun to hear BAD’s idea expanded into a song unto itself, but certainly we’ve come to expect more from Porcini.

Emoticon of the Week

Emoticons are the often annoying vernacular of typographic symbols used to lend flavor to email. For the most part we all stopped speaking of them, let alone using them, at least a year ago — things like :-) for happy and :-( for sad, not to mention the slew of related alphanumeric codes, such as “BTW” for “by the way” and “IMHO” for “in my humble opinion.” But some trends just won’t die, and a relatively recent digerati abbreviation is worthy of mention. Popping up for some time now on emails, especially on music-related email lists, is “NP” — which stands for “now playing.” The writer tags the end of an email with the name of the song or album he’s listening to, more than likely on headphones hooked to the CD player of the computer on which he’s doing the typing. Like the best emoticons, “NP” can be a valuable window on the psychology of your correspondent. When someone tags a sentence with :-) she may be happy or she may be trying to put a smile on a less-than-friendly missive. When someone writes you an email about a failed romance and tags the end with “NP: The Jam’s Snap,” there’s nothing to worry about, but when it reads “NP: Blue Monday,” a phone call may be in order. An “NP” in music-related correspondence serves as, perhaps, the ultimate act of one-upsmanship. A writer who tags an email with a CD by a hearty avant-gardist, such as Alvin Curran or James Tenney, is really saying, “Yeah, I do listen to this stuff.” (Sure, he could be lying.) But “NP” can also have unintended consequences. There’s nothing like reading a come-on from a would-be admirer — or a lengthy email treatise on some heady subject — only to find, at the end, “NP: Dream Theatre’s When Dream and Day Unite” or “NP: The Lion King.” At which point, depending on the reader’s point of view, the value of that email may have diminished considerably.

Not sure which issue of epulse this appeared in, but it was redistributed in a post to the “postcard2” list on February 15, 1999 by a member of that list: