Steve Albini at his music studio Electrical Audio in Chicago

Steve Albini RIP

08.05.24

A Rude Awakening today as the world learns in shock of the premature passing of one of the most important individuals in underground music. It prompted me to write this post which I shared on Substack, for the first time.

 

I am writing this first post on an unfortunate day. Another day that will be remembered as we say goodbye to another legend, gone too soon. A sad day for music lovers. Just got the news Steve Albini died, aged 61, from a heart attack. It’s another sad day for guys my age, who were born in the 1970’s and have seen many of their childhood heroes gone. Losing yet another hero, a bright and talented musician prompted me to write this first post, looking back at some 40 years of listening to music, nonstop, everyday.

 

Steve Albini playing with Big Black

Steve Albini fronting Big Black

 

Got thinking about Steve and other legends that are gone, some of them I met, like Phill Niblock or Brian McBride… both gone in the last 6 months or so, Brian, not so much a legend due to age – as he was actually 53 like me – but due to the sheer influence he had in so many bands and people I know. It got me thinking about the people I have met at gigs and festivals, and the records I have collected, traded, sold, got back, sold again, all as means to an end, to get going, to get cash.., for presents, for gigs, drugs, girls, for long distance petrol, to buy electronic gear, mostly amps, speakers, mixers, synths, racks of synths… all this way before the advent of computer music and software. Got me thinking about how important music is to me, and how I have benefited so greatly from being a music head, seriously addicted to sound and melody and noise.

 

It all started when I was 14 years old and discovered there was more to music than radio hits and film scores. In the early 80’s, in the north of Portugal, you really didn’t choose your music. Music chose you. Listening to music was easy, it was as simple as having a radio nearby, but listening to music with intent was an exercise in patience and at times, a dangerous one, for a kid. You see, there wasn’t any money for records and grown-ups didn’t trust you enough to lend over their cherished records. You listened to matinée radio: my oldest memories are the first encounters with the music of Cliff Richard, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Tina Turner.

 

And then you ventured into the night, you start to court the night, patiently listening to some programs that started really late, under the bed sheets, dim light, so you didn’t wake up your parents.

I remember taking notes of the hosts going on about what they called “exciting new music” or “modern music”… there weren’t many post- prefixes yet, but it was on these radio shows that I’d listen to ‘proto’ and ‘post-punk’ for the first time. Back then radio was basic, you’d note information about the band, the album, the track, maybe the studio and the label and that was it. There were no attached stories, gripping with adventures, stories of hotels, and girls, and booze… not yet.

In the early 80’s in Portugal, a mere 7, 8 years after the famed people’s revolution of 25 April 1974, culture was just catching up. Music was undoubtedly the first art form to really flourish out of the obscure state of oppression that had closed the country for 48 years. Yes, you had a lot of dissatisfied young people, on the verge of anarchy, a mix of converted hippies on daily doses of Pink Floyd and communism, and wannabe punks revelling in the nastiest imports from London and Berlin. But only in the big cities, Porto and Lisbon, where students were more affluent and bars were open late. You didn’t get this primer from the radio experience, in the radio it was all according to the taste of the host.

 

The day I listened to Joy Division for the first time is as an important marker in my life as every other symbolic moment, such as the first girl you think you loved or your first dog, or bike…, the first walkman. The stuff that made you, the vivid memories you pass onto your kids. Joy Division came before the Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks and Clash. I look back with great joy and gratefulness at the opportunity I had to listen to The Cure, Bauhaus, The Fall, and Siouxsie & The Banshees for the first time. Like discovering there’s a world out there, that life can be interesting. These bands shaped who I was, the taste in fashion, in literature… and the whole aesthetic that I would chase for the many years, decades to come.

 

Ilustração de Antonio Freitas (programa de Radio Som da Frente)

Antonio Freitas Illustration

 

These bands were playing on a show hosted by a DJ who was very fond of new British music, he called it post-punk. That radio show was called “Som da Frente” (front sound) and the host was the much missed Antonio Sérgio.
I was catching up too, to English post-punk and American no-wave specifically. Weeks later I remember getting introduced to Clan of Xymox, Sisters of Mercy, Glenn Branca and… Big Black.

 

Antonio had a radio voice. Antonio had the significance for us in Portugal as one John Peel had in the UK. He was the voice of alternative radio. These bands I mentioned represent a small fraction of that foundation of choice and taste in music and other art forms. Music has been the glue that makes sense of everything else.

To have a better picture of the music that really influenced my years of teenager, during the 80’s, check this mix below:

 

MIX#1 – Foundation Series – TOP20 albums of the 80’s (UK)

 

This Mix #1 and #2 posted below are collections of tracks I put together more than 20 years ago. I have just redone them, with the same songs, in the same order but used 320 kbps mp3s instead of the incompetent 128 kbps of the time.

 

When covid hit at the beginning of March 2020, I started organising all my music in vinyl, cds, k7s, dats, minidiscs (!) and mp3. Over 40 years of music, hundreds of physical material and 8TB of NAS content. What followed was the desire to start making thematic playlists that would bring together great music of similar genres and moods that are truly important to me, but soon I realised that there was a lot of my favourite music that wasn’t available in streaming platforms so I decided the best was to start from scratch, make my own mixes in Audacity and upload them to say Mixcloud or Soundcloud.
Then I faced more issues, copyright limitations and escalating fees… so I decided I was going to make my own website so I could host them in my server.

 

It’s thanks to Antonio and the “Som da Frente” radio show that I got to listen to Big Black for the first time. I was immediately hooked. It represented such a switch from the music coming from the UK. It was harsher and more industrial and raw. ‘Atomizer’ is among the first 10 albums I ever owned. Unfortunately I am not sure where it went. It may have been lost in trading, which was as risky then as long covid today.

It would come to influence my further experiences in music discovery with great impact, it would make me want to form my first band.

 

From the no-wave shenanigans of Rhys Chatham‘s The Gynecologists, and Glenn Branca‘s Theoretical Girls, to Suicide, from Black Flag to The Misfits, and from Big Black to Swans, the American sound was something extraordinarily exciting to behold and for the years that followed, well until the end of the 80’s and the start of alt-rock and grunge, we had the best decade for music ever.

 

In this day of sadness, it was nice to remember some of these moments, back when I was a kid, getting to know Ian, Robert, Jello and Steve… I chose to feature “Kerosene” from Atomizer in my second mix from the “Foundation Series”, available below and from Portcorner.com.

 

MIX #2 – Foundation Series – TOP20 Albums of the 80’s (USA).

 

You will be missed Steve.

 


Media tags

21 May 24

industry

Rishiri island is a unique place on earth. An extinct volcanic peak rising over the ocean, where the four primary elements meet on just over 1 km².

Conceria Opera – Rishiri

17 May 24

music

“Funiculaire” is the first single off Thisquietarmy’s upcoming cassette “Les estampes”. The film was shot in Viana do Castelo (Portugal) in 2018 during a EU tour, edited as a video in 2024.

Thisquietarmy – Funiculaire (Official Music Video – 2024)

08 May 24

interviews

Steve Albini RIP (1962-2024). Excerpt from 'Show Us Your Junk! Ep. 23' (EarthQuaker Devices - 2019). This post is also available from my Substack.

Steve Albini RIP

29 April 24

music

Patrick Higgins 'Versus' (Official Music Video - 2024)

Patrick Higgins – Versus (Official Music Video – 2024)

14 March 24

films

Ryuichi Sakamoto final performance: a concert film, featuring just him and his piano directed by his son Neo Sora in late 2022, with all the energy he could muster, already in his last year leading to his lost battle against cancer. official site

Ryuichi Sakamoto “Opus” (Official Trailer – 2024)

31 January 24

music

.meth - SHAME (Official Music Video - 2024)

.meth – SHAME (Official Music Video – 2024)

07 November 23

fashion

Miu Miu SS24 Fashion Show (Director's Cut by Sophia Al-Maria - 2023)

Miu Miu SS24 Fashion Show (Director’s Cut by Sophia Al-Maria – 2023)

28 October 23

music

Alva Noto (HYbr:ID Ectopia Interacting - 2023). From Alva Noto's album 'HYbr:ID II' out on NOTON on October 13, 2023.

Alva Noto (HYbr:ID Ectopia Interacting – 2023)

18 October 23

film

Roly Porter 'Life Cycle of a Massive Star' (Album Film - 2013). On it's 10th anniversary here is the full album video by James Ginzburg.

Roly Porter ‘Life Cycle of a Massive Star’ (Album Film – 2013)

12 October 23

music

ISKANDR - Hof der Valken (Official Music Video - 2023)

ISKANDR – Hof der Valken (Official Music Video – 2023)

30 September 23

music

Sprain - Privilege of Being (Official Music Video - 2023).

Sprain – Privilege of Being (Official Music Video – 2023)

20 September 23

concert

Lasse Marhaug - How to Avoid Ants (Présences Électronique Paris - 2023)

Lasse Marhaug – How to Avoid Ants (Présences Électronique Paris – 2023)

04 September 23

music

Bianca Scout 'Vanguard' (Official Music Video - 2023)

Bianca Scout ‘Vanguard’ (Official Music Video – 2023)

27 August 23

concert

Stars of the Lid (Live at the Boiler Room NYC - 2015). One of the greatest ambient/drone/post-rock acts of all time in a rare live performance, from within a church: the cult heroes blessed the audience with this one. RIP Brian McBride (1970-2023).

Stars of the Lid (Live at the Boiler Room NYC – 2015)

30 July 23

concert

Takuya Nakamura (Live Set A-COLD-WALL* x Converse - London 2023)

Takuya Nakamura (Live Set A-COLD-WALL* x Converse – London 2023)

15 July 23

concert

Aluk Todolo (Live at Rock In Bourlon - 2023)

Aluk Todolo (Live at Rock In Bourlon – 2023)

06 July 23

concert

Ólafur Arnalds (Live from Hafursey, Iceland - 2023). Performing live with his band from the volcanic wilderness of Iceland.

Ólafur Arnalds (Live from Hafursey, Iceland – 2023)

31 May 23

concert

Grouper (Live at the Paris Bourse du Commerce - 16 April 2022)

Grouper (Live at the Paris Bourse du Commerce – 2022)

10 May 23

concert

Thurston Moore & Phill Niblock & Rie Nakajima (Improvisation Live at Cafe OTO - 2023).

Thurston Moore & Phill Niblock & Rie Nakajima (Improvisation Live at Cafe OTO – 2023)

29 April 23

concert

Caterina Barbieri (Patch Notes - Fact Magazine - 2023)

Caterina Barbieri (Patch Notes – Fact Magazine – 2023)