I’m sure you know who Tony McGuinness is as he is one third of the electronic trio we all know as Above & Beyond. In an insightful newsletter Tony looks back…
If you have not read this new newsletter from Above & Beyond then have a read of it all below. It’s a new delivery of information from the dance legends that are Above & Beyond which them taking it in turns to put down their thoughts of anything musical past or present. The first delivery is from Tony McGuinness and its very much worth taking the time to read.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Last year we visited Spotify in their plush new offices in Stockholm. Equipped with recording studio, live music venue and free bananas, it’s a state of the art workplace for employees of one of the Internet’s most impressive success stories. After the meeting we had a lunch with some of the directors and I was lucky to be sat next to Gustav Söderström, their R&D chief. During a wide ranging and very enjoyable chat about music, technology and artificial intelligence, he said something that has stayed with me ever since.
“We used to think that when the robots would come and take over humanity, that they would be silver, with red eyes, talking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. We keep waiting for AI to be like us, human shaped and sentient, before we think it’s a threat. But that’s a mistake. The robots have already been. They were algorithms.”
What he was talking about is the algorithms that decide what we see on the internet, on YouTube and Facebook, on news sites and so on. These algorithms have one job, to create engagement, to produce a sticky environment that keeps us humans, like Neo in the Matrix, plugged in to their platforms for as long as possible so they could show us more advertising and make more money. It’s a well known fact that if you use any free internet platform, you’re not the customer, you’re the product, your attention sold to advertisers of designer shirts, snake oil and so on. And left unchecked, the algorithms, fuelled by billions of live case studies and with brain power far greater than the humans who programmed them, soon figured out that the most engaged human is an outraged human. The algorithms were effectively fine-tuned to make us mad, training us, by repeated exposure to the right kind of post or video, to get outraged and get involved. Of course, there are many things we find on the internet that are both interesting and benign, like ABGT or funny cat videos, but nothing gets us more worked up than a story of someone saying or doing something that we think is just stupid. And after repeated exposure to stories of certain kinds of people saying or doing annoying things, we start to label those people over there and ourselves left back here and fifteen years later we’re all divided into sub groups who think the people outside our echo chamber are idiots, less than human, derisible and hate-able. Voila, our current divided world.
I would be being disingenuous if I didn’t admit that, ever since Anjunabeats launched our fan forum in 2001, we’ve also been using the internet to help us build a community, a family of like minded music fans with whom we could communicate. Over the years we’ve used all means available to help us do that, from Trance.nu and MySpace, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube - and even Google Plus and we will continue to use any and all internet tools available to us. But today, in the face of a growing acknowledgement that constant exposure to social media might not be the healthiest thing for us humans to be doing, we’re adding something that’s very old fashioned and offline to our communication tools — a newsletter. This is the first (I’m honoured to have drawn the short straw!) and we hope you enjoy reading it.
WHAT I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO - THE TINLICKER BACK CATALOGUE
I can still remember discovering Tinlicker for myself in the pile of records vying for a place on ABGT 166 in January 2018. Their single Mandaag was fresh and difficult to pigeon-hole, but brilliantly produced and I flagged it to the office and put it in the show. I remember searching on the web for info about the act, but it was so sparse and mysterious at the time I thought Tinlicker was one person. Fast forward 18 months and they are firmly established as one of the most exciting acts on Anjuna. Micha Heyboer and Jordi van Achthoven hail from Utrecht in Holland and one of the reasons Mandaag sounded so polished is they have been producing for sometime in adjacent genres, honing their sound until Tinlicker emerged, a little bit progressive, a little bit techno, a big bit awesome. You’ll be hearing much more from Tinlicker this year - I’ve been listening to demos of new material and it’s sounding great.
:: Listen to their new single 'Lost' Feat. Run Rivers
WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING RECENTLY
Quite simply the best thing I’ve seen on TV since Breaking Bad, this chilling and compelling five part series tells the true story of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe in the former USSR. The locations, casting, costumes and acting is all impeccable and the soundtrack is extraordinary. Composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, she based the entire score on sounds she and her team recorded in the power plant in Lithuania used in filming, notably a pressure door which, after hours of recording, provided the main melodic hook from sudden creaking. How cool is that?!
Before I joined Above & Beyond I was working on an album of sad songs with my old band-mate Bob Bradley. I’d written them all in a rush between 1996 and 1997 and then Bob and I recorded them at home, having a lot of fun in the process. In 2000, of course, Above & Beyond happened and took over my life so comprehensively that the album quickly became irrelevant to my musical story. The 8 track tape machine that I’d recorded it on eventually broke down and was sold and the master tapes, now unreadable (or so I thought), went in a box while my musical energy went into Above & Beyond. About ten years ago I was alerted to a company that could transfer multi-track tapes like mine to digital and so I got the stems and started to fiddle in my down time, wrestling them back into shape over many, many hours. I’m delighted to say, thanks to a recent burst of invaluable help from Tim Hutton (our Acoustic band’s “Swiss Army Knife”, who sings, plays brass, keyboards, guitar and bass), the album is nearing completion after 22 years of production. It’s called Salt and I hope to have more news about that soon.