No Fear Of Pop: Notes on the Future of Music

29 Oct 2012 — Henning Lahmann

’Popular music’ can either mean ‘music that is widely appreciated’ or else music for ‘the people’ or by ‘the people’, regardless of how many people actually appreciate it. I’m referring to the third category, but either way the term is generally a catch-all category for music that isn’t thought to be Western classical music. Since the Second World War this ‘popular music’ has been increasing exponentially in diversity and complexity, incorporating new, technological structures and forms and becoming a powerful new site for musical modernism. It hopefully goes without saying, then, that modernist music isn’t limited to one particular musical style or genre, but can and will manifest through hundreds and thousands of different styles. In any case, the main thrust of musical modernism has largely fallen out of the hands of Western classical music over the last fifty years.

Adam Harper, Infinite Music


In line with above introductory statement in Adam Harper's wonderfully inspiring Infinite Music and contrary to what Adorno would have us believe for decades, we are convinced that pop music indeed is capable of introducing something "fundamentally new" into the larger picture of contemporary culture. We believe, in essence, that what's currently happening in Montréal or Bristol, in Brooklyn or L.A., or what might happen during a night at Berghain or the Golden Pudel Club, can be a manifestation of true modernism. However, it would also be too short-sighted to only look for the avant-garde in Burial's or Julia Holter's latest work, or in a Laurel Halo remix of a Kuedo track (though we're sure it's there) - boundaries are also being pushed in Oklahoma, or in Georgia, or indeed in Scandinavia's latest dance anthem; it is in this sense that we have no fear of pop.

On the occasion of the first exhibition of Vir Heroicus Sublimis, Barnett Newman had attached a note that read, "There is a tendency to look at large pictures from a distance. The large pictures in this exhibition are intended to be seen from a short distance." As a blog, which this site has been so far and will remain to be at its core, we follow Newman's instruction. Standing right in front of the painting, we gaze at the details that are the tracks that we post and write about, a tiny selection of the thousands of musical works that appear each single day. Only in retrospect, from a distance, those details may or may not turn out to be of significance for the bigger picture that we like to call the culture of contemporary, forward-thinking pop. This self-perception surely does not mean that we don't have our own thoughts about the evolution of music, and one reason for relaunching the site was to allow the presence of longer and more reflective pieces in the future. However, for the time being we happily and emphatically direct you towards the people whose job it is (or should be) to stand in the safe distance and shed light upon the big picture, publications that we trust in such as The Wire, The Quietus, Ad Hoc, FACT, Dummy, Tiny Mix Tapes, or Electronic Beats.

What you see here should nonetheless be more than another random assortment of the arbitrarily hyped or soon-to-be-hyped or would-be-hyped. Apart from pure pop-cultural relevance, our primary aim is to provide at least some meaning in and of itself. As Pitchfork's Mark Richardson put it so beautifully the other day, "I am absolutely saturated with new music every day, and finding new things I like is not just easy, it's inevitable. So when I ask someone, 'What have you been listening to?' I'm trying to learn something about them. (...) The fact that someone would find music interesting purely by virtue of the fact that I am listening to it is foreign to me. What I listen to does not seem notable; why I listen to it might be. I need context." That's exactly what we shall be trying to achieve; not so much simply acting as curators of the dernier cri but as an honest guide into the ever-growing obscurities of today's pop music. So when we're good, you will like the stuff we post, or ideally even find it intriguing, engaging, and challenging. But when we truly succeed, you will also know why we posted it.

To celebrate No Fear Of Pop's second metamorphosis, we've asked our esteemed friend Michael McGregor (Meadowlands/The Report) to share his vision of the future of music with this exclusive mix that you may listen to below.

"The idea was certainly in keeping with, and from the point of, exploring the 'future of music', however, most of the tracks are pretty old, or at least not contemporary. Either way, these songs, together, feel symbolic of where things may go as the archive of music opens and expands for all to hear and enjoy."


(1) Bearns & Dexter - Golden Voyage
(2) Jean Bouchety - Lifebound (Submix)
(3) Teebs - King Bathtub (minus 10)
(4) Kevin Ayers - Pisser Dans Un Violon
(5) Nini Raviolette - Suis Je Normale
(6) Actress - Ascending (bckwrds)
(7) Dick Sutphen - Trance Sex
(8) DJ Sprinkles - Brenda's $20 Dilemma
(9) Elaine Radigue - Adnos 3
(10) Gramm - Legends / Nugroove™
(11) Prince Jammy - Wafer Scale Integration
(12) Inoyama Land - Apple Star
(13) Roland Douttate 7 Orchestre - Gymnopedie no. 3 (Erik Satie)
(14) F. McDonald/ C. Rae - Memory Bank
(15) Bullwackies All Stars - Black Heart Dub
(16) David Caspar - Dawn Poems part 1: Early Moments
(17) Reichmann - Weltweit