Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Network News

Nigel Ayers Network News (2009)
Fourteen issues of Network News appeared between 1990 and 1999, an A5 newsletter of twenty or so pages on average and featuring whatever Nigel Ayers of Nocturnal Emissions had fixated on at the time - essays he'd written, or just incoherent notes, jokes, observations, letters he'd been sent, occasionally dismissive one sentence reviews of fanzines and tapes, and a few postal interviews conducted with pals. This probably won't make Network News sound particularly promising, and even in its day it seemed a slim, variable effort, something appearing sporadically in one's mailbox prompting raised eyebrows rather than unalloyed excitement. It looked like a parish magazine or something run off on a duplicator, and even the newspaper cuttings had been retyped so as to blend with the rest of the text. Most of this can be attributed to Nigel Ayers most likely not giving a shit about competing with Re/Search or Music from the Empty Quarter or whatever, and to Network News being compiled in accordance with his fairly singular vision.

And now here they all are again for anyone who might be interested, collected as a lavish Lulu paperback preserving the original tiny and not always legible print, all the obsolete contact information, and the parish magazine aesthetic of the original newsletters. Woohoo, I hear you say.

Well, as it happens, Nigel Ayers has long been one of the more interesting figures loosely associated with weirdy music, and he's never been lacking in wacky ideas even if his methods of communicating those ideas may sometimes seem wilfully obscure. Consequently I'm pleasantly surprised at how well this material communicates something or other in this collected format, at least in comparison to the original sporadic drip of material. I say something or other because I feel neither sufficiently knowledgeable nor pompous to invoke the term psychogeography with impunity, although for the sake of argument, that is more or less the thrust of what we have here. Much of Ayers concerns throughout the nineties seem to have been to do with the reinvestment of humanity as connected to the land it inhabits, physically, culturally, and spiritually - and specifically as something in opposition to the forces of law, order, capital, and tedium. These concerns were expressed as lengthy and occasionally confusing articles about the Beast of Bodmin, geological zodiacs, symbolism, art, Cornish antiquity, Lady Diana Spencer, and generally causing trouble; and it is possibly due to the strength of Ayers occasionally wandering focus that Network News can be read as a more or less single body of work with consistent themes. Although the last two issues - let's call them chapters thirteen and fourteen for the sake of argument - are overtly written as either fictional or autobiographical accounts, they also seem to draw upon and summarise much of what what has gone before; so if it's not quite like reading a novel, it's not that far off, and is actually a little closer than at least a few of the things Burroughs labelled as such. I suppose it would be at least fair to say that we're in Stewart Home territory, roughly speaking, which is weird for me because I know a few of the people in here; in fact, even some of my own self-published crap gets a mention, and I'm pretty sure none of us were aware of being fiction at the time, excepting possibly the Muslimgauze bloke who comes across as a bit of a nutcase, quite frankly.

I suppose what you have here - and this results in part from even the newspaper cuttings having been retyped so as to present everything in the same font - are big blocks of raw, seemingly disparate information jammed together in sequence without much to differentiate one from the other, no preamble or justification, and certainly nothing along the lines of how this week our Nigel takes a wry look at ancient brewery lore in the Peak District. One subject switches rapidly to another, even ending mid-sentence or recurring as a previous page is duplicated - possibly not on purpose - thus creating a sort of information texture with interference formed from the conflicting patterns of an article about McDonalds jammed up against one about stone circles, for one example. What this amounts to is that the collected Network News presents a surprisingly rewarding and often very funny read, certainly more so than one might expect of a title probably doomed to sit on shelves next to tedious histories of industrial music written by people who weren't there. On the strength of this, I sort of wish he'd have a go at something which is more obviously a novel.

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