Matt Anniss selects music related books to add to your reading list
Matt Anniss is an author, journalist, copywriter, speaker, DJ and content creator with over 20 years experience. Best known for his work as a music journalist and author, he is also a frequent contributor to Innate and has kindly provided us with his round up of music related books published in 2022, to add to your reading list.
Susan Rogers & Ogi Ogas: This is What It Sounds Like – What The Music You Love Says About You (Penguin)
Have you ever wondered why you respond positively to certain songs and records, while others leave you cold? This Is What Music Sounds Like, by record producer-turned-academic Dr Susan Rogers and neuroscientist Ogi Ogas sets out to answer that question, elaborating on Rogers’ belief that everyone has a personal ‘listener profile’ which can be unlocked and better understood. To explain this, she and Ogas devote chapters to eight key aspects of music – authenticity, realism, novelty, melody, lyrics, rhythm, timbre and form and function – mixing music criticism, science, tantalising titbits of musical history, quotes from musicians and analysis of specific songs, which we’re encouraged to listen to while reading. Thought provoking and enlightening, but also accessible and entertaining (the more academic concepts are explained in easy-to-follow terms), This Is What It Sounds Like will make you think about the music you love in a whole new light.
Harry Harrison: Dreaming In Yellow – The Story of DiY Soundsystem (Velocity Press)
The histories of Britain’s free party soundsystems have long been omitted from wider narratives of UK dance music, save for the events at the most famous gathering of party sounds of all – the week-long shindig at Castlemorton Common in May 1992. Naturally, the events at Castlemorton play a pivotal role in Harry Harrison’s memoir of his time with Nottingham’s DiY collective, of which he was one of the co-founders. Dreaming in Yellow does a great job in weaving the story of DiY and their anarchic, utopian ideals into the wider story of free festival and free party culture, whilst also acting as a partial personal biography and a much-needed history of DIY’s club nights, free parties and later record label. While Harrison chose to end the book on a high rather than detail some of the collective’s later struggles with addiction (perhaps a wise choice, though he has spoken about his own experiences in interviews, including in one for the Join The Future radio show), this doesn’t lessen the book one bit.
Richard Evans: Listening To The Music The Machines Make – Inventing Electronic Pop 1978-83 (Omnibus Press)
I love a ridiculously researched and detailed musical history, and Richard Evans’ epic tome on the early years of electronic pop in the UK certainly ticks that box. Unusually, it’s based not on new interviews with the likes of Daniel Miller, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Phil Oakey and Gary Numan, but rather material he found in fanzines and the music press – thus telling the story from the perspective of the artists at the time as much as his own love and knowledge of the period. Across the book’s 400-odd pages, Evans takes us through the roots and inspirations behind the early years of post-punk synth-pop, before chronicling the various waves of bands and artists (some still-loved, others resigned to the status of perennial cult favourites) who turned Britain and beyond on to the delights of synthesisers, drum machines, and mascara-clad musical futurism. This aspect of British pop history has long been under-documented (at least in book form – there have been a few decent documentaries), so Evans’ labour of love is both timely and welcome.
Jarvis Cocker – Good Pop, Bad Pop (Jonathan Cape)
Perhaps it’s my Sheffield roots talking, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Jarvis Cocker and his unique view of the world. His song lyrics have always been vivid and full of odd details, many of which I’ll admit strike more of a chord if you, too, were born and raised in the Steel City. Good Pop, Bad Pop is his answer to writing a memoir. It’s autobiographical but focuses on the stories behind the objects he’s kept for years – ticket stubs, old photos, clothing, gig posters, drawings from old notebooks, that kind of thing – and found while clearing out his loft. It has a narrative of sorts, but you can easily dip in and out of it as you see fit, while the actual writing is wry, dry, and entertaining in that distinctive Jarvis voice that we all know and love.
Jim Ottewill: Out of Space – How UK Cities Shaped Rave Culture (Velocity Press)
I’ve known Jim Ottewill for years, ever since he was a fresh-faced aspiring writer who did work experience at IDJ magazine in the mid 2000s. When he first told me about the premise of this book last year, I was genuinely exited – and reading it hasn’t dimmed that excitement. Part history of dance music culture around the UK, part study on the changing nature of club spaces and the existential threat to their survival caused by a mixture of city centre development, gentrification, economic issues, COVID and changing attitudes towards dance music culture, Out of Space answers a lot of questions while posing more. It’s not by any means a “complete” history of dance music scenes throughout the UK, but it does shine a light on many towns and cities that have previously been ignored. In the case of Manchester and London – those cities most often written about in dance music histories – Jim has managed to find new things to say and different people to focus on.
The new expanded and updated edition of Matt Anniss’s Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music will be published by Velocity Press in January 2023.
You can pre-order the book now exclusively at www.velocitypress.uk