Ultra-Red - Structural Adjustments/La Economia Nueva

Structural Adjustments
Mille Plateaux

La Economia Nueva
Fat Cat

Since this is the Public Housing issue, it seems fitting to bring up Structural Adjustments, eleven tracks of socially relevant ambience by the LA-based Ultra-Red audio collective. Structural Adjustments is an album that belongs in the library of any student of urbanism, nestled between Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space and Rosalyn Deutsche’s Evictions. Less dancy than, for example, their A16 album, created from site-recordings at the April 2000 protests against the World Bank and IMF, the music still has a beat that carries one along with it. The beat is not like a drum to move the dancers, but like a river, or a rainstorm, to dissolve the hegemony of photographic and visual representation’s hold on architecture and urbanism.

Structural Adjustments was created in solidarity with the Union de Vecinos (Union of Neighbors) of the Pico Aliso and Aliso Village housing projects in Los Angeles. The citizens group formed in opposition to the LA Housing Authority’s plan to displace 1200 hundred households in the service of neighborhood reconstruction. The Union demanded that there was to be no displacement a without guaranteed return to the neighborhood. (As any student of the history of "urban renewal" knows, housing authorities can not make such guarantees since they inevitably build fewer units than they displace.) Recordings were made in the neighborhood, at demolition sites, at protests, and at meetings with the City Council.

All in all, a triumphant and uplifting remix of the sound of democracy, bilingual, to boot! Their more recent Fat Cat release, La Economia Nueva (Operation Gatekeeper) is somewhat different in that there’s less of a direct message and more of a dialectical development of sounds. Stylistically it’s more of what could be called glitch music. Percussion slowly emerges from the entry and re-entry of a cry of "Ya Basta!" in the first track. Noises established coalesce into an ambiance that melts into a Bjork-like staticy soft percussion, interspersed with a rhythm which could be factory or a bulldozer, or the frenzy of many hands banging against an iron fence. It comes and goes.

The closing track begins with a tone that layers and develops into percussion and bass-beats, and the return of protest sounds.

In the end, we are left knowing nothing definite about La Economia Nueva, except that in the New Economy packaging is important. The fifteen-minute recording comes on a very pretty three-inch CD, in a little square case with a lovely photo of a man with a bullhorn shouting by a chain-link fence while the Mexican flag flutters overhead.