titassite

Best of 2017 pt 2: Citizen of Nowhere Tour

This year’s darkest downers were brought to us by the forces of populist reaction, who closed borders, marched down streets like amateur stormtroopers, lied, threatened, trolled and generally behaved like the little insecure and pathetic horrors that they are. They also made us fear for the future of everything and our place in it.

We sought and found succour from this ugliness in beautiful musics from all over. We zipped across the planet hither and yon, and everywhere we went we found a treasure, and each treasure gave us a  soul-expanding moment, also made us feel grateful and blessed for the diversity of the world and its peoples. Let us recapitulate some of our destinations.

Japan

We spent the longest time traversing Japanese ambient dioramas where every single sound has been carefully arranged to induce a sense of harmony and bliss. Music zen gardens caressed by the morning mist, a crane rises from the lake and above the trees, beyond which shadowy epiphany looms, could it be the mountain were the Gods landed, or one of the Gods even?

Hiroshi Yoshimura, Toshifumi Hinata, Yutaka Hirose, Satoshi Ashikawa Geinoh Yamashirogumi and Visible Cloaks (spiritually if not legally Japanese) were some of the inducers of such satori. Also Midori Takada, with her legendary solo album Through the Looking Glass, which was reissued this year, and especially her incredible performance at the Barbican in September.

We think of that show and are transported back to the wooden origami of the venue, a small lady wrapped in a science fiction cape slowly sliding into the stage, ringing a diminutive bell that with its tiny trembling ring transforms everything around it, casting a spell from which we haven’t yet awoken. The troop of drums she marshalled, the soundtracks for shadow puppet video-games she created with a marimba, her samurai duel with a cast of inert tambourines she endowed with the soul of sound, all these things are stuff for our future dreams, and those of the generations that come after us.

Where To Now never fails to grace our best of the year every year. In 2017, in addition to a surfeit of stranger techno wonders we covered elsewhere or will cover in due course, they also contributed to our Japanese cornucopia with H Takahashi’s Raum.

Welcome to H Takahashi’s room. The room is different shades of white, all its lines are clean and white but somehow neither stark nor cold, to the contrary, it is as if they curved to cocoon you like a caring mother. Inside the room you are protected, but not shut out of the universe. No, that’s not the purpose of  the room. The room opens into the universe through specially arranged windows where light arrives to stage a photonic ballet through which you, your histories and qualia are reunited with the existence of entities and being very very far away, dissolving space and time and reintegrating you into a universe of loving grace.

H Takahashi – Körper

Get Raum from Where to Now.

Chile

This year we went back to wonderful Chile, and ahead of the trip we immersed ourselves in this country’s musical culture via two Spotify playlists prepared by a magical dipper. We particularly enjoyed this one, for dancing. It is an excellent showcase of the many delights to be found in Chile’s music scene, combining with promiscuity and gusto sweet pop, disco, hip hop, Cumbia, latin music tropes and many other things.

What explains this bounty of riches? The evolution of complex cultural systems doesn’t yield to simple explanations : we hear that the Chilean music market was too small for the majors so an independent scene thrived in its stead. As with the Spanish movida, there was civic society flexing its artistic muscles after the horrors of the dictatorship, and confronting prevailing bastions of intolerance, social injustice and economic inequality. Throw modern musical production tools and digital distribution into the mix and presto!, these magics happen:

Alejandro Paz’s new record, Sin Llorar is another excellent example of the twisted melange of pop bliss and mixed-up emotions that characterises so much chilean music.

Alejandro is a surly Donnie Darko possessed by the ghost of Patrick Cowley and Bobby Orlando. He creates stunning disco, hi-NRG and synth boogie bangers that he can’t help but infect with the darkest of moods. In Necesito Estar Mal, a glorious hybrid of Superradio prance-along Italo and EBM throbbery, he sings about how ‘I need to feel shit, at least for a little bit, so that I can feel better‘.

We find this pairing of 24k gold beats and strange emotional loops  completely irresistible. It’s as if the ghost of Christmas Present paid you a visit you as you climb towards the peak of an MDMA high at some ungodly time in some iniquitous place. Skeletal fingers grab your sweaty shoulder, you turn around to confront this creature of the abyss arriving with gloomy tidings, and when you stare at its face, you see that… it’s you.

¡Bailen oscuro!

Alejandro Paz – Necesito Estar Mal

Listen to the rest of Sin Llorar in Alejandro’s Soundcloud.

Alejandro is also a banging DJ. Just checks this session at La Roma, which made us dance around the lounge quite a few times this year.

Berlin

It has already been a couple of years since we visited Berlin physically but then Berlin is not just a place in space, but a state of mind. Parties and after-hours clubs dotting the land create (when sonic, chemical and cultural circumstances conflux) portals opening up into the ur-Berlin, a certain idea or concept of what a night out should be.

It ain’t healthy.

We travelled through that portal and into a platonic template for Berlin at least twice this year, and have listened to many records that would have provided the musical key for the portal had we consumed it in the right context, instead of in a commute up or down to London.*

One of these visits took place only a couple of days ago, from Madrid, thanks to a 3-hour drum-heavy, dissonant ‘Leatherface does a NEU! 2 number on Ozo’s Anambra‘ set by our old friend Capablanca at Cafe Berlin in Madrid.

The other was from London, at a Hydra takeover of Printworks, with Helena Hauff running the show.

Previously, we had only seen Hauff play at smaller venues, in sets build atop a foundation of brutal dark castle techno laced with EBM and cold wave. They were harsh, but they didn’t  prepare us for the aural equivalent of an Imperial Sardaukar dreadnaught landing on top of our heads, which is basically what happened in Printworks.

At the risk of mixing cultural landmarks, we ask you to remember the prologue of the Exorcist when father Merrick briefly faces his nemesis Pazuzu amidst ancient ruins. Now, replace that demonic force with the vaguely glimpsed shapes of azteco-summerian-lovecraftian colossi illuminated by a grid of lasers, storm-bolt strobes and swirling clouds of perfumed smoke, gazing with indifference at the crowd of puny cultists dancing in oblivious worship at their stony feet.

Helena Hauff was the chief sorcerer choreographing this ritual with martial discipline and merciless tempo. Never forget.

There is no song or visual that can stand-in for the total bodily experience of being there so will not even try. We will instead leave you with ‘I Am A Strange Machine Sometimes‘ by Vox Low, which appeared in last year’s Correspondent Compilation 4. Its stomping beats and cybernetic spirit captures the Cronenbergian transformation of human flesh and muscle into the metallic components of a satanic dragster headed towards pan-psychic Berlin, over an autobahn paved with bad intentions.

Vox Low – I Am A Strange Machine Sometimes

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* With honourable mentions to Talaboman, Machine Woman, Ricardo Tobar and Zombies in Miami.

El Mediterráneo

O, pure Mediterranean beaches to lie in under the sun, to dissolve and flow back to primeval sources of life and civilisation, through forgotten migratory paths and trade routes! Could you think of a better place to be, as grandfather winter snaps at your ears full of malice?

Nope.

Our obsession with Balearica and allied sub-genres of new age and ambient stem not just from their soothing effect and ability to dull the edges of an oft-painful reality, but also from a recognition of the kernel of ancient wisdom on which they are based, they are a palimpsest covered with the lore of a myriad forgotten civilisations that criss-crossed the Mediterranean, to live, love and fight, turning our animal emotions, reactions and impulses into mysterious symbols and timeless epics.  As more layers are added to its surface, their words dissolve into drones that ring with a mix of spiritualism, Epicurean philosophy and mong.

Music from Memory were a primary source of these sounds in 2017, specially with Gaussian Curve’s second album, Garret’s Private Life, the Outro Tempo compilation of experimental Brazilian music (which single-handedly made Brazil a candidate destination for the journey we’re in today) and Suso Sáiz. Every release in MfM’s schedule is a paean to the wisdom of the ancients and their mysterious spells to commune with the sea and the sun and flocks of birds imprinting joyous glyphs in the Summer sky, and for this we are grateful.

Other honourable mentions in this leg of the journey include the New Atlantis ambient compilation, Caterina Barbieri’s Patterns of Consciousness (already picked up elsewhere in this year’s roundup) and Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Grafts (KLC deserves a special tip of the hat because her music and stunning live performance at Cafe OTO would have made her worthy of inclusion in any of the destinations we have covered in this journey – crazy, right?).

The release sequence for RVNG International and related projects reads like an itinerary through a collection of hidden Balearic beaches each of which hides a secret full of feeling. In Bing and Ruth’s No Home of the Mind* we faced a coterie of past loves rushing at us and through us leaving a wound of nostalgia we need to experience again and again and again; Michele Mercure’s beach was littered with derelict alien artefacts polished into infinite smoothness by fingers of cosmic dust; Pauline Anna Strom’s Trans Millenia Music was a vast sheltered ecosystem where whole provinces of Linnaean strangeness evolved, populating an experimental site that still awaits for a worthy Darwin; We can’t quite remember what happened in Palmbomen’s beach, whenever we try to access that place in our memories the vistas become slippery, the sounds vague and fuzzy like sensory quicksand. We think there was a party, we must have taken something.

Each of these beaches shares a geography, a climate and a history: our history, a history of space, a history of life, a misplaced history. Pep Llopis’Poiemusia La Nau Dels Argonautes” is the history of the  journey connecting all these lost places and the adventures that ensued.

Look at the prow of the Argo breaking through the waves with eyes unblinking, aimed at the glow of the Golden Fleece that lures us from beyond the horizon. The argonauts row with Jason at the helm, all silent and steady and at ease with the lie that they are hunting for treasure rather than the idea of the journey, the sun and the truth inside themselves.

Off they go, atop powerful Mediterranean currents, vertiginous like Pep Llopis’ melodies, the Ray Harryhausen adaptation of a Philip Glass quest.

Pep Llopis – La Nau Dels Argonautes

Get it from RVNG International.

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* We know this came out in 4AD but we will always associate B&R with the RVNG imprint.

America

We spent a lot of time in America, and thinking about America and hearing about America and fearing for America and fearing America. American artists and influences appear in all the destinations we visited this year for the obvious reason that America has itself been the destination for people’s from all over the world, and each of these visits links the world there, that is the history that the vandals would sever.

We close our world tour by celebrating this uniquely valid aspect of American exceptionalism, the sense of open skies and horizons and futures, a feeling of optimism as we continue down the dusty road, Brian John McBrearty’s guitar as trusty sidekick and companion.

Brian John McBrearty – Second Story Tune

Acquire Blue Tapes twenty-three from Blue Tapes.

 

You know what I want, babe? Guns out of my life….

Featuring : Podcast

As Heather Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams she found herself unwilling to be shot dead just for going to fucking school.

Although she tried her hardest, Heather could not think of any reason she would need to own a gun except to kill someone or something.

Heather and her fellow school kids decided it was no longer safe to go to school, and so no one did until it was safe for them to do so.

20jfg – Fuck guns

A little shot of happy for y’all

Featuring : 20jfg

Greetings, 20 Jazz Funk Dave here. It’s been a while since I last polluted this blog with my words and sounds.

Life is not always easy. There are hard bits, annoying bits, slow bits, busy bits, stupid bits.

During these bad bits of life, it is sometimes easy to forget there is a solution, always there: dance music.

Dance music is pure energy when you have none, rhythm when you’re in chaos, motivation when you’re demotivated to coma.

Here is a little shot of happy for y’all.

DavJFG – Bangers One

5 Great Things About 2017: Part 1

1.

Yaeji’s Drink I’m Sipping On pretty much made my musical year.  A seemingly effortless blend of Trap and sultry Korean RnB, it managed to conjure into being a midnight world at the border between exuberant intoxication and the existential 4am dance music that is 20JFG’s usual stock in trade.  This was all made even better when the artwork dropped and it featured a slightly embarrassed looking Yaeji, out of focus in the corner.  A bright spot of red against the darkness.  That the subsequent EP had the only decent Drake cover I’ve heard (Passionfruit) and the sweaty, pounding Raingurl made extra happy.  Noonside (off EP1) is an absolute banger too.

DIY dance music was still going strong in 2017.  Perhaps because dance music is uniquely suited to DIY.  Everyone has a laptop, right? Identity Theft got two back to back posts on the blog along with associated label Katabatik’s output.  RVNG were still putting out the jams (although more on them later) along with old friends Where To Now?.

Assel – Barbecue Stains

And speaking of old friends, Murlo’s self produced, self performed, self animated show at the ICA was pretty special.  Beautifully drawn, Mobius influenced sci-fi landscapes played out on a giant screen while Murlo triggered both animations and sound behind the fabric like an instrumental Grime Wizard of Oz.

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2.

The New Age / Ambient / Synth nexus was also still going strong in 2017 (providing us with yet more parallels with the 70s and the Western nervous breakdown that’s happening again).  Both Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Caterina Barbieri put out exceptional synth records this year.

Caterina Barbieri – Information Needed to Create an Entire Body

RVNG continued to put out peerless reissues including the wonderful Eros in Arabia by Richard Horowitz.  A strange travelogue through imagined middle eastern worlds full of vocal loops and huge synth washes.  On Never Teach No Foreign Answer he manages to locate the overlap between the gamelan and nascent New York Noise music.  Which is impressive.

Richard Horowitz – Never Tech No Foreign Answer

Not Not Fun put out Canada Effervescent’s Crystalline on tape.  An album that manages to sooth and transport, a sort of ritualised bathing in pure energy.  Entirely synth led this will be playing in the waiting room before you transcend to a being of pure energy.

Canada Effervescent – Rayon Solaire Holistique

And in one of the best gigs I’ve been to in Years, GAS managed to turn standing behind a lectern into a emotionally transportive experience through the simple application of stunning, synced visuals and overwhelming sonic force.  Ambience via volume.  Ambience via nature.  Must be seen on largest screen possible.

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3.

With the world continueing to burn with the power of a thousand 2016s, the most escapist culture continued to thrive.  Although the vast majority of videogames released this year would have gone into production before anyone descended in golden elevators, 2017 was nonetheless an absolutely outstanding year for losing oneself in strange other worlds.

Nex Machina arrived and sadly became the last arcade shooter from Housemarque, the economics of neon flecked arcade shooters finally taking their toll.  But what an exit.  Completely hypnotic, frantic and capable of playing you more than you playing it.  Like last year’s sublime Thumper, it requires reactions faster than conscious thought and is our current go to ‘zone’ game.  No engagement with reality required.

A late entry into this year’s 2017 game roundup is Gorogoa which I haven’t even finished yet.  It’s here purely for the fact that it actually made me smile-out-loud, which turns out is a grin followed by a happy murmur.  It’s a meticulously drawn sliding block puzzle that brings in both the z-axis (as you zoom in and out of the screen) and an almost associative approach to perspective.  It’s artwork and logic seems pulled from a sort of Czech New Wave version of The incal.  Sounds of war mixed with ancient ruins, densely packed libraries and hallucinatory nature.

And then there was Mario.  Who had an Odyssey of pure, unadulterated joy.  Interestingly enough having his own run in with the rules of perspective and indeed, his own history.  Seeing Mario revisit New Donk City from his first appearance (in Donkey Kong) is…rather odd but then, so is visiting a world made of cooking ingredients.  But not as wonderful/odd as transforming into a 2D version of himself and playing out throwback levels that wrap themselves around 3D geometry.

And finally there was Zelda.  It may/may not be the greatest game ever made depending on where you sit on the hyperbole scale but it was certainly the first open world game that didn’t feel like it was put together by a fussy tour guide that wanted you to tick off all the sights.  A world of endless Ghibli-esque beauty where simply journeying between locations managed to hit the childish pleasure centres of exploration and wonder.  It’s a thing of maddening complexity masquerading as earnest simplicity, like peak Beach Boys or the silent slapstick of Keaton.  Although its post-post-apocalyptic setting did have a nagging sense of melancholy that would be easier to process if the world wasn’t on fire…

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4.

2017 was also a banner year for people still being really good at shit.  Which is nice because we need all that we can get.

Slowdive returned (after 22 years) with a album that’s so thrown back it’s new again.  And, like a great videogame remaster, actually sounds like what you thought the original sounded like in your head.

EMA put out perhaps the best album of her career with Exile in the Outer Ring.  A sort of sci-fi / internet culture / depression America journey that features a track called Aryan Nation.  Which seems to loop round to her early work with Gowns on Red State.  A sort of through line of disenfranchisement.

Fever Ray returned!  Which was wonderful.  It’s an album that’s truly explicit, a completely bare emotional reckoning with her sexuality, motherhood and politics.  IDK About You is such a banger too.

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5.

The cultural event of the year though can only belong one place, Twin Peaks: The Return.  An 18 hour movie, or TV series, or Limited Time Event, or whatever it was, it was mesmerising.  Owing as much to Eraserhead as the original show, it frustrated, beguiled and confused.  It soared, it fucked with nostalgia and fan service as well as dishing out loads of nostalgia and fan service.  It took one of television’s greatest heroes and most notorious ‘bad’ endings and deepened their relationship to one another.  It gave us Namoi Watts’ best performance in years.  It turned David Bowie into a tea pot.  It had a pretty flawless booking agent for the Road House (I’d argue the bands themselves are spoilers so I won’t list them).  It had so much to give.

It was a culmination of Lynch’s career, forcing through his ideas on dream logic to the point where they broke the fabric of Twin Peaks’ murder mystery / soap.  It had moments of genuine comedy, empathy with the changes the world has undergone over the last 25 years (“people are under a lot of stress, Bradley”) and absolute horror.  Episodes 8 and 17/18 will live with me for a long, long time even if the books produced by Mark Frost may have made things too solid.  Although deliciously he mentioned that they’re his reality, and that Lynch’s Twin Peaks may exist in a different one.

Several albums have come out of the show.  Two ‘official’ ones, centring on the score and the Road House guests.  But more interestingly two other albums emerged, one from Johnny Jewel (on Italians Do It Better) and one from Dean Hurley (on Sacred Bones).

Jewel’s Windswept contains what I imagine to be all the submitted music for Twin Peaks, a fair proportion of which was used.  It is, as you’d imagine, what happens when the Chromatics go Lounge Jazz instead of Disco.  Slow and sad and eerie, ending with a startling (revised) cover of Blue Moon.  Audrey would be massively into them.

Hurley’s Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△ is more ambient and soundtracks the more terrifying moments of the series.  As such I’ve listened to it significantly less than Windswept as I like to actually sleep at night.  These are Convenience Store jams.

Italo Survivor’s Guilt

Featuring : Lou Rebecca

20JFG will shortly be excavating out ‘lost’ Best of 2017 but before we do we have some best of 2018 to bring you.

Lou Rebecca’s self titled EP dropped into our inbox courtesy of Austin’s finest Holodeck Records.  There are records that you grow to love and that love is deep and strong for the time it has taken to grow.  And then there are records like this where you know, you just know how much you will love this from about 30 seconds in.

Appropriately then, we’re bringing you the first track on the EP which contains the aforementioned first 30 seconds.  Synths buried under decades of dust, ultra slick guitar chords, angelic vocals, Hi-NRG basslines.  It’s like a manic sampling of 20JFG’s favourite things.

A brief mention must go to the first thing on that list.  Those opening synths sound like Eduard Artemyev’s work on Tarkovsky’s Sci-fi films.  A haunting reconfiguration of the pure, high-culture of classical music…as the intro to a synth pop record.  What’s not to love?

At the end of those 30 seconds the bassline enters, briefly followed by the drum machine, the chorus and we’re away into glorious synth pop.

There’s a vampiric joy in such perfectly polished pop being created in the fracturing world that we currently inhabit.  As if this insubstantial yet terrible reality that we’re saddled with has completely evaded pockets of people all over the world.  And we can drink of their glorious artistic output and somehow attain a measure of optimism, however fleeting.

Lou Rebecca – Tonight

Lou Rebecca’s self titled EP came out on Holodeck Records on January 12th.  You can get it on tape and 12″ right here.  An ‘icy blue’ 12″ was also out on Italians Do It Better but they’re sadly long gone now.

Three Chords and a 24 Track Loop

Today’s 20JFG is all tape loops and Electroclash source material.  Today’s 20JFG is about Intense Molecular Activity (although, when is it not?).

Made up of Don Hunerberg and Andy Blinx, the duo used snatched studio time (Hunerberg was a studio engineer) to put together a version of NYC Post-punk via synthwave.  Thankfully some Prog got caught up in there somewhere making the whole thing gloriously off kilter.  The loops seemingly coming from different tempos, genres and, to be honest, bands.  Yet when put together it has that DEVO edge, that demonic theatricality that’s always pulling at the threads of the song.

Blurb is the insistent banger:  all time changes and frantic Liquid Liquid drumming, all prog riffs an dry ice synth chords.  And then back again to the three chord riff.  So good that DJ Hell jacked it for Keep on Waiting.

Intense Molecular Activity – Blurb

Blurb is taken from the IMA EP.  An expanded version of which has been reissued by Dark Entries, although this mp3 doesn’t come from that reissue.  You can get the (no doubt superior quality version) direct from Dark Entries, right here.

 

Our augmented future

Featuring :

In our augmented future, the boundaries between physical and digital reality will be dissolved by super-fast networks, seamless interfaces, and smart artificial intelligences. There will be a rabbit hole around every corner, a trip every minute and an epiphany every hour. That venerable icon, ‘here be monsters’ will once again appear in the maps, but not because we ignore what’s in those locations, but because there will be actual (digital) monsters there, hyper-evolved spawn of today’s Pokemon, and whole tribes devoted to hunting them.

In this world, any sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence can become your mate, your crush or your nemesis, and there will be lots of them, a multitude of agents, daemons, side-kicks and non-playable characters in the digital adventure of your life.

One special type will be the divergent stochasts, agents whose role is to keep you on your neuronal toes, get you out of your routine, expose you to other views, prevent you from getting trapped in a cognitive cul-de-sac, always a risk in the hyper-specialised, custom-made economies and realities of our augmented future.

Your government will give you a tax break, bump you in the queue to access public services, marginally prioritise your favourite policy priorities if you spend a set of time with a divergent stochast. Same for employers who want to sharpen their employee’s creative edge. Schemes for hanging out out with a divergent stochast will be the mental and cultural equivalents of the  subsidised gym and bike-buying schemes of yore.

There will be a whole industry devoted to the design and implementation of divergent stochasts, and many methods to do this. One of them will be the Contrarian engine, which will map your media consumption and social network, benchmark it against a global average or consensual reality, and design a Divergent stochast to plug those blindspots in your perspective, like some sort of ambassador from humanity’s collective intelligence arrived to pull you out of a filter bubble.

But today I wanted to tell you about another type, the teenage art-scout divergent stochast designed by Spotify. The idea behind it, inspired by venerable behaviouralist theories, is that cognitive rigidities are not a content problem, but a process problem: we get stuck in a comfortable rut, and build a lifestyle and worldview around it. The way to address this is not to send over a digital intellectual with information you weren’t aware of and theories you hadn’t considered, but to shake you out of your rut, maintain you in an experimental, open to experience and learning state.

Just like when you were a teenager.

It would be easy to implement a divergent stochast replica of your teenage self, but most people will find this unnerving and annoying. What Spotify will instead do is to create a divergent stochast based not on your teenage behaviours and habits, but on the music you listened when you were a teenager. They will project this into a vector, and from there into the personality, look and feel of a digital person.

You know how some people look like the music they listen? The art-scout divergent stochasts will literally be evolved from the music you listened.

They will arrive in your flat most unpredictably, with a crazy scheme, an idea, an adventure, you will be irritated, you already had a plan for the evening, but hey, you will find something alluring in the demeanor of this familiar stranger remixed from the mythology of your past. You will listen to it talk excitedly, or calmly, or aggressively, or seductively, and it will be as if a certain fearless, curious flame that once burnt inside of you had been rekindled, the needle will be shaken out of its groove, you will nod at this playful revenant, and just like that, you will go out together, to get in some trouble.

Susumu Yokota – Panicwaves

Susumu Yokota made us think of the text above because many of his songs sound as if as if they had been generated by a deep neural network trained on all things which are crazy, exciting and garish and somehow disconnected stylistically but at the same time linked at a deep, intuitive level, psychedelico-cybernetic hits for the cosmic ambulance that the Culture’s Special Circumstances sends out whenever a planet is at risk of collapsing upon itself due to terminal boredom.

Tune for a Replicant is included in the first album under his name, Frankfurt-Tokyo connection.