The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopaedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right. – Umberto Eco
The 20jfg bestof lists attempt no such feat of greatness. We are as confused by the infinity of stuff out there as any being. It’s fun to look back at our best of lists in retrospect, and i guess in this way they are cultural documents for ourselves, which we hope you also enjoy.
This is our final bestof lists for 2011 – we probably missed some of the things we loved, and you loved so let us know any in the comments box.
Mind Over Mirrors: I’m Willing to Stagger Bursting forth with a droning, lackadaisical klaxon rippling through the heavens, I’m Willing to Stagger twists and distorts its tape delayed harmonium into something completely off-worldly. Mind Over Mirrors has managed to recreate that lost La Monte Young soundtrack to the birth of the universe. A huge pounding piece of processional music that locks you into it’s footstep grove as hard as any percussive track can ever dream. If the temple at the end of the universe were designed by Gaudi, its aisles measured in kilometres and its entire focus, an exposed space above the alter where the final rip in space will occur – this would play, as millions of dignitaries assembled among the alcoves and observed the refolding of the universe’s expansive fabric.
Pechenga: Helt Borte Pechenga is Rune Lindbæk and Cato Farstad. The story goes that after recording this album in 2007 at Lindbæk’s grandmother’s house they self released the record in Norway where it sold 57 copies. Evidently one to found its way to Smalltown Supersound‘s Joakim Haugland because that label’s just re-released it. Thankfully. It’s an incredibly beautiful ambient work, full of a sense of infinite blank vistas and silent winter light. Where Thomas Köner traverses beneath the ice, here we often soar above, watching our perfect black shadow dance along the white sheets below.
Buy: Helt Borte
The Advisory Circle: As The Crow Flies The cracks in our memory have always been open to the sounds produced by Ghost Box and 2011 was no exception with As The Crow Flies providing those fleeting glances out the corner or your eye of something not being quite right. Pastoral electronica pushed by undercurrents of the other side.
Buy : As The Crow Flies
Peepholes: Tunnels Having lapped up their last EP on Upset the Rhythm and it’s epic closer Carnivore we feel suitably prepped for the increasingly wide pendulum swings by the band, out and away from short bursts of kinetic drum/keyboard frenzy. New mini-LP Caligula opens with another long builder, a Mayan temple of an incline up to a plateau of the breathtaking and bloody.
It’s 3rd track Tunnels that stands out. Synths are no longer ripped apart oscillation by oscillation as they struggle against voice and drums. Instead they’re allowed to form the stem of Tunnels with an honest to god drum machine as accompaniment. They drift over plains and open up blue/black vistas for Katia’s mesmeric sing/chanting to roam. There are minor traces of early Techno floating around but these could well be the shadows of Techno’s own progenitors: the electronic minimalism of your pick of Cold-Wave bands.
Bubble Club: the Goddess A balearic hymn to an unnamed Goddess that masters the art of gentle euphoria so completely, combines cosmic-disco tropes with such loving care, that it becomes, by the end of its seven minutes, one of the most moving things we’ve heard in a long time. Synth stabs, co-opted African rhythms, cooing male vocals under waves of arpegiated bliss: Bubble Club’s The Goddess is one of the very reasons we write this blog and we can’t praise it higher than that.
Buy: The Goddess
The Stepkids: The Stepkids So your kid brothers stole your Hall & Oates tape that had Sly & The Family Stone on the other side, and got confused as to which was the cool in ‘Mojo’ terms side, cos lets face it you didn’t really know either. Dam-Funk produced the entire resulting jam and stuck it out on Stone’s Throw records. Yeh – this is kinda what happend.
Buy : The Stepkids
Mushy: Faded Heart Faded Heart is the field recording of a night of slo-mo psychic bloodshed at a crumbling coliseum, a debut of uncanny mystique and ghostly enigma accomplished beyond the glummest dreams of most drag apprentices. It drenches pages torn off Zola Jesus’ grimoire in the thick waters of the swamp where Christine Baxter drowned, deep in the woods of a death country shrouded in thick ambient mist, roamed by shapeless beasts of Lynchian provenance.
Buy: Faded Heart
Cult of Youth: S/T If Songs:Ohia read All the Pretty Horses, then Cult of Youth are into Blood Meridian. They make Appalachian black magic, a satanic barn dance where the damned spin in dervish-like abandon over pagan symbols carved with Bowie knives. ou can almost see the bald and sweating dome of the Judge towering above the filthy scalp-hunters, an archetypical Dionysian troubadour which recurs through the ages – Flipper, Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, Country Teasers, GG Allin, now this – to enthral us with tales of beautiful massacre. They are doing it so that we don’t have to, and we owe them for that.
Drums Off Chaos and Jens Uwe Beyer: Magazine 3 In Magazine 3, Drums off Chaos (Jaki Liebezeit’s percussion ensemble) and Jens-Uwe Beyer channel the millennial wisdom of a shaman who stares into the sky and sees the future instead of the past, because the gods are up there, and through the rituals codified in this music, the tribe eventually becomes them. It evokes an alternative branching in the life-story of Gang Gang Dance, where, after God’s Money, they decided to kneel at the altar of DRUM with the Boredoms, instead of trotting down the shining path to become the best dance music band in the world.
Buy: Magazine 3
Way Through: Arrow Shower Way Through capture the joy of the elusive English sun breaking through a sky which gives and takes away, to shine upon the communal procession by which the years are counted. It is rather fitting that it is Chris and Clare who are behind it, seeing as their wonderful London happenings bristle with the unfakable communitarian spirit of the true, archetypical festival.
Buy: Arrow Shower
Prince Rama: Trust Now Trust Now is a prodigy of exo-transformation. Upon slipping into it, we witness the world around us shape-shift. Boarded up shops become desecrated temples, malls are replaced by golden Ziggurats. Where not a minute ago stood gaudy theatres peddling crass pantomime, we now see impossible coliseums premiering Alejandro Jodorowsky’s latest psyche-drama. Fractured glimpses of the alternative present that would have been if the high and beautiful wave had never broken.
Buy: Trust Now
Yacht : Shangri-La You don’t get many concept albums in these days of the mp3 download but Yatcht’s second album as a duo – Shangri-la – is a concept album in the very old school sense. Unlike Rick Wakeman’s The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table On Ice Yatcht’s Shangrila is less of an exercise in self indulgent wank, and more of an exploration of their record collection. No matter what you feel about The Gaia hypothesis it’s difficult not to feel a little more like we need some earthly care and fun while listening to Shangri-La.
Buy : Shangri-La
Ga’an: Black Equus and S/T album Ga’an are a steel Hydra coiling and snapping from the undifferentiated sludge of contemporary music, an enigmatic troubadour staying for a night at the inn of this reality, regaling us with uncanny ballads about the chaos without so that we can writhe in gorgeous nightmares when we go to bed. They take off like Magma, into the heart of darkness like Goblin.
Gold Zebra: Love, French, Better Minimal synth throb passified the gap left by the italians for most of this year by feeding us somthing a little colder.
Buy : Love, French, Better
The Haxan Cloak: S/T The Haxan Cloak suck us in into a vortex which is Edgar Allan Poe Northern Sea dirge and modern composition drone, also the dark cave where pre-human tribes developed their first myths, which in a barely evolved form haunt us to this day. Like the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, if directed by Lucio Fulci.
Buy: S/T album
Pink Skull : Psychic Welfare Struggling to try and create minimalism, while having too many things you loved love to put into an album, made Pink Skull’s Psychic Welfare a grower in 2011.
Buy: Psychic Welfare
Made Do and Mend Finders Keepers consistently release fantastic records, no mater what year it is. This year, like many uk independents, they suffered badly after a fire in the distribution warehouse of PIAS. The make do and mend compilations were issued to alleviate this situation, and turned out to be one of our favorite compilations of 2011.
Buy : Make do and mend
Bad Passion: Liquid Fire This is music bought into at both ends. The wry smile of an angelic voice crooning “it’s really got me buggin’” is married to an elaborate sexual metaphor involving badminton — but at the same time the music does that transporting thing, like Low or Galaxy 500 (when you concentrated on the voice and let the guitars fade away). A transporting thing that makes you fall in love with the heartbreaking sound while simultaneously being entertained by the knowing sexual intent of the words.
Buy: Doin’ it Slow
A huge shout out to our prodigal son at Tri Angle. Righty cleaning up on the ‘best of…’ lists wherever they appear. Afraid of the spectre of nepotism we probably don’t cover the output of the label as much as we should but releases from Balam Acab and Water Borders would make anyone’s list. Interesting times in 2012 as Robin follows in the footsteps of Kode9, Gas and Dub Narcotic Sound System and starts putting out his own music. If its anything like the lineage above, we’re psyched.
Buy: All the things
So is it 2012 yet? Well, for 20jazzfunkgreats the answer is almost. Thanks for being with us in 2011, sub-normal service will resume some time in 2012.