As 2012 comes to an end, the 20JFG creatures gather the runes that animated the year, and scatter them grimly across the courtyard of their decrepit castle. They examine the shapes thus created, and attempt to read in them the meaning of the year that was, discern the silhouette and decrypt the wail of the mythical creature that is its logical conclusion, and the blueprint for the its future evolution.
Hard to tell from the mists of history unfolding.
The sting of an scorpion with which hope is forlorn and we all drown, or a crack in the cocoon from where a beautiful butterfly surges boldly, leaving all Gramscian morbidities behind? We can only hope that the latter.
The creative energies flowing through our account of 2012 provide reasons to be optimistic, but also certainty that improvement won’t happen if we don’t pull our collective weight and replace cynicism with energy and bitching with doing, and support the things that deserve it in kind and in cash. Neutrality is practically indistinguishable from Nihilism. We can’t not get involved. That is our new year resolution, make it yours too.
This time, we have organised our list alphabetically in three posts, of which this is the first. Our list includes music, as well as other things, which reflects the convergence of culture where we sail. We proudly feature guest entries from a group of friends, family members, fellows and associates. Many of them are themselves items in our lists. You should interpret this as a sign of community, and luck.
And without further ado, let’s get on with it. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. Pow Pow.
2 Ways 4 Speakers: 2 Ways 4 Speakers act like the black sheep of a German Engineering dynasty, designing, manufacturing and installing a stainless steel elevator that takes Neubauten’s modern classic from a dark and brooding basement into a skyline-branding penthouse of Michael Mann blue and Environ pink, in whose central swimming pool we watch a coterie of beauties swim, kiss, sink, drown.
Buy: The release of ‘Honest & Liars has been delayed by the unfortunate collapse of Tsunami records.We’ll keep you posted.
(Discovering) Actress: “I had heard his music before but never spent time with it until taking a train ride this June through the French countryside on my way to Paris during the Innergaze tour. Hazyville was on my iPod & I listened as I dozed. the shifting textures & micromelodies took the shape of my half dreams, brought me into their world but also influenced mine. Since then I’ve gone deep w RIP and the rest of his catalogue, and put it on repeat whenever I want to spend a day in my head.” (Aurora Halal from Innergaze, portrayed above during the moment described by
Alan Turing: This year was of course the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, marshall of laborious algorithms who, with their processes, define our present, and inceptor of digital universes we have only started dipping our pinkies into. We visited his exhibition at the Science Museum, and read the account of the construction of his (and Von Neumman’s) cathedral from George Dyson.
We also imagined what could have been if it hadn’t been for the intolerance of his times & cruel dumbness and opacity of his government – perhaps Silicon Valley would be in Yorkshire instead of the West coast?
We watched with amusement our spam filtering guardians foiled by droning bots who are clearly getting closer to passing the eponymous test, which was also a dance by Ed DMX in newcomer label Voltaire Records.
And we were also made rather emotional by Hidrogenesse’s lovely recital for Alan (a song which is a kiss to awake him from his slumber)
Altar Eagle: New dawn fades in Altar Eagle’s Nightrunners, over blue concrete husks. The sort of dawn that causes one of Ballard’s pulp Sci-Fi heroes to remark on the clockwork madness of their own universe — whilst barely concealing their sexual desire for whatever is left alive.
Buy Nightrunners: From Digitalis
Ashley Marlowe: Ashley Marlowe continued bridging feral fuzz and exuberant dance geometries which are 20jazzfunkgreats’ twin & complementary obsessions with a smile, and the opposite of pretention.
While his Well Rounded label and related imprints are being rightfully celebrated across the land, he’s similarly comfortable interfacing with the analogue sources of sound, say through Soul Punch, who have delivered the prettiest Kraftwerk cover version we can remember, and will be playing at the Green Door Store tomorrow (Tuesday the 19th).
His presence is one of those things keeps Brighton interesting.
Now, flip a coin: (Dance face)
Either way, you win
Asylum of The Daleks: It’s become somewhat fashionable in the grumpy old universe of Doctor Who fandom to take pot shots at Steven Moffat wherever possible, but let’s face it, even bad Moffat-era nu-Who trumps the wacky campfest that was RTD-era nu-Who (with some exceptions – the RTD-written Midnight is a masterpiece). That said, the latest series has been a bit of a non-starter thus far, though this opening episode promised good things. 1) it got rid of Mark Gatiss’ dreadful Ikea Daleks, 2) it made Daleks SCARY again, this time by making them sick, unhinged, and unpredictable. 3) it snuck in a bizarre appearance from the new assistant months ahead of schedule, 4) wait THE NEW ASSISTANT IS ACTUALLY LIVING INSIDE THE MIND OF AN INSANE DALEK. It would have been so cool if the new assistant actually just was a confused Dalek trundling about after the Doctor but what thinks it is a sexy lady, but that probably won’t happen.
Also, Daleks listening to opera, and being scared by it.
Balcombe (tripping past): “The Arcadian landscapes of Balcombe are the last true sight of green we enjoy before the embrace of the Big Smoke where we commute at ungodly hours. The inebriating kinaesthesia of soft pagan dawns (downs) and hauntological or kosmischeikal vibes invigorates us for the face-off against the pale & flabby mobs of the megalopolitical underworld”.
Buy Arp Navigators: From Moon Glyph.
Bersarin Quartet: Dark ambient is one of those genres that people tend to be quite sniffy about nowadays (although it’ll probably be the vanguard of a new Wire genre by 2013), and some of its proponents do tend to err on the douchey side (Boyd Rice). But what it lacks in humour and melody dark ambient more than makes up for in glacial, doomy atmospherics and slowly-revolving (grinding) soundworlds. Bersarin Quartett’s II got an awful lot of attention this year for a record that seemed so musically at odds with current trends. More than anything, it reads like a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Yep, not the imaginary soundtrack to a John Carpenter or giallo film – an imaginary Hans Zimmer soundtrack. The guy who did the music for Days of Thunder, The Lion King, and The Da Vinci Code. This is no bad thing. II’s mix of dark ambient, cinematic theatrics, and modern composition sat beautifully alongside Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises in a moody black hole, frozen out of the vagaries of cool, and so timeless.
Buy II: from Denovali
Black Rain: Black Rain render William Gibson’s Night Town as an emergent colossus bootstrapped into escalating levels of complexity, its texture map of metal, plastic and gomi crawls with life visible at an infrared wavelength, connected by sodium vectors of information exchange that activate ramshackle muscles against the twin chains of entropy and scarcity. We watch it trash, grow, collapse upon itself, dumbly unhinged like Tetsuo in his final rapture.
Blue Tapes: In 2012 dave xxjfg had his first taste of making records, recording three albums’ worth of improv rock with Medicine & Duty‘s Andy Pyne and releasing the results on the Foolproof Projects label. Making noise can be cool, but the bit dave liked the most was doing the artwork for the CDs. Still smarting from the sudden demise of the brilliant Stunned tape label, and brain fired by the aesthetic purity of The Tapeworm, dave founded his own tape label – Blue Tapes. All of the tapes are blue. It is nothing to do with porn.
Hammering out a coffee-fuelled mission statement, dave decided that all artwork would be generated using ancient pre-film photography techniques, that the packaging would reinvent itself totally with each release, the label would put out one release per month, and that none of the releases would contain ‘songs’ or work as albums, but instead be weird little bedroom-concocted mini-epics. In 2012 this meant gorgeousness from former-Ninja High School frontman Matt Collins, Japanese minimalists Leedian and Cherry, Laurent Chambert of The Other Colors, and the skill-named The Fractal Skulls.
You can buy Aanother Fractal by Cherry: at Blue Tapes
Both Flesh and Not (David Foster Wallace): Our 2012 has been bookended by the meticulous unpicking of diverse phenomena by the ghost of an intellectual force that could have helped us make sense of the mediated & bewildering present, and compose a more robust moral attitude with which to face its challenges.
We began the year with The Pale King, and are ending it with his collection of essays, ‘Both Flesh and Not’, including the very excellent ‘The (as it were) seminal importance of Terminator 2’, a lament for James Cameron, creative Jesus nailed to the CGI cross of modern film economics. At least DFW didn’t have to visit Pandora.
We grieve for DFW with Black Sky Chants’ beautiful Strobe Glide, which encodes a melancholy epic like the mysterious melody that lured Warlord Shingen to his death in Kagemusha, but playing across the colossal battlefields of a stellar siege, a melody knowingly converged upon by its victim, for, as we now realise, life isn’t all that rare in this vast universe of ours. Beauty, ah, beauty, that’s a different affair.
We miss you David Foster Wallace.
Buy ‘I will Sleep Until I see the Moon’: From Aguirre Record
Breaking Bad: We have spent the last couple of years watching men turn into insects (imagine Gregor Samsa if he had been awake throughout that fateful night), and junkies turning into pros. It’s all going to end in tears because, throughout, it’s all been in tears. We know it’s awful, but we can’t stop looking.
Building Stories (Chris Ware): One of the many great moments in Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ is when he gives us a glimpse of the future where pre-post-humans in white wander the ruins of Chicago hunting for memory fragments, the sympathy shift experienced by the actual protagonists of the intimate present that is the subject matter for Building Stories.
It doesn’t look pretty – pre-post humans in white jacked into an augmented reality where they spam each other with text-spelt offers and demands for sex, these add up into a heat-map of physical transactions above the ruins of Chicago.
Ominous references are made to the change in the pornography paradigm (‘here comes everybody?’) that finally led to the discovery of the Godwave. We can but hope that Ware will explore this verisimilar future in the future In the meanwhile, we will skirt the event horizon bounding that weird no-place where J.G. Ballard would have tried to make sense of Chatroulette (or whatever’s the equivalent nowadays), listening to James Ferraro‘s romantic assembly language.
Buy Sushi: From Hippos in Tanks
Cabaal – Emanations [album]: Maya arrives halfway through the album. A chopped and screwed, Euro House casualty – 4am slow, dragging its melodic, synthetic self through the pre-dawn. It manages to pull in Eno’s lunar ambience alongside the cloudy, pitch blended synths canonised by Board of Canada. All introspection between the towering thud of hulking drums and reverberating bass.
Access Emanations: From Bandcamp.
Carter Tutti Void: “The remorseless throb: endlessly sinister. Like some totalitarian womb ready to birth primal horror upon the bobbing audience. Triggered incantations from their Norfolk lair ring out over this ceremony. An alter of MacBooks and patch cables between them, a suitable visual metaphor for the New Throb.”
Buy Transverse: From the Mute Bank
Claps – Glory, Glory [album]: A slow, burning beast. A torch song at the end of the world (as most good torch songs are).
Claps‘ Strain, rolls the credits on their Glory, Glory album. This is the same genus that birthed Regan-era nuclear-fatalism-wave – or whatever you’d like to call what minimal synth absorbed and mutated into as the resuscitated corpse of the Cold War shuffled along. As deathly sad and beautifully constructed as Mushy’s energetic (but equally mournful) Child of Light Will Burn. Its layers of synths and drum machines help us to sink into the helpless, impossible funk of East London capitalism.
The wide boys have mugged the world and we simply want to sit at dawn and gaze at the Shard.
Buy Glory, Glory from Moon Glyph.
Cloudland Canyon: “The barbarians invaded the empire, and in doing so they destroyed the empire, but also were destroyed by it. Something else lived on, it splays in the shadows of ruined patios, stretching its limbs, ogling the rapidly healing scars where the graft was done, cooing. What was an angelic ambient harmony has become fierce praxis, like relativistic equations applied into nuclear fission. The cybernetic drone that used to announce massacre elevates into a chant of communion.”
Buy Born Blonde: From Trensmat Records.
Cold Pumas: There is a cosmic radio station we unconsciously tune in during particular moments of beauty, awesomeness, wordless yet perfect communication, and so forth. They play Cold Pumas Trans-Pacific Express a lot in there.
Buy A Persistent Malaise: From Faux Discs.
Constellation Tatsu: Another tape label launched in 2012, Constellation Tatsu worked at quintuple the productivity rate of even Blue Tapes, putting out a bundle of four or five consistently excellent tapes each month. This included work from xxjfg favourites Food Pyramid, Samantha Glass, Pleq, and Prayer. Also like Blue Tapes, Constellation Tatsu arrived with a fully-formed aesthetic, in this case beautiful, beautiful collages!
Buy Cascade by Mitchell Turner: from Constellation Tatsu
(TO BE CONTINUED…)