The Playlist of Babel: Best of 2012 D-L

Featuring : Best of 2012

LibraryofBabel

We continue our hunt among the cultural pillars of 2012.  Today we find, standing proud like the Brontosaurus from Jurassic Park, letters D-L.  There, munching happily on some leaves while 20JFG gawp at them from a Jeep.

As with A-C this is a loose collection of bands, records, games and films and anything else that has demanded its share of our time in 2012.

Enjoy and muse deeply on why we seem biased towards culture from the start of the alphabet — when sorting is digital and instant, is there an evolutionary drive to appear at the top of lists when choosing a name?  All these musings and more in 2013…

…but not before M-Z.

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Dance

Dancing: One thing we sadly didn’t do enough of this year is dancing. Yet dancing is one of the cornerstones of this blog, and a re-vitalising force that brings us all together, as this video by Adam Curtis which also made our 2012 shows. Let us make another resolution for 2012, to dance more.

It won’t be for lack of sweet ordnance such as this provided by Magic Touch in their bonus instrumental version of ‘Just Wanna Feel’, Chicago bounce cycles, Parisian filtered glitter and discombobulated synthetic strings evoking the manic body-strobe of a dancefloor approaching its perihelion.

Magic Touch – Just Wanna Feel (Bonus Instrumental)

Buy Just Wanna Feel: From 100% Silk.

Dean Blunt: Over 2012, we have continued spacing out over the sloppily beautiful jams of the new ectoplasmic soul quasi-movement, and their soundtrack for that Cyberpunk future where the machines leave us all physically stranded in a post-favela urban reticule, taking pot-shots at each other across the future-shell-shocked streets of the informal economy. A soundtrack which is – apologies – exotic, harkening to the East which overlays Bladerunner’s Angelino bustle, creole, rough like bootleg mixtapes hot off some fast-food joint backroom, delirious like uneasy nights stabbed by helicopter lights. Also, unfinished, done on the run, recreating the Darwinian hustle of that future underground.

Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland – 5

Buy Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland: From Hyperdub.

Demdike Stare: Demdike Stare’s Elemental is a probe exploring a planetary system once inhabited by a civilisation whose culture we cannot fathom, it pans past strange rama-like cylinders enveloping the crimson sun, it zooms into the surface of one of its deserted planets, and follows a circuit of cyclopean autobahns across which advance brutal crab-looking trucks in mysterious autopilot. All is quiet, save for a furious wind, and their dubby rumble.

Demdike Stare – Ishmael’s Intent

Buy Elemental: From Boomkat.

Diamanda Galas performs on the opening night of Antony's Meltdown at the Royal Festival Hall

Diamanda Galas at Meltdown: Hard to describe why this was so good, really. Though even though we were at the back of Royal Festival Hall, Diamanda’s voice seemed to be reaching everywhere, curling around us, splitting in two, a big double-helix of sound. Although the programmes provided gave biographical and lyrical details of the funeral poetry she was setting to sound, really, we were switching off and just listening to the sine waves of improbability that is Diamanda’s voice. Sometimes it burst into a flock of metal birds, sometimes it was knives. The best vocal performance we heard in 2012 this side of Attila Csihar’s weird oscilloscope of a voice opening up a wormhole in Mayhem’s black metal at Primavera Sound.

Dinosaur on Fire: We listen to Dinosaur on Fire and glide over the library of sci-fi which we believe it was inspired by, or otherwise it unwittingly cites with Mentat intuition – viz. our approach to the Orbital, shining like one of God’s many misplaced bracelets over the deep matte of Space, our bloodstream tour of sub-atomic cathedrals erected by a nanite proletariat, our jacking into the consensual hallucination through which information becomes mass (and Mass), and of course, the spectacle of C-Beams glittering in the dark, near Tanhäuser Gate. 

All these things and more we think of, parallel events in a multiverse criss-crossed by an army of heroes in their abstract journey, cosmic roadtrips for which Dinosaur on Fire has to be the soundtrack – Tangerine Dream, Harold Grosskopf, Laurie Spiegel and Vangelis could do it, but tonight, it’s gotta be Dinosaur on Fire.

Dinosaur on Fire – Out of Orbit

Buy Sleep Moon Voyage: From Bandcamp.

Dishonored

Dishonored: One of the highlights of this year was the day after Dishonored was released, which we spent tremendously hangover, trapped indoors while the clouds battled mankind outside.

But we were outdoors too, blinking across the roofs of sinful Dunwall, hunting for mementos whose story was their own reward in plague-massacred alcoves, staring mesmerised at the manoeuvring of the armies of rats in the streets below, and their interactions with the rest of the system whose resilience we were testing, with silence & blade. Totally awesome stuff, we will be replaying it in the New Year, the pacifist way this time.

The feeling of sad purpose & eventual oblivion in the blur of the moment could have been accompanied by The Slaves’ choral harmonies, ranging over a submerged city hammered by the static rain of feedback, corrosion and sickness.

The Slaves – 111

Buy Spirits of the Sun: From Digitalis.

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Disintegration Loops live at Meltdown: The other show we HAD to see from Antony’s excellent Meltdown programme. William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops is rightly recognised as a landmark of sound art. The idea that it could be bettered in any way seemed unlikely, the notion that it could be performed live, frankly, absurd. But it honestly was fantastic. Performed live by a small orchestra, Disintegration Loops live genuinely felt like fragments of the greatest cadence in music ever, played over and over in a loop, endlessly turned over and marvelled, like the players themselves couldn’t quite believe how great the tones were they had stumbled upon. We almost couldn’t bear it to stop.

Buy the Disintegration Loops box set: from Boomkat

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Dustin Wong: This had to be the real surprise gem of the year, from Ponitail guitarist Dustin Wong. Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads is sort of a mix of African hi-life, E2-E4-grade krautrock, Durruti Column and assorted minimalism, but even that seems to be reducing it somehow. It just sounds like magic to our ears! Listen to it once, and it will loop forever in your head. (This is a good thing.)

Buy Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads: from Thrill Jockey

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Echo Lake: Echo Lake‘s debut album Wild Peace came out earlier this year.  One of 20JFG was honoured to be asked again to make a video for it…which quickly turned into the Hearts of Darkness of music videos (minus the money).  The results of which can be seen below.

All of this was tragically cast into relief by the sad death of Pete Hayes, Echo Lake’s endlessly affable drummer. That he’d contributed to such a great record can be but a small piece of solace for those that knew and loved him.  Revelling in the beauty that encompasses his metronomic beats seems a scant but fitting tribute.

Buy Echo Lake’s album: from No Pain in Pop

Ex Vivian: Ex Vivian’s ‘Big Planes and Sharks’ slips into the turntable of that anonymous selector who soundtracks the travails of long-haul freighters, runaways and bank-robbers. She soars above the broken syllables of an Ash Ra Tempel haiku, motherly like Stevie Nicks, in her understanding of our failure and our fall, wicked like some recidivist Coyote Goddess, in her conviction to keep it up until she runs out of luck.

Ex vivian – Big planes and sharks

Buy Ex Vivian’s debut: from WT Records’

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Fatima Al Qadiri: Throughout all of the relentless exhumation of pop cultural ephemera from our pre-internet youth that coloured in movements like chillwave/vaporwave/etceterawave or the Wire’s nebulous hypnagogic pop/hauntology equivalent, there was a frustrating lack of any kind of artful playing with context – most artists content to just fall back on exaggerating a perceived unintentional psychedelicism in the source material (cartoons, adverts, exercise videos from the 80s and the like). One notable exception to this was the multi-disciplinary artist Fatima Al Qadiri. If we’re honest, the first thing that piqued our interest was the title of her EP, Desert Strike, and vague memories of the Gulf War-themed Megadrive game.

Al Qadiri was 9 years old when Kuwait – where she is from – was invaded. As a Sega fan she owned the Desert Strike game and experienced intensely conflicting feelings while playing it. Fatima and her sister escaped into gaming, as their father was held as an Iraqi prisoner of war: “Children can block out disgusting adult realities and invent their own worlds; and that’s really what this record is about, it’s about mine and my sister’s reality that we created. We made war games against each other all the time, to try to somehow be included in the adult reality, or participate in the adult reality, because we weren’t part of it, we weren’t active participants.”

Creating an alternative soundtrack to the game more than 20 years later, Fatima tries to reclaim Desert Strike, making it somehow more innocent than the slightly sinister, commercialised repackaging of her real life experience of war that the game proffered.  

Buy Desert Strike: from Fade To Mind

fez

Fez: Never was loneliness cast in such primary colours. 

Disasterpeace – Fear

Buy Disasterpeace’s OST for FezFrom Bandcamp.

(Julien Pacaud illustration sourced from here.)

German Army: German Army are the proverbial roman slave walking behind us as we stroll down the beautiful malls of late-era cognitive/cultural capitalism, whispering in our ear, you will decay, you will decay, to the beat of a Crash Course in Science and Brian Eno bio-mechanical abortion. We have posted them thrice this year because they are one of our favourite bands in the world right now.

German Army – Wilson

Group Rhoda: At the Dark resembles Pop in as much as Polish Cinema posters resemble their source material.  The forms are there and vaguely recognisable but you’re constantly left with the feeling that you’d rather see the films theses posters presented than the often mundane inspirations.  Group Rhoda’s world of Pop winds a world around the voice.  A world of of bassy oscillations and conspiratorial melodies.  A private version of Pop that owes much to her Minimal Synth progenitors.

Group Rhoda – At the Dark

Buy Group Rhoda’s album, Out of Time: from Night School Records

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Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises score: As fetishistic as we are about the obscure, the occult, the lo-fi… sometimes nothing pushes the right buttons like a blockbuster does. And that’s exactly what Zimmer’s awesome score for The Dark Knight Rises is. You can practically smell the money that went into crafting this future-noir epic. It is beautifully produced and arranged and meticulously mapped-out – the work of a master craftsman with Hollywood-grade resources. This is unique sound for a blockbuster too – massed chanting and the percussive slamming of metal-on-metal used to brain-beating repetitive effect, even better than Swan’s The Seer! When the head-crunching ebbs away there are the most minimal, dark, and delicious strings, and a throbbing undertow of Gothamian synth.  

It’s not that we wish more Hollywood soundtracks were like this. We wish more musicfullstop was like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QthReoB7YNo

Buy The Dark Knight Rises: from Amazon

Holly Herndon: Herndon’s album is brilliant.  You should get it.  It’s bold experimental music that doesn’t offset its difficulty with layers of analogue nostalgia or a monolithic unification of tone.  It’s often banging, basically.  Especially when it shatters the world and leaves only processed voices and voids.

Fade is techno like Gavin Russom’s music is techno.  The first hand experiences of German clubs having perforated the American skin and entered the blood — the concerns of home, fascinatingly filtered through this.  Fade contains Herndon’s processed voice; more concerned with abstraction than Karen Andersson‘s similarly techno-backed modulations.  Fade manages to weave Acid into its very fabric while still bending all its allusions to its will.  It’s torch song techno: the confessional and technology colliding through the unification of the instrument.

Holly Herndon – Fade

Buy Holly Herndon’s album Movement: from RVNG

 

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Hotline Miami: We must admit we haven’t yet played the apparently sensational Hotline Miami due to system incompatibilities and/or lack of time. We are however convinced – in fact kn0w – we’d utterly love it. Ultraviolence perpetrated by dudes wearing animal masks in lurid 1980s apartments while listening to banging italo body music?

Gimme. 

Jasper Byrne – Hotline (Analogue Mix)

Buy Jasper Byrne’s Hotline Miami EP: From Bandcamp

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Horror that isn’t Horror: “A Horrible Way to Die (written by Simon Barrett, directed by Adam Wingard) is my top film of the year.  It’s a couple years old now but it just showed up on Netflix recently.  What I love about this movie is that it feels like something new.  It’s like a horror movie, but I feel like it might be a little insulting to call it that.  It’s more like a drama or psychodrama with elements of horror – but those elements are so strong that it catches you off guard.  It isn’t as violent or gory as the standard horror movie (a good thing), but it’s unpredictable, and that makes it feel way more dangerous.  Great acting as well.” (Steve Moore)

We similarly loved the slow creep of Berberian Sound Studio, and were inspired by it to terrorise our significant others with impressions of a ‘dangerously aroused goblin’. We also wished the Equestrian Vortex had got made.

Innergaze: Innergaze levitate over the turgid sea of the modern dancefloor like an enigmatic Joan of Arc possessed by the same man machine dancing ghosts as Chris and Cosey and other chasers after the essence of the night and why it contains love, most pointedly operational in1970s New York and 1980s Chicago

But Nostalgia, no matter how exquisite, is not enough. Innergaze are their own men & women, uniquely motion-blurring, focusing & defocusing their songs into an etiolated space of no-lines, mesmerised swooning & liquid moves, a seance whose poltergeists and stigmata are distant & muffled echoes of a wondrous party happening elsewhere. We have no other option but to try to get there, through this mirror, darkly.

Innergaze – Autumn

Buy Mutual Dreaming: From Cititrax/Minimal Wave.

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Killer Mike: A few years ago Simon Reynolds was bemoaning its death as an artform, but 2012 proved a powerful year for hip-hop. New classics arrived from Kendrick Lamar, Aesop Rock, Death Grips, El-P, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Nas, and arguably best of all, the El-P-produced R.A.P. Music from Killer Mike. In a year in which progressive/post-rock was still pre-occupying guitar abusers (Anathema, Om, Godspeed, Deftones, Isis, Ne Obliviscaris, Rush, Devin Townsend, Astra, Ihsahn, Enslaved, Sigh, etc, etc) Mike’s album rocked harder than any rock music. Conscious, political, but still neck-snapping stuff.

Buy R.A.P. Music: from Amazon

Led_Er_Est

Led Er Est & Mushy show in Valencia, 2012: “I think im going to pick up the Led Er Est and Mushy show in Valencia…this was a blast.. 100 people all on MDMA ahahahhaahha” (Alessandro, Mannequin Label, Regarding the moment that made his 2012]).

We wish we had attended this show. As it is, we danced across collapsing halls, and past psychic abbatoirs, to the pre-holocaustic doom-boogie of the tremendous ‘Turriptosis Blues’, one of 20JFG’s jams of the year.

Led Er Est – Turritopsis Blues

Buy The Diver: From Sacred Bones.

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Liars: It’s easy to forget that Liars released their first album over a decade ago. Since then they have been the most consistent and nutritious (and good looking) three-headed avatar of those twin obsessions we mentioned in our Marlowe entry above, a.k.a. ‘Rhythm and Ritual’, or ‘Sweat and Sorcery’ if you prefer. We have grown up with Liars, and we owe them, but they don’t get in this list because of that (although it would be enough). No, they get in this list because WIXIW is fucking awesome.

Liars – The Exact Colour Of Doubt

Buy WIXIW: From Mute.

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Lindstrøm: It’s easy to forget that Lindstrøm released his first 12’’ almost a decade ago. Since then he has been the most consistent and nutritious (and good looking) avatar of those two twin obsessions we mentioned in our Marlowe & Liars entry above, a.k.a. ‘Rhythm and Ritual’, or ‘Sweat and Sorcery’ if you prefer. We have grown up with Lindstrøm, and we owe him, but he doesn’t get in this list because of that (although it would be enough). No, he gets in this list because Six Cups of Rebel is fucking awesome.

We don’t know how we would have got through the hard bits of 2012 without it. We thank Lindstrom and the psychedelic dance gods he channels, that we didn’t have to try.

Lindstrom – No Release (Owen Pallett Remix)

Buy Six Cups of Rebel: From Smalltown Supersound.

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Lone: Galaxy Garden was the best dance music had to offer this year outside of the formidable Actress LP. Matt Cutler first became fascinated with electronic music when he noticed parallels between the hardcore stuff his older sister was listening to and the soundtracks to the Megadrive games he was bashing away on his room, like Streets of Rage. Galaxy Garden is a time-distorted memory of rave, but made ultra-vivd, each sonic detail EXPLODING with colour. Synaesthesia is the best kind of psychedelia, and this is synaesthesia you can dance to.

Buy Galaxy Garden: from R&S

Lord Boyd – Shark Dad: What would have made for a very respectably brief running length for a 60s pop single here contains all your dance music food groups.  A beautiful intro a danceable series of peaks and troughs a breakdown and a triumphant return.  An impressive feat for a track barely out of 2 minutes.

In hindsight Shark Dad wrote cheques 2012 sadly couldn’t cash.  Hopefully the resurrection of the 20JFG mobile disco will provide the euphoria this music deserves.

Buy Lord Boyd’s Beyonce EP: from Bandcamp

lorenzo-senni

Lorenzo Senni: We got stupidly excited a few months ago about his EP as Stargate, but Lorenzo Senni’s Quantum Jelly LP was even better. This was deconstructed dance music – a beautifully-realised thought experiment examining the exposed architecture of nineties trance. No beats, everything recorded using one synth in real time with no overdubs. What a hero.

Buy Quantum Jelly: from Editions Mego

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Lovecraft-type aliens in Avengers Assemble: Actually not so much the aliens themselves, as the amazing worm-spaceship things they descended upon the humans with, which moved almost aquatically and scanned like magnificent, cosmos-barnacled Old Ones swimming through space. The  name of the aliens is Chitauri, which is also the name of a race of ancient shapeshifting aliens described to David Icke by a Zulu shaman in his nine hour-long film The Reptilian Agenda.

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