Welcome, welcome, to 20JFG’s fantabulous end of year round up. Once again we’ll be raiding the year’s archives for the tracks that made permanent homes on our digital/analogue devices. We’ll also be posting a few things that we loved but didn’t cover at the time: music that had already been blogged to death or music that its owner wasn’t happy to give away…until now!
So, over the next couple of weeks we’ll tease out a stream of songs that made us happy to be writing this blog, year in, year out.
At 20JFg we create worlds. And one of the worlds we like to create is one where we’ve assumed the X-Factor’s fascist control over the pop charts and have installed Chris and Cosey to provide the theme tunes for all the shows. But I digress. In this world the idea of the weird, the mutant and the outre is as unfathomable to the populace as karaoke manequins holding up mediocrity as canonical brilliance. And so, the following songs storm the public consciousness — without dominating it to the point of numbness. They are 20JFG Top of the Pops and this year would have been poorer without them.
Roberto Cacciapaglia: The Ann Steel Album (Reissue) Through the gaudy chaos of the imaginary toy procession that Roberto Cacciapaglia soundtracks, we visualise an alternative branch of history where the gloom of the synthetic undead was balanced by the exertions of an odd-wave army of glamorous extravagants fighting for the futuristic utopia. It never happened because being fun is hard, and that is also why this album is something to cherish, maybe its rediscovery will jolt contemporary creators from their abstracted numbness and copycat jangle. We can only hope.
Buy: The Ann Steel Album.
Mirror Mirror: Interiors Stop bickering and listen to Mirror Mirror. Look at them as they levitate over the battlefield like Doctor Strange, and deploy the musical equivalent of the Eye of Agamotto to illuminate the edges of the one diamond where all these spiritual faces are bound, the light thus projected is black not because of a malign tendency, but because it is made of all the colours, the album named Interiors because it sweeps us inside, like a storm.
The Dreams: Morbido The Dreams (no link soz) are to us the sound harbingers of an abstractedly sexual, matter-of-factly violent religion whose commandments are tattooed in skins, tattooed in drums.
Buy: Morbido LP
Horrid Red: Celestial Joy: Horrid Red’s rituals and songs pay tribute to the gods of metronomic velocity, kaleidoscopic bloodshed and enlightenment through beautiful strife, and to the enemy, beloved because it helps resolve their violent algebra. If you were to follow their trail of carnage across the vast steppe, reach their leather tent, slide inside and sit with them during a rare moment of calm spent sipping on stolen elixirs, and you asked them what is best in life, this song would be your answer. And Conan would be proud.
Buy: Celestial Joy
Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact There was a brief moment in history when it looked like we were on the brink of a proper bottom-up global pop revolution. M.I.A. had a good go at it. Alas, it was not to happen. The window of opportunity is now closed, and all we are left with are the vaudevillian contortions of lab-designed boy outfits, X-factor derivalia and meat-clad Madonna obsessives delivering mangled italo. Sex like projectile vomiting, no seduction. If we were to fit this scenario into a Grant Morrison template, then Gang Gang Dance would be the Invisibles, integrating splendid riddims, psychedelia, baroque hooks, and future (because it is eternal) soul into a cleansing ritual and inclusive gathering occasion for the rebel factions.
Buy: Eye Contact
John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves John Maus is a marginalised political platform with a romantic expressionistic agenda. His posters resemble Cartier Bresson snapshots of an intellectual sombrely contemplating the future of society and culture. His campaign videos, shown in local TV stations in the deepest of the night, are Adam Curtis-esque affairs where slogans float half-formed, adrift a turbulent sea agitated by fierce subconscious streams. His anthems are ectoplasmic parcels that can only be holistically de-encrypted, bearing in mind words, their sound context and their interactions. When we do so, we find lots of horror, but also much hope. We’d definitely vote for him.
Peaking Lights: 936 20jazzfunkgreats love to be surprised. If anyone had told us that we were going to have a white-man reggae/borderline chillwave crossover album in our top of the year, we would have said, No Way Jose. Watch our preconceptions scurry like roaches under 936’s mighty tropical light, a light that is born in a weird crucible of good pop vibes and syrupy echobox exhalations.
Chevalier Avant Garde: A Difficult Whole/Heteropias Chevalier Avant Garde curate an exclusive store with artefacts ransacked from a variety of periods. In each of these converge powerful vectors of context and imagination, defining new possibilities full of weird spin and momentum. These are not songs but the stuff that songs are made of – the cheeky melody of a Throbbing Gristle lullaby, the poetic cycle of a Kraftwerk automaton, Chicago’s soul machine code.
Echo Lake – Young Silence One of 20JFG was asked to make a video for ethereal/Nu-gaze/really nice folks Echo Lake late last year. This is the result.
If only we could afford to describe every band using points of light.