Out of the Past

Featuring : Liasons Dangereuses

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The post slipped out of time during the transition to this glorious new body (which is still beta, kids). As such it’s very confused about A) being in the UK and not Germany and B) what a 503 is. Please humour it while it readjusts…

10th October 2014

Later on today, all of 20JFG’s current writers will drag themselves onto a low-cost airline bound for Berlin; questing. First, we will seek out our lost brother in the struggle, now a pillar of light moving among the concrete and start-ups. Once we have found him and absorbed him, Tetsuo-style, into the 20JFG whole, we will embark out into the night to feast on dance music and night clubs.

For, sadly, 20JFG’s body is weak. Only able to maintain connection to the internet for brief periods between the waking death of the 503. The soul must be replenished and we have turned to our German brothers and sisters to host our mecca.

Pre-flight though, we look to the west, to Dusseldorf for sustenance.

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On Monday Groenland release Electri_city – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf. It’s got all the hits. A fair number have graced these pages in the past. But as we are in a dancing mode we’ll pluck the proto-techno of Liaisons Dangereuses from the exquisitely selected pack.

Los Ninos Del Parque (inexplicably sung in Spanish — hit the comments Twitter to explain to me why) was their relatively major hit (which means it probably sold more than the current top-40 combined and yet barely rippled the major label’s money pits). It’s remorseless in a way that Chicago and Detroit would appreciate and make their own. After the demise of DAF, this is a logical refinement of EBM. Manufacturing processes had improved and the tolerances refined. The beats hit and they hit perfectly.

Liaisons Dangereuses – Los Ninos Del Parque

Thanks to this time travelling post this compilation is already out and can be bought from the label itself here or if you’re in the UK you can grab it from Boomkat here.

Play like a Superhero – Walk like a Motherfucker

Featuring : Quasiviri

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Superheroes should be psychedelic motherfuckers. Quasiviri sometimes sound to me like a pop Oneida – and if anyone are superheroes, then its fucking Oneida.

It’s that muscular, fuck-you bass – which sometimes just settles into an up-middle-fingered stomp and then stomps all over your face. It’s those mind-scrambles of organ. It’s the fact you can fill up a fuck of a lot of space with just three instruments and a sound to die for.

But it’s not just wig-out mayhem. Quasiviri is tight, clear-eyed, ultra-focused and purposeful rock that just happens to share a sound with your dream psychedelic record. It isn’t prone to noodling, or playing jazz chords with 20 notes when one note repeated 20 times will do just as well.

Also it’s playful, and funny, and why isn’t it this stuff that people are obsessing over now? Be not apologetic. Play like a superhero. Walk like a motherfucker.

Quasiviri – The Perennial Pose

Buy Super Human from Bandcamp

(art is Lenny Lathem (after Jack Kirby), Dr. Strange, Marvel Comics black light poster art.)

Biodiversity and Monster Worlds

Featuring : Katie Gately + Prayer

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You’ve probably worked out by now that XXJFG doesn’t do interviews. Interviews! What do you think we are – music journalists?! We’re too busy classifying and naming new species of Old Ones and compiling really important reports on stuff.  But our sounds don’t just live in a vacuum. The stuff we beam out of the XXJFG mainframe into your finely-tuned minds is produced by the fingers and brains of fleshy humans, mostly out there on Earth somewhere.

In the interests of ethnomuiscoceanographic research, we got one such fleshy human – our friend Joe Houpert aka Constellation Tatsu recording artiste Prayer – to interrogate another one:  Katie Gately.

Katie has been one of our favourite ever finds. The first piece of music we’d heard by her – one of the first she’d ever done – was an amazing reimagining of the rules of remixing, her early Soundcloud recordings were frankly art pop genius, and in her tape for XXJFG sister project Blue Tapes – she had birthed an actual, bona fide honest-to-Dagon 21st Century classic (of any genre).

The phrase “so and so’s music defies description” is a much-overused cliche of PR. We’re not going to ask you to believe that it’s true in this case – though it is – you just have to listen. Katie has now signed to our Brighton neighbours Fat Cat. This post premieres her first release for the label – Pivot – which is also The Tune of 2014. (The six-minute excerpt – less than half of the song’s running time – included in this post doesn’t quite do its magnificence justice.)

Statistically speaking (inasmuch as an unfortunate experience with college Prob/Stat has qualified me to use the preceding and any subsequent concepts), the Australian koala bear is a rarity (again, re: college Anth/Bio et al.).  Given the age of the planet, the different, let’s say, genres of animals, for lack of a better term, one might assume (again re: Anth/Bio), would converge into a handful of overarching species, a sort of vaguely homogeneous meta-species if you will.

Keeping in line with such logic and taking birds as an example, these groups caught by the large netting cast into the gene pool might leave us with, hypothetically speaking and drawing no such real-life parallels, something like ducks, the aptly-titled large birds, the just-as-aptly-titled small birds and, of course, owls.

And so when speaking of “birds,” a large group of bird-like things that all have beaks and wings that work or in some cases do not work and that all (birds, not working wings or non-working wings), one could likely imagine, birds make bird-like sounds.  And different birds make different bird sounds.  But at the very least one could make the point that one specific bird might sound very much like (but still not exactly like) another bird but that another specific bird might sound more like another different (but specific) bird, but like a younger version of that bird, or perhaps a punk version of another bird, or say, like that group of birds in the 80’s that lived in that meat storage locker and just sounded way ahead of their time.

For example.

Though to my ears, a whole lot of birds sound the same.

So then, the koala bear.  Yes, not only bear-like in name, but bear-like fur and perhaps locomotion and maybe other taxonomical qualifiers (a stretch?  Again, again re: Anth/Bio) but also very bear-unlike in its (coincidentally) somewhat bird-like mouth and decidedly not-bear-like pouch.  A singular animal this koala.  Where most bears go on about doing mainly bear-like things with their day, the koala sits, grinning, beady eyes wide as beady eyes can get, innocently gnoshing eucalyptus to its little bear-like and simultaneously un-bear heart’s content.  Now yes, one would be remiss if one didn’t mention its Northern cousin and fellow marsupial, the wombat, who, if given the vocabulary (not to mention maxillofacial muscle structure and vocal cording to make use of said vocabulary) could say get together with our friend the koala and say, talk all day about the pros and cons of the front side, top-loading pouch.  To that, I say, saccula non facit philosophum; lumping those two nutcases together does a disservice to both of our genetically separate friends, marginalizing the wombat’s uniquely wombat-y ground dwelling skills while simultaneously marginalizing the koala’s uniquely koala-y tree-dwelling skills.

All of this to say: one doesn’t hear something like Katie Gately every day.  Familiar enough to not seem foreign, but still unfamiliar at the same time.  Not take-behind-the-bleachers ‘like,’ but like tell-your-friends-your-busy-friday-night-but-really-you’re-going-to-that-performance-art-performance and then go to Bard and major in Art History ‘like.’  ‘Pivot’ has all the Gately-isms we have come to love; chromatic harmony and dissonant melody; that grandness that’s underscored by a playful menace.  And a balls-out, heart-on-her-sleeve rawness that’s just so damn good.  She can sing.  She can produce.  If there was doubt that ‘Pipes’ was a fluke, ‘Pivot’ clears up any confusion.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Gately about her work and her upcoming split release on FatCat (see: here) with Tlaotlon.

1) Why voice?  What was behind the decision to use only voice on ‘Pipes?’  What led to incorporating other elements into the new piece, ‘Pivot?’

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Voice is just the most immediate way to find both a melodic idea and some kind of emotional cue for me to get going.  Sound design is super fun too and I like applying its conventions frequently but sometimes I don’t want my down time to be too job-related.

The vocal limitation for Pipes was something I wanted to do since I heard Medulla but it wasn’t until the past few years that I had the technical skills to do much of anything! It sounded like a very fun challenge that could work for a more experimental label like Blue Tapes UK.

The past year I wanted to play with more long-form ideas as well as learn more about mixing and using fancier plug-ins. I have always been so afraid to use normal instruments because I couldn’t play them and I wanted to get over that fear. I can still sample and process them just like my voice! It won’t be realistic or match classical conventions – but that’s OK – I’m trying to make monster worlds, so they should sound different. This is the rationalization I took into the dark night of producing Pivot, at least…

I probably have been bouncing around stylistically because I am greedy. There is such a broad variety of electronic / experimental music in the world, if you limit that to even a single style there is still a huge vat of techniques and tricks and conventions to study and learn. But…. my favorite thing is to study and learn! Obviously, I’d have to live 500 years to learn everything I want to know but I’m still going to try. The results of that learning — whatever I’m currently obsessed with – will then show up in my own music, of course.

2)  What was the intention behind Pivot, beyond trying out new technical skills, if any?  Is songwriting/producing more academic exercise for you?  More art?  A combination of the two?  Do you believe that this distinction matters?

Yeah, I am more drawn to song and melody and mood than any academic approach. USC is essentially a glorified trade school. While we definitely had to write theory papers, I came more for the technical, pragmatic classes and the faculty behind them which were both pretty tremendous. With my music, I’m really just digging into the personal piggy bank. I’m sad about this or that and trying to use the technical experiments as a way to be productive with my blues (thanks Thom!)

I think if I have any conscious, general goal with music it’s to absolutely step over my comfort line, like risk looking pretty stupid and insane, just in case this might make someone else feel less alone with how bonkers they are feeling about one thing or another. That feeling of “Woaw. This person’s brain fires in a way that mine does too.: That’s nice to know because usually I hide that part of myself from the world for fear of being arrested and/or institutionalized.

I’m really grateful to get that feeling from so many other musicians and records. There are a lot of brave people in the world! And they inspire me to be more vulnerable every time I’m making something new.

3)  So, your degree is in Sound Design, or Sound Design for Film?  Either way, I’d like to ask about visual elements in your work.  Your releases are very sparse.  There’s artwork, but little of it.  Conversely, when I listen to your work, I have a very visual response to it.  Can you comment on the importance of the visual in your work?  Are the “monster worlds” that you make purely auditory in nature?

Yeah, my degree is formally a “Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production” so the majority of my schoolwork was not sound-based but it has still been super useful to study story, writing, lighting, color. All of that can inspire sound-making, too.

That said, I’m not consciously going for any visual element with my music. I like defying spatial conventions and the laws of physics because I’m always trying to hear things I’ve never heard before. It never happens intentionally – it’s usually the result of some mistake – but I do find that if I’m trying to realistically recreate sounds in space, I’m less likely to hear unfamiliar, scary shit….and I love that stuff so…I want to stay open to finding it.

I do love working with animators though but I leave the ideation mostly up to them – it’s their area of expertise after all and I love seeing what people come up with on their own terms.

4) You use Soundcloud a good deal, posting most of your work there (a large chunk of ‘Pipes’, some of your self-titled LP, Far’ from our split).  Is the physical format important to you?  Is the idea of a collection of cohesive songs released together important to you, given that your last two releases are single long-form works?

The music itself is far and away the most important thing to me for sure. I’d listen to music if it came out of a garbage can and I had to stick my head in a pile of trash in order to hear it!

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But it’s definitely fun exploring mediums. I really like the idea of the medium being part of inspiration of something. One side of vinyl has to fit in a certain time frame and that’s pretty significant if you’re locked into a certain sequencing of songs. Tapes are cool too, doing something for Blue Tapes made me want to try and digitally recreate a feeling of tape decay near the end of pipes. And we did a lathe! I listened to your side and responded to it but it had to be under a certain length. That stuff is pretty relevant to things taking shape, which is rad.

In general with music…I do find that an important part is actually buying it, digital or physical. When I buy things – even mp3s – I just straight up pay more attention to them. It’s like paying to see a movie: you don’t want to walk out and throw away 15 bucks so you engage a bit more, even if it’s out of guilt or stubbornness. This way, there is more of a chance you will be open to finding redeemable qualities in something you judged too quickly as well as a chance to fall more in love with the minute details of something you liked right away.

5)  How did pivot come about?  Tell me about its development.  What should we expect to hear?

Pivot came about over the course of a few days last year as I wanted to keep exploring long-form music.

I became fixated with the word “pivot” as it is an action or motion of being rooted to one place while spinning and flailing around but also stands for a person who is an anchor. I love double-meanings and wanted to explore this in a song by playing with the dark and light sides of this word: an anchor can be both blissful and stabilizing as well as suffocating and limiting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that feeling one way permanently about something or someone is never going to happen for me. I used to think this was a terrible failing on my part and I needed to fix myself. but now I feel like it’s just my reality and it’s better to embrace and meet head-on than to judge and repress and hide away.

When I came to LA everyone I met in film was like “Conviction is seduction. Avoid ambiguity at all costs. Be certain about everything you do and say” and I thought “Yeah, there is some truth to that but….it just doesn’t feel right to me.”  I’d much rather live in the grey areas of life because ambiguity is where I feel reality is mostly located. And I personally find truth – however murky and unsatisfying – to be a lot more seductive than certainty.

6) What are your future plans?  What work would you like to take on, if any?

I am trying to accrue a little roster of animators I can work for because they are so brilliant and fun to work with. besides this, editing (anything!) as long as I get paid to do so and more time studying mixing. I’m trying to work with as many different sound people as I can and learn their individual tips and tricks and also…..just hang out with different people. Making music is incredibly solitary (for me) and I am taking a break from hermit land for a bit so that i actually have a desire to return to it.

7) What is your favorite animal?

When I was a kid I was obsessed with koalas (probably just because they had a K in their name….).

Now I’m obsessed with preying mantises because there’s one living on my porch and I’ve starting filming her murderous rages.

Also warthogs, because my friend owns one and I get to babysit him. His name is Bayboo and Bayboo don’t give no fucks and will step on you and leave holes in your skin.

But my true-love animal is the puppy dog.  Every single dog I make eye contact with on the street steals a sliver of my soul, permanently. My fantasy is to be able to give birth to a litter of puppies (via C-section), I don’t really care if that’s wrong or icky, I think it deserves to be researched. Either way, I hope to own at least 10 dogs on a plot of land in the middle of nowhere before I die.

A Vipers’ Nest of Ouroboros

Featuring : Jute Gyte

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(Lucifer (Morningstar). A wax sculpture depicting the devil snared in a set of power lines built by Paul Fryer. The sculpture is illuminated by the church’s stained glass windows. It can be seen at The Holy Trinity Church in Marylebone, Westminster.)

Lurching, ascending, descending – ever moving in a time that doesn’t seem to resemble time at all. Sometimes the music of Jute Gyte sounds as though it is crawling around inside you, threatening to escape.

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Whether it is slowing up or speeding down sometimes seems not only subjective, but actually kind of irrelevant. This is genuinely transdimensional music. It obeys the rules of little other sound in our universe.

In an era where the ‘psychedelic’ is much fetishized, but oft-misunderstood (as The Quietus brilliantly explained recently, why people think Hookworms are psychedelic, why they’re not, and why Katie Gately IS), Jute Gyte is making music that is beyond cosmic. It looks where space rock has taken us and laughs. Why waste time on sailing a backdraft of flanger up to the moon when you can wrench open reality itself and slide a rotten tentacle through the cracks?

Jute Gyte – The Grey King

This isn’t for people who find black metal cute. And it isn’t for people who find black metal extreme. Microtonal metal might never inspire memeworthy fandom, but right now it sounds like the future. And the past. And the whole ugly present – all knotted together in a vipers nest of ouroboros.

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Name your price for a download of Jute Gyte’s magnificent Ressentiment album at Bandcamp

 

 

Against entropy  

Featuring : Laura Luna + Mica Levi

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Laura Luna de Castillo is a Mexican multimedia artist based in Prague who creates ‘Isolarios’ by taking emotions and fragments of memories through layers of fuzz, drone, and error-inducing circuits.

You can explore the results in different ways: as a forensic architect of the Proustian school who straddles the halls of a luminescent memory palace; or as a historian riding the waves of an evolutionary process, metamorphosis or epiphany.

Either way, the prevailing feeling is one of wonder and anticipation. You stare into the glowing mist, and imagine shapes inside it, they are slivers of the emotions and memories which are at the beginning of an Isolario, and also at its conclusion.

Laura Luna – Auroras

In Aurora, the journey is one of entropy loss. Over its 9 minutes, we experience substantial gains in order, differentiation and warmth, as the chaotic noise of empty sidereal voids becomes colloidal dance, and eventually, the strange loop of a conscience looking back at the mystery of its origin, and wisely reveling in the impossibility of completely understanding it.

If the bombastic preacher that is Malick’s the Tree of Life had a little sister, agnostic and unassuming, yet equally and intensely concerned with Meaning, we think she’d play this a lot.

You can get the other Isolarios through Baba Vanga.

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The journey we described above could also encompass the stages of alienation, evasion, observation, inference, comprehension and empathy undergone by Glasgow’s alien visitor in J Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’.

Here you have, as a bonus, a track from its searingly beautiful soundtrack by Mica Levi. It is featured in our ‘To Your Scattered Bodies’ mixtape, for which you have so far failed to identify that many songs. We know you can do better.

Mica Levi – Love

Get the soundtrack here.

An Auditory Film

Featuring : Gong + Z

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More musicians should do figurative soundtracks to books. Wist Rec. did their beautiful Book Report series, where musicians such as Loscil and Christina Carter make 3″ CDs that fit inside the dust jackets of books by MR James, EM Forster and Malcolm Lowery.

Back in 1979, electronic instrument building genius and lighting engineer Bernard Szajner scored Dune. Not David Lynch’s film Dune, which came out in 1984 and is our Dan’s favorite ever movie, and sadly not even Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune – which the director had recently stalled work on. Nope, the Dune Szajner – under the name ‘Z’ – scored was Frank Herbert’s Dune. Dune: The Book.

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Jodorowsky approached various European proggers – Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd, and Szajner’s lighting clients Magma and Gong – for his prospective Dune soundworld, but if he’d managed to hang on to the project for just a little bit longer, Z’s Dune soundtrack could have been the definitive aural description of Arrakis and Dune’s “Proustian” (according to Jodorowsky) narrative.

Hell, maybe it already is.

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Szajner brewed up Visions of Dune while looking after his friend’s Oberheim sequencer and a two-track tape recorder for eight days. He set about making hundreds of loops, which he would apply to “mental impressions” of a character or scene from the book.

He describes the process as making “an auditory film” and of his role as “a musical illustrator.” Of course, like any beautiful illustration (the gorgeous concept art for Jodorowsky’s Dune from Moebius, Giger and Chris Foss included) the sound works well on its own.

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But it was designed to be functional, and frankly we feel we’d be doing a grave disservice to both the Szajner and Herbert if we didn’t tell you to purchase the LP (newly-reissued on vinyl with long-lost never-before-heard tracks deemed “too futuristic” for its original release) and dust off that old car boot sale paper book of Dune you’ve got lying around, and soak up Szajner’s synaesthesia while acquainting or reacquainting yourself with Herbert’s biblical space saga.

Z – Dune

Buy Visions of Dune

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Bonus 1973 track from one of the prog bands who nearly got the Dune gig!

Gong – I Never Glid Before

What do you know about minimal music from Japan 1980 -1986, son?  

Featuring : Mkwaju Ensemble

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It happens.

We feel down about the Internet. We despair at its surges of collective stupidity, the banality of its articles, comments and backlashes, at the perfect replicability it enables. We also feel self-loathing, as the inner-baby inside us shrieks and tugs at the screen for attention and feedback, rendering us unable to friggin’ concentrate on anything.

And then, like a lightning bolt of magic, someone says something somewhere in the Internet and, just like that, a window is opened and through it we behold awesome vistas. New universes are revealed. A crystalline shard of beautiful experience that didn’t exist before pierces our skin and dissolves in our bloodstream and spreads through our system and we are upgraded and renewed.

And then we feel up on the Internet.

This happened this week, when our pal Matt from Where to Now/WhereIIDance/Ye Ye Fever fame posted on Facebook about a Japanese band called Mkwaju Ensemble (his was the title of this post too). The track was called Hot Air, and it sounded like the morning stirrings of a young country at the beginning of the season of love.

Hot Air is contained in Mkwaju Ensemble’s 1981 album ‘Ki-Motion.’ We also tracked down their self-titled debut Mkwaju, and tried to find out more about them, to no initial avail We had sort of resigned ourselves to allow their music exist in the kind-of-context-less mythical space defined by our imaginations, when at the bottom of the Google search results we stumbled upon a post about them at Hipinion, which provided an etymological/organic foundation for their music, in sub-Saharan culture.

Sez Drudge, who wrote this post:

The tamarind, known as “mkwaju” in Swahili, is a large, adaptable, drought resistant tree native to Sudan and tropical Africa. A dense, durable, insect-resistant wood, mkwaju is used in the production of furniture, wheels, planking, tools, and musical instruments. Prized also for its horticultural, culinary, and medical uses, mkwaju is essential to the life and identity of the Central African grasslands.

Taking their name from the tree whose wood was used to produce some of the very first mallets and marimba, Mkwaju Ensemble’s rhythmic, minimalistic work draws on the region’s music and culture. In a brief six month span, the ensemble combined a wide array of talent and instrumentation to explore syncopation, repetition, and silence in new and ambitious ways.

Many sub-Saharan languages do not have a word for rhythm, or even music. Rhythms represent the very fabric of life, and embody the interdependence of human relationships. Cross-beats can symbolize challenging moments or emotional stress, and playing them while fully grounded in main beats is thought to prepare one to maintain purpose while dealing with life’s challenges. This simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns lies at the core of Africa’s rhythmic tradition, and is evident in much of the ensemble’s work. Marimba, vibraphone, bamboo percussion and synth intertwine to create something both traditional and new.

Which is a beautiful and enlightening explanation/description of the furious, liquid, interweaving, threaded and parallel eddies and whirlpools of minimalism, percussion and electronica in Mkwaju.

This is how it all begins.

Mkwaju Ensemble – Mkwaju

It doesn’t end there. The post about Mkwaju Ensemble was part of a wider discussion about Japanese music that began 3 pages earlier, beginning with exquisite 80s pop, continuing into Mkwaju Ensemble, and following with our beloved Geinoh Yamashirogumi and others.

We predict this will provide a rich source of awesome music for us to enjoy and convey to you in future days, hopefully making us part of that chain of connected vessels through which great stuff (and belief in the web as a force for good) spreads all over.

Peace.