Nigerian Funk Great

Featuring : Steve Monite

Steve Monite’s 1984 absolute-fucking-banger, Only You, is our subject today.  Bringing together loads of things 20JFG loves about the 80s: dubby baselines; weird, verging on avant garde synth sounds; proto-rap spoken word sections; and Disco.  God, Disco.  Disco not in the rigid genre sense but in the David Mancuso, eclecticism is the only way to party sense.

And that bass.  And those gated drums.  Fuck.

When the robots rise or when some Russian AI finally perfects just the right combination of fake news to trigger mass heart failure in the worlds social media populations…we’ll have Steve.  As the world goes up in flames he’ll be there, telling us only we can put out this fire*.   As we battle the bots’ encroachment on our collective subconscious we’ll have Only You as the checksum.  If you hear it and don’t immediately stick it on repeat you’ll be first up against the digital wall.  Or get muted.  Whatever.

Steve Monite – Only You

Only You (the album) was reissued by PMG in Austria.  You can grab it off Discogs right here.  Only You (the song) was remixed by Frankie Francis and released on a 12″ by Soundways.  You can grab that off Discogs too (as it’s sold out).  Frank Ocean covered it earlier this year so let’s hope we get an official release of that too.  But ultimately, when it comes to our preferred version, there’s only you Steve.

*technically only Steve can put out the fire but given the constant perspective shifting in the song I’m claiming we’re all Steve.

Teh End of History

Pop historian-philosopher Yuval Noah Harari fascinates and horrifies us in equal measure with his long-view description of human evolution (see Sapiens (2014) and Homo Deus (2016). It goes a little bit like this:

In the dark ages, humans believed in superstitious fictions that gave their life meaning. They existed in close connection with nature, but also at its mercy.

With the Enlightenment, humans gained control over nature through science, and turned themselves into the measure of all things, but this made their lives feel empty and meaningless. The religions of authoritarianism tried to fill that void with awful results.

New scientific and technological advances are now calling into question the basic assumptions of the enlightenment: behavioural economics and evolutionary psychology show that human being are not rational, their beliefs and actions are conditioned genetically and culturally. Machines are becoming smarter than humans, able to predict and manipulate their behaviours in increasingly sophisticated ways. All these developments point at an impending transition to a new stage in history.

Can democracy and markets survive this change, or will they be replaced by collective intelligences and platforms that aggregate and automate decisions in complex ways?

Can humanity survive the battle between the forces of reaction and acceleration?

Will we find meaning again in new religions of fandom and singularitarianism?

Noah Harari tells all this with a dispassionate voice, avoiding linear narratives of progress or decay. With each phase transition in human evolution something is lost and something is gained. A mystery always lingers, we listen to its music.

The dark ages were full of mystery and emotion, they contained a sense of permanence, and order, with human existence tightly embedded in the cycles of the celestial and terrestrial spheres. Free will in believing and sinning opened the way to moral behaviour and heroism, but this was part of a bigger story told written by the Deux Ex Machina.

Delia Gonzalez’ latest album, Horse Follows Darkness brims with that sense of thrust through layers of gnostic mystery and invisible force fields, into a space of revelation hidden at the heart of the dark forest. Hidden Song is the theme track for the werewolf gang that runs things that neighbourhood.

Delia Gonzalez – Hidden Song

Go get Horse Follows Darkness from DFA records.

We are the children of the enlightenment. Our most successful societies protect and nurture us, encourage us to express ourselves and our creativities in a myriad ways. Those of us endowed with genius can make their selves (even souls) seen, heard and felt that way, and when this happens, all witnesses are seared by a flash of joy. We might be alone in the universe, but we can gift each other universes.

Modern composition has many moments of such humanistic beauty, here is one from Philip Glass’ North Star.

Philip Glass – Lady Day

Some information in discogs.

Many of our favourite musics are produced through collaborations between humans and complex technological artifacts (electronic music) or seek to induce trance-like states where humans start behaving as if they were components of technological systems (dance music), or had been bodily spliced with technology (EBM/post-punk).

Caterina Barbieri’s take on our technological structuration is more abstract. Her electronic compositions give us nerd-rapture inducing vistas of cybernetic worlds where human and machine intelligences have already merged; we listen to their message with a mix of alienness and familiarity, as if told in the tongues of the natives of those strange new lands, distant descendants of the mild cyborgs who today inhabit online gaming clans, collaborative consumption platforms, and the deepest code architectures in GitHub’s sprawling cathedrals.

Caterina Barbieri – Information Needed to Create an Entire Body

Acquire Patterns of Consciousness from Important Records.

Dispatches from the Industrial-goth Resistance

Featuring : Pharaohs

International Feel continues to bring us the island jams.  Your particular physical or metaphorical island is entirely your choice of course.  But regardless of the location you place them, these musical capsules manage to contain entire ecosystems within their digital boundaries.  We have the Balearic jams of label boss Mark Barrott, so utterly drenched in a sense of place.  And today we have Pharoahs with a record partly inspired by a Hawaiian surf memoir but reaching into so many touchstones of 80s world music it’s dizzying.

Pharoahs –  Oelan Gunda

We begin with looping synth rhythms which are quickly supplements with what sounds like wood blocks.  Which could be the kicking off point for some deep house or an extended abstract jam.  Instead we kinda get both.  The Knife pulled a similar trick all over Silent Shout but their destination was darker and more towards the banging side of house. Here we’re more afrobeat and chill.

And that’s because we gravitate away from the synths and towards West African vibes.  Beautiful guitar loops over some call and response vocals that float atop strung out bass.  It’s a release from a more synthetic beginning that wasn’t exactly Industrial-goth to begin with.  Yet one of the song’s achievements is that this all still sounds so blissful in comparison.

Oelan Gunda is taken from Pharoahs’ mini-album, In Oeland.  Which is out on International Feel today.  You can get it right here (and at other good record shops).

“What year is it?”

Featuring : Byron Westbrook

We’ve lost count of what year of the synth revival we’re now on.  Which is appropriate.  It was timeless music then and it’s timeless music now.  Which for something indelibly linked with technology is a somewhat ironic.  It’s not like it didn’t leave traces on pop-consciouness.  From The Who jacking Terry Riley to basically all of Synth-pop, abstract electronic music has had plenty of opportunities to anchor itself to a period and be dragged down to the depths with it.

But wherever it resides, it’s certainly not the depths.

Perhaps this is so eternal because it removes the mushy, ageing component of human interaction.  We’re left instead with something so perfectly modern, a human expression divorced from some authenticating physical effort.

Byron Westbrook’s Dance in Free Fall is exhilarating, honestly titled and utterly, utterly human.  It manages to pull off the wonderful feeling of moving at different speeds, tempos overlapping and occasionally meshing; a sense of vertiginous speed and geological time.

Byron Westbrook – Dance in Free Fall

It begins with what initially sounds like a surf guitar solo via dial-up modem.  It’s an exuberant, joyful expression, a headlong rush into a world of infinite points of light.  Next comes the bass: stately; an expression of scale; a world for the light to inhabit.  Together they manage to create something at both chaotic and utterly precise, that contradiction phasing in and out over the length of the song.  Ultimately, crafting the most accurately named song I can think of.  Indeed I’m questioning whether to delete this post and just post the title 72 times.

You can get this on the album Body Consonance which is out on October 13th.  You can pre-order it from Hands in the Dark, right here.

Angelic Mush pop

You’ll Never Get To Heaven’s Images is a soft shell we pick from the ground of the terminal beach, we suspect it was forged in the primeval chaos of some shoegaze storm but aeons of time and erosion have smoothed over all its textures, leaving us something that is lightness incarnate. Inside its spiral of sound we hear holographic echoes of our own romantic pasts, like a gentle, C-86 Solaris.

Formally, it is perfect, which would be good enough. But what takes it to the next level is its lack of retromania, self-aware 1980s goopy cheese or backward-looking escapism. It is nostalgic alright, but not for previous cultural episodes. It longs for days that only survive in faded away photos and the memories of those who were there. It would have been equally at home in Ariel Pink’s ectoplasmic radio-station, in an early September 20JFG reverie, or in the informational overload of some Bladerunner agora.

This makes it timeless, and it makes us happy.

You’ll Never Get to Heaven – Images

Get it on digital format from their bandcamp and in vinyl from Yellow K Records.

Liminal House

At 20JFG we construct elaborate worlds in order to better describe the sounds we hear.  But every now and again we hear something that does such an exceptional job on its own that our words should really be as minimal as possible.

So here goes.

The Underground Sound of Rome’s 1991 release, Secret Doctrine, is a House record.  It is also a weird and laid back mutant Bosa Nova record.  It’s also kinda’ Balearic (that’s probably the water and bird sounds that open it).  Oh and there’s some digital pan pipes to begin with so throw New Age into the mix too.

We really begin with Jamie Principal-y synth washes though.  Before moving onto a blissfully simple melody that could only survive in Southern European climes at the height of summer.  The whole thing is achingly evocative of some liminal space between the more freeform, New Age elements of Disco and  the harder approach to House that would come to dominate.  A space between worlds where bodies pulse, rather than pound, to the drums.

The True Underground Sounds of Rome – Secret Doctrine

This was re-released last year in a run of 475 copies and is now very much out of print.  Sadly.  Although new copies are still floating about for non-silly prices.

I found out about this from the excellent compilation La Torre Ibiza Vol.2 (partly curated by friend-of-the-blog Mark Barrott).  I came across that while looking for 80s Japanese Dreampop records.  Because genre is weird.

Memoirs of Hadrian (Arthur Baker’s Extended Edit)

Featuring : Youndewan

Youandewan’s exceptional There is No Right Time is another of those albums that passed us by when it came out last year.  No matter. You already know that time and space dissolve in 20JFG, removing the noise of the now and clearing our vision, allowing us to see eternal, beautiful patterns that recur over the ages and their artefacts.

In Youndewan’s enlightened, pluralistic house, we detect subtle hints of Gatto Fritto’s exquisite psyche-balearica, blasts of Jan Hammer primary chroma projected over the stark walls of a dead-tech condo, Isolée’s formal perfection doing naughty bumps in the periphery of a Costa del Sol chiringuito.

It induces in us these and many other Clarendon-filtered flashbacks of a hedonistic Med-tour of duty we were  too geeky to join, but with subtle shifts in the emotional gradient. The base animalism at the heart of such capers is replaced with the purity of an epic, philosophical quest for self-knowledge and illumination that can be found in the dance of light, colours, smells and feelings of dawn at a secret hellenic beach, last July or a July two millennia ago.

Some scenes never change and this is one, Youndewan’s classicist bangers live inside it.

Youndewan – Be Good To Me Poly

Get Youndewan’s There Is No Right Time from his bandcamp.