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Pop will Love Itself

Featuring : Apostille

There’s always this weird disconnect when thinking too long about DIY pop music.  Anything DIY has always seemed destined to find small yet willing audiences.  Anything pop seems almost perverse without mass adoration.  

Yet at some point in the 80s, pop ceased to be a descriptor of sales and became a genre, allowing its tropes to be appropriated.  And not just by musicians but by equipment manufacturers with the ‘Casio presets’ and the catalogue drum machines.  

For the full pop eating itself effect see Kali Uchis’ In My Dreams.  An almost Lynchian, bubblegum pop song over what seems like a revival of early 00s Casio pop.  Complete with deadpan male backing vocal.  That Damon Albarn is responsible gets you extra Ouroborus points.  We’d write a post about it but EMI/Virgin would DMCA us faster than we can hit submit.

So we have both the method and means of production appropriated from the million dollar studios and placed in the hands of our plucky DIY heroes.  But what was missing was the hubris.  What was missing was that Diva sense of being at the centre of a universe of fans, publicists, executives and a general sense of adoration.

Which leads us to today’s track.  Apostille returns to the pages of 20JFG courtesy of the fine work of Upset the Rhythm.  And he returns with Without Me an ode to being the centre of everyone’s universe (whether they know it or not).

Apostille –  Without Me

In true alienating fashion it’s all noise and distorted vocal screams to begin with.  And also in true DIY pop music fashion it quickly gives way to a simple drum machine and synth combo that repeatedly hits you with hook after hook.  And finally, to tie this whole thing together, the lyrics focus almost entirely on Apostille’s desire to be not just the centre of his world but the literal arbiter of life and death.  the controlled of breathing, the arbiter of suicidal thoughts.  A god complex worthy of a pop star.

Without Me is taken from the (ironic / not-ironic) album Choose Life.  It’s out on June 8th and you can pre-order it right here.

A Song for Seria

Featuring : Terekke

Thinking spaceships are a common trope in hard-science fiction. Sometimes they are fully artificial like the Minds of the Culture. Others, they are enhanced humans as in M John Harrison’s Light, or China Mieville’s Embassytown. Although these ships interact with the humans inside and around them, we get the sense that these humans and ourselves can only but glimpse the profound richness of their experience. They are after all able to deploy quantum computing resources and whatever comes next to accelerate their mental processes, record them and gaze at them from the outside at different speeds or freeze them to contemplate the mechanics of their own consciousness like Matrix bullet time in hundreds of dimensions; they can absorb reality with all our senses and more. Solar winds caress their metal faces; the death of a star arrives like the final letter from a long-lost lover; slow shifts in the drone of the cosmos come and go like the selection of a religious radio station as the drive through the night eternal. They must have a mood analogous to our states of contemplation. We try to imagine them out there, exploring all these perceived moments unfolding in parallel inside their own minds, looking for meaning in the complexity of an infinite recursion. As we do so, Terekke’s l8r h8r plays in the background, like a projection of terabytes of majestic vibes in a deep perceptual space we are just about able to parse.

Terekke – l8r h8r

“The recording of Improvisational Loops began in 2012 during yoga classes at Body Actualized Center in NYC” declares the brief documentation for this record in Music for Memory’s bandcamp.

Assimilation and Ascension

Featuring : Ben Vince

Last week, nearly all of 20JFG spent their sunny Sunday afternoon amidst the utopian concrete spires of the Barbican.  Which is, of course, something we try to do as much as possible.  But in this instance it was to attend a gig, (organised by Max Richter) that answered a very important question: what would the Venn diagram look like if you overlaid people into the Avant-Jazz-Metal of Ex Eye (aka Colin Stetson’s metal band™) with fans of the overwhelming electronic dreamscapes of Caterina Barbieri.  That overlap looks a bit like us, it turns out.

Later that night, we found ourselves watching Colin Stetson videos on YouTube.  Marvelling at repurposing of the saxophone as rhythm/percussion/melody/sonic bludgeon while his Wikipedia origin story was read aloud.  Which led to the reader opining, ‘I always associated the saxophone with smooth jazz’.  Well, this week’s track is for you.

Ben Vince recently put out the five track LP Assimilation.  Aptly titled as four of the five tracks are dense collaborations; each track with a different set of artists so entwined as to be seamless.  So it feels a little weird to be presenting the fifth, collaboration-less track here but we wanted to focus on the sax.  The sax and its capability for strangeness.

Ben Vince – Assimilation

Assimilation, begins with a dizzying set of reverberating notes that draws on classical minimalism.  Yet where minimalism often evokes towering structures, complex and modern, Vince’s world seems to fly.  That it feels organic is probably indivisible from the breath in every note.

This airborne, restlessness is joined at times by a distant and bassy horn.  A harbinger of some enormous calamity.  Perhaps one that has sent the notes into the sky in the first place?  We are joined for a while by minimal percussion but this soon fades, as if movement from this place is fruitless.  Better to watch the notes ascend above.  Better to watch their strange dance with each other.

Ben Vince’s Assimilation is out today on Where to Now? Records.  You can buy it right here.

Elm Street Blues

Featuring : Tim Story

Emotions, vibes and moods blend into each other like shape-shifting swingers in a Brian Yuzna nightmare. We sense scaly beasts crawling under the emerald prairies of our Arcadian gardens.

Tim Story’s 1984  album Untitled illustrates such hybridisation. Approached from one side, it is all pristine piano melodies and mellow ambient-scapes subtly rearranging your soul with a feng-shui algorithm. Approached from another, it is a an exploration of an abandoned house full of unsprung psychic traps worthy of Stephen King or Peter Straub.

Sargasso makes us imagine John Carpenter working on the soundtrack for a John Hughes film, or Brian Wilson returning the favour in Profondo Rosso or Don’t Look Now. An awful darkness is revealed in the soul of that wholesome and charismatic character everyone trusted. We glimpse the motivations of the monstrous killer, understand the logic behind this trail of dead and forgive.

Opposites blend like ectoplasmic tendrils precipitating out of a psychic’s orifices in the doctored photo of a 19th century seancé, bringing separate parts of the universe together, and this way adding to the total sum of goodness.

Tim Story – Sargasso

Find out more in discogs.

Saturday Mixtape: Let perpetual light shine upon us

Featuring : Father Murphy

Today, in our infrequent Saturday mixtape series, we bring you the selections of Father Murphy.  More on their final album next week but today they’ve provided us with something conceptually appropriate…

Let perpetual light shine upon us
A collection of music for eternal rest by Father Murphy

1) Kyrie (Gyorgy Ligeti)

A swarm of voices pleading for mercy in a Cormac McCarthy landscape.

2) Bala (Senyawa)

The sound of transcendence delivered by shamans from the Island of the Deads.

3) Salomon islands women funeral chants

Heart wrenching and sublime at the same time: like only pain itself sometimes can be.

4) Ad mortem festinamus (Virolai, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat)

Melodies and harmonies, joyful and somehow triumphants, that allow us to accept Death as our dancing companion.

5) Danza Macabra (Francesco Filidei)

Rattling bones or military rolls, there will be sounds to keep us company inside the coffin.

6) Responsorio delle tenebre a sei voci (Salvatore Sciarrino)

Another swarm of voices, keening and muttering. A massive and feeble delayed sound in a perpetual search for vindication and rescue.

7) Malproksime (Mohammad)

Relentless and incessant, like a single gigantic wave that will cover all the land, a mournful chant that takes us by hand to witness a funeral rite.

8) Miserere (A. Castro, S. Chirdo, F. Falcone & M. Salatino)

We sing for Thee, holding our pumping hearts in our hands.

9) Hesteofringen: Min Dode Hest op. 55 (Henning Christiansen)

Sorrowful and breathtaking. The sound of consciousness holders, inflicting death and at the same time mourning for it.

10) I Thirst (ARIADNE)

“I fade to this dust and I shall be no more”

11) Koumé (Eliane Radigue)

“Ashes of illusion becoming light. Descent to the deepest, where the spark of life is. There, Death is born. Death becomes birth. Actively re-beginning. Eternity — a perpetual becoming.”

A Lullaby from the Edge of Time

Featuring : E Ruscha V

Imagine those cash soaked, monolithic mid-century corporations.  Hard I know.  Imagine the crazy things they got up to: building nuclear reactors in their basement, commissioning pioneering electronic music, building a utopian town in the Amazon, that sort of thing.  

Imagine that their endeavours encompassed the expansion of human consciousness.  Imagine an institute set up for this purpose, an enormous machine focussed on the individual; a process that would begin in a vast white hall.

So we stand in the hall, robbed figures gliding rapidly towards us.  We stand in a hall and are assured that our old lives are over and that we will be needing none of the things we have bought with us.  We move forward with our guides through chambers and theatres, courtyards and terraces.  

Months pass.  

Each morning we gaze upon the sunrise through a vast round window.  Each morning the synths stir and we hear music.  The final indulgence, a piece specially commissioned.  Soothing, beautiful and underneath it all a profound sense of awe.

E Ruscha V – The Hostess

The Hostess is taken from E Ruscha V’s awesome, blissed out, ambient/balearic album Who Are You.  Which came out in March but a mixture of being slackers and then thinking that we’d actually posted it meant we didn’t get round to writing about it till now.  Which kinda’ worked out well as it may well be the transportive synth album for your summer.  Get it direct from RVNG right here.  And check out the video for Carried Away below…

AI_er states of consciousness

Featuring : Susumu Yokota + UP!

Everybody is freaking out about the advent of super-smart Artificial Intelligences, and/or about the world’s almost complete takeover by really dumb ones. Your 20JFG reporters respond with a musical exposé where they delve into some techno musics which provide a artistic (silent, vociferous, ambivalent) response to the mysteries of Artificial Intelligence.

An obvious place to start is the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ series of compilations released by Warp records in the 1990s, where a bunch of (don’t call it intelligent) techno luminaries ‘demonstrate the capabilities of electronic music’.

If trance and rave producers are like the UFO crazies waving their welcoming placards at an armada of robotic dreadnoughts between being blown to smithereens, the philosopher kings of synthetic music in the AI comps resemble the PhDs in linguistics in Stories of Your Life and Others (aka Arrival), a cadre of highly specialised scientists developing a sonic language to communicate with those unfathomable minds which may be lurking inside the machine.

UP!’s (aka Richie Hawtin) Spiritual High builds a space of wonder at the marvel of consciousness which human and machines can share. AI systems being able to observe the micro-dynamics of their cognitive processes perceive this as the ripple with which the weights of deep neural networks are optimised to represent and predict complex reality in a multidimensional space. When you project this into human sensoria, the pounding beats, acid squirts and replicant chorus in Spiritual High provide a good enough approximation.

UP! – Spiritual High

More information about Artificial Intelligence in Discogs.

Imagine the platonic concept of the beat like a software class with a set of methods with some parameters which are randomly initialised, producing a rich variation of outputs all of which satisfy the constraint of making you lose your shit. Susumu Yokota’s Alphaville carries out a pretty thorough exploration of that possibility space.

Its beauty is in its minimalism. No bass, no melody, no effects. Only a sheer army of rhythm pushing forward with monomaniac purpose, like the dystopian civilisation in Zamyatin’s We as it constructs an Integral to conquer the galaxy, or that sorcerer’s apprentice AI in the Goal Misalignment fable, covering the solar system with paperclips you can dance to.

Susumu Yokota – Alphaville

Alphaville is included in Susumu Yokota’s masterpiece Acid Mt. Fuji. Read more about it here.