Norbert Wiener FTW

Featuring : Hieroglyphic Being

norbert wiener

“Let us remember that the automatic machine is the precise economic equivalent of slave labour. Any labour which competes with slave labour must accept the economic consequences of slave labour.” (Norbert Wiener, 1948).

Many smart people are getting worried about the implications of growing machine intelligence: will the robots take our jobs? What happens when we lose control over the complex systems on which our society and economy rely, things like energy or finance? What will these machine intelligences do about us if they ever acquire sentience and agency?

These worries are not new. They go back to the initial bouts of automation of the first and second industrial revolutions. They were however articulated most precisely, and in a way that connects more strongly to the situation today by the father of cybernetics, Nortbert Wiener, in a prescient response to early computers.1

Cybernetics, by setting machines in the wider context of the human, social systems with which they interface, provides an answer to the challenges of automation: to build systems that integrate machines and humans in a way that enhances human capabilities: we go from AI to IA (Intelligence Amplification).


The Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl We Are Not The First collaboration recently released by RVNG International provides an excellent illustration of what we are talking about. Listen to the aptly named Cybernetics is an Old Science, where the boundaries between human and machines in this Ahn-Sahm-Buhl dissolve in a chaotic melange from which wild, exhilarating order emerges.

Hieroglyphic Being’s legendary techno scrunch skips and rattles with disciplined unpredictability. Free jazz winds glide and soar like birds of fire and human intuition one moment, metal angels in a Richard Brautigan fantasy the next.

We experience futuristic visions of man-machine symbiosis where the machines overwhelm us not to create a grey goo of homogeneity, but extreme, baroque expressions of our own subconscious, like a non-apocalyptic version of Tetsuo in Akira, or the bio-technological fairy-tale palace gone sick Nostalgia For Infinity spaceship in Alisdair Reynold’s Revelation Space sequence.

Physical constrains to creativity are removed, and the absolute levels of freedom in the universe increase. We can’t wait.

Hieroglyphic Being and the J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl – Cybernetics Is An Old Science

Acquire We Are Not The First from RVNG International.

Saturday Mixtape: Vactrol Park

Featuring : Podcast + Vactrol Park


Earlier this week, we were harried down the disturbing, tortuous lanes of Vactrol Park’s techno labyrinth.

Today, we see them expand the physical scope of the experience with a live bootleg they generated while practising for their show in Cafe OTO on the 11th of January 2016.

Home built modular synths effects and analogue drum machines spread like alien glyphs over the walls of an infinitely expanding, throbbing corridor where we are lost, and lost for words. Paraphrasing what Stephen King said about Peter Straub’s majestic Ghost Story:

“The sense of awe just mounts and mounts”

Vactrol Park – Live rehearsal bootleg 19 Nov 2015

Buy their first EP here, and get more information about the 11th January Cafe Oto show here.

Far East and West of Here

Featuring : Bamboo


There is a place among the reeds where the maximalist future dwells.  Birthed among the sacred flames of Young Marble Giants and Mariah it is all mystery, all the time.  Like, ’24/7 glints of light off the still rivers, is that a human or a water god?’ mystery.  Like, cascading polyrhythmic drum patterns sort of mystery.  The sort of mystery that is secretly plotting the awakening of the Old Ones as it plays the ‘synths or horn section?’ game [spoilers: it’s synths, it’s always synths with us].

Bamboo are that future, and dear god it’s glorious.

Bamboo – Khene Song

If only we still threw dance parties, this would be our go-to, ‘clear the floor to make room for the true believers but everyone’s dancing by the end’ track.  It sweeps in our favourite Far Eastern touchstones including Yellow Magic Orchestra (on the album there’s a fairly obscure cover of Harry Hosono‘s Love Theme for an early 80s Japanese TV Show) and the aforementioned Mariah (who’s Utakata No Hibi finally got a reissue a few months ago and promptly sold out — check the link to read Twitch’s post about it from 2008(!)).  It is OOIOO if they’d binged on Leven Signs instead of Italian Opera.  It is, as I mentioned, glorious.

You can get the album direct from Upset the Rhythm right here.  I just have, because it’s really fucking good.

All the wrong notes

Featuring : Robert Martin


It was apparently recorded in 1985. The era of Eddie Murphy’s seminal party jam, Party All The Time, a time when even the blues sounded like Born In The USA.

Appropriately little is known about Robert Martin, the Jandek-like who home-recorded a collection of scratchy, morose song-doodles, accompanied by a guitar that is scrawling all the wrong notes. His voice wails through a snakes’ choir of tape hiss.

A ‘deadbeat surfer’ with no musical training, Martin was apparently a work colleague of a friend of Tim who runs the Yik Yak label, who in 2008 compiled a bunch of Marting’s old 80s home tapes as an LP – Long Goodbye.

Robert Martin – Long Goodbye

Long Goodbye sounds like the blues as it leaks out of the ribcage of a slowly dying white man.

Mournful, terrible and truly psychedelic.

Buy Robert Martin’s Long Goodbye LP

Art is a detail from Folger Shakespeare Library, V.b.311, f. 129r


Featuring : Vactrol Park

Vactrol Park I - Artwork by Mario Hugo

At the beginning of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Popol Vuh conjure an untainted Eden with their synthesisers. Waves of sound overwhelm our sense of balance, inducing an otherworldly trance.

Such is the power of their music.

Now let’s flip to the dark side.

In Stars Quivering Slowly, the track that begins Vactrol Park’s first EP, they deploy similar technologies with the opposite goal: to create an atmosphere of extreme dread, a dark corridor straight out of Kojima/Del Toro/Ito’s worst nightmares through which we are rid by a macabre scronk somewhere in between Klaus Schulze and Rhythm and Sound. Don’t. Look. Back.

Some heretical cults see morality as a loop whose extremes connect. They believe that sanctity can be achieved by acts that are extreme in their purity, or in their impurity. Perhaps. There are certainly moments, in our dazed stumbling down Vactrol’s Park technoid hallucination, when we perceive glimpses of a hidden truth, of a reality beyond, squeezed out of the darkness by muscular drums and satanic noises.

Vactrol Park – Starts Quivering Slowly

You can get Vactrol Park’s EP 1 from ESP Institute via Juno, and see them live at Café OTO on January the 11th .

A Field in Boston

Featuring : German Army


As avid readers will be aware, 20JFG is rather partial to transformative videogame experiences.  2008’s Fallout 3 being one of them.  Strolling along the post apocalyptic highways to 50s pop staples, killing super mutants and dicing with the crypto fascist Brotherhood of Steel…well maybe not so crypto.  It was the best of times.

So it’s no surprise that another trip to the wastelands of America was pretty appealing.  Fallout 4, seven years later, has been duly consumed.  Seven years hasn’t changed all that much though.  Some of the blasted fields of Boston are beautiful in their stark way.  Like some meta commentary on the retro-futurist nostalgia the game itself trades on, the rest of the game feels just like seven years ago.  The radio too’s just as (gloriously) incongruous as ever, blasting out oldie hits while you dispatch Raiders with your cobbled together arsenal.

Which got us hankering for a different sort of apocalypse simulator.  One perhaps stripped of the rich tradition of gallows humour that runs through (post)apocalyptic fiction.  One that stands blankly in the burning street going mad as the tooled-up, existential hero brushes past with his grating ‘jokes keep me sane’ attitude.  It’s the end of the world and it’s ok not to feel fine.

The complete breakdown of civilisation is, in fact, the perfect time to ponder the bonds between worlds.  The sky is on fire and everything that you’ve loved is dead or dying.  It’s an atomic rapture and while your cells rapidly die your mind is free to ascend to the orange sky.

We need a radio station for that apocalypse.  Handily German Army have delivered.

German Army – Tuareg Woman

This is taken from the album Kalash Tirich Mir.  It’s out now on Yerevan Tapes both digitally and on vinyl.  You can get it direct right here.