No sermons

Another slept on 2017 jam for you today.  This time from the (ever) awesome Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Once again we stalk through New Age worlds, overgrown with time, sprouting mutant forms like a blissful Californian Chernobyl. Once again, this is music for the synths and as ethereal as ever.  But this time, this time a scaffold feels like it’s been removed.  The music is free, the sounds float, as if the scaffold were not to keep them up, but to keep them in.

Like Karin Dreijer Andersson before her, Smith takes an approach to voice modulation that strips the vocals of their anchor in the world.  Separating them both from literal meaning (they’re all but unintelligible) and our own inferred picture of the singer.  No accent, scant intonation, no point on which to hang our judgement on the singer or the song.  This is of course familiar from her previous albums but here, as passages fade in and out, it seems marvellously apt.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Riparian

Riparian was from the same sessions that produced Smith’s most recent album, EARS.  You can get both of them over on her Bandcamp, right here.


Featuring : Toshifumi Hinata

Let us tell you something about our latest obsession, Toshifumi Hinata:

Toshifumi Hinata is an accomplished piano player who studied classical piano and composition in several US universities. He is a prolific composer of soundtracks for TV series and dramas, and he has been referred to as ‘The Henry Mancini of Japanese Drama music”. According to Google’s knowledge graph thing, he operates in the ‘new age’ genre, and we did in fact first stumble on him in one of our frequent algorithmic explorations of the Japanese ambient/minimal composition labyrinth in YouTube.

He also has some pretty neat glasses.

As it often happens with the Japanese artists we are interested in, there is little information about him in English (here is his website, in Japanese), which only enhances his mystery and makes his music our primary source of information about him. This leads us to assert that Toshifumi Hinata is one of the coolest dudes ever. We hope you will agree after listening to three songs from albums released between 1985 and 1987.

Let us go through them in chronological order.

Is Sarah’s Crime a soundtrack? The record’s title suggests as much. We imagine it providing the backdrop for the romantic comedy scenes of a Japanese version of Profondo Rosso, or Agent Graham’s moody reveries in a storm of Manhunter blues (cf. above).

Although you will not find any slasher horror moments here, a hint of weirdness and perhaps even danger lingers. Chaconne’s music box melody is as close as we’ll get to finding out what Sarah did, and seeing her face. But the truth fades into silence, like memories of a dream.

Toshifumi Hinata – Chaconne

Here is Sarah’s Crime discogs file.

Reality in Love is all francophone elegance and pastel panache. The dance of strings and piano convey the complex, intricately urbane and harmonious rituals of modernity. In that sense, it works like lounge music during the optimistic 1960s, or a collection of Bacharachian gems.

However, in its art deco progressions we also feel  nostalgia, perhaps for the fantastical make-believes of religion and myth which fall by the wayside as rational individualism holds sway. Perhaps that’s what connects it, in our minds, with Joe Hisaishi’s Studio Ghibli soundtracks, which tell with many voices a single story: the loss of magic that comes with maturity.

We could certainty imagine the dissatisfied protagonist in Iain M Banks’ Player of Games listening to it, as the glaciers slide by.

Toshifumi Hinata – 光と水

Here is Reality in Love’s discogs file. Also check its lovely review in Listen to This.

We conclude our tour of Hinata land in a netherworld or limbo for people whose capital sin has been to be too chill, like a version of Black Mirror’s San Junipero set in a never-ending Ibizan summer.

Broken Belief is the perfect example of how this plays out: a chorus of synthetic angels march up the right side of the uncanny valley, beyond which awaits a blissful Balearic arcadia whose sunset dulls all edges and blurs all pains. It is a known fact that David Mancuso consulted on the Singularity, and this is where we’ll all come together and hold hands, after the machines of loving grace have taken over.

Toshifumi Hinata – Broken Belief

Here is Story’s discogs file.

Heavy Metal Balrog Music

Featuring : Death

“Heavy Metal Balrog Music” is what a work colleague once told me my iPod (remember them?) sounded like, as soon as he zapped it on shuffle mode.

The band he was listening to was Death. One of the real pioneers of first-wave Florida death metal and essentially a solo project for a kind of untutored extreme music genius named Chuck Schuldiner.

Perhaps unusually for such an extreme and weird take on the metal genre, Death acquired some success in the band’s lifetime, though Chuck Schuldiner sadly passed away in 2001 from a brain tumour, aged just 34.

All of the Death albums are classics, but from 1991’s Human onwards, Schuldiner began pursuing DM-atypical introspective and metaphysical lyrical styles, which – when combined with the reality-crunching twists and turns of this unpredictable, expressive and pretty experimental for its times music.

So, although this might register as “Heavy Metal Balrog Music” on first play, really when compared with gross-out shock metal contemporaries like Cannibal Corpse, Death was pretty imaginative – dare we say it – sensitive stuff??!

Death – The Philosopher

The Philosopher is from Death’s 1993 album, Individual Thought Patterns. Pick up the reissue from Nuclear Blast.

Art is a sculpture called Affetto nel dolore by Adolfo Wildt, created in 1929. This stands in front of the Korner family mausoleum in the Cimitero Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery) in Milan, Italy.

Shiny Metallic Arms

Featuring : Bézier

As is the usual 20JFG way, we begin 2017 with stuff we missed last year.  Thanks to an overactive spam filter we missed not one, but three opportunities to pick up on today’s track.  Thankfully the drunken late-night wikipedia binge that are the streaming services* led us in a circuitous path to Bezier’s excellent EP on Honey Soundsystem.

Conjuring up that glorious genre of epic cityscape Techno (that Carl Craig fucking destroyed with Future Love Theme**), Bezier saves his best till last on the Cosmologist EP.  d. Quelle is a monstrous melding of towering concrete and light.  A tribute to the power of sonic architecture that would make Ballard proud (if he’d been massively into producing William Gibson fan-fiction in the early 80s).

It’s a track that manages to occupy multiple points on the 20JFG <3’s the 80s clip show.  Over here you have a baseline so simple and insistent that Carpenter himself could have jacked it for a million gangs as zombies scenes.  Passing on your left you’ll hear a melody jacked wholesale from an exquisite slice of Italo.  And on the horizon you’ll see Cybertron fast approaching with the embryo of Techno in their shiny metallic arms.

No wonder this is 10 minutes long.

Bézier – d. Quelle

You can still get the EP direct from Honey Soundsystem right here.

*as an aside, MySpace still hasn’t been beaten in its ability to suck you down a rabbit hole of ‘I like this, and the people that made this like that…’

** sadly missing from Murlo’s otherwise peerless videogame/anime soundtrack mix for NTS

Mordor drive by

Featuring : Daniel Schmidt + Omar S

Happy New Year to You All!

Let us begin this bastard of a year with a couple of songs with magical properties which will hopefully boost your character stats for the hard days and struggles to come.

Let’s begin with Daniel Schmidt, a central figure in American Gamelan music. Last year, Recital Program released In My Arms, Many Flowers”, a compilation of some of his work, produced/performed between 1978-1982. The first track is called “And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn”, and it is exactly what you need before you begin the journey.

What really caught our attention when we first listened to it is how, contrary to a lot of gamelan music, where the sequence of the bells is pristine and serenely assured, giving the music an otherworldly beauty reflecting the eternal cycle of the spheres, Dawn is tentative and uncertain, full of false starts, momenta gained and lost, like learning, like recovering from a bereavement, like looking for a new place whence to build and grow, amidst the noise and the chaos. We think it captures, in all its purity, that sliver of the human spirit whose existence give us hope, that sliver of the human spirit that we need to fight for.

Daniel Schmidt and The Berkeley Gamelan – And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

Get it on vinyl from Recital Program.

And then for something completely different, because contrasts are the spice of life, and the soul of this blog:

Last year, Detroit robo-jackmaster Omar S released a new album called The Best, which we somehow missed out on. It doesn’t matter. Its energy boost is precisely what we need right this moment, as we start to Rocky our way through the steep stairs of 2017.

Heard’ Chew Single, the track which closes it, is particularly suitable for this purpose: a story of romantic switchblade fights punctuated by Valletta fanfare drums and a smooth piano melody which brings us back to the weird dream scene in GTA’s Ballad of Gay Tony*, and the ur-fever mong of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice inception.

We are so there, throwing our bodies in ridiculous shapes like animated dummies in a Keith Haring triptych, all in worship of  invisible gods.

Omar S – Heard’ Chew Single

Get The Best from Juno


* This doesn’t exist. Sorry.

Dancing music in the C20: microhouse (1997-99)


It’s the end of the century. Welcome to the Dancing music in the C20. We started out on this journey by looking at the first dance records in 1900, when records were made out of shellac and played on gramophones. In 1999, the record is still the default delivery mechanism for dance music, but only just. MP3s exist. Peer-to-peer file sharing is about to throw the  music industry into crisis. Cassette tapes haven’t come back into fashion yet. This is maybe the dance record’s last hurrah.

But that’s just a neat piece of symbolism. I wanted to look at the first 100 years of dance records to see how technology changes music and how dancing mediates culture. We’ve tried to work out together how innovation works in dance music, by examining it as a continuum of cultural exchange, that has existed forever – but only been aurally recorded for a century and a bit – rather than just think of it as something that has only existed in our lifetimes.

Dance music is also an interesting thing to think about in a historical context, because it is uniquely functional music. It exists purely for the purpose of making people dance. It isn’t trying to offer a depiction of love or heartbreak, it isn’t poetry. It can be revolutionary – but it doesn’t have to be political. But in this ever-evolving continuum of sound we can perceive a reflected history of society and how that evolved across the 20th century – dance music’s own absence of agenda or narrative somehow making that reflection all the more clear.

While most of the 1990s genres we have looked at have really revelled in their excess – the head-butting attack of gabber, the ragged intricacies of jungle, and the all-round bangeriness of the proto-garage scene, some producers were exploring smaller sounds.

The Germans in particular were engineering new dance music architectures that were sleek and – here’s the word – minimal in design. The sounds coming out of Berlin’s Basic Channel label and production team were ascetic  and subtle, not in your face or ravey.

The ideas behind this minimal techno sound found their spiritual home in Cologne, where the producers behind the Kompakt label and record shop – Wolfgang Voigt, Michael Mayer and Jorg Burger – applied some of the Basic Channel tenets to their own releases.

But where Basic Channel records stripped techno back to its barest components, Kompakt records were obsessively detailed and actually really not very minimal at all. The sounds they used were just smaller than those on ‘proper’ dance records – clicks instead of beats, a pulsing bass that sounds far away, glitches and dots and dashes of electronic noise positioned strategically around a kind of 3D headspace.

Spotify playlist: early microhouse (1997-99)

For a while, this music was called microhouse. It can work very effectively for dancing, as some of Ricardo Villalobos’ club hits demonstrate.

Ricardo Villalobos – 808 The Bass Queen

But equally, microhouse works as contemplative head music. It can be used in the same way as ambient, for relaxation or mood-enhancing purposes. Perhaps going against conventional aural logic, I find the way it is crammed with musical information to be soothing; a kind of sonic ritalin that smoothes away the ADHD mania of modern life.

For those old enough, if you try to remember what the perception of the millennium represented in the 90s – a kind of information overload that threatened to cause technological and societal collapse – then microhouse sounds very appropriately “millennial”. A sort of ‘information music’, whose overall sense of weariness complements its ever-driving, constantly-pulsing momentum – dance music that had burnt itself out and was being artificially sustained.

Herbert – Going Round

So that was the 20th century. A period where we created new rituals to replace the old, dead ones. Dancing was perhaps the most potent of these. It helped to ease the wounds in our history – slavery, wars, failed social experiments. It created new roles in our culture for technology and chemistry. And its soundtrack was ever-shifting, abstract patterns of sound -a universal language in rhythm.

Dancing music in the C20: garage (1993-97)

Featuring : Romanthony + Roy Davis Jr.


Gabriel by Roy Davis Jnr. is one of Goldie’s all time favourite records.

Gabriel came from a more amorphous scene than jungle. Later in the decade, some people would call this sound plus 8 or speed garage, and finally UK garage.

Roy Davis Jr – Gabriel

The early tunes that inspired that sound, though, were by American producers like Roy Davis Jr, Todd Edwards and Romanthony. These were relatively unheard of names in their home country, but in the 90s in Europe, they were spoke of with an almost saint-like significance. The general absence of information about these men in the just pre-internet age fed the mystery. The reclusive singer and producer Romanthony, in particular, refused to do any promotion or collaborate with labels or other musicians.

Romanthony- The Wanderer

It wasn’t until Daft Punk eventually wore him down to contribute a guest vocal to their enormous One More Time hit single that Romanthony found fame and had some financial success.

He didn’t see himself as a dance producer, but thought of himself more like a Prince or a James Brown, a classically-trained auteur who could play a multitude of instruments and sing like an angel.

Nevertheless, Romanthony’s classic 90s 12”s – released on his own Black Male label – are unstoppable club anthems.

Spotify playlist: early UK garage (1993-97)