Drink Emo

What actually IS emo?

Has there ever been a rock genre attached to a more bewildering diversity of approaches? From straight-edge 80s “emotional” hardcore (Rites of Spring, Embrace), to strummy 90s Xtian folk (Pedro The Lion), to bombastic Green Day-do-Bohemian Rhapsody 00s rock operas (My Chemical Romance) to uh Avril Lavigne – these people can’t even coordinate their haircuts let alone their sociopolitical and musical agendas!

As something of an emo agnostic, it was therefore illuminating to trawl ILX’s recent 100 Best Emo Albums poll, which kicked off with At The Drive-In and concluded with these guys…

Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles

Sunny Day Real Estate became most famous for providing the rhythm section in the early ‘Nirvana 2.0’ incarnation of Foo Fighters, after it became apparent that Krist Novoselic felt uneasy about being a full-time member, and hit the road performing an album of songs that Dave Grohl had recorded (playing every instrument on) during his time in his former grunge band.

Sunny Day Real Estate had fallen apart during sessions for their untitled second album. Their first album, Diary, topped the ILX poll. It’s a cryptic, feel-filled, hardcore-influenced piece of work from a 19-year-old singer-songwriter and is therefore probably the closest thing to a ‘true’ definition of emo as you can get.

The lyrics are tongue-tied, abstract, verging on gibberish – but delivered in that uber-sincere, heartfelt, THIS MEANS EVERYTHING kind of way that American rock bands are so good at it.

In 1994, before Tumblr, that meant a lot.

(In 1994, the guy who invented Tumblr was 7 years old.)

Given that so much of the music we deal in on this blog often has a tongue planted in cheek, is formulated to engage with high – sometimes academic – concepts, can sometimes be accused of being ‘cold’, I guess it’s kind of a breath of fresh Coke to  hear something once in a while that’s almost embarrassingly earnest. And, fuck it, I like that sound. Big crashing chords like rain; hearts dancing with anguish.

Buy Sub Pop’s cassette reissue of the 1994 album Diary at Banquet Records

Art: Untitled by Brandon C. Long

Saturday mixtape: Soylent red

Featuring : Podcast

Terese, Rupert and Donald sat happily in their castle dining off the finest flesh. As each new course was served they gorged themselves, as was their god given right for achieving such power above their fellow humans.

Once livestock had died out due to over farming and high disease rates the only obvious meat source was the poor and underprivileged, for what other value did the poor serve except to serve and be served?

XXJFG mixtape – Eat the rich

Existential Field Recordings

Featuring : Alex Menzies

Let’s talk about Dune (again).  Let’s talk about Sci-Fi spirituality and the desires of the militantly rational to touch the face of God.  Let’s talk about how culture has moved in to suture our cursed post-Enlightenment souls.

And let’s do it through the tape slipped medium of ambient music.

Dune, ah Dune.  Our favourite not-even-trying-to-hide-it Middle Eastern white saviour allegory.  But a gateway drug to — well drugs obvs. — the melding of spirituality with badass planet conquering religious wars.   This isn’t your hippy spirituality though (at least in the Lynch version which I saw at such an impressionable age that it’s cannon).

This is the remote monastery, kneel before the unknowable magnificence of the universe and have a terror orgasm spirituality.  It’s look within the darkest reaches of the soul/universe and I dare you, I double dare you, to keep your sanity.  It’s the perfect capital ‘m’ Modern spirituality.  Acknowledging the terror we have created in defiance of the idea of God.

And what, when faced with articulating that do you do?  If you’re Brian Eno you make this.  And if you’re Alex Menzies* you make this:

Alex Menzies – Diadem

Alex Menzies is new to the pages of 20JFG, but out of nowhere (and into our inbox) he strides with the really quite magnificent Other World Music Vol. 1.  Diadem is the choral, existential void music of our dreams — that immediately got a little iTunes heart next to it.

You can get Other World Music Vol. 1 from Alex’s Bandcamp right here.  And you should because it’s all good…but not all of it forces you to stare into your cosmic soul.

*Full disclosure: we have no idea really what Alex Menzies thought when making this wonderful piece of music.  But we hope it was suitably rapturous.



Bohren Und Der Club of Gore are a German jazz band who have been going on for a while. They make the kind of jazz that gets published in Mike Patton’s Ipecac Records, and for good reason: they are weird, lumbering and spectral. You’d expect Fantômas to play them in his glass condominium, during a night of regret.

All the features we just mentioned are turned up to 11 in Piano Nights, their most recent, and to our minds inaccurately titled album, Piano Nights. The title makes us think of something smooth and cool, a Ryan Gosling smirk and nostalgia for the too-remembered 1950s. Not here, buster. Piano Nights is a drawn out, epic dirge, the funereal march for all the gunslingers mown down in a Sergio Leone film, returning after the title credits to haunt their killer, like a cowboy version of the boss fight with The Sorrow in Metal Gear Snake Eater.

Bohren und Der Club of Gore – Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht

Get more info about Piano Nights here, and buy it here.

In this day of soaring drones and ghostly romance, we finally get to write about last year’s Statea, a compilation of minimal compositions performed by ambient producer Murcof and classical pianist Vanessa Wagner.

Again, the classicism of the title and the clean geometries of the artwork generate expectations which are betrayed in the most beautiful of ways. Statea is not a collection of exquisite musical processes converging on some platonic notion of order. No. Statea is reverberation, phantasmagoria and blank omen, a collection of abandoned rooms decorated by a Lynchian intelligence.

In its version of John Adams’ China Gates, we feel that the room is an abandoned scientific facility, a temple of big science where knowledge was pulled from the blackness of the sky and the deepness at the bottom of everything. Important things were discovered here, and the discoveries were celebrated, and the intensity of the celebrations was intense like Chemical Brothers touring Exit Planet Dust in some Mediterranean beach circa 1997. Echoes of all these things linger in China Gate’s yearning piano melodies, and the trepidation of its drops.

Murcof and Vanessa Wagner – China Gates (John Adams)

Get more info about Statea from InFiné and get it from, say, Bleep.

Algorithmic Pre-raphaelite pop party

People say that recommendation engines will be the death of creativity, but we have actually found them to be pretty handy guides for the recondite, ever expanding reaches of YouTube’s musical long-tail. There are several conditions that enable this:

  1. The works we explore have been created and uploaded by humans. What is the opposite of garbage in garbage out?
  2. The starting point of our journey determines the paths which open up ahead. Again, what is the opposite of garbage in garbage out?
  3. The recommendations are based on  previous journeys by other gloriously unpredictable humans. Any randomness / serendipity in those is magnified by an algorithm that, by definition, will make mistakes that take you to wonderful and surprising places.

Sometimes the algorithmic autobahn arrives at certain strange attractors where we get off the vehicle and take a leisurely stroll. People refer to those clusters of human-curated awesomeness as ‘playlists’. The two tracks we are posting today were obtained from one of those, which is maintained by Emma Zoia, and is pretty accurately called “Emma Zoia puts pretty good music in YouTube”.

Zoia seems to specialise on hidden gems of mysterious pop, which we are totally down with. The first album we wanted to tell you about is Medio Occidente, and the artist is Francesco Messina. Unfortunately, similar algorithms to those that took us to Messina in YouTube have been stumped by the proliferation in Messinas in Google, so we have little biographical information about him. But then this blog has never traded in information, quite the opposite.

To give you an idea, Medio Occidente is the sound of Earth if you replaced its greco roman gnosticism and concupiscence with a religious vibe that in some ways is more depraved than Vangelis’ full-on Dionysian party  (check the lipstick in the artwork). It hovers in some amazing cultural space beyond space and time, arbitraging memories of the past and premonitions of the future like a William Gibson dream of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Exhibit 1: Club Mediterranèe, today’s track, sounds like a Franco Battiato cover version of Ozo’s Anambra produced by Brian Eno after an orgy of cheap Marsala, overlaid with synthetic polyphonies that take us to a spectro-virtual space worthy of Holly Herndon or Oneohtrix. Only in the Mediterranean…

Francesco Messina – Club Mediterranèe

Get more info at discogs.

Then there is Masumi Hara. Again, no information, only mystery (and a feature by the wonderful Listen To This). And again, mesmerising bizarreness arrived from the outer reaches of the pop universe with a message of romance and funk. Unsurprisingly, YMO were tangentially involved.

As before, the déjà vu is strong here, young padawan, and firing in a different direction with each track, including Computer Incarnations for World Peace style dubby disco, neon chanson and, in 月と星のドンチャ (Moon & Star Doncha (?)), an amazing medley of Maurice Fulton batucada and ESG (via Warren G) block-rocking beats.

Everything else in the album is equally amazing but in completely different ways, such is its power. Enjoy!

Masumi Hara – 月と星のドンチャ

In discogs.

Priestess of Delphi by John Collier

Nostalgia for Nostalgia

Featuring : Talamanca System

In the chemical makeup of pure, uncut nostalgia there is always a heavy component of innocence. Innocence lost, innocence revisited, innocence of the existence of nostalgia itself. But more than that, the pleasant state of nostalgia relies on a certain degree of present tense innocence. The guilt ridden escapist nostalgia is perhaps best left to the reactionaries in their eternal revanchist fever dream. But I digress.

Innocence has always formed a key part of the Balearic sound. It simultaneously evokes a time of intense hedonism that in itself exists on the threshold of innocence. But more than that its the island cluster itself that permeates the best Balearic records. You can hear the beaches and the sea, perpetually washing themselves clean of the pesky humans that come in turn to perpetually lose their innocence.

With his International Feel label, Mark Barrott has been curating a certain form of Balearic nostalgia with effortless grace. One rooted as much in the islands’ wilderness as its hedonistic nightlife. Yet with Philipp Lauer and Gerd Janson in tow, Talamanca System have perhaps moved the dial slightly towards the club and away from the birds. Although this is a club that perhaps never existed. A club of pure innocence where the sun perpetually sits on the horizon. A club without the managed decline of democracy hollowing out the future of its patrons. A club before the fall then, a club outside of history.

Talamanca System – My Past is your Future

My Past is Your Future then is full of hope. A gift of piano arpeggios and choral samples; of kick drums rounded off into a caress. We can but hope that this, this past is our future.

Talamanca System’s My Past is your Future EP is out next Friday. It’ll be followed by an album in May whose birth-of-summer timing couldn’t be more perfect.


Featuring : Mark Isham + Masaaki Ohmura

Remember before the internet, when the quality of dudeness referred to a certain cool or easy-going masculinity, and not, as it does now, braindead jock attitudes at best, and hateful gamergate bile at worst? We miss those times.

Ok, when we filled the character sheets of our lives we opted for nerdy characteristics and skills, and didn’t have enough points to spend on dudeness, but we still love those who did things differently: Steve McQueen, Belmondo and Coburn, most protagonists in Michael Mann’s work (whose career is an audiovisual paean to dudeness), The Dude obviously. We think that the whole vapor wave thing, the neons, the pastels and the moccasins, white suits, fast cars and keytars are a nostalgic tribute to that lost dudeness, and we are down with it.

Dudeness gets up to 11 in Kathryn Bigelow’s Pointbreak: Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, Californian surfer zen, bikers and guns, that thousand yard stare that could equally represent an existential epiphany worthy of Camus, or the outcome of a lobotomy.

We swoon.

Mark Isham’s soundtrack rises to the occasion with its mixture of bombastic physicality, moments of ambient introspection and percussive shoot-out set-pieces. In a couple of cases, all these things come together with an absurd tsunamic grandiosity that washes over us, threatening to dissolve the mind-body divide and deliver us to a nirvana of total flow which I guess is what Dudeness is about, at the end of the day.

Mark Isham – Night Surfing

The discogs file.

Masaaki Ohmura is one of those mystery artists we sometimes discover during our algorithmic explorations of YouTube’s 1980s J-pop and ambient corners. According to Discogs, he only produced an album, a soundtrack for ‘You Gotta Chance’, a runner-up to best film in the Yokohama Film Festival in 1986 (?). And that’s it.

Perhaps he was too busy being a dude.

The utter coolness of this record suggests this is the case. Frankly, it sounds like the soundtrack for Manhunter if it had been a 1980s rom-com. Perhaps we are skewed by that splash of blue in the front-cover.

Although all the tracks are brilliant, including the schmaltzy ballad ‘Rainy Lane’, and the ‘trip to the club’ electropop theme track, the highlight is A Touch of Temptation, a transfixing slice of Balearica with which its dubby cadences, gorgeous saxophone and epic drops stands for and transcends all the vapor wave clichés you could imagine, perfectly capturing the pure emotions at the heart of the genre and its dudeness: gratitude for being here in such great company, a calm joy that tomorrow will be similar, and an undercurrent of melancholy that all these things will come to pass, and all you will have their memories.

Even that, eventually, will crumble into dust.

Masaaki Ohmura – A touch of temptation

A little more information through Discogs.