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At the Centre of it All

Featuring : U

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This week on 20 Jazz Funk Vids, we bring you the self-directed music video for U’s U2.

Created from layers of classical samples, looped and folded into recognisable sounds in alien tempos, U2 is Bernard Herman doing a strictly 2-step soundtrack.  U2 is Industrial music if it didn’t go on to influence Techno but instead found its way to South London in the 90s.  And finally, U2 is the waltz and the horror of fin de siècle Vienna (where these sampled records were found), refined, cultured and possessed of horror.

The video for U2 is similarly constructed from incongruous samples.  Old footage of clouds forming; people travelling; train stations; pigeons riding on a rotating advertising (or informational) display.  At the centre of it all, a drunk/disturbed man moves about a train station.  Sometimes interacting with the camera, more often, lost in his own world.  His movements sometimes syncing with the underlying music, his words sometimes appearing in the mix.

This is the hallucination that snippets of reality, snippets of the sampled truth conjures.  A portal between the dislocated present and the past we can not possible know, but that we can possess for a reasonable price.

U2 is taken from the album Vienna Orchestra which is out now on Where to Now?.  And you can get it right here.

Psycho-tectonic dérive

Featuring : Ned Milligan + Yorishiro

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Ned Milligan’s Continental Burns has given us some well needed solace after the trauma of the last few weeks.

It is an organic ambient masterpiece whose drones crack, whoosh, flow and ebb like the myriad natural forces it wants to reacquaints us with. Seasons and tides, barely perceptible changes in the gradient of the sky as the summer day turns night, the gentle dance of blades of grass in an quiet English countryside, these are the instruments with which Continental Burns makes us feel at home in the universe again.

Ned Milligan – Cotillion Cross

Get Continental Burns from Florabelle Records.

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If you observe attentively the front-cover of Hawkwind’s The Warrior at the Edge of Time, you can almost hear Yorishiro bassy ruminations over the mighty winds, a perfect soundtrack for the Warrior, as she gets prepped to jump beyond the Edge of Time.

This is prog-rock for the abyss, simmering with the zenta glow of an acid prophecy, an hallucination whose edge is ominous because it threatens to burn our current self into ashes, the fertile ground for something else. 

Yorishiro – Straight for the Sun

Get I from Constellation Tatsu.

Guest mix: UNDERSPRECHE

Featuring : Podcast + Underspreche

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One of our favourite releases of 2016 so far has been the Underspreche/Muslimgauze split on Optimo Trax.

Underspreche also have an excellent new 12″ – Subterrenus – out now on Optimo, so we asked the Italian duo to dream up an exclusive mix for us. Here it is!

Underspreche – Mix for 20 Jazz ‘Funky’ Greats

And this is what they had to say about it:

“‘Alive -Dj set’ is the name of our hybrid live where we use to play vinyl enriching the set with a live session  composed by drum machine, synthesiser, voices,samples and effects.

It’s a place for us where we could create something new experimenting every time,improvising!  In this mix we created exclusively for 20 jazz funk greats two re-edits: J.G.Wilkes Und Toresh – Comida Para Todos – Moodymann Und Ruth Yaakov Ensemble – Young Salgash Madre.

We did also some experiments mixing opera vocals on ‘Kerberos’ by Marc Romboy and Stephan Bodzin ,we played with samples ,we improvised with synths on ethereal soundscape from Jocelyn Pook  and we did a remix of ‘Nana’ by Acid Pauli .”

Buy Subterrenus 12″ by Underspreche


GIF from http://chromo-valdez.tumblr.com

Dance Dance Revolution

Featuring : Ströer

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And somedays all we want to do is dance.

Over in good old Albion, we’re currently existing in that bright moment of detonation where we’ve all been bathed in the flash but neither the sound or fury have reached us yet.*

The populace of Albion shuffle about, split into competing ‘it’ll all be fine’ and ‘I’m pretty sure that flash was bad’ camps.  Tents pitched, we all await salvation or destruction (or both).  Under the black canvas of the 20JFG tent we nervously glance out across the nighttime desert, mushroom cloud on the horizon, idly calculating the moment the shockwave will reach us.  And at times like these — times were time itself slows as the waves of shock and sound move in a stately dance across the desert floor — we have nothing better to do than dance.

stroerWhile listening to Nite Jewel’s excellent mix for The Fader we were reintroduced to Ströer’s delicious Don’t Stay till Breakfast.  Which first hit out ears during the heady days of nu-disco as part of Elaste’s Space Disco comp.

It’s all glistening disco-funk.  Almost as if it’s the idea of what disco should sound like, in those perfect black and chrome clubs with beautiful people wearing beautiful things moving in beautiful ways.  It’s got that Euro edge too (as the umlaut suggests, Ströer are German), with the slightly accented vocal making all sorts of existential invocations in advance of fucking.  It’s a wonderful double hit of nostalgia then, and when the future’s so bright it’ll rip your face off, what’s wrong with that?

Ströer – Don’t Stay till Breakfast

Get the reissue from Juno right here (other record stores / websites are available).

* Well unless you look or sound different, then the fury you’re experiencing is merely the fault of the rats.  The rats that have emerged from underground to witness the flash.  They’ve always been there, they’ve just been drawn to the flash.  Honest guv’.

FTRWYS

Featuring : Alex Reece + Bookworms

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We come from the future, so we love its music. Same applies to music which isn’t from the future, but provides the soundtrack for getting there. It comes in different flavours:

Sometimes it is an joyous jaunt, as with the elegiac psychonautic ragas of Hallogallo or Europe Endless’ motorway symphony.

Sometimes it describes a journey to Dystopia, like Throbbing Gristle’s cyber-psychotic blitzkrieg, or Ike Yard’s dirges of dehumanisation.

And sometimes it is beautifully indifferent. Music of this kind sounds intellectually fascinated with change and the possibilities that lay ahead, but cold about the fate of individual humans caught in the disruption, as if they were statistical noise distracting us from the most interesting thing, a.k.a. the evolution of our species. If Elon Musk had any music taste, these would be his jams. 

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Bookworms’ Xenophobe is one of the best dance music albums of the year. Mongy muscle in silky smooth threads, spinning contemplatively towards the next high. It’s an exercise in class to delight Roulé and Balihu fans alike.

STE-027 is the interstellar tour de force at its heart, an 18 minute long behemoth of chugging techno, pensive moods and a synth motif which propagates around us like jaggy surfaces in a procedurally generated hallucination. If Chiba City’s subway looked like a special-forces sniper rifle designed by Aaron Beck, this would be the core tune in the personal stereo of its algorithmically enhanced driver.

Bookworms – STE-027

Get Xenophobe from Bank Records.

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Alex Reece’s Pulp Fiction is one of those songs that we post in case there are any youngsters reading this blog unaware of it, perhaps because it lays buried under a million layers of the post-Internet content deluge, perhaps because drum ‘n’ bass isn’t cool and Goldie’s celebrity career didn’t do the Metalheadz brand any favours.

No matter. We think that Pulp Fiction fits perfectly with our theme today. This is the definitive Roller, a sleek vehicle slicing through the sprawl, under a night sky skewered by glimmering skyscrapers where honey-skinned jet-setters dance enthralled by the collapse below. So dark, so cool, this is a stone-cold classic.

Alex Reece – Pulp Fiction

Image above by Aaron Beck. Alex Reece image from GTA IV.

Black Square

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20JFG trades extensively in hyperbole, our enthusiasm for music and culture pushing us to ridiculous, giddy heights.  It’s fun and it’s an ancient MP3 blog in the age of streaming so, why not?

This post will go live a week after the UK referendum on membership of the EU.  It was not a good day.  I have lived through more tragic days.  I have lived through days that had and have had more affect on the world.  But on this ‘rainy little island(s) that could’, we’ve just had our cozy liberal dream of cohesion, tolerance and dull grey stability, torched.  It was that dull grey stability that allowed us to flourish, often in opposition to it but always ultimately caught by it.  Like family.

Maybe, despite a butter mountain full of expert opinion, we’ll do well.  A vote to leave was not a vote for racism, although it’s given succour to racists.  So let us hope that we’ll fight the resurgent fascism in this country alongside those who wanted to break our ties with the continent.  We all want a better world after all; mercifully few would have voted for calamity.

But if your better world involves kicking immigrants, muslims, people of colour and any other deviation from your nightmarish vision of British purity, well then, you can just fuck off.

Bagad Men Ha Tan & Doudou N’diaye Rose – Rohan

So today I bring you Celtic music from Brittany made in conjunction with a Senegalese drumming genius in 2000.  Music that closed the truly great 2015 Taiwanese film, The Assassin.  On the face of it, that’d be a parody of World Music baiting ‘fusion’.  But fuck that.  Fuck that not least because it’s just undeniably badass (although being exposed to it at the end of a film called The Assassin may have permanently influenced me here).  And fuck that because it has duelling fucking bagpipes over a massive Senegalese rhythm building and building until you’re ready to run up some steps in Philly like a Guardian reading Rocky.

Rohan is taken from Bagad Men Ha Tan & Doudou N’diaye Rose’s album Dakar.

Dancing music in the C20: disco (1972-73)

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Disco. Everyone knows disco. And bar that weird ‘Disco sucks’ campaign in the late 1970s, everyone likes it.

Despite the ubiquity of disco and its signifiers, though, as an umbrella disco covers a relatively broad spectrum of music. Italo disco, Euro disco, space disco and  HI-NRG being some of its more well-known variants. And a lot of different musics went into its signature sound – pop and salsa; funk, obviously. But the genre that really provided the primordial sludge for disco to sashay out of was Philly soul.

Spotify playlist: early philly soul (1966-69)

Philly soul was a smoother, more sweeping, more feminine antidote to funk. Well, OK, so it’s initial performers were almost exclusive male – its early adopters were The Delfonics, The Intruders, The O’Jays and Jerry Butler – so it’s debatable whether ‘feminine’ is the most appropriate word here, but certainly Philly soul took some the rhythmic quirks of funk while dialling down its aggression to nil.

Where in funk there were angry one-note blasts of horn, Philly soul was all about lush, breezy string sections. Where funk was radical, Philly soul was romantic. But not romantic in the slightly tortured, obsessive teenage way of Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown hits – this was painless music.

Based around the Philadelphia International label and songwriters Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, Philly soul was danceable but graceful – it had a sweet but kind of elegant sound that disco would recontextualise to illustrate new levels of fabulousness.

A variety of records, from The Supremes’ 1964 pop hit You Keep Me Hanging On to The Temptations’ psychedelic soul classic Ball of Confusion contain letters that would later turn up in disco’s genome.

For our money though, the first disco song  might be Jerry Butler’s 1972 single, One Night Affair.

Jerry Butler – One Night Affair

In the late 50s and early 60s, Butler was a member of R&B group The Impressions, alongside Curtis Mayfield. He never reached the icon status of his former bandmate, but he had a string of top 10 solo hits in the late 60s and would later become part of the Philly International family

One Night Affair is a relatively lusty and masculine beginnings for a genre that would later become synonymous with gay empowerment, but it has that insistent, world-beating euphoria that disco patented. The idea that no matter how terrible life may be outside of these two and a half minutes, within the parentheses of the record’s intro and fade out we have a whole world of possibilities.

Further evidence of disco’s biological link to Philly soul is Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ two-part epic The Love I Lost.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – The Love I Lost (parts 1 and 2)

The Blue Notes were a shining example of Philly soul archetypes, but The Love I Lost nevertheless might be the first disco classic. Those strings, slicing like regret. That bassline – like hands tugging at your hips. The drums kicking your heels all the way to the dancefloor.

The Love I Lost is a sad song, and it was written originally as a ballad, but in the gentle relentlessness of its Philly disco incarnation it taps into a new kind of energy, one that sad songs shouldn’t normally have. Disco would do this stuff well – make lost love sound energising; something to pirouette over rather than mope about.

Swelling Philly soul’s string sections to gargantuan proportions, the Love Unlimited Orchestra was a full 40-piece concert orchestra swirling like the sea around the walrus of love, Barry White. Their Love’s Theme/Sweet Moments 1973 single, was written and produced by Barry but didn’t feature his knicker-eroding baritone.

Released during the period when no one knew what disco was or where it could go, the majestic Love’s Theme forms a sort of disco symphony. The flip, Sweet Moments, sounds like a comedown to the a-side’s lovey, ecstatic buzz. Jazzy, minor key and bluntly repetitive, it staggers rather than swirls, feeling like some lurching walk of shame the morning after the disco rapture.

Love Unlimited Orchestra – Sweet Moments

Later in the decade, Tom Moulton, Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, Shep Pettibone, David Mancuso and even Frankie Knuckles would shift the emphasis from songwriter as creator to DJ as disco auteur. This period of experimentation gave the world the remix and DJs developed the tools that allowed them to break down and reassemble the components of records into new forms, re-engineering them to better suit the delirium of the dancefloor.

Producers might understand recording, singers might understand heartbreak, but DJs understand dancing. For the early disco DJs, the dancefloor was a living organism – a fresh and undocumented area of study – and they were scientists.

But in this early disco period of 1973, disco was just a handful of ideas about dance music and a sound that could go anywhere.

Spotify playlist: early disco (1972-73)

I mean, ultimately where it did go was dance contests and these goons, but eh.