I won’t decrypt jackshit

Featuring : Kaval + Ray Lynch

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It is today that 20jazzfunkgreats gives up on Watch Dogs with a colossal yawn and, if we weren’t so polite, the digital gesture you see above.

It is not the first time we do this with a Ubisoft game, that sneaky ADD species of modern video game that lures the player with a promise of freedom, and then proceeds to bombard her with a barrage of objectives, options and distractions, like an informational version of Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle. But whereas in previous occasions – Assassin’s Creed, the latest Splinter Cell, Far Cry 3 (almost, we actually finished that one)– the open world friction nudged us away slowly with its overbearing generosity, here we disconnect decidedly, and disappointedly.

What’s the problem? There are many problems – we could go on about the dour beige man Aiden Price (a bit like Batman, if Batman was a complete asshole who killed dozens of people in pursuit of his goal), or the rest of the cast (especially T Bone, the charming chap illustrating this post– if the Matrix had a Jar Jar Binks bro-grammer in its cast, that would be him), the mundane hacking and the unrewarding progression (the high level perks include more batteries for your smartphone, and the ability to get extra money from cash machines), the beautiful but listless rendition of Chicago, its pathetic attempt to be edgy, cool and mature, and the appalling licensed music (there is actually one good song in it, and it is Tortoise).  But it goes beyond that. Our disappointment is deeper. It concerns the game’s utter failure to convey through its story and its systems the mood of a society under complete surveillance.

Now, think of the triumph that was The Last of Us, and what it did with the concept of survival, and consider what Watch Dogs could have been if it had achieved something even remotely similar with themes like surveillance, privacy, transparency, anonymity or societal control. We would have had THE game for this day and age, instead of the video game equivalent of Die Hard 3.0, if we replaced Bruce Willis with a man with a cap stitched to his head.

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And what does this world we almost live in feel like?

Perhaps like Kaval’s dérives through regions of ambient dirge, mystery and melancholy. Tense with the flat fuzz of a synth drone, nocturnal sea where we swim over flickering presences that caress us with gossamer probes. Subtly plaintive, with a sub-dermal sense of loss, perhaps for those slivers of ourselves fading away trapped in distant algorithmic fortresses. Also eerie, haunted with the echo of a John Carpenter motif, as if we experienced the onset of Halloween through the multi-dimensional, rhizomatic architectures of the data city.

Kaval – Ze Zei

With this post, we celebrate the advent of a new Enfant Terrible related label, Vriestate. You can pre-order Kaval’s Zee van Gedachten LP here.

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Alternatively, one could conceive of an utopian scenario where we realise the potential of digital technologies by transcending romantic notions of privacy, and becoming enmeshed in the harmonious totality of our society’s collective intelligence. We join a cybernetic system, noosphere or macro-neural network whose performance can be optimised (like any other system composed of parts with measurable features and predictable behaviours), and optimised it is.

We sail into the deep unknowns of the universe as one, to search for more truths, atop positive winds with melodies joyous and aesthetically + mathematically beautiful like one of Ray Lynch’s compositions.

Ray Lynch – Tiny Geometries

Tiny Geometries concludes Ray Lynch’s 1984 landmark ‘Deep Breakfast’. We were reminded of it in Music for Programming’s latest mixtape (by  Abstraction).

The Good, the Bad and the Dead

Featuring : Death and Vanilla

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Death and Vanilla cropped up on 20JFG last year when they played The Outer Church in our fair southern hamlet. Unfortunately I was the 1/4 of 20JFG who didn’t go. Which I regretted at the time and will continue to regret below.

Kalligrammofon Recordings are reissuing on vinyl a tape that Moon Glyph put out a few years ago. Said tape was a live recording made in 2012 of Death and Vanilla scoring Dreyer’s Vampyr (from which we appropriated the ominous man-with-scyth above).

This is side C of the double LP:

Death and Vanilla – Vampyr (Side C)

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The first half of side C is anchored by low distant drumming, of a rolling rhythm that would have tormented Lovecraft in his more feverishly racist dreams. This bed of dread is punctuated by the occasional Moog, rising out of the mist. At times illuminating mere outlines of hulking stone shapes, at others: beams from space piercing the gloom and shedding light on distant horrors.

The second half of side C is dominated by a Morricone-esq melody between what sounds like a battalion of wind instruments and guitar. Slow building and utterly relentless, a saddled up assault on the night.

Death and Vanilla’s Vampyr came out this week on Kalligrammofon. You can get it right here.

Out and Out and Out

Featuring : Ben Frost + Daniel Avery

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(photography by Kaometet.)

More than his actual music, a lot of the time people seem to be mostly interested in whether Ben Frost is a douche or not, and how this might interface with his political intentions.

In 2010, while touring a ferocious noise album that resulted in a frankly ludicrous attempt to play Brighton’s Freebutt at the height of its resident-appeasing limiter-in-force infamy (two failed attempts to get started and then he was out the door) and burnt out speaker cabinets at a London show, he gave an interview to Resident Advisor that set nerves jangling, edited highlights below:

The thing I was most fascinated by in making that record was the collective aural memory of the human experience and our fascination with the malevolence of the natural world. By the Throat was always about somehow channeling those ideas, because they are powerful, musical weapons: rumbling bass, explosive distortions and growling, howling strings. It’s simple synapse—our brains hear music but we hear earthquakes, volcanoes and fear of predators in dark. 

About an hour’s drive from my house right now there is a volcano exploding. It’s the hottest (no pun intended) ticket in town. Everyone wants to get close to it, and to be afraid of it. I guess the same could be said of anyone who wants to get close to my music. It’s masochistic. I don’t see much of a line between enjoying the experience of my music, and the guy who pays a hooker to walk on him in six-inch stilettos while he rubs one out. 

Ultimately, I would prefer that my music comes through the door before I do, or that it’s experienced live first. Nobody cares what I call myself when it’s coming at you at 120db. 

The void is far more fascinating than anything I could fill it with. I just want to map out my territory, and piss in the corners so you know where the edges are. You can work out—and make up the rest—on your own. 

We seek experiences that fire our primal emotions. This is why we have bungee jumping, amphetamines and self-asphyxiation… 

Gozer was just there to fuck shit up. It was that simple. There was no explanation, and there is no discussion to be had with Gozer the Destructor. And Peter Venkman realized that. I suppose what I am getting at is that we have cerebralized our fears and that By the Throat does not work like that. In fact, none of my music works like that. I don’t want you to think about what I am doing, I just want you to be affected by it.

– Ben Frost, speaking to Resident Advisor circa By The Throat, 2010

This interview was again picked up by Dan Barrow in his recent Ben Frost cover piece The Wire, who confessed to finding Frost’s statements “troubling.”

“The concept of extremity,” Barrow explained, “circulating in the discourse of music since before Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, has been so often the vehicle for troubling power relations and pathetic machismo, so hackneyed in its secret alliance with the status quo, that it’s difficult to make anything productive of it now. To what end, people might ask, is Frost struggling? If Swans utilised volume, repetition and scale to articulate the agony and plenitude of identity – of being trapped in gendered, labouring, desiring, decaying bodies – then Frost’s extremity, flushed with a more conventional gorgeousness and stripped of what Keith Moline called Swans’ “harrowing stasis,” is more opaque and problematic.”

There’s a lot of question marks to be raised there:

  1. Is The Rite of Spring really an example of “troubling power relations and pathetic machismo”?
  2. Is Ben Frost in a “secret alliance with the secret quo”?
  3. Was/is the volume, repetition and scale of Swans actually an attempt “to articulate the agony and plenitude of identity – of being trapped in gendered, labouring, desiring, decaying bodies”? Or did they just like big noises?
  4. Maybe Ben Frost just likes big noises too?

idk.

But it’s a good piece and it made us think.

If anything, though, Frost’s music itself makes us not-think. It doesn’t fire thoughts in our multi-headed brain political or otherwise. At least not any more than Autechre or Jerry Goldsmith, or any other composer who makes loud/dissonant/pretty/consonant music with no words does. That isn’t just anti-intellectualism, if anything there is something audio wallpapery about Frost’s music – maybe more than he’d like to admit. But that isn’t intended as a diss. Some of my favourite artists used wallpaper as a medium – look at William Morris!

And Frost’s music is as detailed, thoughtful and precise as Morris’ art, and presumably little more complex in its motivations.

I guess it’s ultimately about texture, noise, shape and colour – or sometimes the absence of those materials. Sometimes it can feel like you want to touch it. That’s maybe when it’s at its best.

Sometimes it sounds like buildings and clouds.

Ben Frost – Venter

At other times, it sounds slick, produced and blockbustery. That’s good too. Like the soundtrack to a rave scene set on a moon. Lots of slow-mo dancing, suns collapsing in the background, orbital tracking shots of crater hedonism slowly spiralling out and out and out until everything’s just a dot.

Which is a sentence that also makes us think of this Daniel Avery tune, from 2012:

Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

Buy A U R O R A from Boomkat, or anywhere really

The Asynchronicity Won’t Be Televised

Featuring : El Mahdy Jr. + El Remolón

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(Image by Carlos Mérida via 50Watts.)

The 20jazzfunkgreats leviathan rides the shockwaves of the aftermath of the Nemesis-like impact of the Web, and the advent of a Cambrian explosion of new, weird and garish kultur-planktons. It tries to avoid reacting to this data-glut with impatience or nostalgia. No, the outlook of this beast is futuristic. It grew up in times of scarcity, and it knows how easy it is to romanticize the hunt, when everything had a sense of exclusivity and uniqueness.

[Or is it simply that the beast was young then?]

Surely things have changed, and not always in comfortable ways: the business of the future is being dangerous.  Yet information overload is a first world problem, and one that cannot be dealt with Cartesian short-sightedness, but rather, with the zest of the stochast, hurling oneself in unexpected directions, to be surprised, and overjoyed, and delighted, and moved, by the expressive power of a mankind that was never so connected.

To be moved by things like these.

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The soundtrack for a Super Mario Bros game where the hero traverses the magico-mathematical regularities of an Aztec architecture with aplomb, the sense of detached lightness and otherworldliness of Miyamoto’s opus replaced with the weight of a millennial culture, embodied in the bouncy momentum of this Cumbian sprite.

El Remolón – El Preferido

We just realize that we only featured Argentinian riddim seer El Remolón last week.  Well, let us point our fingers at the title of this post and revel in the irony. We discovered it in Club Fonograma’s ‘Papasquiaro’ compilation of modern Latin American pop music. El Preferido is also included in El Remolón’s ‘Selva’. Go get.

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The multidimensional rattle with which life converges on an oasis, and celebrates its victory over the soft death of the desert, bonfires in the night create shadows, doors in the buildings create portals, into secret halls where the people roll like so many waves, in the hazy spaces between religious ecstasy and ecstatic party.

El Mahdy Jr. – Lost Bridge

El Mahdy Jr. is an Algerian producer based in Istambul. Lost Bridge is included in Gasba Grime, which you can get from Danse Noire.

We Are His Willing Disciples

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(art is Misconceptions Of The Courageous Mind by Anai Georg.)

In the forest there is bass. The hues of the foliage fade in perfect sighs with the lull and throb. Purple. Red. Orange. Purple again.

In the trees there is THE WIZARD. His mind glittering all evil.

Hack at the grass. Stalk your own psyche. We’ve been strung out for so long in here that we’ve forgotten what we came in for. But aren’t these military uniforms beautiful?

El Remolon – Vestido (feat. Lido Pimienta)

This could be Argentina or Ganymede. Only the one they call El Remolón knows for sure. He pushes the buttons on his keytar and the scenaries change.

He entrances his prey with heat haze-thick digital cumbia. His eyes are spinning zoetropes. We are his willing disciples.

He pedals the ferocious drug “Selva.” No, not salvia. SELVA. You must partake of the ritual dose and kneel before the shrine of Caetano Veloso for approximately 489 revolutions of Alfomega before you may enter the temple.

Caetano Veloso – Alfomega

Buy Selva from ZZK

Psyche of Parasites

Featuring : Rachel's + Toby Driver

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(art is Folly by Meghan Howland.)

We don’t do much dancing nowadays, outside of popping fistfuls of Mimezine and waltzing through Hard Light with Terra, our 90s cyberspace G(uy)I(n)R(eal)L(ife)friend.

And dancing as art… nope, sorry. We don’t know about that one.

But we want to, because this has to be one of the most interesting Kickstarter hivemind projects we’ve come across.

A butoh dance piece by Michelle Morinaga with music composed by Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver, Ichneumonidae apparentlyexplores the astounding psyche of parasites, touching on dualities of survival and self-destruction, the perilous tensions of coexistence, and the subtle horrors of the colonized body.”

Which is appropriate, because if there’s anything XXJFG is about, then it is exploring the astounding psyche of parasites, touching on dualities of survival and self-destruction, the perilous tensions of coexistence, and the subtle horrors of the colonized body.

Toby Driver – excerpt from Pale Hesychasm

You can view some of the performance here.

It’s fierce, beautiful stuff. Violin comes courtesy of Secret Chiefs 3’s Timba Harris.

The entire soundtrack is on Toby’s Bandcamp. Once you’ve gone and bought it you should also rediscover Rachel’s, from the early 00s:

Rachel’s – Moscow is in the Telephone

Because we like reminding you about things!

Buy Ichneumonidae from Bandcamp

 

Informational Pagan Party

Featuring : 3rd Face, ooioo + prins thomas

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You don’t step into OOIOO’s Gamel.

It engulfs you.

Like a swarm of psychic teens warping into the lounge or bedroom or public transport system or whatever geographical coordinates your physical body occupies, flipping the perceptual lights on and off at stroboscopic speeds and generating an REM effect or accelerating drone full of flashbacks like Eli Vance’s botched attempt to teleport Gordon Freeman for Black Mesa East, but faster, ravier, weirder.

And what is the substance of these flashbacks?

It’s varied, and includes: cosmic harmony and the explosion of life. This is conveyed by the seamless integration of gamelan’s evolutionary melody-sequences, standing for the clockwork logic of the cosmos, majestic like Zeus’ brow whence jumps Life, Athena-like, fully formed and armed, fierce and ready for a post-punk brawl. Or remember the awe-inspiring sequences of the universe in transition in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and shift them from the temple to the dance-floor.

Which brings us to spirituality. There are no words that we could use to convey the joyous sense of peace, unity and harmony conveyed by the transcendental dynamics that unfurl in OOIOO’s music, or rather, there are but they have been hijacked by a zillion new age cults, to use them would be to taint the purity of the emotions surfing over OOIOO’s progressive information age animism. Not that we need to, here’s the music.

OOIOO – Atatawa

Gamel is coming out on the 1st of July. Pre-order it from Thrill Jockey.

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Somewhat serendipitously, we stumble upon last years reissue + remixes of 3rd Face’s Canto Della Liberta, a song that we featured in 2004. The sonic (and sensorial, sensual and emotional) parallelisms between that track and OOIOO are obvious, which makes sense given how strongly they are both influenced by the ur-banger Secondo Coro Della Lavandaie, from Roberto de Simone’s play, La Gatta Cenerentorola.

(This is clearest in OOIOO’s Uma and Umo in their previous album, Taiga, and Gamel Uma Umo in Gamel, which does what it says in the tin)

Prins Thomas’ is our favourite remix of the lot (which you might have expected). He bumps up the drums into a disorientating vortex somewhere in between Liquid Liquid, The Boredoms and Kelis’ Milkshake, and organises the drop around some 1970s double-denim rock riffage, burly Godzilla to OOIOO’s aerodynamic M.U.T.O.  There’s no-way anyone could ever go wrong with that, kids, we swoon.

3rd Face – Canto Della Liberta (Prins Thomas Remix)

The vinyl for this is sadly sold out, but you can get it digital from Beatport.