The Event Horizon of Fucked-up Pop

Featuring : Higher Learning

In response to the terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert this week, Alexis Petridis wrote a quite wonderful paean to pop music (and experiencing it through the eyes of your daughter).  If you haven’t read it, you should.  I’ll wait.  It’s beautiful.

20JFG have always loved pop music.  Partly, no doubt, it began as anti-anti-pop-music posturing.  You can only hear so many people bang on about ‘real music’ until you become the reactionary.  I mean fuck, we like locked groove noise records, what’s so real about that?  But really, the love of pop comes from somewhere purer than genre revanchism.

There is a drug-like purity to pop.  A concerted effort to slide between the layers of cells defending your carefully curated tastes.  Like a brilliantly sharp scalpel, slicing open the skin almost without feeling.  And then it’s in, and it only wants to love you, from the inside.

Which brings us to the Industrial crypto-Pop of Higher Learning.  Midnight reverb and towering drums; buried synth melody; long tape-sliped chords — this is somewhere around Fever Ray trying to land a slot on the Miami Vice soundtrack.  Except, rather than compound a brutal, industrial sound, the vocal here is…pure pop.  This could be (and should be) ripped from the event horizon of fucked-up pop (the heat death of the 80s) and the coming dominance of boy-bands.  And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

Higher Learning – All I Ever

You can hear more from Higher Learning on his Soundcloud here.  This track is taken from an EP that’s just begging for an official release.  So, if you have the power to do that, contacting him through that Soundcloud link would be a good place to start.

The only true love is a seething mistrust

Featuring : Evil Blizzard

If the Wicker Man was set in the post-Brexit dystopia of Preston, Lancashire…

…it might look and sound quite a lot like Evil Blizzard. All of the music is a distorted bass guitar; grotesque masks thwart face-identification algorithms; the only emotion is seething mistrust.

Evil Blizzard – Are You Evil?

We’re off to see Evil Blizzard this weekend at Baba Yaga Hut’s Raw Power festival in Tufnell Park. You can buy Evil Blizzard’s 2015 LP Everybody Come To Church from Louder Than War.

Let’s make love and listen to Etienne De Crécy 1996

Featuring : Etienne de Crecy

A couple of weekends ago, we celebrated the result of the French Presidential Election by revisiting a bunch of French albums, including Etienne De Crécy’s seminal jazzy-disco-house compilation Super Discount. It is sobering to think that this came out more than 20 years ago, and that we were there to dance it, fresh off what looked like the coolest clubbing scene in the world.

[God we are old.]

And dance it we did, in all its protracted, cheesy, mongy post-roulé glory. Punk rock and hip hop were in our immediate past and drugs were in our future, so we enjoyed it in a purer, less hazy way that some other dance crazes that came after. We even danced Prix Choc with our granny in our family’s Christmas party. Hardcore!

Super Discount also introduced us to Air through Soldissimo (EDC remix), an early version of the proto-chillwave tear-jerker All I need. We had totally forgotten about this and almost lost our shit when it came in the stereo a couple of weeks ago.

We flashed back to a diorama straight out of the nerdy, non-sexualised version of Kids which our teenage days were, populated with miniatures of our past selves full of energy and innocence, and we remembered what we felt then, which is, fractally, what we feel now: nostalgia for a je ne sais quoi, good times and paths not taken, a childish wish for stasis and a fear of loneliness – all of these emotions and more dwell unsaid in Soldissimo’s beautiful guitar line, like a rorschach blot of melancholy that retains its potency, after all this time.

Air – Soldissimo (Super Sale) (EDC remix)

Wraiths and Drones

Featuring : Lutto Lento

The hauntology is strong with Weakness.  That the track seems to start half way through, its world already established, eases us in to this (the proceeding track defiantly ends with silence).

That high altitude, radiation damaged theremin sound that GY!BE kinda owned in the 90s, that’s here.  Like wraiths orbiting a decayed world.  Its an analogue sound from an age heavy with doom.

Looped underneath: a bass drone.  Like a nihilistic locked grove for a world in chaos.  So belligerently regulated in the face of global collapse that it becomes almost farce.

Beneath and within these sounds is an almost religious chanting / singing.  A moment of humanity placed between the wraiths and the drones.

But what sets this apart is a lone, short snippet that simply says “Dark Secret World”.  The recording is so clear that it’s immediately at odds with the other samples.  It seems almost as if someone has glimpsed all the chaos and then narrated to us those words.  Like some intergalactic watcher turning to the camera and, with neutrality, finding the three words that sum up the sound.

Lutto Lento – Weakness

Weakness is the final track on Lutto Lento’s album The Dark Secret World.  It’s out on the constantly surprising Where to Now? Records.  And you can buy it from here.

British Velvet Pop

Featuring : Comet Gain

Sometimes they seem like they’re the closest thing we’ve had to a British Velvet Underground.

Hopeless guitar romantics Comet Gain headlined the Fortuna Pop farewell-er (a sort of cross between a farewell gig and an all-dayer, that I’ve just made up) and it was fun to dive into their now extensive songbook all over again.

Sure, Comet Gain are beloved of the hair-grips and knee socks Belle & Sebastian brigade, and tunes of theirs like the Orange Juice-answering You Can Hide Your Love Forever are anthems in that scene.

But Comet Gain also do weird, spiky art-rock songs like Working Circle Explosive.

Plonked squarely between the two extremes (and therefore at their most VU-ishness?) is the band’s anthem, Love Without Lies, which was released as a standalone 7″ by What’s Yr Rupture? in 2007 – 15 years after songwriter David Feck (aka ‘Charlie Damage’) formed Comet Gain’s first incarnation.

Love Without Lies sounds like its ready for a night out and has already had too much gin, a glint of malevolence in its eye. Like sparks might fly; which is what the best Comet Gain songs sound like.

Comet Gain – Love Without Lies

Copies of Love Without Lies are available on Discogs.

Less the revolver, more the mule

Featuring : Bamboo

Bamboo are back in the pages of 20JFG this week as they’ve got a single out today from their album The Dragon Flies Away.  We posted another track from it last year.  It’s great.  So is Wake Up Your Heart, so we thought we’d post it.

Bamboo – Wake Up Your Heart

Wake Up Your Heart opens with a looped, Japanese inflected melody and is soon joined with a bassline straight from Morricone’s most propulsive Spaghetti scores.  That intersection was obviously already mined in the Kurosawa remakes but here it’s less in the service of fatalistic violence and more in a propulsive journey towards something more enlightening.  Less the revolver, more the mule.

Wake Up Your Heart is out today on Upset the Rhythm, backed with a remix by Nico Marcel of Always Running.  Upset the Rhythm’s release of The Dragon Flies Away (with awesome new artwork) can be pre-ordered here.

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