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Civil Twilight is a three-piece band from Cape Town that has alternative rock muffling tears in space. They translate melancholy into music, with sparsely ethereal melodies shivering like sick puppies licking open wounds on a wintry morning, waiting to hitchhike their way out of the cold. Sometimes the pace quickens, as Civil Twilight unabashedly borrows from bands like Television and Pavement to kickstart a groove or two, but never sounding as intense as their spacey dirges. The piano-driven title song of their 2008 Human album had me aching for a familiar face, interplanetary or otherwise, especially when vocalist/bassist/pianist Steven McKellar croons like a dejected waif, “It’s all the things you can’t explain…that make us human.“ Fantastically feel-bad.

*****

When Blu met producer Exile, unbridled greatness crawled out of the studio and surrounded itself with dazzling beats and cleverly-crafted verses. If you haven’t already heard their Below the Heavens album, I suggest you go do that, starting with So(ul) Amazing, a hip hop anthem yet to be topped since 2007. Sometime in 2008 he teamed up with producer Mainframe and under the moniker of Johnson & Jonson released another underground classic. While not as spectacular as the Blu and Exile album, their self-titled collection of laidback vibes certainly made it easier for hip hop to deal with J Dilla’s passing two years prior. On “A Perfect Picture”, Mainframe provides a ten-second intro that sounds like that badass bass riff from Dazed and Confused gassed up on amphetamines, as Blu spits rhymes that flow like the sins of our forefathers or like a summer breeze, whatever, take your pick…this is good stuff.

*****

Look beyond The Moody Blues’ famed ballad “Nights In White Satin” and you might get a taste of some fantastic progressive music. Their brand of schizophrenic psychedelic riffs splattered against soaring vocals, tight percussions and sprawling orchestral arrangements makes me want to burn all my King Crimson albums. Like Extreme never got credit for keeping alternative music alive during the Nineties despite Cobain’s best efforts, The Moody Blues never got recognition for breathing life into classical rock during the Sixties. Some of their finest sounds can be found in their sophomoric Days Of Future Passed album that had them inviting the London Festival Orchestra for one hell of a party and in the 1969 album To Our Children’s Children’s Children, which matched anything Pink Floyd had put out by then for sheer exuberance towards experimentation. Check out their 1997 Greatest Hits or something like that collection, a decent start to uncovering The Moody Blues.

*****

Downtempo music has a delayed seductive quality that very few art forms (perhaps Italian film noir or Gabriel Marquez’s short stories) have replicated. Even comedian/performance artist Andy Kaufman once opined that time and patience constituted to great humour. Downtempo musicians too rely on delayed aural responses to their sound. A few ethereal reverberations here and there, some soulful piano notes and enough breathing space for us to fully appreciate its sultriness. For instance, take Destroying Angels by German quartet Bohren & Der Club of Gore. If you dig that jazz-electronica crossover sound, I’ll bet you thirty virgins you’ll like it much more the third time around.

*****

Next up, a James Keenan Maynard edition.

Watch

Civil Twilight – Human

Blu & Exile – So(ul) Amazin

Johnson & Jonson – A Perfect Picture

The Moody Blues – Question

The Moody Blues – Tuesday Afternoons (Live)

The Moody Blues – Higher & Higher

Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Destroying Angels

Buy

Civil Twilight’s Human

Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens

Johnson & Jonson’s Self-Titled

The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed

The Moody Blues’ To Our Children’s Children’s Children

The Best of the Moody Blues

Bohren & Der Club of Gore’s Black Earth

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conformityWithout politics, justice would wreak havoc on our lives. I really can’t see justice as anything other than pre-conceived faith that we are somehow expected to have in those who have long since spent their lives interpreting a largely Utopian concept into words and numbers. I prefer a corrupt system to an honest one simply because in the light of today’s social consciousness, people’s notions of morality and righteousness are far more dangerous than what they perceive to be unscrupulous and selfish.

Having said that, far worse are the pretensions that come along for the ride to ensure reckless abandonment of decorum. I even remember people hosting lighting candles during the aftermath of the Kumbakonam tragedy. Yes, nothing like an open flame to express a unified voice for the kids who tragically died in the fire.

It’s a twisted hyperbole we live in. One in which morality has spilled more blood than hate can even dream of and violence has saved more lives than good intentions ever could. A nonsensical wonderland where television makes viewers paranoid and religion encourages its’ followers to waste away their lives in fear and racial apathy.

And yet there are people out there – so convinced of their ability to straighten out other people’s socio-political priorities and so much in love with the notion that they are a part of a group that opposes what has prematurely and conveniently been identified as the root cause of a larger problem.

It’s the same logic that gave America four more years of George Bush and Indian cricketers the false notion that they are prima donnas. You could argue that it also paved the way for Barrack Obama to become the leader of the free world. However, Mrs Ann Dunham’s baby boy represented hope and change; two things that don’t belong in the same sentence as “collateral damage bah humbug…let’s just bom the fuck out of Pakistan”.

So what I am saying here, dear random sender of self-righteous email #32, solidarity against terror is absolutely pointless when most of the individuals expressing it are completely irrelevant to our country’s anti-terrorism processes. And if your idea of a perfect world involves hate and fear binding individuals together, I shudder to even imagine what your vision of dystopia is.

Download

DJ Shadow – Midnight In A Perfect World

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