14/05/2016

Late review: Exo Crystallis (2015) by TNJX



What is this bright Egyptianistic Cheshtronica offering? Well since you asked, I'll tell you:
it is the fruit of the tree named James Lightfoot, who you could see as bedroom avatar of Sun Ra and/or
channeller of Nobuo Uematsu cum understudy to Darren Styles.


- one of my unfinished TNJX reviews


I once played someone my favourite TNJX songs as we careened along a dirt track, as the sun rose over the Ngorongoro crater, as we suffered being the seventeenth and eighteenth passengers of an 8-seater bus. Aha! What a setting! Time for a concentrated dose of brightness, engineered to unchain, point over the horizon to where no-one's elbow is in your armpit, no-one smells intolerably of long travel, where rivers run thick with glowsticks, the sky with formidable but honourable challengers.

She actually recoiled. Though she's an agreeable person in many ways, she indulges a perennial vice: thinking that music is for only one thing. (In her case, that thing is eliciting traditionally poignant emotions and a vague sense of social injustice, each of which TNJX lacks in large and glad measure.)

Now, as no-one needs to be told, music sometimes is for letting you emote vicariously (which actually doesn't deserve scorn, since it's just coming to know yourself through another person).

Other uses: Among middle-class people, music's stated function is expressing the linguistically inexpressible, while its most common function is consolation and nostalgia. Amongst young people it is a way of dividing into social groups and a pretext to touch each other. Sometimes it is used for a challenge, a Classical parallel-processing strain; or sometimes it is there to not challenge us, to distract the animal while the grown-ups get on with things; sometimes it is for compelling us (whether to put ya hands up or to stop thinking for a spell); or for by far the easiest way to get a large group of people to feel communal and get above themselves for once; or for just stopping up your ears cos you don't want to hear the noise of the Tube or your own thoughts; and mixtapes were (are?) the safest and coolest way to open a real emotional rapport with a new friend or lover; or (and this is TNJX's first function, for me) for banishing sadness without reference to love.

It's not that everyone has to use music all of these ways. (For instance, one of my friends makes really wonderful mixes, each with the self-same spirit of pensive, tense eroticism; mine never display any at all. And there's nothing wrong with that.) But we should admit that there are other valid purposes to the ones we use. I can't help but see the flinch described in the opening story as a mark of deep error, foolish overreaction to contact with an aesthetic you don't happen to be open to. It bespeaks contempt, a sad policing of what you can even consider, let alone like (let alone let people know you like).

Out of this monomania comes inability to comprehend the value of different manners; out of incomprehension comes disdain; from disdain comes the internet as we know it.

I don't know why people are so keen to recoil, to keep to their lone function with its lone associated sound. It probably has something to do with signalling, like most perverse things humans do.


ANYWAY this is his best album yet. I'm not socially or temperamentally given to dance, but TNJX is so light and so loved: power without overpowering, happiness without idiocy. It's as relentlessly positive as trance with none of its gurning. It is thematic (roughly, the epic earnest anime coloration of the Tales series) - but varied in pace and timbre. The opening track emphasises we're leaving behind tawdry reality; time goes skewiff; we smash through a glass door and find ourselves in track 2, a glowing cartoon call to arms. (Dhaos has risen! If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of men!)

It is not weighed down by internet esotericism, as sometimes before. It interpolates classic melodies (Waterloo Sunset vs Just Can't Get Enough!) so well that you don't notice they're borrowed; he thus revives things deadened by their own fame. I have listened to it easily 50 times in a year, in all weather, and for several of the purposes listed above.

Go and buy Exo Crystallis, whatever you are.


Best: Infinite King, Sky Pirate, Torn Apart by Crystals.


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