Producer M.E.S.H. on the Best in Books and Music in 2017

Berlin-based DJ and producer M.E.S.H. (James Whipple) on the books, events and music that made his year

Cergat, Earthmare: The Lost Book of Wars (gnOme, 2017)

A delirious and unsettling piece of theory-fiction weaving linguistics, theology, eastern Mediterranean history and the ‘violent hybridity’ of the figure of the barbarian. Cergat writes: ‘The secular digs itself a permanent place between the desert and the deluge […] at the mouth of the abyss.’

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James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, 2017. Courtesy: Yale University Press

James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (Yale University Press, 2017)

Forget the Paleo Diet: Scott goes all the way in showing how early nomadic peoples in the Fertile Crescent were fitter, happier and more productive than the semi-enslaved ziggurat-builders of the ancient Mesopotamian cities. It’s actually a bit more nuanced than that: sedentism and domestication apparently occurred thousands of years before the Hobbesian state marshalled its surpluses. Most early peoples practiced a combination of both typically hunter-gatherer and sedentary survival (sur-thrive-al?) strategies.

Giorgio de Maria, The Twenty Days of Turin (W. W. Norton & Co, 2017)

A recently-translated weird horror novel from 1977 reflecting an era of ideological murder in Italy. Something mysterious is entrancing and killing the Turinese – in the background is a context of total social breakdown and a mysterious ‘Library’ where citizens publicly confess their secrets and tell on each other. It’s easy to ascribe a certain prescience to the book’s premise, and indeed its appearance in English 40 years later feels very timely: a sense of mental fog and mimetic possession seem to permeate everything in this book.

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‘Finding Frances’, Nathan For You, Season 4 Final, 2017. Courtesy: Comedy Central

‘Finding Frances’, Nathan For You Season 4 Finale

One of the best and funniest shows of this decade caps its latest season with a feature-length episode that tests our credulity and empathy.

Схема, Loose & All

Схема is a rave in Kyiv, Ukraine that draws thousands while having an uncompromising booking policy. Loose is a festival in Ravenna, Italy that similarly connects the outer reaches of electronic music to a vibrant and activated dancefloor space. All is a new high-end club in Shanghai, China and an important part of the rapidly accelerating Chinese scene. Three inspiring places I DJed this year that are charting exciting territory beyond the dismal club industry and the confining contexts of experimental music.

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Deena Abdelwahed, Klabb, 2017. Courtesy: InFiné 

Deena Abdelwahed, Klabb (InFiné 2017)

One of many great club records from 2017, Klabb from the Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed represents what is most exciting in dance music today — a totally driving, forward-moving, crystal-clear sound, communicating something of the producer’s own identity while probing new rhythmic zones and stylistic cross-currents. In this case it’s a record with very inventive musical qualities, unique syncopations and a lot of energy. The distribution of new ideas in club music can often feel dependent on hubs like Berlin and London, with ‘eclectic’ sounds filtering in from the periphery. But this model feels even more meaningless than usual lately as bracingly good club records seem to be flying by from every direction.

Main image: Deena Abdelwahed. Courtesy: InFiné

M.E.S.H. (James Whipple) is a producer and DJ based in Berlin. His second LP Hesaitix (2017) is now out on PAN Records, Berlin.

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