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SSAB Songs is Brian Degraw (who would go on to form Gang Gang Dance) and film director Harmony Korine (just after the release of julien donkey-boy). On this 1999 album, the duo’s sole release, they’re joined by Tim Dewitt, Josh Diamond (both in GGD, Diamond later did a stint in Jackie-O Motherfucker), Gabriel Anbruzzi (The Rapture) and someone named Grimey (as he likes to be called?). Before disbanding, SSAB Songs performed once, opening for the Red Krayola in New York in 2000.
This album is one 27-minute sound collage. I kind of wanted to hate it – that last paragraph cited way more 90s/00s hipster cultural references than I’d ever thought I’d write in a KFJC review. And parts are definitely annoying (crusty drum circle jams, banjo) and dated (lo-fi Daniel Johnston/freak-folk warbling). But the sounds shift so often, that it’s not long before it moves into something interesting, like atonal folky guitar strumming, recordings of ballads, opera, or orchestras, buzzing drones, blasts of noise, free jazzy rumblings that sound influenced by No Neck Blues Band or the aforementioned JOMF – strange, inspired moments that make the whole messy thing worth it.
Zaimph is the solo project of Marcia Bassett (also working with several bands including Double Leopards, GHQ, Hototoguisu, Un, all in our library). This release is her first studio LP, and we were lucky to get a copy when Bassett came to perform live in the Pit in February 2017.
“Between the Infinite and the Finite” holds three powerful pieces. In “Absence and Presence” (T1/A1) we hear the dueling sounds of within and without: a dark drone opens and deepens, pulling in everything in its reach – the recorded voices, melodies, echoes of the world. In “Equinox Reprise” (T2/A2) metallic clashes and dissonant vibrations, like a building threatening to collapse, are confronted by an assured piano figure (this one reminded me a bit of Black Spirituals). The final sidelong track, “Entropic Horror” (T3/B1) is a searing tone that moves into a repeating progression, frays at the edges, contracts, expands again, and finally dissipates – the shifts and sounds of pure free energy. An ambitious and impressive work.
Murmer is the project of Patrick McGinley, a sound artist working in Estonia. On this 2016 release from Gruenrekorder, McGinley constructs four compositions using fragments of found sounds, including field recordings collected over nearly a decade, and improvisational music played with unusual instruments (mainly of the stringed variety: a Ukrainian bandura, a kora, various zithers) or objects that McGinley discovered on his travels, such as an old radio antenna played with a bow. “Song for Forgetting” (T1) is a quiet piece centered around the crystalline plucking of strings. “Another Song for Forgetting” (T2) weaves soft drones, vibrations like a teacup rattling in its saucer, and field recordings of falling water. “The Third Song for Forgetting” (T3) brings sounds of crashing waves, deeper tones from strings, round reverberations. “A Fourth Song for Forgetting” (my favorite) begins with the wandering plucking of strings and sounds of objects being placed, dropped, thrown, shattered; slowly, it all builds into a weird, wild confusion, with a fireworks display as the grand finale. Like the music, the album’s artwork is also crafted from materials at hand – the cover image is a leaf McGinley found in the woods, and enclosed in the sleeve are faded pages from notebooks from a abandoned mill near his home. Together, this thoughtful work reminds us of the surprising beauty that can be found in everyday experiences that would usually be forgotten.
There’s much more from Murmer in our library.
Hermann Nitsch is an Austrian painter, composer, and performance artist. Among his most notable projects is the Orgien Mysterien Theater (“Theater of Orgies and Mysteries”). Staged from 1962 until the present, this is a series of over 100 performances, or “aktions” as Nitsch calls them, that dramatize mass human gatherings centered around violence. The performances, sometimes lasting for days at a time, display scenes of extreme brutality – crucifixions, disemboweled animals with their entrails splayed, buckets of blood poured over bodies or splattered on the ground – and extreme decadence, with flowing wine, lavish spreads of fruits and meats, and ecstatic music and dancing. Nitsch describes the aktionen as his attempt to capture both “the tragic aspect of suffering and instants of extreme ecstasy” that make up our lives. (See one here).
This LP is a remastered tape recording of 25 Aktion performed at Gallery Pakesch in Vienna in 1982 (a restaging, the original performance was in 1968). The recording opens with piercing whistles, leading into a wild chorus of dissonant horns (T1/A1, T2/A2, T3/B1). While listening, the first thing that came to my mind was the nonstop drone of a stadium-full of vuvuzelas during a football game (our own modern version of the violent spectacle?). Drumming, followed by human voices, join in; first, the sounds are lost in the fray, but later the chaos is organized into a chant (T2/A2). The final track is the aftermath of the ceremony, scored with solemn, droning organ chords (T4/B2). Naysayer suggests we create an aktion at the station – maybe for our next Listener Appreciation Party?
Deep sea divers experience a condition called nitro narcosis, an altered mental state that arises from breathing air in a high pressure environment. This cassette sounds what that must feel like – a strange, hallucinatory aquatic voyage. “Pilotage” (T1) opens with underwater echoes and distant melodies; later, electronic sounds appear from the depths like fluorescent sea creatures. “Open Circuit Buoy” (T3) is a 15-minute piece that begins with a dark beat-driven section that opens up into a gorgeous jam, with layered guitars, steady drumming, and an abrupt sample at the end. “Rebreathe” (T4) is another long-playing (25 minute) highlight that plunges to the darkest depths – there’s haunted piano, theremin-like bubbling, electronics with the bends. The cassette ends with “Nitro Narcosis” (T5), with drumming, bells, and electric keys finding a quiet, unhurried groove before fading away.
Sophia is Peter Bjärgö and his collaborators from the Swedish neoclassical band Arcana (and others). Formed in 1998, the project has been an outlet for Bjärgö to explore darker themes and more aggressive industrial sounds. On this 2016 release from Cyclic Law, Sophia confronts “the folly of man’s self destructive tendencies” – how our worst selves reach their full expression when we withdraw from others. This isolation is depicted in the album’s cover images – empty rooms in a ruined house, strewn liquor bottles – while the album’s sounds attempt to reach inside these miserable spaces. We hear deadbolts unlocking, rusted hinges swiveling open, and grand choral sounds like light piercing stale darkness. Drums are struck – the rhythms are “martial,” but that word hardly captures the feeling – it is the sound of time advancing deathward. That urgency is echoed in the spoken word lyrics (included in the booklet), a plea to examine our selfish actions. The album’s final three tracks show what awaits us if we refuse: in “Where the Steel Meets the Flesh” (T11), we hear the faint beeps and buzzes of a hospital room, another miserable space, where we will (likely) face our final moments, alone.
Clint Listing is an Arizona-based musician, working on many projects (solo as As All Die and in several drone, dark ambient, and metal bands, including Long Winters’ Stare) and overseeing Absolute Zero Media. This 2008 album, released by Autumn Wind, has the familiar dark ambient sounds – cold synths, foggy echoes, metallic drones – but Listing brings strange and unexpected elements into the mix. Saxophone sounds drift through T1, T2, and T3 like memories of old jazz tunes. Sirens wail in the distance of T1, vocals fade in on T4 and T5, and a white noise blizzard descends in T6. The album ends with “The Snow Ghost” bonus EP (T8-T10), three tracks that sound like the stillness of winter.
Koyonaku is a Japanese word that means “dearly,” “above all else,” and the title of this 2016 record, a collaboration between French guitarist Michel Henritzi and Japanese accordionist and vocalist A Qui Avec Gabriel. The word’s meaning flows through these eight forlorn love songs, the soundtrack to a Tokyo night spent searching for someone loved – dearly, above all else – and lost. The album is the duo’s modern take on Japanese enka music, a form that incorporates elements of traditional Japanese music into popular ballads. Each track is a cover of classic song in this genre (with the exception of T7, an A Qui Avec Gabriel original, and perhaps T4?). Henritizi’s playing draws on Japanese folk, blues, and Fahey-style experimentalism (especially T5, a haunting duet). A Qui Avec Gabriel adds accordion melodies and whispered vocals, her voice collapsing into gutted sobs on T3. The album’s final track, the 1947 ballad “Hoshi no Nagare ni” (“Stream of Stars”, T8), features A Qui Avec Gabriel on electric organ. It sounded to me like a brighter ending, until I learned the lyrics were about a nurse returning from war to find her family dead and no choice left but to become a prostitute: I smoke a cigarette, whistle a tune, wander aimlessly into the night… what kind of woman have I become?
Controlled Bleeding, over 30 albums and nearly four decades, have explored an unbelievable variety of musical styles – from industrial dance to free jazz to dark ambient – but they started out making absolutely fucking devastating harsh noise. Knees and Bones, the band’s first full-length LP released in 1985 by Psychout Productions, is one of the defining records of the power electronics genre. This 2016 re-release (only 500 copies of the original were pressed) from Artoffact collects the original tracks, as well as extra material on to two tasty “swill-coloured” LPs.
The first LP holds the two sidelong tracks, “Knees” and “Bones,” (A/T1 and B/T2) from the original album. Founding member Paul Lemos is joined by Chris Moriarty and Joe Papa (a “three hundred pound scat singing eccentric”). Lemos is on guitar, bass and electronics, Papa and Moriarty are on percussion, everyone provides vocals. Not that you can really make out any of these individual sounds. As Lemos recalls, he hit record and started “smashing shit up, screaming my fucking lungs out.” Sounds of scrap metal, cement mixers, pneumatic drills add to the pummeling chaos. But we get moments of reprieve: creepy chattering, snippets of an aria, ambient lulls. By far the best interruption is when Paul’s roommate busts in bitching about their test the next day and “YOU DON’T GIVE A FLYING FUCK!!” (13 min into A/T1 and start of C1/T3) The obvious comparisons are to Lemos’ contemporaries (and friends) Whitehouse and Ramleh (W. Bennett and G. Mundy are credited in the notes), but what sets Controlled Bleeding apart is their hyper energy – like they just can’t sit still – that is as magnetic as it is terrifying.
The second LP contains bonus material. “Knees Power Mix” (C1/T3) an early, even louder take on “Knees,” “Dry Lung (excerpt)” (C2/T4) is another deafening work from 1985, “Swallowing Scrap Metal Pt. 5.5″ (D1/T5) was originally released as the last track on the 1991 album Trial from Lemos and Moriarty’s Skin Chamber project. “Horsemeat Yak Trip,” (D2/T6) recorded in 2008, is a taste of the band’s later work as Breastfed Yak; it sounds like Captain Beefheart obscured by a massive wall of distortion and, well, noise.
Keep digging in our library – the outtakes for this record were collected and released in 1990 on an excellent CD called Plegm Bag Splattered, and Lemos compiled the Dry Lungs series, a definitive collection of work of industrial artists from this era.
FCC on A/T1 and C1/T3 (the roommate)
M. Geddes Gengras is an experimental artist working within the East LA underground since the mid-2000s (solo and in Robedoor and many other bands, and collaborating with artists like Sun Araw and The Congos) and a master of the modular synthesizer (here nerds). This 2xLP album, six years in the making and released this summer by Intercoastal Artists, left me floored. Where 2014′s Ishi explored open, expansive, ambient landscapes, the sounds on Interior Architecture envelop and surround the listener – or as Gengras puts it, it’s “like sinking into really warm quicksand.” Each of these four sidelong tracks foregrounds a central form, maybe a fountain or a staircase, that continuously moves and develops, while fainter micro-structures hover in the periphery. All of the intricate layers create a sense of depth – the architecture of the album’s title. There are so many brilliant moments and ideas packed into each minute of this record – choose a groove and land in one of the rooms of this infinite holographic fun house.
This 2016 cassette is the second release (check out the first here) from Gothenburg, Sweden duo Amalthea (Jonas Lindgren of Aether and Michael Idehall). Cloister Recordings describes this tape as a mix of “minimalistic industrial” and “noise pop,” which seems like an impossible combination until you dive into these four hypnotic tracks. On the one hand, there are the sounds of pure dread: in T1, a leaden thud falls on each beat, making the seconds drag by achingly; T2 is a long, lingering drone; T4 heaves with agonized wailing and dissonant, distorted tones. But on the other hand, there’s flashes of beauty that keep the whole thing from being a total downer (no offense, you know I get down with a total downer now and then) – take T1′s repeating melodic bass line, the dappled tones in T2, the brilliant stabs and rhythms of T3, the rich, strange harmonies that murmur through T4. The contrasts come together to create an experience of gorgeous, satisfying pain.
Side A: Four short tracks from Gaute Granli. Broken, gnarled, detuned guitar sounds, wailing vocals, demented electronics lurking in the background, primitive rhythms. If I was forced to pick out the Texans on this split just listening blindly, I’d be fucked!, because I swear I hear a backwoods twang in Granli’s playing. These tracks don’t have the volume of his live performance in the KFJC pit from last year, but they’re no less raw and unsettling. Check out his other stuff – both his own solo work and as one half of Freddy the Dyke.
Side B: Ruffle (Rick Eye on guitar and Princess Haultaine III on electronics) brings a louder take on the guitar-centered piece. Rick Eye provides the live-wire skronk spark, Princess pours on the junky electronic fuel, and everything combusts in this ten-minute trash fire explosion. Burn it down, y’all!
This 2012 LP is brought to you by the City of Eindhoven, whose residents funded Zesde Kolonne‘s Flipside XL program to support local artists and musicians. Regular KFJC listeners know that Eindhoven is home to a thriving cultural underground, and Zesde Kolonne has served as its center since the early 80s, releasing cassettes from local bands like Zombies Under Stress and MTVS. SMTvUz is a supergroup reuniting members of those bands (Zombie Exit on synths, Mark Tresh on the electronic drums, Mark “Spons” Sponslee and “Big Mamma” Luk Sponslee on more synths, theremin and other misc. electronics) to spew out six tracks of old-school throbbing, gristly madness.
Pounding industrial beats dominate most tracks, along with blown-out synths and piles of other bizzaro electronic instruments (including the Stylophone!!) to create deafening chaos. Highlights for me were “Cats” (T2), which sounds like an army of laser-wielding feral kittens parachuting out of helicopters and storming the Trump Tower, and the 10-minute “Supadroner” (T4), which sounds like plugging your alarm clock into every effects pedal imaginable and turning up all the dials until they break off. Before you drop the needle, don’t forget to slip on the neon cut-out paper mask included in the sleeve. Lekker!
It seems like we can’t get enough from Ukraine’s Kvitnu lately – here’s another to scratch the (gl)itch. Mingle is Andrea Gastaldello, an Italian composer and multi-instrumentalist. He describes this 2015 release as an “introspective journey, highly melancholy,” my idea of a good time. Piano and guitar sounds are blurred and warped into a ambient metallic glow, while muted beats add texture on some tracks – at times tense (T3, T8), staticky (T3, T4, T5), or barely there (T2, T6, T7, T9, T11). Everything is dialed in just right – it’s minimal but not boring, moving but not melodramatic – so as to produce a dark, paranoid beauty.
Check out Mingle’s collaborations with noise artist Deison (filed under Deison & Mingle) in our library.
This LP is a 2014 release of the first installment of the 1964 BBC program Four Inventions for Radio, a series of sound pieces by Barry Bermange with accompaniment by electronic musician Delia Derbyshire (both of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; Derbyshire is perhaps best known for her music for the original Dr. Who). Bermange recorded men, women, and children describing their dreams, and then cut and pasted the tapes together to create five collages exploring common themes: running away, falling, landscapes, color, and water (especially drowning). From the depths of Derbyshire’s eerie electronic drones, voices surface and passages loop and repeat. Together, the work offers a glimpse of the subconscious mind spinning freely, and the deep loneliness that lies at its core. Disturbing and fascinating.
Note: the track listing on this LP packaging is incorrect- our station copy has the correct track names marked.
Larnie Fox is a Bay Area painter, sculptor, and noisemaker who is involved in several local art and musical organizations; most recently, he served as director of Arts Benicia until his retirement in 2015. Fox is known for his installations – intricate kinetic sculptures constructed from recycled or natural materials that make sounds – such as a working bamboo airplane that flew across the Burning Man playa. This CD, inspired by two powerful dreams, is Fox’s first recording project, released in 2004 for free on his website and on eh? The tracks blend choral sounds with field recordings from Fox’s everyday life: falling water from his leaking roof (T2), the family dogs barking (T1), airplanes taking off from of the San Mateo airport (T7), the din of SF traffic (T5), dial tones and operator messages from an actual landline telephone (T6, a live piece with the SF Sinfonietta). Scot Jenerik and Aaron Ximm assisted with the recording. This work has a subtle way of drawing (but not demanding) your focus, to luring you into noticing the sounds as they come.
John Zewizz (nee McSweeney, heh) and his many collaborators are Sleep Chamber. Formed in the early 80s, they became the center of an American outpost of England’s hidden reverse based in, of all places, Boston. Over the decades, they developed a reputation for their use of extreme imagery and drug-fueled live performances. But like a lot of stuff from this era, when you peel away the leatherette, the music itself is surprisingly tame. On this 1990 record, there’s disturbed strings (T1, T12), thighbone horn and flute, satanic spellcasting vocals (T2, T5, T7, T8), plodding industrial beats (T3, T5, T6, T8, T11), and foggy atmospherics hanging over every track. This is more of an ambient sounding project than the band’s other releases, like the background music for a dungeon party. Thankfully nothing here is as cringey as, say, Catwoman. Take a look at Zewizz’s online presence, like his entertaining blog or the triumphant responses to each of his haters’ comments on his various Discogs pages, and maybe you’ll become convinced as I did that he possesses the exact strain of damaged madness that KFJC needs to protect, preserve, and champion.
Womb C is a collaboration among artists from the Finnish death metal bands Will Over Matter, Ride for Revenge, Cloama, and Dead Reptile Shrine, as well as the Russian duo Die Blutleuchte. On this 2014 CD release, the sounds reach far beyond metal, or any simple genre boundaries, and towards a strange, singular universe.
The CD booklet includes a sci-fi short story that sheds some light on the album’s concept. Parts of it are tough to follow (translation issues? drug logic?), but the gist is that a space cadet and an alien warrior goddess uncover a series of portals to deeper awareness called “Wombs,” and make a Starbaby when they reach the third and final Womb C.
Each track of the album follows this story’s arc. “Satan Universe Moloch” (T1) begins with a synth melody (a theme that returns in T2), that gives way to spiraling electronics and ringing feedback at the high and low ends; about 6 and 8 minutes in, there’s two spoken word interludes from a Finnish Cy Thoth. “Bug Humanity” (T2) begins with larval sputtering that develops into a hissing space insect consciousness. Towards the end of the track, heavy guitars creep in for the first time; soon “She Male Vegetation” (T3) arrives in its full, riffing glory! But slowly, the sounds mellow, passing through through a watery filter. “Neptunean Crystal Rain” (T4) begins with sounds of a thunderstorm, but then loud, almost shoegazey guitars return. By the end, the commotion fades, leaving spectral space noise in its wake.
Stillsuit contributes “16″ (T1), and at 11 minutes, it’s an obvious stretch for a band that cranks out short, vicious punk songs. To be honest, I wasn’t into the slow, psych-y start – it’s trying to be heavy but the sound’s thin. Around 3 minutes in, things improve – the guitar lines move in strange progressions, the drums pick up speed. By the 6-minute mark, the vocal bellows turn to screams, and the track bares its teeth.
I found Map 71′s side of the split, six tracks in all, more compelling. Pyne composes varied backdrops for Jayne’s spoken word – improvised drumming and electronics (T2, T6), ominous stabs (T3) and swirls (T5) of synths, tense beats (T4), and echoing bells and scraping sheet metal (T7). Jayne’s poetry alludes to surgical procedures, anatomy, the process of creation, materials (concrete, plastic, metal, glass, shattered mirrors), the futility of bottle blondeness and femininity in general, and more. Jayne’s delivery is direct and formidable, calling to mind one of her heroes, Vi Subversa of the Poison Girls.
Dig for more stuff from both groups in our library.
Salsa Pile is a pile-on of Ratskin Records‘ brightest starz: Crisperion Fett, Todd Dickerson (solo as Soup Purse), Jsun McCarty (Nerfbau, Styrofoam Sanchez, solo as Alienslang), Ryan King (Styrofoam Sanchez), and label founder Michael Dadonna. This 2010 cassette is the pile’s sole release that holds two sidelong (~30 minute) noise freakouts. The tracks were recorded in San Diego, and you can definitely tell – this isn’t dark, gritty or facemelting noise. Ratskin’s blurb mentions “microbials” and “slime” and that’s not far off; there’s a biological, digestive feel to the squeaks and spasms of electronics. Side A is a day in the life of a single-celled organism farting around its environment, silence punctuated by sensors pinging and actuators revving. Side B is a population of the bugs and its riotous community dynamics – eating, writhing, fucking, secreting, dying – all inside the bowl of salsa on the KFJC fundraiser snack table. Yum!
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