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Richard Streeter is associated with Butte County Free Music Society, the collective of Norcal noisefreaks that brought us the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble, the great Bananafish zine, and other local underground institutions. As The Viper, Streeter brings us his straight-to-boombox recordings saved from his teenage years growing up in suburban Livermore in the late 70s. Noisy tape doodles (T2, T3, T4), a lo-fi drum spazzout with sis on backup vocals (T1, dredged up a memory of one of my old favorite Space Ghost numbers), a truly sweet little instrumental hippy dip folk pop tune with lilting piano and violin (T5), and a band practice outtake with strange, clashing chords and bluesy riffs (T6). Former high school weirdos that burned time until graduation nerding out over music (I’m assuming that’s all of us) might be delighted by this weird little mixtape.
The Infected Mass is the first release from Matthew Patton’s project Those Who Walk Away. Patton is a composer from Winnipeg, whose previous works include the score for the 1988 dance performance Speaking in Tongues. This new work deals with the grief surrounding the death of Patton’s brother, who was killed in a plane crash. The pieces feature string and choral arrangements performed by players from Winnipeg and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, who are credited as the “ghost strings” and “ghost chorus.” The strings are slowly bowed, creating reflective harmonies (T2, T4, T6), while distant voices echo in a mournful chorus (T1 and T7). Filling in the empty spaces, there is a quiet roar, like an icy wind, made from the sounds of circulating blood. And then, jarringly, we are presented with the black box recordings recovered from two fatal plane crashes (T3 and T5). “The recordings are very disturbing,” Patton says, “as we listen to these cockpit voice recordings, real people are about to die. I don’t know why I am doing something that feels so wrong. But I am.” Maybe it’s also wrong to drop art that is so personal and so harrowing into the middle of a dumb radio show, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.
This Cloister Recordings cassette is the second release from Sweden’s Den Arkaiska Rösten (“The Archaic Voices”), the project of Girilal Baars and Per Åhlund. Baars is a professionally trained vocalist who has previously worked with the vocal group Äijä, a composer of operas, and a sound engineer. Åhlund has several solo sound art/electronic projects and has worked with Sophia, among other bands.
This cassette holds two sidelong pieces in which the sounds of the voice, in all of its many forms, are used to create a twisted, haunting landscape. Sounds of mouths, tongues, teeth, saliva, and breathing become howling winds and falling water. Deep utterances that resemble traditional throat singing rise from the lowest register, and a chorus of droning chants builds and closes in. Individual voices can be heard singing melodies or wails of regret, but soon disappear back into the fray. While vocal sounds are the main focus, weird electronics and drum beats can be heard humming beneath. The overall effect is like the spirits of everyone that’s ever lived rising from some ancient burial site to deliver us this cryptic message: it was like you said / it was not like you said.
Blight is the first solo album from drummer René Aquarius, of the Dutch free jazz duo Dead Neanderthals, and it’s another excellent addition to our collection of releases from Milwaukee’s Utech Records. The only instruments played on these eight pieces are drums and cymbals, but Aquarius uses closely placed microphones, reverb, and an equalizer to create a varied collection of dark, unusual sounds. We hear low drones, deep rumblings, metal meeting metal, metal catching light, a dying heartbeat, the long lingering after-echoes of a cymbal crash. Even through the effects and other technical tricks, the tactile feel of Aquarius’ playing remains, giving the tracks a rich quality that I usually associate with expertly recorded jazz albums. From this material, Aquarius crafts a quiet, slowly shifting air of mystery. The original concept and skillful execution make this an intriguing listen for those of us (all of us?) that are into dark ambient sounds.
Kleistwahr is the solo electronic project of Gary Mundy, of the legendary industrial/power electronics band Ramleh; his work under this name dates back to a pair of Broken Flag cassette releases from 1983. Mundy has returned to this project in recent years to create a series of intensely beautiful noise records that share a common theme of modern despair, including 2014′s The World Is Not My Home, 2016′s Over Your Heads Forever, and now this 2017 LP from Cairo’s Nashazphone label.
Music for Zeitgeist Fighters holds two sidelong tracks, “Music For Dead Dreams” (T1) and “Music For Fucked Films” (T2), composed from relentless guitar feedback, ghostly voices straining to be heard through the distortion, hazy piano melodies, droning organ, and blistering noise. Blasts of harshness coexist with tragic beauty in a way that is so effortless and so authentic that it is immediately clear that this is work of a master. Philip Best wrote of this record: “Really don’t want to ruin the fun and generally I’m up for anything but this fucking shit cannot go on, can it?” In these deeply fucked times, music this blazingly powerful stirs the will to keep fighting.
Marta Mist is a trio from Leeds, and there’s not much more information out there about them than that. This 2015 release from local label Time Released Sound is their first since 2012′s Industries. We received our copy when Naysayer hosted the label’s founders on the air in January 2017.
The album contains two ~20-minute pieces, each divided into three sections that move through a variety of styles:
“Scavengers” (T1) begins with a duet between strings and an echoing piano; later, angelic choral vocals join in. A drum beat surfaces followed by distorted guitars, (~6:00), and the piece takes on a darker, more menacing tone. The third section (~13:00) introduces a brilliant drone and electronic rhythms, and before fading away, returns to the sound of the piano.
“Hunters” (T2) begins similarly, with a string-focused section – think Philip Glass meets Dirty Three – while a subtle beat lurks in the background. Then, the string arpeggios turn into bold strokes in the dramatic second movement (~7:00). Finally, jazz-inspired drums lead into a guitar section (~12:00) that reminds me of all those post-rock bands from the 90s, like Tortoise or especially Do Make Say Think.
This is beautiful work – play an entire track, or scavenge excerpts for your show.
Rashad Becker is best known as a master of mastering engineering at Berlin’s Dubplates & Mastering. Over his 15+ year career at D&M, Becker has mastered over 1600 albums for an impressive list of experimental artists that includes many KFJC favorites. In 2013, Becker released (and mastered) the first album of his own, “Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1,” a collection of compositions for the modular synthesizer (and other electronic instruments and software). This 2016 release is the second volume of this project, and it is extraordinary.
As on the first volume, the album’s tracks are divided into “themes” (T1-4) and “dances,” (T5-8) each running under five minutes. The tracks have the duration and structure of songs, in contrast to much of the current work coming from artists working with this medium, which usually inspires words like “soundtrack”, or “soundscape,” or something else apart from traditional musical forms. It’s a pleasant surprise to hear these instruments used to create a very focused statement. This is not to say that these works resemble any songs we’ve heard before: they’re composed from strange sounds, arranged in encrypted time signatures. At times, the sounds have character of something familiar, like a bell (T1), gong, or a human voice (T7, T8). But even when the sounds have a electronic, wormy quality, there’s a expressive feel that gives them warmth, like they were produced, maybe not necessarily by a human, but some sort of living, breathing species. As you might expect from an engineer, there is an incredible attention to details of the sound, from the smallest changes in dynamics, to rhythm, to sequencing, that I can only begin to wrap my head around. The more I listen, the more it pulls me in – is this the music of the future?
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!
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