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Josef Van Wissem is a Dutch minimalist composer and lute player who won the Cannes Soundtrack Award for the score to “Only Lovers Left Alive”, the second film collaboration with film maker Jim Jarmusch. “Concerning….” is his first collaboration with Jarmusch, who also plays guitar on the five track album. Five quiet, mostly somber extended pieces of truly minimalist lute playing. Simple repeated plucking of several strings, with repeated chords against a backdrop of Jarmusch’s guitar feedback and wall of drone. Lushly contemplative, moody and dark. Track five is a minimalist lute solo with the title spoken as lyric at the end of the song. Gorgeous alone or perfect for mixing: I hear wind, the sound of children, waves, someone crying, laughter in the distance, power tools. It all works.
A one woman band possibly named after Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film about the opening up of self-understanding through sexual encounter, sung in French, using post-post punk instrumentation and monotone speak singing? Sign me up. Track 1, “Let’s Start”, begins with a sound clip from Fela Kuti inviting someone, us, in to do what we came for. Sexual and more, almost revolutionary. And then the fun starts. Maisa D., who is Theoreme, sets up 9 tracks that are just discordant enough to be disturbing but beat driven enough to not necessarily make you dance, but make you stand sullenly in the dark club bouncing your head. Each piece is buzzy, as if the volume is up too high, or the cheap speakers can’t handle the bass. Very nice, like rusted wires scraped on your skin. It’s wonderful to hear something new, that references the past but sounds 21st century.
Concern is Gordon Ashworth of Portland OR, and “Caesarean” is the second full-length release under this name.
Three drone tracks composed with beautiful yet simple instrumentation recorded to tape (cassette and 1/4″), processed and layered. The tape artifacts (crackles, warbles, rumbles) are elevated and emphasized, forming an integral part of the rich organic sound.
Faded fidelity, warm and weathered, like a long-lost and long-loved cassette churning peacefully in the surf, slowly finding its way ashore.
A1 builds upon a broken piano loop, incorporating clarinet splices before giving way to a brilliant drone emanating from a shruti box (similar to a harmonium) with a glistening banjo gleam.
A2 holds more radiant bellowing drones from the shrunti box, sharper and more focused than before. The banjos have lost their sparkle, and are now pensive and melancholy. Less of a buildup, and more of a slow cathartic release.
B evokes a synthetic cityscape. Birds and bells, distant factories and passing cars. A mix of soothing piano and sinister hums. Building and dissolving multiple times, as if experiencing the world by train, passing through a series of foreign yet familiar towns, separated by long, dark tunnels.
Rashad Decker mastered this 2013 release, our local Drone Ranger’s only work on Mego to date. Don’t you dare call it noise, it’s “electroacoustic music”; after all it was created at the Djarassi resident artist’s program. Sweet Jimmy H. collected source sounds between 2007 and 2012 but says the only contexts he can remember are “the desolate howl of a metal screen activated by a desert wind, the hissing air compression from the cooling apparatus for a laser at [SLAC], and the tremolo rhythms from a thin wire” and yep that’s the vibe here, lonely desolate haunted sounds, part organic and part constructed, disconcerting even in lush moments. The two-track A side is more eventful, with dense rushes of startling static and crackling electroshocks speckling grinding gears and passing traffic. The B side is like a wide, windy, abandoned place where squinting reveals shuffling hordes of ghosts. Sometimes curiously sterile and sometime bursting at the seams with emotion, this collection of manipulated sounds is intended to convey “[e]xistential rupturing, the collapse of the self, the aftershocks of dark energy, and a belief in the hope for renewal.” A mesmerizing effort on par with Nurse With Wound (they have collaborated), Lustmord or Crawl Unit.
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?
Forward-looking, synth-heavy, pop-oriented soul, released in 1979. This album has Scott-Heron and frequent collaborator Brian Jackson closing out the decade that began with “Pieces of a Man” (feat. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”), and rounding the corner into the uncertainty of the 1980′s. Lyrics touch upon dark visions of the future (1980), fate, foible, and the musicians’ life (Corners, Late Last Night), the wisdom of nuclear power (Shut ‘em down), and the flow of immigrants over our southern border (Alien). This is driven by superb vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and demonstrates a serious commitment to songcraft on every track.
This 2009 release featuring David Tibet was originally composed as the soundtrack to F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Der Brennende Acker (“The Burning Soil”). Listening to the four long tracks is like being bound and blindfolded, thrust into the center of a mysterious occult ritual, anxiously awaiting your inevitable sacrifice.
A begins with ominous druid drones. Melancholy pianos tinkle and horns bellow. Inner-ear whispers, possessed growlings, and manic incantations from haunted souls. Swirling ceremonial typewriters crunch under stomping feet.
B continues with sacred scrolls crinkling, tearing, tossed piece-by-piece into the flames. Rhythmic percussion shakes, ecstatic shouts speaking in tongues — the spirit of Noddy? Tapes speed up and swirl down, distorting and disorienting. Echoing scrapes and squeaks, far-off ringing of bells.
C picks up where B left off, with shamanistic synths and droning gongs. An explosion of voices and tape malfunctions. Motherly murmurs comfort you, guiding you through the strange unknown.
D holds the rabid climax of the satanic ritual. Whispered incantations, choral moans, ringing chimes. Angered shouts accompanied by violin warbles, building to a dramatic crescendo of shrill piercing blasts. Chaotic interludes of department-store muzak, simultaneously mundane and sinister. The chaos breaks, giving way to a few short minutes of completely innocuous smooth jazz — the true sounds of the underworld? The piece ends with broken radio transmissions in foreign tongues, slowly fading to quiet deathly ambience.
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.
This reissue of the 1975 library album composed by French synthesizer master Fevre is still as perfectly fitting now as it was in the 70s for eliciting just the right feeling of “Suspense.” It’s simulataneously bouncey and off-kilter, calling to mind scenes that might go well in Dr. Who or some other quirky sci-fi drama. The pieces are short and evocative, and Naysayer says that Fevre’s work heavily influenced Peter Frampton. Go figure.
When Abigail played KFJC in September of 2015, Ares Kingdom and Gnosis rode into the pit on the coattails of the Japanese greats courtesy of the always generous NWN!. The largely unknown Gnosis surprised intoxicated netcast listeners with a tight set of diabolical Death Metal that managed to hold its own. For some reason it took a really long time to track down this LP.
These four blasphemers from Florida carve Death Metal with a Black edge out of obsidian riff poison, atypical melodic sensibility, and drumming just clumsy enough to sound interesting. I hear Dissection, Nihilist and Vader. Newer bands like Vasaeleth and Ignivomous are comparable to this also. The occult-themed lyrics, occasionally intelligible through the growl, are vaguely highbrow by the standards of Death Metal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the full album were intended as some sort of ritual. This promising debut sounds ridiculously fresh by the standards of the contemporary scene.
The German electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler (early Tangerine Dream, Kluster, Eruption) collected huge amounts of sounds for live performances. After his death the idea appeared to re-construct new materials instead of plain remixes using these audio samples. This is the idea behind the Con-Struct series of releases. Her Schneider TM (indie artist Dirk Dresselhaus) takes this electronic music material and indeed reconstructs it in this 2016 release into various new ambient and intense electronica tracks with a surprising refreshment of the elderly electronic material. The spirit is there, but the sound is contemporary. It’s also trying to mimic the live spirit by on-the spot improvisations with the content. Very enjoyable and inspiring.
This is techno artist Ellen Allien’s 2011 ambient soundscape produced for a dance performance at Paris’ Pompidou Centre. It’s a single 45 minute continuous track. The opening has a guitar loop theme that repeats with female voices smootching in and out. And from this the themes are more variated with darker and milder ambience, even jazz sample montages. There are some beat related techno elements materializing after the half-way point of this musical piece, otherwise it’s an abstract melody collage with pieces coming in and out, honoring the Eno tradition of sound collages. This kind of avant space material could easily devour too much time but there’s an option to pick and choose references. Maybe the ultimate price is to listen and get lost in the music.
Haino, Keiji/ O’Rourke, Jim /Ambarchi, Oren – “I Wonder If You Noticed “I’m Sorry” Is Such a Lovely Sound” – [Black Truffle]
Recorded live in Tokyo during March 2014, this double-LP swings wildly and repeatedly from free-form explorations of rhythm and structure, to face-melting psych-rock jams. Accompanied by Ambarchi’s explosive drumming and O’Rourke’s thunderous bass, Keiji Haino shouts and screams emotional, poetic lyrics in both Japanese and English. Haino also brings a few interesting instruments with him, including a contrabass harmonica, and a traditional Turkish string instrument called a bulgari.
A starts with Ambarchi’s sparse and airy percussion. Slowly the bass rolls in, followed by Haino’s voice, powerful and guttural. The rhythmic strumming on the bulgari is trance-inducing. The musicians wander and explore until they spontaneously coalesce in an intense free-folk freakout, which disovles away and the cycle repeats.
B is dark and ominous. Haino passionately shouts and groans. Soon all is overtaken in a screeching wash of guitar fury. A series of psych-rock jams emerge from the chaos only to disintegrate under their own cosmic weight.?? Eventually this gives way to the strangely soothing humms and snores of an enormous contrabass harmonica.
C has a persistent yet evolving body-shaking drum groove, coupled with thumping bass lines, and pierced with scorching guitar tones. Probably the heaviest psych-rock of all the tracks, although it ventures in a weird acid-tinged direction about 2/3 of the way in before blasting everything down.
D begins with soaring guitar lines, then settles into a deep plodding relentless groove while Haino delivers some of his most forceful vocals yet. The final third of the side sees the return of the bulgari, while Haino mournfully wails.
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?
Long time ago in another dimension, the Italian duo Fabricio Lucarini and Silvia Innocenti created music with the name of Plath. This was back in 1982. It sounded like power electronica of today, but it was done long time ago. It certainly didn’t sound like anything else at that point of time. And it still does not sound like a cliche power electronics trip produced today. This is lo-fi beat electronica with angst driven female yelling that has certain F-words that most likely are the bad ones. It’s deranged, ugly, sterile, far ahead of its time. It’s certainly noticeable and excellent.
Masterminded by Seattle, WA drummer Gregg Keplinger and guitarist Simon Henneman. Ten-piece band, great recording recalls RVG and ECM late 70s-80s glossy freedom. Sounds great.
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto
Every summer, America’s finest classical musicians gather in Marlboro, VT. This dates from 1964. The B side begins with a high-pitched recording defect which resolves just after you begin pulling your hair out. A fine record.
Beethoven/ Schumann/ Souvairan, Pierre – “Beethoven, Bagatelles – Schumann, Fantasiestucke” – [Radio Canada Internationl]
Pierre Souvairain was born in Switzerland to French parents, July 30, 1911. In 1953 he joined the faculty at the University of Toronto, and in 1959 he became a Canadian citizen.
These pieces are part of a 19th century genre of solo piano music. Beethoven’s Bagatelles, Op. 126 was his final work for piano. He called them “cycle of little pieces,” and they are tracked together on this LP. Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 was written in 1837, dedicated to Fraulein Anna Robena Laidlaw, an accomplished and attractive 18-year-old Scottish pianist with whom Schumann had become good friends. Dreamy fanciful sketches.
String trio published in 1797 when Beethoven was 27 years old. The first of four, all from his youth.
Violin – Jascha Heifetz
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