KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Molasses “Trouble at Jinx Hotel” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Fourth serving of this Montreal mixture, chiefly stirred and
slurred by Scott Chernoff. Molasses is a material known for
its being dark, thick and slow…those qualities ooze forth
on this release as well. Of course, lower case molasses is
the reduction of sweet sugar cane, while Molasses is the
reduction of the more sour aspects of life. “Jinx” is almost
spiritually devoted to despondency, and distilled with tiny
drones too. Prayers are tossed on the slowburn of the lyrics
fairly often, sunshine threatens at times to break thru but
Chernoff’s heavy-to-the-point-of-herniated vocals prevent
any gravity-defying or even the robbing of grave feelings.
His broken spoken words get ghosted by Jennifer Menard
and others. The songs are usually set in the hazy strum of
a guitar chord or three, augmented nicely by harrowing
haloes of GodSped guitars. Add in stretchy acoustic bass,
a most morose marimba, slow-bowed saws…all keeping the
pace and outlook bleak. This CD is a rustic rocking chair
on a porch somewhere mossy, but its runners are rusted
so it can’t move too much. Still well carved.

Joanna Newsom “Milk-Eyed Mender” [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   12-inch, A Library, Format

Guileless yet wily comes Joanna Newsom. A recent adoptee of
the Bay Area, has touched notes and hearts with the Pleased
and Nervous Cop, this album is nearly 100% her and her alone.
Pluckier than her harp strings and luckier than the stars
above, her soothing songs connect ancient Greek minstrels to
Vulcan folk songs. Her harp is such a mammoth instrument,
its menacing stature belieing its lamb-like nature. Newsom’s
voice exists outside of time, she likely sang this way when
she was 8, and still will when she’s 80. At her shriller
moments, she may prove too much the harpy for some. For me,
I’m completely enchanted…having seen her live next to
her harp enhanced the childlike nature of the performance.
She does play some other instruments here as well, including
harpsichord adding to the anachronistic pull of this LP.
It’s a cozy album, in package and in play. Her lyrical
wool-gathering kept me enrapt, others may find it too
bramble and briar. For me, it’s just plum peachy!

Pierre Labbe “Risque et Pendule” [Actuelle]

Thurston Hunger   6/2/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Six piece ensemble of Montreal McNuggets led by reedman Pierre
Labbe. While this album has moments that fly like free jazz
(stoking the Ornette Coleman stove on #7) and slices of the
lead-off track, this album does toss a lot of proggy precision
down the pipe as well. #6 is the zenith of the latter. Overall
spidery cello and spiky violin keep the listeners on our toes
with meticulously mapped stretches between the improv work.
Toss in a lot of cuckoo clock percussion and you get an album
that snaps into place more than it swings to and fro. Bernard
Falaise (from Miriodor) knifes guitar through at key times,
notably on “Bloops!!” Also on #3 he brings a sort of Masada
coolness and on #8 his work against Labbe’s sax stairsteps
up nicely in the bookend composed sections surrounding more
free fire from Labbe. The more Falaise the better on this
album for me and Labbe’s flute work is gusty and gutsy. The
last piece is a gorgeous slow farewell to a largely skittish
album. Several tracks go from spellbinding to sonically
dispelled in seconds, it succeeds and fails in weird ways.