Music Reviews

Mae Shi, The – “Terrorbird” – [5RC]

Max Level   9/13/2016   A Library, CD

Good luck with this one. The Mae Shi is/was a So Cal quartet with two brothers and (I think) various others over the years. This 2004 effort is spaZz rock with a capital Z. They said they didn’t want to make a boring rock album and yeah they absolutely didn’t. They whipped out more than 30 tracks, ranging in length from 6 seconds to just under 3 minutes and said OK here it is, deal with it. Expect mass quantities of high energy thrash and deranged vocals, broken up by various electronic bits and pieces and weirdness–it’s like they used every idea they ever had and smooshed them all together, one after another. This record has, according to the band, eleven songs about the Old and New Testament, ten songs about a prehistoric bird, three songs about vampires, two songs about werewolves, two songs about poisoning in the middle ages, one song about sharks, one song about California, and one song about dolphins in the military. You’re going to want to put this CD on continuous play and bite off a big chunk.

Draheim, Charlie – “This Man, This Skull” – [Chondritic Sound]

lexi glass   9/11/2016   A Library, CD

By 2007, Greh Holger’s Chondritic Sound had established its reputation among noise/experimental enthusiasts on the strength of its catalog of 3′” CD-r releases. This limited edition minidisc from Michigan artist Charlie “The Butcher” Draheim is a document from that era. Three untitled tracks, each a filthy whirlpool of high-pitched ringing, muddy static, and destroyed noise. In other words, lyophilized KFJC air sound/pure Detroit soul.

Repulski, Graham – “Re-Arranged At Hotel Strange/Contaminated Man/Boy Lung” – [Shorter Recordings]

lexi glass   9/11/2016   A Library, Cassette

Sprawling three-cassette box set from the Philly lo-fi indie rocker. In all there are 41 tracks, but most clock in at under a minute, so getting through the material doesn’t feel like a slog. I am obliged to re-remind you that Graham lifts his entire approach to making music from Bob Pollard: the Alien Lanes-era fuzzed-out sound, the bite-sized track lengths, the clever sketchbook lyrics, the mastering by T. Tobias, the truly prodigious pace of musical output. This is hardly a criticism – maybe more artists should focus less on sounding new and more on just sounding good? And there’s plenty of great! moments to discover in this tape trilogy.

Re-Arranged at Hotel Strange (T1-12) teems with warped pop sounds (best exemplified by T7, T10), mirroring a theme (I think I hear?) about how time warps your universe, moving the center of its orbit away from your old priorities (work, girls, shows), and towards the well-being of a tiny human.

Contaminated Man (T13-25), the meatier, moodier and best of the bunch, sounds like rewinding and looping the tape that holds your memories – the music and movies from your childhood (T15, T17, T23), the embarrassing events (T21), the late nights obsessively crafting fan fiction (or was that just me?) (T22), until you arrive at the unrecognizable present (T24).

Boy Lung (T26-41) has a sweet, nostalgic feel (T26, T33, T38), but with a strong undercurrent of bitter regret (T31, T34, T35). Rewind and replay!

Alcapone, Dennis – “Forever Version” – [Coxsone]

Naysayer   9/11/2016   CD, Reggae

Rerelease of the first Dennis Alcapone album with six additional tracks. The early 1970’s were a transitional time in Jamaica, which Alcapone played an important part. Sounds were moving to bigger sound systems, deejays, using original tracks for new voices to interact with, an end of ska. U-Roy was the #1 deejay but big attention went to Alcapone who gave U-Roy a run for his money. “Forever Version” captures this time of transition. Some tracks are very much ska influenced or straight up ska. Others head toward the tradition of reggae. Most of the songs are about love, getting the pretty girl, partying at the dancehall and not the stuff of Jah and Sellasie. Dennis Alcapone has a distinct voice as he delivers his lyrics over the sounds of classics from the Heptones, the Wailers and others. He does have this unique, high pitched yelp that he drops in each song, sort of accentuating key parts. It’s clever and infectious when listening to one track. A fine addition to the library.

Novak – “Dumb Records: 1977-1979” – [Orion Read]

Naysayer   9/7/2016   12-inch, A Library

Power pop punky people rejoice: 1977-1979 is back and Novak is in force. Or at least he was anyway. Graduate of Mills in experiemtnal composition, studied under Robert Moog and John Cage, Novak had his credentials all in check. But he wanted to be a punk. Started his own label, Dumb Records and recorded Crime and The Nuns. And his own projects, Novak and experimental noise project The Survivors (with sound samples of Jim Jones, thank you very much). This LP is all the 45’s plus other recordings.
Power punk: synthesizer, jangly guitar, lyrics about models and getting into that girl’s pants. Oh those boys. Yummy, yummy, yummy velveeta and Farrah Fawcet. You get the picture. Mabuhay Gardens reunion album. It has a beat but can you pogo to it? HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!

Ivers, Eileen – “Beyond The Bog Road” – [Www.eonemusic.com]

humana   9/7/2016   CD, International

This entire CD is a delight from beginning to end. Ivers entrances with her fiddle, octave violin, banjo, and mandolin, taking us on a musical journey from the bog road and Celtic traditions of her native Ireland to the root music found in America–bluegrass, French Canadian, Cajun, and Appalachian. Her talents in writing, arranging, and playing the tunes here are remarkably enjoyable. Read the liner notes to get the full experience and story behind each song.

Devil Makes Three, The – “Redemption & Ruin” – [New West Records]

humana   9/7/2016   CD, Country

This is simply spiffy music organized into “Ruin” songs (such as “I Gotta Get Drunk” and “I’m Gonna Get High”) followed by “Redemption” songs (“There’ll Be a Jubilee” and “Down in the Valley”). Pete Bernhard sings lead vocal and acoustic guitar, with Cooper McBean on electric guitar and background vocals and Lucia Turino on upright bass and background vocals. There are also spoons, banjos, and other instruments involved in these mostly upbeat songs.

Winners Aftershave – “Desperate to Please” – [Self Produced]

humana   9/7/2016   A Library, CD

“Dark Anglo-pop with hints of psychedelia and lyrics worth listening to.” This is how Winners Aftershave characterizes themselves. Chris Spence writes and sings most of the songs, which feature other band members on guitars, bass, keys, percussion, drums. The lyrics are interesting in that they tell a story, like a country song does, but with a very different musical setting. Try 2, 7, and 12 for starters.

Bonehead – “You” – [Miss 45 Records]

humana   9/7/2016   7-inch, A Library

Self-described as “trashed pop in Detroit, MI,” Bonehead is the project of Alexandra Lee who wrote, performed, and produced everything on her debut 45. The songs are short and catchy, with her vocals accompanying the guitars and other instruments nicely. More to come from this artist. Keep an eye on her.

Duran, Manuel – “Golden Treasury” – [Spoken Arts, Inc.]

Naysayer   9/7/2016   12-inch, International

Ahh, the joy of spoken word, especially in another language that you may or may not understand fully or even partially. These 12 selections of Spanish prose, selected and read by the professor of Romance Languages, Manuel Duran, give a brief overview of some of the best pieces of Spanish writing from the last few centuries. Some of the authors may be familiar, others not as much. The beauty is in the lyrical quality of the words, the phrasing. Let them stand on their own or mix them in with other sounds. Enjoy.

LA Collection: Chapter 1 [coll] – [Arcade]

Kai Sync   9/7/2016   A Library, CD


This 1994 release contains French underground dance club music from artists such as Shazz, St. Germain, Laurent Garnier and others, sometimes as acronyms or collaborations between various French producers from the nineties underground dance movement. This is not the Daft Punk compressed disco punk sound, rather clever takes on Acid and Tech House, Detroit Techno and (unfortunately) also on Progressive House and Trance styles. Where this collection shines are the more experimental and forward pushing tracks from Scan X, Orange, Choice. And Laurent Garnier’s Planet Sex is just one of those over-the-top songs begging to be played. Breathless is is another fun take on acid-meets-techno. This compilation is a prime example showcasing what 1990:ies music is interesting still today and what has been mangled to bits due to cliche patterns.

Kompakt Total 14 [coll] – [Kompakt Schallplatten]

Kai Sync   9/7/2016   A Library, CD


Kompakt skipped 2013 with their total releases, hence no Total 13 so this 14th release came out 2014. It’s a mixture of proven dandy techno content and experimental beat fun, of which the vocal pop techno side is unfortunately too much present with its lyrical content and formulas and the known Kompakt sound is there with artist tracks from Maceo Plex, Blond:ish and Superpitcher. However, Sebastian Bouchet seems to be unable to make boring tracks, Thomas Fehlman pushes tribal techno to new directions, The Modernist sounds like UK funky techno and John Tejada’s remix of the Field track is elegant. And who knew that Voigt & Voigt would reinvent sixties surf pop. Pick and choose from the 20 tracks as each one has it’s own charm.

Westerhus, Stian – “Amputation” – [House of Mythology]

billiejoe   9/7/2016   12-inch, A Library

Techno feels. Male falsetto. Norwegian guitarist who has worked with Jagga Jazzist and Puma. This album is on stylish white vinyl. He is described as a jazz artist but I don’t hear the jazz on this piece. I hear looping electronics and noisy guitar and high pitched ballady vocals. All him. B side is best.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Squarepusher – “Damogen Furies” – [Warp Records Ltd]

mouthbreather   9/7/2016   A Library, CD

energetic frantic glitch i/edm, Belladonna beats.
flavors include: Aphex Twin, Flashbulb, Daft Punk, dubstep, and that music they play in gyms to get people pumped for running on a treadmill to nowheresville.
made with a Bespoke system a decade in the making, all sounds generated from programmed instruments by Tom Jenkinson in one take, no edits.

Lefthandeddecision – “Personal Precision” – [Crionic Mind]

mouthbreather   9/7/2016   A Library, CD

grinding squelchy industrial noise from Phil Blankenship. extras from Instinct & Emotion, 2000.

snap awake, you’re walking, headphones on, walkboy on belt loop, in the radioactive wasteland that now is. the dust blows, builds grit between your teeth, grinds away at enamel, soft tissue. you pass through empty buildings, titans of industry from yesteryear, barren, falling, rotting. brain flashes memories of the happier, but much like your cd player, grimy, it skips, glitches, hangs on hallucination of familiar voices, almost legible, almost touchable. the flawed recollections imprint upon reality, following the cd skips slinky sliding the spiral staircase of sanity. staring into a beaming puddle, a reflection of your haggard self assembling into younger, tighter pores and better hair weeping heavily, feeling ill, stomach churning, pulsing mind, gritting teeth, you take a drink.

Denham, Val – “I Saw Myself In Your Dreams Last Night” – [Vanity Case Records]

Naysayer   9/6/2016   A Library, CD

Val Denham is one of those unique persons whose story is rich and full and far reaching into so many aspects of life. Obsessive compulsive, artist, poet, transgender (which plays heavily into issues of duality), music cover artist, singer/songwriter, connected to Marc Almond, Coil, Genesis P. Orridge, O Paradis, and on and on. Renaissance person who moves to her own drum beat. A stunner.
“I Saw Myself…” is a 14 song testimonial to life, to a life well lived, to a life still living fully with all its ups and downs. The lyrics are stories of relationships that sometimes border on obsessive control or giving up control which is control. Decisions of powerlessness. Tales of loss and recovery. Negotiating in this modern world when having experienced so much. Coming to terms with achieving a seasoned status among the community. Tough stuff. Val’s voice is rough, folding in and out of the song tracks, sing talking as well as singing, making her own notes and meeting the rhythm of the track where and when she feels. It’s good.
The music is this eclectic, odd wonderful mix of guitar, synth, ukelele, trumpet. Track 1, “Nurse” is the best of late ’80’s angry rock done in a 21st century style. Gang of Four and The Ex would be proud. Great sounds.

El’zabar, Kahil Ritual Trio and Bang, Billy – “Big M: Tribute to Malachi Favors” – [Delmark]

Max Level   9/6/2016   CD, Jazz

Earthy jazz sounds honoring the late, esteemed bassist Malachi Favors (aka Big M) who was the original bassist in this Ritual Trio, headed by Chicago percussionist Kahil El’Zabar. As a member of The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the AACM, Favors was a huge influence musically, and also as somewhat of a father figure, on El’Zabar from an early age. After Favors passed away in 2004, El’Zabar decided to reform the Ritual Trio with Ari Brown on saxophone and Yosef Ben Israel on bass. This 2004 date is a tribute to Big M, with guest Billy Bang on violin. On various tracks, you’ll hear El’Zabar on either trap drums, “earth drums” (African hand drums) or kalimba. He also adds some flute and, on the final track, vocals. Tenor saxophonist Ari Brown plays with a great raw tone and also checks in with some first rate piano on a couple of tracks. If you’re a fan of big, booming, acoustic double bass propulsion, then you’ll enjoy what Ben Israel is up to here. Track 7 is a bluesy vocal piece with piano, bass, violin, and flute, but no percussion–not my favorite track here. Everything else, though, is a fragrant stew of low down African-influenced jazz grooves. Tracks are medium length, in the 6 to 11 minute range.

Cooper, Mike – “Light On a Wall” – [Backwards]

Naysayer   9/5/2016   12-inch, A Library

All ageists bow down then take a back seat. Mike Cooper, age 74 as of this review, has put out a strange, challenging, intelligent, work of twisted electronic drone and squelch accompanied by stringent guitar work with his distinctive blues edge. Cooper’s musical history is illustrious: from his work in the 1960’s with blues guitar and the elite of the blues world, studying and mixing Greek string stylings with avant garde practices, incorporating electronics in experimentation with styles and sounds from a multicultural practice, and more, Cooper is the real deal. “Light On A Wall” is no exception. Cooper plays an electric Vietnamese lap steel guitar with sounds heavily processed through a Zoom Sampletrack looper and a vintage Kaos Pad. Alongside electronic squeaks, squelches, twists and drones, Cooper’s vocals (sounding somewhat like Scott Walker) sing tales constructed of chopped-up material from Thomas Pynchon’s novels “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “V”. “No chords, melodies or harmonic patterns for each song are planned prior to them being performed”, and therefore, each performance is unique. A true visionary whose work has become more complicated and challenging as he matures. Bravo. May we all be able to say the same as we grow older.

Yen Pox – “Between The Horizon and The Abyss” – [Malignant Records]

lexi glass   9/5/2016   A Library, CD

Yen Pox is the long-standing, long-distance collaboration between Steven Hall (working in Indiana under the name Veil of Secrecy) and Michael J.V. Hensley (of the Washington state-based solo project Blood Box). Between the Horizon and the Abyss is the first Yen Pox full-length album in 15 years since 2000’s New Dark Age, and the extended effort clearly shows in these eight potent ambient tracks. As the title suggests, the sounds on this record reach across vast distances and unfold on geological time scales. The first half of the album explores the physical features of a new world – the noxious atmosphere (T.1), the acidic oceans (T.2), the mutated wilderness (T.3), and the barren plains (T.4). The vocal work of Dark Muse (Ruby Smith), droning and radiant, casts a conscious presence over the otherwise hard, physical soundscape. The second half of the record transmits funeral rites echoing in a narcotic cathedral. The rituals are alien but the throbbing, bottomless nausea of grief feels universal.

Muchmore, Pat – “BABEL fragments” – [Innova/American Composers]

Louie Caliente   9/5/2016   A Library, CD

Pat Muchmore is an American composer, cellist, and founder of punk-chamber group Anti-Social Music. He holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York, where he wrote a dissertation entitled “Humanity and Mechanicity in the music of Nine Inch Nails”.

BABEL: fragments contains many short, abstract, chaotic pieces inspired by broken worlds and the impossibility of communication and true human connection. Meticulously detailed movements give fleeting impressions of cohesiveness, but shatter and disintegrate before your ears, as the radio dial turns and new and obscure sounds come into focus.

The album consists of four works (with impossibly difficult names), each divided into many tracks (with even more impossible names):

Tracks 1-11: f(f(4))[Kr]5s^(1)18d^(1):}{Fr.I.a-k

Eleven “short stories” for string quartet. Explorations of dissonance. Staccato screeches. Longing poetic drones. Hitchcock-esque stabs and shards. Sophisticated skronk.

Tracks 12-16: BABEL(maya)f(f(1))

The real name of this work includes Mayan and Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Muchmore has a 25 minute YouTube video explaining the significance of the title alone. In this piece, dark electronics and soprano vocals combine with the strings, giving a more somber and threatening tone.

Tracks 17-27: Fr.II.a-k

Similar to the first piece, but for solo Scordatura (miss-tuned) cello. More bizarre, dissonant chords. Introspective and longing.

Tracks 28-32: SESHACH(maya)f(f(3))

Again impossible Mayan and Egyptian hieroglyphics (this time with a 30-minute video explanation). A 5-movement piece with Ken Thomson on sax and clarinet and Muchmore on electronics. A bit noisier and punkier than the rest. Partially written in Babylonian Cuneiform notation, inspired by the Cantor Set (a fractal set that is uncountable yet has measure 0), and the nonlinear dynamics of predator/prey populations.