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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.
Masked and anonymous quintet of serial killer worshipers from the United Kingdom. This is their second full length release, from 2012. It is really one 40-minute song, but the CD version divides it into three tracks. The first part is basically instrumental rock with wandering guitar and funerary violin, like a more evil Godspeed You Black Emperor. Parts two and three are Black/Death/Doom Metal monstrosities of unforgiving heaviness with demonic shrieks and crushing guitar vortices. Shreds of Bolt Thrower, Bethlehem, and Portal surface. All three parts feature samples from interviews with famous psychopaths, sometimes buried in the mix like on that one shitty Pink Floyd album. I think Dragged Into Sunlight are one of the sickest Death Metal bands around today, and they definitely push the genre to its limits here. Very evil, in a timeless way. The “widowmaker” myocardial infarcation is the occlusion of the anterior interventricular branch of the left coronary artery, which causes a massive and lethal heart attack, which means one less carbon footprint and one less boring opinion.
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.
Dirgey Swamp-Rock (or swampy Dirge-Rock?) from Der Blutharsch’s drinkin’, whorin’, sunglasses-at-night-wearin’ court jester, AKA Novo Homo. The Australia-based Black Irish bastard offers up two slabs of tongue-in-cheek fatalism sounding like The Scientists, Roland S. Howard and The Gun Club boot-partying Roy Orbison at the wrong speed. This is on King Dude’s label but Wolfkind does the Neofolk-Country-Cough-Syrup-Blues thing much better than Dude could ever dream. Threats on side A, come-ons on side B. FCC side A.
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.
Swiss artist Meirino joins forces with the Bay Area’s own Wittmer (aka Misanthropic Agenda) to bring us a foundation of distant hums, rumblings, gurglings, and notes veiled in deep layers of corrosion. Closer up in the mix we hear all manner of glitchy sounds, static, labored breathing, sometimes voices. The overall impression I get is that we have somehow stumbled into a place where terrible things happen and we do not know the way out. This disturbing, evil CD would have been right at home on ‘Radio Free Hatred.’ The artists specify that all three tracks (11 minutes, 8 minutes, and 14 minutes) are to be listened to in one continuous session.
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?
Miya Masaoka was a pianist who took up the koto – a 21-string Japanese harp. The principal is jo ha kyu – prelude/breaking away/hurried. It essentially means that all actions or efforts should begin slowly, speed up, and then end swiftly. The great Noh playwright Zeami viewed it as a universal concept applying to the patterns of movement of all things. Like shakuhachi, this is meditative improvisation.
In 1993 Francis Wong was director of Asian Improv Records. He said at the time, “there has never been an Asian American exclusive form.” Hopefully we will get more from AIR, a scene that probably best correlates to AACM. Masaoka was in the process of obtaining a Master’s degree from Mills College. In her words, it was “an exciting time for the Asian American music scene. It was small, fragile, underground, and we had a mission and our bonds were strong.”
Track 7 is an Ellington tune. Track 8 features wood flute.
Influential Darkwave from New York City, closely associated with Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Projekt Records. This album is from 2012, recorded in Germany and Texas. Active since 1999, Unto Ashes is the pet primarily of Michael Laird. Delicate Neoclassical and ‘Dark Folk’ arrangements with male and female vocals, more Dead Can Dance than Sol Invictus. Other possible influences in the Gothic vein include Ordo Equitum Solis and Jarboe. Furthermore, a solid streak of Psychedelic Pop runs through this CD, bringing up associations with Syd Barrett and others of his ilk (‘Pilzentanz’ indeed).
Much of the material comes from other sources, including theology (the 12th Century Apocalypse of Golias), poetry (Ambrose Bierce, Robert Frost, Cicely Mary Barker) and other bands (Apoptygma Berzerk, Van Halen) but the interpretations are quite brilliant and form a cohesive statement here about aging, regret and death. You and everyone you love are on the graveyard train. BTW there is bagpipe on some tracks. Respect the bagpipe.
Italian composer with two vocalists, percussionist, and a string quartet. Track one is your standard experimental strings. It’s so wild though I have a hard time imagining it being composed. Sounds like spacey screechy tones with operatic vocalizing on track two. Track three is male vocals and a little more dada and out there. Still excellent. Very long tracks let you really settle in for a transcending ride. My kinda jam.
Live performance concert in New York in the 80s. Big long synth freak outs. Cage voice blips and chanting in a non-language. Lots of silence. Untitled keyboard solo 3 and 5 are my favorite because they are nice and chaotic. We have the 12″ in the library but this has more songs. Not as many duets as I’d like but still very enjoyable. Highly recommended on continuous.
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.
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.
Sutcliffe Jugend was founded in 1982 when Kevin Tomkins was still a member of Whitehouse. William Bennett may have abandoned noise music for the sequenced Afro-worship of Cut Hands, but this offshoot project is still going strong. When you want to compete with Whitehouse you need to be pretty extreme, and Tomkins certainly always has been. Does he really hate women as much as he claims to, or does his career amount to 30+ years of serial-killer-themed performance art? I dunno.
Over the years Tomkins (also a painter) and co-conspirator Paul Taylor have gradually let slip the ultra-formalism of Come Organisation synthesizer torment to dabble in various experimental electronic styles, although retaining the core of extreme hatred that keeps emotionally unwell fans returning time and again. This 2016 album is one of four releases from last year, and it is definitely more traditional than the duo’s other recent releases on Cold Spring (e.g. 2012′s extraordinary death ambient opus ‘Blue Rabbit’). Here a robust mixture of digital and analog electronic tweaks (with hinted beats on t.s 3+4) back Tomkins’ profane, confessional prose poetry, delivered with the frothing impotence of a straitjacketed mental patient. Some of the invective may in fact be leveled against the consumer of industrial music, i.e. you. Tomkins is a pretty great improvisational vocal stylist, too. Listen and you’ll see what I mean. FCCs on all tracks of course.
From Russia’s experimental Post-Materialization Music label comes this bizarre cassette of extremely lo-fi “ethnodub”. The album name “Taharrush Gamea” is Arabic for “group harassment”, and usually refers to mass sexual assault. Very little information about this album or the artist exist. Only 31 of these cassettes were produced, and the artist’s other albums have been released on recycled soviet-era reel-to-reel tape, and 3.5″ floppy disk.
The cassette is seemingly designed to make you wonder if your stereo is busted. It’s an hour of international pop music, played at the wrong speed through unreliable equipment, mixed with crunchy record scratches, cut-up tape loop squiggles, and spooky spoken-word. Broken electronics buzz and hum throughout, and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded underwater. Samples (actually entire songs) are appropriated from a variety of sources: Bollywood dance tunes, Eastern Orthodox chants, Thai power-pop, and (as the artist’s name implies) middle Eastern folk. The result is disorienting (to say the least), like a bad acid trip through the depths of the international library.
Finnish Black Metal from a lone hatemonger going by ‘War Torech,’ the only other official member of Satanic Warmaster, where he used to play guitar. Torturium has not released anything since this 2006 album. These songs employ similarly ceremonial repetition but are generally more anguished and off-kilter than SW’s, and a little more baroque than Finnish BM in general (this 2006 release is on a French label). He’s a good guitarist with the strong fingers of a classical player, and the dramatic flourishes are appreciated. Unobtrusive keys dis-grace some tracks. The voice is a highlight, cracked and disturbing. Despite some moments of ‘Black Metal Deja Vu,’ (Dimhymn?) the riffs are generally fresh and compelling, conveying melancholy and delirium. Synth intro commences track one.
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.
CD1: Summer smells / CD2: Winter smells
Hammer jammin dulcimer dudes pay penance for past performances with Phish? Perhaps.
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