Estonias own iconic dreampop, shoegaze master’s album from 2008 is a lush, gorgeous treat for the ears and senses. Ten tracks flow beautifully from one to the next, with the stand out guitar work guiding the listener through each song. Harmonies abound with exquisite exactness, pristine in their execution. Lyrics, sung in English, have that dreamy nature, about things that seem like floating or slipping in and out of sleep. I missed the whole dreampop/shoegaze thing when it hit, my ears being somewhere else. DJ Slowdivine continually persuaded me to get with it and finally I have. This is superb work of a sound that is unique yet familiar, haunting yet comfortable.
Part of the stupendous Fabric mix series, “Meat Katie FabricLive 21″ is a full mix set by Meat Katie. Meat Katie is Mark Pember, English electronic musician and DJ who created a style called tech-funk which is a mix of techno, tribal, hip hop, breakbeat and house music. It all fits in these 17 tracks and man is it fun, fun, fun, fun. There was this famous club in LA that we used to go to after hours called Jewel’s Catch-One. It was the scene and had THE best music around. You were meant to dance there. House music with the simple repeated phrases or whoops, yells, operatic diva trills played over and over pulsing through your sweaty body. This is what Meat Katie’s mix reminds me of. I have played this so much before reviewing it. (That’s why the cover is trashed.) It’s a continuous mix so you could just let it play all the way through, though each song stands on it’s own. The opener, ” Banned Practice” samples Bauhaus” “Kick In the Eye” and that starts the mood. The Diva voices are there. The testifications are there. The beats are there. The mix is smooth, clean and phresh. Get ready to sweat. Yet another on my list of “This Is The SHIT!!!!!!!”. Work it.
Richard Dawson is a an English folk/blues singer, songwriter and guitarist whose unique approach pushes definitions of style. Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne, Dawson’s work approaches heartache with a hammer, a subtle hammer but consistent and relentless yet achingly beautiful. Supposedly he accidentally broke the guitar he uses, liked the sound and so kept it. The guitar playing is like Eugene Chadbourne or Bill Orcutt, prolific style and skill with luxuriant and dynamic finger work. Moments of pure beauty will be attacked… attacked… with pulling, stretching, almost destroying the guitar. Dawson does collaborate with harpist Rhodri Davies, whose harp playing style is the same of reconstructing/deconstructing how the harp could be played. Davies performs on track 3 of this album.
“Nothing Important” came out in 2014 and pushed Dawson forward in his work. These are four tracks that I can not get enough of. Track 1, “Judas Iscariot” and track 4, “Doubting Thomas”, bookend the album. They are glorious solo guitar instrumentals which showcase Dawson’s skill and emotion. Judas and Thomas, both who chose to question, challenge and make mistakes, besides feeling left out, begin and end a theme that is present in the album.
The two tracks with vocals, “Nothing Important” and “The Vile Stuff” showcase all the greatness that is Dawson. “Nothing Important” is a series of vignettes from the narrator’s life, from birth through family experiences, the passing of family, the loss of a newborn. Dawson describes objects from the time as pieces of remembrance but questions why he can’t remember the faces of the loved ones. In “The Vile Stuff”, the narrator describes experiences of friends and of himself, snippets of experience filled with detail that may appear mundane to others but hold significance to the narrator. Yet there is a sense of loneliness, weariness and longing embedded with the celebration of friends. Dawson’s singing style is so unique: stretching out words to uncomfortable lengths, odd phrasing and emphasis, paring sentences together in ways not expected. His lyrics, his playing, his singing breaks me when I hear it. You’ll need a kleenex. This is a highly welcome addition to our collection.
Yes, this is Dr. Emanuel H. Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap. His story is fascinating. Born in 1908 in Heilbronn, Germany of the German-Jewish Heilbronner family of soap makers, Emanuel learned his trade of soap making and earned a degree in chemistry. Emigrating to the USA in 1929, he dropped the Hiel from his name due to associations to Nazism. He begged his parents to come with him but they did not and were eventually killed in the Holocaust at Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt. He continued his trade as soap maker eventually creating the Dr. Bronner’s soap we know today. He adopted the label “Doctor” to his name. In the mid 1940’s, either while at the University of Chicago, invited by a student group, or not invited by a group, or on a street corner, Dr. Bronner was arrested for speaking his “Moral ABC” (some reports say vehemently) and institutionalized at the Elgin State Insane Asylum. After shock therapy treatments, Bronner escaped from the asylum. He blamed his eventual blindness on these treatments.
His soap business grew, with his famous label espousing the tenets of “Moral ABC” and “All One God Faith”. He worked toward what is now Green ideology, with his business focusing on ecological awareness and sharing profits with workers. It continues to this day.
“Sisters & Brothers” is a compilation of Dr. Bronner’s beliefs in achieving Moral ABC. Influenced by the writings and teachings of Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Paine, Hillel the Elder who supposedly taught the teenage Jesus, Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Confucius, Buddha…. , he came up with his philosophy of All One God Faith as the only way to achieve harmony on earth. These recordings made between 1968 and 1988 on “a variety of home recording devices” (i.e. tape recorders), show a man determined, obsessed even, with getting this point across of helping others, showing kindness, sharing, as a means to cure all. What is wonderful about these recordings, though, is the way they were made, and his tone. These are done on tape recorders so we constantly hear the clicking on and off of the recorder. There is some background noise and several of the selections start off or end with selections of, I think, Strauss, even once or twice with Dr. Bronner whistling and then testifying. And the testifyiing: his cadence is dynamic, taking on an almost Hitleresque Nazi tone. There is a dynamism, an affect, a determination that almost crosses over into demanding the listener. Screw free choice – you will do it. There is repetition: Moral ABC is stated repeatedly. so basically, not that it’s a problem, but Dr. Bronner had some mental health issue stuff going on, right? From the outsider art presentation style of his famous label, to manic proselytezing, to institutionalization…. But whatever, he made it work and his product run by the family continues to work in positive directions. Listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn…….
The Boys Next Planet is a collaborative project between Phil Monopolka and members of Ceramic Hobs, both noise maestros in their own right. Initially released on Monopolka’s side label Emerson, Lake and Headache, rereleased here on PMM, this 60 minute experiment is an endurance test in mundanity. I have listened to it straight through 3 times and my sensibilities have shifted a bit. What you get is recorded sounds of someones home life with their baby: crinkling paper, things being moved around, no real spoken words except for the occasional radio or tv voice. And then there’s the baby or babies or baby recorded numerous times with recordings played over each other. The constant gurgling, attempts at communication, cooing. No real crying, just continuous babbling. And the sound of children’s toys: the cheap electronic talk of toddler play seats and walkers, plastic animals, objects, just repeating over and over and over and over its seconds of dialogue that the baby activates by hitting the buttons again and again and again. It’s fascinating and maddening in its stupendous boredom. But such is life. Those momentous memorable moments are few and far between. This is the stuff of the everyday that we do not remember. This is what got us to where we are today as adults. Child rearing is hard. Life is hard. A superb conceptual work and the best birth control around.
My understanding of this is limited due to language barriers but I think I have pieced together a general understanding of what this double CD is about. “Tinh co gai Hue”, roughly translated as “Calculate the Girl Hue”, is a Vietnamese TV show from Saigon, 1975. I think. Or it takes place in 1975. This is the soundtrack to part of the show. What I found on the computer was over 2 hours long. It is in the style of Cai Luong which is modern Vietnamese folk opera blending South Vietnamese folk songs, classical music using traditional instruments, hat tuong or classical Vietnamese opera or theater based on Chinese opera and modern spoken drama. Basically it’s a 1975 modern day soap opera with music, dialogue, interludes, etc. Just listening and not understanding is a bit disconcerting because you never know where you are, what’s happening, why the music is coming in, why they are singing. It’s a lot. Which is wonderful
A bit of history is that after the Vietnam War, the North, then in charge, used this style of theater for television as a means to bring the South Vietnamese back to a way of life they led before. It was popular in the South starting around the 1930’s but the tradition of Cai Luong as a nostalgia for the past as well as a way of showing old style morals, proper relationships, love stories, etc. was a way of trying to get control over the people of the South. This version we have is also Hai Huoc which roughly translates as comedy and burlesque.
Perfect for mixing. Or play it straight to throw the listeners off. A really unique piece of sound recording, of which there are hundreds.
Wayne Everett’s “kingsqueens” is a sweet, well-played piece from 2002 that fills up so many of the wonderful sounds of the mid to late 1990’s and early 00’s that some of us once felt too above to like, but now can appreciate. Coming from a number of groups out of the So. Calif. Riverside, Huntington Beach scene, Everett’s work is influenced by shoegaze, Elliot Smith, Apples In Stereo harmonies, Spiritualized and dare I say, Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”. These are all great things and Everett captures them full on and makes them his own. He sings, plays drums, guitar and percussion all along with a full band, some of which are friends from previous projects. Medium paced pop tomes about love and change and distance and a bit of positive are conveyed through interesting lyrics. Some selections are wonderfully orchestrated with a bit extra from harp and horns as well as strong backing vocals. A lovely entremets or aperitif to add to heavier sets of radio sound. Cleanse and feel refreshed.
Odal: Peter Zincken has been part of the Dutch noise scene since the 1980’s. His projects include Dr. Bibber, the notorious FCKN BSTRDS, and Odal, this solo project. This release “Megagrap aka Tape For Monopolka” is released through our friend at Post-Materialization via Monopolka, all definitely some fucked up bastards. This brilliant release is one long track, 40:13 of sonic pounding and then a surprise at the end. Imagine being in a wind tunnel or a storm and hearing the pounding sound punching your ears. That’s how this starts, growling, echoey distortion ramped up at hurricane levels. Then, somewhere in the sonic distance you hear a voice, or voices. Is it a radio broadcast? Is it just static with the occasional voice coming in? Would someone please turn the station to the right channel! Then come the screams and yells, male and female, coming from the distance, stuck in the storm or from somewhere worse. They haunt the soundscape and add a full-on disturbing quality to the whole ordeal. This goes on for 30 minutes for an almost trance like experience but then… wait… what is this? At the 30 minute mark the scenario changes. Two boys are playing around with mommy’s or daddy’s tape recorder and are creating quite an irritating, yet oddly hypnotic racket. Boys will be boys and so for 10 minutes they mumble, chant, copy each other, repeating the same phrases over and over starting with “you’re crazy”. If that doesn’t get you the click click click of the stuck tape recorder will. It becomes a different type of trance. Pushing the limits of what’s acceptable.
DJ Hell (Heimut Josef Geier) is a prolific DJ, having been working the turntables since the late 1970’s and putting out dance music on his own notorious International Deejay Gigolo Records label. “Zukunftsmusik” is his first release since 2011 and what a pleasure it is to hear him at it. Don’t expect a continuation of fast paced house and other styles to make you sweat the night away. Though the album translates into “music of the future”, it actually feels more like a meditation on the past, touching base and paying homage to influences and styles DJ Hell enjoyed. There’s a lot of !970’s German electronic references which he has said in interviews were a big influence on him. There are also nods to Berlin era Bowie, Gary Newman, especially “Cars”, Kraftwerk via Autobahn and Wes Craven film soundtracks. And then there’s the sex. Not so much talked about in graphic detail but hinted at, referenced, felt in the beats, displayed in the art cards that come with the CD: the famous (and always confusing) Hanky Code for cruising men, leather culture and the world of Tom of Finland, the ultimate 1970’s/80’s gay leather fetish fantasy. Some of DJ Hell’s earlier mixes, like BBC Essential Mix 2005, sounds like the soundtrack to a gay leather sex club. But “Zukunftsmusik” is a much slower pace, throughout. Lots of vocals, medium paced beats, much feeling very 1980s. “Car, Car, Car” will be a crowd pleaser and should be played with Newman’s “Cars”. Lots of computer generated voices. There’s even an exorcism or sexual fetish, or both (“High Priests of Hell”). This is an interestingly provocative, revealing and honest work coming from a person who is known to make the dance floor move. Enjoy this more contemplative side of DJ Hell.
Kink Gong, aka Laurent Jeanneau, has for years been recording ethnic minority groups primarily from Southeast Asia. With over 160 recordings, Laurent knows the lay of the sonic landscape. With “Tibetan Buddhism Trip”, two 20 minute tracks taken from his field recordings from Tibet and Yunan (China), Laurent creates a mesmerizing journey of trance and hallucinatory sound. By editing selections of field recording together and filtering in subtle yet noticeable electronic fiddlings, Jeanneau creates a new music, a new sound, a new interpretation of Tibetan Buddhist rites sounds. Each piece starts out somewhat quietly with vocal chanting, psalm reading and prayer being layered on top of each other. Then come drums, cymbals, bells, clapping, electronic buzz and fuzz, slight distortions, crowds, chanting, all layered over each other, faded in and faded out. The progression of sound increases to this kinetic frenzy then slowly pulls back. Hypnotic, lovely quality. A true head trip without digesting the ‘shroom.
I think the reason I like writing reviews is that it allows me to really let out a part of the real me that I don’t show because few folks would get it. Also, no one reads them anyway so I can say whatever. Such is the case for reviewing this glorious little 45, this HOT little piece of vinyl. First, the title. Just say it slowly and let it roll off your tongue: “Electrocardiographs of a Cathode Ray Tube”. Oh. My. God. What a turn on. Electrocardiographs of a cathode ray tube: what the hell is that and YES PLEASE!!!! Stephen Cornford created this piece. Stephen is an… wait, let me sit down… Stephen is an “installation artist and experimental musician who works by reconfiguring consumer electronics.” Wait, there’s more: by “repurposing Walkmans, TVs and other scrap heap finds, Stephen Cornford’s work erase the boundaries between music and sculpture.” This is THE SHIT, Stephen and you’re my man. I love this stuff so much. So what is it, really? In a performance of this piece in Firenze, Cornford described it as two cathode ray tube TVs amplified with brain wave sensors. The ECG pick-ups are attached to the TVs to amplify them. An amplifier, or oscillator, is fed into the TVs video input where he then picks up the TV screens electromagnetic emissions. He’s recording the energy of the tubes and seeing if they have a brainwave, so to speak. Fascinating, really and truly. The two sides of the 45 are gentle, repeating electronic heartbeats of static and fuzz. Variations occur with every pulse even though the pattern may at times seem similar. As each piece progresses, the differences in sound are more apparent. Everything is alive. Cornford also runs Consumer Waste Records which puts out electronic and electroacoustic recordings. Bravo.
“Six Or Seven Steps…” by William Hutson is the stuff some of us at this station dream about, at least I do. Solo improvisations for reel-to-reel tape recorder, mixer, test tone generator, dictaphones, microphones and radios offers up some really exciting scratchy electronic static, pulses, hisses, etc. All so good and soothing. I find it soothing. The dictaphones make cool metallic echoey static. Each piece has intentional moments of silence, some up to 30 seconds, which are necessary to take in the variety of squelch. It is surprising to hear the variety of sounds coming from this mixture of devices. It’s also fun watching him manipulate these things live. Each piece is named after the day he recorded his improvisations and is dedicated to an author he had been reading prior to the recording. You really need to sit with it and appreciate the diversity. Art is work, folks. Also, Hutson is part of LA experimental hip hop group, Clippings, whose CD we have and which got lots of attention from the staff. More reason to give this current CD a listen.
When I was in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing several sets by electronic experimental artists who came out of the magic that is Cal Arts. So many amazing folks have come out of that program and here we have a sample of the continuing excellence from it. Casey Anderson is an artist working with sound in many different formats. He currently teaches at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. His work has been heard and seen at some prestigious institutions around the US including The Walker Art Center, MOCA Mass, Geffen Contemporary LA MOCA, Atlantic Center For the Arts. He also has his own label, A Wave Press, which puts out experimental electronic works. This CD, “Radios”, is 3 long tracks of radio station transmissions, mostly from the LA area. These are not cut up, fast changes, but minutes of shows, talk, adult contemporary hits. Listeners will think they got the wrong station. I thought I had accidentally hit the FM dial instead of CD when I first heard it. Each selection is filled with static, like not actually getting the station to come in clear, so that adds to the frustration and fascination. It becomes a bit hypnotic, listening to the advertisements, station IDs, and bad music selections that are part of our collective adult contemporary DNA. And then the static. It takes over but never dominates, making you listen closer to the waves of static sound. Radio love for sure. Track two has the addition of a chime being struck intermittently throughout the broadcasts which gives it this more academic feel. It’s really odd and wonderful. Don’t adjust the dial. We have the control.
God, yes!!!!!!! Pounding pounding pounding with layered respect to the 1980’s. Synth never sounded so right. It’s the future / it’s the past. It’s futuresynth/cybersynth/synthwave. So many names. So good. Perturbator is Paris’s own James Kent, and Kent knows what he is doing. With his toes also in his death metal band, his composing for video games as Perturbator, plus parents who were in a drone band, he’s got some good cred. Not as fast as Dan Terminus but equally dark and atmosperic with a continuous beat. Synth heavy with continuous nods to 1980’s like Klaus Schultz and Tangerine Dream, plus those Miami Vice sounds. Each track is like a mini soundtrack to a futuristic movie. And the future is the fetish: chaos, children with weapons, Tokyo worship, machine take over, dark manga, digital control. These are the underlying or blatant themes. The sounds reflecting are heavy beats, often slower than most dance clubs, layered synth rhythms swirling around each other, fading in and out of the beats throughout, dark and thick bass lines. This stuff is it. Put out by the brilliant Helsinki label, Blood Music.
Mark Pino and Jack Hertz are familiar members of the Bay area improvisational, experimental, electronic music scene as well as good friends of KFJC. They both perform solo and with so many other musicians too numerous to mention. Hertz is electronics and Pino is usually percussion. Both are stellar, accomplished musicians that I have huge respect for. Oddly, they had never collaborated together as a duo so it was bound to happen. “Live At The Luggage Store” is their first CD of their first live performance together and it is astounding. When they performed 2 extended sets Live In The Pit at KFJC, I was struck by how comfortable they were with each other, easily playing off of, around and with each other’s music. This recording captures that ease and assuredness. Pino is percussion light on this recording, making subtle marks of sound which accentuate and penetrate the electronic sound field. His inclusion of flutes plus electronics adds to the shamanistic drone quality of the experience. But really listen for the waterphone, a strange and beautiful instrument which Mark uses to pull out nuanced subtle drone-like patterns as well as haunting reverberations laying down the field of “sonic magic”. Hertz is a master of electronics and on this recording he includes apps and looping. The electronic sound collage never dominates or interferes with all that is going on but adds to and focuses the layers. His electronic explorations may at times burst out, but never overwhelm. Rather they are an emphasis. The lulling, wavering patterns that flow and float through the set keep the listener guessing with a smile. Just stellar sounds.
It’s too obvious to say “I love Anal” or “Anal is so good” so I won’t. But, this is really a good album. Anal, actually Jody Evans from Wales, was a production assistant to Julian Cope in the mid 1990’s. He asked to play around with the electronic equipment and came up with this brilliant exploration of all sounds electronic: beats, anti-beats, anti-rave. It was so good that Dorian and Julian Cope decided to release the outcome on their solo release label K.A.K. This is such a highly praised work by so many that it has been rereleased with more info, but we have the original. Amazing.
12 songs of unique electronic noodling. Call it IDM, EDM, electronic, whatever. So many variations of sound blips and bleeps. Love this so much. Listen and you’ll love Anal, too.
Noam Chomsky is, of course, the seasoned voice of far left intellectual political thought and social observation. This lecture, given shortly after G.W. Bush won his second term, tracks the continuous actions the U.S. plays in its role as world imperialist dominator. Chomsky tracks the elaborate plans the USA government creates and implements, from post WW II up through the time of the lecture. The manipulation of world law by the U.S. is astounding and not surprising. It helps to understand where we are today. This just didn’t happen. Everyone is complicit. It is always fascinating to me to listen to Chomsky: not just to his ideas but to his tone, his meter, his style. It is so soothing, rational and calm. He talks about the most heinous atrocities and manipulations of rule for power and the devastating effects on millions of people, yet he does so with such ease. No histrionics. It’s almost frightening. Though the CD is tracked it can be played as one long piece. Enjoy.
“Silk Around the Marrow” is the second release by solo artist Dagger Moth or Sara Ardizzoni. She is a guitarist and vocalist who uses these tools as well as minimal electronics, noises and loops to create a dark yet inviting atmosphere. Ardizzoni plays the guitar with a rich variety of tones, colors and shades of gray, plucking quietly or strumming with loud wild abandon while electronic foundations guide and center the pieces. Her husky voice sings of issues of identity and the trials of a human in the 21st century. Each song is so well executed, hinting at minimalism, repeating patterns and structures. It’s too dark for pop music but I wish this was the direction pop went: heavy, complicated, a bit frightening and always interesting. The last track is a collaboration with Marc Ribot. A true eye opening surprise.
Last summer we were visiting our friends in Cloverdale. It was god awful hot so they decided to take us down the road to the Russian River for a swim to cool down. After trekking across the riverbed rocks, we got to a place in the river that was shallow enough for us to set our beach chairs and just sit with the current gliding over us. It was not really my idea of pretty: it was hot, brownish, dry with plants a sort of dusty green. But when I finally settled into it I began to appreciate the calm, serenity and turmoil of this oddly idyllic spot with the cool water pushing around us. I often remember this place even though it may not have been my idea of a place to go.
I feel this way about “Chalice Hymnal”, Grails first album in six years. It’s not what I might have expected but when I let it settle in, it works. It is a lush four sided continued exploration into the sounds they have developed over their career. Cinematic is definitely the phrase for these pieces. Each piece of psych rock post-rock is like a soundtrack to a series of short films, not clearly related but surprisingly united. Guitars and electronics play heavy with bass and drums, plus mellotron weaving dreamy explorations on some tracks while others perform a more beat driven journey. Most of the shorter tracks left me wanting for more. The longer tracks filled my need for meditative wandering. Like the river experience, not necessarily where I wanted to go but definitely something I keep remembering after several listens.
Buba Monopolskij is supposedly Monopolka, yet another alias for the founder of Monopolka Records from Moscow. These two tracks on this limited edition of 50 already sold out recording were supposedly created during Buba’s two years in jail. Mouth as horn sounds, radio channels, static, other sounds all put together quickly, a brief respite on track one of a selection that sounds like the Residents. Track two has what sounds like electronic toys or games or video games all sped up plus crushing static plus who knows what else. Nine minutes in not quite hell but a very confused state. Fun harshness.