Music Reviews

Maksymenko, Michael – “BusinessCide ” – [ReR Usa]

Max Level   6/26/2008   A Library, CD

Retrospective (1977-89) of this crazed drummer/vocalist, who is either Russian, Swedish, or perhaps both. His music is an energetic sort of Beefheart-inspired dada-blues-rock played by some technically incredible musicians on guitar, bass, and drums. Maksymenko’s singing style is mostly talk/yelling and his drumming is hyperactive with an element of silliness in just the right places. Yes, silliness; no question this man has a sense of humor. Tracks 1-8: his young Trout Mask Replica-worshipping trio Krldjursanstalten, based in Sweden. Tracks 9-11: from his 1985 solo record. Tracks 12-14: Crazy Backwards Alphabet, the amazing project that teamed Maksymenko with (for the most part) inventive guitarist Henry Kaiser and the bass player’s bass player Andy West. Guitarist Bob Adams and drummer John “Drumbo” French are also in the CBA mix. This is not easy material to digest, as it is full of hairpin turns and manic playing; in fact this CD is somewhat exhausting to listen to all in one sitting. But there are many delights to be found in this man’s strange musical world. So check this out.

Ex-Cocaine / Yellow Swans [coll] – [Not Not Fun]

cinder   6/26/2008   12-inch, A Library

Ex-Cocaine, from Montana, send you on a magical, mystical mind peyote desert psych trip. Instrumental, psychedelic moods. Sounds of banging bongos, tapping drums, sifting cymbals and soft droning electric guitars. The second track is a take of the Meat Puppets ‘Sexy Music’. Floaty rolling hills with mellow male vocals.
Yellow Swans trick you into having a magical, mystical trip, but halfway through it turns sour. Feedbacking, moaning, loudness, noise – but not in the overwhelming static walls of noise way. More of a metal wind tunnel, with constant wheels shifting and turning.
Artwork by Maya Miller of Religious Knives.

Gay Beast / Twin [coll] – [Saf Records]

cinder   6/26/2008   7-inch, A Library

Gay Beast says: Music for Gay Bosses who use their gayness to get more out of their gay employees. Two dudes and a chick drummer from Minneapolis. Guitar & Roland keys. Very angular, along the lines of Numbers, Erase Errata, etc…male vox.
Twin is a duo from Olympia, and they have the whole grrl femme sound going. High female vox, guitar and drums. They go by the names of Ghost & Ribs. Rough fuzzy guitar, a little bit prog-rocky, with a few metal riffs. Special guest Allie on guitar also. Fades out!

Quintana Roo/Family Underground [coll] – [Not Not Fun]

cinder   6/26/2008   7-inch, A Library

Family Underground hails from Denmark, while Quintana Roo is from Eagle Rock I think. Originally pressed for their West Coast tour that fell through. Two sides of drone-scapes. FU soars through clouds, sounding like a jet-powered mosquito. Low hums and buzzes intertwined. Quintana Roo is more like a deep sea exploration, with moaning whales and slow moving frozen ice.
Limited to 300 copies. BTW – I like it at 33, more droney that way.

Living Is Hard [coll] – [Honest Jon’s]

ArtCrimes   6/18/2008   12-inch, International

[coll] Living Is Hard: West African Music in Britain, 1927-1929

Much as ???Race Records??? in the US were opportunities for record companies to pursue niche markets by recording and promoting early blues artists, this Honest Jons collection compiles 78 rpm releases from the Zonophone label in the UK drawn from their recordings of West African immigrants. The musical styles here focus on specific regions of Africa, and the promo materials in the sleeve show how carefully Zonophone was courting the West African communities, with a huge catalog of releases in specific dialects. Recorded some eighty years ago, this lively African folk music performed in the UK draws from the styles of these immigrant’s homelands, while also considering life in the ???Modern World???. The liner notes, although fascinating regarding details of the Zonophone label and some of the key African artists of the time, are not strong on specific track information, but translations are provided for a number of tracks.

Kolkhoze Printanium – “Kolkhoznitsa ” – [D’Autres Cordes]

Max Level   6/16/2008   A Library, CD

Not an easy CD to describe musically, but that???s no surprise as forward-thinking musical hybrids are D???Autres Cordes??? stock in trade. For the sake of a rough reference point we???ll go with that old standby jazz-rock; in this case, however, we get a complex modern version of it en Fran??ais. Keyboardist Paul Brousseau composed everything here and appears to be the leader of this quintet, an ensemble perfectly suited to his material; first-rate musicians playing compositions that are anything but predictable. We hear exploratory world-jazz that recalls Weather Report, angular Zu-style thrash, free jazz blowing over pulsing electronics, a dash of prog-rock drama??? a little bit of everything, basically. Weird samples and voices spice things up even further. I like it all, but I???m especially fond of the passages where the band gets to tearing things up. The drummer and bassist in particular bring a hard, brutal edge to the band when they get going. Overall, this CD is quite an adventure and well worth checking out, if you hadn???t already guessed that.

Tenney, James – “Selected Works: 1961-1969” – [New World]

cujo   6/16/2008   A Library

James Tenney (1934-2006) was deeply entrenched in all things musical && stochastic && perceptual && electronic && American. His star will continue to rise, to the point that generations from now he???ll be recognized as a pioneer if not in composition, then certainly in compositional attitudes and theory. This is a reissue of a 1992 Frog Peak/Artifact Recordings release. To give you an idea of Tenney???s influence, here are just some of the KFJC-friendly names responsible for the original remastering and release: Tom Erbe, John Bischoff, Chris Brown, and Larry Polansky.

Collage #1 (???Blue Suede???): Tape collage of the signature Elvis number put together at the University of Illinois in 1961. At this time, the only places in the world you could produce something like this were San Francisco (Subotnick), Illinois (Hiller), Columbia/Princeton (Sessions/Babbitt/Luening/Ussachevsky), Koln (Stockhausen/Eimert), and Milan (Berio/Maderna). Like spinning a radio dial in a city populated only with Blue Suede-airing radio stations, some of them playing with echo, some in reverse. This has a nice dramatic arc to it, and it sounds sweet.

Analog #1 (???Noise Study???)
Phases (for Edgard Varese)
Music for Player Piano
Ergodos II (for John Cage)
The above five pieces are the result of Tenney???s 2.5 year tenure as composer at Bell Labs in New Jersey — as the first composer to turn to and dedicate oneself to computer music! Follow Polansky???s extensive liner notes carefully and in these 5 pieces you can trace the development of both Max Mathews??? MUSIC IV program???s abilities and Tenney???s stochastic processes. Try to listen along as Tenney stops defining parameters like timbre, pitch, and timing absolutely, instead giving them statistical values of mean, range, and standard deviation. This also happens moving up hierarchically, so things like phrases and sequences and even entire pieces have their own such freedoms.

It???s of note that Tenney had a well documented relationship with player piano king Nancarrow (see the liner notes to the Wergo complete Nancarrow studies release, and also Tenney???s piece Spectral CANON for CONLON), but the piece included was punched before they had known of each other.

Fabric for Che: Inspired by the sounds of tunnel traffic, this sounds like a motorcycle racing diary. Lots of whizzing and noise and possibly stereo effects?

For Ann (rising): clever application of Risset scales results in shimmering Tinkerbell lights. Let your mind wander… marvel how your focus fades between following tones up the scale and the illusion as a whole. Strangely optimistic.

–Cujo, KFJC, June 2008

Saariaho, Kaija – “Graal Theatre / Solar / Lichtbogen” – [Ondine]

cujo   6/16/2008   A Library

Welcome to the fiercely delicate world of Saariaho???s music. This is KFJC???s first addition of the Finn???s music (and our first from Ondine). Given her love of mixing acoustics and electronics nurtured by an early 1980s stint at IRCAM, there may be more worthy additions yet to come. I believe it???s also our first add from a ???spectral??? composer.

Graal theatre. A violin concerto originally written for Gidon Kremer, so you know this is serious business. In this version, the violin part is intact and tackled by John Storgards, while the orchestra is pared down to chamber orchestra. I have heard Kaija giving a few of her works this kind of treatment, including the Nymphea quartet. Clearly, it makes the music more marketable. Anyhow, it???s a great piece and the tumultuous violin part engages well, especially in the 2nd part.

Solar. It???s beautiful, but nothing engaged me as I listened. Even the liner notes skip over it.

Lichtbogen. A work based on the results of computer analysis of a particular cello harmonic (this is the ???spectral??? element), but equally inspired by lichtbogen (Swedish for aurora borealis). It???s scored for nine musicians and live electronics, but the integration is practically seamless. There is alien beauty here, fragile and icy. The chiming glockenspiel stays with you long after the coda.

–Cujo, KFJC, June 2008

Monkey Power Trio – “Things Get Ugly ” – [Pochahontas Swamp Machine]

Max Level   6/15/2008   7-inch, A Library

MPT’s legendary 1998 session, and their fourth attempt at being a band. Songwise, the two winners are: A1 “You Gotta Have Hope”, probably MPT’s best-known song; an uplifting number with a positive message; it also features that recorder sound that immediately identifies this as a MPT endeavor. B1 “I Spit a Germ” is a sort of no-wave version of a jazz poetry piece, with spare instrumentation (sax/bass/drums) and vocalist Mark telling it (and yelling it) like it is. I like those two tracks a lot. The other songs… well, “Simple Genetic Mutation” and “Bionic Liver” are very short and probably wisely so; and the less said about “Fatty Rocks” the better.

Monkey Power Trio – “eMPTy ” – [Pochahontas Swamp Machine]

Max Level   6/15/2008   7-inch, A Library

“Our prettiest songs ever”, boasts the outer sleeve of this, the result of this one-day-a-year band’s third hour (1997) as a band. Side A features occasional vocalist Matt narrating a desperate tale in which he yells like his sister and honks out some crazy sax to get the point across; all of that over a pounding beat and a morass of deranged feedback. One of my fave MPT tracks for sure. Side B really does have pretty songs, both sung by Mark; the first one compares a loved one to insect repellent, but in a good way. The second song is about a guy whose departed lover is still maddeningly present in his mind, as he muses over various household objects. Genius.

Nigeria Disco Funk Special [coll] – [Soundway Records]

ArtCrimes   6/13/2008   12-inch, International

[coll] Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor, 1974-1979

Another Soundway collection of Nigerian releases from the 70s, this time concentrating on 70s Funk, with the “Disco” in the title referring to the place, not the musical genre. These are mostly longer tracks that what we heard on Nigeria Special Part 1, as these tracks were from albums rather than singles. There are influences from the US funk scene, with some keyboard touches that wouldn’t be out of place on a late 70s Parliament/Funkadelic track, and the Meters are another reference here (Jay-U Experience’s “Some More”). Most of these tracks immediately lock into a groove and don’t let up, perfect for the dance floor and a great palate cleanser for radio. As is the case with Soundway, ample documentation is included for labels, dates, and some of the original sleeve art.

Hafler Trio – “Being a Firefighter Isn’t Just About Squirting Water ” – [Important Records]

cinder   6/10/2008   A Library, CD

The Hafler Trio is Andrew M. McKenzie from England. This release is a 20 minute long journey through frozen space. Sounds as though you’ve halted in the middle of a flower garden, remembering a thought of your youth. Wind chimes and light glares bang and clatter in slow motion, resonating tones and feedbacking bowls. Droney warm winds. Meditating electronic psychoacoustic soundscapes.

Ratkje, Maja S.k. – “River Mouth Echoes ” – [Tzadik]

cinder   6/10/2008   A Library, CD

Maja Ratkje is a vocalist and composer based in Norway. Also part of the group, Fe-Mail. This release has pieces recorded from over the past 10 years. Electronic noise, beautiful vocal insanities, classical sounding accordians, vivacious violins…very amazing!
From Tzadik: “Her work ranges from orchestral and chamber works to electronics, improvisation and creative combinations of all of the above. This special collection of Maja???s work showcases several aspects of this composer???s unique and intense approach to sound and features two of her most personal chamber works along with electronic and electro-acoustic works for voice, saxophone and more.”

Aaron Dilloway – “Chain Shot” – [Throne Heap]

Nozmo King   6/7/2008   A Library

Cracked no-fi turbid tarpit from former Wolf Eyes member Aaron Dilloway. These two side long pieces are a slow-building brew assembled using a limited palette of materials (tape loop, metal, horns) at hand, and pitting tension between unrehearsed and controlled in a deliberative environment. Side B ends in a tasty locked groove.
???Nozmo King

Prolyphic & Reanimator – “Ugly Truth, The ” – [Strange Famous Records]

Max Level   6/4/2008   CD, Hip Hop

This is what indie rap is all about: a strong hip hop collaboration between an emcee with something to say and a DJ/producer who surrounds him with dense and interesting music. Prolyphic spits his down-to-earth lyrics, confident and fearless, on top of multi-layered beat backgrounds that no doubt inspire him to hit even harder. Reanimator sets a new standard for DJ/producers; his music is a show all by itself; hugely dynamic, constantly surprising, always pushing things forward. Can’t wait for this team to drop the next project on us. Guests: Macromantics (4) and B. Dolan/Alias/Sage Francis (6)

Les Club Des Chats – “Yes Madame ! ” – [S-S Records]

cinder   6/2/2008   7-inch, A Library

MEOW! Super kitty cat themed 7″, artwork AND lyrics. Duo from Paris France! Very short songs, in the vain of a stripped down Deerhoof/Numbers/Kleenex/Monty Python skit. Mostly just drums, guitar and random objects. High pitched squeeky female vox, and funny French-man-BBC style male vox. Check their website (address on 7″ sleeve) for some more crazy kitty pics!