Music Reviews

Nerfbau – “Error Swarms” – [Resipiscent Records]

Cousin Mary   9/30/2010   A Library, CD

Nerfbau (a wry play on the word Merzbow) is Jsun McCarty and Michael Daddona from Oakland. Nerfbau uses a palette of sounds to make noise art using contact mics, samples, pedals, circuit bent electronics, vocal mics, and various junk. Voices are frequently intelligible and add to the emotional impact of these pieces. Some sounds are industrial, like jackhammers; some might be a bass, a guitar, wind instrument or a keyboard, might be reprocessed or not.

Fun facts: Nerfbau runs Ratskin records. They also perform live as Styrofoam Sanchez, which involves lots of styrofoam breaking.

There is a lot of great work coming out of the noise scene in the San Francisco area, but this is exceptional! Recommended!

PGM: Tracks 14/15/16 would track through and play well together.

Tyrannosaurus Rex – “a Beard of Stars” – [Blue Thumb Records]

humana   9/30/2010   12-inch, Blues

This was the last album by the British band recorded before the name change to T. Rex. Elements of folk rock permeate these songs penned by Marc Bolan. The lyrics are fanciful, and the guitar, organ, bass and percussive accompaniment are in keeping with them. Micky Finn is the ???bongo player,??? and this is his first outing as Steve Took???s replacement. It???s a page out of time. ???By the Light of a Magical Moon??? and ???Elemental Child??? are the standouts.

Angola Prisoners’ Blues [coll] – [doxy music]

Cousin Mary   9/30/2010   12-inch, Blues

Musicologist Harry Oster recorded these songs in the tool room of the Angola State Prison in Louisiana in 1959. Oster considered Robert “Guitar” Welch and Matthew “Hogman” Maxey as fine blues musicians, but felt that Robert Pete Williams was a true innovator. Oster had a part in Williams’ release from prison and his later work; he appeared at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and toured the US and Europe.

Oster’s liner notes are priceless, noting the influence of radio and TV that already affected the music of these prisoners. He analyzes each piece and points out the musical complexity coming from “unschooled” convicts.

This is the real deal, no jokey lyrics or novelty, but the genuine blues from the down and out. Watch out, this will break your heart.

Fat Day/Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments [coll] – [Ratfish Records]

Cousin Mary   9/28/2010   7-inch, A Library

Split release was released in 1997.

Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments was a noise punk band founded in Columbus Ohio in 1989. These 2 tracks feature twangy crackly rough guitars and screamed vocals and great rhythm from the drums.

Fat Day was founded in Cambridge, Mass in 1992. Noise and punk guitar/bass/drums/screamed vocals on these very short tracks.

PGM: 45rpm.?? Words in vocals are too mumbled to be understood.

Mann, Herbie – “Memphis Underground” – [Atlantic]

Cousin Mary   9/28/2010   12-inch, Jazz

Reputed to be one of the best selling “jazz” albums of all time, this 1969 recording is a combination of jazz heavies like flutist Herbie Mann and a celebrated Memphis R&B rhythm section. The result is not exactly soul or psych or jazz, but a marvelous intersection of them all. Guitar, flute, vibe and other solos are delightful but this ensemble is tight when working together.

3 of the 5 tracks are covers, but are totally fresh in sound: “Hold On, I’m Comin'” (Sam & Dave), “Chain of Fools” (Aretha Franklin), “New Orleans” (Gary U.S. Bonds).

Fun fact: Memphis Underground was a favorite album of writer Hunter S. Thompson.

Big Bad Bay Area: Vol. Two [coll] – [Latin Soul Recordings]

humana   9/25/2010   CD, Soul

Soul Harmonies from the S.F. and Oakland Bay Area: Well, I???ll tell ya–a little of this goes a long way. Most of these are love ballads, and sappy ones at that, and there???s a time and a place for them. The last two tracks are more upbeat and fun, while the others drip with romance. Sample and see what you think. Maybe you???ll get a kick out of the guy on 6 saying he weighs 250 but ???under the sheets I???m 110.???

Doozer, The – “Great Explorers” – [Siltbreeze]

humana   9/24/2010   12-inch, A Library

The Doozer writes the songs, plays the instruments, and lends his British accent to the vocals imbuing this fine album of psychedelic tunes. Some are jangly and upbeat, others are plodding and somber, but all are interesting. Gamelan, bagpipe, and jack-in-the-box sounds are featured, and noisy recorded voice can be found on others (Semut 1 and 2). Standouts are ???Brother Lazarus??? and ???Public Transport.???

LA Series Part 4 [coll] – [All City]

humana   9/24/2010   10-inch, Hip Hop

Love this! J. Dilla???s former collaborator HouseShoes brings us two percussion-enlivened tracks, one of which is a remix of ???Look of Love???–yes! Jordan Rockswell (aka Snowman) here records three debut tracks full of synth and beats. The lovely ???Winter Warfare??? segues right into ???The Groove.??? Both sides are lush and warm and will set your heart beating again.

Peaking Lights – “Imaginary Falcons” – [Night People]

Thurston Hunger   9/23/2010   12-inch, A Library

Home-fi, pedal-fry, husband and wife, cat and mouse. Indra
Dunis’ vocals are the mouse, moving in steep shadows of
echo, hiding from the analog claws of Aaron Coyes. When
Coyes lets the samples spin for a few cycles, he often adds
little puzzle loops of noodly guitar too. Drum machines past
their expiration date are invited along, stuffed in a suitcase
of loose wires and solder guns. It’s not audio terrorist
noise burst, just a love of early electronics like a warbling
electric aviary. The underlying songs here are just a chance to
stack up layers of analogia. Two and three chord pawn shop songs,
that like “Owls Barning” have a sort of simple celebration
to them, but are a launching pad for knoblesse o’ tweakage.
And seems like they go on for an eternity or two. I look forward
to Indra’s larynx and lyrics rising in the mix.

This link may add to the appreciation of this record:

-Thurston Hunger

KHU – “Flesh Lament/Phoenix Mass” – [American Grizzly]

Thurston Hunger   9/23/2010   A Library, CD

names may continue to change to help protect their malevolence,
clang, bang, moan and wail. From the album titles maybe
this is sort of supposed to be some black magicke/ritual
mass or even….gasp….performance art. Certainly their
artwork collage is eye-catching. The use of flute gives a
sort of psych flash in the Pan feel that will put a spring
in your cloaven hoaves. I’m trying to avoid my take that
“satanic” music is basically just religious music and should
be filed with K-LOVE staples. Amy Grant and Aleister Crowley,
never see them togther…could be the same tired old soul?
Anyways, as just spooky atmospheres of din and dungeon, this
will arrest the listener. And hell who doesn’t find Halloween
heavenly? The first disc was shorter with some nice loneliness
of the teenage werewolf moments, and come Cthulu catharsis a
la Lustmord with some effect driven beast-cry. Some of the
synthesizers sounded seasick, which was a nice trick.

-Thurston Hunger

Work, The – “4th World, The” – [Ad Hoc]

Thurston Hunger   9/23/2010   A Library, CD

Vault unearthing, and reprocessing of a 1994 live performance.
Before being too quick to file this as prog rock, or art rock
and thus confined to your imaginary older brother’s restricted
collection, I would point out that this is indeed rock. Really
a more sober punk rock in ways. Tim Hodgkinson has that sort of
alert stagey vocal presence, an urgent lecturing tone that
occasionally gets a little shouty. The keyboards never take on
a Wakefield spotlight. Plenty of vitamins Bass, Drums and
Guitar. And there is a catchiness here that is not blues rock,
but a mildly mathematically inclined toe would not refuse to
tap. Okay so their lyrics are montaged from art catalogues,
medical manuals and so forth. “Irregular” through “Vera” might
not be your best starting point. Much of the album tracks by
the way, so plan your exits. Perhaps visit “Hell” first or
even other works of the Work which we have at KFJC. Must
thinking be a plague?

-Thurston Hunger

AFCGT – “Korin/Niche” – [Sub Pop Records]

Cousin Mary   9/23/2010   7-inch, A Library

Very different sounds on sides of this 7″. A: Korin is heavy guitar and drums, rather groovy, a good beat that you can dance to. B: Niche is experimental sound, noise and what might be distorted voices, very ominous.

I read that Seattle based AFCGT is made up of two bands, the A Frames and Climax Golden Twins (hence the initials) and that they have 3 guitars, bass and drums.

Searching for the Now 2 [coll] – [Slumberland Records]

loun   9/22/2010   7-inch, A Library

Two pop tunes, not pop-ular so much as pop you in the head. I’d call these counter-twee, as the beats and melodies are all uptempo, but the lyrics are la la la Oh crap my life is so miserable la la la lock up the razorblades la la la, but much better written. “Oh no, Baby Don’t” is faster and sadder, while “Song for the Troubadour” is more of a melancholy reminiscence. Sweet sonorous self indulgences, musically rich, well recorded, on beautiully pressed vinyl, as we’ve come to expect from Slumberland.

Chen Santa Maria – “Chen Santa Maria” – [Zum Media]

loun   9/22/2010   7-inch, A Library

George and Steven serve up a thick shiny platter of sonic wonderment. At first I thought it was a determined dredging of the sea floor for sounds that had lost their way and were hiding under rocks hoping not to be eaten by sharks. Then I realized that the intended play speed was probably 45, so I tried that, and heard the sound of all the dredging machinery the two men bent to their will. On a hunch, I played it at 78, which yielded the dialogue between the machines, who wondered if they had free will or were merely following a preordained plan. We’ll never know, as these machines were stolen shortly after this record was made. The A side is resonant/driving/chattery, depending on the speed you choose, the B side epochal/climactic/desperate. Post-rock + noise = poise. Unsafe at any speed.

Cosmetics – “Sleepwalking” – [Captured Tracks]

humana   9/21/2010   7-inch, A Library

It???s as clear as the vinyl these songs are pressed on that the Vancouver duo Cosmetics will appeal to anyone who loves IDM. This almost sounds like it???s off a German label, but the lyrics add the distinctive touch that will have everyone in a cool groove as they go Sleepwalking. Enjoy.

Patron Saints, The – “Fohhoh Bohob” – [Ahotz Enterprises]

humana   9/20/2010   7-inch, A Library

A high school garage band from New York recorded a wildly popular LP in 1969, and here are a couple of treats from that. ???Shine On Heart??? (Side A) is a long, folk/psyche ballad that keeps you grounded with its chorus, but simultaneously sets you free as only music from the late 60s can do. You can envision flamenco dancers stomping along to the celebratory rhythm of ???Do It Together??? (although I think in 1969 flamenco wasn???t nearly as in vogue as it has been more recently). Cool percussive outro on Side B.

Galbraith, Alastair – “Mass” – [Siltbreeze Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/15/2010   12-inch, A Library

Crafty raftsman floats back up his river of releases to Siltbreeze
after 17 or so years. I wonder if people who don’t know Alastair well
(myself among that number) ever come up to him and say “What’s the
matter?” thinking he’s feeling a bit dejected when actually he feels
rather happily at peace. Sure “Money is So Sad”, but the man who
penned it I suspect is content with his choices, his creations. Here
22 tracks run across two sides of vinyl, the sonic images are often
fleeting, and maybe that adds an aura of instant wistfulness. Some
forlorn beauty in the wind whipped closure of his “Kyrie Eleison”
and the resonant “Ship’s Bells Otago Museum.” Lots of backwards
masking or mimicking (as I recall he had a device he could use on
his guitar to give it that sound going forward even.) Occasional
murmured mantras on some songettes. It sounds like he’s even got his
pyrex glass tubes and bunsen burners warmed up, or maybe it’s just
some other glass construction. Despite the sketch-like nature of
these snippets, I find this album has a very strong center, perhaps
the intimacy is just built into the details of Alastair’s introspection.
It floats as well as its maker.

-Thurston Hunger

L.A. Vampires / Zola Jesus – “L.A. Vampires Meets Zola Jesus” – [Not not Fun Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/15/2010   12-inch, A Library

Girl on girl grime. (And I mean grime, like when you can’t tell if
it’s mascura or filth, not grime the brief beat genre). Heavy with
the bass catacomb crawling synthwebs slow spun by LA Vampires
aka Amanda Brown, of Pocohaunted. Her LA Vampires bubble up
from their secret lair in the LA tar pits, very thick with stacked layers
of sonic sediment. Happily trapped in the ooze comes Zola Jesus,
her voice a candle (sometimes reflected and reverbed and layered
itself). Her darkling opera is now a calling card, and the words are
sometimes lost…which is okay, as through the murk it all
became clear to me: her style is the substance. Even without
lyrics for “Searching” (an excellent track) and “Looking In”
the voice denotes austere beauty. An isolation maybe more
inflicted on her via curse, than sought out a la Garbo. I still
hear Cocteau Twins, but its nice that the deep bombast here
has a whiff of reggae in its smoke. Ever so slight, call it
rub-a-drub if you will. Sliding blues lurks in “Vous.”

-Thurston Hunger

Vernusky, Mike – “Music For Film and Electro-Theatre” – [Quiet Design]

Thurston Hunger   9/15/2010   A Library, CD

Put out on his own label, Vernusky creates sounds that never
upstage the action they’re tracking. On two of the cuts we get
some dialogue embedded in the mostly electronic shifting
aural sculptures. The words on both of those come from Greg
Romero, “Under My Coat is the Truth” is a short elevator ride
to nowhere or perhaps worse based upon the title, while “Dallas”
is an 11 minute excursion into the haunted hallucinations of
Special Agent Clinton Hill, recollecting and reliving the
assasination of JFK. On that two actors are employed to read
sections of the interchange between Hill and Arlen Specter.
On that piece and many of the selections here, Vernusky employs
static washes, and then high slow ambient tones. Wind effects
are whipped up, and tunnel reverb is pushed down. In the middle
of “Missing” Sam Pluta starts crooning “Dream a Little Dream”
and on the final version of “Hidden” under the clean electronic
grit, and rising synth gale there’s a distant female aria and
miniature music box chiming.

-Thurston Hunger