Pet Bottle Ningen – “Pet Bottle Ningen” – [Tzadik]

abacus   12/7/2011   CD, Jazz

Young, budding trashers from the NY Downtown scene burst onto Tzadik with this torrential release. Pummeling jazz fraught with a chaotic chimera of constantly morphing and moving ideas, building on their own math-confused complex of deviously creative rhythmic melodies, perpetually losing themselves in the spontaneous freedom of formless furies. Numerically challenging, relentlessly defiant and dubiously comedic, this trio leaves you dazed and dazzled from their seamless exploration of abstract compositional techniques and conversational improvisation. Scanlon hits you with a crumbling wall of distorted guitar noise and a ratcheting jangle of broken, finger-tapped melodic lines while Yoshida’s caterwauling coagulation of squeals, squeaks, skronks and screams seems strangely coherent along with Miller’s tornado of stop-start precision. Amidst this, track 4 lays down a funky hip-hop beat, while at 6 we reach the eye of the storm and track 11 offers a mysterious noir-tinged serenade. A very, very Tzadik release…

Cardiacs – “Radio 1 Sessions: The Evening Show” – [Strange Fruit]

abacus   12/7/2011   12-inch, A Library

Live studio session on the BBC-1 Evening Show with prog-punk overlords The Cardiacs. These tracks are early 1987 recordings from their 1988 and 1989 LPs and contain their ‘hit single’ “Is this the Life,” which is definitely not the highlight of the album. The other tracks are delightful samples of Cardiacs’ signature prog-rock mania, dropping all conventional songwriting styles for a charming unpredictability that inspired many for years to come.

Cardiacs – “A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window” – [Alphabet Business Concern, The]

abacus   12/7/2011   12-inch, A Library

Think taking tea in your Royal Guard outfit while riding a unicycle way too fast through a carnival playhouse…and you’ll start to understand this high-energy, playful prog-pop from 80’s UK group The Cardiacs. This music is loaded with unpredictable stop-start changes blending genres from punk to psychedelia to medieval folk and pompous anthems but always staying firmly rooted to their prog-rock sensibilities. Lyrics are allusively poetic and philosophical, projected with a frantic, childlike energy. They adopt a surrealist pantomime of the traditional rock band format and place it within a framework that is symphonic in scope, complete with separate movements within each fast-moving track. Released at the height of their career in 1988, this is their 4th studio album??and is arguably the best known due to the presence of their only hit single “Is this the Life” (my least favorite of course). This band is fiercely independent and absurdly complex yet charmingly accessible. Renowned for their theatrical, carnivalesque performances, revered by their followers and shunned by critics. This is a piece of history indeed!

Tarfala Trio – “Syzygy” – [Nobusiness Records]

abacus   11/29/2011   12-inch, Jazz

Syzygy is a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies in a gravitational system. These three celestial bodies, Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy and Raymond Strid, give us ferocious improvisations that range from blistering intensity to formless textural conversations.??Tarfala Trio met in 1992 at a music festival in Stockholm and proceeded to perform live together over the years, releasing a couple albums before this piece, a live performance in Belgium in 2009. Mats provides a fraying gruff that always seems on the verge of erupting into caustic howls yet constantly displays its subdued lyricism. Guy provides a more cerebral yet dizzying array of twangs, plucks and scrapes that matches Strid’s seemingly endless supply of percussive sounds constantly rolling and unloading and rarely coalescing into anything concrete. Each piece is devoted entirely to the journey with a telepathic expectation of how and where it will unravel. Broken by Fire explodes immediately in pyrotechnics then allows itself to decompress and deconstruct only to erupt again. Lapilli Fragments seems to build from the bottom up yet never quite reaches its peak. Cool in Flight showcases the expressive power of Guy on bass after a long minimalist exploration. Tephra comes comes together like water down a drain, dripping at the edges until finally swirling to the center. The 7″ title track seems to be the encore, succinctly summarizing the whole album within 6 short minutes. This shit sizzles…Check out live videos on youtube!

S.W.A.T. – “Deep Inside a Cop’s Mind” – [Amphetamine Reptile]

abacus   11/29/2011   12-inch, A Library

The soundtrack to the new police state from shit disturbers Adam Parfrey and Jim Goad, authors/publishers of the controversial and misanthropic zines Apocalypse Culture and Answer Me!, along with the folks from Poison Idea. This silly perverse satire is dedicated to the boys in blue, “the only real people left,” because while you “sit and criticize like the cowering, two-bit punk you are,” they’re out protecting you from the “killers, rapists, dustheads, welfare cheats, puke-smeared drunks and crusty schizos.” Seriously though, this is a bunch of goofy covers with self-glorified cocky cop catchiness inserted throughout along with clips from Dragnet and police broadcasts from the LA riots mixed in. An expose of real life on the streets for all you bleeding heart do-gooders. Each side has an interlude of peace officers talking philosophy at a diner that shouldn’t be missed (cameo from Anton Lavey and Boyd Rice!). All the lyrics are clean but they might get some local police to start profiling for KFJC bumper stickers. Watch out!

Lewis, George – “Les Excersices Spirituels” – [Tzadik]

abacus   11/29/2011   A Library, CD

“Ancient philosophy should not be viewed simply as a system of abstract discourses but as a set of practices or ‘spiritual exercises’ that aim at individual and social transformation.” -Pierre Hadot

George Lewis brings us three modern classical pieces in which he composes and/or provides live electronic processing and spatialization performance. The pieces are performed by three different New Music chamber orchestras that are each brilliant in both their technical skill and unsettling emotion. The title piece, firmly rooted in philosophical traditions, moves elegantly through both composition and improvisation carried by the dynamic interplay of flute and strings set in counterpoint to the guitar work and bass clarinet rants and musings. The electronic manipulations give the acoustic performance a fragmentary, dream-like experience. Hello Mary Lou, posed as an alternative soundtrack to the experimental film Mary Lou, presents a tense drone that creeps and creeps, refusing to reveal the echoes of a lost chamber piece. Bassoon and tuba shine! Ikons was composed for an acoustic octet with no electronic processing but instead used for a live interactive art installment where huge pyramidic ‘Ikons’ respond to visitor movement. More bassoon! Lewis uses the computer software/live electronic processing as an ontological framework to explore the possibilities of improvisation in the modern day. Enjoy!

Post-Alarmist Dracula Safari [coll] – [Oms-B Records]

abacus   11/29/2011   12-inch, A Library

Collection of solo projects from former members of spastic jazz-punk Portland band Alarmist. Tracks are a little less chaotic than the band’s previous efforts, engaging in a much darker, more contemplative climate of haunting, unhinged, sometimes industrial sounding projects. Inca Ore is Eva Saelens: ethereal wind-chime drones cradling ghostly whispered vocals set over a sound collage of clips from old Alarmist shows. Argumentix is James Squeaky: post-apocalyptic anthems rapped over rumbling gothic/industrial beats with mic rustlings and tenor sax musings. Ghost to Falco is Eric Crespo: tormented western folk-dirge with slowcore build. Tunnels is Nick Bindeman: caustic, piercing psych-pop with gloomy synth and moaning vocals. Limited to 300 copies.

Elisha, Ehran / Campbell, Roy – “Watching Cartoons With Eddie” – [Out Now Recordings]

abacus   11/29/2011   CD, Jazz

Another thorough jazz exploration from Ehran Elisha and Roy Campbell teaming up for a free-jazz duet in the tradition of Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell’s collaborations from the past. And acutally, the title track and album title are a reference to Elisha’s history with Blackwell, being forced to watch cartoons before drum lessons together. This album is full of tributes to free jazz greats: For BD is an improvised sound poem dedicated to Bill Dixon (written right before his death) and The Dizzy Roach is a reference the Dizzy Gillespie/Max Roach duet album. The influence of Cherry and Blackwell is very apparent throughout the album though they do stray from the freewheeling hard-bop feel to delve into more subdued, meditative and introspective pieces (Side B/C). Contained here are the aforementioned lyrical jazz licks but also all sorts of African polyrhythmic techniques, Middle Eastern modalities, and all sorts of textural experimentation. One of the first releases from new label Out Now Recordings.

Faust – “Something Dirty” – [Bureau B.]

abacus   11/21/2011   A Library, CD

Faust’s history is confusing to say the least. Pioneering the krautrock genre in the early 70s, the band disbanded in 1975, reunited in the 90s, then subsequently split into two groups, both named Faust. This incarnation, centered around founders Peron (bass) and Diermaier (drums), has also shuffled members but has maintained its current form since 2007 with James Johnston on guitar and Geraldine Swayne on vocals and keyboards. This release is amazingly cohesive and seems at times to be the closest sounding to their original sound. Nothing here seems too defiantly obscure yet it consistently maintains its pummeling intensity and relentless creativity. There seem to be two starts to this album, with the first three tracks establishing the complex dynamics to be explored later in the album; the blistering rock intro and juxtaposed serenity laden within the thickly layered Herbststimmung coalesce into the moving industrial march anthem Something Dirty. The album then begins again, exploring dark ambient soundscapes and psyched out guitar destruction alike. Swayne offers haunting yet seductive vocals (in English) on 5, 8, 13 while Je Bouffe assaults you with a grimy punk-waltz rant in French. In the final track, Swayne’s vocal musings echo and melt away into a crunchy feedback that ends abruptly, suggesting there may yet be more Faust to come. Let’s wait and find out…!

Sky Burial – “Aegri Somnia” – [Utech]

abacus   11/16/2011   A Library, CD

Sky Burial is an ancient Tibetan funerary practice involving a ritualistic dissection of the human body and displaying of the body parts on top of a mountain to expose it to the elements. Aegri Somnia is a Latin phrase meaning “troubled dreams.” This new release from Utech Records echoes both these concepts with astral navigations through overwhelmingly vacuous drones complements of Michael Page and garnished with the searing saxophone seance of Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. Track 1 is an interstellar journey through catacombs of a decrepit mass of stone and ice. A piercing brilliance radiates from the infinitely distant core emitting a surreal coating of otherworldly delirium that opens into a cataclysmic collapse at the center. Echoes of a subway sax screamer emerge, calming and caressing the subconscious discordance. Immerse yourself in the terrifying vastness of space. In track 2 demonic dementia erupts from the nightmarish depths of of your being, tearing at the last vestiges of your physical reality until all that is left is the shimmering void of existential bliss.

We are all empty vessels…

El Saffar, Amir – Two Rivers Ensemble – “Inana” – [Pi Recordings]

abacus   11/15/2011   CD, Jazz

Inana is the Sumerian goddess of carnal love and warfare, predecessor to Aphrodite and Venus and inspiration for endless strands of mythology throughout ancient cultures. Known as the goddess of infinite variety due to her unpredictability complexity of character and unpredictability she is often associated with chaos and disorder. This release from Iraqi-American trumpeter/composer Amir El Saffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble, a collection of prominent NY jazz pioneers exploring the sonic possibilities of Arabic musical forms within jazz, is an epic retelling of the myth of Inana. Beginning with the retribution she exacts on her former lover, the shepherd-god Dumuzi, the suite goes on to expose the many facets of the character Inana, culminating in the legend of her death and rebirth in Journey to the Underworld. The music here combines the ancient ceremonial Arabic improvisational technique of Iraqi??maqam, using microtonal modulations, meter-less lines and flexible tonalities, and combines this with the polyrhythmic syncopations, contrapuntal harmonies and polyphonic melodies of modern jazz within a dynamic group improvisational setting. Whether it be Mathisen’s chromatic cannonades on sax, Tabil or Abboushi’s mysteriously lyrical poetry on oud and buzuq (long-necked lute similar to the Turkish saz), or El Saffar’s deftly collected compositions on trumpet, vocals or santour (hammered dulcimer), the musicians here display virtuosic control over the maqam’s microtonal structures and use it to transform the jazz idiom in new and unprecedented ways.

Seth P. Brundel – “Devil’s Pawn” – [Aesthetics]

abacus   11/9/2011   12-inch, Hip Hop

A heavy dose of hyper-conscious hip-hop from Miami MC/producer Seth P. Brundel. Brundel has done work with Beta Bodega and Algorithm along with a few tracks here and there but this is his first full-length solo release. He takes on the production aspect all himself and offers a very unique sound thanks to a lot of acoustic instrument sampling (possibly self-recorded?) and dark, atmospheric beats that border on spooky. Lyrics also take a pretty dark tone focusing on all the political and social inadequacies/hypocrisies our modern society offers ranging from MKULTRA and NAFTA to Catholic pedophilia and police brutality. He is obviously very intelligent and literate and at times a little verbose but very engaging. If you’re into corporate conspiracies, political dissidence, wealth redistribution and flag burning then this is for you!!

King Blood – “Eyewash Silver” – [Permanent Records]

abacus   11/2/2011   12-inch, A Library

King Blood is ex-Snake Apartment guitarist and Skulltones Records frontman Ryland Wharton. This repress of a super-limited edition LP is also very limited (300 copies) and recorded on four track for a supremely thick and noisy lo-fi ??experience. All the tracks engage the listener with simple, mantra-like desert blues themes repeated into their own echoing, claustrophobic distortion for an entrancing meditative dirge. The scuzzy, overblown guitar riffs are washed in reverb and feedback and fraught with distant guitar psych-outs. Bass rhythms and minimal drumming peak from underneath the torrents of fuzz and muddy static. Vaguely reminiscent of Neil Young’s solo guitar work for the film Dead Man but with the intensity of Stooges riffage. Play it loud!!

Cindytalk – “Hold Everything Dear” – [Editions Mego]

abacus   11/2/2011   12-inch, A Library

Cindytalk has taken various forms over its 30 year existence. Originally composed of members from the new-wave punk group The Freeze, Cindytalk, led by Gordon Sharp, took a darker, more fractured approach, initially dipping into the realms of post-punk/industrial/dark ambient while recent incarnations have explored the sonic possibilities of digital minimalism, this piece with mystical yet ominous electronic bent metal drones that simmer in charged, rhythmic swells and soak in clanging chimes and bells. Sparse and somber piano interludes throughout provide deeper introspection to complement the threateningly serene soundscapes eerily cracking to reveal the fierce underbelly subterranean decay. Sharp’s sound displays the weary beauty of Fennesz infected by the sonic violence of Jugend in a most grippingly beautiful way.

A giant glowing orb looms over the horizon just beyond a quiet midwestern farming town emanating a deafening glow that freezes rain and blows sheets of piercing wind through the sky. From it a psychic entity reveals to us the reality of our existence as it brightens and sends an earth-shaking roar only to coalesce into a swirl of blood red brilliance and electrical currents broadcasting dark, foreboding predilections. The orb then dissipates and seeps into the sublayers and fringes of our existence, simultaneously crumbling the edges and eating away from the inside in a fury of subterranean decay. All that remains is the shimmering glow of the orb’s radiating brilliance looming unnoticed over the horizon.

Fennesz – “Seven Stars” – [Touch]

abacus   10/19/2011   A Library, CD

4 track EP from Austrian laptop glitch artist Christian Fennesz is continuing with his recent explorations into more approachable, tangible sounds while still maintaining the same twisted, textural imagination. He imposes harmonious layering and elemental melodies via guitar, bass and synth, over the placid yet unsettling soundscapes.??Seven Stars: emotional arrangements of echoed guitars and digital swells of stirring strings brushed with light drums and bass. July a tweaked metallic buzz subtly tears at the rustic, desert ghost town setting. Overall, this is not as harsh and alienating as his earlier noise explorations, focusing on a more ambient and immersive environment.

Evidence – “Cats & Dogs” – [Rhymesayers]

abacus   10/12/2011   CD, Hip Hop

Third solo effort from ex-Dilated Peoples producer/MC Evidence. This time around Evidence seats himself firmly behind the mic, only producing for a couple tracks, leaving Alchemist, Sid Roams, DJ Premier and others at the controls. Beats are very cinematic, verging on epic at times, with darker tones and some cool vocal sampling, though a little overproduced and repetitive at times. Evidence keeps it way real with honest, introspective lyrical narratives about personal trials and tribulations dealing with life, love and mostly fame. Choice tracks: #3 thought provoking social commentary about status and struggle, #6 classic Premier material, #12 takes a Phillip Glass-esque operatic feel, #15 cool sound sampling, #16 some Eastern string sampling and modes. ?? ALL TRACKS CLEAN

Majutsu No Niwa – “Ecstatic Crystallization” – [Musik Atlach]

abacus   10/5/2011   A Library, CD

Feedback drenched guitarnoise drones from Fukuoka Rinji???s group Majutsu no Niwa. Two extra long (~30min) tracks; very sparse, wintry walls of noise showcasing the distorted feedback of Rinji???s guitar with Kageyama Hiroyuki???s booming bass barrage filling the void and Kageyama Hiroyuki???s fragmentary drums peppering the edges. The first piece is the invocation, delving into the dissonant din of Rinji???s icy feedback while the second piece incites hypnosis through abyssal, ritualistic chanting. Both pieces good for mixing or playing naked. Open and spacious soundscapes!

Ajemian, Jason – “Riding The Light Into The Birds Eye” – [Sundmagi]

abacus   10/4/2011   CD, Jazz

Jason Ajemian, a prominent musician/composer from the Chicago avant-jazz scene, brings us his latest jazz-opera piece. Ajemian has made a name for himself in the improvised/experimental jazz scene for his unique blending of genres and the intellectual background he incorporates into his work. Recorded all in one take with no overdubs (except trk1), this piece ranges from delicate to frenetic, funky and soulful to abstract and sparse. Stylistically abstract poetry weaves throughout the free-jazz landscape painted by soulful basslines, chopped-up gritty guitar, dueling drums, chaotic trumpet, and screaming saxophone. Album tracks together and track 4 has language!!

Noothgrush – “Live For Nothing” – [Southern Lord Recordings]

abacus   9/28/2011   A Library, CD

Another devastating dirt and nails gem from KFJC alum Noothgrush! This CD features two live broadcasts from KZSU in 1996 and KFJC in 1999. With the band broken up for almost ten years this feels like a lost, sunken treasure.. and it sounds like it too with the pounding, sludgy, bass heavy doom and gloom that they do so well. Lots of throaty vocals (I think lyrics are all clean but I can’t understand any of them), gritty power chord dissonance and booming bass reverberations with a few guitar solos spotted throughout. Most of the tracks are slow and punishing but there are a few headbangers in there too. Check it out! ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? Watch out! Track 5 skips

Parker, William – “Crumbling In The Shadows Is Fraulein Miller’s Stale Cake” – [Centering Records]

abacus   9/28/2011   CD, Jazz

This box-set is an exposition of emotional exuberance from NY experimental jazz bassist, as well as poet and composer, William Parker. Parker was brought to the public attention as a member of Cecil Taylor unit from 1980 to 1991 and is part of the music cooperative Other Dimensions in Music. He has performed with a variety of artists including Matthew Shipp, Derek Bailey, Bill Dixon, Joe Morris, John Zorn and Mat Maneri. The first two CDs were recorded in one session while the third is a reissue of a 1994 release. CD1 is the title piece exploring his feelings on racism and forgiveness. This is much sparser and introspective with the first two pieces full of heart-wrenching atonal beauty and the third sounding almost bluesy. CD2 contains the shorter pieces that are much more energetic and melodic, almost jazzy at times. CD3 is a reissue of the album Testimony and is much more frantic, chaotic and dissonant. The liner notes expose Parker’s inner thoughts through poetry and prose. Mix or play on its own, these are beautifully imaginative and intimate pieces.

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