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Drose – “boy man machine+” – [Computer Students]

atavist   10/1/2019   A Library, CD

Human—machine juxtaposition, taken very seriously. It’s a good use of its context, the Center for Automotive Research in Columbus, Ohio. Robots were building a race car during the recording. The building’s machinery has a compelling voice, and the recording captures this as well as its cavernous acoustics. Compositions are slow builds, with pounding percussion, to wailing guitar passages. I found the vocals hard to take in the early tracks—desperation shading into near whimpering. Over an hour and ten minutes of material is presented, and a bit of it feels like filler. Tracks 5, 6, 10, and 11 recommended. Track 12 is maybe the best, if you simply want a rock song. Track 13 is okay too. FCC on track 8 (fucking).

Bonnet, Francois & O’Malley, Stephen – “Cylene” – [Editions Mego]

atavist   10/1/2019   12-inch, A Library

Consistently beautiful, minimal compositions of guitar, awash in cavernous echoes. Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0))) provides guitar, and François Bonnet (who also works under the project name Kassel Jaeger) pursues studio manipulations of those sounds. The effect is tranquil but brooding, the slow unfolding of night shadows, wind howling on lonely mountaintops. The last track is distinct from the others due to its more assertive use of keyboard drones. Its title means “steps in the ashes”, and one can picture a film where a survivor steps out into the light of a ruin and considers a broken future. 

Unholy Crucifix – “Black Mass Metal” – [Yersinia Pestis Records]

atavist   9/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

Two to three minute bursts of lo-fi, Satan-worshipping black metal from Eureka, California (though originally from Norway). The record starts with an interesting, quiet intro, vaguely ominous, nearly pleasant. But everything after that charts a descent into the defiled pit. Wreathed in filthy guitar tone, a spectral distortion cleansed of its soul. Sometimes the drums come in really high in the mix—some tom strikes achieve a separation so as to be disembodied from the band. In this lineup they still had a bass player, and at best he adds a bit of thickness to the din. Super washed-out vocals are the right sound for this maelstrom. If side A isn’t suitably lo-fi, switch to side B, which is all rehearsal versions, including rehearsal versions of tracks found on side A. The guitar tone here is more of a common noisy variety and loses some of that “spectral” quality noted earlier. It’s clear that they just went through the set, playing each track in succession, so it’s a cool approximation of a live recording. The last track is the filthiest of all, like it was recorded by a single mic going into a Radio Shack tape recorder. The cymbal crashes just clip out completely. This is a heavy dose of sickness.

Cell Rot – “Violent Spirals” – [Vitriol Records]

atavist   9/8/2019   12-inch, A Library

Oakland’s Cell Rot released this deput LP just over a year ago, and now it’s time to bring it to the KFJC airwaves. Recommended for heavy rotation: this is well-built hardcore flecked with metal, completely enraged and death-obsessed. The album basically drops into full speed after the introductory track and doesn’t relent. Drop in, spit your pain and disgust, repeat. Tracks are short and to the point. The vocals are furious and consistent throughout, finding that balance between control and abandon. That description could apply to the instruments as well: the band is tight without sounding uptight; they hit their marks with enough confidence to allow reckless performance to inflect the outcome. The record is so consistent that any track will do (look out for a couple FCCs). Well, except for the intro, which really is an intro, consisting of just a vocal track and brooding, ominous guitar feedback, and leads immediately to the following track. Playing both “Intro” and “Born Into Pain” could be a nice choice, and that will still only take 2:29 to play. Tracks are typically threaded together with walls of feedback—in other words, there aren’t clean breaks between tracks and you’ll have to rev up to 33 quickly when cueing (plus cut away quickly to your next track at the end). The last track, “No Redemption”, is a great way to close out the record, and might be my early favorite.

Ramleh – ” The Great Unlearning” – [Nashazphone]

atavist   9/3/2019   12-inch, A Library

Ramleh have been honing their craft, off and on, for 37 years. When the band reformed in 2009, they set out to work in both the power electronics sound typical of their early days and with a more straight-up bass-guitar-drums rock sound. With this double LP we hear a variety of sounds: droney electronics, straight-up noise rock, indignant vocals with understandable lyrics, fuzzed out drum machines, and meandering guitars. Despite this eclecticism, Ramleh manage to carry a sonic theme throughout. (The lyric themes and the track titles—Futureworld, No Music For These Times, Your Village Has Been Erased—are easy enough to thread together.) The sound trends dark but isn’t unrelentingly dark. Favorite tracks: D3, D1, A1

A1. Big, oceanic synth sounds and textures. Brooding bass portends doom. Drums provide a light touch. Instrumental. Towards the middle of the track, things start to pick up. Tempo, guitar complexity. This long track is somewhat different from the rest of the album, but again, there are sonic themes, a mood in the sound, that can be traced throughout.

B1. Driving drums and bass. Vocal element. “Virus synths”. They take a theme and ride it hard, which is perhaps another way of saying it’s borderline repetitive. Towards the ends there’s a bit of a freak-out noise break-down.

B2. Thick ascending/descending synth part reminiscent of Recognizers. Digital big brother perhaps? Guitar wanders in and out, but the synth drone is predominant, especially in the beginning. Instrumental.

C1. Pretty conventional-sounding rock song, complete with cowbell. (!)

C2. Ominous synths with barked vocals, a soundtrack for civil disorder and the unravelling of society. The shortest track on the album by a long-shot.

C3. They kind of jam this one out a little harder. Instrumental. Very rock and roll with dash of noise; has some psychedelic leanings, though to be sure, this is a borderline bad trip.

D1. Doomy beginning, heavy. Vaguely like early Swans. Contains the one FCC on the album (shit). After a solo vocal phrase, there’s a rousing finish. Probably my favorite track on the record.

D2. Synths and drum machines return. Spare at points. A pretty guitar sound swoops in and comes as a bit of a surprise given the pervasive atmosphere of the album.

D3. A heavy rocking piece to close this out. Thick, overdriven bass, layers of delicate guitar work. Epic, suffused with feeling, such disappointment at the way things have gone. Ultimately the song exhorts us to change course; “it’s never too late”.

Malignant – “Purity Through Putrefaction” – [Maggot Stomp]

atavist   8/31/2019   A Library, CD

Malignant are a Southern California-based band delighting in the sonic terrorization of late 80s/early 90s death metal. They don’t stray far from the genre, and why should they? Pummeling drums, crushing guitar, raw-edged bass, and you can just make out the lyrics of abomination, torture, torment, and blasphemy.

The first track is completely unlike the rest. It starts out with some pretty basic synths—a simple bass synth pattern with higher dee-yoo sounds (like something falling to the ground in a video game). Then a cinematic, orchestral swell comes in that’s quite beautiful and had me wondering where it came from. Are they sampling something from a soundtrack? No one in the band takes credit for playing keyboards, and certainly not for arranging an orchestra (or sampling a horror movie score), so it remains a mystery until the internet reveals otherwise.

The table is set for a death metal onslaught. Tracks 2 through 5 are pretty consistent, but 2 and 5 in particular stand out. Track 2 drops with pure ferocity and a satisfying groove before embarking on the fast-tempo assault. Track 5 brings the evil up a notch. To echo my comment about consistency, tracks 3 and 4 are certainly worthy specimens as well. If I have a nitpicky comment, the bass sound is quite good in the mix, but the moments where everyone except the bassist stops playing while the bass continues solo aren’t sharp enough and interrupt the flow of the tracks. However, overall the instrumentation is tight, and Malignant maintain a high level of fidelity to their chosen genre. You will want to spit your disgust at the world. Death Metal cannot die.

Paysage d’Hiver – “Kerker” – [Kunsthall Produktionen]

atavist   8/31/2019   12-inch, A Library

The genre of Paysage d’Hiver according to The Metal Archives: Black Metal, Ambient. Paysage d’Hiver is Winter Landscape in French, and as the project is based in Switzerland, the album title, track titles, and lyrics are in German. This release, Kerker, or Prison, was originally released in 1999, and Kunsthall Produktionen has re-released it 20 years later on vinyl with fine packaging. This recording warrants a 20th anniversary. Painted with a seemingly limited palette, the arrangement of these spare elements combine to suggest a story over the course of four tracks. Elements contrast each other and occupy different sonic regions so that they are clearly discernible. It’s at once despairing and beautiful, primarily a richly textured dark ambient piece, with the last track being the closest to conventional black metal; even so, the sounds throughout are much rounder than the grit and abrasion of the most caustic black metal recordings.

A1. “Depth”. In the rumblings, the stirrings of monolithic subterranean beasts who walk in the endless night, disturbing slumbering caverns. Finally, guitar sounds resolve. Is this a ray of light in this dread catacomb? When it falls into naught, the beasts prowl undaunted. This first track blends into the second…
A2. “Steps” …which starts with a new percussive element. Their dark works accelerate unimpeded. Synths build. Glimmers of light, ephemeral, beauty has returned to do battle with the dark beasts. Guitar returns to cry into the darkness, mournful, all is lost. But the rhythmic machine passes. The beasts and the light, flickering, remain. At the conclusion, a voice emerges, confused? Tormented? Rumblings like wind, an ether, a permeating medium through which souls pass. A slow fade to oblivion leads to an abrupt end.
B1. “Shadow”. The rumblings return. Here, little alters this minimal landscape for some time, and new patterns emerge only gradually. Pulses punctuate the rumbles. Ethereal light glimmers in the unrelenting dark. That voice returns, to be overwhelmed by a new malevolence…
B2. “(Passage/Course)” …a master of darkness. In this concluding track, a driving drum machine is buried in the din of the guitar. Still the glimmering light of the synth flitters across the surface while the beastly voice prowls the sonic depths. Guitar and drums cut through the middle. It’s like the beast and the light are in the room with you an the guitar and drums are heard through a wall. The lyrics might mean, “Is this the life course? Immersed in my inner self, I am bound in the time of the universe, I go the slender course about the knowledge of the shadows”. A satisfying dissolution provides a conclusion.

Black Dog/Goddess Aphonic [coll] – [Monastic Discharge]

atavist   8/27/2019   A Library, Cassette

Black Dog: Filthy vocals, bass buzzes like malevolent electrical wire. Lo-fi production boosts the raw subversion. The mix favors the vocals over the instruments, so turn it up and have Gollum screaming in your ear.

Goddess Aphonic: the quest to meld heavy with saxophone continues. Driving, insistent rhythm section. Snarling bass. The sax carries the main melody with descents into the skronks and shrieks common when a sax is pushed into the red. The sax is maxed out in a way that you can feel the air rattling around the inside the brass. Occasionally, some strangled vocals are forced through the chamber.

Cavity A.D. – “Wraith” – [Valley King Records]

atavist   8/12/2019   12-inch, A Library

The A.D. in the band’s name derives from the fact that the band returned from a 14-year hiatus with the release of the album “After Death”. Now, with this release, the band is referring to themselves as Cavity A.D. KFJC has some comps and 7”s that comprise a portion of Cavity’s output from the 1990s. Internet research reveals this band was an important institution for the South Florida scene, collaborating with folks who would go on to other projects like Torche and Black Cobra. As Cavity AD, they are permitting themselves to diverge from their earlier sound and experiment with new instrumentation and textures.

A1: Long intro consisting of a Mad Max-style primitive drumbeat that gives way to fuzzy guitar riffing and semi-feral vocals that are yelled more than screamed or growled. A2 Reinforces the long drive across the desert vibe the first track flirted with. The primitive beat is established, and as the drive progresses, sparkling guitar washes over the heavier riff. They really want to explore this feeling—it’s a long passage across the desert. B1 Very industrial vibe driven by the percussion. B2 They save the doomiest for last. Unlike the previous tracks, the drum machine feels out of place here. That riff needs the accompaniment of some old-fashioned slow-motion drum-bashing, with big cymbal crashes decaying into the mix. Maybe that’s too mid-90s to be A.D…

Fennesz – “Plays” – [Editions Mego]

atavist   8/12/2019   7-inch, A Library

Reading up on this on Bandcamp, this is the 7” released in 1998. (It has subsequently been re-released as both a CD and a 10”.) It is considered a bridge between early abstract electronic explorations, like “Instrument”, and later guitar-based works, like “Endless Summer”. (Both of these 12”s are in the KFJC library, among others.) Indeed, the compositions are comprised of a blend of electronics and minimally processed guitar sounds. These two tracks had origins as covers, but you’ll be hard-pressed to hear anything remotely reminiscent of the Rolling Stones or Beach Boys in this material. Minimal, languid, and not even particularly long (3:31 and 4:05), these tracks demand the listener invest their full attention if they are to yield the intended experience.

Shumoto/Rambutan – “The Migration to Warm Rivers” [coll] – [Lost Forest]

atavist   7/30/2019   12-inch, A Library

A1, 9:41—To begin: acoustic guitar strings are struck and decay against gentle waves of vaguely ominous droney washes of sound. More well-formed guitar chords enter the scene and lay the ground work for the vocals, repeating “river is dry again”, among other things. Extremely subtle transition to A2—the tracks essentially run together. A2, 9:43 (time is approximate since it’s difficult to mark the beginning)—This track has more playful guitar fills and slightly more active vocal work. Some listeners will find the vocals a welcome addition to this rather sparse composition, but I’m not especially fond of it. Vocals can be polarizing depending on the listener. Here, they are forward enough in the mix as to be unavoidable—you’ll be into it, or maybe not so much. The vocal element with the guitar gives this Shumoto side a more folk feel than the psych-inflected Rambutan side. Shumoto is Jefferson Pitcher, a filmmaker as well as a veteran musician. He’s worked with a number of artists, including Fred Frith and Scott Amendola. The guitar work, coupled with the overlaid sounds, exhibits a satisfying amount of restraint and feeling. And in the end, the vocal element occupies only a small part of the run time.

B1, 4:05—From the onset, an electric sound much more psych-influenced than the Shumoto side. Rambutan is Chris Hardiman, and recently we’ve had his project Spiral Wave Nomads in heavy rotation. B2, 8:50—Electronic glitches, atmospheric sound samples played in reverse, echoing guitar gently flitting across the top. The intensity of the composition gradually builds over time. Guitar sounds like lonely wind chimes. B3, 6:55—More sparseness and low-level electronic sound patterns. Waves of delay-infused guitar build to a delicate oblivion. 

In summary, this 12″ provides five meandering and nicely executed tracks of spaced-out, moody, atmospheric, and at times minimal sonic explorations.

Agathocles/Existench [coll] – [Mullet Death]

atavist   7/16/2019   7-inch, A Library

Split 7″ of Belgian (Agathocles) and Canadian (Existench) grindcore. There’s no time like the present to spray it, not say it. The Agathocles side is a simply filthy recording. The guitar has a weirdly hollow sound. The vocalist has a sort of “normal dude” style, akin to shouting “hey, move your car, dickhead!” So it’s raw and immediate and all those good things true grindcore should be. Existench bring a full-on chainsaw guitar sound with borderline comical put-the-microphone-in-the-back-of-your-throat vocal sound, but it works, once they lock in and get established. Longest track: 1:37; shortest 0:11. FCCs on Existench tracks 5 and 6; the latter is a clip of Trump talking about making America great (hate) again, followed by FUCK YOU! That’s the 11 second track. Less is more.

Organized Grime – “Organized Grime” – [Phat ‘n’ Phunky]

atavist   7/16/2019   7-inch, A Library

Pretty straight-up hardcore, a little bit emo-y, but not annoying. Comes right out of the gate with some super tight riffs. Two vocalists harmonize on the first track and the effect is a little weird, but not in a bad way. These are fast, high-energy tracks. “Boner of a Lonely Fart” is more melodic and poppy (pop-ish) and has some nice melodic chords, plus it takes its time, clocking in at 2:49. All five tracks are pretty fun, but…

only track 1 is FCC-free.

Esplendor Geometrico – “Selected Tracks 2, 1995-1998” – [Geometrik Records]

atavist   7/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

This double LP contains a number of tracks not found on the other records in the KFJC library by Spanish industrial pioneers Esplendor Geométrico. As industrial music goes, these are mild sounds that skirt the boundaries of electronic dance music, but seldom cross over to that genre. I found the record has, at times, a hypnotic quality ideal for working. The audacity of many of these tracks is their refusal to add anything else above a seemingly spare structure of beats and vocal samples—as if that should be enough. And typically it is enough. ES establish a script and stick to it. The record is extremely consistent throughout, almost to a fault. There are no high highs and low lows. Some tracks have more industrial textures and metallic sounds happening, while others are a bit more organic and borderline danceable. Highlights: track B1 is a bit more insistent and high-energy, like Kraftwerk with their hair on fire; B2 has a cool ethereal looped sample over a mechanistic beat; C1 has some intensity and a broader range of sampled sounds and clanging rhythms; C3 brings something vaguely drum corps and primal, adding just a few sounds along the way, like a buzzing cricket sound; and D3 kind of sticks out for the more playful sounds employed and the use of what could be the chanting of Tibetan monks—less industrial and much more EDM.

World Peace/Limbs Bin – “Every Ray of Sunshine Once More” – [Follow Me Into The Laser Eye]

atavist   7/10/2019   A Library, Cassette

Four minutes that careen between noise and grindcore. Side A, by World Peace, brings electronics, a raw, buzzy bass tone, maxed out levels, and pummeling drums. There are apparently 4 tracks found in these two minutes, but it seems reasonable to just play it through. Side B, from Limbs Bin, is a collage of some goofy samples and the noise/grindcore akin to Side A. Digitization is in the works, but I recommend just playing the cassette on the tape deck. It’s the easiest cassette you’ll ever cue up.

Remez, Nadav, Tyshawn Sorey, and Antonin Tri Hoang – “ELK3” – [Out Now Recordings]

atavist   7/8/2019   CD, Jazz

This is a recording of a fairly spontaneous collaboration that spun out of an improvised music workshop the three musicians attended in 2014. Guitar, drums, alto saxophone and, occasionally, piano and bass clarinet, dip their toes in the water, splash around a bit, and then retreat into silent spaces. Track 5 in particular has a few of those extended near-silences that can be difficult to translate to radio. When the sound gradually returns, the reed instrument provides a nice droney texture. Much of the record, by contrast, is punctuated by the off-balance drum fills, saxophone-as-mosquito, and guitar picking invoking broken glass experienced during free jazz explorations. It’s good to be getting more of Tyshawn Sorey into the library. This third addition is certainly the most frenetic and clearly improvised piece we’ve added by him. I particularly enjoyed his piano work on track 7.

ACxDC – “Antichrist Demoncore” – [Melotov Records]

atavist   6/12/2019   12-inch, A Library

ACxDC drops a slab of West Coast power violence with Antichrist Demoncore. Unrelenting riffs of pure aggression with plenty of thick tone to sink your teeth into. Two vocal styles comprise a dual-pronged attack: high-pitched screaming vs guttural/throaty/demonic. The speed is fairly full-throttle with some choice breakdowns. One track on each side is FCC-free, so outside of safe harbor it’s a minefield. Having said that, the FCC-free tracks, “Cheap Punks”, and “Keep Sweet” are pretty cool tracks, and “Keep Sweet” might be my favorite. It’s a bummer about the FCCs, because there are some great blasting riffs and good, fuck-all, anti-fascist lyrics. After two sides of tracks ranging from 34 seconds to just under two minutes, the 3:36 track at the end of the album feels pretty epic. A worthy addition to the genre.

Robinson, Eugene S. / Petit, Philippe – “Chapel In The Pines” – [Lumberton Trading Company]

atavist   6/12/2019   A Library, CD

This is the second collaboration between Eugene S. Robinson and Philippe Petit to be added to the KFJC library. Eugene S. Robinson is well-known for his work in Oxbow and has appeared in some other collaborations over the years; Philippe Petit is similarly well-represented in the library. Over the five compositions presented on “Chapel in the Pines”, Robinson provides a range of vocal styles ranging from stream-of-consciousness ramblings to singing that references traditional forms and religious motifs. Robinson’s work is superimposed over Petit’s electronics, including synthetic drones and ethereal textures. The first track, my personal favorite, establishes washes of atmospheric textures and delicate guitars. In contrast to the far-off and ephemeral instrumentation, Robinson’s vocals are intimate, close, as if he’s speaking in the room with you, talking in your ear, or perhaps you overhear him from the next table. The last track crescendos with some adventurous sonic creations that fluctuate between the solemn and the spasmodic, with a sudden ending. It’s like the character created by Robinson has finally broken through to the next dimension, like Dave in “2001”, only to be abruptly disappointed by what is found there.

Call of The Void – “Buried In Light” – [Translation Loss Records]

atavist   5/29/2019   A Library, CD

Call of the Void conjures metalcore that flirts with crushing heaviness. They’d fit on a bill with bands like Integrity, Meshuggah, Premonitions of War…they’re not as punk as metalcore standard-bearers Converge, and they’re not as angular and mathy as Botch (pardon the dated points of reference). My favorite parts of the album are those where they allow themselves to introduce some additional textures to the overall onslaught, like the instrumental conclusions to tracks 3 and 4. Track 7, “Enslaved”, is a brief instrumental, and it has some interesting elements. This marks a turning point in the album, where the layers of guitar parts and percussion show a bit more depth and complexity. Track 8, “Re Death” has compelling wall-of-sound guitar harmonies, and track 9, the title track, builds on this trajectory. Tracks 10 and 11, “Wave of Disgust” and “Almighty Pig” return to simple, primal fury. By the time they reach the last track, they’ve fully returned to a pared-down and pummeling attack. The highlights are tracks 7–9. Three tracks have FCCs and are noted on the cover.

Noisem – “Cease to Exist” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   5/29/2019   A Library, CD

Blistering fast thrash metal. The metal blogs are generally giving this record favorable reviews, and I can see why: Noisem exhibits a studied appreciation and respect for the genre on a properly produced recording. They have the technical chops and an unapologetic scorn for our fucked-up society. If you like your thrash uncompromising, old-school, with production that delivers trebly distortion without turning muddy, go ahead and inject two to three minutes of spitting rage into your set. Aside from their appearance on a compilation added to the library six years ago, this will be Noisem’s proper introduction to KFJC. Keep an eye out for tracks with FCCs (1, 2, 3, 5, 8).

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