KFJC 89.7FM

Black Ox Orkestar – “Everything Returns” – [Self-release]

Brian Damage   12/15/2022   A Library, CD

As much as this radio station seems to hate getting the band back together, here’s one that works just as well as before, and perhaps more so.

Black Ox Orkestar is a Montreal-based quartet who perform a modern spin on Jewish diasporic music utilizing traditional acoustic instruments. All are members of other bands, or are solo artists in their own right (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Land of Kush, Sackville, etc.) and formed in 2000 to play what was essentially their spin on their grandparent’s music. Disbanding in 2006 after two albums, they recently reconvened and recorded this magnificent record, recorded with vocals in Yiddish and English. Themes are timely and politically charged: nationalism, fascism, refugees, anarchism, despair, optimism, community, tradition, innovation. It simultaneously despairs and uplifts. It’s dark, but it’s looking for the light.

Both Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave would be equally proud of Black Ox Orkestar.

Damage gives this a big yes.

Dangerous Chairs – “Introducing Dangerous Chairs” – [Self-release]

Brian Damage   12/15/2022   A Library, CD

Chicago’s Dangerous Chairs describe themselves as “dark rock with exposed punk roots.” One listen to the quintet’s ragged guitars tells you that they’re from Chicago. But they’re slippery – one minute, I hear Bob Mould influences, the next minute it’s ALL; hey, is that an echo of Slint that just flew past?

Definitely an act honed and focused on live gigs, the songs and performances mostly hit the mark. Solid songwriting and arrangement, fine musicianship, and a varied approach to rocking like a hurricane lead to high points like “Jeweler’s Lens” and “Rooftops.” Lows are limited to the songs “Plenty of Room,” which seems to be written and recorded by another band entirely, the I-think-it’s-supposed-to-be-positive-and-inspirational “Follow My Lantern”, and the majority of the backing vocals, which seem well-intentioned enough, but Dangerous Chairs are not the Beach Boys, and they should stay out of that sandbox.

Introducing Dangerous Chairs would work better as a ten-song record, but it’s a solid and rocking first effort, and well worth a listen.

Aggrovators, The, Prophets, The – “King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

First off, let’s get some stuff out of the way:

When? 1976.

Produced by? Yabby You (Vivian Jackson).

How much is an original pressing selling for? Currently $552.

The title? Well, there was a previous record called King Tubby’s Prophecy Of Dub. That was also produced by Yabby You, but is an entirely different record.

King Tubby? Well, the dub plates were done at King Tubby’s Waterhouse Studio, but the engineer was Tubby’s assistant Pat Kelly. So, Tubby gear, not Tubby as engineer. To add more confusion, many of these backing tracks actually belong to Bunny Lee.

How many fonts on the front cover? Four: Bottleneck, Compacta, Davida, and Ribbonette.

The Prophets? Actually, The Aggrovators did most of the original tracks.

The sound? Think Tubby, but not as much. Tubb. No, Tub. More atmospheric, less heavy-handed. Bass lines so buoyant that you could use them as a life raft. The ideal soundtrack for a perfect, sunny afternoon.

Bottom line? Oh, so recommended. I don’t have enough thumbs.

Torpedo – “Orpheo_Nebula” – [Broken Clover Records]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, A Library

Teutonic ambient industrial from Switzerland.

Torpedo gets bonus points for not relying too heavily on synths and computers, but the vocals remind me of being at a party with a bunch of European exchange students, all hyped up for whatever reason, and all talking excitedly at once.

For me, Orpheo_Nebula is best administered in regulated doses.

Fullwood, Phillip – “Words in Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

This is a reissue of the incredibly rare 1979 Phillip Fullwood record. Mr. Fullwood originally wrote, sang, and played percussion with Burning Spear in the 70s.

This is a collection of tracks that had been recorded at pickup sessions through the mid- to late 70s, with musicians like Sly and Robbie, Horsemouth Wallace, Azul Hunt, Family Man Barrett, and Bingy Bunny Lamont. Some of the rhythm tracks were self-produced and some were donated by friends. Phillip showed up with boxes of tapes under his arm to Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio one day to do the dubs, on a day when Scratch was “acting crazy,” so he sat down at the console and did all the dubs himself.

The tracks themselves are representative of the era, full of the warm analog sounds of the 70s, and as mixed on Scratch’s rig? Fantastic.

This is essential, and a great addition to anyone’s reggae library.

Bailey, Elroy – “Red Hot Dub” – [Burning Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Another smoker from 1979. This is the debut by Elroy Bailey, the bassist for the British outfit Black Slate.

Rather than loop some recycled rhythm tracks with echo, Mr. Bailey opts for a clean-cut late seventies dub sound played live. The result is a mellow, easygoing dub record that feels like a Sunday afternoon jam among friends. No personnel credits, but it feels like Sly Dunbar on the tubs.

Two thumbs way up for this one.

Trouble Seekers, The – “The Trouble Seekers” – [Ruined Records]

Brian Damage   11/20/2022   12-inch, A Library

The Trouble Seekers is a brand-new collaboration between Kevin McGovern (The Prostitutes) and Hillary Burton (The Pandoras), and it’s every bit as raucous and noisy as a rock ‘n roll record should be.

If your sketchy second cousins (you remember them, right? the chain-smokers from Ohio who drive a beat-up Buick Wildcat and will eventually end up featured on America’s Most Wanted?) show up uninvited and unannounced at Thanksgiving dinner with a half-empty handle of Gilbey’s to offer, claim that they have a band, and proceed to dig a battered C90 out of the back seat to prove it – The Trouble Seekers is that record.

Heavy doses of early rock ‘n roll, first-wave synth punk, and post-punk noise combine to make a relentless sonic assault. There are no slow songs here. There are no slow moments here. The beatings begin within a few seconds of the opening song, “Cool Liar” and don’t let up in the ensuing 37 minutes. The real surprise is that these are actual songs with structure, melody, and hooks. There are two touchstones buried in here to allow you to gasp for breath: covers of Cheap Trick‘s “He’s A Whore” and Madonna‘s “Borderline,” both of which make convenient points of entry for the uninitiated.

This is a pop record buried in a barrel of rattlesnakes and razor blades.

HIGHLY recommended.

Connors, Loren, and Carter, Daniel – “The Departing of a Dream Vol. VII” – [Family Vineyard]

Brian Damage   11/18/2022   12-inch, Jazz

A dark, atmospheric release from two of those New York avante-garde cats, Loren Connors (guitar) and Daniel Carter (horns, reeds).

It’s two 15-minute soundscapes; the soundtrack to being trapped in a huge, dark cave. There is music out there, somewhere. You can hear it, but you can’t precisely locate it. Is it meant to reassure, or menace?

It’s either the soundtrack to a dream, or a nightmare.

Osbourne, Johnny, and the Sensations – “Come Back Darling” – [Sunspot Records, Ltd.]

Brian Damage   11/18/2022   12-inch, Reggae

I’m surprised that this classic 1969 Reggae outing from Johnny Osbourne and the Sensations wasn’t already in our library, but I am delighted to be able to add it now.

Legendary producer Winston Riley had previously worked with Osbourne’s teenage band, the Wild Cats, then signed Johnny and the band (now named The Sensations) for his new ‘Techniques’ label. Riley and Osbourne contributed a half-dozen tunes each to the record, and brought in some smoking session musicians such as Johnny Organ to fill out the Sensations’ sound.

This has the classic Treasure Isle Studios tape-saturated sound of the era; the songs, regardless of lyrical content, wrap around you like a warm hug. Simply stated, it’s one of the definitive records of the ’69-’71 era.

Highly recommended.

Twinkle Brothers, The – “Dub Massacre Part 4” – [Twinkle]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Subtitled “The Killing Zone” – this record is a compilation of rhythm tracks from three Twinkle Brothers (Norman and Ralston Grant, and friends) records released in the late 80s. This particular record is from 1989.

The dub I grew up on as a teenager was Mikey Dread, King Tubby, Scientist, etc., so for me, the weirder and deeper the dub, the better. The Brothers’ previous Dub Massacre records rate very highly with me, so I had elevated expectations for Part 4.

This installment is not so much a dub massacre, as a dub skirmish. Or a dub trip to the emergency room for some stitches.

The Twinkle Brothers get it done, for the most part, but they have a pretty high bar to clear, and their heavy reliance on what was cutting-edge instrumentation in the 80s sounds a bit dated now. The keys are really front and center on these tracks, and the synths of that time don’t take the place of actual horns and organ, so as I’m listening, I’m hearing the missing pieces. And the studio experimentation doesn’t go nearly as far as their previous releases. Having said that, any Twinkle Brothers release is going to kick it over on most other dub records, so any criticism on my part is really the Brothers competing with themselves. Side Two is more successful than the first side to my ears. Your mileage may vary.

Nevertheless, Dub Massacre Part 4 is a solid and essential release that belongs in any dub enthusiast’s collection.

Ford, Ricky – “The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Pauls Scene” – [Whaling City Sound]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Ricky Ford may not have the public profile of some of our other tenor giants, but that makes his playing no less compelling. Now 68, he has played in some legendary bands: the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the age of 20, Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond, the Mingus Dynasty, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Mal Waldron. He has recorded with Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and more.

All this varied background comes pouring out on Paul’s Scene: a virtuosic performance from start to finish, in many modern jazz styles. Lighting the fuse with a gorgeous bossa nova, Mr. Ford moves from strength to strength, ripping through a dozen tracks in perfect form. There’s not a clunker in the bunch. Inventive, lyrical, melodic playing, a smokin’ band (Mark Soskin – piano, Jerome Harris – bass, Barry Altschul – drums), fantastic songwriting and arrangements, and an impeccable recording make this a winner.

Let’s cut to the chase: Paul’s Scene is the best modern jazz record of the year. It gets my highest recommendation.

Robbe, Fabien – “24 Preludes” – [Mazeto Square]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Fabien Robbe is a French musician from Brittany. A precocious musician, he started in on trumpet at a very young age until he discovered his neighbor’s piano at age 7. A diversion to electric guitar in his teens and twenties faded, and he found himself back with his real love: piano.

24 Préludes is a newly-recorded collection of pieces of music he has been writing over a period of 35 years. The influences range from soundtracks, to Vince Guaraldi-esque piano jazz, to Chopin etudes, yet it all sounds of-a-piece because it comes from the mind and hands of one person.

This is really delightful, and there is something here for everyone, even if only to use as a sonic palate cleanser to juxtapose between heavier or more disparate things. This is ripe for use as a topping on a sonic layer cake on Day of Experiments!

I love it; I’m going to play it. You should, too.

Gentle Cycle, The – “Landslide Eyes” – [300mics]

Brian Damage   11/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

The description “psych” tends to get tossed around a lot, and more often than not, it’s applied to some dudes with marginal skills that got high in their cousin’s living room and noticed that there was a cheapo Strat copy and a practice amp in the corner.

This is definitely not the case with The Gentle Cycle. Co-founder Derek See has lived the psychedelic music lifestyle for decades – perhaps his whole life. For Derek, every day is Labor Day weekend of 1968. Derek is not only a session musician, but is also a member of The Chocolate Watchband, The Rain Parade, and the Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500) band, and formerly was a member of The Careless Hearts and helmed The Bang! Girl Group Revue.

Landslide Eyes is the second LP from The Gentle Cycle, and evokes the feeling of a late-summer evening in Los Angeles in the late 60s. There’s definitely a peace, love, and happiness vibe going on throughout, with some Byrds, later Monkees, Pet Sounds, and Buffalo Springfield influences. The Gentle Cycle would not have been out of place at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, but they’re definitely not a slavish cover or novelty band. There’s a real love, authenticity, and songcraft here that can only come from the osmosis one gets from full immersion in the music and the scene for decades.

The record does get gradually harder and darker as it progresses, culminating in the harder acid psych of tracks 13 and 14, “Eyes Landslide,” and “Mercury Twins.” All the tracks are killers, but particular standouts are “Like December Is Bold,” “Ivy,” “Landslide Eyes,” and “Let Me Look At The Sun.”

Highly recommended.

Twin Trances – “Chains EP” – [Dirty Slacks]

Brian Damage   11/7/2022   10-inch, A Library

If there was ever a record that was destined to get blasted out of the rolled-down windows of a primer grey ’68 Chevelle, that record would be this one from Twin Trances, an Atlanta duo made up of two men both named Chris.

Chains is a 4-song 10″ EP of lo-fi, dirty scuzz-rock that gets in, does its business, and gets out. There’s distorted git, keys, drums, and vox, all recorded on a boom box in the next room. This is music to commit petty crimes by.

This is literally the soundtrack to mailbox baseball.

The killer track is “The Angel,” which sounds like a cover of a 70s Bad Company song, but I can’t place it. If it’s an original, then Twin Trances definitely are hiding some serious songwriting chops in the shed out back where they make the noise that sustains them.

Other than the absolute worst cover art that I have seen in decades, Chains has a lot to recommend it.

Coz The Shroom – “Bum Henry Adams and Craig Stewart’s Prince” – [SPASMS Cassettes / Emperor Jones]

Brian Damage   11/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

Coz the Shroom is the nom de tune of Shahrom Hawley, a singer/songwriter who was part of Austin’s Cassette Underground culture in the 1980s and early 90s. Owner of a microphone, an electric guitar, and a practice amp with its distortion knob permanently cranked to 10, Coz wrote, improvised, and recorded a seemingly endless stream of music in the mid- to late-80s.

He was a contemporary of Daniel Johnston – but Daniel skimmed the edge of the mainstream, and Coz didn’t. Local cassette labels SPASMS and Emperor Jones each issued several Coz releases in the 80s, but Coz seemed to be more prolific than these labels’ ability to get them out. Each release was put out on a C-90 tape (47 minutes per side) and Coz would fill the A side, and the B side was left blank for whatever the purchaser wanted to put on there.

This is a compilation on vinyl from six of Coz’s releases from 1987-89, supposedly cleaned up and mastered for this reissue. I say supposedly, because the quality is ultra lo-fi, likely never great to begin with, and degraded by time and duplication.

The music is classic 80s cassette underground weirdo – one listen, and either you will get it or you won’t. This being KFJC, this is very likely right up your alley. As far as individual tunes go, the titles give the content away — no obtuse titles here. If you choose “Destroy All Monsters,” that song is going to sound exactly like you think it would.

And the name? He wanted “a cool nickname like Captain Beefheart,” so he gave himself one.

A future KFJC Klassic.

Savage Republic – “1938 / Siam” – [Mobilization Records]

Brian Damage   11/7/2022   10-inch, A Library

If you don’t know Savage Republic, you should. True industrial pioneers, this LA band got their start in 1982 and have proceeded by fits and starts in the four decades since.

They issued the 1938 LP in 2007, and when on tour in 2019, stopped by Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios to re-cut two of the tracks from that record. The result is a noticeably harder and even more impactful sound than on the previous LP.

Limited to an edition of 500, and pressed on a silver vinyl 10″, this seems tailor-made for KFJC deejays and listeners. Note the inscription in the runout groove on side A.

Recommended.

Hot Pursuit of Happiness – “This Day’s Called Tuesday” – [Personal Archives]

Brian Damage   9/2/2022   A Library, CD

Thollem is a Bay Area artist “who has released approximately 100 albums on 23 different vanguard labels, both solo and collaborative,” since 2005.

This is perhaps the ultimate expression of a pandemic lockdown album, solo composed and recorded while doomscrolling the news over the past two years. Stream-of-consciousness lyrics, sung and spoken in what can be almost a whisper of a voice, sometimes so faint you think he might be singing in another language, accompanied by a keyboard with some seriously analog-sounding patches and a TR-808 plug-in, all done in one take, with no overdubs.

Think of it as a mashup of late-70s minimalist synth acts on both sides of the pond (Suicide, Human Sexual Response, The Normal, Soft Cell), Pere Ubu, NON, Loaded-era Velvets, 60s protest folk music, and narrative poetry, all passed through a filter of ennui and exasperation. It’s a whisper, not a scream.

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