On this new release (January 2010), a limited edition (105 copies) double CD-R called Nul, local outfit Clarinette produces 8 spacey drones. Around since the 1980s, Clarinette is the project of Dan Vallor out of Santa Clara. Each track name is a keyboard command ( ?? stumped me!) and mysteriously enough I wasn’t able to get all of them to display when entered in our KFJC music database. Mysterious, ephemeral, experimental. Swirling atmospherics will take you, transport you, like endless Maverick-style waves or orbiting satellites billions of light-years away.
Recorded in 2008, this self-titled release by San Francisco-based Grass Widow came out in Spring 2009. The all-gal lineup (Lillian Maring on drums and vocals, Raven Mahon on guitar, vocals, and trumpet, and Hannah Lew on bass and vocals) crafts some pleasant, rocking sounds that bring to mind some of my favorite bands of the early 1990s riot grrrl scene.
Lovely harmonizing vocals and rock arrangements make for a fun listen. Poetic lyrics touch on everyday ruminations in tracks like “Celebrate the Mundane” and provide commentary on our digital age on “Green Screen” (with lyrics like “Computer are you listening? Thousands and millions of dollars. Lifeless animation. Longing for organic matter…”)
Sadly, this debut full-length by Atlanta rocker Bobby Ubangi (born Benjamin Jay Womack) was released in the months prior to his death from lung cancer on July 1, 2009.
It’s a fuzzy, lofi (recorded on 4-track) release full of garage rock and spare songs. On first listen (before I knew the back story) it struck me as fun and upbeat. Although there are some love-themed songs, upon closer listen, this album got downright depressing, with lyrics perhaps speaking to his impending death. The album concludes with “Sinking” in which Bobby sings: “sinking…everybody’s watching me drown.”
Various Atlanta friends help out on the release by Bobby Ubangi (whose prior projects included the Lids and Gaye Blades) including folks from Black Lips and King Khan.
Released at the end of 2009, “Two Feathers” by Portland’s Rollerball is a glorious combination of sounds. Known for their ongoing evolution as a band since they got their start in the early 1990s in Montana; the latest incarnation includes spacy shimmer, loungy female vocals (in places), active keys and percussion, saxophone, glimpses of retro tropical sounds, a pinch of psychedelia, and moments of cacophony with processed male vocals. From track to track the sound changes considerably, with different flavors for different listeners. I equally enjoyed the loungier upbeat pieces with female voice that the album starts with, as well as the experimental/jazz-influenced work out that brings it all to a close.
A companion DVD includes an additional six tracks with accompanying video (some from the 90s). The second piece on the DVD, “Two Brunos” is a tour film from 2005 in Italy and Slovenia with both band interviews and performances by Ovo and Ronin.
30+ years ago musician Kevin Ayers passed along a pile of unwanted reel-to-reel recordings to guitarist G.F. Fitz-Gerald, thinking that maybe he could re-use them. Eventually Fitz-Gerald took a listen and it turned out that the tapes housed some lovely 1970s-era demos by Ayers. A well-known figure in the English psychedelia scene, Ayers was a founding member of Soft Machine. According to his website, upon hearing these newly unearthed recordings, Kevin Ayers “…found them to be a refreshing reminder of a musical innocence, unique to the nineteen seventies.”
“What More Can I Say…” is a beautiful collection of lo-fi material, with some spoken interludes, a work-in-progress descriptive demo of his “Doctor Dream” piece, spare guitar, piano, and organ. Archie Legget, Eddie Sparrow, David Bedford, Mike Oldfield and Robert Wyatt also appear on various tracks. It’s a quite satisfying time capsule.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleopatra” is a wonderful slice of 1977-1981 punk from Wayne County & the Electric Chairs. Wayne County, a transgendered performer originally from Georgia, had his musical debut with a his first band Queen Elizabeth in 1971. Known for shocking performances (dildos, toilets, and controversial lyrics), he attracted the attention of folks like David Bowie and Andy Warhol. Beginning in 1978 Wayne started transitioning to Jayne, and Jayne County continues her work as an artist today.
This CD collects material from a number of releases and the sound ranges quite a bit. It’s rock and roll, but at times it’s glam, at times more punk, and there are even bits of ska and 50s Elvis-influenced rock and roll. “Storm the Gates of Heaven” has an ominous organ and has a wonderful horror-movie-esque beginning, with lyrics about a casket. The song gets more upbeat at the end, but retains its creepiness with talk of post-mortem worms.
The liner notes give a fantastic overview of the history of Wayne County (whose band prior to the Electric Chairs was called the Backstreet Boys…can you imagine the 90s boy group being inspired by Wayne County? I hope so!)
Around since the 1970s, long-time industrial band Throbbing Gristle brings us “The Third Mind Movements,” a CD release that was crafted in 2009 to coincide with their U.S. tour.
It begins with a twinkly piece with sort of a soundtrack feeling to it. It has a bright start, leading into some haunted processed voice. Throughout the release we hear repetitive electronics, with a tribal and mystical bent to them. Sometimes there are creepy voices or footsteps or repetitive claps. You might hear bells, buzz, stomp, clomping feet through a darkened muddy forest, or a messed up bit from a retro jazz record processed through a tin-can telephone (or was that a dying police siren?).
It all makes for an intriguing listen.
Providence, Rhode Island-based Eli Keszler creates some challenging sounds on this live recording of acoustic percussion. Tilt, originally released as a CD-R, this lovingly crafted re-issue is limited to 300 numbered copies and features artwork by Eli Keszler. The sounds on here were creating using crotales, metal, snares, and double bowed cymbal sticks. My favorite piece is the first, which beautifully incorporates clanking, glass-like noises, bells, and what sounds like small metal objects getting dropped and shook. Other pieces buzz and shriek, with the sounds of bowed metal and shrill high frequencies. It can get a bit ominous, so you might not want to listen to this alone.
Tokyo-based Doronco Gumo has an impressive pedigree, with Doronco lending his bass playing chops to Les Rallizes Denudes (as well as Suishou no Fune and DAS). On this 2008 Japanese release, “Old Punks,” he’s joined by members of Maher Shalal Hash Baz for some interesting Japanese rock. Hints of psych, surf rock, art rock, and a bit of the late 70s creep in to the songs; many with a talk-sing approach and some with female vocals. It’s slow and plodding and is accented by minimalistic bassoon, trumpet, and piano. It ends with Mirai No Hitomi, a piece with a ghostly Joy Division presence embedded in it.
An LP version of this was recently released in the U.S. (with an additional track) on Holy Mountain.
On this brand new release, Sikhara Live in the United States 2007-2008, we get to hear some fine sounds recorded at both our own fair KFJC (December 3, 2008) on Dominic Trix’s show and also at WFMU (April 2007) on Brian Turner’s program. Line up includes Scott Nydegger, Sasha Drumure, Ethan Port and Steve Mackay (of Iggy and the Stooges fame).
It all begins darkly, with moans, heavy percussion, and oscillating noises; but evolves into a repetitive, tribal space on many of the pieces. Imagine what would happen if a drum circle hooked up with musicians with creepy machines and you’ll get a sense of the sound here. Accompanying voices range from demonic moans to quiet accents to shamanistic wails to hovering operatics.
“Anduni” (track 7) is a particularly nice melding and layering of sounds, with not only a jazz vibe and instruments, but percussive accents and buried operatic vocals (like a radio station from afar).
With a “street date” of today, this brand new release “As Eyes Burn Clean” from Terminal Lovers delivers a heavy wallop of masculine psych. It begins with an ominous piece that verges into heavy territory that wouldn’t be all that odd to hear amongst a set of metal-tinged sounds. Yet other tracks are more melodic, with male vocals and even a hint of instruments more familiar to a jazz release. Hectic rock workouts are at the core, but all tinged with a psychedelic haze.
On their August 2009 release, “Luminous Night,” Six Organs of Admittance covers the gamut of spacy, magical, and heavy psych. It begins with a lovely instrumental that might feel at home at a hipster-filled Ren Fair, with its flute and viola accenting the standard guitar/bass/drums.
As we move into the album, we get a combination of instrumentals and pieces with Ben Chasny’s vocals.
It’s all quite mystical and will perhaps transport you into another world.
What a delightful slab of vinyl from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. This 2009 release “Vs. Children” includes simple production, elaborate song titles (including “Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended at Ace Hardware in Libertyville, IL), and story-telling lyrics which take us on a road trip around the U.S.A. and into the depths of human emotion surrounding procreation.
We begin with the aforementioned criminal choir boy in Illinois, then journey to Wisconsin as thieves on the lam. Along the way there are regrets about lost love located somewhere in Charlotte or maybe Montpelier. Family and children are ghostly presences throughout, leading to some melancholic moments of reflection on parenthood, with chilling lyrics like “oh my god/what if we had an accident/oh my god/til you’re dead/that’s how long you’re a parent/til you’re dead.”
These conflicted feelings about parenthood are woven throughout, with the final track “White Jetta” indicating a dying mother’s last hope: “She says she hopes I’ll want a family after she’s died/she says the less you feel like a child/the more you’ll want a child/to stay the same to never change.”
Wow. With dead-pan vocals, this just cuts to the bone and is a wonderful piece of art in its entirety. Take a listen to the entire album; something we don’t do often enough these days.
This is a fun little (3-inches to be exact) CD EP from two young inland empire bands released in 2008 on Bridgetown Records.
It starts with three poppy, lofi tracks from No Paws (No Lions). Upbeat, fuzzy, and simple; it reminds me of the early days of K Records with its DIY spirit. Keys, drums (or machine), and group singing. By track three (recorded live at the fab college station KSPC), there’s a talk/yell style of singing that’s just so infectious.
The last 3 songs are from Hey Buddy and the Pals. Their sound is more swagger rock/punk with a bit of the blues on their opening track (and most aggressive) “Stillborn.” It gets prettier on “Big Growl” with buried vocals, but still a lofi sound. “Motherly Love” has an anthemic beginning and delivers throughout.
This collection, Sounding Out California, represents five pieces that were the winning entries in a competition in California put together by NEXMAP.
It begins with a piece by Hideko Kawamoto that feels very dark and haunted to me, with the sounds of doors shutting, metal wavering, and impending doom as in the flutters of a horror movie soundtrack. Although I hear cool, cold, and liquidy sounds, it’s apparently inspired by a poetic representation of a desert landscape. What do you hear?
Kevin Shea Adams works with static, blips, and buzzing sounds, with some melodic interludes in conversation with the crackling and popping.
Damon Waitkus’s track takes me out into the woods or perhaps a zoo at night empty of people, but full of menacing sounds from the shadows. Birds? Mammals? Demons? It’s hard to say, but they beckon.
Cheryl E. Leonard’s piece rings, splashes, and builds into concentric circles of a scraping concrete boulder that rolls and rolls like a locked groove on a vinyl record. In fact, the piece was created using “amplified stones and water.”
The final piece by Marielle Jakobsons (darwinsbitch) features musical strings, etc. emerging from buzz, for a pretty, twinkling and breathy (yet voice-less) finish.
On this release from 2006, “The End of this Short Road,” New Zealand artist Antony Milton produces some lovely sounds that range from mesmerizing psych-tinged instrumental guitar workouts (calling to mind Felt for me) to spare songs with pop moments (and lyrics). There are hectic passages, some interplay with lovely strings, and pieces that sound like the desert of the American west, with twangier influences.
Recorded in 2000, Antony Milton describes this release as representing “simple melodic folk songiness” compared with some of the harsher sounds intended for his PseudoArcana label. I just find it beautiful.
Tide Tables is a project featuring old friends Alexander Vittum and Paul Kikuchi. This 2009 release includes material recorded between 2005 and 2007, including some live performances. Kikuchi is also the man behind the label (Prefecture) and has spearheaded numerous other collaborations, including Open Graves (with Jesse Olsen).
Recently Alexander, Paul and Jesse performed live at KFJC under the name Tide Tables/Open Graves and a piece from that session is included on the new fundraiser compilation Live from the Devil’s Triangle 12.
Tide Tables centers around percussion and electronics. Alexander is a percussionist, composer and instrument-builder; so some of the sounds are the result of some amazing hand-crafted instruments. On this release they’re also joined by Daniel Carter (alto sax, flute, trumpet), Brian Drye (trombone), Matt Goeke (cello), Matt Crane (percussion) and Sam Weng (percussion). It’s improv, jazz-like, and atmospheric; drifting about these categories of sound with great skill.
As I write this there’s one of the worst storms ever raging on around me and the sonic intensity of this debut by Blood Fountains is even more vivid. It’s a project from Stephen Kasner (ArorA) and he’s invited a number of collaborators (helping him with guitar, bass, keys, percussion, programming, and flute) to create improv-style pieces of the drifty, spooky, eerie variety. Vocals by Yoshiko Ohara add some haunting beauty and the whole endeavor has a 4AD-ish quality with hard to discern, wordless vocals and a mystical mood. Just lovely.
Former Electroscope member Gayle Brogan is the lady behind Pefkin. It’s a solo release (although John Cavanagh adds clarinet on one track) that came out in 2008 on Ruralfaune. Apparently limited to just 73 copies, it feels very DIY with the inclusion of a small twig and a piece of gold-paisley-adorned hand-made paper. It’s very pretty, with gorgeous tinkling percussion, breathy female vocals, and some spooky moments with crashing waves. Strings, bells, a rain stick, and simple plucking of stringed instruments are part of the gorgeous tapestry woven by this talented musician from Scotland.
Originally released as a cassette in 1985, this self-titled release by UK-based project Flaming Tunes sounds as intriguing in 2009 (this reissue came out in April) as it must have sounded nearly 25 years ago. The main players are Gareth Williams and Mary Currie (along with many others) and this project was meant to be a departure from Williams’ previous experimental project This Heat.
Although at times it seems clear that this was created in the 1980s, much of it feels timeless. Depending on the track, you might hear bleeps, buzz, piano, clarinet, casio, guitar, drums, whistles, fiddle, bells, tape, flute or voice. Some pieces are a bit peppier with warbling vocals; whereas others seem deeply influenced by Gareth Williams’ travels in India (especially “A to B”). “Raindrops from Heaven” is infused with sounds of not only raindrops and insects, but also prominent percussion. It all ends with a pretty piece, “Generous Moon,” with male and female vocals that was inspired by the writings of Sylvia Plath.
Gareth Williams died in 2001 and upon the reissue of their Flaming Tunes release this year, his former band mates have been sharing stories about him and their musical projects on the Flaming Tunes website.
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