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Thurston Hunger

Shalabi Effect “Pink Abyss” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

First a masterpiece, then a mess…and now this, a
messterpiece from these Montreal minstrels and their
namesake mastermind, Sam (or Osama) Shalabi. This is
another foray into the field of psychedelic poppies,
aside from a gorgeous ballad on #2 featuring guest
vocalist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic most of this teeters
on the fence between hippy jam and even less focused
sonic noodling. That being said, listened en toto
from end to end this album creates its own landscape
with tabla often as its touchstone. The short tonic
track after the aforementioned ballad serves as an
incredible shadow (with clarinet). The album is
bookended by less organic, more orgonic materials. The
initial cut is a flutey forest shredded by a sampler,
the last cut sort of orbits in space around the turf
that has been traversed earlier. While track #9 does
recall their earlier galactic garden processionals,
really all of this is enjoyable. It just tastes like
it was taken out of the oven a tad too soon. Better
that than too late…

Sexy Prison “Bury My Heart at Vladistovok” 33 rpm [toneVENDOR]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

While some will prefer the B-side to this single sided 7″,
the boys cooped up in Sacremento’s “Sexy Prison” probably
wouldn’t mind. Them boys would be vocalist John Pritchard and
de-bassist Robert Pickle, together they may have given birth
to the recently added “Babyhead” comp. Gotta love reproductive
technology these days. Pritchard’s reverby singing is like a
woman with too much mascara, you kinda wonder what it would
look/sound like without it…but you can’t stop staring at it
nonetheless. The second track has a sample at the root that
might be “Funky Cole Medina” or something, it gets briefly
excavated for a spell along with four bars of a Tiki calypso.
These two numbers are as subtle as a drag racing commercial,
fervent with left-over machines from the disco age rebuilt
with illegal parts and maximum squelch. The lyrics are so
warped, I thought they were singing about Boz Scaggs at one
time. Even if they weren’t this is still tremendous.

Selfish Cunt “Britain is Shit” 45 rpm [Horseglue]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Possibly the best of use of a cheap drum machine ever. It
fires a machine gun stacatto attack during “Britain is Shit.”
It then has a series of spasms on “Fuck the Poor” that keep
that track off balance. Vocals are more leery on the latter,
which also has a tiny little pachinko synthesizer buried
somewhere in the grooves. “Britain is Shit’s” pressure-cooked
vocals are stringier, longer notes sung lifting up at the
end of each phrase, as if grabbed on the ears by an unstable
constable. Plus when everything drops out, that damned drum
machine gets a chance to just jackhammer away. Selfish Cunt
contains shouter Martin Tomlinson and beater Patrick Constable
within it. Working out of East London, these lads know there
subject matter, even though one of ’em is evidently and old
New Zealot. Both sides dirty as their titles.

Scholastic Deth “Killed by School” 33 rpm [625 Thrashcore]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Razor sharp, whiplash rock from the now-defunct Scholastic
Deth rockers…though one of the band members evidently still
runs 625 Thrashcore. Songs hit escape velocity pretty quickly,
often leaving with dual feedback whines. But tracks jump on
quickly…so be prepared for life after a Deth track. It’s
just as well, the energy on one side alone can light up the
Central Valley. Songs come out swinging, and occasionally may
end up cold-cocking a friend or themselves. Speaking of
friends…the frenzy here connects back to Spazz per the 625
web site as well as to Capitalist Casualties. More often the
blows land where they are intended, and as all four of the
band are UC grads, it’s nice that they bite the hand that
fed Enron and other dodgy investment schemes. There may be
cursing in the lyric sheets, but sadly people who would be
offended by that, wouldn’t take the effort to stop and listen
to this rock solid 7″. Advanced degrees of ire via their
Evelyn Wood speed thrash edumacation. Repeat multiple times
for multiple credit. Core requirement.

At the Court of the Mwami – Ruanda [SWP Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Back in 1999, Andy Moor of the Ex turned me on to this
label, we did an on-air special on it and interviewed
Michael Baird back in Holland…Michael was born in
Zambia, and through luck and labor had obtained access
to the International Library of African Music which was
founded and largely stocked by Hugh Tracey. Hugh traced
almost all of Africa and did so over 50 years ago, he
returned with recordings that are unbelievably pristine.
You can hear his voice on the throw-away first track,
then a dry flood of drums. Pretty amazing dropping in
and out of beat. Listen to #5, that’s no simple rhythm.
Vocal pieces are even more fulfilling for me, often
a chorus gets a wobbly drone to it (recall Tenores di
Bitti esp #19, one thought is that the Tutsi’s largely
featured here did come down from Ethiopia, hmmm?). Men
and women both are recorded by the way, though I’m not
sure if ever together. #15 has a musical bow, like the
berimbau or kalimboo or whatever the Gnawa Hawa play,
it jabs a song along so well! Drums return towards the
end, this time with Hutu’s doing the honor.

Rope “Widow’s First Dawn” [Family Vineyard]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

I know this is not for everyone, I just cannot
imagine why. A traditional rock triad at the
core, a hot molten core. Around that Rope has
built a whole planet. The first song tiptoes
like a Star Trek away team, uncertain whether
they can breathe the air. Detonating delay on
guitar and on guest vox Graczyna Auguseik’s
works well. This severs prog rock’s Achilles
tendon, as instead of having a vibe of “Hey,
I can play it backwards in 5/11 time” the
feeling here is that large stretches of these
songs leapt out in inspiration. Volume pedal
tension, slashing dischords, & a non-bloated
Allan Holdsworth ghost are all summoned by
Przemyslaw Chris Drazebca. Blood and spittle
vocals are squeezed out of bassist Robert
Iwomly. Michael Kendrick’s drums are
cymbal-laden and frantic/dormant as needed.
This album delivers the hurt and the solace
all at once.

Rollerball “Behind the Barber” [Silber]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Bubble-wrapped in dub textures, a dense sound that seems to
exhale and inhale in a variety of ways. In through the
sitar, out through the accordion…in through the electronic
iron lung, out through the trumpet. Time spent in mixing and
maximimizing the inputs of the 16 listed contributors has
muddied the tracks somewhat to a sonic equivalent of brown,
but brownian music may just be this year’s techno black. I
actually dug the spikes and clashes of “Real Hair” more,
but this is a murky, surprisingly beaty album at times with
a lot of hues to it. At its best it approaches a sort of Art
Ensemble of Electronica. The abundance of synthesizers here
is never smart-bomb precise, never cold and calculated, but
warm and more arbitrary. The vocals are more confident and
torchy when they appear, which is not often enough! “Slits
Arandas” is one hell of a journey with prominent hornplay.
“Autotelic” ends just as its seems ready to launch into an
interesting guitar-led phase. I’m unsure how many of the
sweet 16 still live in the same house in Portland, OR but
it must be a comfy place. The more you listen to this, the
more you will feel at home with it.

Kirk, Roland “I Talk with the Spirits” [Limelight]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   12-inch, Format, Jazz

Pre-Rassan flute frenzy… Kirk as accustomed to blowing many
minds at a time as he was accustomed to playing 2 or 3 saxes
(or flutes) at the same time, relaxes and struts here with
a sweetheart of an album. Still there’s some fierce blowing,
from shrill squeals, to raspier reed-rattling. His breathy
grunts and choked chuckles are all mic’d up tight…and you
can hear him singing right on down and out the holes. Bobby
Moses drops in on some tracks with vibes that work so well
with the flute… One track, “Fugue’n and Alludin'” is gone
too quickly but the title track with Miss C. J. Albert
harmonizing along with them both is hauntingly captivating.
The short solo from Kirk on that begs to be turned up loud
to catch every nuance of sound that this blindman could pull
out of the dark center of a flute (or a sax or a trumpet or
an unique horn made just for him…but here he is confined
to flutes). The music box of “Ruined Castles” pitches an
almost gamelan shadow and that tinkering (Moses?) lingers
on into “Django” before the piano and bass take over and
we get a more standard combo toe-tap tour. Kirk’s exhaled
his last in 1977, but this 1964 album still breathes fine.

Traore, Rokia “Bowmboit” [Nonesuch]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Quiet Griot? Gorgeous voice from this daughter of Mali. She
also accompanies herself on guitar throughout (and evidently
was guided by Ali Farka Toure), but the string instrument that
stands out is the ngoni. It sounds like a lighter, more fluid
form of harp (as played here by Andra Kouyate). It does some
of that gnawa halwa tight picking, which fits in so well with
the bevy of percussion on most tracks. So the music sort of
flicks along, while her voice just floats. She dubs in a lot
of the background vocals, and thus it really does sound like
one mind singing through many mouths. #8 is the most wistful
ballad, too sad for drums. The “kids” from Kronos turn up on
the #5 and #10 but end up taking her voice out of the sonic
wild, and those pieces end up feeling a tad less inspiring.
Note #10 stops at 6:09 in, hidden track starts at 6:57

Ribot, Marc “Soundtracks II” [Tzadik]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, Soundtrack

From this you would almost expect every track to be to
a different film. Extremely broad in sonic scope. Not
that much classic Ribot stagger guitar (check “House of
Mirrors”), but some good carney sounds (“Nausea”, is
that a calliope?), a little industrial robo-spy rivet
fest (“Prowler”), and “Green Party” (#12/#22) sounds
like an FM/AM tribute to “Love and Happiness.” Many
times we are left wanting more (especially on “Miles
Behind”) but “The Persistence of Memory” does get a
chance to stretch its legs and our ears, that track
sounds like an attempt to tunnel through the planet.
More costume changes here than a pop diva, and none
of the artifical drama.

Rapider than Horsepower “This Is My Big Night” [Essay]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Horton hears a Hoosier. Indiana idiot savant rock. This
is a follow-up to an album we don’t have…..yet. Yeah,
the vocals are whiny, but the guitars are even whinier!
Spastic tweaky rock, if the first cut doesn’t win you
over (“I Can’t Survive Without My BeatBox”) as it did
me, then move on I guess. But you’ll miss one of the
more engaging 40 seconds of art rock ever wrought on
“Yeah, Right”. Doppler vocals on that are keen. Overall
Mike Anderson’s vocals made me think of “Hong Kong
Phooey” as much as Beefheart or Pere Ubu. I prefer it
when these horses stampede rather than the couple of
cuts that canter…overall good bent guitar, twisted
lyrics and Anderson’s pretzel mouth (often murmured
along with by the others.) Crowd applause at the end
of some tracks seems stapled on? Language on #5.

Radio Java [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Third sublime installment in the audio odyssey from Alan
Bishop. He always records radio when travelling. Alan
provides editing by both dialing live for displacement
(#7’s great start) and computer cutting after the fact
for crash comparisons. Unlike the first two releases,
this is pretty much radio collage. Sometimes he lingers
on a flavor (like Sundanese sounds on #1) other times
it’s a blast of Radio Nacional. We get everything from
underwater gamelan stylings (#5 2 minutes in or so)
to another weird soap operatic drama that ends with
a captivating double-vocal chant on #3 about 5 minutes
in to westernized commercial sounds, check #4 about 4
minutes in (cool chime rinses). #4 is probably my
favorite, there’s a karate chop section of state-run
radio that seems like a noise outing, very odd broken
spoken sections, and ending that’s extra-terrestial.
Solid noise on #7 as well. Cheesy metal at the onset
of #6, Bon Scott alive and in exile? That cut is
amazing too, with gooey banter between DJ’s. Pretty
much a grab bag, most radio collage in the US and
UK is played for laughs (People Like Us, Wayne
Butane). This really is different, and rewarding.

Odean Pope “Almost Like Me” [Moers]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   12-inch, Format, Jazz

1982 sounds like next week. Pope’s tenor pumps
nectar over Cornell Rochester’s passionate
percussion and Gerald Veasley’s force-to-be-
reckoned-with electric bass. You heard me,
electric…normally that sends a shiver in
one ear, down the spine, back up and out the
other ear…electric bass in jazz can sound
like a rubber tree in a cartoon. The range
and expression of the upright tower over its
cousin. But this is exceptional, Veasley is
nimble, from deep-fried rumble to lighter
than air harmonics. This release should get
some nice crossover on plenty of shows. At
times there’s a manic power that makes you
think of Japan’s Ruins. Besides a secret
tunnel to rock, there’s another big one to
funk. Still the thrill to the ride is Pope’s
sweet sax sermonizing, matched by his often
heart-stopping (and in some spots heart-
shattering) composition. Drums were recorded
a bit flat…but everything else soars. This
is a blessing from on high.

Phillip Ranelin/Wendrel Harrison “A Message from the Tribe” [Tribe Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   12-inch, Format, Jazz

A hippy vibe with Black Pride coming from the flip side of
Motown Records. This album oozes “lanquidity” coasting from
note to note. I preferred the first side, guided by label
co-founder and trombonist, Phil Ranelin. He keeps bassist
Charles Eubanks popping, and then adds vocals from Jeamel
Lee on two tracks to pour a little Angela Davis gasoline
on the simmering warmth. By the time that side ends, he’s
built up a firecracker of a number with “How Do We End
All Of This Madness” on which he sings as well. Ranelin’s
trombone adds to the curvaceousness of this release, only a
few moments of Wendell Harrison’s sax spike up out of the
mellifluous melange. What holds this all together, and
maybe holds the spiking solos back, is the omnipresence of
electic piano. It’s just an instrument that fills, often
prettily, but rarely commands. It is more dominant, along
with some flute on the side that Harrison composed. Some
30 years later, Ranelin is still rolling, co-creating his
own label with artistic control back then showed a lot of
foresight and soulful sound.

The Phenomenological Boys “The Rainbow Record” Dave’s Cock Record

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   A Library, CD, Format

It may well be that Goofus and Gallant are the same
person. It also may well be that the P. Boys are a
brother/sister combo Oliver & Angela Alden, along with
their childhood friend Dean Douglas. It may be that
this started as a lark, and still continues as one.
A goofball gumball assortment of pop drops, and to
“clear” the palate arcane swipes from out-of-print
kiddie vinyl. In the lyrics, on top of plenty of
square phrases rhmyed into round holes, we get nods to
Tzadik, Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair
(not Sharrocked, nor Waters’d down…but tinted blonde
or yellow if you will). If the Frogs and Danielson
Famile adopted Vincent Gallo, would Brown Bunny have
had “Brown Underpants” as its theme song? It’s like
they have created song-poems direct and eliminated the
middle matchbook man. Or maybe they’re college DJ’s,
big kids in the treehouse like us?

William Parker Clarinet Trio “Bob’s Pink Cadillac” [Eremite]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Featured clarinetist Perry Robinson has played with the
Fugs, Pete Seeger as well as various jazz luminaries
like Archie Shepp, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry. For me,
the clarinet is the neediest of reeds; too often it has
a thin timber and a sort of whininess. Over the course
of these two discs, we get a broader display. On the
studio disk we embark in a toe-tapper riding a slinky,
spiraling melody. “Blue Flower” starts blown-out but
gentle, like writing a poem with a hangover. Over time
its scratchiness goes smooth. Ultimately we get more
flurrious and wobbly playing on “Fence in the Snow.”
It’s a crazy beauty that starts w/ xylophonic tinkery
and includes Parker dervishing on one of his found
foreign reeds himself. That winds up with some weird
aquatic vocals. Aces! The second live Tonic disc finds
Parker as ebullient as ever. The improvising is wide
open, and people can come in on many wavelengths
from Dixieland, to Bop, to vague Klezmer marches to
other regions of imagination.

Oranges Band, the “Two Thousands” [Morphius]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Re-release of this Baltimore bands first two ep’s. Provides
both the scratch and the itch for rabid rock-pop. Dual guitar
interplay does a nice job of creating songs that sort of
climb up on top of each other. Keyboards are used as very
minimal highlights (to good effect, not distracting from the
solid, simple guitar). Roman Kuebler’s vocals have a sweet
angsty rasp to them (#1 and #5-Graham Parker anyone?). That
familiar sort of controlled yell, directed rage. There’s a
prozacky ballad #12, but this band is best when it’s got a
frantic woodpecker energy going and Strato-rattling guitars.
Music to inject vodka into, hope they opt for that rather
than hairspray.

Nice Nice “There Will Be Slogans” [White Denim]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Portland, Oregon duo – guitarist Jason Buehler
and percussionist Mark Shirazi. Kitchen sync
and sample stampede over drums that touch on
tangents to dub. Guitar bubbles served over
some piledriver basslines in other parts.
Tweaked and twiddled transmissions.

Merzbow “Frog” your choice rpm [Misanthropic Agenda]

Thurston Hunger   1/30/2005   12-inch, A Library, Format

Croak and dagger noise from Masami Akita. Rolling out the
limited (1/1000) “frog-colored” vinyl smacks of crafty
merchandising, but the album smacks of pain that you would
hope for. The concept could be as simple as Merzbow himself
dialing the resistors just right to get a virtual frog
sample that belches forth on the A-side, but I prefer to
think the “Frog” monniker is to represent an amphibious
nature to this release. There are moments that this almost
leaps out to the dance floor, geiger click, hep repetition
and jackhammer isometrics create a sort of tadpole techno.
There’s some faux locked grooves, but grooves nonetheless.
But then we get a cathode-arcing bipolar blitz, sheer
shrieking audio assault. Side A takes a while for the hail
of electric fire to rain down, it ends with a sputtering
disintegration. Those merciless moments subside on the
B-side, not that it’s unnoise; it still annoys but the
presence of Rana rhythm over the dank clank of dungeons
provides for vivid sections. Seems like he’s tossing in
reversing sounds as well. Merzbow’s white noise is the
sum of a lot of colors.

Max Richter “The Blue Notebooks” [130701/FatCat]

Thurston Hunger   1/30/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Trembling before beauty music; exudes grace, though shatters
nothing. Minimal steps in other’s footsteps, melodies climb
up a step, down a step, up a step. Tilda Swinton who has
collaborated with the departed Derek Jarman adds spoken
texts, but to my ears she was too often lost in the gauze,
there but not there. Is she Orlando, or just Tiresias?
Typewriter for effect with the words too. For the fattest
FatCat vibes, try #4 or #7, still that’s pretty svelte
for beat worshippers. If you dig “Shadown Journal” check
out some of Simon Fisher Turner’s stuff. There’s also
wounded piano thoughout, the ankle twisted and lingering
on the sustain pedal. My secret favorites were the two
organ numbers, great pools of sound with ripples of
Terry Riley…#5 and #9. If I lied and said this guy
was the big brother to the twin sisters of Mum would
you like him more? Like Mum, Richter can summon moments
of deafening quiet.

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