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Thurston Hunger

Magic is Kuntmaster “Night Songs for Ugly Children” [Nihilist Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Camilla Ha is the woman behind the Magic. Working out
of Chicago these days and coming in with a sound that
has sort of the reverb-drenched vocal stylings of the
Ventricle label blended with digital depth charges.
I think she plays a midi-bass with a maxipad. This CD
is sonically dense…although the instrumentation is
sparse. Her singing is more whispery muttering, like
Julee Cruise singing to you through pipes after being
abducted and kept in an underground reservoir. It’s not
as colorful as its packaging, more fashionably drab. I
dig this in an urban decay and dismay way. “Sea Squid”
and the “Lullaby” are made of less heavy mettle, more
bubbles in those. If you’ve heard of bands “Foamula”
and “My Name is Rar Rar” then you are already familiar
with Ms. Ha, so why are you reading this? Depress play.
Let the music be your Kuntmaster…

Verdure “Cross and Satellite Station” [Lexicon Devil]

Thurston Hunger   3/31/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wordy-gurdy poem-ramble drift-rock. Second generation
hippy, Donovan Quinn is up Walnut Creek without a
sandalwood incense stick. Laconic, ironic vocals over
strumbly guitar gets to the heart of most of these songs.
Occasionally something spikes that heart, like electric
spiders that string out on #3 and #5! Track #7 adds
piano treacles and melodica trickles then ends with
heavy breathing accidental beatbox. On #9, guitar drops
some wah-wah while violin delay skitters and then those
spiders return with a vengeance! Kudos for unapologetic
use of falsetto on several songs. This is a rerelease
of his initial album. From what we find here and with
connections to the Jeweled Antler Collective (Quinn
is in the Skygreen Leopards), I’m curious where his
trajectory takes him. While lyrics arrange mirrors and
vultures, this is not necessarily music to watch your
own death by?

Mylab s/t [Terminus Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/24/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz went Snake Pliskin from NYC
some time ago and has helped spark a remarkable scene
in Seattle. Tucker Martine is one of the less covert
masters of the intangible, his production skills
glisten on every track here. While the album starts
out with some deep-fried rhythm and blues (not mere
watered down R&B) by the end of the album we’re no
longer in Kansas…nor New York nor Seattle. Cameo
creme from folks like gypsy Eyvind Kang (#6!!),
recent KFJC visitor Skerik, former Ponga pal Bobby
Previte, Bill Frisell fret fritters. Briggan Krauss
flamethrows on the noisiest track here (#11-my fave).
Even the banjo and dobro of Danny Barnes somehow fit
into the Mylab sink. The expansive palette and crew of
cameos may prevent Mylab from reaching any consistent
orbit (soundtracks sure would be a nice experiment.)
Trust in Tucker for the touch-ups.

Pastels, the “The Last Great Wilderness” [Geographic]

Thurston Hunger   3/24/2004   CD, Format, Soundtrack

Scottish pop band led by Stephen Pastel release this
sdtk on his own label. The film, a Scottish independent
as well, gets a lot of comparisons to “The Wicker Man.”
It would be nice to see it (because of that reference &
to see how well things work here.) The cover of Sly and
the Family Stone’s “Everybody is a Star” leaves little
discernible buzz. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker croons on the
last track. Going with the non vocal tracks I think
is the best bet here. “Flora’s Theme” gets briefly
haunted by “Tubular Bells” and “Dark Vincente” has a
sort of Harold Budd chill to it. Basically any time
the ghost of glockenspiel shows up, we get pretty
waiting-for-trouble music. Katrina Mitchell’s non
lyric vocalizing I should say are most welcome on
various tracks, and maybe that account for elements
of Wickery, but really this is a clean and curvy
soundtrack to an upscale bar with John McEntire mixing
drinks and sound. S’alright.

Parts & Labor “Groundswell” [JMZ Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/18/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Brooklyn trio tapping into that Lightning Bolt voltage.
Whip-ass drummer Jim Sykes (ultimately replaced by
Joel Saladino) and buzzneck bassist BJ Warshaw create
furious instro flurries. What helps these stand out from
other Bolt babies is keyboardist Dan Friel, he adds a
sense of *disobedient* electronics. Notes pitch-flip up
octaves at a time, wires get crossed, no glissando
all blitzando. Actually all members are credited with
electronics, so it could well be a group effort. The
key is that sense of abandon over both monolithic and
manic rhythm cores. Track #4 features something like
a theremin in desperate need of ritalin. This is their
debut from Feb 2003, since then they’ve evidently
braved vocals. It would be cool to hear them hook up
with a Alan Vega lyric-droner…or maybe lace some
NYC saxaholic in their melee.

NOTE: Last track ends at 3:32 (then a slow drone that
ultimately reprises #1’s short wash for “closure”)

Mahjongg “Machine Gong” [Cold Crush]

Thurston Hunger   2/11/2004   A Library, CD, Format

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, before teenravers
ruled the technomatic dancefloor in e-induced dehydration,
kids used to dance to rock music. This clumsy collection
of five freaks recall that time and stumble to the beat
on this dance rock set of songs. I dig the 8-bit eq on
the first three “songs” (track one is something like a
cassette recording of an airplane?). Most of the songs
feature some sort of choppiness to an instrument or
voice or Atari console in the mix… Yeah if Guided by
Voices had been raised on a strict diet of the Bush
Tetras then your Mom and Dad would never have met and
so forth. I think this band will prove to be more
wonderfully fucked up over time, allegedly they are
a tri-state affair from Chicago, Missouri and Oregon.
This release does not cover nearly as much territory.
Percussion percolated to your taste.

New Circle Five “Dreaming Wide Awake” [Deep Listening]

Thurston Hunger   2/4/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wonder women Pauline Oliveros and Susie Ibarra create a
five-pointed circle rounded out with vocalista Kristin
Norderval, Rosi Hertlein on violin (some voice too) and
Monique Buzzarte on various deeper winds. Operatic scat
will leap out at your ears somewhat but Norderval and
Hertlein are grounded in the texts they are breathing
life into. Ibarra is subtle but strong, opening beaded
percussion doors into songs…high chimes, soft cymbals,
distant thundertom rumbles. Oliveros’ accordion sets
up plenty of sonic fields, droney vortices, but she is
also suprisingly nimble in other parts. This is on
Oliveros’ Deep Listening label (and way of life); true
to form the performers do listen deeply, the sound is
both light with space between players/singers and
heavy with tension from drones augmented by Buzzarte’s
clouds of thick trombone, and from Hertlein’s anxiety
violin attack. Polyglot sotto vices.

Teuber, Hans/Rucker, Paul “Oil” [Jackson Street]

Thurston Hunger   1/28/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Interesting to hear a sax player not trying to peel
paint off yer earlids nor squeeze more notes into a
solo than clowns in a Volkswagen. Teuber’s playing
here is air-tight in parts; smooth (and reflective) as
a pool of water. By the way it is not a tenor as listed
on the cover, it’s alto. Though at times it sounded like
a french horn to me, polished, shiny. At other times it
was relaxed and subdued as a clarinet on claritin. He’s
paired up with a very tightly strung cello from Paul
Rucker. On most tracks it feels like Rucker is going
to have a string SNAP and that adds a nice tension to
the mellifluous playing of Teuber. Lot’s of reverb
on that sax…like walking through an impeccably clean
subway? “Somber Time” is a beauty. “Some Are More
Equal” features nice percussive pphhht’s from Teuber
at the beginning. Art of restraint overall.

Bernard Parmegiani “a memoire des sons” [INA/GRM]

Thurston Hunger   12/17/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Another French pioneer in the realms of musique concrete
with Pierre’s Henri and Schaeffer. Parmegiani has worked
in TV/films as well, and the sounds here, whether from
his select memory…or aiming to trigger memories in
each listener…do seem to be more visual than some
other’s work. He’s got nice texture in these three long
tracks, constructed over a much longer time: 1967,
1987 and 2001. Despite those 34 years, standing aside
each other there is a flow (unlike say sci-fi movies
across a similar chronochasm). The first has more of
the explosive cut style (maybe from more primitive tape
handling). The second works loops more often, and has
voices and thus on a simple level, a more human feel
as well as time ticking in clocks and water drops. The
third and title cut is the most cinematic, including
soaring strings to underscore emotion. Add chimes
and crackling bramble, digeridoo and fanciful computer
flybys. Serve in slices, or complete.

Trio S s/t [Zitherine]

Thurston Hunger   12/10/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

To say this is a trio of three Robert Horry’s probably
doesn’t mean much, so I shouldn’t start the review that
way. That might mislead, like “Majorca” the leadoff cut
on this eponymous Trio S release. “Majorca” bristles w/
a Tony Conrad/Amps for Christ power, that evaporates for
the remainder of the album. It’s not bad, it’s just that
it’s like a body with a different head. The rest of the
album laps at your ears…soft raindrops on shallow pools
of sound…well the “Russian” Anthony’s River is a 20
second exception. Read Wieselman’s notes on all-natural
perceived melodies…and relax to the flow of this album.
Me, I’ll be pacing next door hoping that Trio S’ next
effort features pursued inorganic melodies…built with
more air and fire, and covered in loamier foam.

Malachi Thompson and Africa Brass “Blue Jazz” [Delmark]

Thurston Hunger   12/3/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Malachi Thompson is 30 years down the AACM/Chicago
railroad tracks. This album kicks off with an “And the
Grammy goes to…” solid but glossy vibe. But along
comes “Genesis/Rebirth” the closer to Thompson’s Black
Metropolis Suite. The sweet toe-tappin’ evaporates,
and a heart-stoppin’ composition rises like a new sun
in an old sky. Slight flamenco flares arc off Harrison
Bankhead’s bass; the Africa Brass octet which earlier
were turning on dimes, polishing the bop now construct
a slow monolith for Steve Berry to ponder over…until
there’s these crazy feudal/futuristic fanfare. Then
saxist Ari Brown gets a chance to wail on this triumph
of a track. That heaviness keeps a rolling into the
thick bluesy Louis Armstrong triptych tribute. Dee
Alexander starts that on the dark side of the moan,
it then jumps a train and ends as a playful talking
blues against Berry and Brown, now on clarinet. Read
the booklet’s understory arguing against divisions of
blues versus jazz in words, the best argument is the
music… Ends up in fun at the “Mudhole.”

Yoshimi & Yuka “Flower with No Color” [Ipecac]

Thurston Hunger   10/29/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Avant-exotica? Much in the vein of Yoshimi’s
earlier picture disk. The other reason “Y”
is Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, who adds a lot
of tinkling key work. Yoshimi also brings
the trumpet more to the front at times,
it has appeared a little bit in her OOIOO
project. Nuns on mescaline singing/keening
in parts…and lot’s o’ fauna doing backup
vox (birds, dogs and insects). As legend,
or perhaps just marketing, has it…this
CD was created at a temple atop Mt. Ikoma
after hiking all of the instruments up
there. (So I guess that’s an electric
piano on much of the album ;>) I prefer
the tracks where the “bamboo” percussion
makes an early entrance. En trance in
trance tranq quill trance end.

Aichinger, Oskar “Synapsis” [Between-the-Lines]

Thurston Hunger   10/27/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Vienna-based pianist delivers a precise and poetic
release. His quartet here includes Stefan Nemeth on
synthesizer, their interplay is like a dog and a cat
that get along…somewhat surprising and all the more
enjoyable to observe because of that. Territories are
not marked strictly, and at times prepared treatment
for Oskar blurs the line where the piano stops. Much
of the work here has a crystalline beauty; precise
stops in phrases (like question marks hanging), quick
but bright clusters, and lighter than air work on the
upper 44 keys. Deep sea bass work by Achim Tang (with
some scrubbing/bowing) and percussive punctuation by
Paul Skrepek add significantly. The invisible fifth
member of the quartet is Christoph Amman, who captured
this in a gorgeous recording, don’t miss it.

Matmos “The Civil War” [Matador]

Thurston Hunger   10/21/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Hard to separate the irony from the gold, hard to
filter the sample from the directly generated (or
should I say degenerated) sound. Perhaps that is the
split in this war? Or could it be that Drew Daniel
and M.C. Schmidt find themselves at each other’s
throats after jetsetting about as Bjork-End BoyToys?
Well if they are each others throats, it is only to
record the sound of blood in the carotid artery
(that and music made from rabbit pelt are purportedly
among the sonic inputs at work here). Listen to their
rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” these guys
may be too clever for their own good. But this is
the future, sampling not as a mode of deconstruction
but rather Reconstruction. And perhaps that would
have been a more fitting title to this album of
mechano-server marches and madness? Having seen
them with her Bjorkness, I hope beyond innovation
and technique, they will help lead a rallying of
performance and presentation, a point where power
electronics is often all mouse, no man.

Berne, Tim and Science Friction “the sublime and.” [Thirsty Ear]

Thurston Hunger   10/9/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Science Friction is Berne’s latest group, with
some familiar figures. Marc Ducret on electric
guitar is somehow able to insert notes between
the fiery charges of Berne’s alto. He’s just a
tremendous guitarist, who we should hear more
of…his use of volume washes works well with
the keys and electronics of Craig Taborn. When
Taborn is leading, this album can prick up
some prog rock ears…but this is really an
explosive jazz album, that gets the Blue Series
nod thanks to the electronics (not just Taborn,
visit “Mrs. Subliminal” to hear Tim dabbling
in delay. Tom Rainey remains Berne’s reigning
drummer king. His looseness fits well with the
dizzying work here. I actually live for the
moments when a few of the scored bars kick in.
Those sections are hairpin tight and move
quickly in unexpected directions. “Smallfry”
is unique in its ice cracking ambience. This
is all live, no safety net.

Kaito – “Band Red” – [Spinart]

Thurston Hunger   8/6/2003   A Library, CD

Noise pop deluxe. Tangled hair and broken guitar
strings…pull ’em out the skin and let the lady
scream/sing. That ain’t no lady, it’s Nikki Colk.
Punky and profficient. And pile on petulant as
well. Her vocals would make a snail panic. Her
voice flails, often over a raucous chorus. Those
choruses sound like chipmunks at kung fu class.
At times Colk’s lead voice has the fideliy of
a fast-food drive-up-window. Sophomore release
from these Brighton’d whites thrills with shrill.
But it delivers….rarely relaxing the pace.
“Nothin New” is kinda dainty, “Moi” is a cuckoo
clock in a cowboy hat. “3am” is the comedown,
passed out in a grandfather clock. Lyrics read
as though lifted from diaries before sobering up.
Guitar goes 90 mph the wrong way on the xpressway
to yer skull. Don’t forget to rock?

-Thurston Hunger

Smog – “Accumulation: None” – [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   4/3/2003   12-inch, A Library

Flotsam and sinksam from Bill Callahan. Well
captured in oft rough recordings. We’ve got
vapor-lock blues, anti-rock star heroics
(“It’s Not Gonna Be a Hit”) and the ol’
Smog favorite, collapsible relationships.
He seems like a guy who’s counting on the
big nasty breakup even in the honeymoon
phase of a relationship. (“I Break Horses”)
There’s a flare somehow in the flatness of
Callahan’s voice, and as well as anyone
he can make the lurid, alluring. I like
the fact that many Smog songs, when they hit
the spot where the bridge should come they
almost go flatline. Hell, the songs start
off with pretty economical lyrics and guitar
playing and then they lose their shirt and
their way for awhile….till the next verse
comes along and gives ’em a ride back to
tune. On the lighter side, Callahan does
quote “Baby’s Got Back” on the tail end
(where else) of “Real Live Dress”
-Thurston Hunger

Smog – “Supper” – [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   4/3/2003   A Library, CD

A new release going up at the same time as
his Accumulation time capsule. Bill Callahan
has the detached disdain handed down through
various undergrounds, Velvet and otherwise.
The sharpness of his lyrics, and his acerbic
stage persona always command my attention.
The songs here are less dilapidated as he’s
got a real live band behind him, and his
fondness/fiendishness with the femme fatales
has been displaced by a love of conundrums.
There’s some solid cognitive dissonance he’s
dishing out…and “Truth Serum” and “Guiding
Light” are just well crafted.
-Thurston Hunger

Soeza – “Founded By Sportsmen & Outlaws” – [Prohibited Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/11/2002   A Library, CD

Bristol septet, brash swaggery pop. Uplift mofo
horns party! And the horns are a quite sprite
French Horn (Daniel Cornfield) and Cornet (Aaron
Dewey). Sassy male/female vocals. Jenny Robinson
is the breathy, semi-sultry syllable stretcher
while Aaron Dewey is the “Speaker’s Corner” more
excitable ranter!! *Two* drummers in this…so
their sound has plenty o punch. Part of the UK’s
‘Pull the Strings’ collective. Horns kinda add
a Doc Severinsen dosed at the horse races amped
up vibe here that makes this pretty irresitable.
#11 is fancy phone freakout that tracks into the
closer. #9 is the slow dance. Right honorable
and simply smashing! -The Viceroy of Vice

Munly, Jay “Jimmy Carter Syndrome” [Smooch]

Thurston Hunger   4/2/2002   A Library, CD, Format

Well-constructed dilapidation. Gravel in the
gullet vox of Jay Munly (from Slim Cessna’s
Auto Club). Ballads with ballast, a weight
that is lifted by a shoestring quartet (that
being Tarantella cloaked in shadow and soot).
Munly’s voice rises with an angsty twinge of
twang almost gets to a Gene Loves Jezebel
screech at odd moments. Songs of heresy and
fallen heroes, of people like Gerry Cooney
and Weegee, that Powers of Celebrity try to
pretend never supped at the popular table.
Like a barn in Faulkner story… every song
is ready to catch fire. Slow fuses throughout,
rocking chair rhythms. Has the acrid flavor
of moonshine with plenty of kick that catches
up to you long after you have imbibed the
lyrics. Perfect for that Belladonna/Joe Ed
team show! Gothic chamber country rides on….
-Johnny Palerider

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