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Kai Sync

Bezier – “Cosmologist EP” – [Honey Soundsystem]

Kai Sync   7/20/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

California producer Bezier from the Honey Soundsystem collective is a hardware synth fan so this 2016 EP has pretty much the soundscape of hardware synths with tentacles towards more modern synth disco without getting too deep into the Italo or Norwegian disco genres. We are talking about arpeggiators and synthesizer melody motifs, with influences from house, 8-bit music and simpler techno. Wish he was a even more adventurous but if doing progressive electronic disco you need to know the limits and as so this EP has moments of wonder. Last track even has parts of virtuous synthesizer jazz soloing which usually is rare with electronic music releases.

Regler – “Regel #6 (techno)/Regel #7 (drone)” – [Quemada Records]

Kai Sync   7/20/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

Regel #6 and #7 are the continuation of Mattin and Anders Bryngelsson’s Regel project where the concept is to take the essence of a musical genre by distilling and mimic:ing it into the core meaning of it’s conceptual music, or the rule of the music style addressed. This time they attacked techno (on A side) and drone music (on B side.). Basically you take the intrinsic meaning of the style and follow it’s guiding principles with the bare minimum parts, as long as possible. It might sound academic, or even repeat-full boring, but at the same time it’s a fascinating attempt to create art of art itself into what is the meaning of it. To some degree, the listener might even get disoriented due to the repetitions with subtle changes that might be heard at the third listening.

I.B.M. – “From The Land of Rape & Honey (The Suppressed Tapes) 1995 -” – [Interdimensional Transmissions]

Kai Sync   7/13/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

A double-album with restored tapes from Jamal Moss’ Insane Black Man (I.B.M) period of 1995-2005 — murky, murky industrial dance techno with continuous patterns swirling and swirling and less interest in developing tracks, where the beginning and endings are simple fade in/fade outs. Jamal himself describes his music as “post industrial angst in an urban environment.” It’s like Kraftwerk moved into the ghetto and took on a new muddy warehouse music persona. The machine-sounds compete with human angst and frictional pulses with half-manic aggression — chaos out of music and back into semi-temporal pulse patterns that throb on like a factory line. Technology noise transcending into oblivion. It’s human but it’s not pretty.

Friction – “Zone Tripper” – [Tzadik]

Kai Sync   7/13/2016   A Library, CD

 

This is Friction’s 1995 album release, Japanese pioneer and long-running alternative rockers meet seventies riff rock and throw in experimentation such as drumNBass and techno beats sometimes into the mix. The singing – mixed as half-manic singing eq:ed like a megaphone – works wonders on these tracks. The lyrics are a mixup of Japanese and English words with some logic but who knows. A lot of guitar riffs are actually loops which throws in a hip-hop like wrench into the mix. As such this 1995 release pioneered a lot of the concurrent guitar-trio techno sound that is happening. Most tracks are hard-edge noisy riff hook songs with an anarchic feel. Some tracks are here released as alternative, refreshing and experimental remixes. This album is a good example of the Friction sound of the nineties where the band has constantly evolved and released diverse material along its career.

Orion 70 – “Book of Rhythm” – [Deepblak]

Kai Sync   7/6/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

Orion is AYBEE’s (Armon Bazlie) moniker doing everything he loves about techno using this name. These tracks have beauty and mechanics, inter-dimensional tentacles and wonderment rippled inside the avant-garde productions. It borderlines with industrial techno, but is not sterile, neither future-shock centric. The drum machine beats take a back seat where the rhythms are created by generator-like synth pulses. The EP is a prime example of how techno as an electronic art is still thriving and developing in 2016, finding new avenues. This Oakland native now resides in Berlin where many techno artists end up — that’s their Silicon Valley.

Alaska By Laurent Garnier – “Returning Back to Sirius” – [F Communications]

Kai Sync   7/6/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

This 2003 EP release with the main track Returning Back To Sirius is considered one of Laurent Garnier’s best dance techno tracks ever. And it’s not hard to disagree, this track could be played next or after any of the tracks from bleeding edge UK techno labels such as Hypercolur and few would notice there’s a 13 year gap. Laurent Garnier (under his alias Alaska) is one of the most iconic French techno producers and DJs, spanning an incredible long career with lots of innovative releases. The B side track At Night also holds the standard up. The music here borrows a lot from Detroit melodic bass-line techno domain but still have a unique Garnier twist. Prime example where techno experimentation meets danceability.

 

Severed Heads – “Stretcher” – [Medical Records]

Kai Sync   6/29/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

This out of print Severed Heads 1985 album is re-released by Medical Records and they actually took up to the task to assemble all the various versions of this album that was released in USA, Europe and Australia into one coherent release including various demo outtakes. In 1985 the band was down to only two members, Tom Ellard and Stephen Jones.) Also, at this point of time the sound got more dancy due to usage of MIDI and Yamaha DX-7 synthesizers. In addition, most tracks have a radio signal mixed in the background. This album is a good summary of where electronic music in the mid-eighties were still grounded in a half-way pop-dance formula and where the post-punk movement still influenced the music making aspect with a slant of exploration and experimentation. Thanks to this experimentation the tracks still breath air after all these years with shades of electro-cacophony disco, primitive loop mangling, avant-garde dance tracks and weird synth-pop.

Orbital – “In Sides” – [Full Frequency]

Kai Sync   6/29/2016   A Library, CD

 

It feels strange to review an album that the reviewer listened inside out 20 years ago (1996.) It’s definitely not Orbital’s crown jewel — however, it has a very definite tonality grounded in the Orbital knack formula of taking mysterious, odd-beat chord progressions and turning those to melody hooks. Many of the beats also have influences from trip-hop, acid breakbeats, jungle/DnB and abstract/exotic patterns. Another bonus are the eery and sultry female voices used to paint the soundscape. The overall theme is ecology such as the track “The Girl With The Sun In Her Head” that was recorded only using solar power. Out there Somewhere Part 1 and Part 2 is a musical attempt, similar to Orb’s escapades, describing the universe in 25 minutes total. It’s up to the listener to decide if this was successful.

Here in USA this specific album might have been one of the bigger entry points for the audience into the emerging UK/European dance music scene. This US release has a bonus disk that includes a live recording of Sad But New, two versions of Times Flow plus other material.

Koban – “Abject Obsessions” – [Avant]

Kai Sync   6/22/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

This is gothic post-punk with drum machines, angry synths and lyrical content. This duo from Vancouver with the second album continues the dark post-punk path with manic drum machine patterns, french speaking subtitles, male post-punk angst vocals, dirty synths and angry guitars, borrowing a path into to the darkest corners of the listener’s brain. Post-punk as a movement is a tough choice as any musical paths could be considered cliche, however Koban achieves to carve uniqueness into this 30+ year old genre, mostly thanks to adding energetic complexity and introspection to each song. It also helps to sing parts in French.

Maribou State – “Tongue” – [Southern Fried Records]

Kai Sync   6/22/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

Maribou State is Chris Davids and Liam Ivory, specializing in jazzy and more modern deep house with their own releases as well as remixes of other tracks. This EP has three versions of the Tongue track of which two are actually not remixed by them. Well, this is trip-hop like deep house with some fascination with loungy piano/electrical piano jazz chords and sultry female voices. It should work fine in a bar in San Francisco that is close to the OM Records label. Gentle dance music, too gentle. The remixes are somewhat more adventurous even if we are not dealing with left-field production trickery.

Bichkraft – “Shadoof” – [Wharf Cat Records]

Kai Sync   6/15/2016   A Library, CD

 

Kiev’s underground rock band Bichkraft delivers quite a punch with their second album. This was recorded at their new studio in a formerly debris-strewn building amongst broken classical vinyls, discarded winter coats and Soviet-era refrigerators. This chaos of old and new is indeed the style of this release, there’s something old and borrowed (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, early shoegaze), as well as something new and blue, pushing more aggressive indie rock into realms populated by noise pop and hybrid guitar techno. This album is indeed how to dangerously advent into spaces full of wonderful fragments, dissonance and atmospheric fun, not giving a funk about borders or genres. Yay!

Bionaut, The – “Lubricate Your Living-room” – [Matador Records]

Kai Sync   6/15/2016   A Library, CD

 

Bionaut is one of the multitudes of monikers names that Jorg Burger has used for music releases. This eighteen track compilation release of of his material between 1993 and 1997 mostly consist of downbeat techno with shades of ambience sprinkled between the multitudes of relaxed beats. The collection has its moments, such as the kinky Electric Campfire (in A Neo-Arckerman Style), Lush Life Electronica (tasteful electronic dub), Memphis SciFi (early day Planet Mu like electronic bursts) but also has nodding tracks with less interesting sonic content, rather done that-been there music. The dilemma is to find the gems amongst all the passing-by material. Electronic music favors the brave. Fortunately there’s Gas available for more intriguing Burger/Voigt explorations.

Null, KK – “Noiser, The” – [Monotype]

Kai Sync   6/8/2016   A Library, CD

 

Now this is Intelligent Noise Music (INM), a mixture of noise and contemporary music mixed with tablas, field recordings of birds, post-punk, off-the-chart beats, poetry and much more. Each track was a surprise. KK Null is a Japanese contemporary noise sculptor and his playfulness with sounds shine through everywhere. Here he is joined with the collaborator The Noiser (Formanex member) with more machine madness and voices. These productions came from improvisational sets from shows and studio setups. The tracks are creatively named Track 1, Track 2 and so forth. Consider this album an approachable entry point to the expanding world of contemporary noisiness.

Section 12 – “Decline” – [Self Produced]

Kai Sync   6/8/2016   A Library, CD

 

Section 12 is a Boston-based band; this is their eight album. Stylistically they are going for the retro dark wave rock with influences from Joy Division and early day Cabaret Voltaire. As such this is a noble approach but songwriting-wise the pop-coefficient is turned up too high with some tracks resulting in some tracks having eerie echoes of serious emo music with too much verse melody polishing. If the pop-level is tuned down then the seriousness has its shining moment. Also, the dramatic vocal presentation of the singer makes you wonder if this is seriousness or an internal joke. It’s a thin line between satire and art. This is dark half-goth music, synth-wave and some traces of industrial, sad core. Enough labeling. Nevertheless, applauds for some of the tracks being outside the beaten track of Indie music.

Brown, Chris – “Lava” – [Tzadik]

Kai Sync   6/1/2016   A Library, CD

 

This is a 1995 release by Chris Brown, known work composing music with a combination of acoustic instruments and interactive electronics. The CDs tracks are avant-garde compositions written for a brass section with a tuba, trombone and trumpet, four percussionists and live electronic manipulations. The goal was to construct the physicality of lava coming from a volcano using electro-acoustical means of expression. As such this CD is fascinating, until the musical ideas melt together to a cohesive form moving forward with no solid form or structure within all the repetitions, ultimately devouring the listener along the path. However, just the attempt to compose music with a lava-centric tonality is worth an applaud or two. The music is gritty, dramatic, suspenseful, devouring, unforgiven, outpouring, eruptive, toxic, viscous, bubbly, massive, unrelenting.

an MLO Production – “Io” – [Rising High]

Kai Sync   6/1/2016   A Library, CD

 

A rare 1994 release with ambient music from an MLO Production for the movie Io. It initially sounded like an Eno Apollo copycat album until I realized it was from about the same time period of the golden age of ambient music. As such this release was very new and exciting in the nineties. Today ambient music has been watered down by all the Brian Eno wannabes so the impact from this music sadly is not there anymore. Anyway, it has sweeping synth drones resonating with other landscaping tonalities. This album was released by Rising High, a highly influential rave, techno and ambient record label that is now defunct. Anyway, to quote Brian Eno: “Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” This album fits that description.

Radio Free Clear Light – “Time and Other Disturbances” – [Black Note Music]

Kai Sync   5/25/2016   A Library, CD

 

Radio Free Clear Light from San Francisco started as an open collective of like minded artists attending a Bardo training session with the common interest to develop music that invokes various mental moods and states with pure music performances. Participation is still open for anyone interested. RFCL is very active with new music posted weekly. This album has a lot of nods towards Orb — kind of like Dr. Patterson would summon his crew and tell them that this time they should make serious music instead of prankster looping. As such the material has a lot of ambient chill loop elements with rhythmic variations combined with various other sonic material building abstractions that should trigger various altered states of mind – depending on individual interpretations. It definitely does put the mind in an coherent mode unlike intelligent muzak played at progressive airports. I would call this a sonic noir journey in gaps between mental moments to be fair to the Bardo notion.

Warp10+1 [coll] – [Warp Records Ltd]

Kai Sync   5/25/2016   A Library, CD

This is a 1999 compilation release from Warp — actually a historical compilation of techno, acid and electronica reflecting artists and tracks that inspired the label’s founders and its line of artists. As such this compilation could be considered a ‘classic hits’ release, which is peculiar as electronic music has always been transient where new trends and styles are created on a monthly basis and it’s a rarity to pay much interest in oldies material. This collection has early Detroit techno (Model 500, Rhytmin is Rhythim…), early day UK acid house and even rarities such as Bang The Party, Unique Three and Steve Pointdexter’s Computer Madness rarity track. ??It also has A Guy Called Gerald’s Voodoo Ray that made me remember the early day rave scene in Sydney.

To be fair, some of the tracks have aged well and other tracks have just aged. The material also showcases the technological limits of the early day sequencers with 16 bar max sequence patterns and samplers with limited amount of loop memory time. It was fascinating to hear how those were overcome by intriguing arrangements. It’s also clear that the way drum patterns were designed that are seldom heard in today’s electronic music with a huge amount of hi-hat shuffling and marching band style snares. This all gives the release a nod towards nostalgia which has never been a synonym for electronic dance music.

 

Ytamo – “Mi Wo” – [Room40]

Kai Sync   5/8/2016   A Library, CD

 

Delightful Japanese contemporary mix-up-everything electronic music from Ytamo, a Japanese experimental artist/producer with a very quirky and playful production style that takes Japanese culture and converts it into a playful and insightful product. This is shimmering sound waves, bubbly rhythms and unexpected twists, sometimes annotated by her innocent lullaby singing. Feels like a problem-free Japanese future. The ambience is keyed into the right levels so it does not become a sleep inducer. I actually thought about Miyazaki movies such as Tottoro while listening to the tracks. It fuses serenity with organic action and gives plenty of avenues for personal interpretations. Avant music. Subarashi.

Barnett, Alex – “Chew From The Mind” – [Midwich Productions]

Kai Sync   5/8/2016   12-inch, A Library

 

The experimental electronic musician Alex Barnett’s album is minimalist beat music with cinematic aspirations. Barnett is from Chicago and Midwich is a label specializing in releasing midwest underground electronica artists. Barnett’s background is dark ambience and drone noise. However, this album is more introspective but uplifting cinema electronica; according to him the focus for this album was the themes of consciousness. It’s about machine personalities, functions and malfunctions of the mind, painted as sonic material. The material is spacious, no need for millions of autocorrected MIDI notes. The drum machines slap, hack and twack in multidimensional directions. No pattern is holy. There’s a haunted and surreal feeling about this album. It might even be used for low budget sci-fi or horror projects. Some industrial techno even crawls into the mix. Perfect for late night radio spots.

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