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Music From Saharan WhatsApp [coll] – [Sahel Sounds]

karma   9/23/2022   12-inch, International

I’ve been a fan of the record label Sahel Sounds for a while now. They brought to the global stage excellent artists such as Mdou Moctar. They have outdone themselves with this latest compilation. In 2020, the label invited artists from the Sahel (southern Sahara) to message them songs via WhatsApp. They released 11 EPs of Saharan WhatsApp that year. This album includes selections from each EP.

The tracks were almost always recorded at the artists’ homes, on budget and “obsolete” phones that cost less than dinner at Olive Garden. The tracks are raw, unbalanced (some have less “sound mixing” and more “whatever the phone’s mic could pick up”) and full of background noise (in one track there’s definitely a conversation in the next room) – but this is an intimate link to a wild, innovative music region full of tradition and experimentation.

My favorite track is by Veyrouz Mint Seymali, who is trained in Mauritanian classical music. Honorable mentions go to the love song by Amaria Hamadalher (of Les Filles de Illighadad), griot traveling bard music by Oumou Diabate and Kara Show Koumba Frifri, social commentary by Bounaly, and traditionally nomadic Wodaabe rock by Andal Sukabe.

Bento Box – “EP” – [Parallel Recordings, Ltd.]

karma   9/14/2022   A Library

1999 release by three ambient house DJs: Jonah Sharp (Spacetime Continuum), Kevin Burtt (Me-Sheen), and Jason Williams (Velocette). Spacetime Continuum popularized the ambient house genre, music for the club scene that should encourage socialization. While this album is the perfect soundtrack to turning on your dial-up modem to boot up Netscape Navigator and AIM, it isn’t dated. It harkens back to a simpler time in house music’s second decade, the 90s, when house music – and life – didn’t seem so heavy.

Slicing Grandpa – “Casual Pain” – [String Theory Records]

karma   9/7/2022   A Library, CD

They say practice makes perfect. Not so if you are Slicing Grandpa, a 2-person noise/experimental group that apparently practice once a year. They are from Washington State by way of New York, but many of their previous albums seem like they are from (Johnny) Knoxville. As the group approaches their third decade, their music keeps the lo-fi grit of their earlier work while casting off the gross-out titles.

The title track is my favorite, a detuned, Sonic Youthy anthem for anyone struggling with the malaise of daily life. The tracks are examples of the nascent gluewave genre, which I interpret as industrial/noise rock’s take on vaporwave.

Each track is paired with a “B-side” variation, always shorter than the “A-side” more polished version.

Jo Rad Silver – “Social Moment” – [Akka & Beep Beep]

karma   8/24/2022   12-inch, A Library

Jo(nah) Rad(uns) Silver(stein) is a DJ from Detroit. His description of his music on bandcamp has more dashes than a Western Union in the 20s. Some of these descriptors border on incredulity or are satirical (I don’t hear much Klezmer in this album, let alone ambient Klezmer), but this is definitely left-field house. Jo Rad Silver is based out of the Motor City and has the industrial, teutonic feel of Detroit techno. The tracks are electronic without the kitsch seen in many other techno and vaporware tracks. Silver isn’t afraid to show all sides of techno. Silver aims to take you on a journey through this album. Though gradual increasing complexity in the tracks and the creative yet subtle use of minor keys, he talks about how, after isolation, the moment to be social is now. Or whenever you want.

Slift – “Ummon” – [Vicious Circle]

karma   8/14/2022   A Library, CD

Slift is a three-person psych/stoner rock band out of Toulouse, France. The sound can be described as a mix of early Green Day, Moon Duo, Somali Yacht Club, and Jimi Hendrix. Most tracks feature short lyrical sections and long, repeating, Krautlike instrumentals. The tracks are brimming with energy and fresh takes on psychedelia. This album is arguably a concept album – Slift says the story is about the Titans’ exile and Hyperion’s triumphant yet arduous return to Earth. A very prescient story. In February 2020, when the album was released, few could see that we all would be isolated and face an arduous return to whatever normal life is.

Sjunde Inseglet – “Kalontas Auton Pou Onomazetai Satanas Kai Diavolos” – [Ajna Records]

karma   7/26/2022   A Library, CD

2018 release by Sjunde Inseglet (lit. “The Seventh Seal”), occult/left-hand path project out of Sweden. Two tantric 20 and 24 minute tracks. The tracks feature tribal bells, drums, and gongs – but the nature sounds (e.g. ocean, volcano) on the tracks give the album an etheral, elemental quality. The cyclical beat gives a ritualistic feeling; the album name translates to “A Calling of the One Called Satan or the Devil.” Regardless of creed, anyone who likes dark instrumental music will enjoy the album. I’ll carry these tracks in my mind like they are a bowl brimming with fresh milk. The music could be simpler, or more complicated – but they’re enough for me.

Cliff and Ivy – “Bring Us the Night” – [House of Extreme Darkness]

karma   7/20/2022   7-inch, A Library

Cliff and Ivy are a goth duo from Anchorage, Alaska. This four-song EP was recorded in a fur storage closet. All tracks pelt you with guitar riffs as fast as St. Jimmy up the boulevard. ‘Bring us the Night’ is darker than Christmas in Fairbanks. Through wittier lyrics and interesting rhythm and chord choices, Cliff and Ivy chase the intensity that the Last Frontier radiates. This is a goth metal album you’ll want to turn again and again, you won’t be bored! I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

Jones, Glenn – “Vade Mecum” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

karma   7/18/2022   A Library, CD

va·de me·cum

/ˌvādē ˈmēkəm,vädē ˈmākəm/

noun

a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for consultation.

Origin: early 17th century: modern Latin, literally ‘go with me’.

Go with Glenn Jones, veteran guitarist who has been playing since Mrs. Robinson learned to help herself. Open this guide and find the red rose pressed within. Through American primitive guitar that is sophisticated in all but genre name, the lead of experimental rock band Cul De Sac bronzes admiration for those buzzing in his mind. Inspired by the playing style and avant-garde tuning of genre-bending artists like John Fahey and Robbie Basho, Jones takes you on a sonic tour of his life. Within the first few notes of the title track, you are transported to Glenn’s world. Just as Fred Eaglesmith takes you straight to the interstate and John Prine halfway to heaven, Glenn Jones invokes the bliss of late-night conversation with good friends, good music, and good drink. 

The tracks meld into themselves and one another, with a few seemingly false starts and endings. Oftentimes, the ideas and themes are only visible well after the tracks are over. It’s hard to characterize the songs as happy or sad, major or minor, bitter or sweet. 

Can’t you say the same about life? 

Lawson and Merrill – “Signals” – [Neuma]

karma   6/22/2022   A Library, CD

Great music for your journey, whether by cars or (different) trains. Also great music to listen to while relaxing in your Tulip Chair somewhere in your Eichler, eating some silver apples. David Lawson and David Merrill are electronic musicians who collaborated on this project, which was inspired by midcentury electronic pioneers. Lawson provided the base track and Merrill added the sonic toppings. This collaboration is seamless and the tracks are meandering but all reach very convincing points. Feel the thought waves cease during Morning Meditation (track 1), 16 minutes go by very quickly. Track 2 is more “Smile” than “Surfin’ USA;” there was clearly a gray and cloudy morning on this beach. Don’t miss the gem of a Track 3, the just-dark-enough track 4, or the optimistic coda. I hope Lawson and Merrill collaborate more!

De Gennaro, Matthew – “Chuang Tzu Motherfucker” – [Soft Abuse]

karma   5/1/2022   12-inch, A Library

Matthew De Gennaro creates mostly instrumental pieces that are complimented by ambient noise. This album, released in 2013, is no exception. On first listen, this is a light, classically inspired album full of major chords and deep symbolism. A few sprinkles of dissonance (what is a B-flat doing in my A major Shangaan Dance?) hint at the deep nature of this album.

This is probably not news to the erudite readers of the KFJC blog, but Chuang Tzu is a major Chinese philosophical work, and (or?) the philosopher who may or may not have created the work. The Chuang Tzu is full of parables, analogies, and stories that illustrate the formal logic, first principles, and teachings of Taoism. The work, similar to this album, is deceptively simple and hides deep, multilayered meaning.

The first track references a parable in the Chuang Tzu (work), where Chuang Tzu (philosopher) dreams he is a butterfly. In the dream, he was so sure that he was a butterfly, but then he woke up and realized he was Chuang Tzu dreaming he was a butterfly. Or is a butterfly dreaming it is Chuang Tzu? As the track starts, the violin feels like a butterfly floating from flower to flower. The harmonics and the drawn out lower (G) string add to the dreamlike, ephemeral qualities of the song. The high pitched violin towards the end and the pauses at the end of each musical phrase make you question: are you the dreamer or the dream?

Pip Proud was a singer-songwriter who seems to be part of the 1960s Australian counterculture, which I am now realizing had to have been a thing. Listening to Pip, I get Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd vibes with a decidedly Australian twist. Pip clearly touched De Gennaro, as the second track starts with upbeat, major guitar chords that grace your ear in the same way that your favorite drink envelops your taste buds. The spoken word part of this song seems to have been recorded in a particularly echoey high-school gymnasium. Other tracks that are tributes includes “Bells for Mompou” (with the chord sequences invented by Catalan composer Federico Mompou) and “Shangaan Dance” (a slowed down version of African dance music).

“Alley Violinist” references a poem by Robert Lax, also described as deceptively simple. The main theme of the poem is the question of whether one should sacrifice personal comfort for others’ happiness. The pausing, sometimes grating violin shows how De Gennaro grapples with finding an answer.

The next few tracks seem to take a break from the parables, but track 6 references the book of Amos in the Bible. Just as one can use a weighted string to determine if a building is level, one can also use their moral compass to stay on the straight and narrow. The low bass viol (I too thought it was a cello) symbolizes the introspection and grounded thinking that is needed when comparing your actions to your plumb line.

I expected to like this album, but not to love it this much. Like the Chuang Tzu, I will be coming back to this album many times to see what new meanings I can glean.

[COLL] Godspunk Volume Twenty-Three

karma   4/20/2022   A Library

Godspunk is a creation of Pumf records in Blackpool, England. Most of the artists on this 52-track album are from the UK, but there are a few from America and France. This is a delightful album that immerses you in its universe. It starts with a few outlandish tracks. The title track talks about how the Teletubbies never existed. A few songs later, Breathilizor spins a tale about “bean burrito toilet sludge miasma.” The album then features a few songs by UNIT that seem to feature right-wing talking points. Is it punk to watch Fox News? Poe’s Law got to me and I didn’t realize that they were satirizing conservatives by singing about their views in beautiful four-part harmony. 


There is a lot of instrumental music on this album. Much is with traditional instruments, but a lot of songs feature ambient noise such as birds, dogs, and doors. Most of the songs, especially the instrumentals by UNIT, are excellent. However, some of the songs seem to feature mainly distorted speaker feedback. “Memoir of a Horny Abortionist” is so unsettling that Ruth Bader Ginsburg would become pro-life. 


The second CD turns more introspective. The tracks explore issues such as anger, loneliness, and the meaning of life. However, these deep tracks are interspersed by weird instrumentals with titles like “Toxic Cock Syndrome” or a spoken word song about getting spanked by Tom Hanks. There is something on this album for everyone! 

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