Diamond Ortiz – “Bulletproof” – [Needle to the Groove]

karma   1/27/2023   12-inch, Soul

Diamond Ortiz was raised in Oakland, and he and his family played with funk musicians from Graham Central Station at an early age. He is now a modern/street funk musician in LA, and has also done session work for many hip-hop/rap artists (such as Snoop Dogg and Nipsey Hussle). This album pays homage to classic funk and hip-hop, and sometimes mixes them (the funk cover of California Love can duke it out with the orchestral version of the song from Sly5thAve). Ortiz’s talkbox skills and infectious optimism are a welcome dose of serotonin for the dark, cold nights of Soul Patrol. Or anytime!

Acid Twilight – “Mustang Zodiac” – [Not Not Fun]

karma   1/26/2023   A Library, CD

Second release by Buenos Aires-based modal psychedelia entity. Meandering instrumental tracks which feature a combination of electronic synth and a variety of acoustic instruments. The marimba on track one in particular has an earthy feel. Listening to Mustang Zodiac is reminiscent of a days-long train journey through slowly yet dramatically changing landscape. The album takes a while to build steam, and the message it sends is most visible after repeated listening.

“I want this music to invite the listener to contemplate the curves, cliffs, peaceful valleys, and quiet lagoons, the nights through the desert in the light of the full moon, the early mornings through immense sand dunes of imaginary sea coasts. The fire, the flow of water in the river. It’s a séance and a ceremony. Mustang Zodiac is a journey to rediscover our external world and our inner nature, a dialogue between being and environment. It is a commitment to the technological and the telluric, a hybrid of the Fourth World and electronic primitivism.”

-Acid Twilight

Rodriguez, Silvio – “1968/1970 “Al Final de este Viaje…”” – [Fonomusic]

karma   1/11/2023   CD, International

1978 release by Cuban folksinger Silvio Rodriguez. Rodriguez is widely considered the leader of the Nueva Trova movement, which is Cuban folk music with social and political commentary. Rodriguez includes songs in tribute to political figures such as Che Guevara and Abel Santamaria. He also comments on the artist’s relationship to art, and the state of modern media. Lastly, he makes time on this album for songs about love and the passage of time (which he seemed oddly concerned about for someone in his 20s). Many of the tracks on this album are classics, and Rodriguez continues to record to this day.

McCowen, John – “Models of Duration” – [Astral Spirits]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

“Time is the essential part of interpretation.” – Lydia Tár, the (fictional) conductor at the heart of the film Tár.

Recorded in fall 2020, when most markers of the passage of time weren’t, Models of Duration is an exploration of how instruments model time and create sonic space. There are four 10-12 minute tracks of contrabass clarinet drone, with no electronic manipulation. It’s remarkable what McCowen can do; the harmonics on track A2 sound don’t sound like they came from a human playing an instrument.

This album is best listened to on vinyl, on a good sound system. There is a physical element to this album, I felt the deep bass of the clarinet absorb in my bones.

As a DJ, this album begs for some kind of experimentation. Try playing it at different speeds. Mess with the pitch. Control time.

Q-Burns Abstract Message – “Feng Shui” – [Astralwerks]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

1998 downtempo house double album by Q-BAM, aka Michael Donaldson, a DJ from Orlando. This was his first release. The BPMs are low, and the album seems to bridge the gap between ambient house and indie pop (especially “Jennifer,” which features vocals from Icelandic pop collective GusGus. That song could have been on The Royal Tenenbaums). There are also influences of rap (He’s a Skull), soul (Kinda Picky), and world music (New Patterns).

It’s interesting placing this album in the context of Donaldson’s career 25 years later. Through the late 90s and early aughts, Q-BAM was a sought after DJ and traveled the world. After the Great Recession, he seemed to shift towards music production and his record label. During the pandemic, he pursued writing, and currently writes for his digital zine. These days, he is involved with producing podcasts and serves as a consultant to aspiring musicians and producers. In interviews, he states that his philosophy is to pursue the innovative and promote artists that are pushing the medium forward. Quite similar to the ethos of KFJC.

Midnight Dunes – “Midnight Dunes” – [Self Released]

karma   12/17/2022   A Library, CD

“I like to pull from a bunch of different styles to create a unique vibe for the listener. Keep ‘em guessing by doing away with traditional arrangements and textures. Hop on a cosmic dingy and enjoy the ride.”

-Robert Fosco, aka Midnight Dunes. He makes his fantastic beats out of Neptune, NJ. The base is excellent lo-fi hip-hop, featuring sonic toppings from the lady who tells you to enter your voicemail password on your phone, Cold War nuclear films, and what sounds like fingerpicked guitar. This is a fun album that pairs well with a lot of different genres and types of sets.

Mazzy, Jimmy / Newberger, Eli – “Shake It Down” – [Stomp Off Records]

karma   12/4/2022   CD, Jazz

1996 release. Jimmy Mazzy and Eli Newberger are traditional jazz musicians. Unlike classic jazz (which is different than traditional jazz), this album features banjo (Mazzy) and tuba (Newberger). The goal of the album was to record jazz and traditional pop standards in the country blues style. The result is accessible without being pedestrian; tributary without being derivative. Though innovative with its choice of instrumentation, the album is old-school, good-time jazz. In an era where it seems like everything is rapidly changing and change occurs for the sake of change, it is nice to have some things just like they used to be.

Villain, Carmen – “Only Love From Now On” – [Smalltown Supersound]

karma   11/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

Carmen Villian is a Norwegian-Mexican artist. Her work is a combination of field recordings, electronic music, and instrumentals. Her inspirations include Brian Eno, and her music has a similar feeling of enveloping ambience. My favorite track is “Gestures” (the first one), a soothing collaboration with jazz trumpeter Arne Henriksen. All of the tracks in the album feature soft field recordings and sparse instrumentation. The somehow spare yet dense music engenders positivity. With all the discontent in the world, there should only be love from now on.

Tex and Foley – “Slythoar and Pierre” – [TacoRatSATX]

karma   10/26/2022   12-inch, A Library

Just in time for spooky season, a journey through a haunted house! Foley draws from his experience in radio drama and immersive theatre (Sleep No More) to create this immersive album. This is a blursed combination of Five Nights at Freddy’s and A Prairie Home Companion. Fun for anyone who misses the good old days of radio drama!

Parashi – “Vinegar Baths” – [Carbon Records]

karma   10/26/2022   A Library, CD

Parashi is Mike Griffin. He has performed in a few bands, including Sky Furrows, whose self-titled album enjoyed recent glory on the KFJC hit list (Foreign Cities is my anthem). Vinegar Baths is based on improvisations with the 6-string bass and tape manipulation – the (unintelligible but powerful) vocals and guitar were added later. Unlike the lyrically dense and frenetic Sky Furrows, this album is a subdued soundscape that transports you to an open field somewhere in upstate New York. My favorite track is “Winding Song,” where Griffin lets his guitar technique and skilled vocals lead.

BSBLOrk – “10 yEars aLive” – [Public Eyesore]

karma   10/14/2022   A Library, CD

The Brasilia Laptop Orchestra (BSBLOrk, for short). is an experimental music collective based in the capital city of Brazil. This collective produces acousmatic, often-improvised music that serves as a social commentary. Issues tackled include – human-quantum connection and something called the holofractal theory (track 1), philosophy of fiction (track 2), climate change and The Great Filter (track 8), the pandemic (track 9), and nuclear war (track 11). The collective has performed all over Brazil, and some of these tracks are based on live shows (e.g. track 6). The tracks are very electronic. Very acousmatic. Very avant-garde. Very KFJC.

Tibbetts, Steve – “Hellbound Train: An Anthology” – [ECM GmbH]

karma   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

2 CD “greatest hits” album by fusion jazz guitarist Steve Tibbetts, based in Minnesota. He describes his playing as postmodern neo-primitivism. This album features many of Tibbetts’ Tibetian collaborations with nun Chöying Drolma. Unlike many east-meets-west albums, this collaboration is restrained. Tibbetts’ guitar is as quiet as a week out there on the edge of the prairie, and he is not afraid to let his collaborators on drone, kalimba, tabla, or the studio take over.

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/


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? 

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