Malladi Brothers – “At Silicon Valley, 2023” – [Sankritilaya]

karma   6/4/2023   CD, International

The Malladi Brothers are a renowned Carnatic duo. They are known especially for their skilled improvisational alapana and kalpana swara, and their emphasis on rare ragas and compositions. This live recording of a performance in Santa Clara in April 2023 highlights their skills in Carnatic standards as well as rare pieces. They begin with a varna in Kedaragowla and kritis in Dhanyasi (a raga which seems to be in vogue right now) and raga Janaranjani (Pahimom Sree Rajarajeshwari). The submain piece, Thyagaraja’s Eramuni Nammiti, is in the Persian-derived melakarta raga Vakulabharanam. The main piece was the classic Sri Subramanyaya Namaste by Dixitar in raga Kamboji. The Malladi Brothers’ sparing use of N3 (the high seventh which is an accidental in this raga) lends their rendition a classic feel. The ragam-thanam pallavi, 30 minutes of continuous improvisation, is primarily in the Hindustani raga Suddha Sarang. Excellent concert that has something for longtime connoisseurs of Carnatic music, or newcomers to the art.

Liyou, Lucy – “Dog Dreams” – [American Dreams Records]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Second album from Lucy Liyou, currently based in SF. This album and its three long tracks cannot be confined to a single genre. It is a meld of ambient, Korean shamanic music, jazz, spoken word, and field recordings. ‘Dog Dreams’ is a literal translation of a Korean term that ranges in meaning from daydreams to nightmares. This album perfectly captures the uncanny feeling of a dream. It’s an intense therapy session that shatters conceptions of reality and requires presence and attention from the listener.

Kool and the Gang – “Kool and the Gang” – [De-Lite Records]

karma   6/3/2023   12-inch, Soul

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Johnson administration, you know Kool and the Gang. This is their 1969 debut album, 4 years before ‘Jungle Boogie’ and their mainstream success of the 70s. This all instrumental album is a prototype of the band that became a household name. This album is R&B focused as opposed to their later funk/disco releases, and has been reissued on beautiful purple vinyl.

Casual War – “Burn” – [Staalplaat]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Just in time for summer, desert rock from a duo based in LA and DC. They recorded the tracks separately at their respective homes during the pandemic. The artists’ goals were to show that intimate connection was possible even when we were stuck at home. The powerful yet restrained vocals atop the sludgy, psychedelic instrumentation transport you to the slow heat of the Mojave, and show that no matter what, all of us are burning together.

Negativland – “Speech Free: Recorded Music For Film, Radio, Internet and Te” – [Seeland]

karma   5/10/2023   A Library, CD

Negativland is very popular in the KFJC library. They are a Bay Area based experimental music collective that is known to sample a lot of vocals. Their latest release is their two previous albums – with all vocals removed. The speech-free album is seamless. You wouldn’t know there were supposed to be vocals unless you’re a Negativland fan (as you should be) or I just told you. The tracks vary in length and tone. Very fun album that will fit into pretty much any program here.

Underground River – “Life Cycle, Delicate Song” – [Nudie Records]

karma   5/10/2023   12-inch, A Library

Solo project of upstate NY-based Hunter Davidsohn. This album fuses the best of pop and psychedelia. The tracks are short for KFJC standards, but they are deep, rich, and full of baroque chord structures. Innovative left-field recording techniques and psychedelic sounds give the album a sound that somehow is firmly both in the 60s tradition and contemporary interest.

Bad Groupy – “The Last Piece of Graphite” – [Zeromoon]

karma   5/2/2023   A Library, CD

This album is a collaboration between Hamburg-based Kris Kuldkepp and DC-based Jeff Surak. Both are deep in their respective experimental/noise music communities. The album starts out with the short, upbeat ‘Elevator Talk.’ You can almost dance to it. The remaining three tracks slow down and become much longer, sounds are found. Fun and interesting collaboration and fusion of different experimental styles.

Myka 9 – “Teleported 3” – [Known Shadows]

karma   5/2/2023   CD, Hip Hop

Myka 9 is an underground hip-hop artist based in LA, part of the Freestyle Fellowship collective, active since the 80s. His innovative flow has been compared to what Miles Davis did to jazz. His lyrics, which are thought-provoking, deep, and require multiple listens, have been compared to De La Soul. This is the third of a four-part series based on a sci-fi horror comic. The instrumentation is done by the talented Bay Area-based Freematik, who has collaborated with Myka 9 on many projects in the past. The instrumentation and lyrics transport you into their world, and show the gift both of them have for transcribing their worldview into introspective song. This is thoughtful hip-hop that proves how rap is one of the purest forms of poetry set to music.

My favorite tracks are Chronix, Cold, and Sensei.

Bloodywood – “Rakshak” – [Self Released]

karma   4/25/2023   CD, International

Debut album from New Delhi based folk metal group. Lyrics are in English, Hindi, and Punjabi – mostly about fighting the oppressive powers that be and overcoming adversity. There are equal parts acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bansuri flute, and rap. Very powerful, high energy metal that does fusion right. Hard to pick a favorite track, but it may have to be the bhangra-inspired Machi Bhasad or any of the flute-forward tracks.


Fishdoll – “Noonsense” – [Paxico Records]

karma   4/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

2018 debut album by Beijing-based electro-soul musician Fishdoll. She composed all songs herself, starting with the tone and the chord structure before trawling her library for music to sample. The album feels like you are slowly descending underwater. All tracks, whether vocal, synth, or instrumental heavy, have a low-bpm, ethereal feel. Interesting, thought provoking music that pushes the boundaries of electronic, ambient, and soul.

Dead Luke – “Hazy Visions of Bliss” – [Nudie Records]

karma   4/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

Dead Luke used to be with Zola Jesus and other musicians from Madison, Wisconsin. He has traded Green Bay for Half Moon Bay. This 2022 release is a trip through many types psychedelia. He begins with the meditative ‘Contact Established.’ ‘Altamont 1969’ sounds exactly what you’d listen to when the Grateful Dead couldn’t perform live. In general, the odd-numbered tracks are higher energy (e.g. the fuzzy ‘Necronomicon’ and the synth-focused ‘Transport’) and the even-numbered tracks are meditative (e.g. the drone-focused ‘Bliss’ and the almost-symphonic ‘The Ninth Crusade’). This album shows Dead Luke’s mastery of a wide variety of instruments and psychedelic styles. I can see this getting a lot of airtime at KFJC.

Sun Ra Arkestra – “Living Sky” – [Omni Sonic]

karma   4/13/2023   12-inch, Jazz

Third album by Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen as bandleader. Allen is a sprightly 98 years old, but shows no signs of slowing down. This album was commissioned by Ahmet Ulug, who runs the American-Turkish label Omni Sound (named after a quote by Sun Ra that he wrote in Istanbul).

This album is all instrumental, and starts with a reinterpretation of Chopin’s Prelude in A Major. “Somebody Else’s Idea” without vocals adds a different dimension. The EVI sounds like a human voice vocalizing, leaving the listener to interpret the meaning. Marshall Allen composes three songs for this album, and the two disc set ends with a cover of ‘Wish upon a Star’ (from Pinocchio).

Excellent jazz that shows that the Arkestra can be contemporary and relevant while respecting the tradition and teachings of Sun Ra.

Style and Fashion [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records]

karma   4/11/2023   12-inch, Reggae

Fashion Records is a UK based reggae label that flourished from 1980-2000. They were one of the more popular British reggae labels, and had some hits. Fashion essentially became defunct by 2000, they say this is because of declining continental interest, the rise of digital and the hegemony of Jamaican reggae. This 2019 release by Soul Jazz is a ‘greatest hits’ compilation. This 3-disc set includes lovers rock, dancehall, and jungle rock. This compilation provides a window into the transition from lovers rock to electronic jungle rock. It portrays a changing, diversifying world as told by two reggae fanatics and the artists they brought to their label.

Fuckwolf – “Goodbye, Asshole” – [Silver Current]

karma   4/10/2023   12-inch, A Library

Fuckwolf has been around since 2003, but this 2022 release is their debut album. They describe themselves as a scuzzy, 70s inspired rock band that harkens back to the days when the City wasn’t packed with tech bros. The songs are fun and high energy. The band’s name is the one thing you can’t say out of safe harbor; all the tracks are free of strong language.

Thrift Bakery – “Hard and Sweet” – [Beautamous Loaf International]

karma   2/5/2023   A Library, CD

Fourth release by Thrift Bakery, founded in the 80s and regrouped in 2011. TB describes themselves as indie pop (with folk, rap, and shoegaze influence) and experimental rock vocals. Quarantine Pandemic Blues and Sending All My Love to You talk about the unique horrors of 2020. These songs, like the rest of the album, are upbeat and thought-provoking. It’s hard to think of a favorite track, but I would probably say the indie rock-based Sending All My Love to You (track 6), rap about a modern day Count of Monte Cristo (5), and indie-roots Arthur McBride and the Sergeant (track 11).

Backstabbers SJ, the – “Backstabbers SJ, the” – [Beautamous Loaf International]

karma   2/3/2023   12-inch, A Library

Punk rock from longtime Bay Area community members (drummer Vince De Leon is a friend of the station and runs an excellent barber shop in San Jose). This album gives me Dead Kennedys and MDC vibes. It takes you back to a Bay Area when there weren’t grass-fed kombucha bars on every corner and housing was actually affordable. As the band name would suggest, a lot of the songs are about betrayal, so I’d sleep with one eye open if I were you. That is, if you can sleep at all after listening to this high energy album.

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.

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