As a teenager in the Bay Area in the early 80s, Carolyn Fok was painting, writing poetry, experimenting with synthesizers and reel-to-reel recorders, and getting deep into the local post punk scene. Her many artistic influences came together under the name Cyrnai, beginning with the release of her debut album Charred Blossoms in 1985, now reissued by Dark Entries. The record is gorgeous; a collage of industrial rhythms mixed with instruments like flute, piano, saxophone and mandolin and her surreal spoken word poetry. As Cyrnai describes it, “the sounds on the record are depressive, yet should fit perfect in a bouquet of flames,” and if that isn’t the most spot-on description of a typical KFJC set I don’t know what is. Cyrnai went on to release several more solo albums and to play in other Bay Area groups including Rhythm and Noise, Trial, and A State of Mind, whose records can be found in our library.
William St. Hugh is the experimental classical project of a mysterious composer from Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Several of his previous releases, including Saturnus and The Luciferian can be found in our library. Terra Former continues in the vein of these albums, creating dark, dreamlike atmospheres with synthetic orchestral arrangements and electronic sounds, from the rush of sweeping strings on “Cascade” (T2), the abstract skittering rhythms on “Blinking Drops” (T3), the ethereal ambience of “Transformed” (T6), and the early spring shadows of “Flowers Fall” (T10). The album concludes with the ominous drone of “Dust Queen” (T13). Self-released by the artist in 2020.
Thoabath is the solo project of Oakland’s A.C. Way (of several Bay Area groups, including Sutekh Hexen, Maleficia, Carrion and French Radio). Over the past five years, his work under this name has grown into a truly strange beast, a singular synthesis of death industrial rhythms, occult incantations, black metal, and blistering noise (see his 2018 cassette here). Created and recorded during the 2020 lockdown, his ninth release Drown magnifies these sounds over four massive tracks that together feel like a pure distillation of the inescapable dread that defined this miserable year. Anxious high pitched blasts, decayed noise, blaring emergency alarms, and howling voices all seethe within the dense rush of sound. In the third track, a lone synth figure meanders beneath the crushing storm, an image of isolation amid the chaos. Revisit this record to remember how it all felt, to sink to unthinkable depths, to struggle for a breath of air. Released on MK9’s label Neural Operations, with beautiful illustrations by local artist Bryan Proteau.
Choral music has always been deeply uncool, at least as long as I can remember, definitely since I was belting out the Ave Maria in grade school, and it seems even further back than that. In the 1960s, with the growing enthusiasm around electronic and avant garde music, there was “a general feeling that the voice was a very limited phenomenon, unreliable, and possibly not as interesting with regard to exploration as were other sound domains,” recalls conductor Kenneth Gaburo of the time when he formed the New Music Choral Ensemble at the University of Illinois. The group of 16 student singers was the first in the country to tackle contemporary works for voice.
This CD, collecting ten of their works recorded live in 1967, exhibits the stylistic range and technical difficulty of their repertoire, starting with Ben Johnston’s challenging jazz piece “Ci-Git-Satie” (T1) and Pauline Oliveros’ abstract collage of moans, shrieks, bleeps and groans on “Sound Patterns” (T2). Two of Gaburo’s compositions appear here, distinctive with their brass band freakouts and tape music insanity (T4 and T9). In contrast, other pieces have a solemn, beautiful air: Shallenberg’s “Lilacs” (T5) and Bassett’s “Notes in the Silence #3” (T6). The best pieces are saved for the disc’s end: Luigi Nono’s stunning “Sara Dolce Tacere” (T7) and Oliver Messiaen’s blend of French/Quechua/Sanskrit into an abstract dream poetry on “Cinq Rechants” (T10).
This sick slab of “dada spew” is the first vinyl release from Maximum Ernst, the NYC duo of Josh Gordon and Erick Bradshaw (better known to WFMU listeners as Creamo Coyl of the Spin Age Blasters show). Two sidelong sound excursions, warming up with an easy hike into the depths of a strange noiseforest on “Un Menace Natural” until the darkness descends. The deepening dread carries over into the B side “Hallmark of a Crisis Period,” a collage of spoken word rants and ravings about science and schizophrenia reverberating alongside guitar feedback, synth attacks and harsh noise blasts. Released in Fall 2020 on NYC label ever/never.
Two major projects in experimental music collide on this disc: Pas Musique, the Brooklyn-based music and film collective led by Robert Pepper, and Rapoon, the solo project of Robin Storey, a founding member of Zoviet France. The duo have collaborated several times over the past decade, and this release contains a recording of one of those meetings, an hour-long live performance in New York in 2017, presented here in its entirety as a single track. The performance opens with rhythmic, ritualistic sounds – percussion, bells, and droning sitar- that continue as a thread throughout the piece, a refrain that serves as a portal into subconscious spaces. Layered field recordings and electronic ambience dredge up long forgotten memories like the music box chimes from childhood, venture into dark passages, ruminate on looping patterns of thought, and together construct a complete unreality.
Ingest the pyromaniac manna of the underworld hosts and sink into the slimy depths of Brain. This newest album from Haare (Ilkka Vekka of Hämeenlinna, Finland), a melding of blackened noise and heavy psychedelia, surely would have found a spiritual home mixed into one of Cy Thoth’s Firebunker superimpositions. Twisted melodies and churning feedback storms from effected guitars, uncurling reptilian feelers, and howling voices make up the psychic disturbances, building towards a final solemn procession of flute, drums, bells and gongs that signal the arrival of a fearsome supernatural presence. Our first addition from the German industrial label Aussaat.
This 2020 Dark Entries re-release of the first full-length album from Australian electronic music pioneers Severed Heads brings these tracks to vinyl for the first time since their original release in 1981. The 2XLP deluxe edition includes a track that was omitted from previous reissues (“Food City”, A1) as well as a bonus disc with live performances, a cassette called “Side 3,” and the original tape loop demos for the album. Together, the collection is a fascinating look into how the band formed what would become their original industrial synth pop sound. In the album’s liner notes, head Head Tom Ellard recalls the trial and error process of throwing everything onto tape and seeing what worked. The approach makes for an exciting listen, a rush of ideas that includes varied musical influences (Ellard admits to disco and Kraftwerk, but the Throbbing Gristle early industrial sound also clearly come through), instruments they don’t know how to play (guitar, violin T7, T11, and even toy piano T9 find their way into the tracks), Ellard’s intricate tape work collages pieced together from fragments of radio broadcasts (front and center on the “The Clean Loops” T16), and the synth and sequencer work that became the foundation of their later sound. Highlights for me include the demonic voices and tessellated synth patterns on “Chiarivari” (T3) and the bizarre guitar jam “Unbreakable” (T22), but all are essential.
Abbott, Luke – “Music For a Flat Landscape: Original Soundtrack to The Goob” – [Buffalo Temple Music Recordings]
Music for a Flat Landscape collects ten tracks that were originally scored for the 2014 film The Goob by electronic composer Luke Abbott. The film tells the story of a teenager growing up in Abbott’s hometown of Norfolk in rural England, and its soundtrack of softly shifting twilight tones and nighttime field recordings is meditative but in motion, flowing the way time passes when you’re young. Released on Abbott’s label Buffalo Temple.
Vinyl reissue of a 1995 Slaughter Productions cassette from SSHE Retina Stimulants, the solo project of Paolo Bandera, one of the founders of the 1980s Italian industrial outfit Sigillum S. Heavy, hallucinogenic electronics emitting fluctuating patterns, rumbling melodies, trailing visions and scintillating tones, like a primitive consciousness emerging from a dense network of fried synapses, furiously dreaming. Limited edition of 99 from the excellent Italian harsh noise imprint Urashima.
This 2013 compilation commemorates the 100th anniversary of “The Art of Noises,” the manifesto of futurist artist and founding father of noise music, Luigi Russolo. Bruitisme features works from artists that continue to advance Russolo’s radical project into this century. The artists were selected by Zorin, a member of the pioneering French industrial group Le Syndicat (who contributed not just to the group’s extreme sound but also to its propaganda-inspired visual aesthetic) and its spinoff noise project Entre Vifs. Both of his groups appear here: Le Syndicat opens with a sound collage of a snarling traffic jam (T1) and Entre Vifs concludes the disc with a rhythmic, vocals-driven piece that sounds like a broadcast from an abandoned radio station (T6). They’re accompanied by the sustained feedback blasts of Finnish artist Tommi Keränen (T2), the shredding psychedelia of Government Alpha (T3), the mind-control machine music of Rodger Stella (T4, if there’s a modern day intonarumori it would sound like this), and Lasse Marhaug with a track that sounds as if he’s stripping a piano to pieces, tossing its strings, pins, hammers and keys into the drum and tumbling them around inside (T5). Released by local experimental label Influencing Machine Records.
Here’s a record I never knew I needed to hear – a weird, whiskey-soaked mash of honky tonk, steel guitar twang, tape loops, harsh noise, campfire folk, and Conlon Nancarrow reanimating the out-of-tune piano in a saloon. Buck Young is the duo of Zoe Burke and Jason Crumer (his solo noise work as well as releases from his label No Rent Records can be found in our library). On their second album, the follow-up to their 2017’s Proud Trash Sound, they’re joined by an extended cast of characters that includes Joseph Hammer (tape music legend and member of the LA Free Music Society), Wyatt Howland (Skin Graft), and Rose Rae (Apologist), to create this experimental country masterpiece, that could play just as well Down on the Farm as it could on KFJC’s most extreme shows.
Throughout the album, repeating loops of sampled guitar recall the disorienting effect of driving for hours across a flat, seemingly endless desert landscape, as heat shimmers on the horizon and giant scorpions crawl across the cracked soil. But the pit stops along the way are really where Buck II shines. Burke’s winning vocals feature on my two favorite tracks: the catchy “Ballad of Bruce McClain,” about the misadventures of a trio of train hoppers (T7), and the dreamy, despairing “Bell Jar of Whiskey” (T12). “Long Distance Phone Call” is a sloshed singalong about drunk texts to your ex and other regrets (T9), and the title track is a spoken word narration of a barroom showdown between a shit-talking guy from the local plant and a John Wayne-wannabe musician (T14). For weeks, I’ve been whistling along with this record as the country burns down around us – here’s hoping my fellow listeners also find it eases their misery.
FCCs on T7, T14
Jana Irmert is a composer from Berlin who has collaborated with Jóhann Jóhannsson, Christopher Chaplin and other artists that blend music with film and visual media. While this 2017 release is a stand-alone album, Flood surely summons rich imagery with its mix of field recordings and electronic sounds: a vision of massive walls of ice meeting a slow thaw. We hear the ice breaking and cracking, its melt flowing into the oceans. The catastrophic process is overseen by an outside consciousness that pulses from above, as if to sound a warning. It unfolds in three parts: a 22 minute track, a shorter interlude, and a final long form piece. Though quiet and slow moving, there’s movement and detail that keep Flood consistently engaging throughout, an impressive feat. Our first release from the Vienna experimental label Fabrique.
French sound artist Bérangère Maximin transforms an assortment of instruments – percussion, small objects, synths, guitar, and voice – into the Land of Waves on her sixth album. Over two LPs, we visit the imagined corners of this strange land, starting with its terrain: the underground drones and gemlike synths on “Day 41” (A1), idiophonic melodies emanating from deep caverns on “Kalimba Rough” (A2), the swarm of tremors on “The Broken Shoe” (A3). The B side sets out on a night time walk through an unusual wilderness, its sounds of glowing insects, wind-up birds, leaping fish, calls of owls and other unidentified creatures beaming through the darkness. “L’Echappee” (C1) begins at the edge of a dock before unmooring, drifting into a shadowy sidelong journey. The final D side holds some of the most exciting and varied tracks: “Walking Barefoot: Imaginary Quintet” (D1, a collaboration with Fred Frith on guitar and the Swibeckico Quartet on electronics) an eerily beautiful techno piece, “Des Tigres Multicolores” (D2) with its jeweled tones, purrs and growls, and closer “The Thread” (D3) where the most familiar of sounds, like a cell phone notification chime, are absorbed into Maximin’s dreamworld. More of her previous work can be found in our library, here and here.
Evicshen is Victoria Shen, a sound artist working in Somerville, Mass. Shen began working with analog modular synths as an intern at Jessica Rylan’s Flower Electronics (Rylan’s work as Can’t most certainly can be found in our library), and later incorporated other homemade electronic instruments into her work. On Hair Birth, her first full-length LP, Shen extracts vivid psychedelic dreams from the Buchla 100 and Serge Modular synthesizers. Sustained tones, rhythmic sparks, blasts of coarse static, and bright electronic fizz all flow from the cables, and from the waves of synthesis her voice, distorted with effects, surfaces. Whirlwind tones and maniacal voices cast a dizzy spell “Funhouse Mirror Stage” (T4), and a creeping menace takes root on “Bolete” (T5). We’re flung along the twists and turns of the “Lissajous” (T6) before the final slow build to a “Fever Pitch” (T7). A wild ride, released on the Chicago experimental label American Dreams.
Boundaries between the real and the imagined dissolve on this masterful noise work from Philadelphia-based artist Jason Crumer (also the founder of the outstanding experimental label No Rent Records). Sounds of within – deep drones, and high-pitched ringing – meet the sounds of without – field recordings of doors slamming, rusted hinges swiveling, street sounds of footsteps and traffic, pencil meeting paper to scrawl a letter – sometimes blurring smoothly together, other times cutting abruptly from one scene to the next. Following this trail of fragmented memories leads to a grotesque vision of madness itself, a wild blast of horns and noise. I also want to note the album’s strange and beautiful artwork, surreal images to match the disc’s sounds by painter Justine Neuberger. From the Austin experimental label Breathing Problem Productions.
From this album’s opening moments – a mournful piano repeating in a hypnotic loop as scrap metal thunder rumbles overhead – I was struck by its severe beauty. Tourette is Benjamin Clément of Montreuil, France. On these three longform pieces, he contrasts graceful sounds – piano, strings, otherworldly voices, brilliant ambience – with punishing storms of harsh noise. Artists who use pleasing sounds in noise have their naysayers, but Tourette proves that in the hands of a skillful composer, the lighter moments make the impact of the noise assault that much more powerful. This is one of the best records I’ve heard in some time, and a new favorite that I’ll continue to revisit.
First addition to our library from this Philly experimental two piece of Rodnie King and Riot Dent. They floor it right out of the gate, ripping through the first four tracks with blasts of drums, filthy bass and monstrous screamed vocals. There’s hardly chance to catch your breath between the call to lose yr shit on the dance floor (T5), a hip hop interlude on the slow suffocation of being black in America (T6), a sludgy, squirming jam (T7), and an increasingly familiar moment of disbelief, where there’s no words but “oh, fuuuuuck” (T8). The tape runs out with total noise breakdown of “endless death” (T9), while the last couple tracks swerve into oncoming traffic to end it all. Recorded and self released in 2017, but hits just right during the current cataclysm.
This cassette is Ashley V. Bennett’s first work as Human Guilt (her previous work as Nadia can be found in our library). Each track in Coordinates surveys one of three geographic locations. At the first (T1), restless static intensifies into convulsive noise and distorted cries, a rush of sounds that finally converge into a single, sharp tone. The second site (T2) recalls the churn of machines, a storm of metallic clashes and vicious screams. The final coordinate (T3) orients inward: an empty roar, distant buzzes and beeps, wavering drones. 2020 release from Philadelphia’s No Rent Records.
2020 CD reissue of a 1998 self-released cassette from The Rita, the long-running Vancouver harsh noise project of Sam McKinlay. Two dense, dynamic 15 minute tracks follow the reanimation of a lifeless corpse: female form rising from the earth, malevolent life force circulating beneath layers of shredded flesh, a lifetime of suppressed screams erupting from lungs filled with mud. From Ohio experimental label Amethyst Sunset.
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