Headboggle, aka local experimental synth wizard Derek Gedalecia, is no stranger to the station – a small slice of his sizable discography lives in our library, and he recorded a session in The Pit back in 2009 – but for the unfamiliar, this 2019 Ratskin Records release provides a full immersion in the bizarre, beautiful Headboggle universe. Polyphonic Demo holds 44 one-minute tracks, each a tiny, wonderous world of electronic sound. Put the disc on shuffle – maybe you’ll land in the rough, bluesy groove of “Sister Synth” (T44), the mechanical march of “Stomp Ya Down” (T14), the ragtime piano and squishy beats of “Piano and Polyphonics” (T22), the minor key fanfare upon entering the “Buchla Club” (T26), or the slo-mo surge across the finish line in “Marathon Man Dance” (T7) – and catch a different glimpse of a facet of this strange gem of a record.
Rusalka is the project of Vancouver noise artist Kate Rissek. Her work over the past decade includes several solo cassettes and split releases (with MK9 and The Rita, among others), and now in 2019 her first full-length LP washes onto KFJC shores. On Base Waters, Rusalka uses a theremin and electronic effects to harness the power of the seas on two sidelong pieces. A sunken ship ascends back to the ocean surface on “Sinking Blood Deep” (T1). The vessel’s weathered hull – massive walls of corroded noise – rises from the depths; its horns sound, lights flare, and engines roar once again. On “Reflection Underneath Waves” (T2), field recordings of waves transform into massive columns of noise standing amid powerful swells of sound, a raw expression of the creative and destructive forces of the sea. Beautiful, compelling work, released on Montreal label Absurd Exposition.
Linekraft is the solo project of Masahiko Okubo, “junk-metal noise master” (his percussion work can also be found on recent releases from GRIM) and head of the Japanese noise label Three Plugs. On Subhuman Principle, Linekraft confronts the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, the communist regime that murdered millions of Cambodians during its rule in the late 1970s, and arrives at a final conclusion: “Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group.” Thus, he creates a “soundtrack for subhumans,” a devastating record that follows the regression from man to beast. Air raid horns, wailing sirens, military marches and gunshots dominate the first half of the tracks, but as the album plays on these traces of society disappear, leaving only chaos. The return to the primitive is reflected in the effects that are reminiscent of early electronic/noise music, like warbling echoes and overdriven distortion, and crashing metal sounds. The full bestial transformation is realized on the horrifying “Non Human Animal” (T5). Exceptional.
Obsidian Needles is the Olympia-based industrial noise project of Clare S. This 2019 cassette, released in advance of her U.S. tour with Oakland’s Crawl of Time, contains two harrowing longform works. “keep my sufferings & desires from being violent” (Side A) alternates between uncomfortable stretches of subtle tones and textures and violent blasts of noise, with crushing industrial rhythms and distorted vocals. “good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere, honey” (Side B) forces us to eavesdrop on a conversation between a young sex worker and her customer. A sustained, throbbing pulse builds and vicious processed vocals rise up, as if in response to the disturbing scene. A quiet emptiness follows, and within that void the strength is mustered for a final, terrifying expression of rage.
FCCS on both sides
This cassette documents two live 2014 Bay Area performances by Rust Worship, the “decay and noise” project of Angeleno Paul Haney. Both sets are continuous 20-minute pieces assembled from scraps of field recordings and tape loops. The LCM (RIP) performance (Side A), opens with wooden rumblings, like a small boat beating against the waves. It rides over crests of heavy noise and into troughs of layered tones, until it arrives at a crowded port. The Lab performance (Side B), returns us to a similar busy public space. In the background, a low pulse lies in wait. It surges, tears at the seams, and finally explodes into a sustained shearing blast. Released in 2018 on the LA-based label Skin Trade. More recent live work from Rust Worship can be found on KFJC’s latest Live from the Devil’s Triangle Volume 22 compilation, that features an excerpt from his 4/20/19 performance in The Pit.
Bleak midwinter carols, arriving just in time to make the season grim.
Jun Konagaya is the artist behind GRIM, the magnificent Japanese death industrial project active since the mid 1980s, just after the disbanding of Jun’s first group, the power electronics duo White Hospital. In the early 2010s, Jun began releasing work under his own name, bringing out more of the melodic and folk elements found in his earlier, noisier work. Memento Mori is his third release in this vein, with beautiful organ and piano melodies, mournful choruses, tribal rhythms, and peals from bell towers. Within the solemn beauty are unexpected touches: the unusual, nearly hip-hop beats and rhythmic warrior’s cries of “Run Deer” (T3), the blips and bobs of electronic chaos on “Time of Ruin” (T2), and the ecstatic trance of “White Nacht” (T7). It all comes together to make a completely original sound, and leaves no doubt in my mind that 30 years on, Jun is making some of the most compelling work of his career.
Troller is the Austin, TX darkwave trio of Adam Jones, Justin Star-Goers and Amber Star-Goers; this 2016 release on HoloDeck (Jones’ label) is their second album. While not quite the pain factory that the album’s art might suggest, Graphic aches with dark, synth-laden pop made for a dungeon dancefloor – from the bleak title track (T2), to the forlorn ballad “Not Here” (T3), the grind of “Nothing” (T7), the heavier “Sundowner” (T9), and the final sinister slowjam “Torch” (T10) – all driven by Amber Star-Goers’ powerful, agonized vocals. Between the beats are shorter instrumental interludes (T1, T4, T7, T8), and the Lynchian dream pop of “Storm Maker” (T5). All tracks can easily writhe their way into a set alongside recent additions like Boy Harsher, Kaelan Mikla, Lebanon Hanover, and other dealers in beautiful misery.
Civil War is the latest assault from Blood Rhythms, the noise collective fronted by Chicago-based electronic artist Arvo Zylo, here with Dave Phillips (of Schimpfluch-Gruppe), Wyatt Howland (Skin Graft) and many other collaborators. It’s a devastating – yet even beautiful – record, that might surprise non-noiseniks with its range of sounds and moods, and nearly song-like compositions. “Closure” (T1) opens with strange clarinet melodies, piercing tones, and a massive chorus of voices that finally resolves into a lone anguished scream. If the high-pitched violence of the latest Frataxin release left you begging for more, “Sick Skin” (T2) provides satisfaction, as strangled growls flail helplessly in feedback filth. With its first deep, ominous pulse, “Locked Away” (T3) descends into a forgotten underground lair, and we are overtaken by the howls of those trapped there. Side B holds the centerpiece – the colossal, confrontational “The Face” (T5) – where driving electronic rhythms collide with a cacophony of hellish horns. Yes, it’s a face-melter. The two-part finale (T6 and T7) buries heavy beats, organ bellows, metal scrap, and dying screams in a mass of noise; with one final thud, the suffocation succeeds.
This 2018 Alga Marghen re-release showcases early work from French electronic music pioneer Eliane Radigue, created while she worked as an assistant to Pierre Henry at his Studio Apsome. On these two ~12 minute pieces, Radigue experiments with microphone feedback and tape machines. “Jouet Electronique” (Side A, from 1967) is created simply from recorded feedback that is sped up and slowed down on the reel-to-reel machine to generate layers of eerie, otherworldly vibrations. “Elemental I” (Side B, from 1968) uses similar tape manipulation techniques – this time applied to her own field recordings of the outdoors – to consider the four elements of air, fire, earth, and water. Gorgeous sounds arriving on our airwaves just in time to calibrate our brainwaves for the composer’s live performances at The Lab this December.
Distance Machine is the new project of Arizona musician Michael Bjella, whose work under the name GOG is well represented in our library (see here and here). On this debut cassette from Cloister Recordings, Bjella offers his take on dark ambient music in three longform works. “The More Severe The Initiation The More The Sacred The Dance” (T1, a new tagline for KFJC?), with its repeating swells of sinister strings, calls to mind the hypnotic “audio virus” sound of Deathprod. At first blush, “Lorri and Tess” (T2) appears to be a simple drone, but closer listening reveals hidden layers of rich detail: gorgeous layers of voices and remote rhythms. Closer “Send Us More Chuck Berry” (T3) returns to the broad stringed tones from the first track; here they’re beamed from the depths of space, amplifying and attenuating into nothingness.
This cassette is the first official single from IMA, the local electroacoustic duo of percussionist Nava Dunkleman and sound artist Amma Ateria. Compared to the live recording of their performance at the 2017 Garden of Memory festival (in our library), Ende is a much darker and more menacing vision; IMA describes this work as the “beginning of awakening to the aftermath of destruction and devastation.” Over four short vignettes, Dunkleman’s percussion moves from delicacy to total collapse, while Ateria’s electronic atmospherics build a heavy sense of dread. “Flower of Dust” (T2) incorporates fragments of Japanese poetry that build on the theme of downfall. The tape ends too soon, but luckily IMA’s first full-length LP is due out later this year, and I look forward to hearing more of their consistently elegant work.
This 2019 cassette is the debut release from Hypnagogue, the solo project of Massachusetts-based artist James Rosato. On Distant Light Receding, Rosato uses guitar and magnetic tape to evoke the “harsh beauty of a coastal New England winter.” But to my ear, there’s no harshness at all to be found in these dreamlike drones, just a quiet warmth, like a lit candle on a snowy night. Five tracks over two sides that drift into one another in a continuous slow burn.
In 2019, KFJC will roar into its 60th year of existence! To celebrate this impressive and improbable milestone, we’ll be taking a look back at the station’s history in this series of posts. Here, you’ll find stories about the station’s defining moments, interviews with alumni and listeners, and photographs, press, audio, and other paraphernalia exhumed from the sprawling KFJC archives. In this opening entry, we’ll take a look back at when the mayhem began, all the way back in 1959.
KFJC sent its first transmission over the airwaves on October 20, 1959, from a studio on the temporary campus of Foothill College, then located in Mountain View on El Camino Real. At first, the station operated only 2 hours a night, from 8 to 10pm, Monday through Thursday. The 10-watt transmitter beamed the evening programming over a broadcast range spanning from San Mateo to San Jose. Broadcasters selected from a record library consisting of 365 albums (as of this posting, our library currently holds 75,000+ items!). KFJC sounded very different from the programming you hear today: the focus was on classical and jazz music, educational programs, and news. It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that KFJC adopted the adventurous, heavy airsound associated with the station today – more on that in future posts!
KFJCs first General Manager was Bob Ballou, a student at Foothill College. Ballou set the standard for the station’s DIY spirit right from the start. He and his father built the first consoles for the broadcast equipment on a shoestring budget in their garage workshop in Palo Alto. Ballou had the station up and running with a small staff within a year and half, and when he stepped down from GM in 1960, he was praised by the Foothill Sentinel for his efforts: his activity as “one man, with a backbone, did more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone.”
We’ll hear more from founder Bob Ballou in our next post…
Since 2005, local label Tompkins Square has brought us the Imaginational Anthem series, a showcase of guitarists playing in the American primitive style (Vol. 2 reviewed here). For this 2019 compilation, the ninth in the series, singer/songwriter Ryley Walker takes a broader interpretation of the project’s original theme, and curates a lineup of artists exploring both the traditional fingerpicking and more experimental – even electric! – styles. The works collected here bring strange, fresh sounds to the series, while still keeping its spirit. Listeners may recognize the work of Kendra Amalie (featured on our most recent Live from the Devil’s Triangle Vol. 22 compilation), her guitar accompanied a full band on the bold “Boat Ride” (T5), while Dida Pelled offers a silly, sweet cover of Norma Tanega’s “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” (T4). I’ve already made my obsessive love for Angel Marcloid’s Fire-Toolz project pretty clear here, so I see no reason to stop now: her offering “World of Objects” (T8) shuts down the argument that a guitar can’t sound modern – this spacey, proggy jam is from another galaxy, another age. My favorite track sprouts up at the end, as Dave Miller plugs in and gets heavy on “Seedlings” (T10). Something for everyone in this “deep-fried black hole” of a mix.
Marja Ahti is a Swedish electroacoustic composer working in Turku, Finland. We’ve come across her work before, both from her solo project Tsembla (reviewed here and here) and from her collaborations with Kemialliset Ystävät. On this 2019 LP from Hallow Ground, the first release under her own name, Ahti draws inspiration from a quotation by the French surrealist writer Rene Daumal where he describes the inner workings of an animal – its structure, its metabolism, even its blood red color – as the inverse of that of a plant’s: the animal is the “vegetal negative.” Ahti explores these ideas – form, energy, color – with her palette of sounds. Tones made with analog synthesizers provide rhythmic patterns, field recordings of natural and manmade environments manifest energy, and carefully played bowl gongs and a harmonium exude warm washes of color. There’s also instances of inversion, as the synths imitate organs (T4), or as ocean recordings find their echoing alien counterpart (T1). Each of these four works rewards close listening, strengthening their pull on your awareness from the inside out.
Mention “vaporwave” in a lobbyful of KFJC DJs and you’ll likely hear a chorus of groans. So how is that this cassette from Nonlocal Forecast – which deals in many of the 90s-obsessed sounds associated with the particularly obnoxious millennial microgenre – totally rips? It’s because we’re in the capable hands of Angel Marcloid, the creative genius behind the blazingly great project Fire-Toolz.
Those upbeat smooth-jazz jams that played during the Weather Channel’s local forecast segments throughout the 90s to this day fill me with a strange and primal sense of comfort, and reading some other reviews of Bubble Universe!, it seems I’m not alone. For me, the corny tunes eased my fears during what seemed like the impending end of the world, the chipper soundtrack to a repeating SuperDoppler radar animation of a hurricane on a direct path towards my hometown. Marcloid’s intricate compositions completely capture the sound and feel of those songs: the tinny rhythms, the cheezy synths, and – most dated of all – the unabashed optimism. Just as you let down your guard and begin to get into the intricate grooves, she’ll lay down some seriously smooth guitar stylings (T1, T4). As the tape plays on, it concerns itself with more than atmospheric conditions, blasting off into the cosmos. It’s impossible not to get down during “Classical Information” (T7) and don’t miss the sparkling mind-blower “Triangular Format (Feat. Fire-Toolz)” (T5), but it’s all brilliant – hit it.
KFJC DJs are masters of the “superimposition,” Cy Thoth’s term for a live mix of multiple records at once. So here’s an advanced challenge:
Choose 42 records. Cue up eight at a time. For each record, using a chart inspired by the I Ching, determine whether to press play, press pause, change its playback volume, or switch it out for another record.
Follow this simple procedure, and you’ll have performed John Cage’s 1952 work Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For this 2015 release from Estuary Ltd., label founder Mark Cetilia (of Mem1, recently added to our library), commissioned fellow artists to create 42 original works to be used as source material for a new imagining of Cage’s piece, here spread over two CDs.
In contrast to the jazz records Cage used to create the original version, Cetilia’s source material is far more abstract. Overall, the tracks on CD1 have a subtler feel – icy drones (T5), ocean waves (T6), glacier caves (T15), electronic birds (T10) and insects (T14), treated piano and guitar, organ (T20), and some serious ASMR mouths sounds (T3) – while the tracks on CD2 are propelled by livelier rhythms, from dance beats to dogs’ barks to noise textures.
At the end of each CD is an instance of Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For the first, Cetilia uses the 42 tracks each pressed onto a 7″ record to create an analog version of the piece (CD1-T22). For the second, Cetilia used software to edit the original files to make a digital version (CD2-T22). Each landscape matches the material on its disc, with CD1’s analog version softened by a sea of surface noise, while CD2’s digital version cuts abruptly from one sonic idea to the next.
MZ.412, the Swedish black industrial project fronted by Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk, commemorates “30 years of death” with this 2018 album. Nordvargr is by now a towering figure in extreme music, having built his reputation over the decades with his countless projects – Folkstorm, Toroidh, Anima Nostra, among many others – and as one of the flagship artists of the legendary Cold Meat Industry label. With MZ.412, Nordvargr and his collaborators, here Drakh (Jonas Aneheim of Beyond Sensory Experience) and Ulvtharm (Jouni Ollila), work with elements black metal, martial industrial, and noise to forge a new form of dark magic. On Svartmykr, the first MZ.412 release in 12 years, the trio conjures Helheim, the Old Norse realm of the dead, and its master, the goddess Hel. The gateway to the underworld opens with soaring choruses, thundering drums, sweeps of strings, fearsome vocals, the wrath of Hel herself; a vision so vast that it loses definition, dissolving into blackened noise. Hidden within the darkness is a spirit’s wolven voice on “Helblar” (T5), a treacherous sea of icy waves that rise and fall on “Ulvens Bleka Syster” (T6), and, when the waters recede, the beautiful, despairing guitars of “Burn Your Temples, True Change” (T7). The last three tracks return to the massive sounds: the violent upheaval of “She Who Offers Sorrow” (T8), the powerful declaration “We Are Eternal” (T9), and the blazing light of stars in the album’s final moments (T10).
2017 demo tape from this hardcore punk band from NYC. Seven short bursts of fury driven by absolutely vicious, bloodcurdling vox. Sarah, Tess, Carlos, and Anjelica threaten to melt the flesh of any capitalists, social climbers, rotten hypocrites, and cop callers in the vicinity, so get out of their fuckin way!
FCCs: T2, T3, T4, T6
This 2016 sci-fi concept album is the defining work from LA experimental hip-hop group clipping. Over the ten years of its existence, the harsh noise-meets-hip-hop trio has found unlikely fame, thanks in part to the success of frontman Daveed Diggs, who rose to international superstardom as a member of the original cast of Hamilton. His aggressive rapping is supported by the extreme noise-inspired beats of producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson.
Splendor and Misery (named for an unfinished Samuel Delaney novel) tells the story of an uprising on a space-slaveship that leaves behind a single survivor, Cargo 2331. With nowhere to navigate, he hurtles through the universe alone, saved from complete madness by half-remembered rap verses, old spirituals, and his relationship with the ship’s onboard A.I. Highlights from the space odyssey include the gospel hymns “Long Way Away” (A6) and “Story 5” (B5), the stunning reworking of a traditional slave song on “True Believer” (A8), and the violent climax “Baby Don’t Sleep” (B6). Blasts of noise, stirring spirituals, secret ciphers, hidden codes, modern references, and ancient myths are all threads in the tragic story, a struggle for freedom that transcends genre, time, and space.
FCCs: B2 B4 B6 B7
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