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
Two contrasting noise situations on this 2019 split cassette from Nadia (Ashley Bennett of Portland, ME) and Apologist (Rose Actor-Engel of Philadelphia, who runs No Rent Records with partner Jason Crumer). On Side A, Nadia leads off with two tracks of concentrated rhythmic energy. Somewhere within “Predictions” (A1) lurks a dark, rustling beauty, but it’s impossible to grasp: a high-pitched tone sharpens into an icepick point, bores into the brain, and demands our total attention. Through “Absolute Zero” (A2), resonant waves furiously collapse into a single, massive point source. After the intensity of the A side, Apologist offers a measure of peace. “Carte Blanche” (B1) emits warm melodies, treated vocals – both solo and in chorus – and ringing bells, while “Concession” (B2) concludes with a quiet meditation of organ, chimes, and forest field recordings.
Cleveland-based noise artist Amanda R. Howland weaves an elaborate web on this 2018 cassette from Philadelphia’s No Rent Records. On Side A, “Spider, Milk” opens with a bang and then settles, slowly extending silken strands that capture recordings of fluttering melodies or muffled voices, a slow build to a final violent struggle. On Side B, “Batshit, Silence” drops us back into the action, as hurried footsteps stride into a piercing feedback storm. Distorted signals howl through subarachnoid spaces before lurching into – as promised – a sudden silence.
Valise is the solo project of Marilee Armstrong-Rial, a multimedia artist based in Providence and NYC. I’d heard good things about this cassette, sold out long ago on the website for Philadelphia’s excellent No Rent Records label, so when I spotted it on the shelf at a shop in New York I scooped it up. Within seconds of pressing play, I fell in love – it’s been awhile since I’ve heard a release with an opening act so arresting. An everyday scene – the sounds of a city crosswalk – dissolves into an anesthetic ambience; later, we reawaken to mechanical breathing, the distant singing of hymns and carols, and crystalline melodies. Side B features more rhythmic passages, with kinetic beats and heavy low-end pulses, paired with Armstrong-Rial’s warm vocals. Together it calls to mind a noisier, more abstract version of Valet‘s subdued psychedelia. I find myself returning to this tape again and again, completely under its strange spell.
This double 10″ release commemorates the 40th anniversary of The Haters, one of the earliest and loudest progenitors of noise in the United States. Formed by G.X. Jupitter-Larsen in 1979, The Haters is a performance art project exploring physical and sonic destruction in endless forms. On Forti, Jupitter-Larsen pulls previously unheard material from performances throughout the project’s history and reworks the sounds into new compositions.
Side A features a recording of a 1989 performance in Denver, where a calculator installed with amplifiers was repeatedly drawn over sandpaper, creating persistent pulses both vicious and vibrant. On Side B, from a 1999 San Francisco performance, we hear Jupitter-Larsen’s original instrument the Untitled Title Belt – a wrestling championship belt fitted with microphones, distortion pedals, and noise generators – belting out pure buzzsaw bliss. Side C draws from the 2009 work “Audiothecary,” where noise emanates from a balancing scale fitted with amplifiers. From this seemingly simple setup comes a massive sound: screams and strings, a full orchestra of horror. Side D comes from a 2019 performance featuring another original analog instrument, the Totimorphous Ubiety Guide, a contraption made of springs and rods played by two musicians; a divining rod leading through a dark mine to metallic drones. This excellent retrospective arrives in advance The Haters upcoming 40th anniversary show in Oakland next month.
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File