Two CD compilation of experimental sounds from Latin America from 1976-1988, selected by Luis Alvarado of the Lima-based label Buh Records. The artists here incorporate the new sounds of punk, electronic, and free improvisation with traditional music of their home countries, all against the backdrop of political upheaval and cultural repression throughout the region. Dark electronic sounds (A1, A6, B2), avant-garde collages (A2, A7, B3, B4, B6), free jazz (A5, B1), and even some Mexican proto-Industrial from ’77 (B5). Highlights for me were Miguel Flores’ fantastic guitar piece “Pachacuti” (A3), where feedback-drenched free improvisation meets traditional Peruvian folk, “Variaciones de Amauta” (A4), from Amauta, a group of Chilean musicians that fled Pinochet for Ecuador, with a beautiful flute dance that twists into something weird and proggy, and the psychotropical tribute to folk singer Victor Jara from the Chilean band Malache (A6). Alvarado provides great detailed liner notes in Spanish and English with more information about each project.
This 2018 release comes to us from Bizarre Audio Arts, a label that often pairs up some of the major names in noise/experimental music for split cassettes. The label’s founder, Leo Sabatto makes up half of the current lineup of the enduring Pittsburgh noise project Macronympha, with founding member Joseph Roemer. Their track is on Side A of this glitter-flecked cassette, and on the flip side is din-i-ilashi, the solo project of Japanese electronic artist Osamu Kishimoto.
“Sure Thing to Do” (A) begins two parallel layers of corroded sound – whistling feedback and wandering dark melody. Six minutes in the track arrives as the sounds launch into a massive and teeming wall of noise. The real centerpiece of the track is the breakneck blast beat that emerges about halfway in, takes center stage, and then pummels its way through screams, sparks until the tape runs out. The B side track, “Non-Doership” as you might guess from the title never reaches the same level intensity. Instead Kishimoto pursues dynamics and flow, with ringing carnival tones moving into unpredictable whorls of static, feedback, laser beams and buried songs.
Self-released 2017 EP from this Japanese grindcore duo of Fuckin’ A and Frozen Panty, not to be confused with the other Cunts in our library. Drums and vocals ONLY. Drummer Fuckin’ A delivers total destruction, alternating his playing from machine-gun precision to a total sloppy mess, while Frozen Panty howls, slobbers, speaks in tongues like a raving lunatic. Each side of the tape is a quick blast of projectile vomit and other bodily fluids – within five minutes the load’s blown.
Lenoci, Gianni – “Earle Browne – Selected Works For Piano And/or Sound Produci” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]
Gianni Lenoci is an Italian pianist who tackles the challenging compositions of modern experimental composers. Here, he performs the works of Earle Brown (1926-2002), a composer that was a member of John Cage’s New York School, along with Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman and others. Brown was influenced by Cage’s philosophy of “non-intention” but also drew inspiration from the visual arts, especially the sculptures of Alexander Calder. Like Calder’s mobiles, Brown’s pieces consist of isolated forms – staccato blips or long presses of the piano keys – floating gently, unpredictably through time. Further, Brown’s scores were graphical, works of art themselves, with pitches and durations of notes written as bars of varying lengths and thicknesses (see one on the cover). All tracks are played on piano except for “4 Systems January 1954” (T9) that Lenoci interprets with electronics. More information – biographies of the composer and performer, a strange screed on the act of listening written by a philosopher of language, and the text to Robert Frost’s sorrowful poem “Home Burial” that inspired the first track on the album – can be found in the liner notes.
Collaboration between the anonymous masked maniac vocalist Blessed Blood Vulva and Japanese harsh noise artist Guilty Connector (aka Guilty C, aka The Skull Downpour Electronics, aka GxCx SKULL…). The first half or so of the tracks originally came out on a cassette release in 2014; these tracks plus some new and live material make up this 2017 CD release on SSSM, the Nagoya-based label run by Hiroshi Hashimoto, better known to us as Contagious Orgasm.
A combination of supershort grindcore blasts combined with harsh noise assaults and cut up collages – is this Japan’s answer to Man is the Bastard/Bastard Noise? It’s just as good, but way more deranged, so of course I love it. The first 26 tracks, and several throughout the second half of the album, are quick bursts of piercing feedback and BBV’s disturbed howls. “The Slow Kill in the Cold” (T26), a pause in the insanity, is a suspenseful snowy murder scene, “Hooded Men From Hell”(T30, see also T31-32) is a longer onslaught – Incapacitants/Hijokaidan legend T. Mikawa assists on the noise and you can hear his touch here. “In the Forest of Red Water” (T51) is a sparser track with rattles and thudding feedback, “The Evils Rules” (T53) is degraded electronic gongs ringing through dark tunnels. The final track “Angel’s Mother Is A Bitch (live)” (T65, yes 65) is 2:18 of silence followed by vicious feedback and screams. 20 seconds later, it’s all over.
Illium is the 2017 debut release from LA beatmaker and producer Huxley Anne. Genre-wise this is all over the place, with elements of hip hop, techno, noise and new age, and, sometimes, the unfortunate aftertaste of forgettable fads like dubstep or witch house. But I can get past that because these tracks hit hard, with heavy, warehouse-shaking bass pulses roaring throughout. While “Aphro Dye” (T2), “Nin” (T3), and the aggressive “Ashes” (T4) seem made for the club, on other tracks the beats are paired with unexpected elements: laid-back guitar loops on “Celadon” (T5), mystical drones and harp on “Igredo” (T6), sitars and chants on “Aesop Fable” (T7), and music box chimes on the downtempo “Dragoon” (T8). Released on the LA experimental/hip hop label Dome of Doom.
Steven Jansen is a sound artist from the southwestern US (NB “Not Steve Jansen from Japan, not Japan the country.”), who has collaborated with Jeph Jerman and James Fella. On this 2016 release, he uses field recordings, treated guitar, bass and saxophone, and electronic sounds in his work. The album opens with a longform piece “Short Change” (T1) with ghostly saxophone melodies that grow into a heavy, enveloping dronescape; this was my favorite track of the album. The following tracks are shorter collages assembled from a collection of strange sounds: magnetic tape slithering and screeching, doors slamming, metal sheets recoiling, plucking of rusted strings, scraping of small objects, long eroded tones. The album concludes with a longer track, “Member Calendar,” a (somewhat trying) study of the high-pitched whistles and chirps from the reed of the saxophone (T7). Released by Jansen’s own label That’s Cool records.
Finally! Our first addition from Phew, the project of Hiromi Moritani, that began in 1980 after Moritani split from the Osaka post-punk group Aunt Sally. Since then, she has collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czuaky and Jaki Leibezeit from Can, and many others. Around 2010, she transitioned from a guitar-driven rock sound into minimal electronics, previewing her new work at gigs around Tokyo and on small runs of homemade CD-Rs. This 2017 album collects the tracks from those releases. Everyone says this sounds like Suicide and that’s the first thing I thought of too, and so of course it’s excellent. The songs here are made from analog synth pulses, drum machines, and Moritani’s echoing spoken-word vocals. “New World” (T1) has a psychedelic feel, “CQ Tokyo” (T2) driven by intense, “Frankie Teardrop” drum machine rhythms, “Mata Aimasho” (T3) is smoldering dark ambience, “Usui Kuki” (T4) is a dream sequence driven by dissonant tones and a steady rhythmic beat, “Echo” (T5) pulses with aggressive, textured synths and wavering bass lines, “Antenna” (T6) concludes with brilliant metallic reverberations that softly fade away.
Jordan, Kidd, Fielder, Alvin Flutterman, Joel, Swell, Steve – “Masters of Improvisation” – [Valid Records]
Free jazz explorations from New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan and his longtime collaborators, drummer Alvin Fielder and pianist Joel Futterman. On this release, trombonist Steve Swell visits from New York and joins the trio in the Crescent City for a performance of three improvisational works. “Expansion” (T1), the most bombastic of the three, is a wild tumble of color and energy, but still anchored by familiar jazz patterns, like recognizable chord progressions on the piano and steady drumming rhythms. “Residue” (T2), my favorite, begins with more subdued passages that builds into a soulful meditation; this wouldn’t be out of place next to the wonderful Alice Coltrane record in recurrent. “Sawdust on the Floor” (T3) ends with a wild frenzy, then a drunken march, and, for the finale, a loose, impassioned rendition of “Summertime.” Not totally facemelting, but there’s challenging ideas here, all the more impressive coming from the 81-year old Jordan.
Self-released 2006 album from this rotten Danish black metal project, with members from Solhverv, Wolfslair and Luciation and others, re-released on cassette on the Ukrainian label Night Birds. The first thing that struck me on opener “Stenknivens Blot” (T1) was Bestial Butcher’s absolutely inhuman drumming. He races along at an vicious speed, but then shifts into different rhythmic patterns. The variety in the drumming – aggressive churning, dramatic sweeps – add different dimensions to the tracks, and give the album real complexity, but without crossing into overly technical prog territory. I liked the first track so much that it took me awhile to get into the rest of the album, but when I did noticed the melodic elements throughout – hardly pretty and still pitch black, but really appealing. Take the descent-into-madness guitar on “Crimson Spirit” (T4), or the main theme of “Den Naadesloese” (T5) that had me banging my (non-metal) head on Caltrain. The lyrics in Danish glorify the kings and warriors of the Viking era, though a few tracks are in English, including T9 and T10 with FCCs. Couldn’t really make out the lyrics on T4 and T11, so play at your own risk.
smallertide is Sam Sharp and Joel Almberg, a guitar duo from Minneapolis. This is their first full length release, the follow up to a 2016 EP, Crickets (in our library). Guitar melodies, treated with reverb and effects. The tracks are fleeting, lasting just a few minutes, and together with the hazy sound, the record has a twilight feel. But it’s not just pretty, easy listening – there’s the occasionally placed dissonant note, a melancholy ache. Released by Sharp’s label Poor L’Amour.
Collection of works from the beginning and end of the composer’s career, performed by the American Composers Orchestra from NYC.
“The Seasons” (1947) (T2-T5) Composed to accompany a ballet, this one of Cage’s first works for a full orchestra of traditional Western instruments. Dissonant, but not completely clashing, melodies that build from the quiet winter to the fiery fall. You can hear the influence of Cage’s teacher, Arnold Schoenberg.
“Suite for Toy Piano” (1949) A composition that centers on the unique metallic sound of the children’s instrument. At this point, Cage was obsessed with the music of Erik Satie, who at the time was relatively unknown. There are two interpretations of the piece: the original solo work (T10-T14) which is surprisingly lovely, and a 1963 reworking (T15-T19) by Lou Harrison that substitutes the toy piano with a full orchestra, that obviously gives the work a completely different, grander sound. I prefer the original, but it’s interesting to hear both side by side.
“Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra” (1950/51) (T6-T8) Now we’re getting closer to Cage’s most famous work “4’33” (1952) that exemplifies his musical approach of “non-intention,” inspired by Zen philosophy. This piece is a step in that direction, with Cage allowing the musicians to improvise freely within a fixed overall structure. But the fixed structure itself is also subject to chance: Cage flipped coins to determine how the orchestral and piano parts move in pitch and time. The piano, played here by Margaret Leng Tang, is prepared with objects inserted into the piano strings to change the sound of the notes.
“Seventy-Four” (1992) (T1 and T9) This work comes at the very end of Cage’s career, five months before his death at the age of 79. A completely different kind of score, with the musicians playing single notes but freely choosing when and how to play them within a time interval. When the musicians change to different notes, it creates these unpredictable moments of dissonance, and an evolving drone-like sound. Two instances of the piece are included here.
Beats to buck you up when you’ve got the blues, from LA producer Oso Blanco. Flipping a soul sample is a tried and true, and sometimes tired, beatmaking formula, but it’s done really well here, at times with the creativity of the legends themselves, Dilla and Madlib. There’s also weird touches that give this a sound all its own – glitches and skips, blasts of electronic noise, samples that dissolve into sine waves or swerve off the rails like they’re being played on one of our ancient tape decks (don’t worry I checked, it’s supposed to sound that way!) – that will either catch your interest or harsh your vibe. Still there’s some good, head nodding sections, and I might’ve stood up and danced when one of my favorite jams came into the mix about 20 minutes in on the A side. Though the tape’s instrumental, there’s lots of samples from (mostly breakup) movies, some with dirty words, sooo: FCCs on both sides.
Solo guitar carnage from Reg Bloor, an NYC experimental/metal guitarist. Bloor went solo recently, starting with her excellent 2015 release Themes for an Imaginary Slasher. Before that, she played in Glenn Branca’s ensemble for nearly two decades, served as concertmaster for several of his symphonies for 100 guitars (she and Branca are married), and collaborated with Bowie, Thurston Moore, GYBE and others. Bloor wields her axe fearsomely, churning out dissonant melodies that slash like a thousand blazing knives. Some pieces move in precise, repetitive melodic cycles, like the climactic bloody scene in a horror film playing in an awful continuous loop. In others, the guitar notes are blurred into a thick blackout. Brutal and brilliant.
Primordial Wound is the project of Seattleite Dan Fried. Two sidelong pieces made from “shortwave radio, field recordings, tape, synth, effects, and feedback.” Each track follows an arc, moving through a range of sounds: the opening collage of radio broadcasts on the title track, extended blasts of metallic noise propelled by human screams – the rot coming from within – and sparser passages of ringing, drones, and forgotten remains. A hybrid of harsh noise and electroacoustic sound art, this is another unique new release from Oxen.
Harsh noise wall split cassette from two Seattle noise artists. Peter Keller (also working under the names Bacillus, Dirac Sea and others) is Condo Horro, a project that combats “the effects of gentrification and soulless development” by building some walls of his own. It’s actually a pretty funny concept, so I’m glad Seattle’s sweetheart Felicia Gaggins aka Masturbatory Dysfunction, got him to lighten up a bit with this release, from the cover art collages of oiled up porno dudes with space needledicks to the suggestive track titles. The Condo Horro side is a 30 minute slab of crushing static that keeps feeling heavier, while Gaggins follows it up on side B with another half hour of filthy friction. From Seattle to Silicon Valley, we’re all getting fucked!
Relive KFJC’s summer vacation in Reykjavik with this cassette compilation accompanying the release of the second edition of MYRKFÆLNI, a zine that spotlights underground Icelandic artists. The founders of MYRKFÆLNI (Icelandic for “fear of the dark”), Kinnat Sóley and Sólveig Matthildur (in the punk trio Kaelan Mikla), were our gracious hosts for our two-day live broadcast Live from the Icelandic Underground in September 2017. Many of the artists from that festival appear here: World Narcosis with dissonant despair (T1), IDK IDA with an ethereal ballad (T2), Holdgervlar with cold melancholia (T13), and crowd favorite Godchilla, with a heavy tribute to Akira (T12). There’s new stuff too, including dark synthy dance tracks (T3, T5, T7, T11), metal (T4, T8), ambient (T9), hardcore (T10), and even a punky Christmas carol (T6). Limited release cassette that came with the first 200 issues of the zine, both now a part of our library.
John Balistreri is Slogun, a Brooklyn-based power electronics project founded on a simple premise: PEOPLE ARE TRASH! Originally recorded in 1997, this early work was remastered and re-released in 2015 by the Ukrainian label Old Captain. Heavy electronic confusion, from high end blasts to metallic infernos to more subdued suspenseful rumblings. Sometimes hints of sampled songs or reverberating voices can be heard somewhere in the uproar. All of it surrounds Balistreri’s savage vocals: the cries of anticipation of a murderer planning the next crime, the taunts of a torturer as he abuses his victim, the growls of a racist confessing his disgust for the drug addicted and the poor (T2, T10), the screams of a rejected stalker that resorts to self-immolation as a final romantic gesture (T6). A real “achievement,” in that is hard for me to imagine a purer expression of hatred, and because it absolutely delivers on its title (this filth completely spoiled for me a beautiful spring week and my birthday, as I’m sure the artist intended). Therapy through violence!
FCCs on every track except maybe T7
I nearly lost it when I heard that two of my favorite musicians had been collaborating on a record for over ten years. So my expectations were probably unreasonably high for this one, and on first listen, I prepared to be blown away. That didn’t happen, but over multiple spins, I arrived at something much more satisfying – an appreciation for the craft of two brilliant electronic artists working at the top of their game.
My first impression was that you can really hear Daniel’s influence – it’s that rhythmic Matmos sound they’ve perfected on albums like A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure and Ultimate Care II. Here, complex collages are arranged from sonic fragments – blasts of noise, snippets of static, deep bass tones – elements you might hear on Wiese’s harsher records. Painstakingly composed, apparently without the use or sequences or samplers, but the result isn’t fussy or difficult. Layers of rhythm easily move with a dancefloor energy (T2, T4), march to a beat (T9, T10), ascend stepwise up the rungs of a ladder (T7). The precision gives way to more fluid tracks (T5, T6, T8, T11), with long drones, loud muck, whistling tones and sweeps of plucked strings (T11). The album builds to a final horrific conclusion, that ends not with a bang but with a – surprise! – chomp. Mastered by our friend Thomas Dimuzio. Excellent.
Fun in Latex is the noise duo of Joseph Gates and Vanessa Gates, from one of the (unlikely) capitals of the genre, Houston. Both Gates’ have played in several projects (Peiiste, Vargrwulf, etc), run cassette labels, and worked alongside hometown heroes like Priest in Shit and Black Leather Jesus. This 2013 CD-R comes from their own label Vulnavia Editions and holds two long tracks of live recorded samples, amplifiers and tapes that deals with “captivity, comfort, claustrophobia, and the undeniable feeling of being watched from a young age.” A loveless mother, distant and unintelligible voices, scalding static, a incessant suffocating roar – the long slow punishment you deserve for a lifetime of whining.
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