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.
Torturing Nurse, founded by Cao “Junky” Junjun, is the band at the center of the Chinese noise scene, releasing a slew of material since 2004 (much of it on their own label Shasha) and collaborating with the likes of Government Alpha, K2, Macronympha and others. This 2017 cassette comes from the excellent Russian purveyor of sonic dementia Post-Materialization Music. The tape opens with a short track, with foreboding synth tones (Carlos’ The Shining theme) announcing the final descent into oblivion (T1). Two long tracks follow: the first, “Is sleeping,” is a lo-fi filthy rainbow roar (T2), “My Glue” moves to a higher key with surges of sound that grab onto each of your ears and pull, stretch, skew whatever’s in between them (T3). The track ends with convulsions and slobbering that moves into the live track “Co-Taeyang” (T4) with screamed vocals and sneakers squeaking around unidentifiable metallic clashes. More Shanghai noise!
Two CD collection of works prepared for the 2nd Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission Art in 2005, organized by the Canadian group New Adventures in Sound Art.
Collages of spoken word, including Gregory Whitehead’s reworking of Rumsfeld’s infamous “unknown unknowns” speech (CD1-T2), Toronto artist Marjorie Chan’s language lies (CD1 – T5), Katharine Norman’s unsettling nightmares (CD1-T3), Milena Droumeva’s cellphone soundbites (CD2-1), Audrey Churgin’s Arctic travelogue (CD2-T3), Pamela Z reading a page from a catalog (CD-T7).
Art made for radio, including a special for The Harvey Christ Radio Hour, a weekly sound collage show on Montreal’s CKUT (CD1-T9), a monologue about first teenage love from Aura Bogado, who Pacifica listeners will recognize from Free Speech Radio news (CD2-T8), or just the radio waves and transmissions themselves (CD1-T8, T11).
Field recordings and found sounds left as is or transformed into new sonic shapes (CD1-T4, T6, T7, T10), from movie theaters (CD2-T5) or university hallways (CD2-T9) or mixed with traditional percussion by Debashis Sinha (CD2-T2).
More information on the works can be found in the notes, and many of the artists here also appear on the Deep Wireless 5 compilation in our library.
Scathing is the harsh noise project of Austin-based artist Kenny Brieger (also in Architeuthis Dux); this 2018 cassette is his second release under this name. Two ten minute breakneck cut up pieces. Side A is total implosion, I trace its source possibly to a mutilated rock song. Voices singing, feedback from microphones or guitars, even remnants of song structure, with a bridge of tense holding pattern rhythm that transitions between the two halves of the piece. Side B is total explosion, high and piercing, barreling with barely a breath until the final second. Another punishing release from Oxen.
Mattin is no stranger to the KFJC airwaves. In our library you’ll find a ton of his work, under his own name, with the projects Billy Bao, Regler, Josetxo Grieta, and Consumer Electronics, and in collaboration with many artists… even Junko! This CD is the fourth volume of his Songbook series of improvised works recorded in 2006 in Tokyo. It lists six tracks, though my CD player reads only one long 22 minute track that contains the entire performance. Mattin is on vocals and guitar and is joined by a full band: another guitar, bass, piano, and – from over in the toilet – saxophone and Tomoya Izumi’s screaming. Dissonant guitar violence, driving rhythms propelled not by drums but by bass thump, piano keys stumbling around and clashing with guitar strings.
It all surrounds Mattin’s distorted, disturbed vocals that he claims are inspired by Lou Reed, but I hear more Damo Suzuki, Alan Vega, or someone more deranged. His performance is at once a parody of and a tribute to the underground rock show: the avant garde artist defying conventions with raucous noise and screamed lyrics, his back to the audience (or is he just a talentless asshole?) and the adventurous audience members engaged and rapt (or are they just pretentious snobs?). Mattin begs his audience for forgiveness (“I wanted to please apologize for my lack of talent”) or confronts them directly (“your expectations are the worst nightmare any human being could have”). It’s all pretty uncomfortable, and you can hear the tension in the stunned applause from the four or five people that showed up to the gig. Strange, vicious, and hilarious. WHY DO WE LET HIM DO THIS?
FCC at ~6:00 “this is another fucking lie”
I get how you might not be totally jazzed to return to dungeon synth, but it’d be a shame if you passed on the deliciously warped sounds on this split cassette. We last heard from Romain Perrot working under his most well known alias Vomir, among the most infamous HNW projects going. Here, he appears as Free as Dead, working with a completely different palette of sounds: a possessed organ, the notes twisting and distorted into beautiful, demonic hymns. If you love the Solo Organ stuff we’ve been playing consistently for the past two years, give this creepier version a spin. On Side B, we have six tracks from Bride, a side project of T.O.M.B., that attempt to capture electronic voice phenomena, or the sounds of spirits affecting electronic signals. Textured field recordings, unintelligible voices, ringing bells, dark piano melodies, and synth drones wind and warble through ancient speakers. Beautiful nightmares.
Painted Caves is the electronic side project of Barn Owl Evan Caminiti. On this 2013 release, Caminiti uses modular synths with tape loops and digital effects to create a sense of pervasive paranoia. Tense beats and minor-key synth drones, as cold and soulless as the AI algorithms methodically sifting through your email, location data, and camera roll. Ranges from intrusion into quiet, intimate spaces (T1, T2, T5, T6, T7) to massive data collection on a national scale (T3, T4). But just when no escape seems possible, there are brief moments of strange beauty, hints of warmth. Limited release from the fine French label Shelter Press.
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