Hype Williams is a joke band with a joke name, but it’s the 2010s, when jokes can lead the free world or make the Album of the Year list on your dad’s favorite alternative music website. This 2009 7″ from de Stijl brings us back to where it all began with Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. Why music snobs lose their shit over these two is something I have never understood, and these tracks don’t really shed any light. The A side of haunted dub is the best, the B side is a lo-fi smoky synth melody with a fake ending. And the jokes don’t stop – play this 7″ at 33 1/3.
A one hour noise odyssey from genius of the genre Kimihide Kusafuka, brought to us by LA’s Oxen. In these three works, K2 finds a sonic idea, stays with it for a moment, then moves on to the next – the effect is like moving through the world with your senses amplified a millionfold. “Pollution with Huge Lies” (T1) builds from isolated drones and signals into massive torrents of sound and a sense of impending catastrophe. “MOX” (T2) explores rough-textured static, but later on almost melodic phrases appear. “Unpeaceful Song For Rainy Tritium” begins peacefully enough, like an unsuspecting nature scene, until it is slowly swarmed by radioactive plumes and ensuing mayhem. Masterful.
On this 2014 cassette EP, noise artist Josef Nadek draws inspiration from the ancient folklore of his native Austria. “Wâldgeischta” lures us into the forests, with field recordings of birds singing as dark ambient echoes settle in the trees (T1). This moves into the mysterious, minimal rhythms of “Nimma dâ” (T2) that blossoms into full-on seething noise on “‘s wilde Gfâhr” (T3). The dust settles on the final ambient track “D’ Bluatig’n,” (T4) electronic groans and growls from the spirits as they disappear back into the woods.
Analog transmissions from Head Dress, the project of Ted Butler from Los Angeles (he’s also behind the underground cassette podcast Norelco Mori). This 2017 cassette comes to us from the newish experimental tape label Castle Bravo out of Lafayette, IN.
Three modular synth works with a focus on rhythm and drone. Sonar pings from a black box on the ocean floor, repeating pulses like a code beamed from a distant source. Ringing drones that flow into beats from alternate dimensions mutating into minimal almost-techno by the end of “Blake’s Ridge” (T3). Disappear into the Devil’s Triangle.
Punishing power electronics on this 2016 release from Stress Orphan, the Baltimore-based project of Eric Trude. Global exploitation, mounting frustration, inevitable explosions. Calls-to-arms, guerilla warfare, howling sirens, nuclear attacks, shock waves, body bags.
Mysterious Descent is described as “a mythodramatic song cycle” based on the “extant texts of the Idnat Ohintsosh-ikh… the only existing records of the Koktimo civilization, the sudden disappearance of which remains a mystery.” I’m pretty certain that this backstory is the invention of trickster Brett Carson, a composer, jazz pianist and fixture in the Bay Area experimental scene. On this work, which debuted at the 2016 Outsound New Music Summit, he is joined by percussionists David Katz and Nava Dunkelman and violinist Mia Bella D’Augelli.
The piece progresses through twelve movements that are increasingly bizarre. Vocals, sometimes sung in English and other times spoken in invented tongues, conjure a glowing sea goddess that appears while taking out the garbage in the evening and elephants roaming the kitchen while getting a glass of water in the middle of the night. “Song of Vurvmoprinka” ends with a folk dance about a flaming phallus and cosmic vulva (T4), “Song of Urdogravikazhts” drones with violins and voices, then gives way to ecstatic shouting by a spirit who just wants to fuck with us (T6 – FCC), “Song of Dzochanibralk” is a sweeping rhapsody about phosphorescent flatworms, then descends into a wild freakout of chanting, piano, strings and bells, and “Last Song” wraps it up with a lovely kazoo (seriously) anthem (T12). Confusing, absurd and occasionally beautiful – like existence itself, and the weird myths we create to explain it.
FCC T6 – we’re being fucked with
In East Germany in the 1980s, replication and distribution of recorded material had to be authorized by the State, and so a rich and creative DIY cassette culture emerged to share the work of artists too weird or too subversive to receive the GDR’s stamp of approval. This scene was the focus of Mannequin’s klangFarBe compilation from 2016 (in our library), and now of this new collection from Bureau B.
The 14 bands collected here had limited means and limited exposure to bands on the other side of the wall, and so the resulting sounds are wholly unique and varied. Take the Stoffweschel track (T6), a glitchy beat that gives way to a creepy, mechanical circus dub. Heinz and Franz have the East Berlin blues (T3), Der Demokratische Konsum lash out with noisy electro krautpunk (T9, Kriminelle Tanzkapelle bring synth dance rhythms and chopped vocals (T2), Choo Choo Flame features strange vocal stylings that remind me of Anna Homler (T5), Gesichter’s repeating tape loops has a hip hop feel (T11), and Musik zum Weltuntergang wraps it up with a 9 minute high-pitched drone track for the end of the world (T14). Many of the musicians here went on to more well known projects after the wall fell, including Frank Bretschneider (alias A.F. Mobius (T1, T10) and in Kriminelle Tankapelle (T2) and Heinz and Franz (T3)) who founded the klangFarBe label in the 80s and, later, Raster-Noton in the 1990s. Photos of the original cassette artwork and information about the bands are in the liner notes.
Kawakami was the guitarist and frontman of Japanese d-beat punk band Disclose until his untimely death in 2007, when he chased sleeping pills with vodka. The same year Disclose put out their first album, 1994’s Tragedy, Kawakami’s secret side project Bacteria released this demo. On this 2015 re-release from Dan-Doh, the original 28 tracks are crammed onto a single side of a slab of pitch black vinyl to be played at 45 RPM. Blown-out vocals like a feral dog shrieking and howling, bursts of destroyed and demented guitar. If it weren’t for the drumming that appears a few minutes in and explodes as the record goes on, you could mistake this for a sludgy, fucked up noise record – a glimpse of Kawakami’s next act with the harsh noise project(s) Blackgoat/Goatworshipper. Filthy, raw, gut churning. Finally, a record that crust punks and noisedorks can all agree on!
Coume Ouarnède is the solo project of percussionist Yan Arexis. Previously, Arexis was a member of French folk bands Stille Volk, Sus Scrofa, and others. This project’s title refers to a network of caves in the Pyrenees, and on this 2016 album (the title translates to “those who empty the trees”), the tracks are named for the landmarks and mountain peaks near its ancient tunnels. The sounds draw you into these passages and the surrounding woods, as Arexis attempts to create “the music from the first years of humanity.” Traditional percussion, flute, and stones create a quiet atmosphere (T5, T9), and on two tracks he uses field recordings of the forest (T1, T9). These tracks are very minimal, so much so that the faintest drumming rhythm (T3, T6, T8) or human voice (T2, T3, T5, T6, T7, T8) is a thrill. Supernatural sonic spelunking.
This 2017 release, our first add from the Danish label Jvtlandt, is the second album from Tandaapushi, the Borromean trio of electronic musician and pianist Leo Dupleix, bassist Laurens Smet, and drummer Louis Evrard.
The core tracks of the album were recorded during a session in Brussels with Dupleix on the pianet, Smet on guitar with assorted applied effects, and Evrard on drums. In Part 1 (T2), a steady, hypnotic guitar and drum groove rumble beneath rhythmic jabs on the electric keys. In Part 2 (T4) the drum/guitar foundation, more driving than the first and building in intensity, while mysterious tones spiral. For the Finale (T6), a heavier guitar sound anchors wild excursions on the keys. After the session, the guys shared a plate of frites. Between the main tracks are three improvisations- muted beats percolating from a drum machine and question mark strings (T1), creeping repetitive guitar and deep distorted bass (T3) and looping washes of feedback with soft guitar melodies (T5). It brought to my mind early jazz fusion keyboard experiments, and the grind of the Drid Machine with the angular edges filed away, and I enjoyed it the whole way through.
2016 cassette release from the noisecore project of Matt Purse (Fenian, Remainderless, founder of LA’s Oxen, on fire rn now if you ask me), joined here by drummers Ted Byrnes (LAFMS) and Charlie Mumma (Sissy Spacek, in Wood and Metal with Byrnes). Explosive torrents of shattered glass. Searing shards ripping voices to ribbons. Rapid-fire drumming plows through the second half of T1 and utterly destroys T2. Left me bruised, bloodied, and blown away.
sfSound is a collective of local experimental musicians who stage performances and events, including the annual San Francisco Tape Music Festival. But here the focus is on acoustic sounds in this 2016 collection of composed and improvised works by and for the group’s members.
01 Trio Largo 2010 work for clarinet/sax/trumpet/oboe quartet composed by Matt Ingalls, director of sfSound and the San Francisco Tape Music collective, composer, and software engineer. Long notes – alone or in strange pairs, shaded with improvisation from the players – fast strokes, and stretches of heavy silence make up the title’s trio.
02 Bacchanale Oboe concerto performed by Kyle Bruckmann (of Lozenge and many more groups). The piece was penned by composer and violinist Erik Ulman in honor of painter Cy Twombly’s 81st birthday in 2009. Meandering, continuous notes tracing shapes in space.
03 Mobiles 6 A piece from saxophonist/composer John Ingle‘s Mobiles series. This one is based on 12 tone technique (where each of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale is a special snowflake), in tribute to some of the masters of the tone row, Luigi Dallapicolla and Anton Webern. Gradual discovery.
04 Improvisation Improvised but impeccable, with quick gestures that sometimes sound electronic.
05 Reflection | Refraction Lovely and strange dance between the strings and oboe in this work from Chicago composer Christopher Wendell Jones.
06 Ratchetforms Mechanical, grinding bowing and horns that blare and bubble in this Bruckmann composition, with improvisational moments written into the score.
07 Mobiles 5 This Mobiles work is a tribute to Wadada Leo Smith and Morton Feldman, Clarinet, sax and cello slowly shifting through sequences of tones, like a gently rotating mobile.
08 Improvisation Moves into dark directions with menacing dark piano chords and swarming horns.
09 Fragment for Jules Olitski Ullman piece written as a memorial for the painter Jules Olitski who died in 2007. Ends on a suspenseful note with sustained high pitched strings and piano stabs.
Much more information, including snapshots of the scores, available in the liner notes.
Second official release from the Linda Sharrock Network, the ensemble fronted by the renowned jazz vocalist and former wife and collaborator of Sonny, in a return to her art after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2009. The group’s recordings includes the 2014 (but even more resonant today) studio/live work No is No (Don’t Fuck Around with Your Women) and 2016’s They Begin to Speak.
Live, Vol. 1 is a ~50 minute a performance from the Bab-Ilo, a club in Montmartre. Sharrock’s mighty vocals are of course the heart of the work, exploring a unique range that I haven’t heard in free jazz, a strange middle range between the high-end gestures of Mario Rechtern’s sax, Itaru Oki’s trumpet, flugelhorn, and flute, and the deeper sounds from Yoram Rosilio’s bass, Makoto Sato’s rumbling percussion and Lucien Johnson’s tenor sax. In her tortured wails you can hear both the extreme pain and delirious joy of creation. Another standout element in the work is the the accordion of Claude Parle: at the start of the piece, he adds long pulls of the instrument, but later creates rapid skittering tones that resemble a tape-rewinding sound, or sometimes Sun Ra’s synths. A powerful performance that can be viewed here.
Kaziwa (a Kurdish word for dawn/dusk) is a collaboration between Iranian sound artist Porya Hatami and Arovane, the solo project of German electronic musician Uwe Zahn. The 2016 album is the result of a long-distance correspondence between the two musicians. Hatami sent Zahn recordings of piano pieces, and Zahn replied with electronic work focusing on the sounds of the Una Corda, a synth instrument that produces a piano-like tones. Though the fifteen pieces are all minimal, piano-centered, with a late night mood (you could call them nocturnes), there is still much variety here. Some have a bright, curious quality (T2, T6, a reminder that the piano is a stringed instrument, 12), some are meditative ambient works (T1, T8, T9, T10, T14), but I’m particularly drawn to the darker, mysterious passages (T3, T4, T7, T11, T13). Another beautiful release from local label Time Released Sound.
Amokian, Igor/ J3M5 / Daze of Futures Passed – “Concerts of The Unknown II” – [Group Theory Recordings]
Cassette collaboration from LA circuit benders Igor Amokian, J3M5 (James Allen, the founder of the label Group Theory Recordings that released this tape in 2017), and Daze of Futures Passed (Mickey Partlow). Both sides were recorded during a live performance from Dec. 2015 at the Superchief Gallery in DTLA. The trio’s collection of custom-built electronics spawns heavy blackness, rolling thunder, sci-fi squiggling, disfigured piano, pounding rhythms, sonic monsters, all rumbling through a space that sounds like a cavernous empty warehouse, or maybe a haunted Toys-R-Us after closing time. Side A confronts the insanity head-on, while Side B is like listening through a pair of those neon foam earplugs, or from the stockroom during a smoke break. Press play for bizarre bentertainment.
Lucian Tielans and Gnarlos (Seymour Glass from Bananafish) and their many collaborators are the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble. Founded in rural Norcal in the 80s, BLE released a handful of cassettes under the freak flag of the Butte County Free Music Society. After a “brief” 20+ year hiatus, the group reunited in 2009 and began playing shows and putting out new material once again. This 2016 CD collects new work as well as tracks from the first of those 80s tapes, 1984’s Make It Stop (T9 – so good and T12).
The all-star lineup includes Tom Timpson, The City Councilman, Lindy Lettuce, Limphoma, Babuna Virus, Lily McBilly, Fuzzy and Mr. Dolphin, who contribute to improvised works made with detuned stringed instruments, various household objects (zippers, pushpins, cat toys, one of those giant exercise balls, etc) and god knows what else. At first, the sounds roam alone and freely, scraping by on dry land or slithering in primordial slime (or is it aloe vera gel? – T6), but through chance meeting they self-assemble into primitive songs (T9, T13, T15). Interspersed throughout are tape collage interludes, with found sounds from shitty self-help cassettes, televangelist sermons, public access interview shows spliced and rearranged for maximum yuks (T1, T10, T17). Much more musical spasticity from these local legends can be found in our library, including 2016’s Cavoli Riscaldati and Occupy Infantry, that together with this release form an “interconnected trilogy”/sordid sandwich.
Debut cassette from the DIY-electro-noise punk duo of Noa Ver and Zach D’Agostino, released on Crash Symbols. Sea Moss recently came down from Portland to play some California shows, including a set at this year’s Norcal Noisefest that I luckily made it to Sacramento in time to catch. D’Agostino’s drumming (a welcome change of pace from all the static and drones at the Noisefest) can be energetic and wild (T6, T8), angle into a groove (T1, T3, T10), or pour on the sludge (T5), and filtered through DIY devices, the rhythms take on an 8-bit dimension. Ver brings her vicious walkie-talkie vox and teeming tidepool of homemade electronics (spotlighted in T2 and T7), reminiscent at times of Quintron’s swamp tech sound. Weird waveforms that will leave you anything but bored.
Not the hideous live/work condos that they razed your favorite venue to build, but the lost experimental explorations of Dave Tyack, painter, mathematician, and indie rocker turned sound artist.
Before forming this project in 2002, Tyack played in the Manchester indie pop groups Misty Dixon and his own Dakota Oak Trio, one of the first bands on Badly Drawn Boy’s Twisted Nerve label. After listening to these groups and then to this strange record, I can only conclude that Tyack must’ve had some sort of creative epiphany of “discovering KFJC” proportions. So it’s all the more tragic that a few months after finishing this album, he went missing for two years and was later found to have died in an accident in Corsica. Tyack left behind a large collection of unreleased material, and fortunately, Dead Cert shares some of it with us on this 2015 LP that holds two sidelong recordings. The A side finds Tyack’s wandering playing – a distant accordion, that beautiful, collapsing guitar sound that reminds me of Bill Orcutt, a clock’s tick-tock rhythm accompanied by chimes – lost in a dark ambient haze. Flipping the disc, the sounds shift from scattered to structured, with sweeping synthetic orchestration setting the backdrop for energetic passages, one with almost-techno rhythms and post-rock grooves like a fast-moving Tortoise, and another with a glitchy minimal beat, that finally dissolve into distorted darkness.
This might look like a harmless modern classical record, but it scared the living shit out of me, maybe more so than anything else I’ve ever reviewed for KFJC, and that’s really saying something. I’ll explain.
Larry Kucharz is a classically trained pianist and minimalist composer who has been working in NYC since the 1970s and releasing music under his own label International Audiochrome. But I didn’t know any of that when I first put on this CD while alone in my apartment. The disc opens with a long piece of atmospheric synthetic strings (“Imitations 1”, T1), kind of a Badalamenti feel. The next track is the first in a run of four piano etudes, that focus on lively repeating figures (T2), slowly unfurling arpeggios (T3), dark waves rolling up and down the keyboard (T4), blinking broken chords (T5). The electro-orchestral ambience returns in “Imitation 2,” a more dramatic version of the first track that focuses on a descending scale (T6).
At this point I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what the CD was all about: a hybrid of traditional and electronic sounds in fairly traditional modern classical pieces. So when I wandered back into the living room during “U343” (T7), I thought someone had broken into my apartment and swapped out the CD for a different one. I panicked as a pulsing techno beat shook the floor, then became frantic that maybe I somehow fucked up the CD as the energy climbed higher during the drum-and-bassy “Highway 37” (T8), with its quick electric piano melodies like a distant reminder of the earlier piano exercises. I finally figured out, sometime during the final pachinko-core track (T9), that Kucharz got into electronica sometime in the 90s, bringing a classical influence to the pieces – T8 for example is inspired by Corelli. So don’t freak out like I did, and check out the many different styles featured on this album, as well as the others we have from Kucharz in our library already.
(D)(B)(H) is an an improvisational ensemble from Indiana that has changed its name (you may have come across them as Dinosaurs, Baseball and Hopscotch, recently added to our library) and its lineup many times over its ten year existence. This 2011 LP, co-released by the labels Faux-Pas, Friends and Relatives, Gilgongo Records, holds two sidelong works from Jay Kreimer, Marty Belcher, John McCormick, and core (D)(B)(H) member Justin Rhody. The pieces were created during a stay in a 19th century log cabin in the woods of Indiana, with the quartet summoning sounds from the dark corners of the space: creaking floorboards, deep rumblings from beneath the planks, rising fog, pins and needles, chimes and chains, trumpet valves releasing slowly or in broad bursts, fragments of melodies, the scrape of a cymbal, dark smudges of electronic feedback. The pieces unfold at an easy pace – not so slowly as to provoke impatience or so frenzied as to inflict whiplash – like slipping into the heavy sleep that only comes during nights in the remote wilderness. If you enjoyed the darker and more abstract moments from Ima’s latest release, give it a spin.
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