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.
Post Mortem Klinik is one of the many projects of formerly Virginia-based, now local musician Chad Davis. His work spans a variety of genres: doom (Hour of 13), psych (U.S. Christmas), death industrial (Subklinik), black metal (Set, Anu), komische (Romannis Mötte), and more. P-M-K seems to be closely related, in name and in concept, to his 20+ year old Subklinik project, but under this newer alias, Davis forgoes the quieter, dark ambient elements of previous work for the extremes of electronic noise. This 2015 cassette EP from Distorted Press holds six tracks, each a heaving mass of degraded sound, like the collective filth of all humanity as it is flushed from our millions of disgusting hovels, coursing through rusted pipes, spilling into rivers, pouring into the oceans. Voices and screams surface and disappear, pulled under by the current of raw sewage. Squalid sounds for a society circling the drain.
Thomas Boettner is a prolific noisemaker (with his solo projects Fire Island AK and Family Planning and the group GASP.), the founder of several labels (Minneapolis-based Fuck Mtn. and now the New Orleans cassette label Jouissance de Rien), and an advocate for queer experimental musicians. Boettner’s power electronics project Straight Panic deals with the persecution of homosexuals, beginning with its origins in the ancient texts of nearly all major religions to the vicious treatment throughout history that continues today. Released in 2017 on Phage Tapes, The Satanic Verses is “a treatise on the defense and protection of all queer bodies in the face of theocracy under capitalism.”
Boettner uses samples to recount this bloody history – passages from the Quran (T2), sermons on the Book of Leviticus (T3) and from an Arizona pastor who calls for the execution of “filthy faggots” (T5 – FCC), hymns and military songs (T3 and T1) – all ravaged by distortion to magnify their ugliness. The noise comes in machine-gun bursts (T6), screams of rage (T2), waves of pain (T5, T4, with a sample from the 2015 film The Witch – witch hunts are a recurring theme), but there’s also moments of mourning and even hope (T7). Ruthless work that spits in the face of god.
Georg Deuter is a major figure in krautrock and new age music, but this record is something else entirely. Recorded in 1975 and released in 1979 (though never in the US until this 2016 re-release), Kundalini Meditation is the result of a collaboration between the German multi-instrumentalist and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the spiritual leader of an ashram in Pune, India that Deuter discovered and joined during his wanderings through Asia in the early 1970s.
In the 1980s, members of Rajneesh’s commune, by then relocated to rural Oregon, would be convicted of bioterror attacks and assassination plots, while Rajneesh himself made a daily habit of parading in front of his adoring disciples in one of his many Rolls Royces. But in India in the 70s, Rajneesh founded a philosophy called neo-sannyasa, a mix of Hindu, Buddhist and Western ideas, with intensive meditation as a central component of the lifestyle. Deuter, who took the name Chaitanya Hari Deuter and became the resident musician of the ashram, designed these pieces in collaboration with Rajneesh to promote the meditation practice.
The pieces engage the mind and body in four successive steps: three musical stages of “shaking,” “dancing” and “witnessing,” and a fourth stage of meditation in silence. This LP contains the music of the first two stages. In the first stage (A1), rapid, repetitive, xylophone tones melt into a harmonious, ambient texture, until about six minutes in when electronic synthesis emerges and vibrates in parallel; soon, you become the shaking. In the second stage (A2), the droning strings of the tambura, flute, and percussion find an energetic rhythm inspired by Indian dancing music. Later, quiet chanting and guitar melodies add to the magical atmosphere. Entrancing work that could easily step over into new age cheeze but never does. Abandon yourself, totally.
New strangeness from Stavanger courtesy of Drid Machine, the label founded by friend of the station Kjetil Davies Brandsdal (Noxagt, Ultralyd). Golden Oriole is the new noise rock project of guitarist Kristoffer Riis and drummer Thore Warland from Staer, picking up where they left off with that band’s last release, the 2016 EP “Collapse of Ancient Funk.” But you wouldn’t guess that from the first few moments of this slab of white vinyl (“The Approaching of the Disco Void”, T1), as twisting metallic echoes, like they were ripped from a dark ambient record, set a mysterious mood. But out of nowhere, the drums and guitar kick in, riding a deranged groove until the six minute mark, when the duo shifts into higher gear with faster percussion, eerie electronics, and repetitive, rough-edged guitar work. In “The Chrysopoeia of the Trilithon Ass” (T2) Riis sustains a driving, prog-precision rhythm as Thore’s guitar swerves and snarls. “The Pyrite Wink” (T3) begins with electronic tones before the drums and guitar come crashing in again from all angles to wage an extended onslaught. Alchemical transformations of noise, prog, blues, ambient, jazz, and psych into pure Norwave gold.
The mw ensemble is the New York-based duo of Nancy Wheeler and Mike Winters. They create minimal compositions for piano and sometimes cello, and also use field recordings and electronic treatments in their work. On this 2017 release, we hear several instances of two solo piano pieces as they are broadcast over unassigned carrier frequencies and played back through a Crosby AM/FM receiver. The two short compositions begin with beautiful, repetitive, somewhat conventional playing. But dissonance finds its way in, and by the end, entire swathes of keys are mashed at once. The transmissions alter the signal in different ways, adding fuzzy distortion (T1) or noisy horror (T5). Conduct your own experiment with the source tracks (T3 and T6) or let the waves of the west rip apart what’s left of the broadcasts, and wield the awesome transformative power of terrestrial radio!
Compilation showcasing the artists performing at the 2017 SFEMF, Sept 8-10 at the Brava Theater:
01 Suki O’Kane Local composer/percussionist, performs in Dan Plonsey’s ensemble and many other SF groups. Synthetic water sounds and blurred bright drone.
02 Las Sucias Oakland industrial/reggaeton/riotgrrl duo of Danishta Rivero and Alexandra Buschman. This banger was on the Ratskin Records Sentient Solder II comp from last year, but you should definitely play it again now anyway
03 Aaron Dilloway Track from the ex-Wolf Eyes member’s new release The Gag File. Trash cans banging, distorted voices, ghostly whistling from back alley
04 Dax Pierson Bay Area underground hip hop musician/producer who hasn’t stopped making art since a car accident in 2005 left him paralyzed from the chest down. Starts out like a 70s new-agey synth theme song, but then the beat kicks in, the synths doubleback, and it all mutates into something completely and unexpectedly different. lexi g’s pick!
05 Kaori Suzuki Synth builder at Magic Echo Music and musician, Oakland-based by way of Tokyo and Seattle. Binaural waves expand, develop from smooth to sawtoothed and back again
06 JH1.FS5 Our first library entry from the new duo of Puce Mary and Liebestod (Frederikke Hoffmeier and Jesse Sanes). Waves of static, repetitive bass pulses, ropes on the verge of snapping as Puce Mary mumbles about being tied up.
07 Beast Nest Oakland-based musician Sharmi Basu. Spaceship computer, alien symbols on the control panel, blinking light bulbs.
08 Waxy Tomb Jules Litman-Cleper from SF. Mishmash of electronic sounds, warped vocals, almost recognizable elements of hip hop, huffs of vaporwave.
09 Suzanne Ciani Electronic music legend, Buchla synth master. Excerpt from a January 2017 performance in Stockholm. Layered, complex but not busy, pinpoints and echoes, otherworldly – her live performances are astonishing. See the full performance here.
Ann O’Rourke, Carlos Jennings, and Mark Pino have been performing together as Ear Spray since 2010. This self-released, hand-painted CDR collects recordings of the noise trio’s live performances from 2014-2016 at local venues The Stork Club (T1), LCM (T2), and the Second Act (T3).
O’Rourke is a percussionist, vocalist, and video artist who came to the world of free music later in life, discovering her love for strange sounds by playing drums in a free jazz group, taking operatic voice lessons, and singing in the Cornelius Cardew Choir, an SF-based experimental vocal ensemble. She brings all of her talents to this project – from the wails, yelps, and rapid-fire utterances of her voice, to the riotous tumbling percussion, to the live video projections that react to the music during the Spray’s shows. She is joined by Jennings on turntables and electronics and Pino on additional percussion (Infinite Plastic Internal, McCaslin/Reed/Pino Trio, Surplus 1980, etc etc etc and a good friend of KFJC).
Each performance is a very different experience, each an adventure. The Stork Club track (T1, ~20m) is an ecstatic meditation on the looping mantra: if a thing loves it is infinite. The LCM track (T2, ~18:30) begins with a twisted reveille – you wake up, but you’re still in the dream. The Second Act (T3, ~20m) is an underworld haunted by electronic ghosts. Together, it’s the sound of an artistic spirit finding her wild, fearsome voice. Spray it loud!
Herbst9 is the dark ambient project of Henry Emich and Frank Merten from Leipzig (they also work under the name Land:Fire). This 2011 release from Loki Foundation is a 2X CD concept album inspired by the Sumer and Akkad, the world’s first civilizations – from the cuneiform symbols and mythological imagery that make up the cover art, to the vocals in the ancient Akkadian language, to the ceremonial rhythms and instrumentation. The first disc opens with “She Filled the Wells of the Land With Blood” (T1), with ringing gongs and the chants of a vengeful female spirit (Andrea Sinclair provides vocals in Akkadian, also on T7). “Napissunu Mutumma” (T2, “Their Breath is Death”) is a 15-minute epic with a dramatic battle scene bookended by beautiful, mysterious passages with harps and chimes. “Ludlul Bel Nemeqi” (T3, “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, the title of a poem that reads like a Babylonian version of the Book of Job) is a fitting soundtrack to your upcoming solar eclipse sacrifice. “The Sage Lord Asimbabbar” (T11) is another highlight, with violin, lute, and chimes. Along with the dark ambient shadows and the acoustic instruments, loops of spoken word are used – some times well, but other times to confusing and even annoying effect (like the guided meditation spoken word on T2, for example). But that aside, there’s hours of excellent dark, mystical atmosphere on this release.
This release from NYC’s Compile, one of our first adds from the Boston cassette label Private Archive, holds two sidelong sound collages (supposedly two separate tracks, but I can’t hear the division). “Drone’s on Fire/Ten Wolves End” (A) is a collaboration with Article Collection (C. Latina of the group Private Archive and label co-owner). Chopped and screwed voices – possibly ripped from Youtube videos with views in the single digits or surveillance camera footage – describe survival on the streets and the pathetic daily life of a vlogger broadcasting for the first (and probably last) time. Underneath the samples are synth sketches, heavy bass pulses, tumbling metal, high pitched ringing, hovering drones. The piece degenerates into a finale that is both hilarious and terrifying. In “Compile/Did you really have fun tonight?” (B), recordings of domestic disturbances and an informational video about violent behavior steep in a nauseating brew of chants, drones, metallic echoes, and squirming synthwork. The cameras are everywhere, pointed at you, and the images captured are an infinitely scrolling reminder: there’s nothing in there.
FCCs ON BOTH SIDES
Ima (“now” in Japanese) is an Oakland-based electro-percussion duo who have been performing since 2013. Amma Ateria (Jeanie Aprille Tang) is a composer and artist who works with field recordings and an instrument made from electronic hardware, contact mics, and plexiglass. Nava Dunkelman is a percussionist who has performed in several local groups, including the improvisational group DunkelpeK. This live CDR recording of their performance from the 2017 Garden of Memory at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland was burned and released on the spot at the event.
I still haven’t been to the Chapel of the Chimes, but the sounds on this record match the image of it I have in my mind: beautiful, maze-like, heavy with the presence of those laid to rest. Echoing through the chapel’s halls are the rumbles of gongs, ringing bells, metallic clashes, crashes, whispered phrases that are looped and processed. “Notion of Time” (T1) is a short spoken word introduction (in Japanese). In “Lift” (T3) a dark, deep drone pulses throughout. The album concludes with the exquisite “Eline” (T5) with chimes glimmering in the dark. Stunning.
Tom Nunn and Doug Carroll are improvisers who have been working and performing in the Bay Area for decades. In the early 00s, the duo met weekly to make and record improvised sound art and released the results on homemade CDRs under the name Twine. This CDR, recorded in February of 2002, is the 20th volume of this project. Nunn builds his own original instruments (he has made over 200), including a series called electroacoustic percussion boards, wooden boards fitted with sound generating objects (nails, wooden sticks, strings) and amplified with pickups. We hear several of these inventions, such as the Octatonic T-Rodimba, in this work. Doug Carroll is a cellist and composer. Here, he plays a Zeta electronic cello using non-traditional techniques.
The CDR opens with a long, curious piece. Nunn’s playing is like listening to an crazy Rube Goldberg machine: I imagine twine being drawn through pulleys, marbles rolling around chutes and down wooden ramps, rows of dominoes falling, scrambled tones like a cartoon computer crunching numbers. Carroll’s playing moves through this maze of sound with plucking, bowing, and guitar-like strumming. The electronic treatments give the cello a coarse, lo-fi edge, and adds woozy slides between the notes. On the second track, Nunn introduces some questionably traditional percussion – a driving, deeper beat accompanied by an melodic, bell-like rhythm, as Carroll’s cello growls. The remaining three tracks combine Nunn’s sound effects of T1 and the rhythms of T2, and we hear the two improvisors exploring this wholly original world of sound.
Glochids is the project of James Roemer, a sound artist from Arizona currently working in Oakland. We received his new LP from Ascetic House during his Mayhem 2017 performance in the Pit, during the fourth and final installment of Teachers AIDS’ and James Livingston’s Black Horizons Mayhem.
Ni Fila explores a variety of weird, dreamlike environments over eight tracks. The A side holds five pieces that build on a central idea and with additional electronic and acoustic elements: in Mossoão (T1), a languid synth melody backdrops mechanical grinding, in “Expense One” (T2), a gently glowing drone anchors twisting, stretching electronic sounds, a looping melody underlies blooms of distorted noise in “Comma Loop” (T3), constantly blinking synths are overtaken by metallic rhythms and someone fucking with the pitch shifter again on “Washir Pulse” (T4). “Village” skips through a long-form ambient soundscape with the fast-forward dial (T5). The second side gives way to longer sound collages that incorporate unusual sounds, such as the bell-like bonang and field recordings from the streets of Guatemala (“Net” T6), a marimba mirage on “KPOCC NO2” (T7), bleary organ tones on “Net (Orgel)” (T8). There’s more Glochids in our library by way of Weird Ear, hear here.
This 2001 CD from Neurot Recordings is the sole release from Vitriol, the solo project of Ben (G.C.) Green, the bassist from Godflesh.
Vitriol is an archaic term for sulfuric acid, (the word derives from the Latin vitriolum, “of glass”, as crystals of metal sulfates resemble colored glass). The substance was central in alchemical practice for its transformative powers, its importance reflected in the alchemist’s motto “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem” – “Visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone.” Green pursued this message, and this album is an account of his personal inward search. Recorded from 1995-1996, these tracks were made during a year long retreat to the mountains of Wales, where Green lived and worked in solitude. “Visita” (T1) opens with beautiful drones looping in reverse. Many of the tracks focus on abstract, textured noise, with additional elements like heavy distortion (T2), bell-like drones (T4), rushes of water and driving pulses (T5). There’s the sounds of the paranoia that sets in during extended periods of isolation: deep voices rising up from the mountains (T3), imagined footsteps echoing in an empty house (T6). The album ends on a (somewhat surprising) peaceful note, with beautiful reverberating guitars (T7).
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