KFJC 89.7FM

Chaudhary, Amanda – “Meow Meow Band” [CatSynth Records]

Max Level   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Good-natured, jazzy electronic pop from Bay Area mover and shaker Chaudhary and a talented cast of players. The first track is a mysterious invocation of some kind that sounds very different from the rest of the tracks, which tend to be bright and uptempo. Chaudhary’s keyboards and synths are the backbone of these tunes, some of which also feature nice saxophone work by Steve Adams of ROVA. The rhythm section (Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass guitar and G. Calvin Weston on drums) shines throughout. Tracks 3 and 5 are instrumentals and track 6 is mostly so. Those are the tracks I prefer.

Koh, Emily – “Wordplays” – [Innova/American Composers]

Max Level   12/7/2021   A Library, CD

Five pieces by this Atlanta-based composer: two for solo saxophone (baritone and soprano) and three for saxophone quartet, performed here by the New Thread Quartet. Koh’s music typically explores the intricacies and details of sound, and these pieces can be characterized that way; they tend to be on the quieter side with plenty of space and silence. Track 1 is probably my favorite, with the baritone sax sometimes approaching what might be called drones and spending much of its time in the higher registers. Interesting, varied, well-played compositions that are definitely worth a listen or two or three.

Xiu Xiu – “Plays The Music of Twin Peaks” – [Polyvinyl Record Company]

Max Level   11/7/2021   12-inch, A Library

This stunning album originally came out in 2016, re-released now on its fifth anniversary with a bonus track (or more accurately a download code for a bonus track.) If you know the music from the Twin Peaks series you will of course recognize many of the themes here. The music is haunting, desolate, tense, and unnerving just as you would expect. Xiu Xiu—these days the lineup is pretty much just Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo, with percussive contributions from Shayna Dunkelman—reimagine Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack with all manner of keyboards, percussion, a howling guitar or two, sound effects, and Stewart’s distinctively off-kilter vocals. The final track on Side D features Seo reading a diary entry full of sex and fear and murder and it doesn’t do much for me; however it does seem worthy of inclusion and some may enjoy it. All of the other tracks are top notch, and the album flows beautifully. The bonus track is more musically aggressive than the rest of the album and the vocals on it are by Maestro Badalamenti himself.

Gnaw Bone – “Rotten Earth” – [Auris Apothecary]

Max Level   10/12/2021   7-inch, A Library

Sick, rotten black metal out of Bloomington IN. Discordant ringing guitars and pummeling. The sound of drowning in primordial sludge. Three members and they all do vocals; one of them reminds me of Gollum— how sick is that? Among the lyrics on the B side: “carcasses, piles of carcasses, piled on carcasses.” You have been warned. A lathe-cut release on clear vinyl; both sides about three minutes long.

Curtis Chaos – “Magic Dreams” – [Lost Treasures of The Underworld]

Max Level   10/12/2021   12-inch, A Library

This short-lived Brooklyn outfit was the garage band’s garage band. Here they offer seven all-instrumental rock jams, heavy on guitar. Muddy recording mostly buries the bass and especially the drums, but the lead guitar freakouts are front and center and that’s what it’s all about. The final track is the longest and it starts off in a gentle manner. The other tracks pretty much start off full-tilt and never let up. Recorded in 2018, released in 2019.

Sludge – “Just Die” – [Cheezy Farm Records]

Max Level   9/14/2021   7-inch, A Library

Sludgy, grindy garage punk on this 7″ from 1995. Three short songs on Side A and one longer one on Side B. Car crash guitars. Yowling vocals remind me of Stooges-era Iggy. General discontent expressed. I could find no info about this band.

Present Quartet – “Routes, Paths, Courses” – [Pfmentum]

Max Level   8/31/2021   CD, Jazz

Inspired sounds — flutes, woodwinds, harp, bass, and electronics — by this So Cal quartet. Interesting and enjoyable movements as the instruments combine, diverge, drop out, rejoin, combine, diverge… Four masterful players confidently expressing their ideas, each leaving plenty of space for the others. Another top notch release from the reliably remarkable Pfmentum label.

Ligeti, Lukas – “That Which Has Remained… That Which Will Emerge” – [Col Legno]

Max Level   8/30/2021   A Library, CD

Studio recording of a 2015 Ligeti sound installation at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Difficult to describe, other than to say the music is mostly mournful and clearly coming from an Eastern European direction. Composer/percussionist Ligeti interviewed a wide variety of Polish Jews, from young to quite old, asking them to tell stories and sing songs that portray the Jewish experience through their eyes. Passages from these interviews and songs were included in Ligeti’s musical score for the piece, with a handful of Polish musicians and vocalists invited to play the score as well as improvise along with it. I must admit I delayed reviewing this CD for many weeks, as I felt I needed to be in a particular kind of headspace to tackle it. It’s deep, with many layers of meaning, and I wanted to attempt to do it justice. Ultimately, there is a lot to say about this CD and the liner notes do a far better job of it than I could, so please dive into them and learn more about this composition. It is one 44-minute piece divided into six tracks but meant to be listened to all in one sitting according to the composer. A noble, ambitious undertaking.

Blood Rhythms – “Rote” – [No Part of It]

Max Level   8/2/2021   A Library, CD

Horrendous, dense noise pieces built on distorted waves of doomsounds and crusty machine-like rhythms. Each piece presents a different flavor of crushing malevolence, so it’s not the same thing over and over. Definitely some creative variety here, which I appreciate. But you can take my word for it–none of the tracks want to be your friend. The final piece is my favorite–it’s by far the longest, and it’s massive and dark and foreboding as hell, and goes on just short of forever. I have been listening to this CD super loud for a solid week now and there really are no words left. Just hit Play.

Boni, Raymond – “Memoire De L’Oubli – Images For Donald Ayler” – [Mazeto Square]

Max Level   8/2/2021   A Library, CD

Solo acoustic guitar performances. The compositions are unpredictable and adventurous with elements of very free playing. Some passages are melodic and reflective, others are noisy and dense. And then there are the passages that are on the very outside side, as Boni attacks the instrument with scrapes and slides and plucks and some of the most violent strumming of an acoustic guitar I have ever heard. This CD is in memory of free jazz trumpeter Donald Ayler but I must say I am not quite sure how this music intersects with Ayler’s music; Boni composed it all and played it on an instrument that was not Ayler’s instrument, so I don’t know. It must be that the spirit and fearlessness conveyed in this music would be appreciated by those who loved the same qualities in Ayler’s music. I’ll go with that. And I’ll also recommend you give this CD a long listen and let it melt your brain a bit.

Nubdug Ensemble – “Volume One: The Machines of Zeno” – [Pest Colors Music]

Max Level   7/20/2021   A Library, CD

Cheerfully progressive circus cabaret pop. Nine varied yet strangely catchy tracks rush by in just under 20 minutes. Nubdug picks up where local weirdo conglomeration Vacuum Tree Head left off a couple of years ago. For this project, ex-VTH maestro Jason Berry recruited ten contributors, many of whom are well-known in the bay area music community, such as Myles Boisen, Amanda Chaudhary, Sheldon Brown, and Amy X Neuburg. Good humor shines throughout, and the playing is exceptionally tight as these very skilled players veer through the intricate arrangements. The ensemble consists of sax, clarinet, flute, bassoon, keyboards, electronics, occasional vocals, violin, and guitar… with a phenomenal fusion-flavored bottom end provided by bassist Brett Warren and drummer G. Calvin Weston (Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer.) Throw this CD on and spend 20 minutes wondering what’s coming next.

Murray, Kevin / Sato, Kazuto / Weeks, Tom – “Hard Boiled” – [Wolfsblood Records]

Max Level   7/19/2021   CD, Jazz

Great playing by this drums/bass/sax trio. Three long tracks of (I’m assuming) improvised creativity. I’m used to hearing saxophonist Weeks on alto, but on Track 2 he moves over to baritone and it’s a nice change. On that same track, upright bassist Sato switches to electric bass guitar for a while and then switches back. Murray on drums is supportive throughout and plays interesting parts without calling attention to himself. These guys are a high-functioning outside free jazz unit and it sounds like they get off on playing with one another. What more can you ask for?

Unbecoming – 12/31/17 – [Self Release]

Max Level   7/13/2021   A Library, CD

My finely honed detective skills on the world wide web turned up absolutely nothing regarding this CD. Who is it, what is it, why is it, and so on. Looks like I’m on my own. Well OK, what we’ve got here are five pieces of incomprehensible, likely recorded 12/31/17. No credits listed. It’s music, I guess, but only barely so. I hear a guitar somewhere in there, and I think I heard a bass. And then there is a lot of unidentifiable stuff completing the picture. A guy’s voice is in the mix most of the time but I can’t tell what he’s on about. Are these actual songs or improvised rambling? Not sure. All tracks equally recommended. Spin the wheel and try your luck. Reminds me of the kind of stuff you might get from the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble or maybe Thinking Fellers—it makes no sense but then again, what does? Very KFJC.

Pattern Recognition (coll) – [No Part of It]

Max Level   7/12/2021   A Library, CD

2020 compilation of thirteen noise, semi-noise, and otherwise strange tracks released to benefit collage artist Bradley Kokay, who suffered massive losses when his studio was destroyed by fire. (This label No Part of It tends to use Kokay’s art on its releases.) I only know a few of the artists—GX Jupitter-Larsen, irr.app.(ext.), Illusion of Safety, and that’s about it—but I find just about all the tracks worthy and grounds for further research on the artists. A wide variety of listening experiences available here. Track 3 is a woman strumming some kind of instrument and talk-singing in German. Track 4 consists of two sections of cool burbling/blorping sounds with some other stuff between them. Track 9 is subtle sound art on the quieter side. Track 13 finishes things off with ten minutes of harsh auditory hell, just the way some people like it.

Anderson/Pepper/Tamura/Petit – “Closed Encounters of the 4 Minds” – [Public Eyesore]

Max Level   6/14/2021   A Library, CD

One long improvisation, divided into 8 sections. Electric guitar, Korg MS2000, violin, saxophone, electronics, turntable, and other miscellaneous sounds. Fiery and unpredictable. On the loud side. Grabs your brain and demands your attention. Really far out and I love it. Recorded in one take at Martin Bisi’s legendary BC Studio in Brooklyn. Brought to us by the relentlessly interesting local label Public Eyesore.

Kevin Blechdom – “I Heart Presets” – [Tigerbeat6]

Max Level   6/14/2021   A Library, CD

2002 EP release from the nutty pop half of Blectum From Blechdom. I believe the title refers to the music being created with only the preset sounds of whichever synth gizmo KB was working with at the time. So it seems to have been cranked out fairly quickly without much work put into developing the sounds. But who cares, this EP is a lot of fun and the songs are enjoyable for sure. The first 4 songs zip by–Track 2 is only 47 seconds long–but Track 5 stretches out a bit at nearly 5 minutes long. It’s a cover of Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” which doesn’t necessarily sound like it would be a good idea but it actually works in a poppy synth/sincere vocals kind of way.

Suarez, Leo – “Above/Beside” – [Heavy Relatives]

Max Level   5/17/2021   A Library, CD

Abstract sound constructions using, according to Suarez, an extended snare drum language. Which would seem to mean rubbing, scraping, rattling, ambient sounds, hitting the drum with things other than drumsticks, and like that. Not a beat or rhythm to be found here. I always enjoy artists who do interesting, creative things with percussion instruments to coax new sounds from them. Suarez is a member of the drums/sax/electronics trio TONED, whom I have also enjoyed. The final track is a relentless drumroll that lasts for 2:44—sort of a strange way to close out the CD.

Elaine The Singer – S/T – [Self Release]

Max Level   5/17/2021   A Library, CD

Elaine The Singer is a local trio, 2/3 of which comprise another band, Floral. Like Floral, Elaine The Singer’s music is a complicated and dynamic math rock kind of thing—it sticks out in all directions at once and it’s rare to hear two bars in a row that are the same thing. Precisely played. This here is a quickie release on a CD/R. No credits, no pictures, no label, no notes other than the names of the three tracks. See the photo? We’ve got the purple one. For some reason, the three tracks are all exactly the same length, which is 2:16. Good stuff but the pieces are too damned short.

Kjetil Brandsdal – Untitled – [Drid Machine Records]

Max Level   4/13/2021   7-inch, A Library

Wobbly layers of gently ambient Norwegian noise with an insistent beat. Evidently it is to be played at 45rpm (although it doesn’t actually say that on it anywhere) to give you a nice concise three-minute experience, but I like it better at 33rpm, which offers a more dragged-out and woozy perspective. This 2019 release is a one-sided 7″ on clear vinyl with green and pinkish dots silk-screened on the reverse for a cool see-through effect, and the cardboard sleeve is printed on the recycled cover of some unknown record album. I love offbeat art-damaged stuff like this.

Copyright © 2022 KFJC 89.7 FM
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File