KFJC 89.7FM

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.

Max de Wardener – “Music For Detuned Pianos” – [Village Green]

Max Level   3/14/2021   12-inch, A Library

Composer de Wardener’s pieces written for pianos modified with various ‘non-standard’ tuning systems. If you enjoy the unusual instrument tuning concepts of composers such as Harry Partch and LaMonte Young, then you will no doubt appreciate what’s going on here. I’m just a dumb bass player so I can’t tell you much about tunings such as “seven-limit just intonation” or “overtones from three interlocking harmonic series” but I can say the music they produce is pleasantly otherworldly. I do wonder why four pieces played in standard piano tuning are included–the liner notes say it’s “to provide a familiar perspective” but one track like that would have been plenty. I’m here for the modified tuning stuff. Pieces performed by pianist Kit Downes.

Barker, Andrew / Irabagon, Jon Duo – “Anemone” – [Radical Documents]

Max Level   2/25/2021   CD, Jazz

Drums and tenor sax duo. Free Jazz Explorations. Inspired and interesting interplay. I can recommend each track individually, but listening to the whole CD in one sitting is somewhat exhausting. Free jazz drums/sax duet records tend to be like that for me. I can’t help it–after a while I’m like where’s the upright bass dude? Four adventurous tracks here, 11 to 14 minutes each; pick one (or two) and you can’t go wrong.

White Hills – “Splintered Metal Sky” – [God Unknown]

Max Level   2/25/2021   A Library, CD

Abrasive noise rock with pounding machine beats, seething electronics, and semi-sneering talk-singing. I was not familiar with White Hills, but I have been reading other reviews that portray them as guitar-driven and psychedelic. This CD isn’t like that at all. I would describe it as urban-sounding, synthetic, and damaged. There are a few noise pieces that only last a minute or two, and sometimes just a few seconds. Dave W, one of the two constant members of this prolific, long-running project has said “I’m very conscious about making the records sound different from each other.” Quite so. If you know White Hills from their previous releases, this one may surprise you.

Eagle Twin – “The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn” [Southern Lord Recordings]

Max Level   1/10/2021   A Library, CD

Stoner doom heaviness out of Utah, but actually coming from a more unusual place than that: Eagle Twin’s songs are about snakes and wolves and trees and buffalo and antlers and wings and crows and water and blood and fire… things considerably older and more profound than mere humanity. I mean what on this earth could possibly be bigger and heavier to write music about? Whew. Two guys are Eagle Twin–Gentry Densley brings thick layers of saturated guitar and sings in a deep rasp somewhere between Tom Waits and a Tuvan throat singer, and Tyler Smith’s drumming is pure punishment yet he is creative and never predictable. Give this huge-sounding record a listen and ponder the purity of spirit animals and the beautifully brutal forces of nature. From 2018.

Dimuzio, Thomas – Balance – [Gench Music]

Max Level   11/8/2020   A Library, CD

Wow! Local sound wizard Dimuzio has always been known for his collaborations as well as his solo work, and here is a triple-CD overview of ten years of collaborations 2009-2019, all of them live improvisations recorded at shows. Dimuzio takes his Buchla synth rig and his sampler and hooks up with a roster of artists that goes on and on… Matmos, Nick Didkovsky, Beth Custer, Alan/Anla Courtis, Aurora Josephson, Wobbly, Phillip Greenlief, Scott Amendola, Emily Hay, Gino Robair, Tom Nunn, Ava Mendoza, to name just a few… in duos, trios, and various combinations. A wide range of sounds are offered, from pleasantly musical to drone to quirky spoken word to moderately harsh noise. It’s all here. The final track on CD-3 was recorded by KFJC in 2010 at Cafe Du Nord in SF and it has that electric-Miles rock/jazz fusion thing going on. Dimuzio is a good friend of the station and always a force to be reckoned with. He curated these tracks, did the editing and mastering, and even the package design. Dive deep into this one!

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