KFJC 89.7FM

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – “Toupee Made of Weather” – [BUFMS]

Max Level   2/15/2022   A Library, CD

Here we go again. I can’t even. This aggregation seemingly drops a new batch of twisted collage every two weeks or so. You can’t really call it music. Well you could but why would you? Random dialog, sound effects, manipulations, sort-of music. Everything taken completely out of context and assembled in new contexts that defy comprehension. Brain-bending as usual.

Bush Tetras – “Rhythm and Paranoia: The Best of The Bush Tetras” – [Wharf Cat Records]

Max Level   2/14/2022   A Library, CD

Long-running NY quartet active on and off (mostly on) for around 40 years. One of the early (1979-80) No Wave bands, they started with a sparse downtown funk sound and developed more of a dramatic rock sound with beefier guitars as the years went by. Pat Place (guitar), Cynthia Sley (vocals), and Dee Pop (drums) were the constant members—-original bassist Laura Kennedy passed away in 2011. RIP. I was familiar with much of their early material but by about 1990 or so I had lost touch with what they were up to. So I’m happy to have gotten caught up somewhat courtesy of this retrospective, gathering the best of the band’s work from start to finish. The most recent material here was recorded 2017-19. The tracks are all compelling and a blast to listen to. Highly recommended!!!

Weston, G. Calvin – “Hydrogen 77” – [Self Released]

Max Level   2/8/2022   CD, Jazz

Super fresh, atmospheric jazz fusion from drummer Weston working in a trio format with fellow Philadelphians Richard Hill on bass, and Colton Weatherston on guitar. Impeccable musicians, all of them. Nimble, creative bass and drums keep this thing moving while spacy, unpredictable guitar lines (always with stereo delay effect) float on top. Bassist Hill is new to me, and I really dig his active interplay and funk exchanges with Weston, straight up a master drummer who is never afraid to drop in a ferocious accent when the time is right. The sounds are sometimes reminiscent of the late-80s trio Power Tools, a project I absolutely loved. Track 11 features a couple of guests on electronics and spoken word, with only Weston’s powerful drumming as accompaniment. Your head needs to hear this CD.

Pancakes, The – “Mokele Goes to Town” – [Kerntonschall Records]

Max Level   1/24/2022   12-inch, A Library

This German trio has been around since the mid-90s, playing what founder/guitarist Rainer Neeff calls “krautsurf with grunge and 60s psychedelic garage music.” A lot going on there, but I must say it’s a pretty good description of their sound. The band claims influences as varied as The Seeds, Jefferson Airplane, Sonic Youth, Dick Dale, and Dead Moon, among others. Many flavors on this 2019 double LP release—we hear shorter tracks in a sort of surf/garage rock vein as well as longer trippy psychedelic excursions in the 13 to 14 minute range. The tracks that are somewhere in between are the ones that really caught my ear—long enough to go somewhere but not completely overboard. Neeff and his sister Daniela, who plays bass, do the vocals. If you dig FUZZTONES and WAH WAHS, this is for you.

Alma Maru – “Alma Maru” – [Daft Alliance]

Max Level   1/24/2022   A Library, CD

Tense, pulsating drones with jagged edges. Multi-layered repeating patterns and glitchy things consumed by feedback and dirty electronics. Not pleasant but not unpleasant. The nine tracks, ranging from about 2 minutes to about 7 minutes in length, have no beginnings or ends—each track barges in abruptly to take over from the previous. Alma Maru is Nathan Berlinguette and Ryan Unks.

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.

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