Black Pus – “All My Relations” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

Max Level   5/21/2013   A Library, CD

Solo project by Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt, Mindflayer). This would go straight into KFJC’s Fucked Up Shit library (joining Salmigondis, Blue Sabbath Black Fiji, etc…) if we had such a thing. Chippendale’s loud, busy drumming is the foundation, and he somehow manages –don’t ask me how– to drown that out a lot of the time with crusty oscillator-type moaning and groaning, random whooshes of raw noise, diseased loops, and vocals pretty much serving as yet another a noise element. No idea what’s going on here, and not only that I hate the name of the project. I’d play this on the air, though, just to mess with people. Which leads me to believe that plenty of other KFJC DJ’s would probably do the same.

Oliveros, Pauline – “Primordial / Lift” – [TAIGA Records]

Max Level   4/9/2013   12-inch, A Library

A 1998 work by Deep Listening/drone maven Oliveros, based somehow on the slowly changing resonant frequency of the earth and its connection (I think) to magnetic field variance. An earlier performance of this piece was released on CD but this is a new performance from 2010, released here for the first time in 2012 to commemorate Oliveros’s 80th birthday. Violin, cello, guitar, accordion, sampler, oscillator, glass, and voice create tense drones with textural scraping, moaning instruments, and some loop-style repetitive figures here and there. More a sound/science journey than a musical one. Taiga did a typically nice job here, releasing this in a limited edition of 500 copies, on that heavyweight vinyl we love.

Kandinsky Effect, The – “Synesthesia” – [Cuneiform Records]

Max Level   4/8/2013   CD, Jazz

A rough and dirty sort of jazz-rock. This Franco-American sax/drums/electric bass trio plays music with surprising twists and turns, clever rhythmic variations, and nice bass chord action. What’s cool is that they spice up their sounds with laptop and various other effects. Sometimes it’s subtle–a slight echo or whatever–other times an instrument gets tweaked and warped into a strange new thing. This isn’t dangerous crazy jazz–it has an element of refinement and no one is going to mistake this for one of Peter Brotzmann’s groups–but if you want some nice funk grooves and intriguing compositions you can count on these guys. For some reason this reminds me of a Jim Black project such as Alas No Axis.

Quin, Douglas – “Fathom” – [TAIGA Records]

Max Level   3/5/2013   12-inch, A Library

Field recordings from the Arctic (Side A) and the Antarctic (Side B). Or to be more accurate, water recordings as these were recorded from an underwater perspective using hydrophones. Walruses, whales, seals, orcas, icebergs. Gurgling, clicking, crashing, animal sounds. B2 could pass as an electronic music piece but evidently is nothing but naturally produced sounds–amazingly abstract and otherworldly. Tracks are in the vicinity of 8 to 12 minutes in length. A super nice release from Taiga Records with gorgeous, subtle letterpress/embossed artwork and packaging.

Cherry Five – “Cherry Five” – [Cinevox]

Max Level   3/5/2013   A Library, CD

1975. Goblin before they were Goblin. I’m not sure if the personnel is exactly the same in both bands, but this is where popular Italian prog band Goblin got their start as a unit. This album, Cherry Five’s only record, is a fun listen that doesn’t deviate much from the 70’s progressive rock formula: good musicianship, complicated arrangements with jazzy touches, odd meters, songs about who knows what… The music is all over the place but mostly upbeat and it moves along pretty well. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this a bit too similar to other 70’s bands of this genre: early Yes for the meticulous vocal harmonies and Squire-like bass playing, ELP/The Nice for the aggressive keyboards, Genesis for the sweeping mellotrons and Hackett-like moments in the guitar (and one song even has a “Watcher of the Skies”-type riff)… maybe some Gentle Giant, some Focus… I like this mostly because it evokes a musical era I was a fan of, but I don’t think it’s particularly original.

Battisti, Lucio – “S/T” – [Dischi Ricordi S.p.A]

Max Level   2/26/2013   12-inch, International

Battisti (1943-1998) was an Italian singer/songwriter who was popular in his native country for three decades and considered a major influence on Italian pop music. This is his self-titled 1969 release, mostly upbeat and catchy, although there are some moments that are kind of moody and evocative of something. All vocals are in Italian. Strings and horns and other musical flourishes were added but the record doesn’t seem overproduced; it strikes me as a typical pop record of the period. Side A ends with a bit of a jam… was that a backwards guitar? I believe Battisti generally wrote the music and worked with various lyricists over the years. He got more into “concept albums” in the 1970s and some of these tunes sound as though they may be part of something bigger; but I don’t understand the language so I couldn’t say. The record ends with an unexpectedly heavy rocker. All in all, a worthy addition to KFJC’s International library.

Corner, Philip – “Gong / Ear : Dance-ing, 1 & 2” – [Roaratorio]

Max Level   2/26/2013   12-inch, A Library

A 2012 release documenting one era of composer/percussionist Corner’s ongoing collaboration with dancers–these two side-long pieces (24 mins and 20 mins) are from 1989, recorded in Corner’s NYC loft. The artist performs solo on his familiar tam-tam, a highly resonant metallic instrument similar to a gong. Seems to be a feedback-type system at work here, wherein the tam-tam makes a sound which a dancer responds to, which informs the next tam-tam contribution, and so on. Quite nice–sometimes resonantly meditative and sometimes more active and percussive. I especially like the last third or so of Side A, which is more single-minded and rhythmically pulsing than the rest of the record. A few random sounds are included here and there, such as a telephone ringing in the background a couple of minutes into Side B. The liner notes tell us that “all distortions are inherent and desired” so keep in mind this is meant more as a document than it is a flawless recording. The round sheet metal pseudo-gong attached to the album cover is a nice (though odd) touch.

Toral, Rafael – “Space Elements Vol. 3” – [TAIGA Records]

Max Level   1/29/2013   12-inch, A Library

Love this. Toral is playing an assortment of not-exactly-instruments and reveling in the fact that he can’t accurately control what happens. The devices have a life of their own and that’s just the way he likes it. He’s doing oscillator, feedback, sinewaves, amplifier, noise, etc, along with a few guest musicians on drums, percussion, Rhodes piano, and guitar. There are moments of expansive ambience here, along with several tracks that could pass for the outer fringes of Jazz, especially when the drums and Rhodes are working out. Tatsuya Nakatani on Track 3.

Chalot, Veronique – “J’ai Vu Le Loup” – [Get Back]

Max Level   1/15/2013   12-inch, International

“I Have Seen the Wolf.” Music recorded in 1977, but sounds timeless. The acoustic instrumentation (dulcimer, guitar, autoharp, violin, flute, hand percussion, possibly a crumhorn or two?) transports the listener to another time and place, maybe 500 years ago in a rural European setting replete with green fields and streams. Chalot sings in a sweet, clear voice, and entirely in French. I hear elements of Fairport Convention, Sister Sourire, and medieval dance music. An exceedingly pleasant listen.
Tracks A2 & B5 are instrumental.

16-17 – “When All Else Fails…” – [Savage Land]

Max Level   1/8/2013   A Library, CD

Crazy-ass skronk trio out of Switzerland, circa 1988-89, recorded live straight from the mixing board. Sax, electric guitar, drums, and all kinds of additional electronic mayhem. Every track has a repetitive, primal 4/4 beat, which kind of grated on me after a while, but that’s all right–these guys aren’t exactly trying to be cuddly and make new friends here, so grating is OK. #5 & 6 change up the beat a bit but not much. I guess John Zorn might be one reference point here; picture him getting all outside on his sax, accompanied by a laundromat dryer with nothing but a couple of hammers in it. Like that. Sax torturer Alex Buess adds ranting vocals on #2, 3, 4, 6. Recordings remastered by Weasel Walter; you just knew he had to be involved in this abusive project somehow.

Colour Buk – “Licht Dinger” – [Wir Wollen Wulle]

Max Level   1/2/2013   12-inch, A Library

A noisy sludgy mess from this Farmingdale, NY duo. The music is repetitive, distorted, and processed to hell and back… drums and guitars and voices and countless layers of muck. It often sounds like what I remember Flipper sounding like, but then I was pretty drunk at every Flipper show I ever went to so don’t listen to me. Some of the songs have lyrics that are little more than the title of the song repeated in an agitated fashion, for example the lyrics to “I Am a Philosopher” are… just that. The lyrics to “The Fall Suck” go like this: The Fall suck – DIY sucks. At least “Stay Depress” mentions tangible things such as a woman with a broken leg and a girl getting out of a car with her brother–somebody had to write about those things eventually, so OK. The last two tracks on Side B are weird shapeless things, with the final track featuring a jabbering guitar over a vortex of sludge, with ghostly female vox mixed in for good measure.

Portal – “Swarth” – [Invictus Productions]

Max Level   1/2/2013   A Library, CD

This is the evil shit right here. This Australian death outfit reduces music to the basics: pain and violence and fear and insanity. Lead vocalist The Curator looks like the top half of a grandfather clock with claws and a robe, and he occasionally unleashes some weird satanic roaring but mostly stands center stage and looks menacing. The guitarists downtune their axes to Z-minor and sound like bench grinders being destroyed on bench grinders, while the drummer defies us to figure out what his rapid-fire violence has to do with anything else that’s going on. The mix buries everything under everything else. None of this makes any sense to me but it’s some supremely scary shit if that’s what you’re in the mood for. I give it negative 5 stars because positive 5 stars doesn’t express the truly contrary awesomeness of this project.

Thomas, Henry – “Bull Doze Blues” – [Mississippi Records]

Max Level   12/4/2012   12-inch, Blues

A totally charming blues album. Thomas, a Texas native who hoboed and railroaded his way all around the country, recorded these tracks way back in the 1920’s. Every song is upbeat and almost jaunty, influenced by the ragtime music popular at that time. Thomas accompanies himself on guitar and one of the most distinctive blues sounds I’ve heard–he plays the quills, a home made panpipe type instrument with its origins in American slavery. He plays it the way another blues singer might play mouthharp and it makes me smile every time he whips it out. His songs especially caught on with west coast blues revivalists of the 1960’s-70s such as Canned Heat, Taj Mahal, and Hot Tuna, who either covered his songs or “borrowed” them to write their own songs. I’m not exactly a blues aficionado–give me Albert King and Big Mama Thornton and I’m happy–but I could not stop playing this once it got its hooks in me.

Maximin, Berangere – “No One Is an Island” – [Sub Rosa]

Max Level   11/27/2012   12-inch, A Library

Studio magic from this French artist. She processes the sounds of her own voice and guitar, and sounds made by four guests, on her laptop to create otherworldly situations not easy to describe, except maybe to say they’re weird and great. Among the guest contributors are Rhys Chatham on trumpet and Christian Fennesz on guitar. A2 is particularly strange, with Ms. Maximin chanting in monotone about something magical, gorgeous, marvelous, and/or fantastic, while a sea of huge guitars rages behind her. Slowed-down voices too. A3 is full of noisy, slurpy electronics. On B3, she processes and multiplies Chatham’s trumpet to the point of madness against an abstract heartbeat. Psychoacoustic Soundclash anyone? Linited to 300 copies on beautiful clear vinyl.

Lean Left – “Live At Cafe Oto” – [Unsounds]

Max Level   11/13/2012   CD, Jazz

Powerful jazz-noise sounds from this international quartet, recorded live in London 2011. The long-running duo of Ken Vandermark (sax, clarinet) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) is augmented/enhanced/transformed by guitarists Terrie Ex and Andy Moor of The Ex. One guitarist is on the left side of the mix, the other is on the right; together their chaotic electric guitar dialog–a Sonny Sharrock and a half’s worth of chattering, scraping, slashing, and diddling–serves as a wild accompaniment to Vandermark’s fervent reed-blowing and Nilssen-Love’s off the hook drumming. Two long tracks (30+ minutes each) each with noisy sections and quiet sections. Dig in.

Mori, Ikue – “Class Insecta” – [Tzadik]

Max Level   11/6/2012   A Library, CD

Lots of burbling and clicking on this 2009 release of solo laptop electronics. Most tracks are heavily percussive with either machine-made beats or glitchy patterns combined into rhythms and offbeats. The sounds are subtle yet constantly moving. There seems to be some kind of an animation angle to this– perhaps these are soundtracks to animations/videos about insects? If so, these pieces would be perfect for that– bustling insects in groups of thousands, winged insects flitting here and there… I’m a huge fan of Ikue Mori; nobody else does quite what she does.

Helm – “Impossible Symmetry” – [Pan]

Max Level   10/23/2012   12-inch, A Library

Helm is a solo project of Luke Younger, also heard in the duo Birds of Delay. Here’s a nice assortment of electro-acoustic sound constructions pressed on heavyweight vinyl. Quick descriptions of tracks – what I hear, anyway: A1– possibly micro-recordings, whip-like electronics, multi-layer drone. A2– low frequency pulses, subtly ringing metals with an Eno feel, a strange but not unpleasant high-pitched howling. B1– muffled claustrophobics, big time metallic clanging, distant voices (children?) B2– messy semi-power electronics, deep reverbed-out drone. B3– ambient beginning, mostly synthy electronics, bell-like sounds, a wind-tunnel effect. Every piece is different, all of them deep and well put-together.

Blanketship – “Pleated Shorts” – [Gigante Sound]

Max Level   10/16/2012   A Library, CD

A crazy quilt of found music stitched together by Jared Blum aka Blanketship. Thrift store records (scratchy, warped, whatever) are wonderfully repurposed into wobbly, eerie concoctions that are pleasant to listen to. A snippet of this and a section of that over a beat from somewhere else… and where did that voice come from? Just when a piece starts to get catchy, something goes wrong: a bass line in a different key gets added or the beat jumps the rails. Things like that. Lots of fun, needless to say. All tracks under 2 minutes long.

IBM – “Oval Recording, The” – [Mego]

Max Level   10/16/2012   12-inch, A Library

2001 release by Ilpo Vaisanen and Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic with supreme noisemaker Bruce Gilbert. One 12″ and one 7″ in the package. No vocals. No beats. Nothing melodic. It’s all hum and feedback and bursts of static and dirty loops and electronic squelches and crunchy waves of distorted rumbling. On the 12″ there’s one long track on Side A and two medium long tracks on Side B. The 7″ has one short (3 to 4 minute) track on each side. Fantastic material if you want to add a degree of unease to your radio show– play it alone or layer it into a hellish KFJC-style noise mix.

Urabe, Masayoshi – “Kampanerura” – [Utech Records]

Max Level   10/2/2012   A Library, CD

Saxophonist Urabe has played with just about everyone in the Japanese underground music scene. He doesn’t have what I’d call a musical approach; he’s more about picking up an instrument and experimenting with it to see what it can do. He often discovers sounds that no one else seems to have found, and he also isn’t afraid to include a good bit of silence in his artist’s palette. I would describe the tracks on this CD as restrained sound pieces. In addition to saxophone, Urabe can be heard on guitar, percussion, vocal noises, bird calls, chains, and no doubt a few other things. Teruhisa Nanbu (Aural Fit) adds percussion on #2 and #5. Otherwise it’s all Urabe. A worthy addition to Utech’s “Shokyo Ontei” series, which focuses on work by groundbreaking Asian artists.

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