Music Reviews

Thee Sacred Souls – “Thee Sacred Souls” – [Daptone]

aarbor   6/6/2023   CD, Soul

Daptone recordings are known for their old school all analogue/strictly tape recording studio sound, and this one is no exception. You are transported back into an earlier time with a very retro sound which moves away from Daptone’s established James Brown-inspired funk ‘n’ soul. Instead it offers an enticing mix of Latin soul, neo-soul, and the type of vocal harmony-based R&B popularized by acts like Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. This release from 2022 can fool a listener into believing they’re listening to a 40 or 50 year old record. Some of the tracks are a bit too saccharine for me, but others have appealing more modern elements. The Daptone label is still recovering from the deaths of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. Recently Daptone Co-Founder Gabe Roth launched Penrose, a California-based imprint that hearkens back to the soul stylings of the early ’60s which is how Thee Sacred Souls came to record on Daptone. These guys are pointing the way to Daptone’s future. AArbor

Malladi Brothers – “At Silicon Valley, 2023” – [Sankritilaya]

karma   6/4/2023   CD, International

The Malladi Brothers are a renowned Carnatic duo. They are known especially for their skilled improvisational alapana and kalpana swara, and their emphasis on rare ragas and compositions. This live recording of a performance in Santa Clara in April 2023 highlights their skills in Carnatic standards as well as rare pieces. They begin with a varna in Kedaragowla and kritis in Dhanyasi (a raga which seems to be in vogue right now) and raga Janaranjani (Pahimom Sree Rajarajeshwari). The submain piece, Thyagaraja’s Eramuni Nammiti, is in the Persian-derived melakarta raga Vakulabharanam. The main piece was the classic Sri Subramanyaya Namaste by Dixitar in raga Kamboji. The Malladi Brothers’ sparing use of N3 (the high seventh which is an accidental in this raga) lends their rendition a classic feel. The ragam-thanam pallavi, 30 minutes of continuous improvisation, is primarily in the Hindustani raga Suddha Sarang. Excellent concert that has something for longtime connoisseurs of Carnatic music, or newcomers to the art.

Liyou, Lucy – “Dog Dreams” – [American Dreams Records]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Second album from Lucy Liyou, currently based in SF. This album and its three long tracks cannot be confined to a single genre. It is a meld of ambient, Korean shamanic music, jazz, spoken word, and field recordings. ‘Dog Dreams’ is a literal translation of a Korean term that ranges in meaning from daydreams to nightmares. This album perfectly captures the uncanny feeling of a dream. It’s an intense therapy session that shatters conceptions of reality and requires presence and attention from the listener.

Kool and the Gang – “Kool and the Gang” – [De-Lite Records]

karma   6/3/2023   12-inch, Soul

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Johnson administration, you know Kool and the Gang. This is their 1969 debut album, 4 years before ‘Jungle Boogie’ and their mainstream success of the 70s. This all instrumental album is a prototype of the band that became a household name. This album is R&B focused as opposed to their later funk/disco releases, and has been reissued on beautiful purple vinyl.

Casual War – “Burn” – [Staalplaat]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Just in time for summer, desert rock from a duo based in LA and DC. They recorded the tracks separately at their respective homes during the pandemic. The artists’ goals were to show that intimate connection was possible even when we were stuck at home. The powerful yet restrained vocals atop the sludgy, psychedelic instrumentation transport you to the slow heat of the Mojave, and show that no matter what, all of us are burning together.

Xantotol – “Thus Spake Zaratustra” – [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

whngr   5/31/2023   12-inch, A Library


Minimalist, ugly and relatively short-lived low fidelity black/doom metal with woozy and morose synthesizer interludes.

Very early 2nd wave out of Poland with a genuine investment in Satanism. Formed by Mala (gtr,vox) and Jacek “Venom” Szczepańsk (drms) in 1991 who would go on to create the Fullmoon Collective, a resource for disseminating Satanic literature and philosophy throughout Poland by connecting to international Satanic groups including, Order Of Nine Angels (UK), and Luciferian Light Group (USA). Influenced by Swiss projects Hellhammer and Samael, Xantotol was perhaps the first Polish trvly black metal project, eschewing interest in Paganism, National Socialism, ancestral worship or indeed anything coming from Scandinavia at the time who Szczepansk believes were still primarily playing death metal at Xantotol’s inception .

Kutno, Poland – 1995


whngr   5/31/2023   A Library, Cassette

Two 31 minute tracks of highly repetitive minimalism that evoke a natal heartbeat, a clothes dryer with a sneaker in it, or perhaps war drums. In headphones, after about eight minutes, a feeling of disorientation may result, at thirteen minutes one may feel a distortion in equilibrium, and at twenty-seven minutes a disconnection with the ego as the lizard brain begins to take over. This cassette might be therapeutic for some or potentially tortuous to others; a relaxing ceremony or an incitement to spree killing depending on the listener’s consciousness/conscience or lack thereof.

A mysterious cassette with no origin or background though it does contain a phone number that this miserable volunteer is moderately afraid to dial. What kind of mad man is behind this recording? With a hand-typed jacket and non-existent url? There is something satisfying about the lack of information however; a true oddity that harkens back to a less informed time when a strange cassette was just that. Full stop.

Davachi, Sarah – “Two Sisters” – [Late Music]

whngr   5/31/2023   A Library, CD

Dulcet Lush Minimalism

Solemn sweeps of organ, pensive church bells and somber choral passages on this beautiful and haunting album by one:

Sarah Davachi originally from Alberta,Calgary. Composer and performer with education and a slew of credentials from the University of Calgary, Mills College (Oakland) and currently is pursuing a PhD in Musicology from UCLA. Educated and deeply considered her work emphasizes subtle variations in tones and tuning, textures and timbre that allows for exploration of temporal space and the word, electroaccoustic appears several times on her online CV.

Los Angeles, California – 2022

Egyptian Project – “Ya Amar” – [Six Degrees Records]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Ya Amar means “my moon” – it’s a compliment on someone’s appearance. On these 10 tracks the defenders of Egyptian tradition collaborate with a young French musician Jerome Ettinger. They mix the sounds of the Nile delta and Cairo with trip hop, electro, hip hop and a bit of classical music. I was wishing for something a bit more edgy, I wished he had taken more chances. AArbor

Korwar, Sarathy – “Kalak” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Born in the U.S., Sarathy Korwar grew up in Ahmedabad and Chennai in India. He began playing tabla aged 10, but was also drawn to the American music that he heard on the radio and leaking through the doorway of his local jazz music shop. At 17 he moved to Pune to study Environmental Science, but instead dedicated his time to music, studying tabla and translating his skills to the western drum kit; and playing as a session musician. He then moved to London where he trained as a classical tabla player and continued to adapt Indian classical rhythmic material to non-Indian percussion instruments. Korwar has since established himself as one of the most original and compelling voices in the UK jazz scene. KALAK is Korwar’s third studio album, released in November 2022. In rhythmic step with the past and the present, it sets out to describe a route forward. It celebrates a rich South Asian culture of music and literature, which resonates with spirituality and community, while envisaging a better future from those building blocks. AArbor

Ayla, Safiye – “Safiye Ayla” – [Kalan]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

45 tracks of classical Turkish music sung by one of the “three great sycamores” Safiye Ayla. [The other 2 sycamores are Muzeyyan Senar and Haniyet Yuceses.] Saiye Ayla was orphaned as a pre-schooler but people encouraged her and she studied with many famous Turkish musicians in the early 20th century. Safiye Ayla became the most famous and successful singer of her time by virtue of her singing style, which was somewhat influenced by western styles. She had a broad vocal range and paid special attention to pronunciation. Her repertoire included classical, modern, and popular music, so she was able to reach a broad public. She recorded more than 500 records and sang on the major radio stations in Turkey. The tracks here are from among her 78 rpm records and those she sang for radio. AArbor

Divide and Dissolve “Gas Lit” [Invada Records]

atavist   5/28/2023   12-inch, A Library

This is the third LP from this Melbourne-based project made up of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill. It begins with Reed’s strangely lilting and looping saxophone harmonies, subsequently joined by a powerful fusillade of Reed’s massive guitar work and drums by Nehill. The second track further examines the dimensions of slow drums played hard and layers of blasted, droning guitar. The third track is a spoken-word piece featuring Minori Sanchiz-Feng with a minimal backing track. The fourth track closes out Side A with themes reminiscent of the first track. Side B drops in with a jolt of higher tempo, high-energy attack. Divide and Dissolve conjure some sublime and harrowing textures, exhibited in Side B’s second track, seeking out their own unique interpretation of the doom genre they are most readily (if somewhat uneasily) associated with. They are not necessarily about making the listener comfortable. Their sound is an expression of the weight of history they carry with them. They seek to rattle the injustice of the world out of the walls and crevices where it lurks and breeds. Turn it way up.

Rush, Loren – “Dans Le Sable” – [Recital]

humana   5/25/2023   12-inch, A Library

This is an exquisite album that is the most recent release from pianist, composer, and digital sound artist Rush. He was one of the co-founders of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Side One showcases Rush’s piano, Charles Shere’s narration, and Renee Grant-Williams’ soprano. The chamber ensemble offers a lovely backdrop to all that is going on. Side Two features Song and Dance, commissioned by Seiji Ozawa and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and “Dance” especially features Rush’s cacophonous computer treatments of the music. This is a must-listen, especially if you’re fond of classical music.

Ky – “Power Is The Pharmacy” – [Constellation]

humana   5/25/2023   A Library, CD

Ky Brooks is the former vocalist/lyricist for Lungbutter and is dedicated to their drummer. On this release, Ky continues to set their poetry to music either through their spoken or sung vocals, and also plays synths, field recordings, and guitar. Many musician friends join them on different tracks, with the standout one for me being “All the Sad and Loving People.” Listen closely because this one is different from the Beatles’ song. Quirky, activist, melancholy and strange–it’s just up our alley.

Bessel, Eric Angelo – “Visitation” – [Lore City]

humana   5/24/2023   12-inch, A Library

The liner notes written by Bessel himself are a perfect description of how this ambient music sounds: as if you are looking up through the depths of the ocean, watching the sun’s rays filtering dreamily through the water. Bessel composed and arranged these songs and played the mellotron that on some tracks (especially on Side B) make you feel as though you are present in some church or space where reverence is as natural as the sounds sifting through your ears. Dream on.

Sankat Mochan Sangha – “Shivaratri: Offerings from the Sankat Mochan Sangha” – [Sri Ram Publishing]

aarbor   5/24/2023   CD, International

Shivaratri is “the night of Shiva” it falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva who was married to Parvati on this day. People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. At Mount Madonna they celebrate Shivaratri for 24 hours. The celebrations include pujas and singing. These 2 CDs capture the devotional energy of these celebrations. AArbor

Dragon Disc 2 [coll] – [Worm Interface]

aarbor   5/24/2023   12-inch, A Library

An early Worm Interface release that Goodwrench undoubtedly found in an obscure place. Tom Jekinson (Squarepusher) offers 2 memorable track here along with two from “Dunderhead” (Nigel Smith) – his debut as it turns out. Jenkinson is better known – perhaps deservedly. AArbor

Bodikhuu – “Tokyo” – [Farsi]

aarbor   5/24/2023   12-inch, Hip Hop

Bodikhuu lives in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and creates hip hop in his home with “the luxury of my own privacy and space”. This is his newest release which is about Japan – which he has never visited. “I wanted to portray the ’80s Japanese atmosphere through my style… it represents the tremendously busy lifestyle of Tokyo – subway stations, roads, towers, factories, monotonous and lonely lives of people in it. Even though I have never been there this is my way of saying that I have seen the place. All the samples come from city pop, j-pop, Japanese jazz & funk music”. Don’t miss! AArbor

No Visitors – “100,00 Years” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   5/17/2023   A Library, CD

Amplified Vestibular Neuronitis

More Like a hundred thousand ears… bleeding collectively into a haunted missile silo. Many varied sounds, abstract and without meter; layered perversely that growl, pierce, screech, thump, whine and drone. Weaving between moderately uncomfortable to thoroughly unnerving and intermittently is absolutely appalling; the latest release from No Visitors is a solid candidate for album of the year in the weaponized sound category. Leaning into the suffering, however, has elicited a mild psychedelic response for this miserable volunteer.

No Visitors is one Matthew Turner, the driven entity behind Rural Isolation Project and currently is avoiding whngr’s attempts to explain his aberrant behavior and motivations in a Mayhem special. Why won’t anyone fucking talk to me?!

Austin, TX – 2022

Panfilov, Misha – “The Sea Will Outlive Us All” – [Miraaz Records]

Albion Moonlight   5/17/2023   12-inch, A Library

This album may be best described as underwater space music. Consisting of 9 sea-themed instrumental tracks, Estonian multi-instrumentalist and composer Misha Panfilov and his small cohort delve into the nexus of electric lounge, psych jazz, ambient, and a little bit of surf. Ranges from soothing and dreamy to more defined grooves. Nice touches with the Mellotron and Wurlitzer. Maybe we are skating at an underwater roller rink?

The subtitle of the album says ‘Musical patterns by…’ , and Panilov incorporates patterns heavily into his music. A couple of the tracks sound like there is a human voice but it may just be the sounds of sirens beckoning you to a watery demise. Stay a while, dip in your toes. Favorite tracks: #2 (dreamy) #3 (groove) #5 (dreamy) #6 (surf) #8 (catchy) #9 (most orchestrated – wurlitzer?).


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