Music Reviews

Black Forest/Black Sea – “Portmanteau ” – [Secret Eye]

Cousin Mary   1/12/2009   10-inch, A Library

BF/BS is Miriam Goldberg (cello) and Jeffrey Alexander (guitar). They are joined by Joe Graham (fiddle) and Miriam???s sister Margot Goldberg (phonorgan). A phonorgan is a machine that plays 45???s and 33???s and has a push button keyboard and a pitch knob for playing along with the record.

Free form ??? I hear folk, psych, and electronic music. Limited 500-copy edition. Very cool!

Free Spirits – “Presents Acknowledgement For JC ” – [Kindred Spirits]

Cousin Mary   1/12/2009   10-inch, Jazz

Dwight Trible???s vocals are rich and full and his improvisations write the book for jazz singers. Here he is working with Billy Higgins (drums) and Charles Owens (sax) on side A and members of Build An Ark on side B. Side A???s ???A Love Supreme??? is a very worthy and moving cover of the Acknowledgement section of this masterpiece written by John Coltrane. Side B???s ???A Love Supreme??? is a one-minute track that doesn???t go very far. Side B has fine renditions of Abbey Lincoln???s ???Wholly Earth??? and Bill Lee???s ???John Coltrane???.

Garland, Peter – “Matachin Dances ” – [Cold Blue]

Thurston Hunger   7/29/2008   10-inch, A Library

Live recording from 1981 up in San Francisco, that has aged
as well as these dances themselves. While it seems modern
matachin (or matachine) dances focus on shaker percussion
and steps to match, typically with large throngs of dancers,
here the sound is stripped down and isolated in sentiment.
Kicking around an emotion, rather than kicking up heels.
Garland himself on the gourd rattles here is the *background*
to the dualing violins. The strings move with elegance and
a hint of elegy. Except for the nimble closing sixth piece
and a little rush on #3, the pace is as stately as a
hand-maiden’s parlor. Garland’s compositions stir more sorrow
than dust. One violin will split off counter-harmonically to
the other and then rejoin. The piece dead-icated to John
Lennon is the most lachrymose, but it really has a lasting
beauty to it. The second dance two has a melody that sort of
falls down, and then the gourd lifts it back to its feet.
That was my favorite. All pieces are fairly short, with space
inside and between them that can lead a DJ into tracking them
which is not so bad, as they are all cut of roughly the same
cloth. Speaking of rough, I found an online recording that
had two more grizzled violins doing a matachine, quite
compelling. The dance allegedly may have colonizing roots,
so that online version might be the more indigenous weed
whereas Garland sort of recaptures and recolonizes the source.
Quite a lot to this spare 10″. -Thurston Hunger

Fun fact? One of the violinist has been concertmaster for
Joel Grey, Liberace, Dionne Warwick and Tony Bennett, so now
you’ve got to play it?

Suffering Bastard / Cock E.S.P. [coll] – [Breathmint Records]

cinder   7/11/2008   10-inch, A Library

Suffering Bastard (from Rhode Island of all places) take the A side by the balls. Brutal dual bass & drums GRIND. Short blasts leaving you with a sore throat. The tracks get more muffled as the side goes on. Unintellagible lyrics, but I’m sure there’s some fucks on A3. Reminds me of house parties in downtown San Jose. Tattoos and beer welcome.
Cock E.S.P come out of Minneapolis. A trio of electronic noise and shrieking vocals. Sounds like a chick is being shot through a water hose of damaged radio frequencies while her hair is on fire and her face is melting. I guess a Wicked Witch of the West would be a good fit. Painful beautiful scraping electronics. Last track is live (but swears at the end, boooo!)

Beequeen – “Sandancing Demos ” – [Important Records]

cinder   5/8/2008   10-inch, A Library

Beequeen is Dutch musicians Freek Kinkelaar & Frans de Waard. This is actually a 10″ featuring 8 short demos for their Sandancing album. Mostly (Lou Reed-ish) male vocals, but Olga Wallis lends a female voice on a few tracks. Other guests include Barry Gray (known for his work in the early 80s with The Legendary Pink Dots) and Kees Rietveld on guitar. Simple, mellow pop songs with a semi-melancholy feel to them. Original versions, stripped down, rough mixes, and one unreleased (B1) track!

Stott, Andy – “Handle With Care / See In Me ” – [Modern Love]

Thurston Hunger   3/14/2007   10-inch, A Library

Ahhhhhh, bass that can relocate your solar plexus. That’s the first thing
that hits you off this record. Also some Basic Channel moves, but with
a lot more space…and a lot less pace. “Handle with Care” is the happier
of the two numbers and its dub vibe is the warm aquatic variety, with some
synth-snare and hi-hat snapping like a soda can. Pop top low end drop!
There’s also a hint of mournful cathedral organ keyboard that foreshadows
the beauty on the flipside. On “See in Me” the dub moves from island
waters to outer space. Very dark, wonderfully minimal, and bleak. But the
bass is so heavy on this it might make Stephen Hawking believe in black
holes again. Deep and deeper still, it doesn’t enter your ears, it just
sort of permeates them…and your whole skull at the same time. Halfway
through the cathedral organ enters, although this time is more like
that sort of mortuary drone. Very somber, shifting gently, droning
alone. Then some isolated bass and drum for a few measures before
channeling out. Thick and thin at the same time…

-Thurston Hunger

Wooden Shijps – “Shrinking Moon For You ” – [Self Release]

Anthony Fremont   3/9/2007   10-inch, A Library

A swirling tempest of pop inflected psychedelic scourge from one of SF’s up ‘n comers. Side A takes no time to grab hold and launch into a sonic romp of repetitious forging melody and rhythmic clatter as flaring guitar weaves throughout the constant driving pulse. Side B opens with a tuneful psych-pop number with hyper-tensive keys and infectiously memorable stretched out hooks harkening back to the Spacemen 3 sound. Closing track shows an experimental drone side with recurring pulsation through oscillating electronics, spoken word and feedback loops. An all too brief voyage through this limited edition.

Fear Falls Burning – “We Slowly Lift Ourselves From Dust ” – [a Silent Place]

Max Level   2/10/2007   10-inch, A Library

Interesting atmospherics by way of Belgium. The one-man drone project Vidna Obmana also plays solo guitar as FFB. Here he performs two long drone-driven pieces completely live, direct-to-digital, with no editing or overdubs. Side A (13:57) starts with a deep, slow, stoner fuzz loop, then adds other subtle, shimmering loop activities as it goes along. The fuzz guitar fades away at perhaps the nine-minute mark, leaving us with an airy Emaj chord (think ???In A Silent Way??? by Miles Davis) to carry us home. Strangely, this side cuts off cold at the end, goes silent for about ten seconds, then returns for one final quiet chord. So it???s not quite over when you think it is. Side B (13:47) picks up more or less where the other side left off, jumping in with a similar floating, sustained chord. Although the sounds are nice, the quiet rhythmic thumping heard throughout most of this side is distracting; it sounds like a minor vinyl pressing defect, but I???m pretty sure it isn???t. Just an artful audio touch, I guess. Unlike Side A, this side really does end cold.

NV Groep ’65 – “Dank zij de Heer ” – [Grey Past Recordings]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2006   10-inch, A Library

The A-side of this 10″ EP is just amazing. Droning, sacred vocals
strafe the title track (they even shine in the dirtier demo version
on side B). Heart-breaking, staircase down chords, they even mutter
something about “Ave Maria” to accentuate the Gregorian jonesing
going on. The piece see-saws between major and minor keys and could
sound as great in a dank hall in 1965 as it could sound in a set
with Crescent today. The second track is a paean to pot (well this
was recorded in Amsterdam, where people are required by *law* to
toke ;>). Speaking of winks, evidently the lead singer was referred
to (and possibly by himself) as Jesus…and hey he didn’t even feel
compelled to kill anyone! Take note all you budding messiahs! But
anwyays the pop here, and the harmonies in three spirits are divine.
They soar on “Lost” which gallops, as the girl gallops away and Pim
Abbestee hits a few high notes and has his voice break perfectly.
At other times Pim just let’s his falsetto flag fly! Finally on
“Pipe and you like it” more smoke, and harmonies that contract and
expand. Breathe in, breathe out…and then here’s a hippie hoedown
break. Again the A-side of this is remarkably good garage with a
psychedelic Dutch door! The B-side has two Mersey toe-poppers,
“Show me the right way to find her…before I kill myself.” Ah,
sweet innocent pop, and young obsessive love. With a tambourine
that means business! A great re-release, and lengthy notes in
packaging, minus two points for labelling four tracks wrong.
Seriously, do not miss this timeless gem!!

-Thurston Hunger

Mas Rock and Roll [coll] – [Electro Harmonix]

Thurston Hunger   5/3/2006   10-inch, A Library

Just plain fun on a stick, deep-fuzz-fried and sweet. Yep
behold a musical churro. Mighty tasty, throughout. Never
taking itself too seriously, often the music sets up some
dramatic charged reverb monologue, as if it were plucked out
of a B-movie. Psycho-active garage rock, some weird ass
herbs and tape mod make things often better than the original
Yanqui roots. There are some covers here, but as with the
Cambodian and Thai comps, the best results come completely
indigenous. Still you may enjoy “A Magic Carpet Ride” dipped
in mescal (D-4), or “Baby Please Don’t Go” (C-2) with its
great twisted playout. Evidently the 5 Torquays were later
to become the Monks, but they’re not even the tops here with
their sort of Everly effort. The first four tracks on lado
uno are loaded with lardo. Greasy rumble rock, delicioso!
Check the raspy vocals of Peru’s “Los Saicos” or Mexico’s
“Los Yaki”, ruling! Surfers De Los Campeones win a ragged
drag race claiming the “Checkered Flag” with a flat-tire of
an amp. “Los Sinners” dance El Baile Final!! Annette and
Frankie ear your corazons out. Los Holys serve up swank spy
organ and shadow guitar. The last disc (os?) mutates towards
psych, but there’s great garage, pop with those old wheezy
keyboards, even Beatles inflections on the other three discs.
Really this just has the rock and roll spirit in abundance.
-El Hombre del Hambre

ultrasound & Acid Mothers Temple “In G” [Time-Lag Records]

cujo   2/20/2006   10-inch, A Library

Recorded at an Austin radio station at SXSW a few years ago, this is a half-cadencing collaborative homage to Terry Riley’s In C from ultrasound and the Acid Mothers Temple. Of course, this being a space-rocking pot-spinning physics experiment, the result bears practically no resemblance at all to In C (except for a token reference made around 4 minutes into side A). Mothers’ Higashi Hiroshi in particular gets a workout on the theremin, as does Cotton Casino on synth. They’re busy enough that the rest of the gang rarely gets more than a few moments of their own to shine, unable to bust out in fireworks of
their own. Printed on transparent 10″ vinyl with no markings whatsoever; unable to aurally distinguish a side A from a side B, I arbitrarily named the sides.

Side B: 11:00
Side A: 7:10

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

*March 18, 2006 edit: Apparently an anonymous staffer more discerning than I discovered which sides were actually A and B. Naturally, my assignments were wrong. I have corrected the references in this review.

Orchid – “Dance Tonight! Revolution… ” – [Ebullition]

Max Level   1/29/2006   10-inch, A Library

More over the top hardcore from Orchid, in my book possibly the most astonishing band ever. Short blasts of furious guitar/bass/drums power, and unbelievable screamed vocals. Read the lyrics, they’re somewhat vague but thoughtful as hell. Revolution, philosophy, love, it’s all here. The final two tracks are longer than the others and slow things down once in a while for contrast. This material was recorded in 1999; Orchid is, sadly, now defunct. I’m sure gonna miss ’em.

Man Is the Bastard / Locust – “Split ” – [King of the Monsters]

Max Level   1/4/2006   10-inch, A Library

1996 release. MITB provides three tracks of pissed-off apocalyptic ranting over harsh, ugly noise tracks, with tiny noise vignettes in between. This is part two of MITB’s “Our Earth’s Blood” series. Locust (this 10″ was their recorded debut) stick to raging thrash and crazy yelling. Both sides are classic horrorshow material.

Aranos – “Whilst Your Gaiety Melts ” – [Beta-Lactam Ring Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   10-inch, A Library

A limited release on this fearlessly experimental label. Aranos (pronounced, I believe, AIR-an-yosh), of the Czech Republic, offers two medium-long pieces. Side A (10 minutes) is the stranger of the two: it starts with bouncy piano/violin, adds some creepy crooning, then moves into a long, pulsing, echoing mass of violins. A melancholy violin solo appears, then some abstract whispering (“dragonflies! fragrant villages!” etc.) Finally, rattling percussion takes it out. Side B (15 minutes) is a soundscape thing, deep and mysterious; mostly quiet, things being bowed, rattled, etc. Very nice.

Amber Asylum – “Garden of Love ” – [Self Release]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   10-inch, A Library

Bio-fidelic biofeedback from the living dead? Amber Asylum has
always had the prettiest corpses, whether suspended in amber,
or glimpsed ghostly in mirrors, or shrouded in white water
lillies on a black river. This self-released 10″ starts of
with a cello “death” march while Kris Force’s violin gathers
overhead. Actually the morbidity seems diminished on this
aspect of the Asylum. Instead the feeling of a fantastic
dream state is more in focus. The pace is very deliberate,
as in a dream when you cannot move your feet. It quickens
a bit in sections of the “Autonomy Suite” (which has a nice
gladiator stand-off contained within it…) Eventually vox
do arrive fashionably late on the first and final track of
this three song record. On the latter, “Still Point” while
Force’s counter-vocals still soar, Lorraine Rath’s lead has
a sort of jazzy croon to them. Sort of a strange contrast
for me, but surely KFJC’ers will eat this up like kids eat
up Halloween candy. One cautionary word about that last
track, it really does hit a “still point” about 2/3 of the
way into it. We get a death knell, someone says faintly
“that sounded okay” and then a reprise of dripping piano
and instead of a violin flying above it, it’s Liz Allbee
on trumpet at first. But then the Force is with us again,
some string jags and then breathless shrieking (looped?).
Could Amber Asylum be in the midst of a sea-change, what
waits beyond the pale silence at this ep’s end?

Navies/A Day in B&W [coll] – [Level Plane]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   10-inch, A Library

Washington DC ticket, w/ promising candidate trios of Navies
and A Day in Black and White. Navies gets the top spot for
me, delivering static electricity generating rock…frenzied
tick marks along the neck of two guitars. Plus their lyrics
have more askew urgency, delivered in a sort of telegraphic
style…bursting dots and dashes. Guitar work is just rock
solid, good buzz and brittle scratch in addtion to voltage
chords. They are frenzifiers and a band to watch!!

On the flip side, ADIBAW can deliver the swing vote, voting
more down the middle of road, with a lyrical platform that
often tackles the inability to communicate. “All Plots” has
that sort of stop/start powered ballad that Speaks Canaries
to me, if you know what I mean…and even if you don’t. The
closer, “Old Songs” seems like a toss-away three-chord
monte…but the deal collapses in flaming house of feedback.

Navies make this a marbled marvel!

Khan – “Sweet Pink Lemonade ” – [Mille Plateaux]

Rococo   7/5/2005   10-inch, A Library

An ambient electro classic from 1994, courtesy of Can Oral (aka Khan) and the Mille Plateaux label. Part 1 of ‘Sweet Pink Lemonade? is a delicious 10-minute excursion into throbbing basslines, stuttering percussion, and oscillating, interweaving melodies. Flip the record over for Part 2 and you will find two shorter tracks, the first one a bit more rhythmically quirky (think Plaid, Black Dog, etc.) and the second one slightly more ambient. This lemonade may be over ten years old, but it still tastes mighty sweet to me.

Home Video – “That You Might/Dialogue Box ” – [Warp Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   10-inch, A Library

The debut release from NYC-based Home Video is a pop/electronica hybrid that fits right in with a lot of New York’s output of late. ‘That You Might? features a thudding, retro synth beat straight out of New Order and some faintly croony, Thom Yorke-ish vocals, culminating in a crescendo of electronic distortion. ‘Dialogue Box? on the flip is a little more atmospheric and electronic, Boards of Canada style, with multi-tracked, dubby vocals. Still not sure what they’re singin’ about, though!

Parker, Andrea – ” Ballbreaker/Some Other Level” – [Mo Wax]

Rococo   7/5/2005   10-inch, A Library

One of the few women in contemporary electronic music returns for her third, eagerly-awaited release on the Mo’ Wax label. Following the “Melodious Thunk’ and “Rocking Chair’ EPs, this 10” finds Ms. Parker venturing into more abstract/experimental territory with two dark exercises in electro-dub. ‘Ballbreaker’ begins minimally and rather aimlessly before being focused by a heavy, stabbing synth pattern and some skittery, Autechre-ish beats. Eventually the whole thing decomposes at the end. “Some Other Level” uses similar textures but adds what sounds like an electric bass and strings for a fuller, and even funky, sound. Like its predecessor, this track too decomposes at the end. Parker is certainly widening her palette with this release and it makes her forthcoming album even more eagerly anticipated.

Bailiff, Jessica w/the.dithering.effect s/t [Resonant] (45 rpm)

outlier   3/12/2005   10-inch, A Library

Drift and reverb drench the haunting vocals of Bailiff while echoes of spacecraft vapors fill the void. The label is well-named, waves of drone are the attendant feature on this release. A slower, hazier, Twisted Village version of Amber Asylum. Or maybe drop Kendra Smith’s vocals in on the Garbage and the Flowers (TW-Deep Funnels of Entry comp), add drone and strum, chill and serve. A very enchanting sound, not quite sirenesque, but of the earth and sky. Some sundown haze and fresh air on the ‘there’ side. Jessica Bailiff is the female half of Clear Horizon (with David Pearce of Flying Saucer Attack), no letup on this release.
– Outlier

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