This is a very pleasant sounding release from Smoke Bellow, whose primary members composed this music in a backyard shed after they traveled to Melbourne from Baltimore. Although they felt isolated (thus the name of the album), the electronic tunes on here are fairly upbeat, and the voices, though echoey at times, sound imbued with wisdom gained from being in isolation. They have since returned to Baltimore and added a band member. The final track is my favorite with its flute and horn sounds.
This is an unreleased performance recorded at Slug’s Saloon in New York in July of 1972. It’s pretty incredible that, even though Sun Ra left this earthly plain in 1993, his words, music, and compositions continue to reverberate through time and space. Vocalist June Tyson recites the lyrics to “Astro Black” over the backdrop of “Discipline 27-II”, followed by a call and response between Tyson and Sun Ra set to the horns and instruments of the Arkestra. The vibe is mellow and accessible. The liner notes are a must-read as they describe Sun Ra’s connections to Egypt, the sun, and the cosmos.
Consistently beautiful, minimal compositions of guitar, awash in cavernous echoes. Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0))) provides guitar, and François Bonnet (who also works under the project name Kassel Jaeger) pursues studio manipulations of those sounds. The effect is tranquil but brooding, the slow unfolding of night shadows, wind howling on lonely mountaintops. The last track is distinct from the others due to its more assertive use of keyboard drones. Its title means “steps in the ashes”, and one can picture a film where a survivor steps out into the light of a ruin and considers a broken future.
Marja Ahti is a Swedish electroacoustic composer working in Turku, Finland. We’ve come across her work before, both from her solo project Tsembla (reviewed here and here) and from her collaborations with Kemialliset Ystävät. On this 2019 LP from Hallow Ground, the first release under her own name, Ahti draws inspiration from a quotation by the French surrealist writer Rene Daumal where he describes the inner workings of an animal – its structure, its metabolism, even its blood red color – as the inverse of that of a plant’s: the animal is the “vegetal negative.” Ahti explores these ideas – form, energy, color – with her palette of sounds. Tones made with analog synthesizers provide rhythmic patterns, field recordings of natural and manmade environments manifest energy, and carefully played bowl gongs and a harmonium exude warm washes of color. There’s also instances of inversion, as the synths imitate organs (T4), or as ocean recordings find their echoing alien counterpart (T1). Each of these four works rewards close listening, strengthening their pull on your awareness from the inside out.
A compilation of “Deep Soul”* (soul from America that never found a wide audience in America) selected by the late Dave Godin, a UK Record shop owner and soul music enthusiast who coined the phrase*. There are a few familiar names on here…Irma Thomas, Ruby Andrews…other than that, mostly artists new to me, including some artists that there is little to no info on. Love and pain, both political and personal can be found on these recordings spanning the years of 1966-1973, which as we know was a time of turmoil and big change in this country. My personal standouts: A3, A4, and the first three tracks on side B, which cook!!
A trippy reworking of Solange Knowles 2016 critically acclaimed album, A Seat At The Table, by KO (aka LA based Producer/DJ/ Rapper, Dominique Purdy). These side-long mixes could technically be played as one really long mix with actual cuts from the album it was drawn from spliced in…or you can just drop the needle. You hear bits of Knowles vocals, spoken dialogue from the original album celebrating black pride & culture– while highlighting history & racism, and plenty of delicious looped beats. He has even taken her original cover art and added the signature wolf mask that he wears when promoting and performing as KO. He considers this work homage to an album that, while on the periphery of the mainstream, (she is the younger sister of “Queen Bey”) has been celebrated as Avant & an alternative deep modern soul masterpiece. If this grabs you, definitely check out Solange’s full album and subsequent work….This album sends that message.
A brooding murderer’s long-form psychedelic foray into spooky spirituality on this, his less than poignant and most recent contribution to society. Sultry dated white-man blues/riff-rock in the key of Dad with the kind instrumentation you’d expect from someone who has spent the bulk of his life trying to conjure mentally the Santana concerts he would never be able to witness in person with a heavy emphasis on guitars, bass, synthesizer, simulated (counterfeit) traditional Indian music, and his own smokey convict voice. This double l.p. is dressed to kill in a fancy jacket to commemorate the end of any kind of shame or remorse one might hope to find from a former drug fueled sex-cult member serving a life sentence within the Californian and Oregon prison systems. Former Manson “family” member Bobby BeauSoleil was given the death sentence for stabbing his friend and fellow “family” associate Greg Hinman to death at which time, according to Manson, had initiated “Helter Skelter,” his borrowed title for his prophecy of an apocalyptic race-war in which his followers would survive (and ultimately reign over humanity) by finding a hidden golden city buried in the desert of Death Valley. However, that didn’t happen and the lot of them were collected, incarcerated, and after the media circus left town mostly ignored. What did happen was his sentence was commuted to life in prison and after getting stabbed a bit he would eventually sever ties with the “family.” Then, with the help of a small splattering of celebrity and a collaboration with outsider film-maker Kenneth Anger, he would be able to continue recording his own trippy brand of Jim Morrison inspired (though considerably less talented [at least towards the beginning of Morrison’s career] and inebriated. Say what you will about Morrison, J.M. had massive gobs of whatever B.BS. dreams of having]) brand of introspective grooves utilizing musicians hand-selected from a cadre of his fellow inmates with impunity and often the support of prison officials. But Bobby won’t ever give up on the dream maaan! Nothing was going to stop BeauSoleil from his destiny of attempting to slay some sweet riffs on his guitar and pontificating rather tastelessly on his pseudo-spiritual journey. While wanky, trite, self-absorbed, and certainly morally questionable, Voodoo Shivaya still has a few descent hooks, and some “killer”(coughs in hand) jams. It is also a kind of time-capsule, like if a spooky hippy-biker with nothing but time (and blood) on his hands recorded himself in the late seventies with modern mics, computers, and instrument modelling(?) but without originality, virtuosity, or much if any tact.
Two to three minute bursts of lo-fi, Satan-worshipping black metal from Eureka, California (though originally from Norway). The record starts with an interesting, quiet intro, vaguely ominous, nearly pleasant. But everything after that charts a descent into the defiled pit. Wreathed in filthy guitar tone, a spectral distortion cleansed of its soul. Sometimes the drums come in really high in the mix—some tom strikes achieve a separation so as to be disembodied from the band. In this lineup they still had a bass player, and at best he adds a bit of thickness to the din. Super washed-out vocals are the right sound for this maelstrom. If side A isn’t suitably lo-fi, switch to side B, which is all rehearsal versions, including rehearsal versions of tracks found on side A. The guitar tone here is more of a common noisy variety and loses some of that “spectral” quality noted earlier. It’s clear that they just went through the set, playing each track in succession, so it’s a cool approximation of a live recording. The last track is the filthiest of all, like it was recorded by a single mic going into a Radio Shack tape recorder. The cymbal crashes just clip out completely. This is a heavy dose of sickness.
Horrifying wails buried in industrial dissonance. Solo project of one Murice “Morie” De Jong, maniacally prolific (Mystagogue, Black Mouth Of Spite, The Sombre, Golden Ashes, Obscuring Veil, Cloak of Altering, De Magia Veterum, Caput Mortem, et al, ad nauseum) Dutch musician and demagogue of disorder and decay, whose singular aspiration seems to be illustrating sonically the scope and breadth of human suffering. Drone, synthesizer, spite, choral guttural chanting, cudgels embedded in palates, shimmers, wrath, obscenely tight “tom” strikes, misery, white noise, horror, deranged booms, and anguish. A recoiling from all things benevolent and yet there is also a kind of grandeur present as well. Like a priest who was well trained in the language and practice of venerating God, who knew the price he payed when he chose to bathe in goats blood and spew heretical vitriolic blasphemy towards the kingdom of heaven and his holy Father. Rejecting the promise of eternal rewards in the afterlife to bask in the raging trash fire that is humanity. Noise elements abound and while at times quite harsh can offer an interesting and sometimes slightly soothing texture over one of the most notable aspects of this album; its “percussion”. Devastating blast beats, crushing snare drops (flams from heaven), plodding and lurching drum terror that reminds this wretched volunteer of the project The Body which is further reinforced by the guest vocals by one Chip King on track B1 “The Doctrine Of Paranoid Seraphims”. A terrible feeling of personal reckoning is represented on this delightful L.P. wrapped in a fittingly colourless and appealing(appalling) jacket.
A compiltion of modern experimental music from South America.
Artists from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia & Venezuela build on tradition, using cumbia beats, folk flutes, and exotic latin rhythms. But the focus is purely modern, with synthy instrumentation, electronic beats, and soundscapes. Everything is very creative, playful and highly listenable.
These tracks were originally released on a larger compilation from the Argentinian Papaki records, which is available online in the Free Music Archive. The original album featured 38 artists across two volumes (both cassette). Discrepant out of the UK focused things down to just 12 tracks and released on vinyl.
A1. Space age synths and binaural Peruvian flute.
A2. Electro-cumbia. Dancy and hypnotic.
A3. Shimmering day-dreamy guitar. Heavy on the echo.
A4. Digital congas and saw-tooth slaps and lazer zaps.
A5. Hyper latin rhythms and surf guitar. Reverb-hour approved! Wish it was longer.
A6. Concret sound exploration. Blissful drones mix with crunchy loops and aquatic scraping sounds.
B1. Distorted pop debris. Distant, scratchy and beautiful.
B2. Solo percussion drips and drops. Rhythms appear, evolve, and return to emptyness.
B3. Folk drones for horns and percussion.
B4. Whistling flute and marching-band drum groove.
B5. Thumping bass-heavy electro beats with spanish spoken-word.
B6. Abstract digital cosmic soundscapes.
From days of yore comes this charming dramatization of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast set to Mendelssohn. Intended for children, there are illustrated pages with the story printed on them. I remember listening to stories on vinyl in my childhood, and it did me good to listen to this one as an adult. There’s a lot to be said for the aural experience.
Oakland’s Cell Rot released this deput LP just over a year ago, and now it’s time to bring it to the KFJC airwaves. Recommended for heavy rotation: this is well-built hardcore flecked with metal, completely enraged and death-obsessed. The album basically drops into full speed after the introductory track and doesn’t relent. Drop in, spit your pain and disgust, repeat. Tracks are short and to the point. The vocals are furious and consistent throughout, finding that balance between control and abandon. That description could apply to the instruments as well: the band is tight without sounding uptight; they hit their marks with enough confidence to allow reckless performance to inflect the outcome. The record is so consistent that any track will do (look out for a couple FCCs). Well, except for the intro, which really is an intro, consisting of just a vocal track and brooding, ominous guitar feedback, and leads immediately to the following track. Playing both “Intro” and “Born Into Pain” could be a nice choice, and that will still only take 2:29 to play. Tracks are typically threaded together with walls of feedback—in other words, there aren’t clean breaks between tracks and you’ll have to rev up to 33 quickly when cueing (plus cut away quickly to your next track at the end). The last track, “No Redemption”, is a great way to close out the record, and might be my early favorite.
MZ.412, the Swedish black industrial project fronted by Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk, commemorates “30 years of death” with this 2018 album. Nordvargr is by now a towering figure in extreme music, having built his reputation over the decades with his countless projects – Folkstorm, Toroidh, Anima Nostra, among many others – and as one of the flagship artists of the legendary Cold Meat Industry label. With MZ.412, Nordvargr and his collaborators, here Drakh (Jonas Aneheim of Beyond Sensory Experience) and Ulvtharm (Jouni Ollila), work with elements black metal, martial industrial, and noise to forge a new form of dark magic. On Svartmykr, the first MZ.412 release in 12 years, the trio conjures Helheim, the Old Norse realm of the dead, and its master, the goddess Hel. The gateway to the underworld opens with soaring choruses, thundering drums, sweeps of strings, fearsome vocals, the wrath of Hel herself; a vision so vast that it loses definition, dissolving into blackened noise. Hidden within the darkness is a spirit’s wolven voice on “Helblar” (T5), a treacherous sea of icy waves that rise and fall on “Ulvens Bleka Syster” (T6), and, when the waters recede, the beautiful, despairing guitars of “Burn Your Temples, True Change” (T7). The last three tracks return to the massive sounds: the violent upheaval of “She Who Offers Sorrow” (T8), the powerful declaration “We Are Eternal” (T9), and the blazing light of stars in the album’s final moments (T10).
Ramleh have been honing their craft, off and on, for 37 years. When the band reformed in 2009, they set out to work in both the power electronics sound typical of their early days and with a more straight-up bass-guitar-drums rock sound. With this double LP we hear a variety of sounds: droney electronics, straight-up noise rock, indignant vocals with understandable lyrics, fuzzed out drum machines, and meandering guitars. Despite this eclecticism, Ramleh manage to carry a sonic theme throughout. (The lyric themes and the track titles—Futureworld, No Music For These Times, Your Village Has Been Erased—are easy enough to thread together.) The sound trends dark but isn’t unrelentingly dark. Favorite tracks: D3, D1, A1
A1. Big, oceanic synth sounds and textures. Brooding bass portends doom. Drums provide a light touch. Instrumental. Towards the middle of the track, things start to pick up. Tempo, guitar complexity. This long track is somewhat different from the rest of the album, but again, there are sonic themes, a mood in the sound, that can be traced throughout.
B1. Driving drums and bass. Vocal element. “Virus synths”. They take a theme and ride it hard, which is perhaps another way of saying it’s borderline repetitive. Towards the ends there’s a bit of a freak-out noise break-down.
B2. Thick ascending/descending synth part reminiscent of Recognizers. Digital big brother perhaps? Guitar wanders in and out, but the synth drone is predominant, especially in the beginning. Instrumental.
C1. Pretty conventional-sounding rock song, complete with cowbell. (!)
C2. Ominous synths with barked vocals, a soundtrack for civil disorder and the unravelling of society. The shortest track on the album by a long-shot.
C3. They kind of jam this one out a little harder. Instrumental. Very rock and roll with dash of noise; has some psychedelic leanings, though to be sure, this is a borderline bad trip.
D1. Doomy beginning, heavy. Vaguely like early Swans. Contains the one FCC on the album (shit). After a solo vocal phrase, there’s a rousing finish. Probably my favorite track on the record.
D2. Synths and drum machines return. Spare at points. A pretty guitar sound swoops in and comes as a bit of a surprise given the pervasive atmosphere of the album.
D3. A heavy rocking piece to close this out. Thick, overdriven bass, layers of delicate guitar work. Epic, suffused with feeling, such disappointment at the way things have gone. Ultimately the song exhorts us to change course; “it’s never too late”.
The genre of Paysage d’Hiver according to The Metal Archives: Black Metal, Ambient. Paysage d’Hiver is Winter Landscape in French, and as the project is based in Switzerland, the album title, track titles, and lyrics are in German. This release, Kerker, or Prison, was originally released in 1999, and Kunsthall Produktionen has re-released it 20 years later on vinyl with fine packaging. This recording warrants a 20th anniversary. Painted with a seemingly limited palette, the arrangement of these spare elements combine to suggest a story over the course of four tracks. Elements contrast each other and occupy different sonic regions so that they are clearly discernible. It’s at once despairing and beautiful, primarily a richly textured dark ambient piece, with the last track being the closest to conventional black metal; even so, the sounds throughout are much rounder than the grit and abrasion of the most caustic black metal recordings.
A1. “Depth”. In the rumblings, the stirrings of monolithic subterranean beasts who walk in the endless night, disturbing slumbering caverns. Finally, guitar sounds resolve. Is this a ray of light in this dread catacomb? When it falls into naught, the beasts prowl undaunted. This first track blends into the second…
A2. “Steps” …which starts with a new percussive element. Their dark works accelerate unimpeded. Synths build. Glimmers of light, ephemeral, beauty has returned to do battle with the dark beasts. Guitar returns to cry into the darkness, mournful, all is lost. But the rhythmic machine passes. The beasts and the light, flickering, remain. At the conclusion, a voice emerges, confused? Tormented? Rumblings like wind, an ether, a permeating medium through which souls pass. A slow fade to oblivion leads to an abrupt end.
B1. “Shadow”. The rumblings return. Here, little alters this minimal landscape for some time, and new patterns emerge only gradually. Pulses punctuate the rumbles. Ethereal light glimmers in the unrelenting dark. That voice returns, to be overwhelmed by a new malevolence…
B2. “(Passage/Course)” …a master of darkness. In this concluding track, a driving drum machine is buried in the din of the guitar. Still the glimmering light of the synth flitters across the surface while the beastly voice prowls the sonic depths. Guitar and drums cut through the middle. It’s like the beast and the light are in the room with you an the guitar and drums are heard through a wall. The lyrics might mean, “Is this the life course? Immersed in my inner self, I am bound in the time of the universe, I go the slender course about the knowledge of the shadows”. A satisfying dissolution provides a conclusion.
These are works from faculty and students of Oberlin’s TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) School. The tracks are not too long and give very intriguing examples of electroacoustic music using electronics, field recordings of voices, sax, bassoon, didgeridoo and more. Quite unique and very good listening.
PGM – Track 3 seems to be silent.
Back on the Nordile track, Max Nordile that is (see Uzi Rash and The Trashies among other Oaklandish output in KFJC’s library). Max provides vocals and sax here, the sax he adds is nicely all over the place, skronky, slippery, sweet and multi-tracked as on “Red Tape.” He’s joined by Sam Lefevbre (Warm Soda) on drums and Alejandra Alcala on bass and also vox. In a slight way, their sound reminds me of Iconoclast as a sort of obtuse spin on the many angles of old school New York No Wave. But with Max on board, there’s a spazzy punky rant to the vocals. His voice is elastic; do muppets get drunk? Or do they hang out with Bobcat Goldthwait? Anywho I dig his “singing” but definitely it helps when Alejandra adds in some voice too. Her more tranquil spoken and sane approach helps to accentuate the wacky packages o’ lyrics. For example
“Just a nostril away” or
“Grandfather of the year very clean.”
Or on track 9 where Max and Alejandra repeatedly sing “Water Closet” back and forth to each other. And it might just be me, but my fave song “Flotilla” makes plenty of sense to me, and I’m not even a grandfather….as far as I know? Lefevbre’s drums keep the energy taught. Songs are short, fly by at 45 rpm. At times, like the instro title track, other sounds are dropped in like a plinky toy piano and trumpet, but it is really that odd take on a power trio plus the crazed cartoon vibe that make Preening keen!
The Connecticut connection that brought us the Reptile Ranch reissue has got his own modern thing going on. Apparently this came out in 2017, before that Stefan was in and on The Estrogen Highs (KFJC has a 7″). Those pop drop days though ran into more heavy weather it seems. His “solo” outing (some friends help out) has searing guitars, some brittle drums (David Shapiro) and a dour kind of aire that puts me in mind of New Zealand raw/rawk. (And I typed that *before* reading online that Stefan is indeed a big fan of the mighty Alastair Galbraith.) This whole album would sit and sound quite nicely by Galbraith’s “Mirrorwork.” Check how “Christfire” here bursts electric out of its ramshackle acoustic beginning, and perishes in raging feedback. At “8AM Sharp” we get a military firing line snare drum, with a two-chord teeter-totter guitar under a deadpan dreary diary reading. Donuts and no-quarter on the rising noose of the local news. Potential soundtrack if there’s ever a sequel to “The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik.” “Mr Marquis” shows up next, this is about as peppy/poppy as Stefan’s going to get in the Village. A big strum of acoustic guitar, with a Clean guitar line guiding his voice. Might be an ode to an old high school teacher, definitely had a different shine than most of the album. The closer “Off Minor” clocks in at nearly 9 minutes of Stefan and friends slugging out a fuzzy fury with an overcast sky, sliding a rock ballad through a Vertical Slit, at 6.5 minutes it morphs from studio to stage to jam its way down an amplifier’s throat. I dug “Christfire” and “Over Scrawl” (with some of that kinda AG backwards sounding guitar/ebow/wft beauty). That “Scrawl” bleeds on into “Silverware” so be careful….or don’t and just enjoy the ride.
This 2016 sci-fi concept album is the defining work from LA experimental hip-hop group clipping. Over the ten years of its existence, the harsh noise-meets-hip-hop trio has found unlikely fame, thanks in part to the success of frontman Daveed Diggs, who rose to international superstardom as a member of the original cast of Hamilton. His aggressive rapping is supported by the extreme noise-inspired beats of producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson.
Splendor and Misery (named for an unfinished Samuel Delaney novel) tells the story of an uprising on a space-slaveship that leaves behind a single survivor, Cargo 2331. With nowhere to navigate, he hurtles through the universe alone, saved from complete madness by half-remembered rap verses, old spirituals, and his relationship with the ship’s onboard A.I. Highlights from the space odyssey include the gospel hymns “Long Way Away” (A6) and “Story 5” (B5), the stunning reworking of a traditional slave song on “True Believer” (A8), and the violent climax “Baby Don’t Sleep” (B6). Blasts of noise, stirring spirituals, secret ciphers, hidden codes, modern references, and ancient myths are all threads in the tragic story, a struggle for freedom that transcends genre, time, and space.
FCCs: B2 B4 B6 B7
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File