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Music Reviews

Music From Saharan WhatsApp [coll] – [Sahel Sounds]

karma   9/23/2022   12-inch, International

I’ve been a fan of the record label Sahel Sounds for a while now. They brought to the global stage excellent artists such as Mdou Moctar. They have outdone themselves with this latest compilation. In 2020, the label invited artists from the Sahel (southern Sahara) to message them songs via WhatsApp. They released 11 EPs of Saharan WhatsApp that year. This album includes selections from each EP.

The tracks were almost always recorded at the artists’ homes, on budget and “obsolete” phones that cost less than dinner at Olive Garden. The tracks are raw, unbalanced (some have less “sound mixing” and more “whatever the phone’s mic could pick up”) and full of background noise (in one track there’s definitely a conversation in the next room) – but this is an intimate link to a wild, innovative music region full of tradition and experimentation.

My favorite track is by Veyrouz Mint Seymali, who is trained in Mauritanian classical music. Honorable mentions go to the love song by Amaria Hamadalher (of Les Filles de Illighadad), griot traveling bard music by Oumou Diabate and Kara Show Koumba Frifri, social commentary by Bounaly, and traditionally nomadic Wodaabe rock by Andal Sukabe.

Lattimore, Mary & Growing – “Gainer” – [Silver Current]

cinder   9/23/2022   12-inch, A Library

Mary’s a harpist who resides in Los Angeles, while Growing is an ambient drone band that’s been around for years, originally from Olympia, now in Brooklyn. Unsure how this collaboration came about, but it’s fantastic. Floating in the heavenly golden trimmed clouds, with lush waves of undertones and glorious droned harmonies. Side A wafts in such a comforting way, it sounds like the track itself is breathing. Goosebumps and butterflies. Side B showcases Mary’s harp playing beautifully.

Sigh – “Scorn Defeat” – [Peaceville Records]

whngr   9/21/2022   12-inch, A Library

Early Black / Avant-garde / Doom Metal / Thrash with Dungeon Synth, Classical Piano, Harpsichord (?), flute (?), and other enigmatic behavior adjacent to Death Metal from this Japanese three-piece.

This album predates the well beaten tropes of Black Metal and would fail to slide easily into any categorization in any decade. Originally put out on cd by Deathlike Silence (this release wears a dedication to Euronymous on its back cover), it has been pressed and repressed in dozens of iterations over the last nigh on thirty years while remaining relatively cvlt. The influences are apparent, Venom, Celtic Frost, Mozart, Mayhem or Gore perhaps, but this album veers aggressively into and through so many different genres it is likely to be ignored or dismissed by both the purist and the poseur. Many varied compositions with even more varied instrumentation, it isn’t blindingly fast or technical (except the dizzying piano passages), nor is it sludge, it isn’t “lo-fi”, it isn’t satanic (it does, however, allude to the wrathful side of the Buddhist pantheon), and it isn’t even in Japanese (all tracks are in a relatively well pronounced [but not “clean”] English [no FCC’s]). Though it might be “cold” and “grim” at times, it can be flowery, delicate, and atmospheric as well. It also benefits from a slightly quaint quality, so young and fresh of corpse-paint laden face were they, and though Sigh would go on to much more flamboyant and progressive albums, this one (their first full-length), is stretching to find its voice, fingers curling around an identity, in an effort to establish itself with wildly different tones and moods while somehow remaining at its foundation, Black Metal.

Sigh is helmed by Mirai Kawashima (bass, keyboards, vocals) which began as Ultra Death in 1989. “Scorn Defeat” was recorded with two of his cohorts, Shinichi Ichikawa (guitar) and Satoshi Fujinami (drums, percussion) and would make up the core of the band, though Fujinami would abandon the drum throne in 2001 and take over bass duties. Also of note is the early photograph (inner sleeve) of “Shinichi” in full Black Metal regalia by some unknown lake, in broad daylight, nestled in some little park somewhere near or within the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, with a flaming glove held aloft while wielding a katana, harkening back to a fledgling, far more underground, and perhaps more innocent BXM scene. 

Tokyo – 1993

Tuba Skinny – “Some Kind-A-Shake” – [Self Release]

aarbor   9/21/2022   12-inch, Jazz

Tuba Skinny is a jazz band from New Orleans. For over 10 years the band has evolved from a loose collection of street musicians into an ensemble of excellent players dedicated to bringing the traditional New Orleans sound to audiences around the world. Their range of musical influences is from spirituals to Depression-era blues, from ragtime to traditional jazz. Their sound evokes the musical heritage of New Orleans. Their loyal following likes their distinctive sound, their commitment to reviving long-lost songs, and their live performances. This release is from 2019 and is primarily ragtime and traditional jazz. Instruments: sousaphone, trombone, clarinet, cornet, alto sax, banjo, guitar, percussion. Some of their other recordings include a washboard (frottoir). AArbor

Big’n – “DTS25” – [Computer Students]

Max Level   9/19/2022   12-inch, A Library

This Illinois hardcore-math-punk band was around throughout most of the 1990’s, unbeknownst to me. Here is the 25th anniversary deluxe 2-LP reissue of their ‘Discipline Through Sound’ album and it’s surprisingly great. Record 1 is the original LP, recorded by Steve Albini so you know it’s going to be satisfyingly loud and sharp. Record 2 contains demos of the songs and some outtakes, and tracks from a split EP they did with Oxes. Solid playing throughout. One of my first impressions was that Big’n sounded a bit like US Maple would sound if you owed them money and they came to your house and slapped you around. Then I found out the guitarist is USM vocalist Al Johnson’s brother. So there’s that. Speaking of vocalists, the singer in this band is the epitome of full-tilt throat-wrecking mayhem. These are love songs about doubt and torment and misdirected passion. Add to that some angry yet precise guitar, bass, and drums and… man… this thing rocks hard. Super hard. Turn it up!

Ulthar – “Providence” – [20 Buck Spin]

whngr   9/14/2022   12-inch, A Library

Lovecraftian themed technical Death Metal three-piece execute their demented crawl through a deranged gauntlet of sonic malevolence with considerably complex arrangements and deranged psychedelic and doom elements. Frenzied and precise, many of the medium length compositions plough through more notes than centuries Cthulhu has slept. Do colors exist at hyper speed or do they melt like the mind of a lunatic in the presence of the Old Ones? Does the syrup fail to drip as winter descends on New England?

Members of Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Vale, and Vastum among others.

I was initially drawn to this release by the cover art by one Ian Miller who captured my youthful but critically scarred heart when I fell under the spell of the table-top strategy war games of Games Workshop in the late 80’s and inspired and corrupted me further into the decrepit realm of the Chaos Legions. He was an incredible influence on my developing brain and an excellent match for this album, which in my opinion, would be more than suitable aural backdrop for a hardcore miniature painting session. 

 Oakland, CA / Alexandria, VA – 2020

Surreal & The Sound Providers – “True Indeed” – [Abb Records]

cinder   9/7/2022   12-inch, Hip Hop

Jazzy hip hop raps from some crate diggin’ dudes. The Soul Providers are a duo (Jason Skills & Soulo) that hailed from San Diego, citing Gang Starr and the Native Tongue Posse as influences, although I get major De La Soul vibes as well. They collaborated with emcee Surreal for this release, back in 2006. Great storytelling lyrics that seem uplifting and happy, almost wholesome but not like, dorky. He’s not getting gansta….in one song he’s talking about his life and it seems he found God, but it’s not an overwhelming theme throughout. The beats are jazzzzy and sick! Fun rekkid! 

Watkins / Peacock – “Acid Escape Vol. 3” – [Freaks]

cinder   9/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

Jolly-ful playful rhythms layered over a locked beat. Synth kittens on the keys and head knodding knob twiddling squirrels. Psychedelic electronica trips. Flickering MIDI sequencers. An improv duo, usually recorded all live in studio, no dubs. Zachary James Watkins (Black Spirituals) & Ross Peacock, who met in Oakland and started recording together. Excellent!

Sangare, Oumou – “Timbuktu” – [World Circuit]

aarbor   9/7/2022   12-inch, International

Oumou Sangare is from Mali and well known for her feminist views. This is her latest release (2022). She visited the U.S. in 2020 and got caught in the COVID lockdown. She decided to stay in Balitmore, bought a house and started writing and recording songs for this album. From the U.S. Sagare sings words of praise and caution to the folks back home in Mali, especially its women. Sangare has been rising above setbacks for most of her life. To help her single mother – abandoned by her father – to make ends meet, she sang in the street to raise cash at the age of 5. Sangare went on to win a pre-Kindergarten singing competition and embarked on a career that saw her touring the world. Now she is an iconic performer and successful businesswoman who owns hotels, businesses and a car company in Mali. Accompanied by a chorus of vocals and traditional African instrumentation. Sangare creates a sound that sounds ancient but lives comfortably today. AArbor

Papir – “7”

carsonstreet   9/5/2022   12-inch, A Library

Papir might be the ultimate expression of the Danish creative soul: distinctively modern, deceptively minimalistic, and stylish yet understated. Papir follow their own road map, creating music with little interest in playing to the masses or catering to a specific genre. The band’s output has varied from epic psychedelic guitar meltdowns à la Earthless to sweeping, reverb-drenched soundscapes…  Many aspects of Papir’s music seem to have much in common with the sea – be it a willful association by the Copenhagen-based trio or not. Their output moves in waves, sometimes fierce and blustery, sometimes gentle and calming, but always performed with unforced, organic talent.

Jo Rad Silver – “Social Moment” – [Akka & Beep Beep]

karma   8/24/2022   12-inch, A Library

Jo(nah) Rad(uns) Silver(stein) is a DJ from Detroit. His description of his music on bandcamp has more dashes than a Western Union in the 20s. Some of these descriptors border on incredulity or are satirical (I don’t hear much Klezmer in this album, let alone ambient Klezmer), but this is definitely left-field house. Jo Rad Silver is based out of the Motor City and has the industrial, teutonic feel of Detroit techno. The tracks are electronic without the kitsch seen in many other techno and vaporware tracks. Silver isn’t afraid to show all sides of techno. Silver aims to take you on a journey through this album. Though gradual increasing complexity in the tracks and the creative yet subtle use of minor keys, he talks about how, after isolation, the moment to be social is now. Or whenever you want.

Kingdom of Not – “Music from the Heaven on top of Heaven” – [Self-release]

Mister S   8/20/2022   12-inch, A Library

KINGDOM of NOT is BUDD UNDERWOOD & THE SLOW POISONER 

12″ Vinyl

Released April 2022

For a moment, suspend disbelief, and imagine you are in a room with a number of the following characters:

Tiny Tim / “Weird Al” Yankovic / Ann Magnussen and Kramer of Bongwater / Spinal Tap / Tim Burton / David Lynch / David Byrne / Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh / Flaming Lip’s Wayne Coyne / Camper van Beethoven / Carl Stalling / Damon Albarn. 

This album may be the result of such a composition of individuals and performance enhancing substances… or not. Musically satirical, lyrically clever. With delivery full of puns and fun! Poppy-silly-demented get your goof-on and kook out rhythms. 

 

Faceless Entity – “In Via Ad Nusquam” – [Altare Productions]

whngr   8/18/2022   12-inch, A Library

Low fidelity atmospheric Black Metal dirges from the Netherlands.

 Cold, grim, cvlt. Murky. Wailing, bellowing, shrieking. Forlorn caterwauling float above the primarily low to mid tempo marches that conjure imagery of forests cloaked in impenetrable shadow, spectral figures lurking in the periphery, and hollow stares from legions of cursed skeletal remains. Bookended by sullen guitar intro/outro tracks to chill the marrow on wicked nights lit by ghoulish lunar crescents enshrouded in ominous fog.

Little is known about this mysterious three-piece (perhaps now a duo) though there was a tour with Dödsrit and Lamp of Murmuur that included this year’s Roadburn Festival in April of 2022.

Somewhere in Holland – 2017

Radiophonic Workshop, The – “Possum” – [Room 13]

whngr   8/18/2022   12-inch, Soundtrack

Beautiful and melancholy score to a surreal film that employs sound as an intrinsic element of plot development, has more suspense stuffed in its creepy leather bag than story that is able to be followed, and a direct link to an important pioneer of electronic sound production, one Delia Derbyshire.

Both minimal and lush, meandering and terse, conventional and nonconventional instrumentation, there are several aspects of this soundtrack that exist in stark contrast but all of them contribute to an experience that is eerie and unsettling, perhaps most notably is the incredible variation in volume. Long quiet passages that pulls the listener/viewer in, so hauntingly austere that one might soften their breath to catch the delicate nuance before a subsonic rumble begins, synthesizers swell briefly and culminate in a piercing stab of feedback or (if you’re lucky) a brief snippet of reversed (possibly antique) analog tape potentially soaked in fox blood. Keep your eye on VU and finger on the fader. It’s going to get hairy for dj’s with sensitive proclivities. Or just let ‘er rip, but know this, if it sounds good and is just peaking into the red… it is very likely about to clip severely, with malice aforethought, potentially harming your unsuspecting fragile (especially in headphones ) tympanic membranes. Our listeners will be fine, but you my dear, are perched precariously on the precipice of aural trauma. Proceed with caution. For the record, this is even more true for the film whose protagonist mumbles quietly just below coherency… unless he is whimpering in pain which sadly, is not represented on this bizarre double LP.

What is represented are sounds donated from the Delia Derbyshire Archive to The Radiophonic Workshop for manipulation and inclusion on the soundtrack of this extremely strange and slightly challenging film. Derbyshire is best known for her work with The BBC Radiophonic Workshop on Dr. Who and more specifically credited with the creation of  (though she did not compose) the highly recognizable and light-years ahead of its time theme song. Which is, perhaps intentionally, though to a lesser degree, true for Possum; playing either A1 – “Verse 1 And Main Title” or D9 “Opening Titles (Early Mix)” will result in a simple yet hauntingly familiar sounding theme akin to Goblin or Fabio Frizzi.

Also of note is the unnerving insert containing a nursery rhyme from the film that was, for this miserable volunteer, perhaps more disturbing than the film itself. Imaginations being what they are…

Golem Mechanique – “Nona, Decima et Morta” – [Ideologic Organ]

puplaif   8/17/2022   12-inch, A Library

Golem Mecanique is Karen Jebane, a French songstress, composer, and sound artist. Through her music she aspires to transcend herself and listeners to another time space. She takes a minimalist approach to her compositions, incorporating her voice, drone box, a pedal or two, and in the case of this album, organ. Marion Cousin makes a special appearance, contributing vocals and harmonium. 

The album title features the names of the Three Fates, the mythological goddesses who determine human destiny, lifespan, and allotment of suffering. The lyrics appear on the back album cover, and suggest the full on embodiment of the fates through these two, side-long pieces. This sacred music puts listeners in direct communication with these faded goddesses who lurk, waiting to lure you into a state of meditative half sleep. 

At first impression it’s a bit eerie, but if you allow yourself to let go and immerse your senses, there’s an unexpected comfort to be found in the drone’s womb-like pulse and the soft, elongated vocalizations. 

pressed on clear, crushed blackberry vinyl.

american “Violate and Control” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

atavist   8/16/2022   12-inch, A Library

american are a duo out of Virginia who prefer not to capitalize their name. In this 2017 release, their mix of vocals, stripped-down guitar, and industrial-adjacent precision recalls recent efforts to take vestiges of the black metal format and stray well outside those bounds. This is territory that has been explored in recent years by projects like Loss of Self, Botanist, and Liturgy, among others. The track “Bedsheet Ossuary” is an early standout. Climbing, yearning, but ultimately bleak, like cresting a slag heap only to find a plain of ruin stretching to the horizon. They’re willing to go shoegazy (“Forever a Wicked Form”) and dabble in pure noise (“Submission Psalm”). They can also lay down a riff and drive the fuck out of it (“Amorous and Subdued”) before spiraling into dissolution. “Ischemia- The Longing Agony” features a 911 call of a child reporting the suicide of her brother. They even throw a Godfleshy doom-tempo track in for good measure (“Defecting Ways”). I hear a bit of Unsane in “I Am Thine Enemy”. Save room for the staggering, reeling defeat of “Paradise Again”. One LP, several ways to ingest your gloom. 

Smith, Steven R. – “Spring”

carsonstreet   8/10/2022   12-inch, A Library

Steven R. Smith is the man behind projects like Hala Strana, Ulaan Khol, Ulaan Passerine and Ulaan Markhor, but also makes music under his own name. Active since the mid-90s, Smith has recorded a staggering amount of work, and every release is as good as the next. Joining Smith on Spring is Gareth Davis, the Amsterdam-based bass clarinetist and occasional collaborator of Machinefabriek, Merzbow and Elliot Sharp. The restrained interplay between Smith (on guitar, piano, percussion etc.) and Davis create a warmth and intimacy. Relaxed drone like ambience. Recorded at Worstward Studios, Los Angeles, December 2019 – May 2020.

Diverse – “Jus Biz” – [Chocolate Industries]

Mister S   8/7/2022   12-inch, Hip Hop

12″ Vinyl

2004 Release

Produced by Madlib

DJ Norman Rockwell Side A

DJ Sapien Side B

Great beats and samples in the Madlib tradition. Vocal tracks contain FCC’s, DJ’s beware. Favorite track is Beyond, Beyond from the b-side. 2nd favorite is also on th b-side, the instrumental track from Beyond, Beyond. Dig it!

Ruin Lust – “Ruin Lust” – [Psychic Violence]

whngr   8/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

N.Y.C. Death Metal

Furious gnashing teeth, tar paced passages, and catastrophic detonations of primal focused vigor. Deep wells of suffering and ability from members of Yellow Eyes, Morhoraam Atta, Vanum, Mróz, et alia. Bellows, gallows, wails, and snails’… pace… progression. Some pinch harmonics on track B1, “Skin Hunger” that doesn’t enthuse this volunteer but the composition is varied and interesting enough that I am willing to allow it… this time. And though I tend to prefer the onslaught/optimal carnage passages to the glacially paced doom element, I do appreciate the contrast. I can get behind a slower-than-everyone-else and faster-than-everyone-else ethos on a single 13 minute side-long track… that also culminates in a glorious atmospheric locked-groove. 

All FCC’s, if they do indeed exist, are entirely unintelligible.

New York – 2013

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