KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Emanon – “Count Your Blessings… ” – [Shaman Work Recordings]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

This SoCal duo drops ideas about how dropping ideas can change something. Not exactly a new hip hop angle, but MC Aloe Blacc comes across as pretty fresh and DJ Exile does interesting things with beats, so this 12″ is worth a spin. “Count Your Blessings” is as much reggae/toasting as it is hip hop/rapping. Bouncy and good. We get two versions of “The Reasons” , with the same lyrics on each but completely different backing tracks. The first version has a seasick-sounding keyboard that gets on my nerves. The “Remix” version has much cooler sounds and beats, with strange little sonic touches. Side B is all instrumental versions of the Side A tracks.

Blank – “Duden ” – [Eventuell]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

240 locked grooves on this LP, with 6 groups of 20 on each side. Blank is a trio of Frankfurt-based experimentalists who chopped up some of their recordings into sound bites, then cut those fragments into locked grooves on this 12″. Guitar strums, keyboard twinkles, feedback roars, electronic manipulations, percussive hits, etc? the record seems to be split roughly in half between “musical” sounds and bursts of noise. I checked out every one of the 240 tracks here and came up with some favorites, and I encourage you to do the same. Use them as music beds, play them solo for zen-like repetition, or mix with other locked grooves. By the way, this 12″ was originally constructed to be used by Blank themselves as instruments in live performance, each guy having his own copy to play around with. I’d love to hear the cool music/noise that must result when they do that.

Ballast – “Sound Asleep ” – [Profane Existence]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

Thrashcore quintet crying out against the crushing oppression of modern society. Similar at times to fellow Canadians Submission Hold, but Ballast has a narrower, harder focus; more screaming in the vocals, louder guitars, and more constant violence in the bass/drums. I tend to like hardcore songs that have brief slow intros before all hell breaks loose, and there are a couple of those here. Between songs, there is only the briefest of pauses before the next assault is launched. One word review: Incendiary.

Iota – “S/T ” – [Rockadelic]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, B Library

This late 60s-early70s outfit was not well-received in their hometown El Paso, TX. Local clubs and radio didn’t know what to make of their bare-bones psych-rock. “Too dark and disturbing” was a common complaint regarding their sound. Lack of local support caused them to move to Memphis, and then, unfortunately, to break up after a couple of years. They put out two singles, which appear on this LP, but all other tracks have been unreleased until now. Nothing hugely innovative here, but some decent bluesy guitar/organ heavy rock.

Pine, the – “S/T ” – [Into the Hurricane]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

Wow! Melodic speed-pop-core from this Bakersfield quartet. Overall sad tone and emotional lyrics in front of a Husker Du blur of overdriven guitars and crashing drums. A couple of quieter moments on Side B, but other than that it’s one hard-charging song after another. The singer is probably an acquired taste, but his voice adds an unusual element to the sound and I like him just fine. Play this!

Ocs – “Songs About Death & Dying, Vol 3 ” – [Yik Yak]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

Second effort from local act OCS (formerly Orinoka Crash Suite, now possibly Orange County Sound?). Musical whirlwind John Dwyer brings us meditative blues-pop, often sung in falsetto, accompanied by spare strums on electric guitar. Gone are the noise elements that were present on the previous CD by OCS. Here the quiet blues-pop gets an assist from Patrick Mullins, who adds low budget drumming and electronics. This goes a step further than bedroom recordings, sounding to me like bedroom closet recordings; cheap equipment at low volume producing a muffled result. Not all songs are about death and dying, however murder, drug overdose, and suicide do show up in the lyrics. Enjoyable, a bit disturbing, a nice change of pace for your radio show. Mastered by Weasel Walter. Excellent Roxy Music joke on the insert sheet.

Need New Body – “U F O ” – [File 13]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

NNB’s second release features spazzy jazz-rock, played with demented energy. Piano and drums figure heavily throughout, but also plenty of other keyboards, percussion, horns, banjo, electric bass, electronics and chanted/yelled group vocals. Tin Huey, who blazed some of this same nutty trail 25 years ago, came to my mind immediately. There are songs about body parts, a lost pen, going to the beach, and there are some “found” vocals too. The free-association rambling on “Red As A Bone” is wonderfully warped. Evidently there is some type of personnel overlap between NNB and Bablicon, another of my favorite energetic spazzy jazz-rock outfits.

Carter, Tom & Bassett, Marcia – Zaika – [Eclipse, No Cat] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

Tom Carter (of Charlambides) and Marcia Bassett (of Double Leopards and Hototogisu), two guitarists with very personal styles, team up to prove that there’s no I in drone. Released in September 2005, this album contains four lengthy improvisations, two on each side.

Given a superficial listen, this music sounded spacey or cosmic. It made me think about how when galaxies collide they sometimes get even more beautiful. But listening more carefully revealed something very earthy and grounded, like hearing old field recordings from the early 20th century broken down to their individual phonemes and reassembled.

The two guitarists complement each other beautifully throughout the tracks. Sometimes they play notes microtones apart that beat against each other, or one note sustains while the other arpeggiates or does something extramusical. Other times they hover somewhere over the boundary between music and noise.

Listening to this release will make you feel like you are being chased by a very lazy St. Elmo’s fire.

–Hunter Gatherer

Soil Bleeds Black, the – “Mirror of the Middle Ages ” – [The Fossil Dungeon]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, A Library

Self-described Medieval Music. Dead serious. TSBB’s sound is built of flutes, pipes, vocals, hand drums, guitars, dulcimers and a touch of organ. The material –some of it composed recently, some of it from the last couple of centuries, some of it profoundly ancient– draws from a deep well of pagan, sacred, occult, and folktale sources. They’re all here: peasants, high priests, alchemists, and storytellers. A dismal arrangement of “Ring Around The Rosey” confirms its origins as a child’s rhyme from the time of The Plague. Just the thing for your Saturday night/ Sunday morning Black Church gathering.

Nao Wave Revisited [coll] – [Man Recordings] – (45 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/30/2005   12-inch, International

This is a follow up to the excellent Nao Wave: Brazilian Post Punk 1982-1988 collection that we added to the library earlier this year (A/CD). It is also released by Germany’s Man Recordings.

On this EP four tracks from the Nao Wave compilation are remixed and reworked by four European electronic artists: The Glimmers (Belgium), Munk (German), Tim ‘Love? Lee (England), and Marco (German).

The artists take what they want from these songs, editing them with an eye on the dance floor. The resulting sound is familiar and strange, retro and futuristic at the same time. Thanks to Man for finding these recordings and showing that they are still relevant.

–Hunter Gatherer

Antennas Erupt – “Magical Energy ” – [S-S Records]

Max Level   12/28/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Crazy skronkadelic material from this Sacramento quartet with an unusual sax/sax/cello/drums lineup. Even though the music is completely wacky –imagine a circus parade led by a rainbow-colored clown jalopy towing a dumpster full of sax-playing chimpanzees– it’s easy to hear what good players these guys are; they’re as comfortable with the tightly arranged sections as they are with the freaky free jazz parts. While the saxes dominate, the cello pops up now and then to remind us it’s there. I like the drummer a lot, he’s loose but kicks plenty of butt. Tracks are mostly in the 4 to 6 minute range. The final track (B3) is 11 minutes long, including a silly sax line repeated for 3 or 4 minutes at the end, and afterward there’s about a minute of silence before the run-out groove. I read on the label’s website that this group broke up in late 2004. If so, this limited (500 copies) edition LP is a fine way to go out. Glad we got one.

Leprechaun Catering – Kumquats and Lychees – [Heresee & Ehse] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Baltimore’s Leprechaun Catering is comprised of Jason Willett, Tom Boram and a shitload of electronic devices. And they live together! Just like The Monkees! This album was released in early 2004. Only 300 were made, but we managed to get one.

The album starts out with a semi-normal funky guitar rhythm. A synth joins in, and before long everything is dismantled. Electrons are ripped from their atoms like wings from a fly. The nuclei that remain are pulverized into quarks. Inside the quarks are multidimensional vibrating superstrings. The question becomes How does one mic subatomic particles?

The music is cacophonous in a humorous, good way. Synthesized sounds and samples are looped and set against each other. Then the whole thing is left alone to work itself out. It’s the electronic music version of intelligent design. If the music thing doesn’t work out, these guys could make a fortune selling cell phone ring tones.

Inside the album is a lyrics sheet, even though there is no language on this (except for a few words at the end of the Kumquat side). Feel free to declaim the lyrics in a loud voice as you play this, but make sure the microphone is off.

Scientists believe that in approximately 20,000 years humans will have evolved the ability to understand and appreciate this music. It will be several tens of millennia more before humans have the physical capability of dancing to it.

–Hunter Gatherer

Brunn, Benjamin – Music Under Pin – [Bine Music] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Released in June 2005 by prolific electronic musician and trained civil engineer Benjamin Brunn, this is one of at least three releases from him this year. The album has 4 new tracks on side A and on the other side 4 tracks from his previous album Konig und Drache remixed by friends and labelmates Move D, Scanner, Thomas Touzimsky, and Wendt.

Mr. Brunn is definitely of the ‘less is more? school of music. The songs slowly build by adding electronic squiggles and beats that fill in various frequency ranges. It sounds deceptively simple. A little glitchy and not very dancy, the music is sort of like being bathed in warm radiation that raises your cognitive abilities as well as leaves you with a nice tan.

The remixes on side B are busier than the tracks on side A but retain the warm feel. Tarmac gets a nice groove going. Cool Ist Hier is my favorite track because of its shimmering beauty.

This is our first Binemusic addition to the library. I hope that we can add more soon.

–Hunter Gatherer

Theus, Fats – Black Out – [CTI Records] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, Jazz

This is the first release by tenor sax player Fats Theus. Originally released in 1970 on Creed Taylor‘s CTI label, this album was quite hard to find until it was re-released in 2000. Mr. Taylor also produced this album.

Session players include Grant Green, who plays some excellent guitar, Hilton Felton and Clarence Palmer on organ, Jimmy Lewis and Chuck Rainey on bass, Idris Muhammad on drums, and Eddie Moore, who plays a saw solo(!) on Bed Of Nails.

This album is all about soul-jazz. It’s heavily blues and soul influenced. If Booker T and the M.G.s went to jazz camp every summer in their youth, this is what they might have come up with.

The various players have opted for a smooth and mellow sound rather than cutting loose. The over all feeling is restrained and even respectful, sort of like music played when a talk show breaks for commercial. I found myself wishing that they would throw down at least a little.

All instrumental.

–Hunter Gatherer

Bey, Faruq Z. W/Northwoods – “Rwanda ” – [Qbico]

Max Level   12/28/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Gorgeous, earthy, unhurried Mother Africa jazz here, deep and dark, mysterious yet reassuring. Sax/flute master Bey leads a superb group of like-minded story-tellers; together they bring forth a kind of ancient knowledge I can’t begin to understand. Long journeys unfold before us? our guides are bass, drums, saxes, flutes, bass clarinet, and vibraphone/marimba. Along the way we meet shenhai, zola phone, and bone guitar. Night comes in and spirits visit and we are at peace.

Rogers, Lee – Sock Some Love Power To Me – [Soul-Tay-Shus Recordings] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/27/2005   12-inch, Soul

Lee Rogers (1939-1990) is a soul singer from Detroit who never strayed far from his gospel roots. (Don’t confuse him with KSFO morning man Lee Rodgers.) Soul-Tay-Shus Records (part of Tuff City Records) has re-released 14 of his tracks that were originally released on 45s.

The majority of his career is covered in this compilation. The earliest tracks ’64-’66 were released on D-Town records. Later releases (’66-’69) came out on Wheelsville and Premium Stuff. On the back of this release I indicated the labels, date, and which side the track was on as best I could find out.

Proud of his roots as a gospel singer, Mr. Rogers said in an interview that the only difference between the singing he did in church and the singing he does on his records is that he wears a more expensive suit when he sings on his records.

These songs have a much rougher production than the tracks of a certain other Detroit-based label, and the sound is much more authentic as a result. On some of the D-Town singles, the instrumentals were recorded ahead of time and when Mr. Rogers would come in from touring he would record the vocal tracks separately. The instrumental track would be played over the loud speakers (no headphones in Detroit?), which would bleed through the mic as he sang. It gives these tracks a muddy sound, particularly noticeable at the end of You’re the Cream of the Crop (A4). These tracks clearly weren’t recorded with posterity in mind.

The highest charting single here is I Want You To Have Everything, which hit #16 in Jan ’65 on the R&B chart. This is the slickest track on the album. I prefer the more raw sounding Love For A Love (A3) and How Are You Fixed For Love (B1) and in particular the horns on ‘I’m A Practical Guy (A1). All tracks are short; the longest one is 3:02.

–Hunter Gatherer

Harris, Eddie – “Electrifying Eddie Harris, the ” – [4 Men with Beards]

Max Level   12/25/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Tenor saxman Harris (1934-1996) and his classic 1966 Atlantic instrumental date, reissued in 2001 by 4 Men With Beards/Rhino. “Electrifying” refers to his pioneering use of electronic devices to enhance the sound of his instrument. But the enhancement is fairly subtle by today’s standards; just a thickening of the tone, no wah wahs and crap like that. That came later. Here the band is funky, in that familiar ’60s soul/jazz/groove/cowbell-boppin’ way, on “Sham Time” and the hit “Listen Here”. The two “Theme” tracks are slow and pretty. “Spanish Bull” is a stab at Coltrane’s new modalism. Harris produced a handful of popular things in about a 10-year stretch and didn’t do a whole lot afterward. So what? This record is cool and it’s good to have it back.

Earthmonkey – “Audiosapien ” – [Beta-Lactam Ring Records]

Max Level   12/25/2005   12-inch, A Library

Deep, trippy excursions from Nurse With Wound alumnus Peat Bog. As Earthmonkey, he brings forth long, semi-droning, meticulously-assembled sound constructions. Intriguing textures are combined, phased, echoed, and looped; musical patterns repeat hypnotically; an occasional jazzy sax or wah wah guitar drops in. Also in the mix are children’s voices, backwards stuff, Middle Eastern hand percussion, harmonica, drum machine, throat singers, a million mysterious sonic fragments of who knows what… Assisting with this magnificent madness is NWW colleague Steven Stapleton, and possibly a few other folks as well. Among the tracks are 14 and 18 minute pieces.

Waldteufel – “Heimliches Deutschland “

Max Level   12/24/2005   12-inch, A Library

Strangely beautiful and beautifully strange. Markus Wolff (drums, vocals, lyrics) and Annabel Lee (violin and accordion) perform songs and recitations, all in German, based on Northern European myths and sagas from centuries past. Well, I read an article that says that’s what the songs are about anyway. Accompanying Wolff’s vocals are simple percussion, rough-edged violin, far-off horn blurts, and the like. Guests add percussion, flute, various sounds, etc. Quite an exotic listening experience, evoking singers and storytellers gathered around a fire, in a clearing in a deep dark forest, about 500 years ago, telling tales of great battles and the like; however, it was recorded in Portland OR in 1999-2000. So a nice job of transporting the listener.

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