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Music Reviews

Bergheim 34 – “Sechstrack ” – [Klang Elektronik]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, A Library

Beyond the ol’ 1-2 of techno and taught post-
rock Tortoisology come Bergheim 34 (actually
it’s the street address of their recording
space.) Germane German elektroniks sprouting
in some fresh directions : the wrist-decoder
vox of “take my soul”, an elongation of time
feel to “minor throne” & “new ground”, the
digital stompometer unveiled on “the spy who
dubbed me.” Solid circuit tekno roots include
pitch-wheel glides, the cowbell patch, and
everyone’s fave : the synth’d hand-claps. Add
a point for a Steely Dan ref.
Boot-gaze over glazed beats?

Gustafsson, Mats – “Education of Lars Jerry, the ” – [Xeric]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Eight-legged solo album of “that can’t be
a sax” sounds. A baritone barrage of audio
amazement: rocket launcher pfoots, morse
code mouthings, tone scraping baboonery,
filtered yelps, foghorn flutter, scrawing
(don’t know what it means, but I heard it)
sustained train brake whistle…and on.
Cool valve-popping exploding percussive
sounds throughout. Always inventive and
engaging, recorded with more dark reverb
than a Pole LP (and lot’s of Swedish body
English on that horn). Rec’d in splendid
spider-fi!

Valvola – “Teenagers Film Their Own Life ” – [S.H.A.D.O.]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, A Library

Italian slow-mo espionage psych. The synths
have a squishy bloopiness, that you just
can’t digitize. So quit trying…goddammit..
…and enjoy this. Lyrics sung(and swallowed)
in English over friendly, familiar melodies.
Bathed in lava lamp electronics, reversible
drums, reverbed guitars. Not a lot of frenzy
coming out of Firenze, this is a relaxorama.
“End/Exploring the City of Ghosts” clearly
stands out with some fine pan craziness.

Drake, Nick – “Tanworth-In-Arden 1967/68 ” – [Anthology]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, Blues

A bootleg album of home-cassette recordings
that probably should never have been made,
but then Nick Drake probably should never
have left this earth so abruptly, so young
and by his own hand. So we’re dourly blessed
with these 18 sparse solo selections. (Well
“All My Trials” actually features his sister
gently chiming in with him) The warble of
the tape (even bleeding through faintly at
times) add to the haunting quality here. I
remain amazed at the gentle quality of Nick’s
voice masking such a troubled soul.

[coll] The New Music [RCA]

Hunter Gatherer   8/23/2005   12-inch, A Library

In 1967 the Rome Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruno Maderna, recorded four atonal, serial, and/or aleatory works. Ignore the Fresh-Air-esque middlebrow notes on the back of the record sleeve and just drop the fukkin’ needle.

The four pieces:

Kontra-Punkte (Stockhausen, 1952) – It sounds like music being built from the ground up. Tones are clustered into molecules of sound called a ‘group.’ Tone, length, timbre are set against each other to give a feeling of conflict and restlessness. (Name drop! ‘I’m friends with the nephew of Frederic Rzewski, who plays piano on this recording.)

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (Pendercki, 1960) – Originally called 8? 37″, this piece starts off like those annoying THX promos they play before a movie. But then you are softened up with a light pummeling by blocks of string sound. This gives way to a dreadful silence that gradually fills in with ashes and embers of sounds scraped from string instruments. One last whack with a sound block sends you on your way to side B.

Available Forms I (Brown, 1961) – This piece is partially composed by the conductor because he can pick from events on the score in any order. I think this piece is about a big amoeba that keeps eating instruments it can’t digest. Or maybe that’s a book I read to my kids.

Rimes pour differentes sources sonores (Pousseur, 1959) – This is my favorite one. Here we finally get some electronic sounds from our electronic pioneers. Natural sounds are fixed up with electronically processed sounds by a mutual friend and wind up taking a white noise shower together on their first date. The second section, more of a coda really, has two sextets with brass and woodwinds scraping up against each other until they both disappear.

–Hunter Gatherer

Boom Bap Project, The ?Rock The Spot? [Rhymesayers Entertainment] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

The Boom Bap Project are MCs Karim (a.k.a Nightclubberlang), Destro Destructo, and DJ Scene. From Seattle, they are part of the Oldominion crew. This 12″ single was released in anticipation of their latest full length entitled Reprogram.

Each side contains a 1-clean, 2-street, 3-instro, and 4-accapella version of a track.

Side A: In Rock The Spot, BBP want you to know (1) that they are here tonight to rock the spot and (2) that they are adept at their hip hop craft and (3) that they are from the Pacific Northwest. It’s energetic hip hop that pays tribute to its roots. Produced by Jake One.

Side B: Wyle Out brings in ringer Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. The beat lopes along, almost comically, punctuated with a hook from a brass section. Mr. Gab lets fly with a stunning barrage of words that somehow rhyme and fit together. I can’t listen as fast as he can rap, so I have no idea what the text means. Check out the acapella version (B4). Produced by Vitamin D. Impressive.

A2, A4, B2, B4 – language
–Hunter Gatherer

Hezekiah ?Soul Music? [Soulspazm] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

This is a 12″ hip-hop single by Hezekiah – not the 8th century B.C. king of Jerusalem who banned idol worship, but rather the 31 year old MC/DJ/producer who grew up in rural Delaware and now lives in south Philly. This single was released 3/15/2005 in anticipation of his debut full-length release titled Hurry Up And Wait.

A1: The first song, Soul Music, is just the thing. It features Eleon singing soulfully, almost mournfully, in a baritone that ‘everybody needs a little soul.’ The singing is contrasted nicely with Hezekiah‘s beats and rapping.

A2: Next up is a remix of the previous song by Phase One, making it much funkier with falsetto singing, references to Soul Power, call and response, and of course grunting.

A3: My Life is way over on the R&B side of the R&B-hip-hop continuum. Also featuring Eleon‘s soulful singing, it has the over all mood of yearning or searching. ‘You got questions/You need answers,? say the lyrics. It gets a little Star Search-y at times for my taste, but it’s definitely worth a spin or two.

B1, B2: Instro versions of A1 and A2. A2 has vocal samples, so don’t use it as a bed. Focus on the beats and enjoy.

B3: Bonus beats! Called Three Crates Of Porn, it grooves and grooves then stops very abruptly. Very nice.

All tracks are clean!
–Hunter Gatherer

Exile w/Slum Village ?Time Has Come? [Sound In Color] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Released on 4/22/05, this is a 12″ hip-hop single by LA’s DJ Exile (1/2 of Emanon) and Detroit’s Slum Village. The 2nd song features Blu.

The first song, Time Has Come, has a nice R&B feel with a bouncy piano, hand claps, and a touch of who’s-that-lady guitar. The rap is a reminiscence of growing up poor (‘drinking cherry Kool-Aid from a mayonnaise jar?) and fatherless.

The second song, Soul Provider, is straight-ahead hip hop with a self-aggrandizement rap by fellow Sound In Color artist Blu. He compares himself to Dolemite and brags about the number of back seats (?) he has seen. I can’t figure out what the crazy sample in the background is – the Three Stooges going whoop whoop whoop? Muskrat Love? It’s a mystery.

Both tracks are clean! The B side is an instrumental version of the A side. Enjoy.
–Hunter Gatherer

Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities 1968 – 1974, Volume 1 [coll] – [Now-Again Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, Soul

All hail Egon (nee Eothen Alapatt) for compiling this collection of rare funk music from the late 60’s and early 70’s and putting it out through his offshoot of Stones Throw called Now-Again. This is the official follow up to The Funky 16 Corners collection (which we have in Soul/12″). He also put together the compilation Third Unheard – Connecticut Hip Hop ’79-’83 (which we have in Hip Hop/CD).

Sadly this double LP didn’t come with the 28-page booklet of liner notes promised on the web site. (I’ll steal one from Amoeba the next time I go there, since that’s where I got this copy.) For brief bios of the bands, you’ll have to go to http://www.stonesthrow.com/nowagain/artists.htm

The sound quality is excellent, which sets it apart from most other funk compilations. But more importantly, the tunes are all smokin’ and funky as you might expect. Check out in particular the mellow middle section of Free Your Mind by Amnesty (A2) and the cover of War‘s Slipping Into Darkness by the Dayton Sidewinders (B3), and the alternate extended jam take of Mr. Chicken by The Soul Seven (D1). Most of the tracks were recorded in that hotbed of Funk known as the Midwest (OH, IN, MI, NE, KY) and a few were recorded in AZ and TX. It’s always interesting to hear the different local sounds.

Judging from the rarity of these tracks, maybe we should send Egon to Iraq in search of WMDs.
–Hunter Gatherer

T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo ?The Kings of Benin: Urban Groove 1972-80? [Soundway Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, International

This album is a compilation of songs from the prolific but obscure West African band T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo. They have been going strong for over 40 years putting out over 50 LPs and 100 45s, but this release focuses on the years 1972-1980. Some notes on their name(s): The T.P. stands for tout puissant, or all-powerful in English. You can find them filed under various suffixes as de Cotonou Benin (pronounced be-NIN or be-NEEN), de Cotonou Dahomey (the colonial name for Benin), or just de Cotonou (the capital of Benin).

The 13 tracks on this release cover a wide range of styles, combining Afro-beat with Latin, Soul, Psychedelic, and Funk influences. The rhythm (or rhythms) of most songs is complex but generally comes down on the 1, making the music instantly accessible. Once the band settles into a groove the horns punctuate it, guitars noodle and jam with it, and vocals (in French, I think) shout into it.

It’s music for when the air-conditioning in the Master studio is busted. Perfect for summer!

If you liked the Love’s A Real Thing collection (International/CD) added a few months ago (these guys did the title track), you will certainly like this album. Drop the needle anywhere and funk out.
–Hunter Gatherer

Shepp, Archie – “Things Have Got to Change ” – [Impulse C/O Mca]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Archie Shepp is the man. Smart, soulful, a stirring player
nd here leader). This album has two that really stoke the
fires, and one more sparse electronic mediation between them.
On the title cut, there’s some pretty early use of noisy
overloaded electronics percolating beneath the chanted
mantra that if you blur your ears almost sounds like “Space
is the Place.” You’ve also got LeRoy Jenkins sawing away on
his violin, James Spaulding’s flute dances through the flames
as well. A true *battery* of percussion drives this pressure
corker to pop. And pop it does as Shepp drops some gas into
the mix on the second half…an elevating melody comes in
towards the end, but Shepp rises again with a solo, and the
album ends in locked groove of Romulus Franceschini and
Donald Cooper going galaxian eternally. As ruling as that is
“Money Blues” is where it’s at. It starts with an almost
whispered chorus, as if folks are politely watching the
clock at work….but it quicky rises in tone and demand.
Thus we get 18 minutes of payday, with Joe Lee Wilson as
union negotiator and vocal labor leader…but it’s the
Shepp family (backup) singers and deep brass bump-bump
Bump-BUMP that give this a Motown-like 1-2. Add in other
solo spirals and an avalanche of drums.
Cash this one in often…

Rother, Anthony – “Art Is a Technology ” – [Stahl Industries]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   12-inch, A Library

Marching arpeggios, smeared siren horn synths, dark and thick
like the Fog… Rother delivers a commanding audition tape to
take over John Carpenter’s soundtrack work. Percussion is
silent to subtle here, instead it is the repetition of those
simple crawling/cycling notes and occasional forays into
half chord down-tempo drift that propel this beauty and the
beat. Pitch-shifting every once in awhile to change lanes
and pass sections. There’s a wind tunnel that envelopes you
on the second cut on the second side. Rother maximizes his
minimal approach…good glacial gaseous whooshes slide
through the rapturous repetitions. And the tone is consistent
and dark. They’ll be playing this in churches in fifty years
during the moment the true but truly flawed believers reflect
upon their sins, their many sins. -Snake Pliskin

First release on a new label run by Rother to boot!

Mcgregor, Chris – “Brotherhood of Breath ” – [Akarma Records]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Chris McGregor grew up in South Africa and made his first mark on jazz as a member of The Blue Notes, a racially-integrated band that combined traditional African rhythms with the free improvisation of American jazz. Unfortunately, that band was forced into exile, along with other notable South Africans like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, during the tumultuous apartheid regime of the 1960’s. Relocated to London, McGregor began to emulate one of his musical heroes, Duke Ellington, by forming his own big band, a large ensemble that included members of The Blue Notes along with some of the best ‘free jazz? musicians Britain had to offer at the time. This 1971 release is the first recording by McGregor’s large ensemble, dubbed the Brotherhood of Breath, which continued to tour and record throughout the 70’s and 80’s with a revolving cast of characters. Side One of this record features three compositions of medium length, two energetic ensemble pieces bookending a quieter middle section that focuses on a smaller ‘jazz combo? sound. Be sure to check out saxophonist John Surman’s highly impassioned contributions on the third track, ‘The Bride.’ Side Two delves even more deeply into the band’s African roots, starting with a lively foray into township swing, followed by a 20-minute improvisation that sounds like Sun Ra if he’d come from South Africa instead of Saturn. The final track is a quick but sprightly march, driven along at jazz tempo. All in all, an auspicious debut for McGregor’s Brotherhood.

Dutch Breaks – “Nou Break M’n Klomp ” – [Da Real Beatdigger Recs]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

When you’re ready to hone your turntablist skills on the 1’s and 2’s, you could find a lot worse than this collage of obscure battle breaks and beats from the Netherlands. According to the label, this is the first volume of a trilogy focusing on Dutch vinyl rarities from the last three decades, done up in a hip-hop mix-tape style. Occasionally you’ll hear a few snatches of American tunes like ‘Crimson and Clover? and ‘Oh What a Nite,? but mostly it’s a mixture of euro pop, rock riffs, funky breaks, musical instruction records, easy listening, and other thrift store sounds, all thoughtfully sequenced and ready for your scratchin’ pleasure.

Ramjac Corporation – “Analogue City ” – [Irdial-Discs]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

Irdial-Discs will probably forever be known as the label that gave us the CONET Project: an amazing collection of recordings from short-wave ‘numbers? stations. But they’ve also released some stunningly beautiful techno records, like this rare 12″ from the Ramjac Corporation. ‘Analogue City? is an 11+ minute instrumental of dubby electronic goodness that sounds as fresh today as when it was first released in 1992. And ‘Baby Got Soul? may well have been the first modern recording to use samples from Alan Lomax, as the prison work song featured here predates the first Little Axe album by two years. A timeless techno classic.

Smm Vol. 1 [coll] – [Ghostly Interntional]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

The ‘SMM? series from Ann Arbor’s Ghostly International intends to explore the more ambient/ethereal side of techno music from the Midwest. First up on this mini-compilation, Twine’s ‘Gliding In On? combines some languid guitar with electronic noises that will convince you your stereo is about to die. Next, Kiln brings us more of their pastoral techno, sounding a bit like Boards of Canada having brunch at the Penguin Caf?. Side B delivers two atmospheric tracks from Kosik, about whom I know f*ck-all, and wraps things up with a rather crunchy/industrial-sounding remix of Kiln by Mifune. Looking forward to Volume 2!

Triosk, with Jan Jelinek – “1+3+1 ” – [Scape]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

The intersection of electronics and jazz is THE most interesting musical vertex for me: thawing out the iciness of digital technology with the warmth of human improvisation and real musical chops. Australian band Triosk was formed around just such a mission, and they discovered a kindred soul in Germany’s Jan Jelinek via the latter’s ‘Loop-finding Jazz Records? release. After taking some samples from that album and working them into their own original compositions, Triosk hooked up with Jelinek himself to swap tracks and collaborate on original material via the mail. ‘1 + 3 + 1? is the result of that collaboration. If you’re a fan of the Tied & Tickled Trio or Isotope 217, you’ll probably dig these guys, too. It’s delicate, late-night music for smoky bars, or for home listening in the wee hours of semi-consciousness. Just let the music wash over and around you as you start to nod off?

Ghana Soundz Vol. 2 [coll] – [Soundway Records]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, International

Soundway label boss and musical archaeologist Miles Cleret comes correct with another outstanding collection of funky, obscure sounds from 1970’s Ghana. It’s hard to pick out favorites on a collection as rich as this one, but I’ll give it my best shot. First up, there’s the previously-unreleased and criminally-short ‘Olufeme, – an Afro-beat love song from Oscar Sulley, who’s making his return appearance here on Volume 2. On a jazzier tip, you’ve got guitarist Ebo Taylor, also returning from Volume 1, this time with the track ‘Atwer Abroba.’ Next, Ebo Junior gets even funkier than his daddy, with some help from Wuta Wazutu, on ‘Mondo Soul Funky.’ One of my favorite keyboard sounds, the Farfisa, shows up all over this compilation and features prominently on The Sweet Talks? ‘Kye Kye Pe Aware.’ Highlife makes a token appearance on ‘Aboagyewaa? by K. Frimpong & Vis a Vis, though it’s a strikingly unusual and moody take on the genre. The fourth and final side of wax brings us a classic James Brown funk workout, courtesy of The African Brothers? ‘Sakatumbe,? and Marijata’s enthusiasm on ‘No Condition is Permanent? appears to be quite a challenge for those African VU meters in the recording studio. In a market seemingly glutted with Afro-funk compilations, let us pause and give thanks to Mr. Cleret, who continues to unearth and expose some of the most valuable music never heard outside of Africa. Please sir, I want some more!

Harper, Billy – “Capra Black ” – [Strata-East]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Texas-born saxophonist Billy Harper had played with many of the greats (Gil Evans, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones) before recording this first album as a leader in 1973. Influenced heavily by Coltrane, Harper was part of the ‘black consciousness? movement in jazz, which fueled such artist-owned labels as Strata-East in New York, Tribe Records in Detroit, and Black Jazz in Chicago. This session for Strata-East features an all-star cast, including George Cables (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Julian Priester (trombone), Billy Cobham (drums), and more, including a special appearance by drummer Elvin Jones on the track ‘Sir Galahad.’ One of the quintessential traits of this strain of jazz, the vocal chorus, is featured prominently on the two tracks from Side Black, linking the music to its roots in gospel. The equally-important blues influence shines through clearly, as well; just check out the track ‘New Breed? for evidence of that. All in all, an impressive debut from Mr. Harper. Interesting bit of trivia: Harper’s next album release was BLACK SAINT, inaugurating the label of the same name, which is still active today.

Notwist, the – “Lichter ” – [Alien Transistor]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

The Notwist present music from the film ‘Lichter,? directed by Hans-Christian Schmid. This film, made in 2003 but not yet distributed in the U.S., weaves together several different stories of life near the Polish/German border. Immigration troubles, petty thievery, jealousy, and betrayal are just some of the day-to-day travails explored by the film. This soundtrack EP presents four different variations on a musical theme from ‘Lichter,? all very minimal and haunting, with heavy emphasis on Sebastian Hess? cello. Martin Gretschmann (aka Console) takes up remix duties on one of the tracks, resulting in a more electronic, beat-driven variation. All tracks are quite compelling and no doubt a wonderful accompaniment to the film.

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