Music Reviews

Major Stars – “Synoptikon” – [Twisted Village] – (33pm)

Numa   5/11/2006   12-inch, A Library

Psychedelic Riff Rock This is the 6th release from Massachusetts-based rockers Major Stars on the Twisted Village Label (They also have a record store that is well worth the visit if you find yourself in Cambridge). Expanding to include 3 guitars and a dedicated vocalist now evens the number of members out to 6. Their sound has become more dense and riff-filled as ever. This 12″ is filled with solid psych-grooves and doesn’t disappoint in that arena. In a landscape that is filled with psych-this and psych-that, Major Stars stands out with their unflinching style. Two of the six tracks are think instrumentals in which the guitars weave the overdriven fuzz to the point of breaking. The other four tracks on the album feature the vocals of Sandra Barrett formerly of LA Drugs. — Numa

Sixteens – “Fendi ” – [Hungry Eye]

Thurston Hunger   5/3/2006   12-inch, A Library

Proof that there is dancing in hell as demonstrated by this
fine EP. Kristen Louise and Veuve Pauli are going to be
strangers in whatever strange land they wind up in, having
moved from San Fransisco to Berlin, now they can stitch the
leather to their thighs, and wear their moodbeat like
industrial weather. One nation under alienation. Thoughts
barked in mangled megaphone monotone, synth squishing bugs
under a strobe flickered floor. Drum machines built long ago
behind the Berlin wall, still keep the 4/4 rhythm locked up
like the prisoner of war that it is. “Cell Schedule” has that
throaty phlangified bass that speaks across decades as well,
each of the songs knows when to reduce things down for a stark
break. This music is so well constructed to sound broken, it’s
a pleasing paradox. “Factix” is the least beat-insistent of
the four, but closes out the release with an icy, eerie riff
and some thickening of guitar and bass. A powerfule piper’s
call to the legions of disco dirge devotees trapped out there
in KFJC’s vinyl catacombs. Lazarus with a laser beam. -Hunger

Cut Chemist – “Garden b/w Storm, The ” – [Warner Bros.]

Max Level   4/30/2006   12-inch, Hip Hop

Two very different flavors here. Side A: a smooth Brazilian-flavored track, featuring traditional instruments (berimbau, drums, whistles, etc) and a little bit of scratching to give it some extra spice. The track gradually develops a big thumping beat and keeps that going until the end. Portuguese vocals by Astrud Gilberto on this one. Pretty sweet. Side B: raps by Edan and Mr. Lif over a crunchy disco beat and various sample, turntable, and electronic effects. While I usually dig DJ Cut Chemist’s beats and production, this particular track doesn’t do much for me. Side A is my pick.

Guillotined at the … [coll] – [Dionysus Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Volume Two in the ‘Shielded By Death? punk archive series brings us 15 obscure 1979-83 acts from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Lumped together under the punk rock umbrella is: power pop from The Reducers and International Q, thrashcore from The Outpatients and Chronic Disorder, lowlife scum-rock from Jack Tragic, silly punk spoofing from The Vandelz, The Not Quite, and The Foreign Objects? I particularly enjoyed the catchy weirdness of The M-80s on their two tracks. Everything weighs in at around the 2 or 3 minute mark, with the exception of the 5 minute final track. The sound quality ranges from not too bad to not so good. A mixed bag, mostly fun.

Hall of Fame – “S/T ” – [Amish Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

A hodgepodge of lo-fi styles from this NYC trio. There are droning raga-like things, found sounds, atonal jams with guitar, violin and low-budget percussion, and some attempts at real songs that have words. Sometimes this music reminds me of an unplugged version of PIL’s early material, at least in attitude if not in the actual sound; it’s not pop music, and the group probably doesn’t care whether you like it or not. I do like parts of this record, and am not quite sure what to do with the other parts. I do have the feeling, though, that the more I hear from H of F, the more I’ll appreciate whatever it is they’re trying to do.

Pelt / Lawler / Clark – “Keyhole 12 July 2000 ” – [Eclipse Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Two side-long pieces of minimal, sound-effect droning with no vocals. Members of Pelt, proud denizens of Terra Abstracta, experiment here with a couple of guests, recording live inside a strange stone structure in the wee hours of the morning. Pelt-ish soundscape-ism is distilled to its sparse essence. Sound-producing objects are tapped, rubbed, bowed, fondled, caressed… Silence looms large throughout. Nothing becomes something becomes nothing…

Wright, Betty – “Clean Up Woman and Many More Golden Classics ” – [Collectables Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   12-inch, Soul

Oh man, this just nails the battle of the sexes in all its
anguish and glory. Betty takes turns being the other woman
on this record at times, but ultimately she is The Woman.
Her voice has supreme sassiness, a little smokiness around
the edges, she sings notes all the way and when she needs
to scream, like at the end of “Lovemaker” it’ll knock the
stripes off that little zebra-stripe number she’s wearing on
the cover of this hits collection. Included among them, two
penned by Blowfly, the title track and “Girls Can’t Do What
The Guys Do.” How that set with the other “Echoes of Joy”
(Betty’s original family/gospel group), one can only imagine.
But the fact is Betty’s voice and groove, are rock solid
and thus unshakeable. Check out, “The Wrong Girl” a soul
spellbinder if ever there was, with Greek tragedy twisting
through. How about the “Baby Sitter,” a cautionary tale to
dead-beat moms complete with “Rock a Bye Baby” quoted in.
Solid soul pop from the sixties and seventies… -Thurston Hunger

Splendor Mystic Solis – “Heavy Acid Blowout Tension ” – [Eclipse]

Max Level   4/23/2006   12-inch, A Library

Psychedelic supergroup SMS recorded live July ’99 in Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis. Mainliner’s Kawabata, Nanjo, and Shimura are on guitar, guitar/vocals, and drums respectively. Along for the ride are Plastic Crimewave joining on third guitar and Sasaki of Ruins sitting in on bass. There’s one long track on side one, and two short long tracks on side two. You can’t go wrong with these three thick slabs of Speed Freakout Echo Rumble Attack. Mr. Crimewave organized the shows and is behind the release of this LP. Read the insert sheet to learn how it all came about.

Mouthus – “Mouthus ” – [Olde English Spelling Bee]

Max Level   4/18/2006   12-inch, A Library

A primeval sludge of buzzing, roaring sounds and looped note-noises, thick and blanket-like; likely by way of guitars and electronics and ‘I’m not sure what else. ‘I’m wondering if the subtle harmonic overtones were carefully positioned in the mix, or if they are the inevitable result of combining the frequencies of several incompatible drone events. They could also be just my imagination at work, which I think would be even cooler. Two sidelong pieces recorded in 2003, around 19 or 20 minutes each. The noisy single-mindedness of this NY duo is something to behold.

Mekalek – “With Percee P and Fedd Hill ” – [Glow in the Dark Records]

Max Level   4/11/2006   12-inch, Hip Hop

Two tracks from the upcoming full-length by producer/beatmaster Mekalek of Time Machine. On the P side, Rhyme Inspector Percee P (NY) hits hard with his aggressive, rhythmic, rhyming style. Mekalek’s beat is big and busy, full of keyboards and percussion, but doesn’t overpower Percee’s delivery. As if anything could. On the F side, the Fedd Hill crew (RI) shows us what time it is, in the cover photo and on their group track. Mekalek sets up a simple, moody beat giving Pone, Jahpan, and Trens lots of room for their perceptive, socially-conscious lyrics. All the pieces fit perfectly on this strong track. Track 4 on the P side is untitled and sounds like a messin’ around, behind-the-scenes thing. Track 4 on the F side is a megamix appetizer of tracks from Mekalek’s ‘Live and Learn? record, scheduled to drop on us around May or so. The mixtrack is fun to hear but probably not good for radio, being many short snippets kind of glued together.

Paperclip People – “4 My Peepz” – [Planet E Classics] (33 rpm)

Numa   4/7/2006   12-inch, A Library

Detroit Techno Sounds. Paperclip People is yet another alias for Carl Craig and another personality to showcase his many styles. This release is a reissue of a 1998 track on Craig’s label Planet E. Polyrhythmic beats lay the foundation for some funky-ass bass work that travels underwater for parts of the title track. Two versions of ‘4 My Peepz? appear on this 12″ release. The original on side A and previously unreleased version on side B running about 8 minutes. The original version is a bit more subdued that the unreleased version in that the droning keys are down in the mix. More ‘Yea Y’all’s in the unreleased version and probably a bit harder to dance to. As for the “Jerry Lewis” track, another Derrick May remix good for the ‘ol headphones. — Numa

Messiaen, Olivier – “Oiseaux Exotiques ” – [Candide]

Thurston Hunger   4/6/2006   12-inch, A Library

“Ornithologist” Messiaen not only the composer here, but
leading the recording and lending his second wife to the
piano bench. One the title piece, the birds realized here
have a wind-up quality when the more percussive playing is
invoked, but when the large ensemble sweeps in this piece
gets flying-defyingly heavy. Gongs shimmer in parts to
loosen up the wings. The main call is a three note branch
forked to step off into air. Loriod is trillingly thrilling,
evidently Messiaen’s score went to great pains to site the
rare fowl flowing through. “La Bouscarle” s Loriod solo and
has more mechanical, heavily foot-reverbed playing and
pausing at the start but settles into warm chord clouds
stacking with occasional precipitation of soft arpeggios.
Definitely avian in the use of repetiton 2-4 times of
phrases before cycling on to other sounds. Closing things
out with a “Reveil” violins now more prominent chirping
in, and ringing bell percussion. Loriod plying dissonant
half-note chordlets early on, later she’s playing very
rhythmically. Quick pluck and peck. Overall this has a
brighter coloring as would fit the sunrise of sounds in
a birdfield. Flock to this. -Thurston Birbrain

Shepp, Archie – “Poem For Malcom ” – [Get Back]

Thurston Hunger   4/6/2006   12-inch, Jazz

Time to get righteously Shepp-faced again.
Face A : A for Apoplectic Anguish. “Malcom is Dead”
bellowed out of burning lungs, Silva’s bass is almost a
Gnawa salute. It all starts off modestly enough, a slide of
slipperstrings and celebratory bells…but quickly Shepp’s
power poetry arrives, delivered in great hypertheatrics
through a mic that is as saturated as an overblown tenor.
Philly Joe Jones in on tympani!! It’s that sort of emotion
pouring out, Claude Delcloo’s extinguishing drums try to
keep the flames at bay. A snaky soprano interlude rises to
the top…wailing jagged scales. Respite and then more
fire thoughts, when I die, I want one person to feel at
least 1/100th the passionate loss Shepp is grappling with
here. Spiritual Father, Physical Mother, Redeeming Grief!
Face B : Solo pre-echo?’ Shepp’s tenor exploring alone,
cavernous, a great space for notes and runs to linger. A
distant drum rumble approaches it eventually demands a more
freefest, including Grachan Moncur III’s trombone tearing
into the melody and melee. Shepp slides in a few sonic
quotes, Philly Joe remarkable. Coronary on a kit, gigantic
drum rolls. Hank Mobley takes a turn at the wheel and deal
on tenor as Archie moves to piano. The wind up swinging
sweet as Oleo for a couple bars. Genius. -Thurston Hunger

Cherry, Don – “”Mu” Second Part ” – [Get Back]

jack soil   4/5/2006   12-inch, Jazz

Don Cherry on a myriad of instruments (including bamboo flute, piano and the ever shrill powerhouse called the pocket trumpet – watch those levels) as well as percussionist stalwart, Ed Blackwell, create part two of the MU release. Recorded one day in Paris as an expatriate type of release on BYG records in 1969, MU is a minimal, tribalistic, peyote journey. Cherry defers to his voice at times for his primary instrument. It is impossible to not imagine African and American Indian rituals accompanying these tracks. Cherry and Blackwell work well together – as if they were one in the same. The record flows well from track to track. You can tell you’ve made a jump, but at the same time, I much prefer listening to the entire set as one giant piece.


Hauschka – “Prepared Piano, The” – [Karaoke Kalk]

aarbor   4/5/2006   12-inch, A Library

Volker Bertelmann is Hauschka. His is a “kinder, gentler” prepared piano than John Cage’s, more akin to Henry Cowell’s. Cowell apparently picked the strings of his piano like a zither while Cage clamped bolts and screws in between the strings along with little pieces of plastic, perhaps some chewing gum and bailing wire too. Hauschka apparently clamps wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings and he prepares the hammers with aluminum foil or rough film. The resulting sound is minimalistic, instrumental “haiku” and a nice respite for the ears.
2 Stones + Ginko Tree are Gamelan-like. Kreuzung brings Bartok to mind. Twins, Long Walk, Morning, + La Seine sound like Debussy or Ravel, Fernpunkt could be Satie. AArbor

Mr. Bambu – “Discombobulation Ep, The” – [Organik]

aarbor   4/5/2006   12-inch, A Library

Mike Colby is Mr. Bambu a denizen of Gainesville, FL where he and Brazilio Jaxxson founded the Organik recordings label. Discombobulation was their 1st EP. It’s 4 tracks of downtempoish, playful beats. Nasty moog basslines do battle in deep space with legions of crusty samples and battalions of heavily-armed drums. He uses simple sound materials that evolve – a bit slowly for my taste. I found myself upping the speed on the A side – although 45 is a bit fast. Crabcake Delight has a moog bassline w/ a funky drum loop and a cool bassoon sample.
If you like myspace check out Bambu’s birthday cake (he’s in the picture too). AArbor

Jumbonics – “Super-baxophone Ep” – [Tru Thoughts]

aarbor   4/5/2006   12-inch, A Library

The duo of Rob Mac and Matt Smooth is Jumbonics. Jumbonics is a reference to the vintage 60s Italian Jem Jumbo organ a distinctive part of their sound. It’s kind of a collision of old and new with a ‘neo-beatnik stance’ (especially the tracks: “The World is Upside Down” + “Burn Dee” which have wordless vocals). Think hip hop roots with drum and vintage keys. A jazzy funk-fuelled tribute to the world’s discarded, outdated and unwanted electronic devices. AArbor

Yellow Swans – “Drift” – [Root Strana] (33 rpm)

Numa   3/30/2006   12-inch, A Library

Ambient Free Noise. A new release from bay-area free noise duo Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman. The Yellow Swans are ‘Drifty? with this release. Each Yellow Swans release features a new name staring with ‘D?. Drift in this release is not only another name change, but reflects the music as well. Their sonic explorations takes you on a journey through outer-space and inner-space. No obvious beat to be found here, the syncopation is an individual experience. Guitars melt into and out of the electronic buzz and unlike other Yellow Swan releases, the drum machine is hard to spot. The ambient yet industrial sound on this album is solid. Side 1 reflections: Electrons flowing along the high-tension high-voltage power lines in the desert. Sucked into the back of a 1950’s black-and-white television and blasted on the inside of the tube. Licking the Wonka Wallpaper while being cut in half by a table saw. Trees felled as twilight falls. Side 2 reflections: Travels through a sunspot radiation storm. Floating, gentle, and melting. — Numa

Schwartz, Damian – “Arena En Los Zapatos” – [Apnea Records]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Dami’n Schwartz first came in contact with techno and electronic music at age 15. Now in his early 20’s he likes to develop multiple musical concepts often using surprise, jazz, harmony and melody as elements in his solo productions. Jazz seems to be a prominent influence in his DJ sets. These 4 tracks are warm, friendly and very listenable, so do! AArbor

Blaktroniks – “This Is Your Drug on Brains” – [Reflective Records]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Blaktronics is supposedly the branch of Physics that deals with the behavior of free blaktrons. The sound here has been described as “a sound that shifts and grows, morphs and innovates, transforms on the edge of your ears, on the tip of your tongue. A sound that seizes the past and hurtles it toward the future, blurring the boundaries of genres and moving bodies. Music that uses technology without ever sounding used.” Good copywriting but is it true? Listen and judge for yourself! AArbor

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