Music Reviews

Backstabbers SJ, the – “Backstabbers SJ, the” – [Beautamous Loaf International]

karma   2/3/2023   12-inch, A Library

Punk rock from longtime Bay Area community members (drummer Vince De Leon is a friend of the station and runs an excellent barber shop in San Jose). This album gives me Dead Kennedys and MDC vibes. It takes you back to a Bay Area when there weren’t grass-fed kombucha bars on every corner and housing was actually affordable. As the band name would suggest, a lot of the songs are about betrayal, so I’d sleep with one eye open if I were you. That is, if you can sleep at all after listening to this high energy album.

Crisis Man – “Asleep In America” – [Digital Regress]

whngr   2/2/2023   12-inch, A Library

High Energy Rock n’ Roll

Accelerated and emotive, these are sounds of progress with sweat, tears, and blood soaked strings that reverberate through our flesh suits. Rattling free the cobwebs and dust of acquiescence with considerable variety in structure and delivery; shaking the corpus into action, propellant and visceral with delicious synthy interludes. I am reminded of the sounds coming from N.Y. through Toxic State Records, beautiful in its rebellion and aggressively danceable. 

This five-piece is fronted by author, Ross Farrar (Ceremony) from San Francisco and graduate of U.C. Berkeley, “Asleep In America” feels deeply examined with an air of intellect but the delivery is from the heart or maybe the loins. Vibrant and evocative. Ben Wright (Acrylics), Jess Sylvester, Nick Vicario (Autistic Youth) from Portland, OR, and Shawn Mehrens (Abi Yoyos).

Santa Rosa – 2022

Microwaves – “Discomfiture Atlas” – [Three.One.G]

whngr   2/2/2023   12-inch, A Library

Perversely Frenetic Angles

Aggressively fractured art-rock with metallic elements and irregular time signatures applied with strange vehemence. Full sounding and note-intensive, the tone is a kind of disturbed resignation to a bizarre landscape that lacks optimism but perhaps not whimsy. A kind of mid-western Jazz is reprezzented on more strings than should be on an electric guitars with played with technical aplomb and electronic abstract elements. A clever and confrontational outing that might remind one of the illustrious MX-80 Sound or Voivod with spoken/shouted vocals and fever dream lyrics. Noisy and splintered, this is sonic high-math delivered with a deranged pessimism, and perhaps a resignation to eventual extraterrestrial incursion and then… dominance.

Microwaves are Dave Kuzy and John Roman (Brown Angel) accompanied by a retinue of complicit musicians including, Eric Paul (Arab on Radar, Doomsday Student, Psychic Graveyard), Sarah Quintero (Spotlights), Rebecca Burchette (Exosus), and Todd Rittman (Dead Rider).

Philadelphia, PA – 2022

Diamond Ortiz – “Bulletproof” – [Needle to the Groove]

karma   1/27/2023   12-inch, Soul

Diamond Ortiz was raised in Oakland, and he and his family played with funk musicians from Graham Central Station at an early age. He is now a modern/street funk musician in LA, and has also done session work for many hip-hop/rap artists (such as Snoop Dogg and Nipsey Hussle). This album pays homage to classic funk and hip-hop, and sometimes mixes them (the funk cover of California Love can duke it out with the orchestral version of the song from Sly5thAve). Ortiz’s talkbox skills and infectious optimism are a welcome dose of serotonin for the dark, cold nights of Soul Patrol. Or anytime!

Cetilia, Mark – “The New Way” – [More Records]

whngr   1/26/2023   12-inch, A Library

Not “modern jazz” you blind old fuck! MODEM JAZZ. If you’re volunteering here there is a 89.7% chance that you are closer to your grave than you are from your mother’s “Master studio” and if you’re from around here you are well beyond remembering the modem… you probably helped design them! Anyway this record yeah, sounds like modems drunk on jug wine and smoking filterless cigarettes with a fair amount of drone… and probably a few nasty surface nicks… that quizzically sound a little like other parts of the album that potentially are not a damaged record but at this point, here in 2023, in our modern audiosphere,  who can truly know the difference between intent and destiny? What is the difference between a quiet percussive passage and a damaged LP? What is intent? What is your intent… right now? Does it involve free will? Is the man in control of his destiny, or is the computer manipulating the man. Have computers finally freed us from free will? All important questions to ask… one’s that I have no answer to, but know this, you are free to play this potentially damaged double LP on the radio to a handful of other people whose lives are likely on the short end of their life stick. 

“The New Way” could easily be accused of having beats, but could also just as easily be considered interpretive beats or maybe “beat adjacent”? Beepy beats? I dunno, there is a lot of quiet and minimalism too. Maybe it’s a metaphor for something…  maybe the space between the beeps are the beats. 

“What is beats”?

From his very pretty website:

“…. Mark Cetilia is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice exists at the nexus of sound and image, the analog and the digital”… including …”generative systems in art, design, and sonic practice…” and, “…carefully controlled chaos.” 

So this is art I guess.

Rhode Island – 2022

McCowen, John – “Models of Duration” – [Astral Spirits]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

“Time is the essential part of interpretation.” – Lydia Tár, the (fictional) conductor at the heart of the film Tár.

Recorded in fall 2020, when most markers of the passage of time weren’t, Models of Duration is an exploration of how instruments model time and create sonic space. There are four 10-12 minute tracks of contrabass clarinet drone, with no electronic manipulation. It’s remarkable what McCowen can do; the harmonics on track A2 sound don’t sound like they came from a human playing an instrument.

This album is best listened to on vinyl, on a good sound system. There is a physical element to this album, I felt the deep bass of the clarinet absorb in my bones.

As a DJ, this album begs for some kind of experimentation. Try playing it at different speeds. Mess with the pitch. Control time.

Q-Burns Abstract Message – “Feng Shui” – [Astralwerks]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

1998 downtempo house double album by Q-BAM, aka Michael Donaldson, a DJ from Orlando. This was his first release. The BPMs are low, and the album seems to bridge the gap between ambient house and indie pop (especially “Jennifer,” which features vocals from Icelandic pop collective GusGus. That song could have been on The Royal Tenenbaums). There are also influences of rap (He’s a Skull), soul (Kinda Picky), and world music (New Patterns).

It’s interesting placing this album in the context of Donaldson’s career 25 years later. Through the late 90s and early aughts, Q-BAM was a sought after DJ and traveled the world. After the Great Recession, he seemed to shift towards music production and his record label. During the pandemic, he pursued writing, and currently writes for his digital zine. These days, he is involved with producing podcasts and serves as a consultant to aspiring musicians and producers. In interviews, he states that his philosophy is to pursue the innovative and promote artists that are pushing the medium forward. Quite similar to the ethos of KFJC.

Dreckig – “Digital Exposure” – [Broken Clover Records]

aarbor   12/30/2022   12-inch, A Library

Dreckig is Portland-based husband and wife duo David “Papi” Fimbres and Shana “Azucar” Lindbeck. This is their 3rd album. Their music filters Latin dance rhythms through a base of Krautrock and electronic club music. Then they layer drum machines, synthesizers, percussion and vocals in Spanish, English and German. Here they also add a chirpy flute. It is more psych than “international”. AArbor

Flaccid Mojo – “Flaccid Mojo” – [Castle Face Records]

cinder   12/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

Duo of Black Dice members Aaron Warren and Bjorn Copeland, sticking it out in Los Angeles. They definitely channel out some of the quirky, choppy, dirty robot beats and electronics that Black Dice brought, but also incorporate sound clips, muffled words and random samples in a semi-Negativland type way – but more broken and skewed. Greatly sizzled and fried with deep looped rhythms.   

Georis, Nico – “A Rainbow In Curved Air” – [Spiritual Pajamas]

cinder   12/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

Glorious, beautiful, stunning synth sounds from Nico Georis. His interpretation of Terry Riley’s Rainbow In Curved Air is lovely – trickling rainbow icicles floating on candy clouds. The other 3 tracks are originals – Vapor is a “plant music duet” that features Nico playing along with the plaintive washes of sound produced by a cannabis plant connected to a Plant Wave device. Turns out cannabis is floating high in musical talents as well. He had spontaneously played it over his Big Sur based pirate channel, Milky Way Radio. The final 2 tracks are based off slot machine samples. Twinkling electronics and magical game bubbles to the max. This might have been channeled directly from my brain that one time I was on Ecstasy in Vegas…

Ignivomous – “Hieroglossia” – [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

whngr   12/22/2022   12-inch, A Library

Aussie Tech-Death Doom

Heavy/fast – heavy/slow detuned death metal from the land of reversal. As above, so below. Frenetic fretting, double bass, blast beats, relatively sparse pinch harmonics, trem dives, and other guitar trickery, guttural bellows with compelling and even beautiful perhaps cover art by one Stéfan Thanneur of Ocre and illustrator to many delicious music related outings including Oakland’s Succumb. Ignivomous is Latin for “Vomiting Fire” and the themes include philosophic pessimism and gnostic ideology around the “… hostile nature of the material world”.

Active since 2006, this five-piece has had a couple of line-up adjustments but have retained the core of the founding members for their sixteen year existence.

Melbourne – 2019

Spiral Wave Nomads – “Magnetic Sky” – [Twin Lakes Records]

carsonstreet   12/19/2022   12-inch, A Library

This is the third LP by the New York/Connecticut duo, Spiral Wave Nomads. Magnetic Sky is a set of expanding improvisations. Employing the strings of Albany’s Eric Hardiman (Sky Furrows/Burnt Hills/Rambutan/Century Plants) and the drums of New Haven’s Michael Kiefer (More Klementines/Rivener/Drifting North), along with electronic tones generated by the both of them.
The duo creates massive sonic width and depth by piling up instrumental passages in layers. This allows the music to peel itself like a psychedelic onion spinning crazily in a forgotten pocket of deep space. Eric’s electric guitar parts are assembled to make him sound like a small orchestra at times, quietly blowing the lid off the notion that there are only two players creating these ceaseless swirls. Multiplied by tape (or the digital equivalent thereof), the strings, the drums and the keys refract everything like dark tone mirrors in a freaked out carnival funhouse.

Akitsa – “Sang Nordique” – [Hospital Productions]

whngr   12/15/2022   12-inch, A Library

Nordic BM from the New World

Primitive and coarse, Sang Nordique is a plodding march into Canadian black metal with a macabre garage rock sound and deep roots in the noise scene. More morose and minimal than furious, with ugly guitar tones and simple repetitive compositions slightly reminiscent of Les Légions Noires, admittedly, in part, due to the French lyrics which are thoughtful and morose. This album was re-recorded in 2008 with Eric Syre on drums and re-pressed in 2019 by Hospital Productions due to a longtime friendship between Tremblay and label owner Dominic Fernow of Prurient which includes rehearsals (side D) from 2002. Vocals are gravelly, guttural, forlorn, hollow, screechy and on “La Nature De Mon Pays” (B7), melodic and slightly evocative of a wintery dissonant sadness.

Akitsa is a two-piece from  Montréal, “O.T.” (Outre-Tombe/Pierre-Marc Tremblay) liege of Tour de Garde Records and “Néant” of Uno Acto, both of whom perform all instruments.

Quebec – 2002

Whoredom Rife – “Whoredom Rife” – [Terratur Possessions]

whngr   12/15/2022   12-inch, A Library

Modern high production black metal from Norway.

I acquired this because I want to say “Whoredom Rife” as much as possible in my life and I appreciate their aesthetic. Shields and skulls, check, NWN! was having a sale, yup. The tracks are alright too, I guess. I mean, it’s all there; Norwegian, brutal, furious, grim, cvlt, fits into christless… just a little too technically proficient and exhibiting more virtuosity than I generally prefer. Call me what you will, but I want my metal bleak, crusty, and mysterious… Give it to me rrraaawwww… slip back into the shadows and scheme.

W.R. are “K.R.” (Kjell Rambech), vox and “V. Einride” (Vegar Ytterdel Larsen), everything else. Larsen has been active as a session and live drummer in the current century including working the kit for Gorgoroth. Prior to that, and until recently, he was in an absolute shit project called, Keep of Kalessin. Cringey videos exist, try to avoid seeking them out. He is far better on all instruments in Whoredom Rife than any of his previous cohorts are on theirs.

I am drawn to the packaging on this EP though it has a few qualities that are irritating and counterintuitive for service in a radio station. Gate-fold slipcover? Okay, if you say so… fuckin’ flashy pants… but pretty rad at the same time. ;P

Trondheim – 2016

Cruz – “Culto Abismal” – [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

Terra Incognita   12/11/2022   12-inch, A Library

Culto Abismal is the perfect comfort food for an angst-driven, decrepit soul starving to fill the void: it is thrash handmade in the old-school style, kneaded, knuckled, and blackened, topped with a layer of death metal vocals and swirls of metal guitar leads and black metal melodies.

This album was skillfully crafted by Xavier Carbonell Beltran (“Xavi”; drums, lyrics), Imanol Diaz Baleztema (guitars), Benjamin Quintanilla (“Benja”; guitars), Joao Francisco Rainho (bass), and Xavier Guerrero Calduch (“Javi”; vocals, lyrics) in Barcelona, Spain. It is Cruz’s first LP, released in 2016, four years after the band’s conception.

The lyrics, most written in Castilian (Spanish) by Xavi (drummer), are horror-themed and inspired by Lovecraftian concepts of malevolent entities, parallel dimensions, and, underlying it all, Xavi describes, “the insignificance of humankind in the universe, the extremely limited human understanding and perception of the whole of existence, the realities/forces/entities/etc. that exist outside our perception, and especially the scorn towards the ridiculous sense of vanity of humankind.” Two of the eight tracks, “Culto Abismal” and “Tumbas Ciclópeas,” are directly based on Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. “Pesanta” is named for the creature of Catalan legend that perches on people’s chests while they sleep, causing sleep paralysis, suffocation, and night terrors. The tracks “A Cops de Destral” [transl. “At the Stroke of an Axe”] and “La Pitjor de les Plagues” [transl. “The Worst of the Plagues”] are written by Javi (vocalist) in Catalan, the mother tongue of three of the five band members.

The cosmic terror within is depicted in the savage artwork of Cesar Valladares, renowned for his dark illustrations for numerous metal album covers. Even if you’re not a fan of vinyl, having the details of Valladares’ nightmare vision displayed on the 12-inch canvas is worthwhile.

Cruz’s Culto Abismal is a frenzied feast to be devoured!

Aggrovators, The, Prophets, The – “King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

First off, let’s get some stuff out of the way:

When? 1976.

Produced by? Yabby You (Vivian Jackson).

How much is an original pressing selling for? Currently $552.

The title? Well, there was a previous record called King Tubby’s Prophecy Of Dub. That was also produced by Yabby You, but is an entirely different record.

King Tubby? Well, the dub plates were done at King Tubby’s Waterhouse Studio, but the engineer was Tubby’s assistant Pat Kelly. So, Tubby gear, not Tubby as engineer. To add more confusion, many of these backing tracks actually belong to Bunny Lee.

How many fonts on the front cover? Four: Bottleneck, Compacta, Davida, and Ribbonette.

The Prophets? Actually, The Aggrovators did most of the original tracks.

The sound? Think Tubby, but not as much. Tubb. No, Tub. More atmospheric, less heavy-handed. Bass lines so buoyant that you could use them as a life raft. The ideal soundtrack for a perfect, sunny afternoon.

Bottom line? Oh, so recommended. I don’t have enough thumbs.

Torpedo – “Orpheo_Nebula” – [Broken Clover Records]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, A Library

Teutonic ambient industrial from Switzerland.

Torpedo gets bonus points for not relying too heavily on synths and computers, but the vocals remind me of being at a party with a bunch of European exchange students, all hyped up for whatever reason, and all talking excitedly at once.

For me, Orpheo_Nebula is best administered in regulated doses.

Fullwood, Phillip – “Words in Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

This is a reissue of the incredibly rare 1979 Phillip Fullwood record. Mr. Fullwood originally wrote, sang, and played percussion with Burning Spear in the 70s.

This is a collection of tracks that had been recorded at pickup sessions through the mid- to late 70s, with musicians like Sly and Robbie, Horsemouth Wallace, Azul Hunt, Family Man Barrett, and Bingy Bunny Lamont. Some of the rhythm tracks were self-produced and some were donated by friends. Phillip showed up with boxes of tapes under his arm to Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio one day to do the dubs, on a day when Scratch was “acting crazy,” so he sat down at the console and did all the dubs himself.

The tracks themselves are representative of the era, full of the warm analog sounds of the 70s, and as mixed on Scratch’s rig? Fantastic.

This is essential, and a great addition to anyone’s reggae library.

Bailey, Elroy – “Red Hot Dub” – [Burning Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Another smoker from 1979. This is the debut by Elroy Bailey, the bassist for the British outfit Black Slate.

Rather than loop some recycled rhythm tracks with echo, Mr. Bailey opts for a clean-cut late seventies dub sound played live. The result is a mellow, easygoing dub record that feels like a Sunday afternoon jam among friends. No personnel credits, but it feels like Sly Dunbar on the tubs.

Two thumbs way up for this one.

Eeek! – “Move Real Slow” – [Kingfisher Bluez]

Ms. Conduct   12/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

A variety of influences converge in this 2012 release that most obviously echo David Byrne vocals from the Talking Heads era with garage rock instrumentation that jangles triumphantly in ascents and troughs. There are arguably strong moments of sonic force that emerge & electrify. Although with tracks titled like “A Will and Grace Period,” it is easy to locate the Canadian in this rock. An especially apt description I found online of the outfit reads, “a bunch of (overly kind) dudes you would invite to your family reunion only to have them show up with a taco buffet.” For those of us who wouldn’t attend a family reunion or might be more inclined to avoid the ‘bunch of dudes’ who brought the buffet: We’ll be with the other relatives overly suspicious of kind gestures from strangers.

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