The Bay Area’s Vastum have unleashed their latest release, and it continues in the vein of their previous works, including “Hole Below” from 2015. This is considered old school death metal, and the band is frequently compared to Bolt Thrower, a band active from the mid-80s to the early 2000s. The old-school element comes from the riffs that are heavy and at times complex, but played at medium tempos that are seldom mind-bendingly fast or glacially slow. Two vocalists work well off each other: Daniel Butler and guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf, whose distinctive vocal style can be found in other projects known to KFJC, like Saros and Hammers of Misfortune. An early favorite is Abscess Inside Us (A3). An off-kilter time signature teeters on a razor wire edge before dissolution swallows the end of the track. On its heels, the title track has a great intro, dripping with ghastly atmosphere. Generally, this record rewards a close listen, and each track has its merits. Borderline mathy/proggy structures are woven to support the overarching goal: to paint a bleak picture of shame, pain, and anguish from violence, including sexual violence. Riffs are held in check, so that the ultimate release covers the sky in darkness. To be sure, Vastum flashes the blades of previous recordings, but the cuts here are new, fresh, and deep. The haunting guitar solo in the final track crushes.
These amazingly mellow and pretty folk tunes come to us from Joseph Allred in Boston. Allred is a master at guitar and banjo, enveloping the listener in layers of comforting acoustic notes and occasionally adding his voice to sing along. The cute illustrations of the tracks and the clever album design are in keeping with the homey feel of these tracks. Definitely in my sweet spot.
Million Brazilians have moved to Maine where Caleb Mulkerin of Big Blood is. He did the tape loops and treatments on this album, as well as the engineering, recording, mixing, and mastering. Suzanne Stone’s alto sax is pretty great in the way it keeps the jazz feeling going amidst all the weird wonderfulness that makes this band hard to pinpoint. Grant Corum is of course on board, bringing especially interesting vocal directions to “Ectoplasm Programmed Dream (with Guide),” and Tom Kovacevic adds piano and synth at the end of Side 1. This is an almost droning, building aural experience and just right for the KFJC library.
The Astronauts were a band from Colorado who were active in the 1960’s. Their records sold especially well in Japan and their version of Baja and other Lee Hazelwood tunes are legendary. Surf bands today still cover their music and greatly respect their musicianship. This album is an homage from two European surf bands – the Kilaueas from Germany and Surfer Joe from Italy. The tunes are faithfully rendered but with a modern European twist. Very fine playing and arrangements, this LP is very, very special.
Xuxa Santamaria – Sofia Cordova (born in Puerto Rico) and Matt Gonzalez Kirkland (Born in Brooklyn to a Cuban mom) met in Massachusetts during college. They have since relocated to Oakland, and this 2019 release is full of songs about revolution, colonization, feminism, climate change, politics, etc. All over catchy, dark, mystical, shimmery beats, With Lyrics predominately in Spanish. This has both dancefloor jams and trippy floaters. Both Cordova & Kirkland are multidisciplinary artists, so they are responsible for all aspects from music, to lyrics, and album art. This is excellent!
Recorded in NYC in the Fall of 1965. Vibraphonist Dave Pike plays mariba here and Herbie Hancock plays the organ (an instrument he rarely played again). This is Herbie Mann’s first outing as a record producer. The charm of this album is that even though it’s a “Jazz” album it’s also got a dash of boogaloo and pop with catchy melodies. AArbor
This is solo keyboard improvisation by Baltimore musician Liz Durette. Quite unique, sounding at times like a calliope, horns, accordion, piano, guitar and more. The cricket pieces are certainly insect like. Playful but not cute, often dissonant and weird. Very original and thought provoking. (Sounds pretty good at 45rpm, but determined it is 33rpm by matching track times printed on the album cover.)
Seattle project, contrabass leads the 4tet not strictly to rock, nor jazz. On the lead-off John Seman’s work is reminiscent of the guimbri styles of Joshua Abram’s work. Seman’s bass is a heavy anchor thoughout here. On “The Immensity of the Problem” he bum-bum-bum-BUMPS plus Mark Ostrowski on the drums to set up extended solos from guitarist Jeffery Taylor and then Greg Kelley on trumpet. Greg gets more muscle into his hustle here, as opposed to the intriguing but subtle Nmperign. Ah, Taylor is a Climax Golden Twin, he punks up “The Vulgar Ideal” (my fave track here – a ripper!). Things get a little sludgy on “Hostile Architecture” but like a lot of these songs, that serves as a launch-pad for solo ballistics. “Retrieval Technicians” finds a shade of moodiness, that nicely sets up when things come down to the WIRE on the closing track. Ending with “You Can’t Leave Now” is both funny and edgy (listen to Seman saw away on his contrabass). As a side note, KFJC has plenty of the six-fingered six-string slinger Hound Dog from whom the band takes its name.
2019 release from this duo (Bernd Kastner and Siegfried Michail Syniuga are Strafe Fur Rebellion – aka Punishment for Rebellion). Electronic music tiling much more towards the factory than the dance floor here, the project has been putting out music since 1984. “Nachtmaschine” offers a few ghost vox in the machine (danke to Anna Nettra), amidst bubbling lava lamp gears and sci-fi fly-bys. Digital rain rattles – a pretty mellow trip. “Every Day XXL” has a loping beat, punctuated by burts of sound…some with voices, singing or EVP-esque. That “XXL” marked my spot! “Shadow Position” moves army boots to the club, a thumper strong enough to knock a toupee or three off, the title cut goes through some tune tunnels to ease up on the heavy breaks. “Isabella B” concludes the record, possible piano, prepared and otherwise also embedded in the electronics. Frau Nettra again adds a spectral hint of humanity between the sonic punishment. Not noise, but not merciful either. Short but covers a lot of territory, this Dusseldorf duo are not of the rinse-rhythm-repeat persuasion.
Portrait of the Shaman as a Young Drummer. William and friends, 1975-76 – two recorded at public libraries, thee very bastion of civilization (and apparently at times of free jazz!). Four sides. Live. Very very live.
Drum Form – Starts with William singing, less the ecstatic prophet and more the spiritual poet. Gentle bells chime. One man, two arms, a mind and a mouth all firing, and the cat ends up scatting into the distance.
Soy: Material/Seven – David Murray on sweet sax spirals, Mark Miller on bass. Miller mostly scurries after Murray though sometimes strums half chords. William surrounds them both, whole lotta snare going on. Some of his riding the sound those “aaaaah” yells in the mix, around 10min William takes the helm solo. Hi-hat attack. The trio reconnects, things get a little saltier. Yo, soy the sauce.
Passages (Anthill) – David S. Ware leaps into the breach like Ayler on fire, William battening down the flames. Man, by 7:50 the duo is working! William especially. Whatever you call this (passages/anthill?) it’s a helluva rollercoaster!
Pieces I & II – Way way way out in space. A trinary star system with William trading rays and ripples with Les Goodson and Hasaan Dawkins. Quite a vortex of sound.
Above and Beyond – Going out the way we came in, William singing to his skins. Deep drum rolls! Ceremony or solo performance?
Cool early capture of a man who permeates KFJC library. I will always remember (and always be enthralled) hearing his “Architecture (The Book Of Numbers)”
Two beautiful (and to my ear, cloying) tracks composed by George Frideric Handel and 6 brooding, malevolent horror-scapes by department head of the sound design department at the National Film School of Denmark in collaboration with film writer/director Lars Von Trier that could be just about anything, heavily modified cello, an empty room, bowed sheet metal, a tea kettle with reverb, singing bowls submerged in tears, human breath through a saxophone sans reed, a blue whale on ergot of rye dreaming of the crypts below Paris.
The dichotomic nature of this album is alarming, especially within the context of the film. The lush aural filigree of Handel juxtaposed with the dark, abstract, and otherworldly landscapes built by K.E.A.and L.V.T. adds to the tension. The profound contrast is as jarring as any of the film’s three major climaxes. A film I enjoyed but was also slightly alarmed by. When it first came out I watched it alone and was perplexed. I needed others to see it as well, though I had a hard time recommending it, which might be easily understood by anyone who has seen the film. Let’s just say that it isn’t entirely clear who the target audience is or the message there in. So that I could perhaps gain some perspective, especially a woman’s perspective I asked the girl that I was flirting with at the time to come over for dinner and a movie (which would turn out to be my first ever Netflix and chill) but with the caveat that this movie might not be the best date movie (much less a first date movie). I was pleased when she suggested we watch it after we finished dinner. I was also pleased, though I fell asleep about half way through my second viewing, that the beautiful and slightly touched object of my desire chose to invite me into her libidinous clutches for a passionate and satisfying tête-à-tête after the credits began to roll. However, I thought this could be a very serious red-flag as well. Happily that turned out not to be the case and even if our courtship was relatively short lasting, I have only fond memories of this quizzically complex and stunning belle, and as of this writing, we remain friends. I’m sorry that it ended but it was painless and simple, very unlike the film, Antichrist.
Murky depressive black metal.
One might choose to describe this album as grey metal though that moniker has already been attributed to another. Perhaps trve grey metal is more apt. This is lo-fi one man black metal, simple and barren. Flat, dead. dreary and bleak. But not because of poor recording but of purposely burying everything in the mix. Like the microphone was hung from the mouth of a cave while Black Cilice performed deep within the bowels of this earthen grotte. Heavily distorted, repetitive, and simple trem-picked guitar, blast beats, frozen vapor enveloping a crypt, affected wails, all the elements are in place but they are obfuscated by distance or perhaps the walls of cthonic chambers. Much like the depiction on the cover of Transfixion of Spirits, a diaphanous shroud of fog conceals the scowling spectre whose malevolent intentions can only be speculated. And fittingly, little is known of this esoteric project’s curriculum vitae, though said to be the creation of a single soul from an undisclosed location in Portugal. Beautifully packaged by German label, Iron Bonehead, on grey vinyl. An excellent accompaniment to any afternoon spent alone drawing skulls, or casting spells but especially as the heavens weep ceaseless tears.
Stripped down sad boy rock in the vein of Bauhaus, early Christian Death, and Sisters Of Mercy composed and performed by local heavy metallers, Von (Goat, Kill, and Snake) who would, in time, establish themselves as one of the most cvlt black metal projects of their era.
Originally released as a demo in 1991 on 500 cassettes and then pushed into the craggy depths of obscurity, this recording is a slightly low fidelity but reasonably well recorded and rehearsed chorus drenched guitar adulation of the macabre. Some might venture, to a level absurdity. But not I. I adore this kind of thing, and as it came from members of a band that had such power, speed, and vision adds a layer of context. Another level of morbidity. Repetitive, unpolished, atmospheric, brooding… it is an excellent snapshot of a time and a place, that many of us would be unaware was happening in the inky shadows just up the peninsula. I can’t say if I would have totally appreciated Sixx in 1991, but I would have loved Von had I been aware of their existence. Their history is mysterious and contentious among black metal mavens but this recording puts the a final nail in the coffin of any debate as to their talent, range, and foresight. This L.P. is beautifully packaged by Nuclear War Now! which is, in the opinion of this miserable volunteer, a fitting label to introduce this stunning project to 2020.
cadilliac margarita 1/17/2020 12-inch
Home Recordings from 1978-1980 by the prolific John Bender while living in Cincinnati. Tracks are labeled by number based off various catalogue positioning (i.e. Cassette 31, Side A, Track 4). Everything about these lo-fi synth bangers with manipulated robotic but entertainingly nonsensical vocals was DIY. The 1980 original release came with sleeves individually hand-designed by Bender, and put out on his own “record sluts” label.
Re-released here on limited edition red vinyl by Superior Viaduct in 2016.
Hip hop out of Oakland from James Wavey aka Alleyes Manifest aka Michael Bridgmon. This is trippy experimental psych- jazz- stoner funk- poetry. Chill, smart, & topical, with cleverly layered mixes, and intelligent word play. Lots of FCCs. All marked.
TWR: Horrific aggro-tronic assault. Aggressive power-eletronics with grindcore drumming (sounds like a kit to my ear/not programmed), sludge elements, and power-violence vocals (guttural bellows and shredded screams/yells) out of Portland OR. At times plodding and lumbering, elsewhere blistering and cacophonous but almost always crushingly heavy with only track A4 (Perverse Divine) offering a brief, dark, reverbed out bass interlude between the barrages of doom, hate, and despair. Members of Ash Borer, Torture Rack, Disgust, Pissblood, et alia, engage in a blinding attack of unhinged rage and semi-consensual tympanic membrane violation. Perfect for alienating listeners, an evening of self-harm, or a soundtrack to shooting the hostages. All cuts track, no discernible F.C.C.’s, no fun, and no remorse.
3LP box set release from 2015 offers six sides to explore full of psych skronk ecstatic noise rock improvisation. Not sure where to drop in? Select Side D. (A breakdown of each side follows below.) On the whole, it’s fun to listen to this genre of music getting made in real time, and with a frenetic, jangled, anxious energy as opposed to happier, tranquil, figure-it-out-eventually, meandering psych jam sessions. Laddio Bolocko go full out on many tracks, exhibiting notable stamina as they work through ideas while keeping their collective foot pegged to the floorboard, tempo- and intensity-wise. They also exhibit a chameleon-like interest in trying out different genres and textures. The best stuff on this collection is more raw and unhinged than the band’s studio releases, and points to the next evolutionary step, notably the Psychic Paramount, the reckless experimental outfit that absorbed half of Laddio Bolocko after its dissolution. Be sure to check out the liner notes printed on each disc sleeve if you’re interested in learning how the musicians lived in New York (both in Brooklyn and upstate), toured, and made these recordings along the way.
Side A: a side-long excerpt from an extended jam made shortly before the saxophone player joined the band. The keyboards featured prominently over a driving drum line give this track the most conventional psych jam feel in the collection. That is, until the end, when the jam devolves into some Casio-keyboard mayhem. Made in the band’s living/rehearsal space in Brooklyn.
Side B: recorded at a house in the Catskills where the band lived for a while, during the same year Laddio Bolocko appeared in the KFJC Pit. B1: an assemblage of multiple sessions/ideas. amorphous noises and drones rise and fall. piano and determined munching of potato chips or similar snack gives way to some strange western saloon crossed with a science experiment. eerie scifi vibes. B2: noodlings and wanderings, particularly on sax. B3: percussion-driven composition with other noisy and sax-induced parts.
Side C: more from the Catskills sessions. C1: a bit more smoothed-out sibling to B3, driving percussion with minimalist keyboard element. C2: starts out mellow; drums, bass, and sax. it’s mellow but there’s always some tension brooding under the surface. C3: recorded audio detritus lends some interesting sonic textures. C4: the elusive guitar resurfaces in this amalgamation of attempts and explorations. bass and drums tend to keep things held down while other sounds flit about. C5: sharp, high-pitched machine whine with some sort of drum machine going in the background. C6: ritualistic drums, twisted carnival organ, redlining sax squawk.
Side D: return to Brooklyn. D1: brief, cool-sounding bass line with drums and sax. D2: probably the standout track on the collection. The guitar establishes a driving rhythm and the band begins to build structures around it. The drummer, bassist, and sax player had heard the guitar part for a few minutes before laying this track down, so the spontaneous ignition happening here is pretty amazing. Mesmerizing result. D3: Part B to the previous track’s Part A. Adds synth to the mix, guitar soars, and plays like a sinister doppelgänger to the pt. A’s beauty. Super rad, down to the moody dissolution to close it out.
Sides E and F were recorded live in Slovenia. These are driving, straight-ahead, full-throttled tracks that should fit in a variety of sets. A couple tracks are live versions of tracks found on the studio album “As If In Real Time”. E2 is a quick shot of adrenaline. E3 provides a glimpse into the band’s ability to play with dynamic range and respond to each other in a live context. Tension built and released. F1: another version of the track included in the Live From the Devil’s Triangle v1 compilation. The end of this track bleeds right into the F2, where they get into a live jam. F3 closes out the collection with a melding of the eccentricity of the Catskills jams and the intensity of their live improvisations. Breakdowns amidst the freakouts allow the sound of the audience to come through.
Rusalka is the project of Vancouver noise artist Kate Rissek. Her work over the past decade includes several solo cassettes and split releases (with MK9 and The Rita, among others), and now in 2019 her first full-length LP washes onto KFJC shores. On Base Waters, Rusalka uses a theremin and electronic effects to harness the power of the seas on two sidelong pieces. A sunken ship ascends back to the ocean surface on “Sinking Blood Deep” (T1). The vessel’s weathered hull – massive walls of corroded noise – rises from the depths; its horns sound, lights flare, and engines roar once again. On “Reflection Underneath Waves” (T2), field recordings of waves transform into massive columns of noise standing amid powerful swells of sound, a raw expression of the creative and destructive forces of the sea. Beautiful, compelling work, released on Montreal label Absurd Exposition.
This is freak folk with beautiful vocals and instrumentation. Think Marissa Nadler but with vocals that are distinct and lovely in their own way. Sondra Sun-Odeon’s voice delivers some thought-provoking lyrics that paint haunting pictures, some of which were inspired by the band’s love of Acadia National Park in Maine (“Acadia” on Side B). David Shawn Bosler wrote the songs along with Sun-Odeon, and he does some of the backing vocals. There are Tibetan water bowls, guitars, cellos, and other musical instruments that set the other worldly tone. Quite pretty and fanciful.
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