KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Ag Oumbadougou, Abdallah – Anou Malane – [Sahelsounds]

aarbor   11/13/2019   12-inch, International

Originally released on cassette in 1995, Anou Malane is one of the first studio recordings in the Tuareg guitar genre. Recorded in Benin with Nel Oliver, a West African producer known for his work on a number of seminal boogie and Afro-funk records, this release combines the Tuareg guitar sound with programmed drum effects and backing synthesizer, transforming Saharan political ballads into Afro-boogie anthems. The resulting album became a classic and pushed Tuareg guitar (and the rebellion) into the public consciousness. This reissue is first time the album has been distributed outside of Niger as well as the first time it has been released on vinyl or digitally. You’ll notice the “flickering” melody jumping from vocal lines to guitar lines which is typical of Tuareg guitar music. AArbor  

Carlton Melton – “Mind Minerals” – [Agitated Records]

atavist   11/12/2019   12-inch, A Library

Carlton Melton does psych—or, to quote The Quietus from a nice write-up of the album, astral psych. One observation from The Quietus that resonates with me is the idea that CM have been on a mission to distill their sound over the years, perhaps break it into its component parts. Their recent live mic in the Pit (11/2/2019) is evidence of their current working method, and the same could be said of “Mind Minerals”, their most recent LP, released last year. Each track takes a limited host of sounds and explores them inside and out, giving them time to breathe and expand. The album has its more rocking moments, but a lot of it is slow and patient jams and noodlings. So definitely more open-ended, free-form, and minimalistic than, for example, “Out to Sea” from 2015.

A1: Big, amorphous intro.
A2: Establishes a straightforward beat, pretty deliberate in not changing up the routine too much to start.
A3: Mellow, serene. Staring up at a starry night sky.
A4: Starts out with the drums running solo, and then the guitar comes in hot. Definitely the most rocking song on this side.
B1: Droney synths with a hint of percussion, minimalistic.
B2: Easy drive down a country back road. Rolling along, but not in a hurry. The fields pass by.
C1: Let’s open it up a bit and ride the cymbals, let the amps scream. Let’s not be hasty and settle into it.
C2: Droney, meandering guitars and minimal percussion. Sun-faded memories.
C3: A synth patterns starts out this very minimal slice of mood.
D1: Blissed out, spaced out patterns. Best track for considering the inner spaces.
D2: Turned-up amps blazing. One last jam before fading to noise.

Armagedda -“Ond Spiritism” – [Nordvis Produktion]

atavist   11/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

This is beautiful, devastating black metal from 2004, re-released 15 years later. This is the last full-length from Armagedda before they disbanded to pursue other projects. Over the span of their three full-length releases, the band initially helped define black metal at the start of the century, and then immediately began pushing against nascent orthodoxies. “Ond Spiritism” is marked by a full sound—layers of immense, immersive guitar and bass, and excellent instrumentation. Vocals drip with evil while remaining clearly discernible (lyrics are in Swedish). There’s a fair amount of variety in the compositions—varying textures and tempos, including the occasional use of minimally distorted guitar. Tracks B2 and B4 are shorter, quieter pieces; the former features a simple, echoing guitar against a backdrop of falling rain, and the latter features a choral element with mournful, atmospheric keyboards. But the other tracks are furious and unrelenting. An early favorite is track A4, which uses a simple, driving structure that repeats to create an atmosphere of loss, mourning, and despair, while also teeming with urgency and dark energy. Tracks A1 and A2 both start with simple guitar passages before ramping up to full intensity. As soon as the record ends, I just want to start playing it again.

Blood Rhythms – “Civil War” – [No Part of It]

lexi glass   11/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

Civil War is the latest assault from Blood Rhythms, the noise collective fronted by Chicago-based electronic artist Arvo Zylo, here with Dave Phillips (of Schimpfluch-Gruppe), Wyatt Howland (Skin Graft) and many other collaborators. It’s a devastating – yet even beautiful – record, that might surprise non-noiseniks with its range of sounds and moods, and nearly song-like compositions. “Closure” (T1) opens with strange clarinet melodies, piercing tones, and a massive chorus of voices that finally resolves into a lone anguished scream. If the high-pitched violence of the latest Frataxin release left you begging for more, “Sick Skin” (T2) provides satisfaction, as strangled growls flail helplessly in feedback filth. With its first deep, ominous pulse, “Locked Away” (T3) descends into a forgotten underground lair, and we are overtaken by the howls of those trapped there. Side B holds the centerpiece – the colossal, confrontational “The Face” (T5) – where driving electronic rhythms collide with a cacophony of hellish horns. Yes, it’s a face-melter. The two-part finale (T6 and T7) buries heavy beats, organ bellows, metal scrap, and dying screams in a mass of noise; with one final thud, the suffocation succeeds.

Primitive Music of Africa [coll.] – [Mainstream Records]

aarbor   10/30/2019   12-inch, International

From 1964 these recordings were made by the “Denis-Roosevelt Expedition” – lead by Armand Denis and Lela Roosevelt who visited the Congo and the territories of Ruanada and Urundi. This is primarily music of the peoples of the Congo: Bahutu, Watusi, Babira, Manbetus, Pygmies, Mambuti and others. The term “primitive” is a misnomer! The sounds and rhythms here are very sophisticated. The Pygmies’ liquid sound is very notable and worth playing [B1, B5]. The other groups’ polyrhythms are well worth a listen, are the Circumcision rituals [B3, B4] which are well-documented on the back of the album. AArbor

Panicsville / Frankie & The S.E.M.M. – “Brain In The Cat / Stunts” – [Nihilist Records]

whngr   10/30/2019   12-inch, A Library

Not harsh noise but not safe either.
The packaging of this LP is an excellent representation of the sounds hidden under the jacket. Side-A is an exercise in abstract sound collage including a dizzying array of elements. Chirping, industrial machinery, bleeps, bagpipes, whirs, drone,, humms, bubbles, roars and myriad other synthesized weirdness. Mostly unnerving but could be considered meditative to either the enlightened or the mentally ill but does not induce anxiety in this wretched volunteer. The jacket cover that must represent Side B (There is no text printed on the exterior just a double-sided insert) looks like a photograph of a migraine headache and fittingly the track is a sidelong field recording from the Hotel Auburn ca.1999 when this part of South of Market (now “SOMA”) was also called The Black Triangle referring to the area’s most popular (at least at the time) elicit drug at the time, black tar heroin. This is where Panicsville aka. Andy Ortmann was living and apparently it felt natural (he related in an interview) to record the argument between his two sick and/or drug addled and/or inebriated neighbors. Accompanied by his analog synthesizer, this track is slightly more stressful and is forbidden from broadcasts during daylight hours. Some online searches would lead us to speculate on whether this is inspired musique concrete but it sounds to me to be a sonic snapshot of the time and place and a deplorable (if relatable) glorifying of the filth and moral deficiency of our most debilitated rejects of society: the artist and the addict. I would know, I’ve been both. Mildly anxiety inducing but I’m currently well medicated.
F.C.C.’s liberally peppered throughout side-B like the ants on the ceiling of a flop-house including a delightful locked-groove at the end; “You want a stunt mother fucker?”
Includes a cd of the unedited exchange between these two pathetic men at the end of their respective tethers.

Curley, Sean – Empire State Observatories 3 [Opuscula Records]

Louie Caliente   10/29/2019   12-inch, A Library

Experimental aquatic-themed drones from Seattle guitarist Sean Curley (also a member of New Weather).

Empire State Observatories 3 is inspired by long walks on the beach and somber oceanic suicides. Dramatic explorations of murky Titanic depths, with only fleeting shimmers of sunlight to remind you of the surface far above. Moments of calm stillness yield to powerful undercurrents of throbbing resonance. A1, A2, and B2 are guitar-based, while B1 is comprised of more synthy oscillations, bobbing in the surf, anchored in deep low-frequency rumbles.

Radigue, Eliane – “Jouet Electronique/Elemental I” – [Alga Marghen]

lexi glass   10/29/2019   12-inch, A Library

This 2018 Alga Marghen re-release showcases early work from French electronic music pioneer Eliane Radigue, created while she worked as an assistant to Pierre Henry at his Studio Apsome. On these two ~12 minute pieces, Radigue experiments with microphone feedback and tape machines. “Jouet Electronique” (Side A, from 1967) is created simply from recorded feedback that is sped up and slowed down on the reel-to-reel machine to generate layers of eerie, otherworldly vibrations. “Elemental I” (Side B, from 1968) uses similar tape manipulation techniques – this time applied to her own field recordings of the outdoors – to consider the four elements of air, fire, earth, and water. Gorgeous sounds arriving on our airwaves just in time to calibrate our brainwaves for the composer’s live performances at The Lab this December.

Archgoat – “Luciferian Crown, The” – [Debemur Morti]

atavist   10/29/2019   12-inch, A Library

Archgoat are a venerable Finnish death metal band that wield elements of black metal. They are willing to slow it down slightly and allow some doomy elements in, but mostly it’s high-speed, stripped-down, no-frills Satan worship. Low, throaty vocals are brutal and uncompromising. Guitar work is tight and provides the essential ideas without extraneous detail. Reviews note that “The Luciferian Crown” marks a turn to more complex song structures than previous releases, perhaps augmented by the addition of a new drummer who demonstrates a means of playing within Archgoat’s sound while shaping it to his own ends. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that the band takes a lot of time between full-length releases: this is only their fourth LP since 2006. Good production quality permeates the roughly 30 minute recording. Track A1 is a very brief atmospheric intro that quickly gives way to a thundering maelstrom with slower breakdowns. A4 Starts out with some squealing animal sounds, then brings headbang-worthy riffage in copious amounts. A5 begins with an almost punk feel, making for a fairly old-school sound that serves as a reminder that the first incarnation of the band released their first demo in 1989. A6 Starts with some creepy forest sounds before getting into the fast blast-beats. Tracks on side B consistently hover around four minutes in length, and many feature slower breakdowns and keyboard elements. B2 is a slower track that elicits slower fluctuations of the head upon the quavering neck. Track B4 even has a brief clean bass solo. Any track on the record will do the trick.

Drowse – "Light Mirror" – [Flenser]

humana   10/27/2019   12-inch, A Library

“Life’s a leaf in October” according to “Physical World,” and this wisdom is delivered via the hazy, pleasant voice of Kyle Bates. This music was written and recorded by Bates during an artist residency in Iceland in 2018 and at his home in Portland, Oregon. The character of the music is somewhat shoegaze. Bates’s parents lend their voices to two of the tracks, and the lyrics printed on the album sleeve clarify some of the mysteries going on in the music, if you need the clarification. Bates is a survivor, and proof that having a bipolar diagnosis can be an inspiration instead of a death sentence. The music is appealing and will be a great addition to many a KFJC set.

Pratt, Jessica – "Quiet Signs" – [Kemado Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

I remember KFJC’s Harry Haller extolling the virtues
and vibe of Jessica to me years ago. Thanks! Here she
returns for her third full length, not a gal in a rush.
Gentle songs with “Quiet Signs”, emanating from the
car you just passed on the side of the road with its
driver in tears. Mostly the album is Jessica’s voice
over a nylon acoustic, but some nice production from
Al Carlson sinks you deeper into the cushions. Al adds
a flute flourish to end “Fare Thee Well” other tracks
bring in a distant synth, like a merry-go-round in
the dreams of someone sleeping next to you. Does
Jessica give a nod to San Jose on “Here My Dear”
(which seems to know the way, melodically). That song
is NOT a Marvin Gaye bitter dedication to you. But this
album was inspired by a Cassavetes film? Muses work
in strange ways and Hollywood record shops I guess.
Like her debut, Pratt’s voice fits so cozily into the
microphone and snuggles up in your headphones. Listen to
her voice on “This Time Around”, a gentle outline of
reverb. When she goes high, she’s a pixie, but her
lower register is a support koala bear. “Poly Love”
triggers a Burt Bacharach soft scatch on Broadway.
“Crossing” will be used as a killer theme for an
HBO show in three years, so love it now before the
world does (and dig how it flirts with English folk).
“Silent Song” has almost a hymn-like entrance. An album
of love songs but roses do come with a thorn or two.
-Thurston Heartbroken

L. Voag – "Way Out, The" – [Superior Viaduct]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

Reissue from Jim Welton, erstwhile Homosexuals de-bassist.
Perplexing sketches with dashes of pop, but large chunks
of imagination. Use a spoon, maybe Syd Barrett’s old one.
In 1979, well before Camper van Beethoven even thought about
bowling, Welton was fiddling in the “Kitchen.” Hell this lp
even eclipses Tuxedomoon’s debut by a bit. Sax and violin
shaken and strung. Surf + rubbery ruminating bass + tribal
drums + delayed vox-vox-vox, that’s all in one cur – “Living
Room.” The album is definitely room-y. Lot’s o’ bric-a-brac
on each track. “Helping the Police With Their Enquiries”
is a nice faux soundtrack with art brut as an accomplice.
Just a hard to pin down album, go gaga over dada? Welton
not afraid to apply plunderphonics to the mix. Man, even if
I’m not close to the inside of the joke, I’m still happy
enough to sing along with “Your Own Hair – Your Own Chance”
Were you too frustrated or too entertained to make your
way to the Avon Calling moment in “Beauty Spreads” or how
about “According to Freud.” Don’t tell anyone but them
thar be songs, but the album is so much more. Reminds me
of UK Paradigm Discs stuff KFJC connected with a ways back,
and sure enough Welton’s own label – It’s War Boys –
originally issued some of those ear-bender mind-blenders.

L. Voag has entered the KFJC building/library
hope his tunes find you and “The Way Out.”

-Thurston Hunger

Iron Crown – “Before The Void” – [Dark Side of Zen]

atavist   10/22/2019   12-inch, A Library

Beware ye seekers of wildly unfamiliar sonic terrain. Bay Area-based Iron Crown adheres to the ancient bong-riffing rites. (Ancient, in this case, dates back to period between 1970 and the mid-90s.) They have studied their predecessors and submit their offerings to the sacrificial altar, already piled to the rafters with stoner dreams from days of yore. Following on their debut release from a couple years prior (also in the KFJC library), “Before the Void” was well-recorded at Oakland’s Earhammer. The riffing is well-assembled. The regular-dude vocals prevalent on most of the tracks are a little out of place, but on the other hand it may differentiate Iron Crown’s sound from similar artists. Detractors will point to the lack of originality, but sometimes a smoke-shrouded slab of doom doesn’t need much alteration. Dune Rider is a nice instrumental track that moves along at a good clip, but the album is fairly consistent throughout, with no tracks lasting much more than five minutes, and no FCCs.

EEDIO – “Hero” – [Device Recordings]

aarbor   10/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

Bertrand Alix is EEDIO. He’s a producer from Chilhac, France. This EP is his 2nd from 2003. He claims that his influences include: Depeche Mode, Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros and Massive Attack. Check out B2 Modulation. AArbor 

Smoke Below – “Isolation 3000” – [Ehse Records]

humana   10/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

This is a very pleasant sounding release from Smoke Bellow, whose primary members composed this music in a backyard shed after they traveled to Melbourne from Baltimore. Although they felt isolated (thus the name of the album), the electronic tunes on here are fairly upbeat, and the voices, though echoey at times, sound imbued with wisdom gained from being in isolation. They have since returned to Baltimore and added a band member. The final track is my favorite with its flute and horn sounds.

Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra – “I Roam The Cosmos” – [Art Yard]

humana   10/6/2019   12-inch, Jazz

This is an unreleased performance recorded at Slug’s Saloon in New York in July of 1972. It’s pretty incredible that, even though Sun Ra left this earthly plain in 1993, his words, music, and compositions continue to reverberate through time and space. Vocalist June Tyson recites the lyrics to “Astro Black” over the backdrop of “Discipline 27-II”, followed by a call and response between Tyson and Sun Ra set to the horns and instruments of the Arkestra. The vibe is mellow and accessible. The liner notes are a must-read as they describe Sun Ra’s connections to Egypt, the sun, and the cosmos.

Bonnet, Francois & O’Malley, Stephen – “Cylene” – [Editions Mego]

atavist   10/1/2019   12-inch, A Library

Consistently beautiful, minimal compositions of guitar, awash in cavernous echoes. Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0))) provides guitar, and François Bonnet (who also works under the project name Kassel Jaeger) pursues studio manipulations of those sounds. The effect is tranquil but brooding, the slow unfolding of night shadows, wind howling on lonely mountaintops. The last track is distinct from the others due to its more assertive use of keyboard drones. Its title means “steps in the ashes”, and one can picture a film where a survivor steps out into the light of a ruin and considers a broken future. 

Ahti, Marja – “Vegetal Negatives” – [Hallow Ground]

lexi glass   9/24/2019   12-inch, A Library

Marja Ahti is a Swedish electroacoustic composer working in Turku, Finland. We’ve come across her work before, both from her solo project Tsembla (reviewed here and here) and from her collaborations with Kemialliset Ystävät. On this 2019 LP from Hallow Ground, the first release under her own name, Ahti draws inspiration from a quotation by the French surrealist writer Rene Daumal where he describes the inner workings of an animal – its structure, its metabolism, even its blood red color – as the inverse of that of a plant’s: the animal is the “vegetal negative.” Ahti explores these ideas – form, energy, color – with her palette of sounds. Tones made with analog synthesizers provide rhythmic patterns, field recordings of natural and manmade environments manifest energy, and carefully played bowl gongs and a harmonium exude warm washes of color. There’s also instances of inversion, as the synths imitate organs (T4), or as ocean recordings find their echoing alien counterpart (T1). Each of these four works rewards close listening, strengthening their pull on your awareness from the inside out.

Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures (Taken From the Vaults)

cadilliac margarita   9/18/2019   12-inch, Soul

A compilation of “Deep Soul”* (soul from America that never found a wide audience in America) selected by the late Dave Godin, a UK Record shop owner and soul music enthusiast who coined the phrase*. There are a few familiar names on here…Irma Thomas, Ruby Andrews…other than that, mostly artists new to me, including some artists that there is little to no info on. Love and pain, both political and personal can be found on these recordings spanning the years of 1966-1973, which as we know was a time of turmoil and big change in this country. My personal standouts: A3, A4, and the first three tracks on side B, which cook!!

Koreatown Oddity, The – “A Beat At The Table” – [self released]

cadilliac margarita   9/18/2019   12-inch, Hip Hop

A trippy reworking of Solange Knowles 2016 critically acclaimed album, A Seat At The Table, by KO (aka LA based Producer/DJ/ Rapper, Dominique Purdy). These side-long mixes could technically be played as one really long mix with actual cuts from the album it was drawn from spliced in…or you can just drop the needle. You hear bits of Knowles vocals, spoken dialogue from the original album celebrating black pride & culture– while highlighting history & racism, and plenty of delicious looped beats. He has even taken her original cover art and added the signature wolf mask that he wears when promoting and performing as KO. He considers this work homage to an album that, while on the periphery of the mainstream, (she is the younger sister of “Queen Bey”) has been celebrated as Avant & an alternative deep modern soul masterpiece. If this grabs you, definitely check out Solange’s full album and subsequent work….This album sends that message.  

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