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Music Reviews

A: Pfeffer Kwitter – “Peller” – [Feeding Tube Records]

atavist   3/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

Recorded using instruments built/modified by the artists in a variety of spaces, including a 2-million gallon cistern with 45 seconds of natural reverb. The artists also integrate found sounds and field recordings from a cross-country road trip. Side A is comprised of one track, “Imp”, which starts with scratchy, trebly, trembling noisescapes, anxious, fretting, at times voluminous. As the track progresses, it transitions to quiet, almost contemplative spaces. Side B, comprised solely of “Prop”, seems to pick up where “Imp” left off, but adds new skittery electronics, noises, static, hisses. The feeling on this track is particularly quiet, eerie, and awash in echoes.

Cold Beat – “A Simple Reflection” – [Dark Entries]

Phil Phactor   3/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

Yep, it’s another synth-pop album from Dark Entries. This time it’s HANNAH LEW (ex-Grass Widow) and her band Cold Beat doing an album of EURYTHMICS covers, and–let me tell you–it’s a real stunner that gets deeper with every listen. Lew’s vocals are at the core here, pitch-perfect, exquisitely phrased, and–of course–drenched in reverb and wrapped up in a cocoon of lush synths. You can safely drop the needle anywhere, but some highlights include She’s Invisible Now (A3), which hints at that Widow feel with its slightly warped synths, cold vocals, and motorik beat. Guitars come to the fore on Never Gonna Cry Again (B2), a nifty little minor-key groover that could almost sneak into a late 70s classic rock album. And if it’s that 80s synth(-etic) bliss you’re after, check out Invisible Hands (B3). (P.S. – Plenty of Eurythmics in B Library… *ducks*)

Mattin – “Songbook 6” – [Munster]

atavist   2/27/2019   12-inch, A Library

The fourth Mattin addition to the KFJC library, and the third Songbook (we’ve also acquired nos. 4 & 5). Songbook 6 is comprised of 6 6 minute songs, so that’s promising. Oh nice, and recorded on June 6, 2016—I appreciate the attention to detail. Thurston Hunger and Lexi Glass wrote great reviews on the previous songbooks, so seek those out as well. Like previous songbooks, Mattin writes lyrics, which then become the basis for the composition. As he writes in the liner notes: “For making this record the lyrics were used as score; before recording each track, we discussed together how to interpret them.” Which is an interesting idea, given how disjointed the end result is. The consensus of the musicians clearly orients around compositional anarchy.

The record begins with slightly disorienting synths repeating like a malfunction, adding oddly auto-detuned vocals (all lyrics are in German), and then a variety of other sounds and instrumentation come in at various points. Track two: Mattin yells in German, drums keep time intermittently, and a guitar chimes in. Track three: quiet and minimal with the occasional loud moment. Then, spazzy synths, delirious vocals.

Side two has some sounds that are more “songish” than side one, but of course that’s not saying much. Track four launches with a jazzy feel. Psych-ish drums thrum along, and concludes with a hyperspace synth freakout and whispering. Probably my favorite track on the record. Track five has some driving drums. Some cool sub-bass tones are thrown in to track 6, but honestly I was starting to check out at this point. The weirdness here will reward some repeat listening, just be ready for confrontational discohesion.

—Atavist

Minimal Technology – “Play – Musica Para Videoinstalaciones 1991 – 1993” – [Hueso Records]

Louie Caliente   2/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

Minimal Technology is an avant-garde trio from Santiago Chile that formed in the early nineties. They explored new forms of video art and sound sculptures, and performed only twice, both times at the University of Chile.

Tell Me What Will Happen Today (B-2) contains the recording of one of their performances, which was accompanied by a video installation. Traditional rhythmic percussion and flute mixes with chopped samples and slow throbbing synth waves.

The other two tracks were recorded and released in Tokyo on Kino Mitsouko’s record label Dinn International. Listen to this Example (A-1) consists of cut-up fragments of English and Spanish dialogue over a repetitive bass riff, mechanistic clicks and whirs, and what sounds like a dot-matrix printer. Se Armó La Rosca (B-1) is an experimental turntable piece that scratches and mixes a variety of Spanish music at different speeds, both forwards and backwards.

Sun Ra Trio, The – “God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be” – [Cosmic Myth]

mickeyslim   2/24/2019   12-inch, Jazz

“What the f*ck is this?!” you say. It’s, like, a REAL jazz trio, but it’s Sun Ra… That’s right folks, Sun Ra on piano is joined by Hayes Burnett on bass, and Samaria Celestial on drums. Originally released on Sun Ra’s El Saturn Label in 1979, and re-released here on Cosmic Myth Records. This is a pretty straightforward jazz trio, with all songs composed and arranged by Sun Ra. Toe-tappin’ and finger snappin’, easy listening, very accessible for those not into traditional avante-garde Sun Ra jazz. Drop the needle already!

Lowe, Frank – “Fresh” – [Arista Records]

mickeyslim   2/24/2019   12-inch, Jazz

Spontaneous improvisational music from avante-garde jazz saxophonist Frank Lowe, his third release as bandleader, accompanied by Lester and Joseph Bowie, Abdul Wadud, Steve Reid, Charles Bobo Shaw, and Selene Feng. This pops, stings, and punches you in the gut. Warbley, skronked-out scrapes and screeches. Improv madness that waxes and wanes, an all-out physical assault AND sweet nothings whispered in your ear. Tread lightly, “Fresh” indeed.

Is-In-Unsamble – “Is The Belly / In The Belly” – [Gilgongo Records]

atavist   2/18/2019   12-inch, A Library

An experimental, improvisational jazz sort of happening. It’s one of those records where the instruments hang out in groups at a low-key party, and sometimes just go off in corners and talk to themselves while in earshot of everyone else. All the instrumentation and sounds are executed with a light touch. Side two has some almost creepy vocal things going on, and starts to build some wall-of-sound intensity about eight minutes in. The house guests come out of their corners and start to acknowledge each other, creating a crescendo before the final tapering off.

Karen Stackpole – “S/T” – [Dialectric]

Max Level   2/13/2019   12-inch, A Library

Mostly solo percussion works by Stackpole, a fixture on the bay area experimental/improv music scene. I don’t recognize anything that sounds like drums here–I’m hearing gongs, cymbals, and maybe some other resonant metal things(?) I suspect bows and perhaps soft mallets are being used to produce these deep layers of floating metallic sounds. A1 and B1 are collaborations with Ann Dentel, another local performer/improviser. Very nice but at 12 or 13 minutes per side it’s over too quickly. A 2003 release that has somehow eluded our library until now.

Lewis, Klara and Turner, Simon Fisher – “Care” – [Editions Mego]

lexi glass   2/12/2019   12-inch, A Library

Care is a collaboration among experimental artists from two generations, English composer Simon Fisher Turner and Swedish electronic artist Klara Lewis. Turner has been working since the 1970s, and perhaps is best known for his film scores, including compositions for the works of avant-garde director Derek Jarman. Klara Lewis, sound artist and daughter of Graham Lewis from Wire, here revisits the abstract sonic spaces from her 2016 LP Too. Throughout Care, stretches of heavy stillness give way to sudden violent jolts and slowly emerging fragments of recorded sounds, The field recordings – of children playing, ritualistic chanting, strummed and sung traditional melodies – materialize in the foreground, and as they surface, so does the flood of accompanying emotion. Gorgeous, lush drones surge and swell, reaching their greatest heights on the closer “Mend” (T4), a vision of solace amid chaos.

R.O.A.R. – "Pathetique Aesthetique" – [President Gator]

humana   2/10/2019   12-inch, A Library

Phoenix, Arizona-based musican Owen Evans (AKA R.O.A.R.) says his influences include the Beach Boys and Beatles, and this is apparent in his vocals. The title of this album is a great description of the songs, which tell of a sad divide between two or more people. The lyrics are printed on the back of the album cover, and are heartwrenching: “I can’t get enough of feeling lonely” (“Patetique”). “Wondering Why” is perhaps one of the most upbeat sounding. All are worthy of a listen. The magenta vinyl is lovely and looks like a fuchsia or bleeding heart.

Bloom Offering – “Episodes” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

lexi glass   2/5/2019   12-inch, A Library

A darkwave feminist revenge fantasy unfolds on this first full-length LP from Bloom Offering, the project of Seattle-based electronic artist Nicole Carr. Cold synths and calculating beats set the scene for Carr’s deadened vocal delivery, seething with equal parts rage and hopelessness. Out of all the tracks, I fell for the album’s “hit,” the defiant “venus shrugged” (T4), but was also drawn to the twisted samples of advice on how to catch and keep a man on “imperfect absence” (T7), the dismal dance beats on “swallow me whole” (T1), and the heartsick arithmetic of “simple math” (T6). Released by Jim Haynes’ label Helen Scarsdale Agency.

Monti, Maria – “Il Bestiario” – [Unseen Worlds]

lexi glass   1/23/2019   12-inch, A Library


Italian singer and actress Maria Monti began her career singing traditional ballads in the cabarets of Milan in the 50s, and later appeared in several popular films in the 60s. But in the 70s, her musical work veered off into strange new directions that are on full display on this lost 1974 record, a jewel unearthed and reiussed in 2012 by Unseen Worlds. On these ten tracks, arranged by avant-garde composer Alvin Curran, Monti brings to life the lyrics penned by poet Aldo Braibanti, accompanied by Curran’s synths and Steve Lacy’s free jazz saxophone. Il Bestiario has as many wildly varied styles as creatures in a zoo, from the intimate jazz of “Dove” (T2), the rollicking chanson “No no no no” (T3), the smoldering piano ballad “Il Serpente Innamorato,” the wistful folk and birdsong of “L’Uomo” (T6), and the midwinter’s meditation “Il Letargo” (T9), but all are connected by Braibanti’s lyrics that evoke surreal images of animals. The one exception to this theme is the album’s finale, an expressive, borderline-New Age reflection on the four elements, “Aria Terra Acqua e Fuoco” (T10). Like the recently reissued albums of Brigitte Fontaine and Lena Platanos, this is another instance of work from an adventurous female artist finally getting the wide release it deserves.

Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock / The Beast People [coll] – [Spite]

Louie Caliente   1/23/2019   12-inch, A Library

Split 12″ released in 2005, but featuring early works from both artists recorded a decade earlier.

Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck is Rudolph Eb.er, Swiss experimentalist now living in Osaka, and founder of Schimpfluch-Gruppe.

Holy hell! Demonic moans and primal screams. Repeated punches to the face. Emergency whistles. Long periods of silence that only increase the tension before the sheer terror and panic kicks back in. Will leave you nauseated and sweaty.

The Beast People are old-school Michigan noise-makers Aaron Dilloway (Wolf Eyes, Universal Indians, Hanson Records…), Twig Harper (Nautical Almanac), and Nate Young (Wolf Eyes, Moon Pool & Dead Ban, Stare Case…). Their side of this split contains a series of pieces pulled from early (unreleased?) tapes.

Sputtering machinery. Groans and grunts. Warbling tape noise. Leaky valves. Glottal and esophageal scribblings. Abstract and disorienting.

 

Sleepwalker – “Ichi-go Ichi-e” – [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

Lord Gravestench   1/22/2019   12-inch, A Library

This post-metal band’s actual name, pronounced something like ‘Muyuubyousha’ consists of four Japanese characters and does indeed mean ‘Sleepwalker.’ Confusingly, there also exist both an American Black Metal band and a Japanese Jazz group of that name– and THIS Sleepwalker, unconnected to the other two BUT featuring Japanese and American members, might be described as a Black Metal/Jazz combo. The guitar/bass/percussion trio collaborate remotely, having never met: one from Japan, one Russia, one America. This 2018 LP is their second release. Its title translates as ‘For This Time Only, Never Again.’ The phrase is a Japanese proverb or cultural concept based on treasuring the ephemerality of one-time meetings with strangers, or so this gaijin believes after a quick Google search (is there any other kind).

Frequently surprising without being jarring, ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’ manages not to sound stitched together even though it literally is — members improvise their parts and combine them via remote collaboration, following the melancholy dream logic of their collective vision where it takes them. The finished product seems to draw evenly upon Depressive Black Metal, Japanese Psych Rock, Avant-Jazz, Trip-Hop, Morris Minor’s Prog 8-tracks, and traditional Eastern musics of various kinds. While comparisons to certain other BM vivisectionists may be apt up to a point (Mamaleek, Diapsiquir, Oranssi Pazuzu, Clouds Collide) they have a pretty unique sound going on, exploring a vast breadth of style on this fairly brief album. I was nodding my head to a jaunty Jazz lick one moment, then splattered by nocturnal slashers the next; and that’s how people grow up. Vocals, like important thoughts, are mostly howls and whispers. Like a heroin addict’s last shot, this shit works much better than it ought to. I guess that must mean some amount of consideration went into it. Play it for everyone you’ll never get to know.

Scarcity of Tanks – “Garford Mute” – [Total Life Society]

Thurston Hunger   1/18/2019   12-inch, A Library


Clevelad Matthew Wascovich fronts a pretty snazzy revolving
door. Borbetomagicians and Sun City gargoyles have visited
at times past. On this release the crew includes Minuteman
Mike Watt, Weasel Walter wreaking drum punishment and
stealing the show, Steve Mackay. Steve’s sax really stands
out on his work during side C of this gatefold grinder.
When he first shows up on the shutdown breaks in “Us Pushy”
things sizzle a little differently. Wascally Wascovich
looks to pump up Stooge energy, and the abstract lyrics
professed over punk does connect back to Watt’s early
ways. Maybe a hint of “Camper van Beefheart” in the mix
too, but mostly the song are choogling guitar 4 by 4, with
rhythm guitar (Doug Gillard of GBV?) up front, and then
other guest guitarists kinda noodling around the chords.
Gets a little airtight at times, that’s where Mackay (RIP)
was so crucial for me. Wascovich kinda punches his poetic
pontifications, with a heavy right hook on the chosen
title/repeated mantra. Double-tracking his speaksong,
especially through effects early on in the record thickens
things. “Everything Zenith” is an outlier with its Paris,
Texas slide while a blindman cuts hair big scissors.
“Dunedin Signal” is also a little different as the chord
heavy distortion thins out some, still plenty o’ noodleage.
I wonder if he didn’t publish his lyrics to focus just on
the rock core? Been marching to the beat of his latest
favorite drummer for a decade straight in his Scarred City,
while we were sleeping on this, SoT released a new album.
-Thurston Hunger

Self, Colin – “Siblings” – [RVNG]

Naysayer   1/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

Colin Self is quite the accomplished composer, academic and activist. Schooled at Evergreen State College, School of Art Institute of Chicago and Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, he’s got the credentials. Having worked in NYC with a number of radical alternative queer groups as well as being a part of Holly Herndon’s trio, his experience in experimentation and community is full on. “Siblings” is the final part of a six part opera series named “Elation”. Dealing with themes of alienation and empathy through his overall look at multi-species flourishing of non biological family systems, gender, understanding, social control and social transformation. A lot of ideas coming out at the listener.
The 11 songs contain lush, operatic choral pieces dealing with stories of identity and ideas of family. The heady lyrics are rich and ready for listeners to sink their teeth into. The instrumental pieces are new IDM: shattered explosions of bits of pieces of samples and sounds brought back together in a new jittery way. Exquisite.
References pop into my head: Chicago Footwork artists, Holly Herndon, Genesis P. Orridge, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Antony.

ATM – “Inglewood Tapes Vol. 2” – [Radical Documents]

Thurston Hunger   1/14/2019   12-inch, A Library


Three dudes looking to make bank?!? Or rob one with the
ransom note track listing? We don’t have Vol 1, yet….
The promising and peculiar Radical Documents label from LA
is back with ATM’s second release straight outta Inglewood.
ATM acronymically being Alex (Becerra), Tony (Mackenzie)
and Matthew (Green). Proud and dorky with echoes of the 80’s.
Chop suey of choppy beats, sonic synthy styles and a little
pico de gallo. The album feels like a lark among three
friends, they meet us and immediately “Pull Down Your Pants”
which cycles some canned gamey show applause in and out with
a simple descending octaves on the bass end with squiggly and
flitty keys above it. Next up, it’s almost Men Without
Hats but instead trip the lightly lysergic on “No Time.”
“Sad Onion” and later “Slow Skronk” go electro flow and
drop in respective bursts of violin and sax improvy paroxysms.
“Sad Onion” makes me hungry. “Rave Nature” has these goofy
gyroscoping woooohs. “MDMA Bliss” attempts a romantic feel
with digital handclaps, and sorta goes Peaking Lights while
doing so. “Poetry” is pure B.S. Eliot. “Asco” easy come
easy go, with the best little riff over a galloping
drum machine. Dumb fun smarter than Brexit and NAFTA
combined, economically comic and again that Radical
label, dood!
-Thurston Hunger

Bender, John – “Pop Surgery” – [Superior Viaduct]

Thurston Hunger   1/14/2019   12-inch, A Library


The original CB? Circuit Bender? 1983 was when Bender’s
third and then final release came out, reissued right on
time 35 years later by Superior Viaduct. Well there was
some Record Slut and also mighty Vinyl-on-Demand action,
but the notion that Bender was ahead of this time is
pretty clear. Synthesized Cincinnati eclectic electronics
in the attic. Calling it “Pop Surgery” was a nice slice
of genius, as the tracks have a catchy wave to them,
it’s not a series of knob goblin spins. The percussion
too is almost cute and precise like a wind-up toy. The
music reminds me for some reason of the old Mattel
Merlin. More Cabaret Voltaire than Barnes and Barnes.
But the speak-sing, repetition of vocals and post
processing of them as well (see the end of “Blue”
or alien-tweaking voices on “Cows” where Bender’s
then-young song Max sneaks in) adds a spoonful of
sugar to the Surgery. His vocals can sometimes feel
like an old instructional video (“Dance” which you
can crossover to Detroit beats no problem).
Apparently the numbers with the song titles
indicate tapes from his bedroom/sonic laboratory
work. And he clearly likes having fun with the
tape itself, as on “Dance” and Amalgamelon.”
“Glass” is sharp, and a fave, just great sound
construction and a little disarming. “Meat” too
tastes sweet with a hint of cognitive dissonace with
a killer hook, well a meathook. Tracks come fast,
Faust and furious, but biting off two in a row in
a set is alright since it too 3+ decades for KFJC
to connect. -Thurston Hunger

Tapper Zukie – “Man Ah Warrior” – [Kingston Sounds]

Hemroid The Leader   1/11/2019   12-inch, Reggae

1973 debut, 2015 reissue. Badness to rock your body line. Deejay/ toasting wasn’t yet an accepted form. He was the leader of the Zukies. He didn’t leave the ‘enforcer’ lifestyle behind for another 3 years. If you eat pork there is a message here for you. Other messages too! +++

Sizzla – “Praise Ye Jah” – [Xterminator Productions]

Hemroid The Leader   1/11/2019   12-inch, Reggae

Smooth R&B reasonings- but the sentiments are as contemporary as the production is dated. Great vocal performances. Lyrics convey profound deep wisdoms. Now-time meditations – see ‘homeless’. Many others

Released 1997, a month after the classic Black Woman & Child.

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