KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Misery Ritual – “Searing Blood” – [Obsolete Units]

Lord Gravestench   6/20/2019   A Library, Cassette

Misery Ritual is the work of an angry and disappointed young man from Los Angeles county — no, not that one. His work under this name first started appearing around 2015 as far as I know, and although his career is gathering momentum, he’s still a fairly obscure artist within SoCal’s oversaturated harsh noise pandemonium. The first Misery Ritual release added by KFJC, 2015’s superb ‘A Victory Over Suffering’ cassette on the Dungeon Dweller label, isn’t even on the almighty Discogs yet.

It will be, though, because (as various others have already noticed) this is a definite artist to watch if you are a CA extreme noise fanatic; for proof look no further than this very satisfying 2018 tape on Rust Worship’s Obsolete Units label. Some people call Misery Ritual a power electronics project but I wouldn’t really describe it that way; it’s more like American-style harsh noise with slight industrial elements and some limited use of raw human vocalisations (mostly on the third piece, a live recording from L.A.’s happening Coaxial venue). A lot is familiar in the basic palette, but the artist exhibits a devastating sense of control even in his most improvisational-seeming ‘harsh bop’ cable-came-unplugged moments. This electronic racket conveys anxiety, catastrophe, and finally despair as the psychological defences come down for good and the anti-gnostic demons flood the brain, delighting fans of Sickness, The Cherry Point, and early Prurient.

My favourite track is the first one, where a world-rocking pulse of gravelly white noise, like deep breathing from some colossus of living stone, is soon joined by Danger Will Robinson robo pants-pissing and everything settles into a nice groove. Kill yourself… (Not you, Misery Ritual — not yet.)

Mishkin, Sasha – “Pastoral Breakfast” – [Cosmic Winnetou]

lexi glass   6/18/2019   A Library, Cassette

Our library has more than a few instances of an experimental artist – from rock guitarists to electronic composers to harsh noise wall builders – getting their hands on a secondhand organ and invoking its goofiness or grandeur or both on a one-off release. With this 2017 cassette, Russian singer/songwriter Sasha Mishkin joins their ranks. Hailing from Petrozavdosk, Mishkin usually crafts strange, synthy pop songs, but seated at the pipes he spins folk and classical forms into gorgeous “music for the romantic gnome inside of us.” Side A of the tape holds the three-part “Hegenberg Concerto” (T1-T3), a web of complex classical figures filtering through an outerspace echo, but jazzed up with sudden UFO sound effects or an occasionally placed cheesy lounge chord. Side B features Mishkin’s vocals, on a dark and lovely waltz macabre (T4), a Beethoven tribute (T6), and the exquisite closing hymn “In the Alps” (T7).

Dreamcrusher – “Katatonia” – [Obsolete Units]

lexi glass   6/11/2019   A Library, Cassette

Dreamcrusher is the project of Brooklyn-based noisician Luwayne Glass. As a teenager growing up in Kansas in the early 00s, Glass formed the Dreamcrusher sound – heavy dance beats turned up so far in the red that they’re mangled nearly beyond recognition – and dubbed it “queer nihilist revolt music.” This 2015 cassette EP from Obsolete Units begins with the swarming static and crushing pulses of “Aura” (T1), and then swerves into the hopeless hip-hop-inspired beats and vocals of “Imponderabilia” (T2). “Vitaal” (T3) heaves with an industrial churn (T3) that relents on closer “Mirror” (T4), as a thick wall of noise is stripped away to reveal a mournful chorus that comes in waves before it dissipates and disappears. Extreme harsh sounds – the constant distortion is at times reminiscent of another NY noise project (who frequently share a bill with Dreamcrusher), Uniform, recently added to our library.

Eleven Eleven – “Eleven Eleven” – [FPE Records]

Phil Phactor   5/29/2019   A Library, Cassette

Kendra Amalie, 12-string guitarist and RYT 200 yoga teacher, is at the helm for this collection of four hazy, lazy, sometimes blissful improvisations. Opener Illusion of Separation wields guitar, cello, drums, trombones and electronics for a spaced-out stumble through the desert in the white-hot midday sun. Inferior mirages pulse and vibrate, is that a radio tower in the distance? On the flip side, Angh Oya Tung melds floating synths, disembodied voices, and a steady drum pulse for a pure bliss experience, highlighted by a wonky bassoon solo. Closer Prayer for an Infinite Skein is 10 minutes of slow burn highlighted by the cello playing of Taralie Peterson (Louise Bock, Tar Pet, Spires That in the Sunset Rise) and Amalie’s fuzzed out guitar, followed by an equally epic come down.

ebolabuddah – Water is Life

Max Level   5/8/2019   A Library, Cassette

Local avant garde noise project. Two side-long tracks (A = 23 mins, B = 17 mins.) Voices and crashes and booming noises and guitar feedback and a flute and a sax. Highly questionable recording quality–To say “To say this is fidelity-challenged would be an understatement” would be an understatement. Imagine them playing at the far end of the NoiseHaus garage and someone recording them from 100 feet away on an old $20 Radio Shack microphone they found in a box in the basement. It sounds like that. But yeah, I love it. The band won’t tell us which side is which, so I had to guess. One side has a higher muck quotient than the other so I’m proclaiming that to be Side B (“Swallowed in Muck”.)

Morher – “Rabbit Holes (and Other Exits)”- [Self-released]

atavist   4/3/2019   A Library, Cassette

Some of the KFJC staff will remember Morher from last summer, when “Sympathy for the Creator” was in current. This album was released one year later after “Sympathy…”, and offers the listener six tracks of rich, haunting, atmospheric tones, punctuated at times by echoing percussive elements, and anchored by ethereal vocals that rise and fall in volume from the surrounding soundscape, or are sampled and reassembled in new configurations. Each track is in the range of ten minutes, whereas the tracks on “Sympathy…” were generally longer. The tone is a bit darker than the previous effort. A current of anxiety and foreboding runs through the piece, and the sounds are produced with a compelling mix of clarity and distortion/obscurity.

Social Stomach, The – “KY’TN” – [Self Release]

mickeyslim   3/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

These two (Diana Oropeza: Voice/Words and TJ Thompson: Drums/FX/Electronics) are my new favorite band. I had the pleasure to see them touring with Surfer Rosa’s project Sea Moss when they came through town. Diana lays down slick poetics, echoed and eerie, while TJ keeps the beat and layers in sounds. It is a raw admonishment to the world, the system, and everyone.

FCCs tracks: 1, 5

Ruiz, Cesar – “For Music Lovers” – [Phat n’ Phunky]

mickeyslim   3/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

This is the soundtrack to post-apocalyptic hipster utopia. This is a mustache on a motorcycle. The cowboy hat from Flagstaff, AZ. “For Music Lovers” is cool, fun, atmospheric pop, it gets stuck in your head like a loose screw. Cesar came through the Pit in 2016, maybe. Weird enough for the weirdos, accessible enough for everyone else. Music here for everyone, turn it up.

Cruel Diagonals – “Pulse of Indignation” – [Drawing Room]

mickeyslim   3/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

Cruel Diagonals is LA based vocalist Megan Mitchell. A field recordist by profession, Mitchell wrote and released this as a follow up to “Disambiguation,” which we just added to our library October 2018. While “Disambiguation was about sense-making and uncovering some of the traumas surrounding Mitchell’s early musical career as an adolescent and young adult, Pulse of Indignation is about recognizing the exploitation, grooming, and pain that she was subjected to as a young woman under the watchful eye of men with power in the music industry.”

Watery, whooshing drones; ambient, reverby vocals; and soft, subtle noise amalgamate into this wonderful collection of seemingly disjointed sounds. Comforting, and yet, unnerving. This album is already gaining some traction, so dig it before it’s too late.

Praying – “Bastard Gas” – [Self Release]

mickeyslim   3/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

Oakland based project. 7 tracks of what the band calls experimental doom. It doesn’t quite feel like metal to me, though. It’s noisier, raunchier, and more in yo’ face. There are definitely metal elements, and a punk/noise ideology.

Track 1 is a cover of an excerpt of a Thou song called “Monstrance.” Cy Thoth would approve.

Two bowls!

Consolat – “II” – [Madriguera]

mickeyslim   3/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

I can’t seem to find much out about this project. What I can tell you is that this is their second of only two releases (according to Discogs), both on the Madriguera label, and that Consolat is from Puerto Rico. Their first album, “S/T”, is the first release on the label, so I imagine there is a close connection between them.

What we have is four tracks of transcendental electronic noise. Sometimes lead by a beat, other times searching for something just beyond reach. It squibbles and squabbles, creaks and crunches, blasts and booms. “This release furthers the machinic faults, exhaustive rhythms, and accident-prone craftsmanship that comprised its debut tape. A personal, coarse, and rudimentary account on the island’s political landscape.”

Drop it.

Trepaneringsritualen – “Septentrional” – [Hanson Records]

Lord Gravestench   3/5/2019   A Library, Cassette

Trepaneringsritualen (which presumably means something to do with drilling a hole in one’s head) is Tomas Ekelund from Sweden. Since 2008 Ekelund has prolifically practised his highly theatrical (or ritual, if you prefer) school of traditional Swedish death industrial. Despite his intense image, he spent the decade previous to founding TxRxPx in the highly emotive (but, as he would hasten to point out, equally gloom-ridden) dark ambient project Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words. It is interesting that Ekelund’s body of work inverts the traditional industrial musician’s paradigm of going from ‘confrontational and ugly’ early on to ‘contemplative and pretty’ later in the career (see Genesis P-Orridge, Michael Gira, etc.)— this is heavy and not at all friendly stuff.

This 2010 cassette on Aaron Dilloway’s Hanson Records captures the raw early stages of the project. Heavily inspired by fellow Swedes Brighter Death Now and Nordvargr (and others on the Cold Meat Industry label), this is pulsing, sinister industrial noise with overtones of dark Norse spirituality (‘Septentrional’ means ‘Of the North’). There is a repetitive and simplistic approach to these tracks, but with an artfully organic presence that evokes a bleak environment of cursed machines rather than an impression of mere lazy looping and layering. There are three tracks on each side. A1 and B3 are creepers with unhealthy-sounding and unintelligible vocals. A2 and B2 are exemplary rhythmic noise pieces in the vein of early Genocide Organ. B1 is a more minimal dirge stalker with frightening serpent-speech somewhere between black metal and Bob from Twin Peaks. A3 is a spacier piece with a muted sample that may be Aleister Crowley. All tracks are good, so take the black pill, don your exit bag, and turn it up.

Anti-Ear – “John Stamos” – [Planetary Magnetics Cooperation]

lexi glass   3/5/2019   A Library, Cassette

Anti-Ear is the appendage of noisician Tyler Harwood, formerly local but recently relocated to New Orleans. This 2018 cassette, released by Harwood’s NOLA-based music/graphic design imprint Planetary Magnetics Corporation, holds a 20-minute noise trip on each side. These aren’t complex collages that crush you with detail and density. Side A feels more like a comic strip, full of bold, broad strokes, graphic dots, and sudden zingers, like the oscillating electronics that warble until they succeed in shattering glass. Side B is still stark but more dark, with oozing synths, heavy pulses, and the quiet growls of Uncle Jesse on a meth binge, breathing down your neck. Have mercy!

Circuit Wound – “Symbiotic Cannibalism” -[Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   3/4/2019   A Library, Cassette

Circuit Wound is the solo noise project of LA’s Jay Howard, who also records as part of the groups Bacteria Cult and Wire Werewolves, and with Bob Bellerue in a duo called Redwound. Howard has been causing headaches with Circuit Wound since at least 2001.

I think he is one of the more reliable LA harsh noisers, because his pieces tend to be very dynamic, i.e. they very much retain the impression of whatever constant effects manipulation was necessary to keep the sonic fracas flying. 

On his 2018 effort for Oxen, this peddle-torquing Torquemada gives no quarter; the Angeleno sonic torture progresses from side A to side B leaving only skidmarks and tangled ruins. There are many layers of excellently recorded chaos to explore and it definitely doesn’t sound anything like radio static or any of the other tropes employed by harsh noise detractors. I’m not going to sugar-coat this: it sounds like R2-D2 being tortured at a Disney black site. The A side starts off a little more slowly and the B side gets right to it. Ten minutes each. Enjoy.

Disinhibition – “Demo 2012” – [Self-released]

Lord Gravestench   3/3/2019   A Library, Cassette

Crusty fucking Grindcore from San Jose, featuring drummer Chad Gailey (in between his tenures in Bruxers and Necrot, later also Vastum and Mortuous) and guitarist Colin Tarvin (Mortuous). This is balls-to-the-wall grind in the mold of early Earache releases, extremely well-recorded. The first two tracks are originals, and the next two are covers of Napalm Death and Repulsion, respectively, although the Repulsion cover (t.4, of ‘Eaten Alive’) is retitled as ‘Napalm Deceiver’; perhaps this is in reference to how Napalm Death stole the riff from Repulsion’s ‘Stench of Burning Death’ for their own ‘Deceiver’? Anyhow, the whole thing clocks in at six minutes which is just fine. Killer grind, recommended if you like having your head beaten against a brick wall.

Sordahl, Shanna – “Radiate Don’t Fear The Quietus” – [Full Spectrum Records]

atavist   12/16/2018   A Library, Cassette

Oakland-based Shanna Sordahl blends cello with electronics to produce hypnotic soundscapes. Side 1 produces images of clouds moving at dawn, and the skitters and furtive scratches of cities below not yet awake. Sordahl builds her patterns patiently, coaxing a variety of resonances from the cello.  Each side of the cassette has two longer-format tracks with multiple layers and electronics and concludes with a shorter track in which Sordahl plays a solo cello composition. Side 2 begins with the track “Everyday”, and a more electronics-intensive approach. Articulated bumps and thumps tiptoe towards percussion, drones set the stage, and finally, a vocal element emerges. These are compositions for dreaming, but the dreamer may experience something between anxiety and calm, something restful yet on-edge, the liminal space between waking and sleeping.

Being – “Hydrocracker” – [Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   12/7/2018   A Library, Cassette

Active since around 2006, Being is the Harsh Noise project of Dayton, Ohio’s Luke Tandy. The artist’s biblical namesake may have been the wimpiest evangelist, but like just about everything else on LA’s Oxen label, this is texturally rich centi-pedal aural destruction, excellently recorded and produced, and a head-splitter of the first order. Hyperabstractive audio sewage mixed with rusty sawblades in an old clawfoot tub; the radio, perched precariously at the edge, tuned between stations. This material explores a wide range of pitches, to put it mildly. Mr. Tandy likes to ‘hold his high notes,’ if you take my meaning (particularly on that A side track, gee whiz). The two impressive performances on this 2018 tape will satisfy noise fiends and probably confuse everybody else. They may even exceed the comfort level of some who think, based on this review, that they will be able to deal. Side A is live recording, side B is studio, but they sound vice-versa. An admirably singleminded exercise in sonic obscenity, mining the same deep vein as neighboring Pittsburgh’s genre-defining master musicians of Macronympha. There are other artists to whom I could compare the sound, but…

BTW, hydrocracking is apparently a part of the petroleum refining process, “by which the hydrocarbon molecules of petroleum are broken into simpler molecules, as of gasoline or kerosene, by the addition of hydrogen under high pressure and in the presence of a catalyst.” So now you know.

No Balls “Bergen 31.5.2014” [Drid Machine Records]

atavist   12/1/2018   A Library, Cassette

This is blistering noise rock made noisier with a raw live recording. Veteran Scandinavian noisers No Balls and related projects Brainbombs and Noxagt are well-represented in the KFJC library, and this entry adds fuel to the flames. Lo-fi and dripping with feedback. Reckless abandon and the pursuit of pummeling repetition. Almost entirely instrumental, bandsaw guitar tone, clipped out drum cymbals. Side B starts with a Brainbombs track and ends with a secret track.

Li Jianhong – “1969” – [WV Sorcerer Productions]

lexi glass   11/13/2018   A Library, Cassette

Li Jianhong is a free-improvisational guitarist from Hangzhou, working since the 90s in several groups, including VagusNerve (in our library), and the founder of the experimental label 2pi. This 2018 cassette release from Lyon/Nanjing-based label WV Sorcerer collects Li’s solo works from 2008, right around the time when his album San Sheng Shi, was discovered by international audiences.

Three longform psychedelic guitar works. “Die in humble and warm” (T1) is a blazing, slowly developing piece, with bright guitar tones darkened and distorted by reverb and other effects. The calm gives way to “Revolution is only a sad illusion” (T2), a menacing feedback storm that rages and settles, like toxic smoke clouds, into a heavy, post-apocalyptic drone. The feedback flares again before the Side A ends. Side B holds the heavy “1969” (T3), with reverberating tones swelling into massive blasts of psychedelic delirium.

Ugh [coll] – [Crash Symbols]

Thurston Hunger   11/11/2018   A Library, Cassette


You might recognize the cassette opener from KFJC’s recent
Devil’s Triangle comp. Or maybe from watching Quintron and
Merzbow play hopscotch in Tron?? Noa Ver’s vox skip through
a 5 bit processor (bought with food stamps) and form their
own scratchy percussion which only highlights the sick stick
and swell cowbell from drumming powerhouse Zach D’Agostino.
Zach packs a marching band in his bloodstream, he carves
each tune a melody out of rhythm, which is excellent so
Noa can get up to her elbows and larynx in sterling circuit
disintegration. Somewhere on a drum-free break while
“Lazing in the Garden” I imagined Noa as a dental
hygenist jamming on the teeth and ears of a patient.
But it’s not like you need novocaine, Sea Moss has got
their finger on the noise nerve barrier and nails the pleasure
receptors time and again. Paired with a fellow Portland duo on
the flip cassette tip, similarly a weirdo wonder femme and a
killer drummer. Diana Oropeza drops thoughts and the mic, in her
singing proclamation style on their opener, then switching
to curandera invocations. TJ Thompson creates the electro
funk kinda like !!! and again flat-out kickass drumming.
“Afterthought” takes live-or-memorex horns and swirls ’em.
The Stomach reminds me of Mecca Normal in how I feel I’ve both
been warned and entertained. Short blasts from both that can help
your splice the sonic DNA of your show from no wave to drone to
hip-hop to funk to slambient to sparkle prog.
-Thurston Humbled

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