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Music Reviews

Ima – “Ende” – [Buh Records]

lexi glass   10/15/2019   A Library, Cassette

This cassette is the first official single from IMA, the local electroacoustic duo of percussionist Nava Dunkleman and sound artist Amma Ateria. Compared to the live recording of their performance at the 2017 Garden of Memory festival (in our library), Ende is a much darker and more menacing vision; IMA describes this work as the “beginning of awakening to the aftermath of destruction and devastation.” Over four short vignettes, Dunkleman’s percussion moves from delicacy to total collapse, while Ateria’s electronic atmospherics build a heavy sense of dread. “Flower of Dust” (T2) incorporates fragments of Japanese poetry that build on the theme of downfall. The tape ends too soon, but luckily IMA’s first full-length LP is due out later this year, and I look forward to hearing more of their consistently elegant work.

Hypnagogue – “Distant Light Receding” – [Self Released]

lexi glass   10/8/2019   A Library, Cassette

This 2019 cassette is the debut release from Hypnagogue, the solo project of Massachusetts-based artist James Rosato. On Distant Light Receding, Rosato uses guitar and magnetic tape to evoke the “harsh beauty of a coastal New England winter.” But to my ear, there’s no harshness at all to be found in these dreamlike drones, just a quiet warmth, like a lit candle on a snowy night. Five tracks over two sides that drift into one another in a continuous slow burn.

Nonlocal Forecast – “Bubble Universe!” – [Hausu Mountain]

lexi glass   9/17/2019   A Library, Cassette

Mention “vaporwave” in a lobbyful of KFJC DJs and you’ll likely hear a chorus of groans. So how is that this cassette from Nonlocal Forecast – which deals in many of the 90s-obsessed sounds associated with the particularly obnoxious millennial microgenre – totally rips? It’s because we’re in the capable hands of Angel Marcloid, the creative genius behind the blazingly great project Fire-Toolz.

Those upbeat smooth-jazz jams that played during the Weather Channel’s local forecast segments throughout the 90s to this day fill me with a strange and primal sense of comfort, and reading some other reviews of Bubble Universe!, it seems I’m not alone. For me, the corny tunes eased my fears during what seemed like the impending end of the world, the chipper soundtrack to a repeating SuperDoppler radar animation of a hurricane on a direct path towards my hometown. Marcloid’s intricate compositions completely capture the sound and feel of those songs: the tinny rhythms, the cheezy synths, and – most dated of all – the unabashed optimism. Just as you let down your guard and begin to get into the intricate grooves, she’ll lay down some seriously smooth guitar stylings (T1, T4). As the tape plays on, it concerns itself with more than atmospheric conditions, blasting off into the cosmos. It’s impossible not to get down during “Classical Information” (T7) and don’t miss the sparkling mind-blower “Triangular Format (Feat. Fire-Toolz)” (T5), but it’s all brilliant – hit it.

HVAC – “Mentality” – [Self Produced]

lexi glass   9/4/2019   A Library, Cassette

2017 demo tape from this hardcore punk band from NYC. Seven short bursts of fury driven by absolutely vicious, bloodcurdling vox. Sarah, Tess, Carlos, and Anjelica threaten to melt the flesh of any capitalists, social climbers, rotten hypocrites, and cop callers in the vicinity, so get out of their fuckin way!

FCCs: T2, T3, T4, T6

Black Dog/Goddess Aphonic [coll] – [Monastic Discharge]

atavist   8/27/2019   A Library, Cassette

Black Dog: Filthy vocals, bass buzzes like malevolent electrical wire. Lo-fi production boosts the raw subversion. The mix favors the vocals over the instruments, so turn it up and have Gollum screaming in your ear.

Goddess Aphonic: the quest to meld heavy with saxophone continues. Driving, insistent rhythm section. Snarling bass. The sax carries the main melody with descents into the skronks and shrieks common when a sax is pushed into the red. The sax is maxed out in a way that you can feel the air rattling around the inside the brass. Occasionally, some strangled vocals are forced through the chamber.

Situational Plays [coll] – [No Rent Records]

lexi glass   8/13/2019   A Library, Cassette

Two contrasting noise situations on this 2019 split cassette from Nadia (Ashley Bennett of Portland, ME) and Apologist (Rose Actor-Engel of Philadelphia, who runs No Rent Records with partner Jason Crumer). On Side A, Nadia leads off with two tracks of concentrated rhythmic energy. Somewhere within “Predictions” (A1) lurks a dark, rustling beauty, but it’s impossible to grasp: a high-pitched tone sharpens into an icepick point, bores into the brain, and demands our total attention. Through “Absolute Zero” (A2), resonant waves furiously collapse into a single, massive point source. After the intensity of the A side, Apologist offers a measure of peace. “Carte Blanche” (B1) emits warm melodies, treated vocals – both solo and in chorus – and ringing bells, while “Concession” (B2) concludes with a quiet meditation of organ, chimes, and forest field recordings.

Howland, Amanda R. – “Spider, Milk, Batshit, Silence” – [No Rent Records]

lexi glass   8/6/2019   A Library, Cassette

Cleveland-based noise artist Amanda R. Howland weaves an elaborate web on this 2018 cassette from Philadelphia’s No Rent Records. On Side A, “Spider, Milk” opens with a bang and then settles, slowly extending silken strands that capture recordings of fluttering melodies or muffled voices, a slow build to a final violent struggle. On Side B, “Batshit, Silence” drops us back into the action, as hurried footsteps stride into a piercing feedback storm. Distorted signals howl through subarachnoid spaces before lurching into – as promised – a sudden silence.

Valise – “Fe N2” – [No Rent Records]

lexi glass   7/30/2019   A Library, Cassette

Valise is the solo project of Marilee Armstrong-Rial, a multimedia artist based in Providence and NYC. I’d heard good things about this cassette, sold out long ago on the website for Philadelphia’s excellent No Rent Records label, so when I spotted it on the shelf at a shop in New York I scooped it up. Within seconds of pressing play, I fell in love – it’s been awhile since I’ve heard a release with an opening act so arresting. An everyday scene – the sounds of a city crosswalk – dissolves into an anesthetic ambience; later, we reawaken to mechanical breathing, the distant singing of hymns and carols, and crystalline melodies. Side B features more rhythmic passages, with kinetic beats and heavy low-end pulses, paired with Armstrong-Rial’s warm vocals. Together it calls to mind a noisier, more abstract version of Valet‘s subdued psychedelia. I find myself returning to this tape again and again, completely under its strange spell.

Blood of Chhinnamastika – “Promise of Delusion” – [Fusty Cunt]

Lord Gravestench   7/28/2019   A Library, Cassette

No-brakes Power Electronics from San Jose’s Dario Puga, who also runs the noise label The Pet Goat. 

In some senses Blood of Chhinnamastika is a continuation of Dario’s previous work as Botched Facelift, but upon that foundation he has built a distinctive new edifice of damaged sound, as cartoonish as it is bleak. Dario is also a free jazz musician (check out his old band A Fashionable Disease for proof), and brings a touch of jazz-like complexity and spontaneity to his industrial noise work. On this 2018 tape, his first release on the delightful Fusty Cunt label, he assaults the listener head-on with constantly metamorphosing juggernauts of spastic and stuttering synth severity, tethered lightning bolts of feedback, diabolically sliced-up samples, and scornful outbursts of Black-Metal-influenced shrieking. Frequent and violent terraformations occur, the artist’s supply of psychotic tones seemingly inexhaustible.

Botched Facelift was a terrific project, but the B.O.C. “makeover” (to quote Lexi Glass) really came into its own on this release, picking up the Power Electronics genre where the experiments of people like Slogun, Con-Dom and Sutcliffe Jugend left it and carrying it forward into even stranger nightmares. His performance in the KFJC pit (5/28/2019, alongside Microwave Windows) really drove home just how much precision and effort goes into maintaining control of his sound. Afterwards he told me he considers noise the easiest genre to fuck up. Whether or not that is the case, B.O.C. definitely does NOT fuck it up here. A scorcher.

SOOT – “A General Theory of Tears” – [Obsolete Units]

Lord Gravestench   7/27/2019   A Library, Cassette

SOOT (stylised in all-caps) is the experimental project of Oakland, CA’s James Livingston, who has enjoyed a long working relationship with KFJC as proprietor of the eclectic Black Horizons label, on behalf of which he has brought numerous exotic bands into our live pit. SOOT is a fairly new act, seeming to have debuted on a 2017 split with Thoabath, and although he has played in various bands previously, this is also a new direction for James’s personal musical endeavors— although by no means outside the aesthetic turf of his label. Keywords for this 2018 debut album could be Death Industrial, Musique Concrète, Dark Ambient, or Sound Installation. Influences might  include Brighter Death Now and Stratvm Terror, but not only these.

Power Electronics methodology but with a Dub-inspired low end preoccupation, generally eschewing harshness in favour of murk. Deep drones just above subsonic ranges, moaning cavern draughts, fidgety clanking of metal, and anguished vocals pitch-shifted down to inhuman levels, all creating an impression of some demonic creature shackled miles underground to bellow eternally for its revenge. Percussive but not rhythmic. Abstract but purposeful. Often quite minimal. Vocals on every track but A1, ranging in delivery from flat recitation to crazed scolding. “No more masks“ on the devastating finale, where he drops the heavy voice effects, then proves he doesn’t need them to make an impact, delivering a fiery and affecting sermon that smacks of genuine hurt.

As the title suggests, the album’s themes are dark and personal, but they are never presented overbearingly. Lyrics on several tracks are drawn from the writings of pessimistic philosopher Emil Cioran, and on A5 from tragic Austrian poet George Trakl. SOOT is not without a sense of humour, however — on t.7 (B2) he is joined by Echo Beds for a sonically perverse interpretation of a Ranking Dread song! Speaking of reggae, SOOT (in a double bill with Obsolete Units founder Rust Worship) played the KFJC pit on 4/20/2019 at exactly 4:20 PM.

Rogue Squares – “Rogue Squares” – [Obsolete Units]

lexi glass   7/23/2019   A Library, Cassette

Rogue Squares are noise artist Carlos Giffoni and Elaine Carey of the LA experimental group Telecaves. This 2018 cassette, the duo’s first release, contains six concentrated doses of drone crafted from modular synths and treated guitar. Lodged in the core of these tracks are ambient soundwaves with the contrast cranked way up. Soft contours sharpen into hard edges, then, into defined shapes, that serve as the patterned surface for synthworms for writhe, wriggle, and wreak destruction, reaching peak infestation on T5. Released on Paul Haney’s (Rust Worship) label Obsolete Units.

World Peace/Limbs Bin – “Every Ray of Sunshine Once More” – [Follow Me Into The Laser Eye]

atavist   7/10/2019   A Library, Cassette

Four minutes that careen between noise and grindcore. Side A, by World Peace, brings electronics, a raw, buzzy bass tone, maxed out levels, and pummeling drums. There are apparently 4 tracks found in these two minutes, but it seems reasonable to just play it through. Side B, from Limbs Bin, is a collage of some goofy samples and the noise/grindcore akin to Side A. Digitization is in the works, but I recommend just playing the cassette on the tape deck. It’s the easiest cassette you’ll ever cue up.

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; Swallowed in Muck” – [Self Release]

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.

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