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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Andy Christian Way is a former member of Sutekh Hexen who also plays with French Radio and Maleficia, among other projects. Thoabath would be his Death Industrial unit, active since 2015 or thereabouts. The project is all about primal rhythms and desolate, hopeless atmosphere. This 2017 cassette comes to us on Madriguera Records of Puerto Rico, where Way resided for a time prior to the hurricane. This will be comfy next to KFJC’s (or my) collection of releases from MZ.412, Theologian, and Dissecting Table. Bilious, decay-obsessed electronics with a riveting sense of tension. Side A= Beats By Dis, melting flesh, babbling demon voices. Side B= Deep, deep ambience to cleanse the palate after all the blood and sulphur of the A side; just don’t get too comfortable because the zaps are coming. This is beautiful release. The quote on the interior is from France’s obfuscatory postmodern fill-o-soffer Jean-Francois Lyotard: “All corporeal identity trembles at its finitude, and for it, distraught with humiliation as much as with suffering”–or to put it another way, “life sucks.”
Disambiguation is the debut release from Cruel Diagonals, the experimental electronic project of Oakland/LA-based sound artist Megan Mitchell. Each track fuses the sounds of the ancient and the modern into dark, dreamlike ambient works, all held together by Mitchell’s stunning voice. Her vocals, treated with reverb and layered into hauntingly beautiful harmonies, are woven with minimal rhythms (T2, T4, T5, T8), dark drones (T6, T7, T9), or slowly building storms of noise (T7). Also worked into the tracks are field recordings from the ethnomusicology archives from the University of Washington, where Mitchell was a student. In these nine tracks she expresses the search for sense in the senseless, arriving at some conclusion in her final incantation.
2018 beat tape, the fifth in a series from the Boxcutter Brothers, a collaboration between California beatmaker Drasar Monumental and Ayatollah, a prolific producer from Queens. On Side A, Drasar represents the West Coast with five tracks of dense and adventurous sampling, (including some Bollywood dance tunes on A3, dark piano loops and electro beats on A4 and A5). But despite the beautiful backing tracks, the feel on this side is aggressive, violent, and razor sharp. Side B cuts the other way – Ayatollah delivers the more laid-back of the two sides, but it still crushes. Killer soul samples, heavy beats, and a couple of cameos from Sun Ra (B5- amazing) and Barry White (B6). From local SF label 77 Rise. FCCs on A1, A4, A5
Psudoko (formerly Parlamentarisk Sodomi) is Steinar Kittilsen, a one-man time-travelling prog-grind-math-core band from Trondheim Norway. This cassette was released in 2014 on Drid Machine, but recorded much later.
The sound is an adrenaline-heavy mix of prog-rock, math-rock, punk-rock, and butt-rock. Impossibly fast, impossibly intricate, and impossibly powerful. Highly controlled chaos.
Thumping bass lines and break-neck blast-beats. Fast, angular riffs that turn on a dime. Guitars that scream, scribble, and shred. What really sets this album apart is the meticulous arrangement and orchestration found in each track. Brief and beautiful piano interludes balance out blistering guitar solos. Violins sing and bells chime with perfect clarity alongside distorted strings and fuzz.
The future is here, and it is fast.
This album starts with what sounds like being in the fiery cockpit of a 747 crashing though the San Francisco fog. Suddenly the left wing rips off, instruments are malfunctioning. You can almost hear the sound of screaming passengers in the background. The plane quickly loses altitude and it seems the plane may crash into the water, extinguishing the flames. Everything gets real quiet. Where is your flotation device? Not all hope is lost… then it fucking explodes, fucking flames everywhere, faces melting off, no more hope. And that’s just the A-side…
This jet fuel melts steel beams!
Two killer musicians featured here, Tom Weeks on alto saxophone and Camille Emaille on percussion sounds. Recorded in Oakland 2016, what we get is what I’m calling surreal jazz. Certainly skronky, certainly noisey, and possibly jazz, but without leaning toward one or the other. Waspy wisps of wings around the corner, fluttering brushes, clips and clops, the bowing of a saw, perhaps, and what I’m sure is a goose having on orgasm high on acid.
Hazy, smooth, and rhythmic lo-fi electro-acoustic compositions from Moody Alien, an anonymous artist from Thessaloniki Greece and proprietor or the Thirsty Leaves Music micro-label which put this cassette out (edition of only 50).
Warm samples of acoustic instruments are layered, blended, and tweaked. Recordings of scattered chords, echoey drones, and flowing melodic patterns mix with field recordings and sparse, distant vocals. The layers are deep, but not dense. The result an enveloping, dream-like feeling of mysterious familiarity. The pieces each build carefully and in their own way, some juust baarely venturing into heavy free-folk proto-grooves before retreating back to the comfort of a nice drone.
A rich variety of instruments are on display here. Moody Alien plays classical guitar, 2 harmonicas, trumpet, cello, double-bass, glockenspiel, toy piano, numerous household objects and “a few body parts”. The credits call out several other musicians who lend their unique sound on different tracks: electric guitar on T1, bouzouki on T2, trumpet on T4, dulcimer on T4 and T5, and more!
Beautiful, rich, and heavy sounds.
A Balalaika is a Russian stringed instrument known for its triangular body. This cassette is the third installment of noise music performed on a Balalaika, released on Stauropygial Records out of Russia.
It’s difficult to tell that there is even a stringed instrument on this cassette, let alone a Balalaika. It shrieks, squiggles, screams, and only occasionally shreds. All this is soaked in layers of reverb, heavy distortion, autotune oblivion, and pervasive piercing feedback.
There are two side-long tracks, each with a lot of variety. Depending on your mood, some sequences may be harder to take than others. But it’s different, and oddly compelling, and the sound is going to change in a few minutes anyways, so stick with it!
Yet another deprogramming session from LA’s Harsh Noise dealers at Oxen, the label run by Unsustainable Social Condition and Leah P. This time our contestant is Abe Mason from N. Carolina., his mouth full of dust and tape. There are two tracks on side A and 3 on side B of this 2018 scorcher, and both ten-minute sides track together (wink). Side A is skittery and explosive, like coming down from methamphetamine (I’m told). Small movements in dim corners of abandoned factories. Suddenly the broken machinery springs to life; splats, tearing. Side B grinding rattling creaking, electronics and metal and a continuation of the general ‘cut-up’ theme also explored recently by Japan’s Scum on this same label.
It all seems to be pretty intricate sound design work even by the standard Oxen enforces. Very much in stereo, and kind of like a child “with ADHD” (cough) it can’t settle on any noise texture for more than about half a second. I dunno if it’s improvised or composed or waddaya waddaya, but I declare it truly impressive noise. Apparently Mason has also released quite a bit under the name Thirteen Fingers.
Pure electronic harsh noise devastation chopped into breathless adrenalin bursts. The only recognisable human sound anywhere is a brief sample of maybe a standup comic on the final track who pops in to say “It’s all just a waste of time… doesn’t matter.” Indeed.
Inzane Indiana trio of Drew Davis, Tim Gick, and John Olson of Wolf Eyes. This cassette collects recordings of live sets from around the Midwest during the Fall 2017. The first two tracks on Side A are slow burning, late night jams recorded at some dude’s apartment. Droning horns, temple chimes, and what sounds like a harmonium give these tracks a heavy, ritualistic feel. The next two tracks are live recordings from one of Olson’s infamous Psy Jazz nights at Trixie’s bar in Detroit. The first is a thick, twisted throng of brass sounds (T3) while in the second, deep electronic drones and distorted recordings of chanting provide the backdrop for the horns in the foreground (T4). The final track was recorded (secretly?) in the Japanese gardens of Michigan State University, with the chanting voices and echoing sax rising again from the dark mists of Lansing. Now That’s What I Call Psy Jazz!
Two longform hallucinations from Seattle-based sound artist Kole Galbraith. Our copy of his latest cassette release found its way to the station during his visit to the Pit in June 2018. On each side of the tape, Galbraith uses an electric guitar with effects to create two contrasting scenes. The earth rumbles in “Cordilleran Rupture” (A), as rough electronic sounds collapse into a massive drone sinkhole. Justin Lazar and Paul Walsh assist with noise on the track. “Burnt Hair on Disautel Pass” (B) is a desolate landscape, swept by roaring winds, with chimes and blunted guitar plucking appearing like distant points of light. His first release (here) can be found in our library.
On the list of inspirations for this album that includes Keiji Haino and Syd Barrett, Patrick Neill Gundran cites, “that scene in Aliens when one of them gets shot in the head by Lt. Vasquez and writhes around in that air duct” as another major influence. This album is two 19-minute long tracks of subtly fluctuating improvised wall of noise. Recorded on high bias cobalt tape, this 2015 release will be the perfect accompaniment to your morning commute.
Grim is the Japanese industrial/power electronics project of Jun Konagaya. Previously, Jun worked with Tomasada Kuwahara in White Hospital, releasing one full length album, 1984’s Holocaust (in our library), before parting ways. The first Grim album followed shortly after in 1986, the incredible Folk Music. Jun continued releasing work throughout the 80s (including some surprisingly gorgeous folk), and then took an extended break to pursue his tenkoku practice. He returned to Grim in 2013, and his new material caught the attention of Tesco Organization, who released 2016’s Orgasm and brought Jun to Europe for his first international shows. Since then, both his old and newer material have been more widely released and his work has deservingly found a larger audience. This cassette EP was originally released at a show in Tokyo in Spring 2017.
Throughout Jun’s works, extremely harsh electronic sounds, aggressive rhythms, and confrontational vocals mix improbably with traditional folk sounds and even beautiful melodies. On this tape, Jun uses acoustic instruments like Tibetan shaman’s bells, drums, Indian pugi, and guttural vocal, almost throat singing techniques. The title track (T1) sets a dark, droning temple atmosphere, “Summons” (T2) drives with an fierce tribal rhythm with ringing bells, “Goddess Moth” is beautiful unfolding synth piece, and “Nine” finishes with ruthless screamed vocals. It’s over much too quickly, so I hope we can soon get our hands on more of this consistently terrifying and beautiful work.
cascadian doom folk of the apocalypse, this group of ladies from Olympia perform acoustically and by candelabra because when the end comes there will be no electricity. somber, sparse yet uplifting in the most dismal of outcomes, vradiazei literally translates from Greek to “getting night” or “darkness comes” they lost their banjo/bouzouki player to motherhood, life eats away at us all one by one. vocals on the B side
One-man noisegrind from music journalist Shane Mehling, also of the WA post-hardcore band Great Falls. Bandmate Demian Johnston (see also: Sutekh Hexen, BLSPHM, noise work under his own name) runs the label.
Side A = Blown-out mathy bass assault, probable drum machine doing the full blast thing, Pig Destroyer style hardcore vocals. The last track resolves itself with about one minute of feedback.
Side B = Single piece of nearly unlistenable feedback manipulation.
A sleek and deadly example of a confrontational genre, somewhat akin to the more musical excursions of longtime KFJC favourites Sissy Spacek.
The original Synanon was a drug recovery program founded in Santa Monica that turned into a criminal mind-control cult. Couldn’t be cultier than 12-step, though (rimshot!).
Both sides about 5 minutes. The label founder says: “I am hoping to release some more of his stuff but it’s impossible to get him back in the damn studio. He spends all his time battling blackberry bushes.”
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