Music Reviews

Nerfbau – “Dr. Meniere’s Sideshow” – [Ratskin Records]

abacus   7/7/2014   A Library, Cassette

surrealist fanfares for the terminally infringed. freakish inner-ear disorientation itch-scapes of auditory oddities; dystopic sound collage of pulsating, gyrating, asphyxiating scrapes, screams, blisters and bleeps. thought-jamming extradimensional terraforming of hallucinatory somnambulism. subconscious dredging of memory, dreams and accumulations of collective unreality. techno-cultural apocalypse at its best.

Riggs, Richard – “Society For The Lost” – [Skrot Up]

Thurston Hunger   6/6/2014   A Library, Cassette

London sound shaper, has a few cassettes out on the
Drone Warfare label, this one for Skrot Up definitely
delivers a sense of foreboding. Noisy electronics are
well-harnessed, there’s definitely a sense of composition
from the lead-off track with a sort of hailing frequency
over a fast bass distored note. Reminiscent of early
Pan Sonic, other electronic daemons whistle around that
bottom and after 5 minutes a free jazz sample starts
simmering in the shadows. Next up “Lust” with a open
robot ohhhh to start, electronics slide in and a
ghost pianist. Again a shifty feeling, a diseased drone
with some more forceful passages eventually gives rise
to a slowed down excerpt from the film “‘Tis Pity She’s
a Whore” and a tRampling of dialog between sibling lovers.
On this, and really all four tracks Riggs reminds me of
another RR, Robin Rimbaud, and his electronically
enhanced eavesdropping. Next up, great round deep
rolls of sound, with squelchy toppings. Move like
the ocean beneath you. Coil fans might dig. Is the TV
on? Are we watching a game show or third world coup?
At last the title track, something about the elements
of pure power drone, but flecked and flawed by much other
harsher sounds, it all leads to a gentle creepiness.
Wait for the false ending and then crescendo piercing!
Mysterious and rewarding.
-Thurston Hunger

Q///Q – “Azores Azul” – [Skrot Up]

Thurston Hunger   6/6/2014   A Library, Cassette

Evidently pronounced “Q Q”, part of the ever-busy
life connecting this project, the mighty Merx and
German Army. All three have had recent issues on
Skrot Up alone, in addition “Peter Kris” under other
names runs the Kill Shaman label, made your
breakfast yesterday, is a schoolteacher, and
serves as the alternate ambassador to Luxembourg.
While this sounds like a one-man and his machines
bedroom project, apparently there are three
members, but maybe GT and Quinn are just more
nommes du laptop for “Peter.” The music is
less mysterious, the past two years there’s been
a lot of keyboard-driven indie sounds, mostly
instrumental, analog but not so icy as the minimal
wave revival/redux. Sometimes I refer to them as
the “sons of Kitaro” but that’s just because I’m
old more than a hint of new age happiness bliss
from the banks of synths I think? This is a short
cassette, 5 songs repeated on each side. Very
round sounding tones and drum machines, I like
#3 “Inuit Nature” which features some confessional
vox that might be in spanish as opposed to native
Alaskan. Like a lot of Skrot Up releases, the
more I listen to this, the more I find (so maybe
there really are three members!) Songs are short
#4 does that phase filter squeeze, #5 has a more
cavernous live aire, with both artic and tropical
feels at times. Bipolar Bears in bikinis? Some ears
may play spot the gear on these cuts, I just dug
’em as little artifical worlds.
-Thurston Hunger

LZR – “)))o(((” – [Skrot Up]

Naysayer   5/7/2014   A Library, Cassette

Lzr (pronounced Lazer) is Johnny Lzr from Detroit. experimental film and video artist, co-founder of experimental punk band Human Eye, electronic musician: this is what can be found out about Lzr. His Skrot Up cassette release )))o((( is ten tracks of elctronic beats and soundscapes, familiar and soothing yet with a 2013 twist. There are beats reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire. There is static of a lighter sort via Throbbing Gristle. Early dance beats. Floating electronic background noise. Scratchy electricity sounds with found text recordings. The tag lines for the cassette say “alternative experimental detroit electricity electronic punk rhythmic noise throbbing pulser Copenhagen.” I couldn’t agree more. Listen up.
Oh, and at the bottom of the cassette in very small lettering is the note “Lzr thanks: The Detroit Transhuman Society”. Can’t find info on them but transhumanism is “an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” Think Robocop.
Now listen up.

Rohit – “Judge” – [Blud Auk Tapes]

abacus   4/30/2014   A Library, Cassette

Grimy noise obsessed crust-violence from this group of Portland pummelers. They’ve taken the most basic tropes of all different varieties of metal and punk and plummeted them to the deepest depths of aesthetic desolation. This single take recording (press limited to 50) showcases the raw, primal output of these beasts with episodes of epileptic feedback fits in between. While the title track brings creeping decrepitude other tracks explode into gnashing, gnarling nastiness, all narrated by a hoarse hawg howling that smells of some Gore-ish grunts. Sometimes the guitars fall over the ledge in swirling black cult invocations, other times you get some classic 1-2 punk punch, but all provide the very worst in nihilism and misanthropia. Let it be said that the only hardcore dancing you’ll be doing to this is dead on the floor.

Black Thread – “Fragrant Hoof Carvings” – [Turmeric Magnitudes]

abacus   4/24/2014   A Library, Cassette

Ambient tape minimalism from label leader Greg Gorlen out of San Francisco. Lo-fi drone loops swaying in windy hiss, the title track seemingly heat warped, spliced and bloated, broken yet serene. The A-side track is thick and inky indeed, but with lights playing tricks in the shadows, like rowing out to solitary sea on a crescent moonlit night or lost in a labyrinth of tall grass on the edge of town. On the closing lullaby we’re back in our rowboat at rainy twilight counting stars as we drift in and out of consciousness. Small sounds, fuzzy sounds, contemplative sounds.

Little Debbie – “Little Debbie” – [Skrot Up]

Thurston Hunger   4/23/2014   A Library, Cassette

Little Debbie, perhaps the child of a troll and a woman who only
wore her Joy Division t-shirt during pregnancy? Little Debbie
apparently was born as Sergey Yashenko, living in SF recently
till things headed south (LA). This Debbie is not connected to
an old 90’s band (we have their “Thank You for My Vitamin” 7″) or
any name-brand tasty treats. Hmmm, well maybe the lead-off
track is inspired by a snack cake, or is it a sex act? One-man
band action, with dingy drum machine and often a heavy bass
line, “Hypnotized” has a Sleep aura replacing the mantra vibe
with a more manic one. Still a nice middle-eastern digging
riff and vocals intoned through some effects. The instrumental
part gets summoned back after a near-death experience. Those
effected vocals, organically tweaked in the sinus and run through
reverb and other compression, often provide a haunting aspect.
Especially on “Halloween” which features some tingling
guitar and other tiny chiming sounds. “On Hungry Greedy” the
voice moves from the sinus to the gut, it almost sounds like
singing coming out of the garbage disposal. Again bass maps
the music on that track and most of the others. A sort of suffocation
of sound…but there’s something oddly catchy about the basslines
in the thickened mix. Intriguing stuff, and looks like Cochon
is issuing some of these on vinyl, but Skrot Up likes it raw
(even online digital versions sound like they are covered in cassette
murk and snack cake wrappers.) Yum.

-Thurston Hunger

Ilth Zongz – “Thee Elephant Mensch” – [Skrot Up]

abacus   4/16/2014   A Library, Cassette

Christopher Ilth of Chicago brings two side-longs of tape collage with loops of detuned upright piano fed through fx pedals, reel-to-reel and 4-track. Side-longs is deceptive, actually, as there are breaks throughout (side 1 – 1:55, 8:45, 12:25 and 19:00 / side 2 – 9:20 and about 20 seconds of silence around 16:50). Also the last piece of side 1 seems to carry over to the beginning of side 2 like that piece was cut in the middle of the cassette break. All very confusing actually, but it goes well with the fractured and looped sound pieces restrung together into clackety factory rhythms and heavy aqueous drones all peppered with tribal drumming and bullroarer voice echoes. Entrancing repetition evoked in a rhythmic sense on side 1 but on side 2 delving deeper with full drawn out tones and a swaying pulse, also much bass heavier, resonating your chest cavity with sewer reverberations and ocean mist organ meditations. Apparently Thee Elephant Mensch mask has since gone missing and was last seen on a stranger on a passing bus. I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!

Dreamsalon – “Dreamsalon” – [Skrot Up]

Thurston Hunger   4/16/2014   A Library, Cassette

Seattle trio (we’ve got Evening Meetings which was an
earlier incarnation with an additional guitarist). Actually
these guys have frequently infiltrated KFJC with bands
like A Frames, the Intelligence, Factums, Love Tan,
Le Sang Song and Yves/Son/Ace. The album has a dizzy,
sweaty kinda New Zealand (Plagal?) grind to it. Guitarist
Craig Chambers and drummer Matthew Ford share vocals
(nicely on the somewhat peppy and echoplexy “In The Air”)
About half of the tracks here were re-recorded/tidied up for
the bands 12″ on Captcha (this is often the Skrot Up way,
get their first and then watch vinyl arise). The recordings
here are more raw, sounding like they were recorded live
in an empty bar except for Skeeter passed out over
on the pool table. Min Yee provides an insistent bass,
some secret agent moves. Chambers’ guitar work, even in
the underground muddy-fi shines through as snaky, rattling
and catchy in non-obvious ways. Really good, and Ford’s
got that kinda of tribal, no wave tom-filled drumming.

-Thurston Hunger

Chrystal Oak – “Post Romanticism” – [Hiss Tapes]

MSTiZA   4/9/2014   Cassette, Hip Hop

Chrystal Oaks is Swedish rapper, Prosperous. According to his bandcamp page, Prosperous has been on the Swedish Rap Scene in crews PLANT OF TRAILS, ASSIMILATED SPECIES, and BRIEFCASE ROCKERS. This release is from the Finnish Hiss Tapes cassette label. Considering that Prosperous has collaborated with Subtitle, it’s no surprise that the tracks are experimental and alternative hip hop. There isn’t little to interpret, his skills rapping in English are clear. There are noisier elements in several tracks, begging the question as to what is used in production. With a growing trend in indie hip hop heading towards angst/rap/scatter/assault, this cassette is refreshing. It’s more palatable for those fearful of the more aggressive sounds. I am looking forward to learning more about Prosperous, his previous releases, and the Swedish rap scene.

Alex Nova – “Genesis of The Frog Rider, The” – [Skrot Up]

Thurston Hunger   4/8/2014   A Library, Cassette

A concept album that is largely instrumental might ask a
lot of its audience, but Alex Jones (aka “Nova”) builds a
one-man world (if not a galaxy) out of his sounds. His use of
synths reminds me of old school Fairlight, and he works in his
guitar chops as well hearkening back to yesteryore’s prog
schools. This is an anachronistic delight, if not an interplanetary
itinerary. He does beam in some sax from Carlos Chavarria at two
points around the middle of the cassette. But this has all the
markings of a one-man project, the singularity of purpose, the do
everything yourself vibe that makes for a slightly air-tight
feeling in the sound, but also provides striking consistency.

There are some Alien words digitally spoken (possibly text fossils
from sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster in the “Cloud of Forgetting”)
And on the closing track I think we hear Alex himself from inside
the sonic cockpit saying he’s okay (the voyage has only just
begun as this is the first part of a planned trilogy, so I hope
he packed enough freeze-dried food with all of his guitars and
keyboards). A pleasantly strange release from a strange planet,
and a definite shout out to the Skrot Up folks whose tastes and
tapes defy easy categorization. More from them to come on KFJC,
that’s a promise.

-Thurston Hunger

Replica – “Demo Tape” – [Self Release]

mickeyslim   4/2/2014   A Library, Cassette


Super fast, loud, angry, hardcore shit punk from Oakland. Bunch of chicks (possibly?) Seriously in yo’ face, all up in your grill kind of shit.

A grand total of five minutes on this over-too-soon self-release. Play it, I dare you.

I.C.P.C.P. / DEMONSLEEPER [coll] – [Self Released]

abacus   2/5/2014   A Library, Cassette

Minimal electrobeat noise from Oakland night lurkers I.C.P.C.P. and Demonsleeper. I.C.P.C.P. aka Micah hails from Massachussets and brings a sparse factory dance club glitch party. Lo-fi dronecore tickles the back of your brain with multi-meter taps, scrapes and shuffles. A rusty sandpaper rave. Demonsleeper aka Sandy from Puerto Rico gives us a more squelchy industrial romp with echoed vocals and jagged percussion that morphs into monochromatic walls of rhythmic static, wobbling out of orbit and twirling through vortexes of voices and visual vexations. Two sidelong tracks go through various phases and segments allowing for easy jump ins and outs. Get your 4am freak on!

Coward – “Shitheel” – [Idiopathic Records]

abacus   1/13/2014   A Library, Cassette

Serpentine guitar duo squeals droning in the murkiest, most decrepit pits of Hollywood. Infant label leaders wallowing in their own feedback squall of distant rumbling, percussive shrieks and static fuzz. Claustrophobically cloudy bleary eyed horrorscapes. The first track is a smoky apparition of a skeletal blues guitar picker singing down the machinery malfunction, the second a storm ritual of the Druids summoning radio mirages of industrial waste fires. This will probably make you cry.

White Mic – “Fighting Off Success” – [Hiss Tapes]

MSTiZA   1/9/2014   Cassette, Hip Hop

This is the cassette release of the 2012 album. This cassette comes to KFJC via Hiss Tapes a label out of Finland. White Mic is one of the original members of Bored Stiff. White Mic delivers a direct take on aging in the independent hip hop world. With little effort he takes strides approaching the subject. There is no burden to carry in his endeavor to articulate this paradigm. He is clear in his delivery. This is a refreshing voice from a man in an genre in which the artists or MCs don’t get infinite opportunities to withstand the changing of the culture. The sound is filled with nostalgic but innovative beats and delivery while remaining grounded. Tune in to this and turn it up.

TALsounds – “Sky Face” – [Notes and Bolts]

Thurston Hunger   12/22/2013   A Library, Cassette

KFJC’s first full length from NaTALie Chami aka TALsounds,
after two splits with Greyghost and Iron Galaxy. This is
also KFJC’s introduction to the riveting Chicago label
Notes and Bolts. On her earlier Iron Galaxy split, Natalie
brought a friend into her cloudbank, but this returns to
her gravity-defying dream-delay solo work. Home-crafted
mind-blenders with some potential circuit bender trickery
too. I really dig the element of drone-song, there are
gentle anchors of repeating notes/chords, that reminded
me of Popol Vuh. Her voice work melds with her variety
of synths, in the way Liz Harris’ voice drifts between
the strings of her guitars. You’re not just floating,
you’re floating towards something. And it may not be
as pretty a destination as you had hoped; check the
grittier electronics on “Same Noise” and “Justice.”
She tweaks her own voice frequently, like on “Raw
Discourse” that ends up recalling the “Dolls Polyphony”
from the Akira soundtrack. A nice mix of cute and
eerie on that. Gossamer lyrics on many tracks that
vanish when you touch them. Chami’s 2013 brand of
sonic isolation tank meets ear massage has me looking
forward to more soon. -Thurston Hunger

Pure Ground – “Protection” – [Chondritic Sound]

incognito   12/18/2013   A Library, Cassette


New 23min release from LA recording duo Pure Ground, in a limited 100 tape edition. I’ve seen people describe this as minimal wave and industrial; it’s got a lot of minor chord synth progressions, and simple drum machine beats; I’m going to go out on a limb and call this “Margaret Thatcher Era Re-Enactment” wave. Dark-ish, not terribly complex lyrics and themes, lofi-recording aesthetic with hidden pop aspirations. A fun listen.

Head Cleaner: a Louisville Music Compilation [coll] – [Gubbey Records]

Naysayer   12/1/2013   A Library, Cassette

Is Louisville the other Austin? This Gubbey Records two cassette, 46 song compilation celebration of all things Louisville, Kentucky right now at the end of 2013 will have you thinking that. Though they are not trying to be any other place than Louisville. Instead, they are honoring their city and all that is outstanding about it musically. And honor it they have. For over 2 1/2 hours the music that spills forth from this compilation is a reflection of the diverse musical creativity coming out of this interesting place. Gubbey Records put out an open call for music to be included in this collection and the selections came pouring in, the results being “Head Cleaner: a Louisville Music Compilation.” All artists are from Louisville and most do not have any other recordings out on LP, cassette or CD format. Which is amazing.
So what does it sound like? It’s easier to ask what it doesn’t sound like. One track after another, the sounds and styles change, each keeping you wanting more. Old timey country, noise, bluegrass, drone, metal, ambient, acoustic vocals, guitar noodling, trash rock, geek folk, alterna rock…… it just keeps coming and coming forward, track after track. The quality is astounding. The diversity is jaw dropping. And after 2 1/2 hours it just leaves you with a big smile on your face, happy to know about the good stuff that’s going on out there in the world.

Drake, Molly – “S/t” – [Squirrel Thing Recordings]

humana   11/17/2013   A Library, Cassette

These home recordings from Nick Drake’s mother are sweet and nostalgic, with themes such as reminiscing, birds, picnics, and more. Her lilting voice is lovely for the most part, and painful in a way because you can hear the voice of a mother in it, one who has put a lot of herself aside for her family, but who has something creative bubbling up within that demands expression. Very homespun and quaint.

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