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Music Reviews

Boone, Benjamin With The Ghana Jazz Collective – “Joy” – [Origin Records]

aarbor   7/1/2020   CD, Jazz

Benjamin Boone is a  saxophonist, composer, and Professor of Music at California State University Fresno. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Ghana from 2017-18). He grew up in the small textile town of Statesville, North Carolina, the youngest of five sons. “My brothers pursued history, literature, art and biology, so I have always gravitated towards interdisciplinary projects,” he says. “I like to make artistic statements that address culturally relevant topics …” While he was in Ghana he performed with the musicians on this release: Bernard Ayisa (tenor sax), Victor Dey, Jr. (keyboards), Bright Osei (bass), Frank Kissi (drums) and Sandra Hudson (vocals). This recording was made the week before he left Ghana. Tracks 1, 3, 5 and 6 are Boone’s compositions, the others are his arrangements. Boone says: “In Ghana music is participatory, egoless, and woven into the very fabric of existence. People live with joy and make music with joy.”

 AArbor  

The Apollas – “Absolutely Right!” – [Kent Soul]

cadilliac margarita   6/25/2020   CD, Soul

 Originally called The Lovejoys, The Apollas were considered the Warner Brothers equivalent of the Supremes. Beginning in the early 60s as a quartet from The Bay Area, including one male singer, Ronnie Brown, they eventually ended as a trio anchored by the powerful growl of Leola Jiles. By her side was Ella Jamerson, and a rotating 3rd member (Originally 17-year-old Joann Forks, then Dorothy Ramsey, Billie Barnum, and briefly Blondell Breed). WB released their music on their short-lived LOMA soul imprint, before converting them back the main label for the remainder of their contract. During that time, they opened for Barbra Streisand and the Monkees, and performed on many nationally syndicated TV shows. Towards the end of the 1960s they toured extensively in Asia. The group called it quits in the early 70s due to a failure to break through commercially. Dick Glasser, who signed Jiles to a solo contract (stop me if you’ve heard this one) then promptly refused to let her audition under fair terms as the new lead singer of the Supremes, dashed her hopes for a mainstream career. However, the group singles found a new and enthusiastic audience in London’s Northern Soul scene. Since disbanding, all members have continued to perform as professional back- up singers, along with occasional solo tours, and most recently a reunion in UK in 2007. This is wonderful. A nice mix of upbeat RnB rockers, soulful strings, and melancholy heartbreak. Leola Jiles spectacular lead vocals burn hot and are very distinctive and memorable in my book. I’m glad we have the opportunity to share this collection, which includes some of Jiles solo cuts, with our listeners.

Nnamdi – “Brat”

cadilliac margarita   6/25/2020   CD, Hip Hop

Nnamdi – Brat

Chicago based, multi- instrumentalist. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from UoC, so I’m guessing the expertly layered production values his 4th studio album is his own doing. He also the founder of Sooper Records (The label this record is on) and has been in too many bands to count. He has presented us with a great mix of Avant pop, jazz, folk, hip hop, electro-soul. It’s gorgeous, lush, and dreamy. His vocals are soft and floaty—a understated falsetto, with *maybe* a touch of autotune. This is pretty emotionally sexy. We it have filed under hip-hop, but it would fit under soul or A as well. CLEAN COPY

MaHaWaM – “Is An Island”

cadilliac margarita   6/25/2020   CD, Hip Hop

Gender non- conforming Queer Black artist from Oakland. This immediately stood out to me because of the obvious danceability of the music, but also because of the way they weave deeply personal & confessional lyrics through the electronic beats. The consciousness here—of self (in the wake of a HIV diagnosis), the new reality of their world, the universe itself, is all on display. At times its extremely meditative in a drug fueled journaling kind of way, and a reminder that even extreme pain can still see flashes of joy through light and movement. MaHaWaM, aka Malik Mays, grew up in a Religious Family from the East Coast before they relocated to San Antonio, and eventually Arizona, where they studied Creative Writing and Music in 2012. Although I would consider this experimental electronic Hip Hop, the influences of R&B and Gospel, and an early interest in Classical music and poetry is all evident in their work. They have lived in Oakland since 2013. FCC on tracks 3-5

Stone Rebel/A Plain Full of Stars COLLECTION

carsonstreet   6/24/2020   A Library, CD

This band is from France but other than that there is not much information about them available.  A Plain Full Of Stars is a collection of tunes from their other albums. They have 15 releases on Bandcamp. Mostly guitars, bass and drums. Stoner stuff. Their music is great when you need to calm down the swamp critters and turn to relaxing, calming, mellow psych tunes.

Bow Gamelan Ensemble – Great Noises That Fill The Air [Cold Spring Records UK]

Max Level   6/23/2020   A Library, CD

Radical with a capital R. This three-member London ‘percussion’ ensemble were in existence from 1983 – 90. The material on this CD was recorded in 1988. Their live performances were: 1. An unholy marriage of Savage Aural Hotbed and Survival Research Laboratories (remember them?), and 2. Dangerous as fuck. They banged on 55-gallon metal drums—no surprise there, I mean who doesn’t?—but beyond that there was also fire, large amounts of water, steam, lights, huge loud machines crashing, giant pieces of broken glass hanging like wind chimes, iron bathtubs banging together, metal cabinets and lockers suspended and sprayed with a fire hose, whistles, fireworks, all manner of discarded noisy junk… This CD brings us a taste of what they were up to and is quite satisfying. Guest performers include legendary percussionist Z’ev. I can’t even begin to describe how deep and remarkable their concept was. Watch this worthy 16-minute video to see what it was all about: https://fourthree.boilerroom.tv/film/bow-gamelan-offshore-rig. I had no idea. Brilliant stuff.

Fuck U Pay Us – "Live At Cielo Gallery For Melanin Unity Show" – [Self Released]

abacus   6/17/2020   A Library, CD

No wave noise punk patricidal destruction (and not in the father sense, more the white male patriarchy sense). do I still got you? live recordings from this aggressively anti-racist group of black queer women from around the LA area. insurrectionary calls to action for everyone that’s ever been pissed off at things like systemic racism, patriarchy, and exploitation economics. this definitely feels like some pro-looting music, and in the best way. if this offends you, then take a good long look at yourself, this is definitely confrontational so leave your fragile white feelings at the door. but seriously, challenge yourself, lean into it, its supposed to be uncomfortable. FCC on 1,3,4,7,9 and… is Nappy Black Pussy an FCC violation? cuz it shouldn’t be. the title seems to be a reference to reparations, a controversial subject amongst white folks for sure, and whether it takes the form of giving your black friend $10, eating out at black-owned restaurants, or encouraging white people to donate to black-led organizations, there’s always going to be naysayers (except maybe Naysayer?)

DoNormaal – "Jump Or Die" – [Self-release]

abacus   6/17/2020   CD, Hip Hop

damn, you know im gonna dig it when they kick off the album w/ an ELO sample (Tbag, Minor..?) Experimental hip-hop / trap-soul / etc from Seattle originally from California. this falls under the “cloud rap” genre umbrella that fits so well in the PNW – woozy, dizzy, spellbinding. she tags grunge and I don’t think that’s just a geographical coincidence; there’s this raw, unfiltered delivery, she brings all of herself to this and lays it all out there, naked for all to see (not just a reference to the album cover). this is personal, this is real, plain-spoken and direct. she was 24 when she released this and she keeps producing forward thinking, genre bending music. keep an eye out, she’s gonna fly past us if she hasn’t already.

Teatro Satanico – “Tunnels of Set, The” – [Old Europa Cafe]

lexi glass   6/17/2020   A Library, CD

Two discs of underworld explorations from Teatro Satanico, the Italian post-industrial group that dates back to the early 90s. The current lineup is a trio that includes founding member Devis Granziera, accompanied here by members of Novy Svet, Le Cose Bianche and other shadowy figures of the European underground. This album draws from the writings of occultist Kenneth Grant, who described the Tunnels of Set as “a dark web or nocturnal network of paths” that extend through the subconscious mind. The album traces these twists and turns, with each track named for an ancient spirit that resides within the tunnels. Dark ambient echoes, chanting voices and psychedelic synth tones ring through the chambers, as ritualistic rhythms, from slow pulses to dark techno beats (found on T3, T7, T12, T16) quicken the step through the passages. On the final track of the Omega CD (T22), two minutes of silence precede the arrival of a final evil presence. A 2019 release on Old Europa Cafe.

Mitchell, Roscoe Sextet – "Sound" – [Delmark Records]

Cousin Mary   6/14/2020   CD, Jazz

This Sextet working from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) recorded these tracks in 1966. It skronks, plunks, and shrieks and is not for the faint hearted. But it is lightened with flashes of grace and humor (harmonica on track 2!) that show its humanity.

Chicago Sinfonietta & Mei-Ann Chen – “Project W – Works By Diverse Women Composers” – [Cedille Records]

Medusa of Troy   6/3/2020   A Library, CD, Music Reviews

This 2019 album of classical works is based on the highlights of Chicago Sinfonietta’s 30th season (2017-2018) [Mei-Ann Chen, conductor and musical director], which featured the works of American women composers. Most of the compositions on Project W were newly commissioned by the orchestra, from Jennifer Higdon, Clarice Assad, Jessie Montgomery, and Reena Esmail. The album starts with a performance of Dance in the Canebreaks, written by pioneering African-American composer Florence B. Price. Dances, consisting of 3 jaunty pieces, is sweet and fun, reminiscent of Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”, but with its own flair. “Sin fronteras” by Clarice Assad & “Coincident Dances” by Jessie Montgomery (part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble) sound like traditional classical music. Reena Esmail’s “Charukeshi bandish” has traditional classical Indian arrangements along with vocals, while her “#metoo” is skittish and tense. The album ends with Jennifer Higdon’s 5-movement piece, Dance Card, which alternates between high-energy pieces (no. 1, 3 & 5) and slower, sweeter pieces (no. 2 & 4). This album won’t fit on all shows, but certain pieces can work around the edges of international, blues, drone and ambient sets. Check it out.

Karma to Burn – “Almost Heathen” – [Spitfire]

atavist   6/2/2020   A Library, CD

Groove laden, instrumental stoner(ish) rock. Not stoner metal, that is—the vibe is more of the “take a shot of whiskey and jump in the mosh pit” variety than “smoke a bowl and space out on the couch”. The energy level is high, with a precision-engineered rhythm section and disciplined guitars that swerve, stop, and start to match. Reminds me of bands like Walrus who were working in a similar vein at that time in the mid-late 90s and early 2000s. They frequently draw comparisons to Kyuss. The tracks on this CD are pretty interchangeable, in that they are consistently well-made and will induce rhythmic head nods of approval if this is your kind of thing. Not having a vocalist means they never stay in one place too long. They allow themselves to get a little spacy and chilled-out in the last track. Turn it up and hit the wayback machine to 2001.

Laguerre/Noetinger – DnT – [Aagoo Records]

Max Level   5/27/2020   A Library, CD

Two well-known French electro-acoustic sound artists (Anthony Laguerre and Jerome Noetinger) bring us many forms of noise by way of tape loops, manipulation, distortion, live processing and… drums! This release seems to be centered around the sounds of a drum kit. It shows up everywhere, often being processed in some way or other, and is combined with some odd noises–notes and blips and hums and is that a dog barking in the distance on Track 4? The dynamics vary from track to track, but it never takes long for this thing to get back to spotlighting the drums. Track 2 is probably my favorite–it starts in a quietly tense place and ramps up to a crashing drumscape on some weird planet, accompanied by an overload of intense alien shrieking.

Himukalt – “Vulgar” – [Found Remains]

lexi glass   5/27/2020   A Library, CD

As Himulkalt, Nevada visual/sound artist Ester Kärkkäinen relates her experience of female sexuality as “a feedback loop of misery and desire.” In her visual work, xeroxed grayscale photographs of bodies are cut and superimposed in repeating patterns, as if her subjects were reflected in a shattered mirror. Her power electronics work could be heard as the sonic analogue of these images: on Vulgar, jagged, repetitive rhythms are layered with blasts of noise, while Kärkkäinen’s whispers, moans, and screams are fractured by effects and static. A creeping menace builds through the tape, suggesting a scene of violation that we finally witness on “to whisper intent” (T8). A violent reaction follows on “not in this body” (T9), exploding into the ecstasy of revenge on the final track “want you to see me” (T10). Originally released in 2017 on No Rent Records and reissued this year on Found Remains.

Cemetery Urn – “Barbaric Retribution” – [Hells Headbangers Records]

atavist   5/18/2020   A Library, CD

Scummy death metal from Melbourne, Australia. They are mainstays in the extreme scene there, and dedicated students of the craft. Double bass kick pummels and crusty dual guitar attack, with the occasional big guitar solo. Filthy vox that sometimes get lost in the mix. I’m totally cool with losing the vox in the mix, but I might want some other element to enter in its place…a middling reviewer’s perspective. What do you need to know? Every track is brutal, stripped-down, maniacally focused on the endgame. The album builds in force as it progresses, and the conflagration licks at the eaves by track 5, Manifesto Putrefacto. Here we find some really cool dynamism—wild, careening changes in tempo and cascading guitar riffs that have a narrative arc to them, a sense of taking the listener somewhere rather than simply stringing together one brutal passage after another in head-pummeling delirium. The title track has epic ambitions that nearly get there. Drop in Semblance of Malignant Mastery for four minutes of a nearly relentless speed that flirts with complete abandon, including an unhinged solo. Unwilling to go out timidly, they close out with moments of rapture amidst the flames in the final track. In summary, a pretty consistent release. The first four tracks are good, but the best stuff is found in tracks five through nine.

Concrete Mascara – "Bilharzia" – [New Approach Records]

abacus   5/6/2020   A Library, CD

timely narrative of pathogenic spread from American trio Andrew Wilmer, Frank Cordry, Jack Scanlan for Portuguese label under Nekrogoat Heresy. static shock blankets of power electronx: starting off with a doom laden invocation worthy of Thothian imposition, the EP moves through various textures of feedback flatulence, boil, and squeal; screaming gateplay and prickly buzzcut frustrations vented through all layers of serrated fuzz edginess. play loud

Ramirez, Richard & Skin Crime – "Pleasure, Commerce & Disease" – [PACrec]

abacus   4/29/2020   A Library, CD

2004 release from American harsh noise veterans, Richard Ramirez and Skin Crime join for this unholy slab of feedback worship composed of SC source material processed by Dick. thick, acerbic but sterile gray, not so much walls as shattered chalkboard skidding over flayed concrete. smells like the disinfectant coated linoleum surfaces, barely erasing the death and dismay seeped into the surface. empty lullabies to a barren room, you keep grasping at the surface, trying to wake for just a few last words but there’s nothing left to hold onto, you choke on sleep as they die laughing. a void so heavy it makes you want to squirm and weep. unavoidably, most lifeless desperation

AMK – “Super Panoramic Stereo Sound 5000” – [PACrec]

lexi glass   4/29/2020   A Library, CD

Twisted turntable insanity from AMK, the SF-to-LA-based noise artist who has conjured chaos from old record players and cut-and-pasted discs for nearly four decades. Intended to be played in random order, these tracks are utterly unpredictable, from the short segments of silence or surface noise on the untitled tracks, to the stack of thrift store records tossed into a blender and set on puree on “Jamboree” (T3) and “Calypso” (T11), to the simmering noise of “La Post” (T4) or the bounce and blast of “Bull Weevil” (T16). “Il Dome for the Bird” (T18, a live track with assistance from Damion Romero, Geoff Brandin, Erik Hoffman, Jorge Martin, and Bob Bellerue) is a springtime daymare where bright birdsong shapeshifts into an alien avian cheerleading squad that makes perfect dreamlogical sense with the accompanying narration sampled from nature documentary voiceovers. Released in 2007 on the even noisier sublabel of Troniks, PacRec.

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