KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Tam, Phuong – “Magical Nights: Saigon Surf Twist and Soul -’64-’66” – [Sublime Frequencies]

puplaif   5/25/2022   CD, International

Phuong Tâm was one of the first Vietnamese singers to record rock and roll music. 

As a young girl, she was intrigued by the rock and roll sounds emanating from a nearby neighbor’s radio and she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a singer. 

In her teenage years, she began performing at Saigon nightclubs, where she met and connected with other Vietnamese musicians. Together they wrote, recorded, and performed original Vietnamese rock and roll songs incorporating surf, twist, soul, and other influences. Phuong’s powerful voice brings both grit and sweetness to these songs about love and loss. 

In 1975, Phuong and her family fled Vietnam, ultimately setting up roots right here in San Jose. Thanks to some serious digging and collaboration spearheaded by Phuong’s daughter Hanna, we’re able to enjoy Phuong’s musical legacy today. Magical Nights revives 25 of Phuong Tâm’s songs, recorded in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966, and re-gifts her music to the world after nearly being lost to the forces of cultural erasure. 

Miller, Adam – “Gateway” – [Inner Magic]

Thurston Hunger   5/24/2022   A Library, CD

Clean gentle guitar instros that feel from a different planet than Miller’s work with The Chromatics. Volume pedal fades, some very chill reverb, and occasionally a ringing flanging. Lot’s of 1-5-9 sprawls and calm apreggios. You can taste the Fender endorsement in the sound before you read it in the liner notes.
Speaking of those liners, they also mention “Gateway was inspired by true events” which makes me think
Miller went through one of the most pure and pleasant alien abductions ever. And did his captors have a mellotron on board, ask “The Painted Boy.” Music to advance masked to? Quickly though, most tracks are short… a couple felt a little like “gateways” back to Kramer-era Low, sans the pleasure/pain of vox.
-Thurston Hunger

Bunuel – “Killers Like Us” – [Profound Lore]

Terra Incognita   5/21/2022   A Library, CD

This one’s a bruiser. You can see it coming at you in slow motion, but you hesitate anyway, stunned—and then you receive the energy of the impact. You feel the thudding in your head and hear an intermittent buzzing. The swelling begins, pounding and growing, turning an angry red. The red eventually cools to blue and yellowish green. A dull ache remains. You’re left feeling disconcerted, wondering, “What happens that a good man turns bad?”

“Killers Like Us” is Bunuel’s third and most recent album (2022). This is bass-heavy noise rock. Of the 10 tracks, about half have a slow tempo and are heavy and minimal at times (Tracks 1, 5, 7, 9, 10); in these songs, the instrumentation often frames the lyrics. The other tracks are more upbeat, have a fast tempo, or turn into driving rock rampages (Tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 8).

The bass—a menacing, throbbing, dirty beast—is so heavy that it creates a strong gravitational force that the other elements might frantically struggle to escape but are always drawn back to. Bass notes are drawn out and fuzzy but can unexpectedly transform into melodic riffs. The guitar is manifested as fluttery buzzing and distorted scratchy noodling but also develops into melodic, driving riffs on the fast tracks and always with feedback and effects. There aren’t any standard guitar solos—well, maybe one. The drums are versatile: from slow, minimal beats to driving punk rock beats and even some funky beats. They’re heavy on the kick and the snare at times; the fills aren’t over-the-top but creative and nicely placed. Sometimes percussive sounds like tinkling and crumpling are added or simply replace the drums. The lyrics are mostly spoken-yelled, sometimes obstinately dragged out, sometimes half sung in an emotionally drunk tone, sometimes steeped in reverb and effects. The vocals range from despondent speaking to fantastic, guitar-matched screeching and many variations of vocal sound in between. The additional female vocals (Track 4) are melodic and haunting but forceful—an interesting opposition to the raw sound. The lyrics are composed of poetic vignettes, stark imagery, and existential meanderings (see liner notes; FCCs on Tracks 2, 6, 7). Although not mentioned in the liner notes, sounds of synth and possibly field recordings are interjected.

Bunuel, named after the Spanish Surrealist film writer and director of the 20th century, comprises the Italian musician and composer Xabier Iriondo on guitars (also in Afterhours et al.), the Italian jazz bassist and composer Andrea Lombardini (also in the Framers et al.), the Italian percussionist and composer Franz Valente (also in Il Teatro Degli Orrori et al.), and the Bay Area’s Eugene S. Robinson on vocals (also in Oxbow, Whipping Boy, et al.). Track 4 includes additional vocals by the Polish-Bay Area artist Kasia Meow, aka Kasia Robinson (also in Maneki Nekro). A trans-Atlantic collaboration, this album was recorded in San Francisco and Italy, mixed and mastered in Italy, and released by Profound Lore Records out of Canada.

Staubitz and Waterhouse – “Common Metals” – [music is the Worst]

whngr   5/19/2022   A Library, CD

Gentle whirs, clicks, and bumps.

Do you hear what I hear? I hear a pocket call from someone working on the cnc at the machine shop. Quiet, minimal, and reflective, these recordings allow one to write their own story though online references have stated that these mostly unprocessed recordings were made during the pandemic and are meant to convey the monotonous sounds of isolation.

Mary Staubitz (aka Donna Parker on her solo work and has collaborated with Jessica Rylan in Secret Diary and Daniel Paul Boucher in Golden Shores among others. Collaborating with her partner, Russ Waterhouse (ex Blues Control) from their home in Rhode Island.

Stowell, John / Glenn, Dave and the Hawcaptak Quartet – “Violin Memory” – [Origin Records]

aarbor   5/11/2022   CD, Jazz

John Stowell is a guitar player and Dave Glenn a trombone player. They have played together in various settings including as a duo – an interesting pairing. This recording has 21 tracks, most of which are pairs: An Intro played by the Hawcaptak Quartet and the paired track played by Stowell and Glenn. John Stowell wrote most of the pieces and Dave Glenn arranged most of the string quartet versions. I hear the string quartet Intros as the Yin (melodious and feminine) to the Stowell/Glenn duo’s Yang (trombone grounded and masculine). AArbor

Fila Brazillia – “Black Market Gardening” – [Pork Recordings]

aarbor   5/11/2022   A Library, CD

Fila Brazillia is the duo of Dave “Man” Mc Sherry and Steve Cobby based in Kingston Upon Hull, Yorkshire, UK who started recording together in 1990. This album is from 1996 and is among their earliest recordings on the Pork label (also based in Hull). They later started their own label called Twentythree Records. This is classic downtempo from the mid 1990’s. “Snake Ranger”[2] is wavering synths and a chorus of flutes, “Little Dipper”[3] starts off with an old-time piano sample before shifting into something more funky. “Wigs, Bifocals and Nurishment”[6] heads into disco territory. “Xique-Xique”[7] is smooth and sweet. AArbor

Barrio Manouche – “Aires de Cambio” – [doubleOone]

aarbor   5/11/2022   CD, International

Barrio Manouche is a very international acoustic ensemble from San Francisco. They play music inspired by the places they come from and have lived: Spain, France, Brazil, French Canada and the U.S. Their music is also inspired by those who have come before and their nomadic spirits. They use music to describe the world as they see it. Of note here is “musical guest” Mallar Bhattacharya (sarod) and Hilan Chaudhuri (tabla) who join them on the title track [5]. This is their first recording from 2018. Barrio Manouche has been recognized for its surprise concerts, innovative style, complex technique, and its passion for musical improvisation. Their intercultural musical fusions start with Latin/French Jazz and then add in Brazilian beats, a bit of Flamenco and even Indian music. AArbor

Toned – “Toned” – [Self Released]

Max Level   5/9/2022   CD, Jazz

An electroacoustic dream with nightmare attached. Make sure you are firmly strapped in for this one. East bay trio Toned slices and dices everything within reach, mixing and matching the sounds of outside jazz, noise, spoken word, loud ambient tone layers, crazy crashing percussion, electronic blurts, etc etc etc—-basically more things than I can name—into a hyperactive, blinding, deafening, audio assault that defies description. Sometimes sounds like unrelated tracks of noisy playing piled on top of each other, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad way to do things. Track 10 bursts out of the speakers like some unholy rampaging monster come to life.

Bischoff, John – “Bitplicity” – [Artifact Recordings]

Max Level   5/9/2022   A Library, CD

Electronic composer Bischoff has a sound and approach all his own: It’s all about events—-‘sound’ events disrupting the silence, and ‘silence’ events disrupting the sounds. Random and non-random events occurring. There is often quite a bit of negative space in his compositions, as the performer and his gear decide in real time what moves to make next. Much interaction between man and machine takes place during live performance. Whenever I listen to Bischoff’s work, which I have spent a great deal of time doing over the past 20 years, the feeling I get is controlled unpredictability. This excellent CD contains performances recorded at Mills College in 2020-21, live with no overdubs.

Van-anh Vanessa Vo – “Three-Mountain Pass” – [Innova Recordings]

Cousin Mary   5/9/2022   A Library, CD

Vo is a Vietnamese-American from the Bay Area who is a composer and multi-instrumentalist, specializing in instruments related to traditional Vietnamese music. This album is a treat, giving us a chance to hear such things as the đàn tranh (16-string zither) and the bamboo xylophone T’rung. Selections include Vo’s compositions, a familiar piece by Erik Satie played in an unfamiliar way, and track 4 where she plays with the ever inventive Kronos Quartet. Really lovely and listenable, highly recommended.

Kristoff K.Roll and Espitallier, Jean-Michel – “World Is A Blues” – [Mazeto Square]

SlartiBartfast   5/3/2022   A Library, CD

World Is A Blues

“World Is A Blues” is a musical poetic journey into the lives of refugees held in the Calais internment camps put out on Mazeto-Square. This double CD musical journey is guided by Kristoff K. Roll, the French musical duo of Carole Rieussec and J-Kristoff Camps, and poet Jean-Michel Espitallier. The music here ranges between, spoken word, dance, experimental, field recordings, post psyche rock?….As much a work of poetry as it is an experimental performative experience, this beautifully packaged release lives up to the idea behind the emotionally poetic music at it’s core. Featuring multiple guest artists, “World Is A Blues” elegantly coveys the power of the collective human spirit to overcome trauma through creative expression. This release is not to miss. A 100 page poetic musical eulogy that will lead you to a side road to escape the madness, or an avenue to entrer dans la folie…

Schwob, Danielle Eva – “Out of The Tunnel” – [Innova/American Composers]

Cousin Mary   5/2/2022   A Library, CD

Danielle Schwob is the composer, arranger and recording producer for this wonderful set of music. The ensembles vary – a string quartet, trios, duo, and solos. Very lovely sounds, good energy. I think some pieces were used for dance. Remarkable compositions played by virtuoso musicians. A new (to me) modern classical composer to watch.

PGM – Instrumentation noted on back of CD

Les Filles de Illighadad – “At Pioneer Works” – [Sahel Sounds]

aarbor   4/27/2022   CD, International

Les Filles de Illighadad, Tuareg women who play guitars and combine both tendé (women’s music) with the guitar music played by their male neighbors, have graced our airwaves since their first album. This album, recorded in 2019 in Red Hook (Brooklyn), NY at the Pioneer Works arts center – rather than out of doors in North Africa, is their latest offering. The sound is meditative, but tender. It takes Tuareg guitar music (sometimes called desert blues) brought to the West by breakthrough artists from the region like Mdou Moctar, Bombino and Tinariwen, and fuses it with tendé. The result is repetitive and hypnotic, and conveys something spiritual and solemn but also has a sense of joy and playfulness that goes back to the music’s roots in village life. AArbor

Zeshan B – “Vetted” – [Minty Fresh]

aarbor   4/27/2022   Blues, CD

First generation Indian-American Zeshan Bagewadi grew up in Chicago singing as a cantor in his mosque, then in high school joined the gospel choir – which changed his life. Even though he trained as an opera singer, he’s left Western classical music behind in favor of Memphis R&B, Chicago blues and there’s even a jolt of raw South Asian soul. He sings and plays the harmonium, lives in the South Bronx, made his TV debut on the Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert. Singers he idolizes are: Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and Donny Hathaway. On this, his debut album, you’ll find cover versions and originals dealing with frequent soul-music concerns such as lust, alienation and resistance. George Perkins’ response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral was the song “Cryin’ in the Streets”; Zeshan’s version speaks to the era of #BlackLivesMatter Vetted also includes “Meri Jaan” (My Baby), a sexy original sung in Urdu, and “Ki Jana” (Who Knows), a 200-year-old Sufi poem in Punjabi. Horns and strings also accommodate a droning tanbur and harmonium in Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” which Zeshan opens with an improvisatory Indian-classical alap. He says “India and Pakistan have their own type of soul music that’s not as commercialized as Bollywood. It’s down-home, raw, and visceral, especially in Pakistan, where most of the population lives in abject poverty. People sing about unrequited love, urban despair, and oppression – just like here. It’s all about that feel, that groove, bro. It comes from a deep place. I’m into all music that serves a greater purpose, whatever that may be.” AArbor

Permanenet Clear Light – “Cosmic Comics” – [Sulatron Records]

carsonstreet   4/26/2022   A Library, CD

Permanent Clear Light is often referred to as Finland’s top psychedelic group. Permanent Clear Light released their debut album, Beyond These Things, in 2014 to critical acclaim. Although Permanent Clear Light’s musical roots lie in 60’s psychedelia their sound is strictly contemporary. The trio considers the recording studio their main instrument and their sound is characterized by multi-layered instrumental work and strong melodic vocals. After a creative break, Permanent Clear Light has released its second album, Cosmic Comics, which shows that the band has travelled a long way through the spheres since their debut.

Carter/Ishito/Plaks/Swanson/Panikkar – “Open Question Vol.1” – [577 Records]

carsonstreet   4/26/2022   CD, Jazz

Warm freely improvised music. The band formed organically in 2019 from weekly jam sessions in Harlem. It is comprised of tenor saxophonist Ayumi Ishito, pianist Eric Plaks, bassist Zach Swanson, drummer Jon Panikka and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter. Recording an album of only free improvisation was Ishito’s long-time dream. Open Question’s music today, while fully improvised, remains firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. Can be edgy but won’t hurt you. A second volume is to follow soon.     

Liquid Sound Comapany – “Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul” – [Liquid Sound Records]

carsonstreet   4/26/2022   A Library, CD

Liquid Sound Company is from Arlington, Texas. Formed in 1996 by Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez and Last Chapter drummer Jason Spradlin. The goal: create mind expanding psychedelic sounds for the head! With the nucleus of the band being John Perez & Jason Spradlin the band also includes current members Alan Wise, Mark Cook, and Ron McCain. With a new album in 2021 and live trips in the works, Liquid Sound Company is ready to fly!  Get out your lava lamp and light up the skies, with eastern nods, guitar freak outs and spacey chill out vibes.

Gnod – “La Mort du Sens” – [Rocket Recordings]

carsonstreet   4/26/2022   A Library, CD

Gnod are a British rock band from Salford, Greater Manchester, England. Formed in 2006, the band was described in a review of its 2011 release Ingnodwetrust as “a collective from Manchester with an ever-rotating list of members. La Mort Du Sens translates to “The Death Of Meaning” and also reflects its creation. As Paddy Shine of Gnod notes: “I think the title sums it up well because this album was coming together at a time when confusion was king for us all – still is. I think we can all relate to that. This record is a really strange beast because of the big change that happened between mixing and recording”. Started in 2019 the pandemic got in the way and ended up helping form the end product. Paddy continues: “I think the title really does sum up the vibe of ‘What the Fuck’? Maybe we should have called it that!”

Lugerner, Steven; Lang, Garret; Tootie Heath, Albert – “It Takes One to Know One” – [Slow and Steady]

carsonstreet   4/26/2022   CD, Jazz

Jazz reedist Steven Lugerner typically spends a lot of time composing new music for a variety of bold new ensembles. He has taken a different, more laid-back approach for It Takes One to Know One. By inviting drumming legend Albert “Tootie” Heath into his inner circle, Lugerner has recorded five covers with as much reverential care for the material as his drummer. Throw in bassist Garret Lang, and you have yourself a “chordless” trio – three instruments that are incapable of playing a musical chord. Lugerner sticks to the bass clarinet for the entire album made up of a Joe Henderson cover, an Irving Berlin cover, an Ellington/Strayhorn cover, and two tunes written by Heath’s older brother Jimmy Heath. When you add it all up, it’s all as easygoing as the cover art depicting three guys sitting on a bench next to a yawning dog.

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