KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

14 Year Old Girls – “Strategy Guide” [Retard Disco]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Imagine that Devo were a bunch of nerds. OK, fine, Devo are a bunch of nerds, but imagine that they were obsessed with video games and gamer culture rather than, umm, whatever it is they were obsessed with. Songs about Megaman, Pac Man, Wario, Tomb Raider, et al. The music is catchy, sometimes punky electro-pop with male and female vocals. It’s well produced and fun, and the lyrics are often quite brilliant. All the songs are very short (none over 2 minutes), but the breaks between the tracks are very short, so you can let it track through and play a couple of them. If you have time, the liner notes are quite hilarious.
Favorites: 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25
Language: 3 (‘fucking?), 5 (‘fucking?), 14 (‘shit?), 26 (‘fucking?)
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Aroah – “The Last Laugh” [Acuarela]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Aroah is lead by Irene Rodriguez a Spanish female singer/songwriter. This album predominantly features her clear, simple voice and acoustic guitar work with occasional appearances by drums, flute, and electric guitar, but always sublimated to the voice and acoustic guitar. She is clearly strongly influenced by John Fahey (and says as much on her website). All songs are in English (including the one with the Spanish name) and she has no discernable accent).
Language: 12 (‘fuck’, though she says it so gently I had to listen a couple times to make sure that’s what she was really saying)
Stingray

99 Hooker?s – “Generica”

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Sexually charged beat poetry rants over a bed of bass, guitar, samples, and occasional reeds singing over the top. The words aren’t sung so much as spoken in time. The rants are directed variously at Hollywood (7), religion (3,8), redneck America (4), and, umm, miscellaneous. I really like the last track, but it is quite long. From the label’s copy: ’99 Hooker’s Generica is to pop music as crank is to Michelob?.
Members of Note: M2 (of Chemical Brothers), Donald Miller, Ray Sage.
Language: 3 (‘shit?), 4 (‘fuck’), 6 (‘motherfuckers?), 8 (‘shit?)
Oh yeah, the punctuation is correct. ?99 Hooker? is the name of the band leader.
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John Berberian and the Rock East Ensemble – “Middle Eastern Rock” [Acid Symposium]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD, International

Middle-eastern acid rock led by oud player John Berberian (an oud is kind of a fat mandolin). The music incorporates Middle Eastern and Armenian instrumentation and rhythms with western jazz, soul, and funk. Track 3 has some Armenian vocals; other tracks are entirely instrumental. Very groovy, laid back stuff. Break out the hookah, pick any track, and enjoy!
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The Faint – “Wet From Birth” [Saddle Creek]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

It turns out that catchy, hooky, 80’s-style electronic dance-pop didn’t die, it just moved to Omaha! Wet From Birth joins the 2 excellent The Faint CDs already in the library and provides 10 more tracks of music to listen to while wearing black lipstick, black fingernail polish, black boots, and black shirts with black designs. What Depeche Mode could have been if they weren’t so insufferable. My favorites are tracks 1, 2, 6, and 9, but you really can’t go wrong with any track. Play this!
There is ostensibly a video on here in MP4 format, but I couldn’t get it to play.
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Tracy and the Hindenburg Ground Crew – “Great Day” [Action Box Records]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

This is presumably the same band as Ace T and the Hindenburg Ground Crew (for whom we have a 7″ 33), but while that disc is pretty much a novelty, this album is a bit more substantial.
Quirky pop that’s not really hi-fi or lo-fi, but somewhere in between (medium-fi?). Some elements of The Residents, but probably a little more of They Might Be Giants. Songs are by turns thoughtful (2, 8, 10, 13), funny (3, 6, 9, 12), or just kind of strange (1, 4, 7, 8). If there is a space for pop on your show, you should find something to like here.
Language: 12
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Adams, John – “Road Movies” [Nonesuch Records]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Neo-classical post-minimalism from composer, San Francisco Conservatory of Music mainstay, and 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner John Adams. This CD contains new recordings of several Adams works. Road Movies uses piano and violin, while the others have only piano (2 pianos on Halleluiah Junction).
The music is consonant, beautiful, and warm. It is simple without crossing the line into banality that would classify it as ‘new age.’ My favorites tracks are the slightly more strident ones (1, 3, 6, 8).
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Roots of Orchis – “Cracked Ceilings” [Slowdance]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

A 2 disk set from Roots of Orchis. Disk 1 is their originals. Disk 2 is remixes of old Roots of Orchis tunes.
Disk 1 is beautiful, mellow, instrumental psych-trance created using bass, percussion, keyboards, and occasionally some very minimal guitar.
The Disk 2 remixes are still mellow, but most have a more glitchy feel. Exceptions are track 4, which has an indie-pop feel, track 7, which is more guitar driven, and track 8 (language), which is hip-hoppy.
LANGUAGE: Disk 2, Track 8. Also, this track has a 20 second ‘false start?.

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[coll] WFMU Radio Archival Oddities Vol. II

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

A 2 CD set put out by the folks at WFMU. Disk 1 is made up of non-WFMU radio moments that The Professor found ‘compelling, funny, or just plain odd?. Disk 2 is a collection of moments from WFMU broadcasts. The booklet provides an excellent overview of the clips. My favorites are:
1: 7 – The Black Pope; a Texas/Louisiana radio personality who sounds like a less grounded George Clinton (1979). Insane.
1: 14 – It’s Friday! An unknown DJ on an unknown station with a semi-orgiastic paean to Fridays. Awsome.
1: 15 and 16 – Neil Rogers and Bob Lassiter, respectively, taking apart ignorant callers.
1: 20 and 21 – John Lennon schilling for Tower Records and alarm clocks, respectively.
1: 23 – 8/18/1998 Tampa station WFLA manages to get in touch with a man who had shot a cop and was currently holding a hostage in a gas station. Chilling.
1: 24 – 9/11/2001 The first tower falls.
2: 4 (LANGUAGE!) ? WFMU DJ Vanilla Bean calls a phone sex service.
2:22 Call to Henny Youngman during a fundraiser. Hilarious
Language: Disk 1 – 19 Disk 2: 4, 10, 15, 26
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The Advantage – “The Advantage”

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

The Advantage is a Canadian 4 piece band that plays covers of music from Nintendo (ORIGINAL NES) games. Is it a gimmick? Sure! But it’s still fun! The band is made up of 2 guitars, bass, and drums. Interesting to hear this synthesizer music played without a keyboard. Tracks are very short (none over 3 minutes, many under 1 minute). Tracks from the same game usually track together.

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Anonymous 4 – “American Angels” [Harmonia Mundi]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

4 woman a cappella versions of American sacred songs of the 18th and 19th century. The voices are good but not spectacular. The arrangements are intentionally very simple, attempting to recreate these songs as they actually would have been sung. The production is probably a bit heavy on reverb, but it makes them sound like they are being sung in a church, which is certainly appropriate. It’s all pretty, simple, and sincere.
Tracks that stand out to me are 1, 7 (Amazing Grace), 10, 13, and 20.

Tanakh – “Dieu Deuil” [Alien8]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Laid back psyche-folk. Pretty ballads with mournful gypsy-style fiddle, guitar, and the strong, clear, calm vocals of Jesse Poe. My favorites:
1 – Features some nice female backing vocals)
2 – A slow build of shimmery intensity using military-style snare drum, flameco-style guitar, and soaring vocals.
7 – Instrumental that showcases a very sad ‘gypsy? fiddle sound over a host of percussion that sounds like it includes a number of ‘found? instruments (i.e. banging on pieces of metal, wind chimes, etc). Despite it’s more percussive feel, it is still very mellow.
8 – Ballad featuring an interplay of Poe’s voice, a very sad and mournful slide guitar, and later in the track, the gypsy fiddle. This track makes me tear up if I attend to it fully.
Tracks 3, 5, and 7 are instrumentals.
Track 6 ends with ~40 seconds of near-silence.

Hypnotech 3 – “Prescription Electronics” [Futursonic]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Mellow, tripped out electronica from Canada. All instrumental, with the exception of some spoken vocal samples on track 1. Tracks 2, 4, and 7 are more ambient, while the others have a bit of a dance beat to them. All very mellow and relaxing, just the thing to listen to during ‘coming down? part of your rave while the light-sticks are fading out and you are eating the candy necklaces.

Branca, Glenn – “Lesson No. 1” [Acute Records]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

A re-issue of three Glenn Branca pieces.
Track 1 (‘Lesson #1 for Electric Guitar?) is a shimmery, ambient piece of minimalist guitar music.
Track 2 (‘Dissonance?) features multiple tempo changes and some frenetic and chaotic percussion (including sledgehammer). Listening to it gives me a palpable feel of dread, probably a result of the cognitive dissonance of listening to these ‘rock? instruments creating what is clearly a neo-classical composition.
Track 3 (‘Bad Smells?) is a neo-classical guitar piece in several movements. It starts out with a kind of up-tempo prog-rock beat, then dissolves into chaos; after surfacing briefly as a funk-informed drum-and-bass jam, it then tumbles over the cliff of chaotic guitar chords over a bed of pretty synthesizer chords.
There’s also a quicktime video on here of ‘Symphony No. 5?, a guitar/drum/bass drone. The sound quality is pretty terrible on this (I can see the drummer, but I can barely make out any drumming), but it is amusing to see Branca ‘conduct? by leaping and convulsing about the stage like David Byrne on PCP.
‘Lesson #1 For Electric Guitar? and ‘Dissonance? were originally released as the two sides of a 12″ single in 1980. ‘Bad Smells? was originally released in 1982.

NOXAGT – “The Iron Point” [Load Records]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD

Heavy minimalist instrumental rock out of Norway. The bass and drums lay down heavy, thudding grooves and guitar and violin/viola screech over the top. This is music designed to be played loud enough to peel paint. A couple more dark/ambient pieces as well, if heavy thuddery doesn’t do it for you.
Tracks grouped by type:
1, 3, 6 – Slow and heavy.
2, 4 – Upbeat and heavy.
5 – Speed-metal fast and heavy
8 – Starts off speed-metal fast, transitions to mid-tempo, and then ends with about 1:30 of industrial ambient drone/whine.
7 – Synth-organ chords with and old man (the Violist’s grandfather). Singing in Norwegian. Darkly pretty and more than a little creepy.
10 – Industrial drone with a sparse drum beat. Piano chords start showing up about halfway through.
Liner notes are bizarre. To read them, it sounds like they are a country band recording in Nashville (‘plain, honest, down-home music?).
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[coll] Anticon Label Sampler: 1999-2004 [Anticon]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, Hip Hop

An extremely long (almost 80 minutes!) compilation from east-bay hip-hop crew/label Anticon. Even though this is a collection, the tracks blend together, so careful at the start and end of tracks. I’ll split the review into three parts:
Singing: Some of the artists on Anticon are singers rather than rappers. The effect is that of indie-pop with a more hip-hip beat. Artists in this vein include Why? (2, 12, 22, 29) who answers the question ‘what if the Residents played hip-hop?, Passage (6, 18), Restiform Bodies (28), and the Alias track that features Markus Acher of The Notwist (31).
Rapping: In the more traditional hip-hop vein, Alias (4, 14, 20, 25), Sole (5, 13, 21, 32), Themselves (3, 11, 15, 27), Deep Puddle Dynamics (5), and Pedestrian (7, 19) feature skillful and dexterous rapping over backgrounds that vary from melodic and catchy (Pedestrian) to dark and mellow (Alias, plus 5 and 13 by Sole ? produced by Alias), to dark and heavy (Themselves, Deep Puddle Dynamics).
Instrumentals: Odd Nosdam provides dark, heavy, electronic instrumentals (10, 23) and a bit of comic relief (17, which features the Muppet Show bari sax baseline and sampled spoken vocals from TV/film); he also produces Sole tracks 21 and 32. Alias (26), Dosh (30), and Jel (33) provide smoother, trip-hoppier sounds.
Language: 4, 5, 12, 14*, 22, 27
*Only in the spoken outro. ‘Shit? at 3:20 of 3:37.

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[coll] 10 + 2: American Text Sound Pieces [Other Minds]

stingray   1/13/2005   A Library, CD

What it is: Vocal (but-non-singing) works of American avant garde composers.
What it sounds like:
1. The words ‘Rainbow? ‘Chug?, ‘Bandit? and ‘Bomb? sampled and looped.
2. A somewhat cut up speech about modern music that references track 1.
3. A cut up speech that talks about John Cage.
4. Vocal screeches, hisses and groans. Somehow based on the name ‘Merce Cunningham?
5. A woman reading a recipe and a fantasy novel edited together with a warbley echo. FUCK.
6. The word ‘bang? over and over again. Originally a locked groove.
7 and 8. Originally a single track. A synthesized voice repeating the same words with pitch shifting.
9. Quickly spoken words that are hard to make out over a background of electronic noodling.
10. The composer makes vocal noises (‘eh eh eh ah ah ih?) in the background while her mother speaks about her in the foreground.
11. A poem being read one word at a time while being written on a chalkboard.
12. Several conversations with telephone operators that overlap.
13. The word ‘crickets? over and over. Originally a locked groove.
About the recording: Rerelease of 1975 LP on the Arch label. Biographies included in the liner notes are c. 1975.

al-?Ajam?, Hasan, “The Singing of Sanaa” [Radio France]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Traditional Yemenite Music
What it sounds like: Hasan sings and accompanies himself on a Yemenite lute, known as a tarab (it has a similar sound to an Asian lute, but has a somewhat richer tone). He is accompanied by Muhammed al-Kham’s? on copper plate percussion, known as a shn nuh’s?. At various times, the music is arrhythmic, in 11, in 7, and in 2. Each track is a complete piece in several movements (see the liner notes for details). The first track features vocals throughout, while tracks 2 and 3 have 2-3 minute instrumental introductions.
About the recording: The composition and performance of music was banned in Yemen in the 1960’s. Hasan is a third generation musician who’s predecessors kept the traditions alive. According to the liner notes, he is the only Yemeni musician who still uses the traditional Yemeni tarab, others having switched to the more common Oriental ?’d.

[coll] Gauguin Years, The: Songs and Dances [Nonesuch]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Field recordings of indigenous Tahitian music.
What it sounds like: The most interesting tracks (to me) are some combination of chant, prayer and song (6, 8, 10, 17, 18, 22, 24). Most of them involve a kind of call and response with a ‘preacher? or storyteller and a chorus. It must be a similar experience to hearing a catholic mass in a language you can’t understand.
Some tracks are beautifully harmonized a cappella prayers and laments that can sound quite alien to western ears (2, 4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 25).
Some tracks are ukulele/guitar accompanied by one voice (3, 15, 20, 23, 26), a chorus of voices (1, 14), or no voices at all (9). These sound like ‘traditional? Polynesian music (as opposed to the slicked up stuff presented to tourists, but you can hear the roots of that here).
Rounding out the collection are some tracks of drumming (5, 19) and a brief wind instrument (nose flute perhaps?) solo (7). I’ve indicated my favorites on the back, but everything is good and the recording quality is quite excellent.
About the recording: Originally released in 1968 as part of a series of South Pacific field recordings. All tracks recorded in Tahiti by Francis Mazi’re.

TULEAR NEVER SLEEPS

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This is the first compilation of music of the Tsapiky (Tsa-peek) guitars from south west Madagascar. They are handmade box shaped lutes. The gentle rhythmic lute-like musical style is similar to many of its African neighbors but it’s distinct. The tsapiky is at the center of the group which includes vocals, bass, drums and dancers. The vocal styles vary and the lyrics tell stories about people, relationships and aspects of life. A beauty! AArbor

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