KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Schumacher, Michael J. “Room Pieces” [Xi Records]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

2 CDs’ worth of computer-controlled experimental noises with minimal organic sampling from NYC sound manipulator Michael Schumacher. Clear influences of La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, and Babbitt, not so clear philosophical influences of Cage (check out the line-up of pretentious liner notes, including some by “Blue” Gene Tyranny).
CD 1:
Room Piece XI (75:43): The 11th happening of his sound installation originally intended for a sound-proof room in his NYC gallery with 16-track full-surround sound. A quiet drone pervades. Random types of sounds/instruments interrupt at random sets of intervals based on a random assignment of the prime numbers 13, 17, 23, 29, 37, and 43. The interruptions can be extremely harsh and disturbing and sometimes they come into phase with each other for added pleasure.
CD 2:
Piece in 3 Parts (20:03): Sounds of regurgitated violin sampling, then sounds of regurgitated gong sampling, then back to sounds of violin.
Still (17:07): Quiet drone featuring some cello scrapings.
Untitled (18:13): Sine wave madness!! Loud and almost momentous, sounds unlike the rest of the offerings. For the easiest introduction to the music, start with this track.
Still (17:29): No sampling here, just straight computer clicks and clangs. Very sparse.
-Cujo in Jul 2004

Lutoslawski, Witold “Works for Orchestra, etc…” [EMI]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Fantastic 2-CD set of major and minor works from Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994, Vee-told Loo-toe-swov-ski). There’s the wicked and intense Preludes and Fugue for 13 strings (major work) for starters (play the Preludes by themselves if you have to, but not the Fugue by itself). Throw in his entire work for voice from the late 50s early 60s (the Michaux poemes, the 5 Songs for soprano, etc – minor works), and then the finish disc 2 with the awesome string quartet and the dazzling cello concerto. The concerto is the best work featuring cello since the Elgar concerto. This music is dark, very intense, and engaging. Witold practically defines ‘postwar?.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

Various – “Soloists Ensemble of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra” [coll] – [Melodiya]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Pop quiz, hot shot: Name any Russian composer of the post-Shostakovich generation. KFJC gives you a small sampling of what happened. These 4 offerings are all written for the ‘Pierrot? ensemble popularized by Stravinsky: just 16ish different instruments.
Edison Denisov (dead 1996): SUN OF THE INCAS (20:04): 3 laments for soprano, each preceded by short energetic drum and bell-filled preludes. Exceedingly sad.
Alfred Schnittke (dead 2001): THREE MADRIGALS (7:44): Very subtle, unflashy Schnittke. Soprano sings modern German poetry in French, then German, then in English. Not as sad as the Denisov. Dag.
Sofia Gubaidulina (alive): CONCORDANZA (11:36): Sofia will likely emerge as 20th century’s greatest female composer. This is a rumbling and introspective instrumental.
Tigran Mansurian (alive): TOVEM (9:10): Armenian witchcraft. Some jazzy brass, much more upbeat.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

Gramme – ?Pre-release? – [Output Recordings]

Hunter Gatherer   1/23/2005   A Library, CD

This EP was recorded in 1997, not released until 1999, and then re-released in 2004. So the name ‘Pre-release? is supposed to be a joke, I guess. A previous 7″ and this EP appear to be the entire oeuvre of Gramme.

Gramme is Luke Hannam, who plays drums and bass, and Sam Lynham, who provides vocals – and also plays bass. After listening to this release several times, ‘I’m pretty sure that Sam is a woman. Output Recordings head Trevor Jackson also lent a hand.

This is some danceable, bass-heavy (natch), punk funk with a DIY, home-recorded feel. It reminds me a lot of the !!! that we added around the middle of 2004. Stand out tracks are 4 and 5. Enjoy and don’t hurt yourself while listening.

Instrumentals: 1,3

–Hunter Gatherer

Asa-Chang & Junray??Jun Ray Song Chang??[The Leaf Label]

Hunter Gatherer   1/23/2005   A Library, CD

This music was found in the CD player of the flying saucer that crashed in 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico. Due to the Freedom of Information Act people outside of Area 51 can finally hear what extraterrestrial Top 40 radio sounds like.

It took me two weeks to play this CD past the first track, Hana, because I kept repeating the song when it would end. Fractured voice samples bubble out of slowly repeating chords one syllable at a time each one punctuated by a hit on a tabla. It sounds like it might be a requiem for a space alien.

Asa-Chang & Junray are three people: Asa-Chang, session percussionist who favors the tabla and bongo and plays trumpet on a few tracks, U-Zhaan, formally trained tabla master, and Hidehiko Urayama, guitarist and programmer of their sound system, which is called ‘Junreitronics.’
This release compiles all of their Japanese releases to date. (It was released in 6/2002.) We have their follow up EP, Tsu Gi Ne Pu, in the A library.

On this CD, you will hear trumpet, heavily distorted vocals, Casio keyboards, tabla, electric guitar, drum machines, harmonica (I think), sitar, and more. All elements – voice, percussion, and timbre – are isolated and presented out of context so that even the familiar sounds unfamiliar. Every sound on the album feels intentional and precise.

–Hunter Gatherer

Sound Tribe Sector Nine – ?Artifact? – [1320 Records]

Hunter Gatherer   1/23/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th studio album by STS9, and it was more than two years in the making. It will be released on February 7, 2005.

STS9 was formed in Atlanta and is based in Northern California now. The ‘Sector 9? in their name is an oblique reference to ‘Baktun 9,? a period (435-830A.D.) when the Mayan civilization was at its artistic peak and its most communal. ‘Sound tribe? refers to their vision of a collective artistic movement.

This album combines the improvisational style of a jam band with the possibilities of electronic music. Jam-tronica? The jazzy and soulful influences are deep but the music is always looking forward.

This music was not created to challenge you. It is there to help you. Imagine Blade Runner if the replicants were created to feed the poor and help the homeless.

Instrumentals: 3,4,5-7,9-15,19;Soulful female vocals: 2,8,17,18,20

Favorites: 1,4,8,17

–Hunter Gatherer

CKW Trio “The Is” [Black Hat]

Thurston Hunger   1/22/2005   A Library, CD, Format, Jazz

There’s a lot of doors into this fine release from this local
trio (and once and future veterans of KFJC’s pit). #4 offers
an acid-folk tablet of tabla, flute and bouzouki, as welcome
as it is unique on this CD. “Mondrian en Amerique” has more
complicated lines and colors than its title’s inspiration,
it’s kinda of Clusone-y in its sawing cello and giddy spurts
and stalls. On “4+#11m6m7” (known as track 7 to its friends)
a bassoon goes hunting in a forest of trinkling percussion,
bowed cello grows like shadows on the trees. “R’izhii” is a
hobo’s waltz with dixie DT’s and Klezmer shakes. “Augmented”
was my fave, very fluid, high register intertwined sax and
cello. “Iram” pumps a spastic, avant funk nicely. On #8 Alex
Kelly’s slithery cello (sounding like some analog electronics
oscillating wondrously) connects a more fiery beginning to
passages with chinese gong and sweeter pondering’s from band
and label leader, Michael Cooke. While Cooke is the obvious
sonic focal point, Kelly’s wildcard nature is what I think
elevates this band. The letter W and assorted batterie are
provided by Andrew Wilshusen, his talent is as an empath
between the other two gents. I could see him adding touches
of electronics to the mix as well. This ain’t “Was” jazz,
enjoy the evolving “Is.”

Lazzara, Marina – “Wind on the Firecracker of the Building Next Door, the songs” – [Pax Recordings]

lombard   1/19/2005   A Library, CD

San Francisco musician and poet (she’s even credentialed with a Master’s degree in Poetics) Marina Lazzara puts out a nice debut. It’s just her voice and guitar, laid down in one day on 4-track by Ernesto Diaz-Infante. It ranges from jangly to fuzzy and pissed off, with underlying break-up and bad-world-events part of her thematic inspiration. Some songs were composed before the recording session, whereas others were improvised, although you’d be hard-pressed to figure out which is which. Very nice emotional release.
-Cynthia Lombard

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – “Faux Depart”- [Yik Yak}

lombard   1/19/2005   A Library, CD

Maher Shal Hash Baz is Hebrew for “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens” and is also Biblical–Isaiah’s son has the name. The band, however, is Japanese and are “legends” of the underground, led by Tori Kudo. The majority of the album was recorded at Dub Narcotic and you can detect the Olympia, Washington DIY influences. The sax, clarinet, trumpet and bassoon give it a high school marching band vibe, but it’s wackier. There are also some punctuations by what sounds like exotic birds and indeed nature themes are also reflected in song titles like “Sea & Seagulls,” “A Wind,” etc. Dub Narcotic meets chamber music on acid.
-Cynthia Lombard

White, Simon – “S/T” – [Sincere Recordings]

lombard   1/19/2005   A Library, CD

Globetrotting (born in Hawaii, lived in London and NYC and now LA) spawn of a folk singing mom; with perhaps some dreams of stardom in acting, photography and/or music–Simone White’s 2003 release is spare, featuring her vocals and guitar along with guests on organ, piano, drums (including a Luna guy and John Zorn associate Sim Cain on drums). This is very SUNNY and pleasant, like the visions of L.A. by a new arrival like Simone White.

-Cynthia Lombard

Mraz, George – “Moravia ” – [Milestone]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

George Mraz is from the eastern part of what was Czechoslovakia so his jazz influences include a lot of the more traditional folk music of the area. His bass playing is very full and classical and that sets the pace for this recording – no “up” songs. Zuzana Lapcikova plays the cymbalom (hammer dulcimer) and sings some songs in Moravian – you probably won’t understand them, but it is pretty, interesting and different – give it a try! *review by David Richoux

Khevrisa – “European Klezmer Music ” – [Smithsonian/Folkways]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, International

This is the first recording of traditional klezmer tunes using original instruments and music. Many of the tunes might be familiar to you (if you listen to modern klez) but the tempos will drive you crazy! Not because they are fast and lively, but just the opposite – I guess they just danced a LOT slower back in the 1700s and 1800s. In those times the violin was used the lead instrument ( the clarinet is today,) but the voice and feeling of the improvised melodies is still very beautiful. Note the bowed string bass and dulcimer-like cimbal. These are all instrumental tracks. A very detailed notebook will tell you anything you want to know about early klezmer music. Enjoy! *review by David Richoux

Irzarry, Ralph & Timbalaye – “Best Kept Secret ” – [Shanachie Entertainment]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Following many years working with Ruben Blades, Timbal player Ralph Irizarry has formed his own group. The result is naturally percussive, but there is a lot more going on here. It is a bit hard to figure expressive jazz in a danceable Latin style, but these guys do it somehow, without being too “commercial.” *review by David Richoux

Cimposium Vol 7 [coll] – [Creative Improvised Music]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Yet another great sample of jazz and more from all over the place. All recorded at the Spirit Room in Rossie, New York in 1999. From slightly scary sax squirts to tasty violin & guitar, cello & trombone duets, this covers a lot of territory. Track 9 is an almost trad reading of “Just a Closer Walk,” but most everything else is original compositions. Lots of short tracks here, drop them in anyplace! *review by David Richoux

Kronos Quartet – “Caravan ” – [Nonesuch Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!!
It seems like the Good Ol’ Kronos Quartet have ditched just about everything they have done before and decided to take a trip around the world. No more Microtonal Minimal Modernista Composition for the KQ – they are playing HOT FIDDLE (and HOT CELLO) in so many styles – Jazz, Slavic, Electro/Beat, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, Argentine, Gypsy-Romanian, Indian, Mexican, even a bit of Surf! Many guest artists on many percussion, keyboard and other instruments add a whole lot to this very fun recording. You probably won’t dance to it, but you will find great things here… a few notes on the better tracks:
#3 combines the quartet with tabla – very Indian
#5 is Killer, but it takes a bit to get going – best track here (stick with it!)
#6- Gloomy Sunday might sound familiar, but it is SO SAD!
#7 is goofy electronica #8 modern Argentine tango.
#10 Iranian-Turkoman traditional folk/dance Spike Fiddle!
#11 Sufi trance music – slowly building, very dramatic, traditional instruments accompany.
#12 Armenian Surf via Dick Dale!
*review by David Richoux

A La Carte Brass + Percussion – “Live on U ” – [Union Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

It has taken almost 20 years for the music of the Dirty Dozen and ReBirth Brass Bands to finally expand out of New Orleans, finding young musicians who now understand that it is something more than just brass and percussion – it is a drive, a spirit, and “A LA CARTE has got it, plenty! They are from the Washington D.C. area, been around since 1994 and they take a lot of influence from the D.D. (they use that band’s arrangement of Caravan) I really enjoyed this live and lively performance. The 4 man percussion section is quite strong, especially when the Brazilian samba style beat gets going. The trumpets and bari sax are also very hot- and the tuba is very much in control of the whole thing! Slipping in a few rock/soul/torch songs sung by Shaun Murphy (of Little Feat) and a rapping track were nice touches.
Unusual “vocal drumming” on track 12! *review by David Richoux

Blythe, Arthur Trio – “Spirits in the Field ” – [Savant Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Arthur Blythe and Bob Stewart have a long association, and they really work well together. The tuba is providing just as much “melody” as rhythm and Stewart really knows how to play! Blythe on Alto is both tuneful and honking (at points) but mostly the fluid style he has mastered weaves around the tuba voice so amazingly well. When you ad the incredible percussion of Cecil Brooks to the mix – this little trio becomes a monster! There is a taste of New Orleans street / funk, a lot of driving hard bop, and just a ton of wonderful interaction in music. This was recorded live in Amsterdam in 1999, the audience is really into it! Not scary, just great! *review by David Richoux

Mora’s Modern Rhythmists – “Call of the Freaks ” – [Mr. Ace Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

This project from southern California’s ultra retro swing band picks some of the more obscure tunes from jazz history. Some male, some female vocals, some novelty renditions of interesting songs that were not especially “hits” – but they do have merit. Please remember that jazz musicians were not considered respectable in all social circles back in those days – these songs reflect some of that “outsider” status. Fun and swinging stuff!
*review by David Richoux

Dixie Power Trio – “Ain’t My Fault ” – [Dpt, Inc/New Line Brass]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

The third CD from this multi-talented east coast trio plus one – mixing powerful tuba lines with jazz/zydeco/boogie style music. This group is also now part of the New Line Brass Band but I think they actually work better in quartet form. (A few of the tracks have extra musicians from the NLBB helping out.) New Orleans Mardi Gras standards mix well with swinging dixie tunes and band originals. The shifting from trumpet to accordion is interesting and gives the band a whole new flavor, but it is Andy Kochenour on tuba that makes the group really move! *review by David Richoux

Gress, Drew – “Spin & Drift ” – [Premonition Records]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, Jazz

Complex quartet stuff here with Drew Gress mostly on bass (but some pedal steel,) Tim Berne on reeds (with some multi-track recording,) Uri Caine on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. Not very squonky – it moves right along even with extended bass solos. Tasty! *review by David Richoux

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