KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

O’Hara, Alexis “In Abulia” [Grenadine]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Wordy-gurdy, spinning songs in costume and in
character. Split personalities outnumber the
languages (French and English) featured here.
Breathy-bop and bleat-box on #7. A special
episode of COPS on #10, with nice imitation
helicopters overhead. #12 lays down a John
Carpenter bass for tension, then pushes
voices in your head and in the mouth of a
radio host…charming as an alien autopsy.
Robopoetry on #3. Operating room antics
with Dr. Kevorkian in drag on #4?’ Hostage
and relationship crisis on #6. Skits more
than songs, will draw parallels to Miranda
July. This actually has more in the musical
vein, but arteries are clogged with quirky
ideas and sound textures. This is one that
will grow fans over time like Miss July. An
odd audio pin-up, play-up girl.

Note #14 ends with 1:38, then silence then
at 1:09 has a weird bonus track that suggests
maybe Alexis’ ouvre started out as a series of
“Truth or Dare” challenges as a kid.

Shimada, Aiko “Like Hannah” [Bera Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Dark raindrops on deep lakes. The gentleness on this record is
like the embrace of an aunt to a beloved niece, or perhaps the
promise to an expectant daughter,(a child is due in May). Her
open guitar chords ripple and are blurred even further by
watercolor flugel horn from Dave Carter. Thus song structure
is not consistent, not thick but more like strands that slowly
wrap around themselves. Beautiful in a Joni Mitchell manner.
Similarly, Aiko’s voice runs deeper than most but uniquely is
never smokey. When her voice does tiptoe up the scale it grows
even more fragile. I kept thinking of jellyfish as emblematic.
As much as anyone, I think Evan Schiller is crucial here, as
these songs could just fall apart, but listen to “Loneliness”
or the title track and you can feel the subtle strength he
creates. Doubling or overlapping vocals often gird these
gossamer waterwings. If you can gather a rainy afternoon
together, the whole album has a nice flow.

[coll] Adbusters “Live Without Dead Time” #47

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Companion to the magazine…send listeners to
adbusters.org…they’ll head there mad & grow more
irate. This may be the first they have ever issued
a CD in cahoots, and DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller
resurrects some saints in his Jihad against McWorld.
Martin Luther King, Marshall McLuhan, Malcom X…
Several selections features Spooky collaborating with
Saul Williams to deliver their payload with the
precision of the smartest bomb in the class. Sun Ra
reappears with his formula Nuclear War=MotherF*,
Chuck D.’s voice is a good a rallying cry as you’ll
ever find. J-Live’s lyrics are laced with an extra
portion of truth. Nice introduction to Honey Barbara.
Overall, truth against advertising is the order of
the day. It’s all riveted together tightly, but worth
breaking off a piece to get the conversation flowing.
Pledge Illegiance.

Abdelli “Among Brothers” [Real World]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, International

Abderrahmane Abdelli is an Algerian musician (from the
“Kabyl” – an ancient Berber collective of musicians).
The “Kabyl” have historically been unflinching in their
assessment via song of the political powers that be, and
this does not sit well with the fundamentalist Islamic
leaders of Algeria. Thus Abdelli has worked in exile in
Belgium since the early 1990’s. This album was created
over three years, taking the basic songs of Abdelli’s
raspy yet sweet voice and his mandola (an instrument
like an oud). Then in the Real World manner, folding in
other spices, musicians, flavors and countries. Often
his mandola traces the vocals, as does flute at times
and some spiky fiddling as well. Spry slithering sounds
are slathered on the tracks, giving this the power of
gypsy music and the dramatic highlighting of Peter
Gabriel’s “Passion” soundtrack to “The Last Temptation
of Christ.” Pristine recording machinations do not
molest the stirring soul of these songs.

Archie Shepp – ?Attica Blues? – [Impulse!]

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   CD, Jazz

This is a 3/2003 reissue of an album originally released in 1972.

Saxophonist Archie Shepp is one of the pioneers of free jazz. He has a degree in comparative literature, is a composer, and is a published playwright and poet. He’s also a radical who makes no secret of his anger about social injustice.

So given the topic of the Attica prison riots (in which a four day revolt was squashed by 1,000 state troopers who killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages) I was looking forward to popping in this CD and hearing about what a shit whitey is.

But Mr. Shepp is smarter than that. Plenty of rage is here, and you can hear it in his alto and soprano saxophone lines throughout the whole CD. You can especially hear it in the cacophonous funk-based free jazz (free funk?) of the title track.

The rage almost gives way to despair later in the CD with lyrics like ‘I would rather be a plant than a man in this land.’ Even on the prettiest song Ballad for a Child, discordant strings belie the lyrics ‘What the world needs is a baby’s smile.’

2, 4, and 7 are spoken word ‘invocations? of which 4 is the most interesting. ‘Blues for George Jackson? refers to the Black Panther leader shot to death under suspicious circumstances while in prison.

There are elements of R&B, soul, funk, and even big band underneath the jazz elements, making each track seem familiar but not quite comfortable.

Most of the songs track through, so watch the endings. Also, the last track features some spontaneous (to put it nicely) singing by a 7-year-old.

–Hunter Gatherer

Vanishing, the – “Still Lifes Are Falling” – [Gold Standard Labs]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

the vanishing – “still lifes are falling” – [gold standard labs]

high energy aesthetics coupled with lo-fi production yields danceable dark wave goth featuring distorted reverb-soaked female vox, programmed and live drums, a sax that haunts, fuzzed-out synths that taunt. clean lyrics (except as marked) decry various aspects of the current state of the human condition: “buried beneath the plastic sheen / is a world that’s painted violently”

mad hatter

Emotional Joystick – “Bellicose Pacific” – [Zod]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

emotional joystick – “bellicose pacific” – [zod records]

enjoy this man-up from Milwaukee, WI: bleeps, blips ‘n breaks galore are to be found on this full length release from emo::joy and all tracks take aim to please! soundscapes and synths accompany breaktech beats a la aphex twin-esque abrasion mixed with more chill ‘n chunky loops as well. simple video-game like melodic lines work well with the harmonic progressions that back them with a sometimes sparse, sometimes symphonic, ever schizophrenic feel.

note: tr13 = bonus round / hidden track after ~ 3:o3 of silence

mad hatter

The Tough & Lovely – “Born Of The Stars” – [Spoonful Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

This is the first full-length release from a 5 member rock and roll band from Columbus, Ohio founded in 2002 by guitarist/songwriter Andrew Robertson. The CD was released 8/2004.

For lack of a better term, I would call this music ‘garage rock? though that wouldn’t give an indication of the years spent listening to and reverse engineering their rock and soul records, the excellent songwriting, the solid rhythm section that’s in no particular hurry, and – the first thing you will notice – Lara Yazvac’s tough and lovely singing.

In a good portion of the lyrics people are breaking hearts, getting their hearts broken, holding on, letting go, doing a lot of crying. (I don’t remember life in Ohio as being that dramatic.) Written down they would probably look silly, but with Ms. Yazvac’s voice and the band backing her up it works.

Here is a partial list of influences that I was scribbling down as I was listening: Kinks, Pretenders, Del Shannon, Shangri-Las, The Capitols (Cool Jerk), X Ray Spex, Lowell Fulson (Tramp), the entire Atlantic Rhythm and Blues box set.

Every convertible sold should come with a copy of this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Domenico + 2 – Sincerely Hot – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   CD, International

‘Domenico? is Domenico Lancelotti, and ?+2? is Moreno Veloso and Kassin. This is the second of three releases which feature one of the three. It was recorded between 10/2001 and 4/2002 but for some reason not released until 9/2004.

(By the way, the first release – ‘Musical Typewriter? by Moreno + 2 – is in the International library and filed under Veloso.)

All three of them are Brazilian, and Domenico is a drummer. As a result there are plenty of Latin beats. The lyrics are in Portuguese in all but one song, but you can read the translation in the liner notes if you want to read the lyrics that mainly concern themselves with leaving, desire, and waiting.

This is very smart and funky Brazilian pop with varied influences. They definitely took their Burt Bacharach pills before recording some of the tracks (2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13). 12 is an instrumental. Some tracks have a great funk feel (4, 5, 8) There are duets that made me laugh even though I had no idea what they were singing about (5, 11).

Language: 7 (suck your breast/suck your ass). Also 3 tracks right into 4 with no warning.

–Hunter Gatherer

MTKJ Quartet “Making Room For Spaces” [Nine Winds]

Thurston Hunger   12/8/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Like ROVA, MTKJ feels so strongly bout the connection between
members that they’re all in for a letter and all in for the
long haul. (Well ROVA stuck with it even when it became ROAA)
Anyways this is NOT your father’s West Coast jazz, nothing
as sunny as a convertible drive by the beach, instead we’re
looking over the edge of windy, desolate seaside cliff. We’re
treated to stellar composition, utilizing dramatic pauses
(tightened by Paul Kikuchi’s snare rolls) and major thematic
shifts, check out the 3 minute mark into the leadoff track!
Just gorgeous, later that same piece sounds like Salt Peanuts
are mixed in. Composition includes other moments of homage
along with setting up great dual play between Kris Tiner’s
trumpet and Jason Mears’ reeds. Everyone gets a chance to
solo shine, including bassist Ivan Johnson who can tiptoe tap
on the great intro to #4, or get rubbery as he desends down
the end of the final cut, leading a Mears landing. The album
title speaks volumes in the silence these guys keep alive
like fragile bubbles in convoluted metal sculpture pulled
through a soap rinse. Gaze with your ears.

Nomo – ?Nomo? – [Ypsilanti Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   A Library, CD

Nomo is a 17-piece band from Ann Arbor, Michigan led by composer/arranger/saxophonist/etc. Elliot Bergman. This is their first full-length release, released in May, 2004. And it was produced by Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive. Nomo has also released an EP previously, 2 songs of which are on this release.

From the tight horn section opening to the woman singing ‘la la la? fade out, this CD is great all the way through. It is Afrobeat/Afropop that leans variously towards jazz, reggae, space rock, and other genres. Fela Kuti is the spiritual godfather of this band. Think of them as a jazzier Antibalas that doesn’t want to execute Bush’s cabinet.

It’s amazing that this many musicians (4 percussionists, 6 horns, several guitarists) trying to meld this many styles is anything other than a big mess of ‘world music.’ Instead they are tight, keeping a steady beat and theme going while different instruments (sax, fuzz guitar, Fender Rhodes) solo over the top.

All tracks except for 4 and 10 are instrumentals.

–Hunter Gatherer

Triosk – “Moment Returns” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

Funkminsta Fulla   11/30/2004   A Library, CD

triosk – “moment returns” – [leaf label]

triosk administers measured yet delicate doses of minimalist meanderings and moody muses to create an aural tonic that is smooth, sensitive and sophisticated… no bitters here. “moment returns” mixes well with both psychoacoustic sound clash and downtempo acid jazz with equal ease. sparse sound samples form an interactive organic environment which complements this contemplative piano trio nicely.

mad hatter

Tinariwen “Amassakoul” [world village]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   CD, Format, International

Founded in the late 1970’s by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib,
Tinariwen has been a loose collective of soul soldiers and
guitar shamen ever since. If blues is born of pain, then
these Tamashek men and women, driven from their native Mali
for a stretch, still feel that sharp emptiness…it’s built
into their name which allegedly translates as “desert” or
“empty spaces.” The burrowing guitar is a striking signature,
present on all cuts here except the floaty flute and chant
drone that closes the CD. The guitar is usually under chatty
call-and-response vocals that are infectious enough to sing
along with despite no clue what is being said. While the
guitar can recall the pluck of the Ex, and the electric zap
of Junior Kimbrough, it really is a unique flavor to savor.
Elements of sauntering reggae rhythm, gnawa loops, french rap
are captured as well. Dig that mod mad nomad sound!

Theramin “We Were Gladiators” [Psychotica Records]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Solid battering-ram rock from Italy’s Theramin targetting our
shores with english lyrics… and “talks” too, as featured
on “Near by the Saint Leonard river” which wisely tells us not
to think too much. Drummer Sacha Tilotta offers said talks,
and when he’s not a ponderer, he’s a pounder. Drums on this
album sound great and fight for life. Tracks often go through
stark passages where either Sacha’s drums or Stefano Garaffa
Botta’s guitar drop out for a few bars before dynamics damn the
torpedoes and full boar ahead. Good yelping female guest vox
by Giovanna Cacciola on “In My Place.” String suite sweetens
“To Be Away” which like much of the album features prominent
and vital basswork by Michael Herman, a key to heavy-hitting
rock. And this here is some kinda Italian Kung Fu which lands
every punch.

Bettye Swann – “Bettye Swann” – [Honest Jons]

Hunter Gatherer   11/10/2004   CD, Soul

This collection by Honest Jons covers semi-obscure soul singer Bettye Swann’s career with Capitol from 1968 and 1970. (Her work with Money Records was recently released on Kent Records.)

This is country-inflected soul music that will have you singing into a hairbrush or crying into a beer, depending upon your disposition.

–Hunter Gatherer

Chris Joss – “You?ve Been Spiked” – [ESL Music]

Hunter Gatherer   11/10/2004   A Library, CD

ESL Music has re-released sound engineer and Frenchman Chris Joss’s 3rd album and added two tracks from his 1st album The Man With A Suitcase and a Flash video of the single Discotheque Dancing.

This album is paying homage to the 70’s with its waka-waka guitar, disco beats, and Hammond organ while at the same time the clear production, occasional sample or scratch keeps it sounding fresh and new.

The tracks sound like the theme song of a cop show I wish I could have seen or a porno ‘I’m glad that I didn’t. You can’t go wrong playing one of these instrumentals.

If you ever find yourself evading the police in a stolen Ford Torino make sure to pop in this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Zoomers “Exist” [hyped2death]

Thurston Hunger   11/9/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Another fine reissue/revival from Chuck Warner’s Hyped2Death
efforts (aka Homework #204 on that label). Check the liner
notes. While this has one sort of ambling jam (“Freak at the
Greek”), most of the tracks are short tightrope walks over
inner anxieties and damp, cramped tape e.q. It sounds pretty
swank for 1981 cassette culture, though every once in a
while a track sorta goes through a tunnel of sound, some of
that those is a result of flanger fanaticism. Lyrics are
delivered in bursts, that sort of romance vs. robot approach.
The vocals often accentuated by a gasp or a whisper and oft
times both, they are nicely up front in the mix. Drums keep
time, squeeze in some rat-a-tight snare fills, occasionally
get completely lost. It’s the odder guitar fills (and sax,
piano and especially synthesizer with well-detuned delivery)
that augment the angst and make this a Louisiana winner. “All
We Need” is just too strange and estranging to simply file as
“rock” but this album (even that track) has moments that rock
solidly and artfully. There are some really wrong notes at
exactly the right moments on this!

[coll:] Voices In The Wilderness – [Tzadik]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   CD, Jazz

This double CD is part of 2003’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Masada, the jazz quartet that John Zorn leads. Masada doesn’t play on this CD. Instead 24 songs from their song book are performed and produced by about 80 of Mr. Zorn’s musician friends.

The Masada Book is a collection of more than 200 songs written by Zorn with melodies and harmonies in an attempt to create a new type of Jewish music that is more than the traditional music with new arrangements. He wanted ‘a combination of Ornette Coleman and the Jewish scales.’ (As near as I can tell the Jewish’also called Spanish’scale is the same as a harmonic minor scale begining on the 5th tone.) The scale that the music is based on has that minor-third leap surrounded by half tones that gives the songs a definite ‘Middle east? or at least ‘non-Western? sound.

The arrangements and interpretations of the music are as varied as the musicians who perform on this release, ranging from straight forward acoustic jazz to rock-jazz fusion. The overall feeling is one of joyfulness and optimism. I felt that the vocals on some of the tracks didn’t really add anything to the songs, so I would recommend sticking to the instrumentals.
This release is a lot to absorb. Frankly, you’ll have to explore it for yourself. Here are a few suggestions to get started: CD1: 2-Kisofim, 8-Nevelah, 10-Tirzah; CD2: 4-Tannaim, 11-Tiferet, 12-Kedem.

–Hunter Gatherer

Existensminimum – “The On and On” – [Flora and Fauna]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   A Library, CD

The mastermind behind Existensminimum is Magnus Henriksson of Sweden. The word Existensminimum, literally subsistence level, is a Swedish social services term for the minimum amount of food or money necessary for a person or family.

But there is nothing minimal about the sound on this EP. Mr. Henriksson wrote and played most instruments on this CD with the help of a few musicians. But when playing live, 10 musicians are required to reproduce the sound.

Every song is so different from the others that I must describe them separately:

1. (5:01) – An uptempo, James Bond-y number in 5/4. It has a square 60’s lounge feel, and the singing is just short of over the top at times.

2. (3:59) – A great song with a driving synth groove and processed vocals.

3. (5:06) – Orchestral opening gives way to electronic drums. Sounds like Air or Zero 7 with much harder drums. Instrumental

4. (1:45) – Acoustic guitar soaking in reverb with vocals that start in falsetto.

5. (3:14) – A U2 parody? This is a big stadium rock-sounding thing featuring synthesizers.

–Hunter Gatherer

Odd Toot – “Mental Money” – [Hydrogen Dukebox Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Odd Toot – or The Odd Toot, he will respond to either – is Simon Smith from Edinburgh, Scottland. This CD, released in April 2000, is his second full-length effort.

The music on this CD calls on different styles and genres much like Aquaman calls on his various sea creature friends. There is D&B, funk bass, jazz chords, flute and trumpet solos, processed vocals, samples from scratchy old recordings. There are even samples of Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and one that I believe is from Sing Along With Mitch.

Mr. Smith is a producer, engineer, and session musician. This shows in the immaculately produced tracks on this CD.

This CD could be worked easily into sets containing all kinds of music, except possibly country and polka. It just goes to show what can be had at Amoeba Records for $1.99.

–Hunter Gatherer

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