KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

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

Dosh – “Pure Trash” – [Anticon Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Dosh is Minneapolis-based drummer and keyboardist Martin Dosh. He is also associated with the bands Fog and Lateduster. This is his second full-length release. In his spare time he gives drumming lessons to kids.

This second full-length release is sort of a family affair. Most of the album was recorded and mixed while his wife was pregnant or had just given birth to a son Naoise (pronounced nee-sha). His wife and another son, Tadhg (pronounced tiger, without the er) can be heard speaking or singing on some of the tracks. The CD insert contains an illustration from Mrs. Dosh explaining each song.

For such an experimental CD it’s easy to listen to, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Although the drums sound very dirty or dusty the melodies and chords are beautiful and consonant, featuring his Fender Rhodes piano, an acoustic guitar, a saxophone, and what sound like sampled kids toys.

The songs have a layered feel. The first layer usually comes from his Akai Headrush pedal that has a 12-second sample memory. On top of that stacked up like spinning plates is any number of layers that could contain drumming, sounds from the innards of an open-faced Rhodes being played directly, samples, voices, etc. When it seems like it might all come crashing down, Dosh heads off in another direction.

–Hunter Gatherer

Breuker Kollektief, Willem “With Strings Attached” [bvhaast]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

To unfairly reduce the Kollektief, this is a group committed
to serious fun. The musicianship is top-notch, but the accent
probably falls on the fun. In selecting the six composers for
this collection, each one brought something unexpected if not
unaccepted to the concert hall. I think this attitude is the
key to Breuker, breaking the rules, breaking the walls down.
Typewriters turn up on at least two tracks, one of which you
have heard, even if you think not. George Gershwin shines in
the keys of Henk de Jonge, it seems so polished and stately
that it’s easy to forget his rebellious origins. Read the
liner notes for more info on that and the others here (as
well as the importance for lapsing copyrights). The one
composer still above ground is actually not just a composer
but a band member. Alfred Janson’s 20+ minute piece has some
sax daggers, trumpet wisteria that blossoms into fire, and
about 12:30 into it the strings fritter while Janson himself
straps on his accordion to carry out the vendetta with a
hint of a smoking scat-gun as well. Towards the end of that
piece, the players chase each other sonically (and probably
physically on stage to boot.) Tremendous, don’t miss the
return of the sinewy “Sensemaya” with snakey strings.
Hail to the Kollektief!

Jolie Holland – “Catalpa” – [Anti- Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   A Library, CD

This is San Francisco-based Jolie Holland’s first solo release since co-founding and then leaving Be Good Tanyas, though it wasn’t originally intended to be. The tracks are mostly demo tapes that weren’t supposed to go “any further than my neighborhood” as she says. There is an unfinished feeling to many of the songs, and she coughs and laughs on some tracks. In another, you can hear an engineer dropping something (and he even gets a percussion credit). One song was recorded before it was finished, and Ms. Holland helpfully includes the extra lyrics of the finished version in her liner notes.

The result is that listening to this CD feels like crouching outside her window and eavesdropping as she sings her mysterious songs of loneliness and restlessness. She’s accompanied by her guitar and little else. At times it sounds a little like a field recording of old Appalachian folk (due to the way she sings and her picking style, I think) until you listen to the lyrics, consider the whole thing, and feel the influence of Woody Guthrie and Syd Barrett. The latter even gets a co-writing credit on The Littlest Birds.

There is something deeply American about the rootless feel of this release.

–Hunter Gatherer

Crimea, the – “Lottery Winners on Acid ” – [Double Dragon]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Staggering from the ashes of the CROCKETTS, Davey MacManus
(vocals/lyrics/guitar) and drummer Owen Hopkin re-invented
their music selves as THE CRIMEA in late 2002, tempering a bit
of their own chaos in and around Plaistow (which might be old
London???s answer to Hamburger Hill) & enlisting keyboardist
Andrew Stafford (dig the Roland VK-8 + XV-88) , bassist Joseph
Udwin & lead guitarist Andrew Norton (ex-DENZEL). MacManus,
a native of Dublin, plays occasional solo sets as KERNEL KROK;
his biopictorial lyrics read vivid in either setting, shambling to
a place called truth in a style somewhere between MUNGO JERRY
and the DEPARTURE LOUNGE. First three tracks here were all UK
singles ??? and they are terrific ??? rustic in all the right places and
seemingly fueled by sufficient libations???.last two tracks equally
good as drunken anthems/internal commentary/emotional palmistry
??????..Most excellent****
MITCH October 2004

Contrast, the – “Fade Back in ” – [Rainbow Quartz]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Peterborough UK (East Midlands) quartet lets a
third LP loose, featuring production by Andy
Hawkins & enhanced vocals from mainman
David Reid, whose mastery of the Rickenbacker
and various retro psychedelia steers a remarkably
consistent resonating sonic experience through a
swelling, driving journey of great highs ( # 1, 3, 4 +
12) and poignant lows ( # 8). Reid is a polished
storyteller in song, whether relating a post-alterca-
tion friendship ( # 2), warning of doom ( # 5),
belittling fickle fame ( # 6) or letting savvy harmony
convey self-depreciation ( # 10). Reid himself says of this
material that it is???.???the most focused & direct stuff
we have done. Sounds the most consistently like
the CONTRAST?????? Bass = Richard Mackman; rhythm
guitar/backing vox = Spencer Hart; drums = James
Crossley; keys = Hawkins ??? rock-solid powah pop.
MITCH October 2004

Coastal – “Halfway to You ” – [Words on Music]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Somber, sparse slowcore dreampop from Jason
& Luisa Gough that shimmers, beguiles and lays
claim to a particular signature serenity on this
2nd LP. Missing regular drummer Jim Harker on
this recording, Jason G. did the percussion honors
himself, laying close by the bass of Josh Callaway
and a host of buried samples. Melody, drone,
lyrics of longing, a pursuit perhaps of melancholy
in the service of stately dirge (Luisa G.???s keyboards
a vital sonic element), COASTAL is all dual-harmony
and mesmerizing alchemy; strings/bells/guitars/magic
???..Faraway vox + spoken word beauty plus Megan
Lloyd violin ( # 2) lone yet intriguing instro ( # 8)
heartrending cello bridges ( #1) epic haze via wistful
viola by Helen Maltby ( # 9) languid memories ( #4)
???.. Out of Provo, UT ??? most pleasing and sophisticated
masterwork
MITCH October 2004

PacificUV s/t [WARM]

Thurston Hunger   10/15/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Five-piece out of Georgia, aided and abetted
by various folks (including Heather McIntosh
from the Instruments!!). Adding female vox
on some tracks helps to underscore that always
crucial Slowdive connection. Fine floatation,
nothing earth-shattering, nor earth-smothering.
Pillowy layers of guitar, songs buried in
feather beds can still breathe and walk among
us as tunes. Upon headphone inspection you
realize how much went into realizing these
fluffy drifts of shoegaze. The pedal steel,
the vibes, the electroprocessing, a touch
of God Speed swirled/massed guitar, the
cello-enforced roots, the noisette party
favors…and undoubtedly the pharmaceuticals.
Cuts #3 and #7 bubbled to the top of the pop
for me…while #8 seems to fog a different
window altogether.

Born Heller – “S/T” – [Locust Music]

lombard   10/5/2004   A Library, CD

A very cool release with female vocals from Josephine Foster–similar in sound to Mia Doi Todd..which at times are nearly operatic. The instrumentation (harp, mandolin, bass) gives it an extra experimental kick, especially on the early tracks. You’ll notice that one of the Oldham’s (Paul) recorded a number of tracks..and the final song has more of a Palace/folk feel to it and also features male vocals (Jason Ajemian-who also provides bass throughout). (added 10-5-2004)
-Cynthia Lombard

Little Wings- “Magic Wand” – [K Records] (CD)

lombard   10/5/2004   A Library, CD

Spare, folky acoustic music with male vocals by Kyle Field. This is their 6th release and on it they work with Calvin Johnson along with a bunch of other guests. Kyle Field is also working on visual arts, with the cover art his handiwork. (added 10-5-2004)

-Cynthia Lombard

Electric Masada – “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celabr ” – [Tzadik]

Daryl Licht   10/2/2004   CD, Jazz

Electric Masada is a new variant of Zorn’s long running and
multi-facted Masada project. The group, which may be Zorn’s
most exciting and creative project ever, features many of the
top players in the Downtown NYC scene such as, Marc Ribot
(the big star of this CD, IMHO) and Ikue Mori. On this disc,
they are captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s
incredible month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to
celebrate his 50th birthday. Rocking riffs, free jazz skronk,
hard swinging grooves, and atmospheric electronic exoctica
are all blended together to create the unique and incredible
Electric Masada sonic attack. Powerful, yet lyrical; this is
improvisational music at its finest. Genre blurring; this casts
a light down the path of the future of music and beautifully
represents the forward thinking aesthetic of KFJC. One of
the top releases this year – don’t miss out! DL

Masada – “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celebr ” – [Tzadik]

Daryl Licht   9/28/2004   A Library, CD

Masada is one of Zorn’s longest running and most popular
projects. For those who may be unfamilar with Masada,
the project represents Zorn’s attempt to create a new form
of Jewish music, one that celebrates and preserves Jewish
musical traditions while integrating elements of modern
music, as well. Elements of klezmer, Eastern and Middle
Eastern music, jazz, avant-garde, and classical are integrated
to create the unique Masada sound. On this disc, they are
captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s incredible
month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to celebrate
his 50th birthday. The quartet is in top form, with Zorn
and Douglas weaving complex lines around each other
(especially on tracks 4 and 7 – yow!) over the solid rhythm
section of Cohen and (the great) Joey Baron. Whether they’re
executing ensemble passages with cool precision or blowing freely ,
for the most part, this is improvisation at its finest. Inspiring! DL

Larry Stabbins “Monadic” [Emanem]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Solo saxaphone from UK soprano and tenor-drizer Stabbins.
For erudite enlightenment, seek the liner notes. I can tell
you that this album starts off with a buzzy, windy blower
that then tracks into a spiraling number. Not super cyclone
circular breathing, but spin and hold style. #2 then tracks
into a fuzzier, sputtering piece. About 1/2 way through #3
we move to a drier, tighter dart-like sound. Not harsh in
a Gustaffson style, but more bird like. The soprano takes
over and we get a sort of splintered take on the theme to
Close Encounters. Indeed, Stabbins often has encounters of
his own that drift very near melody. This solo outing has
many down-right hummable parts to go with the other more
peculiar saxy pyrotechnics. But plenty of squiggliness
and nasally wailing like on #5 half-way through. Back on
the tenor train certainly by 12 minutes into #7. That
piece starts with perhaps the most memorable melody on
the album but it gets well and nicely frayed over its
17 minutes. A surprisingly nasty almost R&B smoky start
on the last track before a very abrupt end to the album.
Word on the sleeve is that Stabbins has been a long-time
collaborator on the UK free scene, but this shows he can
stand alone just fine. Mind the tracking…

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