KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Dame Darcy “Greatest Hits” [Bop Tart]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The queen of modern antiquity returns, her
breath smelling of formaldehyde and absinthe,
to KFJC’s airwaves to revive the undead air.
Her banjo strung with her own hair. Here lie
short ballads of yore and gore, but wrapped in
such pretty petticoats (lots of xylophone,
autoharp and of course singing saw). If you
ever wondered what silent movie stars sound
like when they sing, here you have it.
Covers are disinterred (“Oh Death”, “Psycho”
and “House of the Rising Sun”). “Grandma’s
Feather Bed” makes one think that this
damned Dame was born unto her art, her Dad
appears on that and other pieces as well.
Ramshackles and chains around your heart.

Crescent “By the Roads and the Fields” [Fat Cat]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Is it that Crescent?’ The answer lies in the first note
on “Fountains” – a resounding yes! An organ that shrieks
will be well-recalled, or now discovered, by many. With
no release since 1999, many thought Crescent were Snake
Pliskin…but their squatter-in-winter undub resurrects
to be heard through a dilapidated tenement with broken
windows. Not dead, just dormant..and storing up their
mesmerizing power. These Bristol-whippers have a bead
on krautrock trance but when ice reeds whistle in and
metal wolf-traps clang and steel strings snap in the
background, the end result is quite distinct. Brothers
Matt Jones (Amp) and Sam Jones (Flying Saucer Attack)
along w/ Rachel Brook are all also in Movietone, which
has a more familiar, tho’ still overcast-skies, brand
of pop. This is here is further afield, it follows the
rivers out of town…up north…into an imaginary
village. We are a part of the Hiber Nation.

Courvoisier, Sylvie/Feldman, Mark/Friedlander, Erik “Abaton” [ECM]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
Courvoisier moves to NYC to join her violinist husband
Mark Feldman, and cellist Erik Friedlander makes three.
The trio may also be known as Abaton as this release is.
I really enjoyed the second disc of improvisations,
where the playing seems hyperdramatic. The first disc of
compositions by pianist Courvoisier seems restrained,
albeit with moments of madness. Maybe she is striving to
not spotlight herself, indeed she sits out “Poco a poco.”
“Abaton” has a tense Hitchcock running-up-and-down-stairs
vibe that leads to the furious flights Feldman excels at.
It is by far the most fervid of the four, by its end tho’
silence overshadows the return of the running strings.
The 19 improvisations, none longer than 5 minutes, are
like watching batting practicer: quicker crowd-pleasing
action. From pizzicato caves(#5) to weird whistly string
playing(#17), to wind-swept melodies(#11), firecracker
snap(#9). Lots of prepared piano too. Both rewarding in
different ways.

Cosmosamatics Three s/t [Boxholder]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

In space, no one can hear you scream. In the vacuum of bass,
one is less likely to hear a sax scream. This album rides
on watery crests of tom rolls and cymbal crashes from JAY
ROSEN, while saxmen SONNY SIMMONS and MICHAEL MARCUS trade
a lot of spry cycles and merge for half-chords, keeping a
pretty taught tether to the melody of these compositions.
No doubt there are solar flashes (certainly on “Avant Garde
Destruct”), but the moonwalk cord keeps the hornmen closer
to the mothership, which works fine by this passenger (and
the Amsterdam-ned in attendance for tracks #5-#8). Two of
those live numbers, “12 Seasons of Love” and Simmons’ solo
rendition of “‘Round Midnight” balance a more stately flow
against burnished extended solos. Rosen returns invigorated
for a 2.5 min drum rollick to launch the closing “Requiem”
with rooted baritone from Marcus and cool oblique echos
from Simmons eventually join them. “Futura” and “Bring on
the Funk” give the listener the smoothest flight path,
I dug those, but along with “Avant…” my favorite was
a very nebulous “Tonal Magnitudes” with slippery scales
and solos. Next stop, Venus.

Corpus Callosum “Strange Fruit” [self-released]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

his album grew on me like fingernails on a corpse. To
say they are taken with the macabre is an understatement,
hell they are undertaken. Dying is their raison d’etre.
Their spectral folk sound is built upon acoustic guitar,
accordian, wounded theremin, singing saw, glass goblets
and an item they refer to as the “Poor Lady’s Gamelan.”
Apparently they are a 3 or 4 piece (depending on human
boomerang, Wei who comes and goes). Perhaps scariest of
all, they’re disinterred from the cultural graveyard
known as Santa Clara. Vocals will improve as liquour &
confidence are titrated into the mix. Either for the
singer Avery Burke or perhaps the listener. Hic?’ The
“16-line Love Song” is well haunted by Wei’s harmonies.
Dax’s vocals are frothier on “Alice” but the “singing”
of Avery’s hands steals the show on that via theremin.
Lyrics are well-laced. This Corpus Callosum is bigger
on the left hemisphere, and thick with promise. A very
bright darkness emanates.

Masashi Harada’s Condanction Ensemble “Enter the Continent” [Emanem]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Bostan-based set of musicians performing guided
improv, not by baton…nor by game piece…but by
the feet (and body) of dancer Masashi Harada.
Results traverse a very spacious nebula of sound.
Starlight flicker of Phil Tomasic’s sliding guitar,
windy wordless vocals from the whole cast, breathy
work from Nmperign duo, rings of string from Aleta
Cole and Dan Levin. The sound always appears to be
way up high, although there’s mysterious dark matter
(not just molten trombone) in much of the silence
that this ensemble manages to preserve. This is
Halloween jazz with an otherworldy beauty. I wish
I had witnessed the Big band big Bang at the point
of creation. Proof of an expanding universe

Clogs “Lullabye for Sue” [Brass Land]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole : violin +
guitar + bassoon + percussion. Rachael Elliott’s bassoon
sounds like an old man lost and wandering a strange city
at night. Bryce Dressner, who rocks fairly straightforwardly
with The National, gets a chance to be far more interesting
here. Look what happens 3 1/2 minutes into the title track?
Percussionist Thomas Kozumplik is precise in his quests for
tinkering trinkets, he builds some of his own instruments.
Lastly Padma Newsome is the chief composer and the one
who united these four Yalies. His whistling violin on
“Turtle Soup” is as key an ingredient as its crushed ABC
radiocast excerpts. Tasty! Actually the album peaked a
little earlier for me, right there after tracks #2 and
#3. Keeping Dressner amped up I think is a good idea, his
playing gives this album more of a clamour than a chamber
state, recalls the promise of Tom Cora locking bridges
with the Ex! Many of the pieces take lengthy rests in
them, be forewarned. More singing from the winsome
Newsome should be encouraged. His soft soprano voice on
“Gentler We” plays nicely off the ominous music beneath.

China – The Sonic Avant Garde – coll [Post-Concrete]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

While prison workers are making Britney Spears dolls,
look what the sneakier thought-criminals have been up
to in China. Making beautiful noise! The first CD here
is almost flawless. The ISMU aka Intelligent Shanghai
Mono University tracks in particular are just bursting
with creativity that would be promising whether they
came from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or the most
populous country on the planet. Check out the sounds
bounced off a bamboo squeak on 1-4, or how time is
running out for techno on 1-6. While track 1-1 fires
a static charge through your ears, not all tracks are
as wonderfully annoying. Yuhui Jiang’s pieces wrap
their broken glass in smooth silk. “Minibus Pimps”
are Chinese cabbies who’ve been hanging out with the
Fall’s Mark E. Smith, or so it sounds. Other “found”
sounds are also remarkable, please enjoy snake-meat
and accordion on 1-16. Pei Zhou gets wires through
thick and skin. Really a lot going on here.

WARNING 1-7 too gorgeous for FCC as a sexbot rebels

Cheval de Frise “Fresques sur les parois secretes du crane” [Ruminance/Frenetic]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Rare is the guitar hero who first chooses an acoustic
over an electric with a phalanx of effects, that is
but one unique aspect of Cheval de Frise and nylon
stringleader Thomas Bonvalet. His counterpart is
drummer Vincent Beysselance who blends so well with
the complex melodies and runs of Bonvalet that he
can almost become lost in the shuffle of snare, the
flurry of toms and subtle heartbeats of hi-hat. He’s
a very good drummer, just paired w/ a flash guitarist.
On two tracks, (#6’s second half and all of #8) they
are joined by Simon Queheillard on a self-made
instrument that sounds like a tambura made of ice.
It shears across the top of the duo’s dense interplay.
The horse you cannot see, cannot be corralled; and
this band cannot be easily put in one pasture. Enjoy
the wild freedom of this exceptional duo.

Carnival Jump-Up – coll [Delos]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, International

A donation from KFJC’s Austin Space after he played the
rousing rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” from
this on his 2nd annual special for that song. For some,
this may have a cruise ship capability to repel (the
fine liner notes describe how my favorite band, SILVER
STARS, on this actually re-formed “when most of the
members returned home from Disney World.” All of the
recordings here were done in Trinidad and Tobago, tho’
at times the massiveness of the ranks of steel drums
overwhelms so much it seems these were recorded in
roller rinks. In addition to the densely charted
steel drums, each track has relentless shimmying of
other percussion hustling underneath it all. The
necessary imperfections in the tuning of the drums,
is a nice twist to the mechanical precision of the
strange arrangements to these party marches.

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

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