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Music Reviews

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…

Trio X 3 “New Jazz Meeting – Baden Baden 2002 ” [Hat Hut]

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

Catchy like an abstract painting…dualing splatter platters
of trios cubed. This New Jazz Meeting features a trick that
is older than it sounds: splicing electronics w/ improv. On
the fly and in situ sounds are sliced & diced by top-notch
twiddlers: Philip Jeck, Bernhard Lang and Christof Kurzmann.
The first disc is all live, while the second (my slight fave)
was a studio effort. Electronics came in originally often
via percussion, and here that is a primary tactic. But also
treated textures hover at the edges of pieces, especially on
the studio disk. The use of lighter horns: Philippe Racine’s
flute, Marcus Weiss’s saxes and a very vital Steve Lacy are
open enough that they never obliterate whatever more subtle
programming is going on. NOTE : contrary to the “band-name”
never do we catch the starting 9 on the field all at once.
Tracks 1-2, 1-4, 1-6 have a few hectic (rewarding) moments,
occasional chainsaw cut-up, wail-out. The rest is much more
nuanced, deep but never engulfing. The liner notes deliver
the recipe in greater detail, and emphasize the secret
rhythms of Lang. 1-1 gets things started tunefully with
a weird waft of brain-funk. 2-6 showcases Lang on “flute”
(sampling Erik Dresher!). Great striking drones on 2-5. Of
the two epics, 2-7 is a winding tunnel that sustains
ominence. RIP Lacy, viva improv.

Orinoka Crash Suite “Two” [Narnack]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

OCS is John Dwyer…or at least one of an army of John Dwyers
as seen in the Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf
and grandma’s fave, “Dig That Body Up It’s Alive.” Prolific
is too weak a word. On Sesame Street, this is the album that
is not like the others…acoustic, subdued, tape-hissed,
vocally-hushed numbers. “Killed Yourself” sounds like the
singer drowned himself in a cute little aquarium, with one
of those fancy tiny castles. Guided by Voices managed to
get just the right type of poor recording on their earlier
stuff, I’d venture that here Dwyer has done as good a job.
The splotchy reverb and warble of the recordings just adds
stacks of unassuming ambience to these strumbly numbers.
The ending number drives home the point, it’s a true “home”
recording, old-school style…a child recounting Goldylox
and the three “beers?” “Intermission” serves up a fit of
fury… Usually it is the sounds, voices, tweaky guitar
on top of the acoustic underbelly that make these songlets
compelling. I find this a lot more bluesy than the most
recent Clarence Gatemouth Brown album. Half-cooked and
home-cocked. Don’t miss the Bisbees.

Ennio Morricone “Psichedelico Jazzistico” [Cherry Red]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2004   CD, Format, Soundtrack

The accent is always on the “MORE” with Morricone, composing
since 1959 for film, and staggeringly prolific. His style
which originally might have seemed a bit patchwork is now
his signature. No one knew just how frightening a little
girl’s voice could be until Morricone worked with it…his
use of jagged violins drew me as a major latecomer when I
first heard him on John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing”
well after he was the spice in the Western spaghetti sauce
that Leone poured over his victims. He’s a trumpet player
by training, but its his relentless juxtaposition of sound
that marks him most of all. “Four Velvet Flies” starts off
with seven seconds of a jazz-church “Alleluiah” into harp
and before its over we’ve heard those wordless, bodiless
vocals over harpsichord, ridden past a calliope into R&B
vamping towards a dual piano romp ending up with a psyche
jam. That’s *one* track. I love how he can write such
sweet innocence (#8, #11) but then embrace the twisted
and wonderful as in #3, #10. He does dizzying panic with
a sure and untouchable hand, #12. And I still can’t get
that jaw-harp on #13 out of my ear, that’s sexier than
the orgiastic climax of this collection.

Zelienople “Sleeper Coach” [Loose Thread]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2004   A Library, CD, Format

No sophomore slump, just a deeper drop into the coma for this
Chicago quartet. Stonergaze with stacks of sonic blankets.
It opens in a wind tunnel, and most following tracks ride on
solar winds. Guitars can whoosh…especially when washed out.
Vox are pulled into to the vacuum by way of an anglo(?) accent
almost forcing a comparison to Slowdive. Although rarely does
the Z aim for catchiness, happier to just glide. Each lyric
seems to evaporate before the next, leaving little residue.
Which is okay, as the band more steadfastly pursues reverbic
resonance. The sound from beginning to end is consistent.
Evidently Mike Weis is the drummer, and possibly narcoleptic.
The mark of a good drummer is to not play certain notes,
but Mike is able to do so for entire songs. Brian Harding
not only blows cumulus keyboards but even breathes deep on
clarinet. Neil Jendon joined the group last, but I think it
is his puddles of guitar that help Zelienople (named after
somewhere in PA) find a nice region between drone and pop.
“Don’t Be Lonely” hits the high-water mark for me, but it
all stays afloat. As Richard Nixon once Grimble Grumbled,
“It is indeed a windy city!”

Molasses “Trouble at Jinx Hotel” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Fourth serving of this Montreal mixture, chiefly stirred and
slurred by Scott Chernoff. Molasses is a material known for
its being dark, thick and slow…those qualities ooze forth
on this release as well. Of course, lower case molasses is
the reduction of sweet sugar cane, while Molasses is the
reduction of the more sour aspects of life. “Jinx” is almost
spiritually devoted to despondency, and distilled with tiny
drones too. Prayers are tossed on the slowburn of the lyrics
fairly often, sunshine threatens at times to break thru but
Chernoff’s heavy-to-the-point-of-herniated vocals prevent
any gravity-defying or even the robbing of grave feelings.
His broken spoken words get ghosted by Jennifer Menard
and others. The songs are usually set in the hazy strum of
a guitar chord or three, augmented nicely by harrowing
haloes of GodSped guitars. Add in stretchy acoustic bass,
a most morose marimba, slow-bowed saws…all keeping the
pace and outlook bleak. This CD is a rustic rocking chair
on a porch somewhere mossy, but its runners are rusted
so it can’t move too much. Still well carved.

Pierre Labbe “Risque et Pendule” [Actuelle]

Thurston Hunger   6/2/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Six piece ensemble of Montreal McNuggets led by reedman Pierre
Labbe. While this album has moments that fly like free jazz
(stoking the Ornette Coleman stove on #7) and slices of the
lead-off track, this album does toss a lot of proggy precision
down the pipe as well. #6 is the zenith of the latter. Overall
spidery cello and spiky violin keep the listeners on our toes
with meticulously mapped stretches between the improv work.
Toss in a lot of cuckoo clock percussion and you get an album
that snaps into place more than it swings to and fro. Bernard
Falaise (from Miriodor) knifes guitar through at key times,
notably on “Bloops!!” Also on #3 he brings a sort of Masada
coolness and on #8 his work against Labbe’s sax stairsteps
up nicely in the bookend composed sections surrounding more
free fire from Labbe. The more Falaise the better on this
album for me and Labbe’s flute work is gusty and gutsy. The
last piece is a gorgeous slow farewell to a largely skittish
album. Several tracks go from spellbinding to sonically
dispelled in seconds, it succeeds and fails in weird ways.

Moe!Kestra! “Two Forms of Multitudes: Conducted Improvisations” [Dephine Knormal]

Thurston Hunger   5/18/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

You shoulda seen justa what eye heard. Twins here share the
same genetic material, a loose blueprint more than a score,
but diverge wildly. The idea of 30 odd improvisers in a
blender may scare some away, but Moe Staiano is remarkably
up to the match. Indeed, more remarkable is his manic energy
when leading these conductions. “Piece No. 5” has the same
exhilaration of a run-away train, it relies on percussion
especially snare-kept-a-rollin’ rhythmns. Which is not to
say that there aren’t Dreyblattic string charges, very nice
theremin freak-outs, those bouncy Korean style gongs and a
funny coda at the start of #6, kinda like falling down
circular stairs. I’m partial to “Piece No. 4” thanks to its
KFJC connection and I think a more vibrant recording by our
own Akeem. Additionally, while percussion furnaces are
churning, the horns are more out front, we get some searing
Jesse Quattro exhortations, even Looney piano can be heard
through the din along with barbed cello and the return of
the theremin though in more of a Hitchcock mood. Yeah, there
are moments when the center cannot hold, but those might be
your favorites moments. Moehem!

Kyriakides, Yannis “a conSPIracy cantata” [Unsounds]

Thurston Hunger   4/28/2004   A Library, CD, Format

The premise is promising to me at least, searching for a
connection between Conet style transmissions and the Delphic
Oracle. Something about a human voice, or in this case two,
that tends to make the more difficult music at KFJC a little
more readily received. The piano on here is sharp, and notes
are dropped on what feel like curves plotted algorithmically.
Static blurts and morse meanderings add signal strength to the
sparse “symphony.” Tracks #4 and #5 stood out for me. #6 adds
a Latin air to the proceedings. The two other compositions
feature a slow gyroscopic drone (#7) and the last track is a
new sort of insect killer, it lures them out onto a dancefloor
of sorts where they tiptoe between spiked heels and bopping
boots. Bravo Echo Bravo!

Motor “Freeze ” [Kuroneko]

Thurston Hunger   4/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

I’ve always been one to prefer waves to beats, and this
album laps at your ears. It’s as if the tips of more
abrasive noises and rhythms were snipped off, and this
slides in under the barbed wire surrounding the dance
floor. At times, a liquid ebb and flow ala the tides
and timings of Basic Channel works its way in. Other
than that here you are placed in a desolate factory,
hearing the hum and whirr of machines behind closed
doors. One item of note, evidently the man behind the
wheels and knobs of Motor is working out of Moscow?’
Or maybe not, more mystery to add to the metal mist.

Magic is Kuntmaster “Night Songs for Ugly Children” [Nihilist Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Camilla Ha is the woman behind the Magic. Working out
of Chicago these days and coming in with a sound that
has sort of the reverb-drenched vocal stylings of the
Ventricle label blended with digital depth charges.
I think she plays a midi-bass with a maxipad. This CD
is sonically dense…although the instrumentation is
sparse. Her singing is more whispery muttering, like
Julee Cruise singing to you through pipes after being
abducted and kept in an underground reservoir. It’s not
as colorful as its packaging, more fashionably drab. I
dig this in an urban decay and dismay way. “Sea Squid”
and the “Lullaby” are made of less heavy mettle, more
bubbles in those. If you’ve heard of bands “Foamula”
and “My Name is Rar Rar” then you are already familiar
with Ms. Ha, so why are you reading this? Depress play.
Let the music be your Kuntmaster…

Verdure “Cross and Satellite Station” [Lexicon Devil]

Thurston Hunger   3/31/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wordy-gurdy poem-ramble drift-rock. Second generation
hippy, Donovan Quinn is up Walnut Creek without a
sandalwood incense stick. Laconic, ironic vocals over
strumbly guitar gets to the heart of most of these songs.
Occasionally something spikes that heart, like electric
spiders that string out on #3 and #5! Track #7 adds
piano treacles and melodica trickles then ends with
heavy breathing accidental beatbox. On #9, guitar drops
some wah-wah while violin delay skitters and then those
spiders return with a vengeance! Kudos for unapologetic
use of falsetto on several songs. This is a rerelease
of his initial album. From what we find here and with
connections to the Jeweled Antler Collective (Quinn
is in the Skygreen Leopards), I’m curious where his
trajectory takes him. While lyrics arrange mirrors and
vultures, this is not necessarily music to watch your
own death by?

Mylab s/t [Terminus Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/24/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz went Snake Pliskin from NYC
some time ago and has helped spark a remarkable scene
in Seattle. Tucker Martine is one of the less covert
masters of the intangible, his production skills
glisten on every track here. While the album starts
out with some deep-fried rhythm and blues (not mere
watered down R&B) by the end of the album we’re no
longer in Kansas…nor New York nor Seattle. Cameo
creme from folks like gypsy Eyvind Kang (#6!!),
recent KFJC visitor Skerik, former Ponga pal Bobby
Previte, Bill Frisell fret fritters. Briggan Krauss
flamethrows on the noisiest track here (#11-my fave).
Even the banjo and dobro of Danny Barnes somehow fit
into the Mylab sink. The expansive palette and crew of
cameos may prevent Mylab from reaching any consistent
orbit (soundtracks sure would be a nice experiment.)
Trust in Tucker for the touch-ups.

Pastels, the “The Last Great Wilderness” [Geographic]

Thurston Hunger   3/24/2004   CD, Format, Soundtrack

Scottish pop band led by Stephen Pastel release this
sdtk on his own label. The film, a Scottish independent
as well, gets a lot of comparisons to “The Wicker Man.”
It would be nice to see it (because of that reference &
to see how well things work here.) The cover of Sly and
the Family Stone’s “Everybody is a Star” leaves little
discernible buzz. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker croons on the
last track. Going with the non vocal tracks I think
is the best bet here. “Flora’s Theme” gets briefly
haunted by “Tubular Bells” and “Dark Vincente” has a
sort of Harold Budd chill to it. Basically any time
the ghost of glockenspiel shows up, we get pretty
waiting-for-trouble music. Katrina Mitchell’s non
lyric vocalizing I should say are most welcome on
various tracks, and maybe that account for elements
of Wickery, but really this is a clean and curvy
soundtrack to an upscale bar with John McEntire mixing
drinks and sound. S’alright.

Parts & Labor “Groundswell” [JMZ Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/18/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Brooklyn trio tapping into that Lightning Bolt voltage.
Whip-ass drummer Jim Sykes (ultimately replaced by
Joel Saladino) and buzzneck bassist BJ Warshaw create
furious instro flurries. What helps these stand out from
other Bolt babies is keyboardist Dan Friel, he adds a
sense of *disobedient* electronics. Notes pitch-flip up
octaves at a time, wires get crossed, no glissando
all blitzando. Actually all members are credited with
electronics, so it could well be a group effort. The
key is that sense of abandon over both monolithic and
manic rhythm cores. Track #4 features something like
a theremin in desperate need of ritalin. This is their
debut from Feb 2003, since then they’ve evidently
braved vocals. It would be cool to hear them hook up
with a Alan Vega lyric-droner…or maybe lace some
NYC saxaholic in their melee.

NOTE: Last track ends at 3:32 (then a slow drone that
ultimately reprises #1’s short wash for “closure”)

Mahjongg “Machine Gong” [Cold Crush]

Thurston Hunger   2/11/2004   A Library, CD, Format

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, before teenravers
ruled the technomatic dancefloor in e-induced dehydration,
kids used to dance to rock music. This clumsy collection
of five freaks recall that time and stumble to the beat
on this dance rock set of songs. I dig the 8-bit eq on
the first three “songs” (track one is something like a
cassette recording of an airplane?). Most of the songs
feature some sort of choppiness to an instrument or
voice or Atari console in the mix… Yeah if Guided by
Voices had been raised on a strict diet of the Bush
Tetras then your Mom and Dad would never have met and
so forth. I think this band will prove to be more
wonderfully fucked up over time, allegedly they are
a tri-state affair from Chicago, Missouri and Oregon.
This release does not cover nearly as much territory.
Percussion percolated to your taste.

New Circle Five “Dreaming Wide Awake” [Deep Listening]

Thurston Hunger   2/4/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wonder women Pauline Oliveros and Susie Ibarra create a
five-pointed circle rounded out with vocalista Kristin
Norderval, Rosi Hertlein on violin (some voice too) and
Monique Buzzarte on various deeper winds. Operatic scat
will leap out at your ears somewhat but Norderval and
Hertlein are grounded in the texts they are breathing
life into. Ibarra is subtle but strong, opening beaded
percussion doors into songs…high chimes, soft cymbals,
distant thundertom rumbles. Oliveros’ accordion sets
up plenty of sonic fields, droney vortices, but she is
also suprisingly nimble in other parts. This is on
Oliveros’ Deep Listening label (and way of life); true
to form the performers do listen deeply, the sound is
both light with space between players/singers and
heavy with tension from drones augmented by Buzzarte’s
clouds of thick trombone, and from Hertlein’s anxiety
violin attack. Polyglot sotto vices.

Teuber, Hans/Rucker, Paul “Oil” [Jackson Street]

Thurston Hunger   1/28/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Interesting to hear a sax player not trying to peel
paint off yer earlids nor squeeze more notes into a
solo than clowns in a Volkswagen. Teuber’s playing
here is air-tight in parts; smooth (and reflective) as
a pool of water. By the way it is not a tenor as listed
on the cover, it’s alto. Though at times it sounded like
a french horn to me, polished, shiny. At other times it
was relaxed and subdued as a clarinet on claritin. He’s
paired up with a very tightly strung cello from Paul
Rucker. On most tracks it feels like Rucker is going
to have a string SNAP and that adds a nice tension to
the mellifluous playing of Teuber. Lot’s of reverb
on that sax…like walking through an impeccably clean
subway? “Somber Time” is a beauty. “Some Are More
Equal” features nice percussive pphhht’s from Teuber
at the beginning. Art of restraint overall.

Clearlake – “Cedars ” – [Domino Records]

mitch   1/16/2004   A Library, CD

Bleak and despairing sophomore release from Sussex coast
quartet articulately explores a personal inventory of
madness, death, loss, self-loathing and resilient honor
arrived at via lacerating wit. A document of heartbreak
and the sensibilities of vulnerability amid drizzle-filled
days of assumed and inevitable failure and self-depreciation
(aided greatly by producer Simon Raymonde of COCTEAU TWINS) as
confessed by frontman Jason Pegg, who elicits beauty in melan-
choly and melancholy behind beauty from stalwart members Sam
Hewitt (keyboards), David Woodward (bass), and James Butcher
(drums)???..???The last thing you???re expecting when you???re
looking for a window / is to see it look so grey??????
[???Wonder if the Snow???] Strings drive tracks like ???The Mind is
Evil??? with a harmonic tension, while a simplistic basic piano
line fuels ???Keep Smiling???, giving to maleficent desire ???I???d Like
to Hurt You??? and a soul-searching mitigation ???Trees in the City???.
The juxtaposition of uplifting and wonderful arrangement with the
coal-colored sentiment places Pegg???s alto to a reverent self-drama,
competing with murals of feedback, keyboards and chanting
(especially ???Come into the Darkness???) in a see-saw battle of
greenery vs. metropolis (sample the inverted Golden Rule of selfish
motivation inside ???Treat Yourself with Kindness???,,,,??????Do unto
yourself as you might wish thy will be done by someone else??????)
Melodic and majestic to the drenching limit (with superb use of
minor keys throughout)and conceived by the band in France and
Brighton, the edge here is lyrical atop a bed of raw and evocative
sonics ??? gorgeous melodics in support of forensic observations.
MITCH January 2004

Parker, William/Joe Morris/Ham – “Eloping with the Sun ” – [Hypo Production]

Daryl Licht   1/7/2004   CD, Jazz

Three of the leading lights in the world of improvised music combine forces to create this
very unique release. Performing respectively on the sintir (a Morroccan bass lute usually
associated with Gnawa music), banjo and banjouke (a ukelele hybrid), and frame drum,
these remarkable musicians create a sound that is both reminiscent of traditional
instrumental Middle Eastern and African folk music and seemingly totally new at the same time. On each of the five tracks, Parker and Drake lay down a rhythmic groove while Morris freestyles over them like Earl Scruggs on crack. Innovative and hypnotic – play! DL

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