KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

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

Bernard Parmegiani “a memoire des sons” [INA/GRM]

Thurston Hunger   12/17/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Another French pioneer in the realms of musique concrete
with Pierre’s Henri and Schaeffer. Parmegiani has worked
in TV/films as well, and the sounds here, whether from
his select memory…or aiming to trigger memories in
each listener…do seem to be more visual than some
other’s work. He’s got nice texture in these three long
tracks, constructed over a much longer time: 1967,
1987 and 2001. Despite those 34 years, standing aside
each other there is a flow (unlike say sci-fi movies
across a similar chronochasm). The first has more of
the explosive cut style (maybe from more primitive tape
handling). The second works loops more often, and has
voices and thus on a simple level, a more human feel
as well as time ticking in clocks and water drops. The
third and title cut is the most cinematic, including
soaring strings to underscore emotion. Add chimes
and crackling bramble, digeridoo and fanciful computer
flybys. Serve in slices, or complete.

Trio S s/t [Zitherine]

Thurston Hunger   12/10/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

To say this is a trio of three Robert Horry’s probably
doesn’t mean much, so I shouldn’t start the review that
way. That might mislead, like “Majorca” the leadoff cut
on this eponymous Trio S release. “Majorca” bristles w/
a Tony Conrad/Amps for Christ power, that evaporates for
the remainder of the album. It’s not bad, it’s just that
it’s like a body with a different head. The rest of the
album laps at your ears…soft raindrops on shallow pools
of sound…well the “Russian” Anthony’s River is a 20
second exception. Read Wieselman’s notes on all-natural
perceived melodies…and relax to the flow of this album.
Me, I’ll be pacing next door hoping that Trio S’ next
effort features pursued inorganic melodies…built with
more air and fire, and covered in loamier foam.

Malachi Thompson and Africa Brass “Blue Jazz” [Delmark]

Thurston Hunger   12/3/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Malachi Thompson is 30 years down the AACM/Chicago
railroad tracks. This album kicks off with an “And the
Grammy goes to…” solid but glossy vibe. But along
comes “Genesis/Rebirth” the closer to Thompson’s Black
Metropolis Suite. The sweet toe-tappin’ evaporates,
and a heart-stoppin’ composition rises like a new sun
in an old sky. Slight flamenco flares arc off Harrison
Bankhead’s bass; the Africa Brass octet which earlier
were turning on dimes, polishing the bop now construct
a slow monolith for Steve Berry to ponder over…until
there’s these crazy feudal/futuristic fanfare. Then
saxist Ari Brown gets a chance to wail on this triumph
of a track. That heaviness keeps a rolling into the
thick bluesy Louis Armstrong triptych tribute. Dee
Alexander starts that on the dark side of the moan,
it then jumps a train and ends as a playful talking
blues against Berry and Brown, now on clarinet. Read
the booklet’s understory arguing against divisions of
blues versus jazz in words, the best argument is the
music… Ends up in fun at the “Mudhole.”

Yoshimi & Yuka “Flower with No Color” [Ipecac]

Thurston Hunger   10/29/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Avant-exotica? Much in the vein of Yoshimi’s
earlier picture disk. The other reason “Y”
is Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, who adds a lot
of tinkling key work. Yoshimi also brings
the trumpet more to the front at times,
it has appeared a little bit in her OOIOO
project. Nuns on mescaline singing/keening
in parts…and lot’s o’ fauna doing backup
vox (birds, dogs and insects). As legend,
or perhaps just marketing, has it…this
CD was created at a temple atop Mt. Ikoma
after hiking all of the instruments up
there. (So I guess that’s an electric
piano on much of the album ;>) I prefer
the tracks where the “bamboo” percussion
makes an early entrance. En trance in
trance tranq quill trance end.

Aichinger, Oskar “Synapsis” [Between-the-Lines]

Thurston Hunger   10/27/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Vienna-based pianist delivers a precise and poetic
release. His quartet here includes Stefan Nemeth on
synthesizer, their interplay is like a dog and a cat
that get along…somewhat surprising and all the more
enjoyable to observe because of that. Territories are
not marked strictly, and at times prepared treatment
for Oskar blurs the line where the piano stops. Much
of the work here has a crystalline beauty; precise
stops in phrases (like question marks hanging), quick
but bright clusters, and lighter than air work on the
upper 44 keys. Deep sea bass work by Achim Tang (with
some scrubbing/bowing) and percussive punctuation by
Paul Skrepek add significantly. The invisible fifth
member of the quartet is Christoph Amman, who captured
this in a gorgeous recording, don’t miss it.

Matmos “The Civil War” [Matador]

Thurston Hunger   10/21/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Hard to separate the irony from the gold, hard to
filter the sample from the directly generated (or
should I say degenerated) sound. Perhaps that is the
split in this war? Or could it be that Drew Daniel
and M.C. Schmidt find themselves at each other’s
throats after jetsetting about as Bjork-End BoyToys?
Well if they are each others throats, it is only to
record the sound of blood in the carotid artery
(that and music made from rabbit pelt are purportedly
among the sonic inputs at work here). Listen to their
rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” these guys
may be too clever for their own good. But this is
the future, sampling not as a mode of deconstruction
but rather Reconstruction. And perhaps that would
have been a more fitting title to this album of
mechano-server marches and madness? Having seen
them with her Bjorkness, I hope beyond innovation
and technique, they will help lead a rallying of
performance and presentation, a point where power
electronics is often all mouse, no man.

Berne, Tim and Science Friction “the sublime and.” [Thirsty Ear]

Thurston Hunger   10/9/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Science Friction is Berne’s latest group, with
some familiar figures. Marc Ducret on electric
guitar is somehow able to insert notes between
the fiery charges of Berne’s alto. He’s just a
tremendous guitarist, who we should hear more
of…his use of volume washes works well with
the keys and electronics of Craig Taborn. When
Taborn is leading, this album can prick up
some prog rock ears…but this is really an
explosive jazz album, that gets the Blue Series
nod thanks to the electronics (not just Taborn,
visit “Mrs. Subliminal” to hear Tim dabbling
in delay. Tom Rainey remains Berne’s reigning
drummer king. His looseness fits well with the
dizzying work here. I actually live for the
moments when a few of the scored bars kick in.
Those sections are hairpin tight and move
quickly in unexpected directions. “Smallfry”
is unique in its ice cracking ambience. This
is all live, no safety net.

Kaito – “Band Red” – [Spinart]

Thurston Hunger   8/6/2003   A Library, CD

Noise pop deluxe. Tangled hair and broken guitar
strings…pull ’em out the skin and let the lady
scream/sing. That ain’t no lady, it’s Nikki Colk.
Punky and profficient. And pile on petulant as
well. Her vocals would make a snail panic. Her
voice flails, often over a raucous chorus. Those
choruses sound like chipmunks at kung fu class.
At times Colk’s lead voice has the fideliy of
a fast-food drive-up-window. Sophomore release
from these Brighton’d whites thrills with shrill.
But it delivers….rarely relaxing the pace.
“Nothin New” is kinda dainty, “Moi” is a cuckoo
clock in a cowboy hat. “3am” is the comedown,
passed out in a grandfather clock. Lyrics read
as though lifted from diaries before sobering up.
Guitar goes 90 mph the wrong way on the xpressway
to yer skull. Don’t forget to rock?

-Thurston Hunger

Smog – “Supper” – [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   4/3/2003   A Library, CD

A new release going up at the same time as
his Accumulation time capsule. Bill Callahan
has the detached disdain handed down through
various undergrounds, Velvet and otherwise.
The sharpness of his lyrics, and his acerbic
stage persona always command my attention.
The songs here are less dilapidated as he’s
got a real live band behind him, and his
fondness/fiendishness with the femme fatales
has been displaced by a love of conundrums.
There’s some solid cognitive dissonance he’s
dishing out…and “Truth Serum” and “Guiding
Light” are just well crafted.
-Thurston Hunger

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