KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Weird War ?Illuminated By The Light? [Drag City]

Hunter Gatherer   6/4/2005   A Library, CD

Though they were originally intended as a one-off project, this is the third full-length release by Weird War. The line up is frontman Ian Svenonius and bass player Michelle Mae (who also play together in the Make-Up), guitarist Alex Minoff (with Mr. Svenonius and Ms. Mae are the Scene Creamers) and drummer Sebastian Thomson. It was released 4/19/05.

When I heard the synth roto-tom fills on the first track, I figured that this band was either completely naff or completely great. Of course, as I listened further I decided it was the latter. Combining elements of funk, disco, and glam with a solid rock underpinning, they are beyond irony, beyond tribute, and on to their own thing.

Ian Svenonius‘s vocals are all over the place, with from falsettos and sobs to blas? intonations. He said in an interview that the only bad sounding vocal is a quiet vocal. He makes his point on this CD. Alex Minoff solos through almost the whole album with a compressed distorted tone that I haven’t heard since I lost my Rockman.

The lyrics have some great lines like ‘Why do girls like guys like that?’ and ‘I may be weak but history will vindicate me,? and my personal favorite, “I don’t love you any more… Have a nice time at the war.”
–Hunter Gatherer

Variable Unit ?Mayhemystics Outbreaks? [Wide Hive Records]

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   CD, Hip Hop

This is the fifth release by Variable Unit, a San Francisco self-described ‘community? (as opposed to a ‘band?) with a fluctuating membership made up of experienced musicians interested in combining genres like hip hop, down tempo, dub, soul, and anything else they can get their hands on. It was released 4/20/2005

This release started out as outtakes from their previous release, Mayhemystics, and soon took on a life of its own. Only two songs of the thirteen are new versions from Mayhemistics – Second Seals (originally Seals) and Liberation 2 (originally Liberation).

The sound is a mishmash of genres listed above, bringing out the best elements of each. The great keyboard playing by Jacob Elyah Aginsky and the rhythm section of Thomas McCree (drums) and Matt Montgomery (bass) keep the music interesting and funky (especially on 8: Contradiction). DJs Quest and Zeph participate on this release as well. Azeem and Omega have a powerful delivery to match the power of the subject matter.

Most of the songs are a reaction to the second Gulf War and the general hassles of being on the less desirable end of a capitalist society combined with a healthy dose of apocalyptic vision. They get points for writing the first song I’ve heard that points out the fact that vinyl records are made from oil derivatives.

Instrumentals: 4, 7, 9, 13
–Hunter Gatherer

Nikaidoh, Kazumi ?You Dropped Something Again, Didn’t You? [Poet Portraits]

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   A Library, CD

Kazumi Nikaidoh, or Nika to her friends, is a Japanese singer/songwriter with a distinctive voice. This is her second album, released 2/2005, and it was recorded at her home when she got the chance between live shows. There are also two videos on this CD, one of a song that is not on the audio section of the CD.

Nika plays the acoustic guitar with a distinctive fingerpicking style but far more distinctive is her singing style, which can sound cute and childish at one point and then broken and jagged with little warning. There are long sections of wordless singing that drifts away from the key and out of the meter.

She is accompanied mostly by other acoustic instruments – piano, cello, flute, clarinet. This gives this CD a folky feel though parts of it sound poppy.
–Hunter Gatherer

Books, The “Lost and Safe” [Tomlab]

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   A Library, CD

The Books, a New York-based duo, are Paul DeJong and Nick Zammuto. Lost And Safe is their third full-length release.

Put it on and you will hear acoustic instruments (guitar, banjo, cello, ?) sometimes highly processed and looped, sometimes not. But the most striking thing about this release is that about half the lyrics are from found recordings. Sometimes the spoken texts are obviously from different sources but they are put together to make a conversation which creates a rather unsettling effect. Other times it is oddly moving. The other lyrics are sung, spoken, or multi-tracked by Mr. Zammuto.

The overall feeling of this release is one of calm in the center of a storm, loneliness in a crowd, and safety in the midst of chaos. It’s perfect music for people watching in a crowded city. Xlr8r magazine called it 23rd centry bluegrass in their review, which is about right.

The songs on this promotional CD are in different order than the one that was released.
–Hunter Gatherer

Sun Ra “Spaceship Lullaby” jazz [Atavistic-Unheard]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   CD, Jazz

Doo wah Sun Ra… What an interesting time capsule on the
outstanding (and appropriate) Unheard Music Series from the
Atavistic folks. Hermetically-sealed Herman Blount sounding
very earthbound, anchored to a trash can on the corner, but
still with eyes searching for Saturn in the sky…and ears
angling for angles in the stars. He punches his Chicago
ticket twice at the end of the Nu Sounds section. There’s
a sweetness to the jingle-like melodies, and more than a
few jewels to the roughness here. Honestly, “Ra Coaching
Roland Williams” may be my favorite. Or the Lintels
picking up “Blue Moon” from scratch or the little racing
dips in “Louise” (a favorite of my departed mother-in-law
who is undoubtedly somewhere in the galaxy begging Sun to
do another rendition of that number.) A lot of older folks
will get jukebox shivers hearing these tunes. Liner notes
are a must. Zoom zoom zoom…

Love of Diagrams “We Got Communication” [Unstable Ape]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   A Library, CD

Vocals blowing in the breeze, bursts of noise peppered guitar
and firecracker drums. What could you want, but more? A LOT
more… Melbourne trio that’s been touring with the Rogers
Sisters recently, and they deliver the same sort of blitzy,
frisky rock. All three sing, often through a squelchy mic.
Guitarist Luke Horton chews up strings, nice choppy chompy
chords and lines. When drummer Monika Fikerle and bassist
Antonia Sellbach both sing with great abandon, panicking is
fun!! Lyrics are kinda semaphoric. Flashed out and repeated.
Like instructions on a bottle of pills. The two remixes are
alright, #4 (“In the Red”) feels like a Tom Ze tribute at
the onset…but later on we get the full throttle drumming
from Maniakal Monika. “No Way Out” gets kinda 80’s Howard
Jones keyboards, a thickened bass, and limp-along handclaps.
Um, I strongly preferred the original’s head-rush. Check
with your doctor. One fine fibrillating debut.

Summer at Shatter Creek “All the Answers” [Badman]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   A Library, CD

Isn’t sorrow sublime? Yes. Is it wrong to feel a twinge of
joy as the tear streaks your cheek? No. For every summer
needs its shatter, and the beautiful things you float in
amber are dead. Craig Gurwich has a little sparrow’s trill
at the end of his voice and it’s a very pretty voice…then
he piles the reverb on with abandon. Not just on his voice
listen to the drums drop-p-p on “Rebecca.” He’s concocted
a Zombies meets Six Feet Under meets the kid who broke your
heart back in high school, and quit acting like you don’t
remember his/her name. Just go put this album on and look
darkly in the mirror and almost cry. This fine CD makes me
want to go hide all of Brian Wilson’s medication. Those who
think whistling is for getting blithely by the graveyard,
well they should listen to the whistling on #6. And for
those who feel lyrics always have to be cryptic to have
heft, c’mon you know all the lyrics to “Heard It Through
the Grapevine” and they get the job done. A lot of harm
can be done in the harmonies too! Especially when you’re
up the Creek without a major chord.

Nudge “Cached” [Kranky]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   A Library, CD

I know some folks will listen to this and hear a subdued
swirl of sound, but I’m telling you this CD is a bad mutha!
Just check out “Contact” which sounds like Shaft in a Bush
of Ghosts. That’s followed by “My New Youth” which tunnels
through This Heat to a crackly meltdown, and then builds
it back up with a beat and static like a bat out of hell,
and I ain’t talking about Meatloaf. Then with “Remove Ya’s”
melodica and shuffle-surging bassline, Nudge have released
the Boredom’s first reggae single before the Boredoms even
thought of it. A prominet ripple in the bass (not always
bubbling over frets, sometimes bellowing up from keys)
unites most of these tracks. At times Honey Owens chirps in
with some vocals that taste like high-tech surveilance,
there but not there. I could say that this band is like
Supersilent on a funk binge, but that’s only right about
1/3 of the time. Is this stationary dance music, liquid
concrete, or just transcending trans-genre. Aces!

(the) Contemporary Jazz Quintet “Actions” jazz [Atavistic Unheard]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   CD, Jazz

You shoulda heard just a what they saw…or sawed. When I
first heard this I thought either they had some electric
whammy guitar or distant voice on the first track. I just
rejected the idea that saw would be used in the free jazz
context. You hear it on the opening of #5, and it sounds
like Niels Harrit’s saw is almost not there, it comes off
as more than tape hiss but less than a fierce wind catching
the mic. Franz Beckerlee’s sax seems to charge the most
with it…buzzing into a held not alongside it, but then
scorching away. When Hugh Steinmetz jumps in on his trumpet
the saw is almost vanquished by the dual horn thorniness…
but instead it never gives up, never backs down and it helps
to keep the sax and trumpet from just spiraling away with
the entire performance. Ultimately the saw blossoms again
usually while Bo Andersen whips the drums and cymbals along
or for one of two sturdy bass solos by Steffen Andersen. For
all of its limited range, Harrit’s saw is repeatedly spell-
binding and a big reason this quintet still sounds so damn
Contemporary today!

Smog – “A River Ain’t Too Much to Love” – [Drag City] (CD)

lombard   5/14/2005   A Library, CD

The latest from Smog (aka Bill Callahan) recorded in Texas in November 2004 and released in 2005 harkens back to his days of great story-telling albums. Very simple instrumentation, mostly guitar, drum and Bill Callahan’s mesmerizing vocal style (more of a sneering conversation than singing) that always captivates me. Thematics on this release keep coming back to water, the river, brambles, family, and perhaps a journey into the country to contemplate all of that. There’s a folk/country vibe throughout and “In the Pines” is even a traditional train song. Jim White on drums and Joanna Newsom on piano on track 4. Excellent release! (added 5-14-2005)

Note: Language on “The Well”–“fuck all y’all!”

-Cynthia Lombard

X-TEMPORANEOUS BOOGIE

David Richoux   5/13/2005   CD, Jazz

Camille Howard seems to have been one of those musicians that could have much more well known except for the fact that she was Black, and American culture at the time would not let her succeed to the level of her skills. From this recording you will hear OUTSTANDING Blues, Jazz, and some AMAZING Boogie-Woogie piano, great singing, and fine arrangements of original songs from the late 40’s to the early 50’s.
There is a detailed bio in the liner notes.
David Richoux

VanFlower, Tara “My Little Fire-Filled Heart” [Silber]

Thurston Hunger   4/24/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Sophomore solo spin, from this lady of Lycia. Her heart pumps
with the same slow, dark (and echoplex’d) blood that flows
through the Ventricle label. But while Ventricle’s trickle
usually is icily lacking in oxygen, TARA VanFLOWER’s little
fire-filled heart does actually burn red with some hope and
that sort of faith you catch glimpses of in Jarboe and Steve
von Till. The language of lyrics — heaven, blessed, worship
and on drives the point through the symbolism like a rusted
nail through the wrist. “Conversation with Death” summons
the goth/spiritual nicely. Most tracks are draped with
subdued industrial clang, and the vocals enveloped in
effects. Rain drops on an eerie ice cream truck during the
lullabye “When” followed by a snippet of “You Are My
Sunshine” (a la an early Low album). You could live in hope
but you’ll not stray from the darkness w/ this night
blooming Flower. “Ethernal” indeed.

AK-Momo “Return to N.Y.” [Hidden Agenda]

Thurston Hunger   4/24/2005   A Library, CD, Format

A pretty damn skippy pop record. The boopsie, breathiness of
ANNA KARIN VON MALMBORG is worth the price of admission alone
But her partner in crime, MATTIAS OLSSON is the secret weapon.
The lush sonic beds that Anna cavorts in are feathered by his
fluffy samples, often with cute little percussion shuffles.
He also lays down some silky sheets of old analog synths, and
yes including mellotron!! (Well I think I hear it on #1, #3
maybe #10, or is that optigan?’) You can often hear the vinyl
pip and popping as part of a loop that he has captured, esp.
on the closing number…which takes a surprising darker twist
away from the shiny candy of its predecessors. “Boys & Girls”
Definite mellotron underneath a starless sky and Anna’s voice
doing a wavering “silent scream.” Her voice really has nice
elasticity…beating around the Kate Bush on #2, whistling
through the warzone on #8, purring like Eartha Kitt, flitting
about your brain-branches like the first crush you ever had.
Outstanding Swedish musical massage.

Mackrosoft, the – “The Dawning of the Aja Aquarius ” – [Mackrosoft Records]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   A Library, CD

This is the fourth CD in a trilogy [sic] by metamorphosizing jazz-funk supergroup The Mackrosoft. The group is led by conductor, producer, arranger Aja West, who also plays keyboards.

The music is somewhere in the space between 70s jazz/funk fusion and instrumental hip-top. Nine people are listed on the inner sleeve as having something to do with percussion, and this is a very percussion-heavy album. There is a lot of electric piano, organ, fuzzy guitar, and wah-wah guitar about. Mostly instrumentals, once the groove is established some interesting solos from guitar and sax (Bury the Mammoth), synth (Thank You All).

Middle Passage (6) is the only one with vocals, though a few of the other tracks have ‘ooh ooh? or ‘ahh ahh? backing vocals.
–Hunter Gatherer

Congos – “Give Them the Rights ” – [Young Tree Records]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   CD, Reggae

This is the first release of new material by The Congos in seven years. Over three years in the making, it features eleven songs written by leader and lead singer Cedric Myton. Most songs are co-written with wife Yvonne.

The Cognos are best known for their release Heart Of The Cognos, produced by Lee Perry (which we have in Reggae on vinyl). The thoroughly modern sound engineering is the only giveaway that this was recorded so recently. It sounds like a classic forgotten reggae classic with Mr. Myton’s distinctive falsetto singing.

There are many guest musicians on this release, most notably Sly and Robbie. The topics of the songs range from protest (2: Give Them The Rights) to praise to Jah Rastafari (9: Praise H.I.M.) to acid character studies of the obnoxious and showy rich (8: Mr. Shark).

–Hunter Gatherer

Brill, Paul – “New Pagan Love Song ” – [Scarlet Shame]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   A Library, CD

This is peripatetic singer/songwriter Paul Brill‘s 3rd full-length release, released in October 2004. Locking himself in his studio with a few close friends through the long winter of 2003-4, Mr. Brill also acted as recording engineer and producer for this CD.

The most noticeable thing about this release is the use of electronics for sound processing and synthesized beats. There is just enough to let you know that this was recorded in this century without overpowering the beautiful melodies and excellent songwriting.

The recording is clean and three dimensional, which allows the pop-influenced arrangements to shine; every instrument can be heard clearly. By contrast the meaning of the lyrics is usually obscured and interpretations are left deliberately open. After repeated listens to Powerlines, ‘I’m still not sure what it’s about. If you liked the Hood that we added earlier this year, you will like this.

Standout tracks: 6: Powerlines (in interviews, Mr. Brill said that this song indicates the direction of his future music, which bodes well for his next release); 5: Lay Down Your Weary Head (esp. the violin work by Jenny Scheinman); 7: a meditative cover of The Doors song, Indian Summer,

Language: ‘shit? on 2

–Hunter Gatherer

Aaron Dilloway – Boggs Vol Two [Hanson]

outlier   4/21/2005   A Library, CD

Wolf Eyes member releases two obscure CDRs long out of
Print (Seizure,Appalling & Alive). Electronic soundscapes stripped down to reveal the rough edges. 4 pieces that get harsher throughout. Seizure1-noise for co’nnoisse’urs. Buzz, hum and pulse set you up for a noise poem of motorcycle sounds and locust rhythms. Seizure2 offers destroyed loop fragments ground into forms less probable than before, thus human progress is achieved. Live at c-pop is more locust rhythm action that lauches to a crescendo. (4) is industrial sounds that rip thru the fabric of time and space.
3w: Noise for Co’nnoisse’urs !
-Outlier

Glenn Spearman – Free Worlds [Black Saint]

outlier   4/21/2005   CD, Jazz

Spearman lays down the heat in 3 sextet pieces, plays in an intimate raga vocal duet and leads the play on several blues, ballad structures. (1,8,3,6) Sextet pieces rule the release, JR Routhier’s solid body/dirty pickup gtr cookslike a blues master jammin’. GS,Marco Eneidi, and Raphe Malik create big band free form over JRR, Lisle Ellis on double bass keeps things tight and Donald Robinson on drums.Paul Plimley’s piano work on the quartet pieces are also first rate stuff(2,7). The raga with Pakistani vocal masters reminds of L’infonie.
3w: Badder Than SpyJazz

-Outlier

Gayle,Charles/Parker/Ali?”Touchin on Trane” [Free Music Production]

outlier   4/21/2005   A Library, CD, Jazz

STRONG evidence for status as present day tenor sax #1! William Parker and Rashied Ali give Gayle a moving target rhythm that allows him to soar into jet stream polyphonics or settle into modern interpretations of Trane voicings without losing momentum in the trio’s center of sonic gravity. Gayle controls notes unintended for the tenor sax with agile mastery and power where others sound as though sphincter blowout were imminent.
3w: Power Jazz Mastery
– Outlier

Gum – Vinyl Anthology [23five]

outlier   4/21/2005   A Library, CD

Waves of lo-fi analog dissonance ranging from disorienting cacophony of close-up raw noise emissions(D1) to more distant, ambient droning noisescapes(D2). Complete releases
from 1987-90, this documents the lo-fi noise experiments of Philip Samartzis and Andrew Curtis. Locked grooves, multi-track decks and effects boxes are the artifacts of Frankenstein recombination of collapsed sounds from vinyl destruction. Carnivalistic sex and violence themes give a tactile appearance to the pieces while the countercurrent of manipulated surface noise goes to work on your distracted subconscious. You are no match for the forces of dysfunction herein.
D2:trk1-fuck,cock,pussy/trk5-very quiet 10:40->9:40/
trk7-blank from 3:02->1:07
3w: Errors? Hidden Intentions
– Outlier

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