KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Molam : Thai Country Groove from Isan [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   CD, Format, International

Wham bam thank you Molam…by way of Sublimers
Bishop and Gergis. The inviting splashisness
of the package exceeded only by the sounds on
this. “Husband Drunk, Wife Drunk” is amazingly
intoxicating, the first time I heard it, felt
like a 20 min track, I just dove into it. It
has the short of hypnotic shuffle of reggae,
with banks of secret-spy keyboards and the
spousal vocal interplay works towards a great
yet brief harmony. “khaen” appears throughout
(#1,4,5,10,12-4) like a call to a coronation.
That and the crazy soap opera shout-abouts
were both featured in the most recent Neung
Phak/Sun City Girl “event” The shout-abouts
are #2,8,11. #11 has an accidental hiphop
intro giving way to brittle flying guitar that
has the energy of a classic garage legend.
This is music spawned of the crossroads but
having taken its own true root. You can listen
and hear: ska, ethiopian funk, bachelor pad
keys, driving psych… This may just be the
sublimest of them all (so far…).

Sun City Girls “Carnival Folklore Resurrection Radio” [Abduction]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Time travel back to November 2nd, 2002…hijack city by
the trinity of heresy and nowsy known as the Sun City
Girls. “Uncle Jim” spills his mic skills all over the
second CD in a three-part Kahnversation. If he’s too hip
on the lip for the hip-hop squad, then it’s their loss.
This here is firewater and every other oxymoron you can
muster. Reconstituted radio and odd rareties including a
Bat-blister TV rendition. It’s not the I-IV-V chords that
gave that theme life, it’s the screaming harmonies! The
Twilight Zone theme gets twangled, Anthony Fremont gets
namechecked, Bison makes a “Dele” and WFMU station ID.
Madness reigns from the tuning wash to Yamantaka chant
at the beginning through to the end wherein Alan Bishop’s
daughter shows that unflinching pinching of the funny
bone is genetic. Laird Henn is egged on by an answering
machine. Insurance blues are rued. Brian Turner offered
his show up like a sacrifice to the gods, but rather than
just a live set, they created this. Life.

Andersen, Steindor “Rimur” [Naxos World]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Centuries old Viking-style old skull rap…or “rime.”
Instead of braggadiccio, the Nordic tack is to denigrate
one’s skills (poetic and amorous) before launching into
the tale. See liner notes for more details. To today’s
American ear, these vocalizings will sound vaguely like
gregorian chants, but with more “wobble” to ’em (maybe
the rhyming?) Tracks 16 and 18 are softened by strands
of harp. #12 floes over an icy bed of subdued (subzero?)
digeridoo. #14 is the only duet, sure wish there more
it was my favorite. One for the ages…and Sigur Ros
fans as well (that group has helped revive interest
in these form of expression.

Soothwag “S.B.T.W.” [Abiogenesis]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Should file a ballistic report rather than a review. Pounding
noise from 2001 and this Japanese signal processor/exploder.
Beats are detonated, with enough regularity to incite the
brave to dance. Sound is jammed in a bit, making this less
of a headphones-listen than an open-air assault. Blasts come
in sets of waves. Sections like the middle of “Gakai” when
persistent rhythms relax and we get the drift and draft of
static are very welcome, and could have been deployed more
often I feel. “Corrode” delivers a sort of swagger, with
slapping swatches of sound over a heavier noise-funk. The
fury-on-the-fritz of this project though is undeniable.
This is the first of at least two by Shunichi aka Soothwag.
It would be interesting to hear him collaborate with others
perhaps from less infernal realms of sound.

Smegma “Glamour Girl 1941 + Pigface Chant” [Japan Overseas]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Richard Meltzer in your mind, not in your toilet? I suspect
how much one likes/hates this will depend upon how serious
one thinks Meltzer and the Smegmen take themselves. This is
a regurging of the original full-length and ep for Meltzer
and his Pasadena-to-Portland posse, with some other chunks
coughed up just for this release. One of those ends the CD
with “uh, don’t come in here,” while there is a masturbatory
feel to much here, there’s a lot of flair as well. My guess
it’s all an allergic reaction to Meltzer’s listening to too
many records (he reviewed for Crawdaddy, the Village Voice
and such) and making too much money for Blue Oyster Cult
lyrics. The CD starts with some fairly open free jazz, but
there are tortured tantrums leaking in as well. Frustrated
poet. Well, just plain frustrated. An early use of loops is
evident. There’s a helluva lot of rare beauty in these rough
recordings (#8 and #5 say) By the time the EP breaks wind,
it’s vocal collision/collage where chants meets chance.

Slowblow “Noi Albinoi” [Kitchen Motors]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, Soundtrack

Dagur Kari wrote/directed the film from whence this music
floes. Even by Icelandic standards, this music is chilly.
The pump organ seems to have an arctic wind blowing through
it at times (especially on “Another Hole”). Hmmm, somehow
in writing a track title with caps, I feel I have betrayed
this release. This wants to be lower than lower case, well
with the exception of the faux muzak on “Morgun” which was
written/performed by Sigridur Nielsdottir, a 73-year old
outsider musician who has allegedly issued near 30 albums
of her casiotone-for-the-plainfully-happy. Check out her
work on “Komdu Litla Barnid” that is a sweet lullabye that
just suspends time. “Groove” thaws out the drum kit, and
drags some nice neanderthal knuckles along a rock riff.
Weird and welcome to hear that dirtbag rock amidst all
the pristine iciness. Less out of its element, though
different is the licensed Shostakovich “Elegy” as done
by the Rubio Quartet. Aside from the Nielsdottir, the
only other vox are at the end, with the other Slowblower
Orri Jonsson. Iced-aged.

Shrimp Boat “Something Grand” [Aum Fidelity]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

What a long, strange triptych it’s been. This collection of
all ne’er before released material was apparently what drove
Steven Joerg to create the fine Aum Fidelity imprint. Reading
the liner notes here reminded me of meeting a group of guys
at college who had all gone to high school together and thus
had their own history, mythologies and even hostilities. But
you like ’em all. The Boat floats to many sonic ports. There’s
definitely an element of riding the rails, banjo tweaking and
hobo vocals. A lot of thin, flecky Stratocaster guitars and
so you get lazy noodling in “The Light Between Your Knees”
but then that has this great odd dischordant progression.
Other times there’s dubwise motion and hell the saxes, the
saxes are the most charged and “Wonderful, Wonderful.” This
is Chicago, must be something in the spit valves there. Ollie
North goes south in “I Can’t Wait, I Cannot” which winds up
being for the birds…but helps to set the dates, ’87 – ’92.
What more can you ask of art students (especially ones with
sax smoking friends) other than to make more music. Perhaps
Joerg is shooting for a Nobel Prize and a new album, in the
meantime this snapshot good cop, Prekop, pre-post rock has
an active feel in composition/capture and out of time

Shalabi Effect “Pink Abyss” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

First a masterpiece, then a mess…and now this, a
messterpiece from these Montreal minstrels and their
namesake mastermind, Sam (or Osama) Shalabi. This is
another foray into the field of psychedelic poppies,
aside from a gorgeous ballad on #2 featuring guest
vocalist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic most of this teeters
on the fence between hippy jam and even less focused
sonic noodling. That being said, listened en toto
from end to end this album creates its own landscape
with tabla often as its touchstone. The short tonic
track after the aforementioned ballad serves as an
incredible shadow (with clarinet). The album is
bookended by less organic, more orgonic materials. The
initial cut is a flutey forest shredded by a sampler,
the last cut sort of orbits in space around the turf
that has been traversed earlier. While track #9 does
recall their earlier galactic garden processionals,
really all of this is enjoyable. It just tastes like
it was taken out of the oven a tad too soon. Better
that than too late…

At the Court of the Mwami – Ruanda [SWP Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Back in 1999, Andy Moor of the Ex turned me on to this
label, we did an on-air special on it and interviewed
Michael Baird back in Holland…Michael was born in
Zambia, and through luck and labor had obtained access
to the International Library of African Music which was
founded and largely stocked by Hugh Tracey. Hugh traced
almost all of Africa and did so over 50 years ago, he
returned with recordings that are unbelievably pristine.
You can hear his voice on the throw-away first track,
then a dry flood of drums. Pretty amazing dropping in
and out of beat. Listen to #5, that’s no simple rhythm.
Vocal pieces are even more fulfilling for me, often
a chorus gets a wobbly drone to it (recall Tenores di
Bitti esp #19, one thought is that the Tutsi’s largely
featured here did come down from Ethiopia, hmmm?). Men
and women both are recorded by the way, though I’m not
sure if ever together. #15 has a musical bow, like the
berimbau or kalimboo or whatever the Gnawa Hawa play,
it jabs a song along so well! Drums return towards the
end, this time with Hutu’s doing the honor.

Rope “Widow’s First Dawn” [Family Vineyard]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

I know this is not for everyone, I just cannot
imagine why. A traditional rock triad at the
core, a hot molten core. Around that Rope has
built a whole planet. The first song tiptoes
like a Star Trek away team, uncertain whether
they can breathe the air. Detonating delay on
guitar and on guest vox Graczyna Auguseik’s
works well. This severs prog rock’s Achilles
tendon, as instead of having a vibe of “Hey,
I can play it backwards in 5/11 time” the
feeling here is that large stretches of these
songs leapt out in inspiration. Volume pedal
tension, slashing dischords, & a non-bloated
Allan Holdsworth ghost are all summoned by
Przemyslaw Chris Drazebca. Blood and spittle
vocals are squeezed out of bassist Robert
Iwomly. Michael Kendrick’s drums are
cymbal-laden and frantic/dormant as needed.
This album delivers the hurt and the solace
all at once.

Rollerball “Behind the Barber” [Silber]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Bubble-wrapped in dub textures, a dense sound that seems to
exhale and inhale in a variety of ways. In through the
sitar, out through the accordion…in through the electronic
iron lung, out through the trumpet. Time spent in mixing and
maximimizing the inputs of the 16 listed contributors has
muddied the tracks somewhat to a sonic equivalent of brown,
but brownian music may just be this year’s techno black. I
actually dug the spikes and clashes of “Real Hair” more,
but this is a murky, surprisingly beaty album at times with
a lot of hues to it. At its best it approaches a sort of Art
Ensemble of Electronica. The abundance of synthesizers here
is never smart-bomb precise, never cold and calculated, but
warm and more arbitrary. The vocals are more confident and
torchy when they appear, which is not often enough! “Slits
Arandas” is one hell of a journey with prominent hornplay.
“Autotelic” ends just as its seems ready to launch into an
interesting guitar-led phase. I’m unsure how many of the
sweet 16 still live in the same house in Portland, OR but
it must be a comfy place. The more you listen to this, the
more you will feel at home with it.

Traore, Rokia “Bowmboit” [Nonesuch]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Quiet Griot? Gorgeous voice from this daughter of Mali. She
also accompanies herself on guitar throughout (and evidently
was guided by Ali Farka Toure), but the string instrument that
stands out is the ngoni. It sounds like a lighter, more fluid
form of harp (as played here by Andra Kouyate). It does some
of that gnawa halwa tight picking, which fits in so well with
the bevy of percussion on most tracks. So the music sort of
flicks along, while her voice just floats. She dubs in a lot
of the background vocals, and thus it really does sound like
one mind singing through many mouths. #8 is the most wistful
ballad, too sad for drums. The “kids” from Kronos turn up on
the #5 and #10 but end up taking her voice out of the sonic
wild, and those pieces end up feeling a tad less inspiring.
Note #10 stops at 6:09 in, hidden track starts at 6:57

Ribot, Marc “Soundtracks II” [Tzadik]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, Soundtrack

From this you would almost expect every track to be to
a different film. Extremely broad in sonic scope. Not
that much classic Ribot stagger guitar (check “House of
Mirrors”), but some good carney sounds (“Nausea”, is
that a calliope?), a little industrial robo-spy rivet
fest (“Prowler”), and “Green Party” (#12/#22) sounds
like an FM/AM tribute to “Love and Happiness.” Many
times we are left wanting more (especially on “Miles
Behind”) but “The Persistence of Memory” does get a
chance to stretch its legs and our ears, that track
sounds like an attempt to tunnel through the planet.
More costume changes here than a pop diva, and none
of the artifical drama.

Rapider than Horsepower “This Is My Big Night” [Essay]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Horton hears a Hoosier. Indiana idiot savant rock. This
is a follow-up to an album we don’t have…..yet. Yeah,
the vocals are whiny, but the guitars are even whinier!
Spastic tweaky rock, if the first cut doesn’t win you
over (“I Can’t Survive Without My BeatBox”) as it did
me, then move on I guess. But you’ll miss one of the
more engaging 40 seconds of art rock ever wrought on
“Yeah, Right”. Doppler vocals on that are keen. Overall
Mike Anderson’s vocals made me think of “Hong Kong
Phooey” as much as Beefheart or Pere Ubu. I prefer it
when these horses stampede rather than the couple of
cuts that canter…overall good bent guitar, twisted
lyrics and Anderson’s pretzel mouth (often murmured
along with by the others.) Crowd applause at the end
of some tracks seems stapled on? Language on #5.

Radio Java [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Third sublime installment in the audio odyssey from Alan
Bishop. He always records radio when travelling. Alan
provides editing by both dialing live for displacement
(#7’s great start) and computer cutting after the fact
for crash comparisons. Unlike the first two releases,
this is pretty much radio collage. Sometimes he lingers
on a flavor (like Sundanese sounds on #1) other times
it’s a blast of Radio Nacional. We get everything from
underwater gamelan stylings (#5 2 minutes in or so)
to another weird soap operatic drama that ends with
a captivating double-vocal chant on #3 about 5 minutes
in to westernized commercial sounds, check #4 about 4
minutes in (cool chime rinses). #4 is probably my
favorite, there’s a karate chop section of state-run
radio that seems like a noise outing, very odd broken
spoken sections, and ending that’s extra-terrestial.
Solid noise on #7 as well. Cheesy metal at the onset
of #6, Bon Scott alive and in exile? That cut is
amazing too, with gooey banter between DJ’s. Pretty
much a grab bag, most radio collage in the US and
UK is played for laughs (People Like Us, Wayne
Butane). This really is different, and rewarding.

Smith, Wadada Leo – Light Upon Light (Tzadik)

outlier   2/9/2005   CD, Jazz

Wadada Leo Smith – Light Upon Light (Tzadik)
A fucking masterpiece of sophisticated psychedelia that transcends being a hybrid of jazz and classical. Dreamy, transporting tones wind and mesh through space as a sonic counterbalance. (3,5) Trumpetronics, (1,2,4) String pieces. (3,5) Toshinori Kondo’s ‘Nerve Tripper’ sound – beats + master composer’s awareness of passages’ natural spaces = Wadada Leo Smith ! Proof left to the listener as an exercise. (1,2,4) Similar to Once Festival material (see Tyke), searching phrases unfolding clusters, mid and low-register cello sound, intense minor key stuff but not dark. Stravinsky/Bartok moves with an AMM sense of space, very powerful yet subtle. (4) is like a psychedelic symphony only with a small ensemble. (3) gets to Japan psych chant rock spaces but from an African jazz point of origin.
– Outlier

Sixes – Organ Cuts

outlier   2/9/2005   A Library, CD

Sixes – Organ Cuts
Not chainsaw stuff ! Soundscapes from the noise quadrant. Reminds of early Merzbow (singles, Rainbow Electronics) bu with more continuity, less dense and less harsh. 2 tracks about 30m each but with 8-10 m passages in each. (1) Noisetronics / sirens, wind, tracers-vapors of notes / merzbow under tuvan influence, note factory stuff. (2) organ treatments, minor key stuff / minimalist handsaw, tronix bikers / galactic awareness through better electronics.
– Outlier

Montoya, Robert – Robert M (Accretions)

outlier   2/9/2005   A Library, CD

Robert Montoya – Robert M (Accretions)
A dialectical synthesis of drone and beats with timing that is resolute yet spacey and textures that are synthetic yet lush. Anomalous and amorphous soundscapes (like euro-movie soundtracks at the moment of denouement) give a feeling of train travel through a foggy mountainous landscape. Montoya compiles sounds from television and layers them into soundscapes that transcend the medium and consciousness altogether. Tio Mate (5) is a compelling piece of pulsing soundwaves under Burroughs soundbytes. Sinestre (2) is a sonic colossus that attempts to communicate with other forms of intelligence – let them know you get the message- Play the shit out of this !
– Outlier

Radio Phnom Penh – s/t (Sublime Frequencies)

outlier   2/9/2005   CD, International

Radio Phnom Penh – s/t (Sublime Frequencies)
More radio transmissions from SE Asia courtesy of Alan Bishop, this time from Cambodia. Authentic Asian 60’s pop with somewhat tribal beats sound underneath. The feel of classically trained musicians having fun in pop expressions of celebration. Lack of production quality is outweighed by the crisp execution of pop constructions that are probably well known by all in the village for generations. Familiarity to the point of an unstrained memory of passages that give a flowing sound around tightly arranged and performed tunes. If you liked Neung Phak’s “Tui Tiu Tui”, why not get a taste of the real thing !
– Outlier

Eskelin, Ellery – Ten (Hat Hut Records)

outlier   2/9/2005   CD, Jazz

Ellery Eskelin – Ten (Hat Hut Records)
10yr anniversary of the outside jazz trio of Eskelin, Parkins and Black. EPB explore underdeveloped textures in jazz. Forget the Grey Poupon Shit, ‘Ten’ is alive with spirited lyricism of theatrical quality and force. Marc Ribot appears on guitar on last half of cd. Jessica Constable delivers stellar vocal energy on 4 tracks, comparable to Fontella Bass w/ Art Ensemble of Chicago in feel. 2-8 minute tracks, adventurous sound. No formal attire required, just a head for sound reflection.
– Outlier

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