KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Yowie “Cryptooology” [Skin Graft Records]

Mac   3/5/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The band takes its name from the Australian version of Bigfoot. It might also be the sound one utters when first hearing the band play. Working in the math rock mold one finds two warbley guitars and a drum having seizures as they fly all over the place in fast paced and aggressive style that produced tuneless tunefulness. All the tracks are composed out of this sonic chaos, so if you’ve heard one Yowie track you’ve heard ’em all, but as an album running just under a half-hour it makes for a short sweet debut.

Afrirampo “First EP” [Gyuune Cassette]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The first time I heard Afrirampo was a live set on Brian
Turner’s show on WFMU. I felt like I had seen them… I’ve
been dying for another taste ever since. This is their first
album and it’s the first “free pop” I’ve come across so far.
With efforvescent vocals, and the GOOD sort of short attention
span, a drummer who kicks asteroids, and these rising surges
of vocals. From howler monkey screams to lunar crooning to
shrieky speak to orgasmic laughter. Effects are used once,
not milked to death. You could talk about male-dominated
Japanese culture and make a case for the welling up of some
female spirits, but this is just plain unbridled creativity
erupting like a day glo volcano. These wild women are
fingerpainting with their entire bodies. Self-obsessed?
Yep. Ninja rhythms? Uh-uh. Oni and Pikacyu are here to save
the world with naked energy. Domo Ariblotto!

Rewind! 4 [coll] – [Ubiquity Records]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th in the excellent Rewind series put out by California label Ubiquity. The Rewind series has new artists and bands covering and updating (and sometimes completely changing the genres of) classic songs.

There are some amazing remakes covering a wide range of genres covered on this CD. There is soul/R&B (1,4,6,12), world/Afro/Latin-beat (2,5,6), spacey electronica (7,9), and folkish (3,11).

There are several tracks that simply must be heard:

(1)An impossibly funky cover of This Land Is Your Land by Sharon Jones & The Daptones, which I’ve reviewed on the 7″ release.

(2)The folky cover of Cameo’s Word Up!

(4)Alice Russell belting out her version of 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes. It sounds like this is the original and the White Stripes cover it, and the liner notes agree with me on this point.

The Joni Mitchell cover doesn’t really add anything to the original, though it is beautifully sung. Burt Bacharach’s Look Of Love gets slowed down and sung through a vocoder.
–Hunter Gatherer

Phonophani – “Oak or Rock ” – [Rune Grammafon]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

Phonophani is Norwegian programmer/composer/studio engineer Espen Sommer Eide. He is also – of Alog and 1/5 of Boiling Fjords. This is his third release as Phonophani and his 2nd on Rune Grammofon. It was released 8/2004.

Mr. Eide writes his own computer software for manipulating sound samples, and helpfully includes a sample program that you can download from his website. The sounds on this CD are either entirely synthesized or high processed organic sounds. Rhythms and melodies are spare. The emphasis is squarely on the timbre of the sounds, which are somewhere in the space between natural and processed sounds (Oak or Rock?).

The songs have an icy and austere feel. The piano, organ, string, and vocal samples sound like they are refracted through ice.

All songs are instrumental, though 9 contains vocal samples that make it unsuitable for a bed.
–Hunter Gatherer

Transformer Lootbag s/t [Science of Sound]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

ebut from Madison, Wisconsin trio on the guitarist’s
(Ricky Rheimer’s) label. Punchy guitarwork carmelizes
this sugar crunchy pop. I hear XTC, Bob Mould, Pixies,
Woozy Helmet, Kaito. Shouty vocals are very condensed,
(with effects) Rheimer and bassist Steven Riches trade
duties, often firing lyrics that overlap each other.
That helps give this music an insistent feel, along w/
Matt Abplanalp’s racy drums. Actually what Abplanalp
does well is to drop out a beat or two sometimes and
let Rheimer’s guitar whiplash a bit. That’s especially
vivid on the last track, which has some sort of nice
whammy on that guitar too…and then the faux runout
groove to boot. Shake your Lootbag.

Narrator, the “Youth City Fire” ep [Flameshovel]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Banks of klanking guitar and some nice whiplash drumming are
at the point where the needle strikes the heart of the manic
panic churned out by this Chicago fourpiece. Yeah, the vocals
at their best are exasperating, probably from years of trying
to sing over stacks of amps without a PA? But the rock here
is as real as a blood blister, and drummer Nate Heneghan just
slaps the skin around a lot. The guitars occasionally get into
some see-saw stereophonic slash versus slash work, and do a
good job of sharing the spotlight, playing off each other.
Flameshovel tends to bring out some of the crispier guitar
torched rock, trebly Fender-fried, finger-licking stuff. As
such it almost is important that the vocals be a little weak
as if to say, “oh yeah we gotta sing something.” Weird little
keyboard interlude on “Horse with Blinders” gets eaten alive.
This ep, is definitely an Emphatic Play and promising for
the hinterlands where rock is still spoken.

The Lab – 20 Year Anniversary [coll] – [self]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

We are lucky to live in an area with such a high weirdo
percentage…indeed we help in our way to boost that number.
But these LAB rats make their own mazes and draw new, wilder,
weirder rats from all over the world. The Bay Area may lack
some of New York’s notoriety, but I think that pays off with
an atmosphere that really let’s anything go. Encourages it
to do so, which I imagine is what the Lab is all about. I’ll
have to talk to Beth Custer who is the chief cheese these
days…if she curated this CD, she gets extra kudos as the
pieces connect from one to another like a relay race from
outer space. Really well done…unabashed brainiac waves
emanate from each piece. A familiar rock ditty from Zmrzlina,
some spoken choked works (Robair’s opera!!), you got vampy
camp from Amy X, drone, jazz and plenty of what-the-hell
is that and why-the-hell-do-I-care-it’s amazing. Each time
through something different leaps out at me, as I write
this Toychestra and the Opera Califas and Jin Hi Kim’s
Korean avant-soul and…hell it really is all mind-bowling,
sticks three fingers in your head and tosses it down the
lane in style! Shoulda been a 10-CPU box set!

Kickass, the “Death Metal is for Pussies” [BiFocal]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The album title says it, I believe it, that settles it.
No…no…no…but if you are like me and sadly cannot
stomach any more throat core vocals you may enjoy this
album of grisly riffage. I know that hyper-technical
guitar work can leave some cold, but don’t the pink
work-out outfits warm you up a bit. Titles namecheck
Led Zep, and Living Color but in addition to guitar
swagger-slash-solipsism, the Kickass do bring in some
trumpet (end of #2) and a little piano (end of #6)
which was a nice surprise for me. More in that vein
would be welcomed. This debut from Greenville, NC may
not prove that pink is the new black but at least
Tyrannosaurus Rock isn’t extinict yet.

Books, the “Thought for Food” [Tomlab]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

An emblematic drop of laptop pop…whether it has much
shelf life bears to be seen. On first listen this is a
very engaging release, the samples instead of slapped
heavy like gags across the mouth of music, are instead
more nimbly suspended into the actual songs. Along with
said samples the Books have Paul de Jong, a cellist, &
Nick Zammuto on guitar. Check “All Bad Ends All” that’s
infectious and done extremely well. It tap dances up the
keyboard and down your spinal column. There’s a clean,
well-lighted craziness to the conections created here.
And a sort of Eugene Chadbourne bounce to their fruity
lutery. The cleverness that fuels much of the Books
may oddly be their greatest threat…whether they can
scratch a deeper itch than kitsch. In the meantime,
have fun and gentlemen good luck. -Thurston Hopeful

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.

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