Music Reviews

Mugwisa International Xylophone Group II – “Iganga Embaire 12” – [On The Corner Records]

aarbor   3/13/2023   CD, International

The Mugwisa International Xylophone Group is from Iganga, Uganda. The Embaire 12 is a very large xylophone which is played by multiple people. Like playing the gamelan, this is music for a community to play together. The sound of the Embaire is amazing: very deep resonances – well worth a listen and multiple plays. Diabolical Liberties, whose remix of Spirits is the last track are label mates Alex Stevenson and Rob Gallagher. AArbor

[COLL] Pink Flamingos – “Pink Flamingos” – [Hip-O Records]

Albion Moonlight   3/10/2023   A Library, CD

From the filthy mind of John Water’s comes this collection of 50s songs that constitute the soundtrack to his cult classic “Pink Flamingos”. On their own these mostly by now well known tunes don’t seem out of the ordinary, but curation by John Waters shines a light on the salacious underbelly of these songs.

“Chicken Grabber” by the Nite Hawks, will you ever be able to look at this song the same? With the line ‘If she smiles then beef steak become well done’ Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It”, similarly tickles the imagination. Even Patti Page’s “(How Much is) That Doggie in The Window” takes on new significance. Recommended and tell ’em John Waters sent ya!


Sundur – “Somewhere There’s Music” – [Needle To the Groove]

MSTiZA   3/7/2023   A Library, CD

Remember trip hop? If you want to be revisited by the ghost of DJ Shadow, Healamonster & Tarsier, and Portishead, but need an update to the mix? This is for you. Somewhere There’s Music(2021) was recorded remotely during the pandemic. Sundur is a collaboration with vocalist Savannah Lancaster(LA) and DJ Platurn(Oakland) handling production. The album was received well by a few KCRW hosts which landed it in some top of 2021 playlists. It is still on mine. Like the label it’s released on, San Jose’s very own Needle to the Groove, this album is a sleeper, still falling under the radar yet deserving the attention of KFJC & beyond. The songs are filled with trip hop nostalgia. Lancaster‘s vocals introduce the album dripping a melodic syrupy lullaby[1], while her writing is personal, thoughtful, and sentimental throughout. Adam Theis, leader & founder of Jazz Mafia(Bay Area), contributes on horns on Heart of Stone[2], with broody vox a la Beth Gibbons(Portishead)[2,4].The title track- Somewhere There’s Music-sizzles with soft bop drums and breathy vocals that fill the air with enchantments of Billie Holiday and Max Roach. You can credit Max McVeety, of Crown City Rockers, on drums & Kicker Dixon on keys. Heady[4] drops a blues funk bassline nodding to Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information and we’re cruising down the El Camino in a 70’s Cadillac. Platurn, is a member of the Oakland Faders DJ crew. Platurn consistently delivers textured beats. Platurns ability to layer sounds with precision to create mystery and ambiance show his knowledge of the genre and his years in the music industry. Platurn understands when less is more, allowing the music to shift and breathe (Aging Soul, TIme is Now, Let Me Back In). Time is Now[7] is the one track that anchors itself in our times, speaking to the social climate of BLM that we faced in the early pandemic. Let Me Back In[10], featuring bassist Max Juarez, returns to the spooky and melancholic vibes. To the Top[11] slides in the whispery cries of strings courtesy of Max Juarez. The tracks are smartly arranged to create a complete listening experience when listened to in order while the individuality and intensity of each track stand on their own.

Instrumental: 6,11

FCC: 7,8

Seah – “Conduits of the Hydrosphere” – [Sominage Corporation]

kittywompus   3/7/2023   A Library, CD

Dark ambient sound by artist Seah assembled from field recordings of worn hydrophones and cameras interacting with different bodies of water and instruments made by Tim Kaiser. Created as part of a 10 year Critical Feminist Posthumanist research project on “what it means to be a human, part of the hydrosphere, and a water body simultaneously.” (Bandcamp). The 5 track album contains 4 tracks ranging between 5 minute and 9 minute long noise and ambience, while the last track (and my favorite) Dinosaur piss runs through our veins runs almost 19 minutes. The perfect companion to your Thalassophobia, the soundtrack to your Devonian fantasies; let yourself drown in these ominous but undeniably magnetic sounds.

Movements Vol.8 [coll.] – [Tramp Records]

kittywompus   3/7/2023   A Library, CD

This 8th volume collection of once rare and lesser known privately produced American Jazz, Funk, and Soul comes from German owned Tramp Records. Artists such as Papa Albert French, The Noteables, Ulysses Crockett, and Kay Dennis all make an appearance on this CD, with most tracks running 2-3 minutes. Perfect for Soul Patrol, or whenever really. Check Out: Funky Frog [T9] , Top Going Up, Bottom Going Down [T15] , Bony Bony [T3]

Yano, Akiko – “Ai Ga Nakucha Ne” – [Midi]

aarbor   3/7/2023   CD, International

This is the 2021 re-release of Akiko Yano’s 1982 album. She’s been recording since 1976 when her debut album Japanese Girl was a breakthrough hit. Her style was considered original and different because she was mischievous and could sing and improvise on keyboards at the same time. She married the producer of Japanese Girl, and later married Ryuichi Sakamoto. She toured with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and also recorded with the UK rock band Japan. After separating from Sakamoto, she moved to New York in the ’90s, where she now gigs regularly and records with a range of musicians, mostly in the jazz field. Her sound on this album fuses rock and traditional Japanese folk, with some added synths. She and Sakamoto co-produced the album and both played synthesizers throughout. Akiko wrote the words and music for most of the songs. AArbor

Nighttime – “Keeper Is The Heart” – [Ba Da Bing!]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2023   A Library, CD

“Keeper of the Heart” offers swirling ballads. Despite some of the blustery scenarios and lyrics, there is warmth in this Nighttime. That flows from Eva Louise Goodman, her voice frequently multitracked. She is Nighttime, in song and various instrumentation, but a constellation of other musicians clusters around her. Notably Adam Lytle adds a very deft mellotron touch. Acoustic guitar anchors the songs, but light psych flute dapples certain tracks. Strings on “Spring” add that ol’ timey ache. Certain chord progressions are familiar, with a gentle righteous (non-denominational) resolve to them. In particular I’m thinking of “The Fool” and “The Sea.” On first listen, it was hard to shake the Nico from my headphones. That said she’s an Amercan gal (Hudson Valley, NY) raised on UK 60’s folk promises. For more recent references, I could hear this album woven in a set with Josephine Foster and Weyes Blood even some Paula Frazer (“Ring of Fire” offers a ghost western smoke lament). Almost an invocation to summon Espers’ “Dead Queen” but Goodman’s voice is more tied to the seasons and soil, less ethereal; Nighttime’s sound more burnished, less lysergic. Still a charm of a sonic locket.

-Thurston Hunger

James, Early – “Strange Time” – [Easy Eye Sound]

carsonstreet   3/3/2023   Blues, CD

Early James is a folk/blues musician based in Birmingham, Alabama. He attempts to spin what perhaps has not been spun before; a “fresh” take on folk, blues, jazz and country with dark, rusty, crooner stylings. Sometimes he sounds like he is channeling Bob Dylan but with a better voice than what is left of Dylan’s. We got a girl singer (Sierra Ferrell) popping in on track 6 (“Real Low Down Lonesome”) and she is very good. As Early points out it is a Strange Time To Be Alive.   

Harris, Mark / John 3:16 – “Procession” – [Alrealon Musique]

carsonstreet   3/3/2023   A Library, CD

JOHN 3:16 is Philippe Gerber, whose Heat From A DeadStar existed between 2004–09 and worked with Rick Harte/Ace Of Hearts Records in Boston. As JOHN 3:16, Gerber has released numerous works. He has collaborated with artists such as Pas Musique, TheUse, Rasplyn, Anthony Donovan, and Mark Harris. Mark Harris says of this album: When Philippe and I started work on the material that would become the Album “Procession” was in the fall of 2017 after the release of “Victory over the Sun” the year before. The only ground rule we set was we both felt “Victory” felt like a collaboration between two very different artists (which of course is exactly what it was!) we wanted the next album to feel more like a single unit or band / as on “Victory” we felt you could still hear my contribution and Philippe’s as individual elements… Philippe and I work on either side of the Atlantic Ocean so materials were shared online. Spacy, drone like and very moody.

Matmos – “Regards/Uklony Dla Boguslaw Schaeffer” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

aarbor   3/1/2023   A Library, CD

Matmos have never played the music of Polish composer Boguslaw [boh-goo-slav] Schaeffer [shay-fer] but they have played with it and created new songs from fragments of his work. Schaeffer was a part of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio in the 1960s and ’70s. Schaeffer was a composer, musicologist, and graphic artist, a member of the avant garde “Cracow Group” of Polish composers. Matmos is the American experimental electronic duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. They’ve been active since the mid-1990s and are based in Baltimore, Maryland. Matmos is a “seething lake of evil slime” from the ’68 cult sci-fi film Barbarella. Regards sounds very much like a Matmos album, from the hyper-swung house beats to the way they introduce their tracks by spilling out their constituent pieces and then gradually assembling them into a coherent groove. There are five shorter and more rhythmic tracks and three longer and more ambient cuts. For the most part, the music here doesn’t push Matmos’ sound into unfamiliar territory so much as recreate it with new materials. AArbor

Junk DNA – “Kopk Kopa” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

cinder   2/23/2023   A Library, CD

A new project of Brian Pyle (Ensemble Economique, The Starving Weirdos, and RV Paintings). Kopk Kopa translates from Lithuanian as a directive to “climb the dune”… which one can vision as Pyle radiates a ‘dark hypnosis of eerie tones that rasp, buzz, and shimmer within vertiginous orbits and arching crescendos’. It’s gloomy and doomy, murky fog laden damp corridors of ambient electronics, creeping around the corner tones, making your bumps goose with each sudden stab of sound. Or traveling back to the sand dunes of the desert, this might be what one hears as the sun beats through their eyes, frying & melting their sweat vapored skin.

The Assurance Compilation [coll] – [Juba]

aarbor   2/22/2023   A Library, CD

Assurance is a documentary about the obstacles that female DJs face, both on and beyond the dancefloor. It shows their defiant navigation of these issues as they pursue their career ambitions. The documentary came from British-Nigerian DJ Juba’s pursuit for new perspectives in the gender debate. This curiosity led her to Nigeria, where she connected with three DJs: Sensei Lo, DJ Yin, and DJ Ayizan in order to get an insight into their experiences in the context of Lagos. This CD is the music of Assurance. It’s all women artists: DJs and Producers representing Latin America, Asia, The Pacific Islands, Africa and the Middle East. The sound ranges from Deep House, to Techno, Amapiano (South African House) to Baile Funk… Enjoy! AArbor

Jobarteh, Sona – “Badinyaa Kumoo” – [self-released]

aarbor   2/22/2023   CD, International

Sona Jobarteh was born in London, but her father’s family are well-known griots from Gambia. She started playing the kora at age 4. She wrote all the music on this, her 4th album. It includes at least two well-known musicians: Youssou N’Dour and Ballake Sissoko, as well as others. Instead of setting words to music, she says she writes the meloday and the rhythm before the words, and fits the words into the song. She has a lot to say about many topics, but the lyrics are not in English. The music is gutsy and the playing is excellent. AArbor

Akyol, Gaye Su – “Anadolu Ejderi” – [Glitterbeat]

aarbor   2/22/2023   CD, International

This Gaye Su Akyol’s 4th album, she’s from Istanbul. The title means Anatolian Dragon and it certainly breathes fire. She says that she started with Anatolian folk and pop, then added African and Middle Eastern sounds, the soul revolution, disco, and rock from other cultures. The music is quite psychedelic, but it connects to different areas, all the pop genres that she loves. It takes some chances, the lyrics offer an exploration of politics in today’s Turkey. Enjoy! AArbor

Schubert, Frank Paul, Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Klaus Kugel – “Black Holes are Hard to Find” – [Nemu]

davidjames   2/20/2023   CD, Jazz

Highly atmospheric and exploratory alto and soprano saxophones, guitar/electronics, and percussion.  Seven contrasting pieces move in and out of various grooves and moods; highly pantonal, and polyrhythmic. The fantastic, extended title track is replete with rhythmic invention; a masterful performance by the trio.  All of the tracks flow together orchestrally; this group really knows how to stretch out. The closest historical parallel might be music by the late Steve Lacy, the soprano saxophonist, if that description works.  Five stars!

~David James

Noah Garabedian – “Consider the Stars Beneath Us” [Outside In Music]

Albion Moonlight   2/17/2023   CD, Jazz

Albion Moonlight 2/22/23 CD, A Library

Bassist and composer of Armenian descent, Noah Garabedian leads a quintet including Dayna Stephans (saxophones), Carmen Staaf (piano), Jimmy Macbride (drums), and Samuel Adams (Effects, programming, additional recording), who also produced the album. The album is dedicated to Garabedian’s father, about whom he says “… this album is neither a eulogy nor a memorial. It is a celebration of his life and spirit, as well as all the celestial bodies who continue to guide us through life.”

The production is sublime. The electronics are very subtle. Garabedian says ” …releasing a purely acoustic album would have been misleading as to whom I am as an artist right now. …it’s all about finding balance between acoustic and electronic sounds.” The quintet’s playing is very light and precise. It has a 70s ECM Records feel. Lush and pleasant.


A Guide to the Birdsong of Western Africa [coll] – [Shika Shika]

aarbor   2/8/2023   CD, International

A Guide to the Birdsong of Western Africa is an album of music inspired by endangered birdsong. Each featured artist was challenged to make an original track using and inspired by the song of an endangered bird from their country. The album aims to raise awareness about the plight of these birds while raising funds for organizations that are working to protect them.

Ten diverse artists are featured. Guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and fellow Malian producer Luka Productions pair with the call of the Black crowned crane, which is found across the Sahel and is threatened by trapping for the pet trade. Senegalese group Wau Wau Collectif and kora maestro Lamine Cissokho, take the sound of the Yellow-casqued hornbill and integrate it into a flute-filled groove. Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars layer subtle chirping over the off-beat strumming of regional baskeda folk music to honor the Sierra Leone prinia. Buruntuma picks up the tempo with his clean Afro-house featuring the song of the Timneh parrot and Sensei Lo blends local electronic rhythms and melodies with sounds of the incredibly rare Ibadan malimbe. (tracks 5,7,9,10 are my favorites) AArbor

Cuba Meets Nepal (Jazz Fusion) [coll] – [Beautamous Loaf International]

aarbor   2/8/2023   CD, International

Victor Vidal Paz (who is also known as Django Mango) conceived of and produced this recording which fuses the music of Cuba and Nepal. I have to wonder why these quite different styles have not been fused before. Perhaps because it is a needless stretch. Whether or not this fusion is successful is up to the listener. Some tracks are more successful than others. The vocals are ok but IMHO don’t add anything. The Nepalese instruments add lovely color and texture. The drumming is fabulous. The piano, trumpet and sax are beautifully played. Tracks 4 and 6 are the most successful, the two styles are nicely balanced. Tracks 2 3, 8, 10 and 11 are good too. AArbor

John-Pauls, The – “Bon Mots” – [Aagoo Records]

humana   2/6/2023   A Library, CD

This Texas band is quite catchy with its guitars and alternating male and female vocals that deliver quite pleasing post-punk rock ballads. The music made me think briefly of Modern English and the Dwight Twilley band, but The John-Pauls have their own fresh sound. This is pretty great stuff.

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