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Music Reviews

Mitchell, Roscoe Sextet – "Sound" – [Delmark Records]

Cousin Mary   6/14/2020   CD, Jazz

This Sextet working from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) recorded these tracks in 1966. It skronks, plunks, and shrieks and is not for the faint hearted. But it is lightened with flashes of grace and humor (harmonica on track 2!) that show its humanity.

Chicago Sinfonietta & Mei-Ann Chen – “Project W – Works By Diverse Women Composers” – [Cedille Records]

Medusa of Troy   6/3/2020   A Library, CD, Music Reviews

This 2019 album of classical works is based on the highlights of Chicago Sinfonietta’s 30th season (2017-2018) [Mei-Ann Chen, conductor and musical director], which featured the works of American women composers. Most of the compositions on Project W were newly commissioned by the orchestra, from Jennifer Higdon, Clarice Assad, Jessie Montgomery, and Reena Esmail. The album starts with a performance of Dance in the Canebreaks, written by pioneering African-American composer Florence B. Price. Dances, consisting of 3 jaunty pieces, is sweet and fun, reminiscent of Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”, but with its own flair. “Sin fronteras” by Clarice Assad & “Coincident Dances” by Jessie Montgomery (part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble) sound like traditional classical music. Reena Esmail’s “Charukeshi bandish” has traditional classical Indian arrangements along with vocals, while her “#metoo” is skittish and tense. The album ends with Jennifer Higdon’s 5-movement piece, Dance Card, which alternates between high-energy pieces (no. 1, 3 & 5) and slower, sweeter pieces (no. 2 & 4). This album won’t fit on all shows, but certain pieces can work around the edges of international, blues, drone and ambient sets. Check it out.

Karma to Burn – “Almost Heathen” – [Spitfire]

atavist   6/2/2020   A Library, CD

Groove laden, instrumental stoner(ish) rock. Not stoner metal, that is—the vibe is more of the “take a shot of whiskey and jump in the mosh pit” variety than “smoke a bowl and space out on the couch”. The energy level is high, with a precision-engineered rhythm section and disciplined guitars that swerve, stop, and start to match. Reminds me of bands like Walrus who were working in a similar vein at that time in the mid-late 90s and early 2000s. They frequently draw comparisons to Kyuss. The tracks on this CD are pretty interchangeable, in that they are consistently well-made and will induce rhythmic head nods of approval if this is your kind of thing. Not having a vocalist means they never stay in one place too long. They allow themselves to get a little spacy and chilled-out in the last track. Turn it up and hit the wayback machine to 2001.

Laguerre/Noetinger – DnT – [Aagoo Records]

Max Level   5/27/2020   A Library, CD

Two well-known French electro-acoustic sound artists (Anthony Laguerre and Jerome Noetinger) bring us many forms of noise by way of tape loops, manipulation, distortion, live processing and… drums! This release seems to be centered around the sounds of a drum kit. It shows up everywhere, often being processed in some way or other, and is combined with some odd noises–notes and blips and hums and is that a dog barking in the distance on Track 4? The dynamics vary from track to track, but it never takes long for this thing to get back to spotlighting the drums. Track 2 is probably my favorite–it starts in a quietly tense place and ramps up to a crashing drumscape on some weird planet, accompanied by an overload of intense alien shrieking.

Himukalt – “Vulgar” – [Found Remains]

lexi glass   5/27/2020   A Library, CD

As Himulkalt, Nevada visual/sound artist Ester Kärkkäinen relates her experience of female sexuality as “a feedback loop of misery and desire.” In her visual work, xeroxed grayscale photographs of bodies are cut and superimposed in repeating patterns, as if her subjects were reflected in a shattered mirror. Her power electronics work could be heard as the sonic analogue of these images: on Vulgar, jagged, repetitive rhythms are layered with blasts of noise, while Kärkkäinen’s whispers, moans, and screams are fractured by effects and static. A creeping menace builds through the tape, suggesting a scene of violation that we finally witness on “to whisper intent” (T8). A violent reaction follows on “not in this body” (T9), exploding into the ecstasy of revenge on the final track “want you to see me” (T10). Originally released in 2017 on No Rent Records and reissued this year on Found Remains.

Cemetery Urn – “Barbaric Retribution” – [Hells Headbangers Records]

atavist   5/18/2020   A Library, CD

Scummy death metal from Melbourne, Australia. They are mainstays in the extreme scene there, and dedicated students of the craft. Double bass kick pummels and crusty dual guitar attack, with the occasional big guitar solo. Filthy vox that sometimes get lost in the mix. I’m totally cool with losing the vox in the mix, but I might want some other element to enter in its place…a middling reviewer’s perspective. What do you need to know? Every track is brutal, stripped-down, maniacally focused on the endgame. The album builds in force as it progresses, and the conflagration licks at the eaves by track 5, Manifesto Putrefacto. Here we find some really cool dynamism—wild, careening changes in tempo and cascading guitar riffs that have a narrative arc to them, a sense of taking the listener somewhere rather than simply stringing together one brutal passage after another in head-pummeling delirium. The title track has epic ambitions that nearly get there. Drop in Semblance of Malignant Mastery for four minutes of a nearly relentless speed that flirts with complete abandon, including an unhinged solo. Unwilling to go out timidly, they close out with moments of rapture amidst the flames in the final track. In summary, a pretty consistent release. The first four tracks are good, but the best stuff is found in tracks five through nine.

Concrete Mascara – "Bilharzia" – [New Approach Records]

abacus   5/6/2020   A Library, CD

timely narrative of pathogenic spread from American trio Andrew Wilmer, Frank Cordry, Jack Scanlan for Portuguese label under Nekrogoat Heresy. static shock blankets of power electronx: starting off with a doom laden invocation worthy of Thothian imposition, the EP moves through various textures of feedback flatulence, boil, and squeal; screaming gateplay and prickly buzzcut frustrations vented through all layers of serrated fuzz edginess. play loud

Ramirez, Richard & Skin Crime – "Pleasure, Commerce & Disease" – [PACrec]

abacus   4/29/2020   A Library, CD

2004 release from American harsh noise veterans, Richard Ramirez and Skin Crime join for this unholy slab of feedback worship composed of SC source material processed by Dick. thick, acerbic but sterile gray, not so much walls as shattered chalkboard skidding over flayed concrete. smells like the disinfectant coated linoleum surfaces, barely erasing the death and dismay seeped into the surface. empty lullabies to a barren room, you keep grasping at the surface, trying to wake for just a few last words but there’s nothing left to hold onto, you choke on sleep as they die laughing. a void so heavy it makes you want to squirm and weep. unavoidably, most lifeless desperation

AMK – “Super Panoramic Stereo Sound 5000” – [PACrec]

lexi glass   4/29/2020   A Library, CD

Twisted turntable insanity from AMK, the SF-to-LA-based noise artist who has conjured chaos from old record players and cut-and-pasted discs for nearly four decades. Intended to be played in random order, these tracks are utterly unpredictable, from the short segments of silence or surface noise on the untitled tracks, to the stack of thrift store records tossed into a blender and set on puree on “Jamboree” (T3) and “Calypso” (T11), to the simmering noise of “La Post” (T4) or the bounce and blast of “Bull Weevil” (T16). “Il Dome for the Bird” (T18, a live track with assistance from Damion Romero, Geoff Brandin, Erik Hoffman, Jorge Martin, and Bob Bellerue) is a springtime daymare where bright birdsong shapeshifts into an alien avian cheerleading squad that makes perfect dreamlogical sense with the accompanying narration sampled from nature documentary voiceovers. Released in 2007 on the even noisier sublabel of Troniks, PacRec.

Minadeo, Joseph & Brown, Curt – "Wood Land" – [Infraction]

humana   4/28/2020   A Library, CD

These are lovely, spare, melodic atmospheres that are warm enough to bring tears to your eyes. The words printed in the booklet insert offer poetic guides to what you are hearing, and occasional vocalizations seem like features of the overall ambience. There are sounds of piano, bells, and electronics, and it is all beautiful.

Mezzacappa, Lisa Six – Cosmicomics – [Queen Bee]

Max Level   4/21/2020   CD, Jazz

Bay Area composer/bassist/bandleader Mezzacappa writes the material and leads a first-rate ensemble of local musicians. These engaging compositions are jazz-based but draw from many other traditions as well. They take their inspiration from the “Cosmicomics” series of short stories by author Italo Calvino—the liner notes provide elaboration on the story behind each piece. Many of the tracks do lean in a cosmic direction, with titles such as ‘The Soft Moon’, ‘Solar Storms’, ‘The Distance of the Moon’, and ‘The Form of Space.’ The three tracks with ‘Signs’ in the title are mood pieces by way of conducted improvisation. I like the way electronics wizard Tim Perkis lays out for long periods, entering every now and then to enhance the mood with unexpected sounds. Also, for some reason Mark Clifford’s vibraphone sounds like moonlight to me, which seems totally appropriate for this material. Mezzacappa’s instincts always serve her music well and while it is not always obvious, one can often detect a sly sense of humor informing her composing and arranging.

Gendreau, Michael – “Polvo Seran, Mas Polvo Enamorado” – [Public Eyesore]

whngr   4/21/2020   A Library, CD

Danger! Extreme Minimalism


A harrowing experience for dj’s awaits. Can you handle the silence, low levels, and diminutive sounds of equipment failure? Soft low-frequency purrs, machines turning slowly, empty space, a distant dog barking, muffled speech from down the hall, near sub-sonic drone, abrupt crashes of abstraction. Arrhythmic plinks, plunks, bumps, thumps, and clicks. White-noise. Automobile traffic from 9 miles away, android insects, footsteps, infrasonic vibrations, and a decrepit lathe. 
San Francisco based acoustician Michael Gendreau produces four tiny aural engravings that  might cause you to peer at the cd player querulously and consider notifying Engineering about yet another cd player giving up the ghost. However, this is all according to plan as Gendreau’s work on low noise and vibration for buildings implies a focus on space and the site-specific sounds produced therein.

Ifukube, Akira – “Atragon” – [Toshiba-EMI Limited]

whngr   4/20/2020   CD, Soundtrack

When you’re freezing kaiju you may want to employ a giant flying submarine/drill manned by a stoic crew of fearless Japanese men and when you want aural accompaniment to the saving of the world from a subterranean race of scantily clad aristocracy you may as well select a composer profoundly familiar with colossi of every imaginable breadth, heft, and height, Akira Ifukube (Ah-key-rah Ee-fhoo-coo-bay). The man behind the scores to Godzilla(1954), Rodan(1956), Mothra vs. Godzilla(1962), Daimajin(1964), and 175 other titles that he wrote before his death in 2006 along with myriad other compositions that were part of video games connected with the films and many other projects that would borrow his works posthumously.
You know the score, orchestral marches, tense viola, timid xylophone, over-blown trumpet, vintage spooky operatic wails, huge resonate cello, sultry oboe, querulous piano, thunderous timpani, worrying organ, shimmering cymbals, terror inducing tuba… all standard fare for the Japanese mega-monster flick by the man whose compositions would become synonymous with the genre.
A powerful and sometimes beautiful soundtrack to a less than amazing film. One worth watching despite it’s dismissable plot and mediocre performances, primarily for the laboriously complex period special effects and a glimpse into yesteryear’s swelling appetite for “blockbusting” science-fiction cinema.

333REDUX [coll] – [No Part of It]

abacus   4/13/2020   A Library, CD

abridged CDr sampler of a massive DVDr data disc release remixing rehashing reconstructing Arvo Zylo’s seminal 333 release. trip mental industrial of the chaotic crunchy variety, plodding soundscrapes of rhythm and noise, concrete crushing beats cracked around the edges. some of the tracks get in to more cut-up, concrete, or ambient even, spiced up with some jazz skronk? this comps got it all, true QUALITY noise stuff compiled by the connoisseur himself. released here on Arvo’s own No Part of It label; if you get a chance, dig up the bandcamp to sample the full release, especially for the complete 35minute Blood Rhythms piece. and if you’re not afraid of long tracks for that matter dig up 333 from our very own library here and maybe do some side by side. the beautiful thing about good comps is I honestly believe there’s something everyone can get down on here, this is the kinda noise that converts folks.

Haters, The – “Mind The Gap” – [Vinyl Communications]

lexi glass   4/1/2020   A Library, CD

Like a tube ride straight into the depths of hell, Mind the Gap is loud, unsteady descent into mechanical mayhem. The three tracks on this 1996 Haters album consist of the sounds of records being stapled together with a staple gun. Each pull of the trigger is amplified beyond recognition, and the noise – continuously spinning in repetitive cycles – seems to rise from the locked groove of a patchwork staple-sutured frankenrecord. On “Mind the Gap #6” (T1), a low sludgy bass pulse hums beneath metallic rumbles. “Mind the Gap #8” (T2) brings in the ambient blur of distorted voices. Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, luckily for you, “Things Can Only Get Hater” (T3); the closer stitches the elements of the first two performances together into a hypnotic, twenty-seven minute trance.

Domo/Domo

carsonstreet   3/30/2020   A Library, CD

Formed at the beginning of 2010 in Alicante, Spain. Domo plays psychedelic and electrifying rock. Domo’s music is based on psychedelia and experimental rock. The starting point of their music is “the classical structures of heavy, hard and progressive rock of the seventies”. Lots of doom and sludge here too. Recorded, mixed and mastered in August 2010.

Space Debris/Into The Sun Live 2006 Burg Herzberg Festival

carsonstreet   3/28/2020   A Library, CD

Space Debris is a German band that creates a complicated blend of classic rock jams, Krautrock, space rock, psychedelia and fusion jazz. A Hammond B200 with Marshall amp, Ludwig drums and a special recording technique help create a sound that is creative, experimental and comparable to early Deep Purple and Pink Floyd instrumental music.

New Improvised Music From Buenos Aires [coll] – [Esp-Disk]

Hemroid The Leader   3/26/2020   A Library, CD

14 tunes between 8:22 & 1:38. ESP Disk. Mostly jazz with chamber, electroacoustic & noise. Heavy, not swinging: repeated destabilizations, shocks & devaluation underpin tension, crisis & terror. Mouthpiece sounds, processed audio, silences. Inhabits a unique space, not the usual skronk. Cool book.

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