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Music Reviews

Sinneplakken – "Sinneplakken" – [Time Released Sound]

humana   3/26/2020   A Library, CD

The Kleefstra Brothers hail from the Netherlands, with Jan writing the lyrics and Romke offering his guitar and effects. Other musicians join them to create the atmospheric sounds on this CD that are hinted at by the track titles. The vocals are like a voice-over to a fascinating film that is rather dark and haunting. A lot of people will appreciate this.

Blodulv – “III – Burial” – [Eerie Art Records]

whngr   3/19/2020   A Library, CD

Ugly Swedish Black-metal

Straight-ahead mid to up-tempo misanthropic black metal from Sweden circa 2005 book-ended by two abstractions (Intro: vocal-based aggressive noise, Outro: delay-based artifact loop). Gallops, riffs, trem-picked power chords, lumbering, and methodical. Heavily distorted vocals and primitive bXm guitar… might be some bass and drums in there too but they are so buried and weak in the mix they were appear to have been afterthought. The band which may or may not have included a drum machine designated Dr. M (which was dumped for “failing to obey orders”) was subsequently replaced by Mr. Maachinaa and according to AEIFUR (lyrics) in an interview over a decade passed, 

“We have never rehearsed, and we never will. We only see each other once every two months when we get together to record, but then that cold feeling of luciferian(sic) darkness appears almost immediately”

Taking pride in their low quality and antiquated equipment, which must have contributed to the lame recording/mixing of III-Burial, they also appear to revel in their drunkenness , or perhaps they want their listeners to (falsely) emulate their self-destructive behavior to hasten their demise as is their total commitment to the downfall of humanity. Sadly, the band failed to survive that long as the fraying tethers of society wouldn’t truly begin to snap until March of 2020. I applaud Blodulv’s lack of refinement, it harkens back to simpler, punker, times but… they might have benefited by spending a little more time together in the room before they hit ‘record’, though I guess we shan’t ever know. On the other hand perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today, facing immanent collapse, if it were not for this, the final recording by Blodulv, maybe we’d still marching toward “progress” were it not for their parting shot at a crumbling global civilization.

Diocletian – “Amongst The Flames Of A Bvrning God” – [Profound Lore Records]

whngr   3/18/2020   A Library, CD

Horrifying Kiwi Death-metal

All aboard the good ship Pummel-the-Corpse-in-to-Oblivion! Though on-line sources say that this album marks a step away from Diocletian’s supremacy over the New Zealand metal scene, with the loss of several key members, and a return to their earlier less refined sound Amongst The Flames Of A Burning God is still a powerful missive and a shot across the bow of any metal-clad war-ship upon the seven seas. Diocletian has come under fire by some of their fans and though not quite as epic or as rotund as their previous release (2014’s Gesundrian), this recording is a stripped-down, back-to-basics aural assault, as well as a hefty (if rather short) and terrifying album. A little tech, a little death, a bit of power, a lot of violence, a dollop of doom, and a mighty slathering of war and rage! Fucking christ! These guys are full-on! Blast beating, double-kick thundering, thrashing, pick scraping, solo shredding, guttural bellowing, guttural barking, guttural yelling, a single tasteful pinch-harmonic, and an abundance of not so tasteful (but kinda awesome) trem dives. Which might provide a possible bridge between death metal and power violence or perhaps doom metal and war metal if, like myself, you sometimes like to throw a hybrid into your set for smooth transitions between genres.

Beetlebox – “EP” – [Self Released]

Medusa of Troy   3/11/2020   A Library, CD

Beetlebox is the Seattle-based pianist/composer, EP is the name given to his EP of 4 songs, all utilizing spare, experimental piano pieces augmented by electronic sounds, some ambient, others glitchy. The first track, “Ellipses,” starts off with a classical flourish that then gets repetitive and unsettling, low hums and staccato beats surrounding the piano. You’ll find more discordant piano on “Drum Machine,” with the synthetic drums anchoring the melody. “40 Hours” is avant garde classical with lots of sharp notes, while “Empty Space” is full of alien, droning buzz. Overall, EP has an arthouse sci-fi sound (my favorite); never very loud but occasionally disquieting if you listen closely. Personally, I find it soothing, though not at all smooth.

Jain, Sunny – Wild Wild East – [Smithsonian Folkways]

aarbor   3/11/2020   CD, International

Sunny Jain is the leader of Red Baraat a Brooklyn-based Indian-style street band and an up and coming player in the NYC music scene. When I read that he had a new release on Smithsonian Folkways I was curious, and after listening to the first few tracks and reading the liner notes, I was completely hooked by the passion of this release: it’s very personal- it tells about his life [don’t miss the family pictures in the liner notes]. Jain grew up in Rochester, NY as the child of East Indian immigrant parents. He writes in the liner notes about his confusion in 1st grade when learning about the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the “Indians”, and the numerous Cowboys and “Indians” stories. Here he plays with these themes: The “Indian” on Western terrain, Cowboys and Immigrants [2]. Morricone and Bollywood [5,6,9], South Asian rebels [7], Spirituality [10], his childhood [8] and other musics which influenced him (jazz, surf, post-punk) [1,3,12] He wonders which side is he on? [4]The music plays with Indian words and instruments mixed into Western songs. On track 4 a Muslim rapper decries the way he’s treated in post-911 America. This is an album that brings tears to my eyes as the child of immigrant parents in 21st century America. Even though my family comes from a different continent, I’ve felt those feelings too. – AArbor  

Purna Loka Ensemble -“Metaraga”- Origin Records

Medusa of Troy   3/11/2020   CD, International

For those well-versed in Indian classical styles, Western improvisation and geometric progressions in music, the album “Metaraga” is a fascinating melding of math and music, eastern and western music. For those who don’t recognize all of the influences within this album, it is an interesting blend of sounds and tempos, with two violins (mathematician-violinist Purnaprajna Bangere and David Balakrishnan from Turtle Island String Quartet), bass (Jeff Harshbarger) and tabla drum (Amit Kavthekar).

The livelier tracks are the first two, especially “Syzygy”. Track 6, “Alabama,” is a cover of John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” featuring clarinet (Robert Walzel). The last two songs of the album are traditional ragas. These are slower, contemplative pieces that fit in cooler, acoustic portions of sets.

Mizmor – “Cairn” – [Gilead Media]

atavist   3/9/2020   A Library, CD

Here lies beauty to pierce your heart with a shard of ice. Here sprawls a desert of jagged cliffs weathering under the wind. Mizmor has demonstrated the ability to create cold atmospheres and skull-rattling, doomed textures on previous works. However, this recording presents a new level of craft and complexity. The end result is something to get lost in, and you may feel like you’ve gone somewhere by the end. Four tracks, ranging from roughly 10 to 20 minutes, and each its own self-contained epic. A colossal achievement.

Ozzuario – Desolation/Destruction – [Distort Discos]

rbanks   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

Hard drum machine bass beats start this album down the hard road towards godless annihilation. A Japanese style obi strip on the CD packaging from this two-headed Chicago outfit is mostly in Japanese aside from a forbidding yet apt collection of names: GISM, BATHORY, THROBBING GRISTLE, SISTERS OF MERCY.

C tightly programs a drum machine that blasts and booms, as well as providing tortured black metal vocals with occasional Sisters of Mercy style gothic flares. They are accompanied by a disciplined yet wildly fuzzy metallic guitar tone flowing from R, a seasoned hardcore guitarsmith. 

A triptych of intermissions (Interzonas 1, 2, 3) flexes the electronic capabilities of this unit. Traditional song structures help to force feed this very interesting mix of underground elements and influences down the throats of any unsuspecting audience. 

Tomb Mold – “Planetary Clairvoyance” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

Death metal from Toronto. Tomb Mold can deliver mind-hammering heaviness with highly technical aptitude. What keeps me enthralled is the proggy inventiveness applied to the medium. A proper base of brutality is cut through with creative twists on familiar riffs and tropes, often producing what some might call “grooves”.

Track 5 might be the most straight-ahead/conventional track on the album. Elsewhere, you’ll find twists and turns in each track. The first track starts out quietly before delving into the chasm, with a quieter acoustic guitar interlude in the middle. Early favorites: tracks 1, 2, 4, and 7. Track two induces involuntary head nodding with iron-clad riffing. There simply are no flaws in this dual guitar attack. Track 3 is one of those instrumental, atmospheric pieces found on death metal records these days to further the overall narrative. There are glitchy samples with a beautiful, forlorn guitar part playing underneath. If you must know, the lyrical themes and concept for the album cover artwork orbit around extra-terrestrial invasion, death serving as a portal to other dimensions (or perhaps additional, miserable lives), horrific death. Track 7 is a proper way to close out this album—the attack is sustained, unrelenting, the bass and guitars create interesting (dis)harmonies in the riff architectures, and there’s even a massive guitar solo if you’ve found that lacking in your life. Similarly, in a breakdown halfway through track 4, Tomb Mold exhibits the type of riff construction that simultaneously soars and crushes, writhing in that tension between destruction and transcendence.

Vicissitones – "Vicissitones" – [Self Release]

Cousin Mary   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

A fine four-piece surf band from Ann Arbor, Michigan gives us 8 tracks of rocking instrumentals. Good arrangements, original compositions, some leaning toward lo-fi punk. (By the way, vicissitude is defined as “a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant“.)

Konan, Antoinette – Antoinette Konan – [Awesome Tapes From Africa]

aarbor   2/26/2020   CD, International

Antoinette Konan is from the Ivory Coast and she is known as “The Queen of the Ahoko”. The Ahoko is a 3-piece wooden (scraped) idiophone handmade from a thin, ribbed, flexible stick; a smaller chunk of wood is rhythmically scraped against the ribbed stick. She originally learned the ahoko to distinguish herself from other musicians. She put the ahoko on the map when she re-introduced it as a part of 20th century popular music. This album was originally released in 1986 and was re-released last year by Awesome Tapes From Africa. Here you’ll hear the ahoko with a roaring backdrop of synths, bass guitar and drum machine.  – AArbor  

Icasiano, Christopher – “Provinces” [Origin Records]

Max Level   2/25/2020   A Library, CD

Drums and keyboards–everything played by Icasiano, a mainstay of the Seattle free music scene. There are two “suites” here and within each suite the pieces tend to track together. Several of the tracks have repeating–in some cases one could say relentless–drum patterns, augmented with simple keyboard/synth melodies, drones, and sounds. Field recordings pop up occasionally, some of them including voices. I really enjoyed Track 3, a jagged piece with free drumming alongside bursts of what seem to be backward sounds. The thing that I probably like most about this CD is that I don’t quite understand what’s going on and can only listen and wonder what will come next. Icasiano’s work occupies a section of the musical universe that you probably didn’t even know was there. I didn’t.

Mikidache – "Kauli/Words" – [Long Distance]

humana   2/23/2020   CD, International

Mikidache makes this Comorian music from Madagascar the treasure that is is. His rich vocals, percussion, guitar, and oh, yeah, the fact that he wrote most of the songs make them the amazing, uplifting works that they are. Accordion and flute are among the instruments that bring this traditional Malagasy music to your ears. Enjoy every minute.

Ghostwriter & Paine, Michael – "Morrow" – [Time Released Sound]

humana   2/23/2020   A Library, CD

This is a collection of absolutely whimsical and delightful sounds from Ghostwriter (aka Mark Brend) and Michael Paine, every track of which leaves you with a distinct and nostalgic feeling. At any moment you may find yourself laughing or crying with the exquisiteness of the instrumentation, which uses celesta, dulcimer, found sounds, flute, marimbas, piano, synths, xylophone…So gentle and pretty and atmospheric. Just lovely. Listen and see for yourself.

Njava – "Vetse" – [EMI Hemisphere]

humana   2/23/2020   CD, International

Named after their father, Njava, whose name means “lightning,” this band of three brothers and two sisters (who came from 15 siblings) had its origins in Madagascar and then moved to Belgium. The sisters are responsible for the majority of the rich vocals, while the brothers provide the amazingly upbeat instrumentation (Dozzy has the chops on guitar). The title track, Vetse, means to hope, to feel, to laugh, to share, and I can honestly say that most if not all of the tracks on this CD inspire this sentiment. I dare you not to dance.

St. Hugh, William – “Saturnus” – [self-released]

atavist   2/12/2020   A Library, CD

The arrival of “Saturnus” provides ethereal sounds with orchestral-inspired keyboard instrumentation. Minutes stretch in a haze of drifting shimmers and the occasional dramatic surge of sound. This recording moves slowly like the score for a moody, somewhat eerie film. It’s very much a companion album to this artist’s earlier release “The Luciferian”, added to the library last August. Tracks are fairly consistent across the CD. To my untrained ears, all the tracks are pretty similar, so you might select based on how much time you need in your break clock, and you’ll get a consistent atmosphere of unease and wilting beauty. A couple tracks, like “Red Sun Rise” start out quietly. Tremorous dreams await.

Boni, Raymond/Gilles Dalbis – Selenites: One Kenichi Dream – [Mazeto Square]

Max Level   2/11/2020   A Library, CD

Two French guys playing the soundtrack to what seems to be a dream story. Boni on guitar and harmonica, Dalbis on drums. All instrumental, very abstract, quiet and loud places, hard to tell what they are getting at sometimes. The 15-minute Track 1 starts with 3 minutes of solo drumming. Dalbis has a nice touch with the brushes. Boni’s guitar comes in gently and… eventually all hell breaks loose like you suspected it would. There are shades of Derek Bailey in Boni’s playing and he adds to that a lot of processed guitar sounds and some overdubs. He plays harmonica on Tracks 2 and 5; he has an unusual approach, that’s for sure. It sounds to me more like an accordion in a style reminiscent of Pauline Oliveros maybe? Track 3 features some flying-fingers abstract blues guitar and it’s pretty nice. Dalbis adds surprising percussive touches throughout the record. I don’t really understand the dream story–something about HG Wells and an alien civilization living inside Earth’s moon, and at some point a modern manga character shows up and does something or other. Perfect music for an oddball dream like that.

Brovold, Bill – “Stone Soup, The Michael Goldberg Variations” – [Public Eyesore]

Louie Caliente   2/11/2020   A Library, CD

All the tracks in this soup are made from the same stone: four sparse notes plucked on a clattering, slightly detuned acoustic guitar. The recording of these scattered notes was given to 12 different musicians who each add to the sound in their own way.

Brovold’s minimalist guitar work maintains center-stage through all the tracks, and most retain the drony spacey feel of the original, though all have a unique perspective. Rhys Chatham (T3) augments the guitar with meditative chants and whistles. Fred Lonberg-Holm (T4) turns it it into a kinetic blissful sun salutation. Franz Shultz (T7) adds twangy steel guitar. Karen Haglof (T10) creates soothing psychedelic explorations. Probably the most unique of the bunch is the pairing of guitar with punchy beats and percussive grinds from Leonardo ProtoPeople (T5)

The album is inspired by Bach’s Goldberg Variations (composed of an aria and 30 variations), and a folk tale wherein an entire village contributes small ingredients each to a pot that originally contained nothing but a stone, yielding a delicious soup.

The album is hand-printed and colored by Brovold.

NOISE: In Theory and Practice [coll] – [Norcal Noisefest]

lexi glass   2/11/2020   A Library, CD

This limited-run 2019 compilation was released at the 23rd Norcal Noisefest, the annual celebration of crazed cacophony that’s terrorized Sacramento every fall since 1995. Curated by noisefest mainstay Instagon, the comp features new works from the artists that performed at the 2019 event. So, of course, you’ll find strange sounds of all stripes: the layered womens’ vocals of Mourning Dove (T1), the binaural buzz of Chopstick (T3), the bright blips of Thirteen Hurts (T6), Mini Mutations‘ spoken word stream of consciousness (T7). Novacain sickens with sax, piano and a deadbeat drumbeat (T10), Seattle’s rEEk delivers strikes supplanted by silence (T13), SF’s Filthmilk has a metal breakdown (T16), Crank Sturgeon‘s trapped in a tangle of live cables (T19), while Crank Static offers some unique Valentine’s ideas for you and Your Baby (T20 – FCCs). The comp rounds out with the toasty crunch of a bowlful of Microwave Windows (T24), an easy listening FM radio station possessed by demons courtesy of Xdugef (T26); finally, Infinexhuma abandons us in the void (T27).

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