KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Knudsen, Wednesday – “Soft Focus: Volumes One and Two” – [Feeding Tube Records]

humana   10/12/2022   A Library, CD

Knudsen creates all the sounds on this album (except for harp on the first track), and mesmerizing sounds they are: flutes, electronics, pianos, synths, chimes, and voice. Her voice is so rich that words are not needed, only the sounds, and only the first couple of tracks have voice weaving in and out of the other sonic layers. “Sunshine” brings to mind the dust motes you’d see in a shaft of sunlight, and the last track is an epic drone with piano embroidery. Any of these songs provide a chance to destress and put a true soft focus on your world-weary experiences.

Carthiefschool – “Kenjimiyazawa” – [Transduction Records]

Mister S   10/12/2022   A Library, CD

Japanese punk jazz-rock. Angular guitar riffs that are framed by strong rhythmic play. Production reminds me of sounds from DC and Chicago. If you are familiar with Steve Albini bands and recording, as well as a fan, this is a definite listen. Explore the entire album. Some tracks are more punk flavored and others more of the jazz-rock variety. Baramos might be the most straightforward rocking, screaming vocals style track. Play LOUD!

Girlfriends and Boyfriends – “Fallacy of Fairness” – [Pop Era]

humana   10/11/2022   A Library, CD

These tracks created by four gentleman in British Columbia are peppy throwbacks to bands like Simple Minds, with a modern spin since this release is from 2021. Like the post-punk bands of the past, the content of the songs is often relationship-driven. The vocals are clear and easy to understand, and the guitars, drums, and synths all work together well to deliver the message.

Engel, Clara – “Their Invisible Hands” – [Self Released]

humana   10/10/2022   A Library, CD

These beautiful folk dirges sung in Engel’s strong, storyweaving voice are captivating. The inner sleeve describes instruments like a cigar box guitar that gently weeps throughout the songs, and it feels like there’s a cello in there, too, although it is probably something else. Some tracks are instrumentals that their titles help you in deciphering the aural experience; others (like 3 and 9) have clear fairy tale connections; 8 is an evocative sad song about a tired out “high alien priest.” The final track will have you wondering what the original words to “It’s raining, it’s pouring” ever were since Engel’s lyrics fit so much better. Get lost in the images created by voice and instruments.

Circuit Wound – “Civilized Stagnation” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   10/5/2022   A Library, CD

Absolute Gutter Violence

Two megaliths of harsh noise walls of slightly different textures locked, loaded, and aimed at your (listeners) cranium. Crushing grey static, squeaks and bleeps, with one giant peak. A vomitus expulsion of blinding migraine rocket fuel. You have got to be out of your mind.

Circuit Wound is one Jay “Decay” Howard.

Simi Valley – 2022

Los Bitchos – “Let the Festivities Begin!” – [City Slang]

puplaif   10/5/2022   A Library, CD

Los Bitchos is a London-based band featuring members Serra Petale (guitar), Agustina Ruiz (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass) and Nic Crawshaw (drums). Each musician hales from a different part of the world, bringing their unique musical backgrounds together on these fun, instrumental compositions. There are no rules here – the band genre hops from cumbia, chicha, to surf-exotica. As Serra puts it, they wanted to sound like “Van Halen and Cocteau Twins—but from Turkey.” The combination is upbeat, psychedelic, cinematic and celebratory. Each song tells a story. Now cue one up and  “Let the Festivities Begin!”  

Wolfe, Chelsea “Hiss Spun” [Sargent House]

atavist   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

This release from 2017 pairs Wolfe’s ethereal, cathedral-reverb vocals and occasional doom-lantern guitar work with a massive sound constructed by a host of collaborators, captured with icy ferocity by the prodigious Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio. Wolfe’s vocals both ride the storm and join the din to shake the ground below. The tracks “Vex”, “Particle Flux”, and “Offering” have a more electronic feel. “Twin Fawn” is deceptively quiet and withdrawn until it bares its fangs. The brief “Welt” integrates some industrial textures before revealing a reprise of “The Culling”. The menace of “Two Spirit” lies in its somber progression, brooding power veiled under the surface. Wolfe later realized her songwriting is a form of witchcraft, casting spells to confront dark forces in the self. She closes her eyes when she writes and sees landscapes and colors reel before her. FCC track 12, “Scrape”.

Tibbetts, Steve – “Hellbound Train: An Anthology” – [ECM GmbH]

karma   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

2 CD “greatest hits” album by fusion jazz guitarist Steve Tibbetts, based in Minnesota. He describes his playing as postmodern neo-primitivism. This album features many of Tibbetts’ Tibetian collaborations with nun Chöying Drolma. Unlike many east-meets-west albums, this collaboration is restrained. Tibbetts’ guitar is as quiet as a week out there on the edge of the prairie, and he is not afraid to let his collaborators on drone, kalimba, tabla, or the studio take over.

Sound Storing Machines: The First 78rpm Records [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

aarbor   9/28/2022   CD, International

The first commercial recordings from Asia were made in Japan in 1903 by Fred Gaisberg. He was a producer and recording engineer who traveled the world making recordings for the Gramophone Company (later His Masters Voice). The recording industry barely existed at this time. These fragile discs survived: wars with Russia and China, the fire bombings during World War II, modernization, and the onslaught of Western media. They document, through a dreamlike haze of surface noise, a Japan that had just barely begun to open its doors to the rest of the world.

You’ll hear Japanese classic music like gagaku (court music) [1,8], noh drama [6?,10], solo instruments like the shakuhachi (flute) [11], shamisen (plucked stringed instrument) [2,3,4, 12, 13, 14], chikkin (a bamboo xylophone) [9], storytelling [7, 15], and folksong [5]. These recordings are a unique glimpse into an ancient culture and an important document of the beginnings of the recording industry. Sound Storing Machines spans only 9 years of recording—-from 1903 to 1912, the beginning of Japan’s homegrown record industry, and a few sides taken from Japan’s notorious bootleg 78rpm industry. AArbor

Dreadnought “The Endless” [Profound Lore]

atavist   9/27/2022   A Library, CD

This Denver-based project has been honing their craft in relative obscurity for some years now. “The Endless” marks their fifth full-length release, and this second release on Profound Lore may create a larger audience for their ambitious blend of progressive structures and metal-inflected textures. Dreadnought partakes in contrasts: clean, melodic vocal harmonies versus rending cries that pierce the night, massive overdriven guitar and bass mixed with clarion keys and drums. Their fusion of seemingly disparate musical influences challenges new listeners. The musicianship and musicality is there. With this release they’re keeping the song structures a bit more succinct—earlier releases feature longer, sprawling tracks that I happen to enjoy, but I suspect these shorter tracks provide an easier introduction to the Dreadnought sound, an exploration of far-off lands discovered in dusty books, assailed by dark forces, with hope shuddering in the cold winds of time. Queue up a track and let the story unfold.

Cold Storage – “Fractures” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   9/21/2022   A Library, CD

Slow Miserable Avalanche

If Br’er Fox chased  Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch and couldn’t get out for twenty-three minutes and twenty-nine seconds and affixed to the thorns of the briar patch were contact mics, his blood was white-noise generators, and if poor Br’er Fox were strapped to a broken modem (on battery power) from 1997 you might be approximating “Fractures” by Cold Storage. Not the harshest noise but not at all comfortable either. Put it on at the end of your set to avoid spreading any residual strains of plague that might have collected in your reeking facemask and delight in the discomfort of the next volunteer and/or listeners that stumble upon the charred remains of your normally delightful and eclectic sets.

I could find absolutely nothing on this project other than it may have been recorded in Texas, just the way I like my abstract and unsettling artists…. invisible and mysterious.

West Texas – 2022

Doctor Who – Series 12 – [Silva Screen Records Ltd.]

Sir Cumference   9/21/2022   CD, Soundtrack

More of Segun Akinola’s music for Doctor Who. Unlike the series 11 release, this set is presented in story order, so it feels a little more of a mix. There’s still a lot of the kind of atmospheric tracks that Segun brought us in the previous series, plus he gets to branch out a little bit more. Some of the highlights (for me) was the Bond-esque music – especially in “Doctor, The Doctor” – a little playfulness in “The American Sense of Humour” and the sad Celtic fiddle of “Brendan” and “The Fall”. Of course, being a Doctor Who music CD, you can never go wrong with the title music – the best of the current era, but do enjoy some of the other offerings. -pi2r

Mori, Ikue – “Tracing the Magic” – [Tzadik]

aarbor   9/21/2022   A Library, CD

Ikue Mori was born and raised in Japan. She says she had little interest in music before hearing punk rock. In 1977, she went to New York, initially for a visit, but she became involved in the music scene, and stayed. Her first musical experience was as the drummer for the no wave band DNA. Though she had little prior musical experience (and had never played drums), Mori quickly developed a distinctive style: One critic describes her as “a tireless master of shifting asymmetrical rhythm”. This is her latest release on the Tzadik label. There are 7 tracks, each paying tribute to a woman who has inspired her. Mori’s notes give you a sense of each woman. Each track is quite different with somewhat different instrumentation although all include digital electronics. Of note are: track 2 which includes traditional Japanese instruments and sounds as well as prepared piano, and track 7 which includes bagpipes. AArbor

Mortuous “Upon Desolation” [Carbonized]

atavist   9/19/2022   A Library, CD

The latest full-length release from this legendary Bay Area death metal collaboration, and their first full-length in four years. Relentless pursuit of concussive obliteration. Sudden tempo changes, super-tight and cacophonous. It’s hard to predict where they’ll go from one passage to the next within one song. “Nothing” has a great breakdown in the middle of the track with a violin part deftly mixed into a brief period of relative respite and calm. They want to explore all the sounds of death, like the unhinged high-register guitar solos in “Metamorphosis”. Clear the path for “Days of Grey”, a more straight-ahead driving maelstrom that devolves into a dirge befitting the title. It has a cohesion some of the other tracks don’t have, though the discohesion of those tracks is part of their allure. Blastbeats welcome us to “Defiled by Fire”, while the violin returns to take us out. Soaring guitars amidst the churning murk of “Burning Still…”.  Most tracks clock in around 4 to 5 minutes and all are worthy, each skillfully presenting a variety of delirious and devastating sounds with dizzying technical precision and, most importantly, unchecked fury.

Melt Yourself Down – “100% Yes” – [Decca]

puplaif   9/14/2022   A Library, CD

Melt Yourself Down (MYD) is a London-based band led by saxophonist Pete Wareham and vocalist Kush Gaya. 100% Yes is their third full-length album. Driven by a desire to create new sonic pathways, the band’s jazz foundation is infused with Afrobeat, pop, and punk influences. The musicians here feed off one another, fueled by a heavy dose of adrenaline that makes for a very energetic and attention grabbing album. Beefy drums, rhythmic sax, groovy bass, and in your face vocals spew social and political commentary, and an invitation to move your body and come along for the ride. 

Nortfalke – “Seefonkjuenderee” – [Dunkelheit Produktionen]

whngr   9/7/2022   A Library, CD

Frisian Dungeon Synth

Cold air curls off the northern coast of Holland and seeps into the weeping stone foundations of citadel Nortfalke. Slightly eerie ambient swells amid rising plumes of sound. Often having a gentle and lilting foreground with booming thumps below that add an element of percussion to the longform synthesizer forays through drafty catacombs occasionally illuminated by the glow of the moon. Minimal and lush these three tracks explore slightly different moods that are not necessarily dark, the compositions and mood feel more contemplative than emotional. More cerebral than visceral, a philosophical expression of a mage as he plots his next maneuvers toward mastery of the occult.

Nortfalke (Northern Falcon) moniker of Swerc (aka Maarten), co-owner of Aratron Productions, mastermind and contributor to numerous Black Metal projects including Afvallige, Asregen, Gheestenland, Standavast, et al.

Northern Netherlands – 2021

Slicing Grandpa – “Casual Pain” – [String Theory Records]

karma   9/7/2022   A Library, CD

They say practice makes perfect. Not so if you are Slicing Grandpa, a 2-person noise/experimental group that apparently practice once a year. They are from Washington State by way of New York, but many of their previous albums seem like they are from (Johnny) Knoxville. As the group approaches their third decade, their music keeps the lo-fi grit of their earlier work while casting off the gross-out titles.

The title track is my favorite, a detuned, Sonic Youthy anthem for anyone struggling with the malaise of daily life. The tracks are examples of the nascent gluewave genre, which I interpret as industrial/noise rock’s take on vaporwave.

Each track is paired with a “B-side” variation, always shorter than the “A-side” more polished version.

Tabaamrant, Rayssa Fatima – “Tyaghlaghalt Ou L’Echo De L’Atlas” – [Harmonia Mundi France]

aarbor   9/7/2022   CD, International

This is Rwais music. It’s similar to the itinerant troubadors of the European Middle Ages, but more like the West African Griot tradition. Rwais are Berbers from South Morocco. Like the Griots they are the guardians of oral tradition, poems, songs, stories. Their songs tell of the evolution of Moroccan society. Rwais performances are about show and entertainment – they are considered professional musicians. Fatima Tabaamrant grew up as an orphan, never attended school, lived in a rural environment. This most likely informs her poetry/songs. She is the first woman to lead her own troupe and sing her own poems. Her subject matter is cultural, social or moral order. The 7 tracks here follow a Rwai performance with an opening instrumental, Salutations, 4 tracks of songs and a farewell instrumental. AArbor

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