Music Reviews

Mazzy, Jimmy / Newberger, Eli – “Shake It Down” – [Stomp Off Records]

karma   12/4/2022   CD, Jazz

1996 release. Jimmy Mazzy and Eli Newberger are traditional jazz musicians. Unlike classic jazz (which is different than traditional jazz), this album features banjo (Mazzy) and tuba (Newberger). The goal of the album was to record jazz and traditional pop standards in the country blues style. The result is accessible without being pedestrian; tributary without being derivative. Though innovative with its choice of instrumentation, the album is old-school, good-time jazz. In an era where it seems like everything is rapidly changing and change occurs for the sake of change, it is nice to have some things just like they used to be.

Gobeil, Gilles – “Les Lointains” – [Empreintes Digitales]

cinder   12/2/2022   A Library, CD

Uncomfortable listening from Québecian Gilles Gobeil. A cacophony of field recordings and found sounds. You’re a fly on the wall in someone’s home, a factory, car warehouse… bursts of intricate sounds tickle your inner ear, while you wildly imagine what the hell is going on. Layered foggy synths and sounds accompany, but the game of figuring out what you’re hearing is key. A fine musique concrète experience.

Niton – “Cemento 3D” – [Pulver Und Asche]

Thurston Hunger   11/30/2022   A Library, CD

From musique concrete to prog cemento? Niton is a three piece (we have their “Tiresias” also at KFJC), in the center is Swiss cellist Zeno Gabaglio – his bow/scrape done on an electic instrument, joined by Italian soundscapers Luca Xelius Martegani and El Toxyque (who apparently performs and bathes in a beautiful blue and silver helmet). This is a remixing of their 2021 Cemento, re-poured through samples, filters and odd audio processors. In 3D! Gabaglio’s e-cello serves as fiber for each piece, “Asmant” & “Maas” have pulses added for percussion. I was trying to listen to some of the original Cemento and at times had both that and this playing (worked as a form of “Mixed Cemento”?). The recordings are atmospheric enough, but more active than drone. Kind of a Cluster booster. Electro-acoustic sound clashing too at times, I don’t think those are synthetic chains scraping sepulchral. Other samples and/or voices are spliced in as well. “Baylanis” holds a portal for our myriad metal-heads. The cello groans, electronics wince. Zeno’s conscience elevates this album, gorgeous sharp slices on “Shuini” w/ some astral vox and perhaps found flute. Track titles are not Magma-fied, but instead translate to cement through-out the world. This really grew on me, and comes with a clever flexi we will also add.
-Thurston Hunger

Onodera, Yui and Celer – “Generic City” – [Two Acorns]

Thurston Hunger   11/30/2022   A Library, CD

Natural squonk to start, a flock of feathers lays down in a bed of synth drone. That is the recipe here a blend of found sounds and ambient tones, for this 2010 release. Celer these days is Will Long operating alone out of Tokyo, where collaborator Yui Onodera runs the Critical Path. They are joined on this by sounds and images echoes of Danielle Baquet-Long (once Celer dweller and partner of Will) who sadly died in 2009. The blend of who-provides-what is hard to separate, the generated sounds often a halcyon tonic to the samples (loose notion of air, from the opening flock to a Calgary boarding call for a jet?). Or maybe with the album’s name and Dani’s photo (city all in silhouette, the space surrounding emphasized over buildings and people) maybe that is a theme? Yui adds some excellent guitar sputter on #3, and don’t miss the chant (Shingon?) ascends towards the end of #4 before disappearing into a pure electronic drone.

-Thurston Hunger

Bauchklang – “Jamzero” – [Ecco.chamber]

aarbor   11/30/2022   A Library, CD

This is Bauchklang’s debut album from 2001 and it put them on the map. Bauchklang means belly sound. They’re an Austrian outfit whose sound mixes human beatboxing, mouth percussion and other kinds of vocal sounds. They cover a musical landscape stretching from Electro over Minimal, to Dub and Hip Hop, using only their voices. It’s kinda 21st century doo wop – very delightful, playful, experimentative. Vocals are in English (French lyrics on track 9). AArbor

Calabar Itu Road: Groovy Sounds From SE Nigeria [coll] – [Comb & Razor Sound

aarbor   11/30/2022   CD, International

When most people think about Nigerian music, the first thing that comes to mind is Lagos—the country’s main commercial center, and the musical luminaries such as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and others. Nigeria has other interesting music: Igbo highlife and rock bands of the east-central region, Edo roots rhythms from the midwest, and the keening, ornamented Fulani melodies of the north.

The least known is the music of the south eastern land of the Efik and Ibibio ethnic groups in Cross River and Akwa Ibom State—the region colloquially referred to as “Calabar.” This region was one of the earliest outposts of Nigerian popular music. Its rhythms traveled across the Atlantic during the slave trade to provide the part of the foundation for Afro-Cuban grooves that would go on to influence the development of jazz, rock & roll, R&B and funk. This is 15 tracks recorded between 1972 and 1982, spotlighting rare music from “Calabar” superstars such as Etubom Rex Williams [14], Cross River Nationale [2], Charles “Effi” Duke [8], The Doves [10] and Mary Afi Usuah [11]. Most tracks are upbeat, dancey, excellent playing, and do not have English lyrics. AArbor

Blood Incantation “Timewave Zero” [Century Media]

atavist   11/29/2022   A Library, CD

Creepy deep space soundtrack styles. Beautiful synth washes build in ominous layers. Blood Incantation exhibited similar passages in their previous release “Hidden History of the Human Race”, but there the passages contrasted their blistering technical death metal attack. Here, it’s two long tracks of cold, dark expanse sprinkled with the light of distant stars and galaxies, with no death metal to disturb the tranquility. Heavy Moog obsession and liner notes that indicate without subtlety a clear celestial lineage back to Brian Eno. After a time, acoustic guitar, tambura, and other acoustic instruments join into the mix. Zone out into oblivion as you crest Timewave Zero.

Century Plants – “Transmissions from the Outer Sun” – [Carbon Records]

carsonstreet   11/28/2022   A Library, CD

Century Plants is a shape-shifting drone and free improv duo featuring Ray Hare and Eric Hardiman. On the first track, recorded in 2011 in Albany NY, they are joined by Matt Weston on drums, and explore the free-improv corners of their sonic world with a combination of guitars, electronics, voice, and sparse percussion. The second track, recorded in 2022 in Troy NY, sees the duo expanding into a quartet with Mike Griffin on bass and Phil Donnelly on drums. This track builds into a mid-tempo psych-guitar-drenched epic with Ray’s echoing vocal wails. Albany’s (NY) Century Plants has deep roots in the noise, psych, improv, and hardcore scenes. The core group is Ray Hare (Deadline, Fossils from the Sun, Burnt Hills) and Eric Hardiman (Rambutan, Sky Furrows, Spiral Wave Nomads, Burnt Hills). The duo’s twin guitars + vocals are often augmented by a larger “sound system” of like-minded players for live actions, resulting in an intense mixture of noise, drone, dub, musique concrete, and blistering psych rock. If you need referents, recent gigs have conjured the ghosts of Hawkwind, Discharge and Suicide, all filtered through a unique prism. Hardiman and Hare have played together for over a decade as Century Plants and continue to play in Albany’s legendary psych rock unit Burnt Hills. 

Body, The & Big|Brave – “Leaving None But Small Birds” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

whngr   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

Post American Traditional

Thoughtful and pensive folk with a powerful and passionate delivery, especially by vocalist Robin Wattie of Big|Brave, with sparing electric and amplified elements that tend to build gently as the album progresses. Beautiful, tortured, and often unconventional vocals rise above somber violin and acoustic guitar, hypnotic minimalist percussion, piano, mandolin, vocal harmonies, feedback, crumbling frequencies reminiscent of life’s inevitable result, and the deep sorrow of love forever lost. 

These bands are both sort of metal adjacent acts that hold their own with the heaviest and loudest projects on the planet with parallels being drawn to Sunn O))), not unsurprisingly as Big|Brave is signed to Southern Lord, who is owned by founding members of the vomit inducing juggernaut (Wattie has also collaborated with Greg Anderson on the digital release Needle Cast) but this collaboration is considerably quieter and employs more traditional instrumentation than either of these two projects’ previous outings. And unlike both of their previous work, there is a paucity of drones. Instead of the dense waves of atrial fibrillation inducing low-end now they are layered delicately like jeweled globes of dew clinging to the gossamer thread of a spider’s web abandoned by its weaver. Big|Brave has been noted for not being immediately accessible but having a tendency to grow on the listener over time; sometimes being a bit of a challenge. This was not the case for me and was even less true with The Body, which I adored from the first listen, but for some reason their collaboration was a bit difficult for me. Not as noisy or as thick as I was expecting, indeed I struggle to hear much, if any, of The Body as I have come to know them on “Leaving None But Small Birds” but once I settled in I found it both beautiful and haunting… though not in a spooky way, more like urging me to feel again… or maybe to be whole… things that will not come easy.

Big|Brave is Robin Wattie (guitar, vocals), Matthieu Bernard Ball (guitar) both of whom are strong visual artists in their own right, and multi-instrumentalist Tasy Hudson (drums) from Montreal, Québec. The Body are Chip King (guitar) and Lee Beuford (drums) and would be from Portland, Oregon… if they could sit still long enough to be from anywhere.

Canada and Everywhere – 2021

Electric Orange – “psi-hybrid” – [Self Published]

carsonstreet   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

Electric Orange is a German neo krautrock band led by Dirk Jan Müller (keyboards) and Dirk Bittner (guitar). The band’s music is a blend of hypnotic and tribal beats, soaring organ and synths, spacey guitars, samples and analogue effects. They also experiment with rare, obscure and vintage instruments. Müller and Bittner are also regular members of the band Space Invaders and Müller is driving an electronics project named Cosmic Ground The song titles are often funny and thought-provoking puns. Psych, kraut, electronics and space – Electric Orange has it all.

Els A-Phonics – “Els A-Phonics And Friends” – [Sleazy Records]

carsonstreet   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

The Els A-Phonics is a surf band from Valencia, Spain. Formed in 2009 by former members of bands like Chewbacca’s, Pildora X and The Vibrants. Els A-Phonics have released some really upbeat, creative (and well produced) surf and they’ve teamed up with some of the best: Mike Barbwire, Nokie Edwards, Deke Dickerson, Jon Blair and others on this album.

Shadows, The – “The Shadows In The 60s” – [EMI]

carsonstreet   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

The Shadows were an English instrumental rock band who dominated the British popular music charts in the early 1960s. The Shadows were a major influence on many guitarists, including Brian May, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Andy Summers, Ritchie Blackmore, David Gilmour and Andy Powell. Twang! A Tribute to Hank Marvin & the Shadows (1996) featured Blackmore, Peter Green, Randy Bachman, Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton and others playing Shadows hits. Also, a major influence on surf music. Suffice it to say; big time great guitar work and a band that helped shape rock and roll.

Cazzadio – “Il Tempo Della Locusta” – [Black Plagve Productions]

Ms. Conduct   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

A reissue of a seminal early beat-driven power electronics album from an obscure, influential and shadowy Italian outfit.  This work is immersed in the heavy machinery of war technologies.  Espionage telemetries in the black waters of conspiracy-driven wars throb with bombastic rhythmics driven from black-on-black weaponry. Despite the heavy militaristic/war thematics it is possible to side-slip into an adjacent imaginary universe while listening and allow this album to soundtrack one’s favorite post-apocalyptic superstate scenario or simply enjoy the metallic acoustics.

Monocube – “Substratum” – [Malignant Records]

Ms. Conduct   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

This album from Monocube mines the psychical landscapes from the descent-worlds in tribute to the bottomless selves who stalk these nether regions in somnambulistic unconsciousness. In the cold & voided domain of vaporous dark drone, synth layers and stirring strings evoke the transient-eternal paradox.  On the geologic side, this is cavernous and uninhabitable terrain save for only the most evolutionarily built: a plutonic dimension for lost souls unliberated and stuck in the orbit of heedless repetition.

Mona Demone – “S3RP3NT” – [Ratskin Records]

Ms. Conduct   11/16/2022   A Library, CD

This album shamelessly relishes in the splicing & synthesizing of various binaries to hybridize its own anthemic animations: Neptunic rainbow-diesel siren songs soundtrack a campy tromp through the soon-to-be-devastated wonderlands of our greenwashed Armageddon while joyfully tripping on psychedelic analogs made with a kitchen table chemistry set. Dance-y in the DIY tradition of ****-off homemade beats, this is an album for listeners who can undertake the moral-aesthetic quest of finding good-in-the-bad and trip inside someone else’s head without judgement.

Robbe, Fabien – “24 Preludes” – [Mazeto Square]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Fabien Robbe is a French musician from Brittany. A precocious musician, he started in on trumpet at a very young age until he discovered his neighbor’s piano at age 7. A diversion to electric guitar in his teens and twenties faded, and he found himself back with his real love: piano.

24 Préludes is a newly-recorded collection of pieces of music he has been writing over a period of 35 years. The influences range from soundtracks, to Vince Guaraldi-esque piano jazz, to Chopin etudes, yet it all sounds of-a-piece because it comes from the mind and hands of one person.

This is really delightful, and there is something here for everyone, even if only to use as a sonic palate cleanser to juxtapose between heavier or more disparate things. This is ripe for use as a topping on a sonic layer cake on Day of Experiments!

I love it; I’m going to play it. You should, too.

Ford, Ricky – “The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Pauls Scene” – [Whaling City Sound]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   CD, Jazz

Ricky Ford may not have the public profile of some of our other tenor giants, but that makes his playing no less compelling. Now 68, he has played in some legendary bands: the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the age of 20, Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond, the Mingus Dynasty, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Mal Waldron. He has recorded with Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and more.

All this varied background comes pouring out on Paul’s Scene: a virtuosic performance from start to finish, in many modern jazz styles. Lighting the fuse with a gorgeous bossa nova, Mr. Ford moves from strength to strength, ripping through a dozen tracks in perfect form. There’s not a clunker in the bunch. Inventive, lyrical, melodic playing, a smokin’ band (Mark Soskin – piano, Jerome Harris – bass, Barry Altschul – drums), fantastic songwriting and arrangements, and an impeccable recording make this a winner.

Let’s cut to the chase: Paul’s Scene is the best modern jazz record of the year. It gets my highest recommendation.

Hulder – “Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry” – [20 Buck Spin]

Terra Incognita   11/12/2022   A Library, CD

“Godslastering” can be translated from Dutch as “blasphemy.” The blasphemy of this album is that Hulder dedicates her hymns not to God but to the common people——those who toil fruitlessly in the frozen ground, who are subjugated and forced into labor and war, who die of famine and disease, who contend with pain, isolation, and desperation. What better way to express this narrative of misery than through the music of black metal.

Self-described as dark medieval black metal, Hulder is the creation of multi-instrumentalist Marliese “Marz” Beeuwsaert. Since inception in 2018, Hulder has released a number of demos, singles, and EPs; Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry is the first LP (released in 2021). On this album she performs the vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards. (Necreon was the session drummer.)

Hulder presents us with music that is at once furious and melodic, melding black metal with folk in unique ways, both subtly and not so subtly. This is reflected not just in her musicianship but also in her vocal style. She has strong, low, black metal vocals that rage but aren’t so distorted that the lyrics are undiscernible. She can also sing gently in soprano and is likely the source of the choral singing in the background of a few tracks. Hulder incorporates folk elements that add to the dark ambiance rather than detract from it——there are only patches of light, quickly overtaken by gloom, frigidness, blustering gales, and sudden downpours.

The two tracks that I’m most drawn to, I have come to realize, represent two extremes of the album: “De Dijle”and “Lowland Famine.”

“De Dijle” (Track 4) is named after the river Dyle, which runs through Hulder’s hometown in the Flanders region of Belgium. It begins with the sounds of the river’s flow and the melody of an acoustic guitar, but this initial tranquility is gradually submerged. This song is plagued with an eerie, gentle, looming darkness. Hulder reigns in her terror-rage black metal vocals to a raspy, echoing whisper to spin tales of the river, all in Dutch. The acoustic guitars and keyboards are in the forefront, with electric guitar entering later and only in the background to add to the song’s unfolding intensity.

“Lowland Famine” (Track 6) attacks immediately, with fast drums and melodic guitars and keyboards. Hulder’s vocals are an onslaught of harsh retribution. The guitar and the keyboard each get their spotlight, but the guitar gets more lead time in this song compared with the others. This song thrashes melodic black metal, drops down to a slow, marching anthem marked by double kick drum, roams the landscape, and ends solitarily with the guitar.

The two extremes are both represented in “A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn” (Track 7). The first three verses are in Dutch, sung with soft, breathy, high-pitched vocals, and nestled in melodic electroacoustic guitar and synth. This folk ballad style strikingly breaks into fast, full-boar metal midway, and Hulder’s vocals turn to heavy savagery, sung in English. The ending is revved up and abrupt. This song is a culmination of Hulder’s range of styles and creativity and is appropriately the title track in essence.

Folk elements are also present in “Sown in Barren Soil” (Track 3) and “From Whence an Ancient Evil Once Reigned” (Track 8). These elements include acoustic guitar and bass, subtle choral vocals, flute (synthesized?), and ambient sounds of nature.

The black metal within which all of this is grounded——the brutal vocals, pummeling drums, straightforward riffs, and melodic keyboard and guitar leads——is solid. Between and within songs, the tempo and rhythm shift. The tracks more firmly rooted in classic black metal are “Upon Frigid Winds” (Track 1), “Creature of Demonic Majesty” (Track 2), and “Purgations of Bodily Corruptions” (Track 5).

Hulder harbors her heritage in her music; she brings with her an appreciation for the culture, daily ritual, and natural surroundings of the rural farm country she grew up in. This album’s lyrics portray a mythical realm, but instilled is a respect for generations past, an acknowledgement of their struggles, and a consciousness of humanity’s deep roots. Despite the medieval imagery, the lyrics transcend myth and time, reflecting the plight of humankind in perpetuity. The hardship and hunger and death represented particularly contrast against the overabundance and indulgence of the US, which Hulder herself has called witness to, having moved to the US over ten years ago and now being based in the Pacific Northwest. As a piece of Hulder’s journey to further her consciousness of self, this album also furthers humanity’s consciousness of itself and its environment. Did we truly leave the Dark Ages behind?

To Hulder I say, Gezondheid!

Proudpilot – “Monsters Exist” – [Peyote Muzik]

whngr   11/10/2022   A Library, CD

Powerful female-fronted post/punk/dark/wave/goth/rock from Turkey.

Complex hard-hitting drums propel driving rhythms from the bass creating a heavy platform for the other-worldly and evocative synthesizers, further elevating the haunting vocals to explore beautifully dark and strange realms. Incredibly full sounds from this three-piece with great variety in tones especially from the synthesizer, the gorgeous delivery of their sound is especially prevalent on track 10, “First Contact” and reminds this volunteer of the project Kaelen Mikla . With luscious washes of synth that at times are thick with gloriously brooding atmosphere and other times borrow the lead from the bass in what sounds like an electric xylophone or a reverbed-out marimba but with the impact of the traditional instrumentation of polyrhythmic drumming and note-intensive bass lines. Resplendent in a kind of macabre and spectral sphere of heavy diaphanous sound.

Proud Pilot are (though “were” is probably more accurate as this is their only release) , Ekin Üzeltüzenci (Ekin Fil) on synth and vox, Pınar Üzeltüzenci (Biblo) on bass guitar, and Kaan Akay (Psycho Mantis) on drums. I was unable to uncover the relationship between Ekin and Pinar Üzeltüzenci, be it siblings, cousins, father and daughter, or what intuition tells me and my desires refuse to except… husband and wife, but whatever the truth may be, I am stricken with envy, not because I think that I would be even a remotely adequate partner for Ekin but that any proximity to her might illuminate some of the secrets behind her incredible talent and her motivations. That said, I am also quite cognizant of how much pleasure I take in the mystery. Do not miss her far quieter, much more somber and atmospheric solo work as Ekin Fil.

Istanbul – 2009

Kihlstedt, Carla / Bossi, Matthias / Ismaily, Shahzad – “Causing A Tiger” – [Les Disques Victo]

whngr   11/9/2022   A Library, CD

Three improvisators strike out on a truly bizarre exploration with a wild variety of instruments, sounds and samples,vocal techniques, moods and timbres. No theme is off the table and only two tracks bear even the slightest resemblance to one another (“No Funeral At All” [Track 1] and “Still No Funeral At All” [Track 2] being a kind of strange tradition american hoedown with banjo(?), fiddle (?), and wistful female vocals). Like a roulette wheel of compositions and deliveries that could only work if the bonds between the players were seamless and infrangible… which apparently they are.

Quiet, zither(?), barking dogs, arrhythmic, trumpets of Tijuana(?), boisterous, pig snorts,  Björk(?), balloon squeaks, traditional, distortion, ruminative violin, faerie folk, keyboards, sad, irreverent, sleepy, violin bow destruction, social, bass guitar, understated, inscrutable, windchimes(?), Tom Waits(?), trumpets of The Bronx(?), synthesizer drones, art(?), extraterrestrial, whimsy, twilight, melancholy, pensive, harmonic, basketballs(?), interdimensional, drunk goblins, conversive,  etc…

Once local Carla Kihlstedt has a voluminous curriculum vitae , that includes violin, accordion, and composing, and collaboration with both John Zorn and Fred Frith (the later is credited on this album for bass guitar, piano, and fiddle) originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has several other albums in our library unlike her cohorts who have none (until now). Matthias Bossi is a percussionist and composer from Boston, and Shazad Ismaily is a guitarist, bassist, accordionist and composer from NYC both of whom have sprawling CV’s themselves. Their FB page (dormant since 2016) has a thoughtful and much more insightful biography than I can provide here; however I can relate that the inspiration for the title of the group came from the Jorge Luis Borges poem, “The Other Tiger”.  

San Francisco and (?) – 2010

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