Music Reviews

Perkins, David Ensemble – “Israeli Klezmer King” – [Melech Music]

aarbor   3/16/2022   CD, International

David Perkins went to Israel to explore his spiritual heritage. He discovered the land and its history, and also the cross ethnic whirlpool of musical styles, rhythms and melodies. David is a clarinet player and instrument builder who designs and creates flutes, chimes and brass instruments. There is both traditional Klezmer music [2, 3, 4] and new interpretations of traditional folk style [6]. Some tracks were composed by Perkins [1, 6, 7, 8, 9] others by other musicians [10, 11, 12, 13]. Track 5 is the national anthem of the USSR. There’s plenty of variety here. AArbor

Diaz-Infante, Ernesto – “Saca Los Cuernos Al Sol” – [Headlights Recordings]

Ms. Conduct   3/15/2022   A Library, CD

In this album by San Francisco experimentalist composer Ernesto Diaz-Infante, atonal canticles of the sun’s calendrical signatures brood out through electric guitar post-production and subdued improvised noise. The radiation waves ride through each track arcing at solar speed as the album progresses. At noon’s crest the heat energy and silver strummed guitar glints towards infinity blue. Two notable departures from the atonalist appear on tracks VI and IX. This album is slow cinema for atmospheres witness to human endeavors. A dreamlike ambulation advances the momentum. The ending is pure romance of heaven. A horizonal transference between earthbound bodies and the transcendent celestial order lights up the twilight with evening color gods.  Let us remain here forever. —Ms. Conduct

J.R.C.G. – “Ajo Sunshine” – [Castle Face Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/15/2022   A Library, CD

Justin R. Cruz Gallego (seen elsewhere in KFJC’s library in Dreamdecay where he is one of two drummers and a howler of a lead vocalist) works under his own initials here and mostly by himself. A few guests including the face of the Castle Face, John Dwyer, help out but while Dreamdecay provides storm clouds of septet sound, those thick jammy clouds part on “Ajo Sunshine.” (Prounced Ahh-Ho, maybe “garlic” en Espanol, or maybe just a feeling?) This album has a little bit of a Bowie-in-Berlin soundtracky feel for me especially the opening/closing and other tracks like “Holy Hope” which feature Gallego’s Dad’s field recordings from cemetery announcements I think). But there’s also plenty of percussion, not always from Gallego’s drums, sometimes the synths provide it, sometimes the samples are chopped up for a form of beat-speak on “De La Frontera” and “Brother Was a Bull Rider”. Something about the keyboard chords can give a hint of the walls closing in, augmented notes keep stacking on top of notes. Hard to pin down a simple genre for this, at times the album feels like cold wave and prog rock had an affair. Nah, that’s not right, and it ain’t Tortoise meets The Faint either…those solar flares of guitar on the title track obliterate that. The title track starts the most Castle-Facey (with imitation mellotron?), but it explodes with a drum and siren breakdown/jam-out to finish. That song and the album are a nice, but warped, ride!

-Thurston Hunger

Insect Factory and Rambutan – “Radio Frequencies” – [Tape Drift Records]

Max Level   3/15/2022   A Library, CD

Long, involved constructions of drone and sound and noise and sometimes melody. Not quite like anything I have heard before—they seem to be speaking a musical language all their own. The first track is a mind-bending 33-minute journey that is difficult to describe, both pleasing and challenging to the ear as things evolve into other things and then into other things. The other two tracks aren’t nearly as long but their gestures are similar. All three are trips well worth taking.

Made to Measure – Volume 1 [coll] – [Crammed Discs]

Max Level   3/15/2022   A Library, CD

A remastered 2021 collection of mid-1980s recordings by four artists/bands (Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, Aksak Maboul, and Tuxedomoon) that were used as soundtracks to various films, plays, dance performances, and fashion exhibitions back in the day. A few of the tracks have a decidedly 1980s flavor and there’s nothing wrong with that. The material is pleasantly moody throughout and a lovely listen. Vocals on Tracks 2 and 3—–all other tracks are instrumental. Tracks 8 through 11 are short solo piano vignettes and they sound very nice played together as a suite.

Scowl – “How Flowers Grow” – [Flatspot Records]

beastofbourbon   3/14/2022   A Library, CD

Scowl emerged in 2019 from the Santa Cruz/San Jose punk scene, aka “40831”. Scowl, along with Drain, Gulch, Sunami and other bands are putting the South Bay/Santa Cruz back on the musical map. 

    “How the Flowers Grow” LP is the third release (October 2021) (1 EP, 1 demo cassette both in 2019), from this female-fronted hardcore band. Don’t let the pretty flower fool you, the music on this album is aggressive and the lyrics and vocals are brutal. It is reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s NYHC, but with a modern Bay Area spin. Amongst the 15 minutes of intense music is a song that shows that vocalist Kat Moss can sing in a more traditional manner, backed by a sweet mid tempo song featuring a saxophone (track 5 “Seeds to Sow’). The “40831” scene is promising.

Beast of Bourbon

Aluviana – “Kee Thara” – [Syrphe]

SlartiBartfast   3/13/2022   A Library, CD

Aluviana – “Kee Thara”

A meditative, string led, experimental journey, “Kee Thara” is the most resent release from Aluviana. Based out of Slovakia, Aluviana brings an eclectic mix of electroacoustic, experimental, and ambient-drone sounds to this ninth release put out on Syrphe Records. Combining stringed acoustic sounds that seem to consist of piano stings plucked from their place and restrung in an otherworldly environments, Aluviana perfectly mixes down an organic stringed guitar and the best of rhythmic electronic atmospheres that produce an amazing soundscape. Truly something found on the radio transmissions reaching the edge of the universe. – Slarti

Veseli Muzyky – “From Kiev to The Black Sea: Folk Music From Ukraine” – [Arc Music]

aarbor   3/9/2022   CD, International

Uptempo Ukrainian folk music played on traditional instruments like the tsymbaly (dulcimer) [track 6], bayan (button accordion), Sopilka (piccolo/flute), dvodencivka (double flute) and zozula (Ceramic flute) [tracks 5,8,14], and rozshok (trumpet). Lots of spirited polkas here. This is music from various regions of the Ukraine on that regions’ instruments. Veseli Muzyky formed in 1983 and recorded until 1998. AArbor

Alex Zethson Ensemble – “Some of Them Were Never Unprepared” – [Relative Pitch Records]

Max Level   3/7/2022   A Library, CD

I read somewhere that Alex Zethson considers this music to be influenced by both gamelan and krautrock, and I definitely hear that. It’s easy to get lost in this music while it’s playing. The two tracks are long, rhythmic, and hypnotic—-minimal pieces using the complex instrumentation of a 13-piece ensemble. Part One (17:00) is a constant banging on what seems to be mostly prepared pianos and metal percussion instruments, with a double-time section toward the end. Part Two (16:22) takes a couple of minutes to get going, and from then on it’s a sublime build-up from a low throb to a raging crescendo of violins, cellos, basses, pianos, drums, and guitars. Really really cool stuff.

Dewar, Andrew Raffo – “Ekphrasis Suite” – [Rastascan Records]

Max Level   3/7/2022   CD, Jazz

Thoughtful, spacious compositions by soprano saxophonist Dewar, working here with three stalwarts of the Bay Area improv/new music scene: Kyle Bruckmann on oboe/English horn, Gino Robair on percussion/vibraphone, and John Shiurba on acoustic/electric guitars. The four have worked together previously under the name Interactions Quartet. On this release, four visual artworks (reproduced in the CD package) are interpreted musically by the ensemble. This gives each of the four pieces (which range from 10 to 16 minutes in length) a distinctly different flavor from the others. Overall, the music is a bit spacey but never disjointed. Recorded in 2014, but not released until 2021.

Noertker’s Moxie/Walking On Blue Eggshells

carsonstreet   3/7/2022   CD, Jazz

Bassist/composer Bill Noertker has been active in the Bay Area jazz and avant-garde scene since the late 1980s. Since 2001, he has lead his own ensemble, Noertker’s Moxie, as a forum for compositions inspired by visual artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Salvador Dalí and others.  He has composed over 150 pieces of music including the soundtrack for Curious Worlds: the Art and Imagination of David Beck and the extended suites Sketches of Catalonia; the Blue Rider; the Druidh; Tricycle; and In Billville.

Walking on Blue Eggshells is volume one of the new Billville trilogy, a collection of 25 previously unreleased live performances spanning two decades. The compositions contained herein are Noertker’s reflections on his travels, his encounters with art, his penchant for poetry, his love of Catalonia, his sense of wonder at words, his fondness for the tritone, his fascination with film.


carsonstreet   3/7/2022   A Library, CD

“Myrkur” means “darkness” in Icelandic. Amalie Bruun (aka Myrkur) has always paved her own path, challenging underground preconceptions of heavy metal ever since the release of her debut Myrkur EP in 2014. With a distinct sense of Nordic isolation, Myrkur’s compositions are at once savage and delicate. Choral and folk elements abound, lending the music a mystical, legendary quality and an untouchable equilibrium between dark and light. This is a fantastic combination of Nordic folk and black metal. Amalie’s voice is angelic one minute and sounding like an infected hairball the next. From her website: she has ” recast black metal in the most personal yet expansive of terms, their blending of Amalie’s Danish folk roots with tempestuous internal struggles breathing new life into a subgenre whose followers can be rigidly possessive.”

The Spacelords/Water Planet

carsonstreet   3/7/2022   A Library, CD

The Spacelords started in April 2008, when Marcus Schnitzler (drums, djembe, percussion, special effects) joined Matthias Wettstein (guitars) and Klaus Werz (bass) for a first session. From the first moment, it was clear that even as each of them had his own personal style and background, they had found a common sense in music. With an elegant combination of spacey melodies and powerful riffs they have created their unique sound.

Faust /Daumenbruch

carsonstreet   3/7/2022   A Library, CD

Faust’s work is oriented around dissonance, improvisation, and experimental electronic approaches, and has influenced subsequent ambient and industrial music.They are considered a central act of West Germany’s 1970s krautrock movement. The basic tracks on Daumenbruch were recorded by Zappi W. Diermaier, Dirk Dresselhaus and Elke Drapatz in Dirk’s studio. They were sent online as rough mixes to the individual musicians who recorded their overdubs independently, not knowing what the other ones would do and sent them back. This method created a result of interesting overlays, patterns and links. The recordings were mixed by Dirk Dresselhaus and Zappi W. Diermaier at the studio ZONE in Berlin. Three long pieces evolved, whose meditative industrial character is based completely on instant composition. Released January 21, 2022.

Bradley, Charles – “Black Velvet” – [Daptone Records]

aarbor   3/2/2022   CD, Soul

“Black Velvet” was the name Charles Bradley used when he worked as a James Brown impersonator early in his career. Other names he used were “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” and even “James Brown, Jr.” Gabe Roth (a/k/a Bosco Mann) co-founder of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records discovered Bradley. His debut album was released (on Daptone) in 2011 (he was 62) and he spent the last years of his life recording and touring with Daptone. He died in 2017. This album (his last) was released posthumously in 2018. The Menahan Street Band, with which Bradley recorded for many of his releases, is outstanding here. Some have described this album as a “love letter to his fans”, others as a collection of B-sides. It encapsulates the funky heart and soul of Charles Bradley and has great instrumentals. AArbor

Cluster Lizard – “Star Corsair” – [Prostir Records]

aarbor   2/23/2022   A Library, CD

Cluster Lizard is the duo of Ukrainians Dmytro Fedorenko (aka Kotra) & Kateryna Zavoloka who are based in Berlin. This is their 3rd release. They are both multidisciplnary artists who integrate experimental electronic music with video, photography, abstract paintings, and computer graphics. The album is dedicated to Ukrainian writer Oles Berdnyk (who wrote the book Star Corsair) and all seekers of true freedom. Science fiction is definitely an important inspiration for Cluster Lizard as are the works of other futuristic thinkers. It’s deep, dark electronica – very immersive. They invite listeners to think of their music as dystopian soundtracks for bizarre sci-fi movies that haven’t been filmed yet. AArbor

Les Maitres-Tambours Du Burundi – “Les Maitres-Tambours Du Burundi” – [Arion]

aarbor   2/23/2022   CD, International

The Drum Masters of Burundi, the Batimbo-s, all come from the Batutsi ethnic group. Their job is to make, beat and keep the drums. The drums are kept in their own enclosure or “drum palace”. The drums are carved from a rare wood, and are thought to have shoulders, a breast, waist and hips. The drums are taken to the royal court each year for the festival of Muganuro. There are 5 tracks on this CD: 3 short ones and then 2 longer ones. It’s all drumming. AArbor

Angelou, Maya – “Miss Calypso” – [Scamp]

aarbor   2/23/2022   CD, International

A reissue of the 1957 recording by 27 year old Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, MO) who apparently started out as a dancer and singer – 25 years before I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Even though this release is a minor one as compared to her many literary credits, she also wrote music for Roberta Flack and some movie scores years later. She wrote several of the songs on this album: tracks 2,3,4,7 and 11 – all worthy. It’s 1957 style calypso in the style of Harry Belafonte, with a bit more moxy. Despite her musical talent, what captivated most (male) listeners was the cover artwork. This amazingly talented woman accomplished more in her lifetime as an activist, writer, journalist, broadcaster… than most people. This is an important release because it demonstrates the breadth of Maya Angelou’s talent – check it out! AArbor

Sula Bassana/The Ape Regards His Tail

carsonstreet   2/20/2022   A Library, CD

Psychedelic spacerock and electronic musician Sula Bassana is a member of Electric Moon, Zone Six, Krautzone and Interkosmos. He is an ex-member of Liquid Visions, Growing Seeds and Psychedelic Monsterjam. Sula was born in Berlin and is now living in northern Hessen. This is Sula Bassana’s first soundtrack album. 60 minutes of totally spaced out and minimalistic music for the Sci-Fi feature-film The Ape Regards His Tail by film maker Michael Yates. The music was done on Synthesizers, String-Ensembles, Mellotron, Organ, E-Guitar and E-Piano. It shows the mellow and relaxed, but also deep, dark and melancholy side of Sula Bassana.

Foisy, Andre & Essak, Jacob – “Flight of Rays” – [Utech Records]

whngr   2/16/2022   A Library, CD

Guitars Speak Volumes

Nearly 20 minutes of minimalist meandering guitars with heaps of reverb and evanescent echoes. With sustained drones and worried picking, a meditative tension coalesces as the distortion increases and feedback builds; we remain squarely between the walls of the two warring but resonant instruments, like a mote of sentience in a canyon of ethereal and dramatic sound. Perhaps manifesting an image of a wayward ascetic humbled by the power of creation, the magnitude of time, and the interconnectedness of the natural world… or it could just be two dudes trippin’ out on guitars and tweaking their effects in an improvisational performance at the third Utech Records Music Festival in:

Milwaukee, WI – 2015

Cover art by Thomas Hooper, and Kevin Gan Yuen.

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