KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Madagascar Pays Merina [coll] – [Ocora | Radio France]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This is lively, spirited music from the Merina, an ethnic group in Madagascar that lies in the center of the island. The zither, lute, and flute are featured in these folk songs, along with some vocals chiming in. Track 18 is especially fun, with children’s voices accompanied by earth drum and rhythmic games that will spark joy in many a set. Great add for the International Collective.

Hill, Z.Z. – "That's It" – [Kent Records]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, Soul

These recordings from 1964-1968 on the Kent Recordings label are perfect for our Soul Collective. Alternating between the catchy pizzazz of soul and the ballad-like nature of blues, Z. Z. Hill’s hearty, smooth baritone skates those soul-rock-blues lines with ease. You can choose almost any song on these two CDs and be assured of finding a gem for your set.

Fado Lisboa-Coimbra 1926-1931 [coll] – [Fremeaux & Associes]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This 2-CD compilation is perfect for our International music collective. These popular Portuguese songs from the “bad boys” of Lisbon are often melancholy and accompanied by mandolins and guitars. The first CD features women singers whose voices are a bit grating to me; in the second CD the women seem to have softened their voices, or maybe I just got used to them. All recordings from a time long ago that must not be forgotten.

Howl In The Typewriter – Manifesto – [Pumf Records]

mickeyslim   2/6/2019   A Library, CD

This is a 64-minute long mindfuck shitshow by Godspink Collection veterans. Apparently they’ve been making music since the 80s, but nothing has passed through KFJC. This is a total antiestablishment, anti-capitalist, anti-advertising manifesto. Elements of punk, noise, soul, electronic music, and much much more.

“We don’t fucking want what your trying to fucking sell, shove it up your fucking arse, then fuck off and go to hell.”

Hay, Emily / Liebig, Steuart – “Nomads” – [Pfmentum]

Phil Phactor   2/6/2019   CD, Jazz

Emily Hay and Steuart Liebig at the 2016 Norcal Noise Festival

Almost 75+ minutes of bass/flute/vox improv explorations from these two veterans of the scene, both of whom are well-represented in our library. They waste no time getting started with Santa Ana Noise Festival (T1), a 90-second blast of rumbling bass and rapid-fire treble that quickly makes their intentions clear. What you notice right away is Emily Hay’s unique ability to switch effortlessly from flute to voice and back, often several times in the same phrase. Flute lines, caterwauls, trills, screams all part of a single organic mouth-instrument. Saint Mark’s, which follows, is more stately, almost operatic, but a subtle menace pervades the proceedings. My favorite track might be the 17-minute Shapeshifter Lab 01 (T4), in which both performers skillfully use electronics to broaden their palette and flesh out the sound. Plenty here for adventurous ears!

D.J. Sparr – Electric Bands – [Innova/American Composers]

Naysayer   2/5/2019   A Library, CD

D.J. Sparr is an American contemporary composer from Lubbock, Texas. “Electric Bands” is selection of four of his works that showcases his unique style full of rich sound that must be influenced by Charles Ives. “I Can Hear Her…” is a five part song cycle wtih Sparr on his electric guitar and the stunning soprano, Kristina Bachrach, singing the poetry of Patrick Phillips. “Meta444” uses Sparr’s guitar work along with percussive instruments, acoustic violin and piano to create a rich mood piece and study of the interplay of these instruments. “String Quarter: Avaloch” is Sparr’s string quartet ,the Momenta Quartet, performing a piece created at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. It includes the performers triggering pre-recorded music on their own personal phones. The five parts of “Earthcaster Suite” include guitars, Hammond organ, viola, double bass, mandolin and banjo. This is all a new vision of contemporary classical music, pushing into new territory while holding on to familiar styles. Intriguing, stunning and so beautiful. Such a hopeful work.

Pontiac, Marvin Legendary Marvin Pontiac,The Greatest Hits Northern Spy Records

Naysayer   2/5/2019   Blues, CD

Marvin Pontiac was a blues singer of posthumous legendary status. Institutionalized at Esmerelda State Mental Institution, Marvin’s history is rich: only 3 photos were taken of him because of his belief that his soul would be taken by the camera, his abduction and probing by aliens, born in Mali, said to be a gifted musical genius, killed when hit by a bus, and he made some pretty great songs. The 14 songs on this recording deal with strange topics: Pontiac being a doggy, him obsessing on pancakes and rocks, him watching a fly drown in his soup. Many seem to be metaphors or puzzles into his past. They are humorous if not for the possible fact of their sickness. But wait: is this for real? Not so. Marvin Pontiac is actually John Lurie’s (Lounge Lizards) made up outsider artist. The project was” a wry and purposeful sendup of the ways in which critics canonize and worship the disenfranchised and the bedevilled” as stated in The New Yorker. Interesting considering Lurie’s own strange story written in the New Yorker about being stalked, disappearing, art and confusion. Look it up and ponder the relationship. A good, deep joke of high quality.

Rabson, Ann – Struttin’ My Stuff – [M.C. Records]

Naysayer   2/5/2019   Blues, CD

Ann Rabson was a blues singer, guitarist and piano player of renown in the blues world. She was recognized for her smoky voice and easy style that ran through the songs. “Struttin’ My Stuff”, Ann’s second recording, showcases both her instrumental skills and vocal excellence. Whether finger picking the songs or elegantly playing the piano, Rabson’s style is one of ease and assuredness. Her vocals are so smooth and easily carry through each song. Though she sings about many typical blues issues, her power and lightheartedness bring a unique quality to the sounds. Ann was probably a person who could hold her own: she sings about her love of whiskey and how she’s a big woman not to be messed with. Each song, whether honky tonk or Chicago blues style is a pleasure to listen to. I kept finding myself coming back to this CD over and over, for so many reasons, but mainly for it’s shear quality. A true gem.

Maioli, Walter / Gales, Fred / Piccinelli, Pit – Amazonia 6891- [Black Sweat Records]

Louie Caliente   2/4/2019   A Library, CD

Semi-synthetic fantasy field recordings from the heart of the Amazonian rain-forest. Accurate, intricate, and immersive.

Recordings of real Amazonian animals and artifacts mix with electronics, drums, and reeds — all faithfully mimicking a dense jungle. Birds chirp, cackle, and caw. Insects hummm. Rain drops puddle and splash. Distant tribes sing and dance, engaged in a mysterious ritual.

Amazonia 6891 was recorded in 1985, after Italian artist and composer Walter Maioli crossed paths with ethnographer Pit Piccinelli and his collection of South American artifacts. Maioli recorded their sounds and later shared them with anthropologist and electronic musician Fred Gales. The two musicians performed a 30-minute live mix of jungle and electronic sounds, a work that was then released on cassette via Sound Reporters records. This new 2016 CD edition is from Italy’s Black Sweat label.

Track 1 is the main event: a 30-minute visceral Amazonian jungle experience. Overwhelming growth. Overwhelming fornication.

Track 2 contains all the raw recordings that were used as material for the first piece. A listing of the exact sounds and their sources can be found inside. Although it is less “composed” than Track 1, it still manages to flow nicely, and is a compelling and interesting listen the whole way through.

Sylvester, “Immortal” Megatone Records

Naysayer   2/4/2019   CD, Soul

One of the wonderful things about this station growing older is that it can hear sounds it passed up in the past and now value them for the creative push that they were and still are. Such is the case of Sylvester, one of the true divas of disco and dance music of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Born in Watts, California, he was heavily influenced by his Pentecostal church and the gospel singing that happened there. Moving to San Francisco he joined the Cockettes and did acts based on African American blues singers. His career grew with several chart busting dance club hits. His outrageous and flamboyant appearance brought the crowds of worshipers to their feet. He was able to whip a crowd in a frenzy with his looks, but more so with his dynamic stage presence and falsetto voice which could hit the notes for sure. His activism educated people about what was happening in his community. This posthumous collection, (Sylvester died of complications due to AIDS) was put out on Megatone, his friend Patrick Cowley’s label. This collection contains never before released remixes of Sylvester songs as well as unreleased picks. The disco beat is driving but the production is really interesting, what with the likes of Harvey Fuqua, Patrick Cowley and others taking the reigns. Sylvester’s vocal skill is overwhelming when you hear it blasted on a real stereo with real speakers. He could convey the message, suggestive though it may be, with just a few phrases and wow is the message clear. Basically, have fun. Two surprises, “How Great Thou Art” and “He’ll Understand” are gospel church songs. The vocal power on these two brought chills and made me double check that this was still Sylvester. How great thou art indeed.

Krakauer, Live In Krakow Indigo Label Bleu

Naysayer   2/3/2019   A Library, CD

David Krakauer is a master of the clarinet and is influential in bringing klezmer music to modern audiences. His approach is to recreate the sound with new musical styles so as to make klezmer something organic and ever changing, not just stuck in a historic past. Associated with the Klezmatics and John Zorn, Krakauer got his experience in many right places. This live recording in Krakow features a paired down version of his group Klezmer Madness! including accordion, bass, drums and guitar (check out the wah wah!) plus the Canadian DJ Socalled who adds his turntable stylings with an excellent array of samples. Socalled really mixes the sound, giving it a new level of excitement and surprise. “Turntable Pounding” is this excellent track of male chorus and female singing samples mixed with the exceptional drum pounding out the beats. Krakauer’s clarinet skills float in, over and around the mix of sounds, leaving the listener breathless. His skill is heard on each track. This is one of those rare fusion type albums which actually sounds better than the individual parts. This is definitely a new sound. Trying to figure out how to categorize it – international, jazz, country, folk – better demonstrates its uniqueness. Just enjoy.

Rita Mitsouko; Rita Mitsouko Virgin Records

Naysayer   2/3/2019   A Library, CD

First off: Rita Mitsouko ARE great, so back off. Second, Rita Mitsouko is not the name of the artist, it’s the name of the duo who are Catherine Ringer (singer) and Fred Chichin (guitarist), so those KFJC reviews from the past who list it as Mitsouko, Rita….sorry, not so. This confusion was international which led Catherine and Fred to switch their group name to Les Rita Mitsouko to hopefully stave off confusion. This album, “Rita Mitsouko” was Rita Mitsouko’s first full recordings. Hailing from the underground factory club scene of Paris, Rita hit it with their perfect blend of punk, altenative pop (when that was a good thing), French chanson and dance power, mixed with their sense of fashion and fashionista references. Their style is this infectious alter pop. None of my normal friends could ever get it but the cool folk, the clubsters, the punks…they would loose it when this stuff hit the sound system. “Marcia Baila” was the dance hit, an homage to Argentine choreographer Marcia Moreto, who Ringer studied with. There is also a song about Oum Khalsoum, the amazing internationally renowned Egyptian singer. The style is like Stereo Total and Sparks (whom they played with). Ringer’s vocals are this crazy warble from low to high registers, affected in a good way that growls and coos along to the beat. She sometimes sings around the beat, making for interesting interpretations. Chichin keeps his guitar steady with this great New Wave punk sound that has a bit of sarcasm in it, making it that much more enjoyable. The synth beats add to the frenzy. It’s pure pop snobbery and charm that still holds up. Club kids will party.

Mina …Bugiardo Piu Che Mai… Piu Incosciente Che Mai… – [EMI]

Naysayer   2/3/2019   CD, International

MINA!!!! We can never have enough Mina. Finally, we have some Mina. Mina, also known as Mina Mazzini, was and is a European superstar who came onto the scene in the late 1950’s with her rock and roll stylings and then moved into pop stardom with pop songs and ballads. Known as an emancipated woman, her hip shaking and body twisting, her 3 octave range, her singing about religion, smoking and sex, her appearing pregnant by a married actor, all this and more got her much attention. The pregnancy got her banned for quite a while on TV and radio but the fans wanted her and she continued. This collection, “Bugiardo…” catches her in her pop ballad stage, and what a stage it is. Equal to some of the great singers of the time, her vocal range and emotion is stunning, connecting to passionate lyrics about love, lost love, independence, the one that got away. She never holds back, for sure. There is a bit of kitsch to these recordings which make them all the more worthwhile for me. I would be in the audience cheering her on while smirking a bit in complete glee. Pour me another cocktail.

Wai Fat, Chan – Foo Cup Kwan Nan (Hardly Breathing) – [Fatsound]

Louie Caliente   1/29/2019   A Library, CD

Chan Wai Fat is a self-taught musician and composer from Hong Kong. He’s been active since the late 80s, playing in a number of noise-rock bands before later focusing on totally free improvisation. He is the founder of CIMG (Collective Improvisational Music Group), and has performed with John Zorn, Yamatsuka Eye, Fred Frith, and many others.

Foo Cup Kwan Nan (Hardly Breathing) is Wai Fat’s debut solo recording, released in 1996. Here he plays a variety of stringed instruments, including prepared guitar, Hawaiian steel guitar, octavilla (a 14-string Spanish instrument), and a damaged cello. All tracks are completely improvised and recorded direct to DAT, with “no overdub, remix, synthesizers, or pre-recorded samples.”

The center-piece of the album is the “12 Pieces for Prepared Acoustic Guitar” (T5-T16) which feature beautifully sparse and delicate guitar strumming and tinkering, as well as a few more “accidental” sounds. Wai Fat evokes similar peaceful moods with his pentatonic plucking on the Hawaiian steel guitar (T2) as well as on the octavilla (T20). There are some nice drones here as well — “Miles Away” (T3) is probably my favorite on the whole album. The final (listed) track “Songbird: Variation on a Theme by Kenny G” (T21) features the most energetic — often frenetic — noodling (again on the octavilla) with no discernible sign of Kenny G.

DJs TAKE NOTE:
1) The first track ends with the sounds of a skipping CD player. Do not panic, the CD is fine. I actually really recommend this one.
2) The final track (T22) is not listed in the liner notes, and is almost completely SILENT, except for the sound of the tape recorder, very distant birds, and an occasional footstep.

Liebman, Dave / Nakatani, Tatsuya / Rudolph, Adam – Unknowable, The – [Rare Noise Records]

lexi glass   1/29/2019   A Library, CD

Three generations of improvisors come together to forge “beautiful alchemy,” and the gold is captured on this 2018 studio recording from London’s Rare Noise. Dave Liebman is a jazz saxophonist who was mentored by Elvin Jones and Miles Davis in NYC in the 70s before going on to perform in many other groups, including his own ensemble. Adam Rudolph is a prolific percussionist (see his collaborations with Yusef Lateef and the group Hu Vibrational), specializing in jazz and African drumming styles. Tatsuya Nakatani, another percussion wizard, tours like crazy across the US, performing solo, with collaborators, and with his own Nakatani Gong Orchestra.

The Unknowable showcases each of the artists’ strengths over 13 concise tracks. Rudolph’s lively hand drumming lends a natural, organic quality, while Liebman’s warm saxophone and flute melodies match the others’ quick rhythms, or lengthen in broad tones to add contrast. Nakatani’s textures – metallic, electronic, dark, untamed – make the more traditional elements feel modern. Some pieces find the artists experimenting with unusual instrumentation – Liebman plays the Fender Rhodes on “Iconograph” (T10), and transforms his saxophone with spectral electronic effects on the title track (T4), and Rudolph plucks the keys of a thumb piano on the peaceful “Distant Twilight” (T9). This is challenging – but never difficult – material, and altogether a genre-less, generous, and enjoyable album.


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