Music Reviews

Greenlief, Phillip – “Barbedwire” – [Creative Sources Recording]

mickeyslim   4/6/2021   CD, Jazz

All the way back in July 2019, Phillip Greenlief planned to perform at KFJC with the Social Stutter Quartet to promote their performance at that year’s Outsound New Music Summit. Unfortunately, one of the quartet wasn’t able to make it, so Greenlief pulled out this gigantic book of graphic scores, and the then trio performed from the pages of this book. Little did we know, we were getting a live sneak peak into what would become this first-in-a-series album of improvised works to these graphic scores.

Whether the trio consists of more traditional instruments or live electronics, these trios bring to life these graphic scores that, while they look like twisted barbed wire, don’t have that harsh, scratchy, metallic feel. Each track is quite different than the last, but all maintain a certain placidity that momentarily gets disrupted, only to lull you back into that oh-so-comfortable false sense of security.

Ingeniously designed, masterfully-executed, perfect for KFJC. Enjoy!

Wrnlrd – “Mask of Hate” – [Order of The Cloven Eye]

whngr   4/6/2021   A Library, CD

Fugly Bedroom Black-metal

Strange ambient tides of murk and gloom that allude to the Witches Sabbath layered between tirades of atonal, blaring guitars distorted into oblivion.

buried trash-can drums that lurch and lick at cymbals / plaintive wails, beastial growls, and screeches / rumbling abstraction / misery, despair, asymmetric dissonance / moribund sound collage 
Thin and hollow oddities dance before melancholy interludes before plunging once again into unfettered, blackened rage.

Lone gunman, Wrnlrd (who states in interviews, “can be pronounced any way you like”) of Arlington, VA is informed, influenced by, and once played American traditional music (probably still does) and has employed the instruments of this heritage including banjo and accordian in his compositions and recognizes parallels to Blind Lemon and Dock Boggs in USBM. Yup, works for me. However you get there man, but with the genuine ingenuity and sprawling variation on “Mask of Hate”, will make a misery aligned volunteer eager to hear more from this buried giant.


SlartiBartfast   4/4/2021   A Library, CD

Post-punk, electric, loud rock and roll, psychedelic fusion from Sapporo Japan. This three piece comprised of Tomoya Murosaki (guitar, voc.), Genki Tsusaka (b.), and Yudai Takasago (dr) have given us a self-titled debut album filled with delicious fusional noise. With Tomoya’s vocals screeching at times, CARTHIEFSCHOOL provide a modern lesson in a melding pot of post punk, psyche, and that certain ingredient Japanese psyche bands always bring to push boundaries and delight unsuspecting ears. CARTHIEFSCHOOL do not hold back on the brashness or energy. This is some great, in your face Japanese rock-n-roll. I hope our ears are delighted by this trio long after this debut release. 

Leila – "U&I" – [Warp Records Ltd]

aarbor   3/31/2021   A Library, CD

Leila Arab is an Iranian-born music producer who moved to London in 1979. She played keyboard and sound engineered for Bjork’s eaerly releases before releasing her own first album on Rephlex Records (Aphex Twin’s label). This release on Warp from 2012 is her 2nd for Warp and her 4th overall. The sound is heavy and dark with much diversity from track to track and little consistency throughout. I’m left wondering why she made the choices she did and wishing for more consistency. Typically, I preferred the instrumental tracks [6,9,10, 13] AArbor

E-Dancer – "Heavenly" – [Planet E Communications]

aarbor   3/31/2021   A Library, CD

E-Dancer is Kevin Maurice Saunderson – one of the bright lights of Detroit Techno. Born in Brooklyn, Saunderson went to high school in Belleville, MI with Derrick May and Juan Atkins. Heavenly from 1998 is considered his seminal album -it’s a classic. You hear his house roots, funky machine beats and humming baselines. It’s an abstract, Motor City Afro sound. The remixers are a veritable who’s who of Detroit Techno: Carl Craig, Juan Atkins, Kenny Larkin, and D-Wynn. In recent years Saunderson has gone back to the E-Dancer moniker releasing 2 more albums under that name. AArbor

Weeks, Tom & Corder, Nathan – “Diamondback” – [Makeshift Encounters]

mickeyslim   3/30/2021   CD, Jazz

Skronky skronk noisejazz. Improv-jamz galore. Frantic freestlyin’ just enough to take you under and bring you back. Strings/wind/percussion, probably Weeks on sax at some point, not that you’d be able to tell through the madness. Did you already take the red pill? Only one way to find out…

Spiral Electric/The Spiral Electric

carsonstreet   3/26/2021   A Library, CD

The Spiral Electric are a psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. They bring a mixture of roaring guitars, bass, drums and synthesizers. The Spiral Electric has gathered an international following and toured up and down the US west coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. They have played festivals like the Desert Stars Festival in Pioneertown CA, the Gathering of the Tribes Festival in San Francisco, CA and the Portland Psych Fest in Portland, OR

Vacuum Tree Head – “Rhizomique” – [Pest Colors Music]

SlartiBartfast   3/24/2021   A Library, CD

“Rhizomique” is an experimental trip through a Jazz, Spoken Word, Funk, and Rock fusion explosions. This 2019 release on Pest Colors Music is a tasty musical treat of short, musical explorations into the multitude of melding genres VTH is know for. This release is no different, as those fluid genres are tightly woven into this deliciously tight EP length CD. “Rhizomique” has plenty of musical whims to keep the most curious of listeners entertained. I sense the need to point your future listening attention to VTH’s Nubdug incarnation. 

Christmas Decorations – “Communal Rust” – [Community Library]

whngr   3/22/2021   A Library, CD

Whimsical Guitar Glitch

A genuine oddity that resists rote categorization and is a notably challenging album with layers of sleepy slide guitar over arrhythmic electronics and absurd sound collage that attempt to soothe one side of my brain (ineffectively) and unravel the other (with some marked success). Uniquely dichotomic like a dream filled with anxiety riddled twitches or perhaps having a glaucoma test (the one where they blow a puff of air at your eyes… “Hold still and look at the blue dot.”) while receiving a crystal powered chakra cleanse or a relaxing back massage, with myriad sounds that ultimately have the same effect on my sound saturated awareness. Six reviews for me this week and I’m afraid what remains of my mind is starting to go. This album reminds me a little of the Soundtrack to the graphic novel, “Upgrade Soul” but might pair well with Daniel Clowes’ “A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron”, though “Communal Rust” has slightly more capricious and buoyant characteristics than aforementioned and essential graphic novel. Christmas Decorations are/were Nick Forté, Peter Kerlin, and Steve Silverstein from New York.

weiss, ruth – “We Are Sparks In The Universe to Our Own Fire” – [Edgetone Records]

mickeyslim   3/17/2021   A Library, CD

Absolutely amazing record off Rent Romus’ Edgetone Record label released last year after the passing of word shaman and beat poet goddess ruth weiss. In the late 1940s Chicago, weiss was one of the first to recite her poetry to jazz music, a tradition she brought with her when she moved to San Francisco. This inspired the then-unknown “beat” generation writers to do the same. Although she was incredibly inspirational, she (quite sadly) never gained the notoriety she deserved (Ferlinghetti himself at one point even refused to publish her b/c she was a woman). Despite the discrimination she faced throughout her career, weiss’ dedication to her craft remained unwavering.

This release is 9 poems performed in two sets. The first with Doug Lynner on synth and Hal Davis on the wooden log, and the second with Rent Romus on saxes and flutes, Doug O’Conner on double bass, with Hal David returning on the wooden log. As natural as her voice sounds to the more traditional jazz music sounds, I am drawn to her voice contrasted with the electronic/log music, at least for this record. Because she was getting up there in age, her voice has a very jazzy/smoky quality that was very obviously her instrument, and her handle of it is pure art.

There will never be another poet quite like ruth weiss.

Fuse Ensemble – "Nimbus" – [Neuma]

aarbor   3/17/2021   A Library, CD

The Fuse Ensemble is a concept-based new music/new media performing ensemble. Each season a concept is presented, giving voice to new music composers and creating musical happenings with visual elements of live, interactive video and/or kinetic installations. Nimbus is a collaboration between composer Gina Biver and poet Colette Inez. It is a set of 7 miniatures for electro-acoustic chamber ensemble, spoken word and soprano. Colette was the lovechild of a Roman atholic priest and a young French scholar assigned to assist him. Colette was abandoned by her parents and here she contemplates her parents’ hidden affair: forbidden sex, lust and religion shared in unapologetic poems, with music and ambient sounds. Arbor

Blake, Michael – "Hellbent" – [Self-released]

aarbor   3/17/2021   CD, Jazz

Michael Blake is a saxophone player from Canada who has lived in the SF Bay Area but spent serious time in New York playing with artists including The Lounge Lizards (1990-1999), Charlie Hunter, Medeski, Martin and Wood and many others. He has released 15 albums, this is a live album from 2010. Blake wrote all the tracks here and is joined by Steven Bernstein on trumpet and slide trumpet, Marcus Rojas on tuba and G. Calvin Weston on drums. The best part of this recording is its playfulness and sense of humor. AArbor

William St. Hugh – “Luciferian, The” – [Self Released]

whngr   3/16/2021   A Library, CD

Lovely and somber orchestral movements from this mysterious project out of Fairhaven Massachusetts. Primarily string compositions with sparse accompaniment from timpani, cymbal, and flute (I suspect all instruments are synthesized) that evoke a lonely and perhaps haunted soul’s journey towards damnation.

Though this album is neither exceptional nor ground breaking it does feel very personal and it is easy to imagine the artist pouring themselves into this release with zealous abandon. Though slightly lacking in emotion, it can feel rather cold and intellectual at times or perhaps even dead inside, not unlike a sociopath trying to connect with the strange emotive interactions they sometimes encounter so they might mimic, mirror, and emulate to gain their deepest of desires; the imagined power over others.

William St. Hugh – “Terra Former” – [Self Release]

lexi glass   3/16/2021   A Library, CD

William St. Hugh is the experimental classical project of a mysterious composer from Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Several of his previous releases, including Saturnus and The Luciferian can be found in our library. Terra Former continues in the vein of these albums, creating dark, dreamlike atmospheres with synthetic orchestral arrangements and electronic sounds, from the rush of sweeping strings on “Cascade” (T2), the abstract skittering rhythms on “Blinking Drops” (T3), the ethereal ambience of “Transformed” (T6), and the early spring shadows of “Flowers Fall” (T10). The album concludes with the ominous drone of “Dust Queen” (T13). Self-released by the artist in 2020.

Jeanrenaud, Joan – "Metamorphosis" – [New Albion Records, Inc]

humana   3/14/2021   A Library, CD

Cello lovers are in for a genuine treat with this first release of music played by Jeanrenaud after gracing Kronos Quartet for 20 years with her cello. Called “metamorphosis” to symbolize the change of path in her career, the pieces are contemporary pleasures mixed with that ineffable quality that only a cello can bring to music. So, whether you are listening to the comfortingly familiar-sounding Metamorphosis Four by Philip Glass (which was written as soundtrack for a play based on a story by Kafka) or the Jeanrenaud composition Altar Piece that contains the rather unsettling sound that goes right along with viewing Day of the Dead altars that inspired Jeanrenaud, you will see how successfully she is in transitioning to a solo path. The loops of herself on cello layer the music, enriching it with her estimable experiences.

Bipolar Explorer/Of Love and Loss

carsonstreet   3/11/2021   A Library, CD

NYC based dreampop trio of Summer Serafin, Michael Serafin-Wells & Sylvia Solanas.  Of Love and Loss is both a testament and tribute to their fallen bandmate Summer Serafin who died tragically after an accidental fall. “Great, beautiful, drifty-pop filled with sadness & wonder” – WFMU. “Epic & affecting” – Surface Noise.” “The most significantly stirring & addictive musical accomplishment we’ve come across in some time. Altogether haunting” – Ground Control”. The lyrics are very moving and the music just keeps running through your mind.

Glenn Jones/The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar

carsonstreet   3/11/2021   A Library, CD

Former Cul de Sac leader Glenn Jones gives us ten American Primitive originals on The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar. KFJC broadcast the Thousand Incarnations of the Rose Festival of American Primitive Guitar which mostly featured finger picking solo guitarists performing their own incarnations of a sound pioneered by John Fahey more than five decades ago. Glenn played at the festival. When Glenn plays twelve-string guitar it is actually a ten-string guitar as Jones removes two thin strings.

Thoabath – “Drown” – [Neural Operations]

lexi glass   3/10/2021   A Library, CD

Thoabath is the solo project of Oakland’s A.C. Way (of several Bay Area groups, including Sutekh Hexen, Maleficia, Carrion and French Radio). Over the past five years, his work under this name has grown into a truly strange beast, a singular synthesis of death industrial rhythms, occult incantations, black metal, and blistering noise (see his 2018 cassette here). Created and recorded during the 2020 lockdown, his ninth release Drown magnifies these sounds over four massive tracks that together feel like a pure distillation of the inescapable dread that defined this miserable year. Anxious high pitched blasts, decayed noise, blaring emergency alarms, and howling voices all seethe within the dense rush of sound. In the third track, a lone synth figure meanders beneath the crushing storm, an image of isolation amid the chaos. Revisit this record to remember how it all felt, to sink to unthinkable depths, to struggle for a breath of air. Released on MK9’s label Neural Operations, with beautiful illustrations by local artist Bryan Proteau.

Afrirampo – “A'” – [Very Friendly]

mickeyslim   3/9/2021   A Library, CD

I don’t even know where to begin with this. If girls just want to have fun, these ones just want to as they watch the world burn. Afrirampo is Oni on guitar and Pikachu on drums, both of them providing screeching, yelping vocals. This is japanoisepunkpsychelectronic at its absolute finest. This will make you want to move. And whether that means dancing wildly, solo-moshing, head banging, taking shots and breaking bricks, or pillow fighting, you will inevitably find yourself at your wits end, beat and broken, asking for more. 

Happy trails!

Moran, Robert – “Buddha Goes to Bayreuth” – [Neuma]

whngr   3/8/2021   A Library, CD

Demi-Sepharic Surrealist Ambiance

Sullen soprano, worrying strings, pensive operatic choral harmonies, and quiet pensive passages. Part I being the slightly more varied, powerful, and sanguine while Part II is a brooding and potentially heretical longform operatic elegy allowing the listener to float in a tepid bath of ruminative despair amid beautiful swells of cello. However, these are not single faceted affairs, many moods and emotions are conveyed on both tracks and probably have deeply considered narrative though the language being used is not one that this miserable volunteer recognizes.

Curling plumes of censure smoke before a backdrop of scorched earth. Framed by angelic minstrels with blood dripping from their sullen eyes, the Christ-child loosely wrapped in soot colored swaddling clothes yawns lethargically, unmoved by the suffering of humanity. 

Robert Moran is a prolific composer of opera, ballet, and accompaniments to theater. Based in Philadelphia, he has worked previously with many notable composers including P. Glass and has stated in interviews that he sometimes aims to offend, once writing an opera that contained a scene where Richard Wagner would be sodomized by a heaving pantheon of Hindu gods and even expressed glee in imagining his cohort’s discomfort and hesitancy in moving forward. Though not shying from controversy, he clearly takes his music very seriously, producing finely crafted compositions that seem to improve with repeated listens. “Buddha goes to Bayreuth” sounds full and complete however, it also pairs well with other minimalistic audio and is, dare I say, rife for superimposition.

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