Music Reviews

Backstabbers SJ, the – “Backstabbers SJ, the” – [Beautamous Loaf International]

karma   2/3/2023   12-inch, A Library

Punk rock from longtime Bay Area community members (drummer Vince De Leon is a friend of the station and runs an excellent barber shop in San Jose). This album gives me Dead Kennedys and MDC vibes. It takes you back to a Bay Area when there weren’t grass-fed kombucha bars on every corner and housing was actually affordable. As the band name would suggest, a lot of the songs are about betrayal, so I’d sleep with one eye open if I were you. That is, if you can sleep at all after listening to this high energy album.

Crisis Man – “Asleep In America” – [Digital Regress]

whngr   2/2/2023   12-inch, A Library

High Energy Rock n’ Roll

Accelerated and emotive, these are sounds of progress with sweat, tears, and blood soaked strings that reverberate through our flesh suits. Rattling free the cobwebs and dust of acquiescence with considerable variety in structure and delivery; shaking the corpus into action, propellant and visceral with delicious synthy interludes. I am reminded of the sounds coming from N.Y. through Toxic State Records, beautiful in its rebellion and aggressively danceable. 

This five-piece is fronted by author, Ross Farrar (Ceremony) from San Francisco and graduate of U.C. Berkeley, “Asleep In America” feels deeply examined with an air of intellect but the delivery is from the heart or maybe the loins. Vibrant and evocative. Ben Wright (Acrylics), Jess Sylvester, Nick Vicario (Autistic Youth) from Portland, OR, and Shawn Mehrens (Abi Yoyos).

Santa Rosa – 2022

Microwaves – “Discomfiture Atlas” – [Three.One.G]

whngr   2/2/2023   12-inch, A Library

Perversely Frenetic Angles

Aggressively fractured art-rock with metallic elements and irregular time signatures applied with strange vehemence. Full sounding and note-intensive, the tone is a kind of disturbed resignation to a bizarre landscape that lacks optimism but perhaps not whimsy. A kind of mid-western Jazz is reprezzented on more strings than should be on an electric guitars with played with technical aplomb and electronic abstract elements. A clever and confrontational outing that might remind one of the illustrious MX-80 Sound or Voivod with spoken/shouted vocals and fever dream lyrics. Noisy and splintered, this is sonic high-math delivered with a deranged pessimism, and perhaps a resignation to eventual extraterrestrial incursion and then… dominance.

Microwaves are Dave Kuzy and John Roman (Brown Angel) accompanied by a retinue of complicit musicians including, Eric Paul (Arab on Radar, Doomsday Student, Psychic Graveyard), Sarah Quintero (Spotlights), Rebecca Burchette (Exosus), and Todd Rittman (Dead Rider).

Philadelphia, PA – 2022

Hiram – “Immersion” – [Home & Garden Music]

whngr   2/2/2023   A Library, CD

Quiet Natural Meditation

Minimalism stretched into almost 39 minutes of contemplative inner discovery with accompaniment by crickets, birds, empty space, pensive flute, possibly some sort of synthesizer, and your own inner dialog. Put this on before your Reiki treatment, ignite the white sage, align your crystals, your chakras, and your misguided intentions while you relax into the false security of your laying on of hands ceremony and pretend that you will be healed. Put all of your trust into faith healing and miraculous power of belief as you tell yourself that your suffering has purpose and that all will be well while you enjoy the sounds of insects desperate to mate before their short life is extinguished possibly by the birds that contribute to the duet. Remind yourself that this too shall pass… though in this albums case it will take a while. One long painless track, unless you are a cricket or a punk rocker and then strap in… it’s going to be brutal.

Hiram is one Mather Himes, interdisciplinary artist and musician from Minnesota who has committed 20 years to marrying “…traditional and natural elements combined with new techniques and technology, forming a bridge between past and present, and connecting self to space.”  (from mathewhiram.com)

Minneapolis – 2022

Wong, Theresa – “Practicing Sands” – [Focsle Music]

kittywompus   1/31/2023   A Library

Practicing Sands is the latest project from Bay Area cellist, composer, and vocalist Theresa Wong. Experimental improvisation pieces inspired by “…the sounds of the natural world and sensation’s of [her] sonic genetic memory.”(bandcamp), each song runs about three to four minutes long with the exception of Opening Sea which runs 11:52. Deep, wavy plucking and Wong’s own vocal interjections create a variety of sounds ranging from spooky to mournful and occasionally bizarre. My favorites off this album are Everyday Light, a very unexpected but playful track reminiscent of birds flittering through an early spring morning, and Opening Sea an ominous and entrancing track appropriately suited for deep dive into the recesses of your mind. – KittyWompus 

Masma Dream World – “Play At Night” – [Northern Spy]

kittywompus   1/31/2023   A Library

Hypnotic and unnerving, Devi Mambouka’s otherworldly vocals and tone changes create a transcendental experience to the listener. The tracks are relatively short (averaging 2 and half minutes) but impactful, and flow into one another creating a cohesive trip into phases mirroring that of an actual trip, you find yourself thrown into to different scenes; a music filled temple, in front of a live band, a void of your own self awareness and dread, a room where you swear you hear static on the floor though no one else seems to, and back to the void. “Rest in Peace” and “Sundown forest” are my two favorites from the album, but be sure to listen to the album all the way through with headphones on, it’s an experience. 

Hermanos Gutierrez – “El Bueno Y El Malo” – [Easy Eye Sound]

Albion Moonlight   1/29/2023   A Library, CD

Guitar duo Hermanos Gutierrez, brothers Estevan and Alejandro are Ecuadoran-born musicians who reside in Zurich, Switzerland. These 10 instrumental tracks are rooted in Western (‘the old west’) and Latin American music traditions. In an NPR interview, they stated that they are heavily influenced by movie film scores, hence the release’s title. What results are beautifully haunting compositions featuring electric guitars and sparse percussion, with lots of reverb and sustain; surf music of the Pampas perhaps?

This release was recorded in Nashville and produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Highly recommended. Take a journey with the brothers to unimagined tonal vistas both familiar, strange, and melancholy.

Acid Twilight – “Mustang Zodiac” – [Not Not Fun]

karma   1/26/2023   A Library, CD

Second release by Buenos Aires-based modal psychedelia entity. Meandering instrumental tracks which feature a combination of electronic synth and a variety of acoustic instruments. The marimba on track one in particular has an earthy feel. Listening to Mustang Zodiac is reminiscent of a days-long train journey through slowly yet dramatically changing landscape. The album takes a while to build steam, and the message it sends is most visible after repeated listening.

“I want this music to invite the listener to contemplate the curves, cliffs, peaceful valleys, and quiet lagoons, the nights through the desert in the light of the full moon, the early mornings through immense sand dunes of imaginary sea coasts. The fire, the flow of water in the river. It’s a séance and a ceremony. Mustang Zodiac is a journey to rediscover our external world and our inner nature, a dialogue between being and environment. It is a commitment to the technological and the telluric, a hybrid of the Fourth World and electronic primitivism.”

-Acid Twilight

Deadform – “Deadform” – [Brainsand]

whngr   1/26/2023   A Library, Cassette

Created with GIMP

Oakland It Hurts

Feels sick and hopeless with despair. Five sonnets scrawled in the illegible script of the forsaken psychiatrist who has given up on the oath of Hippocrates, wrote on the gutter stained prescription pad of a life filled with abuse, confusion, and loss. Moderately fierce, feverishly despondent, three-piece sludge merchants/doom-saints crust out with chugging and a few perverted nods to Iommi. Unsettling samples/ambience, furious kit abuse, and a bit of slightly cringe worthy guitar leads that are rough and pinchy but paradoxically enjoyable… with riffs and guttural bellows that stretch bestial tendrils into the primordial lizard brain. The endless search for heaviness continues by one of the absolute paragons of the dark crafts and cultivator of an unmistakably regional sound that effectively channels profound mental illness into a life devoted to suffering.  An arguably noble, if hellish, cause that has grabbed many of us by our foundations, executed by one…

Dino Sommese (Dystopia, Asunder, Noothgrush) drummer and vocalist of profound influence with bassist Brian Clouse (Stormcrow, Fema Coffin), and Judd Hawk (Laudanum) on guitar. 

When AIDS slid this into my box and I discovered Dino was up to something new I went straight to the internet to see if I could cop a feel off b-camp and was immediately enthused but when I went to dub the cassette it sounded pretty fucking murky. Sometimes that can be good… but I decided that I would purchase the FLACs for a bit of unit measurin’. Whose do you prefer #6’s dirty as fuck analog contribution or my super clean, soulless offering built with ones and zeros. They are both on the cd. Mark your preferrence, ya slag, and I’ll tally all two of your meek little votes, and award the winner with absolutely nothing… at the end of never.

Oakland CA – 2022

Mo*Te – “Regulate Body Temperature” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   1/26/2023   A Library, CD

Strange washes of mid-weight noise with distorted child-like melodies.

A child is playing alone quietly in the dayroom as the sun from the window stretches in oblique angles over the wall and floor, suddenly the air expands, making the windows flex gently as the crayon drawings taped to the colorful, muralled walls flutter and then fall to the carpet ornamented by friendly fish… our little one has discovered the gift of telekinesis and the blocks they were playing with begin to spiral into the air in a helical anomaly. Life will never be the same.

MO*TE is one  Fumiyuki Nagura of Saitama. Solo noise artist with at least 41 releases stretching back to 1995 and who was inactive from 2000 to 2009.
Japan – 2022

Schurer* ^ Steinbruchel* – “Falte” – [Non Visual Objects]

whngr   1/26/2023   A Library, CD

European High Art

Mostly somber abstractions constructed using the exquisite corpse method. I do something without you, you do something without me, and when we connect them it must be divine providence. Bells, chimes, drones, and hums, digital burbs, purrs, and equilibrium disrupting chords on these minimalist compositions intended tor an installation in 2006 at the Kunsthaus Zurich with a four channel visual accompaniment by Yves Netzhammer that we all most likely missed. These tracks might pair well with artisanal French pressed coffee and the rain on a quiet afternoon, inside with a cat and some light reading or possibly a dream of being pressed lightly inside a quiet French cat after noon in the rain.

Schurer* is one Brend Schurer, electro-acoustic, computer music composer, conceptual sound, performance, and installation artist (oh brother… you get an eye roll for that cv off from soundcloud) and Steinbrüchel* is German musician and graphic designer Ralph Steinbrüchel, both of whom reside in:

Zurich – 2007

Cetilia, Mark – “The New Way” – [More Records]

whngr   1/26/2023   12-inch, A Library

Not “modern jazz” you blind old fuck! MODEM JAZZ. If you’re volunteering here there is a 89.7% chance that you are closer to your grave than you are from your mother’s “Master studio” and if you’re from around here you are well beyond remembering the modem… you probably helped design them! Anyway this record yeah, sounds like modems drunk on jug wine and smoking filterless cigarettes with a fair amount of drone… and probably a few nasty surface nicks… that quizzically sound a little like other parts of the album that potentially are not a damaged record but at this point, here in 2023, in our modern audiosphere,  who can truly know the difference between intent and destiny? What is the difference between a quiet percussive passage and a damaged LP? What is intent? What is your intent… right now? Does it involve free will? Is the man in control of his destiny, or is the computer manipulating the man. Have computers finally freed us from free will? All important questions to ask… one’s that I have no answer to, but know this, you are free to play this potentially damaged double LP on the radio to a handful of other people whose lives are likely on the short end of their life stick. 

“The New Way” could easily be accused of having beats, but could also just as easily be considered interpretive beats or maybe “beat adjacent”? Beepy beats? I dunno, there is a lot of quiet and minimalism too. Maybe it’s a metaphor for something…  maybe the space between the beeps are the beats. 

“What is beats”?

From his very pretty website:

“…. Mark Cetilia is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice exists at the nexus of sound and image, the analog and the digital”… including …”generative systems in art, design, and sonic practice…” and, “…carefully controlled chaos.” 

So this is art I guess.

Rhode Island – 2022

Savana Funk – “Ghibli” – [Garrincha Gogo]

aarbor   1/25/2023   A Library, CD

Savana Funk is Aldo from Italy, Blake from the UK, and Youssef from Morocco. They met Italy in 2015. By 2018 they were Savana Funk. A mixture of African music, funk, blues, psychedelic rock and jazz influences run throughout their music. My favorite tracks are: 3,4,6,8,1,7,9 AArbor

Worm “Bluenothing” [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   1/22/2023   A Library

Florida’s Worm return, dedicated to their deathed-up doom while grafting on elements of symphonic black metal key noodlings. Breathless cascading riffs and screaming thrash—particularly in that final track, Shadowside Kingdom—that endeavors to out-eighties the eighties. Does it exceed the speed of light and thereby reach its goal? Perhaps not, but I enjoy drinking heavily of this draught. Crushing boulders for days leavened by soaring guitars with a classic eighties ring and… those keys. I’m not especially sympathetic to overtly symphonic metal, and yet this doesn’t annoy me. Juxtaposed against the crushing hopelessness, it lends some sort of horror movie imagery that nudges the album on a slightly altered trajectory from their earlier release, Foreverglade.

Orthodox “Axis” [Alone Records]

atavist   1/22/2023   A Library

A quintessential release from these old Spanish doom masters, conjured in 2015. It has a bit of many elements that I think of when I think of the Orthodox sound. There are the horns that open Cara A—minimalist, distilled structures, their shadows dancing in the beam of a flashlight. This passage leads to Crown for a Mole, a straight-ahead drum+bass pummeling with Marco Serrato’s signature vocal style, always run through a vibrato-like effects pedal. The bass starts riffing around, almost improvisationally while the drums whirl; what could possibly go wrong? (Don’t answer that question.) Usually a power trio, this album was captured during a four-year period without their main guitarist, leaving a rhythm section with extensive experience in free improvisation and extreme jazz variants collaborating with a cast of reed, horn, and percussion players. It’s interesting that a 2017 release of theirs, Supreme, actually got filed in our Jazz Library. I think the doom metal elements in Axis tip it firmly into A Library territory, though the weirded out jazz influence persists. Once you’ve entered the halls of Medea, traipse through its dusty colonnades, feel the earth quaking below. There are simply gorgeous textures here, provided by Carlos Pérez’s guitar work. Orthodox are known to explore themes rooted in Mediterranean folklore in their lyrics. Contrast the European martial lilt in Axis/Equinox to the double bass drifting down a river through the forest in ¡Io, Sabacio, Io, Io!, with folk vocal stylings of Xavier Castroviejo. Canícula blasts out the speakers one last time before the final track acts as a sort of reprise, a return to the theme that launched the journey, turning on its axis. 


McCowen, John – “Models of Duration” – [Astral Spirits]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

“Time is the essential part of interpretation.” – Lydia Tár, the (fictional) conductor at the heart of the film Tár.

Recorded in fall 2020, when most markers of the passage of time weren’t, Models of Duration is an exploration of how instruments model time and create sonic space. There are four 10-12 minute tracks of contrabass clarinet drone, with no electronic manipulation. It’s remarkable what McCowen can do; the harmonics on track A2 sound don’t sound like they came from a human playing an instrument.

This album is best listened to on vinyl, on a good sound system. There is a physical element to this album, I felt the deep bass of the clarinet absorb in my bones.

As a DJ, this album begs for some kind of experimentation. Try playing it at different speeds. Mess with the pitch. Control time.

Q-Burns Abstract Message – “Feng Shui” – [Astralwerks]

karma   1/11/2023   12-inch, A Library

1998 downtempo house double album by Q-BAM, aka Michael Donaldson, a DJ from Orlando. This was his first release. The BPMs are low, and the album seems to bridge the gap between ambient house and indie pop (especially “Jennifer,” which features vocals from Icelandic pop collective GusGus. That song could have been on The Royal Tenenbaums). There are also influences of rap (He’s a Skull), soul (Kinda Picky), and world music (New Patterns).

It’s interesting placing this album in the context of Donaldson’s career 25 years later. Through the late 90s and early aughts, Q-BAM was a sought after DJ and traveled the world. After the Great Recession, he seemed to shift towards music production and his record label. During the pandemic, he pursued writing, and currently writes for his digital zine. These days, he is involved with producing podcasts and serves as a consultant to aspiring musicians and producers. In interviews, he states that his philosophy is to pursue the innovative and promote artists that are pushing the medium forward. Quite similar to the ethos of KFJC.

Dreckig – “Digital Exposure” – [Broken Clover Records]

aarbor   12/30/2022   12-inch, A Library

Dreckig is Portland-based husband and wife duo David “Papi” Fimbres and Shana “Azucar” Lindbeck. This is their 3rd album. Their music filters Latin dance rhythms through a base of Krautrock and electronic club music. Then they layer drum machines, synthesizers, percussion and vocals in Spanish, English and German. Here they also add a chirpy flute. It is more psych than “international”. AArbor

Flaccid Mojo – “Flaccid Mojo” – [Castle Face Records]

cinder   12/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

Duo of Black Dice members Aaron Warren and Bjorn Copeland, sticking it out in Los Angeles. They definitely channel out some of the quirky, choppy, dirty robot beats and electronics that Black Dice brought, but also incorporate sound clips, muffled words and random samples in a semi-Negativland type way – but more broken and skewed. Greatly sizzled and fried with deep looped rhythms.   

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