KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

PAK – “Bestial” – [Nefarious Activities]

atavist   10/29/2019   A Library, CD

I imagine some will detect an influence of John Zorn, maybe Red-era King Crimson… Here follows my travelogue through this slab of heavy, turned up progressive sounds from the NYC three-piece called PAK. 1: The machinery is slowly starting to move. Heavy machinery, lumbering, tentative explorations, directions attempted. 2: Sharp guitar (you can feel how hot the amp was in the studio), assertive bass, drums keep this thing from spinning off the rails. Mathy, proggy (mildly thinky), with breakdowns 3: Some early chugging structures. Driving, with wild swerves off the road and back, can make for a bumpy ride. 4: Eerie, formless sounds streak across a night sky as percussion and other instruments begin to assert themselves, but the overall vibe is spaced-out and pensive—the machinery sleeps a restless sleep. 5: Kicks off with a straight-forward (for this group) riff, and even has a guitar solo at the third minute. By far the “jammiest” track on the record. 6: The only track with vocals exhibits an anti-consumerist rant. Musically it kind of drags a bit in the beginning, particularly since earlier tracks 1-4 are sonically adventurous by comparison. After about 4 minutes it picks up and starts to motor along with guitar work that weirdly reminded me of Larry LaLonde in early-90s Primus recordings. When the tempo slows down again, we are wading through sludge. The bizarro guitar sound at the end is a well-suited conclusion. 7: Gradually falls into a nearly hypnotic groove with loopy digressions. The last two minutes devolve into a sonic unravelling.

PAK recently played the Uptown with PG13, whose record I reviewed a few months ago, and the bill makes sense: this is heavy, pounding music with weirdness and time signatures that are proggy enough to flirt with jazz.

Archgoat – “Luciferian Crown, The” – [Debemur Morti]

atavist   10/29/2019   12-inch, A Library

Archgoat are a venerable Finnish death metal band that wield elements of black metal. They are willing to slow it down slightly and allow some doomy elements in, but mostly it’s high-speed, stripped-down, no-frills Satan worship. Low, throaty vocals are brutal and uncompromising. Guitar work is tight and provides the essential ideas without extraneous detail. Reviews note that “The Luciferian Crown” marks a turn to more complex song structures than previous releases, perhaps augmented by the addition of a new drummer who demonstrates a means of playing within Archgoat’s sound while shaping it to his own ends. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that the band takes a lot of time between full-length releases: this is only their fourth LP since 2006. Good production quality permeates the roughly 30 minute recording. Track A1 is a very brief atmospheric intro that quickly gives way to a thundering maelstrom with slower breakdowns. A4 Starts out with some squealing animal sounds, then brings headbang-worthy riffage in copious amounts. A5 begins with an almost punk feel, making for a fairly old-school sound that serves as a reminder that the first incarnation of the band released their first demo in 1989. A6 Starts with some creepy forest sounds before getting into the fast blast-beats. Tracks on side B consistently hover around four minutes in length, and many feature slower breakdowns and keyboard elements. B2 is a slower track that elicits slower fluctuations of the head upon the quavering neck. Track B4 even has a brief clean bass solo. Any track on the record will do the trick.

Drowse – "Light Mirror" – [Flenser]

humana   10/27/2019   12-inch, A Library

“Life’s a leaf in October” according to “Physical World,” and this wisdom is delivered via the hazy, pleasant voice of Kyle Bates. This music was written and recorded by Bates during an artist residency in Iceland in 2018 and at his home in Portland, Oregon. The character of the music is somewhat shoegaze. Bates’s parents lend their voices to two of the tracks, and the lyrics printed on the album sleeve clarify some of the mysteries going on in the music, if you need the clarification. Bates is a survivor, and proof that having a bipolar diagnosis can be an inspiration instead of a death sentence. The music is appealing and will be a great addition to many a KFJC set.

Pratt, Jessica – "Quiet Signs" – [Kemado Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

I remember KFJC’s Harry Haller extolling the virtues
and vibe of Jessica to me years ago. Thanks! Here she
returns for her third full length, not a gal in a rush.
Gentle songs with “Quiet Signs”, emanating from the
car you just passed on the side of the road with its
driver in tears. Mostly the album is Jessica’s voice
over a nylon acoustic, but some nice production from
Al Carlson sinks you deeper into the cushions. Al adds
a flute flourish to end “Fare Thee Well” other tracks
bring in a distant synth, like a merry-go-round in
the dreams of someone sleeping next to you. Does
Jessica give a nod to San Jose on “Here My Dear”
(which seems to know the way, melodically). That song
is NOT a Marvin Gaye bitter dedication to you. But this
album was inspired by a Cassavetes film? Muses work
in strange ways and Hollywood record shops I guess.
Like her debut, Pratt’s voice fits so cozily into the
microphone and snuggles up in your headphones. Listen to
her voice on “This Time Around”, a gentle outline of
reverb. When she goes high, she’s a pixie, but her
lower register is a support koala bear. “Poly Love”
triggers a Burt Bacharach soft scatch on Broadway.
“Crossing” will be used as a killer theme for an
HBO show in three years, so love it now before the
world does (and dig how it flirts with English folk).
“Silent Song” has almost a hymn-like entrance. An album
of love songs but roses do come with a thorn or two.
-Thurston Heartbroken

Gong Gong Gong – "Phantom Rhythm" – [Wharf Cat Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2019   A Library, CD

Percolating rock from a wok made in Hong Kong by way of
China and Canada but studio-fried in Brooklyn. Two guitars
sound a little like a Gang of Four (the band not politicos)
or an echo of the Archie Bronson Outfit. Galloping sense of
industrial blues and riveting rhythms. Maybe the solution
to the Spinal Tap dilemma is here, create drum-proof rock.
The album’s subtitle nails it “Phantom Rhythm.” Hammerdown.
Load your songs with humbucking chunks of percussive guitar
flecks and bass bop slaps, and crunch away. Check out the
instrumental “Night’s Colour (Chongqing)” as an example, it
feels like Congotronic amplified thumb-pianos. Their “Blues”
on #6 has a guitar break like a helicopter w/ guns. Vox in
Cantonese I think, ask your kids or Tom Ng who penned them.
This record insistently grew on me. Don’t miss “Moonshadows”
with an ESG-esque funk that breaks down to snort “White Lines”
on its choruses. Pretty sure I saw LeBron James and Xi Jinping
having a dance-off on that one. The dirty tone on the guitars
on this is pure bliss. Tariff stare-off, don’t forget to rock.
-Thurston Hunger

L. Voag – "Way Out, The" – [Superior Viaduct]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

Reissue from Jim Welton, erstwhile Homosexuals de-bassist.
Perplexing sketches with dashes of pop, but large chunks
of imagination. Use a spoon, maybe Syd Barrett’s old one.
In 1979, well before Camper van Beethoven even thought about
bowling, Welton was fiddling in the “Kitchen.” Hell this lp
even eclipses Tuxedomoon’s debut by a bit. Sax and violin
shaken and strung. Surf + rubbery ruminating bass + tribal
drums + delayed vox-vox-vox, that’s all in one cur – “Living
Room.” The album is definitely room-y. Lot’s o’ bric-a-brac
on each track. “Helping the Police With Their Enquiries”
is a nice faux soundtrack with art brut as an accomplice.
Just a hard to pin down album, go gaga over dada? Welton
not afraid to apply plunderphonics to the mix. Man, even if
I’m not close to the inside of the joke, I’m still happy
enough to sing along with “Your Own Hair – Your Own Chance”
Were you too frustrated or too entertained to make your
way to the Avon Calling moment in “Beauty Spreads” or how
about “According to Freud.” Don’t tell anyone but them
thar be songs, but the album is so much more. Reminds me
of UK Paradigm Discs stuff KFJC connected with a ways back,
and sure enough Welton’s own label – It’s War Boys –
originally issued some of those ear-bender mind-blenders.

L. Voag has entered the KFJC building/library
hope his tunes find you and “The Way Out.”

-Thurston Hunger

Gorgun, Ipek – “Ecce Homo” – [Touch Music]

mickeyslim   10/23/2019   A Library, CD

Awash in an electronic fog,
humming voices lost into the
deep shadow,
overwhelmed by an unknown
air.

White noise from the hills
of Ankara,
a bird chirps,
warping sweet fruit.
Sweeping whispers hypnotize,
sacral chants take
control.

Through fields and churches,
fire enflamed in
what once was.

Let it become you,
let it end you,
wait and listen.

Turkish electronic/electroacoustic composer. She’s done vocals and bass for some crushing punk rock bands. Enrolled in doctoral program of sonic arts at Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music. Released 2018. Short, succinct, electronic/found-sound compositions.

Distance Machine – “Distance Machine” – [Cloister Recordings]

lexi glass   10/22/2019   A Library, Cassette

Distance Machine is the new project of Arizona musician Michael Bjella, whose work under the name GOG is well represented in our library (see here and here). On this debut cassette from Cloister Recordings, Bjella offers his take on dark ambient music in three longform works. “The More Severe The Initiation The More The Sacred The Dance” (T1, a new tagline for KFJC?), with its repeating swells of sinister strings, calls to mind the hypnotic “audio virus” sound of Deathprod. At first blush, “Lorri and Tess” (T2) appears to be a simple drone, but closer listening reveals hidden layers of rich detail: gorgeous layers of voices and remote rhythms. Closer “Send Us More Chuck Berry” (T3) returns to the broad stringed tones from the first track; here they’re beamed from the depths of space, amplifying and attenuating into nothingness.

Dope Feat. Fuck Authority – “666” – [Environmental Studies]

atavist   10/22/2019   10-inch, A Library

First side is minimalist, with chanted lyrics in German. Mostly two bass notes bowed repetitively with a smattering of other instrumentation. Sonically, it’s a 10-minute death shuffle back and forth across a gray, frozen courtyard. Second side is generally a bit more psychedelic. Longer-form textures. Distinctly electronic noises careen back and forth, high-pitched waves approach uncomfortable levels. There might be a guitar in there and some organic-sounding percussion. Overall a nice eight-minute space-out anxiety trip. For extra fun, play at 33rpm.

Iron Crown – “Before The Void” – [Dark Side of Zen]

atavist   10/22/2019   12-inch, A Library

Beware ye seekers of wildly unfamiliar sonic terrain. Bay Area-based Iron Crown adheres to the ancient bong-riffing rites. (Ancient, in this case, dates back to period between 1970 and the mid-90s.) They have studied their predecessors and submit their offerings to the sacrificial altar, already piled to the rafters with stoner dreams from days of yore. Following on their debut release from a couple years prior (also in the KFJC library), “Before the Void” was well-recorded at Oakland’s Earhammer. The riffing is well-assembled. The regular-dude vocals prevalent on most of the tracks are a little out of place, but on the other hand it may differentiate Iron Crown’s sound from similar artists. Detractors will point to the lack of originality, but sometimes a smoke-shrouded slab of doom doesn’t need much alteration. Dune Rider is a nice instrumental track that moves along at a good clip, but the album is fairly consistent throughout, with no tracks lasting much more than five minutes, and no FCCs.

Ysk – OXRMM [Birth Control Productions]

Number 6   10/20/2019   A Library

allegedly Japanese medium marsh flagellum with avocado rhythms and dingleberry croutons by handrawn bunny adorned by hyperdermic needle sperm coccidia collar that push and pull out at exactly 4:00 each.  don’t settle for one hit. you are meant for all 8. the voice of the bunny remains beneath the seven layers of ectodermal tissue and guards the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs. the force direction and physical load develops sprained buboes that scar the back of the host and can be read only by braille incisions leftover from its entire donation.  scab cycles obliterate top layers of protection. we’ll accept no amount too small or too large.

Crossing, The – “Voyages” – [Innova Recordings]

Medusa of Troy   10/16/2019   A Library, CD

The Crossing is the artist, in this case, a professional choir that specializes in performing new classical music. Donald Nally is the conductor. Voyages is the title of the album, the two works that make up this album, and the underlying 6-cycle poem, composed in 1921–1926, as a paean by the poet Hart Crane to his lover, a Danish sailor. Robert Convery is the composer of the album’s first half, the choir singing his 1994 arrangement of Crane’s words a cappella, poems intact. Benjamin C.S. Boyle composed the second half of the album as a cantata, where stanzas are plucked from the underlying poem and the choir is accompanied by its in-house string ensemble, with soloists emphasizing particular passages. The first six songs, Convery’s a cappella arrangement, are sweet and melancholy and faint enough that you may want to pay close attention and have the poem in front of you to make out the words. In Boyle’s half, the strings tend to be dramatic, undergirding the emotion in the words and forcing the soloists to be more emphatic.

But which, if any, should you play? Convery’s “Voyages” is good for quiet but deep listening. Boyle’s “Voyages: Cantana No. 2, Opus 41” provides more obvious peaks and valleys for the listener. Neither quite reach the delirious, dizzying sweep of words and feeling as an out and proud statement of queer desire from a time where such a thing was punished by law and society. However, both compositions, and the album as a whole, are lovely.

Reflection – “Morerroronus World, The” – [Clear Records]

aarbor   10/16/2019   A Library, CD

On the Clear label out of the UK, Reflection is 2 Japanese brothers: Ichiro and Kenji Taniguchi. Their debut album in 1996 was Erroronus World, this album from 1997 is the remix album with offerings from such heavy hitters as Plaid, 4 Hero and Morgan Geist among others. Check out tracks 2,3,4,6 and 7. AArbor 

EEDIO – “Hero” – [Device Recordings]

aarbor   10/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

Bertrand Alix is EEDIO. He’s a producer from Chilhac, France. This EP is his 2nd from 2003. He claims that his influences include: Depeche Mode, Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros and Massive Attack. Check out B2 Modulation. AArbor 

Ima – “Ende” – [Buh Records]

lexi glass   10/15/2019   A Library, Cassette

This cassette is the first official single from IMA, the local electroacoustic duo of percussionist Nava Dunkleman and sound artist Amma Ateria. Compared to the live recording of their performance at the 2017 Garden of Memory festival (in our library), Ende is a much darker and more menacing vision; IMA describes this work as the “beginning of awakening to the aftermath of destruction and devastation.” Over four short vignettes, Dunkleman’s percussion moves from delicacy to total collapse, while Ateria’s electronic atmospherics build a heavy sense of dread. “Flower of Dust” (T2) incorporates fragments of Japanese poetry that build on the theme of downfall. The tape ends too soon, but luckily IMA’s first full-length LP is due out later this year, and I look forward to hearing more of their consistently elegant work.

Presson, Lee and The Nails – “Last Request” – [DetMach Studios]

Sir Cumference   10/12/2019   A Library, CD

KFJC is getting a pre-release of the latest release of the Bay Area’s own Lee Presson and the Nails. Lee goes full Goth Swing with this selection of spookier tunes (and a couple not-so-spooky) just in time for the Halloween season (the album will be released on October 25.) My favorite is the Mission Impossible theme mashed with up with Take Five (don’t tell me you never wanted to do that yourself!) A swingin’ version of the theme to Psycho is sure to get your toes a tappin’ just before you hit the shower. I’m sure anyone could find something to squeeze into a set or two…

Tejada, John – “Matrix of Us, The” – [deFocus]

aarbor   10/9/2019   A Library

John Tejada was born in Vienna, Austria, but now operates out of L.A. From 2000 this is his 2nd release. “Summer Spell” [1] has a warm, electro shuffle, while the spoken word and vocals on “Genetical Love” [2] act as a counterpoint to the piano and looped string section before the beat kicks in. “Disappear” is stringy synths w/ electro beats, and the deeper bass of “Can’t Tell Time Anything” continues the easygoing vibe. “reach for the Lights” [8] is a fun boogie. I liked this album better than some of his others. AArbor 

Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru [coll] – [Luaka Bop]

aarbor   10/9/2019   A Library

Afro Peruvian music is a blend of Spanish, Andean and African traditions. The language comes from Spain  along with the preference for the guitar, and poetic forms like the decimaand the copla. From the Andes melancholy musical forms. From Africa the dance rhythms. Pantheistic religious are common to both the Andes and Africa. In addition to the guitar, 3 instruments are important to this music: the cajon and the cajita – both musical boxes and the quijada de burro – a jawbone with loosened teeth which vibrate when struck.  The instrumental intro of each track gives you a clue as to what to expect. Try 2,3,4,8,9,12, 13  You may want to compare the renditions of the songs of the same name.  AArbor

Festival In The Desert [coll.] – [World Village]

aarbor   10/9/2019   A Library

The Festival au désert or “Festival in the Desert” was an annual concert in Mali, showcasing traditional Tuareg music as well as music from around the world. The first Festival took place in 2001 in Tin Essako, then in Tessalit in 2002, and in Essakane from 2003 to 2009. From 2010 to 2012 it was held on the outskirts of Timbuktu because of security concerns which have prevented it from taking place since. This is a recording from the 2003 festival. It is a veritable Who’s Who of African artists, many of whom we have in our collection including: Tinariwen (who became known largely due to this festival), Afel Bocoum, Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure… Robert Plant also appears on track 4.

 Of the less well known players I liked tracks 5,6,10, 12-14, 16,18, 19

AArbor 

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