This is a treasure trove of folk rock inspired by Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album “Ladies of the Canyon,” so of course I love it. These ladies celebrated the rebirth of folk rock and hail from the canyons of California. Some have religious overtones because they were sung at church picnics; the first features a gorgeous voice of a 19-year-old and lasts for less than a minute; another (track 4) comes from singer who went on to perform in Disney films such as “Pocahontas”; all of them are unique tributes to a genre that will not be forgotten thanks to the researchers who curated this compilation. Great liner notes, too.
Crusty fucking Grindcore from San Jose, featuring drummer Chad Gailey (in between his tenures in Bruxers and Necrot, later also Vastum and Mortuous) and guitarist Colin Tarvin (Mortuous). This is balls-to-the-wall grind in the mold of early Earache releases, extremely well-recorded. The first two tracks are originals, and the next two are covers of Napalm Death and Repulsion, respectively, although the Repulsion cover (t.4, of ‘Eaten Alive’) is retitled as ‘Napalm Deceiver’; perhaps this is in reference to how Napalm Death stole the riff from Repulsion’s ‘Stench of Burning Death’ for their own ‘Deceiver’? Anyhow, the whole thing clocks in at six minutes which is just fine. Killer grind, recommended if you like having your head beaten against a brick wall.
Here is a winning surf music album from the beyond compare St. Petersburg, Russia band Messer Chups. “Gitaracula” Oleg plays with a complex, wet, surfy, energetic twang. The beautiful “Zombierella” Svetlana on bass and Eugene on drums are an outstanding rhythm section. Mostly original compositions but with a couple of soundtrack references (track 7 and 11) and even a quote of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor (track 4). Outstanding!!
The Releasing Eskimo was a Swedish noise label active out of Gothenburg from ’94-’98, specializing in low-budget releases. This triple-7” compilation from the label’s final year is an excellent sampler of the three most esteemed noise/industrial scenes: the USA, Europe, and Japan.
Disc I: The Europe Disc
Side A: Manchester, UK’s The Grey Wolves, a manifestation of the cultural terror network. This anti-establishment, left-wing duo whipped the hypocritical punks into a fine froth for more than a decade by pretending to be hardcore fascists. A foundational group in death industrial and one of the greatest industrial noise projects of all time. Their track is bleak and 2-dimensional, a maximum confrontation with the experience of death by sarin gas (for real, not like those falsified attacks in Syria). “The Future Belongs To Those Of Us Still Willing To Get Our Hands Dirty.”
Side B: Gothenburg’s own No Festival of Light. Satanist death industrial from the man who also brought you Demogorgon and P/D(B). One of the great unsung talents of Swedish industrial noise constructionism. His track is a maddening dialogue loop picking up atmospheric toilet static over time in a resonant crypt through some kind of effect. All together now, kids: *who* will control the entire world?
Disc II: The USA Disc
Side A: Macronympha. Pittsburgh, PA harsh noise innovators and annihilators. Perhaps more rhythmic than their usual fare. Many layers of pulsing bursts of migraine pain tones interspersed with glitchy stammering.
Side B: Hands To. Who is this? I suppose it’s Jeph Jerman, based these days in Tucson, AZ. Anyway this is the least interesting track on the compilation, slipping immediately out of one’s memory as soon as it ends. Low key petri dish bubbling; and yet I feel there may be a genius touch here that I am simply missing.
Disc III: The Japan Disc
Side A: Merzbow. The Tokyo harsh noise master should require no introduction. High pitched as fuck at the start, wheeking into synth/effect textures. He never disappoints with the range of sounds he is capable of producing with his e.b.t.-kitchen-sink approach.
Side B: C.C.C.C., AKA Cosmic Coincidence Control Center, from Yokohama. This was the duo of Hiroshi Hasegawa and his now ex-wife, former bondage porn star Mayuko Hino; perhaps assisted by others. The group is still active nowadays, roster different with the exception of Hasegawa. Divorce hurts noise projects. This vintage gold is solid, wall-thick cosmic power drone that will blow your grandmother right out the fucking window, you stupid idiot.
Comes packaged in a plastic bag with individual sleeves for each 7”. They look like Hitler Youth on the cover but I think they might actually just be Boy Scouts. Go figure.
The fourth Mattin addition to the KFJC library, and the third Songbook (we’ve also acquired nos. 4 & 5). Songbook 6 is comprised of 6 6 minute songs, so that’s promising. Oh nice, and recorded on June 6, 2016—I appreciate the attention to detail. Thurston Hunger and Lexi Glass wrote great reviews on the previous songbooks, so seek those out as well. Like previous songbooks, Mattin writes lyrics, which then become the basis for the composition. As he writes in the liner notes: “For making this record the lyrics were used as score; before recording each track, we discussed together how to interpret them.” Which is an interesting idea, given how disjointed the end result is. The consensus of the musicians clearly orients around compositional anarchy.
The record begins with slightly disorienting synths repeating like a malfunction, adding oddly auto-detuned vocals (all lyrics are in German), and then a variety of other sounds and instrumentation come in at various points. Track two: Mattin yells in German, drums keep time intermittently, and a guitar chimes in. Track three: quiet and minimal with the occasional loud moment. Then, spazzy synths, delirious vocals.
Side two has some sounds that are more “songish” than side one, but of course that’s not saying much. Track four launches with a jazzy feel. Psych-ish drums thrum along, and concludes with a hyperspace synth freakout and whispering. Probably my favorite track on the record. Track five has some driving drums. Some cool sub-bass tones are thrown in to track 6, but honestly I was starting to check out at this point. The weirdness here will reward some repeat listening, just be ready for confrontational discohesion.
There are times when we luckily come upon something new. It may have been there for awhile but it is new to us. Such is the case of Nick Demopoulos’ project “Smomid”. Standing for String Modeling Midi Device, Nick, initially a guitarist, created smomid as a way for a guitar to interface with a computer. The smomid, along with his pyramidi, a midi device, are homemade instruments that transform sounds in a new way. And they look great. Lights, lights, lights. The smomid looks sort of like a combination of a guitar and one of those synthesizers from the 1980’s that also looks like a guitar. It is a guitar midi controller with all the knobs and buttons necessary to create a multitude of sounds, allowing for samples of tuvan singers and gamelan to blips and bleeps ala the best IDM to what may sound like sitar or stretched out guitar. Add the pyramidi midi devices that go along with it and wow. Talk about psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop. Don’t forget to add the lights, synchronized to send out coded messages to viewers, flashing to the beat of the smomid. Be ready.
The Surfrajettes are an all-female surf band foursome from Toronto. Although their fame might be connected to the novelty of women playing surf, their music is high powered, energetic and well played. Great fun!
Fierce improvisational avant rock from this trio headed by Wendy Eisenberg, a Boston-based guitarist, composer, and member of the no-wave punk band Birthing Hips. When she was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, Eisenberg was spotted by John Zorn, who connected her with two accomplished players, drummer Ches Smith (of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog) and bassist Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Nels Cline Singers, and more) . This 2018 release from Zorn’s Tzadik label is the result of this collaboration. Eisenberg’s bold playing is at the fore, as her strings contort from discordant but familiar sounds into skewed sonic shapes or heavy, electronic growls, like on the noisy opener “The Descent of Alette” (T1, a tribute to the poem by Alice Notely) . The trio’s exchanges begin as dispersed bursts that that build in to intense grooves (T1, T3, T9), loose jams (T5), tangled thickets (T6, T10) or driving attacks (T4, T5, T7). Staggering sounds from this talented newcomer.
Minimal Technology is an avant-garde trio from Santiago Chile that formed in the early nineties. They explored new forms of video art and sound sculptures, and performed only twice, both times at the University of Chile.
Tell Me What Will Happen Today (B-2) contains the recording of one of their performances, which was accompanied by a video installation. Traditional rhythmic percussion and flute mixes with chopped samples and slow throbbing synth waves.
The other two tracks were recorded and released in Tokyo on Kino Mitsouko’s record label Dinn International. Listen to this Example (A-1) consists of cut-up fragments of English and Spanish dialogue over a repetitive bass riff, mechanistic clicks and whirs, and what sounds like a dot-matrix printer. Se Armó La Rosca (B-1) is an experimental turntable piece that scratches and mixes a variety of Spanish music at different speeds, both forwards and backwards.
Per Bloland studied music composition at Stanford and now teaches at Miami University. He often composes for an electromagnetically-prepared piano of his own design. The piano has a series of electromagnets placed along different strings, each of which can be driven by audio signal. This allows the timbre, sustain, and dynamics of each note to be controlled, and enables new type of resonance and feedback.
Chamber Industrial contains 5 works for chamber ensemble inspired by a variety of literary works and performed by The Ecce Ensemble. Moods are tense and suspenseful, contrasting delicate flutes and bells with the discordant growls produced by the sax, double-bass, and piano. Bloland evokes the energy of industrial music through abrasive, distorted textures and simple motifs. The electromagnetically-prepared piano is featured on T4, while T2 and T4 are purely acoustic.
This Los Angeles instrumental band straddles the line between exotica and surf. Guitarist Bill McGlynn’s wide interest in music shows in his compositions and arrangements for all tracks. Very satisfying, well played, and cool.
More fine instrumental work from this Nova Scotia surf trio. Now in their 24th year of playing together, they show no signs of being tired. Good energy on mostly original tunes, these tracks really rock!
Andrew Tuttle is from Australia, but you wouldn’t know it from this enchanting slice of post-Fahey Americana. Tuttle layers his banjo and guitar filigree over luminous drones to predictably trance-inducing effect. On Meterological Warning (T5), he’s joined by viola and prepared lap guitar, while The Coldest Night (T8) sees the addition of electric guitar and trumpet. Soothing stuff.
Laurie Spiegel is a pioneer in the field of electronic music. In 1973, she began exploring computer music at Bell Labs, where Max Matthews and Richard Moore had recently developed the digital-analogue hybrid GROOVE (Genered Realtime Operations On Voltage-controlled Equipment) system. From this work came the album The Expanding Universe, released in 1980. With its clear tones, open harmonies, and mechanical rhythms, The Expanding Universe presented an optimistic, almost utopic vision of technology. In contrast, Unseen Worlds, created using Spiegel’s own Music Mouse software, is altogether darker and more amorphous, with a focus on texture over melody. Hurricane’s Eye (T7) stacks layers and layers of organ-like tones to create a thick, murky, mass of sound, a modern-day requiem. Check out the frankly-terrifying stabs of noise on Riding the Storm (T9), and DO NOT MISS the epic, 14-minute closer Passage (T12), in which harmonically-rich drones, synthetic voices, and ominous clangings rise and fall evoking the grandeur and power of some strange, cosmic machine.
Welsh born Gwenifer Raymond lives in England but plays American Primitive style guitar and banjo as if she was born to it. Wonderful melodies in her compositions, astonishing technique. Some tunes are simple, most show a virtuosity and polyphony that is almost reminiscent of Bach violin partitas. Oh and she has a PhD in astrophysics. Wow, wow, wow!
An experimental, improvisational jazz sort of happening. It’s one of those records where the instruments hang out in groups at a low-key party, and sometimes just go off in corners and talk to themselves while in earshot of everyone else. All the instrumentation and sounds are executed with a light touch. Side two has some almost creepy vocal things going on, and starts to build some wall-of-sound intensity about eight minutes in. The house guests come out of their corners and start to acknowledge each other, creating a crescendo before the final tapering off.
Nice “South of Heaven” reference. The thick crust presented here will otherwise ward off comparisons to Slayer. Beautifully satisfying, thick, disgusting riffs. Apparently these folks have been pummeling Japan for two decades, so their filth is pretty tight and old-school in an early nineties sort of way. Most tracks clock in at three minutes or less (the shortest track is 1:14). Track 2 is 5:01, and the last track is a protracted grind jam/amalgamation running to 8:36 where the band allowed themselves to deviate from the format employed in the rest of the album.
Lucrecia Dalt is a former geotechnical engineer from Colombia, now settled in Berlin, who has previously collaborated with Julia Holter and Laurel Halo. While her early work has been described as “experimental indie pop,” on this album she leaves the “indie pop” behind. Dalt is an exceptionally skilled sound designer, deftly weaving industrial aesthetics into the conventions of minimal electronics. The result is a sound all her own: raw, rough, tactile, but also precise, polished, icy-cold. And then there are the vocals (T1, T3, T5, T6, T9, T11), spoken-sung and subtly processed, they draw you in and push you away at the same time. These are short tracks (1-3 minutes) that nonetheless evoke a sense of geologic time, of a stasis that masks the presence of tremendous power.
Stephanie D’Arcy is the mastermind on this freshman release from this SF-based project. D’Arcy on guitar and vocals, Ryan Albaugh on drums, Giancarlo Arzu on bass, and Yaryn Choi on keys and providing vocals. Their lo-fi grunge-pop is a slightly off-kilter, head-boppin, house party and you’re sitting in the corner with your head down, all the voices and music faded and muted in the background. First part of the album hits hard, while the last part is not as impressive. Definitely worth a listen!
1 part brass band, 2 parts lounge jazz, one part noisy meanderings, this EP is the sister release to Botafogos in Shadow Position. Buzzing, skronky, cloudy, weirdo sounds. You find yourself lost in a Dali-esque circus show, whose entire show is amalgamated up in a mere 15-minute extravaganza! Let the show begin!
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