KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Mono – “Under the Pipal Tree ” – [Tzadik]

Max Level   12/28/2005   A Library, CD

Japanese quartet (3M,1F) plays ferocious crescendo guitar rock, in the style of Mogwai and GYBE. Several long tracks stretch out, build up and crash down. Mono will play at one gorgeous level for a while, kick it up another level, and then another. Echoing guitar/bass patterns intertwine and grow. Drumming is huge and perfect. Melancholy mood reinforced by guest on cello. I’ve read that people are often seen crying during Mono’s live sets. Think of how it feels to remember good times with a lost loved one; here is your soundtrack, all instrumental, blissful and sad at the same time. A beautiful recording!

Mummies, the – “Death By Unga Bunga!! ” – [Estrus Records]

Max Level   12/28/2005   A Library, CD

A collection of greatest hits and rarities by local trash-rock legends, destroyers of countless rock clubs and pizza parlors in the late ’80s – mid ’90s. Theirs was a majestic garage sound, blending the sneering ’60s fuzz-rock of The Seeds and The Music Machine with rockabilly guitar stomp and pure punk chaos. They also managed to slip some Sam The Sham-style humor into their 2-minute masterpieces. There’s a menacing Iggy vibe at the beginning of Track 6, and Track 19 (Mummies classic “Planet of the Apes”) is not only hilarious but also rocks like nobody’s business. Consistently awful sound quality adds to the fun. What are you waiting for? Slap this sucker on!

Leprechaun Catering – Kumquats and Lychees – [Heresee & Ehse] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Baltimore’s Leprechaun Catering is comprised of Jason Willett, Tom Boram and a shitload of electronic devices. And they live together! Just like The Monkees! This album was released in early 2004. Only 300 were made, but we managed to get one.

The album starts out with a semi-normal funky guitar rhythm. A synth joins in, and before long everything is dismantled. Electrons are ripped from their atoms like wings from a fly. The nuclei that remain are pulverized into quarks. Inside the quarks are multidimensional vibrating superstrings. The question becomes How does one mic subatomic particles?

The music is cacophonous in a humorous, good way. Synthesized sounds and samples are looped and set against each other. Then the whole thing is left alone to work itself out. It’s the electronic music version of intelligent design. If the music thing doesn’t work out, these guys could make a fortune selling cell phone ring tones.

Inside the album is a lyrics sheet, even though there is no language on this (except for a few words at the end of the Kumquat side). Feel free to declaim the lyrics in a loud voice as you play this, but make sure the microphone is off.

Scientists believe that in approximately 20,000 years humans will have evolved the ability to understand and appreciate this music. It will be several tens of millennia more before humans have the physical capability of dancing to it.

–Hunter Gatherer

Brunn, Benjamin – Music Under Pin – [Bine Music] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Released in June 2005 by prolific electronic musician and trained civil engineer Benjamin Brunn, this is one of at least three releases from him this year. The album has 4 new tracks on side A and on the other side 4 tracks from his previous album Konig und Drache remixed by friends and labelmates Move D, Scanner, Thomas Touzimsky, and Wendt.

Mr. Brunn is definitely of the ‘less is more? school of music. The songs slowly build by adding electronic squiggles and beats that fill in various frequency ranges. It sounds deceptively simple. A little glitchy and not very dancy, the music is sort of like being bathed in warm radiation that raises your cognitive abilities as well as leaves you with a nice tan.

The remixes on side B are busier than the tracks on side A but retain the warm feel. Tarmac gets a nice groove going. Cool Ist Hier is my favorite track because of its shimmering beauty.

This is our first Binemusic addition to the library. I hope that we can add more soon.

–Hunter Gatherer

Prince Far I – Silver & Gold: 1973-1979 – [Blood and Fire]

Hunter Gatherer   12/26/2005   A Library, CD

Prince Far I, a.k.a. Prince Cry Cry, a.k.a The Voice of Thunder, a.k.a. Michael James William, is an important roots reggae figure who has worked as a bouncer, security guard, car sprayer, and DJ.

Around 1970 he got a chance to record when someone didn’t show up, so they let him be on the record. From that chance start, he became a singer/preacher who would sing about religion, war, oppression in Jamaica, and cricket. His murder in 1983 cut short a career that was going strong.

This collection by Blood and Fire, a reggae re-issue label (that was co-founded by Simply Red‘s Mick Hucknall) of his career conveniently brings together 19 of his tracks ranging from scarce as hens teeth to impossible to find. Released in October 2005, a majority of the tracks are from his label, Cry Tuff.

Prince Far I has a wonderful gravelly voice, and he doesn’t use it to exactly sing or exactly toast. It’s more like the rantings of a prophet or maybe a proto-rap. Some lines are punctuated with a heia or a yeeah. Listen to his voice and you can hear its influence on hip hop. Some songs are followed by a ‘Version? which is a dubbish version of the previous track.

The Slickers‘s Johnny Too Bad shows up here as Johnny Got Worse (1). And Dawn Penn‘s You Don’t Love Me (No No No) shows up here as Yes Yes Yes‘sung by Errol Holt‘with the lyrics You don’t love Jah.

–Hunter Gatherer

Wolfe, Julia – “String Quartets, the ” – [Cantaloupe Music]

Max Level   12/25/2005   A Library, CD

When she’s not busy running the Bang On A Can music festival/organization, Ms. Wolfe composes for orchestras, chamber ensembles, brass groups, etc. She claims influences ranging from “the old masters” to Steve Reich to Led Zeppelin to the car horns and construction sounds of her home base New York City. Here are three compositions, each played by a different string quartet. Track 1, originally commissioned for Kronos, has a dark, abrasive motif throughout. Track 2 is less percussive; to my ears it has a sort of boat-on-the-water feel to it – leaning first one way and then the other. Track 3 is the most interesting; it has more contrast between darkness and light, and is more highly developed. It comes back down to earth with a full minute of quiet afterglow. Everything here is modern, strange, and good.

Larval – “Obedience ” – [Cuneiform Records]

Max Level   12/25/2005   A Library, CD

Guitarist Bill Brovold writes the material and leads this ensemble, the lineup of the band varying somewhat from time to time. This CD features five large chunks of tense instrumental music. A chamber-type approach, I guess, in that the compositions have a calculated feel to them. Nobody really cuts loose. The malevolence suggested by track titles such as “Something Terrible is About to Happen” and “When Bullet Meets Flesh” becomes real before our ears. Guitars, violins, cellos, and saxes play hypnotic, repetitive lines that don’t develop much over the course of a composition; when they appear, it’s to smolder for a while, sometimes flaring up into something hotter, until other lines eventually move in and take over. Disturbing and quite effective.

Orchid – “S/T ” – [Hand Held Heart]

Max Level   12/25/2005   7-inch, A Library

This little gem with the blank black labels contains five perfect blasts of concentrated hardcore, ranging from :55 to 2:30, and not one second of downtime. Shred, blister, and annihilate are words that come to my mind when trying to describe Orchid’s instrumental approach. Minimal lyrics describe everyday situations and abuses. The words are emotion-packed, and only the most tormented yelling will do to get the point across. This music is in some ways insane, but there is something so beautiful and pure about it.

Earthmonkey – “Audiosapien ” – [Beta-Lactam Ring Records]

Max Level   12/25/2005   12-inch, A Library

Deep, trippy excursions from Nurse With Wound alumnus Peat Bog. As Earthmonkey, he brings forth long, semi-droning, meticulously-assembled sound constructions. Intriguing textures are combined, phased, echoed, and looped; musical patterns repeat hypnotically; an occasional jazzy sax or wah wah guitar drops in. Also in the mix are children’s voices, backwards stuff, Middle Eastern hand percussion, harmonica, drum machine, throat singers, a million mysterious sonic fragments of who knows what… Assisting with this magnificent madness is NWW colleague Steven Stapleton, and possibly a few other folks as well. Among the tracks are 14 and 18 minute pieces.

T.V. Pow – “Being Nice Is Funny ” – [Staalplaat]

Max Level   12/25/2005   A Library, CD

Limited release CD in Staalplaat’s Mort Aux Vaches series- live Amsterdam radio performances, which have brought us Zoviet France, Flying Saucer Attack, Muslimgauze, and others. This installment (instaalment?) features experimental Chicago trio TV Pow recorded in 1999, working with an inventory that includes static noises, computers, turntables, home-made electronics, field recordings, glitches, and blips. Semi-musical drones are used but sparingly, and occasionally we hear far-off voices. On headphones, a subtle adventure and well worth the trip. This CD’s glitchy minimalism may cause your listeners to think you’ve gone off the air, so don’t wait too long to come back. Tracks all run together.

Apse – “S/T ” – [Acuarela Discos]

Max Level   12/25/2005   A Library, CD

These young New Englanders explore slow-ish, dramatic themes that remind me of GYBE, Mono, Mogwai, and Tarantel. Plenty of quiet parts and big buildups. The band doesn’t seem to be following a strict formula, though, and they create some nice contrasts by changing things up from time to time. The sparse vocals serve as sonic decoration since the lyrics are mostly unintelligible. I like the way the tracks sort of drift in and out of dreamy soundscapes.

Waldteufel – “Heimliches Deutschland “

Max Level   12/24/2005   12-inch, A Library

Strangely beautiful and beautifully strange. Markus Wolff (drums, vocals, lyrics) and Annabel Lee (violin and accordion) perform songs and recitations, all in German, based on Northern European myths and sagas from centuries past. Well, I read an article that says that’s what the songs are about anyway. Accompanying Wolff’s vocals are simple percussion, rough-edged violin, far-off horn blurts, and the like. Guests add percussion, flute, various sounds, etc. Quite an exotic listening experience, evoking singers and storytellers gathered around a fire, in a clearing in a deep dark forest, about 500 years ago, telling tales of great battles and the like; however, it was recorded in Portland OR in 1999-2000. So a nice job of transporting the listener.

Clocked Out Duo – “Water Pushes Sand ” – [Clocked Out Records]

Max Level   12/24/2005   A Library, CD

Piano and percussion. “Piano” in this case means forceful plinking, jazzy meandering, low rumbles, scraping, even a toy piano. “Percussion” includes all the sounds you would normally think, plus a few you might not: bicycle bells, typewriter, whistles, rubbing/squeaking of balloons, lots more. Erik Griswold’s piano ideas don’t sit still, and Vanessa Tomlinson’s percussion touches always add just the right color. The duo have worked quite a bit in China recently, and have developed a love foor that country, so included here are Chinese voices and street sounds; that’s where the bicycle bells come in. The music is humorous, dramatic, pastoral, and exciting, and the interplay and togetherness of these two musicians is often quite amazing.

Six Eye Columbia – “A Million Six ” – [Unknown Label]

Max Level   12/24/2005   A Library, CD

American Music Club are hanging out at Nick Cave’s house. Guided By Voices comes over later, feeling down in the dumps but bringing more beer at least. On this CD, well-crafted songs abound, forlorn but with hooks everywhere. Fine singing and playing, no problem there. What really sets this band apart is their willingness to experiment sonically on every track. Their strong pop sensibility is distorted and enhanced with samples, found sounds, odd EQs, and vocal effects. Once in a while the boys play it straight, but not for long. I’m impressed with the arrangements and the band’s production ideas. A tiny bit of language on Track 8, which is too bad because the song is gorgeous and I’d love to hear it played a lot on the radio. Ultimately, I can’t say enough good things about this release.

Six Eye Columbia – “Frowny Frown ” – [Douche Bagophon]

Max Level   12/24/2005   12-inch, A Library

Creative and very well done cover versions. SEC is an SF quintet, evidently around since 1997 but this is my first exposure to them. Make no mistake, they can write and play their own “rock” material just fine, but this LP has a different agenda: it’s chock full of completely bent arrangements of songs by The Stranglers, Motorhead, Guided By Voices, Roxy Music, Hall & Oates, and a few others. Track 1 is a simple distorto-rocker similar to Coachwhips. Track 2 is an acoustic hoedown take on a speed-metal classic. Track 3 is a fairly straight reading of a Portishead song. Track 14 is an angelic acappella doo-wop version of a Descendents tune. High points for me: Track 7 applies the junkyard sound of Swordfishtrombones to a Black Flag number, Track 8 (written by Dr. Seuss!) is torture chamber sludge, and Track 12 is an amazing marriage of Roxy’s “Casanova” with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. Don’t miss this record. Every track a winner!

Farflung – “When Science Fails ” – [Transparency]

Max Level   12/23/2005   A Library, CD

Farflung says this CD is “kinda risky”, that it’s a different kind of Farflung record. Here’s what it is: other than a small bit of spoken or chanted vocal on every track, it’s primarily instrumental guitar/keyboard/drums hypno-psyche with buildups and descents, and it’s freakin’ brilliant! The playing is excellent, and the parts all fit together with a remarkably loose tightness. The influence of Can and Einsturzende Neubauten shows heavily. Parts of this music were used in a recent German film, so the Krautrock connection makes perfect sense. One of the tracks is 24 minutes long.

Sikhara/Umkra/Drk/Ript [coll] – [Marasm]

Max Level   12/23/2005   7-inch, A Library

The Marasm label (French, I think) brings us four under-underground artists, all of whom are in the noise/glitch/loop business. Not a lot of info available on this release, but the artist lineup appears to be as follows: Sikhara – manipulated jungle-type ritual music, chanting and drumming, also electronic noises. Umkra – loud, dirty glitch-mania. DRK – dark landscapes give way a couple of times to a messed-up beat loop, plus crashes and howling voices. Ripit – more noisy glitches. Are those voices in there? Noticeable surface noise on this pic-disc, adding somewhat overall to the cornucopia of weird noises.

Yoshihide, Otomo /New Jazz… – “Dreams ” – [Tzadik]

Max Level   12/23/2005   A Library, CD

Despite the name of the band, jazz isn’t really the major component here. Trumpets and saxes drift in and out, and there are some noisy free-for-alls that might pass for outside jazz, but this CD mostly defies genre classification. It’s an intriguing journey of many moods, among which you’ll find childlike (#1), atmospheric rock ballad (#2), and all-out Ground Zero attack (#7!). Guest vocalists, including the wonderful Jun Togawa, sing/croon/torch/yell in Japanese. Yoshihide foregoes his turntable/noise experiments, instead turning in some fine guitar work, while the horns and rhythm section add just what they should. This is one of the best records I’ve heard in a while, with new discoveries awaiting the listener each time out.

Ulher/Mallozzi/Zerang – “Landscape:Recognizable ” – [Creative Sources]

Max Level   12/23/2005   A Library, CD

Creative sources indeed. Ulher plays trumpet as a sound source, rather than a ‘musical’ instrument. So she’s blowing, squeaking, sputtering, hissing, and like that. Zerang coaxes subtle sounds from various percussive objects, whistles, bird calls, etc. Mallozzi adds higher-tech input with his CDs, voice material, turntables, and microphones. Once in a while the trio gets a bit of a clamor going, but generally these sound concoctions are on the sparse side, with a backdrop so quiet that every nuance really stands out. Track lengths fall within the 6 – 9 minute range, which is about the right size for unearthly sound pieces like these. Great headphone material.

Submission Hold – “What Holds the Elephant Back ” – [G7 Welcoming Committee]

Max Level   12/23/2005   12-inch, A Library

Appalled by a world gone mad, this Vancouver BC band lashes out in all directions, reminding us how far out of control we humans are. Religious/political oppression, media brainwash, enviro-destruction, sexual inequality, etc., why do we allow them to continue? This band has something to say, and I like the way they say it with lyrics that are just abstract enough to let us interpret them more than one way. Vocalist Jen sings in a tender, resigned voice, then screams at us to see the madness and help stop it. Sounds to me like at least some of the lyrics may have existed before being set to music; the rhythm of the words sometimes clashes with the musical flow as though the words are being forced to live there. Appropriate conflict results. The band shifts gears constantly, churning out slow, heavy grind, uptempo ska-beat, high-energy thrash? Many classify them as a punk band but musically SubHold are well beyond that. They are, however, idealistic, strong-willed, pissed off, and 100% sincere, as are the best punk bands.

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