KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Existensminimum – “The On and On” – [Flora and Fauna]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   A Library, CD

The mastermind behind Existensminimum is Magnus Henriksson of Sweden. The word Existensminimum, literally subsistence level, is a Swedish social services term for the minimum amount of food or money necessary for a person or family.

But there is nothing minimal about the sound on this EP. Mr. Henriksson wrote and played most instruments on this CD with the help of a few musicians. But when playing live, 10 musicians are required to reproduce the sound.

Every song is so different from the others that I must describe them separately:

1. (5:01) – An uptempo, James Bond-y number in 5/4. It has a square 60’s lounge feel, and the singing is just short of over the top at times.

2. (3:59) – A great song with a driving synth groove and processed vocals.

3. (5:06) – Orchestral opening gives way to electronic drums. Sounds like Air or Zero 7 with much harder drums. Instrumental

4. (1:45) – Acoustic guitar soaking in reverb with vocals that start in falsetto.

5. (3:14) – A U2 parody? This is a big stadium rock-sounding thing featuring synthesizers.

–Hunter Gatherer

Odd Toot – “Mental Money” – [Hydrogen Dukebox Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Odd Toot – or The Odd Toot, he will respond to either – is Simon Smith from Edinburgh, Scottland. This CD, released in April 2000, is his second full-length effort.

The music on this CD calls on different styles and genres much like Aquaman calls on his various sea creature friends. There is D&B, funk bass, jazz chords, flute and trumpet solos, processed vocals, samples from scratchy old recordings. There are even samples of Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and one that I believe is from Sing Along With Mitch.

Mr. Smith is a producer, engineer, and session musician. This shows in the immaculately produced tracks on this CD.

This CD could be worked easily into sets containing all kinds of music, except possibly country and polka. It just goes to show what can be had at Amoeba Records for $1.99.

–Hunter Gatherer

Dosh – “Pure Trash” – [Anticon Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Dosh is Minneapolis-based drummer and keyboardist Martin Dosh. He is also associated with the bands Fog and Lateduster. This is his second full-length release. In his spare time he gives drumming lessons to kids.

This second full-length release is sort of a family affair. Most of the album was recorded and mixed while his wife was pregnant or had just given birth to a son Naoise (pronounced nee-sha). His wife and another son, Tadhg (pronounced tiger, without the er) can be heard speaking or singing on some of the tracks. The CD insert contains an illustration from Mrs. Dosh explaining each song.

For such an experimental CD it’s easy to listen to, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Although the drums sound very dirty or dusty the melodies and chords are beautiful and consonant, featuring his Fender Rhodes piano, an acoustic guitar, a saxophone, and what sound like sampled kids toys.

The songs have a layered feel. The first layer usually comes from his Akai Headrush pedal that has a 12-second sample memory. On top of that stacked up like spinning plates is any number of layers that could contain drumming, sounds from the innards of an open-faced Rhodes being played directly, samples, voices, etc. When it seems like it might all come crashing down, Dosh heads off in another direction.

–Hunter Gatherer

Volumen/No-Fi Soul Rebellion – “Lady Cop/Ch*rch” – [W?ntage Records] — 45 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   7-inch, A Library

Two bands from Missoula, Montana release a split 7″ on a label based in Missoula, Montana. Coincidence? You decide.

Volumen take the A side with the song Lady Cop. It’s 3:42 of funky fun with fuzz guitar and synthesizer. For some reason I was reminded of Urge Overkill circa The Kids Are Insane. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from Volumen for a while – according to their website one member just got married and another is expecting a baby. Let’s all hope for a long winter with lots of studio time.

No-Fi Soul Rebellion is essentially one guy, Mark Heimer, who wanted to perform in a band but didn’t want the hassle with bandmates. His solution? He invented the “Soul System,” a bass guitar with the strings removed and a mini-disc player embedded inside. On stage, his wife dances around wearing the Soul System while the husband karaokes to his own songs. They’re like a post-modern Partridge Family.

Anyway the B side, Ch*rch, is a more mechanical, synthesized funk than the A side. It’s the kind of music that Morris Day and Devo could have made if only they had put their petty jealousies aside. Oh, and NFSR lose points for rhyming “lurch” and “jerks” with “church.”

–Hunter Gatherer

Jolie Holland – “Catalpa” – [Anti- Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   A Library, CD

This is San Francisco-based Jolie Holland’s first solo release since co-founding and then leaving Be Good Tanyas, though it wasn’t originally intended to be. The tracks are mostly demo tapes that weren’t supposed to go “any further than my neighborhood” as she says. There is an unfinished feeling to many of the songs, and she coughs and laughs on some tracks. In another, you can hear an engineer dropping something (and he even gets a percussion credit). One song was recorded before it was finished, and Ms. Holland helpfully includes the extra lyrics of the finished version in her liner notes.

The result is that listening to this CD feels like crouching outside her window and eavesdropping as she sings her mysterious songs of loneliness and restlessness. She’s accompanied by her guitar and little else. At times it sounds a little like a field recording of old Appalachian folk (due to the way she sings and her picking style, I think) until you listen to the lyrics, consider the whole thing, and feel the influence of Woody Guthrie and Syd Barrett. The latter even gets a co-writing credit on The Littlest Birds.

There is something deeply American about the rootless feel of this release.

–Hunter Gatherer

Crimea, the – “Lottery Winners on Acid ” – [Double Dragon]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Staggering from the ashes of the CROCKETTS, Davey MacManus
(vocals/lyrics/guitar) and drummer Owen Hopkin re-invented
their music selves as THE CRIMEA in late 2002, tempering a bit
of their own chaos in and around Plaistow (which might be old
London???s answer to Hamburger Hill) & enlisting keyboardist
Andrew Stafford (dig the Roland VK-8 + XV-88) , bassist Joseph
Udwin & lead guitarist Andrew Norton (ex-DENZEL). MacManus,
a native of Dublin, plays occasional solo sets as KERNEL KROK;
his biopictorial lyrics read vivid in either setting, shambling to
a place called truth in a style somewhere between MUNGO JERRY
and the DEPARTURE LOUNGE. First three tracks here were all UK
singles ??? and they are terrific ??? rustic in all the right places and
seemingly fueled by sufficient libations???.last two tracks equally
good as drunken anthems/internal commentary/emotional palmistry
??????..Most excellent****
MITCH October 2004

Contrast, the – “Fade Back in ” – [Rainbow Quartz]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Peterborough UK (East Midlands) quartet lets a
third LP loose, featuring production by Andy
Hawkins & enhanced vocals from mainman
David Reid, whose mastery of the Rickenbacker
and various retro psychedelia steers a remarkably
consistent resonating sonic experience through a
swelling, driving journey of great highs ( # 1, 3, 4 +
12) and poignant lows ( # 8). Reid is a polished
storyteller in song, whether relating a post-alterca-
tion friendship ( # 2), warning of doom ( # 5),
belittling fickle fame ( # 6) or letting savvy harmony
convey self-depreciation ( # 10). Reid himself says of this
material that it is???.???the most focused & direct stuff
we have done. Sounds the most consistently like
the CONTRAST?????? Bass = Richard Mackman; rhythm
guitar/backing vox = Spencer Hart; drums = James
Crossley; keys = Hawkins ??? rock-solid powah pop.
MITCH October 2004

Coastal – “Halfway to You ” – [Words on Music]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Somber, sparse slowcore dreampop from Jason
& Luisa Gough that shimmers, beguiles and lays
claim to a particular signature serenity on this
2nd LP. Missing regular drummer Jim Harker on
this recording, Jason G. did the percussion honors
himself, laying close by the bass of Josh Callaway
and a host of buried samples. Melody, drone,
lyrics of longing, a pursuit perhaps of melancholy
in the service of stately dirge (Luisa G.???s keyboards
a vital sonic element), COASTAL is all dual-harmony
and mesmerizing alchemy; strings/bells/guitars/magic
???..Faraway vox + spoken word beauty plus Megan
Lloyd violin ( # 2) lone yet intriguing instro ( # 8)
heartrending cello bridges ( #1) epic haze via wistful
viola by Helen Maltby ( # 9) languid memories ( #4)
???.. Out of Provo, UT ??? most pleasing and sophisticated
masterwork
MITCH October 2004

PacificUV s/t [WARM]

Thurston Hunger   10/15/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Five-piece out of Georgia, aided and abetted
by various folks (including Heather McIntosh
from the Instruments!!). Adding female vox
on some tracks helps to underscore that always
crucial Slowdive connection. Fine floatation,
nothing earth-shattering, nor earth-smothering.
Pillowy layers of guitar, songs buried in
feather beds can still breathe and walk among
us as tunes. Upon headphone inspection you
realize how much went into realizing these
fluffy drifts of shoegaze. The pedal steel,
the vibes, the electroprocessing, a touch
of God Speed swirled/massed guitar, the
cello-enforced roots, the noisette party
favors…and undoubtedly the pharmaceuticals.
Cuts #3 and #7 bubbled to the top of the pop
for me…while #8 seems to fog a different
window altogether.

Born Heller – “S/T” – [Locust Music]

lombard   10/5/2004   A Library, CD

A very cool release with female vocals from Josephine Foster–similar in sound to Mia Doi Todd..which at times are nearly operatic. The instrumentation (harp, mandolin, bass) gives it an extra experimental kick, especially on the early tracks. You’ll notice that one of the Oldham’s (Paul) recorded a number of tracks..and the final song has more of a Palace/folk feel to it and also features male vocals (Jason Ajemian-who also provides bass throughout). (added 10-5-2004)
-Cynthia Lombard

Little Wings- “Magic Wand” – [K Records] (CD)

lombard   10/5/2004   A Library, CD

Spare, folky acoustic music with male vocals by Kyle Field. This is their 6th release and on it they work with Calvin Johnson along with a bunch of other guests. Kyle Field is also working on visual arts, with the cover art his handiwork. (added 10-5-2004)

-Cynthia Lombard

Mono – “Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky ” – [Virgin Records Limited]

Daryl Licht   10/4/2004   12-inch, A Library

Japan’s Mono returns for their third full-length release with only slight
refinements in their sound . Most tracks feature Mono’s characteristic song
structure: slowly building lengthy tracks, with delicate, icy guitar figures riding
layers of droning strings and thick distortion that increase in waves of intensity
and volume, until they explode in soaring crescendos of transcendent noise.
Their sound on this outing, however, is a little more lush, with a greater emphasis on
strings and more orchestral arrangements than previous recordings. There’s also a
couple of shorter, quieter, less dynamic tracks that failed to impress this listener.
For the most part, however, this is dynamic, almost sweepingly cinematic music,
that achieves Mono’s stated goal of evoking feelings and emotions via music that are difficult to capture and describe in mere words. Play! DL

Comets on Fire – “Blue Cathedral ” – [Sub Pop Records]

Daryl Licht   10/4/2004   12-inch, A Library

Bay Area-based, KFJC favorites, Comets On Fire, return with
their third studio full-length release. The material on this LP
represents the next logical step in the continuing development
of the group’s sound. It is very similar to their previous efforts,
however, the songs are a little more structured and the keyboards
play an increasing role in their sonic attack. Nevertheless, from the
ripping, heavy, psychosludge of the opening track, to the
early-70’s Floydian prog-psych of “Brotherhood Of The Harvest”,
to the Chasney fueled acid folk of “Wild Whiskey”, this LP is an
outstanding soundtrack for substance abuse. A little more subtle
and refined, perhaps, but these guys are still just about the coolest
stoners west of Dead Meadow. Highly recommended! DL

Dara – “S/T ” – [Ecstatic Peace]

Daryl Licht   10/1/2004   12-inch, A Library

Dara has been a multi-media underground artist for a
number of years (including, most notably, a stint in His
Name Is Alive), operating in both the Ann Arbor/Detroit
and NYC areas. This one-sided 12″ is her debut solo
release and she’s responsible for all sounds contained
withiin. Organs, synths, guitars, and assorted electronic
noisemakers generate white noise drones and electro
beats to create little lo-fi pop gems and instrumentals.
Vocals, when present, are almost spoken, not sung,
and are delivered in a little girl voice that reminded me
of Cynthia Dahl. Nothing here is gonna change your
world, but a quick hit of her outsider electro-noise pop
will surely leave a smile on your face. DL

Masada – “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celebr ” – [Tzadik]

Daryl Licht   9/28/2004   A Library, CD

Masada is one of Zorn’s longest running and most popular
projects. For those who may be unfamilar with Masada,
the project represents Zorn’s attempt to create a new form
of Jewish music, one that celebrates and preserves Jewish
musical traditions while integrating elements of modern
music, as well. Elements of klezmer, Eastern and Middle
Eastern music, jazz, avant-garde, and classical are integrated
to create the unique Masada sound. On this disc, they are
captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s incredible
month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to celebrate
his 50th birthday. The quartet is in top form, with Zorn
and Douglas weaving complex lines around each other
(especially on tracks 4 and 7 – yow!) over the solid rhythm
section of Cohen and (the great) Joey Baron. Whether they’re
executing ensemble passages with cool precision or blowing freely ,
for the most part, this is improvisation at its finest. Inspiring! DL

Nadler, Marissa – “Ballads of Living and Dying ” – [Eclipse Records]

Daryl Licht   9/26/2004   12-inch, A Library

NYC-based musician and artist, Marissa Nadler,
throws her hat into the ring of the, currently hot,
solo femme acid folk scene with her debut release,
‘Ballads of Living and Dying?. Nadler’s obviously
been exposed to a diverse array of influences from
old-timey americana folk to modern avant acoustic
guitarists, such as Fahey, etc., to psychedelia and
beyond. The tracks on this LP range from pretty
straightforward solo folk to atmospheric, late night
folk-psych. As the title suggests, the lyrical content
explores dark themes (death/suicide, ill-fated loves, etc.),
all delivered in Nadler’s sweet, ethereal vocal style.
Nadler also appears to be a fairly accomplished musician
and performs on a variety of stringed instruments (six
and twelve string acoustic guitar, banjo, ukelele, and
autopharp), as well as organ, to weave her tapesry
of sound. Personal favorites include ‘Fifty Five Falls?,
‘Mayflower May?, and her haunting treatment of Poe’s
‘Annabelle Lee?. An interesting and excellent release
from this promising new artist. Recommended! DL

Zdrastvootie “” 33 rpm [self]

Thurston Hunger   9/7/2004   7-inch, A Library, Format

Hauling sprawl free-rock from four Santa Cruzers nourished on
Beefhearts. A-side has a definite Lucas film on the fingers
of the guitar. Songs sort of explore, bump in the dark. Like
stairs built by hallucinating carpenters. A-side after its
Lucas leap settles into a walking rhythm then drops through
some trapdoor chords before striking the anthem ore for a
few measures then drizzles out softly to black inner groove.
B-side explodes out of the gate, drums alternating between
pacemaker ticks and heart attack thwacks. Then song comes
to a twang bar in the middle of the road, up the fretboard
go fretting fingers things get chittery for awhile, then
in comes the secret stair mantra. Whenever a rare chord is
struck, it’s heavy with ninths, flats, sharps, and other
accouterments. Quiet comes in (like a second track) and
it’s a race up a mountain to the finish (where it almost
sounds like a live gig). Flustery…in a good way. -Hunger
PS name is hello in russian, “zzz-draw-stvee-cheh”

Orinoka Crash Suite “Two” [Narnack]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

OCS is John Dwyer…or at least one of an army of John Dwyers
as seen in the Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf
and grandma’s fave, “Dig That Body Up It’s Alive.” Prolific
is too weak a word. On Sesame Street, this is the album that
is not like the others…acoustic, subdued, tape-hissed,
vocally-hushed numbers. “Killed Yourself” sounds like the
singer drowned himself in a cute little aquarium, with one
of those fancy tiny castles. Guided by Voices managed to
get just the right type of poor recording on their earlier
stuff, I’d venture that here Dwyer has done as good a job.
The splotchy reverb and warble of the recordings just adds
stacks of unassuming ambience to these strumbly numbers.
The ending number drives home the point, it’s a true “home”
recording, old-school style…a child recounting Goldylox
and the three “beers?” “Intermission” serves up a fit of
fury… Usually it is the sounds, voices, tweaky guitar
on top of the acoustic underbelly that make these songlets
compelling. I find this a lot more bluesy than the most
recent Clarence Gatemouth Brown album. Half-cooked and
home-cocked. Don’t miss the Bisbees.

Zoffy “Thou Shall Not Mess with Zoffy” [Acid Mothers Temple]

Thurston Hunger   8/25/2004   A Library

Acid knights of the mother temple, guitar god Makoto Kawabata
and madman-genius Atsushi Tsuyama turn psychedelic pranksters
with another Zoffy piece o’ musical taffy. Stretching the
limits of cover songs at the beginning and end, and digging
deep beneath the folk basement. Zoffy deliver ultra-tweaked
gypsy songs cloaked in reverb, humor, birdcalls. A heady
sonic homebrew, that is deceptively ramshackled. (Check
out the headphone tabla bounce on #10, it defies the lo-fi
nature of much of this.) Atsushi is just a radiant being.
All tracks might be covers for what I know, but the further
out the better…the opening/closing numbers pale in
comparison to the gaunt beauty of #2, or the hypnowheel
spin of #7 with crazed keening vocals. While the kids
may dig “Cookie Monster” vocals these days, I sure like
Atsushi’s “Grover” vox on #9. Meanwhile his phrasing on
that tabla-turner #10 sound like a sideways take on Pete
Seeger. With the ney nose-flute, and dueling bouzouki
action, how can you not love this? -Thurston Hunger
Seven seconds of abrupt silence at the end of #13

Zelienople “Sleeper Coach” [Loose Thread]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2004   A Library, CD, Format

No sophomore slump, just a deeper drop into the coma for this
Chicago quartet. Stonergaze with stacks of sonic blankets.
It opens in a wind tunnel, and most following tracks ride on
solar winds. Guitars can whoosh…especially when washed out.
Vox are pulled into to the vacuum by way of an anglo(?) accent
almost forcing a comparison to Slowdive. Although rarely does
the Z aim for catchiness, happier to just glide. Each lyric
seems to evaporate before the next, leaving little residue.
Which is okay, as the band more steadfastly pursues reverbic
resonance. The sound from beginning to end is consistent.
Evidently Mike Weis is the drummer, and possibly narcoleptic.
The mark of a good drummer is to not play certain notes,
but Mike is able to do so for entire songs. Brian Harding
not only blows cumulus keyboards but even breathes deep on
clarinet. Neil Jendon joined the group last, but I think it
is his puddles of guitar that help Zelienople (named after
somewhere in PA) find a nice region between drone and pop.
“Don’t Be Lonely” hits the high-water mark for me, but it
all stays afloat. As Richard Nixon once Grimble Grumbled,
“It is indeed a windy city!”

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