KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Cheer Up Poems “Our Two Strings” [Wire Heart Recordings]

Mac   3/5/2005   A Library

Hailing from sleepy Duluth, MN comes Bill Reichelt’s venture into the world of electro-psych folk. These eight short songs explore many realms. For pure ambience, travel to the far lands of tracks 1, 4, and 8 whose beauty left Bill speechless.
Those with an itch for adventure should scale the twin peaks of tracks 2 & 6 and find at their zenith the rockin’ psych that combines the hard playing of the mountains with the calm obtained from standing atop the clouds. Here Bill’s lyrics fade into the expansive musical beyond.
After a long day’s journey, sit under the stars around the fire and put on tracks 3, 5 and 7 where Bill’s raspy, plaintive vocals will send you on a sleepy voyage to the dream world.

Xiu Xiu vs Bunkbed – split 33 rpm [Turn Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Xiu Xiu’s Jaime Stewart sings from a pulsating amnion of
keyboards, rippled acoustic guitar and a slow-motion marimba.
Gutter-gasping “It’s over” in an intimate tale of immolation.
A piercing light shines through towards the end but the grey
overcast nature of the song is what resonates and remains with
you. That and the fact the composer of the song is no longer
around, Bunkbed’s Keith Krate died in September 2002.

The tragedy of that death is driven home on the other side,
a Bunkbed song that sounds like a ballon tied to a hundred
synth strings. Another sort of womb warping to this track,
but Krate’s sugary harmonies float above the liquid sound this
time. Too pretty to stay aloft?

Each song invokes the power of dream in words and hopefully
beyond. Between the countless “It’s over” refrains, Stewart
also sings, “It never ends.” Whether that refers to the dream,
or the pain, only Krate knows now.

Afrirampo “First EP” [Gyuune Cassette]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The first time I heard Afrirampo was a live set on Brian
Turner’s show on WFMU. I felt like I had seen them… I’ve
been dying for another taste ever since. This is their first
album and it’s the first “free pop” I’ve come across so far.
With efforvescent vocals, and the GOOD sort of short attention
span, a drummer who kicks asteroids, and these rising surges
of vocals. From howler monkey screams to lunar crooning to
shrieky speak to orgasmic laughter. Effects are used once,
not milked to death. You could talk about male-dominated
Japanese culture and make a case for the welling up of some
female spirits, but this is just plain unbridled creativity
erupting like a day glo volcano. These wild women are
fingerpainting with their entire bodies. Self-obsessed?
Yep. Ninja rhythms? Uh-uh. Oni and Pikacyu are here to save
the world with naked energy. Domo Ariblotto!

Antony and the Johnsons “I Am A Bird Now” [Secretly Canadian]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   12-inch, A Library, Format

Antony’s voice remains a blessed bandage for all the hurt of
his lyrics. So rich in its delicacy, and so heartfelt that
the aging celebrity vampires who flock to him are simply
overpowered by it. It’s a stake through the phantom hearts
of Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed, and yes they
all are on here…wait, wait don’t run away. The quavering
croon beckons you back poking at the the vulnerability of
life (and vinyl, goddamn our copy had a scar pop bruise on
it right out of the bird canal). Our strange changeling moves
through the family tree here, with songs of boys/girls/sisters
but strives for the higher branches, where only a bird can
alight. I love it when his voice is doubled, trebled and
trembled on top of itself. I try to listen to the words but
his voice lulls me into just hearing the emotions. His many
Johnsons too should get some credit, they are the make-up
that can stand the spotlight. Evidently Julia Kent was in
Rasputina, and here she applies sweet doses of lacrimose.
The enzyme that breaks our bodies down… Right now Antony
has all the fleeting luster of a shooting star, here’s hoping
he breaks out of the tragic trajectory, the collision course,
the fiery fate and instead gets lodged in a safe heavenly
orbit. With a piano and several costume changes. It’s a bird,
it’s a plane, it’s a man, it’s a woman, it’s Antony.

James White – ?Flaming Demonics? – [Ze Records] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

James White (a.k.a. James Chance n’e James Siegfried) has great taste in suits and oh, by the way, is one of the main characters associated with the late 70’s/early 80’s No Wave scene in NYC.

This album, released in 1983, is his last studio release of five (if you count his LP with the Contortions and the 4 tracks on the No New York compilation, which we have in A on 12″). Ze Records was recently revived and moved to France by label co-founder Michel Esteban, who provides excellent liner notes that are definitely worth a read.

The music is demented, cacophonous, and chaotic. Most tracks find the rhythm and horn section working a minimal funk riff, while Mr. White wails away on his tenor sax frenetically. He sings too.

This is an incredibly energetic album. At least one track will have you dancing around like a maniac. Like he shouts in another song: ‘Try being stupid instead of smart.’ Good advice for us and advice he takes as well.

Three word review: VOODOO DISCO JAZZ
–Hunter Gatherer

Hood – ?Outside Closer? – [Domino Recording] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

This is Hood’s sixth full-length release and their first one in four years. But the Leeds, UK-based quartet have released some singles and EPs in that period.

The music is beautiful and smart indie pop, equal parts natural sounds (guitar, vocals, drums, violin, piano) and electronic sounds (sampled vocal loops, beats, synth). It sounds like it has less electronics than it really does.

It may take a few listens to get through the shiny finish. Though each song is it’s own creation and has its own sound, the entire album hangs together.

Each side starts off with an upbeat track and then unwinds into an introspective vibe. I really like this album.

Language: B1 (‘fuck’)
–Hunter Gatherer

Underground Resistance – “Return of Acid Rain Ii, the ” – [Underground Resistance]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

By the time this EP was released Underground Resistance was just ‘Mad? Mike Banks, the two other co-founders, Jeff Mills and Robert ‘Noise? Hood, having gone off to explore other opportunities. It was released in 1994.

UR, always the political group, is warning us about the perils of acid rain, a particular problem in Detroit it seems. You need to read actual album to find this out, for it is impossible to deduce this from the music.

And the music is Detroit techno. The versatile Roland 303 is the primary instrument, and it is being put to good use creating lots of good acid-y sounds. The tracks are short-ish — for techno anyway — ranging from 2:20 to 4:19.

My only complaint is that the tracks seem to end just when they are getting a groove. Maybe the acid rain got them.

–Hunter Gatherer

Rewind! 4 [coll] – [Ubiquity Records]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th in the excellent Rewind series put out by California label Ubiquity. The Rewind series has new artists and bands covering and updating (and sometimes completely changing the genres of) classic songs.

There are some amazing remakes covering a wide range of genres covered on this CD. There is soul/R&B (1,4,6,12), world/Afro/Latin-beat (2,5,6), spacey electronica (7,9), and folkish (3,11).

There are several tracks that simply must be heard:

(1)An impossibly funky cover of This Land Is Your Land by Sharon Jones & The Daptones, which I’ve reviewed on the 7″ release.

(2)The folky cover of Cameo’s Word Up!

(4)Alice Russell belting out her version of 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes. It sounds like this is the original and the White Stripes cover it, and the liner notes agree with me on this point.

The Joni Mitchell cover doesn’t really add anything to the original, though it is beautifully sung. Burt Bacharach’s Look Of Love gets slowed down and sung through a vocoder.
–Hunter Gatherer

Phonophani – “Oak or Rock ” – [Rune Grammafon]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

Phonophani is Norwegian programmer/composer/studio engineer Espen Sommer Eide. He is also – of Alog and 1/5 of Boiling Fjords. This is his third release as Phonophani and his 2nd on Rune Grammofon. It was released 8/2004.

Mr. Eide writes his own computer software for manipulating sound samples, and helpfully includes a sample program that you can download from his website. The sounds on this CD are either entirely synthesized or high processed organic sounds. Rhythms and melodies are spare. The emphasis is squarely on the timbre of the sounds, which are somewhere in the space between natural and processed sounds (Oak or Rock?).

The songs have an icy and austere feel. The piano, organ, string, and vocal samples sound like they are refracted through ice.

All songs are instrumental, though 9 contains vocal samples that make it unsuitable for a bed.
–Hunter Gatherer

Transformer Lootbag s/t [Science of Sound]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

ebut from Madison, Wisconsin trio on the guitarist’s
(Ricky Rheimer’s) label. Punchy guitarwork carmelizes
this sugar crunchy pop. I hear XTC, Bob Mould, Pixies,
Woozy Helmet, Kaito. Shouty vocals are very condensed,
(with effects) Rheimer and bassist Steven Riches trade
duties, often firing lyrics that overlap each other.
That helps give this music an insistent feel, along w/
Matt Abplanalp’s racy drums. Actually what Abplanalp
does well is to drop out a beat or two sometimes and
let Rheimer’s guitar whiplash a bit. That’s especially
vivid on the last track, which has some sort of nice
whammy on that guitar too…and then the faux runout
groove to boot. Shake your Lootbag.

Narrator, the “Youth City Fire” ep [Flameshovel]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Banks of klanking guitar and some nice whiplash drumming are
at the point where the needle strikes the heart of the manic
panic churned out by this Chicago fourpiece. Yeah, the vocals
at their best are exasperating, probably from years of trying
to sing over stacks of amps without a PA? But the rock here
is as real as a blood blister, and drummer Nate Heneghan just
slaps the skin around a lot. The guitars occasionally get into
some see-saw stereophonic slash versus slash work, and do a
good job of sharing the spotlight, playing off each other.
Flameshovel tends to bring out some of the crispier guitar
torched rock, trebly Fender-fried, finger-licking stuff. As
such it almost is important that the vocals be a little weak
as if to say, “oh yeah we gotta sing something.” Weird little
keyboard interlude on “Horse with Blinders” gets eaten alive.
This ep, is definitely an Emphatic Play and promising for
the hinterlands where rock is still spoken.

The Lab – 20 Year Anniversary [coll] – [self]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

We are lucky to live in an area with such a high weirdo
percentage…indeed we help in our way to boost that number.
But these LAB rats make their own mazes and draw new, wilder,
weirder rats from all over the world. The Bay Area may lack
some of New York’s notoriety, but I think that pays off with
an atmosphere that really let’s anything go. Encourages it
to do so, which I imagine is what the Lab is all about. I’ll
have to talk to Beth Custer who is the chief cheese these
days…if she curated this CD, she gets extra kudos as the
pieces connect from one to another like a relay race from
outer space. Really well done…unabashed brainiac waves
emanate from each piece. A familiar rock ditty from Zmrzlina,
some spoken choked works (Robair’s opera!!), you got vampy
camp from Amy X, drone, jazz and plenty of what-the-hell
is that and why-the-hell-do-I-care-it’s amazing. Each time
through something different leaps out at me, as I write
this Toychestra and the Opera Califas and Jin Hi Kim’s
Korean avant-soul and…hell it really is all mind-bowling,
sticks three fingers in your head and tosses it down the
lane in style! Shoulda been a 10-CPU box set!

Kickass, the “Death Metal is for Pussies” [BiFocal]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The album title says it, I believe it, that settles it.
No…no…no…but if you are like me and sadly cannot
stomach any more throat core vocals you may enjoy this
album of grisly riffage. I know that hyper-technical
guitar work can leave some cold, but don’t the pink
work-out outfits warm you up a bit. Titles namecheck
Led Zep, and Living Color but in addition to guitar
swagger-slash-solipsism, the Kickass do bring in some
trumpet (end of #2) and a little piano (end of #6)
which was a nice surprise for me. More in that vein
would be welcomed. This debut from Greenville, NC may
not prove that pink is the new black but at least
Tyrannosaurus Rock isn’t extinict yet.

Books, the “Thought for Food” [Tomlab]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   A Library, CD, Format

An emblematic drop of laptop pop…whether it has much
shelf life bears to be seen. On first listen this is a
very engaging release, the samples instead of slapped
heavy like gags across the mouth of music, are instead
more nimbly suspended into the actual songs. Along with
said samples the Books have Paul de Jong, a cellist, &
Nick Zammuto on guitar. Check “All Bad Ends All” that’s
infectious and done extremely well. It tap dances up the
keyboard and down your spinal column. There’s a clean,
well-lighted craziness to the conections created here.
And a sort of Eugene Chadbourne bounce to their fruity
lutery. The cleverness that fuels much of the Books
may oddly be their greatest threat…whether they can
scratch a deeper itch than kitsch. In the meantime,
have fun and gentlemen good luck. -Thurston Hopeful

Sun City Girls “Carnival Folklore Resurrection Radio” [Abduction]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Time travel back to November 2nd, 2002…hijack city by
the trinity of heresy and nowsy known as the Sun City
Girls. “Uncle Jim” spills his mic skills all over the
second CD in a three-part Kahnversation. If he’s too hip
on the lip for the hip-hop squad, then it’s their loss.
This here is firewater and every other oxymoron you can
muster. Reconstituted radio and odd rareties including a
Bat-blister TV rendition. It’s not the I-IV-V chords that
gave that theme life, it’s the screaming harmonies! The
Twilight Zone theme gets twangled, Anthony Fremont gets
namechecked, Bison makes a “Dele” and WFMU station ID.
Madness reigns from the tuning wash to Yamantaka chant
at the beginning through to the end wherein Alan Bishop’s
daughter shows that unflinching pinching of the funny
bone is genetic. Laird Henn is egged on by an answering
machine. Insurance blues are rued. Brian Turner offered
his show up like a sacrifice to the gods, but rather than
just a live set, they created this. Life.

Soothwag “S.B.T.W.” [Abiogenesis]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Should file a ballistic report rather than a review. Pounding
noise from 2001 and this Japanese signal processor/exploder.
Beats are detonated, with enough regularity to incite the
brave to dance. Sound is jammed in a bit, making this less
of a headphones-listen than an open-air assault. Blasts come
in sets of waves. Sections like the middle of “Gakai” when
persistent rhythms relax and we get the drift and draft of
static are very welcome, and could have been deployed more
often I feel. “Corrode” delivers a sort of swagger, with
slapping swatches of sound over a heavier noise-funk. The
fury-on-the-fritz of this project though is undeniable.
This is the first of at least two by Shunichi aka Soothwag.
It would be interesting to hear him collaborate with others
perhaps from less infernal realms of sound.

Smegma “Glamour Girl 1941 + Pigface Chant” [Japan Overseas]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Richard Meltzer in your mind, not in your toilet? I suspect
how much one likes/hates this will depend upon how serious
one thinks Meltzer and the Smegmen take themselves. This is
a regurging of the original full-length and ep for Meltzer
and his Pasadena-to-Portland posse, with some other chunks
coughed up just for this release. One of those ends the CD
with “uh, don’t come in here,” while there is a masturbatory
feel to much here, there’s a lot of flair as well. My guess
it’s all an allergic reaction to Meltzer’s listening to too
many records (he reviewed for Crawdaddy, the Village Voice
and such) and making too much money for Blue Oyster Cult
lyrics. The CD starts with some fairly open free jazz, but
there are tortured tantrums leaking in as well. Frustrated
poet. Well, just plain frustrated. An early use of loops is
evident. There’s a helluva lot of rare beauty in these rough
recordings (#8 and #5 say) By the time the EP breaks wind,
it’s vocal collision/collage where chants meets chance.

Shrimp Boat “Something Grand” [Aum Fidelity]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

What a long, strange triptych it’s been. This collection of
all ne’er before released material was apparently what drove
Steven Joerg to create the fine Aum Fidelity imprint. Reading
the liner notes here reminded me of meeting a group of guys
at college who had all gone to high school together and thus
had their own history, mythologies and even hostilities. But
you like ’em all. The Boat floats to many sonic ports. There’s
definitely an element of riding the rails, banjo tweaking and
hobo vocals. A lot of thin, flecky Stratocaster guitars and
so you get lazy noodling in “The Light Between Your Knees”
but then that has this great odd dischordant progression.
Other times there’s dubwise motion and hell the saxes, the
saxes are the most charged and “Wonderful, Wonderful.” This
is Chicago, must be something in the spit valves there. Ollie
North goes south in “I Can’t Wait, I Cannot” which winds up
being for the birds…but helps to set the dates, ’87 – ’92.
What more can you ask of art students (especially ones with
sax smoking friends) other than to make more music. Perhaps
Joerg is shooting for a Nobel Prize and a new album, in the
meantime this snapshot good cop, Prekop, pre-post rock has
an active feel in composition/capture and out of time

Shalabi Effect “Pink Abyss” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   A Library, CD, Format

First a masterpiece, then a mess…and now this, a
messterpiece from these Montreal minstrels and their
namesake mastermind, Sam (or Osama) Shalabi. This is
another foray into the field of psychedelic poppies,
aside from a gorgeous ballad on #2 featuring guest
vocalist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic most of this teeters
on the fence between hippy jam and even less focused
sonic noodling. That being said, listened en toto
from end to end this album creates its own landscape
with tabla often as its touchstone. The short tonic
track after the aforementioned ballad serves as an
incredible shadow (with clarinet). The album is
bookended by less organic, more orgonic materials. The
initial cut is a flutey forest shredded by a sampler,
the last cut sort of orbits in space around the turf
that has been traversed earlier. While track #9 does
recall their earlier galactic garden processionals,
really all of this is enjoyable. It just tastes like
it was taken out of the oven a tad too soon. Better
that than too late…

Sexy Prison “Bury My Heart at Vladistovok” 33 rpm [toneVENDOR]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

While some will prefer the B-side to this single sided 7″,
the boys cooped up in Sacremento’s “Sexy Prison” probably
wouldn’t mind. Them boys would be vocalist John Pritchard and
de-bassist Robert Pickle, together they may have given birth
to the recently added “Babyhead” comp. Gotta love reproductive
technology these days. Pritchard’s reverby singing is like a
woman with too much mascara, you kinda wonder what it would
look/sound like without it…but you can’t stop staring at it
nonetheless. The second track has a sample at the root that
might be “Funky Cole Medina” or something, it gets briefly
excavated for a spell along with four bars of a Tiki calypso.
These two numbers are as subtle as a drag racing commercial,
fervent with left-over machines from the disco age rebuilt
with illegal parts and maximum squelch. The lyrics are so
warped, I thought they were singing about Boz Scaggs at one
time. Even if they weren’t this is still tremendous.

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