KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Workshop “Yog Sothoth” [Sonig]

Thurston Hunger   7/27/2004   A Library

Germans Kai Althoff und Stephan Abry have been Workshop for a
number of years, this is their seventh release. Althoff is
also an artist (canvases) and thus this by defintion is art
rock, but it’s also damned diverse. His singing is often
on-the-fly pitched and glitched, but it’s still singing. This
release plays like a band, men more than Matmos. (Although
the mysterious Rath may be a woman.) Workshop looks to its
electronics without overlooking more human elements. Like
beats dropped in at less than precise moments, and good
punch-drunk guitars on #2. They list a lot of collaborators,
depending on which track/door you come in, this album will
look like an entirely different house. Beat palace, prog
cubicles, broken pop stand, reggae shack. The processed vox
at times crack me up (not that I understand the German) but
that zippling effect has been used in really cheezy R&B in
the past. There’s Fodder for the whole Family here, all
LoveCrafted.

L.A. Drugs s/t [Twisted Village]

Thurston Hunger   7/13/2004   12-inch, A Library, Format

Three piece suits themselves to the pleasure of panic attacks
and heavy doses of teenage sexual frustration (the lyrics
are copped from singer Sandra’s diary.) Tinny but not tiny
punk with sloppy joe guitar from Ryan, who just as he starts
to master the six-string halfway through this one-sided
monomaniacal hormone-laced vinyl release dumps the guitar
for his true love, synthesizers that make Quintron sound
like Lawrence Welk. And oh yeah, that’s Paul drumming at gun
point…and just as sure-handed as you would expect. This
album screams for attention, but it also just screams for
the sake of screaming. Fiesty fits of songs get bored with
the listener before vice-versa…repetition of lyrics keeps
the insistence levels high, the insolence meanwhile is
bubbling out of your pancreas as these L.A. Drugs detune
out, turn on you and drop their drawers. Music to scratch
scabs to…not necessarily your own. Purely puerile!
PS A locked groove to *start* and *end* this…

Molasses “Trouble at Jinx Hotel” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Fourth serving of this Montreal mixture, chiefly stirred and
slurred by Scott Chernoff. Molasses is a material known for
its being dark, thick and slow…those qualities ooze forth
on this release as well. Of course, lower case molasses is
the reduction of sweet sugar cane, while Molasses is the
reduction of the more sour aspects of life. “Jinx” is almost
spiritually devoted to despondency, and distilled with tiny
drones too. Prayers are tossed on the slowburn of the lyrics
fairly often, sunshine threatens at times to break thru but
Chernoff’s heavy-to-the-point-of-herniated vocals prevent
any gravity-defying or even the robbing of grave feelings.
His broken spoken words get ghosted by Jennifer Menard
and others. The songs are usually set in the hazy strum of
a guitar chord or three, augmented nicely by harrowing
haloes of GodSped guitars. Add in stretchy acoustic bass,
a most morose marimba, slow-bowed saws…all keeping the
pace and outlook bleak. This CD is a rustic rocking chair
on a porch somewhere mossy, but its runners are rusted
so it can’t move too much. Still well carved.

Joanna Newsom “Milk-Eyed Mender” [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   12-inch, A Library, Format

Guileless yet wily comes Joanna Newsom. A recent adoptee of
the Bay Area, has touched notes and hearts with the Pleased
and Nervous Cop, this album is nearly 100% her and her alone.
Pluckier than her harp strings and luckier than the stars
above, her soothing songs connect ancient Greek minstrels to
Vulcan folk songs. Her harp is such a mammoth instrument,
its menacing stature belieing its lamb-like nature. Newsom’s
voice exists outside of time, she likely sang this way when
she was 8, and still will when she’s 80. At her shriller
moments, she may prove too much the harpy for some. For me,
I’m completely enchanted…having seen her live next to
her harp enhanced the childlike nature of the performance.
She does play some other instruments here as well, including
harpsichord adding to the anachronistic pull of this LP.
It’s a cozy album, in package and in play. Her lyrical
wool-gathering kept me enrapt, others may find it too
bramble and briar. For me, it’s just plum peachy!

Mirah “C’mon Miracle” [K Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/29/2004   A Library

Mirah, Mirah on the wall, whose Cat has the most Power of them
all? Acoustic guitar, triple espresso, librarian loosening up,
songcraft here won’t disappoint the K Recs kognoscenti. Mirah
is Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, she has spent time in the Microphones
and Phil Elvrum is on board here to engineer. Indeed “Look Up!”
gets the M’s squelchy drum trademark sound. Splatch splatch.
The percussion here is often painted pinpoint perfect to expand
the plaintiff songs at their centers. Other peculiar touches
are added (although nothing quite as cinematic results as the
lush treatment found on the recent “Cold, Cold Water 7”.) But
this is nowhere near overproduced, indeed great restraint is
used more often than not, “You’ve Gone Away Enough” has these
nice breathy verses a la Kate Bush’s illegitimate daughter.
Really this is more power folk, than pop…while the songs are
short they canter, never gallop. Horse Power? Even the album
title sounds like a shout to show at the sweeepstakes.

Kyriakides, Yannis “a conSPIracy cantata” [Unsounds]

Thurston Hunger   4/28/2004   A Library, CD, Format

The premise is promising to me at least, searching for a
connection between Conet style transmissions and the Delphic
Oracle. Something about a human voice, or in this case two,
that tends to make the more difficult music at KFJC a little
more readily received. The piano on here is sharp, and notes
are dropped on what feel like curves plotted algorithmically.
Static blurts and morse meanderings add signal strength to the
sparse “symphony.” Tracks #4 and #5 stood out for me. #6 adds
a Latin air to the proceedings. The two other compositions
feature a slow gyroscopic drone (#7) and the last track is a
new sort of insect killer, it lures them out onto a dancefloor
of sorts where they tiptoe between spiked heels and bopping
boots. Bravo Echo Bravo!

Motor “Freeze ” [Kuroneko]

Thurston Hunger   4/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

I’ve always been one to prefer waves to beats, and this
album laps at your ears. It’s as if the tips of more
abrasive noises and rhythms were snipped off, and this
slides in under the barbed wire surrounding the dance
floor. At times, a liquid ebb and flow ala the tides
and timings of Basic Channel works its way in. Other
than that here you are placed in a desolate factory,
hearing the hum and whirr of machines behind closed
doors. One item of note, evidently the man behind the
wheels and knobs of Motor is working out of Moscow?’
Or maybe not, more mystery to add to the metal mist.

Magic is Kuntmaster “Night Songs for Ugly Children” [Nihilist Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Camilla Ha is the woman behind the Magic. Working out
of Chicago these days and coming in with a sound that
has sort of the reverb-drenched vocal stylings of the
Ventricle label blended with digital depth charges.
I think she plays a midi-bass with a maxipad. This CD
is sonically dense…although the instrumentation is
sparse. Her singing is more whispery muttering, like
Julee Cruise singing to you through pipes after being
abducted and kept in an underground reservoir. It’s not
as colorful as its packaging, more fashionably drab. I
dig this in an urban decay and dismay way. “Sea Squid”
and the “Lullaby” are made of less heavy mettle, more
bubbles in those. If you’ve heard of bands “Foamula”
and “My Name is Rar Rar” then you are already familiar
with Ms. Ha, so why are you reading this? Depress play.
Let the music be your Kuntmaster…

Verdure “Cross and Satellite Station” [Lexicon Devil]

Thurston Hunger   3/31/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wordy-gurdy poem-ramble drift-rock. Second generation
hippy, Donovan Quinn is up Walnut Creek without a
sandalwood incense stick. Laconic, ironic vocals over
strumbly guitar gets to the heart of most of these songs.
Occasionally something spikes that heart, like electric
spiders that string out on #3 and #5! Track #7 adds
piano treacles and melodica trickles then ends with
heavy breathing accidental beatbox. On #9, guitar drops
some wah-wah while violin delay skitters and then those
spiders return with a vengeance! Kudos for unapologetic
use of falsetto on several songs. This is a rerelease
of his initial album. From what we find here and with
connections to the Jeweled Antler Collective (Quinn
is in the Skygreen Leopards), I’m curious where his
trajectory takes him. While lyrics arrange mirrors and
vultures, this is not necessarily music to watch your
own death by?

Boris “Akuma No Uta” [Fangs Anal Satan]

Daryl Licht   3/6/2004   A Library

Although they are not as well known as such Japanese underground
heavyweights as Fushitsusha or High Rise, Boris (yes, the name was
inspired by the Melvins? song) have been producing high quality heavy
psych/rock/doom/drone for more than a decade. The highlights of the
album are the lengthy tracks that begin each side. ‘Introduction? (on
the A-side, naturally) is an incredible, heavy feedback drenched, doom
droner. The B-side’s, ‘Naki Kyoku? is a heavy psych epic that features
some awesome guitarwork. The remaining four, shorter tracks are all
heavy rockers, with some being in the slow grind vein and others
being more punkish, up tempo scorchers. Stylistically, this is certainly
their most varied release to date and, perhaps, their best, as well. Play!
DL

Fursaxa – “Madrigals in Duos ” – [Time-Lag]

Daryl Licht   2/23/2004   12-inch, A Library

Fursaxa is the (mostly) solo project of Tara Burke, a Philadelphia resident
who has been intriguing us for years now with her efforts in a number of
groups, most notably, Un. On ‘Madrigals In Duos? , her third full-length
release, she displays all the required skills to earn her ‘acid folk? merit
badge. Some tracks are more straightforward, in a lo-fi folk-psych vein,
featuring mainly acoustic guitar and vocals. Other tracks shoot straight
for the heart of that 3AM vibe, combining cosmic organ drones with
ghostly, wailing vocals. Finally, there are a couple of noisier tracks, with
dissonant electric guitars and repetitive, driving, hand percussion.
Beautiful and otherworldly music. Mandatory for play on late night shows. DL

Trans Am – “Liberation ” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

Daryl Licht   2/23/2004   12-inch, A Library

‘Liberation?, the 7th full-length release from Washington D. C.’s, Trans Am, finds
the band continuing to feature a familar mix of sonic elements – Krautrock, 80’s
Synthpop, Electro-Ambience, Punk, and Post Rock. Despite its similarity to their
previous work, however, this album represents a new pinnacle of acheivement
for the band. On ‘Liberation?, which features a strong theme of opposition to the
policies of the Bush Administration, the band has a acheived a nearly perfect
synthesis of cover art, ‘lyrical? content, and music. The cuts on this album (most
of which track) flow almost seamlessly from synth-driven Krautrock grooves to
danceable synthpop to late-night, electro-ambient pieces and driving rockers.
The combination of political soundbites/synthesized vocals and ominous
analogue sounds works perfectly to convey their damning indictment of Bush’s
war in Iraq and evoke fear of Big Brother’s ever intrusive gaze/grasp. A beautiful
record – sonically diverse and conceptually complete. Highly recommended! DL

Parts & Labor “Groundswell” [JMZ Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/18/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Brooklyn trio tapping into that Lightning Bolt voltage.
Whip-ass drummer Jim Sykes (ultimately replaced by
Joel Saladino) and buzzneck bassist BJ Warshaw create
furious instro flurries. What helps these stand out from
other Bolt babies is keyboardist Dan Friel, he adds a
sense of *disobedient* electronics. Notes pitch-flip up
octaves at a time, wires get crossed, no glissando
all blitzando. Actually all members are credited with
electronics, so it could well be a group effort. The
key is that sense of abandon over both monolithic and
manic rhythm cores. Track #4 features something like
a theremin in desperate need of ritalin. This is their
debut from Feb 2003, since then they’ve evidently
braved vocals. It would be cool to hear them hook up
with a Alan Vega lyric-droner…or maybe lace some
NYC saxaholic in their melee.

NOTE: Last track ends at 3:32 (then a slow drone that
ultimately reprises #1’s short wash for “closure”)

Mahjongg “Machine Gong” [Cold Crush]

Thurston Hunger   2/11/2004   A Library, CD, Format

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, before teenravers
ruled the technomatic dancefloor in e-induced dehydration,
kids used to dance to rock music. This clumsy collection
of five freaks recall that time and stumble to the beat
on this dance rock set of songs. I dig the 8-bit eq on
the first three “songs” (track one is something like a
cassette recording of an airplane?). Most of the songs
feature some sort of choppiness to an instrument or
voice or Atari console in the mix… Yeah if Guided by
Voices had been raised on a strict diet of the Bush
Tetras then your Mom and Dad would never have met and
so forth. I think this band will prove to be more
wonderfully fucked up over time, allegedly they are
a tri-state affair from Chicago, Missouri and Oregon.
This release does not cover nearly as much territory.
Percussion percolated to your taste.

New Circle Five “Dreaming Wide Awake” [Deep Listening]

Thurston Hunger   2/4/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Wonder women Pauline Oliveros and Susie Ibarra create a
five-pointed circle rounded out with vocalista Kristin
Norderval, Rosi Hertlein on violin (some voice too) and
Monique Buzzarte on various deeper winds. Operatic scat
will leap out at your ears somewhat but Norderval and
Hertlein are grounded in the texts they are breathing
life into. Ibarra is subtle but strong, opening beaded
percussion doors into songs…high chimes, soft cymbals,
distant thundertom rumbles. Oliveros’ accordion sets
up plenty of sonic fields, droney vortices, but she is
also suprisingly nimble in other parts. This is on
Oliveros’ Deep Listening label (and way of life); true
to form the performers do listen deeply, the sound is
both light with space between players/singers and
heavy with tension from drones augmented by Buzzarte’s
clouds of thick trombone, and from Hertlein’s anxiety
violin attack. Polyglot sotto vices.

Clearlake – “Cedars ” – [Domino Records]

mitch   1/16/2004   A Library, CD

Bleak and despairing sophomore release from Sussex coast
quartet articulately explores a personal inventory of
madness, death, loss, self-loathing and resilient honor
arrived at via lacerating wit. A document of heartbreak
and the sensibilities of vulnerability amid drizzle-filled
days of assumed and inevitable failure and self-depreciation
(aided greatly by producer Simon Raymonde of COCTEAU TWINS) as
confessed by frontman Jason Pegg, who elicits beauty in melan-
choly and melancholy behind beauty from stalwart members Sam
Hewitt (keyboards), David Woodward (bass), and James Butcher
(drums)???..???The last thing you???re expecting when you???re
looking for a window / is to see it look so grey??????
[???Wonder if the Snow???] Strings drive tracks like ???The Mind is
Evil??? with a harmonic tension, while a simplistic basic piano
line fuels ???Keep Smiling???, giving to maleficent desire ???I???d Like
to Hurt You??? and a soul-searching mitigation ???Trees in the City???.
The juxtaposition of uplifting and wonderful arrangement with the
coal-colored sentiment places Pegg???s alto to a reverent self-drama,
competing with murals of feedback, keyboards and chanting
(especially ???Come into the Darkness???) in a see-saw battle of
greenery vs. metropolis (sample the inverted Golden Rule of selfish
motivation inside ???Treat Yourself with Kindness???,,,,??????Do unto
yourself as you might wish thy will be done by someone else??????)
Melodic and majestic to the drenching limit (with superb use of
minor keys throughout)and conceived by the band in France and
Brighton, the edge here is lyrical atop a bed of raw and evocative
sonics ??? gorgeous melodics in support of forensic observations.
MITCH January 2004

Bernard Parmegiani “a memoire des sons” [INA/GRM]

Thurston Hunger   12/17/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Another French pioneer in the realms of musique concrete
with Pierre’s Henri and Schaeffer. Parmegiani has worked
in TV/films as well, and the sounds here, whether from
his select memory…or aiming to trigger memories in
each listener…do seem to be more visual than some
other’s work. He’s got nice texture in these three long
tracks, constructed over a much longer time: 1967,
1987 and 2001. Despite those 34 years, standing aside
each other there is a flow (unlike say sci-fi movies
across a similar chronochasm). The first has more of
the explosive cut style (maybe from more primitive tape
handling). The second works loops more often, and has
voices and thus on a simple level, a more human feel
as well as time ticking in clocks and water drops. The
third and title cut is the most cinematic, including
soaring strings to underscore emotion. Add chimes
and crackling bramble, digeridoo and fanciful computer
flybys. Serve in slices, or complete.

Califone – “Heron King Blues ” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

mitch   12/16/2003   12-inch, A Library

Hot on the heels of 2003???s ???Quicksand / Cradlesnakes??? comes this concept LP
of recurring dream and Druid legend. A half-man, half-bird figure of legend
haunts these sprawling mirages of ancient battle and laconic, ethereal interim;
squalls of darkness patch themselves between melodic loam and numerological
tension alongside the mercy and revenge of elephant-horns, muted drums,
pump organ, slide guitar, treated piano, violin, fretless banjo and omnipresent
electronic looping. The vision belongs to vocalist Tim Rutili, along with bandmates
Ben Massarella (percussion), Jim Becker (guitars, keyboards) and Joe Adamik
(reeds, horns) and is brought to realization with producer Michael Krassner &
the usual Chicago all-star sessioneers : Wil Hendricks (bass), Fred Lonberg Holm
(cello), et. al. A product of extemporaneous creation in the studio and the
spectre of metaphysics outside of it, Rutili is a long long way from RED RED MEAT
days ??? though the riverbeds still swirl with enigma, it is the topography of semi-
coma that now presupposes symbolism, moving CALIFONE toward a more
compelling interpretation of an ancient future.
MITCH December 2003

Yoshimi & Yuka “Flower with No Color” [Ipecac]

Thurston Hunger   10/29/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Avant-exotica? Much in the vein of Yoshimi’s
earlier picture disk. The other reason “Y”
is Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, who adds a lot
of tinkling key work. Yoshimi also brings
the trumpet more to the front at times,
it has appeared a little bit in her OOIOO
project. Nuns on mescaline singing/keening
in parts…and lot’s o’ fauna doing backup
vox (birds, dogs and insects). As legend,
or perhaps just marketing, has it…this
CD was created at a temple atop Mt. Ikoma
after hiking all of the instruments up
there. (So I guess that’s an electric
piano on much of the album ;>) I prefer
the tracks where the “bamboo” percussion
makes an early entrance. En trance in
trance tranq quill trance end.

Aichinger, Oskar “Synapsis” [Between-the-Lines]

Thurston Hunger   10/27/2003   A Library, CD, Format

Vienna-based pianist delivers a precise and poetic
release. His quartet here includes Stefan Nemeth on
synthesizer, their interplay is like a dog and a cat
that get along…somewhat surprising and all the more
enjoyable to observe because of that. Territories are
not marked strictly, and at times prepared treatment
for Oskar blurs the line where the piano stops. Much
of the work here has a crystalline beauty; precise
stops in phrases (like question marks hanging), quick
but bright clusters, and lighter than air work on the
upper 44 keys. Deep sea bass work by Achim Tang (with
some scrubbing/bowing) and percussive punctuation by
Paul Skrepek add significantly. The invisible fifth
member of the quartet is Christoph Amman, who captured
this in a gorgeous recording, don’t miss it.

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