KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Fontaine, Brigitte “Brigitte Fontaine” [Saravah]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

1972 a completely fascinating audio enchantment. Fontaine
sounds strong but soft, subtle yet striking. She’s always the
focal vocal point accompanied by sparse backing and sometimes
just naked by herself (or herselves as several tracks feature
great moments of Brigitte multitracked like the beginning of
#2, #6 & #8 which features gaspy sobs as well!) At other
times she’s pitched up against a more gravelly male voice
(Areski I believe who she would record more with). It starts
with a breezy folk-pop smile of a song but boom #2 kicks off
with a piercing shriek. On track #3 we have a few seconds of
audie realite babysitting, then #4 a ponderous chamber ditty
that recalls Nico. Before this scant 30 minutes is up you
will have heard incorporated a cuckoo clock approach, a
harmonium harmonizing with Brigitte and then protest shouts,
sad pining with an Arabic lilt (Areski’s influence?), other
moments that feel like hymns and it ends up with a kind of
proggy number. Lady Fontaine is a champion chameleon, an
artful performer and in my estimation an absolute and
essential genius. French and twisted! Worship her.

Birdbrain “I Fly” [Persian Cardinal]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD

Beak-tweaking pop from this Brooklyn Quartet. Yvette Perez’s
queerly cheering vocals and kewpie paroxysms ride on top of
a great trio of horns. Betty Boop over bop? Actually the horns
(two saxes and a trombone) sound like marching band refugees
trying to capture Albert Ayler in minimalism? The songs are
quick to flight, the album breezes by in a feather over 20
minutes. Perez’s vocals are stacked in teasing layers, they
definitely add to the braininess. The birdiness comes from
some of the horn’s tooty tweeting, and staccato woodpecker
sections. There are a few avian persuasion lyrics and a fowl
sample or two, but this stays fair and delivers a homerun
for fans of herky-quirky.
O Superband!

The BellRays — “The Red, White, & Black” — [Alternative Tentacles]

Hunter Gatherer   1/9/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th full length release by the BellRays, originally released in 2003 by Poptones. It’s being re-released on Alternative Tentacles and won’t be available until later this month (1/2005)

The music on this CD is “Rock & Soul,” fuled by the power of singer Lisa Kekaula’s soulful and expressive voice and Tony Fate’s driving and equally expressive guitar work. The band is from Riverside, but their sound is from Detroit.

The quality of the tracks is pretty uneven, both in the songwriting and the playing. And there is a self-seriousness in the music and liner notes that is off-putting. But on the tracks where everything clicks (especially 5,7,8,12 in my humble opinion) all is forgiven.

After listening to this CD you’ll no longer wonder what Aretha’s albums would have sounded like if Steve Cropper was replaced with Tony Iommi.

Language: Fuck on 3

Use the track listings on the inside of the liner notes. The back cover doesn’t contain the full track listing.

–Hunter Gatherer

[coll] Nightime Recordins From Bali [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format, International

Alan Bishop (nee Lomax?) of the Sun City Girls
undertakes an underground and afterhours look
at international music with his strongly
self-run Sublime label. Ears in armchairs
get a whiff of the enchantment, as well as
smoldering flesh at funeral pyres. Some of
these recordings are truly in the *field*,
with Balinese flora and fauna. A good number
are “fast food gamelan,” quick glimpses into
lengthy performances. These sections have
more agressive flourishes, like a dog tearing
at something: violent shakes of sound. Then
diamond dogs do drop in on #14, I wound up
wondering about the stories behind that and
other tracks, (at the end of #17 we overhear
“I thought he was the police”). Hopefully we
can get Alan on for an interview. “Rubber
Television” mixes raindrops and teardrops
for a radio soap opera.

Henriksen, Arve “Chiaroscuro” [Rune Grammafon]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Supersmeared trumpet from Supersilent’s Henriksen. With a
no-hassle, yes-Hassel vibe the palate here is warmer than
the first six slices of Supersilent. And pieces are shorter
sketches of sound. Here Henriksen’s tiny voice, which often
stands in striking contrast to the monumental Deathprod’d
musical monoliths, instead helps bring us down through a
microscope into a smaller world. Nano-whales spout muted
streams; percussion from Audun Kleive is like subcellular
flagellae, gently whipping at beats. The straining of
Hernriksen’s trumpet (it pines like a shakuachi on #7)
can give this a mistakenly elegiac aire, but I think it
is really an album that is at peace with its smaller
and more subtle nature.

Russell, Arthur “Calling Out of Context” [Audika Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

RIP Charles Arthur Russell II – April 4th, 1992. Arthur
might still be championed as a lost visionary even if
his life were not lost to AIDS. He helped stage shows
at the avant-kookery known as the Kitchen in NYC but
he also had a predilection for disco (releasing a
dance discs under names like Loose Joints, Dinosaur L
and Indian Ocean). This posthumous pop release reissues
an album “Corn” along with other kernels. I have to
confess, “The Platform on the Ocean” is nearly perfect
for me. His loose-lipped, note-cloud singing I enjoy,
especially when dipped in quick reverb as he does. His
cello flies in askance and belies his brief tenure at
Ali Akbar Khan’s Marin college. Gotta find that lp of
his solo cello work. Certainly his boogie nights see
the light of day on this, drum machines skip and prance
to prod tracks. His vocalizations may steer some clear,
but I’ll take them time and again over Jennifer Warnes
(on #6). His vox are the ghost in the dance machine!
It’s a tragedy that his life will be defined by the
success others he shared time and rehearsal space w/
went on to, instead of his own.

Artanker Convoy “Ocean Parkway EP” 33rpm [Social Registry]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   12-inch, A Library, Format

It’s a pretty big blender to swirl here. An easy drifting
mosaic of music. The rhythms ride strong, so many people can
hop on board from dance stop to dance stop, but the bus is
crowded with Frippy guitar and a fuzzier frappe as well. At
times electropianopuree (“Carb”) and horncrush (“Crown Vic”)
give this light jazz flavors, but psych washes on “Backfires”
could as easily launch you right into rock central. Descending
wooshy waaahs and revving up beat on “Crown Vic” are about as
high as the energy gets, by the way, are those roto-toms?’ On
all cuts prominent basslines unite and push all wallflowers
into the spinning disco mirror light. Secret ingredient is
the crunchy guitar riffs dropped into the various groove
valleys. The remix by Sasha Crnobrnja tries for an aquatic
dub, but spends a little too much time in the bathtub, and
left me pruney. Even infrequent muttered vocals could not
rescue that track from decrepetition.

Architecture in Helsinki “Fingers Crossed” [Bar/None]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Pillow talk rock sung by perpetual prepubescents in their
Human League t-shirts. You get the feeling Burt Bacharach
would even smile when he gets that Helsinki feeling. Bass
lines bubble up with mirth, banks of toy pianos teletype
a rosy colored glass more than twice half-full. Yep this
is an album that is positively brimming, positively beaming.
If Mitch LeMay does not like this, then run for cover as
the end of the world is nigh. If you don’t like it, the
vocals are probably just too damn fluffy for you. Or
maybe it was the kazoo? Maybe you have a problem with
merry-go-rounds…that’s possibly the ideal setting for
sitting with these sounds spinning. The collective draws
from many global points, yet none of them in Finland. The
band however was born in Melbourne. Casio tones for the
plainfully together?

Ape Has Killed Ape “Another Fraudulent Hoax” [self]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Matt Stein is top banana in Ape Has Killed Ape. He also
is the erstwhile drummer for Leather Hyman. His talky
vocals with telephony squelch cannot help but recall
“Flash and the Pan” for me. First track has rock 101
appeal, second track is lazy three-chord, three-beer
acoustic ditty, third track is an instro interluude key
crawler, the fourth lays out tribal drums and tangled
effect-strafed guitar, the fifth’s an instro at a
bottling company with anthem lite guitar, the sixth
fills theremin trills in the space between a collapsed
relationship. Lastly Stein is joined by a rowdy Roddy
McDowell sample for “The Fall of Man.” This CD has
about as much evolution in it as a Georgia textbook.
Stein will keep working with his little four-track
until they pry it from his cold, dead fingers and
opposable thumbs.

Antarcticans, the “The New Black”

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Mystical epics carved with glacial grace by this 5-piece from
Pasadena. Lengthy instro excursions climb through God Speed
clouds up and over the Holy Mountain. Excellent use of the
rise and fall of dynamics, as if the listener finds resting
caves along the way, only to catch a second and a third wind,
along with a second and third guitarist to boot. Track one
hits a pagan celebration about 10 minutes in, Io Pan indeed.
Track two begins bending an angular riff over a broken half
step at the temple to some two-headed god. Janus? The god
gets angry, then blissfully calm, then angry again. The band
seems to have a firm grasp on how long to ride a passage
before moving on to other territory. The last track finds
all five adrift on an iceberg with the mummified remains of
Florian Fricke. Nice harmonics tick up to a squall around
6:50 in…large auditorim reverb billowing on quick picked
guitar that mounts in fury till 11 minutes or so…then its
a very slow fade to white, which is the new black. Somewhere
between the 12- and 32-minute marks that song vanishes into
thin air.

O’Hara, Alexis “In Abulia” [Grenadine]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Wordy-gurdy, spinning songs in costume and in
character. Split personalities outnumber the
languages (French and English) featured here.
Breathy-bop and bleat-box on #7. A special
episode of COPS on #10, with nice imitation
helicopters overhead. #12 lays down a John
Carpenter bass for tension, then pushes
voices in your head and in the mouth of a
radio host…charming as an alien autopsy.
Robopoetry on #3. Operating room antics
with Dr. Kevorkian in drag on #4?’ Hostage
and relationship crisis on #6. Skits more
than songs, will draw parallels to Miranda
July. This actually has more in the musical
vein, but arteries are clogged with quirky
ideas and sound textures. This is one that
will grow fans over time like Miss July. An
odd audio pin-up, play-up girl.

Note #14 ends with 1:38, then silence then
at 1:09 has a weird bonus track that suggests
maybe Alexis’ ouvre started out as a series of
“Truth or Dare” challenges as a kid.

Shimada, Aiko “Like Hannah” [Bera Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Dark raindrops on deep lakes. The gentleness on this record is
like the embrace of an aunt to a beloved niece, or perhaps the
promise to an expectant daughter,(a child is due in May). Her
open guitar chords ripple and are blurred even further by
watercolor flugel horn from Dave Carter. Thus song structure
is not consistent, not thick but more like strands that slowly
wrap around themselves. Beautiful in a Joni Mitchell manner.
Similarly, Aiko’s voice runs deeper than most but uniquely is
never smokey. When her voice does tiptoe up the scale it grows
even more fragile. I kept thinking of jellyfish as emblematic.
As much as anyone, I think Evan Schiller is crucial here, as
these songs could just fall apart, but listen to “Loneliness”
or the title track and you can feel the subtle strength he
creates. Doubling or overlapping vocals often gird these
gossamer waterwings. If you can gather a rainy afternoon
together, the whole album has a nice flow.

[coll] Adbusters “Live Without Dead Time” #47

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Companion to the magazine…send listeners to
adbusters.org…they’ll head there mad & grow more
irate. This may be the first they have ever issued
a CD in cahoots, and DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller
resurrects some saints in his Jihad against McWorld.
Martin Luther King, Marshall McLuhan, Malcom X…
Several selections features Spooky collaborating with
Saul Williams to deliver their payload with the
precision of the smartest bomb in the class. Sun Ra
reappears with his formula Nuclear War=MotherF*,
Chuck D.’s voice is a good a rallying cry as you’ll
ever find. J-Live’s lyrics are laced with an extra
portion of truth. Nice introduction to Honey Barbara.
Overall, truth against advertising is the order of
the day. It’s all riveted together tightly, but worth
breaking off a piece to get the conversation flowing.
Pledge Illegiance.

Quantic – ?Apricot Morning? – [Tru Thoughts Recordings] 33 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

Apricot Morning is the 2nd full-length release by Quantic, a.k.a. UK-based producer and musical busy-bee Will Holland. This LP was released in 2002, when Mr. Holland was 22. (We have his 3rd LP, Mishaps Happening, in A on 12″ vinyl.)

In math a ‘quantic? is an algebraic function containing two or more variables. This seems appropriate to me because this release combines elements such as Latin and Afro beats, rap, and soul to come up with a music that is fresh and full of life.

Long-time collaborator Alice Russell sings on what I think are two of the best tracks on the album (B1 and C2). Aspects, a hip hop crew from Bristol, appear on B3. EQ appears on the Latin-inflected A3. His sisters, Jill and Lucy even help out with sax and double bass.

You’re sure to find something to fit your mood, as long as you are in the mood for dancing around.

Instrumentals: A1, A2, B2, C3, D1

(Other Will Holland projects include: The Quantic Soul Orchestra, Quantic Live, and Limp Twins.)

–Hunter Gatherer

[coll] Night Gallery [Alchemy]

Thurston Hunger   1/3/2005   A Library

Five fingers of death from the hand of Jojo’s Alchemy label.
LSD-march provide a driven rain of rock with Fukuoka Rinji’s
violin slicing right through it on the first track, then go
down tempo for a ballad…and wind up with a very sparse,
morose number. The duet Doodles offers two appetizers for
the main course of their street-sweet-smart full length.
Miminokoto just are getting their ankles wet in the psyche
riff-improv rock of track #6 when they get potted out.
Their next two contributions are more gentle drift spaced
psych, mixed a little roughly. Chouzo haunts with their
spooky shizuka-y vibe…the general sense is lying on the
bottom of some liquid looking up. The Up-Tight work out
all the kinks, the jams, and any other hang-ups one may
have with solid, stand on the edge of the stage/abyss
rock and roll. Their “Sweet Sister” starts with a tribal
drum anticipation and reverbed vox that climbs up towards
an unavoidable guitar throttling.

Vanishing, the – “Still Lifes Are Falling” – [Gold Standard Labs]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

the vanishing – “still lifes are falling” – [gold standard labs]

high energy aesthetics coupled with lo-fi production yields danceable dark wave goth featuring distorted reverb-soaked female vox, programmed and live drums, a sax that haunts, fuzzed-out synths that taunt. clean lyrics (except as marked) decry various aspects of the current state of the human condition: “buried beneath the plastic sheen / is a world that’s painted violently”

mad hatter

Emotional Joystick – “Bellicose Pacific” – [Zod]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

emotional joystick – “bellicose pacific” – [zod records]

enjoy this man-up from Milwaukee, WI: bleeps, blips ‘n breaks galore are to be found on this full length release from emo::joy and all tracks take aim to please! soundscapes and synths accompany breaktech beats a la aphex twin-esque abrasion mixed with more chill ‘n chunky loops as well. simple video-game like melodic lines work well with the harmonic progressions that back them with a sometimes sparse, sometimes symphonic, ever schizophrenic feel.

note: tr13 = bonus round / hidden track after ~ 3:o3 of silence

mad hatter

The Tough & Lovely – “Born Of The Stars” – [Spoonful Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

This is the first full-length release from a 5 member rock and roll band from Columbus, Ohio founded in 2002 by guitarist/songwriter Andrew Robertson. The CD was released 8/2004.

For lack of a better term, I would call this music ‘garage rock? though that wouldn’t give an indication of the years spent listening to and reverse engineering their rock and soul records, the excellent songwriting, the solid rhythm section that’s in no particular hurry, and – the first thing you will notice – Lara Yazvac’s tough and lovely singing.

In a good portion of the lyrics people are breaking hearts, getting their hearts broken, holding on, letting go, doing a lot of crying. (I don’t remember life in Ohio as being that dramatic.) Written down they would probably look silly, but with Ms. Yazvac’s voice and the band backing her up it works.

Here is a partial list of influences that I was scribbling down as I was listening: Kinks, Pretenders, Del Shannon, Shangri-Las, The Capitols (Cool Jerk), X Ray Spex, Lowell Fulson (Tramp), the entire Atlantic Rhythm and Blues box set.

Every convertible sold should come with a copy of this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Nomo – ?Nomo? – [Ypsilanti Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   A Library, CD

Nomo is a 17-piece band from Ann Arbor, Michigan led by composer/arranger/saxophonist/etc. Elliot Bergman. This is their first full-length release, released in May, 2004. And it was produced by Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive. Nomo has also released an EP previously, 2 songs of which are on this release.

From the tight horn section opening to the woman singing ‘la la la? fade out, this CD is great all the way through. It is Afrobeat/Afropop that leans variously towards jazz, reggae, space rock, and other genres. Fela Kuti is the spiritual godfather of this band. Think of them as a jazzier Antibalas that doesn’t want to execute Bush’s cabinet.

It’s amazing that this many musicians (4 percussionists, 6 horns, several guitarists) trying to meld this many styles is anything other than a big mess of ‘world music.’ Instead they are tight, keeping a steady beat and theme going while different instruments (sax, fuzz guitar, Fender Rhodes) solo over the top.

All tracks except for 4 and 10 are instrumentals.

–Hunter Gatherer

[coll] Relics: A Transmat Compilation – [Buzz] – 33 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   12-inch, A Library

‘From Belgium to Detroit – with respect? it says on this LP, a re-release by Belgium’s Buzz Records of this compilation of early Detroit techno music.

It was originally released in 1992 on Derrick May’s Transmat label, and it covers Detroit techno from 1986 to 1990 with tracks from Carl Craig (Psyche, BFC), Juan Atkins (Model 500), and mostly Derrick ‘Mayday? May (Rhythim [sic] is Rhythim [sic]) who has over half the tracks on this album.

Some of Mr. May’s tracks hadn’t been released before or even been given titles. They show up titled as ‘A Relic? or ‘Another Relic.’ In between each track is a weird little ‘interval? less than a minute in length performed by Messrs. May and Craig.

The artists on this album were influenced by Alvin Toffler, and in Detroit in the late 80s the decline of the Second Wave was more than a abstract concept. Amid the decay they created a musicical version of the Third Wave, in which man and machine (in this case a Roland synthesizer) would merge and form something far funkier than the sum of its parts. The use of the word techno to describe the music was lifted from the techno rebels in Toffler’s book Future Shock.

All tracks are instrumental and entirely synth-generated. The beats are relentless, and everything else – melody, synth-strings, chords – are merely there to support the beat.

–Hunter Gatherer

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