Music Reviews

Johannsson, Johann – “Englaborn ” – [Touch]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   A Library, CD

I checked this out as I had heard Johannsson helped found the
outstanding Kitchen Motors label (he’s also in the Apparat
Organ Quartet which has released music on that label). This
is music from a play of the same name. Several bittersweet
themes are worked in and out of the tracks…including the
opening sung by a (heart?)shattered robot. There’s an overall
feeling of sun breaking through clouds ray by ray, slow notes,
pauses between phrases, little high-octave piano melodies
that drop so tiny. Like tears. The chamber quartet give this
a conventional feel, but the composition has an undeniable
beauty. An Icelandic vibe still chills the air through,
notably on “Karen byr til engil” and “…eins og venjuleft
folk” and other moments. “Salfraedingur” takes one of the
now-familiar themes and pours it over a rapid refrigerator
rhythm. The entire recording really begs to be listened to
all the way through, though the leading number with the robo-
latin intonation is so drop-dread gorgeous it overshadows
the rest of the album, which has its own stately sorta
Gavin Bryars sweep. In HAL tradition, the computerized vox
return at the end, slowed waaaay down though not singing
“Daisy” but instead the “Odi et Amo”

Narita, Munehiro – “S/T ” – [Psf]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   A Library, CD

Scathing searching electric guitar from Narita of High Rise.
This is Narita’s first solo recording and he wastes no time
firing up the acetylene distortion and ripping through four
extended pyro-improvs. The fourth is a slow burn rising with
Ueno Takashi (of Maher Shalal Hash Baz) slowly tinkering
and fingering away while Narita solos in a more relaxed way
weaving in and out till then end which is sort of Yardbirdsy
if you know what I mean. Takashi is also on #2, which has a
more mysterious feel, and some great whinnying feedback (like
a flute sputtering). There’s a great envelope of effects on
the guitar on #2 and through out, with Narita making minor
knobby adjustments here and there. But always a lot of sustain
and bite to the electricity. Track #3 was my favorite feeling
like a gestational song for long stretches, before the bbq
guitar grill kicks in. And at times the amp sounds like it is
clotting with distorto-dirt. Great! With a quintuple-exposed
photo inside I flashed on Jimmy Page, is there any doubt that
the Solo Remains the Same. Wail on, Sky Dog!

Six Foot Slotherball [coll] – [Self Release]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   A Library, CD

Two different CDrs, joined at the hip and hipper parts solely
for the pleasure of KFJC listeners. The Great NorthWet spawns
some sweet soggy pop. Rollerball *always* gets my ears a
salivating. Here they trade tunes with their Slothy friends…
The ‘ball bounces further off the beaten path, “Another Day”
is another world away from the tasty, drippy dour offerings
of Six Foot Sloth. The Sloth naturally moves slowly, though
not without grace. “Holding Babies” does a kind of “Lay Lady
Lay” calypso, and “the Jed” can carry a tune. Meanwhile in
Rollerballville, the tune gets dropped, stepped on, vocals
caterwauled and doubled up. God I love ’em! And hornage
too… Back with the Sloth, they do deliver a dirgy blues
to even their peppier moments, and lyrics have a whiff o’
mortality that’ll please KFJC’s Ophelia Necro and others.
Not whistling, but humming past the graveyard. They are
coming to visit us for a live mic pronto (with Remora as
well!!) Maybe they’ll be joined more that a hip and we’ll
get Slotherball slathered all over the pit.

King Cobra, the – “Mini Cd (W/ Temporary Tattoo) ” – [Self Release]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   A Library, CD

Short blast that leaps out the barrel before the pistol is
cocked. Toothy twosome with Washingtone bite and washed-out
old Rush t-shirts. This EP closes with a cover of “Beneath
Between Behind” that is just sorta funny and irresistible
if you ever liked Rush (and we’ll stop there before this gets
into a Neil Peart argument). The first track, a slice o panic
pop called “Malefick” feels like it was joined in process…
heavy breathing, dorky Devo keyboards, cowbells!! and kisses
“shtolen” Next up “E.M.E.R.G.E.N.C.Y” starts out like an
Earth cover-band trying to do a math number…odd tempo that
gets kicked up 7.3 notches before the vocals join in. Circus
keyboards dance along with the guitar lines. Hysteric vocals
(with rubber-roams of reverb) are a highlight on this and
the other two cuts. Betsy Kwo on guitar, Rachel Carns on drums and they’re headed KFJC’s way soon for a complete rendition of 2112.

Business Lady – “Skull Bashing ” – [Pacific Rock]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

San Diego four piece, delivers rock solid chunks of chugga
chugga churning music. Vocals gang up on choruses, guitar
effects slang-tune in parts…drums percolate like all
night coffee. “He’s Pissing” has a nice sort of sway to
it…along with some guttural groaning and light blitz
electronis. “Medublah Sedublah” seems to have a seizure
ready to happen, with an indirect Twin Peak reference
perhaps. Again the drums…looks like no sleep for Paul.
“Space for Face” let’s the drummer catnap in parts and
cascades guitar pick-sweeps of the neck over a sorta
Gang of Four bass. The Lady is allll Business.

Birds, the – “Let’s Do the Velvets ” – [Important Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

You can take the girl out of the Acid Mother, but you cannot
take the acid out of the girl. Cotton Casino teams up with
Per Gisle Galaen to overdose beautifully on the Velvet
Underground. Listening to “Femme Fatale” one can almost
lealize that Nico actually wanted to sing with a Japanese
accent. The song starts out as wedding dirge march, but
towards the end disto-guitar ripples the skies. Meanwhile
“Here She Comes Now” turns into an early morning mantra
trying to seduce the sun up. Acoustic guitar spirals, oozy
vox and Helge Sten’s patented Deathprod sonic wrapping help
to plant this one deep within your cranium. With backwards
guitar serving like a hook on foxtail to make sure it this
song gets snared there. Very promising advance to the Birds
full-length first-flight! An Important record indeed!
-Thurston Hunger #37

[coll] The New Music [RCA]

Hunter Gatherer   8/23/2005   12-inch, A Library

In 1967 the Rome Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruno Maderna, recorded four atonal, serial, and/or aleatory works. Ignore the Fresh-Air-esque middlebrow notes on the back of the record sleeve and just drop the fukkin’ needle.

The four pieces:

Kontra-Punkte (Stockhausen, 1952) – It sounds like music being built from the ground up. Tones are clustered into molecules of sound called a ‘group.’ Tone, length, timbre are set against each other to give a feeling of conflict and restlessness. (Name drop! ‘I’m friends with the nephew of Frederic Rzewski, who plays piano on this recording.)

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (Pendercki, 1960) – Originally called 8? 37″, this piece starts off like those annoying THX promos they play before a movie. But then you are softened up with a light pummeling by blocks of string sound. This gives way to a dreadful silence that gradually fills in with ashes and embers of sounds scraped from string instruments. One last whack with a sound block sends you on your way to side B.

Available Forms I (Brown, 1961) – This piece is partially composed by the conductor because he can pick from events on the score in any order. I think this piece is about a big amoeba that keeps eating instruments it can’t digest. Or maybe that’s a book I read to my kids.

Rimes pour differentes sources sonores (Pousseur, 1959) – This is my favorite one. Here we finally get some electronic sounds from our electronic pioneers. Natural sounds are fixed up with electronically processed sounds by a mutual friend and wind up taking a white noise shower together on their first date. The second section, more of a coda really, has two sextets with brass and woodwinds scraping up against each other until they both disappear.

–Hunter Gatherer

Close, The/Rosebuds [coll] – [Goodnight]

mitch   8/16/2005   7-inch, A Library

Raleigh, NC core duo Ivan Howard (vocals, guitar) and
Kelly Crisp (keyboards, vocals) front THE ROSEBUDS
(fast & furious on ???We???ve Had Enough???), a act
currently on US tour with TEENAGE FANCLUB. It is
Howard???s touch-of-helium voice & Crisp???s frenetic use of
keyboard coloration that punch their all-original songs
through to Funland; fellow progenitors THE CLOSE (as
in proximity) began in Auburn AL ten years ago, since
relocating to Atlanta and recording several releases for
. Equally hard hitting but more tactile &
austere, front man Brooks Meeks embraces anthems,
analog keyboards (as played by Theresa Marie Fedor),
and lyrical sincerity. Two fine Southeast indie rock tracks
exclusive to new label run by Nathan Jones & Keith
Vogelsong (THE BLUE HOUR).
MITCH August 2005

Baby Dee “Love’s Small Song” [Durtro Records] (CD)

lombard   8/9/2005   A Library, CD

While listening to this I was reminded of Antony, so it’s not surprising that Baby Dee shares a label with Antony & the Johnsons. The feeling is dramatic, like this is the soundtrack to an opera or musical, with themes of love and nature (including bird samples from Baby Dee’s mom’s Cleveland backyard). Baby Dee is a drag performer from NY and on this release (recorded in 2001) utilizes voice, piano, accordian and harp. CD2 is a lengthy track of bird sounds. Limited to 1000 copies, enjoy the beauty and drama of this self-described “circus freak and happy whore.” (added 8-9-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard

Dead Texan, The- “S/T” – [Kranky] (CD)

lombard   8/2/2005   A Library, CD

This is the first solo project of Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid, Aix Em Klemm and Windsor for the Derby. Wiltzie calls the music here mini symphonies and the sound IS symphonic, atmospheric, almost classical with piano, strings, guitar and bits and pieces of voice (although subtle). Pop this into a computer to see music videos by Wiltzie and Christina Vantzos. Very pleasant material. (added 8-2-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard

Gessyoku – “Psychedelic Kabuki ” – [God Mountain]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Hoppy Kamiyama scores as Kabookie Monster with
his madcap antics blown-up for orchestra like
some huge colorful inflatable parade doll. It’s
a jump-cut mish-mash, theatrical/prog passages,
occasional blasts of pure chaos, acapellatio,
tormented strings, Nordic oarsmen chants, gongs,
hyperactive marches, even dreaded sappy-sweet
jap-pop. Into the Gok Sound blender it goes,
and we wind up with something that sounds like
one of those peculiar Italian soundtracks, with
definite sonic winks from Hoppy. Lyrics by Osamu
Hashimoto don’t fit in my ear, but damn if I
ain’t curious. A sound larger than Giant Robot.

Job – “Party at Ilan’s ” – [Feast or Famine Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Imagine Donny and Marie singing,
“I’m a little bit improv”
“And I’m a little bit rock and roll”
Besides being a worthy creative exercise, this’ll
put you in the mood for what Job offers. Local
outfit ostensibly of kybd, guitar and drums with
a key additional ingredient of stuff. These three
guys own a lot of stuff and like to plug that
into the fray. On tracks like “Clear” said stuff
provides a great visceral roller-coaster effect.
That & “Humdinga” hint at a squishy sort of funk,
at other times it’s Dark Shadows meets Fantastic
Voyage, augmented by Young’s murky synthscapes–
check the last 3 tracks (around 10/11 listen for
a phrase that sounds like “Aum Mickey” as sung
by a Hindu Minnie?’) Schifferli’s guitar can
ramble rambunctiously like Ribot, but also check
out the sweet sustain that closes “Political
Intrigue.” More please! The big Lebofsky holds
it altogether as much by what he doesn’t play as
what he does. He LISTENS and adjust drums from
plink to pound. Also lots of chitchat here
(live Stork Clubbers?) Overall promising, hinges
on more 3-way sonic intuition and mastering their
“stuff”, not being mastered by it. It’s not just
a Job, it’s a fine sonic adventure.

Fielding, Jamie – “Extinkt ” – [Dr Jim’s Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Graduate student in improvisation from Australia’s
Victorian College of the Arts gets his fill of
order and theory and goes off to find his noise.
Plenty of scintillating synthesizer sinning,
bleeps and worgles. The live tracks sound like a
party in cellblock 5, feedback frenzy and
screaming. Standouts for me were 5’s low-fi
sci-fi suspiciousness, 3’s trombone’s in heat,
track 8 brought to mind a short version of “The
Fly” ( a young girl screams the title “Kill It”,
electro-wings beat and trombones buzz), and 11
which had a nice foggy espionage feel at the
start but then goes on to tip-toe through a
Twilight Zone. Sadly the title of this collection
matches the composer’s current state.

Cage, John – “Variations I V ” – [Legacy International]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Both Cage, and his frequent collaborator David Tudor
are gone now, but their legacy echoes in much of the
music KFJC adds, as well as in the sounds you hear
when walking down the street. Or better yet, in how
you hear them. Cage was adept at composition qua
composition, but was a man who thought as much or
more than he played. His curiousity and penchant for
experimentation were contagious, and would spread
like mushrooms wherever he went. This piece (listen
/play the track 1 1950’s educational-film-style intro
for specifics) was orchestrated by dancers tripping
diodes. Maybe even tripping dancers, who knows…
Two rooms (stereo separated here?) with mics and
record players and tape machines (THE post-modern
musical instrument…with the sampler evolving from
it). An eavesdropper’s delight of juxtaposed sounds
that melt in your mind/not your ears. The highlights
of a magical evening condensed into tracks here for
you. A woman describes her failed marriage while a
diva wails, typewriters and bombs provide percussion
to marches, a doctor talking about fatigue leads
into a horror soundtrack scream, that famous fuse
piece burns through the Nutcracker. It’s like a
vulcan mind-meld with one of the century’s most
significant artist.

Ribot, Marc – “Y Los Cubanos Postizos ” – [Atlantic]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

A romping tribute to the late tres guitarist and composer
Arsenio Rodriguez, captained by Ribot with folks like
Anthony Coleman, Brad Jones and the brothers Rodriguez
(no relation I think) aboard. Just a beautiful album,
soulful evocative playing from Ribot, still he has his
unique broken-down style in places, but this is a lot
more fluid…fluid but fiery. Smoky percussion snakes
through, add in some vocals phoned in from some Community
College where Ribot is taking Spanish II. Momentum
and mood mount in each song. There’s a paradoxical
sense of tension and joy here.
More fun than a whole ocean of pigs….El Hombre del Hambre

Kable – “Tardy All the Time ” – [Fleece Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Another golden Fleece record, the label that
provides a Who’s Hou in Houston. Kable is
Kay Bonya…this is her 2nd full lp (she had
a treat on the Succour collection also).
Basement wonderment…accordions, whistling,
bouncy banjo, mantra moments, mandolins on
Doppler reverb trains, Mission Impossible
snare flourishes and MANY layers of guitar
and vocals. Comfortable without being
comforting. Sorta sordid DIY country psyche.
You can hear the cute little stickers on her
four track. A tapestry of tape.

Beatnik Filmstars – “Phase 3 ” – [No Life Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

A bristling Bristol band with AM radio drums,
telephone vocals and brash, spastic guitar. Longing
lyrics plus shorting equipment add up for some
lo-esteem-fi. When the knobs accidentally align right,
it sounds like the singer’s voice ain’t half bad.
Snack-shack hooks and a (overly!) strong predilection
for chorus repetition. Well it’s pop, and there’s
something here for every KFJC popster…sugar punk
when Trix is for kids, Zero Gravity carrom, the Hairy
Kari sashay. Starts and ends with little BBC snippets.
I am curious what all you Fall fans think…

Amber Asylum – “Garden of Love ” – [Self Release]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   10-inch, A Library

Bio-fidelic biofeedback from the living dead? Amber Asylum has
always had the prettiest corpses, whether suspended in amber,
or glimpsed ghostly in mirrors, or shrouded in white water
lillies on a black river. This self-released 10″ starts of
with a cello “death” march while Kris Force’s violin gathers
overhead. Actually the morbidity seems diminished on this
aspect of the Asylum. Instead the feeling of a fantastic
dream state is more in focus. The pace is very deliberate,
as in a dream when you cannot move your feet. It quickens
a bit in sections of the “Autonomy Suite” (which has a nice
gladiator stand-off contained within it…) Eventually vox
do arrive fashionably late on the first and final track of
this three song record. On the latter, “Still Point” while
Force’s counter-vocals still soar, Lorraine Rath’s lead has
a sort of jazzy croon to them. Sort of a strange contrast
for me, but surely KFJC’ers will eat this up like kids eat
up Halloween candy. One cautionary word about that last
track, it really does hit a “still point” about 2/3 of the
way into it. We get a death knell, someone says faintly
“that sounded okay” and then a reprise of dripping piano
and instead of a violin flying above it, it’s Liz Allbee
on trumpet at first. But then the Force is with us again,
some string jags and then breathless shrieking (looped?).
Could Amber Asylum be in the midst of a sea-change, what
waits beyond the pale silence at this ep’s end?

Stevens, Sufjan – “Illinois ” – [Asthmatic Kitty Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Sufjan gets past that Michigan itch again, and spins the big
wheel o’ states only to hark and herald the Illinoise. The
album is a deliberately orchestrated pop album that is built
upon the Encylcopedia Britainnica as much as the Bible. It
offers icons from the Illinois landscapes, both physical and
historical and it’s not afraid to look past the gleaming
“Seers” Tower under the floorbeds of John Wayne Gacy Jr. The
album comes with an assortment of friends in a barnbuilding
sort of cooperation. The roof raised highest by the trumpet
of Craig Montoro and the various background singers. Sufjan’s
own voice is very willowy, he can bring a nice choked-up
edge to it…but being bolstered by those choirs helps a lot.
The string quartet, the banjo, the flute all are essential.
This album has touches of a minimalist musical approach at
times, and is well-served by the handful of short (less than
a minute including a a six-second Whoo-hoo for a choo-choo)
interludes betwixt tricks. But plenty o’ memorable melodies
too, and detailed lyrics (although at times a bit cryptic).
He uses a lot of catalogued rhyming and certainly overt nods
to God, both of which can lead me astray, but I daresay
both are employed gracefully here. And again his effort at
honest innocence, rather than naivete are compelling. And
allowing faith to rise above the heart to the head is a big
plus. That Gacy number is plain powerful. I hope he goes on
to have existential crises in all manner of states.

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