Music Reviews

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.

Nao Wave [coll] – [Man Recordings]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Ear-opening collection to Brazil 1982. You say Nao, we say
no and/or new. They say it with the same synths sliding out
of tune, the guitars with the chinking harmonics and one
trick effect pedals. Vocals that are shouted and sung over
a very limited range with unlimited passion. Repetition
adds to insistence, lyrics even without translation speak to
the imposing urban landscape…accelerated by the rapid
growth of that country. Something about Portugese sounds
sublimely sinister and sensual at the same time. Peculiar
elements fit in between the drum machines, samba slappy
perussion…cuica squeaks. The music is still all about
panic dancing, but there’s a little more strut to it.
Excellent overuse of the delay and repeat on tracks, esp.
Azul 29’s “Ciencias Sensuais.” Great taunting guitar lick
on Fellini’s “Funziona Senza Vapore.” Conga line of futbol
hooliganistas storms the gates of the first cut from Akira
S & As Garotas Que Erraram. Mercenarias ironically show no
mercy, nor sing arias. They disappear too quickly like an
Erase Errata single. Chiquitas kickitas ass. Revel in a
nostalgia you never got to experience the first time…

Rother, Anthony – “Art Is a Technology ” – [Stahl Industries]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   12-inch, A Library

Marching arpeggios, smeared siren horn synths, dark and thick
like the Fog… Rother delivers a commanding audition tape to
take over John Carpenter’s soundtrack work. Percussion is
silent to subtle here, instead it is the repetition of those
simple crawling/cycling notes and occasional forays into
half chord down-tempo drift that propel this beauty and the
beat. Pitch-shifting every once in awhile to change lanes
and pass sections. There’s a wind tunnel that envelopes you
on the second cut on the second side. Rother maximizes his
minimal approach…good glacial gaseous whooshes slide
through the rapturous repetitions. And the tone is consistent
and dark. They’ll be playing this in churches in fifty years
during the moment the true but truly flawed believers reflect
upon their sins, their many sins. -Snake Pliskin

First release on a new label run by Rother to boot!

Navies/A Day in B&W [coll] – [Level Plane]

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

Washington DC ticket, w/ promising candidate trios of Navies
and A Day in Black and White. Navies gets the top spot for
me, delivering static electricity generating rock…frenzied
tick marks along the neck of two guitars. Plus their lyrics
have more askew urgency, delivered in a sort of telegraphic
style…bursting dots and dashes. Guitar work is just rock
solid, good buzz and brittle scratch in addtion to voltage
chords. They are frenzifiers and a band to watch!!

On the flip side, ADIBAW can deliver the swing vote, voting
more down the middle of road, with a lyrical platform that
often tackles the inability to communicate. “All Plots” has
that sort of stop/start powered ballad that Speaks Canaries
to me, if you know what I mean…and even if you don’t. The
closer, “Old Songs” seems like a toss-away three-chord
monte…but the deal collapses in flaming house of feedback.

Navies make this a marbled marvel!

Volcano the Bear “Five Hundred Boy Piano” [United Dairies]

Thurston Hunger   7/23/2005   A Library, CD

Okay, so that’s what a three-day meade bender feels like.
Tremendous thick singing…stout might be a better word. The
title cut is a jousting of various samples (roosters, horses)
and skittering or slunked out strings for about 2 minutes, it
then settles down for a simple three note question that is
plunked on a deboned bass and maybe a homemade marimba? Some
distant warlocky voices gather and chant and summon forth a
section that sound more like Derek Bailey than the Wickerman
but that rolls into a cloudy pianissimo pastiche, with great
wordless vocals. The disparate pieces to their songs connect
flawlessly. Similarly their dissonant and discombobulated
instruments sit happily next to piano, pennywhistle, clarinet.
The choice of tone and timbre are clearly critical to these
four gents, “Seeker” melds banjo with a toy piano, and is
that nyckleharp? And maybe a kazoo and jaw harp. This my kind
of medicine show, complete with a cold plunge on “The Tallest
People in the World.” They seem to have the same essence as
Cerberus Shoal, although with a more avant druid jazz over
English garden opera. Like finding lost treats in your
vagabond beard.

Partyline – “Girls with Glasses” – [Retard Disco] (CD)

lombard   7/19/2005   A Library, CD

The latest project from Bratmobile’s Allison Wolfe is D.C.-based Partyline. With Allison’s vocals it’s similar in sound to the girl punk-pop of Bratmobile, but the lyrical content is more political, with disses against the presidential race (“..fuck Bush and Gore…” in “Unsafe at any Speed”), procreation (“I don’t wanna marry. I don’t wanna have your brats.” ), and romanticism (“No Romantic”). There’s plenty of humor and sass too (“give me head or gimme justice” in “No Romantic”). Super fun EP. (added 7-19-2005)

Note: Language and sexual content on tracks 1, 4

-Cynthia Lombard

Yuppie Pricks, The- “Brokers Banquet” – [Alternative Tentacles] (CD)

lombard   7/19/2005   A Library, CD

Yuppie punk concept band The Yuppie Pricks wax philosophical about coke parties, day spas, expensive vehicles, self-absorbtion, trappings of wealth (from Gucci to the Hilton sisters) with potty-mouths and lots of sexual content. The lyrics are unny, with ingenious rhymes–including rhyming jacuzzi with floozies and Gucci with Susan Lucci. Lots of bad language and sexual content. (added 7-19-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard

Isobella – “Surogate Emotions of the Silverscreen” – [New Granada Records] (CD)

lombard   7/19/2005   A Library, CD

Beautiful dreamscapy music from Isobella out of Tampa, Florida. Although it’s new, it has a sound akin to the late 1980s/early 1990s 4AD (Cocteau Twins, Lush) and shoe gaze scenes. Female vocals, with perhaps some buried male vocals too. They began working together in 1998 as Akasha, eventually changing their lineup and name to Isobella. Beautiful stuff!
(added 7-19-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard

Philippe Besombes “Libra” [MIO Records] (cd)

cujo   7/13/2005   A Library, CD

In 2004 Israeli treasure-hunters MIO re-released this 1974 soundtrack to the otherwise silent and obscure French avant-film Libra. You may know Besombes from his later efforts with P’le and Hydravion or from his inclusion on Nurse With Wound’s infamous list of influences (I didn’t), but this album made when he was 24 is surely his crowning achievement. The 20 short tracks left me salivating for more of this helter-skelter mix of spaced-out physics lab experiments, nearly unintelligible vocal babblings, driving blues, ambient Delta sitar, and pieces verging on folk and prog rock. You will find something interesting on here. Preview your track b/c cold finishes and cold starts still track together. Beware the 4 somewhat inferior tracks not composed by Besombes. And if all this wasn’t enough, MIO includes a bonus track of a well-constructed 20-minute meditation by Besombes on prepared piano.
Cujo, July 2005

Ramjac Corporation – “Analogue City ” – [Irdial-Discs]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

Irdial-Discs will probably forever be known as the label that gave us the CONET Project: an amazing collection of recordings from short-wave ‘numbers? stations. But they’ve also released some stunningly beautiful techno records, like this rare 12″ from the Ramjac Corporation. ‘Analogue City? is an 11+ minute instrumental of dubby electronic goodness that sounds as fresh today as when it was first released in 1992. And ‘Baby Got Soul? may well have been the first modern recording to use samples from Alan Lomax, as the prison work song featured here predates the first Little Axe album by two years. A timeless techno classic.

Smm Vol. 1 [coll] – [Ghostly Interntional]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

The ‘SMM? series from Ann Arbor’s Ghostly International intends to explore the more ambient/ethereal side of techno music from the Midwest. First up on this mini-compilation, Twine’s ‘Gliding In On? combines some languid guitar with electronic noises that will convince you your stereo is about to die. Next, Kiln brings us more of their pastoral techno, sounding a bit like Boards of Canada having brunch at the Penguin Caf?. Side B delivers two atmospheric tracks from Kosik, about whom I know f*ck-all, and wraps things up with a rather crunchy/industrial-sounding remix of Kiln by Mifune. Looking forward to Volume 2!

Triosk, with Jan Jelinek – “1+3+1 ” – [Scape]

Rococo   7/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

The intersection of electronics and jazz is THE most interesting musical vertex for me: thawing out the iciness of digital technology with the warmth of human improvisation and real musical chops. Australian band Triosk was formed around just such a mission, and they discovered a kindred soul in Germany’s Jan Jelinek via the latter’s ‘Loop-finding Jazz Records? release. After taking some samples from that album and working them into their own original compositions, Triosk hooked up with Jelinek himself to swap tracks and collaborate on original material via the mail. ‘1 + 3 + 1? is the result of that collaboration. If you’re a fan of the Tied & Tickled Trio or Isotope 217, you’ll probably dig these guys, too. It’s delicate, late-night music for smoky bars, or for home listening in the wee hours of semi-consciousness. Just let the music wash over and around you as you start to nod off?

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