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Music Reviews

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.

Selfish Cunt “Britain is Shit” 45 rpm [Horseglue]

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

Possibly the best of use of a cheap drum machine ever. It
fires a machine gun stacatto attack during “Britain is Shit.”
It then has a series of spasms on “Fuck the Poor” that keep
that track off balance. Vocals are more leery on the latter,
which also has a tiny little pachinko synthesizer buried
somewhere in the grooves. “Britain is Shit’s” pressure-cooked
vocals are stringier, longer notes sung lifting up at the
end of each phrase, as if grabbed on the ears by an unstable
constable. Plus when everything drops out, that damned drum
machine gets a chance to just jackhammer away. Selfish Cunt
contains shouter Martin Tomlinson and beater Patrick Constable
within it. Working out of East London, these lads know there
subject matter, even though one of ’em is evidently and old
New Zealot. Both sides dirty as their titles.

Scholastic Deth “Killed by School” 33 rpm [625 Thrashcore]

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

Razor sharp, whiplash rock from the now-defunct Scholastic
Deth rockers…though one of the band members evidently still
runs 625 Thrashcore. Songs hit escape velocity pretty quickly,
often leaving with dual feedback whines. But tracks jump on
quickly…so be prepared for life after a Deth track. It’s
just as well, the energy on one side alone can light up the
Central Valley. Songs come out swinging, and occasionally may
end up cold-cocking a friend or themselves. Speaking of
friends…the frenzy here connects back to Spazz per the 625
web site as well as to Capitalist Casualties. More often the
blows land where they are intended, and as all four of the
band are UC grads, it’s nice that they bite the hand that
fed Enron and other dodgy investment schemes. There may be
cursing in the lyric sheets, but sadly people who would be
offended by that, wouldn’t take the effort to stop and listen
to this rock solid 7″. Advanced degrees of ire via their
Evelyn Wood speed thrash edumacation. Repeat multiple times
for multiple credit. Core requirement.

Rope “Widow’s First Dawn” [Family Vineyard]

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

I know this is not for everyone, I just cannot
imagine why. A traditional rock triad at the
core, a hot molten core. Around that Rope has
built a whole planet. The first song tiptoes
like a Star Trek away team, uncertain whether
they can breathe the air. Detonating delay on
guitar and on guest vox Graczyna Auguseik’s
works well. This severs prog rock’s Achilles
tendon, as instead of having a vibe of “Hey,
I can play it backwards in 5/11 time” the
feeling here is that large stretches of these
songs leapt out in inspiration. Volume pedal
tension, slashing dischords, & a non-bloated
Allan Holdsworth ghost are all summoned by
Przemyslaw Chris Drazebca. Blood and spittle
vocals are squeezed out of bassist Robert
Iwomly. Michael Kendrick’s drums are
cymbal-laden and frantic/dormant as needed.
This album delivers the hurt and the solace
all at once.

Rollerball “Behind the Barber” [Silber]

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

Bubble-wrapped in dub textures, a dense sound that seems to
exhale and inhale in a variety of ways. In through the
sitar, out through the accordion…in through the electronic
iron lung, out through the trumpet. Time spent in mixing and
maximimizing the inputs of the 16 listed contributors has
muddied the tracks somewhat to a sonic equivalent of brown,
but brownian music may just be this year’s techno black. I
actually dug the spikes and clashes of “Real Hair” more,
but this is a murky, surprisingly beaty album at times with
a lot of hues to it. At its best it approaches a sort of Art
Ensemble of Electronica. The abundance of synthesizers here
is never smart-bomb precise, never cold and calculated, but
warm and more arbitrary. The vocals are more confident and
torchy when they appear, which is not often enough! “Slits
Arandas” is one hell of a journey with prominent hornplay.
“Autotelic” ends just as its seems ready to launch into an
interesting guitar-led phase. I’m unsure how many of the
sweet 16 still live in the same house in Portland, OR but
it must be a comfy place. The more you listen to this, the
more you will feel at home with it.

Rapider than Horsepower “This Is My Big Night” [Essay]

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

Horton hears a Hoosier. Indiana idiot savant rock. This
is a follow-up to an album we don’t have…..yet. Yeah,
the vocals are whiny, but the guitars are even whinier!
Spastic tweaky rock, if the first cut doesn’t win you
over (“I Can’t Survive Without My BeatBox”) as it did
me, then move on I guess. But you’ll miss one of the
more engaging 40 seconds of art rock ever wrought on
“Yeah, Right”. Doppler vocals on that are keen. Overall
Mike Anderson’s vocals made me think of “Hong Kong
Phooey” as much as Beefheart or Pere Ubu. I prefer it
when these horses stampede rather than the couple of
cuts that canter…overall good bent guitar, twisted
lyrics and Anderson’s pretzel mouth (often murmured
along with by the others.) Crowd applause at the end
of some tracks seems stapled on? Language on #5.

Wired – Free Improvisation (MYA – Europe)

outlier   2/9/2005   12-inch, A Library

Wired – Free Improvisation (MYA – Europe)
Legendary free music release on Deutsche Grammophon, recorded between 1970-73. Gtr-org-bs-perc-elec combine spontaneously, transporting you to a destination of sonic bliss. A rather consonant free music exploration of the acoustic analog variety with smart electronics in supporting role. Not afraid of space, the quartet’s delicate communications interchange and disperse with timeless agility. Rare moments of clash mark climax and redirection that is woven into a fabric of sonic wonder. Subtle yet powerful- Dense yet never cluttered. Final recording opens with war sirens to marvelous dramatic effect. Ranta collaborated with Harry Parch, Bottner played in Stockhausen’s ensemble, Lewis studied under Dvorak and Plank is considered among the premier German producers. This document is the work of masters in an offering to the Gods – and the Gods looked down and smiled.
– Outlier

Sixes – Organ Cuts

outlier   2/9/2005   A Library, CD

Sixes – Organ Cuts
Not chainsaw stuff ! Soundscapes from the noise quadrant. Reminds of early Merzbow (singles, Rainbow Electronics) bu with more continuity, less dense and less harsh. 2 tracks about 30m each but with 8-10 m passages in each. (1) Noisetronics / sirens, wind, tracers-vapors of notes / merzbow under tuvan influence, note factory stuff. (2) organ treatments, minor key stuff / minimalist handsaw, tronix bikers / galactic awareness through better electronics.
– Outlier

Montoya, Robert – Robert M (Accretions)

outlier   2/9/2005   A Library, CD

Robert Montoya – Robert M (Accretions)
A dialectical synthesis of drone and beats with timing that is resolute yet spacey and textures that are synthetic yet lush. Anomalous and amorphous soundscapes (like euro-movie soundtracks at the moment of denouement) give a feeling of train travel through a foggy mountainous landscape. Montoya compiles sounds from television and layers them into soundscapes that transcend the medium and consciousness altogether. Tio Mate (5) is a compelling piece of pulsing soundwaves under Burroughs soundbytes. Sinestre (2) is a sonic colossus that attempts to communicate with other forms of intelligence – let them know you get the message- Play the shit out of this !
– Outlier

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