KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Houser, Dylan – Dismal King / Dreary – [Self-released]

Louie Caliente   4/15/2019   A Library, CD

Guitar and found-sound oddness from Floridian Dylan Houser. It’s a two-EPs-in-one-CD kinda thing, combining recordings from late 2018 and 2019, all recorded and released directly by the artist.

Dismal King is spontaneous solo guitar compositions, looped and layered. Lo-fi but not too soupy, and with just enough distortion to take the edge off. A wide range of styles and moods on display, starting with the introspective and melancholy “Spring Vein” (T1). Things quickly ramp up to the propulsive “Dismal King” (T2) and the positively shredding “Locust Driver” (T3). We mellow out a bit (just a bit) with the psychedelic “Molting Riviera” (T4) and wrap up with an extended crunchy synth noise jam on “Tinker Galute” (T5), the only non-guitar piece on the EP.

Dreary is harder to categorize. It begins with “Lungform Deth Radio” (T6) a schizophrenic field recording collage featuring spoken word and the sounds of proper dental hygiene. The following track “Sarcophagus in Orbit” (T7) is more spaced-out improvised guitar work. The last three songs are rich synth drones with varying amounts of noise (T8, T10) and cheese (T9).

Joni Void – "Mise En Abyme" – [Constellation]

humana   4/11/2019   A Library, CD

Joni Void (aka Jean Cousin) has served up a gem here, which he refers to as “a time travel experiment, emotional processing, abstracted narrative, for voice, tone & beats.” Samples (Boards of Canada on 12), vocals, phone sounds (6), camera sounds that create beats (8), and even snippets from his parents’ wedding reception (1) all create the sense of infinity implied by the album title: “a copy of an image within itself, a story within a story; without beginning or end.” Enjoy.

Morgen Wurde – "Assassinous Act" – [Time Released Sound]

humana   4/10/2019   A Library, CD

The CD cover calls this release “a soundtrack for a fictitious crime film.” True to its word, everything, from the track titles to the music to the cover design with fingerprints and mug shots, is in keeping with the crime theme. Most of the tracks, especially the first half, contain instrumental electronic ambience that is sinister and unsettling, just as you’d expect the soundtrack to an assassinous act to be. Joining the violins toward the end are ethereal vocalizations, especially on 11, and 12 has voices that sound like they’re taken from a trial. This is unique and haunting. Try it.

Frost, Robert- “Reads His Poetry” – [Caedmon]

mickeyslim   4/10/2019   12-inch, A Library

This Caedmon Records release of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, Robert Frost (1874-1963), was made in 1956 “at Robert Frost’s home in Cambridge, where ebullient spirits, rural quiet and a feeling that this was to be the definitive Frost recording influenced the fine vitality of this reading.”

Some of his finest work, “The Road Not Taken,” “Death of a Hired Man,” and “After Apple-Picking,” among many others. Lay it down.

Wallace, Eli – “Barriers” – [Eschatology Records]

mickeyslim   4/10/2019   A Library, CD

“Barriers” is the moment you tip into sleep,
a thumbtack fallen pin-side-down
onto the hardwood floor,
a soft tap into a shallow
murky
puddle.

Recorded live in 2018, Eli Wallace’s solo piano work finds the cracks in the piano you didn’t know were there. Thunderous wisps and lukewarm fogs. Where to begin?

Mercure, Michele – “Eye Chant” – [Freedom to Spend]

lexi glass   4/9/2019   12-inch, A Library

Composer and synth musician Michele Mercure developed her sound through the 1980s in Pennsylvania, releasing the results on a handful of traded cassettes (under her married name Michele Musser) and on this sole 1986 LP, recently rereleased in 2017 by the RVNG sub-label Freedom to Spend. At first, Eye Chant seems deceptively accessible – with “Tour de France (Day 2)” (T1), that sounds like an extra stage of the Kraftwerk single, and the new-agey “In the Air” (T2) – but then, the album dives into the murky depths. A meditative mood – of drumming, flute, birds’ calls and wolves’ howls – is suddenly, violently shattered in “The Intruder” (T3). That shock launches directly into “100% Bridal Illusion” (T4), a nightmarish synth piece collaged with fragments of uncomfortable conversations with your relatives and the screams of their whining kids, that is altogether a hilariously accurate expression of all of the anxieties I have about marriage. Mercure’s processed vocals are layered to build “Eye Chant” (T5), and “Dream Clock” (T6) ticks over unusual melodies before arriving at the truly bizarre “Proteus and the Marlin” (T7), a tale of a woman who develops a lifelong psychosexual bond with a stuffed fish after her boyfriend jumps off the Golden Gate bridge. “Too Much” (T7) returns us to the surface with spare funk guitar riffs and downbeat dance rhythms.

Morher – “Rabbit Holes (and Other Exits)”- [Self-released]

atavist   4/3/2019   A Library, Cassette

Some of the KFJC staff will remember Morher from last summer, when “Sympathy for the Creator” was in current. This album was released one year later after “Sympathy…”, and offers the listener six tracks of rich, haunting, atmospheric tones, punctuated at times by echoing percussive elements, and anchored by ethereal vocals that rise and fall in volume from the surrounding soundscape, or are sampled and reassembled in new configurations. Each track is in the range of ten minutes, whereas the tracks on “Sympathy…” were generally longer. The tone is a bit darker than the previous effort. A current of anxiety and foreboding runs through the piece, and the sounds are produced with a compelling mix of clarity and distortion/obscurity.

Ero Guro – “Ero Guro” – [Wolfsblood Records]

lexi glass   4/3/2019   A Library, CD

One moment stands out from the first time I saw Tom Weeks perform: halfway through the set, he lifted his saxophone away from his lips, flipped it over, buried his face and tongue into the bell’s opening, and played it from the inside out. While I’m not sure he uses this exact technique, that same raw, physical energy is in full force on this 2015 self-titled release from Weeks’ ensemble Ero Guro. Named for the Japanese art movement of the erotic and the grotesque, the quartet features Weeks on alto sax, Mike Srouji on electric bass, and two drummers, Robbie Pruett and Patrick Talesfore. Over four wild compositions, they stagger from free jazz freakouts to rock grooves to doom metal depths to funky breakdowns – sometimes all over the course of a single track, as in the sprawling “Tentacle Apocalypse” (T2). Soaring themes descend a spiral staircase bassline into total chaos (T4), rhythmic intensity builds over quick sax/bass triplets (T5). Between the movements is a dreamy “Interlude” (T3), a hentai deathfuck fantasy. Ero Guro (and their follow-up 2017 cassette Blood of the Wolf we recently added) offers nonstop, killer extreme music, so dive in face-first.

Tsembla – “The Hole In The Landscape” – [NNA]

Phil Phactor   4/3/2019   12-inch, A Library

Tsembla is one Marja Ahti, a Swedish Finn (or Finnish Swede). She makes the synthetic sound real and the real sound surreal. On the opener Gravitating Bones, moody subterranean drones suddenly give way to bright, emotive chords, and that’s only the first of about 237 curveballs coming your way on this album. Once you get over your fear of getting lost, you’ll be able to enjoy the ride. The warped post-dub of Splash Erosion (A2) evokes the sound of several alarm clocks going off at once, but in a good way. Penumbra (A3) explores some questionable traditions before moving into a Broadcast vibe (there’s them curveballs again). On the flip, Instant Granite (B1) gives me some severe Mouse on Mars flashbacks, with its slippery, squiggly percussion. Closer Desert Lake starts with a choir of meowing cats and disintegrates from there. Always melancholy and yet strangely soothing, this is the rainy day album of an alien civilization.

Davis / Frith / Greenlief – “Lantskap Logic” – [Clean Feed]

Phil Phactor   3/27/2019   A Library, CD

Two telepathic long-form improvisations courtesy of Evelyn Davis on pipe organ, Fred Frith on electric guitar, and Phillip Greenlief on alto and tenor saxophones. Davis previously played organ as part of the tragically short-lived Drone Church, alongside Crystal Pascucci and Kimberly Sutton on amplified cellos. There are drones here too, but rather than stasis, the feeling is one of constant struggle, between the tethers of tonality and the dark depths beyond. Recorded in the Mills College chapel, this is a beautiful record, but not an easy one. Deep, deep listening.

Stapleton and Tibet – “Dead Memory” – [United Dirter]

lexi glass   3/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

Unreleased – until now – outtakes from the 1996 Musical Pumpkin Cottage sessions, the second time Steven Stapleton and David Tibet released work together under their names since 1991’s The Sadness of Things. This second session resulted in two albums – each “the Yin to the other’s Yang” – Musical Pumpkin Cottage and Musicalische Kürbs Hütte. Both albums contain different arrangements of the same two tracks. The first of these, “The Dead Side of the Moon,” a haunting love song with lyrics penned by Tibet, appears for a third time here (T1). Out of all three versions, I prefer this one the most – while the other two have a psych feel, this one begins with dreamlike melodies building into a fevered trance, setting a mysterious mood that suits the song’s lyrics. On the B side is “Frail Albatross,” a strange electronic sketch that sounds like the constantly churning inner workings of a bubblegum dream machine. Cool art from Babs and David, mastered by Andrew Liles. Es ist meine Party und ich werde weinen wenn ich Dich will…

Mamarracho – Fifty-Nine – [Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers]

Louie Caliente   3/26/2019   7-inch, A Library

Mamarracho are Shobu and Fuyuhiko Saitoh, two Japanese brothers and both former members of The Gerogerigegege. According to the liner notes, Shobu is the “young captain with false sportsmanship”, while Fuku is the “eternal bench warmer”.

“Fifty-Nine” is a banana-yellow baseball-themed 7″ with four aggressive tracks. A joint release on Destroy All Music and Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers.

Hunt The Sluggers (A-1) and Camping For Victory (B-1) are face-smashing thrashy grindcore. Big walls of distortion, squealing feedback, and real drums! Both have vocals (of sorts), although they are completely unintelligible, and in the case of Camping, sound like the microphone was swallowed before recording.

Next Generation Of H.H.S. (B-2) is traditional Japanese power electronics. Quasar blasts, machine gun static, electro-squiggles, and radio tuners. For me, Deformed Uniform (A-2) is the stand-out track. A hypnotic bass line with K-hole beats and an electronic edge. Slow and sludgy.

Boulier, Julien – "a Film Not Yet Made" – [Time Released Sound]

humana   3/24/2019   12-inch, A Library

This is simply beautiful music composed and played by Julien Boulier, who can make keyboards and electronic sounds that resemble harp, violins, and bells. This French musician has indeed composed music that would make an atmospheric soundtrack, and the delight comes from imagining your own film. You know how ending credits can pull at your heartstrings and take you through emotions that leave you feeling clean and, well, cried out? That is what I felt when listening to this.

Set Ensemble, The – "Stopcock" – [Consumer Waste]

humana   3/24/2019   A Library, CD

Each of the musicians in the Set Ensemble is also a composer, and this CD offers a wonderful sampling of the uniqueness of this UK-based group’s creativity. Track 3 is particularly interesting with the sound of a carrot and apple being chewed and digested. Among the other instruments decorating the sparse soundscape are cello, piano, a banana, crisps, contrabass, zither, and guitar. Watch your levels because sometimes things start out very quietly. But there’s art to the stillness…

Hippopotamus – “Attn: Span” – [Compared to What Records]

atavist   3/20/2019   7-inch, A Library

A pretty cool time capsule here of mid-nineties math rock, reminiscent of Drive Like Jehu and Roadside Monument, though maybe a little more angular and weird. The recording is characterized by a lo-fi four-track-style quality. The vocals sound normal at 45rpm, but the instruments sound sped up during side A (“Attn: Span”) and the first part of side B (“Least”). Side B mellows out midway through before building intensity. It’s too bad about the F-bomb on this second track, as it has some nice dynamic shifts.

Orcutt, Bill – “Neu Bros / OK Phone / Rural Beatles” – [Fake Estates]

atavist   3/20/2019   12-inch, A Library

Orcutt, known to KFJC for his experimental/free guitar work and, more recently, his collaborations with Chris Corsano, explores two new electronic compositions on this album. Research leads to, among other things, a Github repo, as the sounds were created using “a web audio library that uses method chaining and CSS-style selectors to simplify creating, configuring and connecting audio nodes in the browser.” Side A is comprised of contemplative tones; patterns repeat meditatively, shifting over time. The computer sounds generated by Orcutt’s Cracked app have an organ-like quality on this piece. Side B, in contrast, is frenetic, bubbling computer tones. Patterns persist, replicate, evolve, adapt while maintaining an over-arching, consistent identity. Imagine a visualization of an ant colony or a traffic pattern, how the pixels might jostle around on the screen, and then you associated sounds with those myriad pixels—Side B might be what you’d hear.

Matmos – “Plastic Anniversary” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

lexi glass   3/19/2019   A Library, CD

Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt are still going strong after 25 years of partnership, and they’re celebrating the milestone with a new album. This work follows the blueprint of many previous Matmos releases: the duo choose a theme and a limited range of sounds, and build the album within those constraints, often finding creative and surprising solutions to the strict boundaries they’ve set for themselves. This time, they’ve crafted an album entirely from the sounds of plastic objects. Throughout Plastic Anniversary, there’s hints of past works – the latex squeaks from Supreme Balloon or the fleshy-tones of A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure – in the yelps from plastic tubing and squeals of synthetic fat and silicone breast implants. One element that sets this album apart for me is its powerful percussion. Members of a Montana high school drumline whale on trash bins in “Fanfare for Polyethylene Waste Containers” (T8) and solo on a “Thermoplastic Riot Shield” (T7, with added police state synths from Professor Cantaloupe). I outgrew my teenage crush on Deerhoof, but never my respect for their staggering drummer, Greg Saunier. Here, he contributes to several tracks, including the standout “The Collapse of the Fourth Kingdom” (T10), and the opener “Breaking Bread”(T1), where the trio plays the smashed fragments of old Bread LPs (a live performance of this track at the 2017 WFMU Record Fair caused a hilarious uproar from attendees). I could go on – the final track is synthetic soundscape of a teeming forest! (T11) – as this album overflows with unlikely sounds and ideas. Dead serious about their craft but never taking themselves too seriously, Matmos consistently rise far above the great garbage gyre that is the current musical landscape. Here’s to many more!

Subtitle / John Wiese / Adlib / The Cherry Point [coll] – [Troniks]

atavist   3/19/2019   7-inch, A Library

Track one is comprised of some basic beat machine grooves with stream-of-consciousness hip hop lyrics. Primitive 8-bit electronics round out the mix. We have a couple records by the artist, Subtitle, in the Hip Hop library. Next, John Wiese drops in with with a corrupted dissolution of sound, all jagged edges and jarring transitions. This artist should be well-known to some KFJC DJs at this point. On side B, Adlib provides abstract noise washes with a drum & bass element that staggers in and out of the composition. The end result makes for a fairly compelling track. The Cherry Point closes out the 7″ with a thick mass of machine noise reminiscent of an idling HVAC system in a parking garage. 1982 forever, indeed, but this track only lasts for a minute and a half.

Uniform – “Uniform” – [Beggars Tomb]

Lord Gravestench   3/15/2019   12-inch, A Library

Uniform is an industrial duo from New York City. Brooklyn hipster trashlord Ben Greenberg (of Archaeopteryx, Coca Leaf, Little Women, The Fugue, Zs, house engineer/producer for Sacred Bones Records, oh yeah and involved in some band called Bloody Panda…) and Michael Berdan (various cooler bands KFJC doesn’t have) collaborate on paranoiac central nervous system attacks with a debt to classics like Suicide and Iugula Thor, and perhaps specifically to The Guilt Of…, the industrial project of EyeHateGod’s Mike Williams. This 2014 45RPM EP was their first release. One track per side.

Greenberg’s insistent drum machines, shuddering synth textures, and fuzzed-out guitar merge with Berdon’s frantic, hardcore-inspired vocal delivery. Insanity-inducing New York despair. The rent may have gone up but the drugs have gotten more expensive too!

Copyright © 2019 KFJC 89.7 FM
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File