KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

NOISE: In Theory and Practice [coll] – [Norcal Noisefest]

lexi glass   2/11/2020   A Library, CD

This limited-run 2019 compilation was released at the 23rd Norcal Noisefest, the annual celebration of crazed cacophony that’s terrorized Sacramento every fall since 1995. Curated by noisefest mainstay Instagon, the comp features new works from the artists that performed at the 2019 event. So, of course, you’ll find strange sounds of all stripes: the layered womens’ vocals of Mourning Dove (T1), the binaural buzz of Chopstick (T3), the bright blips of Thirteen Hurts (T6), Mini Mutations‘ spoken word stream of consciousness (T7). Novacain sickens with sax, piano and a deadbeat drumbeat (T10), Seattle’s rEEk delivers strikes supplanted by silence (T13), SF’s Filthmilk has a metal breakdown (T16), Crank Sturgeon‘s trapped in a tangle of live cables (T19), while Crank Static offers some unique Valentine’s ideas for you and Your Baby (T20 – FCCs). The comp rounds out with the toasty crunch of a bowlful of Microwave Windows (T24), an easy listening FM radio station possessed by demons courtesy of Xdugef (T26); finally, Infinexhuma abandons us in the void (T27).

Vastum – “Orificial Purge” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   2/10/2020   12-inch, A Library

The Bay Area’s Vastum have unleashed their latest release, and it continues in the vein of their previous works, including “Hole Below” from 2015. This is considered old school death metal, and the band is frequently compared to Bolt Thrower, a band active from the mid-80s to the early 2000s. The old-school element comes from the riffs that are heavy and at times complex, but played at medium tempos that are seldom mind-bendingly fast or glacially slow. Two vocalists work well off each other: Daniel Butler and guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf, whose distinctive vocal style can be found in other projects known to KFJC, like Saros and Hammers of Misfortune. An early favorite is Abscess Inside Us (A3). An off-kilter time signature teeters on a razor wire edge before dissolution swallows the end of the track. On its heels, the title track has a great intro, dripping with ghastly atmosphere. Generally, this record rewards a close listen, and each track has its merits. Borderline mathy/proggy structures are woven to support the overarching goal: to paint a bleak picture of shame, pain, and anguish from violence, including sexual violence. Riffs are held in check, so that the ultimate release covers the sky in darkness. To be sure, Vastum flashes the blades of previous recordings, but the cuts here are new, fresh, and deep. The haunting guitar solo in the final track crushes.

Drumwerx – "Drumwerx" – [Nosecandy]

humana   2/9/2020   A Library, CD

I know nothing about this CD except what it sounds like, and it sounds like its title. Lots of short tracks with some longer ones sprinkled in that put you in mind of being inside of a video game. A drum machine is likely the source of the frenetic, upbeat, ricocheting sounds that reverberate through your brain long after the CD is through playing. It’s always Playtime, after all! (Oh, yeah, and the band may be from Oxnard, CA.)

Allred, Joseph – "Traveler" – [Feeding Tube Records]

humana   2/9/2020   12-inch, A Library

These amazingly mellow and pretty folk tunes come to us from Joseph Allred in Boston. Allred is a master at guitar and banjo, enveloping the listener in layers of comforting acoustic notes and occasionally adding his voice to sing along. The cute illustrations of the tracks and the clever album design are in keeping with the homey feel of these tracks. Definitely in my sweet spot.

Million Brazilians – "Urban Fossickated Octave" – [Feeding Tube Records]

humana   2/9/2020   12-inch, A Library

Million Brazilians have moved to Maine where Caleb Mulkerin of Big Blood is. He did the tape loops and treatments on this album, as well as the engineering, recording, mixing, and mastering. Suzanne Stone’s alto sax is pretty great in the way it keeps the jazz feeling going amidst all the weird wonderfulness that makes this band hard to pinpoint. Grant Corum is of course on board, bringing especially interesting vocal directions to “Ectoplasm Programmed Dream (with Guide),” and Tom Kovacevic adds piano and synth at the end of Side 1. This is an almost droning, building aural experience and just right for the KFJC library.

Play The Astronauts & More, The [coll] – [Surfer Joe Music]

Cousin Mary   2/8/2020   12-inch, A Library

The Astronauts were a band from Colorado who were active in the 1960’s. Their records sold especially well in Japan and their version of Baja and other Lee Hazelwood tunes are legendary. Surf bands today still cover their music and greatly respect their musicianship. This album is an homage from two European surf bands – the Kilaueas from Germany and Surfer Joe from Italy. The tunes are faithfully rendered but with a modern European twist. Very fine playing and arrangements, this LP is very, very special.

Armagedda – “Only True Believers” – [Drakkar Productions]

whngr   2/5/2020   A Library, CD

Straight-ahead Scandinavian Black-metal

Pvre, hermitic Swedish black metal without frills. Cold, grim, and cvlt, all the elements of trve Nordic metal are present with notable exception being the samples culled from final episode of Twin Peaks (original series) pinned to the opening and closing of this album from 2003 and a few fleeting death and doom metal aspects (tempo changes and solos). A bonus track was tacked to the end of this release of wind howling through the trees with a meandering spooky synth. This was the second full-length release by reclusive two-man black metal outfit Armagedda which was comprised of Andreas Petterson and Stefan Sandström (A. and Graav) who haled from the secluded forests of Lapland, the northernmost county of Norrland, itself the northernmost region of Sweden; cold, desolate, unforgiving, dark for half the year. Salient as these young men were so isolated and resolute in their worship of nature that they would ultimately abandon the project and the world of men… barring the inception of Nordvis Produktion 2005, the label run by Petterson which according to interviews is considered to be more of a commune of like-minded spirits, especially their collective reverence of nature and humanity’s insignificance when compared to her power and immensity. The word that A. employs is, vast which adds a desirable element in my opinion. Although Armagedda’s sound is concertedly informed by the Norwegian forefathers of 2nd wave black metal, Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, et al. there is an element of isolation that pervades their releases. Here Andreas describes a German tour that the band left before its end:
“We were young and lived in a world which consumed us, and the other way around. As the tour progressed, I remember a mounting distance between us and the remaining bands. Another memory forever etched in my head is an evening when we found a secluded forest area where we sat down by ourselves with an old tape-recorder, just enjoying the sound of something other than people speaking German. A great relief at the time, to be sure.” – A. Petterson
With Graav retiring from music and A. distancing himself from the black metal genre this album is widely considered to be the apex of Armagedda’s form and, in the opinion of this miserable volunteer, an excellent example of devastating sonic misanthropy.

Xuxa Santamaria – Chancletas D’Oro

cadilliac margarita   2/5/2020   12-inch, A Library

Xuxa Santamaria – Sofia Cordova (born in Puerto Rico) and Matt Gonzalez Kirkland (Born in Brooklyn to a Cuban mom) met in Massachusetts during college. They have since relocated to Oakland, and this 2019 release is full of songs about revolution, colonization, feminism, climate change, politics, etc.  All over catchy, dark, mystical, shimmery beats, With Lyrics predominately in Spanish.  This has both dancefloor jams and trippy floaters.  Both Cordova & Kirkland are multidisciplinary artists, so they are responsible for all aspects from music, to lyrics, and album art. This is excellent!

Teitanblood – “Baneful Choir, The” – [Norma Evangelium Diaboli]

atavist   2/5/2020   A Library, CD

Teitanblood has been known to KFJC dating back to the Firebunker era, and their new release needed to be sought out, post-haste. This will be the third Teitanblood release to stain the library with punishing, blackened death metal. Most tracks are blistering fast and brutal, with a few cinematic interludes/intros/outros. A track breakdown follows.

1. Ominous intro, washes of sound, minimal hums and atmospheres
2. Grim, crushing heaviness starts out slowly and builds momentum
3. High speed insanity, guitars spiraling out of control, blast beat mayhem, dripping with evil
4. More mayhem, unrelenting, continuing the tradition of the spiraling, unhinged guitar solo
5. Battering ram assault
6. A segue track, or intermission; the tolling of bells in a forsaken landscape of char and ash, with electrically distorted voices and intonations
7. Continues track 6, with mad men introduced. a light touch of malevolence
8. Tracks 6,7,8 are designed to basically run together to form a piece with a total run time of 11:43. From the charred landscape, the baneful choir rises, triumphant in its purely malevolent glory. You will submit; you have been bested. Track 8 unspools in a long, deliberate, extraordinary build to an enveloping din, and fades out with keyboards and churchy sounds.
9. Enough concept, let’s pulverize!
10. Opens with a big, crushing riff. The drums are a bit less diabolically fast and the thick, filthy guitars fill the space. By the end the tempo is cranked up to full insanity once again.
11. Starts out quietly; the calm descends on glowing embers cooling into a cold, deepening darkness. Demented, a baneful choir of spectres rises.

Pierson, Dax – “Live In Oakland” – [Ratskin Records]

atavist   2/5/2020   A Library, CD

Atmospheres, blips, klangs, noisewashes, vocal samples. Beats drop in like depth charges. Soaring melodic elements establish themselves and fade. Pitches shift up and down, reeling, forms disintegrate and reform. There’s an extraordinary variety exhibited from track to track, and even within tracks. “Krafteno” brings a more traditional sequencer sound, a blend of clean synths with dirtier, grimier electronic beats and textures. The overall vibe here is insistent, present. “Macrobid” establishes hiphop beats with a droning bass track, a canvas for a variety of samples to interlace and juxtapose each other. “Memory” is a majestic cathedral-like synth piece without a drum track. “Treading Water” starts out really quietly, establishes eerie atmospherics, and then overlays audio taken from a visit to the doctor’s office, a discussion of an evolving diagnosis, until the sample becomes manipulated, repeated, mangled…it picks up a theme eluded to in the beginning, in “A Snap of the Neck”. An tour van accident in 2005 left Pierson a quadriplegic; fortunately he continues to craft these works that speak to his experience. The final track starts with a minimal rhythm and progresses into exuberant trance/techno.

Dax Pierson is well-represented in the KFJC library, mainly by his participation in the projects Themselves, Subtle, and 13 & God, projects that dance the line between hip hop and unorthodox genre-bending experimentation. This is only his second entry in the library as a solo performer; Lexi Glass reviewed the 18th Annual SF Electronic Music Festival compilation, on which his track “Live @ Life Changing Ministry” appeared.

I:CUBE – “Disco Cubizm” – [Versatile]

aarbor   2/5/2020   A Library

This is I:Cube’s  (Nicholas Chaix) 2nd release from 1996. Disco Cubizm and Listen 2 The Bass are playful, bouncy fun tracks, with a sense of humor. The Daft Punk Remix on the B side is more sober.  – AArbor  

Music For the Gods – [coll.] – [Rykodisc]

aarbor   2/5/2020   A Library

Indonesian music is more than just Gamelan! This beautiful collection aptly demonstrates this by giving you not only beautiful gamelan music, but excellent examples of other interesting instruments and vocal stylings. On track [3] slit drums or tubular bells, jew’s harp [6], a harvest song [7]. Kecak [10] a famous [monkey] dance from Bali in which the male singers chant much like a gamelan  in 8 layers of chants and the dance is choreographed to the chanting. Track [13] is Mamaca – sung poetry. AArbor

Before The Revival – “O0” – [WV Sorcerer Productions]

lexi glass   2/4/2020   A Library, Cassette

Z.Y.Q. – a self-described “useless man” from Fuzhou, China – finds a use for the sounds from several genres of extreme music in his musical projects. As The Silent S, he explores lo-fi folk, dark ambient, and harsh noise, while his newest project Before the Revival alternates between pitch-black glitch techno and depressive black metal. On this 2019 debut cassette from BtR, the glitch sound is at the fore, with nine doses of bleak beats and low-end rumbles that together “describe a series of deep void and cruel universes inside his brain.” Once again, WV Sorcerer, the label headed by Chinese experimental artist ruò tán, delivers the desolation.

Filmmaker – “Unregulated” – [Opal Tapes]

lexi glass   2/4/2020   A Library, Cassette

Filmmaker is the alias of producer Faunes Efes of Medellín, Colombia. Unregulated, one of a slew of releases Efes issued in 2019, showcases his hypnotic take on dark electro. A slow, sludgy beat drives the killer lead track “Federal Bestiary” (T1). The pace quickens with the strobe light rhythms of “Unnatural Sciences” (T2) and the twisted synth stabs of “Inbred Indigo” (T3), and continues building with the driving “Dreamland Ops” (T4), and the high speed chase of “Bot Cells” (T5). The tape runs out too soon, fully dissociating into the hazy sunrise comedown of “Fading Life Drop” (T6). A 2019 release from Opal Tapes.

Durette, Liz – "Delight" – [Feeding Tube Records]

Cousin Mary   1/30/2020   12-inch, A Library

This is solo keyboard improvisation by Baltimore musician Liz Durette. Quite unique, sounding at times like a calliope, horns, accordion, piano, guitar and more. The cricket pieces are certainly insect like. Playful but not cute, often dissonant and weird. Very original and thought provoking. (Sounds pretty good at 45rpm, but determined it is 33rpm by matching track times printed on the album cover.)

Quintron – Erotomania

cadilliac margarita   1/30/2020   A Library

Recorded at his own Spellcaster Lodge in New Orleans, Mr Quintron is king of the mellotron, hammond, chamberlin, vibraphone, and his own invention, the drum buddy. Hipster exotica with forays into Dixieland and swampy blues, this is perfect mood music for a dimly lit hangout. His music always has the ability to go from whiskey on ice to all out sweaty dance jam with one deft flick of the keys. This is all instrumental —perhaps improvised—but some of his genius lies in always keeping the listener guessing. I love this freak!!

Wulkanaz – “Wulkanaz” – [Helter Skelter (Sweden)]

whngr   1/30/2020   A Library, Cassette

A barrage of 14 crushing Scandinavian rock-falls from Wagner Odegard aka Kumulonimbus of Tomhet and 1 dark ambient soundscape.

These short and not so sweet offerings are a concise distillation of black metal with ugly rock hooks. All the fat has been trimmed, excising the often monotonous drone of double kicks and buried, over-driven trem picked guitars in favor of a variety of tempos, melodies, and tonal pallets that coalesce in to a furious volley of catchy cvlt black metal-literate rock. It feels like a gauntlet being hurled down by Odegard, as if to say, I have more scope and breadth than our progenitors, more talent than the commercial black metal behemoths, more vision than the throngs of mimics and emulators, more fury than a Valkyrie during Ragnarök, and potentially much more fuel in the fire. A vehement onslaught of short-form black metal but there is so much more to Wulkanaz; finger picking, strumming, galloping palm-mutes, growling and rending guitars, spoken word, shrieking, slaughter, battering and pummeling. In tight, short succession and very little repetition. Almost as soon as a theme is established it is resolved, leaving us gasping for breath and begging for more. And there is plenty to go ’round as the replay value is concertedly high. Though the compositions and performances stand out on this album the recording and mixing are excellent as well. And the drums… Odegard’ employs the drumming of Daniel Rockmyr to glorious effect, allowing him the space to rule on his throne, unleashing a fusillade of percussive devastation. This album is an axiom of power and, in the opinion of this miserable volunteer, a new apogee in the genre as it continues to fracture, expand, and evolve.

Wang, Zijian – “Love Songs In Disillusion” – [WV Sorcerer Productions]

lexi glass   1/30/2020   A Library, Cassette

Written and recorded in the industrial zones near North China’s Bohai Bay, Love Songs in Disillusion is the debut cassette from experimental singer/songwriter Wang Zijian. A deep longing lies within these eight twisted love songs, composed of guitar and synth melodies, despondent vocals, spoken word poetry, and heavy industrial rhythms that might spring from the wasted oil fields where Wang lives and works. The heavy mood gently lifts at the tape’s end, with a dreamlike serenade (T7) and the cosmic visions of the epilogue (T8). Released in the Summer of 2019 on the French/Chinese experimental label WV Sorcerer Productions.

Hound Dog Taylor's Hand – "Hound Dog Taylor's Hand" – [Planned Obsolescence]

Thurston Hunger   1/27/2020   12-inch, A Library

Seattle project, contrabass leads the 4tet not strictly to rock, nor jazz. On the lead-off John Seman’s work is reminiscent of the guimbri styles of Joshua Abram’s work. Seman’s bass is a heavy anchor thoughout here. On “The Immensity of the Problem” he bum-bum-bum-BUMPS plus Mark Ostrowski on the drums to set up extended solos from guitarist Jeffery Taylor and then Greg Kelley on trumpet. Greg gets more muscle into his hustle here, as opposed to the intriguing but subtle Nmperign. Ah, Taylor is a Climax Golden Twin, he punks up “The Vulgar Ideal” (my fave track here – a ripper!). Things get a little sludgy on “Hostile Architecture” but like a lot of these songs, that serves as a launch-pad for solo ballistics. “Retrieval Technicians” finds a shade of moodiness, that nicely sets up when things come down to the WIRE on the closing track. Ending with “You Can’t Leave Now” is both funny and edgy (listen to Seman saw away on his contrabass). As a side note, KFJC has plenty of the six-fingered six-string slinger Hound Dog from whom the band takes its name.
-Thurston Hunger

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