KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Eisenberg, Wendy – “Machinic Unconscious, The” – [Tzadik]

lexi glass   2/27/2019   A Library, CD

Fierce improvisational avant rock from this trio headed by Wendy Eisenberg, a Boston-based guitarist, composer, and member of the no-wave punk band Birthing Hips. When she was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, Eisenberg was spotted by John Zorn, who connected her with two accomplished players, drummer Ches Smith (of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog) and bassist Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Nels Cline Singers, and more) . This 2018 release from Zorn’s Tzadik label is the result of this collaboration. Eisenberg’s bold playing is at the fore, as her strings contort from discordant but familiar sounds into skewed sonic shapes or heavy, electronic growls, like on the noisy opener “The Descent of Alette” (T1, a tribute to the poem by Alice Notely) . The trio’s exchanges begin as dispersed bursts that that build in to intense grooves (T1, T3, T9), loose jams (T5), tangled thickets (T6, T10) or driving attacks (T4, T5, T7). Staggering sounds from this talented newcomer.

Minimal Technology – Play – Musica Para Videoinstalaciones 1991 – 1993 – [Hueso Records]

Louie Caliente   2/26/2019   12-inch, A Library

Minimal Technology is an avant-garde trio from Santiago Chile that formed in the early nineties. They explored new forms of video art and sound sculptures, and performed only twice, both times at the University of Chile.

Tell Me What Will Happen Today (B-2) contains the recording of one of their performances, which was accompanied by a video installation. Traditional rhythmic percussion and flute mixes with chopped samples and slow throbbing synth waves.

The other two tracks were recorded and released in Tokyo on Kino Mitsouko’s record label Dinn International. Listen to this Example (A-1) consists of cut-up fragments of English and Spanish dialogue over a repetitive bass riff, mechanistic clicks and whirs, and what sounds like a dot-matrix printer. Se Armó La Rosca (B-1) is an experimental turntable piece that scratches and mixes a variety of Spanish music at different speeds, both forwards and backwards.

Chamber Industrial – Per Bloland – [Tzadik]

Louie Caliente   2/26/2019   A Library, CD

Per Bloland studied music composition at Stanford and now teaches at Miami University. He often composes for an electromagnetically-prepared piano of his own design. The piano has a series of electromagnets placed along different strings, each of which can be driven by audio signal. This allows the timbre, sustain, and dynamics of each note to be controlled, and enables new type of resonance and feedback.

Chamber Industrial contains 5 works for chamber ensemble inspired by a variety of literary works and performed by The Ecce Ensemble. Moods are tense and suspenseful, contrasting delicate flutes and bells with the discordant growls produced by the sax, double-bass, and piano. Bloland evokes the energy of industrial music through abrasive, distorted textures and simple motifs. The electromagnetically-prepared piano is featured on T4, while T2 and T4 are purely acoustic.

Tuttle, Andrew – “Andrew Tuttle” – Room40

Phil Phactor   2/20/2019   A Library, CD

Andrew Tuttle is from Australia, but you wouldn’t know it from this enchanting slice of post-Fahey Americana. Tuttle layers his banjo and guitar filigree over luminous drones to predictably trance-inducing effect. On Meterological Warning (T5), he’s joined by viola and prepared lap guitar, while The Coldest Night (T8) sees the addition of electric guitar and trumpet. Soothing stuff.

Spiegel, Laurie – “Unseen Worlds” – [Unseen Worlds]

Phil Phactor   2/20/2019   A Library, CD

Laurie Spiegel is a pioneer in the field of electronic music. In 1973, she began exploring computer music at Bell Labs, where Max Matthews and Richard Moore had recently developed the digital-analogue hybrid GROOVE (Genered Realtime Operations On Voltage-controlled Equipment) system. From this work came the album The Expanding Universe, released in 1980. With its clear tones, open harmonies, and mechanical rhythms, The Expanding Universe presented an optimistic, almost utopic vision of technology. In contrast, Unseen Worlds, created using Spiegel’s own Music Mouse software, is altogether darker and more amorphous, with a focus on texture over melody. Hurricane’s Eye (T7) stacks layers and layers of organ-like tones to create a thick, murky, mass of sound, a modern-day requiem. Check out the frankly-terrifying stabs of noise on Riding the Storm (T9), and DO NOT MISS the epic, 14-minute closer Passage (T12), in which harmonically-rich drones, synthetic voices, and ominous clangings rise and fall evoking the grandeur and power of some strange, cosmic machine.

Raymond, Gwenifer – "You Never Were Much of a Dancer" – [Tompkins Square]

Cousin Mary   2/20/2019   A Library, CD

Welsh born Gwenifer Raymond lives in England but plays American Primitive style guitar and banjo as if she was born to it. Wonderful melodies in her compositions, astonishing technique. Some tunes are simple, most show a virtuosity and polyphony that is almost reminiscent of Bach violin partitas. Oh and she has a PhD in astrophysics. Wow, wow, wow!

Is-In-Unsamble – “Is The Belly / In The Belly” – [Gilgongo Records]

atavist   2/18/2019   12-inch, A Library

An experimental, improvisational jazz sort of happening. It’s one of those records where the instruments hang out in groups at a low-key party, and sometimes just go off in corners and talk to themselves while in earshot of everyone else. All the instrumentation and sounds are executed with a light touch. Side two has some almost creepy vocal things going on, and starts to build some wall-of-sound intensity about eight minutes in. The house guests come out of their corners and start to acknowledge each other, creating a crescendo before the final tapering off.

Butcher ABC – “North of Hell” – [Obliteration Records]

atavist   2/18/2019   A Library, CD

Nice “South of Heaven” reference. The thick crust presented here will otherwise ward off comparisons to Slayer. Beautifully satisfying, thick, disgusting riffs. Apparently these folks have been pummeling Japan for two decades, so their filth is pretty tight and old-school in an early nineties sort of way. Most tracks clock in at three minutes or less (the shortest track is 1:14). Track 2 is 5:01, and the last track is a protracted grind jam/amalgamation running to 8:36 where the band allowed themselves to deviate from the format employed in the rest of the album.

Dalt, Lucrecia – “Anticlines” – [Rvng Intl.]

Phil Phactor   2/15/2019   A Library, CD

Lucrecia Dalt is a former geotechnical engineer from Colombia, now settled in Berlin, who has previously collaborated with Julia Holter and Laurel Halo. While her early work has been described as “experimental indie pop,” on this album she leaves the “indie pop” behind. Dalt is an exceptionally skilled sound designer, deftly weaving industrial aesthetics into the conventions of minimal electronics. The result is a sound all her own: raw, rough, tactile, but also precise, polished, icy-cold. And then there are the vocals (T1, T3, T5, T6, T9, T11), spoken-sung and subtly processed, they draw you in and push you away at the same time. These are short tracks (1-3 minutes) that nonetheless evoke a sense of geologic time, of a stasis that masks the presence of tremendous power.

Laugh Queens “Bathcolor” [Self Release]

mickeyslim   2/13/2019   A Library, CD

Stephanie D’Arcy is the mastermind on this freshman release from this SF-based project. D’Arcy on guitar and vocals, Ryan Albaugh on drums, Giancarlo Arzu on bass, and Yaryn Choi on keys and providing vocals. Their lo-fi grunge-pop is a slightly off-kilter, head-boppin, house party and you’re sitting in the corner with your head down, all the voices and music faded and muted in the background. First part of the album hits hard, while the last part is not as impressive. Definitely worth a listen!

Vacuum Tree Head “Aasraa” [Pest Colors Music]

mickeyslim   2/13/2019   A Library, CD


1 part brass band, 2 parts lounge jazz, one part noisy meanderings, this EP is the sister release to Botafogos in Shadow Position. Buzzing, skronky, cloudy, weirdo sounds. You find yourself lost in a Dali-esque circus show, whose entire show is amalgamated up in a mere 15-minute extravaganza! Let the show begin!

Karen Stackpole – S/T

Max Level   2/13/2019   12-inch, A Library

Mostly solo percussion works by Stackpole, a fixture on the bay area experimental/improv music scene. I don’t recognize anything that sounds like drums here–I’m hearing gongs, cymbals, and maybe some other resonant metal things(?) I suspect bows and perhaps soft mallets are being used to produce these deep layers of floating metallic sounds. A1 and B1 are collaborations with Ann Dentel, another local performer/improviser. Very nice but at 12 or 13 minutes per side it’s over too quickly. A 2003 release that has somehow eluded our library until now.

Lewis, Klara and Turner, Simon Fisher – “Care” – [Editions Mego]

lexi glass   2/12/2019   12-inch, A Library

Care is a collaboration among experimental artists from two generations, English composer Simon Fisher Turner and Swedish electronic artist Klara Lewis. Turner has been working since the 1970s, and perhaps is best known for his film scores, including compositions for the works of avant-garde director Derek Jarman. Klara Lewis, sound artist and daughter of Graham Lewis from Wire, here revisits the abstract sonic spaces from her 2016 LP Too. Throughout Care, stretches of heavy stillness give way to sudden violent jolts and slowly emerging fragments of recorded sounds, The field recordings – of children playing, ritualistic chanting, strummed and sung traditional melodies – materialize in the foreground, and as they surface, so does the flood of accompanying emotion. Gorgeous, lush drones surge and swell, reaching their greatest heights on the closer “Mend” (T4), a vision of solace amid chaos.

Mineta, Tetsu – #4 – [Union Pole]

Louie Caliente   2/11/2019   A Library, CD

Tetsu Mineta is a Japanese guitarist and singer. He’s a member of the rock group “Both Cheese”, but here he’s solo with an acoustic guitar and tape recorder. As the album title implies, this is his fourth release, all on cassette.

Most of the album is slow, soothing, lo-fi acoustic guitar work layered over quiet beds of tape recorder hum, indiscernible distant rustles, and occasional backwards instrumentation (T2, T6). Fahey-esque at times, but shrouded in a mysterious opium haze. “Nova E.x.P.” (T4) is a rich, blissful stoned-out guitar drone.

The first track, “Moshpitloser”, is unlike the rest. A quick rhythmic percussion riff featuring bongos, toms, cymbals, and a cowbell played faster and faster until the whole thing blasts off like a spaceship.

Narcisi, Francesco Maria & Giacomo Fidanza -Accordion Sessions, The – [Time Released Sound]

humana   2/10/2019   A Library, CD

This lovely music finessed by Narcisi breathes in and out in a chill way like an accordion, the instrument which Fidanza brings to the table on tracks 6 through 9. Electronic manipulations and field recordings are what’s in store on this release, and listening to it will take you through time quite easily and dreamily. Track 9 even sounds like it has a vox humana which indeed sounds like the celestial voice indicated by the track title. Enjoy.

R.O.A.R. – "Pathetique Aesthetique" – [President Gator]

humana   2/10/2019   12-inch, A Library

Phoenix, Arizona-based musican Owen Evans (AKA R.O.A.R.) says his influences include the Beach Boys and Beatles, and this is apparent in his vocals. The title of this album is a great description of the songs, which tell of a sad divide between two or more people. The lyrics are printed on the back of the album cover, and are heartwrenching: “I can’t get enough of feeling lonely” (“Patetique”). “Wondering Why” is perhaps one of the most upbeat sounding. All are worthy of a listen. The magenta vinyl is lovely and looks like a fuchsia or bleeding heart.

Vassalotti, David – "Guitar Dream" – [Wharf Cat Records]

humana   2/10/2019   A Library, CD

Some of these songs written and performed by Vassalotti are down-tempo and ballad-like, while others are more upbeat. Throughout, Vassalotti’s guitar weaves his stories together while his echoey voice delivers the lyrics. My favorite track is “The Other Light.” The lyrics are thoughtfully included inside the CD cover, so pull out your magnifying glass and contemplate what this musician is communicating to you.

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