Music Reviews

Engel, Clara – “Their Invisible Hands” – [Self Released]

humana   10/10/2022   A Library, CD

These beautiful folk dirges sung in Engel’s strong, storyweaving voice are captivating. The inner sleeve describes instruments like a cigar box guitar that gently weeps throughout the songs, and it feels like there’s a cello in there, too, although it is probably something else. Some tracks are instrumentals that their titles help you in deciphering the aural experience; others (like 3 and 9) have clear fairy tale connections; 8 is an evocative sad song about a tired out “high alien priest.” The final track will have you wondering what the original words to “It’s raining, it’s pouring” ever were since Engel’s lyrics fit so much better. Get lost in the images created by voice and instruments.

Ghost Funk Orchestra – “Night Walker/Death Walk” – [Karma Chief Records]

carsonstreet   10/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

Back in 2016, producer Seth Applebaum released two EPs that marked the inauguration of the band Ghost Funk Orchestra. ‘Night Walker’ and ‘Death Waltz’ were conceived as one-man-band, reel-to-reel tape-recorded experiments that would bring together elements of all the sounds that Seth most adored at the time: tape-saturated drums, gratuitous spring reverb, surfy guitar, Latin-style percussion, odd time signatures, and Spanish-language female vocals. Initially released only in the digital domain and on a short run of cassette tapes, these two EPs that defined the early era of GFO are now finally available together on a single LP. The tracks have been remastered by Doug Krebs. Latin funk underlies all of these tracks. Very mellow, melodic and worth a play.

Various Artists – Circles Remixed [Sacred Bones Records]

carsonstreet   10/7/2022   12-inch, A Library

Moon Duo is a psychedelic rock band from Portland Oregon formed in 2009 by Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada. This is a 2013 release. Moon Duo’s Mazes Remixed album went over so well that Ripley and Sanae decided to do it again, and the results this time are even better and weirder than the first time round. With help from friends Eric Copeland, Umberto, K-X-P, Sun Araw, Zombie Zombie, Tom Furse, White Rainbow and Life Coach. Some tracks are more edgy than others but mostly this reinterpretation of Circles is great dance music.

Circuit Wound – “Civilized Stagnation” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   10/5/2022   A Library, CD

Absolute Gutter Violence

Two megaliths of harsh noise walls of slightly different textures locked, loaded, and aimed at your (listeners) cranium. Crushing grey static, squeaks and bleeps, with one giant peak. A vomitus expulsion of blinding migraine rocket fuel. You have got to be out of your mind.

Circuit Wound is one Jay “Decay” Howard.

Simi Valley – 2022

Surak, Jeff – “All Those Born Must Die” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

whngr   10/5/2022   A Library, Cassette

Dramatically varied abstractions of often quiet minimal soundscapes with impressive breadth in tone, feel, and volume. It is better, in my opinion, to just experience this album for oneself than for one to attempt to explain the sounds within, however, it is contemplative, cerebral, often quiet with just a bit startling contrast, and probably most compellingly, contains a couple incredibly unique percussive passages.
During a 2012 interview  with QwartzMusic Surak states when speaking of the Sonic Circuits festival that he directed from 2005-18, “This is Art, y’know, it’s beyond just regular entertainment. So therefore, it is harder to sell. Um… but it is possible, I think, to function commercially by making it easy for the audiences to experience this music.” (Is this music?) “So we try to make it open and as accessible as possible. Put on performances not just in underground venues, small clubs, basements, whatever… but also in big institutions, in large theaters and in places that are easy for people to get to, friendly, not intimidating… where people all dressed in black and look mean drink and smoke or whatever… No, it’s music that anyone can enjoy.” Woah mother-fucker! Stay in your lane, that is our job! We are the ones bringing “art” to the shut-ins and the pussies. We have been the ones working for decades to legitimize abstract, high concept musings of primarily straight white men, the Art school dropouts, knob twiddlers, and aurally productive acid casualties. We are their Champions! We are KF fucking JC! 

Surak appears to be as thoughtful and dedicated as he is prolific and also performs as Violet and 1348 and he seems to be kind of a glass half-full kind of a chap which honestly is a bit off-putting to this miserable volunteer, has lived in Russia where he was in several noise projects, most notably Sovmestnoye Predpriyatiye (Joint Venture), has collaborated with the likes of  Frans de Waard, and Michael Gendreau among others, and runs the Zeromoon label out of…

Washington D.C. – 2021

Los Bitchos – “Let the Festivities Begin!” – [City Slang]

puplaif   10/5/2022   A Library, CD

Los Bitchos is a London-based band featuring members Serra Petale (guitar), Agustina Ruiz (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass) and Nic Crawshaw (drums). Each musician hales from a different part of the world, bringing their unique musical backgrounds together on these fun, instrumental compositions. There are no rules here – the band genre hops from cumbia, chicha, to surf-exotica. As Serra puts it, they wanted to sound like “Van Halen and Cocteau Twins—but from Turkey.” The combination is upbeat, psychedelic, cinematic and celebratory. Each song tells a story. Now cue one up and  “Let the Festivities Begin!”  

Wolfe, Chelsea “Hiss Spun” [Sargent House]

atavist   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

This release from 2017 pairs Wolfe’s ethereal, cathedral-reverb vocals and occasional doom-lantern guitar work with a massive sound constructed by a host of collaborators, captured with icy ferocity by the prodigious Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio. Wolfe’s vocals both ride the storm and join the din to shake the ground below. The tracks “Vex”, “Particle Flux”, and “Offering” have a more electronic feel. “Twin Fawn” is deceptively quiet and withdrawn until it bares its fangs. The brief “Welt” integrates some industrial textures before revealing a reprise of “The Culling”. The menace of “Two Spirit” lies in its somber progression, brooding power veiled under the surface. Wolfe later realized her songwriting is a form of witchcraft, casting spells to confront dark forces in the self. She closes her eyes when she writes and sees landscapes and colors reel before her. FCC track 12, “Scrape”.

Tibbetts, Steve – “Hellbound Train: An Anthology” – [ECM GmbH]

karma   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

2 CD “greatest hits” album by fusion jazz guitarist Steve Tibbetts, based in Minnesota. He describes his playing as postmodern neo-primitivism. This album features many of Tibbetts’ Tibetian collaborations with nun Chöying Drolma. Unlike many east-meets-west albums, this collaboration is restrained. Tibbetts’ guitar is as quiet as a week out there on the edge of the prairie, and he is not afraid to let his collaborators on drone, kalimba, tabla, or the studio take over.

Cuba: Music & Revolution (Culture Clash In Havana Cuba: Experiments In Latin Music 1975-85 Vol. 1) [coll.] [Soul Jazz]

aarbor   9/28/2022   A Library

DJ Gilles Peterson and Soul Jazz Records founder Stuart Baker compiled this collection of fine Cuban tracks made “after the revolution”. Before Fidel Castro and Communism in Cuba it was where all the major dance crazes came from: mambo, rumba, cha cha, bugalu… Communism restricted some of the innovation in Cuban music, although bands like Los Van Van and Irakere (both on this album) are known outside Cuba. This compilation uncovers many other gems. Some are pre-revolutionary artists whose careers were given a funky reboot in the 1980s. It’s not just an Afro-Cuban or Latin Jazz sound. There’s also unusual time signatures, heavy-duty psychedelic organ solos, FX-laden guitars and touches of atonalism, along with spiky horns, squeaky Farfisa organs and occasional American funk. AArbor

Dreadnought “The Endless” [Profound Lore]

atavist   9/27/2022   A Library, CD

This Denver-based project has been honing their craft in relative obscurity for some years now. “The Endless” marks their fifth full-length release, and this second release on Profound Lore may create a larger audience for their ambitious blend of progressive structures and metal-inflected textures. Dreadnought partakes in contrasts: clean, melodic vocal harmonies versus rending cries that pierce the night, massive overdriven guitar and bass mixed with clarion keys and drums. Their fusion of seemingly disparate musical influences challenges new listeners. The musicianship and musicality is there. With this release they’re keeping the song structures a bit more succinct—earlier releases feature longer, sprawling tracks that I happen to enjoy, but I suspect these shorter tracks provide an easier introduction to the Dreadnought sound, an exploration of far-off lands discovered in dusty books, assailed by dark forces, with hope shuddering in the cold winds of time. Queue up a track and let the story unfold.

More Klementines – “Who Remembers Light”

carsonstreet   9/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

This Connecticut band plays extended jams that harken back to the gritty space rock sound of Guru Guru. Made up of Jon Schlesinger on guitar, lap steel and vocals, Steubs on mandolin, second guitar and bass and Michael Kiefer on drums, this group seems to improvise based more on atmosphere and vibes than anything else. They lock into a stoically cosmic mood and let it guide them into the stars. With howling guitar solos soaked in rippling, nightmarish effects, walls of fuzzy, crumbling distortion and slippery passages of ambient space, this record fits in well with the work of fellow astral travelers like The Cosmic Dead, Eternal Tapestry and Expo ’70. The one track with vocals, “Key of Caesar,” might at first appear to be a bit of a departure from the rest of the record. However, its pulsing layers of neon guitar and blurred harmonies coupled with its entrancing grooves keeps the tune in the same dreamy headspace as the rest of the record. Not in your face loud -just driving forward unrelentingly.

Manic Hispanic – “Back in Brown” – [Smelvis Records]

beastofbourbon   9/26/2022   12-inch, A Library

Vatos Locos Por Vida – RIP “Jefe” y “Hoakie”

Manic Hispanic is a Southern California based punk supergroup founded in 1992 by Mike “Gabby” Gaborno of rockabilly/punk band Cadillac Tramps and Steve Soto of Agent Orange and Adolescents. Lifting their name from a 90s hair dye (Manic Panic) and recruiting other Mexican American members of established punk bands they began writing parody and satirical lyrics referencing Chicano/Latino culture to accompany classic punk songs. They also dressed as East LA Cholos and took on stage names to round out their comedy infused gigs.

Back in Brown released on 9/16/21 (Mexican Independence Day) is the fifth studio album and the first after the deaths of Gabby (1965-2017) and Steve Soto (1963-2018). This album includes some of their last recordings. The band continued on at the request of the founding members, adding vocalist Efrem Martinez Schultz of Voodoo Glow Skulls. Retaining their satirical and humorous takes on Latino culture it also takes on serious issues that impacted the community during the Trump Era. The songs parodied range from 1970s Midwest punk anthems, 80s Horror Punk, Washington DC Emo, 90s Oi!/Street Punk, East Bay Ska Punk, and plenty of So Cal classics. The musicianship is impeccable and lyrics are clever and thought provoking at times. They may surpass the original recordings. Most of the originals can be found in the KFJC library so give both a spin and judge for yourself. 

Beast of Bourbon

Burial — “Antidawn” — [Hyperdub]

Ms. Conduct   9/26/2022   A Library

A virtual crepuscular landscape folds into new sonic domain-worlds. Liquid lyrics from the wormhole hyperreal. This album constructs a different relationship to time that is so ordered as to feel immersive.

Ambient synths, various sound effects, blank moments to open the channel. Cross-sections of ambient, game music and composition theory with sampling and field recording imports. A careful balance between natural and synthetic sounds constructs an afterlife inversion of this world. The melancholia feels suspended in a transparency heaven superimposed on common earthly tragedy.

Sándor Vály & Júlia Heéger — Sacred Songs — [Ektro Records]

Ms. Conduct   9/26/2022   A Library

A contemporary re-imagining of the medieval mystic & composer, Hildegard Von Bingen’s soaring monophonic monastic chants replete with heavy reverb feedback and layers of hard drone. Originally scored for an audio-visual artwork seeking to center sacred embodiment through dance, this is a saintly provocation earthbound in stone cloister chamber twisted in poisonous vines.

OurTown — “Here we are” — [Gumbo Studio]

Ms. Conduct   9/26/2022   A Library

This is the kind of art-folk rock music that brings together the wise wonder of the NY Downtown scene with rural New Mexican sensibilities into a post-hallucinogenic dayglow gratitude journal. Both yoga-mat and cigarette-smoke free, this album avoids most cliches that one would expect to find of this kind, but still manages to relish in its idiosyncrasies shamelessly. There is a perennial-perfect-afternoon-mixed-with-life’s-laments-feel to this album for those that can appreciate undressed music which weds desert colors to the urban mundane.

Lattimore, Mary & Growing – “Gainer” – [Silver Current]

cinder   9/23/2022   12-inch, A Library

Mary’s a harpist who resides in Los Angeles, while Growing is an ambient drone band that’s been around for years, originally from Olympia, now in Brooklyn. Unsure how this collaboration came about, but it’s fantastic. Floating in the heavenly golden trimmed clouds, with lush waves of undertones and glorious droned harmonies. Side A wafts in such a comforting way, it sounds like the track itself is breathing. Goosebumps and butterflies. Side B showcases Mary’s harp playing beautifully.

Sigh – “Scorn Defeat” – [Peaceville Records]

whngr   9/21/2022   12-inch, A Library

Early Black / Avant-garde / Doom Metal / Thrash with Dungeon Synth, Classical Piano, Harpsichord (?), flute (?), and other enigmatic behavior adjacent to Death Metal from this Japanese three-piece.

This album predates the well beaten tropes of Black Metal and would fail to slide easily into any categorization in any decade. Originally put out on cd by Deathlike Silence (this release wears a dedication to Euronymous on its back cover), it has been pressed and repressed in dozens of iterations over the last nigh on thirty years while remaining relatively cvlt. The influences are apparent, Venom, Celtic Frost, Mozart, Mayhem or Gore perhaps, but this album veers aggressively into and through so many different genres it is likely to be ignored or dismissed by both the purist and the poseur. Many varied compositions with even more varied instrumentation, it isn’t blindingly fast or technical (except the dizzying piano passages), nor is it sludge, it isn’t “lo-fi”, it isn’t satanic (it does, however, allude to the wrathful side of the Buddhist pantheon), and it isn’t even in Japanese (all tracks are in a relatively well pronounced [but not “clean”] English [no FCC’s]). Though it might be “cold” and “grim” at times, it can be flowery, delicate, and atmospheric as well. It also benefits from a slightly quaint quality, so young and fresh of corpse-paint laden face were they, and though Sigh would go on to much more flamboyant and progressive albums, this one (their first full-length), is stretching to find its voice, fingers curling around an identity, in an effort to establish itself with wildly different tones and moods while somehow remaining at its foundation, Black Metal.

Sigh is helmed by Mirai Kawashima (bass, keyboards, vocals) which began as Ultra Death in 1989. “Scorn Defeat” was recorded with two of his cohorts, Shinichi Ichikawa (guitar) and Satoshi Fujinami (drums, percussion) and would make up the core of the band, though Fujinami would abandon the drum throne in 2001 and take over bass duties. Also of note is the early photograph (inner sleeve) of “Shinichi” in full Black Metal regalia by some unknown lake, in broad daylight, nestled in some little park somewhere near or within the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, with a flaming glove held aloft while wielding a katana, harkening back to a fledgling, far more underground, and perhaps more innocent BXM scene. 

Tokyo – 1993

Cold Storage – “Fractures” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   9/21/2022   A Library, CD

Slow Miserable Avalanche

If Br’er Fox chased  Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch and couldn’t get out for twenty-three minutes and twenty-nine seconds and affixed to the thorns of the briar patch were contact mics, his blood was white-noise generators, and if poor Br’er Fox were strapped to a broken modem (on battery power) from 1997 you might be approximating “Fractures” by Cold Storage. Not the harshest noise but not at all comfortable either. Put it on at the end of your set to avoid spreading any residual strains of plague that might have collected in your reeking facemask and delight in the discomfort of the next volunteer and/or listeners that stumble upon the charred remains of your normally delightful and eclectic sets.

I could find absolutely nothing on this project other than it may have been recorded in Texas, just the way I like my abstract and unsettling artists…. invisible and mysterious.

West Texas – 2022

Mori, Ikue – “Tracing the Magic” – [Tzadik]

aarbor   9/21/2022   A Library, CD

Ikue Mori was born and raised in Japan. She says she had little interest in music before hearing punk rock. In 1977, she went to New York, initially for a visit, but she became involved in the music scene, and stayed. Her first musical experience was as the drummer for the no wave band DNA. Though she had little prior musical experience (and had never played drums), Mori quickly developed a distinctive style: One critic describes her as “a tireless master of shifting asymmetrical rhythm”. This is her latest release on the Tzadik label. There are 7 tracks, each paying tribute to a woman who has inspired her. Mori’s notes give you a sense of each woman. Each track is quite different with somewhat different instrumentation although all include digital electronics. Of note are: track 2 which includes traditional Japanese instruments and sounds as well as prepared piano, and track 7 which includes bagpipes. AArbor

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