KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

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” – [Dialectric]

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 – “The Accordion Sessions” – [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.

Howl In The Typewriter – Manifesto – [Pumf Records]

mickeyslim   2/6/2019   A Library, CD

This is a 64-minute long mindfuck shitshow by Godspink Collection veterans. Apparently they’ve been making music since the 80s, but nothing has passed through KFJC. This is a total antiestablishment, anti-capitalist, anti-advertising manifesto. Elements of punk, noise, soul, electronic music, and much much more.

“We don’t fucking want what your trying to fucking sell, shove it up your fucking arse, then fuck off and go to hell.”

Bloom Offering – “Episodes” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

lexi glass   2/5/2019   12-inch, A Library

A darkwave feminist revenge fantasy unfolds on this first full-length LP from Bloom Offering, the project of Seattle-based electronic artist Nicole Carr. Cold synths and calculating beats set the scene for Carr’s deadened vocal delivery, seething with equal parts rage and hopelessness. Out of all the tracks, I fell for the album’s “hit,” the defiant “venus shrugged” (T4), but was also drawn to the twisted samples of advice on how to catch and keep a man on “imperfect absence” (T7), the dismal dance beats on “swallow me whole” (T1), and the heartsick arithmetic of “simple math” (T6). Released by Jim Haynes’ label Helen Scarsdale Agency.

D.J. Sparr – Electric Bands – [Innova/American Composers]

Naysayer   2/5/2019   A Library, CD

D.J. Sparr is an American contemporary composer from Lubbock, Texas. “Electric Bands” is selection of four of his works that showcases his unique style full of rich sound that must be influenced by Charles Ives. “I Can Hear Her…” is a five part song cycle wtih Sparr on his electric guitar and the stunning soprano, Kristina Bachrach, singing the poetry of Patrick Phillips. “Meta444” uses Sparr’s guitar work along with percussive instruments, acoustic violin and piano to create a rich mood piece and study of the interplay of these instruments. “String Quarter: Avaloch” is Sparr’s string quartet ,the Momenta Quartet, performing a piece created at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. It includes the performers triggering pre-recorded music on their own personal phones. The five parts of “Earthcaster Suite” include guitars, Hammond organ, viola, double bass, mandolin and banjo. This is all a new vision of contemporary classical music, pushing into new territory while holding on to familiar styles. Intriguing, stunning and so beautiful. Such a hopeful work.

Maioli, Walter / Gales, Fred / Piccinelli, Pit – Amazonia 6891- [Black Sweat Records]

Louie Caliente   2/4/2019   A Library, CD

Semi-synthetic fantasy field recordings from the heart of the Amazonian rain-forest. Accurate, intricate, and immersive.

Recordings of real Amazonian animals and artifacts mix with electronics, drums, and reeds — all faithfully mimicking a dense jungle. Birds chirp, cackle, and caw. Insects hummm. Rain drops puddle and splash. Distant tribes sing and dance, engaged in a mysterious ritual.

Amazonia 6891 was recorded in 1985, after Italian artist and composer Walter Maioli crossed paths with ethnographer Pit Piccinelli and his collection of South American artifacts. Maioli recorded their sounds and later shared them with anthropologist and electronic musician Fred Gales. The two musicians performed a 30-minute live mix of jungle and electronic sounds, a work that was then released on cassette via Sound Reporters records. This new 2016 CD edition is from Italy’s Black Sweat label.

Track 1 is the main event: a 30-minute visceral Amazonian jungle experience. Overwhelming growth. Overwhelming fornication.

Track 2 contains all the raw recordings that were used as material for the first piece. A listing of the exact sounds and their sources can be found inside. Although it is less “composed” than Track 1, it still manages to flow nicely, and is a compelling and interesting listen the whole way through.

Krakauer, Live In Krakow Indigo Label Bleu

Naysayer   2/3/2019   A Library, CD

David Krakauer is a master of the clarinet and is influential in bringing klezmer music to modern audiences. His approach is to recreate the sound with new musical styles so as to make klezmer something organic and ever changing, not just stuck in a historic past. Associated with the Klezmatics and John Zorn, Krakauer got his experience in many right places. This live recording in Krakow features a paired down version of his group Klezmer Madness! including accordion, bass, drums and guitar (check out the wah wah!) plus the Canadian DJ Socalled who adds his turntable stylings with an excellent array of samples. Socalled really mixes the sound, giving it a new level of excitement and surprise. “Turntable Pounding” is this excellent track of male chorus and female singing samples mixed with the exceptional drum pounding out the beats. Krakauer’s clarinet skills float in, over and around the mix of sounds, leaving the listener breathless. His skill is heard on each track. This is one of those rare fusion type albums which actually sounds better than the individual parts. This is definitely a new sound. Trying to figure out how to categorize it – international, jazz, country, folk – better demonstrates its uniqueness. Just enjoy.

Rita Mitsouko; Rita Mitsouko Virgin Records

Naysayer   2/3/2019   A Library, CD

First off: Rita Mitsouko ARE great, so back off. Second, Rita Mitsouko is not the name of the artist, it’s the name of the duo who are Catherine Ringer (singer) and Fred Chichin (guitarist), so those KFJC reviews from the past who list it as Mitsouko, Rita….sorry, not so. This confusion was international which led Catherine and Fred to switch their group name to Les Rita Mitsouko to hopefully stave off confusion. This album, “Rita Mitsouko” was Rita Mitsouko’s first full recordings. Hailing from the underground factory club scene of Paris, Rita hit it with their perfect blend of punk, altenative pop (when that was a good thing), French chanson and dance power, mixed with their sense of fashion and fashionista references. Their style is this infectious alter pop. None of my normal friends could ever get it but the cool folk, the clubsters, the punks…they would loose it when this stuff hit the sound system. “Marcia Baila” was the dance hit, an homage to Argentine choreographer Marcia Moreto, who Ringer studied with. There is also a song about Oum Khalsoum, the amazing internationally renowned Egyptian singer. The style is like Stereo Total and Sparks (whom they played with). Ringer’s vocals are this crazy warble from low to high registers, affected in a good way that growls and coos along to the beat. She sometimes sings around the beat, making for interesting interpretations. Chichin keeps his guitar steady with this great New Wave punk sound that has a bit of sarcasm in it, making it that much more enjoyable. The synth beats add to the frenzy. It’s pure pop snobbery and charm that still holds up. Club kids will party.

Wai Fat, Chan – Foo Cup Kwan Nan (Hardly Breathing) – [Fatsound]

Louie Caliente   1/29/2019   A Library, CD

Chan Wai Fat is a self-taught musician and composer from Hong Kong. He’s been active since the late 80s, playing in a number of noise-rock bands before later focusing on totally free improvisation. He is the founder of CIMG (Collective Improvisational Music Group), and has performed with John Zorn, Yamatsuka Eye, Fred Frith, and many others.

Foo Cup Kwan Nan (Hardly Breathing) is Wai Fat’s debut solo recording, released in 1996. Here he plays a variety of stringed instruments, including prepared guitar, Hawaiian steel guitar, octavilla (a 14-string Spanish instrument), and a damaged cello. All tracks are completely improvised and recorded direct to DAT, with “no overdub, remix, synthesizers, or pre-recorded samples.”

The center-piece of the album is the “12 Pieces for Prepared Acoustic Guitar” (T5-T16) which feature beautifully sparse and delicate guitar strumming and tinkering, as well as a few more “accidental” sounds. Wai Fat evokes similar peaceful moods with his pentatonic plucking on the Hawaiian steel guitar (T2) as well as on the octavilla (T20). There are some nice drones here as well — “Miles Away” (T3) is probably my favorite on the whole album. The final (listed) track “Songbird: Variation on a Theme by Kenny G” (T21) features the most energetic — often frenetic — noodling (again on the octavilla) with no discernible sign of Kenny G.

DJs TAKE NOTE:
1) The first track ends with the sounds of a skipping CD player. Do not panic, the CD is fine. I actually really recommend this one.
2) The final track (T22) is not listed in the liner notes, and is almost completely SILENT, except for the sound of the tape recorder, very distant birds, and an occasional footstep.

Liebman, Dave / Nakatani, Tatsuya / Rudolph, Adam – Unknowable, The – [Rare Noise Records]

lexi glass   1/29/2019   A Library, CD

Three generations of improvisors come together to forge “beautiful alchemy,” and the gold is captured on this 2018 studio recording from London’s Rare Noise. Dave Liebman is a jazz saxophonist who was mentored by Elvin Jones and Miles Davis in NYC in the 70s before going on to perform in many other groups, including his own ensemble. Adam Rudolph is a prolific percussionist (see his collaborations with Yusef Lateef and the group Hu Vibrational), specializing in jazz and African drumming styles. Tatsuya Nakatani, another percussion wizard, tours like crazy across the US, performing solo, with collaborators, and with his own Nakatani Gong Orchestra.

The Unknowable showcases each of the artists’ strengths over 13 concise tracks. Rudolph’s lively hand drumming lends a natural, organic quality, while Liebman’s warm saxophone and flute melodies match the others’ quick rhythms, or lengthen in broad tones to add contrast. Nakatani’s textures – metallic, electronic, dark, untamed – make the more traditional elements feel modern. Some pieces find the artists experimenting with unusual instrumentation – Liebman plays the Fender Rhodes on “Iconograph” (T10), and transforms his saxophone with spectral electronic effects on the title track (T4), and Rudolph plucks the keys of a thumb piano on the peaceful “Distant Twilight” (T9). This is challenging – but never difficult – material, and altogether a genre-less, generous, and enjoyable album.


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