Fundraiser 2018 — Donate now!
KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Prakash, Aditya Ensemble – “Mara” – [self]

humana   9/30/2018   CD, International


This is an aurally fascinating concept album about an individual attempting to navigate through the maze of mind (which is Mara, a demon) in order to transcend worldly pleasures and achieve the awakened state of the Buddha. The musicians on here meld Eastern and Western traditions in a fascinating way, and you can hear elements of Indian classical ragas infused with jazz, hip hop, and spoken word. Brother-sister duo Aditya and Mythili Prakash have produced this CD that will get you dancing and awake in the best possible way.

Cardoso, Elizete – “Elizethissima” – [Som Livre Ltda.]

humana   9/9/2018   CD, International


All hail A Divina (the Divine One), the great Brazilian singer/actress whose name became associated with samba and bossa nova. As soon as I heard the first notes of this CD, I knew I was in for a treat. Upbeat samba melodies along with ballads are rendered with equal beauty by this lovely singer. Hope you enjoy as much as I did. Songs 1 and 5 are my particular favorites.

Verequete & Group Uirapuru – “Dance Music From Para, Amazonia” – [Wergo]

Hemroid The Leader   9/5/2018   CD, International

Varequete began his career as a modernizer and finished a traditionalist. In the 1960s he made radio hits popularizing the carimbó, a rhythm that in 2014 was designated Brazilian Cultural Heritage by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. You may recognize it as the lambada? Drums – sax, clarinet, and fiddle at times. Vocal sing alongs and Varequete chatting.

Raghu, Palghat / Subramanium, V.V. – “Bhavalu / Impressions” – [Nonesuch Records]

Phil Phactor   8/29/2018   12-inch, International

South Indian (Carnatic) instrumental music played by an ensemble featuring Palghat Raghu on mrindagam, the Indian barrel drum, and V.V. Subramaniam on violin. The violin was introduced to India in the late 1700s, and it’s fascinating to hear its sound was radically transformed through the use of ‘alternate’ tunings and modified techniques (including the use of oiled fingers to facilitate slides.) The mrindagam has a sharper and more powerful sound than the tabla, and it often takes the lead, for example on side A. The music of the north and south are both based on ragas, or modes, but in the south these are supplemented by composed, and often intricate, melodies upon which further improvisations are built. As a result, the music on this album requires a little bit of focus on the part of the listener, but it’s well worth it!

Dalao, Kane / Nongthong, Wichian [coll] – [ZudRangMa Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/8/2018   7-inch, International

Something about the khene, that tall bamboo/harmonica
whatever you want to call it killer Thai instrument.
When I hear it it feels like a summons, and then the
chanting/singing that goes with it comes on like
an insistent invocation. If you squint your western
ears on this, you can hear a tropical foreshadowing
of Alan Vega with Suicide maybe? The slight reverb
on the male voice, side A is stately goes on long
enough to make me really wonder what they are saying.
I like it when Kane Dalao (internet says he’s a
National Artist for Molam style as recently as 2017)
I’m not sure when this 7″ is from. On the flipside
Wichian Nongthong, has a musical name and delivers
a peppier take, but still stripped down to the
power of voice and khene. The controlled wavering
of the voice, so skillful and compelling. This is
*not* on ZuDrangMa’s label but was found in their
store, I really should have got more information
(or found someone at work from Thailand) but hell
the music stands on its own just fine. Makes
we want to slap a speaker on my car and drive
around the Bay Area belting this out.
-Thurston Hunger

Tinh Co Gai Hue (Calculate The Girl Hue) [coll] – [Trung Tam Du Huong]

Naysayer   7/29/2018   CD, International

My understanding of this is limited due to language barriers but I think I have pieced together a general understanding of what this double CD is about. “Tinh co gai Hue”, roughly translated as “Calculate the Girl Hue”, is a Vietnamese TV show from Saigon, 1975. I think. Or it takes place in 1975. This is the soundtrack to part of the show. What I found on the computer was over 2 hours long. It is in the style of Cai Luong which is modern Vietnamese folk opera blending South Vietnamese folk songs, classical music using traditional instruments, hat tuong or classical Vietnamese opera or theater based on Chinese opera and modern spoken drama. Basically it’s a 1975 modern day soap opera with music, dialogue, interludes, etc. Just listening and not understanding is a bit disconcerting because you never know where you are, what’s happening, why the music is coming in, why they are singing. It’s a lot. Which is wonderful
A bit of history is that after the Vietnam War, the North, then in charge, used this style of theater for television as a means to bring the South Vietnamese back to a way of life they led before. It was popular in the South starting around the 1930’s but the tradition of Cai Luong as a nostalgia for the past as well as a way of showing old style morals, proper relationships, love stories, etc. was a way of trying to get control over the people of the South. This version we have is also Hai Huoc which roughly translates as comedy and burlesque.
Perfect for mixing. Or play it straight to throw the listeners off. A really unique piece of sound recording, of which there are hundreds.

Invenciones [coll] – [Munster Records]

lexi glass   7/9/2018   CD, International

Two CD compilation of experimental sounds from Latin America from 1976-1988, selected by Luis Alvarado of the Lima-based label Buh Records. The artists here incorporate the new sounds of punk, electronic, and free improvisation with traditional music of their home countries, all against the backdrop of political upheaval and cultural repression throughout the region. Dark electronic sounds (A1, A6, B2), avant-garde collages (A2, A7, B3, B4, B6), free jazz (A5, B1), and even some Mexican proto-Industrial from ’77 (B5). Highlights for me were Miguel Flores’ fantastic guitar piece “Pachacuti” (A3), where feedback-drenched free improvisation meets traditional Peruvian folk, “Variaciones de Amauta” (A4), from Amauta, a group of Chilean musicians that fled Pinochet for Ecuador, with a beautiful flute dance that twists into something weird and proggy, and the psychotropical tribute to folk singer Victor Jara from the Chilean band Malache (A6). Alvarado provides great detailed liner notes in Spanish and English with more information about each project.

Oku Shareh – “Oku Shareh Turtle Dance Songs of San Juan Pueblo” – [New World Records]

humana   7/8/2018   CD, International


These four songs are rather long and give you time to get caught in the trance of the percussive (drums, bells, shakers, and more) beat that accompanies the deep, clear vocals of the Tewa speaking Native American inhabitants of the Pueblo of San Juan, which is found in New Mexico. It is whimsical and magical to imagine turtles dancing, and these songs incorporate that whimsy and magic.

Kitka / Varimezova, Tzvetanka – “Sanctuary a Cathedral Concert” – [Diaphonica]

humana   7/8/2018   CD, International


What a soothing CD this is! This music was recorded in St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, CA “with the intention of creating a sonic sanctuary, a place of refuge where the spirit can soar.” The heartening voice of Tzvetanka Varimezova, Bulgarian folkloric soprano and coach of Kitka, resonates throughout these songs. Kitka formed as a grassroots vocal ensemble that sought to share the “resonant strength of Eastern European women’s vocal traditions.” Under Varimezova’s guidance, they do just that.

Kallidad – “Kallidad” – [Self Produced]

Hemroid The Leader   6/8/2018   CD, International

Sydney band’s 2nd self-released full-length. Wierdly enjoyable Australian Mexican metalheads mariachi muertos flamenco with hand drums and facepaint. Forays into psych, metal, even soccer (#3 “Golden Goal”).

West Bridge Band, The – “Kibera Esbera (Kenya)” – [Electric Cowbell]

Hemroid The Leader   5/15/2018   12-inch, International

This 4-piece consists of Luhya tribesmen from Kenya on a mixture of homemade and more traditional Kenyan instruments. These instruments live with 2 million others in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi. They live in crushing, impossibly cramped poverty. Their dayjob is entertaining safari tourists, swapping clothes on the break to appear like a new band- this album was recorded by Ian Brennan in a family’s home the size of a car interior.

Paradise Bangkok The Album : Vol. 2 [coll] – [Paradise Bangkok]

Thurston Hunger   5/5/2018   12-inch, International


Served up by ZudRangMa records in Bangkok,
a fantastic store run with keen (and khaen)
love by Maft Sai (connections to next door
Studio Lam where Molam and Luk Thung artists
often perform). Traditional flavors are strong
but varied on this collection of their label’s
recent 45s. Opening with the towering power of
the khaen (a bamboo pipe organ that sends
skyscrapers of sound out of one’s mouth). The
vocal stylings are so great, kicking up a kind
of gymnastic percussion that dances over drums
and other skins. Check out Chanpen Pornaswan
(B2) for a sterling example, or for the male
counterpoint of view, Aa Jaan Jitakorn Molam
Group (B3) for that surging form of singing.
(B1) actually goes all in with onomatopoeia
on “Ding Ding Dong.” That piece feels like
an island sound system with its proud horn
punctuation and killer drummer. So much
style, swervy and hypnotic. Even without
vocals, “Lam Plearn Diew Khaen Diew Phin”
and “A Ba Ni Bi” have dance floor beckoning
beats that slide up to you, A3 a jangley
bouncer, while B4 is a vibraphone groover.
I like to pretend Onuma Singsiri’s (A4)
song is some kind of Thai darkwave, but
the initial Joy Division blotted out by funky
sproingy synths and her “how ow how ow ow”
quick cadences. All solid but do NOT miss
Warin Shinaraj (A2) it transports me every
time, not to Bangkok, straight to Paradise.
Her voice lingers on notes then darts away
the guitar and drum anapestically waiting
on every word, ending with a strange calming
blend of laughter and piano ripples. Wow!
New York vs Noo Yaak! We all win.
-Thurston Hunger

Boom Pam – Boom Pam – [Essay Recordings GmbH]

Cousin Mary   4/19/2018   CD, International

Boom Pam is a band from Tel Aviv, Israel.  They mix Balkan, Jewish, Greek and Mediterranean sound with rock.  They are frequently called a surf band – certainly the instrumental tracks on this album would fit in a surf show – but one ponders a chicken and egg question after considering the strong influence of middle Eastern songs such as Miserlou on American surf.  Really good musicians, very fun energetic tunes including the ones with vocals.  Instruments include a TUBA!

Usiende Ukalale: Omutibo From Rural Kenya [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

Phil Phactor   4/18/2018   12-inch, International

Omutibo is a style of Kenyan folk music that combines storytelling with intensely rhythmic fingerpicking guitar. It was developed by guitarist George Mukabi in the early 1950s, who took inspiration from the traditional nyatiti lyre and sukuti drum. The style proved to be wildly popular, and Mukabi sold hundreds of thousands of records throughout East and Central Africa. Over 50 years later, Cyrus Moussavi (Raw Music International) traveled to Kenya to visit many of the original musicians and record them in their homes. While George Mukabi himself is not featured here (he passed in 1963 at the age of 33), we do hear music from his son Johnstone. Joyous, life-affirming songs, and an essential document.

Ingosi Stars – “Langoni” – [Daqui]

Hemroid The Leader   4/5/2018   CD, International

Look at the cover – this is the sound. Traditional western Kenyan Luhya sound, played for birth, wedding, and funeral. The bard saws at a one-stringed fiddle, the other guys play shaker and deep hand-drums. Some tunes feature a guitar, soft singing. The microtonal fiddle and bard’s griot-like tales are captivating. Take your pick.