KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

[coll] Molam : Thai Country Groove from Isan [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/21/2005   CD, Format, International

Wham bam thank you Molam…by way of Sublimers
Bishop and Gergis. The inviting splashisness
of the package exceeded only by the sounds on
this. “Husband Drunk, Wife Drunk” is amazingly
intoxicating, the first time I heard it, felt
like a 20 min track, I just dove into it. It
has the short of hypnotic shuffle of reggae,
with banks of secret-spy keyboards and the
spousal vocal interplay works towards a great
yet brief harmony. “khaen” appears throughout
(#1,4,5,10,12-4) like a call to a coronation.
That and the crazy soap opera shout-abouts
were both featured in the most recent Neung
Phak/Sun City Girl “event” The shout-abouts
are #2,8,11. #11 has an accidental hiphop
intro giving way to brittle flying guitar that
has the energy of a classic garage legend.
This is music spawned of the crossroads but
having taken its own true root. You can listen
and hear: ska, ethiopian funk, bachelor pad
keys, driving psych… This may just be the
sublimest of them all (so far…).

Andersen, Steindor “Rimur” [Naxos World]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Centuries old Viking-style old skull rap…or “rime.”
Instead of braggadiccio, the Nordic tack is to denigrate
one’s skills (poetic and amorous) before launching into
the tale. See liner notes for more details. To today’s
American ear, these vocalizings will sound vaguely like
gregorian chants, but with more “wobble” to ’em (maybe
the rhyming?) Tracks 16 and 18 are softened by strands
of harp. #12 floes over an icy bed of subdued (subzero?)
digeridoo. #14 is the only duet, sure wish there more
it was my favorite. One for the ages…and Sigur Ros
fans as well (that group has helped revive interest
in these form of expression.

At the Court of the Mwami – Ruanda [SWP Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Back in 1999, Andy Moor of the Ex turned me on to this
label, we did an on-air special on it and interviewed
Michael Baird back in Holland…Michael was born in
Zambia, and through luck and labor had obtained access
to the International Library of African Music which was
founded and largely stocked by Hugh Tracey. Hugh traced
almost all of Africa and did so over 50 years ago, he
returned with recordings that are unbelievably pristine.
You can hear his voice on the throw-away first track,
then a dry flood of drums. Pretty amazing dropping in
and out of beat. Listen to #5, that’s no simple rhythm.
Vocal pieces are even more fulfilling for me, often
a chorus gets a wobbly drone to it (recall Tenores di
Bitti esp #19, one thought is that the Tutsi’s largely
featured here did come down from Ethiopia, hmmm?). Men
and women both are recorded by the way, though I’m not
sure if ever together. #15 has a musical bow, like the
berimbau or kalimboo or whatever the Gnawa Hawa play,
it jabs a song along so well! Drums return towards the
end, this time with Hutu’s doing the honor.

Traore, Rokia “Bowmboit” [Nonesuch]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Quiet Griot? Gorgeous voice from this daughter of Mali. She
also accompanies herself on guitar throughout (and evidently
was guided by Ali Farka Toure), but the string instrument that
stands out is the ngoni. It sounds like a lighter, more fluid
form of harp (as played here by Andra Kouyate). It does some
of that gnawa halwa tight picking, which fits in so well with
the bevy of percussion on most tracks. So the music sort of
flicks along, while her voice just floats. She dubs in a lot
of the background vocals, and thus it really does sound like
one mind singing through many mouths. #8 is the most wistful
ballad, too sad for drums. The “kids” from Kronos turn up on
the #5 and #10 but end up taking her voice out of the sonic
wild, and those pieces end up feeling a tad less inspiring.
Note #10 stops at 6:09 in, hidden track starts at 6:57

Radio Java [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, International

Third sublime installment in the audio odyssey from Alan
Bishop. He always records radio when travelling. Alan
provides editing by both dialing live for displacement
(#7’s great start) and computer cutting after the fact
for crash comparisons. Unlike the first two releases,
this is pretty much radio collage. Sometimes he lingers
on a flavor (like Sundanese sounds on #1) other times
it’s a blast of Radio Nacional. We get everything from
underwater gamelan stylings (#5 2 minutes in or so)
to another weird soap operatic drama that ends with
a captivating double-vocal chant on #3 about 5 minutes
in to westernized commercial sounds, check #4 about 4
minutes in (cool chime rinses). #4 is probably my
favorite, there’s a karate chop section of state-run
radio that seems like a noise outing, very odd broken
spoken sections, and ending that’s extra-terrestial.
Solid noise on #7 as well. Cheesy metal at the onset
of #6, Bon Scott alive and in exile? That cut is
amazing too, with gooey banter between DJ’s. Pretty
much a grab bag, most radio collage in the US and
UK is played for laughs (People Like Us, Wayne
Butane). This really is different, and rewarding.

Radio Phnom Penh – s/t (Sublime Frequencies)

outlier   2/9/2005   CD, International

Radio Phnom Penh – s/t (Sublime Frequencies)
More radio transmissions from SE Asia courtesy of Alan Bishop, this time from Cambodia. Authentic Asian 60’s pop with somewhat tribal beats sound underneath. The feel of classically trained musicians having fun in pop expressions of celebration. Lack of production quality is outweighed by the crisp execution of pop constructions that are probably well known by all in the village for generations. Familiarity to the point of an unstrained memory of passages that give a flowing sound around tightly arranged and performed tunes. If you liked Neung Phak’s “Tui Tiu Tui”, why not get a taste of the real thing !
– Outlier

Folk & Pop Sounds of Sumatra Vol. 2 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

lombard   2/8/2005   CD, International

This is another release (pulled together in November 2004) from Sublime Frequencies that collects musical gems from around the world. Sumatra’s been in the news lately in the weeks following the December 2004 tsunami, so it’s nice to harken back to some less tragic times and hear Sumatran folk and pop music circa 1960s through the 1980s. It’s quite a range, from Indian-style pop to more sedate folk with simpler percussion. Strings, psych, crazy pop, and some nice female vocals. Track 11 is a pleasant folk song with male and female vocals. (added 2-8-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard

I Remember Syria

Thurston Hunger   1/29/2005   CD, Format, International

More sublime slide shows of sound, this time with some aid
coming from Porest’s Erik Gergis. Besides dizzying cultural
doppler effects, this release is strengthened by some man in
the street recordings. Bizarre bazaars, popular politics
and mucho mujahadeen. On the road to Damascus we get what
almost sounds like a rap over machine gunned beats; sirens,
cellphones and other forms of prayer; transactions and
transglobal underground conversations and middle-eastern
sonic youth radio. The excerpts of young boys singing are
just tough and vibrant. The deeper in, the Greater Syria
you get. Outstanding pop pieces, outspoken Arab Women in
Focus and a not-so-out aleppo sitting in cinema. Radaio
Tartus sounding like a cross-over point between worlds
and frequencies created naturally. There’s more unnatural
doctoring on some of the tracks, but scintillating…
Ali Dada.

Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Songs – coll [Buda Musique]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   12-inch, Format, International

Another intoxicating reissue of Addis abadass
Ababa sounds. We get more music-to-slink-to
this time cut off from the vocal gyrations
that the other Ethiopique collections carried.
The rhythms have quick ebb-and-flow feelings,
the scales used seem to always push the
listener towards a resolution while at the
same time away from that tonic note. The
second side here moves out of the shadows
into a more jovial, or more plain ol’ R&B
area of import/export. We have many of
these renditions in alternate (somewhat
more powerful if you like those wailing
vox) versons. Still this is a quick exotic
trip. Eat it with your fingers and ears.

Carnival Jump-Up – coll [Delos]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   CD, Format, International

A donation from KFJC’s Austin Space after he played the
rousing rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” from
this on his 2nd annual special for that song. For some,
this may have a cruise ship capability to repel (the
fine liner notes describe how my favorite band, SILVER
STARS, on this actually re-formed “when most of the
members returned home from Disney World.” All of the
recordings here were done in Trinidad and Tobago, tho’
at times the massiveness of the ranks of steel drums
overwhelms so much it seems these were recorded in
roller rinks. In addition to the densely charted
steel drums, each track has relentless shimmying of
other percussion hustling underneath it all. The
necessary imperfections in the tuning of the drums,
is a nice twist to the mechanical precision of the
strange arrangements to these party marches.

Khevrisa – “European Klezmer Music ” – [Smithsonian/Folkways]

David Richoux   1/19/2005   CD, International

This is the first recording of traditional klezmer tunes using original instruments and music. Many of the tunes might be familiar to you (if you listen to modern klez) but the tempos will drive you crazy! Not because they are fast and lively, but just the opposite – I guess they just danced a LOT slower back in the 1700s and 1800s. In those times the violin was used the lead instrument ( the clarinet is today,) but the voice and feeling of the improvised melodies is still very beautiful. Note the bowed string bass and dulcimer-like cimbal. These are all instrumental tracks. A very detailed notebook will tell you anything you want to know about early klezmer music. Enjoy! *review by David Richoux

John Berberian and the Rock East Ensemble – “Middle Eastern Rock” [Acid Symposium]

stingray   1/14/2005   A Library, CD, International

Middle-eastern acid rock led by oud player John Berberian (an oud is kind of a fat mandolin). The music incorporates Middle Eastern and Armenian instrumentation and rhythms with western jazz, soul, and funk. Track 3 has some Armenian vocals; other tracks are entirely instrumental. Very groovy, laid back stuff. Break out the hookah, pick any track, and enjoy!
Stingray

al-?Ajam?, Hasan, “The Singing of Sanaa” [Radio France]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Traditional Yemenite Music
What it sounds like: Hasan sings and accompanies himself on a Yemenite lute, known as a tarab (it has a similar sound to an Asian lute, but has a somewhat richer tone). He is accompanied by Muhammed al-Kham’s? on copper plate percussion, known as a shn nuh’s?. At various times, the music is arrhythmic, in 11, in 7, and in 2. Each track is a complete piece in several movements (see the liner notes for details). The first track features vocals throughout, while tracks 2 and 3 have 2-3 minute instrumental introductions.
About the recording: The composition and performance of music was banned in Yemen in the 1960’s. Hasan is a third generation musician who’s predecessors kept the traditions alive. According to the liner notes, he is the only Yemeni musician who still uses the traditional Yemeni tarab, others having switched to the more common Oriental ?’d.

[coll] Gauguin Years, The: Songs and Dances [Nonesuch]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Field recordings of indigenous Tahitian music.
What it sounds like: The most interesting tracks (to me) are some combination of chant, prayer and song (6, 8, 10, 17, 18, 22, 24). Most of them involve a kind of call and response with a ‘preacher? or storyteller and a chorus. It must be a similar experience to hearing a catholic mass in a language you can’t understand.
Some tracks are beautifully harmonized a cappella prayers and laments that can sound quite alien to western ears (2, 4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 25).
Some tracks are ukulele/guitar accompanied by one voice (3, 15, 20, 23, 26), a chorus of voices (1, 14), or no voices at all (9). These sound like ‘traditional? Polynesian music (as opposed to the slicked up stuff presented to tourists, but you can hear the roots of that here).
Rounding out the collection are some tracks of drumming (5, 19) and a brief wind instrument (nose flute perhaps?) solo (7). I’ve indicated my favorites on the back, but everything is good and the recording quality is quite excellent.
About the recording: Originally released in 1968 as part of a series of South Pacific field recordings. All tracks recorded in Tahiti by Francis Mazi’re.

TULEAR NEVER SLEEPS

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This is the first compilation of music of the Tsapiky (Tsa-peek) guitars from south west Madagascar. They are handmade box shaped lutes. The gentle rhythmic lute-like musical style is similar to many of its African neighbors but it’s distinct. The tsapiky is at the center of the group which includes vocals, bass, drums and dancers. The vocal styles vary and the lyrics tell stories about people, relationships and aspects of life. A beauty! AArbor

CAPTAIN YABA – YabaFUNKRoots

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This music is ‘griot funk? from Sierra Leone. Originally released in the 1990’s this album apparently had little impact at that time. Yaba’s sound slowly grew in popularity by word of mouth. Yaba himself died of TB (in his early 30s) in April of 2001. For about 4 years from 1999 until 2003 the album was out of circulation. RetroAfric re-issued it re-packaged with added tracks from the original session. Funky African style beats underpin Yaba’s gentle 2-string gourd guitar (koliko) grooves, a muted trumpet & vocals. A beauty! AArbor

added: 03/31/04

[coll] Nightime Recordins From Bali [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format, International

Alan Bishop (nee Lomax?) of the Sun City Girls
undertakes an underground and afterhours look
at international music with his strongly
self-run Sublime label. Ears in armchairs
get a whiff of the enchantment, as well as
smoldering flesh at funeral pyres. Some of
these recordings are truly in the *field*,
with Balinese flora and fauna. A good number
are “fast food gamelan,” quick glimpses into
lengthy performances. These sections have
more agressive flourishes, like a dog tearing
at something: violent shakes of sound. Then
diamond dogs do drop in on #14, I wound up
wondering about the stories behind that and
other tracks, (at the end of #17 we overhear
“I thought he was the police”). Hopefully we
can get Alan on for an interview. “Rubber
Television” mixes raindrops and teardrops
for a radio soap opera.

Abdelli “Among Brothers” [Real World]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, International

Abderrahmane Abdelli is an Algerian musician (from the
“Kabyl” – an ancient Berber collective of musicians).
The “Kabyl” have historically been unflinching in their
assessment via song of the political powers that be, and
this does not sit well with the fundamentalist Islamic
leaders of Algeria. Thus Abdelli has worked in exile in
Belgium since the early 1990’s. This album was created
over three years, taking the basic songs of Abdelli’s
raspy yet sweet voice and his mandola (an instrument
like an oud). Then in the Real World manner, folding in
other spices, musicians, flavors and countries. Often
his mandola traces the vocals, as does flute at times
and some spiky fiddling as well. Spry slithering sounds
are slathered on the tracks, giving this the power of
gypsy music and the dramatic highlighting of Peter
Gabriel’s “Passion” soundtrack to “The Last Temptation
of Christ.” Pristine recording machinations do not
molest the stirring soul of these songs.

Domenico + 2 – Sincerely Hot – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   CD, International

‘Domenico? is Domenico Lancelotti, and ?+2? is Moreno Veloso and Kassin. This is the second of three releases which feature one of the three. It was recorded between 10/2001 and 4/2002 but for some reason not released until 9/2004.

(By the way, the first release – ‘Musical Typewriter? by Moreno + 2 – is in the International library and filed under Veloso.)

All three of them are Brazilian, and Domenico is a drummer. As a result there are plenty of Latin beats. The lyrics are in Portuguese in all but one song, but you can read the translation in the liner notes if you want to read the lyrics that mainly concern themselves with leaving, desire, and waiting.

This is very smart and funky Brazilian pop with varied influences. They definitely took their Burt Bacharach pills before recording some of the tracks (2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13). 12 is an instrumental. Some tracks have a great funk feel (4, 5, 8) There are duets that made me laugh even though I had no idea what they were singing about (5, 11).

Language: 7 (suck your breast/suck your ass). Also 3 tracks right into 4 with no warning.

–Hunter Gatherer

Tinariwen “Amassakoul” [world village]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   CD, Format, International

Founded in the late 1970’s by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib,
Tinariwen has been a loose collective of soul soldiers and
guitar shamen ever since. If blues is born of pain, then
these Tamashek men and women, driven from their native Mali
for a stretch, still feel that sharp emptiness…it’s built
into their name which allegedly translates as “desert” or
“empty spaces.” The burrowing guitar is a striking signature,
present on all cuts here except the floaty flute and chant
drone that closes the CD. The guitar is usually under chatty
call-and-response vocals that are infectious enough to sing
along with despite no clue what is being said. While the
guitar can recall the pluck of the Ex, and the electric zap
of Junior Kimbrough, it really is a unique flavor to savor.
Elements of sauntering reggae rhythm, gnawa loops, french rap
are captured as well. Dig that mod mad nomad sound!

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