Music Reviews

Radio Vietnam – “Radio Vietnam” – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   5/7/2015   CD, International

For richer and from Porest! Another Sublime installment of
smuggled radio from foreign shores, Mark Gergis doing the
honors recently, 2013-14. His role as editor, curator and
titler of these tracks cannot be underestimated. Suave
seamless dreams, some to bust your seams with laughter,
others to break borders down in other regions. Cognitive
dissidents, and “This Land is Your Land” planted like a
frazzled frag while an unknown DJ refs American roots music
(spreading like weeds?) Check out “Medium Wave Youth Choral
and String” some glorious indigenous sounds that lead you
down a forest path to be blindsided by a sonic billboard with
neon sounds and hyped up samples in “Hit Zones.” People
sneezing and coughing, “all over vietnam” as another sample
says… then a nastier virus hits with “luxury is personal.”
So there’s jump-cut joy a la AM Hanoi, and I have to say it
sounds like people over there really give a Vietnam damn
about radio (in the US, are too many folks phoning it in,
present company excluded or executed as appropriate?) #7
speaks of the origins of “Cam Huong,” it has smooth Molam
moments, and maybe it could be a Neung Phak practice tape
for their next record. Then it goes dial flicker flipping
with excitable cyclo’s and psycho DJ’s. Some conversations
pass like kidney stones in your funny bones, Italian dance
voyeur charms on the towering “Message to the Age of Twenty.”
“Home Village Identity Event” has a brief language lesson (a
classic Porest move, wish it had gone on longer and not just
because I feel in love with that young ladies voice.) Take
a staycation in KFJC’s studios and airlift this into cars
and homes and gasoline station candy shops in the Bay Area!
Oh Mai Goddess, it’s a good time waiting to happen.
-Thurston Hunger

Chemirani, Djamchid – “Improvisations Au Zarb : Classical Traditions of Iran” – [Harmonia Mundi France]

Thurston Hunger   5/6/2015   CD, International

tight and tuned notes from his zarb ( a singled sided classical
Persian percussion instrument)m but also produced two sons who
share the beat of their father, Keyvan and Bijan. This album was
recorded when the boys were quite young, Djamchild’s playing
is dynamic, drifting distant and popping closer to your ears,
quick fills of all fingertips and then a squeezing of a
single note for a few beats. The squeezing always gets me
with percussion and the concluding track has strong examples
of that. The lead off track, and indeed many of the pieces,
feel like they are pushing you on into something, hard to
resist, but as you realize they are instrumentals you forget
about a spike fiddle or santur flying in and appreciate the
musicality over the math-measured counting. Track 4 is a zarb
duet with Jacques Marcovich, while they sync up a lot, there’s
also and some nice ping-pong playing on the skins as well as
in the ears via headphones, bouncing off each other. Part of
me found this disc a bit dry, hoping for the splash of a fountain
of sound, but maybe that’s my modern mind, this surely is
the echo of history. -Thurston Hunger

Travelling Archive, The [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Naysayer   5/6/2015   12-inch, International

Sublime Frequencies: you know the formula, and it’s a good one. This time field recordings of music from Bangladesh, India and the Bengali diaspora set the stage for the team of Moushumi Bhowmik (writer and researcher) and Sukanta Majumdar (sound recordist) to give us ten samples of folk music from Bengal. This is huge undertaking and trying to clarify the multitude of sections, areas, groups etc of Bengal is, of course, impossible to do on 2 sides of vinyl. What we are given is a sampling of some unique sounds of places most of us will never visit. This album was supposedly a response to critics calling foul on Sublime for cultural tourism and what “Wire” magazine stated “for decontextualizing and exoticizing its global musics.” This release comes with a link to The Travelling Archive website that offers a more academic approach, crediting artists, areas of performance, describing instruments, explaining purpose, etc.
Starting off with the sounds of the market place, the record lets us listen on on a variety of singers, musicians, and instruments. Older women sing “The Boatman’s Song” and “Song to Goddess Kali”. The recordings are somewhat scratchy and remind the listener of past days of field recording landmarks Alan Lomax and Smithsonian Records. The rest of the sounds come out clearer. There is drone played on the ektara, choral singing with hypnotic riffs, solo work and some music that almost sounds like a bluegrass jam session. The two pieces by Baul singers are fascinating if only for the uniqueness of the Bauls themselves.
Their mystic religious beliefs are expressed through an oral tradition of singing that goes back centuries.
Enjoy these pieces, each possibly an introduction to you of something new and surprising.

Camaron Y Mamoncillo [coll] – [Tumbao Cuban Classics]

abacus   5/4/2015   CD, International

after three years performing with his trio of two guitars and maracas/clave, Miguel Matamoros decided to expand his group into septet and then orchestra form: adding trumpets, clarinet, percussion, bass and piano. music popularly performed in clubs and hotels throughout Cuba and the Americas leading up to the revolution, this is classic in the afro-cuban styles of son and bolero. music for dancing and lounging alike, perfect for basking in any hot sun.

De Dionyso, Arrington and Lima Jari Sakti Rasyit – “Unheard Indonesia: Pancak Silat Situbondo” – [Psychic Sounds]

abacus   4/23/2015   12-inch, International

dagger wielding trance mania: dancing around tireless gamelan hypnosis; between taunting horns and leering double-reeds; a lone bass clarinet roars in and outside the center, absorbing the chaos of its context and lashing it back in vehement discourse. the ebbs and flows of conversation are there, but the content transcends idiom. a universality of tradition.

Good Ones, The – “Kigali Y’ Izahabu” – [Dead Oceans]

humana   4/12/2015   12-inch, International

Jeanvier Havugimana, Stany Hitimana, and Adrien Kazigira survived genocide in Rwanda, and they sing about love, peace, and their lives on this album which was recorded on a friend’s back porch during the summer of 2009. Only two guitars accompany their voices, flowing through their lyrics (which are translated on the insert) like a cheerful, positive river. Truly a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Their voices weave together so companionably. Enjoy.

Very Be Careful – “El Millonario” – [Downtown Pijao]

abacus   3/16/2015   7-inch, International

native Los Angelanos Very Be Careful have been hitting the streets with Colombian vallenato-style cumbia since 1998, recording several albums and bringing their party all over the world. traditional styles with a sun-scorched urban countryside flair, this is dazed and sweaty warehouse party music to keep you dancing till 2AM; the B-side is more of a light-hearted celebration while the B-side is more brooding, misterioso y peligroso. tenga cuidado es muy caliente

Tlapa La Thella Ka Ribaneng – “Senna Le Rebotsa” – [L.V. Production]

abacus   3/15/2015   Cassette, International

Famo is a music from Lesotho originally developed by the Sesotho miners in South Africa, played traditionally with concertina or accordion against some sort of string instrument and percussion; the band here letting loose over programmed drum beats and setting the zydeco-like accordion party on fire for the group ululation and rapping to take over. this music was orginally played in the illegitimate back-alley taverns, music to let off steam after a long days work or to speak out against societal oppressions. the tracks as a whole sound pretty similar but individually offer a unique sound largely unheard by American ears; culturally a story to be told of the influences of colonialism on traditional styles.

Prates, Jose – “Tam Tam Tam” – [Trunk Records]

Naysayer   3/11/2015   CD, International

Rarely is the story about an album as good and interesting as the album itself, and vice versa. This is that rare case. “Tam???Tam???Tam!” is a unique reissue (put out by the stellar Trunk Records) whose original LP version from the late 50’s is a rare one. For collectors, this is the Holy Grail and the Golden Ticket of 1950’s Brazilian music all wrapped up into one. The music is arranged and composed by the little known Jose Prates. The music was used for this traveling Brazilian dance show called “Brasiliana”. Produced by Polish entrepreneur Miecio Askanasy, and taken all throughout South America, Europe and Israel during the 1950’s, the productions were recorded to create the album full of music and song. The album, originally released in 1958, became a rare collector’s item and the rest of the story of how it turned into this CD, equally fascinating, is told in the CD’s liner notes.
So why is this so important other than being a fetish for obsessive record collectors? The answer is in the listening. This is really the missing link between earlier Brazilian music and what would become late 60’s and early 70’s contemporary Brazilian sound. It’s the foundation for what we hear now. Not being well versed in these sounds, I first listened to it blind, not knowing what this was about. It reminded me of the soundtrack to “Black Orpheus”, to the music of Mardi Gras in Rio, to Yma Sumac, to Ricky Ricardo, to Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 performing “Mas Que Nada”. These are the reference points from growing up in the 1960’s. Looking back to the reviews and notes, yep, track 3 sure enough has the roots of what will become “Mas Que Nada”. And the rest seems to let us know of what is to come. Congas start out the first track setting the tempo, along with woodwinds, flute, piano. Remember, this is music for a stage show so the larger band is present, but sounding more like a nightclub act. Then the vocals kick in. Solo vocalist, Ivan de Paula, comes on strong, sounding almost operatic, almost affected, almost Paul Robeson like. His deep bass holds so much of it together. The female and male chorus participates in call and response as well as whole group, almost chant like singing. The percussion is lush. And driving. You can feel the pound of the piano. And the maracas. And the whistles. Where are the bird calls? Where is Martin Denny? The track list lets us know which is a macumba, a candomble, a batuque, a lament, a samba. It’s a lesson if you don’t know. This is essential listening. Don’t throw your back out when you start dancing around your room.

Nippon Girls 2 [coll] – [Ace Records Ltd./Virgin]

Naysayer   2/25/2015   12-inch, International

I mean come on, really? Do I actually need to review this? Japanese! Girls! 1960’s! Groups Sounds Boom! Go-go pop! Beat girls!
Mini Mini skirts!
This is Nippon Girls 2 ( as in, “Where is Number 1? I need it! And there is a Number 3! I need it!). This collection of 12 hits from 1966 to 1970 is superb fun. As the cover says “Japanese Pop, Beat & Rock ‘N’ Roll”. That’s “N”. All female led. Surf guitar influences abound. Simple four four time. Twangy guitars sometimes playing on Japanese traditional music themes. Big British and American influence. Lots of cymbal. Slow. Fast. FRUG!!!!!!!!!
Read the amazing liner notes. Play this to death. If you don’t get it, don’t talk to me.

Folk Music of The Sahel Vol 1: Niger [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/16/2015   12-inch, International

What a devoted collection in all forms, written, visually (the
amazing photographs make a poor country look resplendent)
and of course the sound. Sometimes songs for a God are the
most beautiful aspects of mankind, and while not all the cuts
are celebrations of Islam, they are glorious. The liner notes are
a must read, as the threats on musicians from various sides
I think underscore Hisham Mayet’s appreciation for and curation
of what hopefully are not vanishing arts and artists. We’ve been
lucky to have Tuareg musicians not just find their way into our
library, but actually live into our studio. Sounds from them and
the Fulani, men singing deep in their throats, women soaring in
choirs of chants and one amazing piece of kids singing (do
not miss “Young Girl Night Village Dance”). Lots of strings,
dry as banjos or splashing with electric psych on the last
side with guitars, power drone horns, fleeting flutes. Rapturous
and all recorded in the past 10 years.
-Thurston Hunger

Native North America Vol. 1 [coll] – [Light in the Attic]

Cousin Mary   2/4/2015   12-inch, International

Absolutely stunning collection of popular music as played by Native American/First Nation people from Canada and the northern United States. Most would be considered Country/Folk with occasional rock and British invasion influence, but that implies that it is derivative – which it is not. Influences such as government sanctioned boarding schools that sought to destroy tribal language and customs, extreme climates and isolation, and native culture give this an authenticity that is very affecting. Some tracks are in native languages. Liner notes are very readable and informative.

Fumaca Preta – “Fumaca Preta” – [Soundway Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/30/2015   12-inch, International

Why can’t we find more “psychedelic soul” like this. Holy
(black) Smoke! Alex Figueira, a gent of Portuguese and
Venezuelean descent, builds a little barracao behind his
house in Amsterdam, and somehow the Amazon river flows
through it! Psycho-tropicalic-super-freak-tastic sounds,
like a bunch of happy monsters eating forbidden flowers
digging up tried and driven beats, fuzzier than an
Electric Turk’s beard, more powerful than a Soul Train in
Space, and less calories than most coctails. Figueira
pretty much screams as if he’s under attack by Vampyros
Lesbos on the dance floor. Every band member wearing
cow-bell-bottom pants I assume. But this is ear-spanking
new stuff, check out the break with the diseased robot
thank-a-thon in the eponymous lead off track on side B.
“Pupilas Dilatadas” drops a rave tab before rock-star
orgasm-face solo. At times lyrics just repeat in various
shades of madness. Kika Carvalho is brought in as mind
and heart doctor with go-go voices from attending nurses,
Elaine, Paula and Cissa who try to help. But the patient
is too far gone, too far happy. Check out the haunted
house organ on “Voce Enlouqueceu” and “Perdidos” the
latter even finds flute and a chamber quarter before
going surfing in that secret tie-dyed river. Such
a great album capturing abandon and musical fun!
More please…
-Thurston Hunger

E Voce Di U Cumune – “Corsica: Chants Polyphoniques” – [Harmonia Mundi France]

humana   1/21/2015   CD, International

“Chants” is French for songs, but it is also the mode of vocalization of these pieces that make up a mass chanted by “The Voice of the Community”–and the chants are in Italian. The variation in tonality and melodiousness of the Corsican performers (most of whom are under 30) attests to the rich tradition that harks back to the Middle Ages, yet exhibits nuances that have been built into the music in the intervening years. Read the excellent liner notes and let the voices (completely a capela) take you back and forth through time.

Diabate, Zani and Super Djata Band – “Super Djata De Bamako” – [Kindred Spirits]

humana   11/30/2014   12-inch, International

Zani Diabate formed the Super Djata Band, one of Mali’s premiere private orchestras. Called “Mali’s electric warriors,” they offer here five songs rich with historical folklore that is described in the liner notes. Zani’s mad guitar skills are nicely offset by vocals and other local instruments such as kamalen ngoni and djembe. The liveliness of the music takes you to the heart of the Bamako region of Mali and immerses you in the cultural feel of the area. Each musician is part of a rich musical lineage that continues even after his passage to another plane. As you listen, you feel like you’re rollicking on the back of a camel or walking across flatlands in a hypnotic trance. Bon voyage!

Thirakwa, Ustad Ahmed Jan and Ustad Amir Hussain Khan – “Rhythms of India (Tabla Recital)” – [EMI (India)]

selector   11/26/2014   12-inch, International

This is your brain, on Tablas. Two veteran Indian percussionists. Rapid-fire tabla drumming. A must for those with an interest in rhythms and drumming. And don’t miss one of the better features, the cool bass sounds of the (usually) left-hand tabla (or dagga?).

I preferred Thirakwa’s A-Side tracks 1 & 2, Teen Tala & Ek Tala over Khan. Oddly, a number of reviews I read indicate that Thairakwa was showing his age with uneven speed and power. Forget that! It’s all amazing drumming!


Music On The Desert Road: a Sound Travelogue [coll] – [Angel Records]

abacus   11/19/2014   12-inch, International

like a collection of old photographs, lost moments of forgotten traditions immortalized here by Bengali ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya, recordings captured during his overland voyage to India from 1955-1956. at the start of each side we set out by road or rail traversing the great desert from Anatolia descending into the Levant and across the Fertile Crescent into Persia and finally India. religious rituals, domestic rituals, nomadic rituals; ancient modes and harmonies spread across a vast geographic space along the Silk Road and through Bedouin drifting and Vedic-Aryan migration. a timeless document of historical significance documenting musical practices that carry meaning today.

Seymali, Noura Mint – “Tzenni” – [Glitter Beat]

Thurston Hunger   11/14/2014   12-inch, International

Packaging is almost as good as the tunes on this,
including song-by-song descriptions for this mighty
Mauritanian musician. In addition to having pipes
of pure glory, Noura also plays the ardine, a 7 or 9-string
harp-like instrument (sounds akin to the kora on here,
check that artwork for how beautiful it and she are!).
As the liner notes indicate this is a family affair,
songs of her father and her grandmother are summoned
while her husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, just slays
on the guitar. He’s got the kind of twirling effects
that add equal parts fuzz and moisture so it really sticks
to your ears. Quick spirals of
sounds that play so well off the ardine (which comes in
acoustic and electric). Noura almost scat sings on El
Barm, and the title track lives up to its dervish
underpinnings. All of the songs here hit the ancient
power and also a modern psych/blues revival (the
ardine a pentatonic instrument). Her voice rises
above and is often joined by backup singers (she
herself was a back-up singer to her step-mom at
the age of 13, so she knows the importance of
having harmony on stage). The opening and closing
tracks elevate to mystical musical rapture. Dig
the drum beat dropping on the latter. The album
while well-produced, retains a ragged swagger
as if someone just handed you a cell-phone memory
stick from a party they attended the night before.
Aces on this one… That’s Mauritainment!

-Thurston Hunger

L’Orchestre Sidi Yassa De Kayes – “L’Orchestre Sidi Yassa De Kayes” – [Kindred Spirits]

humana   9/9/2014   12-inch, International

This is a throwback to a time when Mali’s regional orchestras were untainted by “political disenchantment and economic disillusion” (see the sleeve insert). The music is jaunty, cheerful, and full of variety. The songs cover such topics as how women must be patient with their husbands and accept if marriage is to succeed, and how much pressure virgin brides have to please their husbands on the wedding night. Part of the Mali Kunkan series of official recordings, this is from circa 1977 and well worth listening to.

Modern Mayan: The Indian Music of Chiapas, Mexico [coll] – [Moi J’Connais Records]

mickeyslim   9/3/2014   12-inch, International

Traditional music from Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Chiapas is home to the largest indigenous population in the country, with twelve different recognized ethnicities. Originally a Smithsonian Folkways release, Mississippi Records picked this up alongside Moi J’Connais.

Lots of different kinds of music here. There are homemade string instruments (guitars, violins), homemade drums, homemade flutes, harps, rattles, trumpets, and interesting vocals, sometimes in harmony. There is also four different languages being spoken on this album: Tzoztil, Tzeltal, Chol, and Tojolabal, and all share their roots with both Aztec and Spanish. The music played in these areas are purely ceremonial, never played for it’s own sake.

Deep, thick drums; shaky, high pitched voices; plucked string twangs; and floating flautists all make this a knock out add for KFJC. All tracks were recorded during actual fiestas in the community. Sick as fuck liner notes!

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