KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Devendra Banhard “Rejoice in the Hands” [Young God]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

A minstrel’s ministrations. The second “full” length release
(16 more songs were held back for a release later this year)
from this vagabond troubadour. His warped and wavery delivery
channel Tiny Tim and Al Jolson as much as Syd Barret. On a
few tracks he’s augmented by assistance, but it is mostly
his bubbly nylon-string guitar and his breath-taken voice.
Recorded somewhere behind his teeth, you can hear his lips’
soft smack and his tongue coiling around his brainstem. The
move from four-track to Jimmy Johnson’s home studio cost
no intimacy, which is Banhart’s calling card. Pop quiz,
who has heard of Vashti Bunyan? Not only did this UK pop
singer have an effect on Devendra growing up, he had the
grace to invite her to join him on the title track. Her
path, thorny ejections from art school and the celebrity
machine likely serve as inspiration to Banhart to stick
with the path he knows so well. Past the cornfields and
the grooves of citrus fruit that dot the landscape here,
not looking at photos or mirrors, but probing his body
and mind with his own grubby fingers. #9 instro, #12 has
a false start. A jagged, jangly jongleur.

Detachment Kit “Of This Blood” [French Kiss]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

So there was this killer party, a decade or two ago…but
the Kit, in their Detached manner are only just now showing
up, more than fashionably late, still more fashionable than
the bulging-eyed zombies who are still at the actual party.
There are some tricks here that help to set up the canonized
noise pop. Opening trick played is of the “High Llama” suit
then a second or two of electrowash right into a bloody,
pumping heart, the towering trump rock the Kit shoots the
moon for most of the time. With its pretty screaming of
“No, You’ll Never Die” you know the kids are still alright,
and still feeling immortal. They still have old Beatle lps
too, a harmony chorus on “Pill Cake” shouts twistedly. “The
Race” alternates from anthem aims to less pressurized feel
with guitar nebulae. Over the entire album, the guitarplay
generally scores plenty of body blows. “Ice Queen” spades
some dirt gracefully upon a casket and the solemn, somnolent
acoustic guitar of “Spider” ends this album.

Denman Maroney “Fluxations” [New World Records]

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

Provocative release with somewhat arbitrary slicing
(several “parts” have quite a bit of change in them,
and there is no deadtime between ’em). Often the music
here feels like there are two clocks not quite ticking
at the same second. Maroney’s “hyperpiano” is prepared
piano, often the damping of strings by objects (or
Maroney’s hands) induces a not unpleasant harpsichord
hangover. I think he’s sliding some metallic objects in
parts…for a nice wobble to some otherwise mechanical
movements. But the composition is more peculiar than the
monkeying of keys. Even when not in hyperpiano mode,
Maroney leaps pretty odd Conlon Nancarrow-y intervals.
Chords are struck with a very precise “mistiming”,
unravelling in a disheveled manner. It grew upon me.
When Dresser’s bass moves to the front, the “fluxations”
are most accessible…by track four an almost minimalist
momentum is built but it gets properly unhinged before
long. Ned Rothenberg tosses in a solo on #5 that fits
with the bi-clock beneath, while connecting to a Village
Vanguard vibe. While soul jazz pumps involuntary muscles,
this twitches very voluntarily to mindmath.

David S. Ware String Ensemble “Threads” Thirsty Ear

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

Liner notes present the confession of a former
flame thrower falling in love with a fountain.
Cooler composing heads prevail, at least for
now; however this certainly has flashes of
Ware’s scintillating solos (the “Weave” cuts)
Overall, there’s a quasi illbient undervibe.
Fans of the recent El-P should enjoy the
“Sufic Passages” with its bass and cymbal
smooth ride. That’s an easy entry. I dug the
opening track, very tense, very “Angel Heart”
with all players getting limber. The twin
strings of Daniel Bernard Roumain and Mat
Maneri are thickened further by Matthew
Shipp’s banks of synth strings. Especially
on the title track, which will either be
beautiful or bogged down for listeners. I
think this is a nice first step towards a
balance between blast and ballad…chops and
comps…purists can still return and burn
with older Wares.

Dame Darcy “Greatest Hits” [Bop Tart]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The queen of modern antiquity returns, her
breath smelling of formaldehyde and absinthe,
to KFJC’s airwaves to revive the undead air.
Her banjo strung with her own hair. Here lie
short ballads of yore and gore, but wrapped in
such pretty petticoats (lots of xylophone,
autoharp and of course singing saw). If you
ever wondered what silent movie stars sound
like when they sing, here you have it.
Covers are disinterred (“Oh Death”, “Psycho”
and “House of the Rising Sun”). “Grandma’s
Feather Bed” makes one think that this
damned Dame was born unto her art, her Dad
appears on that and other pieces as well.
Ramshackles and chains around your heart.

Crescent “By the Roads and the Fields” [Fat Cat]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Is it that Crescent?’ The answer lies in the first note
on “Fountains” – a resounding yes! An organ that shrieks
will be well-recalled, or now discovered, by many. With
no release since 1999, many thought Crescent were Snake
Pliskin…but their squatter-in-winter undub resurrects
to be heard through a dilapidated tenement with broken
windows. Not dead, just dormant..and storing up their
mesmerizing power. These Bristol-whippers have a bead
on krautrock trance but when ice reeds whistle in and
metal wolf-traps clang and steel strings snap in the
background, the end result is quite distinct. Brothers
Matt Jones (Amp) and Sam Jones (Flying Saucer Attack)
along w/ Rachel Brook are all also in Movietone, which
has a more familiar, tho’ still overcast-skies, brand
of pop. This is here is further afield, it follows the
rivers out of town…up north…into an imaginary
village. We are a part of the Hiber Nation.

Courvoisier, Sylvie/Feldman, Mark/Friedlander, Erik “Abaton” [ECM]

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

Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
Courvoisier moves to NYC to join her violinist husband
Mark Feldman, and cellist Erik Friedlander makes three.
The trio may also be known as Abaton as this release is.
I really enjoyed the second disc of improvisations,
where the playing seems hyperdramatic. The first disc of
compositions by pianist Courvoisier seems restrained,
albeit with moments of madness. Maybe she is striving to
not spotlight herself, indeed she sits out “Poco a poco.”
“Abaton” has a tense Hitchcock running-up-and-down-stairs
vibe that leads to the furious flights Feldman excels at.
It is by far the most fervid of the four, by its end tho’
silence overshadows the return of the running strings.
The 19 improvisations, none longer than 5 minutes, are
like watching batting practicer: quicker crowd-pleasing
action. From pizzicato caves(#5) to weird whistly string
playing(#17), to wind-swept melodies(#11), firecracker
snap(#9). Lots of prepared piano too. Both rewarding in
different ways.

Cosmosamatics Three s/t [Boxholder]

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

In space, no one can hear you scream. In the vacuum of bass,
one is less likely to hear a sax scream. This album rides
on watery crests of tom rolls and cymbal crashes from JAY
ROSEN, while saxmen SONNY SIMMONS and MICHAEL MARCUS trade
a lot of spry cycles and merge for half-chords, keeping a
pretty taught tether to the melody of these compositions.
No doubt there are solar flashes (certainly on “Avant Garde
Destruct”), but the moonwalk cord keeps the hornmen closer
to the mothership, which works fine by this passenger (and
the Amsterdam-ned in attendance for tracks #5-#8). Two of
those live numbers, “12 Seasons of Love” and Simmons’ solo
rendition of “‘Round Midnight” balance a more stately flow
against burnished extended solos. Rosen returns invigorated
for a 2.5 min drum rollick to launch the closing “Requiem”
with rooted baritone from Marcus and cool oblique echos
from Simmons eventually join them. “Futura” and “Bring on
the Funk” give the listener the smoothest flight path,
I dug those, but along with “Avant…” my favorite was
a very nebulous “Tonal Magnitudes” with slippery scales
and solos. Next stop, Venus.

Corpus Callosum “Strange Fruit” [self-released]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

his album grew on me like fingernails on a corpse. To
say they are taken with the macabre is an understatement,
hell they are undertaken. Dying is their raison d’etre.
Their spectral folk sound is built upon acoustic guitar,
accordian, wounded theremin, singing saw, glass goblets
and an item they refer to as the “Poor Lady’s Gamelan.”
Apparently they are a 3 or 4 piece (depending on human
boomerang, Wei who comes and goes). Perhaps scariest of
all, they’re disinterred from the cultural graveyard
known as Santa Clara. Vocals will improve as liquour &
confidence are titrated into the mix. Either for the
singer Avery Burke or perhaps the listener. Hic?’ The
“16-line Love Song” is well haunted by Wei’s harmonies.
Dax’s vocals are frothier on “Alice” but the “singing”
of Avery’s hands steals the show on that via theremin.
Lyrics are well-laced. This Corpus Callosum is bigger
on the left hemisphere, and thick with promise. A very
bright darkness emanates.

Masashi Harada’s Condanction Ensemble “Enter the Continent” [Emanem]

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

Bostan-based set of musicians performing guided
improv, not by baton…nor by game piece…but by
the feet (and body) of dancer Masashi Harada.
Results traverse a very spacious nebula of sound.
Starlight flicker of Phil Tomasic’s sliding guitar,
windy wordless vocals from the whole cast, breathy
work from Nmperign duo, rings of string from Aleta
Cole and Dan Levin. The sound always appears to be
way up high, although there’s mysterious dark matter
(not just molten trombone) in much of the silence
that this ensemble manages to preserve. This is
Halloween jazz with an otherworldy beauty. I wish
I had witnessed the Big band big Bang at the point
of creation. Proof of an expanding universe

Clogs “Lullabye for Sue” [Brass Land]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole : violin +
guitar + bassoon + percussion. Rachael Elliott’s bassoon
sounds like an old man lost and wandering a strange city
at night. Bryce Dressner, who rocks fairly straightforwardly
with The National, gets a chance to be far more interesting
here. Look what happens 3 1/2 minutes into the title track?
Percussionist Thomas Kozumplik is precise in his quests for
tinkering trinkets, he builds some of his own instruments.
Lastly Padma Newsome is the chief composer and the one
who united these four Yalies. His whistling violin on
“Turtle Soup” is as key an ingredient as its crushed ABC
radiocast excerpts. Tasty! Actually the album peaked a
little earlier for me, right there after tracks #2 and
#3. Keeping Dressner amped up I think is a good idea, his
playing gives this album more of a clamour than a chamber
state, recalls the promise of Tom Cora locking bridges
with the Ex! Many of the pieces take lengthy rests in
them, be forewarned. More singing from the winsome
Newsome should be encouraged. His soft soprano voice on
“Gentler We” plays nicely off the ominous music beneath.

Christus and the Cosmonaughts “The Four Whore’s Men” [Beta-Lactam Ring]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   10-inch, A Library, Format

Gear-head driven pagan prog rock to play Dungeons and
Dragons to, except it goes by too quickly. Scot Solida
is the lead sorcerer here, transmuting some personal
tragedy into music, by way of Midi cables and some at
times “overly clever” punning in lyrics. Their heart is
in the right place, but their head is at the forefront
enmeshed in a lot of synthesizers and some guitar
chain mail. They lose some hit points for drum machines
and faux British accents, but given some more time and
more faith in acoustic instruments, C & the C’s could
lead a revival of the nearly extinct brand of prog
rock Americana! A flesh drummer really would help
overcome the bred-in-captivity traps of trap-less
percussion. Does anyone remember Pestilence?

China – The Sonic Avant Garde – coll [Post-Concrete]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

While prison workers are making Britney Spears dolls,
look what the sneakier thought-criminals have been up
to in China. Making beautiful noise! The first CD here
is almost flawless. The ISMU aka Intelligent Shanghai
Mono University tracks in particular are just bursting
with creativity that would be promising whether they
came from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or the most
populous country on the planet. Check out the sounds
bounced off a bamboo squeak on 1-4, or how time is
running out for techno on 1-6. While track 1-1 fires
a static charge through your ears, not all tracks are
as wonderfully annoying. Yuhui Jiang’s pieces wrap
their broken glass in smooth silk. “Minibus Pimps”
are Chinese cabbies who’ve been hanging out with the
Fall’s Mark E. Smith, or so it sounds. Other “found”
sounds are also remarkable, please enjoy snake-meat
and accordion on 1-16. Pei Zhou gets wires through
thick and skin. Really a lot going on here.

WARNING 1-7 too gorgeous for FCC as a sexbot rebels

Cheval de Frise “Fresques sur les parois secretes du crane” [Ruminance/Frenetic]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Rare is the guitar hero who first chooses an acoustic
over an electric with a phalanx of effects, that is
but one unique aspect of Cheval de Frise and nylon
stringleader Thomas Bonvalet. His counterpart is
drummer Vincent Beysselance who blends so well with
the complex melodies and runs of Bonvalet that he
can almost become lost in the shuffle of snare, the
flurry of toms and subtle heartbeats of hi-hat. He’s
a very good drummer, just paired w/ a flash guitarist.
On two tracks, (#6’s second half and all of #8) they
are joined by Simon Queheillard on a self-made
instrument that sounds like a tambura made of ice.
It shears across the top of the duo’s dense interplay.
The horse you cannot see, cannot be corralled; and
this band cannot be easily put in one pasture. Enjoy
the wild freedom of this exceptional duo.

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.

Schumacher, Michael J. “Room Pieces” [Xi Records]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

2 CDs’ worth of computer-controlled experimental noises with minimal organic sampling from NYC sound manipulator Michael Schumacher. Clear influences of La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, and Babbitt, not so clear philosophical influences of Cage (check out the line-up of pretentious liner notes, including some by “Blue” Gene Tyranny).
CD 1:
Room Piece XI (75:43): The 11th happening of his sound installation originally intended for a sound-proof room in his NYC gallery with 16-track full-surround sound. A quiet drone pervades. Random types of sounds/instruments interrupt at random sets of intervals based on a random assignment of the prime numbers 13, 17, 23, 29, 37, and 43. The interruptions can be extremely harsh and disturbing and sometimes they come into phase with each other for added pleasure.
CD 2:
Piece in 3 Parts (20:03): Sounds of regurgitated violin sampling, then sounds of regurgitated gong sampling, then back to sounds of violin.
Still (17:07): Quiet drone featuring some cello scrapings.
Untitled (18:13): Sine wave madness!! Loud and almost momentous, sounds unlike the rest of the offerings. For the easiest introduction to the music, start with this track.
Still (17:29): No sampling here, just straight computer clicks and clangs. Very sparse.
-Cujo in Jul 2004

Lutoslawski, Witold “Works for Orchestra, etc…” [EMI]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Fantastic 2-CD set of major and minor works from Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994, Vee-told Loo-toe-swov-ski). There’s the wicked and intense Preludes and Fugue for 13 strings (major work) for starters (play the Preludes by themselves if you have to, but not the Fugue by itself). Throw in his entire work for voice from the late 50s early 60s (the Michaux poemes, the 5 Songs for soprano, etc – minor works), and then the finish disc 2 with the awesome string quartet and the dazzling cello concerto. The concerto is the best work featuring cello since the Elgar concerto. This music is dark, very intense, and engaging. Witold practically defines ‘postwar?.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

Various – “Soloists Ensemble of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra” [coll] – [Melodiya]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Pop quiz, hot shot: Name any Russian composer of the post-Shostakovich generation. KFJC gives you a small sampling of what happened. These 4 offerings are all written for the ‘Pierrot? ensemble popularized by Stravinsky: just 16ish different instruments.
Edison Denisov (dead 1996): SUN OF THE INCAS (20:04): 3 laments for soprano, each preceded by short energetic drum and bell-filled preludes. Exceedingly sad.
Alfred Schnittke (dead 2001): THREE MADRIGALS (7:44): Very subtle, unflashy Schnittke. Soprano sings modern German poetry in French, then German, then in English. Not as sad as the Denisov. Dag.
Sofia Gubaidulina (alive): CONCORDANZA (11:36): Sofia will likely emerge as 20th century’s greatest female composer. This is a rumbling and introspective instrumental.
Tigran Mansurian (alive): TOVEM (9:10): Armenian witchcraft. Some jazzy brass, much more upbeat.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

Gramme – ?Pre-release? – [Output Recordings]

Hunter Gatherer   1/23/2005   A Library, CD

This EP was recorded in 1997, not released until 1999, and then re-released in 2004. So the name ‘Pre-release? is supposed to be a joke, I guess. A previous 7″ and this EP appear to be the entire oeuvre of Gramme.

Gramme is Luke Hannam, who plays drums and bass, and Sam Lynham, who provides vocals – and also plays bass. After listening to this release several times, ‘I’m pretty sure that Sam is a woman. Output Recordings head Trevor Jackson also lent a hand.

This is some danceable, bass-heavy (natch), punk funk with a DIY, home-recorded feel. It reminds me a lot of the !!! that we added around the middle of 2004. Stand out tracks are 4 and 5. Enjoy and don’t hurt yourself while listening.

Instrumentals: 1,3

–Hunter Gatherer

Sixtoo – ?Body Ache Summer (EP)? – [Ninja Tune] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   1/23/2005   10-inch, A Library

Sixtoo is the prolific Canadian producer Robert Squire. We have a few of his many other releases filed under both Hip Hop and A Library. This is his third release on Ninja Tune.

This EP continues the dark, downtempo direction of his previous full-length Chewing On Glass and Other Miracle Cures sampling live musicians instead of records, laying down fat, slow beats, and permeating each track with a sense of dread.

Though only three tracks are listed on the back, there are six ‘songs? total.

A1: The first side is instrumental and made up of two main parts with a ‘bonus beat? coda that would be ideal to talk over on a quick break. The first part has a repeated theme, and the second part long string chords throb over the beat. This is somewhere between modern classical and hip hop.

B1: A quick song with loud drums and some synth sounds.

B2: Two songs from Chewing on Glass? separated by silence and remixed by Anticon artist alias featuring Sixtoo on the mic and some doodle-y harpsichord(!).

Language: B2 (Funny Sticks):?’shoved it up his ass? though it is unclear what is being shoved.

Rhetorical question: Why isn’t Michael Tilson Thomas working with new artists like Sixtoo who are putting out interesting music instead of Phil Lesh and Wynton Marsalis?

–Hunter Gatherer

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