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Music Reviews

Schaefer, Janek – “Skate ” – [Audioh!]

Max Level   2/28/2006   12-inch, A Library

Schaefer breaks the rules again, this time using a one-sided 12″LP packaged with a 3″CD. First the “Skate” LP: he used a primitive audio technique to cut what he calls “sound scars” (aka “grooves”) on it. The scars aren’t connected to one another, nor are they locked grooves; just a bunch of roughly-cut injuries to the vinyl. Spin the LP on your turntable and your stylus, attempting to play those grooves, skates around, looking for a home. Hisses, rumbles, and scrapes ensue, along with bursts of silence as the stylus leaves one scar/groove and hunts for another. Sometimes the stylus finds a place it likes and stays there a while, but it always leaves eventually. The composition is never the same twice. Schaefer suggests trying different turntables, different speeds, even turning the record by hand while playing. “Have fun!” he says. Then there’s “Rink”, the 3″CD: It contains 99 tracks, each one a different recorded result of playing several of the “Skate” LPs simultaneously at a 2001 sound installation. As if there wasn’t already enough randomness in the way the sounds were generated, the artist of course recommends playing this CD document of the event on random mode to add yet another level of unpredictability.

Papasov,Ivo/Yuri Yunakov – “Together Again ” – [Traditional Crossroads]

Max Level   2/28/2006   CD, International

Papasov (clarinet), the world’s best-known proponent of “Bulgarian wedding music”, joins with Yukanov (saxophone) and a handful of others (accordion, guitar, bass, drums) for this energetic album of traditional songs from Southeastern Europe. Possibly because of its multi-national origins, (Balkan, Turkish, Gypsy, and other influences) this style of music was officially banned in socialist Bulgaria for many years, and there were no public performances; yet it thrived, fortunately for us, in private settings such as weddings and baptisms. This music is full of rapid, twisting melodies and crazy key changes, usually at a full-speed-ahead tempo, and these players are mind-blowing virtuosos.

Angeli, Paolo – “Nita, L’angelo Sul Trapezio ” – [Rer Megacorp]

Max Level   2/28/2006   A Library, CD

Guitarist/composer Angeli pulls out all the stops, giving us 23 tracks in very different styles, and yet the CD manages to maintain a sort of overall flavor throughout. Circus jazz, Spanish-sounding guitar, swinging organ, spoken narrative, flutes and harps, a confusing chicken hoedown toward the end… all these and much more are woven into Angeli’s audio tapestry. Words are sung/spoken mostly in Italian, with bits of French, German, English, even a doo-wop group singing in Latin! This CD is subtitled “an imaginary soundtrack”, and imagining visuals may indeed be the best way to appreciate how such a wild assortment of musical ideas can combine to tell a story, that of “Nita, the angel on the trapeze”. Lovely and constantly surprising.

Picks & Lighters – “Picks & Lighters ” – [Ecstatic Yod Records]

Max Level   2/26/2006   A Library, CD

Re-released 1999 material from this Tennessee quintet. The three-guitar, bass, and drums lineup probably classifies this as ‘rock?, but check out the many approaches here, including floaty tremolo guitar, raw no-wave clatter, grinding tension, even two acoustic numbers. Somebody plays piano in a couple of spots, and there are some drowned-out vocals that I don’t think we’d miss if they weren’t there. Firm song structures aren’t the order of the day, except on the acoustic guitar pieces (#4 and #10); these mostly instrumental recordings tend to sound like loud jams that may or may not have led to actual song ideas at some point. From personal loud jam experience I’d guess the atrocious recorded sound is due to a cheap cassette recorder over in a corner of the basement. Other than one or two guitars right in our face, everything seems to be buried under everything else. I like the experimental ideas and the spirit that shines through, despite some pretty rough trappings.

Third Sight – “Symbionese Liberation Album ” – [Disgruntled Records]

Max Level   2/26/2006   CD, Hip Hop

Local duo Third Sight comes up big on this new one. I don’t know about you, but Jihad the roughneck rapper has no problem leaving me behind in the dust scratching my head. He can be raw when he needs to be, then veer off into ironic absurdity at top speed, and then come skidding back into the parking lot like nothing happened. Speaking of scratching, D-Styles crafts one sick beat after another, and cuts in with sharp scratches of voices and god knows what else. As good as D-Styles is, the quality doesn’t drop off when guest DJ Ricci Rucker lays down a weird strung-out slow nod of a backing track on “The People vs The Fake”, Other highlights: “Run” is a dramatic assassination tale from the shooter’s point of view, Jihad hits the street to work over a human beatbox on “UCP”, and “Rip Mics In Half” shows off some serious skills from a handful of guest emcees.

Grizzly Bear – “Horn of Plenty ” – [Kanine Records]

Max Level   2/26/2006   A Library, CD

A deep, blurry, hazy, take on the singer/songwriter aesthetic. It all started with Edward Droste making basic recordings of his low-key pop songs with just his vocals and guitar. Then, the very creative Christopher Bear -wisely offered the permanent chair as Second Grizzly- was enlisted to help heighten and widen the material beyond its obvious bedroom origins. As a duo (with a few other guest contributors) they have come up with an album of gently weird psyche-pop, heavy on found sounds and textures, samples, odd percussives, loops, telephone-timbre voices quadruple-tracked, keyboards sneaking in with little counterpoint melodies, and subtle, interesting touches; just one of which is a track that has its beat bolstered with an extremely subtle loop of what sounds like a stylus first touching down on a record, over and over. Nice job.

Sun City Girls – “Carnival Folklore Resurrection 14: Static From the Outside Set ” – [Abduction]

Thurston Hunger   2/24/2006   A Library, CD

Hifi hijack on the Union Jack. The spicy Sun City Girls
rip the stiff upper lip off The Wire Lancanshire with
a little YankeeCanShire-CanDo, mixing up macaroni with
Marconi, and Giving them the Frequencies!! Micro-mystics
like “Anthrax Dandruff” & “Mysteries Behind the Curtain”
keep the torches burning in the caves of dusted psyche.
“Bacchanalia” could show up in cotillon, charlie foxtrot
echo Mecca Decca hecka Elvis in a wheelbarrow. Me, I’m
here for the instant history lessons, “Sacrifice in the
USA” is the centerpeace dividend here. Long pig on a
silver Freedom platter? Served up with a garnish of a
sterling Rod Serling accent. Of course, Sir Richard rapt
in strings is always Dlightful when Djangoized, or even
with Pigs in your eyes and ears (“Gently Johnny” wishes
you were ear). Love the harmony marmalade vocals on that.
Some folks are going to dig the pulling of the wool on
the Lambert et al cover. Brian’s brain is a dream, and
love hurts Amherst! Of course if you want to play spin
the dial in a bottle, drink of the 4 Radio Neocons. One
thing the Girls know is a good Con, here’s to us and
U.S. not voting for the one with the chopsticks in the
next election. Static for the ecStatics. -Hunger

Messthetics #8 [coll] – [Hyped 2 Death]

Thurston Hunger   2/24/2006   A Library, CD

Further excellence in excavating from Hyped-to-Death and Chuck
Warner. The letter “D” gets a definite and defiant A++. The
collection starts with four that are absolutely essential.
I love Robert Vasey’s guitar work on the verses of Dry Rib’s
“Alaska” and his singing fits perfectly, great bass work too
on that number; like Joe Jackson before the tux. The whistle
weirdness of the Dogmatic Duo’s chuggernaut “Up” ain’t none
too shabby either. Dogma Cats has a croony-ness that’s all
right; if you like that, make sure you catch Discount Chiefs
rug-cutting number, it’s from a similar, oddly sweet, cloth.
Devil’s Hole Gang seems to be filled with Buzzcocks, tight!
Need a snotty brit-teen rocking ennui & pessimism? You need
to be Disturbed. Want talent-show in a pub w/ cardboard drums
and a keyboard sounding like a bad calculator, dig The Dad.
The Diagram Brothers are one of the familiar names on here
“There is No Shower” is as angular as a decaying building.
Desperate Bicycles were on my list of art-punk bands to
track down, sadly this is their late debut to KFJC w/ two
crucial cuts…the second is a DIY anthem in excelsis.
Thangst for the Angst!! -Thurston Hunger

Spoonbender 1.1.1 – “Stereo Telepathy Academy ” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

Thurston Hunger   2/24/2006   A Library, CD

This 40 minute piece does a mesmerizing job of capturing both
the fear and the adoration of science. The kernel for that
comes via a series of samples from David Cronenberg’s student
film “Stereo” then bathing them in longwave synth treatments.
Utilizing a Milgram’s worth of warmth and the unflinching
hands of sonic technicians Dustin and Cup, humorous detritus
is kept to an acceptable 2-3 ppm. It has the dry sterile air
of PBS (Pattern Brain Surgery). Audio augmentations include
static electrodes to temples, several Kitaro inversion fields,
Doppler ripples, headphone hemispherics, McGoohan iso-reverb,
matrix printing agitation, and what appears to be champagne
glasses. Perhaps the latter are rung along their rims in
celebration of the exceptional success of the experiment.
Nuclear family war is avoided by taking the high telepath
between us. Heisenberg’s uncertainty is cast aside in favor
of Stringfellow’s certainty in the blink of a trepanation
and the removal of large portions of the larynx. Ultimately
the artificial neural/erotic barriers are bypassed in favor
of the inevitable union betwixt the perfect parapsychological
pair, researcher and subject. -Thurston Hunger

Coughs/Night Wounds – Sexual Hijinx/Hex Appeal – [Not Not Fun] – (33rpm)

Numa   2/23/2006   7-inch, A Library

Summary: Art/Punk/Noise akin to Sonic Youth

This is the first split 7-inch of Not Not Fun‘s Bored Fortress 7-inch club. This release features noise-rock stylings Chicago-based Coughs and LA-based Night Wounds. Coughs “Sexual Hijinx” (5:27): Sonic Youth-style noise rock. Concussive guitars bottom out to the unabashed screams from Anya Davidson. This track is pretty heavy compared with the tracks from their 2005 debut release Fright Makes Right, it is driving and unforgiving. Night Wounds “Hex Appeal” (2:46): Noise-punk stylings here from Night Wounds. This side of the split is quite a bit lighter compared with the Coughs. Slightly distorted vocals accompany the clean guitar thrashings and sax with the drums trying to hold it all together.

Good stuff from Not Not Fun here, looking forward to the other 5 releases in the Bored Fortress 7-inch club.

Hana, Anders – “Flesh Dispenser ” – [Utech]

Thurston Hunger   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

Holy shooting guitar star! Anders Hana solo-supernova sparks
here for a full freefire fulmination. It ignites off with
a one-man traffic jam that builds into a burning blizzard.
Second piece spends a little time in some sonic tar pits,
string-sliding whiskers of sabretooth truth, then moving on
to more mastodon arcs of ache, but ultimately the slow
choking, drowning dinosaur death. On to track three, with
chords striking amplifier matches for a while, then the
big bursts use the amps to lift the roof off an arena, this
of course releases feedback furies that whinny wild. Track
four finds the roads open like wrists, expressways grinning
ear to ear. Almost gathers a song by the side of the road,
a stumbling spin through a riff and that high Sonic Youth
secret salute. A rambunctious rambler which at the end is
driving donuts and leaving six-string skidmarks before a
metallic chunk and clunk to the finish line. At times this
felt like it was a Pixies album without all the annoying
song structure and with sheer guitar repercussions in place
of percussion. Nice one for the Utech live gallery…and I
think Noxagt fans have got to be excited that he’s revolving
around that planet these days. (Plus he’s played with Jaga
Jazzist, has a release with Ultralyd on Load, and something
on Rune G too!) Norway’s Highway Star!?! -Hunger

Philip Glass “Music In Fifths/Two Pages” [Cantaloupe]

cujo   2/20/2006   CD

A sextet of Bang On A Can all-stars (bass, marimba, piano, guitar, cello, clarinet) take on two early Glass works.

Tr. 1: Music in Fifths (24:22): The ensemble tries to go up a musical staircase but can never get past the fifth step, no matter how often they start over, or where they start over from, or whether try try going backwards. Maddening.

Tr. 2: Two Pages (27:39): The ensemble tries to go up another musical staircase. This time, the staircase is missing the 2nd step, and they can never get past the sixth step, no matter how often they start over, or where they start over from, or whether they try going backwards. Maddening.

This music will try your patience. Slight edge in listenability goes to the latter piece. Credit must be given to our friends at Bang on a Can, who perform flawlessly and cohesively, a most impressive feat.

-Cujo, KFJC, January 2005
Note: After deciding/realizing that this music basically sucked, we didn’t add it to our library. But you can read my review anyhow.

Clogs “Lantern” [Brassland]

cujo   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

A new CD from Clogs to help you in your everlasting quest to be enveloped by warm fuzzy blanket music. With the exception of the guy singing on the title track, this is an entirely instrumental album. After an opening guitar prelude (? la Bach), a lot of the music is pure atmosphere generated by melodica (all over), a softly thumping bass drum (track 2) ,arpeggiated guitar triads (all over), and piling layers of meters upon each other (tracks 3,5). There is a splash of synth/waves of soft fuzz production on tracks 7 and 8. The songs are most compelling, however, when the bassoon or violin/viola takes the foreground (3,4,7,11). It doesn’t hurt their cause that the bassoon is my latest favorite instrument. There are a few appearances of dancy rhythms that expand the album’s horizons a bit – ‘I’m thinking of the polyrhythms of track 5, the jaunty ending to track 8, and the bassoon-led Moroccan-inspired jam on track 11. The album closes with a solo piano meditation.

-Cujo, February 2006

Monosov Swirnoff “Seven Recorded Works” [Eclipse Records]

cujo   2/20/2006   12-inch, A Library

This CA duet of Ilya Monosov and Preston Swirnoff play 2 black sides of untitled almost-drones. Monosov lays down a creepy background on harmonica and/or hurdy gurdy. The hurdy gurdy I can expect to serve a greater drony purpose, but the harmonica? It takes a slightly twisted mouth to take all the joy out of that harp. On top of this, Swirnoff plays melodica, organ, and/or piano, picking out notes or compatible drones or tone clusters as their imaginations see fit. He is not above heading to the inside his piano to find the needed notes. Sometimes they switch roles, like on Side B track A when the melodica drones and Monosov plunks on both his instruments. But then again, sometimes they’re indistinguishable, especially between the melodica and harmonica. Sometimes three or four instruments are going at once; this was probably and hopefully achieved without overdubbing. Side B tends to be a bit more happening, what with the instrumental ambiguities on track A, the (relative) wealth of individual notes played on track B, and the industrial drone (with organ) on track C. Is there a narrative underlying it all? Unclear. Probably not.

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

[coll] Qbico U-Nite Bruxelles [Qbico]

cujo   2/20/2006   12-inch, Jazz

From the fishies (that graced the cover of the Qbico New York concert album we added to the library a few months ago) to the monkeys (Brussels). This is a double LP release pressed on lovely two-tone vinyl of a concert produced by Qbico on April 8, 2004 in Brussels.

Side A starts with a lengthy double bass solo (full range meandering, high register exploration, a bit playful) by Alan Silva and concludes with a short percussiony pocket jam by the Finnish duo Lauhkeat Lampaat.

Things really start to take off on side B & C when the Vibracathedral Orchestra go for a lengthy walk in the park. Their piece is wonderful culturally-ambiguous drone that’s at turns asiatic, tribal, bagpiping, electric, rocking, and finally hypnotic.

On side D, the VO is joined by Lauhkeat Lampaat and pals Paul Faherty (alto sax) and Chris Corsano (drums). The result is a bursting jungle safari rock-drone that builds and ebbs in layers and complexity; Lauhkeat Lampaat’s inanity and Faherty’s wide wailing contribute the most here.

The actual recordings are a bit weak, as is the audience applause that follows all pieces.

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

ultrasound & Acid Mothers Temple “In G” [Time-Lag Records]

cujo   2/20/2006   10-inch, A Library

Recorded at an Austin radio station at SXSW a few years ago, this is a half-cadencing collaborative homage to Terry Riley’s In C from ultrasound and the Acid Mothers Temple. Of course, this being a space-rocking pot-spinning physics experiment, the result bears practically no resemblance at all to In C (except for a token reference made around 4 minutes into side A). Mothers’ Higashi Hiroshi in particular gets a workout on the theremin, as does Cotton Casino on synth. They’re busy enough that the rest of the gang rarely gets more than a few moments of their own to shine, unable to bust out in fireworks of
their own. Printed on transparent 10″ vinyl with no markings whatsoever; unable to aurally distinguish a side A from a side B, I arbitrarily named the sides.

Side B: 11:00
Side A: 7:10

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

*March 18, 2006 edit: Apparently an anonymous staffer more discerning than I discovered which sides were actually A and B. Naturally, my assignments were wrong. I have corrected the references in this review.

Hilda Paredes “Listen How They Talk: Chamber Music 1998-2001” [Mode]

cujo   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

Hilda Paredes is Mexican-born but London-based. This Mode CD features four recent chamber works that aim to channel her Mayan roots. Nothing here will raise your heart rate significantly and there’s no single melodic, harmonic, timbral, or rhythmic thread to latch onto; sadly this will keep the non-believers away.

Uy U T’an (14:54): The title track. The backbone of this string quartet is a Carter-like (Cartesian?) assignment of mutually exclusive voice and character to each instrument, but not as rhythmically restrictive. A challenge to get your ears on the same page as the players. I like the slithery pizzicato section starting around 9:30…

Cotidales (18:29): Piano quintet. More glissandos, trills, tremolos, mood. While less busy than the previous track, it’s more interesting. Predominantly high register piano writing. Turns into a race of sorts towards the end.

Ah Paaxo’ob (18:59): Large ensemble piece with undetermined goals. Could end at any time and I wouldn’t know the difference.

Can Silim Tun (11:30/4:40): For vocal quartet & string quartet. Contains a ‘fuck off? in Mayan… play at your own (low) risk? Features some interesting blends of choral & instrumental writing.

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

[coll] Untitled Songs: 49 Years from Gesang der J?nglinge (2005-1956) [Sirr]

cujo   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

4th anniversary: linen
9th anniversary: copper
49th anniversary: young boys?

The Portuguese label Sirr has the bizarre idea to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Stockhausen’s pioneering work Gesang Der J’nglinge. The selections come to us on 2 brown/grey discs (with a lovely WWI cover photo) from 21 different artists, most of them not strangers to our library. The original piece was a pioneering shortish work that explored stereo spatiality and seamlessly blended electronics with the voice of a boy reading a Bible text. You’ll have to trust me on this, or check SJPL or Stanford, because we don’t have it yet in our library (chop chop, Mr. Hunger!). The offerings are all ‘homages?. None of them take directly from the original, but all are shortish electro-acoustic pieces that try to include some of the drama, the effects, or the psychoacoustic manipulations. Most fall into the categories of manipulated text recitations or processed natural sounds – la The User or Jacob Kirkegaard. A few are just plain sinewaving drones. You’ll also note that none of them are abrasive.

I found the artists? individual notes for their pieces on the web. Though short, most of them are good at explaining what you’re listening to and why:

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

Emmanuel Nunes “Quodlibet” [Naive]

cujo   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

This CD contains one piece, Quodlibet, a huge and dense work for 6 percussionists on 28 instruments and orchestra written in 1990-91 by leading Portuguese composer Emmanuel Nunes. It’s called a quodlibet, but heck if I can’t identify any of the themes. Are there themes? For an excellent detailed walkthrough of the 12 tracks, check out Paul Griffiths? (esteemed writer about modern art music) liner notes – you can pick out a track with features to your liking.

But we’re missing something on this recording! 28 members of the orchestra and the 6 percussionists are actually constantly moving throughout the performance space (which includes the audience, back stage, up, down…). There’s an important sense of drama and space that isn’t reproduced on this CD (it’s only slightly stereo); along with attemptss of Ives? 4th and Henry Brant, recordings necessarily suffer a bit.

Luckily, the music survives well enough on its own. I don’t sense much of a change in mood throughout, but it’s thickly orchestrated with constant swells, outbreaks, and interruptions, most atonal, and the percussionists and harpists are kept very busy.

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

Lionel Marchetti “Knud Un Nom De Serpent (Le Crecle Des Entrailles)” [Intransitive Recordings]

cujo   2/20/2006   A Library, CD

stream-of-consciousness musique concr’te

puzzling. disturbing. fascinating. masterful. mindbending. eartwisting. unpredictable. hysterical. French.

Shamanism, drumming, chanting, laughing, shrieking, citations, recitations, Africans, whisperings, primates, crackling, spinning Asian radio dials, airplanes, bathtubs, ‘Kill me!’s, exorcisms, contact mics, ravens, laughing (or is it crying?), gamelan, Bach, Tuvans, screeching, scraping, didgeridoos.


-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006