Fundraiser 2018 — Donate now!

Music Reviews

Hubback, Steve – “Ambiance De La Cave a Vin ” – [Utech]

Max Level   4/30/2006   A Library, CD

This sculptor/musician is known for his metal-working skills as well as his percussion expertise. Here he has set up in a wine cellar in France and is making sounds on three gongs and one steel sculpture, all of which he built himself. There is something profoundly elemental and earthy, yet fanciful -he tends to make cymbals shaped like dragon wings, for example- about his work. It didn’t take long for this listener to become aware that Hubback is reaching for something beyond mere music. Three beautiful sound constructions, well-recorded, on this CD. Utech has limited this fine release to 200 copies.

Cut Chemist – “Garden b/w Storm, The ” – [Warner Bros.]

Max Level   4/30/2006   12-inch, Hip Hop

Two very different flavors here. Side A: a smooth Brazilian-flavored track, featuring traditional instruments (berimbau, drums, whistles, etc) and a little bit of scratching to give it some extra spice. The track gradually develops a big thumping beat and keeps that going until the end. Portuguese vocals by Astrud Gilberto on this one. Pretty sweet. Side B: raps by Edan and Mr. Lif over a crunchy disco beat and various sample, turntable, and electronic effects. While I usually dig DJ Cut Chemist’s beats and production, this particular track doesn’t do much for me. Side A is my pick.

Small Life Form – “One ” – [Silber Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   A Library, CD

Seven rich, deep drone pieces of varying lengths by SLF, aka Brian John Mitchell, the man behind the Silber label. The tracks sound to me as though many layers were painstakingly assembled and mixed to get the textures just right. However, we are assured that all pieces were recorded in real time without overdubs, which certainly impresses me. Typically dronelike, each track sticks to one basic note or chord, except #4, a two-note droner that eventually settles down to one. The track titles give clues as to the origins of the sounds (cymbal, organ, horns, etc) though most listeners probably wouldn’t be able to identify, for example, the melodica, which has been processed so that it sounds more like a harmonium. No relaxing ambient background stuff here, not with that sense of tension one can feel under the thick textures. A nice addition to our ever-growing drone library.

Guillotined at the … [coll] – [Dionysus Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Volume Two in the ‘Shielded By Death? punk archive series brings us 15 obscure 1979-83 acts from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Lumped together under the punk rock umbrella is: power pop from The Reducers and International Q, thrashcore from The Outpatients and Chronic Disorder, lowlife scum-rock from Jack Tragic, silly punk spoofing from The Vandelz, The Not Quite, and The Foreign Objects? I particularly enjoyed the catchy weirdness of The M-80s on their two tracks. Everything weighs in at around the 2 or 3 minute mark, with the exception of the 5 minute final track. The sound quality ranges from not too bad to not so good. A mixed bag, mostly fun.

Opium – “Opium ” – [Creative Improvised Music]

Max Level   4/29/2006   CD, Jazz

Jazz-informed instrumental improvisation on the fine and busy CIMP label. Guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil is listed as leader on this quartet date, but he’d be the first to tell you that Opium is a band and this CD is a collaborative effort. Eisenbeil’s guitar is teamed up with saxes, bass trombone, and percussion. No working things out beforehand; they just walked in, turned the recorder on, and, in Eisenbeil’s words, “the shit clicked”. Some nice dialogs going on, especially between the sax and trombone. Alongside, the guitar and percussion maintain a scattered approach, contributing jagged things where called for. A few loudish sections, but not many. Dynamics stay mostly in the quiet to medium range. A colorful ride.

Mazing Vids – “Are You Ready for Insects? ” – [Stricken Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   A Library, CD

Two guys named Ryan, playing guitar, synth, and a drum machine, make up this NYC avant-rock project. Sort of a Suicide-meets-The-Fall thing going on here (I didn’t make that one up, but when I heard it I thought yeah, that sounds about right?). Underneath, the beats are simple, and on top, guitars and synths poke around doing various things, just one of which is some Arto Lindsay-style guitar-mangling. All tracks have vocals, some intelligible, some not. I read that the name MAZING VIDS is an anagram of something, but of what I have no idea? NAZI DVMIGS? SZVING MAID? I can’t come up with anything. Anyway, cool music on this CD.

Hall of Fame – “S/T ” – [Amish Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

A hodgepodge of lo-fi styles from this NYC trio. There are droning raga-like things, found sounds, atonal jams with guitar, violin and low-budget percussion, and some attempts at real songs that have words. Sometimes this music reminds me of an unplugged version of PIL’s early material, at least in attitude if not in the actual sound; it’s not pop music, and the group probably doesn’t care whether you like it or not. I do like parts of this record, and am not quite sure what to do with the other parts. I do have the feeling, though, that the more I hear from H of F, the more I’ll appreciate whatever it is they’re trying to do.

Erase Errata – “Other Animals ” – [Troubleman Unlimited]

Max Level   4/29/2006   A Library, CD

Local quartet with 15 short bursts of loud jumpy rock. The first thing I noticed is some jagged guitaring that owes very little to standard rock riffs and chords. They combine that with bass and drums that are aggressive and well-played. We also hear a singer who doesn’t do melody very much, but has a chanting style that’s a good fit for the type of lyrics she sings. I keep hearing the post-punk influence of Gang of 4, Au Pairs, Delta 5. The girls navigate through the complex arrangements with ease and confidence. Songs are a minute or two long; the Erasers get in, say what they have to say, then they get out. They add touches of trumpet and keyboard for occasional avant-garde effect. Two tracks are untitled instrumentals.

Pelt / Lawler / Clark – “Keyhole 12 July 2000 ” – [Eclipse Records]

Max Level   4/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Two side-long pieces of minimal, sound-effect droning with no vocals. Members of Pelt, proud denizens of Terra Abstracta, experiment here with a couple of guests, recording live inside a strange stone structure in the wee hours of the morning. Pelt-ish soundscape-ism is distilled to its sparse essence. Sound-producing objects are tapped, rubbed, bowed, fondled, caressed… Silence looms large throughout. Nothing becomes something becomes nothing…

Floating Flower – “1ST & 2ND ” – [Black Plastic Sound]

Max Level   4/29/2006   A Library, CD

Trancey, spacey, timeless music. We’ve had their first record (recorded 1998) in the library for a couple of years now; here it is again, packaged with the group’s second release, which dates from 1999. All 9 tracks work the same general territory, which FF’s guitarist Kawabata has described as acid folk; he may have even been the one to invent that term, now in common usage. He’s the best-known name here (see Acid Mothers Temple, Mainliner, countless other projects) but is by no means the focal point. His acoustic guitar gently drones in support of the tabla/guitar of Kaneko Tetsuya and the other-worldly vocals of Kaneko’s partner Yuki. In addition to the aforementioned instruments, we also hear subtle sitar, violin, backwards guitar, and various unidentifiable sounds layered into the mix. Tracks range from 4 to 14 minutes in length; in my opinion, as regards Floating Flower, the longer a track is, the better it is. Will there ever be a third FF record? Nobody seems to know. Kaneko and Yuki are free spirits who often wander the Far East, returning home only occasionally to check in and maybe make a record.

Pissed Jeans – “Shallow ” – [Parts Unknown Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   A Library, CD

Nice pairing of the high-voltage riff and low-esteem whiff of
the Pissed Jeans. An Allentown, PA four pee’s (rearrange their
four action figures and you get the Gate Crashers). Punk with
plenty of spunk, shameful shameful spunk. These guys had me on
the first track, between two-chord stop-and-start bursts Matt
Kosloff yells lines like “I’m Sick…I got a headache…I’ve
got a stuffed head….I’m dehyrdated.” These guys are sick,
sick like a fox! Working the smart-stupid tunnel in the
brain better than most, and if they are sick, then guitar
feedback is their phlegm. This album drips nicely with ye olde
reeling squeal. Drummer’s got a boot too, and they even toss
him a bone, a non-solo solo to end “Closet Marine.” Another
fine title, see what I mean about the smart-stupid power. That
comes before a song about standing one’s self up for dinner!
Could this be Seinfeld-punk? I know, that’s praise that slays;
but they’ve got a bigger curse to grapple with: they’ve been
signed by Sub Pop. Will their creativity run dry?’ Nah, I bet
they’ve got the juice, loved this record. -Thurston Hunger
Save #4 for safe harbor I guess.

Kidney stone punk rock
With a humbucking headache
A happy headache

Werqu, Asnaqetch – “Lady With The Krar – Ethiopiques 16, The ” – [Buda Musique]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   CD, International

The sweet sixteenth release of the Ethiopiques series turns
a bit sour. Asnaqetch Wergu’s scrambling, dry clawing lyre
sounds almost like a banjo under hypnosis. Her brittle pluck
recalls the submersive gypsy sounds from “Latcho Drom.”
Her voice add a little soft honey to that, but she’s not
really singing her lungs out, instead its a steady, talky
sort of lamenting delivery. The words evidently are where
the exertion is going, her heart is on display, whether
wrapped in chains, or pulsing on silk sheets. The lyrics
are fascinating, but of course not sung in English. As a
result, our English mileage is best limited in small doses
as befits radio. Or in following along with the translations
as the lyrics are amazing wth forbidden and unbidden love
themes. “El Lehem” is one solid example. “Like Jerusalem”
(#11) has a very different potent vibe. Packaging is as
beautiful as Asnaqetch throughout the years. -Hunger

Haiku Review:
Hypnotic brittle
The heart after passion’s flame
Crawls across her krar

Cigarettes – “Gimme Cigarette ” – [S-S Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   7-inch, A Library

An essential reissue of early oddball punked pop but so much
more; the A-side’s opening soaring mellotronic keyboards and
Norse war drumming had me thinking Gabriel-era Genesis, but
then in comes the teeny preeny falsetto vox singing with
accidental javanese tones, and the guitar starts romping.
Lyrics just sort of jut out some spot of the subconcious.

The angst oh, a new-wave staple, is showcased on the B-side
with those piqued and tweaked freaky falsetto vocals,
singing a despair love song. Little Yes keyboard flourishes
sneak into this one. But it’s got a Phil Spector feel too?’
Even odder, it’s got one Philo Cramer before Fear.

It’s as if everyone formed this band thinking, we’re going
to be a glam band or a prog band or or a punk band or a
girl group of boys, certain that they could overpower the
other interests. A tremendous collision that didn’t last
long, but I’m sure glad they re-issued it. Carefree ain’t
careless…this is a gem. -Thurston Hunger

Haiku Review:
When visions collide
Sparks fly, cigarettes ignite
Your ear’s the ashtray

Wright, Betty – “Clean Up Woman and Many More Golden Classics ” – [Collectables Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   12-inch, Soul

Oh man, this just nails the battle of the sexes in all its
anguish and glory. Betty takes turns being the other woman
on this record at times, but ultimately she is The Woman.
Her voice has supreme sassiness, a little smokiness around
the edges, she sings notes all the way and when she needs
to scream, like at the end of “Lovemaker” it’ll knock the
stripes off that little zebra-stripe number she’s wearing on
the cover of this hits collection. Included among them, two
penned by Blowfly, the title track and “Girls Can’t Do What
The Guys Do.” How that set with the other “Echoes of Joy”
(Betty’s original family/gospel group), one can only imagine.
But the fact is Betty’s voice and groove, are rock solid
and thus unshakeable. Check out, “The Wrong Girl” a soul
spellbinder if ever there was, with Greek tragedy twisting
through. How about the “Baby Sitter,” a cautionary tale to
dead-beat moms complete with “Rock a Bye Baby” quoted in.
Solid soul pop from the sixties and seventies… -Thurston Hunger

the Nostalgia 77 Octet “Seven’s & Eight’s” [Tru Thoughts] (CD)

aarbor   4/26/2006   Jazz

This is the first recording of Ben Lamdin’s Nostalgia 77 Octet at the Jazz Cafe. According to Ben (Nostalgia 77) himself, they were still learning to play together when this recording was made – it was their 2nd ever public performance. Nostalgia 77 started making rather sombre, dark jazzy bedroom recordings on his first Tru Thoughts release: “Songs for My Funeral”. His 2nd release “The Garden” shows free jazz influences integrated into his sound. Melding his hip hop production skills with live jazz musicians takes his work to a whole new place that he seems to be enjoying. 4 of these tracks are from “The Garden” alongside 2 covers: “Down Another Road” by Graham Collier and “Watusa” by Sun Ra. The Nostalgia77 Octet looks to the future with conviction and at the same time refuses to throw away the past. AArbor

Rabbinical School Dropouts – “Vehicles Behind Comets ” – [Self Release]

anthony fremont   4/25/2006   CD, Jazz

Rabbinical School Dropouts ‘Vehicle Behind Comets? (RSDO – self released)
High Concept Jazz or just a bunch of wiseguys having fun? A little of each is what we have here, with tracks from 4 different ensembles ranging in size from 3 to 10 players, drawing on a pool of San Diego and Long Beach based players led by reed & keyboardist Michael Friedmann (with Nathan Hubbard from Trummaflora contributing percussion). The Dropouts are the largest group here, with sort of a space-age Klezmer approach. The smaller subsets explore other realms including electronic effects and chamber jazz. The mostly silly titles don’t clue you in to how grand and intriguing some of these charts are. NO VOCALS.

Glick, Brian – “Trophy ” – [Newsonic]

Max Level   4/23/2006   A Library, CD

Is it jazz, or modern classical, or??what…? Trophy is a 43-minute instrumental work, divided into six untitled sections. It’s sparse, strange, and interesting. My initial impression was that it was random and meandering, seemingly assembled from a box of unrelated parts. But upon more listening, I started to hear the parts fitting, and the various instrument combinations working together. I still don’t think I’ve heard all there is to hear in this. New Yorker Glick composed the work, conducts the ensemble, and plays saxophone. The group includes a couple of other saxes, oboe, bass clarinet, trumpet, contrabass, vibes, and percussion. Hearing this music is like listening to colorful bursts that leave a lot of blank canvas showing.

Plastic Crimewave Sound – ” ” – [Captain Spazz]

Max Level   4/23/2006   7-inch, A Library

Loud, crude psychedelia from this Chicago quintet. Layers of heavy, noisy guitars, feedback, and electronics blur together into a pounding acid rock sludge. Bandleader Plastic Crimewave’s spoken/chanted vocals are pretty much buried in the mix for the duration. A1 and B1 are dense two-chord vamps, hypnotically repetitious. B2 has five or six chords, for a nice change of pace, but such involved song structure doesn’t seem to be what this band does best. They do, however, get super extra bonus points for having a guitarist named Cat Chow.

Splendor Mystic Solis – “Heavy Acid Blowout Tension ” – [Eclipse]

Max Level   4/23/2006   12-inch, A Library

Psychedelic supergroup SMS recorded live July ’99 in Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis. Mainliner’s Kawabata, Nanjo, and Shimura are on guitar, guitar/vocals, and drums respectively. Along for the ride are Plastic Crimewave joining on third guitar and Sasaki of Ruins sitting in on bass. There’s one long track on side one, and two short long tracks on side two. You can’t go wrong with these three thick slabs of Speed Freakout Echo Rumble Attack. Mr. Crimewave organized the shows and is behind the release of this LP. Read the insert sheet to learn how it all came about.

Gasoline – “Take It to the People ” – [Estrus Records]

Max Level   4/23/2006   A Library, CD

Full bore fuzzed-out ass-kicking maximum trash rock from Japan. Out-of-control guitar/bass/drums trio with amazingly raw vocals. With few exceptions, every track here is nitro-fueled amp-frying R&B mayhem. Track 7 adds an organist and slows down the pace for six minutes. Tracks 1 and 8 are short Bo Diddley-ish harmonica workouts, complete with tom toms and maracas. I think those two tracks serve as intro/outro bookends on the 10″ vinyl version of this record. Here we get an additional four CD-only bonus tracks (# 9-12). Lucky us.