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Music Reviews

Holbrooke, Joseph Trio – “Moat Recordings, The ” – [Tzadik]

Max Level   7/31/2006   CD, Jazz

1960’s British free music supergroup (Derek Bailey- guitar, Gavin Bryars- bass, Tony Oxley- percussion) reunited at Moat Studios, London, to pick up their improvised musical conversation after a hiatus of about three decades. Not much variation from track to track, but it’s a treat pretty much anywhere you drop in to sample the conversation. The volume level tends to be relatively low. Throughout these two CDs, I particularly enjoyed zeroing in on Oxley’s amazing array of percussion sounds. Running alongside is Bailey’s guitar, and his style of playing, heavy on sputtering picking and harmonics, reminds me how influential he was in free improvised music. This material was originally slated for release on a different label in 1999, but that plan fell through due to various unforeseen events. Tzadik stepped in to make sure it gets proper exposure in 2006.

Tender Buttons – “S/T ” – [Pacific-Rock/Deathbomb Ac]

Max Level   7/29/2006   A Library, CD

A puzzling EP from this Kill Me Tomorrow side project, with a sort of post-apocalyptic, future shock feel. Track 1 is aggressive and full of whooshing electro beats, dirty distorto vocals, finger pointing, and accusations. Track 2 is a quiet, spooky cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”, containing what may be a nod to the “X-Files” theme music (?). Track 3 is a noisy Xiu Xiu remix of the first track that barely even sounds like the same song. And talk about puzzling: just when you think you have a handle on Track 3, it goes silent for a few seconds and then returns as a bedroom-sounding recording of a moody piano instrumental. WTF? It’s all very KFJC in other words. Not exactly easy listening, but certainly there are rewards for the adventurous listener.

Bischoff, John – “Aperture ” – [23FIVE Inc.]

Max Level   7/29/2006   A Library, CD

This respected computer music pioneer is closely associated with the Center For Contemporary Music at Mills College. Here he performs seven pieces of his recent work in real time, without overdubbing. Tracks range from 4 to 10 minutes in length; some are quite active, others more toward the ambient end of the scale. A few brief descriptions: #1 uses a single piano chord, repeated, to trigger electronic events, including a computer activated bell. #5 has something that sounds like a strangely-processed human voice. #6 reworks Kenneth Atchley’s amplified water sounds. The 23five organization continues to bring us intriguing sound works.

Vladimir Ussachevsky “Film Works” [New World Records] (CD)

nic   7/29/2006   A Library

Ussachevsky, Vladimir “Film Music” “New World Recordings”
Vladimir Ussachevsky was a pioneer of electronic music composition and an early developer of “tape music”- a synthesis of French musique-concrete and German electronics. This collection features 2 film scores.

In No Exit he uses three sound sources- electronic, vocal and concrete: ominous, slicing electronics, manipulated screams, children talking, men laughing- silenced by rifle fire.

In Line of Apogee he uses more environmental sources- wind, footsteps, animal sounds along with chanting, piano and glock(enspiel) all electronically modulated.

Nam June Paik “Works 1958-1979” [Sub Rosa] (CD)

nic   7/29/2006   A Library

Paik, Nam June- Works 1958-1979 (Sub Rosa)
Nam June Paik was a student of Cage and Stockhausen and it shows. Using prepared piano his performances were not only experimental in sound, but at time dangerous for the performer and audience- eviscerated pianos that he threw himself into, grabbing wickedly long scissors and leaping into the front row where he proceeded to cut and slash away Cages suit jacket while Stockhausen edged nervously away…

Trk 1- Prepared Piano is a live recording of his performance on and IN the piano. 28’33
Trk 2- Hommage a John Cage is a hand spliced sound collage 4’10
Trk 3- Simple is a hand spliced sound collage 0’21
Trk 4- Duett Paik/Takis is a collaboration with Paik on piano and voice and Takis on metal sculpture 25’46
Trk 5- Etude for Pianoforte is a hand spliced sound collage 2’49

Crime Desire – “We Hate All Life ” – [Life’s a Rape Vinyls]

Max Level   7/20/2006   12-inch, A Library

Solid So-Cal hardcore punk with extremely agitated high-pitched vocals. Songs about depression, gender confusion, drugs, our obsession with our looks, and, yes, some crime desire, like wanting to kill people and stuff. Tracks all run together, except the final track, which stands alone. I enjoyed the short hard fast rush this record provides.

Machinist, The – “Machinist, The ” – [Mellowdrama Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/20/2006   CD, Soundtrack

So you know when you like something so much that you can’t
be trusted? That’s how I am about this film, and moreso about
the tremendous score by ROQUE BANOS. His music steals the show,
with theremin cobwebbing down beneath tiptoe harp steps…down
to the basement of your consciousness. Down there a trace of
BERNARD HERRMANN’s stem cells are growing on long violin bows.
Check out the stretching question marks of the main theme as
heard on “Nikkolash’s Game” amongst others, hair-raisingly
beautiful. The motif sort of ebbs and flows till it vanishes.
Little xylophone drops of color get dropped into some passages,
but overall the weather is bleak and grey. Again the theremin
is used to paranoid perfection, this soundtrack is smeared
with it. As stark as the results are, the soundtrack really
works a varied palette, the results are as thin and effective
as Christian Bale yet as gorgeous as Aitana Sanchez.
Don’t sleep on this one. Trust me?!?

-Thurston Hunger

Archie Bronson Outfit – “Derdang Derdang ” – [Domino Recording Co Ltd]

Thurston Hunger   7/20/2006   A Library, CD

Can a band have catchy drums? The Archie Bronson Outfit
does, even if they don’t number an Archie or a Bronson
among them. An interesting nomme-du-band, tending more
towards Riverdale than “Death Wish” perhaps? The yelp of
Sam Windett has a nice plummet, if not Fall, to it. We
get his impassioned vocals, good chunky guitar, and again
them catchy drums…all working to keep things pretty
well amped up for this London three-piece. An unplugged
electrile dysfunction leaves the album hanging on a
limper whimper rather than a roar. Yeah, I know it’ll
be your favorite track. Anyways lyrics work a pretty
well-fenced pop mythos, ten tears here and there, cue the
fog, lotta lovelorn anguish, lips, fingers, fur (recalling
an earlier release). With a title of “Derdang Derdang”
repetition is no stranger stranger to these London lads.
Even if their limited lexicon is as easy as ABO, the depth
of whatever chased Windett’s caterwauling up a tree comes
across as sincere to me. That, and the kind of rumbling
hootenany of the chunes help this album pass gasp!

-Thurston Hunger

True Primes – “We Have Won – EP ” – [Self Release]

Thurston Hunger   7/20/2006   A Library, CD

Two piece/no peace wail over death march drums. Possibly the
two, Che Chen and Rolyn Hu, both sit at said drums while
manipulating other guitars, gizmos and gremlins. The sound
has the ramshackle charm of say the Dirty Three, the march
is led by an worn-out ol’ mare whose nostrils still flare.
Rolyn’s voice rollin’ along in the saddle, slow and lopey.
Che offers his nasal twang and some hollerin’ as well. When
little bursts of noise drift by (embodied by an overdriven
effect, a rampant drum machine rumble) they are like little
tumbleweeds on the soundscape here. Songs often get cut off
at the pass by these choppy interventions. Vox don’t quite win
the talent show, but that plus a nice playful approach to
effects makes them more memorable. It almost seems like Rolyn
is holding her larynx horses in the barn willfully. “In The
Surf” works very well, and washes away the Western analogies,
Rolyn huffing, and puffing, and screeching away…Che adding
some grimace and grit. Decidedly lo-fi through-out, but when
they hint at a poppishness, they portend their next surprise.
Evidently headed to Locust Music, where likely their balance
of order/disorder will be even further embellished and the
narco-psych formula refined. As this EP states, True Primes
have already won, count on it!
-Thurston Hunger

By-Products of America – “Maybe Use My Knife ” – [Shake It Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/20/2006   A Library, CD

Agitated art punk from Cincinatti jerked circa the 80’s.
There was a style of strained singing then, let’s call them
elongated clown vocals, they sound so detatched and deranged.
Vocals meant to annoy, every bit as much the lyrics spat out
were equally annoyed with mundane, glossy fare one would find
in the day’s pop pulp. Guitar work is dorky but determined,
quirky single-note lines with occasional Gang of Four pick-up
clang and banging. Plenty of whammy bar, and weird slippery
sliding on the frets as well. Striving towards authentic
sloppiness, or maybe just wrestling with instruments. The
drive to be in a band would overcome technical inabilities,
or maybe would be spurred on by them. At times, the spastic
sound almost has a kind of awkward Beefheart urgency, but I
think is just what came out of their fingers and they made
the most of it. Pretty vital 20+ years down the road. KFJC
has the first 10 tracks on our copy of “Moving and Storage”
not sure why “Sickness” and “Now Voyager” were yanked from
this, but plenty of other additional angulangst, including
a Harry Nilsson cover “Jump into the Fire” and good gunning
fun on “Shot (in the dark).” Check out the careeeeeening
sound of “Piss on the Flag” and salute this band, although
don’t buy into the acronymic make-over and hail them not as
BPA but properly as By-Products of America! Mmmmm, by-products…
-Thurston Hunger

Partch, Harry – “Bewitched, The ” – [New World Records]

loun   7/19/2006   A Library, CD

In what may be his defining work, the prodigal son of American music, Harry Partch, deeply examined the interactions of music, dance, and theater, in the context of both society and individuals. In a time when American arts were completing their sgregation into isolated component forms, Partch looked back in time and saw the integrated whole from whence they had come, and mourned the loss of gestalt. “The Bewitched” is the dance/play/opera/musical production that both celebrates the potential of iintegrated arts and realizes it. By itself, the soundtrack still retains much of its power, since it is rooted in deep conviction. The sound is unmistakably Partchian, as almost all instruments are of the composer’s design. Most tracks are in the 4-6 minute range, and are musically self contained. The tempo is lively enough to make this appropriate for almost any show. As with all things Partch, I am inspired to contemplate the limitations of my ability to appreciate it, and in so doing, begin to break them down. Play, and be enlightened!


Menche, Daniel “Scattered Remains: Early Rarities” [Soleilmoon] CDx2

angel   7/19/2006   A Library

These are works that Mr. Menche submitted over the years to various labels for release on compilations. He compares these tracks to his full-length albums as ‘short stories vs. long books, small paintings vs. large paintings.’ His technique is sound sculpture: producing tangible noises! Compared to other releases, these are very harsh tracks. No computers used here, so it is all very organic, primal, and invigorating? very bright, loud, and clear, like sitting in the middle of cleansing fire.

Collective Efforts – “Medicine ” – [Arcthefinger Records]

Max Level   7/19/2006   CD, Hip Hop

Positive, soulful raps and beats from this Atlanta GA collective. Quite a bit of singing too, with smooth vocal harmonies, in addition to the raps. Everyone in the CE crew shares production duties, they add some live instruments, and invite a few guest emcees, DJs, and producers. #12 has a tense vibe, other than that it’s pretty smooth sailing with uplifting lyrics and good wordplay on top of soul-flavored beds. A very well put-together record and a sound you can’t help liking.

Jenny Lin “The Eleventh Finger” [Koch]

cujo   7/18/2006   A Library, CD

It’s clear that Jenny Lin has been eating her Wheaties. Her latest recorded effort features piano works no older than 1977 and some which should require no fewer than eleven fingers and technique to spare.

Nosturnos by Arthur Kampela: A wildly seesawing ride and a barnstorming first track. See how your brain juggles the opening tarentella’s speed and metric modulation.

Etudes 16, 17, and 18 by Gyorgy Ligeti: The late Ligeti’s last three etudes are given peaceful and sufficiently mechanical readings (for him, the piano was a machine, not some Romantic expression of the voice). These are remarkable pieces written by a man who couldn’t really play the piano. Lin’s performance on #17, ‘Out of Breath?, is the best of the three.

Studio di Disabitudine by Stefano Gervasoni: An ‘anti-etude? on an oh-so-slightly prepared piano (only at the very ends of the keyboard) designed to specifically confound Lin both musically and dextrously. All attempts at useful repetition on a small and large architectonic scale are avoided; we are meant to feel ‘uncomfortable?. I suppose it works; just don’t play this enough times to get used to it! P.S.: I just said ‘architectonic?.

Detail of Beethoven’s Hair by Randy Nordschow: Much like Cage’s star chart chance works, Nordschow uses pixellated hairy excerpts of Beethoven portraits as the basis for this composition. By the way, SJSU has an important Beethoven collection and research center whose centerpiece is the lock of hair in question.

Chromatic Canon by James Tenney: A 2nd generation minimalist masterpiece, a dodecaphonic palindrome played by two pianos (Lin playing over a tape of Lin). She succeeds in milking the dissonances for maximum unsettling effect and for playing against the tape playback for an eerie slurred sound. Tenney’s music isn’t found in our library yet, but you can find his writings in the liner notes for Wergo’s Nancarrow set. P.S.: Ligeti at one point named Tenney America’s greatest living composer.

Suberrebus for Piano & Computer Processing by Elliot Sharp: Leave it to the downtown composer to breath of tonal air into the disk; this piece opens with a 2-minute double-octave fanfare on the same tone, after which Sharp begins to tweak Lin’s musical building blocks, adding some echoes, some destructive interruptions, and some steely slides. No two performances should sound alike, yet Sharp calls this instance a ‘studio ideal.’

Shiraz by Claude Vivier: An amazing journey, possibly inspired by a trip to Iran. The work’s seed is a fancy 4-note chord that grows according to the Fibonacci series, but none of this is apparent. The programme is more important and Lin presents us with a tumultuous portrait of this city of poetry, wine, and roses. P.S. Ligeti at one point named Vivier Canada’s greatest living composer. This was before Vivier was murdered in Paris at the age of 35.

3 Word Review: The Taiwanese Nightingale

-Cujo, KFJC, July 2006

Black Heart Procession, The – ?The Spell? – [Touch and Go]

Numa   7/18/2006   A Library, CD

Dark Buried Love. Somber songs for solemn sunless days. Songs of scorned lovers and secluded emotions are found throughout this prototypical release from The Black Heart Procession. After four years without a full-release, the San Diego-based The Black Heart Procession emerges with this album of despondent love songs. Originally formed as a side project of Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel from Three Mile Pilot, The Black Heart Procession pulled in the string talent of Matt Resovich from The Album Leaf. Joe Plummer (ex-Modest Mouse) plays the drums on this release. Break-up pop? Introverted lover? A bottle of Gin’ This music makes you recall all those lost moments and regrets. (If you have a guilty conscience like me) — Numa

Haarla-Krokfors Loco Motife – “Penguin Beguine ” – [TUM Records Oy]

Max Level   7/16/2006   CD, Jazz

What a great ensemble! Iro Haarla (keyboards) and Ulf Krokfors (bass) co-lead this fresh 10-piece Finnish outfit, bursting with personality and originality. Two bassists, two drummers, three horns, keyboards/synths/harp, electric guitar, and a vocalist on a couple of tracks. What comes across is the sound of really good players having a ball with their friends. Track 1 immediately impresses, with the rhythm section locking onto the groove like pitbulls, abrasive guitar and keyboards percolating in the second line, and the horns blurting and tumbling over one another on top. The CD is full of majestic, elegant themes, but the band can’t seem to resist disrupting them with various types of mischief. The exception is Track 9, a heartfelt vocal number composed by Haarla, expressing strong love for another person, and faith that it will all work out. The singer has a lovely voice, and it’s a nice change of pace, bringing us back home after an album’s worth of unpredictable jazz adventures.

Chocolate Genius Inc – “Black Yankee Rock ” – [Commotion Records]

mitch   7/16/2006   CD, Soul

Craig Street-produced third LP from Marc Anthony
Thompson is multi-faceted MOR, tapping adult
contemporary/pop/soul/jazz/etc., elements for
an eclectic demographic :
???It???s a destination ??? more than a sound
or a statement. Where hair extensions are
halos. Heaven without a Golden Gate.
Everybody gets in. All the ashtrays are
are clean. The wine won???t hurt you because
the Grapes have no Wrath.???
It is also well-written and staged, built upon the
solid & familiar foundations of Black (ISAAC HAYES)
Moses, the CEO of Unlimited Love (BARRY WHITE),
guitar astrologists (DENNIS COFFEY) and other
purveyors of post-coital musical afterglow who have
favored the laid-back mink glove over the prurient
flash of the funk ???n bump. CHOCOLATE GENIUS INC
lives in Brooklyn, scores films, meets MOBY ( # 8),
exemplifies the art of backdrop & mood. ALL CLEAN.
MITCH July 2006

Noahlewis’ Mahlon Taits – “Six Pieces For Dancing ” – [Em Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/13/2006   A Library, CD

ven without reading the title, you would think this was a
dance record (not a rave, but you know cotillion). But as
you listen, it’s this sleepy dance of turtle and elephant
that is just dreamy. Slooooow moooootion, gentle with an
awkward grace. Watching over our charming couple is a full
moon with saw-player “Fumiya Morita” perched on its south
pole as the bandmaster. Saw lovers will appreciate the slow
pace, and how it really allows the tremolo flow of the saw
to shine. And to weep, to reflect… The seven piece
accompaniment features 3 am sliding guitar (sometimes
Hawaiian style) and 5 am banjo. Bleary but cheerful. A
lot of the melodies seem like they might be from soap
opera’s of yesteryear, but this is a current cobweb-free
octet out of Tokyo, soporifically terrific and as romantic
as a silent movie kiss! Well most of the time, the last
number never quite finds the heart, and “Blues, Just Blues,
That’s All” has Morita-san put down the saw and huff and
puff on the jug. Although you don’t hear the jug so much,
it ends up seeming more like the bandmaster left the
proscenium with his mic-clipped and still on as he snuck
back stage for a quick romp with six toes Rosie. As for
jug bands, evidently the real Noah Lewis led a jug band of
some note in the early 1900’s, and Mahlon Taits, well this
release squeeze my melonhead just right. So cool to pursue
a unique sonic vision like this!

-Thurston Hunger

Pyramids, The – “Birth/Speed/Merging ” – [Em Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/13/2006   CD, Jazz

Em Records rules! Reviving this 1975 superhero calibre
afrocentric jazz trip led by Bay Arean Idris Ackamoor (aka
Bruce Baker who allegedly performs a simultaneous sax and tap
show that surely beckons eyes and ears). He’s had truck with
Famadou Don Moye, and this definitely has that peaceful power
found on a lot of Art Ensemble releases, along with a steadfast
inner funk. Plinky trinkets and non-standard wind instruments
blow through to make this a complete gem. Prominent flute from
Margo Ackamoor gives this a dose of the *good* flower power.
Percussion playhouse on “Jamaican Carnival” along with a mic
deep in someone’s chest to start things off show a lot of
heart. Crazy party vocals spurred on by Margo’s flute. Baker’s
sax (listed as an alto, but man if that’s true he’s tapping
some deep well on it) is reminiscent of Kalaparusha to me.
Soul-filled whether tunefully tracing the flute or free-fire
racing the heart. Still often in his compositions he allows
for a focus just on the rhythm and/or chant. For the former
at times, electric *and* acoustic bass are teamed up, that
makes this sooo heavy. Killer harp on the title track which
like all of the cuts shows such range and taste for letting
subtle tones breathe. Speaking of breathing, check out the
circular sax spin in the middle of “Reaffirmation.” The whole
release makes a Brother say Ahhhhh. Fans of Afro Art Jazz
get this on your spinning sonic altar!

-Thurston Hunger

Monster Under Bed – “Dragon Sandwich ” – [Pervertidora]

Thurston Hunger   7/13/2006   A Library, CD

Noodle-doodle instrumentals with a one-trackball mind. The
goal of Monster Under Bed: to digitally tickle your funny
bone. That way you too can enjoy the sound of “Technology
Laughing at Me” (#7 on here) a beauty of laboratory boop
computer bounced over tambura and sitar scent too. Other cuts
feature big Boris Karloff synthsteps squishing out sound,
like on “Indian Cattle Prod” and “Coming of the Insect
Overlords.” A ghost calliope shows up on “Charming Acid.”
The last track has some vocal samples in a swirl stew. This
is definitely a release for the happy haunter in your life.
Almost all pieces could add hit power to any number of video
games, tear the duvet off this mothersucka and say hello
to your old friend, the Monster Under Bed.
-Thurston Horror