Music Reviews

San Kazakgascar / The Master Musicians of Hop-frog – “Planet Dog ” – [Lather Records]

Max Level   3/31/2008   7-inch, A Library

Side A (San Kazakgascar): Tribal sounds and rhythms evoke a nomadic journey across a mysterious moonlit expanse of desert at night with camels swaying, objects rattling, and possibly an oud player with a fuzztone riding in one of the wagons. That???s what it sounds like, however the lyrics are about dogs. This side especially recommended.
Side B (The Master Musicians of Hop-Frog): This side is a bit rawer and clankier with barking vocals. Reminds me of early Joy Division. OK but doesn???t knock me out.

Brown, Rob (Ensemble) – “Crown Trunk Root Funk ” – [Aum Fidelity]

Daryl Licht   3/26/2008   CD, Jazz

Despite being a respected presence in the contemporary jazz scene for many years now, alto saxophonist, Rob Brown, remains somewhat overlooked and under appreciated, in my humble opinion. During his 20+ year career, he has produced very few recordings as a leader, a fact which I find unfortunate, as I???ve always enjoyed his unique tone and distinctive style. His 1989 release on Silkheart, ???Breath Rhyme??? is still a personal favorite. Brown originally formed this current quartet (which includes the legendary, William Parker, on bass, Gerald Clever, on drums, and the well-known, but often lightweight, Craig Taborn, on piano and electronics) for a performance at the 2006 edition of NYC???s great Vision Festival.

Supported by this ensemble, Brown explores new sonic territory on ???Crown Trunk Root Funk???, incorporating elements of funk and experimental electronics into his music. Brown slowly immerses listeners into his expanded vocabulary, opening the disc with the solid ???Rocking Horse???, a funky, slightly fusion-inflected free bopper that doesn???t stray too far from his earlier work. By the set???s third track, however, Brown is deep into uncharted waters. In ???Sonic Ecosystem??? Taborn and Cleaver lay down a minimal (but slowly building) foundation of experimental electronics and sporadic percussive accents over which, eventually, Brown, with an almost mournful alto, and Parker, with bowed bass, play a plaintive theme in unison. In sharp contrast, the next track ???Ghost Dog??? is the album???s most accessible piece, a slick, nearly regrettable, pop-leaning, funky strutter. The group returns to familiar ground with ???Exuberance???, an excellent blast of classic Brown free bop stylings. The CD closes with the beautiful ???World’s Spinning???, in which Cleaver, Parker and Taborn create a dark, impressionistic backdrop for Brown???s soulful, lyrical lines. While his experiments on ???Crown Trunk Root Funk??? are not uniformly successful, it still contains plenty of great contemporary jazz and Brown is to be commended for attempting to explore new sonic horizons. DL

Tender Buttons – “Hot Abduction” – [GSL]

ophelia necro   3/19/2008   A Library

Two-thirds of San Diego’s KILL ME TOMORROW, the husband/wife duo of Zack and K8 Wentz present their debut full length effort pressed on color vinyl (marbled green) limited to 500 copies. The duo have been writing and performing as Tender Buttons for a few years and have released a handful of EPs. The name of the band was borrowed from a book of experimental prose/poetry by Gertrude Stein. This release is similar to the KILL ME TOMORROW “The Garbageman & The Prostitute” album in style and that both have been put into novel form by Zack. “Hot Abductions” starts with the concept that hot women are being abducted by aliens at a rapidly increasing rate, this is demonstrated in the first track from the point of view of a radio dj. The music is synthpunk, mostly electronics, percussion and voice. The voice is distinctive. They describe their sound as a “fractured, neo-industrial, polyrhythmic” concoction and also as ” a cautious cross between the Kinks and Skinny Puppy, with Kate Bush and Falco heckling us from the back of the room”. I am not sure if the average person will get that upon hearing this album but I find this release mesmerizing. Tracks A6 (an instrumental) and B6 stand out as modern homages to cabaret-esque hits of days gone by. Be Careful! there is a lot of language on this release; track A2, B1,B2, B5 & B7 all have language.

Suishou no Fune – “Prayer for Chibi ” – [Holy Mountain]

Jawbone   3/18/2008   A Library, CD

Suishou no Fune (soo-ee-sho no foo-nay) formed as a duo of female guitarist/ vocalist Pirako Kurenai and male guitarist/ vocalist Kageo in Tokyo in 1999. They have gone through a number of bassists and drummers since then, but with ???Prayer for Chibi??? they are back to the original duo. According to their website: ???Chibi was a love cat of Pirako and Kageo. He died for a disease on February 13, 2007. This album is a memorial album to him.??? (You gotta love those Japanese-English translations.)

Japanese poetry set to improvised psychedelic dream music is the name of the game here, which is probably of no surprise, but on this two disc set they take their time and stretch out, way out. Eight tracks averaging 15-minutes each. All tracks have their own character, but sometimes the differences are very subtle. Most tracks start very slowly and quietly; in come the plaintive wailing vocals; more slowness; then a building wall of feedback as a crescendo toward the end.

I.1.???Prayer???(23:19) Bells; space; at 14-mins. strumming w/ an echoey lead.
2.???The Rain Falls???(7:07) Much plaintive vocal wailing.
3.???Till We Meet Again???(16:30) Slow build to heavy feedback; at11-mins. quietness.
4.???Becoming a Flower???(14:28) Pop-like strumming; feedback from 8-12-mins.
II.1.???Resurrection Night???(16:05) 16-mins. of solid feedback.
2.”In the Clouds???(14:53) Loose, bluesy improvisation.
3.???The Stars Know All???(12:00) Out there; we???re talking other galaxies.
4.???Cherry???(19:09) The simplest, most beautiful track.

That Chibi must have been one helluva cat.


Garden of Forking Paths, The [coll] – [Important Records]

Jawbone   3/18/2008   A Library, CD

Young British steel string guitar stalwart James Blackshaw solicited artists he knows and respects to appear on this very nice Important Records collection; his goal: to compile ???experimental music for solo stringed instruments, with little to no overdubs???. The result: a very cohesive, yet always interesting, imaginative, reflective string extravaganza.

1. Chieko Mori (koto)- ???Spiral Wave???(5:48) Bluesy, loping koto, slowly building up in layers, forming a jigsaw puzzle in the mind, with three-dimensional kaleidoscopic aural pieces.

2. James Blackshaw (guitar)- ???The Broken Hourglass??? (10:48) As the title suggests: a timeless piece, morphing through many tempos, with graceful assuredness and a tinge of a broken heart.

3. Helen Espvall (cello)- ???Home of Shadows and Whirlwinds??? (10:16) Espers cellist delivers another appropriately titled piece that darkly dips and dives through deserted mansions and abandoned cemeteries with an experimental wistfulness.

4. Jozef van Wissem (lute)- ???The Mirror of Eternal Light??? (14:05) Dutch Renaissance lute player known for reinventing and deconstructing the genre by using mirror or palindrome techniques (playing combinations of compositions forward, then backwards) and using subtle electronic sound manipulation. Fascinating.

5. Chieko Mori (koto)- ???Tokyo Light??? (6:04) A quiet, peaceful piece that beautifully demonstrates the traditional bent-note sound of the koto.

The title of the compilation is taken from Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges’ famous wartime short story that delves into double spies, labyrinths and quantum mechanics.


Plants – “Plants ” – [Killertree Records]

cinder   3/13/2008   12-inch, A Library

Recorded back in 1993 on a 4 track c90. Apparently
these three guys were in high school at the time,
summer school style. Never trying drugs before, they
make a DIY style water bong including a big orange
road cone, and get stoned out of their minds. They
start these 10pm jam sessions, and play almost every
night. Plants was born! Improvised spastic
guitar/drum/tapes/loops/keys, etc. Two side-long
tracks of fuzzy guitar and drunk drums. They ended up
drifting (or…wilting…) away about a year later.
Both sides about 20 minutes long. Side A has an abrupt
stop, and side B sounds like different sessions were
stitched together. Great stuff from foggy pot brains!

Nagoski, Ian – “Kerflooey ” – [Ehse]

cinder   3/13/2008   12-inch, A Library

Ian’s first solo release in 4 years. Two side-long
tracks of meditating outer-space drone-room chamber
electronic sound. Both sides about 15 minutes long.
Side B is more dynamic…going from quiet window
watching hovers to louder “holy shit, look at that
planet” thoughts, while side A has a more
control/operating room feel. Ian has contributed his
past efforts to the music of Joe McPhee, Jack Rose,
Six Organs of Admittance, Pelt, Tom Carter and Magali
Babin. -cinderaura

Ka-Spel, Edward – “Dream Logik Part One” – [Beta Lactum Ring Records]

ophelia necro   3/12/2008   A Library

Ka-Spel is the lead singer, songwriter and co-founder of The Legendary Pink Dots. On this release Ka-Spel employs synthesizers, the electric organ. percussion, found sounds and voice. His musical output has combined elements of dark folk, goth, found noise, sampling, pop and rock in varying degrees. This release is pretty trippy and psychedelic. Ka-Spel’s singing voice is distinctive as he has a strong?? East London/East Anglian accent. “Revolution 834” is 12 minute nod and a wink to the Beatles “Revolution 9”. No language.

Vandermark 5, The – “Beat Reader ” – [Atavistic]

Daryl Licht   3/12/2008   CD, Jazz

???Beat Reader??? is the tenth studio recording from esteemed performer/composer/leader Ken Vandermark???s flagship ensemble, the Vandermark 5. As always, Vandermark and crew deliver a diverse set of contemporary jazz over the eight tracks of this set, with material that strikes an almost perfect balance between composition and improvisation and which integrates a wide range of sonic elements from hard bop and blistering free jazz to slamming funk and searing out-rock. The ongoing evolution of the group is clearly displayed on ???Beat Reader???, with the quintet???s newest member, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, being featured more prominently than any other performer, except Vandermark. From the beginning of the excellent opening piece ???Friction??? to the conclusion of the scorching final track ???Desireless???, Lonberg-Holm makes his mark, with contributions ranging from subtle, chamber music stylings to driving, angular riffing and raucous, electrified skronk, the latter of which providing the group with its most acidic, rock-tinged edge since former trombonist/guitarist Jeb Bishop retired his electric guitar after 2000???s ???Burn The Incline???. Personal favorites included ???Further From The Truth???, a subduded, yet tasty, little piece that almost sounds as if it could have been taken from Zorn???s Masada songbook, the funky free bop of ???Speedplay???, and the aforementioned ???Desireless???. Although they are now in their second decade, as ???Beat Reader??? clearly demonstrates, the Vandermark 5 are not resting on their laurels, rather, they continue to evolve and create compelling contemporary jazz with an almost unparalleled passion and artistry. Play! DL

Bridge 61 – “Journal ” – [Atavistic]

Daryl Licht   3/11/2008   CD, Jazz

An outstanding new project led by Ken Vandermark. The first and last tracks are some of the most slamming modern Jazz I???ve heard in quite some time. The tracks in between, while much more restrained, are equally musicianly and only slightly less enjoyable. Smokin???! DL

Monkey Power Trio, The – “Hacking Through The Tentacles of Despair ” – [Pochahontas Swamp Machine]

Max Level   3/8/2008   7-inch, A Library

This five-man trio whips out four more hastily assembled songs. Lots of rough edges, loose screws, and questionable musical judgment, but the MPT isn’t shooting for perfection; this is about friends getting together just one day a year, loading up on alcoholic beverages, and inventing music just for you. The band’s distinctive sound (vocals/guitar/bass/drums/mouth-blown instruments) is enhanced this time out by a guest pitching in on the hated and feared ukulele. Need I say there is much fun to be had? Recorded in 2003 on the MPT’s ninth day as a band.

Riistetyt – “Skitsofrenia ” – [Havoc Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/6/2008   12-inch, A Library

Reissue of 1983 album. Championing the exploited, or maybe
just chomping on the exploited along with everything else.
Palpable anger breaks the skins of the drums, bone-rattle
bass is buried under those skins. Guitar channels the fury,
brief solos at times…but generally just grinding away.
On top, anguished vox. Plenty of blood in the lyrics, angry
rats seizing the streets to lap it up. Boiling turmoil.
“Odotus” delivers a different sound, more sustained pain.
“Irtolainen” alters a plodding two-stepping stomp, while
flange-injected jets strafe the sound at one part. All of
the other cuts are rampant hardcore with right angle power
chords and drums that hyperventilators dream of. Recurrent
persistence of sound will charge some up and wear others
down. Ringing ears and wringing necks for all.

-Thurston Hunger

Phillips, Dave + R. H. Y. Yau – “Illusion Is a Natural Condition ” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

cinder   3/6/2008   A Library, CD

An hour of ear-piercing, headache inducing, nerve
twitching, body spazzing, intoxictaingly paranoid,
schizo happening tracks. Almost all under 2 minutes,
some only seconds long. Electronic screeching freak
outs that make your brain quiver. Sometimes the
frquency is so low it sounds like nothing, sometimes
so high you cry. Good for layering. Collected from
2000-2005. Yau also founded and co-curates the
Activating the Medium festivals.

Onna – “Katawa ” – [Psf]

cinder   3/6/2008   A Library, CD

Music project of Japanese underground cartoonist,
Keizo Miyanishi. He also did all the artwork for this
release. The first in many years, Onna have been
semi-around since the 80s. Early lineup included
Michio Kurihara, before White Heaven! This includes
Keizo and two other folks on guitars and that’s it.
Sad, intense and melancholy songs. Keizo sings in
Japanese, but the lyrics are written in English also.
Words range from mystical dragon heads, to voyeuristic
views of a woman pampering, to killings of mothers.
Dark acoustic guitar driven bluesy-folk. Track 4 is
the most upbeat if you’re looking to rock out.

New Blockaders, The – “Das Zerstoren, Zum Gebaren ” – [Blossoming Noise]

cinder   3/6/2008   A Library, CD

Rumored as their last live performance, this was
recorded at the ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas
festival in 2006. From the UK and together since
1982! Along for the ride is Damion Romero, Joke Lanz
and Dave Phillips. The 49 minute piece starts off as
various sputters and feedbacks, rebounding off open
air. Almost ten minutes in, the sound of terror
begins. Warbling old-man wales, crushing waves of
electronics, metal-wall sounding scrapes. Images of
trains and huge industrial machines crunching and
grinding along. Squirbles and squarbles galore.
Never giving up the whole time. Great!

Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli [coll] – [Numero Group]

ArtCrimes   3/5/2008   A Library, CD

Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli

The Numero Group has expanded beyond the amazing soul reissues it became famous for, with the series “Wayfaring Strangers,” devoted to obscure folk artists from the 60s-70s. This one explores the world of instrumental music for steel string guitar, along the lines of your John Faheys, Leo Kottkes, and Robbie Bashos, but way more mysterious. Unfortunately our pre-release version doesn’t have the booklet to explain where these folks came from and why we’ve never heard of them. But for anyone who loves those overtones on a colossal Guild 12 string that ring for days on end, this is your bag. Most tracks here strictly avoid folkie convention and instead make pioneering moves towards new methods of composing and playing acoustic guitars, with studio trickery largely avoided in favor of audio honesty. Fans of modern-day folks like Six Organs… and Jack Rose should find this worthwhile.

Boscoe – “Boscoe ” – [Numero Group]

ArtCrimes   3/5/2008   CD, Soul

Boscoe (self-titled)

A reissue of a super-obscure limited pressing by the Chicago-based group Boscoe, originally released on the group’s own Kingdom of Chad label. Japanese crate diggers built up the allure of this forgotten release, and Numero Group once again outhipped the hippest by finally getting this out on a wider basis than when it first hit the streets in 1973. Boscoe combined the social commentary of the Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron with some dashes of O’Jays-style funk, innovative horn arrangements, and a few slow jams for good measure. The playing is a bit harder than the mainstream soul of those days, and the great singing and ensemble work here paints a picture of a hard-working group with lots of interest in moving beyond cookie-cutter soul. So throw your fist in the air and fight the power with Boscoe.

Guy, Barry – “Folio ” – [Ecm Records]

Jawbone   3/3/2008   A Library, CD

Stunning . . . is a word that leaps to mind when listening to Barry Guy???s ???Folio???. A dialogue, or trialogue, if you will, between the Rational, the Emotional and the Subconscious (or Eternal); it was inspired in part by a 1912 pre-revolutionary Russian play by Nikolai Evreinov, ???The Theatre of the Soul???, which takes place in the soul of the protagonist, within the space of 30-seconds, immediately preceding putting a gun to his ribs and pulling the trigger.

Guy, as composer and improviser, has conjured all the emotion and intensity you would imagine from such a scenario, although he takes nearly 60-minutes to complete it. The 14 movements are broken into ???Commentaries,??? ???Folios???, and a reworking of a 1553 piece by Diego Ortiz, ???Recercada Primera???. They range in length from one-minute to twenty-one-minutes. Guy???s double-bass plays the part of the Rational. Guy???s wife, Maya Homburger???s baroque violin plays the Emotional parts, and Muriel Cantoreggi???s violin along with the string orchestra represent the Subconcious.

Barry Guy has been a member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Christopher Hogwood???s Academy of Ancient Music, the City of London Sinfonia and the Michael Nyman Band. He has played with the Hilliard Ensemble and Evan Parker???s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. In other words, the guy gets around (pun intended), and he knows no boundaries; equally comfortable in the early music movement, jazz, free improvisation and new music: both playing and composing.

Magnificent . . . is another.


Makoto, Kawabata – “Hosanna Mantra ” – [Important Records]

Jawbone   3/1/2008   A Library, CD

With their album covers, Acid Mothers Temple have paid tribute to, or mocked Amon Duul II, Gong, King Crimson and Steeleye Span. Their album titles have been borrowed, or stolen from Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf. They have collaborated with cosmic prog era stalwarts Gong, Guru Guru and Trad Gras Och Stenar. On this solo album, Acid Mothers frontman Kawabata Makoto, is inspired by Eastern influenced Kosmische Krautrock new age hippies (and soundtrack gurus) Popol Vuh and their similarly titled ???Hosianna Mantra???.

???Hosanna Mantra??? is a shimmering, radiant, stark and droning release. Makoto uses only electric guitar, bouzouki and sitar, for a very mesmerizing and meditative effect.

Originally released as two 20-minute tracks on a limited edition 550 copy vinyl pressing, the first 100 of which came with a 7-inch with two 7-minute tracks, this CD version includes all four tracks.

1. ???Scarlet Phenomenon??? (20:11) – Starts with a drone, then a cyclical strumming and eventually washes of ghostly tones, a lonely distant wail, and some backward sitar toward the end.

2. ???Hosanna Mantra??? (19:33) ??? The simplest and maybe strongest track keeps up a fairly constant distant muddy drone with sitar washes and a tympani sound (electric guitar) appearing toward the middle. Perfect late, late night music.

3. ???Door of Your Enigma??? (7:07) ??? Reverb drenched repetitively strummed bouzouki with distant humming.

4. ???You Are All of My Love??? (7:11) ??? A plucked classical/ jazz electric solo guitar.

Kawabata in the Cosmos.


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