Music Reviews

Blue Gene Tyranny – “Out of The Blue ” – [Unseen Worlds]

humana   8/27/2008   A Library, CD

Re-Release of an LP from 1977: A listen to this CD will convince you of the merits of re-releasing 30-year-old music so new generations can appreciate the greatness of music which in 1977 was considered avant garde. ???Blue??? Gene Tyranny (so-named because ???trouble was built into??? him, encoded if you will) offers four compositions. Track 1 is a poppy, lyrical romp that summons images of the of the Brady Bunch in all its 70s glory and optimism. Track 2 (which happens to be my favorite) is a fantastic instrumental collage of contrasting musical sections whose tempo changing is refreshing if dated in its style reminiscent of Lee Ritenour. Track 3 is like a gospel song with interesting lyrics., and Track 4 is an epic (25+ minutes) ???Letter from Home??? with narration and choral parts set to music framed by train sounds at start and finish. Expect an emotional ride as you listen to this blast from the past. PGM: Tracks end as early as :05.

Canterbury Music Festival, The – “Rain & Shine ” – [Beatball]

ArtCrimes   8/27/2008   12-inch, A Library

The Canterbury Music Festival were a New York-based band that fell under the tutelage of early 60s group The Tokens (???The Lion Sleeps Tonight???), whose label BT Puppy released this mega-rare LP (150 copies in original pressing) in 1968. It???s now re-issued on vinyl by Korean label Beatball in an edition of 500, with a groovy full color poster and full lyrics in English and Korean. The mood here is a bit schizoid, reflecting not only the style of the three songwriters in the group, but also the Tokens??? own writers and a former Token, Stephen ???Brute Force??? Friedland, who had solid pop songwriting credentials working for Del Shannon and the Cyrkle. The overall tone is baroque pop a la Left Banke, with harpsichords and strings… pretty sophisticated stuff for a group that barely got this record out at all. Lots of attention to textural detail and Beach Boys / Beatles creamy harmonies, but bits of psychedelia appear via comically distorted guitar (see track 6, an inane rave-up titled “Super Duper Trooper”) and electric sitar (see track 10, which is a stylistically questionable cover of “Son of a Preacher Man” that would be more at home on a “60s Smash Hits Not By Original Artist” LP).

Grouper – “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill ” – [Type Recordings]

Thurston Hunger   8/26/2008   A Library, CD

If I am ever dying out in the wilderness, having run into a
bear or slipped off a craggy ravine’s edge, this is the
music that I want to come to me. Liz Harris remains one of
the leading candidates for most merciful angel of death
going. Her voice cloaked in reverby robes, her guitar as
sparse and ethereal as the thinnest stretches of atmosphere.
Through the clouds on this, one can almost me see the
underlying pop music…are those songs there, brother or
has my blood fled me and now hallucinations are fed me?
I thought I saw an Animal Collective come to pay last rites,
as I take a Slowdive into the eternal night. Harris sings
really well with herself, canyon echo of overdub. And really
despite name-dropping a few other bands, she is really her
own woman (or in case of the overdubs, her own women). It’s
just that this felt a little poppier than earlier outstanding
work from Grouper, maybe a function of Type as the label?
Either way it is a gorgeous album, one that has a nice flow
for repeated play after play. I love the little electric
storm that initiates the album, a nice study in electric
pastoral. Maybe a meteorite is what struck me down out in
the wilderness, should have stayed inside and listened to
this over and over.

-Thurston Hunger

Pumice – “Quo ” – [Soft Abuse]

Thurston Hunger   8/26/2008   A Library, CD

Phonebox vox and dirty laundry rocks. You know sometimes that
ol’ dirty laundry just fits better, and Pumice offers a track
like “Pebbles” that was last washed (stone-washed?) in the 60’s.
Perhaps “Pebbles” is a chip off the old Australian collections
of the same names (or a connection to Stefan Neville’s last
Pumice outing which was also called “Pebbles”). The leadoff
title track here, has a nice Skeleton Crew or Henry Cow kinda
awkward swing to it, but then surrenders its swagger to a
sort of two-chord skroool out. “Dogwater” mates falsetto
and bull-frog doo-doo-woop in a slow weirdo waltz. “Battersby”
packs decades of New Zealand angst into 3 minutes and ten
seconds of scratchy guitars, compressed vocals and hospital
alarm keyboard octaves. This gets the Ro-Fi royal seal of
approval (in honor of a short-lived KFJC DJ, Monkey Punch
whose Japanese accent took Lo-Fi to its next step down!)
Still while tracks like “Fort” and “Whole Hoof” earn that
badge, there are moments of fun frivolity like “Thermos
in the Studio” and the closer “Beak Remedy” where an
accordion wonders about the meaning of life, cobwebs
in its bellows. As the saying goes “Dude, Pumice!”

-Thurston Hunger

Liebig, Steuart Tee-Tot Quartet – “Always Outnumbered ” – [Pfmentum]

Max Level   8/25/2008   CD, Jazz

Liebig leads this offbeat jazz/blues group through his oddly angled compositions. He is awesomely skilled on his contrabass guitar too, and his inventive playing sets the tone throughout this CD. It???s mostly a down and dirty affair, with Scot Ray on dobro, Joe Berardi on drums, and Dan Clucas on cornet. I like what Ray does with his dobro, whipping out wild electrified squiggles and occasionally picking a more down-home country blues thing. Clucas seems a pretty good jazz blower, one who is cool enough to use his mute to spice things up here and there with some nutty wah-wah sounds. Berardi is the perfect drummer for this quartet, solidly in the pocket while keeping things fresh with imaginative little touches. The cornet and dobro are often playing the melody in unison and that???s a great sound. The CD starts with a cool stroll through a back-alley, and it ends with a saloon-style blues shuffle.

Strings of Consciousness – “Fantomastique Acoustica ” – [Off Label]

humana   8/18/2008   A Library, CD

Experimental/Alternative: This is a fantastic CD containing four songs from the 14-member collective that calls itself Strings of Consciousness, and 9 remixes by various artists. Mellow, cool sounds emanate from this union of acoustic music (cello, violin, double bass, guitar, trumpet, vibraphone, piano, Tibetan bowls, harp, harmonium, saxophone) and digital technology (laptop, samplers, turntables, electronics). Indeed, the music is atmospheric and gorgeous with amazing sounds emanating from depths of emotional consciousness, flowing together to beautiful effect. Voices are heard only on 1, 9, and 10. 10 is an intense set of edicts reminiscent of Orwell???s 1984. PGM: FCC on 10 (???fucking???). Last two tracks are MPG1 videos. 10 ends at :17 and others end as early as :08.

His Electro Blue Voice – “Fog ” – [S-S Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/18/2008   7-inch, A Library

I’m not supposed to like a label so much, but ding-dang-doodle
Scott knows his no-wave noodles. 2007 release of this Italian
rock band tastes like a blast from the pasta and rips the
molten ore and angst right out of the ampheta-gold-mine.
“Fog” is sung in English (but the singer’s still thinking in
his native tongue). So you get words that sort of fall out of
frame, add to the utter driving edge riffage going on. And then,
just when it seems it cannot get any better, after a couple of
verses someone flips the switch and they electrocute lead singer
Francesco, inciting scream-singing excellence! The track has
its rollercoaster moments too, slowing down, rising and plunging
again. That maneuver is also brought to bear on the flip, “Das”
which is sung in Italian (and perhaps thought about in the
language of angry bees?). I like how towards the end of the
track, it turns into a runaway train, pummeling over some hippy
flutefest in the forest, smashing up some circuits and leaving
a broken music box that might be chirping out its death cry
for “Yellow Submarine?” I still don’t know what exactly hit me,
I just hope it does again and pronto, prego. Both solid, but
“Fog” puts crystal blisters on your ears.

-Thurston Hunger

Tu Fawning – “Secession ” – [Discourage]

Thurston Hunger   8/18/2008   12-inch, A Library

Wistful twists for victrola devotees from this Northwestern
2+2 piece. Gone like Oregon, back to the 1930’s perhaps?
Moments of this album taste like prohibition-era bathtub
gin gimlets, both smooth and a bit stiff at the same time.
Pop songs that mop the dance floor, shaggy-haired and shadowy.
Portlandishead? Or a less obvious resonance is the Jade Vincent
Experiment, this too has that female private eye vibe. Led by
Corrina Repp, whose singing is strictly in sepia tone. The
production on this EP is exquisite, every once in a while you
catch a raindrop on your turntable’s needle and you can see
the custom swirls in it. Kudos to Kevin Robinson, Viva Voce
bon vivant for engineering and production. Not only that,
but he swings some singing saw in on one number. “I’m Gone”
sure tastes like mellotron, and helpmate Joe Haege rings his
voice up from a phone booth in a storm on this sharing
couplets with Corrina. The underside of this 12″ was the
wonderside for me. Mostly tart torch numbers here.

-Thurston Hunger

Arastoo & Aemae – “Ostrakon ” – [Isounderscore]

Thurston Hunger   8/18/2008   12-inch, A Library

Two side-long ice sculptures built on piano and processing,
the piano coming strictly from Arastoo Darakhshan, while
both add their effects but Brandon Nickell as Aemae delivers
digital doctoring as his primary outlet. The title track
is a wonderful splintering of sound, with glacier cracking
in on the stark black and white keys. Aemae’s timing with
noisier nuance is excellent on this, and he has at least one
treatment like a frozen train going off the tracks! Here the
sum decimates the parts, Arastoo’s delicate hesitance almost
dances around a ghost of Clara Rockmore. A very open piece
with rays of mourning and crystal shards of electronics, it
captures that ever-important balance of order and chaos. If
the first piece is Nickell plating Darakhshan, then perhaps
the second is a reverse, with a layer of Aemae cast out and
the piano imposed on top? Just a guess, maybe I’m too concerned
without tallying yin and yang. The first piece really is a stunner
with a fascinating name that wiki shows as the derivation
for ostracism. Yeah, this is outsider music but I suspect
readily acceptable to many ears, of course we too at KFJC have
been happily exiled beneath main street for decades of
decadence. Limited release on Nickell’s own label.

-Thurston Hunger

Liguori, Gianmarco – “Penta / Beat Instrumental ” – [Sarang Bang]

humana   8/15/2008   7-inch, A Library

Other/Experimental/Jazz: I absolutely, positively love this–it is way too short, in my opinion, and that is my only complaint about it. Gianmarco Liguori hails from New Zealand, and composes fabulous music even though he doesn???t read music. On Side A he offers us ???Penta,??? whose catchy beat is reminiscent of Take 5 with a bossa nova feel. Kim Paterson smoothly inserts trumpet into the mix of drums and congas (also from Paterson) and fender rhodes and synthesizer from Murray McNabb. Liguori is of course on guitars and synthesizer. The layers of jazz are cool and effervescent like the fizz from champagne served at a fancy bar. Side B has ???Beat Instrumental,??? which I like even better than ???Penta.??? There is a jazzy lounge feel, cool, smooth, cosmopolitan, with bass by Liguori and Andrew Atwill. Both sides fade out, leaving you feeling like you???re waking from a dream you don???t want to let go. Fabulous.

Yeager, Ian – “Music for Guitar + Computer 1 ” – [Pax Recordings]

humana   8/15/2008   A Library, CD

Improvisation/Experimental: This is Yeager???s debut CD. The young musician, who was raised and educated in Indiana but now lives in the Bay Area, is a performer, composer, and improvisor. These tunes are simple guitar strummings mixed gently with computer blipping and popping to create a soothing, mellow ambience conducive to dreaming, relaxing, spacing out. Each of the 14 tracks is lovely, but not incredibly distinguishable from the others. Good for mixing, calming down a set, destressing. Try: 4, 1, 6, 9, 11, . PGM: Track 7 has very quiet spaces but doesn???t end till :06. Others end as early as :05.

Television Personalities – “Camping In France ” – [Overground Records]

humana   8/14/2008   A Library, CD

Rock: At first blush, this CD seems to offer a great band with hack vocalists, but after the first two tracks you realize that the Television Personalities (TVPs) are so much more. This is a live recording of a 1985 concert in France, with most of the 17 tracks written and sung by Dan Treacy of England. Although the group never enjoyed major commercial success, Treacy on guitar, Jowe Head on bass, and J.J. Bloom on drums deliver some great 60s sounds and interesting lyrics. Yes, the vocals on the choruses are sometimes laughable, but they???re supposed to be. As the liner notes say (in French): ???Because the discs of the TVPs are, finally, as funny as some sad clowns.??? Picks: 13/14, 9, 8, 6, 3. FCC: Track 8: ???fuck???; Track 17: ???I ejaculate on you???. PGM: Although most songs track since this is a concert, 6 ends at :28, 12 at 1:10, 15 at :12, and 16 at :08, some with talking intros to the following tracks. Play 13 and 14 together because they are a unit.

Whitehouse – “Present Birthdeath Experience ” – [Very Friendly]

cinder   8/13/2008   12-inch, A Library

Formed by William Bennett in the UK, this is Whitehouse’s first release recorded in 1980. They used only two synths, an effects pedal and a tone generator. A raw yet intense industrial noisy beginning for this group (Paul Reuter & Peter McKay included).
Bumbling and warbling electronics over a low bass that would kill your subwoofers. High buzzing micro waves. Drunken sounding distorted vocals, almost like he’s screaming into a tin can. Coitus sounds as if you’re in the middle of two radio channels, or the power went out – a good track to fool the listeners with. The very last track is SILENT, don’t play it.

TBA – “Annule ” – [Maxernst]

Thurston Hunger   8/13/2008   A Library, CD

TBA is Natalie “Tusia” Beridze. This disc was recorded a few
years ago in her motherland in Tbilisi, Georgia under the
fatherlabel imprint run by Thomas Brinkmann. It starts with a
piece that connotes Conlon Nancarrow, but eventually TBA makes
her way into the more peculiar percolations. There is some
strange alien abduction with plinky probes on “Downby”, the
last track, “URS” is a sideways look in the mirror of sleep.
Other tracks like “Tuesd,” “Zinavs,” “Soshi” and “GetGoin”
(one of my faves) are jumpy digital dancers. Many other
tracks feature Beridze’s buried vocals multi-tracked and
untracked from the stream of consciousness. Whispery like
last Wednesday. Gone but there. Some folks may end up having
her voice as a deal-breaker, but by the time of the last
track, I kind of welcomed it. Other reviews talked about her
accent…huh…sounds like a bleak Brit more than anything
further afield to me. A little music machine cut-up like
“Okean K” followed by weird breathy conspiracy ditty
“Signdunst” help to give this release a great identity to
me, it’s one that seems to progress and have a lot more
definition than most. It can almost listen like a play.
And as a bonus it gets weirder the further along.

-Thurston Hunger

Shepherds – “Bushbabies ” – [Dnt Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/12/2008   7-inch, A Library

Shepherds on this are a two piece featuring Jeremy Earl (drums)
from Meneguar and Gabriel Lucas Crane (tapes) from the
Vanishing Voice. The tape strafing includes a forlorn trumpet
soundling like a far-off mastodon stuck in a tar pit. It is
more prominent on the A-side, although recurs on the B-side
which is just the split of one long piece it seems. That
trumpet sample really builds the pillar that this is build
on. Drummer Earl keeps a pounding charge going, so he’s the
contrasting stampede to the stuck mastodon. For some reason
I was hoping this actually had a live trumpeteer doing the
honors, not sure that it matters. For an improv approach,
these two are not far off the !!! recesses of the disco
thanks to Earl’s skin crumpling, It’s got a beat and it’s
got a bent thanks to Crane’s cassette crumplets dropped on

-Thurston Hunger

Pink Reason – “Winona ” – [Woodsist]

Thurston Hunger   8/12/2008   7-inch, A Library

Life living at the wrong speeds winds up captured on this
33 rpm that almost begs to be amped up to 38 rpm, or perhaps
bottomed out to 27 rpm? Played backwards? Out of tune acoustic
guitar traces an out of tune experience on a trip to “Winona”
(a town where an early incarnation of Pink Reason traveled
from Green Bay to play allegedly.) The song stumbles and moans
like someone at a funeral, possibly even the wrong funeral.
On the flip side, “Give Yerself Away” dares you not to think
about Ian Curtis (maybe that’s the secret we’re not supposed
to give away). It’s actually the upbeat number on this 7″ but
it’s pretty beat up. Something that sounds like a radiator
clanking in a cheap hotel in the back ground and the guitar
line has a tinge of Stooge-ness. The single ends with a track
that starts off repeating over and over “It’s all over now”
and wondering then “why is it so hard to sleep.” This is an
early snapshot of Kevin DeBroux’s work, at the end of the Bush
regime now it seems almost out of place. But there are moments
when we are all addled, organically or otherwise, and for those
moments this seven inch awaits you. The cover demonstrates the
proper position for listening to this…

-Thurston Hunger

Vasen – “Linnaeus Vasen ” – [Northside]

ArtCrimes   8/12/2008   CD, International

The Swedish instrumental folk group Vasen honors the 300th anniversary of that early pioneer of plant and animal biology (and a fellow Swede), Carl Linnaeus, by performing some of his favorite melodies dating from the 18th century, as well as tunes composed by his friends and relatives. Using viola, guitar, some dramatic percussion and the Nordic “keyed fiddle” or Nyckelharpa, this is mostly dance music but distinctly Swedish, favoring polskas rather than the more Germanic polkas. It’s all nicely recorded and expertly performed. Linneaus himself did not have much of a knack for music but did own a “barrel organ” which could play back preprogrammed melodies, much like a player piano, by turning a crank. Linneaus’ very own restored barrel organ makes an appearance here.

Black Forest / Black Sea – “Black Forest / Black Sea ” – [Music Fellowship]

humana   8/10/2008   12-inch, A Library

Black Forest/Black Sea is comprised of Jeffrey Alexander on guitar and Miriam Goldberg on cello, although they also play electronics, omnichord, live sampling tools, and other things (sitar?). Side A of this fourth full-length release also features Margot Goldberg and Stefano Pilia, while Gillian Goldberg lends her lyrics to Side B. Side A is a 19:20 instrumental exploration of atmospheric, exotic drone that is more disquieting than calming. About 5 minutes in the guitar gets more melodic and acoustic sounding, and toward the end there is the distinct sound of a whistling teakettle, and something that sounds like a hog squealing. It would fit in well on Peaksville Asylum. The first 12 minutes of Side B (which I believe are one single track) consist of the weird sounds of bird whistle imitation (by a slide whistle and human?), and Gillian Goldberg’s rich vocals in the first few minutes. Tambourines come in and then there???s a psychedelic folk-acid freakout that makes time expand. Right before the 7 minutes of the second track is an abrupt change-up signalled by cello chords and bells in background. The second track is much more mellow with melodic guitar that offers the calmer side of folk.

Bruckmann/Diaz-Infante/Shiurba/Stackpole – “Grand Mal ” – [Pax Recordings (Sf)]

Max Level   8/10/2008   A Library, CD

Improvised sounds from this quartet of fine musicians, recorded in Oakland on New Years Day 2002. Ernesto Diaz-Infante and John Shiurba (guitars), and Karen Stackpole (percussion/metal stuff) are well-known for their many local projects, while Kyle Bruckmann (reeds) was a fixture on the Chicago scene until relocating to the Bay Area a couple of years ago. Bruckmann is mostly on oboe and English horn, two instruments I have not heard much in improvised music, however he???s making sounds one would not normally expect from those particular instruments; you???ll hear him doing unpredictable??squeaking/squawking/droning things. Some of the pieces explore a slow humming soundscape type of territory; other pieces are more active while still quite subtle???the players lightly move about, leaving plenty of space for your ears to catch the nuances. Diaz-Infante??is perhaps the subtlest of all; I hear small percussive sounds that may or may not be his acoustic guitar.??Interesting stuff as usual from Pax Recordings.

McDonas, Thollem – “Racing The Sun Chasing The Sun ” – [Creative Sources Recording]

humana   8/8/2008   A Library, CD

Solo Piano: ???This album consists of live recordings of the first halves of two solo piano concerts laid side by side, woven in and out of each other…All music is in the order it was performed.??? So say the liner notes to this CD from innovative, genre-defying Bay Area pianist Thollem McDonas. His virtuosity is evident on every track, as is his classical training. The intensity of McDonas??? limber fingers racing and chasing each other on the keys is alternately eye-opening and mesmerizing. If you enjoy classical music, piano in particular, this CD is for you. Even if you don???t, you may want to slip one of these tracks into your set to shake things up a bit–they are accessible in a KFJC kind of way. PGM: Tracks end as early as 0:11. Picks: 3, 5, 6, 9.