Music Reviews

Circus Devils – “Ataxia ” – [Rockathon Records]

Thurston Hunger   11/26/2008   12-inch, A Library

What is the opposite of air-brushed? Does it have keyboards
dredged up from some dungeon? Traces of Eraserhead dance
in the sourplum dreams of Robert Pollard and a pair of
Tobiases. While Pollard may claim to be up at the beginning
and end of this, he’s really down. But like a worn-out
cigarette, there’s still something smoldering in the doldrums.
His Bobness channels voices, warped and woofing; perhaps the
scariest Martha you’ll ever meet turns up on side two (Ms.
Stewart ain’t got nothing on her). The second side in
all its dismal, descending organs, and lunatic style
really comes across as a dark masterpiece for me. Pollard’s
pipes, even when cloaked in wolf howl and analog blitz
are commanding. His lyrics captivate and yet elude. They
get highlit by pink lasers of synth. File this with
your Residents’ records, or maybe even next to Scott
Walker’s “Tilt” skipping past the buzz rock numbers here,
which don’t really belong on a dance floor when the title
is Ataxia? Although the GbV faithful may clamor for them
(“Backwash Television”, “The Girls Will Make It Happen”
and the attached-like-a-tail “Rat Face Ballerina”).
But damn, that second side shines dark in decline!
The Glum Lie Down on Broadway?

-Thurston Slipperman

Love Is All – “A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night ” – [What’s Your Rupture]

Thurston Hunger   11/26/2008   12-inch, A Library

Amped up little vitamins of sweet Swedish rock, with Josephine Olausson’s
cheerleading vocals skewered on pigtail powerpop. She is
the focal point, and sharp with wit and pitch, but it’s the
spinning wheels of sax that can make Love is All supreme.
Not only does Josephine sing in English, she even demands
an “extra inning” on the leadoff cut. Idiom can save the
radio star? She likes clever wordplay and quick rhymes,
but she needs to work her kewpie doll magic to get sax
player Fredrik Eriksson back in the band. Johan Arrias
has evidently taken over the horn action, and on the
last track he delivers some circular spiral breathing,
but on other tracks Arrias mostly echoes a melody line.
He does add a little promising braying to “Sea Sick”.
But when you listen to Eriksson on “New Beginnings”
it feels like a much fuller project to my ears. Still
there’s plenty to enjoy without his flare, although the
ballads on side two aren’t my cup of tune. Drummer
Markus Gorsch is quick and crisp throughout. Olausson’s
definitely got starpower, but make sure she’s got the
firepower behind her!

-Thurston Hunger

Sunken Foal – “Fermented Condiments ” – [Planet Mu Records Ltd.]

Thurston Hunger   11/26/2008   12-inch, A Library

Irishman Duncan Murphy is Sunken Foal, which evidently is
not a spoonerized version of Funk ‘n’ Soul, but rather a
fork-i-fried splattle of sample-seeded techno and
occasionally live layered-on guitar. The thromb basslines
are often at odds against the other synth plinkery, so you
get a mashing mesh superimposing matter and anti-matter
generating an unstable beatspace. Thus if you like the
accidental dance music of the collapsing world, I think
this Planet Mu release is for you. In particular, “Folic
Abandon” struck a nerve or three with me. Stretched and
spliced and rewired them in fact. “Retract” works its way
to a nice kind of champion melody, with plenty of velcro
spittle speckling any Future Sound of London. No blarney
on this, just headfoonery and some beats that roll like

-Thurston Hunger

Hasegawa-Shizuo – “Songs of an Umbilical Cord ” – [Tiliqua]

Thurston Hunger   11/26/2008   12-inch, A Library

Elegant noise from Hirotomo Hasegawa and Shizuo Uchida. Two
side long explorations, the first “Sterilization Pitch”
will be lost on weaker car steros as the depth of Uchida’s
bass needs to be skull-felt to offset Hasegawa’s skitter and
scree on hichiriki (a double-reed wind instrument, kind of
like an oboe). Ritualistic embracing of space (beware
several false endings) lets one contemplate the decay of
sound. Or contemplate the emergence of the next sound?
Without the slow blooms of bass, the blurts of Hasegawa may
come across as too much like duck calls. You need the
sonic umbilical bond between them (one-string koto in
your bellybutton?) It ends with a conveyance of crows?

On the flip side “Adios” offers more dynamics, although still
driven by Shizuo plumbing the depths of bass, here he’s got
some sorta overdrive accelerator that gets throttled up and
looped, while this time Hasegawa’s mouth-blowing-mind-blown
work gets an underground tunnel of reverb. Long train
coming. An avalanche of electronics falls upon the tracks
but does not stop the original engine drone from persisting.
There comes a point where the journey threatens to implode
but a rinsing of bells and tuned glass help to pull
purification out of the chaos. Gagaku-to-cool.

-Thurston Hunger

Sequin Trails – “Slumber Beneath The Leaves ” – [Earth Angel Art]

lombard   11/25/2008   A Library, CD

Sequin Trails is the project of Oregon artist, musician, and mystic Janina Angel Bath. On this gorgeous self-release, wrapped in a gold fabric bag adorned with a stitched line of sequins; the imagery and the song titles (“Mudra,” “Incantation,” “Celestial Doors”) reveal much about what you can expect from the music. The music is infused with mysticism, folk psychedelia, and magic. Beautiful washes of sound will hypnotize you, taking you on a journey with Ms. Bath. Schooled in piano, Native American flute, and Indian classical vocal music; Janina (flutes, keyboards, vocals, percussion and bells) and Nick Bindeman (guitars, percussion, effects, viola, bells) create a lovely soundtrack for meditation, with the pleasant instrumentation and chant-like vocals.

Brotzmann/Lonberg-Holm – “Brain of The Dog In Section, The ” – [Atavistic]

lombard   11/25/2008   CD, Jazz

Jazz and improv powerhouses Peter Brotzmann (alto/tenor sax, B-flat clarinet and torogato) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics) collaborate on this energetic release. Hectic saxophone, wailing cello, bird-like tweets, and various blips and beeps punctuate the party. This is a live recording from last year (November 28, 2007) at Chicago’s Hideout. This is excellent screeching and scraping for the free jazz lover.

Punkt: Live Remixes Vol. 1 [coll] – [Jazzland]

lombard   11/25/2008   A Library, CD

Punkt is the moniker for both a team of Norwegian musicians and producers (Jan Bang and Erik Honore) and for the annual festival that they produce. A big component of the fest is live remixing, of which this album is a product. During the festival performances happen on a main stage, with live remix sessions happening in a separate room immediately following. On this album, Sidsel Endresen (voice) and Jon Hassell (trumpet) remix separate performances, joined by Bang and Honore doing live sampling and percussion.

The first two tracks are singer/composer/poet Sidsel Endresen’s live remix of a 2007 performance by Sweet Billy Pilgrim. Track One is 20 minutes in length and is the most avant-feeling of the pieces. It begins with Sidsel’s voice, which is manipulated and reworked, at times sounding like backwards utterances. Bits and pieces are understandable (“I don’t want to be alone here”) and as the track progresses, it’s at times haunting, layered, and song-like. Minimal electronic sounds and effects hover in the background throughout the piece. Track 2 is a bit prettier, beginning with spare acapella singing with almost a traditional folk feel.

On the final 2 tracks, trumpet player Jon Hassell works with Bang, Honore and Audun Kleive (percussion) to remix a 2005 performance by Merriwinkle. These are pleasant, washes of sound, yet with the trumpet they are closer to jazz in style than the other pieces. Sidsel’s vocals also make an appearance as she was a part of the original Merriwinkle performance.

Moha! – “One-way Ticket to Candyland ” – [Rune Grammofon]

Max Level   11/25/2008   12-inch, A Library

MoHa! Is a Norwegian noisemusic project by two vital young audio extremists. Anders Hana is all about making his guitar sound most un-guitarlike, using it instead to unleash a wide variety of industrial-strength noises. He is also doing something with keyboards and drum machine, but I couldn???t really tell you what it is. His partner is Morten J. Olsen, a drummer with fantastic technique who works in a savage demolition-derby style and adds glitchy computer sounds. The music is start/stop/start with each track having many changes in direction, nearly all of them noisy and violent. We get brief respites from the onslaught during the second half of A3 and the first half of B2. The final track is a quiet, ambient piece that brings us back down to earth after our wild ride.

Crystal Stilts – “Alight of Night ” – [Slumberland Records]

humana   11/24/2008   A Library, CD

Garage pop: This is music that sounds like surf with erudite lyrics by Brad Hargett (get out your dictionaries for 9). So what if those lyrics are sung in a very echoey, dark way that is faintly reminiscent of the Doors? They are thought-provoking, especially set to the strumming bass, ever-present tambourine, organ, and occasional harmonica that provide the texture for these mostly fast-paced songs. The CD ends on a nice, mellow note (11), but the standouts are the ones that make you want to dance: 2, 6, 5. PGM: 2 and 10 end at :06, 3 and 4 at :07, 6 and 9 at :05, and 8 at :10. The others end at :03.

Sallyangie, The – “Children of The Sun ” – [Earmark]

humana   11/22/2008   12-inch, A Library

British folk: In 1969, when this album was released, Sally Oldfield was 21 and her brother Mike was 16. It???s filled with enchanting tales of a different world based on knights, princes, and imagination. Renaissance and romance flavor nearly every track, and although the lyrics drip with sappiness, the sister/brother duo harmonize with each other beautifully to the accompaniment of their guitars, and other musicians add flute (which flies in and out like a bird), drums, finger cymbals, tambourine, triangle, and string arrangements of violins, viola, cello, and harpsichord. ???The Murder of the Children of San Francisco??? is a remarkable story sung by dramatic voices–the high-pitched sweetness of a child, the harsh indifference of the male, and the angry righteousness of the wife. ???Strangers??? bookends all the songs, reminding you to cut the singers some slack because they present this as a tribute to ???strangers with sunlight in their eyes.??? I admit it, I loved it. Give it a whirl.

Monkey Power Trio, The – “Spiders In The Blood Supply ” – [Pochahontas Swamp Machine]

Max Level   11/22/2008   7-inch, A Library

The missing piece of the Monkey Power puzzle! Of the band’s dozen or so recorded efforts, this 2005 release is the only one KFJC didn’t have in the library before now. And it’s a good thing we grabbed it because the band is diving fully into a raw Roky Erickson-backed-by-Crazy Horse kind of sound on this one, and the songs rock! The title track hits us with fuzz guitar and that distinctive MPT recorder, along with some unbelievable background vocals. Speaking of fuzz, check out the tale of crimefighters Fuzzy and Jenkins and how it all came together. Elsewhere, Johnny Cash buys a screwdriver at Sears which for some reason involves a lot of screaming and crashing, and on the last track somebody down by the river– there’s Crazy Horse again– threatens somebody else with death. MPT cranked their thing up a couple of notches on this record.

Kubin, Felix Und Das Mineralorchester – “”Music for Theatre and Radio Play” ” – [Dekorder]

humana   11/21/2008   12-inch, A Library

Felix Kubin is an electronic musician (organ, piano, glockenspiel, Korg synthesizer) and composed the songs on this album to go with three plays. Side A has soundtracks to ???Zufall,??? by Vladimir Nabokov, and ???Hollywood Elegien,??? by Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler. Side B has tracks that go with ???The Raft, by Xentos Fray Bentos and Regie Lukas Simonis. All provide a pleasurable listening experience, but I particularly recommend ???Hollywood??? (A7) for its really lovely sounds (kind of like a music box with each discrete note coming across and accentuated by violin). ???Am Pool??? (A11) is pretty, slow, and sedate with organ. B4 (???The New Weapon???) has energetic beats. A10 and B1 make you feel like you???re on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, while B2 and B10 are whimsically funky. B11 (???Miraculous Rescue???) hints at island lushness and the relief of paradise with only hints of the foregoing dangerous adventure in the background.

Liles, Andrew & Peron, Jean-Herve, “Fini!”, Dirter Productions, CD

ophelia necro   11/19/2008   A Library

Faust’s Jean-Herve Peron collaborates with Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound) on this playful romp of an album. This release is a fitting sister album to the Faust and Nurse With Wound collaboration Disconnected. It sounds like the two are having fun, there is an element of humor here. 14 tracks, ranging from 40 seconds to 8 minutes.?? Weird lyrics in French, English and German. A couple of tracks stand out as my favorites, most notably “The Drummer Is On Valium” which runs a little over 8 minutes. The final track “Fini” is instructions on how to make bread.

I Heart Lung – “Interoceans ” – [Asthmatic Kitty Records]

Max Level   11/18/2008   A Library, CD

Organic collages with an occasional ambient free-jazz bent, from this duo comprised of guitarist Chris Schlarb and percussionist Tom Steck. Acoustic guitars and drums figure prominently throughout these medium-length tracks, with a nice assortment of other sounds (electric guitars including pedal steel, sitar, acoustic bass, trumpet, flugelhorn, clarinets, and electronic effects) swelling and receding in drifting layers, appropriate for these ocean-themed pieces. Aaron Ximm’s subtle field recordings fit the mood perfectly. Other notable guests include Nels Cline, Kris Tiner, and Lynn Johnston. This is carefully-assembled music with quiet, meditative passages and louder moments of extreme density as well. An outstanding effort.
Note: The Asthmatic Kitty website offers eight downloadable remixes of this material and it’s insane stuff, ranging from iller-than-ill hip hop to soft techno to noisy industrial sounds.

Religious Knives – “Door, The ” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

humana   11/18/2008   A Library, CD

The insistent nature of this music reminds me of ???Go Ask Alice.??? Religious Knives is a four-piece from Brooklyn, NY whose percussion, organ, guitar, bass, and synth create sometimes quite cool, other times rather eerie, beats. Michael Bernsteinn and Maya Miller also add their voices to these tunes whose lyrics are noteworthy if esoteric. One reviewer described this music as ???emphasizing Krautrock rhythms and bright synth drones.??? Picks: 1, 4, 5. FCC: 6 (???fucking???). PGM: 5 & 6 end about :04.

Hush Arbors – “S/T ” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

humana   11/17/2008   A Library, CD

Psychedelic Folk: Keith Wood and Leon Dufficy are Hush Arbors, a Virginia band whose electric psych guitars contrast nicely with acoustic guitar strumming. Wood???s vocals bring to mind America and Neil Young. This is an interesting mix of intensely mellow music. PGM: All songs end around :05, except 5, which ends at :16, and 7 which ends at :10. Try: 7, 6, 2, 3.

Schickele, Matt – “Cities Filled with Lights ” – [Feldspar]

Thurston Hunger   11/16/2008   A Library, CD

Brooklyn singer-songer, is also in the band Beekeeper. He has a sort of eyes-closed dead-pan voice that harbors on a perpetual hum. But he can also scrape a falsetto off his tonsils. Guitar chords shoot out like a kid playing marbles. One note bumps another then another…little ripples of dissonance. A nice use of over-dubs that fills out this album, mopey drums. I really like this in a sort of Henry Cow up on blocks way, or an overcast Gastr del Sol manner, hell even Joe Jackson in sweat pants. Abject dignity. Philosophette lyrics…not his first release and it won’t be his last.

-Thurston Hunger (Dec 2001)

Big Blood & The Bleeding Hearts – “Oh Country ” – [dontrustheruin]

humana   11/16/2008   A Library, CD

Freak folk: Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella (formerly of Cerberus Shoal) join with the Bleeding Hearts (Tom Kovacevic, Micah Blue Smaldone, and Kelly Nesbitt) to bring you a CD of mostly mellow, yet sometimes eerie and disturbing songs featuring interesting lyrics (except for 3, which consists mainly of sounds of water dripping from a faucet). Mulkerin???s distinctive vocals are complemented by Kinsella???s high-pitched warbling that sometimes borders on screeching. On 7 the voices are quite pleasing (is it Kinsella or Nesbitt?). Guitar, piano, chimes, gongs, tambourines help to round out the sounds hailing from Maine. FCC: 5 (???fucked-up???); PGM: 6 & 8 end at :05. Picks: 7, 4, 5, 8, 10.

Crater – “Proceed ” – [Cycling 74]

Thurston Hunger   11/12/2008   A Library, CD

If this 2005 release is your first encounter with Nels Cline,
then first congratulations for surviving that coma…and
secondly man have you got some listening ahead of you. While
this is a project conceived by drummer Scott Amendola and
turntabler jhno (pronounced ja know), it’s hard not to see
it as a Nels showcase. Two live, long distance improvisations
from 2002 and 2001 do catch Amendola and jhno locked on the
coordinates for deep space grooves, with Nels frequent nova
bursts. Actually the second older track includes Dave MacNab
on guitar as well, I’m guessing he’s the guy doing the sort
of quick cycle spins. There’s some digitial popcorn about
15+ mins into that which might be jhno or Nels. The
seamlessness of the work is a plus, and bassists Devin Hoff
(track #1) and Todd Sickafoos (#2) help to migrate the mood
and psuedo-song sections. is MacNab the guy who adds some
clunk’n’chunk melody to #2…right around the time Amendola
becomes a hi-hat train. jhno does build some interesting
chill-out phases, but Nels teaches us again and again that
effects pedals are our friends. Single-handedly he has
restored my belief in the power of guitar solos. Sometimes
Crater (used to?) perform with video mixers, this music
lends itself to visuals. Too stirring for the bliss crowd,
but blissful for the rest of us. -Thurston Hunger

Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump [coll] – [Strut]

Thurston Hunger   11/12/2008   12-inch, International

Even though this double 12″ set starts with a cough, it is
likely good for what ails you. Side B has that happy raindrop
style highlife sound, the ever-bright guitars arpeggiating
across a smile, but there’s plenty of other ears in here.
Solid connections to reggae, above and beyond stealing a
bullet from “I Shot the Sherif” by Sir Shina Peters. Shina’s
“hyyying” should become a popular cry. Chief Checker’s
“Ire Africa” has a rasta approved bassline. Ify Jerry
Krusade and The Immortals (especially the latter) offer
tracks that garage pop fans might dig. Other moments work
noodley guitars and sweet keys that many will dig. While
the sound overall may vary, the idea of “Happy Survival”
(a track by Eddie Okwedy here) is as good a theme as
any. Perhaps not as stunning as the Nigeria 70 triple CD,
but these echoes of Eko still shine. -Thurston Hunger

Note: LP version missing 2 tracks that CD has, also
hopefully the accompanying booklet will show up.