Music Reviews

Mihaly’s, Dave Shimmering Leaves Ensemble – “Eastern Accents In The Far West” – [Porto Franco Records]

Cousin Mary   8/31/2010   CD, Jazz

San Francisco percussionist Dave Mihaly is joined by brass and sax on these gentle tracks that takes melody and edges it into experimental territory in a rather original way. Haunting and tuneful for improvised music.

Slow to mid tempo, should work well to cool things down after a high energy radio set. Spoken vocals as intro on track 9, otherwise all instrumental.

Block, Olivia & Bruckman, Kyle – “Teem” – [and/OAR]

Cousin Mary   8/31/2010   A Library, CD

Block and Bruckman collaborated and collected recordings for several years resulting in this 4-track release. Noteworthy for the very skillful merging of field recordings and musical instruments. Varies from high pitched and painful to soothing and minimal. Sounds are disguised, but might be from trains, animals scratching, squeaky swings in an empty playground, ocean surf, industrial noises.

More info here: http://www.and-oar.org/pop_either_4.html

PGM: Wide dynamic range, watch sound levels.

Lil B – “Rain In England” – [Weird Forest Records]

humana   8/29/2010   CD, Hip Hop

I know nothing about hip hop/rap, but the thing that kept me listening to this CD is interest in the stories this Berkeley rapper has to tell. Yes, he???s egocentric, but he???s also got a unique perspective on the life he???s lived (all 21 years of it). Anyone with a healthy respect for women (6) and the earth (7) is worth a listen. The tracks work best when Lil B talks over minimal keys (occasionally he ventures into singing). Do as he tells you in Track 1 and ???just breathe.???

Unheard Ofs & Forgotten Abouts [coll] – [Tompkins Square]

humana   8/27/2010   CD, International

This compilation seems to have been made with Art Crimes??? Temporary Village and Old Weird America show in mind. Culled from the 78 rpm record collection of Frank Fairfield, these songs originate from as far afield as Indonesia, Japan, Scotland, Africa, and France to various American territories, and the time span covered is just as broad. There???s even a recorded sermon on Track 16. Read the fascinating liner notes for a history of each song, and enjoy!

Alpine, Frank – “Frank Alpine Keyboard Cassette” – [Self Release]

humana   8/27/2010   A Library, CD

Rich T. Moreno is Frank Alpine, the composer and producer of the spooky synth tracks on this CD, which were originally recorded on cassette in 2000. Tracks 9-20 are ???Bedtime stories for the mute,??? starting off with the sounds of machinery (washing machines?) and leading into more melodic, eerie pieces that keep the whirring theme from the machine. Tracks 5 and 8 are more accessible. This minimalistic weirdness is right up KFJC???s alley.

Marclay, Christian – “Graffiti Composition” – [Dog w/a Bone]

Max Level   8/26/2010   A Library, CD

Collaboration between vinyl abuser Christian Marclay, musical director Elliott Sharp, and a small ensemble of NY’s coolest avant-garde electric guitarists. The concept: Marclay posted thousands of pages of blank sheet music all over Berlin, for people to write on/draw on/ vandalize. He then retrieved them and used a selection of them to create a musical score (hence the title “Graffiti Composition” and the CD coming out under Marclay’s name.) Sharp plays his custom guitarbass and guides the other players Lee Ranaldo, Mary Halvorson, Vernon Reid, and Melvin Gibbs, through the piece. The unusual sheet music is interpreted with squiggles, flurries, and roars. Awesome job by all concerned. Recorded live at NY’s MOMA in 2006.

Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul From Miami, Florida 1967-1974 [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records]

lombard   8/24/2010   12-inch, Soul

After a San Francisco summer full of foggy 50 degree days, the sun emerged today and the city is baking in 95 degree heat. Could there be a more perfect soundtrack for this change in the weather than this collection of retro funk and soul circa 1967 to 1974. Miami Sound: Rare Funk and Soul from Miami, Florida 1967-1974 was released on Soul Jazz back in 2003, this double LP collection sizzles with funky guys and gals (Helene Smith kills it with her commentary on manhood and womanhood in her tracks “You Got to Be a Man” and “A Woman Will Do Wrong”). Drama, disco, funk, soul, sex, and love gone good and bad.

Moonhearts – “Moonhearts” – [Tic Tac Totally]

lombard   8/24/2010   A Library, CD

On their brand new 2010 debut full-length, the California-based Moonhearts (they used tto be called “Charlie and the Moonhearts”) deliver delightful garagy, lo-fi rock, with a twinge of surf (especially on “Deathstar”). Recorded in San Francisco by Eric Bauer and Ty Segall, it’s fuzzy fun for a generation raised with MP3s and ear buds or for an older generation nostalgic for transistor and AM radio.

Davis, Betty – “Betty Davis” – [Light in the Attic]

humana   8/20/2010   CD, Soul

This is one sexy CD. Read the extensive liner notes to fully appreciate how this songwriter/singer/model was much more than just Miles Davis??? second wife. Her voice may be scratchy and unrefined, but it is true to the music she makes, and she is savvy about arranging the music her all-star musicians play. Funk defines this music, but an open enjoyment of everything sexual propels it (maybe they go hand in hand).

Sissy Spacek – “Glass” – [Misanthropic Agenda]

cinder   8/18/2010   A Library, CD

The live lineup of Sissy Spacek includes Jesse Jackson, John Wiese and Corydon Ronnau. Two long tracks on this 2008 release. Both live, one in LA and one up here in San Francisco. The title is very appropriate to this, as both tracks sound as if someone attached a mic to a recycling trash can. Smashing, thrashing, clinking and pure destruction of glass, bottles and anything fragile. The shattering of glass is a unique sound, can often be beautiful on its own, so adding in the jet engine electronics along with it creates a real treat. Mildly harsh. Limited edition of 300 copies.

Pulse Emitter – “Cosmic Images” – [Expansive]

cinder   8/18/2010   A Library, CD

Daryl Groetsch is the man behind Pulse Emitter, hailing from Portland. Pulse Emitter definitely makes my favorite type of outer space electronic ambience. Twinkling stars, pulsing strobes and galaxy broadening drones. This release he seems to play a lot with the synth, sometimes getting a little on the new agey side, but never quite there, making it totally listenable. I could space out to this while gazing at the stars, for sure. Love when he drops in the ‘Logans Run’ sounding icicle trickling sound (track 2) and the “computer of the future” sounds (track 3). Outer space comet rides.

Gnome & Spybey – “At Willie’s Place” – [Tourette]

cinder   8/18/2010   A Library, CD

Gnome & Spybey is a duo of Tony D’Oporto and Mark Spybey, from Texas & England. Very mellow, electronic ambience with a touch of reflection. Some have soft male vocals, almost on the line of My Bloody Valentine-ish, but most are instrumental. Laptop musicians. This is excellent early morning fog music, to gaze out the window at the fluttering butterflies. Chirping birds, wavering tones, fluttering “flute” sounds, ethnic vibes, and humble buzzes. Very atmospheric!

Big Blood – “Dead Songs” – [Time-Lag Records]

ophelia necro   8/18/2010   12-inch, A Library

This is the first full length album from the project Big Blood. The duo is out of South Portland, Maine and are involved with the projects Cerberus Shoal, Threads and Fire on Fire. The duo of Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella had a baby together, left Cerberus Shoal and Big Blood was born. This album is called Dead Songs. When I first put it on my boyfriend said that it made him want to kill himself and he works at a funeral home. He made the observation without seeing the cover, knowing the name of the album or song titles (Curtain Call, Lay Your Head on the Rails, etc.) Undeniably, the melancholy on this release is palpable, but it is also hauntingly beautiful. Colleen’s vocals have been compared to the likes of Coco-Rosie and Joanna Newsome but although high pitched I find her vocals less grating. Occasionally Caleb also comes in with vocals which at times seem like he is channeling Neil Young. Freak folk, fuzzed-up garage folk anthems, psychedelia with a country tinge. Accordion on Curtain Call. Also worth mentioning is the packaging a gorgeous full color 60s style gatefold cover with clear varnish overprinting, large offset printed vellum insert, full color art labels, etc. pressed on the highest quality 180gm virgin vinyl. Pressed in a limited edition of 700 copies.

Clarinet Thing – “Cry, Want” – [Bc Records]

Cousin Mary   8/18/2010   CD, Jazz

Sheldon Brown, Ben Goldberg, Harvey Wainapel, Beth Custer (left to right in the stereo spectrum) play a wide range of clarinets in this virtuoso quartet. Music with a difference, Beth Custer’s unique take on the instrument and on jazz itself comes shining through.

Very lush polyphony – gorgeous tones, unique interactions.

Space Rangers, The – “Ready to Take Off” – [Kamikaze Records]

Cousin Mary   8/18/2010   A Library, CD

The Space Rangers are from Ulm, Germany and were the big buzz band at the Surf Guitar 101 Convention in 2010, both for their terrific music and their fun stage presence.?? This CD does not disappoint, some tracks lean toward rock or even Spaghetti Western or Spy soundtracks but most are excellent surf. ?? Addition of organ to bass/guitar/percussion produces a solid wall of sound – try Track 1 for a fine example.

Fun facts:?? Ulm was the birthplace of Albert Einstein and is situated on the river Danube.

Cheer-Accident – “Fear Draws Misfortune” – [Cuneiform]

Max Level   8/17/2010   A Library, CD

As they approach their 30th anniversary, it’s nice to see that this Chicago band remains as baffling and confounding as ever. And good. Their sound is dense, tense, and often dissonant; a sort of jazzy prog-rock that reminds me somewhat of Henry Cow, if HC had been less good-natured. The two or three guys currently comprising the band -there have been more than a few personnel changes over the years- play a whole raft of instruments among them, and this time they bring along a large roster of guests on horns, woodwinds, violin, cello, and vocals. Expect a big bold sound, with unpredictable changes in musical direction, ambitious arrangements, and really good musicianship.

Miss Massive Snowflake – “Miss Massive Snowflake” – [North Pole Records]

Max Level   8/17/2010   A Library, CD

An out-of-print gem from 2006, on a little 3-inch CD. Three unpretentious songs about family, lovers, and animals by Portland’s Shane de Leon, who has got to be one of the most down-to-earth singer/ songwriters you’re likely to hear. Nylon-string guitar and vocals appear on every song, with Shane and collaborator Kathrine Siefert adding other instruments (keyboards, horns, bass, percussion, electric stuff) to round out the sound. Heartfelt and nice.

Carlos, Wendy (Walter) – “Switched-on Bach II” – [CBS Records /Columbia]

Cousin Mary   8/16/2010   12-inch, A Library

“SOB-II” is a 1974 sequel to “SOB”, the 1968 release of historic significance in the annals of electronic music. According to Wendy Carlos’s website, using the Electone E-5 organ allowed her to add polyphony lacking in the Moog synthesizer at the time. I would guess that in 1974 there was still a lot of tweaking required to produce this quality of sound.

Some of the tracks (for example, the 2-part inventions) sound rather wooden and a bit lacking in articulation and dynamics – perhaps that was just Carlos’ choice of interpretation. Other tracks are quite lovely – the Brandenburg #5 is remarkable in its distinctive sounds for different instruments and a rich sound for synthesizing an orchestral work.

Interesting liner notes from Robert Moog primarily pertain to the first SOB release. KFJC’s copy is the vinyl release from the 1970’s, not the CD with cleaned up audio released in 2002.