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Music Reviews

Pelican – “What We All Come to Need” – [Southern Lord Recordings]

humana   1/31/2011   A Library, CD

This four-man band serves up a stew of intense shoegaze that is sometimes hypnotizing and at other times revelatory. Tracks 2, 3, and 7 are good places to start, and 8 has hazy vocals arising from the murky depths of guitars and percussion. The music goes with the rather desolate photography of the CD sleeve.

Growden, Mark – “Lose Me In The Sand” – [Porto Franco Records]

humana   1/29/2011   A Library, CD

This is a fine release steeped in Americana. Banjo-pickin???, clear-singing Growden performs here with his Tucson String Band. Fiddles, accordion, banjo, mandolin, upright bass, and acoustic guitar accompany these songs, primarily written or arranged by Growden, with the exception of a cover of a song sung by Aretha Franklin (1, with lyrics rewritten by Growden) and another of Bruce Springsteen (4). There???s not a song on here that doesn???t have some kind of down-home goodness to offer. There???s even an acoustic mashup of The Star-Spangled Banner and Mercedes Benz (10).

Duchess of Saigon – “Duchess of Saigon” – [S-S Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/27/2011   12-inch, A Library

Ah the vaults of S-S, where genius lies sleeping on crumply
cassettes. Thus this 2005 recording now out six years later,
with the two original band members sequestered in a witness
protection program or leading productive lives or who knows?
Bummer, as I think I’m in love with the drummer. She’s
rambunctious and marches to her own beat, naturally. But she’s
also prone to shouting out kind of dorky, kind of cool
background vocals. Her name is Mary. Tell her to make more
music, and you might as well say the same to guitarist
Richard Haley. He’s got a blarey tone, and often chops
off chords for percussive blows. A nice sense for garage
swagger riffs, and his vocals are the talky type with a
bemused tone, like he wonders whether he wrote the lyrics.
Kind of like the old band King Kong, a quizzical yet droll
delivery. This is a 45 rpm 12″, so hold on to your hats.
It’s jam packed with quick little nuggets, if you like one
you’ll probably like them all. And go ahead and add your
own doo woops and bum-bum-de-bum-bum background vocals as
you listen. The more the merrier, and the more Mary the
better! -Thurston Hunger

Peanut Butter Wolf – “Straight to Tape (the 4-track Years 1990-1992)” – [Stones Throw]

MSTiZA   1/26/2011   CD, Hip Hop

These recordings were made during a 3 year period when PB Wolf was living with his mom in the east foothills of San Jose. It was between 1990-1992 that PBW made these tracks with the vocals recorded straight into headphones ran through a mixer and into the 4-track. All tracks are produced by PBW but feature several emcees. There is a distinct rap style from this era. that one must be mindful of when indulging into this release. This is post Lyrical Prophecy and you hear Quiz One and Deshee on this release. Charizma makes a few appearances here and transcends the style he was to become known for, as these tracks are a bit rougher. Or maybe it’s just that this whole release is a bit rougher. In the east coast New Jack swing was the style of the moment that was making it’s way to the west. You can hear that on Quiz One’s & Charizma’s tracks. There is a bit of early gangster rap styles on N.O.T.U.’s tracks. Peace Maker has a ragga style that also came to the forefront in the early 90s rap scene. PB Wolf made beats from samples and loops and he details this in the liner notes. That said, PBW didn’t remix or taint these tracks for this release. There is a trajectory that PB Wolf and all west coast hip hop is affected by after these recordings. In 1993, Charizma was murdered while stopped at a light in East Palo Alto. Shortly after, PB Wolf started Stones Throw and put out “My World Premier” honoring Charizma. After Charizma’s passing, PB Wolf had no intention of working with any other emcees. Consider this an archive of an era that had little national attention and spawned the direction of what was to become of Peanut Butter Wolf.

P.S. The sleeve features a picture of a handful of emcees alongside PB Wolf circa 1995, none of whom are featured on the disc, but all of which I have ID’d for yalls.

LANG:4, 9, 12, 13

Rakaa – “Crown of Thorns” – [Decon]

MSTiZA   1/26/2011   CD, Hip Hop

Rakaa (Taylor) aka Iriscience is one third of Dilated Peoples. This is his debut solo album. Although this is his debut solo attempt, it is full of guest producers and vocalists. The tracks themes and styles are equally diverse yet cohesive. Rakaa is not only an emcee, but a graff artist and advertising student. He shows his roots sharing the mic with Hip Hop’s finest. He keeps his cadence solid and forceful, “calling it how he sees it”. He shows his roots sharing the mic with Hip Hop’s finest. He keeps his cadence solid and forceful, “calling it how he sees it”. He touches on subjects like big business, love, survival, art, & hip hop subculture.

Producers include King Jahzzy[2], Evidence[3], Exile[4], DJ Babu[5,8], Oh No[6], DJ Honda [7], Eric Bobo & DJ Rhettmatic [10], the Alchemist [11,13], El-P [12]. Vocal guests include Aloe Blacc [1], Mad Lion[2], KRS-One [4], Krondon [8], Noelle Scaggs [10], Evidence, Fshawn, & Defari [11], Chali 2na[12], and a whole lineup of players on track 7.

Lang 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11

Congos, The – “Feast” – [Kingston Sounds]

aarbor   1/26/2011   12-inch, Reggae

The Congos are best known for their masterpiece Heart Of The Congos, which they recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry in 1977. Since the release of that collection they have put out very few albums, most of them lacking the brilliance, the beauty and the quality of the debut set. Despite using the name The Congos these albums weren’t recorded by the original trio Watty Burnett, Roydel Johnson (a/k/a Congo Ashanti Roy) and Cedric Myton, but rather solo efforts from the latter.

Their 2006 album called Cock Mouth Kill Cock — which is a Jamaican proverb that essentially means: “watch what you say, it could be your undoing was released in Europe as FEAST it contains the fruits of sessions conducted between Cedric Myton and vintage producer Bunny “Striker” Lee. These are new songs voiced by Cedric “Congo” Myton over original recordings of classic reggae riddims from the seventies and early eighties, like Johnny Clarke’s “Crazy Baldhead”, “Satta Massa Ganna”, the original “Stalag”, Alton Ellis’ “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” and others. This set recalls the spirit captured by the Heart Of The Congos set. Vocally Cedric Myton is joined by the late Brent Dowe (a member of the Melodians) for a powerful set of harmonized vocal statements with a strong Rasta message. Cedric Myton’s inimitable falsetto shines bright. This is classic roots reggae with an impressive all star lineup of backing musicians. AArbor

Mueller, Jon – “Whole, The” – [Type Recordings]

Max Level   1/25/2011   A Library, CD

Percussion-based music bursting with life. Track 1 is a simple descending scale played on hammered dulcimer, with ominous rumbling sounds reminding us that there is more than one layer to the world. Tracks 2 and 3 are long, relentless deluges of rhythmic percussion and chanted vocals– intense mantras focusing our attention only on the here and now. Track 4 sums up in a way all that we have been through, bringing us home again by way of another descending scale on hammered dulcimer combined with subtle, varied percussion. If I had to guess, I would say that Mueller’s artistic priorities include systems of order, purity of design, the beauty of patterns, and the strength of simplicity. Much respect.

Nyabole [coll] – [Wergo]

humana   1/23/2011   CD, International

This is one of those releases that requires you to read the liner notes as you listen to the songs so that you can fully understand their significance. The photos and diagrams illustrate beautifully the culture of the Hamar of Southern Ethiopia, captured from 1970-76. This lesson in ethnomusicology is not to be missed, so sit back and listen to the musical bow, lyre, flute, and voices as they sing and tell stories of dances, ancestors, and war.

Kadet – “Seismic” – [Tektonic Shift]

Thurston Hunger   1/23/2011   A Library, CD

Kadet Kuhne strafed the KFJC pit last July, and air-dropped
this release from 2001. For an “electronic” album, this has
got a lot of organic texture, nothing is too round, no curve
too well mapped. She’s done work with art installations and
it shows why here, her pieces have a lot of space in them,
and rather than ride a groove into metranome mantra, she
seems more focused on a trip covering territory. “Insert”
has these static discharges into silence at the start, but
works its way through a backdoor to isolationist dub styles.
“Paradigm” is some sort of alien health monitor (tricorder?)
that picks up crosstalk from dead astronauts. “Solipsism”
is not really techno, but has a Basic Channel kind of
ghost. That sort of driving in tunnels after dark ride.
Usually on here rhythm is confined to small cells. “Ursula”
is a broken sprinkler that has that Artificial Intelligence
comp flavor. “Metathought” plugs into music concrete, “Seconds”
bursts till it hurts. One unifying facet here might be waves
clipped to the point of squelch changing to static. Or loose
wires for taut tots.

– Thurston Hunger

Wovenhand – “Threshingfloor, The” – [Sounds Familyre]

Thurston Hunger   1/23/2011   A Library, CD

The burnished baritone, the minor key shadows, to me it seems as though
David Eugene Edwards is working in the same woods as M. Gira these
days. Thus the cross on Edwards’ back may be hewn of mahogany, the dark
polish shines brightest on the production of this Threshingfloor.
His voice already full of throat, is often multi-tracked to stack up
the gravitas. If this is evangelical rock, I expect Jesus to come
forth with charcoal under his eyes, his old crown of thorns wrapped
now around his knuckles and issuing the sort of war whoops found on
this album. Edwards’ message might be if you can’t stand the heat,
steer clear of the Threshingfloor. The anger here seems to be
barely tempered, so despite sweeping cello, flocks of flute on
“Terre Haute”, even a New Order cover, at the heart of this album
it the fire in Edwards’ soul that persists. That and the ringing twelve
strings of an acoustic apocalypse. Oh well, even after Ezekiel’s
wheel leaves me and the rest of the chaff in the aftermath, I’ll
still dig the all too short slow-mo keyboard instro “Wheatstraw”

-Thurston Hunger

Pentecostes Vibrations : Spanish Xian Garage Psych & Beyond [coll] – [Hundergrum]

Thurston Hunger   1/23/2011   12-inch, International

Okay, so 13 tracks of Christian rock, which artist is going to be the
Judas? Hmmmm, we’ll get back to that, first the story on this is that
Hundergrummers in their digging up the “Andergraun” of Spanish sonic
soil from the 60’s/70’s noticed a thread developing in some of the
less overpowering items. A certain omnipresence if you well, you know
the X in Xian. Dios tuyo, pero no mio. Another unifying thread might
be that the vocals are a little more scrubbed/refined than you might
find in other psychedealings. The Spanish scene works in some horn
charts, on Los Mil-lers and Los Cirros. Units here are lead by a
dewey-eyed femme that earth folkers still will worship to this day.
Keyboards/organs appear, never the full-on church full-stop organ,
but meandering lines on that Los Mil-lers track and wobbly, warbly
ones on Enarat. Bremen’s “Mundo de Hoy” has a hint of power-pop
twinkle that comes out of its bassy bopping beginning. There’s a
tidiness, not necessarily sanctity, that restrains this, but it’s
a nice sonic capsule of one element of Spain post Vatican II. If
not in the garage, maybe in the rec room behind the igleisa?
Little oral blurbs “Spiritus Sancti” start each side and end
the second (stronger in my opinion) side.

-El Hombre del Hambre.

PS Not sure how much Pablo y Richard (note: not Ricardo) were paid, maybe 30 pieces of silver?

Madeira, The – “Carpe Noctem” – [Double Crown Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/23/2011   A Library, CD

Great glassy instrumentals, a surf of sand polished up with plenty of
room for reflection in the reverb and the beauty of the melodies. Ivan
Pongracic (formerly of the Space Cossacks) is the lead guitarist, he
just has fine chops, tantalizing timing on sustained notes, and a fondness
for deep baritone work. But his melodic sense is what makes this album
really crest above a lot of other furious talents that lack his verve.
And Pongracic’s sonic sources for inspiration appear as varied as his
technique, as I suspect “Hamsa” is a trip of the hat to Hamza el Din,
and they give some “Reidar” love to Scandinavian surf on “El Flaco”
which has some of that stellar baritone over a western gallop. Second
guitarist Patrick O’Connor contributes some of the more driving
compositions to this release, the Madeira’s third (from 2008). Also
check the cover of the Atlantics’ “SOS” with rumble-bump section in
the middle and then these high pings bopping in and out. A lot of
originality, style and detail on display. Great any time, noctem or diem.

-Thurston Hunger

Roberts, Luke – “Big Bells and Dime Songs” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

humana   1/20/2011   A Library, CD

Luke Roberts penned these simple folk songs that are set primarily to acoustic guitar, sometimes along with piano and drums. His voice is honest as it sings homespun lyrics (see insert for the words to most of the songs). You need to focus on the lyrics to get through what sometimes seems plodding repetition, but 2 and 5 are refreshingly upbeat and show off Roberts??? ability to master his guitar.

Moon Duo – “Escape” – [Woodsist]

humana   1/20/2011   12-inch, A Library

The duo of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali gave Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips and Sanae Yamada the spur they needed to form Moon Duo. Filled with music that makes you move, this EP has great guitar and keys with hazy vocals filtering through. Side A is more psychedelic and driving, while Side B is more rhythmic and rocking, though the length of the tracks still allows for trancey elements. This is right in the KFJC sound zone, so play it!

Psychedelic Aliens, The – “Psycho African Beat” – [Soundway Records]

MSTiZA   1/19/2011   CD, International

This Academy release is bound to please fans of blues, funk, and garage. It’s less psychadelic but to the Lebanese and Ghanian’s that made up the band and the time they emerged, it was this era of music that impacted their sound and success. In Accra, Ghana; they played with visiting bands and solo gigs as often as they could. They shared bills with big players, but early in their it was the Heartbeats who would change their path when they shared their equipment with the band. The Psychadelic Aliens began to purchase their amps and PA from touring bands whose contracts had ended and this is how they acquired their Vox Continental organ which you hear throughout this release. The booklet enlightens you to the depth of this equipment endeavor (fuzz and wah wah pedals) as well as their influences. Tracks 2 & 8 are instrumental, and track 3 is heavily influenced by Jimmy Hendrix vox. Enjoy this one with a bit of nostalgia for the times and you will not be let down.

Fat Worm of Error – “Broods” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

MSTiZA   1/19/2011   12-inch, A Library

What else would you expect from the instrumentalists who are Fat Worm of Error? Compost? Compositions, more likely. On ‘Broods’, FWoE work with additional players including Bhob Rainey (Nmperign) on soprano saxaphone , Jeremy Starpoli on trombone, Victore Signore on tenor sax, and Peter Bonos on Trumpet. Tracks are free and disjointed, like getting your shoulder dislocated by the bully who was doing you a favor, he could have punched your lights out. It will hurt, you may hear shrieks, black out and wake up to the angelic chants & the clanging of what you thought was pots and pans, but alas is simply FWoE and your shoulder is still attached. Bass, guitar, and drums fence in this zoo of roaming horns, samples, and sounds-which includes affected vocals thrown about. Things may be crawling and climbing along when suddenly the ground shifts and shards of glass rain down. Be warned, Fat Worm of Error will entice those who like the minimal with the unbearable.

Architects + Heroes Sampler Vol.1 [coll] – [Architects + Heroes]

MSTiZA   1/19/2011   A Library, CD

Architects + Heroes is a label & collective comprised of like minded musicians, producers, and sound artists based in CA. DJ Stephen R[uiz], William Rosario , & H.A. Eugene play many roles in this project. DJ Stephen R is part of the duo Zygote (not to be confused with the UK crust-punk or Czech noise-ambient oufits of the same name) and the Summer of Flux. Ruiz hails from the post bubble pop (internet and music) era of SF electronic music producers & DJs. Burbank International & Business 80 is SF’s H.A. Eugene of the Electronic/DJ group, the Luxury Tax. Burbank Int’l has recently garnered some attention locally for his full length release, City of Burbank. Another main player is William Rosario aka Asymmetrical Head (IDM, ambient, electronic) and Quiliuq (his techno house project). The pairing of the singer-songwriter elements of Eugene complements Ruiz and Rosario’s electronic based production, producing a languid collection complete with lush ambiance. In my opinion, too many artists, when merging genres (electronic, neo/electro folk, ambient, IDM) have fallen short with under produced-over production or macro minimalism; ultimately leaving my ears in want of more. In this case the A+H collective have a cross genre cohesion within the individual projects and the sampler as a whole.

Lord Jeff – “Lord Jeff” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

humana   1/18/2011   A Library, Cassette

Try not to hold it against this band from Northampton, MA that they???re named after a general who allegedly gave smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans during the French and Indian War. Instead focus on their music, which is well worth listening to for its clever lyrics, vocals that sound like John Lennon, and fine psychedelic guitar, bass, and drums (10 has a great drum solo). Start with 3 and then move to 7 and 9. You won???t be disappointed.

School Me! Volume One 1968-1975 [coll] – [Stage Band Research]

Cousin Mary   1/14/2011   12-inch, Soul

The subtitle “High School and Collegiate Jazz, Funk, Soul and Psychedelia” sums it up, although to my ear the strongest leaning is toward funk. Not sure who is involved, but they obviously have been scavenging for recordings of high school bands from this period of time and have pulled out some gems. While some tracks have that obvious high school big ensemble sound, quite a few are stand outs including a stunning vocal on Side Four Track 1 for Compared to What and some nice guitar on Side Four Track 2.

Intro (Side One Track 1) and Outro (Side Four Track 4) put us back in the right setting with the teacher’s shouted directions in the noisy high school gym.