Music Reviews

Lake, Oliver – “Passing Thru” – [Passin’ Thru Records]

Cousin Mary   3/31/2011   12-inch, Jazz

Alto sax legend Oliver Lake was part of the Black Artists Group collective and also one of the founders of the World Saxophone Quartet. This album was recorded in 1974 and is mostly solos, sounding to my ear as highly improvised in the free jazz vein. Exceptions to the solos are track 2 on Side A features popping, twangy synthesizer sounds and track 2 on Side B which adds some percussion. Lake’s tone is not sweet or mellow, a bit tart and tangy – listen a few times to learn.

Peaking Lights – “936” – [Not Not Fun]

Rocket J. Squirrel   3/30/2011   12-inch, A Library

Chillwave, electrodub, ambient … magical dub drift. Lush layers of guitar are grounded in Aaron Coyes’ homemade experimental audio “lab” . He takes apart old electronics and adds bits and pieces – some from dead appliances – to create modular electronic analog synthesizers. Indra Dunis sometimes plays drums, but it’s the spell cast by her bewitching voice she is known for. Together they weave perfume and colors into the music. You are transported to a place you’d like to stay. Luckilly, you can always go back – It just keeps getting better with every visit. The first track, “All the Sun Shines” reminds me of Beth Orton’s “She Cries Your Name,” on William Orbit’s Strange Cargo: Hinterland, but what seems repetitive at first becomes the creation of this place you have discovered -a perfect vacation. Woven for you are pure white sands, sweeping turquoise waves, and the smell of tropical fruits on exotic laden trees carried on the slightly tangy salty breezes that waft ever so gently over your skin.
The couple Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis form the musical duo originally from Wisconsin, but lived in the SF Bay Area for over a decade before recently moving to LA, and expecting their first baby. Well maybe not their first, as 936 is pretty spectacular progeny. (The CD release contains two more tracks than the vinyl version.)
Favorites: 1, 4, 6

Fern Knight – “Castings” – [Vhf]

Sir Cumference   3/29/2011   12-inch, A Library

You may judge this book by it’s cover – or record by it’s sleeve – as you would be mistakenly led to believe that this is a reissue of some folky album form decades past. Even after dropping the needle onto this mysterious slab of vinyl you would be forgiven the notion that you might be listening to some ’60s/’70s folk-psych-prog-cult-rock band, mixing the sounds of ancient Celts and the wailings of electric guitars more commonly heard in early times of Genesis or King Crimson (whose song “Epitaph” is lovingly recreated here).

Instead this delightfully moody collection of Tarot inspired songs represents the fourth album by the contemporary DC-Philadelphia area band Fern Knight entitled “Castings”. No single track can be made the highlight of this 2010 release, the majority of which were recorded in a gothic mansion in the Brandywine valley in Pennsylvania. Instead pick a track and settle in for some beautiful sounds as conspired by Margaret Ayer (nee: Wienk) and her fellow musical time travelers.

I can’t think of many KFJC shows that this would not fit into, and tracks range in length from the more pop-like to the prog-sized that can accommodate anyone’s needs.

Barranca, Andrew & Easlick, Dave – “Andrew and Dave…are Friends” – [War On Records]

Max Level   3/27/2011   7-inch, A Library

Super low-fidelity garage rock by two guys and a couple of guests. Guitar, bass, drums, sax, and vocals. Track A2 replaces the sax with accordion. The material is eccentric and the playing is pretty raggedy, but there are some catchy parts and the record will really grow on you. Sort of like early Mofungo meets the early White Stripes, and I mean that as a compliment. Great fun!

Offs, The – “Live At The Mabuhay Gardens – Nov 7 1980” – [Vampir Records]

Max Level   3/27/2011   A Library, CD

You had to see a live show by The Offs to appreciate their high-energy fusion of punk, funk, reggae, ska, R&B, and dance music. So if you missed them when they were around, here’s your chance. The late Don Vinil wasn’t much of a singer but he was a charismatic front man. Behind him, the band (especially the rhythm section) was tight and a cut above most of the other bands that played at the “Fab Mab”. If you’re familiar with The Offs, you’ll recognize many of these songs from their original vinyl releases– their 7″ cover of The Slickers’ “Johnny Too Bad”, for example, was an underground hit here in the Bay Area. The band also crashes through two Lou Reed covers as part of the encore. The Mab’s annoying master of ceremonies Dirk Dirksen baits the crowd on the first and last tracks, and at the beginning of #17. I couldn’t stand him back in the day, and I still can’t.

Simons, David – “Prismatic Hearing” – [Tzadik]

Cousin Mary   3/25/2011   A Library, CD

David Simons was a 1974 graduate of Cal Arts and composes and performs music using traditional instruments, especially non-Western such as gamelan, electronics and found sound samples. He uses a theremin as a Midi controller.

These pieces are beautiful, sometimes eerie and feature everything from slide guitar to chain saw – see back of CD for complete list. Very stylish, experimental, bizarre, with a dry sense of humor.


Pushkin, A. – “Figure, The” – [Avant Archive]

Belladonna   3/23/2011   A Library, Cassette

aka Alexey Pushkin, also goes by the name of “Analog Concept”. This is an unusual combination of raw and crunchy beats with moments of menace and of cricket hums, then techno-y beats and rounded out with lovely and melodic ambiance. There are moments of all of my favorite electronic elements, there is something for everyone which makes it excellent.

Holy Sons – “Criminal’s Return” – [Important Records]

olmec   3/23/2011   A Library, CD

Holy Sons is the solo project of Emil Amos, drummer to Grails and Om. Criminal’s Return is Amos’ seventh solo release. Within is indie rock swirled by psych and tinged with despondence. It is very mellow, perhaps to a fault, but there are moments where the music takes off and brings you with it. When performing live, Holy Sons is Emil Amos, Bill Slater, Alex Hall (Grails), and Benny Nugent (Dolorean). This sounds like both these bands combined.

Picks are:
1: Quiet indie rock meets Pink Floyd.
2: Diverse and interesting instrumental.
4: Muttered vocals and guitar noodling.
10: Stoney and bluesy.

Hood, Robert – “Internal Empire” – [Tresor]

Belladonna   3/23/2011   A Library, CD

Robert Hood was a major player in the Detroit techno scene and was a founding member of the Underground Resistance label before moving to NYC and founding M-Plant with Jeff Mills. This was released in ’94 during what some might consider to be the height of the rave era. That combined with this being a Tresor release guarantees that you will find some hard pounding beats. This has a bit of a “vintage” sound but like most techno, it stands the test of time and can still be considered fresh in the right context. Its fun, its nostalgic but most importantly it is very well crafted and has unique qualities that make this very enjoyable.

Beauclerk – “Beauclerk” – [Panpipe Records]

Cousin Mary   3/21/2011   A Library, CD

Beauclerk (bo-claire) is James Bradley who plays saxophone, but that instrument is only occasionally recognizable here. It appears that extensive distortion and looping of that sax sound in post production has created this marvelous release. Lots of variety, by turns sounding like horns, engines, tapping, organ, screeching, synthesizer and ominous scraping. Probably would be categorized as ambient, experimental noise.

Some track titles are especially apt: 1. City Ablaze sounds like engines and horns, 2. Pecking Order has tapping sounds, 8. Dance of the Stars is very spacey.

Notes: Track 9 Gegenschein (gay-gan-shine) means “counter shine” in German. In astronomy, gegenschein refers to the reflection of light from interplanetary dust.

Kent, Julia – “Green and Grey” – [Important Records]

Cousin Mary   3/21/2011   A Library, CD

New York based cellist Julia Kent combines layered tracks of solo cello with electronics and field recordings on this March 2011 release. The result is very lush and pleasant; tracks vary in intensity for a nice mix.

This is Kent’s second solo effort; her previous work was with cello-rock pioneers Rasputina and Antony and the Johnsons. On “Green and Gray”, she succeeds in her goal of combining the technological with the organic.

Reminiscent of some Icelandic groups like Amiina that incorporate a lot of strings; perfect music for a rainy day.

Bird Names – “Metabolism” – [Northern Spy]

humana   3/20/2011   A Library, CD

Feeling low and sluggish? Whip this into the CD player and let the upbeat jauntiness of David Lineal and Phelan Lavelle from Athens, GA perk you right up. Dare I say they are reminiscent of the Grateful Dead? Images of coconuts and beaches warmed by the sun are sure to kick your metabolism into gear and produce those magical endorphins that will help you face another day.

Fielded – “Lord Reigns, Let The People Tremble, The” – [Catholic Tapes]

humana   3/19/2011   A Library, Cassette

This is a weird bit of loveliness from Lindsay Powell of Chicago, whose voice, whether it be a cappella or minimally accompanied by itself and other instruments, fascinates with chants and other permutations. The last song is a cover of ???Release Me,??? and it ends quite suddenly, which I guess implies the release. 6 is a must-try, and the others are well worth a listen.

Lumerians – “Transmalinnia” – [Knitting Factory Records]

humana   3/19/2011   A Library, CD

This band from Oakland hits one out of the park with this release. I???m a sucker for shoegaze, and this fits the bill quite nicely. Some call it space rock, drone, or psyche…I just call it great. Look at the art on the CD cover and let it and the music transport you to magical, mellow places.

Woods, Peter J. – “Songs For Nothing” – [Aftermusic]

Thurston Hunger   3/17/2011   12-inch, A Library

Spectacular “noise” release on the aptly named AfterMusic label.
In the vein of Sudden Infant and Panicsville, Woods’ use of sonic
blasts of throttling blots of electronics is balanced by plenty
of breathing space, and broken musical excerpts (piano flouncing,
guitar spritz at the end of the first track, keyboards often
filtered in at other times). Something about the alternating
black and white of noise bursts and nothingness is key (just
as compelling as the black and white art work). Some modulated
Iugula Thor screamgasm on “Miles Traveled/Earth Beneath” is
contrasted with sampled strings climbing your spine. Then into
some burrowing bass and vox humana humdrone. This release has
a lot of “vocals”, not entirely dehumanized and power-electronified
ones either. “The Notion of Progress Accepted as Myth” has these
great digitally sputtered ones, “Collapse at a Distance” has a
mournful, faroff foreign lament over sad gut-string twang before
blowing off some serious steam samplage. The closing track has
these sort of war whoops run through distortion and reverb and
then battling some sort of arcade video game, and ultimately
the game wins. Like I said, spectacular in the sense that this
has so much for the ears, it overflows into your eyes. Hope to
hear more and turn more folks on to this Milwaukee squakee

-Thurston Hunger

Check out : http://experimentalmilwaukee.com/peterjwoods

Psyclones – “Different Thinking People” – [Permanent Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/17/2011   12-inch, A Library

Time warps like a bass line through a flanger. Freaky Eureka, all
stuff from 1980-85 (and all previously unreleased which is cool
since KFJC scored and still has stored a lot of the original
material). Mutato moves, drum machines click to the quirk setting,
many of the tracks are instrumentals. “Radar Rock” has a flat
footed thumpiness with sweetly fragrant guitar lines ends with
tiki electronics. Another cut feels like the Residents trying to
surf. Brian Ladd’s vocals have that teetering on the ledge of a
tall building delivery. The lyrics have a sense of oddness with
the world incomprehensible language lesson on “Basso Italiano”
“What Goes On” delivers a drive-by with reality, and a car is
more real than the person it passes through. On “In the City”
Ladd catalogs “Mirrors windows, day lights, grey bricks, plastic.”
All of these items keeping us the listener at a distance. On
“Life Hasn’t Been the Same” more alienation while the song
splits its time on a treated sports station. Fractionated
distraction. Julie Frith offers tortured vox for the tortured
folks sung through jet contrails over a Kraut rock rhythm on
“Weak As a Sheep.” My favorite is “Thought” which drops rapid
rhyme fire and includes dialog with Radic-Al. It’s got ire
and innocence mixed together, and you could dance to it if
you are careful. Ladd and Frith remain different thinking people
to this day dishing out disks on their own label, nice though to
re-taste the futility of the 80’s youth today, and know they
survived it fine. Good news for the new batch of detatched
hatchlings! Bonus points for the inner sleeve, death to the
simple white sleeves….

-Thurston Hunger

Lt. Caramel – “Method of Speech” – [Unknown Label]

cinder   3/17/2011   A Library, CD

A fancy little 3″ CD, containing 4 tracks of yes…. speech. Philippe Blanchard is Lt. Caramel. The French language is tossed around, with quirky little sound effects and noises inbetween looped, sputtered, spoken and frank words. Water, music boxes, wind, pigeons, trinkets and more.

Decanter – “Soundtrack For Space” – [None]

cinder   3/17/2011   A Library, CD

Decanter is Skot B from Phantom Limbs, Black Ice & Anal Kitties….. and this couldn’t be further than what those bands sound like! This is super mellow outer space shuttle flights. On the shorter side, but just enough to get a little probed. Some bleeps, but mostly digital sounding effects with an underbellied melody. Droney and solar systemy.

Italian Instabile Orchestra – “Totally Gone” – [Rai Trade]

WCMurphy19   3/16/2011   CD, Jazz

Italian Instabile Orchestra is an 18-piece jazz big band from Italy??? they bill themselves as avant-garde but to me they sound more orchestral. Their playing is clean and lively ??? reminds me of Zappa (it has lots and lots of itty-bitty fast little notes).

They say they are influenced by The Dead and Timothy Leary, but I don???t hear it. If you are looking for a bright sounding palate cleanser this???ll do. It???s kind of nice to hear a big band that doesn???t affect an exaggerated blues or NYC influence to fake credibility??? they???re very Euro.

Page of Wands, 2/23/11

Satoh, Masahiko & Soundbreakers – “Amalgamation” – [Phoenix Records]

WCMurphy19   3/16/2011   A Library, CD

Amalgamation is a 1970 project by Japanese jazz piano virtuoso Masahiko Satoh and the Soundbreakers, evoking the spirit of Bitches Brew, Pink Floyd and Satoh???s own ruthless use of themes from the war and post war industrial experience. The effect is more of a visual audio poem than a 1970s modern jazz-rock jam, though it advances the spirit of the times.

Track one (15:45) opens with a grumbling, spreading atomic roar over the drums of Detroit-based Louis Hayes, then the sounds of machine guns and archaic radio voice of someone declaiming in the Japanese language (the Emperor?). It relaxes into a composed horn section, then picks up again with guitarist Kimio Mizutani and Hayes throwing shadow punches at each other, and eventually turns into a thrashing Fender Rhodes solo by Satoh, and visits with the Wehnne Strings Consort along the way.

Track two (21:17) is more Bitches Brew, but at every moment you can tell the horn player, traditional Japanese instruments player, drummer and pianist are reaaaally listening to each other.

Very well composed and moving through many phases, I like this one. Your listener will not get bored; this is more an extended composition than spastic-fest.

Page of Wands, 3/16/11