Music Reviews

Musique Fragile [coll] – [Constellation]

Max Level   7/31/2012   12-inch, A Library

A wonderful, beautiful, ambitious release from Constellation. Actually three separate releases by three different artists compiled in one box set. The music is cool and interesting, and the sleeves and goodies (posters, art cards, etc) are all gorgeously screen-printed. Volume 1 in a series and I hope the subsequent releases are as nice as this one.

Disc One: Les Momies De Palerme – “Brulez Ce Couer”
Floating female vocals and somber atmospheres. Xarah Dion and Marie Davidson play Casios, Moogs, Farfisas, harmonium, etc. A3 and B5 are the only tracks with beats.

Disc Two: Khora – “Silent Your Body is Endless”
Matthew Ramolo plays what sounds like keyboards, bells, and stringed instruments. The pieces fall somewhere between drones and loops. Lots of filigree and tinkling stuff. The last track builds up to a multi-layered guitar crescendo that sounds like a noisier Mike Oldfield.

Disc Three: Nick Kuepfer – “Avestruz”
This is the most active and rhythmic of the three discs. Many short tracks, so there’s always something new. Repeating patterns of guitar and accordion and maybe some bowed instruments. Samples and field recordings are used too. Recordings made on 4-track cassette, dictaphone, and laptop. Final track is a live guitar/vocal performance by somebody who isn’t Nick Kuepfer, complete with psychotic birds whistling.

Note: An LP and a CD version of each release is included in the package.


Watusi Zombie – “Buddha Mask Experience” – [Captain Trip]

fatsterminal   7/31/2012   A Library, CD

Extra crunchy psych punk on this 2005 release from the nation famous for its politeness and small cars (japan). Most tracks are fairly up-tempo with heavy blues influence. Some tracks more punkish/hardcore than others (6,3). All lyrics are in japanese (maybe not track 2, not sure). Cannot recomend enough, hope this gets plenty of airtime.

Titan – “Titan” – [Paradigms Recordings]

surferrosa   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

Titan is a four piece project from Brooklyn, NY, specializing in massive jams. So why are all the song titles in German? Probably because these guys worship the lords of Kraut rock . This is some straight psychedelia from outer space, complete with a perpetual synth drone and plenty of laser gun sounds (which are kinda cheesy sometimes..). The synthesizer totally dominates here, making for a shimmering, oscillating, bubbling sort of soundscape. Combined with an abundance of face melting guitar solos and driving beats, this makes for an otherworldly,involuntarily meditative sonic experience. Its all about the build up here. 4 minutes of drone ease into track 1 which is an epic psych-journey, delivering about 18 minutes of sticky jam. track 2 (my personal pick) is a stellar freak out. Track 3 starts with almost 5 minutes of drone and brings some extra bloopy synth-scapes to the party. Dig it. -Surfer Rosa

Zinn, Howard – “a People’s History of The United States” – [Ak Press Audio]

abacus   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

AK Press brings us some more agit-prop from influential historian and activist Howard Zinn. This is a lecture he did at Reed College in 1995 to coincide with the publishing of his book The People’s History of the United States.??Here he talks about his position in the profession of history and how he came to adopt the radical perspectives he espouses. The tone is very conversational, with not too much proselytizing and a lot of humorous interjections and comparisons. The first section of the lecture focuses on the profession of history and historiography, critiquing the cult of objectivity that infects academic historians and challenging mainstream historical perspectives. The real meat of this lecture starts off at the end of disc 1 and leads into disc 2 where he talks about his exploration of labor history and involvement in the civil rights movement and the effect this had on his point of view. With this framing he leads us into a discussion of the dynamics and potentials for social change through education and freedom of information. The importance of revealing the history of anti-systemic struggles becomes a source of inspiration for those discontented by the state of our union and seeking models for future transformations.

Apogee Sound Club – “Belligerent” – [Fullyintercoastal Records]

abacus   7/25/2012   7-inch, A Library

Angry, disjointed scrap rock with a strong political focus from this SF trio. While this has a distinct punk sound, they reject this term, opting for a more open ended, anti-authoritarian ideology of underground sonic energy. Side A contains the hits, with muddy guitar-bass interplay that is persistently gritty without losing its groove assisted by some consistently dazzling fill-work by drums. The second track is a rollicking instrumental with guitar and drums locked-on and an almost bluesy sound amidst the mania. The B side starts with another kicker that throws some tweaked surf swells in between verses and ends with a slowed-down story time anthem about getting your ass kicked by friendly neighborhood peace officers. Check out the agit-prop included along with the sing-along comic book. Awesome debut release from these rising stars of the SF underground!

Usual – “Fake” – [Leaving Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/25/2012   12-inch, Hip Hop

I’ll have the Usual, and by that I mean the foggy windows
and the mystery meat of the MC hidden in shadows.
Single-sided 12″ but the song splits into two, the
first part a hyper-abstract self-exam over keyboards
that are oozing sweat, and a slugged out drum kit.
Halfway through the ride the MC has a “Panic” attack
and the story shifts to a crime scene. Might be in
Illadelphia, might be in Detroit, either way familiar
streets and grooves of the gangsta. The drums pick up
perkier on that latter half, but it’s the dirty rub
of the analog synth that give this single, from
MatthewDavid’s Leaving Records label, the sting that
lingers. We all choose the ruse with no excuse…
So what’s Fake…

-Thurston Hunger

Gangrene – “Odditorium” – [Decon Records]

surferrosa   7/25/2012   12-inch, Hip Hop

The Alchemist and Oh-No team up once again to deliver the beats, scratches and psychedelia. The hip hop here has a dark, warped sort of air to it. It wiggles, wobbles, convulses and foams at the mouth. Samplage is heavy and often times bizarre, echoing of fuzz guitar and drug use. This record is saturated with odd sounds and all sorts of static, which makes this listen surprisingly noisy. Check B2 for frog sounds. Rhymes are divine, strung together artfully, bringing home the clever and often speaking of food and other substances. The loops here are infectious, maddeningly repetitious and certainly something to bounce to. Gangrene slathers their art with a thick layer of grit and grime, producing a truly eccentric sound like no other. -Surfer Rosa

Exusamwa – “Phase IV” – [100% Breakfast]

abacus   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

Venture into the depths of this labyrinthine anthill where the insect armies prepare for invasion. These ants mean business with their rip-roaring post punk assault complete with raw, relentless riffage, tiny, pipsqueak voices, and plenty of searing feedback from the cricket section. There are lulls between the ceaseless cockroach moshpit; the first two phases??are brief soundclip interludes; also, on track 10 we get a nice little ladybug lullaby and track 15 gives us some space pop with demento vocals crawling into our aural cavities beckoning our communication. With 15 tracks in 20 minutes this moves quick and tracks all the way through so you could play tracks individually (with appropriate fading in/out) or play the whole thing as one big anthropod opera. Beware the rise of the bugs….PHASE IV NOW!!!

Man’s Best Friend – “New Human Is Legal, The” – [Morr Music]

Dianthus   7/25/2012   12-inch, Hip Hop


An essential item for any Anticon fan, “Man’s Best Friend” is the solo project created by frontman Sole. Produced and arranged by the man himself, this hip-hop gem not only brings lyrically planned out attacks against the government and authority, but also some interestingly obscure background beats. Experimentally crunchy and goth-hoppy, jelly-cloaked sounds serve as ambiance to Sole’s hoarse voice and gut wrenchingly truthful raps on tracks like “Little Bank Anthem” and The Devil’s a Traveling Man”. A light and happy launching pad for such fierce spoken words are aided by soul & funk hooks on tracks”Idol Victim” and “Ode to Clean Air. “Numb” and “Attack Russia”bring the electronic oscillators to Sole’s politically charged discussions about life and warfare as only he can explain best. Some of the tracks can be a bit fuzzy and does sometimes overshadow the rhymes, but overall a fulfilling record to reflext on the 2003-2004 unsteady world climate and a sarcastcally, brutal freestyle that makes Sole one of the best underground rappers around.


Leroux, Sylvain – “Quatuor Creole” – [Engine Studios]

Thurston Hunger   7/25/2012   CD, Jazz

A Quebecois and his quartet…operating in a jazz space neighboring Kahil El’Zabar’s rituals and rhythms. As El’Zabar often had the mighty Malachi Favors, Leroux often rests his composition on the sturdy backbone of Matt Pavolka’s bass. Check out his playing on “Notis” balanced by smooth conga shuffling by Sergo Decius. Leroux is an interesting cat, drawing inspiration from Thelonoius (“Monk in Paradise”) and the Fulani people of West Africa. Evidently Leroux went to Gambia and studied the Fule. That flute adds a hint of raspiness to this album, check out “La Message” where Leroux also gasps out falsetto phrases between the notes. Excellent! Other highlights are the opening and closing tracks where Leroux works a strung-gourd called the Dozon Ngoni getting a great buzz and bounce that the band amplifies. They create a feeling of buoyant clairvoyance. Tellingly, on those tracks Karl Berger bypasses the piano to tinkle in vibes. “Fantancolo” offers similar serenity. “Fantaisie Creole” is an old school “mash-up” not mp3 melding, but the quartet taking two recipes stirred into one gumbo. It is the one track cracking 10 minutes, and clearly has the most evolution going on it. KFJC often hits a lot of “exorcist jazz” (and I dig the fire music) but this release is all about the cool. Pace, playing and instrumentation flow gentle as a river in the afternoon sun. Thurston Hunger

Post-Materialists – “Love” – [Eggy]

Thurston Hunger   7/25/2012   A Library, Cassette

For me it all started by hunting for Russian masters of experimental sounds and came across the Post-Materialists’ inverted Velvet Underground cover post-mat.bandcamp.com/track/venus-in-furs-long-yellow a few more clicks brought me back to good ol’ Eggy?? cassettes. This release moves to the beat of a laughing clock, time is slippery and the vocals even slipperier. Backwards guitar (#2,#6) waltzes into frame, percussion feels hand-made and hand-dropped at times. Check out “Think” with its empty tank clank and gibberish falsetto, before more howling vocals come in. I probably shouldn’t think of Asian Women on the Telephone, but I probably am. There’s a kind of No-Wave confluence of edgy rock and squeaky sax like on the stop and start of “The Wheel” but plenty of WTF-ery on tracks like “I Love You.” Sergey Efremov are definitely folks to keep our ears and fish-eyes on! -Thurston Hunger

Thin Air Orchestra – “Live At In The Flow Festival 2010” – [River Village]

mickeyslim   7/25/2012   CD, Jazz

Tony Passarell, of Sacramento, brought together a group of fourteen musicians to start a project that is essentially a conducted improvisation. Passarell plays piano, half the time on keys the other half inside plucking strings, and other woodwinds, all while using hand signals to direct the other musicians through crazed soundscapes and mellow organ-like hums.

There are only a couple of hand signals, but each one seemed to signal some other deeper part of songs. One signal meant for them all to freak out, and we hear that on a couple songs here. This album was recorded live in Sacramento, less than a year after they formed, which is pretty impressive. They sound like exotic circus-freaks, or gypsies high on LSD, or maybe it’s closer to the sound of a thousand wind chimes, or an accordion.

This band is a must-see live, so when they come around again, mark your mother-fuckin’ calendars, this stuff will blow you away..

Medicine and Duty – “Scorps” – [Foolproof Projects]

mickeyslim   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

UK-based trio, Andy Pyne (drums, percussion) and Matt Colgate (synth, percussion, voices) of Raised By Wolves accompanied by Jack Cooper (samples, synth, voices). Glitchy, scratchy, quiet then loud, occasional yelling, very percussive, but also electronic. Get ready to go deep inside your mind ’cause this is heady, I imagine Cy Thoth trancing out to this, even though it gets disturbing sometimes. Track 3 is amazing, it goes through a minimal glitchy part in the beginning and transforms into this groovy stoney, psyched out jam toward the end in ten minutes of fun.

Pleasantly surprised it’s all improvisation too, makes the album and the sound more playful. We have quite a few albums in the library already (check them out too!) and this release is definitely a step forward in the sound they seem to have been nurturing. This is some good sheet, hop on under the covers…

Off! – “Off!” – [Vice Records]

surferrosa   7/24/2012   12-inch, A Library

A super group of sorts containing 1990s LA punk rock superstars Kieth Morris (Black Flag/ Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (earthless, hot snakes). These are short blasts of concentrated high energy, each like a noisy little assault. The music is fast and concise, coming at you all raw and moderately produced-like. Here is some good ol mosh pit inducing punk rock, delivered straight to you from a bunch of angry old dudes. This will sound super original and totally fresh if you have never ever heard a punk rock record in your short and miserable life. -Surfer Rosa

Don’t Trust Your Neighbors [coll] – [Hinter Records]

Cousin Mary   7/24/2012   12-inch, International

Christopher King, a self-described obsessive 78s collector, picked up some curious records with Greek lettering which turned out to have been marketed to Albanian expatriates in Greece around 1930. Over time he collected more and realized that Albania’s resistance to assimilation by other countries (hence the title “Don’t Trust Your Neighbors”) was reflected in these very unique sounds. Lovely foreign sounding harmonics and odd meters give the listener the feeling of hearing something ancient. Violin, clarinet, vocals and strummed instruments come through very clearly on these beautifully remastered tracks from 78’s. Art work includes a 2011 drawing from R. Crumb.

Petit, Didier – “NOHC On The Road” – [Leo Records]

Cousin Mary   7/23/2012   CD, Jazz

Analogies can be drawn between the possible chemical bonds possible with nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon (NOHC) and the interaction of the saxophones, bass clarinet, violin, and cello. The results can be shrill and squawky, but grab your attention and make you think. Improvised, experimental; sometimes disturbing, but lovely at times. Some of the tracks end with train field recordings.

David, Gareth * Uitti, Frances-marie – “Gramercy” – [Miasmah Recordings]

humana   7/20/2012   12-inch, A Library

There’s something about a cello (especially one played with a twin bow as is Uitti’s) that surrounds you with sound like a blanket, leaving lots of space yet imparting security. Davis’ clarinet starts out very restrained, almost indistinguishable from the cello, yet comes into its own starting on A2. Pleasantly enough, the clarinet as played by Davis is anything but annoying and summons images of animals a la Saints Saens. Some tracks are incredibly hushed (A4), sounding almost like breathing. B1 begins like this and progresses into a drone. It gets very quiet but then ends in a relative cacophony (the way they pull out all the stops at the end of fireworks displays). C2 ends with a long bout of stillness, out of which the clarinet percolates sporadically. D2 has several false endings, like tides that advance and recede. Watch out or the sparseness of this will send you into la-la land.
-Pax Humana

Riley, Terry – “Les Yeux Fermes & Lifespan” – [Elision Fields]

cinder   7/20/2012   A Library, CD

Two soundtracks that Terry composed, in the early 1970s when he focused more on “longform keyboard cycles and improvisations.” Les Yeux Fermes was a feature length art film, and Lifespan features Klaus Kinski, and is about a doctor who tries to create a serum to lengthen life. The first track was the highlight for me. Beautiful synth melodies that float in and out of celestial time. The second track for the first film also drowns you in glorious sound. Calmly spastic horns, and an organ tone so rich you can feel the Leslie spinning in your head. A very film noir feel. Lifespan also has the dreamy organs, melodic synth keys, and saxophone (sometimes a bit cheeeball, but hey it’s the 70s!) Lifespan has a bit more of the colorful rainbow sounds that Terry Riley likes to create. Soft vocals on track 6, and picture a fat old, jolly bearded man playing track 7 (takes about 14 seconds for it to start being audible). Dreamy and experimentally cinematic.

darph/nadeR – “REVENGE of PLANET BASKETBALL, The” – [Feral Fang Media]

cinder   7/20/2012   A Library, CD

A super noisy trio out of the Santa Rosa-SF area. Distorted, loud ear fuckery. Two dudes, Jared and Cory have everything from guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, turntable, electronics, and a suitcase of pedals, while one chick, Nicole, brings terror on the microphone – although you wouldn’t be able to tell, it’s cleverly distorted and buried in the mix. The second track brings a low rhythmic beat to the beast table. The final swirls in and out of warped wires, with a feedbacked screech on the horizon.

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer & The Rita – “S/t” – [Debacle Records]

cinder   7/20/2012   A Library, CD

The way the album starts, you’d think it’d be titled Burning Witches. Over twenty minutes of what sounds like burning, hissing, crackling flames. Evil terror lurks in those fumes. Not overbearing or harsh at all, almost soothing in its destruction. Subtle electronics weave in and out like daggers with rusty blades. It almost flows seamlessly into track 2, which is the cool down. Midnight in town’s square, the corpses are left to shame, wind blowing and ashes floating. Murky waters tide in halfway through. This album is definitely a field recording for me, rich visuals to be had. BSBC self described as Black Acid Noise Doom Drone Hate, from Seattle. The Rita is a one-man torture from Vancouver, BC.