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Music Reviews

Papillon – “Papillon” – [Discrepant]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   12-inch, A Library

The cover’s Rorschach butterfly defines more than the French name
of this project, it is emblematic of the album. Old sounds, via
collage and an analog cocoon emerge as new. Like the ink blot test,
the story here takes place in the mind of the listener, although
apparently it is an homage to a 1969 French adventure book as well.
Enhanced field recordings, with Discrepant label head GF Cardoso
delivering the samples, but plenty of secret sauces added. Clicks,
morse code messages, power drone hiding in the shadows of a jungle,
is that a knife being sharpened during “Petit Viande” or just
some circuit bending? Flies swarm later, an appetite for sonic
construction. Did dolphins add in telepathy as well? Humans wander
into the mix as well, both sampled from Chinese villages and
maybe ham radio intercepts, as well as drummer David Naan who
injects an energetic finish to “La Cavale des Chinois” and
Laurent Jeanneau aka Kink Gong contributes frequencies sublime.
Sound sculpture used to be a phrase used a lot, and it can apply
here as well, there’s a tangible 3-D feel to much of the work,
even if the topography is unknown. Are those firecrackers?
Is there a bagpipe around the corner? The foreign here is easy
to embrace, even if at times there is an air of the ominous. Like
any intrepid traveler, if you are willing to lose yourself in the
surroundings, you will find much more.

-Thurston Hunger

Rockey, Palmer – “Rockey’s Style Movie Album” – [Trunk Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   A Library, CD

Peculiar MOR sounds from beneath the overpasses of the 1970’s. Suffice
it to say this has an outsider flair that belies the crack studio
musicians knocking out easy listening rock on most of the tracks. Here is
an online link to the liner notes for those interested
Pretty amazing, Palmer casting himself as the lead roles (twin
brothers!) and the film being called (at one time) “It Happened One
Weekend” and being initially shown *just* one weekend. Anyways
reading those liner notes is a must, but even without them listening
to “Sunday Love” with acapella reworking of “Blue Christmas” and
then a spoken word section from a broken man, that sounds almost
like a political commercial combined with a love letter. “Lonesome
Tonight” is a more straight ahead cover. Much of the album feels
like a Rodd Keith poem song (even the instrumentals). Meanwhile
“That’s Real Cool, Baby” and “Rockey’s Rock” are odd simple
testaments to “Boogie” that have a faint Little Richard / Bill
Haley homage/obsession. The three Scarlet tracks get an A from
me, especially the “Scarlet Warning 666” where things get the
most Lynchian! The seeming straight-forward music reflects
weirdly in the odd, sad story bent behind it. Possible in the
Key of Z material… Start a rumor, Rockey was Laura
Palmer’s Dad! No junk in the other Trunk releases either,
check ’em out.

-Thurston Hunger

Harisis Group – “Recordings of The Harisis Group From Northern Greece” – [Angry Mom Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   7-inch, International

I’m more than happy to report “You haven’t heard the last of
Angry Mom.” Christopher King’s label unearths four more
Epirotic delights from old (1933) 78’s. All tracks are
instrumental featuring the Harisis family (first initials
only please) and special guest star G. Stathis on the laouto
(a Greek long-fretted lute). Mostly this is the M. Harisis
Experience, an explosion of clarinet creations. The A-side
features two dances and they do move rapidly. You could
almost call it punk clarinet, with the rough sound squeezed
out. And the furious flying of notes presages jazz. There’s
that feeling of a gypsy circus too. Things slow down on the
B-side, still M. Harisis’ clarinet is fluid and fast while
the pace of the songs tilts towards ballad (honoring a
“Hero Bandit” per the provided translation!) and then a lament. Nice that these three live on forever in KFJC’s sonic museum, even if without first names.

-Thurston Hunger

Auris + Robair, Gino – “Rub” – [Public Eyesore]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   CD, Jazz

Gino Robair dates a trio? Robair, man-about-Oak-town and
Rastascan raconteur hooks up with the Auris trio in Chicago
on 10/20/2010. Numbers are exchanged, wires are crossed (all
four contribute “electronics” to the encounter) and music
is made. Scratch orchestrations, twitching improvisations
and eerie elongations (#4 being a fave of that form). You
could call this type of electroacoustic work : Buzz, bow
and beyond! I tended to prefer the menage a quatre action,
where there is more for the ear to watch. But Gino also
spends one track with each Auris player. #5’s duet with
Christopher Preissing on flute and hiccup moans was fun
in a Japanese avant Jethro Tull way with some shakuachi
style moves too. Robair is no stranger to KFJC’s shelves
and circles, he remains a splatter percussionist: dotting,
darting and dredging up objects to plunk. The lead-off
track shows him briefly at his most driving and rhythmic
…for a few bars. With guitarist Julia Miller, he might
be ebowing a drum, and/or shoehorning an object into tight
place on #3. I liked her twang-bar queen action on the
lead-off 4-way. Eric Leonardson plays his own creation,
the springboard, on his duet with Gino (#2) sounds like
a tiny airplane trying to fly high with the jets at the
start. Listen to that beauty and check out
Always cool to see where the weird flows from…

-Thurston Hunger

Bad Dudes – “Eat Drugs” – [kill shaman]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   12-inch, A Library

There’s this weird little world, where pop/punk/prog intersect
and kinda work. It’s like finding dinosaurs tap dancing. Too
much prog, and rigor mortis sets into your ear…too much pop
and bubble gums up the same ears. Too much punk…well that
would be okay actually. This release from 2008, features an
LA Band with a crack dummer, Chris Mezsler and dual guitarists
Mike Rando and Dan Gerchick riffing away…lot’s of single
notes and clean-in-key runs that pivot with precision. Keyboards
from Gabe Castro sometimes add that faux classical fanfare
the prog purists will like. He sort of aims for press-on funk
on “Better Than Nature” which might have been better left
for dead. Indeed the b-side kinda fizzled my swizzler, but
that title track with Daniel Howarth’s thick bass drops
and they yelped stupid vocals got things going. Side A is just
messier in a better way, still with plenty of dot-dot-dot-dot
dash-dash-dash counting exercises. Doctored vocals on “Suez”
awoke an old Sleepytime Gorilla Museum watchman inside. For
folks who want Cueniform to party more, or Ugh Explode to be
less brutal, or want to hear echoes of “Pretty Woman” spilling
into a herky-jerky “Heterosaucer” chow down on this like a
hyperactive kid on his third bowl of Neon Cuckoo Trix. Kill
Shaman is always worth an ear…

-Thurston Hunger

Ongaku 90: Underground Music From Japan [coll] – [Hiruko Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   12-inch, A Library

Holy Tokyo flashback, Batman. “Ongaku” == music in Kanji.
KFJC definitely had a solid connection to the Japanese
underground in the 1990’s, and this impressive collection
shows the breadth of sound going on back then. In part,
this is a holy God Mountain flashback, as E*Trance and
Demi Semi Quaver show up with tracks KFJC has thanks to
fine fancy work of Hoppy Kamiyama ran that label. If you
have never encountered the hi-powered, hijinx of Emi
Eleonola (her vocals can fry you like Magma on meth) have
fun here with the album closer. E*Trance has a killer
operatic collage that works into a driving rock number
(with a kinda 80’s guitar solo). Ghost’s “Moungod Te Deum”
is reprised here as well, organic forest psyche, that
could have gone on longer, deeper, greener. As impressive as
the variety here is, it’s also remarkable (and a little sad)
that we don’t have some of these artists in KFJC’s library
at all. Phew, her gasping punk vocals over a pummelling
beat on “Being.” Jun Miyake has that cool mutated trumpet
kinda reminscent of Toshinori Kondo, but it’s tucked behind
a sort of taiko procession. Idiot O’Clock apparently only
had one full release (on the mighty Alchemy label) the
leadoff track from that is here wth a swinging side to side
rock number that recalls Japan’s Stars and adds in some
hovering organ to the groove. That track “Shinzu” is also
known as “X Runner From the Way.” Idiot O’Clock evolved
(or is it devolved?) into the Japanese skiffle band
Maher Shalal Hash Baz. Takako Minekawa surprised with a
beat bouncer, where despite the “Cloud Ships” title it
feels more grounded in a PacMan DanceOff. Riyuichi Sakamoto
provides a slice of Beauty, Arto Lindsay fans take note.
The Gerogerigegege provide a work in progress, that recalls
a Japanese Kathy McGinty versus a heavy breathing salariman.
Is it a love story? And lastly “Magic V” by a band that
might translate as “Not Lost Person” and thanks to this
comp, that is true. Listen to ’em all to (re)find yer fave!

-Thurston Hunger

Residual Echoes – “Secret Museum of Kind Men – Vol. 3” – [Casual Acid Tea]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   7-inch, A Library

I hope more bands are lining up to continue this cool series.
Reinterpretations of killer 78’s from the old Secret Museum
of Mankind collections, here with two more gems polished and
presented. India is visited first, “Gungru Tarang” a sublime
slither of violin, over a cool galloping melody. A nice
instrumental mantra for dancing or divining. On the flip
side “Khar Shabi” calls the world to Tajikstan. Violin
(Shawn Lockie) soars after a sort of drum processional
entrance. The main resident in the Residual Echoes, guitarist
Adam Payne, chimes in with guitar, initially haunting the
minor key with the violin, but accelerating to some fevered
rock chord jabbing. The voice of Heather Lockie (and possibly
the ghost of the original unknown singer) provide a peaceful
but powerful crest atop the fury. The song concludes with a
mystic coda of cymbals and violin symbols. Make the divine
sign and spin this record again.

-Thurston Hunger

Lloyd, Justin Marc – “Your” – [Love Earth Music]

abacus   1/29/2014   A Library, CD

Sociopathic self-help for sadomasochistic audiophiles. Hifi static disruptions of ear blistering distortion overlaying slurping circuitry and incessant buzz. Ominous beauty interwoven in the lacerated soundscrapes that blend white noise into delicate drone. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in the form of surrealized audio tyranny. Too good to be true, too terrible to be real. Wayne Dyer approves this message.

Sax Ruins – “Blimmgauss” – [Skin Graft Records]

abacus   1/29/2014   CD, Jazz

Hypermanic jazz overload setting in funky drum breaks and exploding into flurries of multi-meter eruptions stacked with explosive sax licks. The horn section operates as such a tight unit layering melodies, harmonies and wild outbursts of squeal and skronk that it’s no surprise that it’s all one person (well mostly). Despite this, mostly tasteful jazz infused marching band type melodies here that’ll get you bobbing your head just long enough to lose yourself in a dizzying swirl of neverending rhythmic entrop. Only the most astute of mathematicians could groove to these beats, just try and count along, I dare you. What’d you expect with six-armed guru Tatsuya Yoshida at the helm banging the skins? The four improvisations at the end of the album are all short tracks and don’t have the same power provided from the bombastic layering, but showcase the musicians’ mind-reading talents. Sometimes playful, sometimes hellfire. Powerviolence prog? Thrash jazz? Marching band mayhem? You decide

Soft Focus – “Soft Focus” – [Sahko Recordings]

Lady Labyrinth   1/29/2014   12-inch, A Library

Do Satyrs Dream of Electric Sheep?
Instrumental Sci-Fi Impressionism. Dissonant Liminal Chillscapes. Instrumentation with a capital I.

With tracks like Emergence delirium it feels like the hypnotist’s voice has just faded out into a clock melting surrealist landscape or you wandered into some kind of groovy yet suspenseful melting dreamscape of your grandparent’s psyche. Regenerative Apnea was very “Eastern Sounds” feeling, Peacocks in opium hazes smoked with Oscar Wilde. This one made me thirsty for Lemonade and extended pink sunsets in Xanadu. And Panique Onirique is an cloudy whole tone landscaping ‘romping with the satyrs on planet X. Some electro vibes float in on this one, like the music playing during a Captain Kirk picnic with a Space Babe just when the plot starts to thicken but she’s still got that glamour lens on her and everything’s cool for the next 90 seconds at least.

Album proudly states the record was made totally “using completely analogic signal chain” for the tastefully discerning Luddite pendants out there to whom analog is their one true mistress. They coulda mixed in a little more clanky abstract noise and I wouldn’t have minded one bit. Restrained but relaxed.

Yolks, The – “Two Dollars Out The Door” – [Randy! Records]

humana   1/29/2014   7-inch, A Library

These three youngsters from Chicago offer a straightforward rock and roll song on Side A, and a honky-tonk bluesy number on Side B. I slightly prefer Side A, but all of it is refreshing with decent-sounding vocals, harmonica, guitar, drums, and bass. My dogs, chewing a bone, chewed faster in reaction to this. Recorded at a show in a friend’s apartment.

Junzo, Suzuki – “Eight-Sided Infinity” – [Plunk’s Plan Recordings]

abacus   1/28/2014   A Library, CD

A celestial journey through star systems eternal with psych-guitar high priest Suzuki Junzo of Miminokoto. Expansive feedback and reverb, blasting off on track one powered by the rocket-fuel drumming of Takahashi Ikuro (LSD March, Fushitsusha), soaring at hyperspeed through meteor storms. Losing momentum, we drift through High Water losing track of time and space as we get sucked into the black hole of Electricuneral Parade. While the timbre of the guitar rings true through the Blues track, the closer is an irridescent mind-altering drone with occasional bursts and builds of angular fret shapes. His vocals reflect the overall progression of the album as well, starting off wild and passionate and gradually losing track of reality. Listen close and hear all the pretty shapes and colors….

Big Ups – “Eighteen Hours of Static” – [Dead Labour]

Naysayer   1/22/2014   12-inch, A Library

What makes so many bands just a band and others the next BIG THING. Do the rock gods sprinkle their special rock god dust upon the band and … BOOM… they’ve got it? Is it timing? Kismet? Talent? A combination of it all? Probably all of it and none of it. Something just happens and it seems to have happened to Big Ups. Just check the press. Everyone’s got something to say about them.
The four members of Big Ups met at NYU and started the band in 2010. Their reputation was spilling over, what with several 45’s, their notorious live shows, and an intensity that felt just a bit different. “Eighteen Hours of Static” is their first full length release and it shows, from start to finish, that the group has maintained their reputation. This is loud post punk. It’s raucous. It’s in your face. It’s fast and slow. It’s polished yet rough around the edges. Songs about a messed up self or the environment: they’ll play it. Joe Galarraga (remember the name), lead singer, crawls and paces around with an intensity that is a pleasure to watch and listen to. He recites and talks his lyrics then wails out the rest with the band following in stride. Harsh guitar. Threatening bass and drums. Just enough of everything but not so much as to wear thin. Now some folks are not going to like this because it’s not enough of….. something. Maybe because it is so tight? Whatever. The rest of us are going to kick back and enjoy and wait for them to play Saturday Night Live.

Erase Errata/numbers [coll] – [Troubleman Unlimited]

Lady Labyrinth   1/22/2014   7-inch, A Library

No Wave Art Rock

Bay Area No Wave tag team action from Numbers and art rock darlings Erase Errata. This is the perfect 7 inch to play on a non-stop loop all day every day in the cramped closet you call a bedroom after you and your 7 other housemates have received an eviction notice after your landlord decided to cash in. The Numbers bring the spazzy contorted rhythms with stripped down vocals and guitar. The Erase Errata tracks hang together in almost a danceable rhythm section with the bass boarding on proggy bounce. Their seconc track starts off with an extended grating guitar intro that would sound lovely through paper thin apartment walls. Some Cowbell!

Marked with a big 45, but sounds more correct at 33 to me???. oh art rock???. Lady Labyrinth

Mississippi Sheiks, The – “Complete Recorded Works Volume 3” – [Third Man Records]

mickeyslim   1/22/2014   12-inch, Blues

Volume Three in a collection of the complete recorded works of the influential, original Mississippi Sheiks. Just the duo of guitarist Walter Vinson and violinist Lonnie Chatman in these recordings, the Sheiks also performed and recorded with the likes of Sam Chatmon and Bo Carter. These recordings come from three different sessions: October 24 and 25, 1931 in Atlanta, and July 20, 1932 in Grafton, WI.

Solid, all original, old blues tunes in the country Delta style. Most of the tracks are uplifting or hopeful, with the occasional downer. The Sheiks had been together for fiveto six years by this point and you can tell, the guitar and violin intermingle quite nicely. Chatman has a deeper voice, and contrasts the weeping of his violin playing.

Recordings from just before the Great Depression. My favorites were A1-3, A8, B2-3, B7-9, but they all have their time and place. Another excellent blues gem.. a sapphire if you will.

Raczynski, Bogdan – “Samurai Math Beats” – [Rephlex]

abacus   1/22/2014   A Library, CD

1999 sophomore release from Polish born Japanese hobo drill’n’bass madman that might leave you hyperventilating and seeing stars if you try and hit the dance floor to these flurries. Bass heavy breaks superimposed by hazy lullaby melodies on cheap keyboards induce a momentous confusion of pre-teen daydream proportions. Non-stop hyperfrenetic playtime of awkward nerd homebody rave party delusions, full of kung fu standoffs, boss battling and mathematical sensory overload. Pretty pre-pubescent narration to the fast-forward video game adventures contrast with the crunchy megabeat chaos. Beeping buzzing beauty that characterized his earlier work before he started to calm things down in the new millenium. Take em while they’re hot!

Lee, Jason and The R.I.P. Tides – “Lee, Jason and The R.I.P. Tides” – [Dionysus Records]

Cousin Mary   1/22/2014   12-inch, A Library

I had heard a lot about this 3-piece San Diego surf band and we finally have this great slab of vinyl so we can hear their tunes. Their music has a spooky minor-key sound that clashes nicely with the cheery upbeat tempos. Hard to sit still, make you wanna dance stuff. Still trying to find a word to describe Jason Lee’s tall hairdo, but his guitar playing and composing skills speak for themselves here. Well played, lots of fun, a surf sound with a difference.

Teenage Guitar – “Force Fields At Home” – [Guided By Voices Inc.]

Naysayer   1/20/2014   12-inch, A Library

There are just some artists whom everyone just has to have some type of opinion concerning their every move. Whether they bring it upon themselves, deserve it or not, it just happens sometimes. Robert Pollard is one of those folks. Pollard, of Guided By Voices (GBV) fame, or who is Guided By Voices, because really, no matter who plays in the band it’s about Bob, anyway Bob P. is a musician’s musician. This is his career, his job. I mean, come on, there is a Guided By Voices, Inc. So Pollard has tons of recordings under so many different projects besides GBV that it is hard to keep up. And that kind of prolific output can turn people the wrong way for some reason, which I don’t get. I think people out there get jealous. Or they think they sort of own the artist because there is so much out there to create a type of picture of the person. Whatever the reason, with the release of Pollard’s latest project, Teenage Guitar, music media, fans, critics are all going ape shit. Comments fly left and right. It seems that anyone that can hold a pen or type has something to say (which I guess includes me). I sort of feel sorry for Pollard, being under the microscope and all. It must get frustrating. But oh yes, the review. So with Teenage Guitar’s “Force Fields At Home”, Pollard, and two other guys on several tracks, but really almost all Pollard on all 18 tracks, has created an album that harkens back to a style from the early to mid 90’s when he was experimenting with his sounds at his own home recording space. Using, as he says, “old instruments”, and recorded on some classic 90’s 8 track recording system at his home studio, Robert has created that quirky, scratchy, lovely sound that is just outside enough to make some alterna pop lovers frown but not so much so that the frown doesn’t turn upside down. This album is good, and don’t get pissy about that. The songs are short yet feel theatrical and almost operatic. The sound is rich even if some instrumentation is sparse. The recordings sound distant but familiar, scratchy and straining but not strained. Time signatures change. Moods change. And there are lyrics. Real lyrics with a lyric sheet that you can maybe not sing along to but at least follow. Dare I say poetry? Why not. Not every cut is a stunner but that is what makes it all so good together. You don’t want everything to be right. And with that happening it all kind of turn out right.

Smith, E. Doctor – “Quantum” – [Edgetone Records]

Max Level   1/20/2014   CD, Jazz

All instrumental. Sort of a jazz fusion project but not really. Bandleader Smith plays the Zendrum electronic drum system in basically a trio format with a guitarist and bassist, and there are a couple of guests doing cameos on trumpet and guitar synth. Releases on the fine Edgetone Records label tend to be filed in KFJC’s jazz library, and this one will as well because it does strike me as something from the heavier rock/fusion end of the jazz spectrum. It’s an interesting lineup: Smith’s Zendrum electronic drum-trigger device is pretty rad, and bassist Tom Shiben is all about playing Rickenbackers, to my ears an excellent sound but very un-jazz-like. And then there’s guitarist Jack Wright who can shred like crazy and shines throughout the record. This often has a mid-80s King Crimson vibe or maybe one of those Bruford/Levin/Torn projects. And that’s good stuff. Shiben and Wright composed most of the material. I really got into this.

Perth – “What’s Your Utopia?” – [Hidden Shoal Recordings]

Naysayer   1/15/2014   A Library, CD

Hidden Shoal Recordings is from Perth, Australia and they have been specializing in recordings, mostly shoegaze, post rock, ambient, and dream pop just from Perth. I truly love this type of specificity, this type of focus and concentration. Do some thing and do it right. It makes for an in depth exploration of a style or topic or idea. perth (lower case “p” intended) are a part of this study and their sophomore recording “What’s Your Utopia?” continues in the vein of shoegaze/post rock that the label loves. perth’s approach is somewhat unique in that they don’t stick to just one of these styles but mix it up in a gorgeous and lush soundscape filled with found sound loops and beats, electronic glitches and scratches, the ever present breathy muddled vocals and that rich and full guitar and electronic sound that so much identifies shoegaze dream pop The lyrics are bittersweet tales of longing, hope, and sorrow. Lots of big breaths and sighs when listening but oh so true. Sometimes a listener just needs this sentiment expressed in this way. “What’s Your Utopia?” mixes it up enough to keep you guessing and then when you finally let go it becomes a part of your day. Not background music but “inside” music, music inside of you. Let go.