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Music Reviews

1939 Ensemble – “Black Diamond Pearl” – [Jealous Butcher Records]

humana   5/30/2015   A Library, CD

Vibraphones, give me vibraphones! 1939 Ensemble, a Portland, Oregon trio, is all about vibraphones, percussion, and horns. Needless to say, I love this CD. It’s fast-paced and amazing. The vibraphones and trumpet make a delicious combination. Yes, and noise is added into the mix to gild the already gorgeous lily. It makes me ecstatic to hear the different ways the vibraphone can be uses to enchant ears.

Owen, Spencer – “Blue Circle” – [S.W.M.O.]

humana   5/30/2015   12-inch, A Library

This is mellow, enjoyable singer-songwriter material from Owen, an Oakland musician whose voice is pleasant and smooth. The tracks are mostly upbeat and peppy with a nice catchiness to them. Perfect music for sitting on lawn in the sun and watching the clouds go by.

Waters, Dane – “Dark Waters” – [Albtraummusik]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2015   A Library, CD


Opera-house pipes and an underground mind combine in Dane’s
first solo release. Her work with the Louisville madhouse
matrix Sapat opened my ears and in-basket to Ms. Waters.
There is a soothing sweep often to her voice, but
whispered overdubs (as on “Moving”) or some chains
rattling (“Blue”) or a kind of airplane static earworm
(interrupting the orphic reverie of “Teeth of a Bear”) never
let this album touch your gentle spot. Rococo coquette piano
melodies on some of the tracks might put you in mind of
a drawing room. “Winter” with semi cold wave beats
and “Dream Again” with its flouncing harp-like warmth
are two of the more allegro affairs. The latter with
its music box shimmers, and perhaps a brief nod to
The Cure? Perhaps, not? But there’s a gothic flair
they both share, and dark prettiness to their sweetly
sordid sentiments. Ultimately the style of Water’s
singing amplifies the words even while nearly
dissolving them. There’s no libretto and little
liberty. “Blue” winds up with
“I can’t believe what you’ve done…”
each syllable stretched nearly to the vanishing point.
Or “Rappelle” which goes Poe and bilinguially laments
“is he gone dead, or buried alive…” repeatedly
Songs of invisibility and levitation are no guards
against the pain and regret of our mortal coils.
Might as well enjoy Dane’s Macabre! Be Bewitched!
-Thurston Hunger

Eazycon – “Fear and Pleasure: Retrospective 1980-1989” – [Spittle Records]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2015   12-inch, A Library

Ruling stuff from Turin duing the 80’s. Two guys, Carl Musso
(aka “Carl Lee”) and Frankie Partipilo (aka Frankye Laforgue),
with plenty of help. Love some of the basslines dropped in by
Silvio Puzzulo, Ustad Mike Partipilo (surely Frankie’s brother)
drops in striking sitar on “Easy Connection” and some guy
sits on stage and smokes a cigarette in a doctor’s smock too.
At least I think I heard that. That “Easy Con” track really
caught me wonderfully off guard on my first listen, up
until then I was cool with a sort of jazz-tweaked no-wave
approach to stark song with a sort of beat poet foreign
language mangling English to higher purpose. But that
track is a gleaming art rock gem, And it’s followed by
a Roscoe Mitchell rendition, that has its outside jazz
garden burst play. Flute trills and sax skrills. Zig zag
rhythm and smatterings of applause/vox before a smooth
smoke sax to close. “Noise Guitar” after that is a short
experimental instro to end the record. You think there
has to be more and there is, well a little thanks to the
bonus CD. Another raga/jazz/spoken mantra “In the Tradition”
(when clearly they want to move through traditions) and
also “Wagon Wheels” a C&W saloon swing cover. The first 8
songs have a more consistent feel, partly from the cough
syrupy vox from Carl and his excellent scattered guitar
(Arto Lindsay fans bon appetit!). Lyrics connect moles
and other underground dwellers, longing for some form
of alchemy…` Carl also drops in drum machine beats
more samba cocktail sweet than Suicide sour. Frankie’s
seductive sax unites many of the earlier tracks, and
brother Mike darting in for some earth jazz vibe via
flute keep things breezy. You feel the winds of Sun
Ra solar gusts and Captain Beefheart’s desert dust
but these guys really had their own spin for too short
a time. That being said, it appears the past year or
two they have re-connected. There may be nothing
greater than the pause between the words “by bad”
and “alchemy” during the song “Plants.
-Thurston Hunger

Ata Kak – “Obaa Sima” – [Awesome Tapes From Africa]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2015   12-inch, International

The tale of the tape, is just as awesome as the tape itself.
Liner notes talk of tracking Yaw Atta-Owusu around the globe
from his homeland of Ghana, where ATFA label leader Brian
Shimkovitz first heard these sounds on cassette, to Germany
and Canada and finally back to Ghana. Ata Kak (little twin,
as Yaw is a twin) has a delivery that feels familiar to
old school rap devotees, he gets some sweetly simple
back-ground female vocals (the mighty Lucy Quansah in
dubbed triplicate) and Ata Kak just punctuates the beat
with his Twi (a Ghanian dialect) language styling. Inserting
some hah-hahs, and other rapid fire syllables. My American
ears would squeeze English inappropriately but still fun
out of these songs. Backing music is pretty cheesy R&B
riffs, light Chic guitar and loads of synth. The background
vocals feel like they come with dance moves on “Medofo”
and “Moma Yendodo” the latter, I swear the girls are
saying, “Put me on the door” and Ata Kak is busting a
Scoobie Doobie Doo move. “Yemmpa Aba” seems like its
pitched past the speed limit, and there’s some “funky”
business going on, and a jump around hyperactivity.
“Bome Nnwom” is a dizzy instro, breathless and vocalless,
with some quick swipes at psuedo-scratches. An A+ for an
OG (Originally Ghanian) B-Boy!
-Thurston Hunger

Them Are Us Too – “Remain” – [Dais]

humana   5/28/2015   12-inch, A Library

This is the debut album of Bay Area band Them Are Us Too, made up of Kennedy Ashlyn Wenning and Cash Askew. Wenning’s voice is particularly lovely in “Marilyn,” where her ability to reach the high notes layers upon itself in a gorgeous way. This song is the only one where Askew joins her with his voice that strikes a British Invasion chord. The lyrics are printed on the insert and tell the stories of love, heartbreak, exhaustion, and angst, but it’s all done in such a fantastic way. Fairly melancholy, definitely shoegazey, and, as the insert claims, pop: “Remain” is a pop album. This music is the product of vulnerability and fragility that must be contained in the service of day to day survival. Each song is a container.”

Parzen-johnson, Jonah – “Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow” – [Primary Records]

humana   5/28/2015   A Library, CD

Oh, how the title of this CD hits home in this day and age! Brooklyn-based Parzen-Johnson deftly uses his baritone sax complemented with an analog synthesizer specifically matched to the sax to convey his compositions (although the last tune is a creation of Neil Young). Described as a folk and avant-jazz musician, on this release Parzen-Johnson shows elements of both, but what sticks with me is the haunting way it resembles drone, and how the music fits the fascinating song titles.

Godspunk Vol. 1 [coll] – [Pumf Records]

abacus   5/20/2015   A Library, CD

first installation of pop-dadaist cooperative ventriloquism out of Blackpool, UK. variety of artists here with some familiar insertions: UNIT bringing their skeetering teetering rock and roller derby funk rap spite, Howl dropping in here and there with insurrectionary art invocations, video age electro funk, dreamy interlude and a shiny jesus jingle to jig things off. hip hop grind noir from LDB: aggressively introspective irreverant goofs. all sorts of in-betweeners like druggy haze wave, radio interference seance, and even some British big beat. a whole lotta variety for a whole lotta wankers.

Kicker – “Not You” – [Tankcrimes]

abacus   5/20/2015   A Library, CD

snarling britscum crustpunk out of Oakland; roadie hosting and ain’t giving two shits towards the whole mess of it. hats off and fingers up, crass and immature through and through. fuck all hating everything from our quotidian servitude to the hypocrite students that protest it. they talk shit, drink shit and eat shit. broke, alcoholic, breaking down and dragging the world with

Jos Steen – “Electricity!!! Music For Tape and Turntable” – [Ultra Eczema]

Grizzly Adam   5/20/2015   12-inch, A Library

Belgium’s Jos Steen, known for his home recordings, thirty plus self releases, and for an approach to art and music informed by Don Van Vliet, here almost entirely avoids voice and acoustic guitar, a guitar that punctures like a piano, both full of meaningful willful association. Immediate precedents for this work might be Kurt Schwitters and Harry Partch. Dadaist collage, post-performance, anti-linear, an art of contraction, concision, and modified forms. Old timey, loosey goosey not following prescribed guidelines or general societal expectations. Comparable to computer software performances with acoustic sampling and live processing. Track A4 inspires a reflection) Is it beeping because it’s ready? Is it day because I hear the birds? Is it passing because I hear it skipping by? Couldn’t it be returning to an originary state, of night, of stasis, of beginnings, one sans change? To before the note was struck? Music as the way or path back to the start from the end (as beginning.) The music is the reverse of the perceived.

A1) Clicking, setting down on wood, and zombie groans. Start and stopping signals, pitch and speed shifts. Bird chirps. Some of the snippets are covered over and/or quiet. Occasional loud sounds stand out and might sonically wobble or vibrate. 2) Recitation of “got my violin ain’t got no…”, and remnants of glimpses of violin, early soundtrack orchestra, drunk speech or poetry in tongues, frenzied drawing, and deformations to everything pitched all to hell. 3) Some strings on a board, and hella loose, elastic rubber bands, and jaw harp, and some slapping or whacking on the board with counter vibrations on the strings, action reaction. 4) A slower tempo, and a clearer palette, and note the out of tune guitar note. B1) De-stringed proto-stringed guitar and CD player instrumentation mostly with classical and percussion, where there are drum fills, and cymbal crashes condensed and not, in actu. I think he does use an electric guitar in there somewhere but to just turn the amp on and maybe hit or bump it softly before turning off the mic. 2) A song with lots of noise in the style of blues. 3) Tuba? Comb and wax paper? Flies? Racetrack engines? Dirt bike maybe? A tinge of feedback at the end makes me wonder what he used to make it. 4) A drone makes this track more musical. Washing machine with three feet on the floor and flapping against thick paper tags.

I can imagine this guy taking a broken guitar out of the lobby, and whacking it with one of our mics in the studio while hand rotating a turntable and mixing a cd of solo percussions with a finger on the fast forward. Too bad he has passed away. Play the heck out of it, maybe someone will collect and issue his catalogue of self releases. New idol for dada diogenes.

Control – “Out For Blood” – [Parasitic]

Grizzly Adam   5/13/2015   12-inch, A Library

Thomas Garrison is Control, and was also Exsanguinate, which share a similar sound, but note the Exsanguinate which is currently touring from the last few years are entirely different unrelated people. There are also very many Control groups, from the UK, Sacramento, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, for example. If you play metal, if you play noise, you probably have a place for power electronics with vocals on your show, or on your label which, case in point, the promotional material for this album also confirms that this is the first non-metal to appear on the Parasitic label. This album is titled “Out For Blood”, and the vampire doth exsanguinate the body of his prey, so there is a nominal linkage with his much earlier work, in fact I would also say it is difficult to differentiate between tracks on earlier Control albums and more recent Control albums, meaning for a particular piece, it could very well have appeared at any point in the spectrum, which together I would say betrays consistency. He is from, works, lives, and runs his Misanthrope studio in Santa Cruz. He has recorded and released around twenty five productions from a very good range of acts, lots of power electronics groups too, in more detail, lots of mini cdr and limited stuff, and a few full length cd stuff, in addition to simply the mastering on a few stuff. His work reminds me most of Tetsuo Furudate, but maybe you could also say, definitely not Prurient or Sutcliffe Jugend, but maybe a mix of something else?

A1) Shots of hairspray, sub-sonar, guitar like controlled feedback notes, somewhat high frequency pure tones, repeated motifs, tone feeling or tone coloring with a noise palette, echo delayed or on a four second cycle, or leaking from a hose, much more treble than the barely even bass. 2) Ominous entry, almost guitar, then almost two guitars. Not quite wall of noise, definitely not wall of sound, almost 4 or 5 types of noise going on, lots of droning noise, high power signals; w/ voice, pow bow wow vocalizations through dictaphone electronics filters the didactics, and not a fade out but a short removal of layers ends the piece. 3) Didgeridoo via electronics, digital scanlines or tv without the image, music, or even white noise, just the hum of the cathode ray tubes. Many more movements than the other tracks, a wall maybe not so high. After a minute vocals, more audible here. B1) Compositionally a pounding headache. Less going on here than in other tracks. Sounds like manipulation of two pools of noise with two different controls plus the treated vocals. 2) Melodically darker, a fantasy of nazi induced apocalypse. Asymmetrical polyrhythmic airtube noise, scraping, and high velocity wind-to-ear flapping simulacra. 3) Echo treated room acoustics simulation, to, reverse noise drone, factory-sized resonation of metal production, then including drum snare synthesis beats, and all along a foreground of noise variants in a wishwash of sound in the key of sleep patterns, and a non-noise last 20 seconds of beats. AB) All words are nonidentifiable, dada diogenes is interested in what you think it says.

Bergamo, John – “Like Style, Dig?” – [Innova Recordings]

Cousin Mary   5/13/2015   A Library, CD

Tim Patterson is the performer of this percussion music composed by John Bergamo who was his teacher at California Institute of the Arts. The percussion instruments and vibraphone are used in such unusual ways that a listener might not guess what was making these sounds. Generally pleasant, mysterious, calming, and very enjoyable!

PGM: Dynamic range is very wide – volume levels are sometimes VERY low – especially at track beginnings and ends.

Sannhet – “Revisionist” – [Flenser]

humana   5/11/2015   A Library, CD

This trio hails from Brooklyn, but their name comes for the Norwegian word for “truth.” With an occasional hint at vocals, the tracks are mostly instrumental metal with a mild intensity (so not thrashing), and there are shoegaze elements thrown in for good measure. “Empty Harbor” is anything but empty, and my favorite track. The percussion keeps things lively, and the songs go on for just the right length.

LQ Bucket – “Martyr’s Limb” – [Self Released]

humana   5/8/2015   A Library, CD

The sad vocalizations on this release earn the title “Martyr’s Limb.” The music is Americana/country/folk, and the setting is simple guitar. The songs are short and melancholy, perfect if you’re feeling sorry for yourself. LQ Bucket has been described as early Bob Dylan; see for yourself.

Callenberg – “Bailout Shop, The” – [Bend Records]

humana   5/8/2015   A Library, CD

If you’re looking for a mellow, low-fi sometimes acoustic, sometimes electronic singer-songwriter experience, this is for you. Out of Sweden come the gentle, low-key sounds of Callenberg. Guitars, male vocals, sometimes gently upbeat but mostly down-tempo and pleasant. Enjoy.