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Music Reviews

Machine Listener – “Sentient System” – [No Part of It]

Max Level   9/26/2017   A Library, CD

A wide range of sounds across the Noise spectrum. There is a sort of “musical” element to some of the tracks–musical as in minimal melodies and drones and repeating patterns of notes, and Tracks 4, 5, and 7 are probably more power ambient than noise. You’d still want to file this under Noise though. The first track starts off gently with a soft drone but not long after the one-minute mark the thing suddenly jumps the rails and starts throwing alarming noises at you. Machine Listener is a solo project by Matthew Gallagher. It’s quite interesting, actually.

Post Mortem Klinik – “Human / Filth” – [Distorted Press]

lexi glass   9/26/2017   A Library, Cassette

Post Mortem Klinik is one of the many projects of formerly Virginia-based, now local musician Chad Davis. His work spans a variety of genres: doom (Hour of 13), psych (U.S. Christmas), death industrial (Subklinik), black metal (Set, Anu), komische (Romannis Mötte), and more. P-M-K seems to be closely related, in name and in concept, to his 20+ year old Subklinik project, but under this newer alias, Davis forgoes the quieter, dark ambient elements of previous work for the extremes of electronic noise. This 2015 cassette EP from Distorted Press holds six tracks, each a heaving mass of degraded sound, like the collective filth of all humanity as it is flushed from our millions of disgusting hovels, coursing through rusted pipes, spilling into rivers, pouring into the oceans. Voices and screams surface and disappear, pulled under by the current of raw sewage. Squalid sounds for a society circling the drain.

Odyssey Cult, The – “Vol. 1” – [Silver Current]

billiejoe   9/25/2017   12-inch, A Library

Ethan Miller from Oakland! This album just came out. He also writes Sci Fi poetry.
Sounds like wailing guitar and jamming drums in a big empty echoey container. If one were to label the genre one might pick the word psych. Second side is very chill. Whole thing is excellent. On delicious cherry red vinyl.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Drudkh – “Eternal Turn of The Wheel” – [Season of Mist]

Rat King   9/24/2017   A Library, CD

Drudkh are a band of four Ukrainian black metallers, active since 2002 (with some changes in lineup). Their current lineup has been in place since 2006. Drudkh has disavowed any political or ideological associations with their music, but it does have a strong thread of Ukrainian nationalism running through it, manifest in their use of Ukrainian poets’ work as lyrics, particularly that of Taras Shevchenko, as well as Ukrainian folkloric themes. They are proud Slavic heathens, often writing about nature. I would guess that they are not fond of Russia. The meaning of the word drudkh is unclear, although it may be a romanisation of a Sanskrit word for wood (as in “a block of wood”).

Their 2012 album “Eternal Turn of the Wheel”, released on Season of Mist, has a theme of changing seasons, with one track for each season as well as an instrumental introduction. Apparently every season is cold in Ukrayina.

The introduction lasts little more than one minute and consists of wind noises and acoustic guitar. The season tracks are somewhat long, running about eight to ten minutes depending on the track. Drudkh’s sound is guitar-based, with riffs rather on the melodic side, but they also love synth keyboards, which moves it into solidly atmospheric territory. The drumming is usually quite slow and nature sounds (more wind, thunder, some birds of prey) are a recurring feature. It’s a funerary procession in the cold woods featuring a man screaming in Ukrainian. You can hear bells in spring.

The lyrics to spring mention water still sleeping under a sheet of ice, dead trees and snow, while summer is foggy and still. Autumn sees rain, wind and grassfire. Winter mentions darkness, snow and ice. Fairly straightforward.

Hail the Great Wheel.

Demen – “Nektyr” – [Kranky]

humana   9/24/2017   12-inch, A Library

This artist comes from Stockholm, Sweden, and her music and vocals create an atmosphere that is a lovely, murky swirl that makes you feel like you’re inhabiting some kind of cool night world where anything can happen, both good and bad.

Nerftoss – “Maiden Powers” – [Ehse Records]

Naysayer   9/19/2017   A Library, CD

Nerftoss, the solo project of musician John Jones is a pleasure from a variety of styles pulled together to make a unique, infectious sound. “Caliber” one of the few tracks with vocals, feels like post-shoegaze, with the vocals quieter than the bass, indistinguishable yet domineering. Many of the tracks are a type of loop of rhythmic beats or hypnotic drone and psychedelic patterns, pumping, pumping, pumping forward while odd rhythms and chords pop in and out commenting to each other while the loop continues forward.
New Psychedelia transforming your head. Turn on.

Morgen Wurde – “Brach Auf” – [Time Released Sound]

Naysayer   9/19/2017   A Library, CD

Morgen Wurde is Wolfgang Rottger from Kiel, the German port city on the Baltic that was a major manufacturer of subs and boats during WWII. It was also mostly destroyed by bombing during WWII. Does this matter? I think place and history affect artistic creation one way or another. With references to fire, whether it be destructive or transformative, the 11 tracks present a fluctuating tone of electronic swirl and percussive tone reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and other such groups but with an obvious 21st century bent. Propulsive yet ambient, electronic in a space journey type of manner. Flow over, through and beyond the space portal.

Mezei, Szilard / Guazzaloca, Nicola – “Lucca and Bologna Concerts” – [Amirani Records/Amirani Contemporary]

Naysayer   9/18/2017   CD, Jazz

A brilliant recording by Hungarian viola player, Szilard Mezei and Italian piano player, Nicola Guazzaloca. These master musicians pair up for recordings at 2 concerts and give performances of improvisational bliss. From slow and quiet almost silence, to loud bursts of volatile sound, Szilard bows, scratches and engulfs his viola, nursing and cursing a rich array of sounds, even bits and hints of Hungarian folk tunes. Nicaola, plucks and strums the inside of the piano then moves to eloquent chords, patterns, trills and other innovations on the piano keyboard. The interplay between them is thrilling to listen to, hearing the two shadow and mimic each other, then explore around the other’s sounds. Serious for sure, but fun. Lots of fun from these improvisers.

Straight Panic – “Satanic Verses, The” – [Phage Tapes]

lexi glass   9/18/2017   A Library, CD

Thomas Boettner is a prolific noisemaker (with his solo projects Fire Island AK and Family Planning and the group GASP.), the founder of several labels (Minneapolis-based Fuck Mtn. and now the New Orleans cassette label Jouissance de Rien), and an advocate for queer experimental musicians. Boettner’s power electronics project Straight Panic deals with the persecution of homosexuals, beginning with its origins in the ancient texts of nearly all major religions to the vicious treatment throughout history that continues today. Released in 2017 on Phage Tapes, The Satanic Verses is “a treatise on the defense and protection of all queer bodies in the face of theocracy under capitalism.”

Boettner uses samples to recount this bloody history – passages from the Quran (T2), sermons on the Book of Leviticus (T3) and from an Arizona pastor who calls for the execution of “filthy faggots” (T5 – FCC), hymns and military songs (T3 and T1) – all ravaged by distortion to magnify their ugliness. The noise comes in machine-gun bursts (T6), screams of rage (T2), waves of pain (T5, T4, with a sample from the 2015 film The Witch – witch hunts are a recurring theme), but there’s also moments of mourning and even hope (T7). Ruthless work that spits in the face of god.

Angels In America – “Narrow Road to The Interior” – [Ehse Records]

Naysayer   9/16/2017   A Library, CD

Wiped out, stoned, addicted, dusty, dirt, heat, squatting in infested broken down buildings: these are the feelings I get when hearing Angels In America’s “Narrow Road To The Interior”. Don’t get me wrong. I actually LOVE this sound, like walking through tar or muddy snow after eating something you shouldn’t have or didn’t know you had. Moppy Pont and Merv Glisten are the duo that make up this Baltimore based project, creating echoing vocals, kind of mumbled, sometimes just too tired to get the word out. Harmonies stumble through the sound infested background, filled with drones, lost choral repetitions, the sounds of detritus and wind, electronic surprises and irritants with guitar and maybe bass accompaniment, broken up beats, then a wail or scream. God, I love this so much. Kick back on your filthiest couch, listen and indulge in what feeds you. AIA rule.

Perkis, Tim / Walton, Scott – “Applied Cryptography” – [Pfmentum]

Naysayer   9/15/2017   A Library, CD

Upon hearing the first notes of this 2016 work by Tim Perkis (electronics) and Scott Walton (piano), I felt I was experiencing something bigger, something grander than many of the unique pieces of which I have the privilege of hearing. Perkis’ instrument is things electronic. Walton is a multi-instrumentalist, on this release performing piano. They are both skilled, knowledgeable and experienced performers. On this CD, something clicked, at least for me. An interplay of piano interludes, improvisations, arpeggios, and chords play with, around and against the electronic soundscape of blips, skronks, squelches, buzzes, hums and more. The piano is fully explored, even inside as wire is pulled and scraped. Or is that the electronics mimicking the piano? The quality of interplay between the two musicians and their instruments is stunning. The playing is shared with one not overwhelming the other but playing along side and in conversation with the other. Both may settle into quiet or one will dominate while the other supports or reacts. Sometimes they go in different directions, but they never get lost. Alas, the sound of experience and skill and creativity. If we did a top ten of the year, this would definitely be on my list.

Maju – “Maju-2” – [Extreme]

billiejoe   9/12/2017   A Library, CD

Pronounced “may you” and is Japanese for cocoon. Group from Tokyo. Sounds like romantic spacey moody almost hip hop beats. Reminiscent of Lovage. Came out in 1999. One of those albums that’s too short.

No Balls – “Second to Win First to Lose” – [Killedbyanaxe Records]

billiejoe   9/12/2017   12-inch, A Library

Lie! Lots of balls. Sweden and Norway by way of Paris. Album came out this year. Limited pressing. Sounds like grunge noise rock. Heavy guitar riffs. Artists are Brandsdal, Bryngelsson, Gurrik, Lauritzen, and Raberg. B side is chiller. Has horns! (?) It’s also not really three tracks, it’s just two. Both sides are 16:20.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Chaitanya Hari Deuter/ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – “Kundalini Meditation” – [Self Produced]

lexi glass   9/11/2017   12-inch, A Library

Georg Deuter is a major figure in krautrock and new age music, but this record is something else entirely. Recorded in 1975 and released in 1979 (though never in the US until this 2016 re-release), Kundalini Meditation is the result of a collaboration between the German multi-instrumentalist and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the spiritual leader of an ashram in Pune, India that Deuter discovered and joined during his wanderings through Asia in the early 1970s.

In the 1980s, members of Rajneesh’s commune, by then relocated to rural Oregon, would be convicted of bioterror attacks and assassination plots, while Rajneesh himself made a daily habit of parading in front of his adoring disciples in one of his many Rolls Royces. But in India in the 70s, Rajneesh founded a philosophy called neo-sannyasa, a mix of Hindu, Buddhist and Western ideas, with intensive meditation as a central component of the lifestyle. Deuter, who took the name Chaitanya Hari Deuter and became the resident musician of the ashram, designed these pieces in collaboration with Rajneesh to promote the meditation practice.

The pieces engage the mind and body in four successive steps: three musical stages of “shaking,” “dancing” and “witnessing,” and a fourth stage of meditation in silence. This LP contains the music of the first two stages. In the first stage (A1), rapid, repetitive, xylophone tones melt into a harmonious, ambient texture, until about six minutes in when electronic synthesis emerges and vibrates in parallel; soon, you become the shaking. In the second stage (A2), the droning strings of the tambura, flute, and percussion find an energetic rhythm inspired by Indian dancing music. Later, quiet chanting and guitar melodies add to the magical atmosphere. Entrancing work that could easily step over into new age cheeze but never does. Abandon yourself, totally.

Ilaiyaraaja, Isaignani – “Ilectro!” – [Finders Keepers Records]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, International

When I first listened to this CD, I thought, “Bollywood!” But it’s Kollywood with a K! Which refers to Tamil cinema. But this is so much more. Ilaiyaraaja is an incredibly prolific score-master of cinema, creator of “euphoric electronics and robotic funk,” and all you have to do is pick any track to hear the creative energy behind all that this Southern Indian pens. Though the songs have known popularity mostly in Tamil speaking territories, I know this will get a fair airing in Ann Arbor’s show, among others.

New Orleans Funk: Voodoo Fire In New Orleans Vol. 4 [coll] – [Soul Jazz]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, Soul

These songs from 1951-77 get the funk to rise in your blood in the best possible way, and the liner notes explain in a most excellent fashion how this type of music came to be from the earliest days in Congo Square, New Orleans, where “slaves, ex-slaves and free blacks congregated each Sunday to socialise, dance, party…and worship.” From Eldridge Holmes to Norma Jean to Chocolate Milk to Clifton Chenier to Zilla Mayes, this is a not-to-be-missed compilation, meant for more than just Soul Patrol.

Ferrat, Jean – “Les Annees Barclay” – [JBarclay]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, International

These two CDs take you back in time to the late 60s cabaret scene in France, where singer-songwriter Ferrat specialized in setting poetry to music. This very polished sound is easy on the ears, mellow and romantic, and, as the liner notes say, pop in the best sense of the word. Track 3 made the 2013 BBC list of 20 songs that most changed the world. Each song will transport you to the environs of France and all its boutique glory.