KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Trio X 3 “New Jazz Meeting – Baden Baden 2002 ” [Hat Hut]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Catchy like an abstract painting…dualing splatter platters
of trios cubed. This New Jazz Meeting features a trick that
is older than it sounds: splicing electronics w/ improv. On
the fly and in situ sounds are sliced & diced by top-notch
twiddlers: Philip Jeck, Bernhard Lang and Christof Kurzmann.
The first disc is all live, while the second (my slight fave)
was a studio effort. Electronics came in originally often
via percussion, and here that is a primary tactic. But also
treated textures hover at the edges of pieces, especially on
the studio disk. The use of lighter horns: Philippe Racine’s
flute, Marcus Weiss’s saxes and a very vital Steve Lacy are
open enough that they never obliterate whatever more subtle
programming is going on. NOTE : contrary to the “band-name”
never do we catch the starting 9 on the field all at once.
Tracks 1-2, 1-4, 1-6 have a few hectic (rewarding) moments,
occasional chainsaw cut-up, wail-out. The rest is much more
nuanced, deep but never engulfing. The liner notes deliver
the recipe in greater detail, and emphasize the secret
rhythms of Lang. 1-1 gets things started tunefully with
a weird waft of brain-funk. 2-6 showcases Lang on “flute”
(sampling Erik Dresher!). Great striking drones on 2-5. Of
the two epics, 2-7 is a winding tunnel that sustains
ominence. RIP Lacy, viva improv.

Orinoka Crash Suite “Two” [Narnack]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

OCS is John Dwyer…or at least one of an army of John Dwyers
as seen in the Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf
and grandma’s fave, “Dig That Body Up It’s Alive.” Prolific
is too weak a word. On Sesame Street, this is the album that
is not like the others…acoustic, subdued, tape-hissed,
vocally-hushed numbers. “Killed Yourself” sounds like the
singer drowned himself in a cute little aquarium, with one
of those fancy tiny castles. Guided by Voices managed to
get just the right type of poor recording on their earlier
stuff, I’d venture that here Dwyer has done as good a job.
The splotchy reverb and warble of the recordings just adds
stacks of unassuming ambience to these strumbly numbers.
The ending number drives home the point, it’s a true “home”
recording, old-school style…a child recounting Goldylox
and the three “beers?” “Intermission” serves up a fit of
fury… Usually it is the sounds, voices, tweaky guitar
on top of the acoustic underbelly that make these songlets
compelling. I find this a lot more bluesy than the most
recent Clarence Gatemouth Brown album. Half-cooked and
home-cocked. Don’t miss the Bisbees.

Zoffy “Thou Shall Not Mess with Zoffy” [Acid Mothers Temple]

Thurston Hunger   8/25/2004   A Library

Acid knights of the mother temple, guitar god Makoto Kawabata
and madman-genius Atsushi Tsuyama turn psychedelic pranksters
with another Zoffy piece o’ musical taffy. Stretching the
limits of cover songs at the beginning and end, and digging
deep beneath the folk basement. Zoffy deliver ultra-tweaked
gypsy songs cloaked in reverb, humor, birdcalls. A heady
sonic homebrew, that is deceptively ramshackled. (Check
out the headphone tabla bounce on #10, it defies the lo-fi
nature of much of this.) Atsushi is just a radiant being.
All tracks might be covers for what I know, but the further
out the better…the opening/closing numbers pale in
comparison to the gaunt beauty of #2, or the hypnowheel
spin of #7 with crazed keening vocals. While the kids
may dig “Cookie Monster” vocals these days, I sure like
Atsushi’s “Grover” vox on #9. Meanwhile his phrasing on
that tabla-turner #10 sound like a sideways take on Pete
Seeger. With the ney nose-flute, and dueling bouzouki
action, how can you not love this? -Thurston Hunger
Seven seconds of abrupt silence at the end of #13

Ennio Morricone “Psichedelico Jazzistico” [Cherry Red]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2004   CD, Format, Soundtrack

The accent is always on the “MORE” with Morricone, composing
since 1959 for film, and staggeringly prolific. His style
which originally might have seemed a bit patchwork is now
his signature. No one knew just how frightening a little
girl’s voice could be until Morricone worked with it…his
use of jagged violins drew me as a major latecomer when I
first heard him on John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing”
well after he was the spice in the Western spaghetti sauce
that Leone poured over his victims. He’s a trumpet player
by training, but its his relentless juxtaposition of sound
that marks him most of all. “Four Velvet Flies” starts off
with seven seconds of a jazz-church “Alleluiah” into harp
and before its over we’ve heard those wordless, bodiless
vocals over harpsichord, ridden past a calliope into R&B
vamping towards a dual piano romp ending up with a psyche
jam. That’s *one* track. I love how he can write such
sweet innocence (#8, #11) but then embrace the twisted
and wonderful as in #3, #10. He does dizzying panic with
a sure and untouchable hand, #12. And I still can’t get
that jaw-harp on #13 out of my ear, that’s sexier than
the orgiastic climax of this collection.

Zelienople “Sleeper Coach” [Loose Thread]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2004   A Library, CD, Format

No sophomore slump, just a deeper drop into the coma for this
Chicago quartet. Stonergaze with stacks of sonic blankets.
It opens in a wind tunnel, and most following tracks ride on
solar winds. Guitars can whoosh…especially when washed out.
Vox are pulled into to the vacuum by way of an anglo(?) accent
almost forcing a comparison to Slowdive. Although rarely does
the Z aim for catchiness, happier to just glide. Each lyric
seems to evaporate before the next, leaving little residue.
Which is okay, as the band more steadfastly pursues reverbic
resonance. The sound from beginning to end is consistent.
Evidently Mike Weis is the drummer, and possibly narcoleptic.
The mark of a good drummer is to not play certain notes,
but Mike is able to do so for entire songs. Brian Harding
not only blows cumulus keyboards but even breathes deep on
clarinet. Neil Jendon joined the group last, but I think it
is his puddles of guitar that help Zelienople (named after
somewhere in PA) find a nice region between drone and pop.
“Don’t Be Lonely” hits the high-water mark for me, but it
all stays afloat. As Richard Nixon once Grimble Grumbled,
“It is indeed a windy city!”

Workshop “Yog Sothoth” [Sonig]

Thurston Hunger   7/27/2004   A Library

Germans Kai Althoff und Stephan Abry have been Workshop for a
number of years, this is their seventh release. Althoff is
also an artist (canvases) and thus this by defintion is art
rock, but it’s also damned diverse. His singing is often
on-the-fly pitched and glitched, but it’s still singing. This
release plays like a band, men more than Matmos. (Although
the mysterious Rath may be a woman.) Workshop looks to its
electronics without overlooking more human elements. Like
beats dropped in at less than precise moments, and good
punch-drunk guitars on #2. They list a lot of collaborators,
depending on which track/door you come in, this album will
look like an entirely different house. Beat palace, prog
cubicles, broken pop stand, reggae shack. The processed vox
at times crack me up (not that I understand the German) but
that zippling effect has been used in really cheezy R&B in
the past. There’s Fodder for the whole Family here, all
LoveCrafted.

Pharoah Sanders “Izipho Zam” [Strata-East]

Thurston Hunger   7/27/2004   12-inch, Format, Jazz

Pharoah Sanders remains a regal presence, here we hear him
ascending the pyramidal throne with a throng of amazing
musicans. Sonny Sharrock is on here with bubbling guitar,
dual double bass quadruple soul are laid solid by Sirone
and Cecil McBee. Leon Thomas steals the show with a baritone
yodel that is deeper than the soul…much of this album
despite fiery flourishes, has an R&B skeleton. Sturdy yet
flowing. “Prince of Peace” comes with bells of peace and
sweet washes of sound. “Balance” has be-bop chops and
Sharrock gets more turbulent on this. There’s a nice dry as
a rattlesnake’s skin percussion break as well. The big
payoff is the title track, all 28:50 of it. Thomas’ jazz
yodel returns, transplanted from the river of “Prince”
to a garden of sounds galore. Branches of percussion sway,
thumb piano ferns wave and flutebird moves in and out
of the growth. Free jazz, fire music in its most deceptively
cool environs. All done in 1969…this along with “Tauhid”
are essential Sanders. Towering.

L.A. Drugs s/t [Twisted Village]

Thurston Hunger   7/13/2004   12-inch, A Library, Format

Three piece suits themselves to the pleasure of panic attacks
and heavy doses of teenage sexual frustration (the lyrics
are copped from singer Sandra’s diary.) Tinny but not tiny
punk with sloppy joe guitar from Ryan, who just as he starts
to master the six-string halfway through this one-sided
monomaniacal hormone-laced vinyl release dumps the guitar
for his true love, synthesizers that make Quintron sound
like Lawrence Welk. And oh yeah, that’s Paul drumming at gun
point…and just as sure-handed as you would expect. This
album screams for attention, but it also just screams for
the sake of screaming. Fiesty fits of songs get bored with
the listener before vice-versa…repetition of lyrics keeps
the insistence levels high, the insolence meanwhile is
bubbling out of your pancreas as these L.A. Drugs detune
out, turn on you and drop their drawers. Music to scratch
scabs to…not necessarily your own. Purely puerile!
PS A locked groove to *start* and *end* this…

Molasses “Trouble at Jinx Hotel” [Alien8]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Fourth serving of this Montreal mixture, chiefly stirred and
slurred by Scott Chernoff. Molasses is a material known for
its being dark, thick and slow…those qualities ooze forth
on this release as well. Of course, lower case molasses is
the reduction of sweet sugar cane, while Molasses is the
reduction of the more sour aspects of life. “Jinx” is almost
spiritually devoted to despondency, and distilled with tiny
drones too. Prayers are tossed on the slowburn of the lyrics
fairly often, sunshine threatens at times to break thru but
Chernoff’s heavy-to-the-point-of-herniated vocals prevent
any gravity-defying or even the robbing of grave feelings.
His broken spoken words get ghosted by Jennifer Menard
and others. The songs are usually set in the hazy strum of
a guitar chord or three, augmented nicely by harrowing
haloes of GodSped guitars. Add in stretchy acoustic bass,
a most morose marimba, slow-bowed saws…all keeping the
pace and outlook bleak. This CD is a rustic rocking chair
on a porch somewhere mossy, but its runners are rusted
so it can’t move too much. Still well carved.

Joanna Newsom “Milk-Eyed Mender” [Drag City]

Thurston Hunger   6/17/2004   12-inch, A Library, Format

Guileless yet wily comes Joanna Newsom. A recent adoptee of
the Bay Area, has touched notes and hearts with the Pleased
and Nervous Cop, this album is nearly 100% her and her alone.
Pluckier than her harp strings and luckier than the stars
above, her soothing songs connect ancient Greek minstrels to
Vulcan folk songs. Her harp is such a mammoth instrument,
its menacing stature belieing its lamb-like nature. Newsom’s
voice exists outside of time, she likely sang this way when
she was 8, and still will when she’s 80. At her shriller
moments, she may prove too much the harpy for some. For me,
I’m completely enchanted…having seen her live next to
her harp enhanced the childlike nature of the performance.
She does play some other instruments here as well, including
harpsichord adding to the anachronistic pull of this LP.
It’s a cozy album, in package and in play. Her lyrical
wool-gathering kept me enrapt, others may find it too
bramble and briar. For me, it’s just plum peachy!

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