KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Blodulv – “III – Burial” – [Eerie Art Records]

whngr   3/19/2020   A Library, CD

Ugly Swedish Black-metal

Straight-ahead mid to up-tempo misanthropic black metal from Sweden circa 2005 book-ended by two abstractions (Intro: vocal-based aggressive noise, Outro: delay-based artifact loop). Gallops, riffs, trem-picked power chords, lumbering, and methodical. Heavily distorted vocals and primitive bXm guitar… might be some bass and drums in there too but they are so buried and weak in the mix they were appear to have been afterthought. The band which may or may not have included a drum machine designated Dr. M (which was dumped for “failing to obey orders”) was subsequently replaced by Mr. Maachinaa and according to AEIFUR (lyrics) in an interview over a decade passed, 

“We have never rehearsed, and we never will. We only see each other once every two months when we get together to record, but then that cold feeling of luciferian(sic) darkness appears almost immediately”

Taking pride in their low quality and antiquated equipment, which must have contributed to the lame recording/mixing of III-Burial, they also appear to revel in their drunkenness , or perhaps they want their listeners to (falsely) emulate their self-destructive behavior to hasten their demise as is their total commitment to the downfall of humanity. Sadly, the band failed to survive that long as the fraying tethers of society wouldn’t truly begin to snap until March of 2020. I applaud Blodulv’s lack of refinement, it harkens back to simpler, punker, times but… they might have benefited by spending a little more time together in the room before they hit ‘record’, though I guess we shan’t ever know. On the other hand perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today, facing immanent collapse, if it were not for this, the final recording by Blodulv, maybe we’d still marching toward “progress” were it not for their parting shot at a crumbling global civilization.

Diocletian – “Amongst The Flames Of A Bvrning God” – [Profound Lore Records]

whngr   3/18/2020   A Library, CD

Horrifying Kiwi Death-metal

All aboard the good ship Pummel-the-Corpse-in-to-Oblivion! Though on-line sources say that this album marks a step away from Diocletian’s supremacy over the New Zealand metal scene, with the loss of several key members, and a return to their earlier less refined sound Amongst The Flames Of A Burning God is still a powerful missive and a shot across the bow of any metal-clad war-ship upon the seven seas. Diocletian has come under fire by some of their fans and though not quite as epic or as rotund as their previous release (2014’s Gesundrian), this recording is a stripped-down, back-to-basics aural assault, as well as a hefty (if rather short) and terrifying album. A little tech, a little death, a bit of power, a lot of violence, a dollop of doom, and a mighty slathering of war and rage! Fucking christ! These guys are full-on! Blast beating, double-kick thundering, thrashing, pick scraping, solo shredding, guttural bellowing, guttural barking, guttural yelling, a single tasteful pinch-harmonic, and an abundance of not so tasteful (but kinda awesome) trem dives. Which might provide a possible bridge between death metal and power violence or perhaps doom metal and war metal if, like myself, you sometimes like to throw a hybrid into your set for smooth transitions between genres.

Burial Hex – “Hierophant, The” – [Handmade Birds]

whngr   3/14/2020   12-inch, A Library

A pensive and surreal excursion over a sultry dreamscape comprised of rolling fields of long-grass that bend against a gentle wind like the breath of a dying god, knolls of indifference dotted with gilded copses of oak trees, festooned with gossamer webs of regret and doubt. Timid worrying brooks like forgotten tears that course wistfully through archaic ravines like the lines that were once traced over the body of a long-lost lover. Towards sprawling meditative oceans whose nacreous waves crash upon rocky coasts, inimical under the hyalescent sky. Somewhere amidst this oneiric terrain lies an ancient catacomb and within its crumbling walls roams the Minotaur, the last of all living beasts, ageless and eternal.
Though I was only superficially cognizant of Burial Hex, in part due to the sprawling and voluminous magnitude of his releases, it still was apparent that The Hierophant was a departure for Clay Ruby. While continuing to blend electronic and conventional instrumentation, avant-garde and noise elements, haunting plaintive vocals, bells, piano, heavily effected guitar and bass guitar, synthesizer, drums, brass, strings both bowed and plucked; there now appear to be lesser drawn upon and even novel arrows in his quiver. Forlorn howling and shrieking, guttural articulation, off-pitch crooning ,crickets, whispers, and wind. Mixed adeptly by the seemingly ubiquitous James Plotkin, this outing from 2014 avoids comfortable categorization.
These five compositions feel deeply scrutinized with a profound awareness of phrasing, there is no hint of improvisation. Every sound has purpose and the billowing space between these sounds give them life and punctuation reminding one of Whitman, Joyce, or Chaucer. Like the parable of Icarus it draws an arc towards an impossibly lofty target, where even when the mark is missed, a pivotal tale is told for all men that follow. A lesson for humanity so that it might grow and a offer a warding from ill-fated paths charted with hubris and folly. And though I may have thought that this album had at times missed its target, perhaps appearing pretentious or grandiose, I found after several listens I began to soften and then to be captivated. After many more it seemed, the issue was not with The Hierophant but with myself. That in fact, it was a riddle to be solved, and that I was a part of the magnificent solution. 

Malone, Kali – “Sacrificial Code, The” – [Ideal Recordings]

whngr   3/13/2020   12-inch, A Library

Resplendent pulls from Scandinavian pipe organs on these beautifully performed minimalist dirges from American composer Kali Malone. Closely mic-ed to allow the listener to hear the subtle mechanics underneath the enervate drones. Breathtaking and meditative minor-key monophonic and sparse polyphonic notes held for gloriously long durations. Banishing the hollow sentiments of folly and mirth, we are ushered towards introspection, longing, and reverence. Hauntingly seductive, there is little inference to Christian philosophies or doctrine on this understated and elegant double LP other than the track titles which speaks to the dichotomy between Malone’s relationship to the church and to the organs they contain. 

She states, “In my mind, it was still so connected to the traditions of the church, It wasn’t yet sonically liberated from that particular setting and culture for me.” 

These pieces resonate with the essence of my being, the immaculate tone and timbre vibrating for what feels like an eternity. The only allusion to rhythm being the 1:08 minute track on side D, Hagakyrka Bells (D1). The prelude to a live performance with Ellen Arkbro in the Haga parish of Gothenburg in April of 2018.

Vatican Shadow – “Byzantine Private CIA” – [Hospital Productions]

whngr   3/12/2020   12-inch, A Library

Warm pulses, decaying throbs, slithering oscillations, languid drone, and ghostly abstractions to lull you into a somnolent repose.
Dark-ambient, light-industrial, with dulcet techno leanings and in curious contrast with the packaging and imagery suggested by the track titles listeners will find themselves swimming in a soothing bath of audial electronics.

This 2019 vinyl re-release of the 2010 cassette by the prolific Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Cold Cave, Tortured Hooker, et al.), architect and founder of Hospital Productions, Byzantine Private CIA is a lush journey through a shadow-world of clandestine energies vying for control of our subconscious minds. Though at times somber and perhaps unsettling for some, it is in its entirety, a lavish slide through the dreams of an undercover operative deep within enemy lines.

JFK – “Nganga” – [Chondritic Sound]

lexi glass   3/11/2020   12-inch, A Library

This 2017 LP marks the revival of JFK, the solo project of Anthony Di Franco (of Ramleh and Skullflower) that dates back to the mid 80s. Nganga is the word for a cauldron used in the ceremonies of the Afro-Cuban religion Palo, used by practitioners to capture and control the spirits of the dead. To play this record is to descend into this magic vessel and face the furious energy within its iron walls. Much of the album is driven by the violent rhythms that suggests JFK’s later work (such as 2018’s Weapon Design, in our library), from the relentless bombardment of “The Scythe” (T1), to the fiery maelstrom of “Star-Killer” (T2), to the bloody grind of the war “Machinen” (T3), to the gut punches of the title track (T4). The final tracks preserve this intensity, but the fearsome chorus of “Zarathustra” (T5) and the radiant tones on closer “Minerva” (T6) transcend the terror.

Sun Worship – “Emanations of Desolation” – [Vendetta]

atavist   3/11/2020   12-inch, A Library

The sound of Germany’s Sun Worship is associated with a particular kind of black metal that features expansive atmospheres and longer compositions, and are sometimes compared to bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and Ash Borer. The guitar rips the air like a chainsaw and the blast beat drums rattle the earth. The production quality is relatively good—the guitar work is clearly discernible and the cymbal crashes don’t overwhelm the mix. One of Sun Worship’s distinctive features is the vocal style. It’s a weak point for some black metal observers on the internet. For this listener, there are shades of a very hoarse Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, et al) captured live. Fortunately I don’t find it too distracting, but there are parts where he actually sings, like in Track 4, “Torch Reversed”, and it almost doesn’t work. At the very least, the eccentric vocal style offers a different texture/dimension. Track 1, “Zenith”, is a brief intro track that starts off with a marching drum beat with some spacy sounds thrown in. Soon, the full power of the sound drops in with the second track, “Void Conqueror”. Track 3, “Devoured”, has ringing chord structures and evil riffs amidst the relentless drums. The epic quality of the record really picks up with track 5, “Soul Harvester”, and continues for the remainder of the tracks. Side C is particularly riveting on this count, starting with the cold, minimal, brooding synth intro of “Pilgrimage” all the way through the captivating “Coronation”. This record demands my attention and keeps me guessing how they will bend and shape their ferocity next.

Beetlebox – “EP” – [Self Released]

Medusa of Troy   3/11/2020   A Library, CD

Beetlebox is the Seattle-based pianist/composer, EP is the name given to his EP of 4 songs, all utilizing spare, experimental piano pieces augmented by electronic sounds, some ambient, others glitchy. The first track, “Ellipses,” starts off with a classical flourish that then gets repetitive and unsettling, low hums and staccato beats surrounding the piano. You’ll find more discordant piano on “Drum Machine,” with the synthetic drums anchoring the melody. “40 Hours” is avant garde classical with lots of sharp notes, while “Empty Space” is full of alien, droning buzz. Overall, EP has an arthouse sci-fi sound (my favorite); never very loud but occasionally disquieting if you listen closely. Personally, I find it soothing, though not at all smooth.

SUN HOP FAT – “Sun Hop Fat” – [Self Released]

aarbor   3/11/2020   A Library

Sun Hop Fat are Oakland’s own Ethiojazz outfit and this CD is almost as good as attending one of their live shows.  Tracks 5,8, and 9 are traditional Ethiopian favorites beautifully done, and the rest are their own high energy honky, squonky sax driven tunes. Don’t miss Spackelface [6] and Yum Yum [4] AArbor

POP MAKOSSA: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984 [coll.] – [Analog Africa]

aarbor   3/11/2020   A Library

Once again Analog Africa succeeds in unearthing beautiful and obscure tracks of ‘Makossa’ a kind of dance music from Cameroon. Makossa bridges traditional African music to the funk, disco and soul of the US in the 1970s and ‘80s. Vocals by Donna Summer or even James Brown could work on some of these tracks. An extremely well curated collection that was 7 years in the making. AArbor

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