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Music Reviews

Carr, Leroy – “Volume 2 (1929-1930)” – [Document Records]

humana   9/9/2018   Blues, CD


The staticky quality of these recordings are perfect for the blues, and Carr proves that misery loves company with these songs. Recorded circa the years of the Great Depression, we get a true feel for how tough things can be. “Rainy Day Blues” is awesome, as are many of the other tracks. Looking to commiserate? Try any of these to keep those lonesome feelings at bay.

Henriksen, Arve – “Towards Language” – [Rune Grammofon]

humana   9/9/2018   A Library, CD


Such sparse loveliness coming from a trumpet can only come from a Norwegian musician. Compared to the sounds of a flute, Henriksen’s trumpet music tiptoes over your emotions, leaving you feeling sad and nostalgic, and the beauty of his high-pictched vocalizations (especially on 9) offers you just enough comfort to wish for more.

Cardoso, Elizete – “Elizethissima” – [Som Livre Ltda.]

humana   9/9/2018   CD, International


All hail A Divina (the Divine One), the great Brazilian singer/actress whose name became associated with samba and bossa nova. As soon as I heard the first notes of this CD, I knew I was in for a treat. Upbeat samba melodies along with ballads are rendered with equal beauty by this lovely singer. Hope you enjoy as much as I did. Songs 1 and 5 are my particular favorites.

Artificial Brain – “Infared Horizon” – [Profound Lore]

Lord Gravestench   9/8/2018   A Library, CD

Artifical Brain, Technical Death Metal from The Big Bagel. Some members are also involved in the post-Hardcore scene out there.

Now I’m reading about Tech-Death online and I guess I don’t really know shit about it. I do like early Nile quite a bit (bite me!) but this doesn’t really sound like early Nile, at all. Portal meets Krallice might be a better reference point— and as we will see, I mean this as a compliment!

If I say I’m picky about Tech-Death I mostly just mean that I don’t like Gorguts all that much. My eternal Prog-metal nemesis Colin Marston, who plays in Gorguts (and Krallice), actually co-produced (with the band) this 2017 sophomore effort, as well as recording and engineering. It isn’t really a surprise because Marston is all over the NYC metal scene. I like to give the gentleman shit in my reviews here, but his touch on ‘Infrared Horizon’ probably did have a positive impact (as it did on Mastery’s ‘Valis’ BTW).

Artificial Brain’s sound is Tech-Death drawing somewhat on old Atrocity, with a bit of Black Metal melody and a dash of Isis-like Girlfriend Metal lipgloss. And the thing is, it all works amazingly well. Perhaps the fact that the band prefer sci fi horror themes (think ‘Alien’) for their lyrics (like Nocturnus, but, y’know, not totally boring) helps to make the forward-thinking/progressive/possibly overproduced sound so appropriate. Even the title track’s appearance by arch-tool Trevor Strnad, of contemptible posers Black Dahlia Murder, passes completely unnoticed. Paulo Paguntalan of Encenethrakh, another Marston project, appears on three tracks also. Main vocalist W.S. (see also: grindcore band Buckshot Facelift) keeps things gritty with a versatile mix of pigsqueals, growls and blackened shrieks.

All the music is composed by their guitarist. Dense, layered, psychotic, claustrophobic, but also kind of glittery and robotic. What sounds like utter chaos soon reveals itself to be well-structured and in some cases almost catchy Death Metal.

I think this is a rare case of a popular Death Metal band that doesn’t suck, but I haven’t seen them live yet so maybe I’ll end up eating crow. Good sound on the CD, anyway… In all seriousness, I’ve been a supporter of Artifical Brain since their first album and I’m happy for them. And the album art doesn’t remind me of the movie ‘Wall-E’ at all.

Dane, Barbara – “Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs” – [Smithsonian Folkways]

humana   9/8/2018   Blues, CD


When I first looked at the cover of this 2-CD package, I was reminded of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” But as soon as I started listening to the music and reading the liner notes, I knew it was so much more. Not that I don’t like Julie, but this Smithsonian retrospective of 60 years of Barbara’s music runs the gamut from folk to blues to jazz, and her amazing voice adapts to each style as though she was born to it. Plus, she opted out of the fame route and chose to sing where her passions lay–in civil right and songs of the people. Memphis Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Chambers Brothers, Pete Seeger, and many others appear on here. Be sure to listen to Disc 2, which contains the unreleased recordings. See for yourself why Louis Armstrong referred to Dane thus: “Did you get that chick? She’s a gasser!”

Mason – “Concrete Mirror” – [Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   9/7/2018   A Library, Cassette

Yet another deprogramming session from LA’s Harsh Noise dealers at Oxen, the label run by Unsustainable Social Condition and Leah P. This time our contestant is Abe Mason from N. Carolina., his mouth full of dust and tape. There are two tracks on side A and 3 on side B of this 2018 scorcher, and both ten-minute sides track together (wink). Side A is skittery and explosive, like coming down from methamphetamine (I’m told). Small movements in dim corners of abandoned factories. Suddenly the broken machinery springs to life; splats, tearing. Side B grinding rattling creaking, electronics and metal and a continuation of the general ‘cut-up’ theme also explored recently by Japan’s Scum on this same label.

It all seems to be pretty intricate sound design work even by the standard Oxen enforces. Very much in stereo, and kind of like a child “with ADHD” (cough) it can’t settle on any noise texture for more than about half a second. I dunno if it’s improvised or composed or waddaya waddaya, but I declare it truly impressive noise. Apparently Mason has also released quite a bit under the name Thirteen Fingers.

Pure electronic harsh noise devastation chopped into breathless adrenalin bursts. The only recognisable human sound anywhere is a brief sample of maybe a standup comic on the final track who pops in to say “It’s all just a waste of time… doesn’t matter.” Indeed.

Gibson, Robert – “Flux and Fire” – [Innova/American Composers]

Hemroid The Leader   9/5/2018   A Library, CD

Images in transition, transforming in time, like indiscreet undulations of the desert, or lines of poetry are the basis for “12 Poems,” short (2:21 max) for violin and piano. “I want to drink from the storm,” says composer Robert Gibson.
“Soundings” double-bass quartet a conversation in deeper voices. Gibson played bass for Mose Allison, Bob Berg, and Barney Kessel in the 80s. Sounding is the nautical term for depth measurement.
Night Music solo pieces ready for grave listening.

Verequete & Group Uirapuru – “Dance Music From Para, Amazonia” – [Wergo]

Hemroid The Leader   9/5/2018   CD, International

Varequete began his career as a modernizer and finished a traditionalist. In the 1960s he made radio hits popularizing the carimbó, a rhythm that in 2014 was designated Brazilian Cultural Heritage by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. You may recognize it as the lambada? Drums – sax, clarinet, and fiddle at times. Vocal sing alongs and Varequete chatting.

Shep and Me – “Nasturtium Inertia” – [Dear Skull Records]

Phil Phactor   9/5/2018   12-inch, A Library

Vinyl re-issue of a 2009 cassette and our first release from the (now-defunct?) Dear Skull label. This is dark, drony music for the nighttime. More specifically, this feels like Loren Mazzacane Connors meets The Microphones, as plaintive melodies rise up from the murk of lonely guitar lines and scratchy field recordings. Gets deeper with every listen. A project of Matthew Himes, who also records as Mole Hole and runs the Lighten Up Sounds label, which appears to still be going.

Raghu, Palghat / Subramanium, V.V. – “Bhavalu / Impressions” – [Nonesuch Records]

Phil Phactor   8/29/2018   12-inch, International

South Indian (Carnatic) instrumental music played by an ensemble featuring Palghat Raghu on mrindagam, the Indian barrel drum, and V.V. Subramaniam on violin. The violin was introduced to India in the late 1700s, and it’s fascinating to hear its sound was radically transformed through the use of ‘alternate’ tunings and modified techniques (including the use of oiled fingers to facilitate slides.) The mrindagam has a sharper and more powerful sound than the tabla, and it often takes the lead, for example on side A. The music of the north and south are both based on ragas, or modes, but in the south these are supplemented by composed, and often intricate, melodies upon which further improvisations are built. As a result, the music on this album requires a little bit of focus on the part of the listener, but it’s well worth it!