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Music Reviews

Jain, Sunny – Wild Wild East – [Smithsonian Folkways]

aarbor   3/11/2020   CD, International

Sunny Jain is the leader of Red Baraat a Brooklyn-based Indian-style street band and an up and coming player in the NYC music scene. When I read that he had a new release on Smithsonian Folkways I was curious, and after listening to the first few tracks and reading the liner notes, I was completely hooked by the passion of this release: it’s very personal- it tells about his life [don’t miss the family pictures in the liner notes]. Jain grew up in Rochester, NY as the child of East Indian immigrant parents. He writes in the liner notes about his confusion in 1st grade when learning about the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the “Indians”, and the numerous Cowboys and “Indians” stories. Here he plays with these themes: The “Indian” on Western terrain, Cowboys and Immigrants [2]. Morricone and Bollywood [5,6,9], South Asian rebels [7], Spirituality [10], his childhood [8] and other musics which influenced him (jazz, surf, post-punk) [1,3,12] He wonders which side is he on? [4]The music plays with Indian words and instruments mixed into Western songs. On track 4 a Muslim rapper decries the way he’s treated in post-911 America. This is an album that brings tears to my eyes as the child of immigrant parents in 21st century America. Even though my family comes from a different continent, I’ve felt those feelings too. – AArbor  

Purna Loka Ensemble -“Metaraga”- Origin Records

Medusa of Troy   3/11/2020   CD, International

For those well-versed in Indian classical styles, Western improvisation and geometric progressions in music, the album “Metaraga” is a fascinating melding of math and music, eastern and western music. For those who don’t recognize all of the influences within this album, it is an interesting blend of sounds and tempos, with two violins (mathematician-violinist Purnaprajna Bangere and David Balakrishnan from Turtle Island String Quartet), bass (Jeff Harshbarger) and tabla drum (Amit Kavthekar).

The livelier tracks are the first two, especially “Syzygy”. Track 6, “Alabama,” is a cover of John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” featuring clarinet (Robert Walzel). The last two songs of the album are traditional ragas. These are slower, contemplative pieces that fit in cooler, acoustic portions of sets.

Mizmor – “Cairn” – [Gilead Media]

atavist   3/9/2020   A Library, CD

Here lies beauty to pierce your heart with a shard of ice. Here sprawls a desert of jagged cliffs weathering under the wind. Mizmor has demonstrated the ability to create cold atmospheres and skull-rattling, doomed textures on previous works. However, this recording presents a new level of craft and complexity. The end result is something to get lost in, and you may feel like you’ve gone somewhere by the end. Four tracks, ranging from roughly 10 to 20 minutes, and each its own self-contained epic. A colossal achievement.

Ozzuario – Desolation/Destruction – [Distort Discos]

rbanks   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

Hard drum machine bass beats start this album down the hard road towards godless annihilation. A Japanese style obi strip on the CD packaging from this two-headed Chicago outfit is mostly in Japanese aside from a forbidding yet apt collection of names: GISM, BATHORY, THROBBING GRISTLE, SISTERS OF MERCY.

C tightly programs a drum machine that blasts and booms, as well as providing tortured black metal vocals with occasional Sisters of Mercy style gothic flares. They are accompanied by a disciplined yet wildly fuzzy metallic guitar tone flowing from R, a seasoned hardcore guitarsmith. 

A triptych of intermissions (Interzonas 1, 2, 3) flexes the electronic capabilities of this unit. Traditional song structures help to force feed this very interesting mix of underground elements and influences down the throats of any unsuspecting audience. 

somesurprises – “voice memos” – [Happy Accidents]

mickeyslim   3/4/2020   A Library, Cassette

the stippled streetlight over a gravestone at 2:30am,

eating a fresh donut at the bustop
in the fog,

Reverb’s lovesong to Distortion,
a ghost’s songs buried deep
in the snow.

a psychedelic pop aesthetic that floats uncomfortably
above the madness.

solo release of seattle-based Natasha El-Sergany on vox/guitar/synth recorded onto a cell phone 2016

Tomb Mold – “Planetary Clairvoyance” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

Death metal from Toronto. Tomb Mold can deliver mind-hammering heaviness with highly technical aptitude. What keeps me enthralled is the proggy inventiveness applied to the medium. A proper base of brutality is cut through with creative twists on familiar riffs and tropes, often producing what some might call “grooves”.

Track 5 might be the most straight-ahead/conventional track on the album. Elsewhere, you’ll find twists and turns in each track. The first track starts out quietly before delving into the chasm, with a quieter acoustic guitar interlude in the middle. Early favorites: tracks 1, 2, 4, and 7. Track two induces involuntary head nodding with iron-clad riffing. There simply are no flaws in this dual guitar attack. Track 3 is one of those instrumental, atmospheric pieces found on death metal records these days to further the overall narrative. There are glitchy samples with a beautiful, forlorn guitar part playing underneath. If you must know, the lyrical themes and concept for the album cover artwork orbit around extra-terrestrial invasion, death serving as a portal to other dimensions (or perhaps additional, miserable lives), horrific death. Track 7 is a proper way to close out this album—the attack is sustained, unrelenting, the bass and guitars create interesting (dis)harmonies in the riff architectures, and there’s even a massive guitar solo if you’ve found that lacking in your life. Similarly, in a breakdown halfway through track 4, Tomb Mold exhibits the type of riff construction that simultaneously soars and crushes, writhing in that tension between destruction and transcendence.

Vicissitones – "Vicissitones" – [Self Release]

Cousin Mary   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

A fine four-piece surf band from Ann Arbor, Michigan gives us 8 tracks of rocking instrumentals. Good arrangements, original compositions, some leaning toward lo-fi punk. (By the way, vicissitude is defined as “a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant“.)

KUTI, FELA RANSOME & HIS KOOLA LOBITOS – “Highlife Jazz and Afro-Soul” – [Knitting Factory Records]

aarbor   3/4/2020   A Library

Fela’s first (pre-Afrobeat) band was the Koola Lobitos and this is 3 CDs full of their music. Before he went to England he was the vocalist for Victor Olaiya’s All Stars. He returned to Nigeria from Trinity College of Music in London to find Highlife being thrashed by pop music and he responded by creating a new style that you can hear on this album. It brings together Highlife and Jazz – African rhythms and elements of the Jazz he must have heard in London. This is truly the “roots” of Afrobeat. AArbor

DE TRIANA, CHININ – “Cante Jondo” – [Folkway Records]

aarbor   3/4/2020   A Library

Chinin De Triana (1927-2006) was the stage name of Vicente Garcia Valganon, a popular flamenco singer in Spain. On this 1963 recording on Folkways Records, De Triana is accompanied on guitar by Emilio Bonet. Flamenco music (usually associated with Andalusian gypsies) has strict and complex forms, with occasional improvisations in the lyrics. This is classic flamenco. AArbor

Da Damn Phreak Noize Phunk – “Electric Crate Digger” – [!K7 Records]

aarbor   3/4/2020   12-inch, A Library

Da Damn Phreak Noize Phunk is Oliver Bondzio and Ramon Zenker. They also release music as Hardfloor with more of an acid sound. Both have collaborated with numerous others. Released in the UK in April of 1999  Electric Crate Digger is their very first release as Da Damn Phreak Noize Phunk. Driving rhythms, wah wah guitars, break beats, trip hop and an appealing dancey vibe. – AArbor  

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