KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Djll, Tom – “Serge Works” – [Other Minds, Inc.]

lexi glass   8/28/2018   A Library, CD

Tom Djll is a local experimental musician whose work throughout his decades-long career is well-represented in our library, from his solo work to his ensemble projects Grosse Abfahrt, Tender Buttons, and many others. This release, part of Other Minds‘ 2018 Modern Hits series, collects recordings from the early period of Djll’s career in the 1980s, as he was just beginning to assemble his own Serge Modular synthesizers and use the instrument to accompany, or process, the sounds of his trumpet.

In these seven works, trumpet tones bend and stretch into space age sine waves, periodic pulses, blasts of noise, and other surprising sounds. But they’re arranged in different ways: in “popcorn music” (T3), “Pair Time,” (T5) and the understated “Francine” (T6), as a evolving improvised sound collage (those last two, featuring percussionist Ross Rabin, especially call to mind Tender Buttons), in “schitzo-analysis” (T2) or the centerpiece “FAT” (T4, an excerpt of an hour long piece), as intense, luminous drones, and in “Tombo” (T1) and “Seattle 1988” (T7), while Djll claims he was inspired by punk and noise, I hear them as a warped, funhouse mirror reflections of free jazz. More information about the recordings and some nerding out over Serge modules in the disc’s liner notes.

Monkey Power Trio – “The Ballad of Christian Wolfcock” – [Pocahontas Swamp Machine Recordings]

Max Level   8/28/2018   10-inch, A Library

MPT have their way with the expanded 10″ format this time. The five-member trio is back with recordings they laid down in 2014 and 2015 –OK, so things don’t move terribly swiftly in The Land of MPT– and it is one of their best releases in a while. If “Left Behind” was MPT’s “Exile on Main Street”, and I think we can all agree that it was, then this new one is their “Let it Bleed.” One surprising song style after another, yet it all hangs together somehow. Highlights for me: “Gordon Muir, Time Traveler” must be heard to be believed. Remember “Kraken” from a few years ago, with its grinding guitars and weird falsetto vox? Well, this is its geeky cousin. “Deadhand Button” is an uptempo, knee-slappin’ little ditty about nuclear holocaust. The drugged-out funk of “Black Wig” moves nicely into “Under the River”, a country-ish strum-along reminiscent of the Glimmer Twins after several too many bottles of wine. “Hello Cleveland” ends the record and this song is so pretty it would have been at home on “eMPTy”, the band’s prettiest record to date. Even the weird (w)rapping toward the end can’t derail this one. We never do find out who Christian Wolfcock is, by the way. I give this record four and a half fingers, maybe five.

Scott-Adams, Peggy – “Best of Peggy Scott-Adams: 16 Hits!” – [Mardi Gras Records, Inc]

Naysayer   8/26/2018   Blues, CD

Peggy Scott-Adams does not play. When she wants a man, she gets him, no matter whose man he belonged to. And you better not touch her unless she says go. Peggy is serious and it’s great to hear her sing about it. These 16 hits from 1996, when Peggy started her solo career, to 2006, cover a lot of territory and are renowned within the blues and r&b community for pushing the boundaries of topics to discuss. Spousal abuse, losing your man to another man, ageism, talking to women about how they need to keep themselves up and not become a man’s pawn: it’s all here. The lyrics may not always be PC but they are honest. Her vocal style is sultry with some diva, southern gospel trills and holding out notes with great skill. She can belt it out like the best of them when needed. And she talks to her audience: ladies, and gentlemen, listen up. The instrumentation falls into that late ’90’s electric piano, drum machine sound but her voice takes over and you kind of forget about it. She might play Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco but I’d rather see her in Hayward at Shirlene’s Iron Horse or the Why Not. Get my drift?

Birchwood, Selwyn – “Pick Your Poison” – [Alligator Records]

Naysayer   8/26/2018   Blues, CD

When a flute fades in to start off track 1, “Trial By Fire”, on Selwyn Birchwood’s excellent, newest CD, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Within seconds the lap steel guitar pulls in and we are off. Birchwood’s approach is to play off old blues’ styles but to make them his own. Tone is a bit swampy at times, gritty and rough, which is the best. His guttural baritone takes to the forefront of an exceptionally tight four piece outfit: Birchwood on guitar, lap steel and vocals, Regi Oliver on all things sax plus flute, Huff Wright holding it down on bass and Courtney “Big Love” Girlie on drums and percussion. Lyrics are about men loosing their women and drinking through their pain, dealing with alcohol, relationship troubles, with contemporary references like intervention, texting, cell phones. But there is more: songs about the police state and workers in the corporate machine make us remember we are in the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. Through all of this, though, there is a southern church feel, a religious tone that is not overbearing but is apparent. It’s not bludgeoning the listener, just part of Birchwood’s personality. Blues isn’t just old tyme and reissues. This new stuff is kicking some butt. Enjoy.

Southern Avenue – “Southern Avenue” – [Stax Records]

Naysayer   8/24/2018   Blues, CD

This one caught me off guard and kind of blew me away. Southern Avenue have only been around for a few years but sound like they have been together forever. This blues and soul blues quintet are creating a sound rooted in traditional blues but sounding contemporary, of this century. Not falling into that scary overproduced or not dirty enough sound of many modern blues recordings, Southern Avenue have successfully blended blues and dirty Memphis soul without sounding retro. This is new stuff, listeners, and it will get you moving. Started by guitarist Ori Naftaly who left Israel to come to the US to play the blues, he met up with vocalist Tierini Jackson who introduced him to her drum playing sister, Tikyra Jackson. The band is rounded out with Daniel McKee on bass and Jeremy Powell on all things keyboard. Ten songs take you through seering musicianship that’ll turn your head, as will Tierini’s outrageously strong vocals which sound slightly reminiscent of Beyonce. It must be a Memphis thing. Just dive in. It’s such a great surprise.

Takada, Midori & Satoh, Masahiko – “Lunar Cruise” – [Epic Records]

Naysayer   8/22/2018   A Library, CD

This rerelease of Midori Takada and Masahiko Satoh’s 1990 “Lunar Cruise” is a beautiful, unique album, rich in diversity of sound. Recorded after the two of them performed in countries in Africa, Europe and Asia, this album is full of the musical traditions from these parts of the world. All instrumentals, each track stands on it’s own. The diverse instrumentation flows from synth beats to minimalist marimba, middle eastern jazz to gongs and electronic drones. Satoh plays a variety of synthesizers and Midori plays percussion. Their interaction is thrilling to listen to because of the ease with which they play together and the comfort displayed in the diversity of sounds.

Hollow+Sunshine+-+%22Cold+Truth%2FI+Wandered%22+-+%5BNostalgium+Directive%5D

Thurston Hunger   8/22/2018   7-inch, A Library


Hollow Sunshine “Cold Truth b/w I Wandered ” 45
2014 single from this Seattle duo that listen to their elders. Slow and
thick (not Earth slow but slow) more shoegaze that sludge. Anvil anthems,
Reuben Sawyer is drummasaurus and guitarist and all non-mouth things.
Bass vertabrae support that kind of Projekt fuzzed guitar. Morgan Enos
sings steady above the thrum. His phrasing on “I Wandered” leans over
the edge of the riffs nicely. Even better when Nina Chase chimes in
some harmony vocals about halfway through. Could see that cut being a
chest-rattler live. Lean to the pop and you could connect these guys
to Charles Brown Superstar, step to the heavy and you might find Thou.
And apparently we can thank Thou for delivering us this slab of
Hollow Sunshine. -Thurston Hunger

Godspunk Volume 3 [coll] – [Pumf Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/22/2018   A Library, CD


[coll] : Godspunk Volume Three Backfilling our Godspunk collect ’em all void. Released in
2005, this comp starts in 1984. All’s well that starts well
with Orwell, and a dash of Subhumans too. The leadoff artist
Howl in the Typewriter is Mark Standing, the one who PUMF’s
up the volume of these comps. He’s a clever dude, his wry-fi
raps are the sweet chunks o’ spunk, from the F-to-the-C-to-the
muddereffing-shining-C. The 3 Ages of Elvis provide two takes
on rock, first whistle-jangle pop then Brit bangers and boogie.
Jungle to jeer Jesus by from Pissed Off. Norman piles multiple
cartoons into one instrumental. Litterbug with two straight
driving rockers dipped in teenage angst sauce. The Taurus
Board pilots simple techno with a George Carlin sample in
the passenger seat. Razor Dog’s got some bark. LDB = hip-hop,
indicted as old and white but my guess is MF Doom would find
it arresting. Reverends touched me, in a good way. UNIT is
kinda kooky, punky/proggy with flute roops, hell they sing
a song in Aztec(?!?). Kate Fear (a ruling name) makes plans
with Nigel Joseph for a synth/speak swirl ala Map 71. The
Time Flies! bounce beats with Brooklyn in the house via a
complaint line call on their first, then try on Les Baxter’s
old clothes while watching porn. The last Howl has 1:38
of silence before his rant. outStanding weirdos swimming
in the Black Pool gene pool. -Thurston Hunger
FCC #1, #4, #6, #8, #12, #21

Khoury, Mike – “Tocsin” – [Detroit Improvisation]

Phil Phactor   8/22/2018   A Library, CD

A set of three pieces for solo violin, with and without electronics, all composed to accompany the dances of Leyya Tawil. On the first track, Tawil’s footfalls share sonic space with Mike Khoury’s barely there harmonic flutters. There’s a lot of space in this piece, and you’re left to imagine the visual element. The second track opens with a slow, repeated chime, but quickly grows into a sprawling morass of wailing drones as Khoury utilizes electronics to double and triple up on himself. Eventually, everything fades away, and the piece ends on the same note it started. The last track is similar to the first one, with Khoury upper harmonic explorations mingling with the suggestive sounds of bodily motion, both dissipating into the reverberant space. This limited edition CD-R was released on Khoury’s own Detroit Improvisation label, founded in order to document his personal journey as an improviser.

Ronn, Christian / Mori, Ikue – “Chordis Et Machina” – [Resipiscent Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/22/2018   12-inch, A Library


Ronn, Christian / Mori, Ikue 33 rpm
“Chordis Et Machina”
Creepy calm? Ikue Mori is no stranger to KFJC’s library,
her DNA is in ours, but for years she’s been flying
hyperspeed into the singluarity of sound. The woman/machine
laptop/mindmeld. Her electronic signature often feels
extremely crisp, a hint of digital insects, quick flutter
of fragile wings, tiny little loops, and just a small patch
of fuzz on the antennae. Interesting to think of her
originally as a drummer, it’s like she has discarded the
beat and chased after the timbre of percussion. Well mostly,
there’s trace elements of funk on “Beyond the Forest” which
has a rhythm and bounce woven into it. Ikue’s joined here by
Christian Ronn of Denmark (his KFJC debut perhaps?). His piano
work is featured, fractured and fed into “Primodial Chaos”
(a 13 1/2 minute epic). He also offers Buchla thunder (well
more like gusts) but often is charge coupled with Ikue in
the well of the synthetic. Strange that the album is called
“Chordis Et Machina” as it’s heavy on the latter. “Spatium
Mutate” opens the LP like a can of soda, a laptop pop and
fizz to start, then gets into that calm vibe but with clicks
and tricks and squishy clean electronics. KFJC reviews used
to talk about soundscapes, and I think this duo builds nice
ones and then populates them with little digital critters.
“Loch Ness” hides more high-freq freaks than big bassy
monsters, really round pure tones, the way a robot might
whistle. Warning, it ends might quick and clipped. If you dig
this check out stuff from the Empreintes Digitales label
or marvel at the diversity Decker delivers on the mighty
Resipiscent local imprint (which released this in conjunction
with Tonometer and Nische-Ronn’s label). -Thurston Hunger