KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Haku – “Na Mele a Ka Haku” – [Aloha Got Soul]

humana   1/5/2020   CD, International

Frank Tavares is Haku, Music and Drama Department Chairman of Maui Community College (at least at the time of the first release of this, in 1975). As someone who would love to be on Maui full time, I find this an interesting CD. It’s electronic and strange, with poems recited in Japanese and stories narrated, roosters clucking, and classical Hawaiian Ipu (a gourd percussion instrument). The last couple of songs sound Hawaiian to me, and bring to mind breezes swaying through palm trees and mellow feelings of toes digging into warm sand. Take a little trip and listen.

Silver Summit – "Silver Summit" – [Language of Stone]

humana   1/4/2020   12-inch, A Library

This is freak folk with beautiful vocals and instrumentation. Think Marissa Nadler but with vocals that are distinct and lovely in their own way. Sondra Sun-Odeon’s voice delivers some thought-provoking lyrics that paint haunting pictures, some of which were inspired by the band’s love of Acadia National Park in Maine (“Acadia” on Side B). David Shawn Bosler wrote the songs along with Sun-Odeon, and he does some of the backing vocals. There are Tibetan water bowls, guitars, cellos, and other musical instruments that set the other worldly tone. Quite pretty and fanciful.

Deathprod – “Occulting Disk” – [Smalltown Supersound]

atavist   12/30/2019   12-inch, A Library

There’s something quite compelling and rich in the sounds presented here. They tower above our heads like spectral skyscrapers rusting in place, stone monoliths clothed in frost, rivers of ice excavating trench graves. Deathprod, the project of Helge Sten, has been piquing the interest of KFJC DJs for some years now, as evidenced in reviews by Cinderaura, Muad’Dib, and Louis Caliente. At times the sounds are punctuated by pauses, or rise and fall in waves, or maintain a near-steady state of presence. Landscapes of cold, bare earth, toxins carried on currents. Nothing on the previous three sides really prepares you for the massive, overdriven “Black Transit of Jupiter’s Third Satellite”. It arrives fully formed, a behemoth. Thunders, temblors, acrid scourings, wave after wave in slow evolution, shaping the new normal. Or rather, those three sides of electronic exploration have perfectly prepared you for the arrival of “Jupiter”. Intercepted messages sent from the future.

Merzbow – Scumtron [coll] – [Mute]

atavist   12/30/2019   A Library, CD

This compilation CD captures remixed and original Merzbow compositions from 23 years ago. The seven tracks you can actually hear (more on this at the end of the review) provide a fairly eclectic spectrum from techno to unrelenting noise. The opening Jim O’Rourke track is a little sleepy, but Merzbow’s track 2 goes off like a rocket engine. Panasonic’s remix on track 3 brings some rhythm discipline to the noisewash, positively toe-tapping after the track 2 sandblaster. The juxtaposition of minimalist house beats and high-RPM machine noise is mesmerizing. Rehberg/Bauer reformulate ear-piercingly high pitches; this track is built for pain. Russell Haswell’s remix “Micromedley” is indeed a bit of a grab bag, with an extraordinary variety of sounds and textures, some found, some synthesized, that never stays in the same place for very long. Autechre’s contribution is decidedly in the vein of Autechre—a reliably late 90s exploration of programmed percussion and bouncing tones. It will lull you into a relaxed state just in time for Merzbow to vaporize you with more blast furnace heat. The closing track by Bernhard Günter is either 14+ minutes of silence, or it’s mixed so quietly as to be essentially unusable on the air.

Blood Incantation – “Hidden History of The Human Race” – [Dark Descent Records]

atavist   12/30/2019   A Library, CD

Descriptions of death metal with ambitions to take on more, in terms of technical complexity, composition, nerdy science fiction novel themes, and face-melting riff architectures serve as a warning for some listeners. The genre simply isn’t for everyone, and can be polarizing amongst metal adherents. That being said, if you’re up for this kind of thing, Blood Incantation delivers. I’m freaking out over this recording (captured on 2″ magnetic tape, as it turns out).

Track 1 is death metal that bursts from the gates at full throttle, spliced with passages that flash some progressive leanings, as soaring riffs occasionally rise from the onslaught. This track, it seems, is intended to lay a solid foundation of razor-sharp brutality; the proggy quotient will gradually increase as the record progresses.

Track 2 continues where track 1 leaves off—for the most part, it starts out brutal and technical. Two minutes in, they break into a Middle Eastern-referencing, ancient Egypt spacecraft-invoking passage that reminded me of “In Their Darkened Shrines” by Nile—but only obliquely. Though resolutely technical, Blood Incantation never indulge a sometimes detrimental laser focus on technical prowess that made sections of “In Their Darkened Shrines” overstay their welcome. This slower-tempo passage continues up to minute 6, when the pace and intensity begins to rebuild.

Track 3 is an early favorite of mine, as it’s so easily distinguished from the other tracks. Almost (but not quite) exclusively instrumental, a quiet, fever dream introduction leads to beautiful, hypnotically interwoven guitar parts that build like a storm. Such beauty is then released and a satisfyingly odd time-signatured pummeling takes over, only to close with a return of the hypnotic riff.

Track 4 is an eighteen-minute, three-part sprawling opus (with a sprawling track title to match) that exhibits the full range of textures, time signatures, riffs, and mayhem the band is capable of producing. An ambient breakdown at minute six provides a mind-altering rest complete with a Pink Floyd “On the Run”-style synthesizer part. Just before they go too far into Floydish diversions, they return with headbang-inducing fury. There’s a lot here to unpack, many interwoven themes that I can’t always trace together. By the 14th minute, I don’t remember how the thing started, but it doesn’t really matter, because this particular part of the track is so beautiful. It’s a long journey but every passage has its own rewards. I’m looking forward to playing the track in its entirety where the break clock can accommodate it.

Soft Issues – “Soft Issues” – [Opal Tapes]

whngr   12/19/2019   12-inch, A Library

Fairly aggressive electronic noise with pissed off vocals and some slightly down tempo near-drone tracks to temper the fury. This debut album comes to us from Leeds, U.K. that is “… influenced primarily by noise artists and hardcore punk as well drawing inspiration from the tedium of office work, social isolation and familial issues.” Abrasive, ugly, and harsh, you may need a few dry tissues after dropping the needle on Soft Issues… not for your tears but to soak up the blood draining from your ears. However, not all tracks are discordant and anxiety inducing. The B-side of this L.P. dips into some shallow pools of almost mellow drones. Though somber and unsettling, they provide a brief respite from the cacophonous onslaught of distorted pulses, whitenoise, and aural fibrillation. Even , at times, employing a pounding rhythm above the squeals of modulated feedback and guttural screams like a corruption of hard techno or industrial while evoking a kind of (anti-)ethos culled from hardcore-punk as stated on their bandcamp page. Not recomended for volunteers suffering from migraines or for family gatherings which is why I wanted to get this into the library before the Holidays. Seasons Grievings my whingelings.

Dokuro – “Avalon” – [Monotype]

Medusa of Troy   12/18/2019   A Library, CD

Dukuro is a duo of Agnes Szelag (cello, electronics, voice) and The Norman Conquest (formerly based on Oakland (synthesizer, electronics). The tracks on their 4th album tend towards ambient, droney mixes of ethereal vocalizations and grinding electronics, moored by groaning, mournful cello. Some of the songs are peaceful; all are somewhat unsettling. Track 2 (“Land of Silence and Darkness”) is a little louder than the rest. Overall, the album feels like a soundtrack to a sci-fi film – not a Marvel blockbuster, but something weirder, sadder and more dangerous, like The Arrival or High Life.

Ebony Pendant – “Sempiternal Passage Through Realms of Suffering and Hatred” -[Forbidden Sonority]

whngr   12/18/2019   A Library, Cassette

Repetitive and slightly basic one man blck mtl from Seattle. Straight ahead, cold, bleak and solitary. No thresholds were broken on this tape, no limits tested, no souls were rend, or minds blown but fairly enjoyable none the less. However, The B-side is not , in the opinion of this miserable volunteer, listenable. Employing the same chords as Aqua’s, “Barbie Girl” I began to wonder if this wasn’t a hoax, or a test, that perhaps S.C. (the sole credit on this album that is dedicated to “no one”) was foisting upon the world, an insidious and bizarre sonic trolling. But I do not now believe this is the case as any black metaller worth his salt would never have listened to much less been aware of Aqua, Barbie, or anything that wasn’t cold, grim, low fidelity, or soaked in the frozen blood of their enemies.

Battles – “Juice B Crypts” – [Warp Records Ltd]

Medusa of Troy   12/18/2019   A Library, CD

The experiment rock band is now down from 4 members to 2 on this 2019 album. The tracks are energetic, danceable rock with lots of 8-bit weirdness. Beneath the video-game-sounding instrumentation are solid, ambitious songs. Different guest artists add their own subtleties to their endeavors so nothing sounds too repetitive. Five of the 10 tracks have some sort of vocals, no FCCs. Several stand-out tracks: “They Played It Twice,” with Xenia Rubinos; “Sugar Foot,” featuring Jon Anderson of Yes; and, IZM, with the Seattle hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces. Happy Happy Joy Joy music (hello, Ren & Stimpy fans) with complexity.

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