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Music Reviews

Booker T. & The M.G.’s – “Soul Dressing” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

A collection of cuts recorded at various times during ’62, ’63 and ’64, some with Lewis Steinberg on bass and the rest with his replacement, the legendary Duck Dunn. The music itself is the Stax sound stripped to its essentials and sinew. Glorious, glorious stuff. Reviewed by Johnny P., January 8, 1992.

Booker T. & the M.G.’s – “Green Onions” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

The first Booker T. & the MG’s album (1962) and this provided the blueprint for it all. Not just this band but the entire Stax/Volt sound and aesthetic. Stripped down, no-bullshit ensemble playing. Pre-Duck Dunn with Lewis Steinberg on bass. – Reviewed by Johnny P., February 12, 1992.

Blowfly – “Twisted World of Blowfly, The” – [Pandisc Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

While many Johnny-come-latelys having been using the foul word as a career (2 Live Crew, etc.), the man called Blowfly has been doing it for more than thirty years. He’s like a R’n’B Redd Foxx. This is all old material, but new versions helped out by members of Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some are lame, but most aren’t. Reviewed by Lucifer, July 3, 1991.

Blind Boys of Alabama, The – “Higher Ground” – [Real World Records Ltd.]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This group has been around for 7 decades! Since forming their group at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, they have kept alive the spirit and energy of pure soul gospel music. The Blind Boys’ music has not only endured, but thrived, helping both to define the sound of the American south and to push it forward through the 20th century and well on into the 21st. This is one of their best known albums (a Grammy winner) from 2002. The sound is fresh and often more gutsy than traditional gospel music. The best known tracks on this album are: “People Get Ready”[1] and “I Shall Not Walk Alone”[11]. I especially like [9] and [10]. Reviewed by Ann Arbor, May 23, 2018.

MZ.412 – “Svartmyrkr” – [Cold Spring Records UK]

lexi glass   9/4/2019   12-inch, A Library

MZ.412, the Swedish black industrial project fronted by Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk, commemorates “30 years of death” with this 2018 album. Nordvargr is by now a towering figure in extreme music, having built his reputation over the decades with his countless projects – Folkstorm, Toroidh, Anima Nostra, among many others – and as one of the flagship artists of the legendary Cold Meat Industry label. With MZ.412, Nordvargr and his collaborators, here Drakh (Jonas Aneheim of Beyond Sensory Experience) and Ulvtharm (Jouni Ollila), work with elements black metal, martial industrial, and noise to forge a new form of dark magic. On Svartmykr, the first MZ.412 release in 12 years, the trio conjures Helheim, the Old Norse realm of the dead, and its master, the goddess Hel. The gateway to the underworld opens with soaring choruses, thundering drums, sweeps of strings, fearsome vocals, the wrath of Hel herself; a vision so vast that it loses definition, dissolving into blackened noise. Hidden within the darkness is a spirit’s wolven voice on “Helblar” (T5), a treacherous sea of icy waves that rise and fall on “Ulvens Bleka Syster” (T6), and, when the waters recede, the beautiful, despairing guitars of “Burn Your Temples, True Change” (T7). The last three tracks return to the massive sounds: the violent upheaval of “She Who Offers Sorrow” (T8), the powerful declaration “We Are Eternal” (T9), and the blazing light of stars in the album’s final moments (T10).

HVAC – “Mentality” – [Self Produced]

lexi glass   9/4/2019   A Library, Cassette

2017 demo tape from this hardcore punk band from NYC. Seven short bursts of fury driven by absolutely vicious, bloodcurdling vox. Sarah, Tess, Carlos, and Anjelica threaten to melt the flesh of any capitalists, social climbers, rotten hypocrites, and cop callers in the vicinity, so get out of their fuckin way!

FCCs: T2, T3, T4, T6

Ramleh – ” The Great Unlearning” – [Nashazphone]

atavist   9/3/2019   12-inch, A Library

Ramleh have been honing their craft, off and on, for 37 years. When the band reformed in 2009, they set out to work in both the power electronics sound typical of their early days and with a more straight-up bass-guitar-drums rock sound. With this double LP we hear a variety of sounds: droney electronics, straight-up noise rock, indignant vocals with understandable lyrics, fuzzed out drum machines, and meandering guitars. Despite this eclecticism, Ramleh manage to carry a sonic theme throughout. (The lyric themes and the track titles—Futureworld, No Music For These Times, Your Village Has Been Erased—are easy enough to thread together.) The sound trends dark but isn’t unrelentingly dark. Favorite tracks: D3, D1, A1

A1. Big, oceanic synth sounds and textures. Brooding bass portends doom. Drums provide a light touch. Instrumental. Towards the middle of the track, things start to pick up. Tempo, guitar complexity. This long track is somewhat different from the rest of the album, but again, there are sonic themes, a mood in the sound, that can be traced throughout.

B1. Driving drums and bass. Vocal element. “Virus synths”. They take a theme and ride it hard, which is perhaps another way of saying it’s borderline repetitive. Towards the ends there’s a bit of a freak-out noise break-down.

B2. Thick ascending/descending synth part reminiscent of Recognizers. Digital big brother perhaps? Guitar wanders in and out, but the synth drone is predominant, especially in the beginning. Instrumental.

C1. Pretty conventional-sounding rock song, complete with cowbell. (!)

C2. Ominous synths with barked vocals, a soundtrack for civil disorder and the unravelling of society. The shortest track on the album by a long-shot.

C3. They kind of jam this one out a little harder. Instrumental. Very rock and roll with dash of noise; has some psychedelic leanings, though to be sure, this is a borderline bad trip.

D1. Doomy beginning, heavy. Vaguely like early Swans. Contains the one FCC on the album (shit). After a solo vocal phrase, there’s a rousing finish. Probably my favorite track on the record.

D2. Synths and drum machines return. Spare at points. A pretty guitar sound swoops in and comes as a bit of a surprise given the pervasive atmosphere of the album.

D3. A heavy rocking piece to close this out. Thick, overdriven bass, layers of delicate guitar work. Epic, suffused with feeling, such disappointment at the way things have gone. Ultimately the song exhorts us to change course; “it’s never too late”.

Malignant – “Purity Through Putrefaction” – [Maggot Stomp]

atavist   8/31/2019   A Library, CD

Malignant are a Southern California-based band delighting in the sonic terrorization of late 80s/early 90s death metal. They don’t stray far from the genre, and why should they? Pummeling drums, crushing guitar, raw-edged bass, and you can just make out the lyrics of abomination, torture, torment, and blasphemy.

The first track is completely unlike the rest. It starts out with some pretty basic synths—a simple bass synth pattern with higher dee-yoo sounds (like something falling to the ground in a video game). Then a cinematic, orchestral swell comes in that’s quite beautiful and had me wondering where it came from. Are they sampling something from a soundtrack? No one in the band takes credit for playing keyboards, and certainly not for arranging an orchestra (or sampling a horror movie score), so it remains a mystery until the internet reveals otherwise.

The table is set for a death metal onslaught. Tracks 2 through 5 are pretty consistent, but 2 and 5 in particular stand out. Track 2 drops with pure ferocity and a satisfying groove before embarking on the fast-tempo assault. Track 5 brings the evil up a notch. To echo my comment about consistency, tracks 3 and 4 are certainly worthy specimens as well. If I have a nitpicky comment, the bass sound is quite good in the mix, but the moments where everyone except the bassist stops playing while the bass continues solo aren’t sharp enough and interrupt the flow of the tracks. However, overall the instrumentation is tight, and Malignant maintain a high level of fidelity to their chosen genre. You will want to spit your disgust at the world. Death Metal cannot die.

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