KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Smog – “A River Ain’t Too Much to Love” – [Drag City] (CD)

lombard   5/14/2005   A Library, CD

The latest from Smog (aka Bill Callahan) recorded in Texas in November 2004 and released in 2005 harkens back to his days of great story-telling albums. Very simple instrumentation, mostly guitar, drum and Bill Callahan’s mesmerizing vocal style (more of a sneering conversation than singing) that always captivates me. Thematics on this release keep coming back to water, the river, brambles, family, and perhaps a journey into the country to contemplate all of that. There’s a folk/country vibe throughout and “In the Pines” is even a traditional train song. Jim White on drums and Joanna Newsom on piano on track 4. Excellent release! (added 5-14-2005)

Note: Language on “The Well”–“fuck all y’all!”

-Cynthia Lombard

X-TEMPORANEOUS BOOGIE

David Richoux   5/13/2005   CD, Jazz

Camille Howard seems to have been one of those musicians that could have much more well known except for the fact that she was Black, and American culture at the time would not let her succeed to the level of her skills. From this recording you will hear OUTSTANDING Blues, Jazz, and some AMAZING Boogie-Woogie piano, great singing, and fine arrangements of original songs from the late 40’s to the early 50’s.
There is a detailed bio in the liner notes.
David Richoux

VanFlower, Tara “My Little Fire-Filled Heart” [Silber]

Thurston Hunger   4/24/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Sophomore solo spin, from this lady of Lycia. Her heart pumps
with the same slow, dark (and echoplex’d) blood that flows
through the Ventricle label. But while Ventricle’s trickle
usually is icily lacking in oxygen, TARA VanFLOWER’s little
fire-filled heart does actually burn red with some hope and
that sort of faith you catch glimpses of in Jarboe and Steve
von Till. The language of lyrics — heaven, blessed, worship
and on drives the point through the symbolism like a rusted
nail through the wrist. “Conversation with Death” summons
the goth/spiritual nicely. Most tracks are draped with
subdued industrial clang, and the vocals enveloped in
effects. Rain drops on an eerie ice cream truck during the
lullabye “When” followed by a snippet of “You Are My
Sunshine” (a la an early Low album). You could live in hope
but you’ll not stray from the darkness w/ this night
blooming Flower. “Ethernal” indeed.

AK-Momo “Return to N.Y.” [Hidden Agenda]

Thurston Hunger   4/24/2005   A Library, CD, Format

A pretty damn skippy pop record. The boopsie, breathiness of
ANNA KARIN VON MALMBORG is worth the price of admission alone
But her partner in crime, MATTIAS OLSSON is the secret weapon.
The lush sonic beds that Anna cavorts in are feathered by his
fluffy samples, often with cute little percussion shuffles.
He also lays down some silky sheets of old analog synths, and
yes including mellotron!! (Well I think I hear it on #1, #3
maybe #10, or is that optigan?’) You can often hear the vinyl
pip and popping as part of a loop that he has captured, esp.
on the closing number…which takes a surprising darker twist
away from the shiny candy of its predecessors. “Boys & Girls”
Definite mellotron underneath a starless sky and Anna’s voice
doing a wavering “silent scream.” Her voice really has nice
elasticity…beating around the Kate Bush on #2, whistling
through the warzone on #8, purring like Eartha Kitt, flitting
about your brain-branches like the first crush you ever had.
Outstanding Swedish musical massage.

Mackrosoft, the – “The Dawning of the Aja Aquarius ” – [Mackrosoft Records]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   A Library, CD

This is the fourth CD in a trilogy [sic] by metamorphosizing jazz-funk supergroup The Mackrosoft. The group is led by conductor, producer, arranger Aja West, who also plays keyboards.

The music is somewhere in the space between 70s jazz/funk fusion and instrumental hip-top. Nine people are listed on the inner sleeve as having something to do with percussion, and this is a very percussion-heavy album. There is a lot of electric piano, organ, fuzzy guitar, and wah-wah guitar about. Mostly instrumentals, once the groove is established some interesting solos from guitar and sax (Bury the Mammoth), synth (Thank You All).

Middle Passage (6) is the only one with vocals, though a few of the other tracks have ‘ooh ooh? or ‘ahh ahh? backing vocals.
–Hunter Gatherer

Sun Ra – “Media Dreams ” – [Art Yard]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   12-inch, Jazz

This is a live recording of Saturn native Sun Ra in Italy one January evening in 1978. He is playing with Michael Ray (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor sax), and Luqman Ali (drums). Originally issued on Sun Ra’s Saturn label, this is a limited re-release by the UK Art Yard label.

The album opens with A1: Saturn Research, in which Sun Ra has his electric organ set on ‘stun? as he takes the audience through highly abstract patterns and cosmic greetings.

There are two long tracks that must be heard: A2 Constellation starts with the rhythm machine channeling Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen as a trumpet, sax, and then organ rip through it. B1: Media Dreams goes from the sublime to the bizarre.

The last two tracks B2 and B3 sound downright conventional after listening to the tracks that come before it. Sun Ra is on an acoustic piano for these songs.

Thanks to Art Yard for reissuing this rare album that gives a glimpse of Sun Ra playing as part of a quartet. The mystery of why the Huygens probe photographed a mini-moog on Titan has been solved.

–Hunter Gatherer

Congos – “Give Them the Rights ” – [Young Tree Records]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   CD, Reggae

This is the first release of new material by The Congos in seven years. Over three years in the making, it features eleven songs written by leader and lead singer Cedric Myton. Most songs are co-written with wife Yvonne.

The Cognos are best known for their release Heart Of The Cognos, produced by Lee Perry (which we have in Reggae on vinyl). The thoroughly modern sound engineering is the only giveaway that this was recorded so recently. It sounds like a classic forgotten reggae classic with Mr. Myton’s distinctive falsetto singing.

There are many guest musicians on this release, most notably Sly and Robbie. The topics of the songs range from protest (2: Give Them The Rights) to praise to Jah Rastafari (9: Praise H.I.M.) to acid character studies of the obnoxious and showy rich (8: Mr. Shark).

–Hunter Gatherer

Brill, Paul – “New Pagan Love Song ” – [Scarlet Shame]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   A Library, CD

This is peripatetic singer/songwriter Paul Brill‘s 3rd full-length release, released in October 2004. Locking himself in his studio with a few close friends through the long winter of 2003-4, Mr. Brill also acted as recording engineer and producer for this CD.

The most noticeable thing about this release is the use of electronics for sound processing and synthesized beats. There is just enough to let you know that this was recorded in this century without overpowering the beautiful melodies and excellent songwriting.

The recording is clean and three dimensional, which allows the pop-influenced arrangements to shine; every instrument can be heard clearly. By contrast the meaning of the lyrics is usually obscured and interpretations are left deliberately open. After repeated listens to Powerlines, ‘I’m still not sure what it’s about. If you liked the Hood that we added earlier this year, you will like this.

Standout tracks: 6: Powerlines (in interviews, Mr. Brill said that this song indicates the direction of his future music, which bodes well for his next release); 5: Lay Down Your Weary Head (esp. the violin work by Jenny Scheinman); 7: a meditative cover of The Doors song, Indian Summer,

Language: ‘shit? on 2

–Hunter Gatherer

Music of the Ashanti of Ghana [Ethnic Folkways]

outlier   4/21/2005   12-inch, International

Recorded in 1976 by Verna Gillis, 2 stellar percussion pieces, 5 perc w/ women’s voices and one outstanding guitar and perc song that brings the heart of Ghana to your ears. Historical relevance is obvious but the performances are timeless. All pieces are short and
have a lively sound that will uplift any accompanied selections. Rhythm is some high odd number over 4 with substantial butt-moving influence and the pieces carry emotion of a narrative of generations of people.
3w:African Heart Rhythm
– Outlier

Skygreen Leopards – Life & Love in Sparrows Meadow [Jagjaguwar]

outlier   4/21/2005   12-inch, A Library

Great granola pop of Donovan Quinn+Glenn Donaldson.
Distinctive jagjaguwar sound occasionally wandering into Barrett/Guild of Temporal Adventurers/Kendra Smith zone. Ranging from bright and upbeat to lush and contemplative, the songs breathe of simple but deep emotion like the clarity of childlike wisdom. Short, acoustic pieces with vocal duets offer temptations to intimately interpret these deceptively simple songs.
3w: Granola Folk/Psych Pop
-Outlier

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