Paul K & the Prayers
reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99
You might call this stuff pop, but it's not, exactly. The press keeps referring to Paul K as a bluesman, and that's not quite right, exactly (though he does play a mean slide guitar). What is undeniable is that Paul K can write a song. Or two. Or a few.
Using storyteller mode, though much of the time the characters aren't as realized as the ideas. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Plenty of ways to gain access. And every song here is more than inviting.
I do with the acoustic guitar had been recorded a bit better (I hate that tinny whine that almost everyone gets these days), but that's really a minor quibble, especially considering what's really on display here: The ideas in the songs.
I'm not blown away, but this is the sort of album that sneaks up on you. You listen a few times, and you think you kinda like it. You listen a few more, and you're sure you do. The more you listen, the tighter it sets the hook. The best sort of addiction, really.
Smoke in My Veins
K-Syran probably best slots as a performer, as she has appeared on stage, on film and on record (or, y'know, on disc--or is that disk?). A Norwegian who appears to call Switzerland home, she delivered this spectacular pop album last year. And she'll be coming to the U.S. in 2017. So hey, let's have a listen, okay?
Maybe it's the way Norwegians sing in English, but K-Syran's voice reminds me of Annie, another not-quite pop star. But where Annie would fall every-so-slightly on the minimalist side, K-Syran prefers more. More vocals, more keyboards, more insistent rhythms, more soaring hooks. Hey, go with what works for you, right?
I'm always a little concerned that I'm way out of the current mainstream when I take a real shine to an overtly pop album. I have a feeling that my preferences aren't exactly what the kids want. I ran this past my two older boys, and the results were mixed. My second son dabbles in pop more, and he likes it. So maybe I'm not that far off. Or maybe I'm just old.
In any case, this is distinctive pop music. K-Syran isn't interested in blending in. She make sure to stay in your face, never stepping back into anonymity. Perhaps that's why I like this so much.
Pop is not a bad word. It's a perfectly legitimate sort of music, and artists like K-Syran are proof. This album takes flight and never comes down. The perfect antidote for times of gloom and doom.
Oxidised Matrix Vol. 2 EP
reviewed in issue #346, 3/10/13
Kiki Ceac is generally described as a rapper, but his K-the-I??? persona is much more electronically-based. Unlike many hip-hop artists who dabble in production, K-the-I??? is much more focused on sound and melody than beats and rhythm. Ceac has created some of the finest experimental electronic works of recent years, and this brief EP is no exception.
Tanith and the Lion Tree
reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92
I don't know why, but this reminds me of Daniel Johnston. A technically brilliant Daniel Johnston, nonetheless, but still. It could be the voice. The sticker on the cassette here says he is the vocalist of the Legendary Pink Dots. I'll come forward and claim ignorance. I don't even know if "Legendary" is part of the band's name or just an overblown adjective.
The music is commonly understated, but at times it rages. Hard-core industrial and tape-loop fans will appreciate, but most anyone can get a little into this. Rather weird, but worth a listen.
Dream Logik Part Two
reviewed in issue #302, November 2008
If these be dreams, well, they're awfully specific. Ka-Spel populates this solo effort with stream-of-consciousness lyrics and exacting electronic fare. Every squeak and crackle is in its place, but Ka-Spel's languid delivery gives the songs a properly mellow wash. Another intriguing waltz through the frontal lobes.
The Eye of Zohar
reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97
Any band with two accordion players is definitely work checking out. And when you consider that the only other instruments regularly played are drums and sax, well, something kooky must be going on. If Firewater is the world's worst Bar Mitzvah band, then the Kabalas at least give that Tod A and friends some company.
Actually, though, the Kabalas make little pretense toward playing rock or being serious about anything. With songs like the "Traci Lords Polka", and "The Crossing Guard's Coffee Break", you might get the hint. There are quite a few unconventional run-throughs of traditional numbers (though this version of "Hava Nagila" is fairly straight until the vocals come in) to keep the oldsters happy.
Irreverent and amusing, and certainly weird enough to scare off most any poseur who happens to be sharing your space at the moment. A big wad of fun. No pretensions of grandeur, just a good time. I can handle that just fine.
Kabuki Killers EP
reviewed in issue #293, February 2008
Chunk, basic rock and roll. Kinda like Urge Overkill without the irony. I'm not complaining.
Rather, it's nice to kick back and let the music run roughshod over everything in sight. Kabuki Killers aren't out to make anyone think. The lyrics are occasionally amusing, but they're mostly window dressing for the high-throttle riffage. These songs plow forward and never look back.
Alrighty then. Why try to complicate something this pure and incandescent? No reason I can think of. Kabuki Killers rip off huge chunks of rock and serve them up with style. Be thankful.
Henry Kaiser/Alan Licht
Skip to the Solo
When you were young, did you lift the needle on the record and cut straight to the good part of the song? That question betrays both age and attitude, and I'll cop to both. Henry Kaiser and Alan Licht record together for the first time (with Mikko Biffle and Rick Walker), putting together a series of pieces that are little more than solos laid over basic tracks.
Biffle, Kaiser and Lich swap duties on bass and guitars, and Walker provides the percussive connective tissue. Fans of Kaiser and Licht will know that while this album does vaguely fit in the realm of jazz, the sound coming from the speakers at any time could be anything. Storm squalls, gorgeous ruminations or just some persistent noodling. All without the annoyance of verse, chorus or bridge.
While this is about what I expected, I did not anticipate the adrenaline rush these pieces provide. Kaiser is one of the great experimental guitarists, but on this set he uses his versatility to heighten the impact of his playing. Yeah, there's the requisite bleeps and blips, but largely this is an album about the emotional potential of electric guitar.
I got lost. Seriously and truly. The lines are at times sinewy and at other times choppy. Sometimes the music pushed, and other times it pulled. Not unlike the total chopsocky first installment of Kill Bill, there is the danger of overkill. And perhaps Licht and Kaiser crossed the line. It they did, though, I crossed willingly as well.
There are folks who ask me why I listen to "weird" music. First, it's not weird to me. But second, I get off on ideas. This album is overflowing with ideas, ideas that are played to within an inch of their lives. The rush is brutal, kinda like riding the pipeline (as if I've ever done that!). Drop the needle anywhere here and you will be more than satisfied.
(with Ernesto Diaz-Infante)
Pith Balls and Inclined Planes
reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00
Ernesto Diaz-Infante takes care of the acoustic guitar and some vague vocal work, and Jeff Kaiser does the rest, including manipulating samples from Diaz-Infante's Solus album.
When I say guitar, by the way, that's the whole guitar. Not just strings resonating. There's tightening and untightening the strings, rubbing the neck, thumping the body ... just about every noise that can be made with a guitar.
Kaiser does the same thing with his trumpet and flugelhorn. Yeah, sometimes they're "played" in a traditional sense. But there's a lot of "other" going on as well. The pieces themselves come together in the mind of the listener. They have to be assembled. Part of the experience is finding your own meaning.
I know, most folks find such exercises tiring. Not me. There's such exuberance, such a sense of serendipity here that I just can't put it down. Does it make sense? Not all the time. Not yet. But this puppy is primed for many more listens down the road.
17 Themes for Ockodektet
reviewed in issue #235, November 2002
You might think that an ockodektet is a group of 18 musicians. Maybe that's how Jeff Kaiser meant it, maybe not. After all, there are only 17 musicians listed in the liners. Of course, there are only 14 songs (in two suites), so maybe Kaiser is referring to his players (and not the music itself) with that "17." Hard to say. I will note that I have a number of big dictionaries, and none of them list the "ocko" prefix. I, for one, think the old man is having one over on us.
I say old because this set was recorded on the occasion of Kaiser's 40th birthday. Not a bad idea to get a passel of friends together and play some cool music as a celebration.
The music here sounds like it has its improvisational moments, but in general these pieces are much more controlled (or, say, written out) than most of the stuff I've heard from Kaiser. His often whimsical taste is on full display here, putting his percussionist and other rhythmic instrumentalists to the task. Man times, the melody can be counted out rather than hummed.
This disc surprised me with its delicate structures and deliberate style. I'm used to hearing Kaiser operate in more improvisational settings, but his compositional work is impressive. Hardly conventional (duh), but quite inspiring. A deceptively majestic disc.
Brad Dutz/Jeff Kaiser
The Order of Her Bones
reviewed in issue #235, November 2002
Kaiser is impressive as usual on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Dutz plays just about every percussion instrument available on the continent. The songs fall on the coherent side of the block, so don't afraid. Kaiser has a way of making the avant garde accessible. Dutz shares this ability, and the result is at once adventurous and comfy.
The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic
reviewed in issue #248, December 2003
Triskaidekaphobia, of course, is the fear of the number thirteen. An ockodektet might be an 18-person ensemble, though none of my dictionaries list the word. In any case, there are 18 people (plus Jeff Kaiser) working their way through some really fun (and warped, of course) compositions here. And as usual, I'm impressed.
This is Mothers of Invention kind of stuff. Or maybe it's more relevant to Zappa's later orchestral period. At times it's neither. At times, it's both. I think you get my drift. It sounds like Kaiser has written out these pieces fairly strictly, but I think there are improvisational moments as well. A blurb of spontaneity here and there within the inscribed explorations.
Basically, this is avant-garde composition done well. Kaiser doesn't much like to stick to the ordinary, but his flights of fancy are always unique and creative. He doesn't "get weird" just for the sake of making listeners shake their heads. Rather, he travels unusual pathways so that the listeners can discover a new and exciting window on existence.
I like unusual music of all kinds, but Kaiser's one of my favorites. He knows how to use the experimental in ways that are approachable. And he creates works of lasting impact. This disc is another amazing outing.
(as The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet and the Kaiser/Diaz-Infante Sextet)
The Alchemical Mass/Suite Solutio
reviewed in issue #259, November 2004
The Alchemical Mass was written between 1490 and 1516. In Latin. The music was commissioned by the Ojai Camerata (the Camerata sings the work here) and performed earlier this year. Suite Solutio was recorded back in 2001, and in "classic" classical music style has been added to this disc to fill it out.
The Mass is, well, a mass. The vocal sections of the work sound fairly traditional, but the instrumental parts are more "conventionally" Kaiser. He likes to use instruments in unusual ways within relatively "normal" structures. This mass is no different. There's a good amount of noise and dissonance, but the proceedings never get out of control. Rather, a palpable intensity focuses everything toward the center.
Avant garde? Ehh. I'm not entirely sure what that means. The mass is a powerful piece, one that is best enjoyed as a whole. The suite shouldn't be overlooked, either. Kaiser and Diaz-Infante and four of their pals work their way through music that is unmistakably Kaiser's. Very different from the mass, but just as intriguing.
The main reason these two pieces are together on this disc is one of space. The mass wasn't really enough for a full CD, and the suite was lying around. Would that all of us have such attractive detritus. As usual, this adventure through the world of Kaiser is most invigorating.
Jeff Kaiser/Tom McNalley
reviewed in issue #278, September 2006
Kaiser on trumpet, McNalley on guitars and both tweaking the knobs. Definitely a treat for fringe folks only, but if you want to head into deep space, this is an E ticket ride. I'm never bored when listening to anything Kaiser does, and this album is no exception.
Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller
reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13
Precisely the sort of improvisational carnage you'd expect from these guys. What you might not expect is that I found a couple of songs to throw in the radio rotation--and they shouldn't scare off all my listeners. It's not so much about coherence as the simple brilliance of the ideas present. Long, strange and totally engrossing. One word of caution: The second disc is much scratchier than the first. Which is quite wonderful for me.
reviewed in issue #299, August 2008
I got two KaiserCartel discs this month. The first one I listened to, Okay...And Other Things We Feel, is a collection of odds and ends. It's not very interesting. So I popped in this disc (which is the band's debut), expecting nothing much.
Whoops! This duo combines the playfulness of laptop pop with real instruments and a decidedly off-kilter sense of humor. These songs would be goofy if they weren't so damned wry.
Wry is a good description of the music as well. Many of these songs are well-appointed with significant orchestration (played largely by Ms. Kaiser and Mr. Cartel). But the arrangements retain a tasteful minimalism, which gives these songs all the room they need to take off.
So, anyway, March Forth is the album. It's really good. That other thing? Listen to it only after you've fallen hard for this one.
Rock Island EP
reviewed in issue #310, September 2009
Five songs, all of them vaguely wistful indie rock sorta things. There's a bit of an odds and ends quality as well ("Shira" was released in quite different form). A solid short set that scores nicely and keeps me impessed with this duo.
reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99
Comprised of members from various southwestern Florida bands (including Ben Glover from Guchlrug), Kaleidepy (you know hard it is to type that name?) runs along the lines I expected: Obtuse and weird.
I'm not complaining, mind you. The sound is minimalist, and the songs are not complicated, either. Everything is stripped down and laid bare, waiting for the listener to use a little imagination.
I was hoping for a bit more looniness in the songs; musical flights of fancy which left me breathless. This just kinda amused me. Which isn't bad. Still, kind of a comedown from Guchlrug. Not quite the same fire.
For what it does, though, Kaleidepy does well. I do wish the sound was a bit sharper (this is extremely lo-fi, and when the main instruments are drum machines, keyboards and guitars, well, that's odd), but I'll take this and hope for better next time out.
(Clockwork Design Music)
reviewed in issue #225, January 2002
On the stranger side of weird, Kaleidepy returns with more twisted musings. Most of these songs have some sort of animal theme, which combined with the quite unusual playing makes this almost the perfect album for young kids.
(Rhythm & Culture)
reviewed in issue #346, 3/17/13
I've been waiting for another Propellerheads album since, well, that singular album arrived more than a decade ago. That's not happening. So I think I'll throw in with Clint Carty, who records as Kaleidoscope Jukebox. He uses the the same organic construction techniques to create orchestral dance music; groove laid upon groove laid upon some of the slinkiest bests you've heard in some time. Oh, and he's got a bit of a fetish for sampling and world music as well. Sounds like heaven to me.
reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99
Kali knows his reggae, but he gives it a whole new spin, adding in the rhythms of north and south Africa, South America and Europe. Plus, he plays the banjo. That's right, a reggae banjo.
He hails from Martinique, which is why these songs are in French. Just another cultural curiosity to add to his stew. Kali isn't afraid to try anything. This leads to some good and bad ends.
Almost exclusively good. At times the production is a bit treacly, overdone to a small extent. But always, always, his spirit comes through fully. That spirit of collusion and adventure which sometimes creates vibrant new sounds in music.
Which Kali does at times. He spends this album morphing around styles and sounds, not really worrying too much about defining himself. Sometimes his identity gets lost within the ever-changing music, but always, his adventurous hand can be felt. Intriguing and fun.
split 7" with Prospekt
(Moment Before Impact)
reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01
Different bands, same people. Prospekt is Andrew Danser, Harlan Campbell and Jay Murphy. Kalypso Lipstich is simply Campbell and Murphy. Prospekt is a meditative pop band with its toes dipping in the noise pool. Kalypso Lipstich is an organic electronic project.
The two songs are very similar in theoretical construction. They rise and fall in much the same way, and despite obvious differences in instrumentation are quite obviously created by the same people.
Both well done, I might add. These guys have creativity to spare, and they don't hesitate to put that inventiveness to work whenever possible. The two sides of this slab are more than enticing enough to demand a second helping.
Blind Sided Orange
reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98
Grungy hardcore, you know, with those leering lead guitar riffs and crunchy rhythms. Lots of hair dance moments. But even more spots where inspiration strikes.
When Kamikaze Butterfly reverts to simple, generic fare, it's pretty forgettable. But when it kicks the tempo up just a bit and rips out a spot more of the hardcore attitude, well, the stuff clicks. Now, that's not most of album, but there are some nice moments.
In general the playing is good, and sometimes it's quite impressive. The production is solid and presents the band's sound in just they way anyone would expect. And I'm not so sure that's a good thing.
The trap of influences. Kamikaze Butterfly can't really craft its own feel and sound. Too many average riffs. Oh, this stuff is fine. Just that. Fine. Not particularly inspiring. I can't find the spark.
Diva La Grande
reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97
The blues and western swing approximations are fairly good, and Candye Kane has a few humorous observations about life, love and size, but in the end her desire to make a point weighs the project down (no pun intended).
Her voice is strong enough to carry a "straight" blues album, but Kane has no desire to walk the acceptable line. Fine by me. And, in fact, she's at her best when she lets loose and really belts out the songs. Often enough, though, she tries to hard, and both her voice and the music sound somewhat strained.
Plenty of fun to be had, even with the problems. The production is a bit overbright, but since this isn't really a blues album (there's far too much going on to characterize the music in any specific way), that's alright.
Whenever it gets tedious, just jump over to the "The Lord Was a Woman", which is sure to make you smile. Hey, if you don't expect much more than a good time, then you'll surely be happy here.
Rain and Mud and Wild and Green
(Big Fat Music)
reviewed in issue #228, April 2002
Christine Kane has that fuzzy, slightly nasal voice that seems to fit modern folk music so well. She certainly writes her songs in such a way as to compliment the way she expresses herself. Which only makes sense.
Amazing how few people do that. Anyway, these pieces are often funny observational bits and statements, making this album a collection of characters as much as anything else. Kane pours herself into the songs, but I don't get the sense that she's singing about herself.
So she's got perspective to go along with perception. I heard an interview with Nick Lowe where he said that he had to find a new character for each song because there was no way he could be all the people he wrote about. Kane obviously feels the same way. And her descriptive powers don't end with the lyrics. Her guitar dances differently for each unique situation, adding even more color to the portrait.
Just the way this sort of music should be played, and Kane makes it sound effortless. I love it when an excess of craft results in an easygoing collection of tunes. Few can accomplish such a tough task, but Kane has here. A most inspiring set.
King's Daughters Home for Uncurables
The singer, songwriter and ukulele player for the Corner Laughers has recorded a solo album. Well, sort of. Her husband and bandmate, Khoi Huynh, produces, and the rest of the band plays as well.
But this isn't a Corner Laughers album. Kane has stripped down the sound to a very basic chamber pop feel, verging on folk at times. The notes make plenty of references to English folk, and there is definitely a Fairport Convention feel to some of these songs. But this more contemplative unplugged sound is enough of a departure from the band that putting this out under Kane's name alone probably makes the most sense.
What hasn't been lost is the attention to detail. These songs may be somewhat more spare in arrangement and sound, but they are just as crafted and clever as ever. Kane does not seem to have changed her writing style so much as the presentation of her ideas. It's not a seismic shift, and I imagine plenty of these songs will make their way into the Corner Laughers repertoire. And I'm not sure fans would even take much notice.
A small gem of an album. Kane's work is as sterling (and slightly geeky) as ever, and her voice remains enticing. If this slight step sideways brings more attention to the Corner Laughers, so much the better. Truly lovely.
From Artz Unknown
reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01
Kankick is the DJ, spinning tracks for a number of talented MCs or simply dropping some spare beats for the floor. An obvious devotee of late 70s soul and funk, Kankick's compositions are all about flow and style.
Which isn't to call them dull or vapid. Rather, he imbues his simple beats and melodies with an underlying strength and complexity. There's always something more going on.
And on the tracks with vocal accompaniment, the rhymes and the beats fuse seamlessly. Kankick's dexterity allows him to tailor his sounds to the needs and desires of the MCs. Indeed, there's quite an interplay going on in most tracks.
While not the most ambitious of albums, this set of tracks quietly impresses. There's a subtle beauty to the beat work, and the rhymes always have something to say. Great music for simply kickin' back.
reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00
Pretentious, idiosyncratic and almost maniacally controlled, Karate plays the sort of abstract rock that really pisses off most folks. Few bands approach the almost willful annoyance that Karate creates.
That's a compliment, by the way. I'm more than willing to accept the fact that I'm "one of those critics" who likes the weirdest stuff around and sneers at the everyday. My feeling is, if you've got a rocket in your pocket, then baby, you've got to let it roll.
Anyway, the pseudo lounge feel (a very clean and dull guitar sound, in particular) sands down some of the prog leanings, though the rather unorthodox songwriting really can't be changed. And it shouldn't. I like the way the lines intersect at strange angles, the stream of consciousness lyrics. The stuff that makes Karate truly original.
Why sound like somebody else? I've never understood why some folks slavishly imitate their idols. Karate has created something that it can properly call its own. There's not even a genre to drop this in. It simply is. It's more than alright, is what it is.
Karma to Burn
Karma to Burn
reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97
Piledriving rock madness. Catchy, heavy tunes with undeniable grooves. Bits and pieces of the NYC metalcore sound, but Karma to Burn has really glammed a lot of that out. Hey, the time is right...
Brilliant, really. Heavy enough to appeal to today's metal mavens, but with enough juice to bring back a few of the poofy-hair types back into the fold. And undeniably fun.
A lot like an old, old Roadrunner band, Last Crack. Yeah, the songs are serious, but they sound so damned good, you know? The music advances toward the apocalypse, with no looking back. And why would we want to go back to world without Karma to Burn?
And, of course, the best thing about the band: they obviously understand that there is no such thing as good karma. It's something to be worked off, like spiritual restitution. I just wiped a whole slate of bad memories cranking this puppy up.
reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97
Oh, the hype that arrives with this album. A set of Brazilian critics have placed this album among the 15 most important recordings in Brazilian history. The back cover calls Karnak "The Mothers of Invention Go to Brazil". The band's leader, Andre Abujamra says in the liners: "Karnak is not world music! Karnak is a band without precedent! Karnak is a temple!" I'm sitting here thinking, "This shit better be good, or I'm gonna start lobbing mortars right and left."
First, let me say that Karnak is not a band without precedent. However, that's probably the only bit of excessive hyperbole in the hype. Paul Simon, among other folks, has blended multiple musical concepts into songs (including Brazilian pop), though his gift has always been language more than music. With Karnak, the music is of paramount importance.
Well, I'm sure the lyrics are at least interesting, but I'm not terribly proficient in Portuguese (like, I kinda know Spanish), so you're not going to get any announcements praising wondrous poetry here. But, see, the music is amazing. The rhythms are probably the most intoxicating part, but the way that musical ideas from a multitude of cultures are laid over Latin and South American grooves is most impressive. Abujamra has assembled a large number of musicians with experience in a wide array of music forms, from classically trained virtuosos to instinctive hackers.
And so the Zappa reference is most appropriate. Abujamra utilizes the talents of his musicians to the utmost, fully fleshing out his rather expansive vision. The final result is a gorgeous array of tunes that throb with the vitality of many diverse cultures. It's the unusual album that make such complicated concepts sound so appealing. Get lost. Now.
reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92
From the same pipeline as Punisher comes this Ohio outfit. Same fine production, both musically and artwise. Whoever is behind the cassette sleeves for these bands should have a job at a label.
Fine sludging going on here; this would fit in well with the folks playing Defiance out there (and there are a few of you). Sometimes when I hear a band like this I begin to wonder if it's worth it to stay in the Midwest when talent like this is being missed. then I console myself by listening to talent like this.
If you're out to become brain-damaged, crank this for a few minutes and try to survive.
The Mystical Gate of Reincarnation
reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94
From the cover, to the lyrics, to the vocal presentation, this just screams old school!
I know, it's kinda hard to believe but a scant year or two ago most death metal bands were hocking loogeys and making sure no one could make out what they were saying. Now that enunciation is not just a coming trend but a fact of life, it's a little refreshing to hear something so, well, Neanderthal.
I never really got into the silly stuff like this back then, but it does get me a little nostalgic. Oh, for the early days!
Sorcery (advance cassette)
reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95
I remember really hating their last disc. But this one is pretty decent. It's still awful silly and pretentious, but the wild mixing of grind, doom and death metal (with some keys and drum machines-I really like those!) is rather interesting.
Temple of Knowledge (Kataklysm Part III)
(Nuclear Blast America)
reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97
Three sets of three songs, from one of those death metal acts that tries too hard for its own good.
I made the same complain about At the Gates for years, and then when the guys finally created a great work, the band broke up. Kataklysm is out there, taking all sorts of chances, playing at the edges of musical chaos. I don't want to discourage that, but I've got to say it still isn't working.
I'm giving all sorts of points for effort here, but all I can say is that after listening to three albums, the band hasn't gotten much better. Throwing a whole bunch of stuff in the blender and hoping it works out isn't a terribly good way to create a great album. Sometimes crafting and work are necessary.
I'm beginning to feel like a Brooklyn Dodgers fan here...
Katie the Pest
reviewed in issue #246, October 2003
Katie the Pest is a dead-ringer for Cub, except that instead of a trio, only two women make up the band. Talia Rose and Mary Suzuki play blissful pop tunes. It's amazing how sweet a simple guitar and drum sound can be. The four songs here are just wonderful.
Banner Day also plays peppy, poppy stuff, though with more attitude (and, you know, bass). The hooks are on the complicated side, but these boys carry them off with ease. As with Katie the Pest, there are only four songs. And once again, I'm left wanting more.
Quite a fine introduction to both bands. I'm particularly taken with Katie the Pest (for the obvious reasons, I suppose), but Banner Day is just as impressive. Sheer happiness.
The Ashes Bloom
reviewed in issue #287, July 2007
It's been a long time since I've heard someone try to sound like Simon and Garfunkel. It's not just that Reed KD plays simple songs written with voice and guitar on the verse and overdubbed harmonies and extra instrumentation on the choruses. The whole sound has that fullness-with-echo that, particularly, the first three S&G albums have.
KD (Reed? I dunno) is no Paul Simon. His songs aren't as perceptive. But he's got a nice feel for the hook, and in truth, this stuff stands up reasonably well to the comparison. I like folks who are willing to make their songs stand up for themselves. There's not a lot adornment here, and these pieces work quite well.
More pretty than insightful (Am I repeating myself? Sorry), but not insipid. The songs flow along nicely, every once in a while registering a fine moment. A real pleasure to hear.
I just can't tell how much this is going to grow on me. It might become one of my favorite albums, or I might forget about in a couple months. I wish I had a feel for that, but I don't. Oh well. I'll take my enjoyment now and see where that takes me.
reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99
Remember what I said just a review ago about the normal Cambodia sound? Well, Keelhaul has that. Maybe a bit more straightforward, but still loud and intense. You know, that Black Sabbath meets Black Flag kinda sludge thing.
The music of pain, loss, agony and despair. I guess. I'm something of the opinion that Eyehategod and Buzzov*en got this right a few years ago, and most folks today can't quite touch that. This is moderately amusing, but nothing new or particularly original.
Just a lot of thrashing about (often at insanely slow speeds). I'm not getting old, am I?I hope not. But this just doesn't get me cranked in any way.
Still, it is loud and mean. There is always something to be said for that. Even if I really don't dig this particular sorbet.
reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97
Roots-oriented pop, with just enough of that punchy punk sensibility to keep things moving along.
Three songs: catchy, inventive and appealing. Nothing complicated or overdone; just simply great music. The Keeners follow enough of the rules to make sense and break enough musical tenets to be truly fine. Folks who know how to distill the good stuff.
A really solid 7". This puppy is being released on the band's label, so I'm not sure how interested they'd be in some offers. Putting out a slab of vinyl like this makes that sort of attention almost impossible to avoid.
A real find.
reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01
Not unlike the Inside Five Minutes, these guys also remind me of my time in southwestern Michigan some seven-eight years back. Keleton DMD also relies on a strong rhythmic base, though this one is much more technical and grinding--almost an early Jesus Lizard feel to many of these songs.
Which doesn't bother me in the slightest, of course. The manic, almost crazed quality to the pieces is the sort of thing I love to feed on from time to time. And the boys do add their own spin to the sound, dropping a more complex chord structure in from time to time.
In other words, these songs may be fast and loud, but they're utterly within the control of the band. Any "craziness" is calculated. It doesn't sound that way, but I can hear some serious playing going on within the chaos.
Ah, first class all the way. Keleton DMD sounds like the sort of band that never disappoints live. I bet the guys take chances, and judging from these songs, I'd say those shots almost always pay off. Sure did here.
The Craig Kelley Band
Tried & True
reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99
The title is kinda right. This is regular rock and roll, basic roots rock riffage. Oddly, and certainly interestingly, Craig Kelley sounds like a glam metal singer (without the whine), in the same neck of the woods as Jon Bon Jovi.
The songs are meticulously written, with ruffles and flourishes in all the prescribed places. The playing is dead on. The recording is primitive enough to give a nice flavor, but really, there needs to be more songs like the title track, a fairly sloppily-played raver which doesn't adhere to convention. It's fun.
But too much of this is locked into a formula. No matter how impassioned the singing and playing are, many of the songs just don't leave any room to infuse a shining spirit.
As ever, there are moments. Many of these songs probably translate better live, and some more live work might have filed down the formulaic edges. I'm resorting to a tried and true formula myself here: These boys simply need to keep plugging away and getting better.
The Trouble with Success or How You Fit into the World
reviewed in issue #245, September 2003
Paula Kelley cut her teeth with the Drop Nineteens, then shot through Hot Rod and Boy Wonder before finally recording her first bona-fide solo album a couple years ago. All that preparation certainly prepared her for this album, one of the most astonishing pop albums I've heard in some time.
And don't get me wrong. This is pop as in "pop," Burt Bacharach and Carole King and all that. Kelley draws on sounds from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even this new century as she assembles these gorgeous confections. Yeah, it helps that she's got one of those "tough little girl" voices, one that has a lot more strength than might be imagined.
Production is key on an album like this. No matter how good the songs or how fine the performances, it's still awfully easy to screw things up in the booth. Kelley took the reins herself, and she delivers a dreamy, bouncy sound that perfectly frames her songs.
The craftsmanship alone is astonishing. The final result is such that all the hard work that went into making the album is well-hid behind the final sound. This album is a grabber from the first line, and it becomes more addictive with each successive song. Wonderful.
Circle, Spiral, Line
reviewed in issue #280, November 2006
The sort of girl-with-a-guitar album that could become tedious in no time. And Kennedy's voice is a most uncertain instrument. She uses it with undeserved confidence. And it is that unsteady voice that makes this album so appealing.
Kennedy's guitar work is wonderful, clean and most expressive. And yet, truth be told, nothing spectacular. Her voice informs the songs here, and takes them somewhere the words and notes couldn't. Her voice makes these well-crafted pieces exuberantly human.
The untrained voice can be a grating, horrific thing. Kennedy's voice is generally just slightly off, kind of a blue note effect. But I'm sure she's not a wee bit flat (normally, anyway) on purpose. The more she pushes, the flatter she gets...but always on the side of good music.
Rock and roll (or folk, or whatever) isn't about perfection. It's about expression. And Kate Kennedy does quite well in that department. Most engaging.
Sean Kennedy and the King Rats
reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01
Just yer basic old-time rock and roll quartet: Guitar, upright bass, tenor sax and drums. Every piece has its say, and there's room for all to speak. The songs? Well, they lie somewhere between the jump blues, rockabilly and Chuck Berry-style guitar-led rock. Played with fire and verve.
Almost prototypical 50s-style rock and roll, at least the way folks view that music today. Of course, this stuff sounds much better than the old stuff, just because of the way the sounds boom out of the speakers.
But modern recording methods aren't what make Sean Kennedy and the King Rats so good. Rather, its the way the guys play off each other, swingin' and swayin' from song to song. The pieces themselves are sharply written, but these guys just play the hell out of them.
That combination is irresistible. This album just smokes. Anything else I could say is superfluous.
Family Tree 2xCD
(City of Tribes)
reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97
The first disc is a set of pieces from the last 10 years of Kent's output. some previously released, some not. The second disc is the Deep Space suite, comprising three pieces.
Kent plays the didgeridoo, which is the one instrument everyone associates with Australia. Kent takes the didgeridoo to a few spots that the Aboriginal people probably never imagined, but I don't think they'd complain. Perhaps the epitome of "world" music, Kent's pieces incorporate musical ideas from around the globe in creating his wide range of songs.
The first disc shows the versatility of the didgeridoo. The second disc illustrates the true artistry involved in playing the instrument. Put another way, the first is an introduction, and the second is the main course.
Thoroughly amazing. "Deep Space" is a challenging and unique set of pieces, and the "reminiscence" of the first disc simply proves how far this instrument can go. Brilliant.
reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98
Mixes can be remixed, and those remixes could be remixed, then the first remixes could be remixed with the second remixes to create a new strand of remixes which can be redone and evolved and devolved until its all gone too far without going anywhere at all. Welcome to the electronic experience.
If you're going to dive into the swarming pops and beats, it's always important to start with a good creator. Keoki is one. On this album, his mixes are revamped by Crystal Method, AK1200, Cirrus, Omar Santana, and others. Some of the remixes are better than the originals, and the whole album flows on a twisting, pulsing, vibrating wire that you cannot let go of once you touch it.
This is a good ride to go on if you enjoy the synthesized world. Don't forget, the brain commands the body through its electronic pulses, and nothing quite hits the spot like a good DJ. Or in this case remixes of a good DJ.
reviewed in issue #281, December 2006
Calvin Keys plays guitar, and he invites an astonishingly long list of friends to stop by and help out. Gregory Howe produces (this is a Wide Hive release, of course), and the resulting sound is as vibrant as any jazz guitar album I've ever heard.
And as might be expected with such a wide variety of guests, the songs themselves don't stick to any one sound. There are plenty of echoes of early fusion (Phil Ranelin's trombone sounds some welcome notes), but these pieces are a lot busier than yer average fusion. I can hear plenty of nods to the likes of Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock and the gamut of 60s jazz, but again, this is more modern (that's cemented by Headnodic's contributions).
No, in the end this is simply a good jazz album, one that defies further categorization. The sound is warm and inviting, and Keys's expressive and generous playing always leaves a good vibe. Not happy jazz by any means, though. There are serious (and seriously good) ideas at work here.
One of those albums I enjoyed from start to finish. Now I know what it feels like to lounge in a smoking jacket.
reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94
Yes, their album comes out on Touch and Go. In fact, the A.T. folk congratulate T&G (1/4 Stick, actually)for their fortune.
And with this taste, the good luck is all ours. Kepone is another one of those bands from Virginia, but they have a lot more in common with A.T. and T&G bands than most others in their area.
The two songs are so amazing, I can barely find words. Kepone is a trio, so the bass is used to double as a rhythm guitar at times. But everything is in motion all the time, kinda like a Chicago hard core noise band on speed (just the music, now). The vocals are from somewhere in the punk vein, a nice'n'harsh melodic assault.
I can just imagine the faces of the 1/4 Stick folk when they first heard this. Stunned disbelief, and then a mad race to the telephone. Deal in seconds.
The real world isn't like that, but then the real world hasn't encountered Kepone yet.
Watch out. Domination is next.
(1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94
I loved the 7", I loved the advance, and the disc only makes things better. Kepone have a sense of rhythm that completely shreds its competitors.
It's the speed that really does it. Kepone takes a hardcore attack and merges it with that keen Chicago noise thing (of course, they're from Richmond, a town I've slammed before), not forgetting to add just a pinch of punk melodic sensibility. Um, it's really very good.
Looking back at this year, I think I've had two or three favorite albums of the year so far. Hell, that's better than Joel Siegel, who seems to see the "Movie of the Year!" twice a week. But I refuse to cheapen that declaration, so I won't make it any more. This is one of the best albums I've heard this year, and with the potential I sense, them Kepone boys could be real rock gods real soon.
(1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95
While the noise and rhythms are as overpowering as last year's T&G debut, Kepone has created some blue spaces in its sound as well.
So each song doesn't move at breakneck speed and threaten to drive your heart into terminal collapse. There are plenty of aggro moments, but the production overall leaves more space between the instruments, and Kepone attacks this advantage for all it is worth.
After all, the true test of a band is to see how it uses silence and stasis. Anyone can throw noise and distortion in your face. It takes a real artist to manage to empty space to perfect effect. And once again, Kepone is up to the task.
Setting a new standard for noise rock, Kepone has ripped of an ambitious bite for its sophomore release, and somehow fulfilled every expectation. Once again I am left at a loss for words to describe how I feel about this disc. Simply stunning.
split 7" (with Pegboy)
reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96
Kepone kicks off with "The Ghost", an amazingly powerful tune. The groove builds from the start and never quits until the tune flies out in a blaze of glory. More captivating than most of the last album, and one of the better songs I've heard all year. A real crowdpleaser.
Not to be outdone, Pegboy counters with "Dangermare". Still riding that "smells like rotting flesh, tastes like Naked Raygun" style that has worked all these years, Larry and the boys are simply having fun, destroying eardrums along the way.
A truly inspired pairing, and the bands pull it off with aplomb. Fans of the bands: this is a must! And if you have any pretensions of being a real punk fan, well, you'd better not miss out, either.
(Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97
The first Kepone single I got knocked me out. The album did about the same. The second album, Skin showed a departure, mellowing things out a bit. At times, the band sounded almost hooky. I wasn't sure what to think.
The split 7" late last year with Pegboy set me straight. Not only was "Ghost" one of the finest songs of all 1996, I could hear that the band had finally reconciled its roots (Jesus Lizard, early Helmet and other flogging-type bands) with the obvious pop tendencies the band's songwriters have.
And so Kepone finally goes eponymous, with an album that is a perfect statement of what the band intends to become. The guitar lines are as tight and mean as ever, and that the rhythm section throbs and wails goes without saying. But now the hooks have been properly filtered, retrofitted with whup-ass. An intoxicating brew of the pristine and the obscene.
I know, I've sworn by Kepone before and people look at me, shaking their heads sadly. FUCK YOU!, alright? THIS IS FUCKING GREAT! And anyone who doesn't agree can go listen to the new Kylie Minogue or whatever it is they're playing on the lass-ass musical taste side of town. Alright, so I'm a little worked up. Want to make something of it? I'll fuck you up! I really will, man...
Did I mention the testosterone infusion? Direct to the brain. No stopping at go. On second thought, you might not want to listen to this before meeting your blind date. I mean, folks generally don't go ape-shit for that whole dazed and drooling look. Though if that's your look, well, work it, baby.
The Keystone Kids
Things Get Shaky
reviewed in issue #336, April 2012
Carly Comando and Ryan O'Donnell come at music from decidedly different angles, but when they decided to make a set of 80s-inflected pop songs, they ended up on the same page.
These seven songs are simply glorious examples of shimmer pop, shining gems that simply refuse to dim. One the hook is set, the tug is unstoppable.
Both Comando and O'Donnell allow some of their "regular" sounds to drop in, most particularly in the startlingly retro ballad "Falling." What never escapes is the pitch-perfect sense of pop glory. The songs rise above all obstacles.
One of the prettiest and most fun albums I've heard in some time. There's not a downer in the bunch here. Brilliant.
Let the Ground Know Who's Standing on Him
reviewed in issue #261, February 2005
Woman at piano, playing songs of anger, betrayal and general angst. I suppose I might think of this as just another Tori Amos ripoff. Except that I don't like Tori Amos at all. And I like Anousheh Khalili a lot.
First and foremost, this is almost entirely Khalili and her piano. There are a few vocal overdubs and the occasional bass and percussion, but by and large this album is simple, spare and rather arresting.
The closest comparison I can come up with is David Singer. Yeah, Singer uses a much fuller orchestration, but his songs revolve around his remarkable (and unusual) voice and a piano line. Everything else is window dressing. Khalili simply left off the accouterments.
One of those albums you'll love or hate within the first minute. Khalili is direct and to the point. She doesn't shift around her sound or vary her style much at all. She's just who she is. And I think that's something most impressive.
reviewed in issue #231, July 2002
This trio (Hall on percussion, Khoury on violin and Shearer on winds) works its way through a sprightly set of decidedly free jazz. It sounds to me like the genesis of the pieces was improvisational, and they evolved over time to a somewhat more static form.
I really don't have any info to support that inference; I'm just guessing here. Perhaps the main themes were blocked out, leaving room for improvisation (a well-worn jazz writing technique). And perhaps I'll have to renege on that free jazz appellation. There's quite a bit of structure here, though the boys still don't adhere to any particular tradition I'm familiar with at all.
Recorded at a number of locations, this album doesn't have a perfectly consistent sound. Some studios and concert locations are better than others, and it's easy to hear the difference between stops. Not distracting, though, just a point of interest.
The endlessly inventive minds of this trio are what really impress me. Each piece here is worthy, and the set as a whole is almost impossible rich in ideas and strong performances. A delight for the intellectual listener.
reviewed in issue #256, August 2004
Michael Khoury, Jason Shearer, Benjamin Hall; violin, sax, percussion. Not exactly a traditional trio, and not exactly a traditional sound. The songs sound like they've been sketched out, but not actually arranged. There is a large amount of improvisation, to be sure. Mostly, though, what makes this disc click is the ability of the three players to communicate with each other and combine to create something greater than themselves.
In part because of the instruments these guys play, but mostly because of their musical ideas, the pieces here remind me a lot of "Rite of Spring" and other modern classical works. These boys aren't afraid to mix melody and dissonance in order to make a point.
And it's that willingness to go out on an edge--even while keeping a hand on the wall--that serves the trio best. The sound is almost undeveloped. The drums rumble, the sax squeals and the violin wails. There isn't a lot of subtlety in the sound, though the playing itself is often achingly beautiful.
Even though the trio takes on a number of jazz themes, the overarching ideal is more of a classical one. I'm not schooled enough to explain this difference properly, but it's one that I think I can hear. In the end, though, it doesn't matter precisely what the sound is as long as the music is good. And you know something? The music is great.
reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98
Rote pop that manages to grope its way out of mediocrity. The songs are extremely commercial, with all the right flourishes and simple, overpowering hooks. The solos are simple and wouldn't confuse anyone. It's just done so well.
Which doesn't make the music great. The songs are ultimately throwaway, but Kibler is almost gratingly earnest, and the production lends just the right amount of kick. The roots-pop formula has been followed perfectly, and yet the album isn't stilted.
An amazing feat, really. Every time I hear another carefully plotted overdub or too-obvious chord change my skin rankles, but even so, I keep listening, wanting to hear the next song. One of those things that must be destined for big things, I suppose.
At times, Kibler reaches a bit deeper into the bag and whips out some almost-country licks. Like on the title track, which, oddly, is an instrumental. more moments like "Capsule" and I might have really liked this.
Kid Brother Collective
split 7" with Camber
reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99
Hey, I just reviewed the new Camber disc, and I was utterly knocked out. This split is with Kid Brother Collective, a band out of Flint, Mich.
A typical Camber song: Raucous, complex and completely involving. The guys just have a way of drawing folks into their sound. Me, in any case. "The Long Goodbye" is fabulous.
Kid Brother Collective's "Sketches of Spain" (not the jazz song) is somewhat more subdued, leading with a spare guitar line before bringing on the fuzz. In that way, it's a bit more by-the-book, but both the musical and lyrical ideas are intriguing. More than enough to make up for a somewhat generic emo song construction.
Two solid (hell, much better than that) pieces. A most worthy seven-inch.
Never Trust Yourself EP
reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00
Three tunes, bounding about the various emo forms. "Fragile" is perhaps the most conventional, with its strident guitar line and anthemic chorus. I'm always surprised how that form manages to affect me. Anyway, KBC does it well.
"This End Up" is simply a wonderful power punk pop piece. The energy comes in waves, but it never lets up. Full throttle, all the way. "Ringfinger," which is also slated for KBC's upcoming album, builds slowly off a single lead guitar line, a la Mineral. Again, a somewhat well-worn form, but the band performs admirably.
While the writing is not particularly inventive, Kid Brother Collective sure knows how to sell its songs. Solid, if unspectacular pieces delivered with more than enough panache.
reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98
Nineteen songs tracking in at less than 28 minutes. Yet another album by yer basic punk band. And, again, highly impressive. Kid Dynamite take a bit more of a hardcore approach to the riffage and singing, but basically, this is still uptempo sing-along punk. Lotsa shouting, lotsa attitude.
Short, sweet and dead on the point. Kid Dynamite isn't afraid to take on anyone, from authority figures to pop icons. All done with wit and style. These aren't cheap shots. They're reasoned and concise arguments.
Poetic, almost. And I don't say that too often, at least when writing about punk outfits. But the words to the lyrics here multiply upon each other, like good poetry. Brevity of words, breadth of message. That's the trick.
More smilage from these here parts. It's been ages since I heard so many good punk discs. Maybe it's contagious. Maybe I'm just blissed. Who knows? I can say I really dig this puppy. That's good enough for now.
Prodigal Son CD5
reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93
Eyeing the success of the Beasties and House of Pain at metal radio, the Continuum posse (I had to use it) is cranking this single out to said audience.
Kid Rock is a white homeboy (once again) from Detroit who uses every bad rap cliche in the book, and then travels down the list again. Should sell a couple of million.
The problem white rappers have is that they don't have anything to bitch about. So Chuck D was an accountant or some such before P.E. The singular experience of being a proud black man in a white world will provide enough grist for years to come.
White guys rap about bad hair days, the pain of suffering under P.C. or nothing at all. This falls under the last category. It seems to be some sort of boast gig, but the music is of a real bad metal ilk. He's almost as good (so to speak) as the Beasties, but that's not saying much at all.
I Am the Bullgod 7"
reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93
Coming on with more cliches than a latter-day Aerosmith song, the dumbest white rapper in the world continues to make me wonder if his I.Q. enters double digits.
Not just stupid in the lyric sense, but moronic riffs and posing make this an amazingly stupid persona. Good for a laugh, as long as you're really drunk at the time.
Dead City Sunbeams
reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99
I can remember back in 1986 (87?) when that first World Party single, "Ship of Fools", hit the airwaves. It was one of the first dark visions of Beatles-y pop I'd heard. I know, the Brits kinda specialize in that, but that was my first induction.
I get that same feeling listening to Kid Silver. Not in style, really, but just the slightly off-kilter (sometimes a bit more than slightly) take on pop. Drum machines, vaguely out-of-tune vocals and chords which don't quite change when I expect. I hear a hint of the Magnetic Fields, with a dash of the Carpenters. Now you might begin to understand where my unease is coming from.
Oh, but this is utterly gorgeous stuff. The arrangements are astonishing, perfectly set up for maximum dramatic effect, all while keeping a darkly effervescent pop feel. One bite and I need ten more.
Holy shit. That's how I felt when "Ship of Fools" lurched into the chorus for the first time. And that's what I've got going now. Some truly amazing, beautiful songs. Never what you expect, always what you need. Expect to be dazzled.
Welcome to Hard Times
reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00
A concept album, full of heavy thinking about the American West. This is kind of a statement against the myth of the West as propagated by Hollywood. And it's also a stylized statement about one man's personal vision of the West.
What's probably most interesting about the disc is the way Kiefer veers from neo-classical pieces to clunky folk jobs and lots of spots in between. And he stretches as much with his lyrics, emulating some of the very scholars and writers he studied in preparation for the album.
Fans of bands like Calexico or the Dirty Three (particularly the Horse Stories album) will immediately leap into Kiefer's work. Despite all the study and preparation, he has created an earthy, accessible sound. A lot of that has to do with the wide variety of instruments used from song to song, and credit must also go to engineer Michael Madden, who gave the recording a warm feel.
This may be an album that is bought by more history professors (and avant garde music fans) than regular folks. That doesn't take away from Kiefer's accomplishment here. I was a bit worried that this disc might come off as stagey or somehow stifled. Not at all. The vision is whole and complete, and so is the sound.
reviewed in issue #261, February 2005
First and foremost, the band is giving this disc away for free. Well, they'd like a buck for shipping, but what a deal! Anyway, this EP consists of new versions of songs from the band's two albums (one of those sets done under the moniker Rm 101), specially recorded to celebrate the new four-piece (as opposed to the former five) nature of the band.
Not only do these boys ply the line-driven, moderately abstract waters of the post-rock universe, they write songs that make sense within that structure. Interestingly, the band's album last year only rated a short review (which merely means I liked it a lot), but this one gets a fuller treatment. So am I a fool or are these new recordings of old songs actually better?
Both. I don't think I fully appreciated the band's exceptional handle on such a complex sound--though, like I said, I liked it a lot. Upon listening to the older versions, I find these new renditions fresher, tighter and altogether more arresting. Slimming down has its advantages, I guess. Kieskagato's next move ought to be quite interesting.
reviewed in issue #159, 5/20/98
The album title is something of an attempt to describe the sound of the band. They guys seem to think they're breaking new ground. Not really. I've heard a good number of industrial glam metal takes on grunge. The Kill does it as well as any, and if you're into thick, heavy grooves covered in cheese, well, this here's a nice set.
A lot more glam than grunge. Kinda sounds like a bit heavier of Kill for Thrills or Faster Pussycat, bands which had some nice moments. And since this sound is coming around again, this is as good a time as any to crank it up.
The Kill hits its stride with "I Wanna Know", which marries a neo-industrial sound with a bouncy groove and anthemic hollering. A real guitar anthem that excites easily. Tasty stuff.
The album gets better as it goes along (suggesting some sequencing issues). Not just a rehash of glam metal nostalgia, the Kill updates the sound and has created some very addictive music. The hair dancers proudly survive.
Kill Henry Sugar
Popular Music for Today's Active Lifestyles
reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00
Pretty much Erik Della Penna and Dean Sharenow (nicely put together in the studio), who rip off bright, jagged chunks of rock. The dominant instrument is often an electric piano, but it's actually used correctly. Not as a mellow neutralizer, but as a rhythmic countermelody.
The songs themselves are intense but not overly raucous. The kind of sound that immediately beckons, and then turns on the listener with some wonderful dark imagery.
Darkness in the lyrics and the music. A real solid bit of writing, really. And the way Sharenow produced this two-man project (with a little help) is simply amazing. Sounds like a band playing live to tape. There is that electric, interactive feel. Quite a job.
Indeed, the care and talent exhibited on the album are inspiring. Top notch all the way around. Della Penna and Sharenow have a real knack for carving out little nuggets of gold, shining them up real purty for the jaded rock fan.
Bastard Story EP
reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97
Kill Switch is part of the amazingly fertile Kalamazoo scene (Twitch, Thought Industry, Bell's Amber Ale--alright, so the last is my favorite beer. Sue me...). This sound is very much in line with the meandering style of Thought Industry. The lyrics to the four songs seem to have something to do with a relationship gone bad, and I get the feeling the end wasn't good.
Kill Switch does a great job of crafting a truly weird sound. The guitars and bass seem to be tuned to different keys, and they seem to be using some strange effects to create this almost unwound feeling. One of the effects is the way Bill Clements has had to play bass since he lost a good part of his right arm a few years back.
Focus isn't a key, but that doesn't bother me too much. This is some really creative stuff. Probably too strange to attract a lot of outside attention, but you never know. Every once in a while unusual music makes a comeback.
Ugly and sublime, Kill Switch is truly intriguing. Anyone who craves experimentation with loud music should get a hold of this disc.
Kill Switch... Klick
Beat It to Fit, Paint It to Match
reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95
Following the (high quality) lead of acts like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, Kill Switch... Klick starts with the killer groove. Once that is established, then anything goes. But it's that basic rhythm track that makes or breaks the industrial dance band. And these folks have what it takes.
At times the beats are a little more simplistic than I might prefer, but this small problem is overcome by the rest of the attack, usually including guitars as well as synthesizers.
The production leaves things more on the sterile side than the "live" sound that is currently in favor. But that's no reason to ignore this fine disc. There's more than enough to choose from and make you happy.
Oddities and Versions
reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95
Seattle's finest industrial technicians spew out a set of old demos, remixes and other stuff you haven't heard before.
Much of the fare isn't nearly as experimental as the recent album, but then, some of this stuff is three years old. It helps fill out a more complete portrait of this rather innovative outfit.
Mostly a set for fans only, those who haven't picked up on KsK could take a test drive with this. Plenty of stuff here to impress most anyone.
reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97
Smoothly aggressive, Seattle's Kill Switch... Klick has always been the embodiment of the "one-man band" sound, even though main man D.A. Sebasstian has plenty of help. Degenerate is quite the kick.
Heavily synth-laden (a nod to Vancouver, perhaps) but with more than enough real-time samples and instrumentation to keep the sound in the realm of the now. KsK has never disappointed in the past, and this album is more than I could have expected.
The production is really amazing. I know I'm focusing on that an awful lot, but you listen to this disc and tell me the sound is anything but stunning. The songs are excellent, as always, so there's no real need to pick there.
Degenerate is much more silky than the current industrial trends, but I think that might work to the band's favor. After all, trends must turn someday. Albums like this aid that process. The good stuff is what folks remember.
Gorgeous, profane and alluring, KsK has crafted another great album. With just enough electronic experimentation, even the creative jones is satisfied. Not much more to say.
reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97
A hybrid sort of release, with remixes alongside 7 new tracks. The remixes don't seem to change a hell of a lot, but that's okay, since the songs were quite good to begin with.
The hallmark of D.A. Sebasstian's work as KsK has always been a willingness to use electronic recording techniques to find new types of sound and sonic experience. That desire for innovation flows through this set of songs, crashing through barriers many folks could never even envision.
All that wrapped up in a core of engaging beats and accessible melodies. How music this good could be so appealing has always somewhat surprised me, though by now I should know better. Never underestimate.
Even if it isn't a completely new group of songs, this disc is still quite impressive. KsK is simply one of the finest electronic acts around.
reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99
Um, yeah, those are D.A. Sebasstian's kids on the cover. He's doing his own thing now, and this disc does showcase a departure of sorts from his usual sound.
The creativity levels are still high, but there are many more instruments and much less electronic sounds here. The way it's done, though, is a bit more seamless than you might think. Like I said, the complexity levels are still high, and the songs are still assembled. But the feel is more... organic, to coin a term (ahem).
I've long been advocating the mix of "analog" and "digital" worlds. I know I'm using those terms inappropriately, but I think they make the point best. Well, really, this album also makes the point quite well. Sebasstian has crafted some addictive and intriguing songs, stuff that will stand up to repeated scrutiny.
That which could also be said about previous KS...K outings. And so, while in some ways a departure, Organica also continues a legacy. One that I hope continues for some time to come.
Kill Your Idols
Funeral for a Feeling
reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01
One of the first bands I've heard to emulate NOFX's recent (past couple of years) more strident guitar sound. Thing is, Kill Your Idols sticks closely to a general hardcore sound rather than prettying things up with melody.
So what I hear is lots of angry songs about screwed up relationships and other pleasantries of life. Nice bits of aggro, but very little here to distinguish the boys from the pack.
Other than the lyric content, which is a bit more "emoish" than most hardcore bands. But while that's kinda interesting, it doesn't really hold me for more than a few seconds. I really do want to hear more from the music.
And that's just not forthcoming. Kill Your Idols crank out some impressive energy, to be sure. But the stuff just gets too generic too fast. The boys need to work on finding their own sound.
Kill Devil Hills
reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99
Killian Khan sings like Ozzy Osbourne. His band's music is something like Iron Maiden meets Black Sabbath (it is fairly upbeat). Reasonably entertaining fare.
Now, Killer Khan does not advance music anywhere. It does, though, kick out some decent riffage and good songs. Generic, perhaps, but definitely serviceable.
I would advise some soul searching and work on the band's sound. It's perfectly fine to be influenced, but these sounds are way too close to the originals, particularly the vocals. There is talent here. A unique sound has to be found.
Plenty of work left to do, but the skills are all here. Killer Khan must simply figure out what it really wants to be, something akin to a cover band (like it is now) or its own powerhouse.
The Pig Was Cool! 7"
(Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93
Dim the lights and chill the Spam, cuz' Killdozer is back in the house.
This is just a taste of their soon-to-arrive full-length. My buds are already roasting.
On my first radio shift, a listener called in and requested "that hamburger song somebody called Killdozer does". I said sure, found something that fit the description and was treated to a string of obscenities even I could not replicate without straining my tongue. Needless to say, I was transfixed.
As goofy and foul as ever, Killdozer rolls through the two songs here with their concrete guitar sound and ready-mix vocals intact. Just like Jesus told me last week.
Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
(Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94
With one you get Burl, the 1986 Killdozer ep. Why Burl? Well, on this album the boys reprise Jessi Colter's "Hot n' Nasty", and on Burl they did her one big hit, "I'm Not Lisa". Everything clear?
With Killdozer? I don't think so. Inventors of the "sludge-o-matic" sound over ten years ago, Killdozer disgusted listeners until 1990, when they decided to give up and try getting real lives.
Thankfully, it didn't take. Well, Billy decided he would rather get paid, so Paul Zagoras takes over on guitar, but everything is otherwise the same.
Unusual for the boys is the meticulous detail on the liners. Usually things are scratched out in handwriting worse than mine. No... not maturity!
Of course not. This is the gravel in your gullet to help digest all the crap that comes your way. Just eat like a chicken.
God Hears Pleas of the Innocent
(Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95
Killdozer's vision of concrete blues usually goes down like a load of bricks. This stuff is chunky, slow and mean. The only thing that hurts worse is passing it a day later.
But here we find a kinder, gentler Killdozer. The tunes are still generally rude, but not quite hateful. And instead of being a series of pile-driving guitar riffs, the songs actually hold together quite well.
For more evidence, check out their rendition of the country standard (I've heard it more than a few times, but I don't know who did it first) "Pour Man". While admittedly heavy, this is nowhere as truly vicious as their attacks on Neil Diamond, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jesse Colter (twice!) in the past.
For final proof of the mellowing of Killdozer, check out "Daddy's Boy". This is a tune that could have been done by Led Zeppelin. Sure, the guitars are a little heavy, but not by much. That fucker has "big monster hit potential" written all over it.
Is all this bad? Nope. This is still the same old Killdozer. I think the guys just got tired of everyone telling them they couldn't play their instruments, so they decided to show us they could. Probably next album they'll play "1000 Smiling Knuckles" at half speed and twice the volume. Cool.
Killdozer & Alice Donut
Michael Gerald's Party Machine Presents... CD5
(Touch and Go)
reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96
The Donut does the early Bee Gees tune "Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You", Killdozer does Procul Harum's "Conquistador" and the combined unit called Kill Donut takes on the 5th Dimension's medley of the first and last tunes from Hair, "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)".
Oddly, the take on the Bee Gees is pretty damned straight, which is unusual for an Alice Donut cover. The Procul Harum tune is torqued out in the usual excessive Killdozer style. Killdozer does have a way with stupid pop anthems.
The combined effort is the most satisfying. A complete breakdown in the wall between slavish devotion and parody. Is it a joke or the ultimate tribute? I don't know.
The press on this passes on the word that Alice Donut has called it quits. I've heard it spoken in other quarters, but it still bums me out. This isn't a worthy end note, but perhaps it is an appropriate one. For a band that never paid much attention to propriety or current trends, Alice Donut bows with a stab at the current wave (70s music).
Gotta say, though, that the Frank Kozik art work is brilliant. Make of all this what you will.
reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01
Ted Killian plays guitar. This is kinda like saying Miles Davis played trumpet, but hey. Killian's playing is fairly impressive, but it's what he does with it that's even more astonishing.
The songs on this album are constructed out of long and short bits of playing accompanied by various samples and loops. Reminiscent of some of Helios Creed's more experimental work, Killian's songs illustrate a world that is dark and tough, yet still capable of beauty.
And he takes his time painting his pictures. These songs are dense and complex, but hardly rushed. Contemplation is on the menu, but this is an active, forceful method of thinking. There's nothing dull about these ideas, no matter how abstract they might be.
What I hear most is a deliberate use of power. Despite all of the different crashing waves of sound, Killian remains in total control. These are his ideas, after all, and he makes sure each sound is where he wants it to be. And he does so with a light, and not overbearing, touch.
reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97
If Pantera was a full-time industrial act, it might have wandered this way. Hardcore vocals, mid-tempo up-and-down riffs and a tres-artificial sound on the drums. Well, the band comes out of that NYC hardcore school (Biohazard, etc.) and is produced by Scott Ian, so I guess all that makes sense.
Reasonably catchy, once the songs truly get moving. Sometimes that doesn't happen, and I get a latter-day Ministry vibe (most unpleasant). But for the most part, this is at least comparable to Pro-Pain, so there's something good going on.
Ian left a big wall of sound, which is good, because subtlety isn't called for here. This is kick-ass boot-stomping music, and you might as well crank everything up to the breaking point. Helps hide some of the weak songwriting.
I actually liked the tech-y sound (don't get me wrong; there are no keyboards here), and enough of the time Killing Culture was able to whip out a fairly good tune. Yeah, the stuff is straight-ahead, no-look-back stuff, but that's always a nice change of pace. An encouraging album.
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
Much more than many industrial acts, Killing Floor sounds very much like a band.
Killing Floor lays a thin veneer of heavy funk over traditional industrial riffs and production (distorted vocals-and everything else), providing songs in which the average metalloid and club type can find common ground. Plenty of slamming action ahead.
Killing Floor sounds very much like the typical Reconstriction band: danceable tunes with an attitude. The production is superb, bringing the proper feel to each tune. Nothing in the sound shrinks from exposure; all components are properly acknowledged.
A good debut. Killing Floor now has to build on this. Not easy, but the best manage somehow.
Divide by Zero
reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97
Rather politicized cyber-industrial stuff. A bit more accessible than most Reconstriction stuff, really. No less impressive, however.
Indeed, Killing Floor's seamless sound is good, as before, and the songs are able to merge the lyric and musical ideas much better than on the debut. The complete package is coming together.
Add in judiciously added spoken-word samples, and you get the audio equivalent of the Romeo + Juliet flick from last year. Snatches of glory, presented in an overdose of sensual information.
And crunchy, crunchy, crunchy. Almost punk in attitude and abandon, Killing Floor uses everything to its advantage: riffage, throbbing rhythms, shouted vocals and a wonderful touch in the studio. Utterly addictive.
Come Together CD5
reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98
As anyone who's heard the album knows, this is NOT the Beatles song. And there are two album tracks, the title one and "About to Break", with remixes of "Tear it All Away" (by Institute of Technology), "About to Break" (by Alien Faktor) and "Wood" (by Christ Analogue).
And unlike quite a few remix sets, these reworkings do make solid and creative improvements on the originals. The three remixes are all rendered extremely club-ready, punching up the beats and the general rhythmic tendencies.
More, really, would be nice. I don't often say that, but what is here is of the highest quality. A remix set that is worth the cash.
reviewed in issue #244, August 2003
Jaz, Georgie and Youth team up with Dave Grohl and whip out another self-titled release (no, this is not a re-issue of the first album). I haven't really kept up with the boys in recent years, but as near as I can tell, neither have the boys themselves.
So anyway, I'm listening to this disc. Full of buzzsaw riffage, booming bass lines, bombastic drumming and manifesto-like vocals. Something like electronics-laced hardcore with a Tabasco kicker.
Hard to believe these guys will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year (their first album was released in 1979). I mean, they shouldn't be eligible for the rest home of washed-up hacks. As if the phrases "rock and roll" and "hall of fame" should ever be used together in the same sentence. Killing Joke can still make fresh music that matters. That alone should keep them off the ballot.
Anyway, this album is a real kick in the ass. Long-time fans will be pleasantly surprised; this stuff is quite good. Can't say that the kiddies will come running, of course. Good Killing Joke albums never did sell much. But what the hell. Good music is what matters, right? There's plenty of that here.
Westside Crop Circles
reviewed in issue #247, November 2003
Loopy, and sometimes spooky, songs driven by bluesy, technically-picked guitar. Enough contradictions in there for you?
Kilpatrick's general style is all over the book, though since his songs are built solidly around whatever guitar line he's created (and often enough it's just him and his guitar), the general feel is minimalist. He might be playing some blues or a little rockabilly (his two favorite influences), but the sound is fairly consistent.
He likes reverb, but not distortion. There's plenty of echo in his vocals, but no overdubs. If you want a reference, Kilpatrick's favorite Beatle has to be George. He's just one notch off where you might expect his songs to go--a very good instinct, if you ask me.
A cool, kick-back sort of album. And while every little thing on this disc was created by Kilpatrick, he really doesn't fit into the whole singer-songwriter stereotype. More of a mad scientist who knows how to write good songs. I like that, myself.
The Neon Gate
reviewed in issue #258, October 2004
Very few artists have plowed as many rock and roll fields as Kilroy. There are echoes of 60s garage, 70s prog, 80s new wave, 90s grunge and today's electronic scenes, with just about everything else thrown in most artfully.
Some songs have vocals, and those vocals are sung appropriate to the styles used. So a song that, say, emulates Big Star, Pavement, Neil Young and Beck, among others ("The Phone"), there's a slightly off-key, whiny sensibility to the singing. Other pieces may have a clearer tone or adhere more scrupulously to the proper melodies.
I'm not sure if bringing forth so many different styles (and combining them in rather unusual ways) is really the path to being all things to all people. But who knows? Maybe it will work for Kilroy.
If nothing else, the folks (folk, singular?) have created a stunning album, one which throws more things into the pot than any other album I've ever heard. That sort of ambition is admirable, even more so given how many leaps of faith are rewarded. Improbably amazing.
Kind of Like Spitting
(Kind of Like Spitting/Lemuria)
Your Living Room's All Over Me split LP
(Art of the Underground)
reviewed in issue #279, October 2006
Two trios who hail from opposite sides of the continent. They decide to throw down a split. Thank goodness.
Lemuria has seven songs, and the construction is pop. The sound turns from raucous to introspective to shiny and back to raucous without losing the central vibe of the band. I really like these folks. But I'm a sucker for energetic music with great hooks.
Sounds like Spitting is much less refined. These guys make a lot of noise, and they hide a fair amount of it in the slightly muddy mix. That would usually be a complain coming from me, but here it simply gives the songs that extra bit of character. These boys are from Portland, and they remind me of Treepeople and Built to Spill and other PacNW outfits. Completely unsophisticated, and rather charming that way.
Splits work best when the bands aren't a perfect match. These two acts complement each other quite well without getting in the way of the other. Just the way it should be.
The Kindness Kind
reviewed in issue #291, November 2007
Take the vaguely nasal vocal style of a Hope Sandoval--but this time, throw it in the middle of a band that knows how to rock. Alessandra Rose (that's not her real name, is it?) kinda tosses off her vocals, and that offhand delivery is exactly what the music demands.
These are songs, I suppose, but they sound more like canvasses to me. The pieces aren't always constructed in a straightforward fashion, but again, that's one reason why the energy of the band and the almost uninterested vocals work so well.
The sound is very much assembled. There are all sorts of little bits and pieces (extraneous sound, etc.) sprinkled into the songs. That sort of thing can get tedious, but here it's done with subtlety and restraint.
Perhaps that "band that knows how to rock" was a bit of an overstatement. The Kindness Kind can certainly kick out the jams when it wants to do so, but most of the time it is content to conduct intense explorations into the softer side of music. That's okay. There are no drones here, just good music.
Sun & Glacier
reviewed in issue #275, June 2006
Kinetic is, indeed, kinetic, but not in the way you might intuit. The songs do seem to possess an ever-flowing stream of energy, but more often than not that energy is gentle rather than throttling.
And so these songs move with unparalleled grace, flowing along their paths like majestic rivers approaching the sea. There is a grandeur to these often simple songs that is almost impossible to explain. It's much easier simply to feel.
That, I suppose, is the kinetic part of the equation. These are pretty midtempo (for the most part), introspective tunes that remind me of Seam and other cool 90s outfits. Not particularly complicated or involved, but still possessing that something which makes turning off the stereo utterly unthinkable.
The album title is almost as instructive as the band name. The light within the cracks of glaciers can seem to emanate from all sides. The same goes for these songs. Their power is palpable, yet invisible. I like that.
Emily King has been nominated for a Grammy. She's had a major record deal (remember East Side Story?). And after all that has passed, she's still making music. In fact, she's making it better than ever.
The sound isn't exactly R&B, jazz, pop, EDM or americana. But it's somewhere in there. King swirls her influences in a chilled glass and pours them out ever so smoothly. The resulting songs are cool but assertive. This is music that demands attention even as it sets a fine groove.
The astonishing range of sounds here is most impressive. Anyone who can channel Macy Gray singing Patti Griffin songs--and do so while sounding entirely like herself--has more ability than I can imagine. King does have a solid history and an impressive pedigree (her parents are jazz vocalists), but results are what matters. And this is one hell of an album.
King does multitrack her vocals--without Autotune, of course. She often creates a harmony effect, which can appear in the background or the lead. Or both. The operative question always seems to be, "Does this work?" My ears say "yes."
King's songs are probably a bit too complex and involved for mainstream acclaim. There's a lot going on, both in the writing and the performing. She's not a simple person, and she doesn't make simple music. Which is probably why this album is so striking. Wonderful stuff.
King Black Acid
Loves a Long Song
reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00
Reveling in the excess, King Black Acid indeed does love a long song. These spacey, distortion-laden pieces average almost 8 minutes per. Not that the average listener would notice.
See, there's a trick to making long songs seem shorter. I'm not entirely sure how it works, but the key is keeping a listener occupied. It's also important not to repeat yourself too many times. Neil Young accomplishes this with some great guitar solos. King Black Acid is a bit more structured, but still manages to stay focused.
The sound, of course, is lush and languid. Never hurried and never stark. The band is certainly reaching for something great, and I think it has stretched just far enough to make it.
There are so many too-long rock songs out there. Despite the length of the pieces here, King Black Acid hasn't added to the total. Rather, these long songs are just right. Take a dip in this and you'll want to bathe for some time to come.
(Discipline Global Mobile)
reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97
An utterly gorgeous package, with extensive (if rather cryptic) liner notes booklet. If you're not in the know, DGM is Robert Fripp's record company. In typical Fripp fashion, the catalog contains the company's mission statement. And the copyright notice is as follows: "The phonographic copyright in these performances is operated by Discipline Global Mobile on behalf of the artists, with whom it resides. Discipline Global Mobile accepts no reason for artists to give away such copyright interests in their work by virtue of a 'common practice' which is out of tune with the time, was always questionable and is now indefensible.". And while all the printed material may take a while to digest, don't forget that the music is King Crimson. 'Nuff sed.
The two discs here comprise two shows in December 1969 at Fillmore West in San Francisco, a November 1969 show at Fillmore East in New York and four tracks recorded for BBC Radio. The sound quality is bad, though not uniformly so. The most interesting thing I noticed is that the original incarnation of King Crimson sounds a lot more like Black Sabbath than I remembered.
Of course, I'm not a big fan, but I appreciate all of the chances King Crimson (in all of its incarnations) has taken. Not everything worked, but when it did (check out the renditions of Holst's "Mars" at the end of each disc), hoo boy, it's something else.
Like I noted, the sound quality is bad, and there are many moments of excessive feedback or where one or more of the instruments seems to drop off completely. Still, if you like to study how musicians evolve, comparisons of solos and other bits between the various performances are absolutely fascinating. And I kinda like early Crimson best, before Fripp and whatever cohorts he rounded up got so obsessed with highly technical playing. Almost 30 years after the fact, this music is still very obviously alive.
The Nightwatch 2xCD
(Discipline Global Mobile)
reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98
Like everything on DGM, the package is completely gorgeous. From the artwork to the comprehensive liner notes, these folks know how to gussy up a concert recording from 1973.
Amsterdam, on November 23, 1973, to be specific. The recording is amazing, managing to convey both the excitement of improvisation while still presenting the music in a rich, complete fashion.
There are three free improvisations, and they provide the most intriguing moments. Sitting through such things can be difficult in a live setting, but it's much easier to appreciate on something like this. The improvisations showcase the impeccable musical talents that have always inhabited King Crimson, and they drive this set.
The "enhanced" part of the CD is basically a DGM catalog. A nice way to present such things, but it doesn't really enhance the music. Excessive adornment, however, has never been the King Crimson game, so I'm not gonna worry about it.
Absent Lovers--Live in Montreal 1984 2xCD
(Discipline Global Mobile)
reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98
The lineup on this album is Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford. This album is taken from the last King Crimson show (and last Crimson anything) before a decade-long hiatus. The liners explain all of that, and also go into more obsessive detail about the Discipline Global Mobile concept. This concept, apart from being a conduit for scads of Crimson-related endeavors, also insists that all artists, and not the label, own all the copyrights on their works. But I think I've mentioned this before.
As the final performance of the 1981-1984 Crimson group (and really the last time King Crimson performed as an individual group, rather than individuals getting together and calling themselves King Crimson), there is some historic value to this set. And the performances themselves are also revealing.
It is not too difficult to hear the band members banging against the group confines, even as the band itself managed to hold together, if only barely. In particular, Belew's singing and playing is much more expressive and free than what is found on the corresponding studio albums. Levin and Bruford keep time in wonderfully idiosyncratic ways, and Fripp wanders off into a few corners.
In other words, nothing surprising. DGM has been releasing tons of King Crimson albums (and plenty of side projects as well), and this set does clear the standard. By a wide margin. I like this set more than any of the other recent releases. This may have been an end, but the guys kept the energy up to the final notes.
See also King Crimson.
In Concert 1987-Abigail
reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91
While I have some appreciation for Mercyful Fate, King Diamond has become a real cartoon, especially after his appearance on the Geraldo "Devil Worship" program. While I'm sure his profession of faith in the Devil (whatever that meant) won him legions of new fans, his goofy make-up, which he says has some ritual meaning, makes him look like some ugly cousin to Batman.
To be honest, his last studio effort was much closer to Bon Jovi than any of us want to admit. However, this disc may wake him up and get him to record some stuff comparable to his early solo stuff. At least that (and this) had balls.
You all probably know these songs a lot better than me, so pick your favorites. The solos are just that, so if you're into that sort of thing, indulge yourself. I've always found such things masturbatory and usually detracting from any performance. But I'm weird.
And if the success of this disc can get KD to journey down a heavier path in the future, well, good deal.
See also Mercyful Fate.
A Dangerous Meeting
reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92
Boy, the liners are pretentious as hell. I was worried that such a greatest hits package would be as overblown as many of King Diamond's later songs. So it is.
But on the other hand, Mercyful Fate had its moments. Back when they were just another Euro-metal band with a demonic fetish, they managed to break from the crowd and attract a following. Now, of course, the King managed to lose my respect when he did that ridiculous gig on the Geraldo special on "Devil music."
As a GH package goes, this hits most of the highlights. There is a lot of filler, too, but savor the gravy.
King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard
It's my job as a critic to parse music and try to explain it to readers. If I do it right, then I might inspire you to check out something you otherwise would never have heard. Sometimes, though, parsing is a fool's errand. Such as with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Yes, the band's name should tell you something. This Australian outfit doesn't conform to any particular style, though manic garage prog-punk might come as close as anything. As if that phrase can have much meaning past all of its contradictions.
But those contradictions are what makes this album so exciting. The energy never flags, and the ideas are often cast off as fast as they are expressed. Oh, and every song flows into the next (including the last into the first), so you can play this as an infinite loop and drive yourself completely hyperkinetically mad within a couple of hours.
I'm definitely a fan of such things. Losing your mind now and again can be a good thing. And these folks are pretty adept at loosening the guide lines of reality. These songs spin, whirl and blister until everything is frayed to a soft fuzz.
Again, that's a good thing. I can only imagine what a live show might be like, and luckily I'll have a chance to find out in a month or so. This is last year's episode. Look for a new one in a couple of months. Actually, don't look. Compulsively crave until it is delivered into your fevered hands. That's the sort of devotion King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard inspires.
Flying Microtonal Banana
It's one thing to prick up unsuspecting ears, as these Melbourne boys did for me with their last album. It's quite another to continue to amaze with more music just a few months down the line. Of course, as the band is planning on releasing five albums this year, they'd better have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Finding new ways to spice up peppy prog music might seem daunting, but King Gizzard (et. Al) does so with ease. This album is their first jaunt into microtonal tuning (thus the album title), but the casual listener probably won't notice. The band simply uses its new toy as another aural pleasure device.
And yes, this one is gapless as well, though there are fades between songs. If you want some kind of touchpoint, think "Astronomy Domine"-esque Floyd with a much more propulsive rhythm section. These songs move. The kinetic energy is positively thrilling.
So much that you might not appreciate how much is going on within each song. This is one of the most inventive bands on the planet, and they pull it off within a (somewhat) mainstream sound. Maybe that's why this album hit #1 on the Billboard vinyl chart (and charted on the Top 200 as well). Geeks have already united behind these boys, but the rest of the world seems to be waking up as well. Couldn't happen to a better band.
The Gizzard boys decided to take "self-released" to a new level with this, their fourth (and final) release of 2017. Go to the website, and you can download everything: complete audio files (digital, CD, and vinyl-ready), print-ready album cover and liners . . . everything you need to put this album out on your imprint. Which the band fully encourages: "Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy."
So that's cool. And then there is the music itself. These Australian boys have brought prog fully into the new century, almost seamlessly fusing it with an ever-flowing rhythm section, punk and grunge while not abandoning the technical precision of the original sound. That sounds impossible, and it kinda is. But whatever it is that these guys are doing (and when you venture into microtones and other esoterica, you're definitely geeky, if not proggy), they do it oh-so-well.
Hell, they could have just released the first track, "Crumbling Castle," a shambling near-11 minute opus that pretty much drives a spike into the brain and plants the King Gizzard flag for all time. Really. It's kinda spectacular. But then there's more. So much more.
Which means that if you do press vinyl, you might want to make this a double album for best sonic fidelity. Short sides, but when you cram more than 20 minutes to a side, you start to get some bleed. Just sayin'.
This album (like the rest of the King Gizzard catalog) is the perfect soundtrack for musing. About anything. Indeed, my mind starts to gallop the moment I put some on. These boys might be too prolific for their own good, but even on the fourth album of the year, there isn't a clunker in the bunch. Utterly inspiring.
reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92
This is a demo?
I now understand why everyone is reporting King Hell. This tape sounds better than most "real" releases I get. How a band with the talent and sound contained herein could avoid getting signed is beyond the scope of my imagination.
A brief description: shredding riffs, intelligent lyrics, gruff, yet enunciated vocals, and a rhythm section that would be the envy of most bands. Watch out: King Hell is a definite band to watch.
King Khan & His Shrines
reviewed in issue #253, May 2004
Absolutely incendiary R&B from a Canadian who is now wandering somewhere around Europe. The label is French, and it says King Khan lives in Germany, but I'm not exactly sure how up-to-date it is. Screw all that. Listen to the music.
When I say R&B, I'm talking about the real thing, the whole Screamin' Jay Hawkins meets James Brown kinda thing. This is rock and roll, of course, the purest distillation of the sound. The Rolling Stones approached this level a couple times, of course, but they couldn't sustain it. Very few other folks have even tried.
But man, they should have. The energy and grooves here are enough to bring JFK back from the dead. Khan is lucky to have the Shrines backing him up; the ensemble is one of the tightest I've heard in years. I can only imagine how intense a live show might be. Khan might well be one of the few modern performers who can approach the pure sexual thrill of James Brown in his prime.
I guess Europeans appreciate this sort of music much more than Americans. That's too damned bad. I'd love to experience the wonder of King Khan & His Shrines live. Something tells me it's precisely the sort of danger than music has been missing for decades.
reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93
Quirky pop-country music. Everything sounds simple on the surface, but then you start to peel the thing like an onion. And it just keeps getting deeper.
The melodies sort of spin around each other, and the near-spoken vocal delivery makes the words' sounds clear, if not their meaning.
It just keeps rolling along, on and on. In a pleasant way, of course. Almost hypnotic, especially that mellotone organ effect. This and a Dogbowl album and my mind would be ready for an extensive field trip.
Kingdom of Kong
reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97
Louisville has a reputation for fostering bands that take a simple idea and make things very complicated (Guilt, reviewed in this issue, and the legendary Rodan flit to the top of my brain, though Slint is probably the band that started this whole notion). King Kong does the same thing, by taking loose pop music and driving it to annoyingly cloying and catchy extremes.
The songs are cleverly written, with some of the loonier lyrics to find themselves accompanying a tune. Ethan Buckler's voice is addictively aggravating (he sings almost atonally, but that almost makes all the difference), and then when Amy Greenwood chimes in with her (relatively) perfect voicings, the whole package seems far too incongruous to actually be escaping the speakers.
The music itself is nothing special, just a constantly moving accompaniment for the lyrical chaos, but it works so well it's hard to work up much in the way of complaints. The sound is generally lite pop, with the occasional heavy fuzz guitar lick. Lots of organ, with leaves the stuff sounding something like a cross between Love and those cheesy 60s movie soundtracks.
On the mellow tip, obviously. As you might be able to tell, I've never been able to explain why I like King Kong. Perhaps the quirkiest band in the world, King Kong is simply one of my vices. This album actually relies on the band a bit more than others, but there's no way escaping Buckler's rolling, droning observations. Highly recommended, but certainly an acquired taste.
King of Prussia
Save the Scene EP
reviewed in issue #292, December 2007
Not sure what scene these guys are saving, as they sound most like a post-modern update of 60s psychedelia.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The update part is two parts slicked-up garage and one part layered indie pop. That second bit is a direct descendent of the whole 60s thing, though, so I don't know if that counts. Whatever. It is cool to hear heavy-reverb guitars, echo-laden vocals, a banjo and slide guitar in the same piece. That's something you wouldn't have heard way back when.
And in point of fact, these boys aren't stealing from anyone. These multi-faceted songs more than pay back any classic stylings borrowed. Exceptionally-crafted and bouyantly played.
The only band I can think of that has ever tried anything quite like this was the once-brilliant Brian Jonestown Massacre. As much as I love that band, if King of Prussia continues to improve and evolve, it might well blow those boys out of the water. If you want higher praise than that, you'll have to find another critic.
King of Spain
All I Did Was Tell Them the Truth and They Thought It Was Hell
reviewed in issue #339, August 2012
What is it with electronic duos and geographical references? King of Spain (which used to be merely Matt Slate, but now also includes Daniel Wainright) burbles its way through the fields of contemplative electronic pop without losing its way.
Indeed, these are songs set in the electronic universe (as opposed to I Come to Shanghai, reviewed above). And they're quite well done. Moods are illustrated, ideas are spun and hooks are set.
Which is all well and good. What really makes these songs sing are the harmonies. They're minimalist, to be sure, but they're there. They humanize the sound, bringing it just a bit closer to our own world.
Solid and pretty. There are a thousand ways to work within the electronic sound, but few do it as confidently as King of Spain. The imagination reels.
Hardships & Head Trips
reviewed in issue #316, April 2010
Neck-snapping electronic collage work. King Rhythm does, indeed, work the rhythm pretty hard. What I like is the way that the pieces establish melody as well.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Melody-schmelody. These pieces pulsate and throb, and the music refuses to take a back seat even when an MC stops by to guest. The interplay between the musical and verbal ideas is impressive.
Indeed, the interplay between everything on this album (and it is an album, although my copy did include a home-burnt CD as well) is astonishing. These songs tell stories, and they do so in a most compelling way.
And you don't stop. Music this ambitious often drifts into pretentious territory. But King Rhythm makes sure that even the most conceptual pieces retain an almost animalistic appeal. There's power in these here grooves.
King Rhythm & Colin Johnco
Thieves Versus Clues
(Catalyst Act Records)
reviewed in issue #328, June 2011
King Rhythm teams up with French soundmeister Johnco to create a most exhilarating sound. Smooth, aggressive, slinky and insistent. It's been quite a while since I've heard a collaboration that brought out so much of the best of both artists.
Rock Star Dementia
The Difference Machine
The Psychedelic Sounds of the Difference Machine
(Psych Army Intergalactic)
Just as the practitioners of the Americana country sound are really just harkening back to the roots of rock and roll, over the last few years there's a strain of hip-hop that is rebounding back to its rock roots. Or rather, rebounding to rock before hip-hop was hip-hop.
I qualify that because James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament/Funkadelic (among many others) made music that fell outside any existing genres of their time--but that would easily fit within today's hip-hop "big tent."
But there's a look back at history, and there's a rewriting of history. King Rhythm takes classic tracks from Bowie, Pink Floyd, Dylan and other luminaries and adds in samples from movies (Almost Famous, of course, and some odder ones, like A Mighty Wind), documentaries and TV interviews. All of this is completely whipped up into a frothy blend of over-indulgence and geeky fandom. The rhymes tend to be from the perspective of a rock star, but the backing tracks add a pile of meta commentary.
Sounds dull? Like something you'd hear in school? Hardly. King Rhythm takes the bones of those sixties and seventies hits (a not inconsiderable amount of fun here is picking out exactly what song has been reassembled for a particular track) and lays down his typically mellow rapping style. There's an insouciance in the production--the samples are hilarious--that extends to the full album itself.
The album is free at Bandcamp, which makes this an easy grab. I'm guessing one reason for the cheap price is the fact that every second is populated by copyrighted material. The licensing would simply be a nightmare. But if enforcement of copyright laws means missing out on the almost incomprehensibly astonishing "duet" that King Rhythm performs with Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" on "Slow Dement," well, I say fuck the laws.
Art is all about recycling. Rock Star Dementia revisits the past with a loving and critical eye. We live in 2014, but there are plenty of reasons why there's something romantic about 1974 (or so). Sex, drugs and rock and roll were questioned on moral, not medical, grounds. Artists were ambitious and seen as godlike. Now everything is "safe" and even the biggest artists tweet. But ambition is still alive. Rock Star Dementia is proof.
The Difference Machine takes a completely different approach. The "psychedelic sounds" are more often created in studio than sampled, but generally the point seems to be applying a psychedelic mindset to modern hip-hop.
This is even more mindbending than it might seem. The Atlanta-based duo of DT (Dustin Teague of Clan Destined) and "Dr. Conspiracy" has created a sound that is completely modern in production, yet psychedelic in structure and periphery. There's plenty of reverb and distortion, but the beats are pure 2014. The songs utilize a regular pop construction, but they also appropriate the psychedelic penchant for tangents.
All of which is to say that this sounds very Def Jux or (going further back) Wordsound, two New York-based labels that reveled in the experimental. And, yes, there's more than a hint of the Wu going on as well. Apart from a few tics in the rhymes, I would never have guessed this came from Georgia.
But it is 2014, and Atlanta is definitely one of the global capitals of hip-hop. That something like the Difference Machine has popped out proves that the scene is fully mature.
Rock and roll did not spring fully formed from the mind of Bill Haley (or Elvis, or Leiber and Stoller, or . . .). It grew organically from the intersection of black and white music in the south, and it had an audience of young people of all races. There are plenty of great rock and roll songs from the 40s, some of which sound pretty modern today. On the other hand, it's a long way from Big Mama Thornton to Slint, yet "rock and roll" is big enough to hold both.
Likewise, hip-hop was around long before "Rapper's Delight" (listen to Ella Fitzgerald's "songbook" albums with Duke Ellington and you'll get chills), and hip-hop encompasses a similarly wide range of ideas and sounds. The history of hip-hop mirrors that of the history of rock and roll.
Which only makes sense. Hip-hop is rock and roll, just a ways down the road. Hip-hop is as another intersection of black and white music, and it has an audience of young people of all races. In terms of music theory, there's more differentiation within what is commonly called rock or hip-hop than there is between the two "genres." When you get right down to the DNA, they're one and the same.
King Rhythm and the Difference Machine get this. Their recent albums highlight and explore the connections between hip-hop and late 60s/early 70s rock--connections that aren't exactly intuitive. These albums make clear, however, that "new" music always builds on the past. Would Kanye be Kanye without opera? Of course not. The grandiose psychodramas that are his albums ought to be staged at the Met.
The two albums reviewed here make an important point about the connections between supposedly antithetical styles of music. More importantly, these albums are a lot of fun to hear. Rock Star Dementia is a great party album, while The Psychedelic Sounds of the Difference Machine sounds great blasting out of car speakers. Their artistic pretension (and accomplishment) means they'll remain viable for a long time.
Lots of folks say that rock and roll is dead. But rock and roll can never die. It simply changes costumes. Neither hip-hop nor rock are denigrated by uniting them under one banner. Humans have celebrated good music for millennia; that's one of the things that makes us human. And no matter what we call it, good music is good music.
Rock and roll is dead. Long live rock and roll.
(The End Records)
If you remember the 90s, there were lots of “indie” bands that combined solid songwriting, a heavy hand on the production knob and just enough pop sensibility to get airplay. "Closing Time" (Semisonic) is one of the most enduring of those efforts, but I could go through a list of hundreds of artists who tasted some sort of fame following the same formula.
King Washington combines easy-going roots (they reference CSN as an influence), anthemically-produced, pop-crafted songs and lyrics that don't insult the listener (and sometimes are much more insightful than that). The ringing, gorgeous sounds on this album are almost intoxicating.
Yes, this is aimed at a pop audience. King Washington makes no bones about its aspirations. And this isn't "power pop" or some other indie euphemism for stuff that isn't really mainstream. No. King Washington is after the brass ring. I'm all for it.
With a lot of luck and even more hard work, this might be the album to get the boys there. The songs are catchy, and the sound is wonderful. Then again, the depth here so outshines most of the stuff on my boys' playlists I have to wonder if it is simply too good. Meh. I'm ever the optimist. The masses aren't stupid. They just need to hear the good stuff. And if nothing else, this is definitely the good stuff.
Ride With Me
(Black Cat Songs/Fargfabriken)
reviewed in issue #297, June 2008
Kingen is a lake between Sweden and Norway, and it is also the name a certain T. Karlsson has been using for some time. Just not quite as long a time as the sound of his songs might make it seem.
These pieces have the feel of 1950s American r&b and the 60s British invasion redux. There are a few modern improvements (the drum machine on "She's Mine" explodes the song right out of the speakers), but the influences are nice and weathered.
Kingen himself is of indeterminate age. Someone on the web said they'd seen Kingen more than 10 years ago, and his photos put him somewhere between 30 and 50. Doesn't really matter, though. These songs take old school rock and roll and very subtly bring the sound into modern times. Nothing contrived; just solid writing and exuberant playing.
Some folks might liken this to Amy Winehouse and the other Brit replicators. But Kingen's influences are much more wide-ranging, and he's much too interested in the music to insert himself above it. Maybe he's the Swedish Nick Lowe, which wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
reviewed in issue #266, July 2005
Some lovely fuzzed-out rock. Kingsley reminds me of many excellent bands from the early 90s, but the one that most comes to mind is Brainiac. Maybe the second or third album, before the boys (and by then, they were all boys) became full-on electronic math freaks. No, Kingsley is all about the rock, with some classy keys on the side.
And damn, if the stuff doesn't just fall into place. These anthemic piece could sound ponderous or overblown or simply turgid, but Kingsley always remembers to step lively. The energy level never flags, and the songs remain in full flight.
Plenty of reviewers will likely reference the Kings of Leon and a few other modern rockers, and that's cool. Others might mention that guitarist (and songwriter) Harris Thurmond served in Hammerbox and other outstanding Seattle bands. There's lots to mention, like the fact that Kingsley always keeps things tight and stylish--and that's the only way to play this particular musical game.
The songs are sharp, but the arrangements and performances are what make this disc. One or two steps off the path, and this material would sound generic and dull. Thankfully, what we have here is fresh and invigorating. Quite the solid effort.
The Kinison EP
reviewed in issue #245, September 2003
Five songs, mini sludge symphonies. Well, not exactly, as the Kinison has a really fine sense of rhythm and even deigns to throw in a melody once in a while. Kinda.
The melodic elements are in the music. The vocals range from screechy to just plain screeches, and the riffage is quite impressive.
You know, this stuff really reminds me of Bullet LaVolta, The Gift era. Heavy, loud and yet still grounded in some seriously addictive beats. This sound has never been particularly popular, but I love it. To death, I'm afraid.
Live From Hell
reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93
Louder than Hell is certainly a comedy classic. I don't know about you, but from the first shouts of "I fucked 'til I was blind!" to the final rhapsody of "You lying whore!", it broke just about every rule there was.
Unfortunately, it made money. A lot of money. And lots of people bitched. Sam was homophobic, misogynistic and all those other bad things. He also had Ronald Reagan prancing around the Lincoln Bedroom with a hard-on after the Lybian bombing and taught a lot of us oral sex technique.
So Warner Brothers recorded mostly his tame material, and Sam got dull. While this isn't as fresh as Louder than Hell, it gets back to the basics. After all, comedy isn't pretty.
"Oh, we're a riot in a war! You know we said: It might be funny if we put a video camera right on the head of it, just so the last thing you see is the guy sticking his head out the window going 'Oh God!' That way you've got it on film! You know those generals were getting drunk all night going, 'Rewind it! Rewind it!'"
I'm sorry, but that's funny. Too bad he had to die to get good stuff out again, but at least it's there.
Map of the Universe
reviewed in issue #300, September 2008
Not the Russian band Kino ("cinema"), which has been defunct for almost two decades. Rather, these are the demented musings of a certain Poet 9. And no, I don't have any other information, except to say that this release is only available by download.
Though, of course, I'm listening on a CD. Never mind. Critics are geezers. New technology will rule the world. KiNo probably won't, but these meandering songs that sound inspired equally by 80s indie rock, Aphex Twin and Frank Zappa ought to get some attention.
In no small part for the mere sound of the songs, which is much fuller than the average electronic pop/rock noodler generally achieves. It's a lush prog pop ambient universe that could exist only in someone's mind.
Except, of course, that it's pouring out my speakers. Weird. Oh well, this album is a series of unexpected encounters and jarring bliss. Most of the time the songs come together. The thing is, I think I like the ones that don't even better.
Kiss the Clown
Kiss the Clown
reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96
Cool pop music, infectious and distorted and played with vicious punk abandon.
Sort of a alterna-pop version of the NOFX sound. Really fast wall of noise, thin guitar sound and shouted vocals. But the clean and thick (not necessarily a contradiction, as this proves) production and songwriting style leaves Kiss the Clown sounding more like a pop band. No complaints from my side.
Right up my alley. The guys know how to make pop tunes really sing, and the sound is pure bliss. All the stars are in alignment, and everything came together right. This is one of those albums that manages to take the possibility of mundane music and turn it into something great. I can't say anything else; I'm giddy from the experience.
reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99
I was listening to the first Kiss the Clown disc in my car a couple weeks ago, wondering out loud if the band was still around and if there was another album out there. And not two days later, this thing arrived. As a born-again atheist, I'm a bit skeptical in general about supplications to the gods. But, hey, if there's anyone listening, I haven't heard anything from the Boorays in years...
In all seriousness, there's more than one good reason why Kiss the Clown has put a stranglehold on my mind. Starting with Kerry Donivan's raspy, warbling vocals (no one sounds anything like him, trust me) and continuing pn to the band's manic metal-pop music (I can think of a couple obscure bands in the 80s which tried this trick, but it never caught on), I guess there's just something in the whole mess which ties my pleasure center in knots.
The only real change in sound I can hear is somewhat slower songs. Or, perhaps, I should say there are more slower songs. Because the norm is still something like the band's self-titled theme song, which bounds with joy and abandon.
That's the thing. Listening to this disc is akin to sucking down a bottle of oxygen tipped with caffeine. I simply feel like hopping around and getting all goofy. Hard to complain about something like that, surely. In all ways, this lived up to my high hopes. Simply lovely.
The Kissing Party
The Hate Album
reviewed in issue #318, June 2010
Reminds me a lot of the Primitives, though much more stripped down and more dedicated to what might best be called "pure" pop music. The Kissing Party doesn't mess around with anything extraneous: verse-chorus all the way, with hooks that kill.
There are a few studio tricks which occasionally lend a gauzy feel, but this stuff is simple, simple, simple. No need for anything complicated when your songs click like these.
A decidedly lo-fi effort, and I think the songs are served better that way. The melodies dress these songs up in brilliant finery. Nothing else is needed.
A generous helping (fourteen songs), too. Albums this sweet can often leave an upset stomach, but the Kissing Party has enough protein to keep everything down. Very nice.
reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00
There is something of the novelty to this disc. Four women cranking out modern day metal (think Fear Factory channeled through Earth Crisis). Not particularly well, not particularly badly.
The female vocals do give Kittie a unique feel. But the songs and playing are undistinguished. The recording is a bit mushy, but that's not the thing. I've heard these ideas before, and generally expressed better. Kittie is competent; I always hope for better.
I think a more technical production job would have given the band a better chance to impress. Yeah, they're heavy. No need to overemphasize that with excessively thick sounds. Let Kittie generate its own power. I can't tell from this disc if that's possible.
But I'm not gonna slag 'em too hard. Like I said, Kittie is perfectly fine. Just not innovative or particularly exciting (unless the thought of women playing metal is exciting in itself for you).
Kitty in the Tree
reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00
It would be way too easy to dismiss Kitty in the Tree as just a 70s retread. Easy and wrong. First, the pop references are more 60s, which means this Kitty is reaching back to its influences' influences, if you can follow.
Yes, the surface screams T. Rex and Bowie (in fact, Kitty in the Tree cribs little snippets of riffs and lines for a few laughs), but really, this sound is rather modern. T. Rex never sounded this sharp. Bowie did, once he and Brian Eno hooked up, but that was later.
And anyway, there are far too many 90s modern rock conventions running about to stick this disc in a basic retread box. Kitty in the Tree takes a familiar sound and pumps another full syringe of life into it. Which, of course, is the right thing to do.
So there's no need to find those glam boots and face glitter. Kitty in the Tree can be enjoyed in a normal state of mind. Perhaps a bit too clever for the mainstream (all those references managed to tire me out), but probably not. These songs can be appreciated on their own merits. Straight or as an aside, Kitty satisfies.
Kill Devil Hills
reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01
Jennifer Zablocki writes the tunes and sings them, too. Kittyhawk (one word, I think, which isn't exactly right) is the band. The folks play rough-edged, heavy roots stuff. Plenty of guitars.
Zablocki's voice is low and full, just right for this sound. The heaviness of the band gives Kittyhawk a distinctive sound. Most roots acts aren't willing to rock out. These folks are ready and willing.
And still, most of the songs are contemplative affairs. They're missing memorable hooks. Zablocki's songs are dense, holding lots of words. That works alright in the verses. But the choruses could use a little trimming. And the melodies could be a little more pronounced.
The physical talent is undeniable. Zablocki's voice sounds great, and the band can play anything. But the songs need more emotional punch, a bit more to hang a hat on, if that makes sense. Something to make me remember them better. Not easy work, but it can be accomplished.
The Heart/Hertz Files
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
I don't know where these sounds are from (though the band is from Italy), but Klange puts a space face on ambient in a fun way.
Playful is not a word often associated with ambient (trance, whatever) music, but I can't really think of a better adjective. This music toys with your subconscious, daring you to dig deeper. And when you think you're at the center, there's something facing you that makes you laugh.
Or something like that. This isn't music for the coffee achiever, obviously. But if you want to sit and contemplate reality for a while, Klange will help as well as anyone.
(Tooth and Nail)
reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96
Klank is Daren Diolosa, and he has cranked out a cool set of industrial tunes that merge club beats and metal conventions quite well.
Yeah, this is a common tack these days, and Klank isn't the most innovative industrial act around. Still, Diolosa has managed to infuse his music with enough bells and whistles to keep folks interested. And the songwriting sticks to tight grooves, which is always best with this sort of thing.
Vicious and impure, Klank riffs through plenty of fine songs. Nothing astonishing or brilliant, but certainly plenty in the very good category. And when obvious influences such as Fear Factory and NIN are so masterfully integrated, well, it's hard not to get a little excited.
This one is good. Give Diolosa some more time, and he make may Klank great.
reviewed in issue #276, July 2006
Gorgeous, resounding pop music. Ringing melodies, husky female vocals...awfully seductive, you know. It's a formula sound, but there's a good reason for that. It works.
The music is wonderfully realized, with tasteful use of keyboards to supplement bounding piano and guitar licks. Pop music is best realized with up and down beats, and while lots of folks seem to forget that, Klee doesn't. These tunes have pop.
Remember the Lightning Seeds? Klee's sound is somewhat more organic, but the pure pop sound is much the same. These songs are great because, well, they simply must be great. If that doesn't make sense, listen to this album and it will. From the first beat, there's this feeling that nothing can change the inevitability of joy.
Pure pleasure, the kind of album that's fun to wallow in for days and days. I think I'll do that now.
Herman Sonny Blount
(Should I Be Concerned About This?-Edgetone)
reviewed in issue #239, March 2003
The Edgetone distribution ought to be a hint. The KLiP trio of Elliot Kallen, John Lauffenburger and Garth Powell doesn't do anything conventionally. Oh, sure, at first glance you notice that there are piano, bass and percussion players. But each member also brings a wealth of other noisemaking activities to the table.
Noisemaking as a good thing, mind you. I'm not sure how you play a cicada (the generally green critters commonly known as locusts that shed their skins before boffing as many other cicadas until they die), but Elliot Kallen does it. It is possible, of course, that Kallen doesn't play an insect but rather some implement inspired by the creature. I really have no idea.
Perhaps this stuff might be best described as music for a truly spooky (rather than viciously scary) movie. There's a sense of otherworldliness, a general unease that permeates the pieces. The noise I referred to isn't clutter. It is truly integral to the completion of the overall sound.
Boy, I dove into this puppy headfirst and didn't emerge until the needle pulled up on side two (yep, the sweet things sent me vinyl). The sound is amazing. There's so much space, and yet I was completely swallowed up. I can't think of a better complement than that.
(Bullseye Blues & Jazz)
reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01
Somewhere between the blues and r&b, lives Sy Klopps. He drenches these songs in horns and other accouterments, somewhat disguising his average voice.
Ah, the voice. The reason these songs work as blues rather than soul. Klopps has a decent voice, but it's not strong enough to carry these songs (many of them r&b standards) on their own. When he adds in all the trimmings (including Ralph Woodson's blistering guitar), well, they work.
The full sound of the production really does bring out the life in these songs. This album sounds great. The band smokes, and even Klopps' limitations as a vocalist help him color his performance.
Fun, though not an album that drives me to ecstasy. Just something comfy for the rainy nights.
reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96
Another sampling of the ever-present German industrial pop stuff.
Goes down like cotton candy. A little is sweet and yummy. Too much, and you puke like a dog. Only five tracks here, so there's not too much temptation that way. Klute has a little more goth in the mix than, say, Die Krupps, and obviously this is a little more techno, too. But then, chances are you've heard Klute before.
I've never been terribly impressed with Klute's creativity, but this is nicely catchy, with beats perfect for dance floor grinding. Okay, so you've heard it all before. I have too. The folk still manage to pump enough oomph to keep the clubs happy. You could find many worse generic dance bands.
KMFDM vs. PIG
Sin Sex & Salvation
reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95
In what must seem like a former life, Raymond Watts (a.k.a. PIG) was a part of KMFDM. This is a little reunion EP that still sounds a lot like recent KMFDM, with a few more samples.
Through the years, KMFDM has become more groove-oriented and less aggressive, and sales have followed. The idea may have been to get Watts back for three tracks (and a couple remixes) and try and harness the earlier fire, but the end project is simply wildly accessible.
Not a bad thing at all. This is industrial dance music at its peak. While Trent may claim to be the most artsy of the bunch, KMFDM wins by sheer numbers. And while things have gotten a little generic in this camp (the title track particularly), the music still cannot be denied. A triumph of some sort of will.
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
Just when I thought KMFDM had run themselves into a deep rut...
Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. I liked the EP quite a bit, but it sounded like the same-old same-old. I can hear touches of newer industrial ideas (plenty of NIN and others), some gothic influences (which showed up occasionally in the past, but still) and an overall aggressive approach I haven't heard since UAIOE (remember "Thrash Up"?).
And then after the breathless, breakneck cruise through Nihil, I say, "Had to be KMFDM". This is catchier, heavier, more danceable, more experimental and more adrenaline-pumping than on any previous single album. A true amalgam of the KMFDM eras, Nihil shows why you still have to pay attention to those German industrial bands.
reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96
Last time out, Sascha and En Esch teamed up with original mate Raymond Watts (aka PIG) for an EP and the album Nihil. This time, the idea is to bring in as many special guests as possible.
(Take a deep breath)Chris Connelly, F.M. Enheit, Nicole Blackman, William Rieflin and more. Connelly gets co-writing credit on half the songs, and most of the guests get writing credits on their songs. The result is the most diverse KMFDM album yet.
Don't worry; the guitars still shimmer and the beats still pulsate. This is diversity within the techno-industrial ideal set forth by the multitude of previous releases. Not a bad idea at all.
Finally, a KMFDM album that might move the band from dance floor craze to real mainstream acceptance. Hell, the guys were on the cusp of such things even before this outing. Now It seems inevitable.
A complete powerhouse album. It's as if KMFDM copied the Pigface concept (and brought over many compatriots from that enterprise) and incorporated it into a KMFDM album. Completely awesome.
reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96
I seem to recall the press for Xtort claiming that there wouldn't be any personal re-mixes of songs from that album. I believe the claim was that Sascha had better things to do.
Well, he gives "Son of a Gun" a new face, En Esch rips a cool new take on "Inane", and Raymond Watts (aka PIG) pounds through "Rules".
Sascha really doesn't do much for "Son of a Gun", but both the En Esch and Raymond Watts remixes put a cooler sound on their respective songs. The serious fan will already have this. I'm not sure if it's worth a big wad of cash or anything, but it satisfies. For now.
reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98
A couple novelty songs, a soundtrack piece, and a few remixes. You know most of the songs, but these versions are kinda hard to find.
That is, if they had ever been released before. This is the "b-sides" part of the KMFDM greatest hits package (the "hits" part is reviewed below). Very spotty, honestly, though there are some interesting moments. In any case, it is possible to piece together the creation of what is now the trademark German engineering sound.
Of course, there's also the cover of "Mysterious Ways" from Shut Up, Kitty, a strangely straight version of the song. Easily one of the worst tracks from that compilation. There's also the schlocky track from Hellraiser III, though the notes (put together in a day) help explain that.
For devotees only. The average fan just won't get much from this, with the possible exception of the two tracks from More & Faster. The unreleased stuff is fine, but not, um, Godlike. I had a good time, but that doesn't mean everyone will.
reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98
Sometimes people say a band's greatest hits would be best issued as a 7". Or 45, depending on the age of the person making the comment. I know more than one person who would claim that KMFDM could issue a greatest hits on a CD5. Hard to get away from "KMFDM, doing it again..."
Which is too bad. While I wouldn't agree with all of the choices here, the later tracks were the emphasis tracks on recent albums, and the earlier works are representative, if not the best tracks. Personally, my favorite album is still UAIOE, which was the first album to show me that electronic music didn't have to sound like the Cure (talk about personal confusion on my part). I also like the sparser sound.
And what this collection does is point out to folks that KMFDM has evolved. Perhaps the sound is a bit stagnant today (the "hit" songs just aren't as vital or creative as they used to be), but there is a reason KMFDM is legendary.
This disc shows why. Again, these are straight off the album, so devotees have all the stuff (though I'm guessing few of you have What Do You Know, Deutschland? or Don't Blow Your Top). It's about time, really, for this set. Though I do hope it doesn't signal the end of the road.
reviewed in issue #227, March 2002
If you haven't caught up with KMFDM lately, Sascha (and Sascha alone) is at the helm. There are plenty of helpers, but this is one man's vision of the German Engineering sound
And it's a strangely retro one, at that. Think Die Warzau with heavier guitars. Or KMFDM itself back when it was a bit more experimental. Taking a few more chances than I've heard from this brand (and if any band is a brand, this is it), Sascha breathes a bit of life into the ol' industrial standard-bearer.
Um, yeah, it's still a KMFDM album, which means crunchy guitars and growled vocals and an addiction to tight, technical riffage. But there are quite a few bits of modern electronica dancing around the edges, and these songs do sound a bit more loosened up than anything I've heard from this outfit in quite some time.
I also received the "Boots" CD5, which is simply three versions of "These Boots Are Made for Walking." That one's strictly for the completists. This disc, though, is well worth a spin, even if you thought KMFDM shot its wad 10 years ago.
KMFDM featuring Pig
Sturm & Drang Tour 2002
reviewed in issue #236, December 2002
If you wondered whether KMFDM could play live, this disc ought to prove it to you. There are no studio add-ons to the strangely thin live sound. Probably more of a document for completists, nonetheless this disc does prove Sascha and pals are much more than a studio creation.
Guitar Distortion (advance cassette)
reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93
Along with the Fredianelli album above, this represents a heavier direction for Shrapnel recordings. Not as frenzied as the other, but more experiemental with samplings and the like. At times the mizing is heavy-handed, but this rocks (dude?)!
This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now
reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98
The kind folks at Alias refer to Knapsack as an emo band, and I guess it's just my own perception that's all askew. I mean, Appleseed Cast sounds positively strident compared to Knapsack. This is pop music, pure and simple. sure, I can hear some of the emo-style guitar lines, but that's about it.
I really shouldn't get all tied up in terminology. What we have here is a fine pop album, one that stands next to the Archers of Loaf album fairly well. Knapsack has a nice, anthemic way of kicking out the hooks, all the while keeping the tempo up and moving.
And clever, clever lyrics, with the best lines properly placed for maximum impact. Hey, there may be some basic structural ideas here, but Knapsack makes them work. And that's pretty much the key.
An album which simply keeps moving until it's done. Great hooks, great riffage. Emo? Probably not, though I'll admit the genre is so rapidly evolving that perhaps the Kiss album will fall into the genre. Okay, maybe not.
Knife in the Water
This is the first Knife in the Water album in 15 years. Which means that the band records almost as slowly as many of its songs move. A lot of what I've read about the band refers to this as "space country." I always thought of Gram Parsons as "space country", and this ultra-languid, glacially-paced stuff is a lot more like "innerspace country." Or maybe "shoegaze country". Or, if you prefer, Knife in the Water is a dead ringer for what Galaxie 500 might have sounded like if it had any country influences at all.
I think all this "country" talk comes from the fact that Knife in the Water hails from Austin and has some affinity for Texas country music, but the band is rooted a lot more in the 80s indie rock sound than anything resembling a cowboy hat. So, y'know, a stripped-down Spaceman 3 (oh crap, there's that "space" word again!) or somesuch. I dunno. I'm thinking you get the idea.
I am really not a fan of this sort of hyper-introspective fare at a club. I prefer to be energized, not enervated, when I go out. But I've got three kids (the youngest is three), and I'm am always in need of an adrenaline injection. Some of you whippersnappers might just need something to help you slow down and smell the ozone. That's cool. Regardless of my feelings about any live show appeal, however, Knife in the Water makes some spectacular recordings. These pieces do move along at very deliberate paces, but after one listen it is clear that they are just as they should be. These fields should be traversed with an ear to the ground.
Elegiac is another word that comes to mind. Sometimes a band that reforms (or simply records its first album in forever) finds that its old sound is, well, old. Knife in the Water has deemed its sound timeless, and this album proceeds in accordance with that belief. Reproduction fits right into the band's canon without a gap. Ease off the throttle and take your time. The sound of real time is a fine lesson for today's overstuffed lives.
Knife the Symphony
Split EP with LKN
reviewed in issue #328, June 2011
LKN sounds like a direct descendent of the whole Slint/June of 44/Shipping News axis. The songs are shorter but just as complex. The band (which is, in fact, one Lauren K Newman) crams so many ideas in three-to-four minutes it's scary.
Knife the Symphony is a bit more contemplative. Only a bit. And while its three pieces are quite distinct from LKN, the truth of the matter is that none of the three songs sounds a lot like any of the others. The best is a seven-minute Kepone-like thrasher called "Flat Time." There's also a fun sludgy cover of fIREHOSE's "On Your Knees."
Two fine bands. Two quite different acts. Except, of course, that both would have been completely at home on Touch and Go Records fifteen years ago. No wonder I liked this so much.
Split LP with Swear Jar
If you've taken any sort of music lessons, you know that music comes in all sorts of time signatures. When I was in school band, we played everything: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 7/4, 6/8, 9/8. Well, that's not everything, but it's a lot.
Popular music tends to stick to standard (4/4) time. Yes, Dave Brubeck popularized 5/4 time, and it lives on in jazz and some prog bands. But other than Radiohead, very few rock bands use it. Country music has an affinity for 3/4 time, as "two-step" is simply Texan for "waltz." And Iron Maiden remains famous for its many songs that utilize 6/8. Mostly, though, rock and roll is standard.
There are ways to dress up 4/4. Early rock and roll tended to emphasize the first and third beats. The Beatles aped rock pioneers like Fats Domino and Chuck Berry by throwing a backbeat (emphasis on the second and fourth beats) into their early ravers.
And then there's syncopation, where an unusual hiccup in the beat produces interesting results. This often results in a sound that is exciting when heard the first time, though pretty tedious when repeated over and over. Think of the wanky white-boy funk backbeat that all sorts of "modern rock" bands used in the late 80s and 90s (the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" is the best/worst example of this). That dreadful beat is the reason all Blues Traveler songs sound alike. I hate this beat on constructive grounds, because its repeated starting and stopping kills any positive momentum within a song. But that beat sure was popular in its many varied forms.
My favorite use of syncopation is a backbeat with no fourth beat. This results in the familiar ba-BA-ba, ba-BA-ba (often with a fill of some sort in the fourth measure of the vamp) that pretty much drove the Touch and Go sound of the late 80s and early 90s. Even before that, Black Flag and other hardcore bands dabbled in and refined the basics of the beat. The Jesus Lizard is probably the most famous adherent to this device, but plenty of other T&G bands (June of 44, Shipping News, etc.) dipped deeply into the well. Over in D.C., Ian MacKaye built the Fugazi legend around variants of this beat.
It's easy to understand why this beat became so popular (within the very insular world of hardcore/noise rock) so fast. Unlike the herky-jerky alt. rock backbeat, dropping the fourth beat immediately draws the listener into the rhythm. We fill in that missing beat when we listen, and we become part of the engine of the song. This is audience participation at its finest.
I'm sure plenty of folks have had enough of this device, but I still love it. This driving beat is a perfect engine for slashing guitar riffs and shouted vocals. In short, it is integral to the sound of agitation and aggression.
Rock and roll, distilled to its purest form.
Knife the Symphony shares my predilection. The band has three songs on its split EP with Swear Jar, songs that are wondrous expressions of anger, rage and torment. Is this stuff nice? No. Will it play on any sort of commercial radio station? No. Is it flat-out fucking awesome? You betcha.
This is the entirety of the band's "About" page on their website: "Knife the Symphony owes a debt to SST, Dischord and Touch and Go." Yep. Terse, to the point and unquestionably true.
So, yeah, if you're 40-something and you still get out your vinyl and turn your stereo up to 11 (your stereo still has knobs, of course), Knife the Symphony will overload your pleasure center in about two seconds flat. The throb on these songs is incredible. The noise is immense. The high is unbearable.
As for the other band on this split, Swear Jar is nice in an incoherent, no wave-y sorta way. These songs have no center, but they are raucous. This is music for sweaty teenagers and rabid raccoons, two sets of beings who very much need music that caters to their whims. But I got over teenagerdom a couple decades ago, and I'm not a procyonidont. Even so, I like the Swear Jar stuff quite a bit. But I prefer Knife the Symphony.
By and large, rock music has moved on from the propulsive 4/4 practiced by Knife the Symphony. But every once in a while, I like to be reminded just how good rock and roll can be. Call it nostalgia, if you like. I prefer to think of it as aggression therapy, a sensory overload that soothes my troubled mind.
There are a lot of 80s-ish bands out there these days, and many of them are very good. Almost all of them, however, sound a lot like one or two bands from back in the day. New Order and the Cure are the most common intersection points, but not too long ago I heard a band that sounded like it was channeling Level 42. That's (demented) commitment to an ideal.
Knifight, on the other hand, takes the chilly synths and proto-goth stylings of early Human League and Joy Division and then takes off. These songs have an orchestral feel to them. All of the little pieces are just that, notes in a score. Many of these songs do have the slow-build-to-the-apocalypse feel, but the minimalist hooks tend to undercut any anthemic intent.
That is an interesting way to arrange a song. Unlike EDM, where songs are assembled for the sole purpose of creating the biggest drop possible, Knifight's take on electronic music is much more conceptual. I'd say prog, but there's not much noodling. The studied approach to the songwriting, however, probably is rooted in some sort of Kraftwerkian dungeon.
This is a much more polished effort than Dark Voices. That album often came off as pastiche and a little collage-heavy. Knifight has refined its approach and stripped out a few of the extraneous threads. That debut remains fascinating, especially for the range of sounds that rush through, but V manages to incorporate the same swath of inspiration into a more cohesive sound.
That's a really difficult task, one that most bands can't manage. Years of touring and hard work seem to have served Knifight well. This is not the band's endpoint, but I think the sound here is one that it can use as a base for its future endeavors. Endeavors which might well bring down civilization as we know it.
reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99
Tightly-crafted garage pop. If you'd like a few more oxymorons, I'll be happy to oblige. That would get silly, though, so let me say that these Delaware boys have a pretty fair handle on how to crank out this stuff.
The press blurbs for the band's first album throw about a few lofty references, and my inclination is to go along with the crowd on that one. The Knobs are decidedly in the "moody" camp, and so the nods to the Flaming Lips, etc., fit in just right.
Shifting gears fairly often within the same general context, the Knobs piece together many sonic snatches to complete the album. No, none of it wanders too far upstream, but there are definite shifts in the sound. Subtle and classy moves, certainly.
I didn't hear the first album, but if it's anywhere near as good as this one (and I trust enough of the reviews to believe that), I'd say these guys have really proven their mettle. Consistency isn't a problem. Exposure is the only issue now.
Think It's Time
reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96
Another standard release from Doctor Dream: solid pop punk music that satisfies, but still goes down smooth. Not too filling.
And not terribly memorable. Quite a few catchy little songs, but then if a band can't come up with a handful of those playing in this area, well, they don't deserve to be recording. Knockout resorts to silly rock gimmickry at times, but for the most part the songs just keep flowing along.
Wish I could say more. I like this well enough, but it sure doesn't excite me at all. I'm quite happy to listen to it now, but it won't be a regular addition to the discer. In an increasingly overcrowded genre, Knockout needs precisely that to garner attention. And that's missing here.
split EP with Emperor Penguin
reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00
I think anyone who reads A&A with any regularity now how I feel about Emperor Penguin. To put it succinctly, I'm pretty sure there isn't a more creative and fun band plying the "vaguely electronic" trade these days. The three songs here don't do anything to change my impression.
Knodel is a band from Portland, and one of the reasons it's on this EP is that it has much the same attitude as Emperor Penguin: Anything goes, as long as it works. Knodel's pieces are a bit more technical and not quite so loose as Emperor Penguin, but only by the slightest of margins. Quality-wise, the Portland crew gives the Chicago folks a run for their money.
Which means that this short set will give you a full return on your investment. The unexpected makes more than a few appearances, and that's always a good thing. Play this at your next party and see how many people go, "Hey, that's kinda cool. What is it?"
Dawn of the Butterfly
(My Pal God)
reviewed in issue #228, April 2002
Knodel finally steps out on its own with a full-length recording. I've been waiting for this moment for some time. Ever since that awesome split with Emperor Penguin, I've been wondering what these folks might be doing. Now I know.
For you not in the know, Knodel applies a Kraftwerkian techno sheen to electronic-driven (but not fully electronic) pop. Kinda like if OMD listened to more Tangerine Dream. I don't know about you, but that sorta description gets me excited to an inordinate degree.
Ah, but this is about Knodel and the way it purveys its tunes. The melodies are simple and pretty. The beats are bubbly and addictive. As you might have figured out from what I've said already, these songs wouldn't have sounded terribly out of place 20 years ago. But there's just a hint of a modern cleverness, a few winks to the side, the sort of self-deprecation that was pretty well absent from the New Wave.
You know, like recording a strangely beautiful cover of Manowar's (that's right) "Kingdom Come." Anyone who could record that song this straight has a sense of humor that's right up my alley. Big smiles.
To the Rhythm
Those seeking coherence ought to look elsewhere. Knola does ground its songs in rhythms, but those rhythms pulse sporadically. The general noise level rests pleasantly at excessive.
I haven't heard a band with such a debt to Slint in some time. Knola is generally more propulsive, but the apparent disinterest in conventional song structure (or chords, at times) has a definite Spiderland feel.
Very, very Touch and Go-ian, in any case. That's one of my sweet spots, so it's no surprise that this knocked me out. But raucous and purposefully meandering noise rock has charms aplenty for the regular universe. Apart from the odd "Now, who did I see at that Don Cab show back in 1994?" thoughts, these pieces foster a fertile creative atmosphere. Ideas come to grow here.
And there is plenty of beauty within the often tripped-up rhythms. Not pretty; not by any stretch of the imagination. But real beauty.
I know, my head is lost in the good old days. But Knola has brought them forward and done them a solid. Play this loud.
A Gift Before I Go
reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98
Punks who prefer to sample every side route possible. Stabbing at metalcore, pop punk, ska, oi, and just yer basic hardcore. Knowledge does a decent job with the tuneage, even if the playing and sound aren't quite up to snuff.
Not enough energy. Some of that has to do with the strange mix, which seems awfully treble heavy (particularly lacking in the middle ranges). No power. And no matter how frenzied the band might get (and it doesn't get all that hyper), the producer and the engineer have to help things along.
I do like the way Knowledge trips around many different punk subgenres. The songwriting is credible, if not particularly inspired. Solid in that are, anyway.
But this album doesn't give me a rush. Part of that is the production and part is the playing. I can't rightly say which is more to blame. It is a shame that the songs get let down in such a way.
Sixteen Penny Nail
reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93
Good hard core, if a little muffled in the production. Tight, short songs that are big on attitude and a little short on real subjects from time to time.
This is the sort of thing major labels are snapping up right and left. It was the big sound about a year ago, so now they're interested. If you still are, give this a spin.
The Crippler EP
reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97
Yer basic rawk stuff with some horns thrown in. Knuckle Sandwich seem intent on imitating a few influences, the most obvious being King Kong on "Western Mass Community Fight Song (for Ben Schoolfield)".
The songs just don't seem to have much reason to be next to each other on the disc. It's not that the band ranges all over the place, but the songs simply don't relate. I'm confused.
The playing is pretty good, though the mixing job has left stuff muddled in a few spots (the first track, "Television (The Truth About Me)", in particular). And I still have no idea what Knuckle Sandwich really wants to sound like.
A real mess. I had a tough enough time figuring out the point of most of the songs (not that the lyrics are obtuse; they simply seem nonsensical much of the time), not to mention the general gist of the disc. Too much work for simple music.
Impromptu Caber Toss split EP with Corsicana
reviewed in issue #248, December 2003
Kobald is a band that includes the Brian and Chris of the band Brian and Chris. Corsicana is another band plying the post rock waves. At first glance I couldn't find a song list or even a note explaining who is playing what where. Then I turned the liner page over. Duh. Anyway, there are six songs. They're mostly instrumental. Without the note, I would have guessed that the stuff was by the same band--the differences are there, but minor. And that's cool with me.
See, when the music is cool and inventive and constantly evolving, I really don't care who is playing it or what the name of the song might be. There's something quite intriguing about an almost anonymous disc. You can imagine it to be whatever you like.
Well, I don't have to imagine this one to be good. It's taken care of that all on its own. I just have to let the music run and let my mind bask in the glow. A fine feeling, it is.
reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92
Not just a techno-house record, but something a little more brutal. Their 12" last summer was remixed by Final Cut, another much-heavier-than-techno conglomeration.
While the beats are still heavy and constant, the instrumentation is much more diverse than that now-annoying wank-synth stuff that is so common today. The female backing vocals aren't all boring wailers. The melodies are somewhat reminiscent of heroes Kraftwerk, rather unique and wandering, not stale and repetitive.
As a final grace, the lyrics transcend the "my God let's fuck now" message found in much techno. Ah, yes. Creativity rears its ugly head.
The Koffin Kats
reviewed in issue #264, May 2005
I suppose the label names are self-explanatory. The Koffin Kats play full-tilt distortion-laden rockabilly with a hardcore attitude. A long time ago, Eugene Chadbourne led the band Shockabilly. I guess the term "psychobilly" comes from that. Or maybe not. It does roll of the tongue nicely.
In any case, the Koffin Kats play a most spirited version of this sound. The guys have a nice way of simply blasting through whatever trouble spots a give song may have. Play it loud, play it fast and maybe no one will notice.
I think that's true, actually. One of the cool things about a sound like this is the energy. The production is raw enough to ensure a feeling of sheer power, and the frenetic performances simply drive that even further.
Not the most sophisticated album in the world or anything, but one that accomplishes what it set out to do, nonetheless. Highly enjoyable. Take the ride.
We Didn't Go EP
reviewed in issue #306, April 2009
Another band that takes more than a few cues from the 80s. The Kokoon wears its devotion to the likes of Depeche Mode and the Cure on its collective sleeve. Of course, when you make music swing like this, it doesn't matter much whose material you're cribbing.
And if you want to hear one of the most blistering modern goth pop rock anthems in decades, try "Life It Seems So Delicate." I can just see the dance floors of my youth filling up quickly if this song were to hit the speakers.
Five songs that invigorate and inspire. I'm assuming there will be a full-length sometime soon. I simply cannot wait.
accomplishes what it set out to do, nonetheless. Highly enjoyable. Take the ride.
The Kola Koca Death Squad
The Kola Koca Death Squad
reviewed in issue #269, October 2005
You'd think a two-piece (with a little help from some friends) would try to keep things straightforward and simple. Not so the Kola Koka Death Squad.
Rather, the drumming is all over the place stylistically, and the songs themselves veer from innocuous rock and roll to things darker and much more dangerous. They'll lull you off your guard, and then comes the ambush. And even when I came to expect it, I couldn't anticipate it.
It's strange that I like this, because a good chunk of the album is kinda nondescript. But those moments of terror, the spots where I wondered whether the sun would rise again, those make all the difference.
I'm not sure this will hold up on multiple listens, but the theatrical nature of the songs does bode well for a live show. Fun? Not really. But it leaves one hell of an impression.
The Vision and the Voice
reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94
1983. You dig bands like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Gen X. But those bands aren't the cultural icons they are today. So when you record your album, not many notice.
Well, the music cognoscenti of the day picked up on Kommunity FK, but the general public didn't and still haven't. Doesn't mean the music sucks.
In fact, it's more than good. This is the first CD issue of Vision, and it's overdue. There's a new generation of kids who don't remember when "Goth" was a term no one used. And while KFK doesn't stick to that sort of thing, you can hear where bands like Christian Death come from (I meant it as a complement, anyway).
The World of Tomorrow
reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97
More of that retro-techno feel. Komputer does give some of its songs fairly lush arrangements (relatively, anyway), but the sound is still quite sterile. The songs are catchy, if robotic, riffs on a variety of supposedly futuristic subjects, entwined in a sound that exists somewhere between Tangerine Dream and New Order.
Some songs, like "Valentina", incorporate more complex song structures and rhythms. Most of the tunes, however, are very basic. Beautiful in their sterility? Perhaps. If that's yer thang.
For me, it's all a bit banal. Judging from the artwork, perpetuating mundane subjects actually seems to be a goal of the band, and that's what I don't understand. It gets sorta maddening.
Especially since this is so well-executed. I guess I'm just at crossroads with the artsts' intent. Hey, if you're a fan of electronic lite, well, go for it.
Adiyoyoyo Mona Lisa
reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00
Nkossi Konda thanks Disney for allowing him to be the first African artist to perform at Harambee Village. This is fitting. Konda may be African, but he sounds like an American version of African music.
That's not entirely bad. He brings to mind Paul Simon or David Byrne or any of a number of American artists who have earnestly borrowed from African traditions. Konda, in his way, is simply bringing pieces of African music and placing them in a more world-friendly shell.
So this isn't edgy. It is, for better and worse, something of a Disneyification. Your grandma might like this. Which is a good sight better than those bizarro "native music" cassette tapes that my grandma would bring back from cruises or travel. THAT stuff was just bad. This is good, well-executed music. It's just not "pure" African fare.
And I don't think that's bad. Me? Well, I'm a roots kinda guy. And unless someone is trying to create a new form of music by splintering an old one (and Konda is not doing that), I'm not a big fan of this sorta thing. Still, has managed to Americanize his music without sounding forced or cheesy. That is an accomplishment.
reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92
Promise me you will read the rest of the review if I tell you these guys play instrumentals. Well, now that the cat is out of the bag, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
And you should give Kong the same. This is some of the most inventive music I've heard in a long time. The press on this compares these guys to Pink Floyd and Voivod. The Floyd haven't put out a decent album in a decade, so I wouldn't exactly call that charitable. As for Voivod, I suppose the creativity herein could be a link, but I choose to put Kong in their own league.
Wandering all over the loud universe, Kong will make you dance, thrash, moan, cry and wander aimlessly searching for meaning in a dead universe. And if you're so inclined, I'm sure sexual relations could be attempted as well. So turn it up and strap yourself in for a real ride.
Compositions for Lemmings
reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93
I have never heard a demo sound this good. Most major label bands would kill for this sound. No shit. This is industrial for the headbangers and the club kids. Anyone who got into the Fear Factory remixes or some of the heavier Reconstriction stuff would love this.
I got this tape at the Soulstorm show in Grand Rapids, after I was too late to catch these guys. I played this on the hour-long ride home, and it blew me away.
There is absolutely no good reason these folks are not signed. No reason at all.
See also Naked Lunch.
Koool Stuff Katie
Kool Stuff Katie
Back in the early 70s, Cheap Trick wasn't trying to do anything revolutionary. Rick Nielsen wrote a ton of chock-a-block rockers and a succession of producers added the requisite 70s AOR sheen. Which the band was (mostly) fine with. Yes, In Color was completely misproduced, but I really don't want to hear the Let It Be . . . Naked treatment of that album, either.
Cheap Trick, in other words, did not come out of the garage band movement. Cheap Trick's roots are much closer to Aerosmith than Nuggets, revisionist history notwithstanding. Just look at the producer of In Color (and two subsequent albums), Tom Werman. Werman's resume includes the 'smith, Nuge, B.O.C., the Crue . . . you get the idea.
Kool Stuff Katie replicates that early Cheap Trick buzzsaw pop-meets-rock sound better than anyone I've heard in ages. Like many modern garage acts, KSK is a duo, with both members playing multiple instruments. But Shane Blem and Saren Oliver make sure to deliver a full band sound with their songs. Blem's fuzzbuzz guitar and Oliver's knack with catchy keyboard riffs really fill out the corners. The multitracked backing vocals are also quite pleasantly 70s.
Yes, this yet another Portland entry in the indie rock sweepstakes. But KSK blazes its own trail, even if that trail is merely uncovering one that was well-traveled a mere 40 years ago. These songs are insistently catchy, and they get better with more volume.
Fun is an underrated facet of music. The set starts with a rush, and Kool Stuff Katie doesn't hit the pause button until the end of the album. One of the more sophisticated and exciting outings of last year.
I was looking up some info on Kool Stuff Katie, and all of a sudden my 14-year-old son asked if I was playing music. Turns out he was listening to Spotify (running on my computer) on his headphones, and the KSK site had started to play some music from It's Fine over his stuff. I told him I'd stop the play from the site, and he told me to shut down Spotify. "I like what you have better," he said.
That would be endorsement enough for me, but I'm already familiar with this Portland outfit. It's the usual stripped-down power-pop garage duo, except a lot better than average. Kool Stuff Katie doesn't do anything fancy, but the songs are infused with an infectious energy that is impossible to miss.
The sound is old-school Cheap Trick, which is a high compliment in my book. Guitar, drums, vocals. Everything in its place, every done with full intent and effort. The hooks are raggedly tight, and the riffs provide a lovely buzz.
At this point, there's no denying that Saren Oliver and Shane Blem not only know what they're doing--they do it better than most. Rock and roll may not be preeminent in the musical landscape these days, but it's far from dead. Kool Stuff Katie is proof that there is plenty of life in the line.
And my son? He's listening to Kool Stuff Katie on the way to school. I'm always gratified to find a reason to have hope for the coming generations.
reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99
Not exactly what I expected. Asian Man is (in general) a punk outfit, with ska leanings. This is straightforward guitar pop, in a lackadaisical mode. What I do expect from the label (and what I got) is something pretty cool. That stands true.
The female singer (there is a guy and a gal) sounds a lot like Kim Deal, and the music lolls about, never quite kicking into gear. Just moves along nicely, unhurried, not feeling any pressure whatsoever. There is a calming effect, even as the lyrics grow more and more intense.
Occasionally, the songs do blend together. It's only natural, considering the structure of the songs. Korea Girl does one thing really well, but it's still just one thing. I would like to hear just a bit more experimentation from the band. Just a little.
But, like I said, Korea Girl does this sound really, really well. A perfect afternoon tonic for escaping from the perils of everyday life.
Too Many Days
reviewed in issue #284, April 2007
Speaking of acquired tastes...Jesus Cristo! Imagine a technologically-advanced Daniel Johnston, with a regular voice. The music and ideas, though, they're out in that same insane part of the universe.
Korein seems to write songs he hopes will annoy people. How else to explain titles like "Writhe Sally Writhe" (which is, in fact, something of a fractured homage to "Long Tall Sally"), "Love Is for Pansies" and "Vagina Dentata Assembly Kit"?
The songs themselves are wild mishmashes of sound and ideas, many of which don't exactly match up. Korein likes to throw lots of noise elements into the palette of his assembled sounds, and most of the time those work quite well with his incisive, if minimalist, guitar work.
I dunno. I thought it was fun. I'm not sure I came across any deep meaning, but the noise (and I use that term advisedly) made my ears happy. Ear candy for deconstructionists, I suppose.
Kory & the Fireflies
reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99
This sounds to me like Billy Idol with an industrial country bent. It's probably simply mechanized roots rock sung with a sneer. If that makes any sense at all.
Pretentious, even overbearing at times. Infectious, though, in the way that "big rock" has to be if it's gonna work. I mean, grandiose plans still have to leave an access point for the common freak. And while I think some of this stuff is way, way overblown, I gotta admit that it's got a nice feel.
The sort of band which is just begging for a major label contract. The kind of songs which have the potential to be played over and over on the radio. And still be good enough that folks won't be embarrassed to call themselves fans. Not precisely my cup of tea, but hell, I've got ears. I can tell you what just might go over the top.
I've used the word and prefix "over" a number of times here. That's by design. Hey, this is a rocket. Don't know if it will burn out before it reaches perigee (or is it apogee?), but hell, it's goin' somewhere.
You Forgot to Kick It
(Record Label Records)
reviewed in issue #334, February 2012
Kicky electronic fare that, indeed, fails to kick it. These grooves blurble and splurt into every hidden recess until there is no air left. If you remember the Wordsound posse of days gone by, this will bring a smile.
If that reference escapes you, just think of the greasiest, funkiest electronic stuff around. Goopy beats, sticky bass lines and everything else that, indeed, does not kick.
Enticing as hell, though, and almost oppressively extreme in its aspirations. This is music for world conquest--as long as fornication is part of the global domination agenda.
An absolutely stunning affair. Nasty as you want it to be, and there aren't any lyrics to speak of. Just thick beats and thicker grooves. Settle in, slide around and just try not to be seduced.
What I've Learned So Far...
Home Demos 1987-1997
(The Hand-Made Record Label)
reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98
As you might guess from the guitar on the cover, Kotheimer is a singer-songwriter type of guy who records his own stuff wherever he finds space and time.
Much of the time he sounds like he's trying out new styles of playing and singing (though always hanging out around the whole folk-rock ideal). His lyrics are very mundane, though many times all that everyday stuff piled together adds up to something greater.
Kotheimer has an easy-going style of playing, one that compliments his somewhat ragged voice. Sure, he wants to be Springsteen (like a few million other folks I know), but he's also willing to focus on what he does well, which is sing earnest songs about the stuff he sees and feels. Kinda like...
Occasionally quite perceptive, Kotheimer manages to bring a certain nobility and grace to lives that many of us would consider terribly dull and uninteresting. A nice, contemplative set.
Better Than This
People often wonder why critics seem overly attracted to music well outside the mainstream. There's a simple answer: We've heard too much. We know most of the tricks to crafting shiny pop music. We know that craft may successfully trump a lack of inspiration (witness all the famous producers and their nearly-faceless proteges), but the unusual will always prick up our ears. Even if it isn't great.
I had a longstanding argument with the publisher of a long-ago-folded music rag. He loved cover bands, telling me "I prefer competence to originality." "I want to hear something new," I would counter. There's no logical solution to this conundrum. It all comes down to personal preference.
Actually, there is an answer. But it rears its head very rarely.
Enter Kotorino. These proto-Tin Pan Alley tunes (decorated with generous doses of Dixieland, Latin, Gypsy, blues and loungey rock) are played by an acoustic chamber pop collective (full horn section, with winds and strings as necessary) and immediately arrest the ears.
The craft is immaculate. And yet the arrangements are loose, giving both the players and the singers plenty of room to add personality. Most importantly, though, these songs are competently written. In other words, after the first few blasts it's pretty clear where the song is going. Kotorino plays by the book--but it wrote this book, too. Well, gave the book a heavy edit, anyway.
"Chamber pop" is a reasonable description, but it's too limiting. "Americana" is a lot closer (if you take as your root the Americas, rather than just America). But that's one of the vaguest and most useless genre classifications around. I've always been partial to "good music," but that is (deliberately) even more vague.
Classification doesn't work here. The writing is tight and top-notch. The arrangements are bright, open and completely unprecious. The performances are uniformly enthusiastic. The music is, indeed, "very good."
There are folks who won't like Kotorino on principle. People who say they hate "jazz," people who don't like horns or strings. You know, silly people. I understand their point of view. The horns and strings are used in vaguely unconventional ways here. At times, Kotorino sounds like an acoustic version of Roxy Music. I'd say that's a pretty high compliment, but not everyone would agree.
Taste is variable. However, no one can argue about the quality of the writing or the playing. In other words, Kotorino may not be your style. But it plays quality original music with style and elan. I think my old sparring partner and I would agree on these folks. And if we don't, it's because he's still an idiot.
Some things never change.
The Intergalactic Fusion Experience
reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95
Kotzen gets one thing right: fusion doesn't have to be boring and mellow. Unfortunately, his idea of fusion often sounds a lot like a hyper Joe Satriani record.
Mainly, I suppose, because the instrumentation is basic: guitar, keyboards, drums, bass. Some horns would have been nice.
But Kotzen imbibes his playing with more feeling and emotion than I thought possible, considering that flat fusion sound he gives his guitar and the preponderance of pyrotechnical moves. Even as he flashes across the universe, you can feel some semblance of kinship with Kotzen and his ideas.
The songs are fairly well-conceived and written, and Kotzen doesn't repeat himself too much. He brings in too many different styles to fall into that trap. But he really needs to bring more instruments and flesh out the sound a bit more. That might have made a pretty good record into a great one.
Still, Kotzen now has two (counting his collaboration with Greg Howe) of the better instrumental guitar albums of the year.
Richie Kotzen and Greg Howe
reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95
With Poison dead, Kotzen returns from whence he came. Except, of course, that this time out he picks up with Greg Howe (long-distance, via studios) and the two bash out an album in a method reminiscent of the Hissanol album of earlier this year.
Of course, this is smooth fusion guitar work, not wacky pop music. I must say I'm not the biggest fan of the sort of guitar wanking that goes on in most of these sorts of records (syncopated drum beats and flying guitar), but Howe and Kotzen keep the pyrotechnics to a respectable level, imbuing the disc with a nice, cool feel.
I thought Howe had moved forward with his last album, and his maturity shows. Kotzen does well following Howe's lead, and the two cranked out some nice fusion tunes (with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Confusion" in the middle of things). This may not be my favorite sort of music, but Howe and Kotzen have put together a very good album.
reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97
Same formula as last time. Each wrote five songs, producing the backing track and solo for his work and then sending the tapes over to the other for finishing solo work. If you're really curious, Greg's always on the left, and Richie's always on the right.
And as before, this somewhat antiseptic form of collaboration works really well. You really don't need to flip your balance to figure out who is playing what, either. Howe is a big fan of effects and unusual guitar sounds, while Kotzen sticks to a more basic sound. Of course, their playing styles are markedly different as well.
The most fascinating moments come when both are playing the same lick. That is when I did play with my knobs, hearing the different ways Howe and Kotzen approached the same lines. But even such intellectual pursuits did not keep me from enjoying this work.
These guys do better work together than they do alone. Howe inspires Kotzen to get a bit more cerebral, and Kotzen forces Howe to find an emotional edge in his sound. This isn't just another guitar god album. It's great music as well.
reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01
An all-star cast taking on a rock opera based on the life and prophecies of Nostradamus. Joe Lynn Turner, Alannah Myles, Sass Jordan, Glenn Hughes, Doogie White and more. Can't fault the talent.
Imagine Queen at its most excessive. And then square that. Nikolo Kotzev has spared no effort in creating his world. The songs are utterly overwrought. The lyrics are rather artless, simply telling the story in the most straightforward way possible. This does explain what's going on, but it doesn't help much with character development.
The music is classical prog, with plenty of "medieval" touches. It's far too much, but that works. I mean, this is a piece concerning Nostradamus, the most over-hyped prophet in the history of the world. If you're not over-the-top, you're not telling the story right.
A lot of fun, if you don't take it too seriously. I'm not too impressed by the "dramatic" elements, but the songs are fun, particularly when multiple cast members start wailing. Kinda an ultimate extension of the whole Eurometal ideal. That's the part I like.
The Kraken Quartet
Separate | Migrate
This Austin group noodles its way around percussion and electronics in just about every way imaginable. If the idea of drums, vibes, keyboard and other electronic effects whipping around math-like structures sounds even remotely appealing, this set is golden.
Shimmery, propulsive and often strikingly beautiful, the songs on this album are hardly the prog nerd fare you might imagine. The melodies are inviting, and the chill down/get moving dichotomy is a wonderful tension that is rarely resolved.
Some touchpoints might include Tortoise and a brilliant combination of the High Llamas and Trans Am (I saw both bands at one show once, and I thought it was a bizarre pairing; apparently not). The use of "Quartet" lends something of a classical air to the band, though I think that probably applies to the musical training of the musicians rather than their output here. This is a lot more Zappa than Dvorak.
Occasionally wiggy, but never obtuse. The Kraken Quartet makes music that stimulates the mind and soul. There are many entry points, but no exits. Once you enter this world, you're trapped. And you won't mind a bit.
The Hard Stuff (advance cassette)
reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95
He's been doing this for almost 30 years, and yet The Hard Stuff is fresher-sounding than 99% of all the punk-edged music out there. Not just a nostalgia trip.
reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96
Last year's album was The Hard Stuff. That should have been a hint. This one's a bit more contemplative and moody.
Not that the starts didn't turn out or anything. Adding some oozin' ahs are Terence Trent D'Arby and Epitaph presidente (Mr.) Brett Gurewitz. A few other folks sit in with the band (read the liners; come on). And to be honest, this album sounds a lot more like the typical MC5 record. There's nothing wrong with raucous pop music.
And talk about AOR promise! I'm gonna be hearin' stuff from this down at the gym. Which, incidentally, is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Working out to one Hootie and the Blowfish song after another can be goddamned annoying.
Yeah, I wish he ripped it out a little more at times. Even on rave-ups like "Take Exit 99", Kramer seems to be holding back from the anger that permeated "The Hard Stuff". But I have a feeling this will grow on me. It's a good album from a guy who knows how to make cool music. The departure leaves me a bit cool, but I'll just have to listen once again. No harm in that.
reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97
Certainly the first Epitaph release produced by David Was, Citizen Wayne sports a shinier, yet rougher feel than last year's Dangerous Madness. Everything sounds much more crafted than either of Kramer's previous Epitaph releases, with much more focus on construction than guitar playing.
A good move really. Kramer still refuses to kick out a real burner, but with "Revolution in Apt. 29", he presents a nice rawk anthem with some perceptive lyrics. The very next track samples Richard Daley's famous malapropism on the Chicago riots ("The police are there to preserve disorder"), incorporating a real MC5 feel.
David Was' contributions are obvious. First, the existence of samples and the ultra-tight production (both of which help out immensely). And also in keeping Kramer focused and the overall sound lean. Yeah, those are drum machines on a few tracks, but they work. In this case, climbing up to get down is precisely the formula needed.
Easily the most satisfying of Kramer's Epitaph albums. Fewer clunkers and a more coherent vision are the keys. Less clutter means more of Kramer's ideas (musical and lyrical) in the forefront. I was quite skeptical, but David Was was the right choice, and Citizen Wayne reaps the benefits.
reviewed in issue #159, 5/20/98
I'd kinda lost track of Kravitz. I dug the extreme Sly ripoffs on his first album, but to be honest, I wasn't that knocked out that I really bothered to check out any of his later stuff. And now, a fifth album (I assume that's what the title signifies).
Self-consciously funky stuff. Fishbone that's been out in the sun for a bit too long. Kravitz likes to meander musically (He's happy to assume the sounds of Hendrix, Prince or the aforementioned Mr. Sly), but he never really settles into the grooves. This is workmanlike music at best. Kinda like Pat Boone doing "Blueberry Hill", Kravitz takes potentially good material (which he has written) and turns it into a bland dish.
Just no surprises. Yeah, no song echoes another, but even with this avalanche of diversity, I just couldn't find a soul lurking anywhere. Kravitz is an astonishing talent, but he's still coloring inside the lines. Gotta take some chances somewhere.
Competent music for the average listener. All the kick ass riffs are in the right spots, and all the lightly funky bass lines bounce along at just the right pace. Kravitz needs to inject a whole lot more of himself into the songs. Then, maybe, his brilliance will finally throw off this shroud of mediocrity.
Kreamy 'Lectric Santa
De Bronx Sity Chiken Machine Vol. II
reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95
Mixing the sing-song songwriting skill of a Daniel Johnston with the musical schizophrenia (and editing skill) of Creedle, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa has certainly crafted a highly original disc.
Mostly because no one in their right mind would even begin to construct anything like this, I suppose. But then, I prefer to leave reality often enough, and KLS provides a nice outlet for a field trip to the frontal lobes without excess chemical baggage.
Twenty-six songs (including three designated "The Triad of Destiny") of pure chaos, with the odd coherent verse of a song dropped in. No hits, nothing that would even begin to make sense on the radio, but taken as a whole, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa might be pushing that envelope I call insane genius. Tres cool.
Music for Meditation, Relaxation and the Imminent
Overthrow of All World Governments 7"
reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97
I loved Kreamy 'Lectric Santa's Da Bronx Sity Chiken Machine, Vol. II, the disc the band put out some time back. This single continues the utter insanity. The particulars are a complete mess, but if you pull back and kinda listen to the stuff in a vague out-of-focus way (like doing those 3-D stereograms), it all begins to make sense.
There's no way to really describe the band to the uninitiated. Actually, though, KLS has plenty in common with Guchlrug, who I just reviewed. KLS is merely more so in nearly every category. "Out there" is an extreme understatement.
The only other real touchpoint I can think of is a band called Bully Pulpit. I know, that doesn't help most of you. But try to imagine a fully musical multimedia experience. If you can get past the oxymoron, then you might have an idea of what I'm trying to describe.
Lunacy, really. There's no way to properly describe Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, and only an insane person would try.
Scenarios of Violence
reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96
While American bands have stolen the sound and made off like bandits, the old Noise warriors Kreator and Coroner (the latter signed to U.S. biggie now) apparently still have to prove their worth.
As part of the Noise campaign to retake the U.S. (and reintroduce such stalwarts as Kreator), this 16-song retrospective is offered. A few live tracks replace better studio work, but for the most part this is a solid collection.
Ever wonder where the Pantallica came from? Well, this might give you an answer. I've not liked everything the band has done, but this set picks out the best bits. Anyone who cares about history and the roots of the current metal scene would do well to study Kreator.
reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01
Kreator was always one of the finest crunchy Eurometal bands around. Great riffage, tight rhythm work and just enough melody to provide a hint of color. The sorta thing that made for most enjoyable listening.
None of that has really changed. Indeed, this album could have been recorded ten years ago. The sound is just as fresh, the songs just as sharp as they were back then.
And if this is intended to be a nostalgia trip, well, it works. I would prefer to hear just a little bit of progression. Not that I want to hear the guys aping the latest Fear Factory clone; no need to be silly. But these are smart people. A little change is good.
I dunno. Maybe I'm just whining unnecessarily. This album is a lot of fun, even if in the end it's pretty interchangeable with any number of previous Kreator efforts. That in itself is an achievement. Though I have to admit, I always hope for a bit more than that.
reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97
Reasonably amusing pop music that sounds like it was sung out of the side of the singer's mouth. I figured at some point the vocals would open up, but that didn't happen.
The music suffers from the same problem. Yeah, the three chords are rotated on a regular basis, but the structure is simply too mundane. The changes are predictable, and I found myself guessing the lines with way too much regularity.
The Krinkles are obvious devotees of early Young Fresh Fellows, but none of that adulation creates a spark. Indeed, the Krinkles show just how astonishing it is when a pop band clicks.
That didn't happen here. The inspiration wasn't present.
reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98
I found this band's first disc to be, well, mundane. Average. Predictable. The sort of thing a pop band just can't be if it wants to get somewhere. I'm happy to say I like this one a little better. Though it's still not quite to the bliss category.
In general, I think the songs need to pick up the speed just a bit more. Like 10 bpm or so. Often enough, the tunes seem to drag just a bit. Pop does not play well as a dirge. And while these songs are at least mid-tempo, some could use just a bit more oomph. That might get rid of the deliberate feel. It's not that I think the guys are working hard to play the three chords, but it sounds like that. Pop shouldn't sound like a struggle.
On the plus side, the songs do come together pretty well in most other ways. The harmonies are nice, but not sugary. The riffs don't slip into genericide, and the hooks are nice and tight. I can hear lots of improvement.
I'd kinda like to hear the band live. I have a feeling these songs come off much better on stage. which says something about the production, I guess. If it were up to me, I'd light a slow fire under the drummer's butt, just to get him a bit more active. Still, it's always good to hear a band's progression. And the Krinkles are definitely on the right road.
Micro Temporal Infundibula
reviewed in issue #326, April 2011
Let's see. David Borgo on sax(es), Nathan Hubbard on mallets, Paul Pellegrin on drums and three equally accomplished friends throwing in on bass, guitar and harp. Goodness me, this ought to be good.
Yep. The friends, in order, are Danny Weller, Paul "Junior" Garrison and Bill Barrett. And it's Barrett's harp blowing that really drives this otherwordly fusion of blues and jazz.
The lines get very blurry, indeed, and I like it that way. Barrett is generally restrained in his playing, but he can wring out emotion when he needs it. His interplay with Borgo is simply stunning.
Weller and Pellegrin hold up the rhythms section with aplomb, and Garrison and Hubbard spin spells of their own. This sextet could have been an unwieldy mess, but the players mesh amazingly. Easy to get into, and impossible to leave.
reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97
Krueger handled everything here except the drumming, and he ends up sounding a lot like mid-80s Tom Petty, somewhere between Dylan and Marshall Crenshaw. There are worse places to land, certainly.
Kreuger's voice is rather thin, but his songs don't require much vocal work exertion and he sounds pretty good. His guitar lines are very nice, and he shows a flair for flying across various styles in a short span of time. A solo that starts off as a sorta folky bit of strumming gets mutated into a nice bit of sliding work.
A bit cheesy, perhaps, and not particularly original, Krueger's music still satisfies. He's not at all self-conscious about partaking of the 60s rock vibe (there's even a cover of the Stones' "Child of the Moon"), and his obvious pleasure translates into assured, confident music.
Good music for the oncoming summer. Nothing too difficult to digest, but this music won't insult your intelligence, either. A pleasant diversion.
Krupted Peasant Farmerz
Peasants by Birth, Farmers by Trade, Krupted by the Dollar
reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98
Some nice political punk for a change. Real politics, even if the ideas are a bit convoluted and illogical. I mean, how much can you ask for, anyways?
What I really dig is the full-on use of lead guitar throughout. Chunky punk chords and a meandering lead. Pretty damned cool, really. And, well, the guys know how to write tight, fast, loud and angry songs.
The sound itself is a dirtier version of the ol' Bad Religion oozin' ah bit, though the singing is hardly on key. Again, not a problem. This is punk rock.
And in all the right ways, too. These guys have idea they want to get off their chests, and they can knock out some kick ass adrenaline junkie songs to boot. That's a combo I'll plunk down cash for any day. Time to turn up the volume just a bit more.
reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01
You might have read my review of the Black Box Recorder earlier in the issue. Where I mention the merging of electronic styles and r&b. Kudu does the same thing, except from a different angle.
For starters, Kudu has more of a "street" feel. It sounds more American, probably because this is, indeed, an American act. But these songs simply sound more at home with the current r&b trends. The electronic beat work serves to emphasize the dissonance that's almost overwhelmed soul music these days.
Another way of saying Kudu is trip-hop without much of the hip-hop. The pretentious faux jazz grooves are a bit grating, but sometimes they work. At least, sometimes I can stand them. I was never much of an acid jazz fan.
Kudu's technical prowess (both instrumentally and vocally) is impressive. That ability sometimes comes together to make great songs. There are two or three here I really dig. I find the rest interesting, but strangely sterile. Is that intended? To some extent, it has to be. Intellectually, I can hear a lot going on. My heart says change the discer, however.
Indie Rock 4evr
(Sex Not Suicide)
reviewed in issue #226, February 2002
For many folks, the term "indie rock" not only describes a particular sound, but it also evokes a time and place. Like most of the people who prefer to use that term as opposed to "alternative" or whatever might be in vogue today, I identify that sound with high school and college. I'm guessing most of my readers who are in their 30s (and early 40s) probably feel the same way.
Which begs the question: If a band such as Kumquat replicates this sound so well, does that make this nostalgia music? God forbid! Except that I think this just might qualify for my own preferred form of "oldies."
Kumquat plays that blistering kinda stuff. Creaky vocals. A relatively spartan sound. Sorta like if early Husker Du met up with Eleventh Dream Day. And played lotsa bangers. Like we all used to like, remember?
I think this probably does have to qualify as some sort of baby-buster nostalgia sound, but fuckit. I like it. And Kumquat does one hell of a job of bringing a 15-year-old sound up to date without really modernizing it. Play it loud. Of course.
Kung Fu Killers
Burning Bush 7"
reviewed in issue #227, March 2002
Prog punk, as if there were such a thing. The Kung Fu Killers do not simply write straight three-chord songs. The boys (with names like "Lo Maniac" and "General Tzo Wat," I'm gonna assume we're talking about people of the male persuasion) do play with utter abandon and a general ignorance of distortion-free guitars. It's just that the title track has distinct movements. About 30 seconds each, as the song itself is relatively short.
And they're based on the same driving riff. At least, one section of the title track is based on the riff that is most prevalent in "Werewolves of Our Youth." Personally, I'll stick with the A side.
I like the unusual writing style. I don't know if the Kung Fu Killers can write a series of songs in the same way, but the title track here is certainly worth a listen.
reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01
Ken Kunin was the songwriter for the band Davis Waits. Good songwriter, too. Understated anthemic rock songs with a rootsy feel. There's no oxymoron there, either. Not the way Kunin does it.
His is a commercial style of writing, and he utilizes decidedly mainstream sounds like synth strings--sometimes just a bit too much. Still, for all his slick skills and abilities, Kunin can't help but travel down a few side roads now and again. He just refuses to cheese out.
And I'm talking both about his writing, playing and production. This is the rare sort of album that should appeal to people who like music. Period. Edgy enough to attract idiots like me, and "safe" enough to perk up some interest along the AAA highway.
The thing is, I don't think he's calculating to any great extent. Some folks just have a sense of how to write fairly universal songs that happen to be really good. Kunin is one of them.
See also Davis Waits.
reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97
Kuprij plays various sorts of keyboards. Other than that, this is an instrumental guitar album. Lots of focus on pyrotechnics and not much attention paid to things like songwriting or heartfelt playing.
Indeed, the most interesting moments are when Greg Howe (the producer here) kicks in a few tasty, yet refined, licks of his own. The keyboards and piano lines are heavy into showing off. Personally, I don't care all that much.
Is it impressive that Kuprij can play this? Sure. I can't. But the second half of artistry is making a statement, and I can't find any real heart in any of the songs. Simply a big (okay, real big) doughnut. Nothing in the middle.
reviewed in #164, 8/3/98
The Artension keyboardist is at it again, shredding the (plastic) ivories and trading licks with George Bellas (guitar, of course). Some really loud, fast and excessively long songs follow.
To be honest, I do like this set better than his first, partly because he incorporates a few different keyboard sounds, which helps to color his playing. But the actual playing is so technical and flat (I know it's hard to be expressive with a purely electronic instrument, but it can be done) that I'm left swallowed by bombast.
What I do like is that many of the songs have more of a European 80s metal feel, so at least I'm being overwhelmed by sounds appreciated by my soft spot. Nonetheless, I'm stuck looking for the art in the middle. Some soul. Something that says "I'm alive here, damnit!"
And I can't find it. As impressive as Kuprij and Bellas are, there's just nothing here but cold speed runs. And that's no way to impress people.
reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99
How dumb am I? I've been calling this guy Vitalij Ruprij for years. His last name begins with a K. Don't go looking now; I've fixed it in the old reviews. I just wanted to make sure I properly atoned for my sins.
Once again, this is over-the-top prog shredding, with Kuprij flailing away on the keyboards and piano with his usual verve and precision. He's got Tony Macalpine providing the guitars, so there's firepower coming from that direction as well.
What is surprising is how well all of this works. Yeah, it's pretentious and as often as not flashy for flash's sake. But I got caught up in the rush, simply craving another run. And to be perfectly honest, Kuprij has arranged his songs quite well. The flow ensures a cohesive mesh throughout each song.
Finally, the guy has put together an album I quite like. Of course, since I just figured out his name, I suppose that's appropriate. Anyways, color me impressed.
See also Artension.
Sweet Little Lie
reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99
The 80s are back, but with a 90s sensibility. Kuscha (Hatami, but he prefers to stick to the first name) uses new wave-style vocals and rhythm tracks and merges them with some nice industrial guitar.
Songs of pain and despair, with all the trimmings. Sounds something like Pretty Hate Machine, except that there is that retro 80s thing going on. It's a nice flavor, really. Lightens up the load just a touch.
And that's enough. The songs are bouncy, not dirges, so there's some dancing pleasure with the angst. A good combo for working off the agony of life. Or something like that.
Well within the established confines of regular music, but a nice melange of styles. Kuscha isn't breaking new ground, but he turns the trick very nicely. I'm happy to ride along.
Blues for the Red Sun (advance tape)
reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92
Understand, I liked their first album well enough. I didn't find it as amazing as many of you, but what's in an opinion. So I sit here with an open mind reviewing the advance of their new album (which will have major distribution, by the way).
Crunchy. And much tighter songwriting. Fuzzier. A nod to the Nirvana school (or shall we say, the Melvins school?) Well, this is faster than the Melvins, more like Black Sabbath, but still. Trendy, it is. Good? Yeah, that too.
You folks will eat this puppy up and lick the bowl hoping for more. I don't blame you really; it is alright. Better than their first. I suppose truly original bands are pretty hard to find these days (as always). So we settle for a nice rehash of musical coolness.
I can live with that.
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