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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
April 2004

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

FAUN FABLES / Family Album (Drag City)
Dawn McCarthy has unfortunately slipped under the radar of all the underground publicity hype machines and hardly ever mentioned in the same breath as all the other neo-folkies worshipped and adored by scenesters. The question is why? Is she too weird for "New Weird America?" Dawn the Faun's records and live performances are severely magnificent; her voice which ranges from delicate whisper to husky bellow is rivetting; her dark, yet animated songs are full of amazing imagery, and while she evokes the spirits of some of the great folk godparents people are aping these days (Shirley Collins etc.) she transforms the music into something so unique and personal. A recent live show started out with her and her partner Nils Frykdahl (of the equally esoteric Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) taking tea before erupting into ritualistic clog dance. Talk about a way to open a show. On stage they lulled everyone into submission with acoustic guitars, autoharps and strings, while alternately spooking the bejesus out of all with passages of clanging cacophany. And someone dressed like an old woman creaked up onto the stage midsong and sat down in a rocking chair. On this record, Dawn and a cast of dozens weave a tapestry of sound with congregational vocals, gamelan, glockenspiel, cello, dogs (!), crows and wolves (!!) and she even thanks Laura Ingalls Wilder in the liners. And woven through it all are allegiances to family, yearing for innocence, addressing old age, love, death, familiar topics, yet presented in a very unprecedented way.

HANS EDLER / Elektron Kukeso (Boy Wonder)
Sent by a Swedish listener, this newly issued CD is a very bizarre addition to ever-growing pile of excavated electronic laboratory weirdo/wonders that our listeners have grown to know and love over the years. Originally released in 1971, this is being touted as Sweden's first electronic pop record, produced in Stockholm's EMS studios which housed a gigantic computer stretching 30 feet long. Edler's Brian Wilson sensibilities mixed with his technical no-know produced this odd gem of gurgling, primitive electronics with some very melodic layers of sounds (inclduing vocals in Swedish). It's an odd, and very endearing juxtaposition.

TENJO SAJIKI / Den'en Ni Shisu (Showboat/Sky Station)
A nice example of the recent flood of late 1960's-early 1970's psych reissues from Japan that are in the more theatrical vein. The period saw political upheaval and protesting amidst much of the country's students and youth; and while the underground movements weren't as widespread as say those in the USA, the pockets of artistic institutions that responded to political causes (like the decimation of natural resources to make way for Tokyo's airport, for example), responded in musical and theatrical activities that drew on their own tradition as much as those from the West. Rock and roll in Japan started to morph into some very weird pools of gunk, as documented by bands like the Lost Araaf (with Keiji Haino), and Les Rallizes Denudes, who took their cues from the free elements of the Western underground (Velvets, Doors, Albert Ayler). The Tokyo Kid Brothers added very theatrical elements to their Faust-like approach to psychedelic rock, and this record too is a monster from 1974. Tenjo Sajiki was an extreme-theater kind of group formed by poet/activist/filmmaker Shuji Terayama, and this is the soundtrack to a film with them scored by psych greats JA Caesar. Gorgeous passages of booming voices singing Japanese traditional music, mixed with pounding passages of Magma-ish complexity and fuzzed out guitar excursions. Really varied, beautiful stuff.

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