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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
March 2005

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

SMEGMA / Rumblings (Hanson)
First record in years, a reason to honk your horn without a doubt. Doing what they "do" since 1973 (I've even seen vids to prove it), the Smegs took the most out-there regions of the Beefheart aesthetic and munched it up into a lifestyle that your average broken-electronics kid in Brooklyn can only begin to fathom. Starting with sound effects records and spiralling into a world of pure bizarre transmission and secret language evolving in its own cocoon (very like the Nihilist Spasm Band's), Smegma started out in the sprouting Los Angeles Free Music Society scene, uprooting themselves to Portland and disappearing for years at a time, poking their heads up to issue releases with the likes of Merzbow and Wild Man Fischer (and somehow that seems quite appropriate as they may be exactly in the middle between those two). Recently they emerged with a collab LP with their boosters in Wolf Eyes, and Aaron from WE's label is issuing this new release by these ladies and gentlemen. Hope they come East!

Stunning 2CD document of this Eritrean vocalist, released on the Ex's label (which also did the also-jawdropping live Konono No. 1 CD). For many years Beraki performed vocals and krar (sitar-like stringed instrument) in the streets of her native land (which became absorbed into Ethiopia and has remained in broiling political turmoil ever since), eventually landing in studios and making a higher profile name for herself. Amha Eshete, whose label is now a primary focus in the lauded Ethiopiques series on the Buda Musique label, fostered sessions with Beraki and other famous musicians in Addis Ababa in the 1970's but continuing chaos around Beraki (including actual Ethiopian fighter planes bombing one of her concerts injuring her and killing seven!) caused her to flee. She wound up in the Netherlands. Terrie of the Ex, in doing research for the Ethiopiques series, was shocked to have tracked Beraki down in his own backyard and helped arrange a comeback of sorts with studio sessions from 2000-2003, documented amazingly here. Despite being somewhat out of her homeland element, the music complements Beraki's singing perfectly and even longtime free-drummer Han Bennink joins in. An essential disc to check out for anyone with remote interest in the Ethiopiques series.

KAZUKI TOMOKAWA / Itsuka Tooku O Miteita (PSF)
Tomokawa is a long-enduring spirit on the Japanese undeground music scene, and while his approach to songcraft is slightly more conventional than his PSF label companions (Haino, Urabe et al), his visceral performance style and attack is one of completely extreme nature and lands him well aside his label peers in this aspect. Many of Tomokawa's discs have been compiled 13CD box set and are also separately available, and each one stirs up different emotions primarily with voice and acoustic guitar. He's been compared to Tim Buckley in his troubadour-leanings and penchant for taking the voice on as an instrument of exploration within itself; at times his delivery is vicious, sputtering, choking, and dramatic. His approach to acoustic guitar brutal and slashing. Here on Itsuka Tooku O Miteita, his songs are fully realized with large scale instrumentation including mandolin, drums, cello, flute and he even re-interprets some of his own material alongside new tracks (including one from a film called "Pistol" by Takashi Miike where Tomokawa plays himself). Out of all of the so-called enigmas that dwell in the music's underground these days, Tomokawa is among the purest, fiercest exponents of songcraft from any locale and deserves so much more investigation among Japanophiles than he gets.

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