Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Fluance’s RT80 and RT81 High Fidelity Turntables

Over the 10 years that we’ve been behind this vinyl endeavor, we’ve seen our fair share of turntables. From the lightweight plastic variations that one could kick down the length of a football field, to the mega high-end models you’d need to take out a second mortgage to afford, we’ve seen quite a number.

However, there’s been one recurring question we’ve received over the years from folks just getting into the vinyl thing to the old hands with years of experience—what’s your pick for a reasonably priced turntable that delivers higher end, quality fidelity? For a long time we didn’t quite have a solid position in regard to a price point paired with said turntable coming with a touch of elegance and superior stability and sound which would lend itself as a go-to recommendation—then these Fluance models came upon our radar.

Now, candidly, having felt a touch burned by the aforementioned plastic turntables more than once, we’ve become of the mind that seeing and hearing is believing, and to Fluance’s confidence in their product, they zipped one off to us in the mail that we’ve put to work in the office over the past few weeks—and we’re highly (and pleasantly) impressed.

Firstly, the turntable is gorgeous. Fluance shared with us their RT81 model and the natural walnut finish is a stunner. (Closer up, detail photos can be found here.) From the Audio Technica AT95E stylus to the Texas Instruments preamp and gold-plated RCA line outputs, the audio response is deep and warm and dynamic, and the ease of switching from 33 to 45RPM is a mere twist of a knob. All this and the set up and balancing of the tonearm was a snap.

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Graded on a Curve:
Herbie Hancock,
Head Hunters

When it comes to Herbie Hancock’s jazz-fusion landmark, 1973’s Head Hunters, I’ll give the first word to my brother Jeffrey Little, the world’s premier jazzbo—“It’s a difficult assessment. I mean, on its own, abstracted out of context, this is a fine jazz/funk hybrid. It’s got “Chameleon” on it, for chrissakes. However, it’s difficult to listen to and not actively mind-juggle it with what preceded it. Forget what Miles Davis was doing; this ain’t that. That’s like comparing The Gap Band to P-Funk.”

“But,” he goes on, “measured against himself, and the three or four Mwandishi albums (including the badass Fat Albert Rotunda from 1969) that came before Head Hunters this is an obvious step, if not down, then a side-step across, and down. Mwandishi, Crossings, and Sextant, while not perfect, were among the highlights of the early fusion movement. This was a movement that proved to be a race to the bottom, where you could find the obscene tangle that was Spyro Gyra resting against the uber-talented gak that was Return to Forever. It’s unfair, but it’s hard for me to hear this without thinking that.”

I’m no jazz expert, but I know this: your love for Head Hunters, which is not only one of jazz’s all-time best sellers but is also considered one of jazz’s most innovative releases, is bound to be in direct correlation with your love for the genre, jazz-fusion it’s credited with creating. Me, I hate jazz-fusion. It led not only to Spyro Gyra but also to Grover Washington, Jr., Chuck Mangione, and Kenny G, and that is one dubious, if not flat-out evil, legacy indeed. Sure, it’s a mite funkier—and a bit more challenging, musically—than the artists it spawned, but the apples didn’t land that far from the tree.

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Mod Sun,
The TVD First Date

“The feeling music gives you can’t really be described. The sound of the music on the other hand can, and furthermore so can the feel. In my personal opinion, all music is good. The fact someone in this world took the time to create something is more than simply commendable.”

“This being said, not all music is timeless. Vinyl is where timeless music lives. The sound of the needle scratching and the mystical overtones that bleed out the speakers chills you down to the bone. Everyone should make it a goal to be sure their music sounds good on vinyl. Everything sounds better on vinyl.

I grew up on a farm with two really cool hippy parents—loud music was played from sun up to sun down. Every time I see a vinyl it brings me back to my childhood—to the summer days when I would dance around and nail every single Allman Brothers band solo, to the cold winter nights when I gazed into the speakers, hypnotized by every word Bob Dylan muttered, to the minutes in my life that became moments. Something timeless.

Later on, in high school we moved closer to the cities. I will unapologetically admit that I skipped as much school as I attended. Every day I would sneak out the backdoor around 10:30 AM, jump in my car, turn my music up loud, and head straight to Cheapo in uptown.

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Graded on a Curve: Welcome to Zamrock! Vols. 1 & 2

For decades, the prime fount of Afrobeat has been Nigeria. However, turning retrospective attention southward to the landlocked nation of Zambia reveals a distinct strain of ’70s African rocking; Now-Again Records’ two fresh Welcome to Zamrock! compilations spotlight this movement with appropriate depth. The CD editions come with a 104-page hardcover book co-authored by Now-Again’s Eothen “Egon” Alapatt and Zambian music historian Leonard Koloko, while the 2LPs are accompanied with an edited booklet and a WAV download card. Together, they offer 34 tracks recorded from ’72-’76 that in the label’s words represent every important Zamrock band. Both are available now.

The music blog wave has long ebbed and without much in the way of commiseration, but it’s worth noting that an occasional curatorial gem did shine amidst the sea of digitized record collections. For example, music blogs are where this writer first heard a pair of Zamrock’s most prolific acts, specifically the Ngozi Family and WITCH; in a positive turn, Now-Again has licensed full-length reissues of both (amongst others) and awarded them prominent positions on these two overviews of the style.

In terms of groove, Zamrock is certainly related to the sounds that emanated from Nigeria during the same period, but overall, the Zambian approach is distinguished by a larger ratio of rock in the mix, a circumstance that can be attributed to the impact of colonial rule. Having broken free from Britain less than a decade prior to the start of Welcome to Zamrock’s timeframe, the country’s reality is succinctly expressed in Now-Again’s choice of subtitle: How Zambia’s Liberation Led to a Rock Revolution.

The Ngozi Family’s “Hi Babe” is illustrative of the Zambian recipe, and it smartly opens side one of Vol. 1. The cut’s most striking element is a distortion-soaked guitar riff that registers far beyond fuzzy to the point of being downright serrated, the garage-like production bringing it a slightly muffled quality as the sharp crack of the drums strengthens the hard rock foundation.

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The Grand Southern,
The TVD First Date

“Growing up in Los Angeles with 2 older brothers in the ’90s, I was thrust into the then-thriving ska punk world. Bands like Rancid (of which I’m still a fan), NOFX, Save Ferris, local heroes the Hippos, and others were a huge influence. Compact disc was the popular format, though that didn’t stop my brothers from constantly giving me their old cassette tapes as Christmas and birthday gifts, which I wasn’t mad at. I was a typical So-Cal punk rock kid with spiked hair and a skateboard!”

“It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was introduced to vinyl records. I had a long distance girlfriend in New York City that gave me my first vinyl record, Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan. What a heavy title for such a romantic record. I needed something to play it on. I happened to get a record player from my good friend as a gift for my birthday that year and “borrowed” some old speakers from another friend, which I still use today. I put that sucker on and my whole world was flipped upside down.

There is something about looking at an old record, seeing the wear, the scratches on the record itself that determine the amount of hiss and playability when listening to the music, the history of the physical record itself. The ritual of putting the needle to the groove, flipping the record over as it gets to the end of side A without you even realizing it. Listening all the way through to a piece of music, the way it was intended to be heard.

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Graded on a Curve: Childish Gambino,
“Awaken, My Love!”

Sometimes the funkiest move forward is to fix one’s gaze firmly upon the past. And so it goes with Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover), the hip hop/comedy prodigy who goes flat-out old school on his latest LP, 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” It mixes psychedelic funk with hard-core soul and R&B, and the results are positively ear awakening. On “Awaken, My Love!” Gambino looks backwards to Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, and the like, and with the able assistance of long-time collaborator Ludwig Göransson he produces some of the funkiest sounds to come our way in years.

A few critics have accused Gambino of mimicry or even parody—one went so far to call the album “a maddening ride with an authenticity problem.” But whether you call it pastiche or parody, I say bring the noise. Glover’s love for the era he’s celebrating is obvious, and he brings real passion and a sly sense of humor to the task. “Redbone” is the best slow R&B groove I’ve heard in ages, bar none—a slinky and seductive crooner and screamer that I dare you to resist, especially when you lay Göransson’s snaky synth lines on top. And at the opposite end of the spectrum we have “Riot,” the most positively exciting Funkadelic track Funkadelic never recorded. And don’t even get me started on “Boogieman,” a plea for racial tolerance that melds the best of Funkadelic and seventies disco and simply won’t stop.

Gambino the hip hopper’s singing is a revelation—who’d have thunk there was a bona fide soul man behind the comedic rapper? But croon he can and croon he does, and not just on the ultimate crooner “Redbone.” And he can get downright animated as well, as he proves on the rockabye slow jam turned hard funk masterpiece “Me and Your Mama.” He sounds anguished, he screams—there isn’t a damn thing he can’t do with those amazing vocal chords of his. And he shows us his soft side on the lovely “Baby Boy,” which is fueled by some wonderful keyboards, Lynette William’s B3 organ in particular.

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Graded on a Curve: Composer-Critics of
the New York Herald Tribune

Other Minds Records’ new CD Composer-Critics of the New York Herald Tribune reissues recordings made from 1953 to ’55 for Columbia Masterworks’ Modern American Music Series; it illuminates a still vibrant thread in the classical music of the 20th century with particular emphasis given to the substantial dual success of Virgil Thomson. The booklet contains two enlightening essays by Thomson alongside informative descriptions of work by Paul Bowles, Lou Harrison, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, John Cage, and Thomson himself by Charles Amirkhanian. This enriching, detailed, yet easily digestible collection is available now.

As I soaked up the 1960 Nouvelle Vague cornerstone À bout de soufflé, I had no prior knowledge of the New York Herald Tribune’s existence, and so upon hearing Jean Seberg’s character Patricia hawking copies on the Champs-Élysées, my kneejerk reaction was that the newspaper was a fictive creation of the film’s maker Jean-Luc Godard.

This was circa 1990, and by that point the publication had been defunct for nearly 25 years. Eventually, I was clued in to reality, specifically due to an interest in 20th century classical, of which the compositions and writings of Virgil Thomson are intrinsically connected. As the notes to this fine set explain, Thomson’s combined efforts came not without controversy. Making music and writing about it have traditionally been practiced by separate, sometimes hostile camps, but Thomson boldly flouted convention, and his importance is directly related to his combined success as reviewer and critic.

A main issue was potential conflicts of interest, but as the history of music journalism has shown, one not need by a musician to fall victim to this scenario. Another problem was bias, which is ludicrous in retrospect as individual preferences are inescapable. Bluntly, as a rock-bored ’90s music hound neck-deep in the fanzine/ u-ground press, a milieu where players often moonlighted as scribes, reading of Thomson’s role as composer-critic bothered me not one bit.

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TVD Radar: Sepultura, Chaos A.D. and Roots remastered and expanded vinyl editions in stores this fall

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Sepultura broadened its musical horizons with Chaos A.D. and Roots, a pair of acclaimed albums that took the Brazilian band’s hard-rocking sound in bold and exciting new directions. This fall, Rhino will revisit those back-to-back classics with remastered versions that are expanded with rare and unreleased studio and live recordings. Chaos A.D. Expanded Edition will be available on October 6 and Roots: Expanded Edition will be available on November 3, both as double-disc sets for $19.98 each. Double-LP versions, with similar track listings, will also be available for $31.98 each.

Sepultura was founded in 1983 by the brothers Max and Iggor Cavalera with Wagner Lamounier and Jairo Guedes. Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. joined just a few short months later and in 1987, with the departure of Jairo and addition of guitarist Andreas Kisser, the solid line up of Sepultura was final. The band quickly became an influential force in heavy metal music thanks to its dynamic studio recordings and intense live performances. The band was in the midst of a creative and commercial peak in 1993 when it released Chaos A.D. with Max Cavalera on vocals and guitar, Andreas Kisser on guitar, Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr on bass, and Iggor Cavalera on drums. The record ushered in a more groove-based sound on songs like the singles “Refuse/Resist,” “Territory,” and “Slave New World.”

Chaos A.D. Expanded Edition includes a newly remastered version of the original album along with 17 bonus tracks. Among the highlights are a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” that was originally issued as a B-side, plus nine scorching live versions of album tracks like “Territory” and “Biotech Is Godzilla.” Also featured are several unreleased instrumental tracks that the band used during rehearsals for “Clenched Fist” and “Propaganda.”

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Bohannons,
The TVD First Date

“Vinyl records in our home were shelved high, above all the books, and usually in a random order. They were dusty, something that maybe one day my parents would get back to if they could just find the time.”

“I’d climb up pull them out, investigate. Herb Alpert, Tubular Bells, Carole King—fairly enjoyable but quite innocuous. I was mad at Elvis after he died and made all my aunts cry so I didn’t spend much time with it then. My brother and I loved Charlie Daniels but it got tossed after my mother heard us jumping the needle back to…”done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.” Charlie’s still an asshole.

My absolute favorite was Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” I would listen to it 10, 20 times in a row. My dad had rhinestones in his Georgia Bulldogs belt buckle—I knew they were very important. This was also about the time Urban Cowboy and Electric Horseman were big, so I’d try to collect Xmas lights and rhinestones to hopefully make my own outfit if only to wear when I listened to Campbell’s masterpiece.

It would be some time before I’d see cool rock records. Even though I knew a lot of the tunes from rock radio I had yet to peer into liner notes, gatefold art, and the feel new records until my older brother entered his teens. As a tag along, I’d find my way to his friends’ houses and their vinyl collections. Black light posters, smoke, and occasionally a pretty girl all gathered around these incredible sounds.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bill Orcutt, Bill Orcutt

Bill Orcutt has been defying solo guitar convention for quite a while now, and with his new self-titled record he’s plugged in. Once a member of noise-rock titans Harry Pussy, his subsequent solo releases explored a unique strain of abstraction while tackling a wide array of classic American song. Bill Orcutt extends and refines his sui generis sensibility, and it’s out now on vinyl, compact disc, and digital via Orcutt’s own Palilalia label

Harry Pussy’s contribution to the vastness of the ’90s musical landscape has endured. Combining the abrasion of early No Wave and the extremity of first generation American hardcore (think Teenage Jesus & the Jerks meets Negative Approach), Bill Orcutt, Adris Hoyos and associates proved a tonic for the decade’s rampant Next Big Thing-ism, and skilled musicianship has secured the Miami outfit a high place in the underground canon.

In 2012 Editions Mego reissued Let’s Build a Pussy, and the same year Orcutt unveiled the 2LP compilation One Plus One on Palilalia; it fits nicely beside the prior comps What Was Music? (on Siltbreeze) and You’ll Never Play This Town Again (on Load). In 2015 Superior Viaduct returned the group’s self-titled ’93 debut to print, and earlier this year Palilalia brought out a pair of 7-inches in editions of 100.

Over the last eight years or so, Harry Pussy’s name has been additionally bandied about in relation to Orcutt’s rather unexpected but thoroughly thrilling emergence as a solo artist. Beginning with A New Way to Pay Old Debts in 2009 (released first by Palilalia with Editions Mego reissuing it in ’11), Orcutt began wrangling his Kay acoustic (minus two strings) to uncompromising and wondrously abstract result.

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