Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, October 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores, The Opposite (Cuneiform) After a short hiatus, Silver Spring’s venerable avant-prog-experimental-jazz label is back at it, and along with digitally reissuing prior material by this always interesting Providence, RI-based band, they offer the outfit’s latest on LP and CD. It’s a treat. Over their 20-year existence, Redfearn and cohorts have stood out a bit in Cuneiform’s general scheme (this is their fourth for the label), but upon listening here, they and Steve Feigenbaum’s enduring love of art-rock remain a perfect fit. Redfearn plays accordion, and his knack for keeping it in the forefront of his music while eradicating even a hint of novelty remains impressive. Those keen on ambitiousness in the rock sphere should definitely lend this one some time. A-

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, Love’s Middle Name (Blue Corn) Borges has been on the scene for a while, with prior efforts with the Broken Singles and solo in her discography. The sound? It’s been called Americana (she’s won an Americana Music Award, in fact), but it’s important to qualify that hers is an approach well-suited for humid, boozy weekend bars. That means it rocks, and the thrust here is maybe better tagged as country-punk. What distinguishes Borges from some with a similar inclination is the quality of her songs and the strength of her pipes, and on this new one, the smart choice of hooking up with producer Eric Ambel, who also plays lead guitar on the record (as he did in Joan Jett’s Blackhearts). The outcome is that all the elements are in fine balance, with nary a misstep. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Fall, I Am Kurious Orang (Beggars Arkive) If memory serves, anti-Brix-era sentiment reached something like its apex post-The Franz Experiment in early ’88; certainly, there were some who’d suggested Mark E. Smith was “over with” or had “sold out.” Emerging in the autumn of the same year, this set, created to accompany a ballet by the Michael Clark Company loosely based on the life and “psyche” of William of Orange, made it plain those negative assessments were balderdash. Having listened to this record a ridiculous number of times in the year or so after its release (returning to it intermittently ever since), I know it well, and it hasn’t lost a thing. To my ears, at least half of this is as good as post-Rough Trade Fall gets, and the rest isn’t far behind. That makes it utterly essential. A

The Groundhogs, Blues Obituary (Fire) When it comes to the ’60s wave of Brit blues-rock, I rate The Groundhogs higher than Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even Ten Years After (I’m guessing those nutzo for Alvin Lee will consider this heresy). In fact, I’d rank the ‘hogs as roughly equal to Fleetwood Mac (and another group of readers has just thrown up their hands in disgust). Like the Mac, guitarist Tony TS McPhee, bassist Pete Cruikshank, and drummer Ken Pustelnik moved beyond the blues, and after doing so entered their classic period. But this, the band’s second LP (and trio debut) directly led to that phase. The no-frills punch of the recording, McPhee’s smoking guitar, the air non-reverence combined with good taste, and the sharp trio interaction is a major achievement in itself. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, October 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Nathan Bowles, Plainly Mistaken (Paradise of Bachelors) Oh, yes. The latest album from banjoist Bowles (of Pelt, Black Twig Pickers, and Steve Gunn) is the first to journey into the full-band zone, and it’s an absolute delight. Mostly instrumental (there are two tracks with vocals) and peppered with interpretive selections (from Ernie Carpenter to Cousin Emmy and Her Kinfolk to an opening stab at Julie Tippetts’ “Now If You Remember”), the music extends Bowles’ immersion into Appalachian-Piedmont traditions, moving so far beyond mere Americana that it deserves a category of its own. Casey Toll’s bowed double bass helps bring to mind NC’s Shark Quest (a cool thing), but “Ruby in Kind I” is like a hybrid of Roscoe Holcomb, Up On the Sun-era Meat Puppets and Henry Flynt. Hot effing damn. A

Puce Mary, The Drought (PAN) Puce Mary is Frederikke Hoffmeier, and since 2013 the Copenhagen-based sound artist has released five LPs combining power electronics, industrial noise, and experimentation. For number six, new label PAN says she’s dialed back the extremity a bit; dipping into her prior stuff backs up the claim, though on the general musical scale, The Drought is still pretty uncompromising, with opener “Dissolve” a fitting soundtrack for a journey into the bowels of hell. But to her credit, that’s not really the atmosphere she’s striving for, with cited inspirations including Baudelaire, Jean Genet, and Antonioni’s masterpiece Red Desert. Power electronics-related stuff once regularly marinated in ideologically sketchy subject matter, so the lack of such here is refreshing. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Alvin Curran, Canti E Vedute Del Giardino Magnetico (Superior Viaduct) Curran was one of the founders of Musica Elettronica Viva, who along with AMM served as a cornerstone of free improvisation. If the term free improv brings you automatic associations with jazz, MEV was not that, just as this mid-’70s LP is not MEV. Using field recordings (ocean waves, wind, high-tension wires, frogs, birds, and bees), synth, chimes, and on the first of two side-long tracks, the human voice, Curran integrates aspects of Minimalism without ever becoming an example of the then-nascent style. In part due to the vocals, side one holds some similarities to Modernist classical, while the flip drifts like prime kosmische. All-in-all, a fully formed and deftly conceived avant experience. A

Phill Niblock, Niblock For Celli / Celli Plays Niblock (Superior Viaduct) Niblock is an avant-gardist of distinction, but as Superior Viaduct mentions in their press for this reissue, he didn’t get around to recording until the early ’80s (SV already has his stellar debut Nothin To Look At Just A Record in their catalog). The delay wasn’t out of frustration or late-blooming, as Niblock had been composing (and filming The Magic Sun, a killer experimental short documenting a performance by the Sun Ra Arkestra). He was certainly also accumulating experience, which really shines through in his first two LPs (originally for India Navigation). This is the second, with Joseph Celli on oboe and English horn, and it’s an utter feast for drone lovers. If that’s you, then dive right in. Also, Niblock advises you to crank this baby up. A+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Andrew Bernstein, An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain) The skinny on the full-length debut from Charm City saxophonist Bernstein is that it sits at the crossroads of elevated technique and pure stamina. The cumulative effect is striking and occasionally inspires awe. A lack of background will assuredly lead to assumptions that a looping apparatus (or three) is part of the scheme, but with one exception it’s all Bernstein, and without a trace of show-off gimmickry. What he conjures in the first couple tracks lands firmly in the zone of Minimalism, and that’s cool. Even better is his expansion into territory reminiscent of solo Evan Parker and Colin Stetson, though the Minimalist aura never totally dissipates. Rigorous but never cold, this is experimental music at its best. A

Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes (Sacred Bones – Bella Union) Nadler’s eighth album is her finest yet. Featuring a load of guests including Angel Olsen, Hole drummer Patty Schemel, Sharon Van Etten, Mary Lattimore, Dum Dum Girl Kristin Kontrol, and Janel Leppin, the confluence of female talent (all but one of the contributing musicians are women) surely adds to For My Crimes’ value, but it’s mainly great because Nadler’s songs, hovering between introspective-confessional folk and robust singer-songwriter territory, are consistently top-flight and at times quite inventive, especially lyrically. And yet it all unfolds naturally. Dealing with relationship troubles/ marital strife, the album is emotionally resonant but never a bringdown; instead, it inspires immediate repeated listens and blooms under the exposure. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Algebra Mothers, A-Moms = Algebra Mothers (Third Man) Until now, the sole release by Detroit’s Algebra Mothers was their “Strawberry Cheesecake” b/w “Modern Noise” 45 from 1979, a superb hunk of subterranean punk from the arty-wavy end of the Killed by Death spectrum. A new pressing of that one is forthcoming from Third Man, which is cool as it’s never been reissued, but nearly as snazzy is this collection of previously unreleased home-recorded demos and live stuff covering ’77-’84 (A-Moms opened for, amongst others, Pere Ubu and The Sonic Rendezvous Band). While it’s not really the thing for those with a casual interest in punk, avid fans of the style’s early years should find much to enjoy. The single remains tops, but a high percentage of this gets in the ballpark. B+

Jack Wilkins, Windows (We Want Sounds) This reissues a very interesting guitar trio LP from Bob Shad’s Mainstream label that crate-diggers will know from A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders. It’s easy to peg the era of origin (‘twas issued sans fanfare in ’73), but it’s far less marred by ’70s excesses than you might suspect. In fact, I’d say it’s not really marred at all, though the potential does hover in the background. And so, the whole registers as a little short of a knockout for me, but thankfully the recording budget was small, with the ambiance appealing. Wilkins is a virtuoso and shows it without going overboard. Drummer Bill Goodwin and electric bassist Mike Moore are solid. There’s a nice, slow version of Coltrane’s “Naima.” Originals go for over a hundred, so this one is a public service. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Devin Gray, Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan) Of the players here, I’m most familiar with tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin (through his stuff on hatOLOGY and Eremite) and bassist Michael Formanek (his own bands, Tim Berne’s Bloodcount and Thumbscrew), but the compositions and overall conception belong to drummer-leader Gray on this sequel to a group’s debut from 2012, with trumpeter Dave Ballou completing the lineup. The Ornette quartet vibe can be strong at times, which is an unambiguously fine thing, but through Gray’s writing and the players’ rapport, imagination and overall experience, a splendid distinctiveness is achieved. For vinyl-only folks into avant-free-friendly but compositionally rich jazz, this one (and the first Dirigo Rataplan) are on wax, so don’t futz around. A

V/A, Music of Southern and Northern Laos (Akuphone) Between 2006 and ’13, “self-taught ethnologist” Laurent Jeanneau (aka Kink Gong) traveled to Laos to capture numerous musical practices of the country’s minority groups, and the results are captivating, but unlike the sometimes studious, other times polite and commonly distant aura of recordings in this tradition, this set (one CD and two separate LPs by titular region) is wild and intense. With a deep interest in South East Asia, Jeanneau’s been at this for a while (releasing on Akuphone, Atavistic, Discrepant, Loup, unsurprisingly Sublime Frequencies and others), and it shows. While part of the richness comes from the clarity of modern portable recorders, listening on headphones really gives the impression of being right in the thick of it. Wonderful. A / A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Stella Chiweshe, Kasahwa: Early Singles (Glitterbeat) Zimbabwean Chiweshe has been called “The Queen of Mbira,” and her discography backs up the praise. If you’re into her work, it’s a cinch you’ll want this collection of her early output, initially cut to 7-inch vinyl mostly in the ‘70s, as it’s never been issued outside of her home country. However, if you’re a curious newbie, this short but abundantly beautiful set would make a fabulous introduction. Featuring just vocals, shakers, and of course the metal-and-wood thumb piano (the mbira, which also names the style she’s mastered), this lacks the bright production and interpolation of other genres that marks her subsequent stuff, but the root essence is strong and delightful, especially on the 8-minute standout “Mayaya (Part 1 & 2).” A

Dur-Dur Band, Dur-Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks (Analog Africa) If you hunger for all things globally funky, then you may already be hep to the Dur-Dur Band, who rose to fame in ’80s Mogadishu as the funkiest act in Somalia. Awesome Tapes from Africa reissued the group’s 1987 cassette Volume 5 on multiple formats back in 2013, and now here comes this massive and very welcome 18-track roundup of their first and second releases plus additional material on a choice of two cassettes, a 2CD, or a 3LP gatefold edition. Dur-Dur’s stated mission was to combine traditional Somali music with “funk, reggae, soul, disco and new wave” plus anything else that would get bodies moving. And so, a groove monster, but one that not only holds up but encourages pure listening. That’s rad. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2018. Part one is here

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Underground System, What Are You (Soul Clap) Led by guitarist Peter Matson and fronted by vocalist-flautist-percussionist Domenica Fossati with horns, keys, synths, and a load of rhythmic specialists thrown into the mix, New York City’s Underground System spring from an Afrobeat base but with a poppy, revelry-inspiring trajectory that makes this full-length debut a welcome delight. Boldly recorded with assistance from Tony Miamone, the mildly B-52’s-ish “Rent Party” is a standout, but so is Maria Eisen’s chewy saxophone in the title-track (and elsewhere), and “Just a Place” is a Euro-tinged dancefloor beast. In short: those predisposed to a more song-based, African-rootsy cousin of !!! (with whom they’ve played) just got dealt a full house, so ante up and then rake in that pot. A-

The Chills, Snow Bound (Fire) New Zealand’s reformed Chills continue to impress, with vocalist and cherished pop song fount Martin Phillipps as sturdy as ever. On one hand, the quality of the tunes here is astounding, as comebacks after long hiatuses often garner goodwill (and yes, occasionally produce strong albums), but rarely reconjure the creative vitality which made the recommencement of activity such a big deal. Hey, you take what you can get. But upon second thought, why not? Because back in the day (this would be the ’80s on Flying Nun into the ’90s on Slash), Phillipps’ pure pop acumen could register like a velvet pouch stuffed tight with pearls the size of jumbo marbles. Sure, on first listen Snow Bound might seem a little lesser, but after a half-dozen spins, its true excellence is revealed. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Miles Davis Quintet Miles Smiles (8th) While my favorite music from Davis’ “second great quintet” remains Live at the Plugged Nickel; once upon a time a gorgeous 2LP, and for a while now a copious boxset documenting two nights of utter brilliance, this studio album, the group’s second, cut in October of ’66 and released early the following year, is a direct extension of that Chicago visit. The ’65 debut E.S.P. is great of course, but it also documents the lineup getting comfortable. Next came Plugged Nickel and then this return to the studio, which is abundantly rich. For two examples, there’s Herbie Hancock’s piano soloing, particularly in opener “Orbits,” and Tony Williams’ drumming in the wonderful transformation of Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Absolutely essential. A+

The Beta Band, Three EPs & The Best of the Beta Band (Because Music) Lots of folks’ positive energy regarding The Beta Band directly correlates with the first time they heard “Dry the Rain.” Therefore, it’s no surprise that in addition to providing the Three EPs with an essentially perfect lead-off track, it also opens the Best of. Three EPs is offered here as a multicolored vinyl 4LP+CD set, with the breakdown into component parts appreciated, as it’s a looonnnggg one, while Best remains 2 CD-only, its second disc holding a live show from London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2004 that aids in rendering it as non-superfluous for heavy-duty fans, though that doesn’t necessarily make it a must have. You decide. It is a nice, at times very nice, synopsis of a band that helped to expand the possibilities of folktronica. A– / A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, September 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Gilberto Rodriguez y Los Intocables, Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda (Empty Cellar) Succinctly tagged as experimental Chicano soul and consisting of guitarist-vocalist-bandleader Rodriguez, percussionist Ahkeel Mestayer, keyboardist Ruben Sandoval, and trumpeter brothers Carlos and Jorge Rodriguez, the outfit’s 82-minute 2LP is an intriguing, engrossing, and at-times astounding collection, with Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez referencing Caetano Veloso’s Transa in praise of its worthiness. I can hear that, but Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda is more sprawling and looser, and is ultimately its own Bay Area street-level thing. This vinyl edition of 500 copies is housed in a Stougton tip-on gatefold jacket cut and pressed by Timmion in Helsinki, Finland, so procrastination isn’t a smart move. A

Universal Eyes, Four Versions on “Artificial Society” (Trip Metal Limited Series / Lower Floor Music) This 2LP (on white and coke bottle clear vinyl and bound to be scarce within minutes of release) documents the reunited forces of Michigan noiseniks Universal Indians and Wolf Eyes. Consisting of three side-long tracks and two on side-four to be played at a speed “to be determined by the listener” (all but one of my promo MP3s were encoded at 33rpm), much of this is more expansive, pulsing, ominous, and even science-fictive than it is outright pummeling, though things do get nicely harried (and tribal) late. Also, skronk is plentiful and very much appreciated (and unsurprising, as Universal Indians are named after a cut from Ayler’s Love Cry and Wolf Eyes have collaborated productively with Anthony Braxton). A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Faust, The Faust Tapes (Superior Viaduct) As a Krautrock cornerstone, Faust’s first four albums (and their collab with Tony Conrad) are essential. But where to start? Some will tell you at the beginning (with 1971’s Faust), but that’s not the way most have discovered them. Indeed, many thousands of Brits received their introduction through this, their third release and first for the fledgling Virgin label, which was offered at the price of a single; the sales figures range from 60,000-100,000 copies, with the distinction that it wasn’t Faust’s third LP but instead a pleased-to-meet-you collection of uninterrupted work tapes stringing together abstraction, experimentation, grooves, and yes, actual songs, some pleasantly folkish amid the discernable influence of early Zappa. It remains superb. A

Pentangle, Sweet Child (Real Gone) If I had to limit myself to one Pentangle release, this, the band’s sophomore effort, would be it, in part because I’d get to keep the equivalent of two full albums, one live at Royal Albert Hall and one studio, with both offering Terry Cox, Bert Jansch, Jacqui McShee, John Renbourn, and Danny Thompson at the top of their individual and collective games. Manly cats are known to belittle this group as airy-fairy light stuff, but as I give this set a fresh listen, palpable intensity runs through its four sides, and the way they blend trad Brit songs, early music, American blues and jazz (Thompson’s truncated reading of Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song” is sweet), beaucoup fingerpicking and rich vocalizing (especially McShee) is simply magnificent. It’s a highpoint for progressive folk. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ohmme, Parts (Joyful Noise) Chicagoans Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are both trained classical pianists, but for their first album as Ohmme they choose to focus upon rich vocal harmony and guitar crunch. What they and drummer Matt Carroll put together (with assistance from hometowners Doug McCombs of Tortoise, cellist Tomeka Reid, and saxophonist extraordinaire Ken Vandermark) is solid and occasionally splendid, displaying confidence and range that’s rare in a debut. In a better world, the hooky opener “Icon” would be a huge pop hit, but stuck in this reality, the whole of Parts, experimentally edged while essentially inhabiting a pop-rock zone, is improving my existence considerably. From the title track: “I don’t like little things touching my face.” Hey, me neither! A-

Roy Montgomery, Suffuse (Grapefruit) In 2016, after a long break in activity, New Zealand u-ground cornerstone Montgomery came back in a big way with the 4LP R M H Q -Headquarters. When first reading of this project, which stems from the R M H Q LP Tropic Of Anodyne (featuring the singing of reluctant vocalist Montgomery) with a troop of female voices (Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, She Keeps Bees’ Jessica Larrabee, Katie Von Schleicher, Purple Pilgrims’ Clementine and Valentine Nixon, Julianna Barwick, and Grouper’s Liz Harris), I thought of Stephin Merritt’s 6ths project, but the results aren’t like that at all, being much more invested in the spirit of collaboration (the Nixon sisters, Barwick, and Harris wrote the lyrics for their tracks). The results are superb, with Montgomery’s artistry shining through. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Jimmy Smith, The Sermon! (Down at Dawn) A fine but limited spate of jazz wax (300 copies each) has arrived from this upstart label, so if the objective is fortifying your shelves with a few classics of the form, don’t flake. When organist Smith hooked up with Blue Note a massive recording spree resulted, and this album, gleaned from two ’57-’58 sessions, just might be the best of the bunch. Taking advantage of the then novel LP format, side one’s 20-minute title track is hard-bop soul-jazz par excellence, and the flip picks up and slows down the tempo without a hitch. The personnel add major value, with Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Donald Bailey, Eddie McFadden, the underrated Tina Brooks, a young George Coleman, Art Blakey, and Kenny Burrell all on board. Essential. A

The Posies, Frosting on the Beater (Omnivore) As detailed in the liner notes by Wilco’s Pat Sansone and author Craig Dorfman and the track-by-track recollections of the band’s core duo Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow (‘twas they who wrote the songs), The Posies’ second release for Geffen is considered “the loud one,” which is unsurprising as it was produced by Don Fleming, who’d notably assisted on Sonic Youth’s Goo and Hole’s Pretty on the Inside. But he also worked with Teenage Fanclub, which made him a good fit for the helming of this excellent record (my favorite from the band). As detailed by Sansone, if you dig The Beatles and Big Star and also the heyday of SST Records, this is the one for you, offered, like the reissue of Dear 23, as either a bonus cut-loaded 2CD or a standalone 45RPM 2LP sans download. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Rich Halley, The Literature (Pine Eagle) The occasional question: if I could only listen to one type of music for the rest of my days, what would it be? The answer is easy. It’s jazz all the way. Mainly due to the sheer breadth of the form, but also volume, as the notes to this CD relate that Halley, a new name for me, has 20 prior recordings. This one, his first devoted to material by other musicians (the “literature” of the title) makes me want to hear them all. The tenor saxophonist, his drummer son Carson Halley, and bassist Clyde Reed launch from a high energy avant platform but with structural ties to bop and clear love of the tunes, which includes Miles, Monk, Duke, Ornette, Mingus, Sun Ra, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and the Carter Family. Folks, this is Americana, and it sings. A

Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef (Domino) While I remain a proponent of Animal Collective’s prime material, I was less than smitten with 2016’s Painting With, so learning of a new recording by the group didn’t terribly excite me. Then I read that it was an audiovisual album collab with Coral Morphologic, the art-science duo of marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay, to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. Things were looking up! As Animal Collective’s first full-length without Panda Bear, this differs from their prior work in interesting ways, and I’m sure it’ll get even more interesting when viewed with the accompanying video after it hits the band’s website on release date. On double vinyl, with three sides of music and an etching on side four. Hey, nice comeback, fellas. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Even as We Speak, Feral Pop Frenzy (Emotional Response) Operated by Stewart Anderson and his wife Jen Turrell out of Flagstaff, AZ, Emotional Response has grown into one of the most interesting indie-punk-pop-rock labels on the current scene, and with their recent slate of Sarah Records reissues (plus one collection of new material) they’ve just hit a grand slam. Included in the program is the 25th Anniversary Remaster of the sole LP from Aussies Even as We Speak. Formed by Matthew Love and Mary Wyer in Sydney and filled out to a five-piece, their sound benefited from flights of experimentation and eccentricity and yet was (appropriately, for the connection to Sarah) pure pop. Twee? Nah. Erudite? Oh, yes, as this minor gem of an LP goes to places you likely won’t expect. A-

Action Painting!, Trial Cuts (1989-95) (Emotional Response) During their lifespan, this UK outfit (formed in Gosport) released four singles, three of them on Sarah Records. It’s all rounded up here with additional material (unreleased cuts, alternates, demos, a radio session and interview); the LP includes a download, with everything on the CD. Coming from a tougher, rawer place than a fair amount of Sarah’s roster, these guys weren’t (I should say aren’t, as they’ve recommenced activities) Napalm Death or anything, but they did retain the heft, buzz, and energy associated with many of the leading lights of indie pop’s original wave (their fourth 45 was on the Kent-scene-associated Damaged Goods label). Those with a casual interest in the style might consider it skippable, but indie pop lovers will want. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tomberlin, At Weddings (Saddle Creek) An earlier edition of Sarah-Beth Tomberlin’s debut, which held seven tracks, emerged last autumn in a hand-numbered edition of 500 through Joyful Noise’s White Label series, an artist-picked affair with At Weddings selected by Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn. As the music resides in an introspective indie folk zone, the stylistic connections between chooser and chosen are minor, and within the parameters of the style, Tomberlin has her own thing happening; assured of voice and warm instrumentally, the whole goes down really well. Saddle Creek’s release isn’t limited, and adds three tracks, smartly not tacked onto the end, as the final three songs, “Self-Help” into “Untitled 2” into “February,” offer a striking culminating progression. A-

Walter Salas-Humara, Walterio (Rhyme and Reason) Salas-Humara co-founded The Silos in mid-’80s NYC, the still extant band sometimes classified as a progenitor of alt-country, though they always struck me (especially on their first couple records) as rock with a classic sensibility and an edgy spark. He was also in The Setters with Alejandro Escovedo and Wild Seed Michael Hall, and has dished a few solo records, of which Walterio is the latest. Unsurprisingly, the ten tracks here are fairly rootsy, but this attribute is nicely counterbalanced with songwriting smarts reflecting his diverse background; born in Florida to Cuban parents, Salas-Humara studied visual art in NYC before choosing music (that’s one of his popular dog paintings on the cover). What is surprising is the enduring high quality of his stuff. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Vulgar Boatmen, You and Your Sister, Please Panic & Opposite Sex (Play Loud!) Before he was in The Silos, Walter Salas-Humara was part of the Gainesville, FL outfit The Vulgar Boatmen. While he contributes a bit instrumentally to 1989’s You and Your Sister, his main role is sharing the co-producer chair with member Robert Ray. Alongside ex-Gizmo Dale Lawrence (based in Indiana), Ray (who continued to live in Florida) served as the band’s songwriting core, with each fronting a distinct lineup 800 miles apart. An unusual mode of operation in the pre-internet days, but fruitful, as all three of the group’s releases are stellar; much of the contents extend from a VU/ Feelies place, but with an utter lack of big city attitude. This is the sound of College Rock’s promise fulfilled. / / A-

The Fall, 458489 A-Sides (Beggars Arkive) There are numerous collections in The Fall’s myriad discography, and this one covering what’s known as the ’80s “Brix Smith” era, is essential, even if you already own all the albums and/ or the singles from which this 17-track LP derives. As I was getting acquainted with the output of Mark E. Smith’s lineup-shifting band of soon to be logic-defying endurance, this music was still fresh in the bins, and while some older heads were inclined to rake The Fall of this vintage over the critical coals, as the days of “Live At the Witch Trials” or “Grotesque” were over (though really, a lot of folks just didn’t like Brix), this summary sounds even better on the occasion of its white wax reissue by Beggars Arkive as it ever has to me before. First time on vinyl in the USA. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
August 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Miss Information, Sequence (Pioneer Works Press) This and the item directly below, the first two vinyl offerings from Pioneer Works Press, aren’t obtainable until 9/7, unless you visit the Press Play Book and Music Fair in Red Hook, Brooklyn on 8/3–8/4, where both will be available in advance of that date. Miss Information is Miho Hatori, who’s known for her work in Cibo Matto, Gorillaz and tons of other projects, with this LP formulated while she was artist in residence at Pioneer Works. The time spent shows in the fullness of the work. It’s not solo per se, as drummer Greg Fox, guitarist Patrick Higgins, and electronic musician Nicky Mao all contribute, but from futuristic pop and funk to twisted electronica to intriguing soundscapes to woozy rap, but it all plainly carries Hatori’s stamp. A-

Marijuana Deathsquads, Tuff Guy Electronics (Pioneer Works Press) Like Sequence, this is available at Pioneer Works’ Press Play Book and Music Fair on 8/3–8/4 and nowhere else until 9/7, so if you’re excited for the first stuff from these Minnesotans since 2013 and reside within reasonable traveling distance, then you know what to do. For this, Marijuana Deathsquads’ core group of contributors are Ryan Olson, Ben Ivascu, Isaac Gale, and newcomer Trever Hagen. Throughout their existence extra hands have helped, including Justin Vernon (he of Bon Iver) and Jim Eno (of Spoon). I’m not exactly sure of the auxiliary for Tuff Guy Electronics (a fantastic title), but the outcome is loosely twisted and at times rhythmically rolling. After a few spins, it begins cohering into a shape that’s attractively fucked. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Hampton Grease Band, Music to Eat (Real Gone) I gave this surrealist psychedelic 2LP a long review back in 2014, but the record, described as the second worst seller in Columbia Records’ history, was OOP at the time, so this 1,000-copy reissue on peach colored vinyl is cause for celebration. The late Bruce Hampton gained some notoriety in the ’90s through the jam band scene, but Music to Eat is a much weirder animal as it hovers on the outskirts of the psych and blues rock milieu that inspired the likes of Phish, Govt. Mule, and Widespread Panic. Holding similarities to the Dead, Zappa, and Georgia cohorts the Allmans, there’s a much deeper connection to Beefheart, making this, alongside Trout Mask Replica, one of the few true Dada-rock artifacts of the pre-punk era. A

Pere Ubu, Terminal Tower (Varèse Vintage) When this comp of early Ubu material emerged in 1985, it was a big deal; ’78’s “Datapanik in the Year Zero” dipped into the first three 45s but was scarce nearly a decade later. Terminal Tower offered the entirety of that EP and more. When the first big Ubu box arrived in ’96 (sharing the EP’s title), it was all there too, but not on vinyl. Fire Records’ extensive reissue series, now four volumes deep, is on wax; it includes everything here and is still in print, which might lead you to surmise that this reissue, offered on limited clear and standard black vinyl, is redundant. I can understand that line of thinking, but disagree rather emphatically, as this record holds some of the best music from one of the finest bands of the last 50 years. It serves as an excellent introduction. A+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, July
2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Daniel Bachman, The Morning Star (Three Lobed) Bachman is deservedly well-known for his post-American Primitive guitar prodigiousness, but as quietly forecasted by his S/T effort of 2016, he came to a stylistic fork in the road (coinciding with a move back to Virginia from North Carolina), and he chose the more experimental path to brilliant, often captivating result. Experimental can often be shorthand for “fluctuating level of success,” but time was taken with The Morning Star (Bachman’s first release in two years), and the 74-minute 2LP is remarkably consistent with the focus on drone and field recordings; at 18-plus minutes, side-long opener “Invocation” brought Henry Flynt to mind. Plenty of fine guitar playing is to be heard, but sometimes there is none (e.g. “Car”). A

V/A, Freedom of the Press (Kith & Kin) A benefit for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, featuring such worthy names as The Weather Station, Garcia Peoples, Hans Chew, Wooden Wand, Tom Settle & Friends, Bob Hughes, Elkhorn, and 75 Dollar Bill. A lot of various artists collections aiming to help good causes round up participants that are so stylistically broad that actually listening to the assembled contributions can become something of a chore, but new label Kith & Kin have tightened the focus to the “modern psychedelic songwriter scene,” and the results flow like a mixtape from an old, discerning friend. CD and digital only, but as phony populist fascists, corporate whores, self-serving political frauds, and contemptable bigots are currently attempting to destroy the USA, format is immaterial. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Charles Mingus, The Complete Sessions of The Clown & East Coasting (Wax Love) Of these two 1957 recordings, The Clown was originally released on Atlantic, and is the better known. Opening with the glorious “Haitian Fight Song” and closing (on the original wax) with the title track, an ambitious piece featuring an improvised story by the great writer-broadcaster Jean Sheppard, a solid blues and a sublime Bird tribute in between help solidify The Clown as an early masterpiece from the bassist-bandleader. Quibble: the bonus cuts eradicate a powerful ending. I’ve have no such issues with the extras on East Coasting; first issued by Bethlehem, the set persists as underrated, especially since the pianist for the session is Bill Evans. If not as bold as The Clown, it’s still essential. A+ / A

Paul Page and His Paradise Music, Pacific Paradise (Subliminal Sounds) This 2LP/ CD collection documenting a little-known but indefatigable Alaska-born, Indiana-bred, and as an adult, Hawaii-based singer-bandleader-record maker offers a bountiful plunge into private press tourist lounge exotica. As detailed in Domenic Priore’s extensive liners, across a long string of LPs and 45s, Page combined Bing Crosby-ish pop sophistication (he was quite a crooner), a “seafaring Anglo working sailor man” approach, and legit Hawaiian-Polynesian-Pacific influences. With a few exceptions, e.g. the wonderfully zonked “Chicken Kona Kaai” and the spectacular “Auwe, Wahine,” this is pretty well-mannered stuff, but it coheres into an impeccably assembled and researched tribute to one guy’s passion. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, July
2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2018. Part one is here and part 2 is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Emma Tricca, St. Peter (Dell’Orso) After three full-lengths and an EP, the latest from Rome-born and London-based singer-songwriter Emma Tricca features a handful of notable guests, including Dream Syndicate guitarist Jason Victor (who also produced) and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. Thus, her often Brit-folk-reminiscent sound (with occasional gusts from up the Canyon) has acquired a new flavor. Victor’s input means the sweet Paisley Underground vibe of “Fire Ghost” (wherein Arizona roots giant Howe Gelb lends a vocal hand) is no coincidence, but with her songwriting and personality shining throughout the record, it’s still clearly Tricca’s show. “Solomon Said” welcomes a terrific spoken-word cameo from folk cornerstone (and formative Tricca influence) Judy Collins. A-

Forma, Semblance (Kranky) Mark Dwinell, George Bennett, and John Also Bennett are Brooklyn’s Forma, now four albums deep with this one their second for Kranky. Their goal is to “broaden the idea of what an electronic music ensemble can sound like,” and they’ve succeeded, but with clear ties to precedent. One can detect Krautrock’s electronic models and certainly ’90s techno, but most rewarding to these ears are the elements derived from the classical minimalism of the ’70s, and not just Glass and Reich but significant gusts of Terry Riley. Plus, Forma aren’t just swiping from a distance and then serving up a pastiche, as George and John are recent vets of minimalist composer Jon Gibson’s group. Across seven tracks and a concise whole, the music spreads far beyond the cited stylistic points. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Steve Reich, Drumming (Superior Viaduct) Intermingling African percussion and Balinese gamelan-derived polyrhythms with the still-budding impulse of classical Minimalism, this reissues a crucial entry in Reich’s oeuvre. In their promo text, Superior Viaduct touts it as one of the 20th century’s most important musical works, and upon time spent, it’s a statement devoid of hyperbole. But hey, I was already somewhat in agreement, though my conclusion was based on the 1974 recording of the piece as released by Deutsche Grammophon. This one, captured in performance at NYC’s Town Hall in late 1971 and released only in a private edition of 600 (this is its first-time vinyl and CD reissue), is even sharper and more entrancing as it extends to nearly 83 glorious minutes. A+

Masta Ace Incorporated, SlaughtaHouse & Sittin’ On Chrome (Craft Recordings) Offering five reissues of vintage titles from the vaults of Delicious Vinyl, Craft is doing wax-loving fans of old-school hip-hop a considerable service. All are included in this week’s column, but we’ll award the pick to Masta Ace, who was already well-seasoned and underrated at the point of ’93’s SlaughtaHouse (he got his start as a member of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew and had a prior, pre-Incorporated full-length under his belt). Listening today, it’s status as a classic is secure. Masta Ace hailed from Brooklyn, but the second and final Incorporated release is something of a bridge between East Coast and West; unsurprisingly, it was his biggest seller, but it’s not as strong as what came directly before. It still holds up, however. / A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, July
2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sumrrá, 6 Mulleres (Clermont) Sumrrá is a Spanish jazz trio of the contempo piano (Manuel Gutiérrez Iglesias), bass (Xacobe Martínez Antelo), and drums (L.A.R. Legido) variety, and their approach, while undeniably accessible, consistently avoids the featherweight mainstream tropes that often drag down the form. Gutierrez in particular favors drive over lightness of touch (I’m reminded a bit of LaMont Johnson), and the brightness of the recording really brings Antelo into the thick of things. The freshness of execution is matched with an admirable concept, with the selections paying trib to six inspirational women, namely Frida Kahlo and Rosa Parks from North America, Rosalía De Castro from Galicia, Qui Jin from China, Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, and Nawal El Saadawi from Egypt. A-

Catherine Sikora and Brian Chase, Untitled: After (Chaikin) A CD of sax-drum improvisations inspired by Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf? Hey, count me in! Sikora, known for, amongst other collabs, Clockwork Mercury with bassist Eric Mingus, blows tenor and soprano while Chase, high of profile as the drummer for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but with numerous experimental credits to his name (see directly below), handles the kit; the duo exchange (to reference the title of another sax-drums LP, the ’73 classic by Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe), is magnificent throughout. I prefer Sikora on tenor, but that’s no commentary on her abilities; regarding soprano, I feel the same about Trane. Speaking of, it you dig Interstellar Space, don’t sleep on this. Track 6 “brightly forged” even brought Meditations to mind. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Brian Chase, Drums and Drones: Decade (Chaikin) This 3CD + 144-page book really cements Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Chase’s dedication to the avant-garde. It collects Drums and Drones I, which came out in 2013 (with a DVD absent from this collection), II: Ataraxia from ’15, and III: Acoustic from ’17 (the second and last appear to be debuting here). Inspired by the Dream House installation of La Monte Young and Miriam Zazeela and utilizing Just Intonation, the drone bona fides are robust. But while I was cognizant of this connection prior, the results still sounded much different than expected. Striving to reach the meditative, Chase avoids the hackneyed, with the sounds (well-nigh impossible as casual listening) intense and enveloping. An altogether outstanding achievement. A+

Tim Hecker, Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again & Radio Amor (Kranky) The first two full-length releases from Canadian electronic specialist Hecker reissued on double vinyl and CD. Although he’d issued some minimal techno (as Jetone) prior, the 2001 release of Haunt Me on the Alien8 subsidiary Substractif was devoid of beats (well, other than a snippet at the very end, anyway) while blazing a trail ahead of the period’s already forward-thinking glitch crowd (with whom he definitely shared similarities). Debuting for the Mille Plateaux label, ’03’s Radio Amor wasn’t a direct follow-up (notably, there was the “My Love is Rotten To the Core” EP), but today it sounds like the natural successor to his debut. In terms of intellectually-inclined ambient-experimental electronics, these are hard to beat. A/ A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, July
2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Claire Morales, All That Wanting (Self-released) Following up 2015’s Amaranthine, this is LP #2 from singer-songwriter-guitarist Morales, but it serves as my introduction. Comparisons to Angel Olsen and PJ Harvey are what sparked my interest, and while I can understand (indeed, hear) the similarities, I’m left with a favorable impression through strength of voice, quality of tune, and ambition realized most fully in the consecutive “Diane I” and “Diane II.” Plus, the sharp interplay with guitarist Alex Hastings, bassist Ryan Williams, and drummer Russ Connell (the last two returning from her debut) adds heft, but just as importantly, opens up the songs. Morales can effectively scale it back however, as on “Golden” and “Enough,” and she’s a commanding presence throughout. A-

Hamish Kilgour, Finklestein (Ba Da Bing) Kilgour is a member of New Zealand post-VU indie-rock royalty The Clean. The Mad Scene, his ’90s outfit with Lisa Siegel, was often terrific, and ’14 brought the appealing loner vibe of his solo debut All of It and Nothing. This follow-up, based on a story by Kilgour that he would tell his son, is also swell, but given the specifics of its conception, markedly different. For one thing, the range of instrumentation is broader, with much of the record leaning into lo-fi psych-pop. But it’s not a radical change, as he’s again working with producer Gary Olson, who also plays on the disc. Furthermore, “Welcome to Finklestein” is reminiscent of The Clean in keyboard mode, and maybe it’s just me, but the brief “Opening” recalls Tall Dwarfs’ “Louis Likes His Daily Dip.” And that’s great. A-

ARCHIVAL/REISSUE PICKS: Adonis, Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Mr. Fingers, Trax Records 45s (Get on Down) These four 7-inches are available either individually or as a bundle through Get on Down’s website as part of the label’s Jukebox Series, but they are certainly also obtainable in stores, at least temporarily. As fans of electronic club music will be snatching up these prime artifacts from House Music’s ’80s emergence, longevity in the bins is surely finite, especially as they aren’t straight reissues of higher-profile later (and longer) mixes, but original versions. To these ears, Jefferson’s “Move Your Body” b/w “Drum Your Body,” which nods to the style’s eventual commercial inroads, is the least of the bunch, but it lowers the collective quality only slightly; the contents deserve to be graded together. A-

Dave Evans, The Words in Between (Earth Recordings) Here’s a repress of Evans’ 1971 debut (shorn of the bonus cuts added to an earlier reissue), and it offers as much sweet folky fingerpicking as a sensible mind could ask for. Very much an exponent of the Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Wizz Jones style of Brit folksong (with a few touches of Nick Drake in the mix, as well), Evans’ Welsh accent and the occasional harmony vocals of Adrienne Webber lend a degree of distinctiveness. Some have criticized Evans’ songwriting (all ten are originals; even his guitar is homemade), but it all sounds fine to me, as the whole really captures the spirit of the time; as the record was cut in fellow folkie Ian A. Anderson’s house and released on the independent The Village Thing label, I’ll declare it sounds especially fine. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, June
2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: The Innocence Mission, Sun on the Square (Badman Recording Co. / Bella Union / P-Vine) It’s been a long time (like last century) since I’ve listened to The Innocence Mission, but their tenth album (they’ve been busy over the last few years) immediately brought the memories flooding back. This is wholly due to Karen Peris’ distinct voice, which I’ve always had a soft spot for, even in my noise-craving youth, when I generally appreciated her and the playing of Peris’ guitarist husband Don and bassist Mike Bitts through exposure from others rather than actively seeking them out. While gentle, The Innocence Mission eluded preciousness, and still do, with this a damn fine record, especially the Astrud Gilbert/ bossa nova-inspired title track. Looks like I have some catching up to do. A-

Allen Ravenstine, Waiting for the Bomb (ReR Megacorp) Upon learning that original Pere Ubu synthesizer man Allen Ravenstine was once again making music, I was excited. First came a pair of duo outings with current Ubu synth player Robert Wheeler, and last year The Pharaoh’s Bee found Ravenstine alone. That one was cool, but this follow-up, which employs analogue and digital instruments, hardware and software, is even better. There’s lots of abstraction on this hour-plus set, but also moments recalling sci-fi soundtracks/ incidental music, early electronics, jazz both straight-up mersh and with darker undercurrents, general ambience, and even a little funk. Sweet. Limited vinyl comes with a 48-page perfect bound volume of Allen’s music-related short stories. Even sweeter. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Barbara Dane, Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs (Smithsonian Folkways) It’s the 70th anniversary of Smithsonian Folkways, and I’m way past due to salute ‘em. This excellent 2CD primer into an often-overlooked vocalist-guitarist-leftist hero can be obtained from the label in a bundle with the vinyl reissue of Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers. Equally adept at range of blues, jazz, and protest folk, had Dane allowed herself to succumb to record company bullshit, she would’ve been better known in her prime, but this set illustrates that her achievements were huge in a more substantial way. As the injustice she fought against still exists, this collection is screamingly relevant. Features contributions from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, and Doc Watson. A-

Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us (Smithsonian Folkways) I can’t believe I missed the boat on this one; only by a few months (it came out in March), but still. I’d gotten hipped to the work of Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle last year due to comparisons made to another duo, House & Land. There’s a definite similarity between the two acts (and some shared Virginia roots), but also differences. Like House & Land, Anna & Elizabeth are steeped in tradition but never quaint, and this is their third album (available on wax), the byproduct of a shared residency in Virginia after a year’s worth of researching the archives of song collector Helen Hartness Flanders. Combining the true folk root with elements of the ’60s-’80s NYC avant-garde, the results are enveloping and often glorious. A

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