Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Eartheater, IRISIRI (PAN) New Yorker Alexandra Drewchin is Eartheater, and this is her third release and first for Pan after a couple for the Hausu Mountain label. As she possesses a three-octave vocal range, you might assume she’d place this ability front and center and then leave it there, but for a fair amount of IRISIRI an intriguing instrumental blend of experimentation and digital textures (sometimes leaning toward the ambience of electronica) basks in the foreground. However, it’s not like Drewchin’s elected to subvert her strength as a vocalist; when those pipes get asserted, the results are a powerful and integral component in an oft-surreal cascade of newness. And yet subtle. Additionally, poetical contributions from guests Odwalla1221 and Moor Mother fit right into the advanced weave. A

Patrick Higgins, Dossier (Other People) Composer-producer Higgins is noted for his guitar presence in the New York ensemble Zs, an outfit he joined in 2012, at the same time as Guardian Alien’s Greg Fox. But hey, the gent has a slew of his own credits, including the String Quartet No.2 + Glacia 2LP (2013) and the Social Death Mixtape cassette (2015). This combo of guitar and live custom electronics is his latest, and it’s a doozy. All of the four-part work’s programming is original and performed live with no overdubs, as the samples, conceived specifically for this project, are executed with midi triggers mapped to the guitar. Other People’s press release calls the results post-apocalyptic, and I’m with it. The 18-minute final section, loaded with string-wiggle, soaring tones, and vocal samples, is an utter delight. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Gene Clark, Sings for You (Omnivore) After Clark left The Byrds in ‘66, he recorded the very cool Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers for Columbia. It fell far short of commercial expectations and the company lost interest, which prompted the man to cut some demos intended to spark the curiosity of labels. Those sessions are the first eight tracks on this CD/ 2LP set, and it’s an especially valuable unveiling, as Clark’s profusely flowing song fount during this period meant that none of this material turned up on his subsequent album for A&M. Plus, even more goodness comes through the rediscovery of an acetate of his songs from the same period given to the band The Rose Garden (more on them down below). Altogether, a glorious new gulp of Clark, and in prime form. A

Mouvements, S/T (Mental Experience) Originally released in 1973 in a boxed edition of 150 with inserts and lithographs by artist Richard Reimann and sold only in art galleries, this Swedish hybrid of avant-garde, out jazz and art-psych-prog rock was organized by guitarist Christian Oestreicher. It’s an eye-opening pleasure in its reissued LP form (minus box and lithos for affordability, though there is an informative interview with Oestreicher) and loses no creative steam across the five CD bonus tracks or the four digital-only extras (worry not, everything’s downloadable with purchase of the vinyl). Considering the nearly 100-minute running time, this is impressive. The prevalent violin of Blaise Català can bring Hot Rats to mind, but much more is happening here, including a cool Soft Machine vibe. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: OST, Hereditary (Milan) This is the score to the latest in the “I know you like horror movies, but THIS ONE is shit-your-pants scary” line of contempo fright flicks; most often it’s hype, occasionally the film delivers, and in this instance, we shall see (it arrives in theaters on Friday). Getting Canadian experimental saxophonist Colin Stetson to provide the music is a promising development, one substantially deepened after time spent with this 71-minute set. There are certainly elements of newness in Stetson’s scheme, but the palpable and deft sustainment of ominous atmospheres is in keeping with the lineage of great horror soundtracks. There’s also a nice repeated (sorta techno-ish) motif as things get progressively more intense and, even better, mysterious. Buy your tickets now. A

Modern Studies, Welcome Strangers (Fire) Via their debut Swell to Great (self-released in 2016 and reissued by Fire last year) I had this Scottish group pegged as chamber pop-Brit folk, and while the left side of that hyphen does persist here, the scale and ambition is much larger, incorporating a full-blown chamber orchestra (secured through a Creative Scotland grant), with rhythmic motion and general ambience confirming the promo text’s mentions of kosmische and Krautrock (think of a more rural Broadcast, perhaps). But that’s only a small part of the equation, as the value is raised considerably. “It’s Winter” underscores the influence of Van Dyke Parks, “Young Sun” begins in a fab chamber-folk place, and the harmonies of Emily Scott and Rob St. John are delightful throughout. A wonderful surprise. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: DJ Spooky, Presents Phantom Dancehall (VP Records) I received this Record Store Day item just after the big event went down and subsequently sat on my hands. The good news is that copies are still available, and as it gets a digital release on June 22, procrastination over grabbing the wax is inadvisable. If you know the dancehall style, which combines the foundation of reggae (and sometimes the weirdness of dub) with hip-hop, electronic, and even flashes of pop, then you know the root of what’s in these grooves, but in DJ Spooky’s hands it all ranges from a little zonked to a whole lot more, and all without undermining the essence of the subgenre’s appeal. It’s a sound that can sometimes wear thin in large doses, but Phantom Dancehall closes with the highlight “Jah Dub.” A-

Zuider Zee, Zeenith (Light in the Attic) As a lad, I recall bypassing this ’70s Memphis band’s sole ’75 Columbia album in the cut-out and second-hand bins. Years later, upon hearing a friend’s copy, I wasn’t too stressed over the lack. In obscure power-pop terms, it had moments but was far from great, though apparently Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen felt differently. This is not that LP, but a tidy batch of unreleased songs cut between ’72-’74, and I like it a whole lot more. Unsurprising, as the major label transition (after years of practice and gigs, which shows here) was the undoing of many a band. This doesn’t reach the possible heights of the cited Big Star-T. Rex hybrid, but the comparison does makes sense, and ditto the Beatles influence. Amid some dated elements, the songs here aren’t hindered by the execution. B+

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: The Dreebs, Forest of a Crew (Ramp Local) Adam Markiewicz (vocals/ violin), Jordan Bernstein (prepared guitar), and Shannon Sigley (drums) are connected to fellow NYC act PC Worship (they all contribute to 2017’s Buried Wish), but on this 15-track effort, which alternates eight songs with vocals (at times productively engaging with the operatic) and seven instrumentals, The Dreebs exist far outside the shadow of any other band. They hone an avant sensibility, in part through the guitar and violin, that strengthens ties to their city’s earlier underground eras, while the drums gesture towards rock. Prior associations with No Wave aren’t wrong, but the whole connects like something that emerged a decade after No New York with ties to both Downtown and the Bowery. A-

Carlos Giffoni, Vain (iDEAL) Giffoni is an electronic musician, experimentalist, improvisor, collaborator (amongst others, he’s created in tandem with Nels Cline, the guitarists of Sonic Youth, Chris Corsano and John Duncan), and coordinator (of the noteworthy No Fun Festival and its associated label). Having amassed a sizable discography, this is only his fourth non-collab full-length, and it’s a varied, focused, and (at 42 minutes) succinct delight. Described as the soundtrack to the movie transpiring in Giffoni’s head, the LP, his imagined flick, and its psychokinetic-powered California-prowling answer-seeking main character all share the same name. Surely, that’s her on Vain’s custom van-worthy sleeve (a painting by Wiley Wallace). Amid all this leftfield surreal background, Giffoni’s music stands on its own. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Pierre Sandwidi, Le Troubadour De La Savane – 1978/1982 (Born Bad) This set throws a deserved spotlight onto the slim discography of Sandwidi, a singer-guitarist who hailed from Burkina Faso, the African country formerly known as Upper Volta. Considered part of the Francophone African elite amongst such artists as Francis Bebey and G.G. Vikey, Sandwidi’s music is sprightly, with the band at times effectively turning up the heat, as much of this LP is clearly designed for dancing. And yet, the deeper impression is made by the budget keyboard and guitar-inflected glide, its temperament frequently gentle in its infectiousness and by extension often quite pretty. Sandwidi’s vocals are just as inviting, and the breadth of influence, including a few Western elements, deepens enjoyment. A-

Sensation, S/T (Folk Evaluation) That the vinyl resurgence has proven healthy enough to see once scarce and prohibitively expensive private press items getting reissued with some regularity is just dandy. Take as evidence this ’76 LP from Wisconsin songwriters/ multi-instrumentalists Donald S. Fisher and Jeffrey L. Engel. Recorded in a makeshift local studio on budget equipment, it delivers a refreshing wrinkle on the “usual” private press thing, emphasizing serious post-Beatle pop and soft-folk instead of bluesy hard rock or psych (though there is some nice fuzz guitar). There are a few sweet twists, e.g. a couple spots clearly impacted by 3rd and 4th album Velvets, plus the smart use of horns. All this and a nifty bonus 7-inch pairing two later outtakes with the 45 of Sensation backing local soul singer Tina Smith. Wow. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: GAS, Rausch (Kompakt) The latest from Wolfgang Voigt’s reignited ambient-electronic project is a 60-min piece designed to be listened to in one sitting. Out on CD and standalone digital, the 2LP comes with a download allowing for the realization of Voigt’s aim, this pairing exquisitely combining the beauty and heft of the tactile (a reliable component in Kompakt’s output, and distinctively in the oeuvre of GAS) with the possibilities opened up by technological advancement. But y’know, this wouldn’t really be worth noting if the music was merely okay. The good news is that Rausch is impeccably constructed, with nary an inch of excess or traces of ran-through motions. Offering many unexpected (and dark) turns along the way to a splendid finale, it’s amongst Voigt’s finest work. A

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard, BooCheeMish (Prophecy Productions) Initially assembled by Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices released an LP back in 1975 (as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) that roughly a decade later was reissued on 4AD (Nonesuch did the honors in the US), so this collab with vocalist and Dead Can Dance co-founder Gerrard has roots in precedent. Furthermore, the MotBV has always been dedicated to combining the traditional and the modern, so even after a break in recording of over 20 years, the music here unfurls comfortably but intensely (likewise, Gerrard’s contribution) and without straining for the up-to-date. And while the instrumentation holds a consistent allure, it’s the singing that’s really where it’s at. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Bark Psychosis, ///Codename: Dustsucker (Fire) After some notable singles and EPs, ’94’s debut LP Hex put this UK act (led by sole constant member Graham Sutton) at the forefront of the New. An essential post-rock acquisition, it was reissued by Fire late last year, and now here’s the ’04 follow-up (and Bark Psychosis’ final statement). Musically, a decade is a long time. Although a whole lot had transpired in the post-rock realm since Hex helped to define it, these selections display no hints of being eclipsed. Overall, if not quite rising to the level of its predecessor, Codename reliably hangs in the ballpark of excellent, and everything still sounds fresh in 2018. How ‘bout that? If you dig Hex, you’ll want this one, too. Featuring guest drums by Lee Harris of Talk Talk. A

Franco Battiato, Clic (Superior Viaduct) Italian experimental pop/ avant-garde composer Battiato’s three prior LPs have recently been reissued by Superior Viaduct, and this one, originally issued by Bla Bla in ’74, is the latest in a program that’s scheduled to culminate with ’78’s L’Egitto prima delle sabbie. Sometimes tagged as the Italian Brian Eno, Battiato’s work occasionally offers similarities to Krautrock/ kosmische (“Propriedad Prohibida,” here), but much of this alb’s sonic motion is resistant to easy comparisons. The saxophone in opener “I Cancelli Della Memoria” delivers a nice surprise, and twists are common. However, there are recurring gestures toward classical experimentation (Clic is dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen), and the sampling of Henry Cowell’s ’50s Folkways recordings is tremendous. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore, After Caroline (Northern Spy) The bass clarinet is a fine instrument, but it is too seldom played. Thankfully, Chicagoan Stein excels on this difficult horn in a variety of contexts; along with a fine mess of co-leader/ sideman sessions, there is his astounding 2009 solo set for Leo, plus two killer quartet albums for Delmark. Locksmith Isidore is his trio (prior releases on Not Two and Clean Feed), which features bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride (both heavyweights). While consonant with the avant-garde, the group is versatile, opening with a complex yet almost funky rhythmic platform beneath Stein’s at times quite tenor sax-like improvising. Along the way, there’s some free-bop, a nice hunk of balls to the wall group heave, and even a ballad. A

Sarah Louise, Deeper Woods (Thrill Jockey) As half of House and Land and additionally solo, guitarist Sarah Louise is noted for skillfully bringing Appalachian tradition into the here and now, and with nary a cobweb as part of the equation. Her playing on this tidy, powerful LP is unsurprisingly superb, but it’s only part of what makes the whole so special. While her singing voice was heard on House and Land’s album from last year, it makes a much deeper impression across this batch of songs, and if accurately pegged as folky (not folksy), Deeper Woods is decidedly psychedelic/ experimental and unrestrained by form; for one track, the guitar drops out in favor of keyboards and synth. In terms of heft and ambition, this set is comparable to the work of her labelmate Haley Fohr, and that’s a fabulous development. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, The Complete Capitol Singles: 1967–1970 (Omnivore) This label’s prior Owens singles comp covered ’57-’66, and it established a difficult standard to equal (forget about topping). That this 2CD follow-up covers only four years rather than almost a decade is indicative of massive success, and if it’s not as consistently top-flight as what came before, that’s not due to Owens riding a stylistic horse until it collapsed from exhaustion. However, the branching out, if not always successful, doesn’t outright flounder, and that’s impressive. This’s mainly because he strove to revitalize rather than shapeshift. Even when briefly visiting a jangle-pop/ fuzz guitar zone (“Who’s Going to Mow Your Grass”), this is still recognizably Owens. And so, a sure bet. A-

V/A, ¡Desafinado! Spanish Bossa Nova (1963-1975) (Adarce) Bossa Nova is sometimes derided, mostly by unshaven grumps, as a fad that inspired an early ’60s stampede of vocalists and players toward studios with the desire to cash in before interest waned, but that’s a somewhat US-centric viewpoint of the phenomenon. This set illustrates that bossa nova’s impact was not only global but persistent for years (lingering around even in the States, mostly commonly in mainstream jazz), and this collection of Spanish records (taken from the Belter, Discophon and Olympo labels) offers a diverse sampling (from inside formal confines, natch). Some of this, both vocally and instrumentally, drifts into an almost Esquivel-like zone, which is cool with me. Not all is equally spiff, but that’s the way with comps. B+

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Blues Lawyer, Guess Work (Emotional Response) Rob I. Miller (Mall Walk), Elyse Schrock (The World), Alejandra Alcala (Preening), and Nic Russo (aka Dick Stusso) hail from Oakland but are neck-deep in UK minimalist punk (think Pink Flag-era Wire), post-punk (a la early Television Personalities), and a guy-gal bruised feelings-frustrated romance feel (the Vaselines citation is right on the money). This lean set (ten songs in 20 minutes) is a gem with some sneakily sharp guitar (in addition to the indefatigable jangle-strum), clever sequencing (with the three-punch combo of “Turf,” “27th St.,” and the inner-pain-of-the-perennially-overlooked gem “Real Cool Guy” helping shape the second half), plus a killer culminating detour in “I Tried.” A lark, but one destined for classic status. A

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois, S/T (Timesig / Planet Mu) Multi-instrumentalist Lanois has put out his own records, but his real claim to fame derives from an extensive list of production credits including U2, Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris. Those progressive country leanings help to underscore the unlikeliness of a team-up with prolific breakcore/ drum and bass guy Aaron Funk (the fellow Canadian who is Venetian Snares). On the other hand, Lanois has worked productively with Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Jon Hassell. But enough background, as this pairing works swimmingly; even during this digestible LP’s most hectic moments (and there are a few), Lanois pedal steel atmospheres are recognizable and provide productive counterpoint to Funk’s rhythmic aggressiveness. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Just Measurers, Flagellation (Emotional Response) UK DIY is a glorious rabbit hole to fall into, but one best recommended to folks who gravitate to post-punk as a stylistic expansion rather than a refinement or commercialization. Initially issued (in a run of 300) on the deservedly legendary It’s War Boys label, and featuring members of Homosexuals, Milk From Cheltenham, L. Voag, Die Trip Computer Die, Amos and Sara, etc., The Just Measurers’ sole LP journeys through a labyrinth of street level experimental pop discombobulation. Aptly described as being (like a handful of their UK DIY peers) roughly compatible with the sounds (emerging at around the same time) of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, from start to finish Flagellation a wonderful thing. A

Fred McDowell, Mississippi Delta Blues (ORG Music) For heavy-duty blues nuts, only a slim percentage of McDowell’s discography can be considered skippable, as the man conveyed emotional intensity and instrumental sturdiness both acoustically and plugged-in on many (yet not voluminous) studio sessions, home recordings, and captured live performances. This means novices who wish to dabble can jump in at numerous spots and not be let down. However, for the less fervent blues fan I would consider a few to be essential: the Lomax recordings, the first one for Arhoolie, his electric debut I Do Not Play No Rock ‘n’ Roll, and this one, which courtesy of Alan Bates (and initially released on Black Lion) documented McDowell solo (with a little help from his wife Annie Mae) in 1965. Worth it for “Lucille” alone. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April
2018, Part Five

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Oliver Coates, John Luther Adam’s Canticles of the Sky (RVNG Intl.) This arrangement of Adams’ 2007 composition differs from cellist-composer-producer Coates’ UK premiere of the piece from March of ’17; on stage there were 32 cellists, but for this recording it’s just himself. As a multi-layered studio approach is utilized, I’ll speculate that the performance and this limited-edition album (which came out in conjunction with Record Store Day; per the label it will not be repressed) are comparable in effect, though the use of “extra-musical studio techniques” also situates this LP as a distinct experience. Even as Coates cites the influence of early electronic innovator Laurie Spiegel, the depth of emotion here fits snuggly into a modern classical context. Short, but wholly satisfying. A

Scott Matthews, The Great Untold (Shedio) Wolverhampton, England’s Matthews debuted with Passing Stranger back in ’06, winning an Ivor Novello Award (Best Song Musically & Lyrically) for that album’s “Ellusive.” His output since has drawn occasional comparisons to Jeff Buckley, though on the opening title track of this fine LP (his sixth studio effort overall) I’m reminded just as much of Nick Drake (the comparison makes sense, as Matthews performed as part of Joe Boyd’s stage production Way to Blue-The Songs of Nick Drake). Having completed his Home duology, The Great Untold is accurately described as a fresh start, with a scaled-back approach at play, gentle but intense in solo mode with judiciously employed added instrumentation. “Cinnamon” and “As the Day Passes” are the standouts. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Robert Storey, Come Up and Hear My Etchings 1986 – 2016 (Emotional Response) Storey is one of the numerous undersung figures who populated the ’70s-’80s UK DIY scene. He was also intensely prolific. Dubbed as the “dark heart of the Murphy Foundation in all its guises,” the list of projects marked by his involvement is long, and this LP (hopefully the first in a series) collects an enlightening and pleasurable sampling. Where a fair amount of DIY hung way out in the left-field post-punk bleachers, much of what’s collected here places Storey firmly in a sorta freewheeling avant-pop context. Additionally, he’s a productive collaborator, and importantly, unlike many of his DIY cohorts, the man kept trucking right into the 21st century, which is where some of this set’s best stuff derives. A-

Belong, October Language (Spectrum Spools) Turk Dietrich and Mike Jones formed Belong in the Crescent City USA in the early ’00s, their sound drawing upon Eno’s ambient thing and the corroded sensibility of William Basinski (Tim Hecker and Gas have also been listed as touchstones). As mentioned by Spectrum Spools (the sister label of electro-experimental heavy-hitter Editions Mego), their debut has chalked up comparisons to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, but minus the song structure; that should be a good indicator of one’s interest. These ears find the edgy drift quite stimulating. October Language first came out in ’06 on CD; there was a vinyl run of 500 pressed in ’09, but folks who missed that boat can grab this edition, which comes with bonus digital tracks from their ’06 tour EP. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: V/A, ACLU Benefit Compilation (Wharf Cat) As the annual RSD blitz nears, it’s important to keep things in context. That limited color vinyl 45 is cool, but the time in which we are living is, in numerous ways, quite uncool. Vital in the fight against fascism, racism, sexism, etc. has been the American Civil Liberties Union, and this 2LP is designed to aid them in continuing their heroic efforts. Featuring 22 tracks from a lineup including The Men, Alice Cohen, Palberta, Pop 1280, Merchandise, Profligate, and an outstanding piece for solo sax by Kate Mohanty (fittingly titled “Priorities”), the gist is contempo underground focused but with plenty of variety to be had. If you’re at all inclined to the scene, please make some idealistic young lawyers happy for the future of the planet. A-

Lloyd Green & Jay Dee Maness, Journey to the Beginning: A Steel Guitar Tribute to the Byrds (Coastal Bend Music) Folks who are understandably bonkers for Sweetheart of the Rodeo will likely know that Green and Maness contributed pedal steel to that album, the former an established Nashville scene guy and the latter a younger but studio-seasoned cat from L.A. For the album’s 50th birthday, the pair have gotten together to cut an instrumental tribute, and it’s a beauty. Rhythm, mandolin, and occasional fiddle adds richness in support, but it’s always Green and Maness’ show, and they hold the spotlight with grace and an obvious affection for the project. For the close, Jim Lauderdale, Herb Pedersen, Richie Furay, and Jeff Hanna deliver a swell vocal version of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Mekons, “Never Been in a Riot” & “Where Were You?” (Superior Viaduct) I’ve observed before that if, at this late date, you really want to find a punk record that matches the frequently lofted genre descriptors of “barely competent” or “attitude over technique,” then head straight for the 3-song ’78 debut by The Mekons, a disc that seems constantly on the verge of falling apart, at least until they arrive at the urban tribal chant of “Heart and Soul.” But it’s not an accident, it’s a conscious approach, and that’s part of what’s so thrilling. Now, if you want to hear growth from this foundation that doesn’t result in or even predict a betrayal of principles, and adds a violin for good measure, then that’s “Where Were You?” Two of the best punk-era singles ever waxed. A/ A

Willie Colón, Wanted by the FBI for the Big Break – La Gran Fuga (Get on Down) Colón’s reputation as one of the greats in the field of salsa is fully deserved. On this ’70 album, the trombonist-bandleader’s sixth for Fania (the label’s name a mark of quality), and with the crucial input of singer Héctor Lavoe, Colón does much to advance the style beyond its root as a dance-party music. Primarily through changes of tempo and tone, but also in the employment of space, this broadening is perceptible even to a casual salsa listener such as myself. Along with dual ‘bones in the lineup and Lavoe leading the vocal charge, rhythm is still king, but the bongos, congas, and timbales are handled with flair that transcends the maintenance of groove. The personal standout element is the piano of “Professor Joe” Torres. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Linda Perhacs, I’m a Harmony (Omnivore) I stupidly flaked on getting the word out on Perhacs’ newest recording when it dropped last fall, but here’s the Record Store Day 2LP edition to give me another chance. Although her debut Parallelograms came out in 1970, it took decades for folks to tune in to her frequency, with Perhacs eventually benefiting from the interest of freak folkies. However, her work lacked predictable unity with these New Weird Americans, and her two “comeback” albums have widened the distance; here, standout cut “The Dancer” is evocative of Kate Bush, and elsewhere she (and a loaded roster of guests including Julia Holter, Nels Cline, Devendra Banhart, and Durga McBroom) radiate similarities to folktronica, samba pop, psychedelia and more. A-

Anywhere, II (ORG Music) The first album by this project of Christian Eric Beaulieu (ex-Triclops!) was a star-studded affair (released for Record Store Day 2012) that exuded a heavy raga-rock vibe (self-described as eastern acoustic punk) with comparisons made to the work of Sandy Bull and Jack Rose, but with a harder edge. This one’s even more packed with notable contributors (including Krist Novoselic, Dale Crover, Phil Manley, and for a return engagement Cedric Bixler Zavala) enough so that bassist Mike Watt, heard extensively on the first record, is limited here to one track. II maintains the raga tendencies, but rather than affirm the hipper namedrops above, if I may be so gauche, I’ll observe that parts of this even rockier effort are somewhat Zeppelin-like. This is intended as a compliment. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Wire, Nine Sevens (pinkflag) Kicking off a slate of early Wire reissues for 2018 is this dandy singles set, which rounds up six 45s for the Harvest label (including the killer and I suspect underheard non-album singles “Dot Dash” b/w “Options R” and “A Question of Degree” b/w “Former Airline”), the “Our Swimmer” b/w “Midnight Bahnhof Café” disc for Rough Trade, the 4-song EP tucked into the initial pressing of 154, and the tracks found on side two of the “Crazy About Love” 12-inch EP transferred to 7-inch. A few cool twists do emerge, like Pink Flag cut “Ex Lion Tamer” providing the flip to Chairs Missing’s “I Am the Fly,” but overall, this effectively relates in abbreviated form the magnificent essence of this crucial band’s ’77-’80 run. Experience it any way you can A+

Duck Baker, Les Blues Du Richmond : Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 (Tompkins Square) Guitarist Duck Baker is a treasure. My introduction to his work came through his ’96 CD Spinning Song, where he played the music of the great jazz pianist-composer Herbie Nichols; digging around hence in his sizable discography has never disappointed. His first album came out on Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule label in ’75, but before that he cut a demo which takes up the first side of this LP. Blending deft fingerpicking with a couple of 1920s vocal numbers and an interest in free jazz, Baker’s wide influences cohere into a highly individual and accessible experience even at this early stage, and side two’s stuff from ’77-’80 captures his sharpened, broadened, and deepened playing. Guitar fans, don’t dally. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Bush Tetras, “Take the Fall” (Wharf Cat) Formed when Pat Place exited James Chance & the Contortions and teamed up with vocalist Cynthia Sley, bassist Laura Kennedy, and drummer Dee Pop, Bush Tetras constitute one of the finer extensions of the original No Wave impulse. Sporadically active over the decades, here they return after a long absence with three original members (Kennedy exited after the release of Beauty Lies in 1995 and passed in 2011), with Val Vera (aka Val Opielski, ex Krakatoa, 1000 Yard Stare, etc.) strapping on the bass; this trim five-track outing not only doesn’t sully their rep, it hangs with the earlier work sans hitch. They may be a smidge moodier and less dance-punky than in the early days (heaviness hath not abated), but the change suits them well. A-

Say Sue Me, Where We Were Together (Damnably) Say Sue Me hail from Busan, South Korea, but their sound derives to a significant extent from late 20th century developments out of the United Kingdom. Damnably describes their thing as surf-inspired indie rock, and that’s not off-target, but I’d simply tag ‘em as purveyors of indie pop…except that doing so runs the risk of losing them in a sea of likeminded outfits. The good news is that Say Sue Me aren’t mimics and do a fine job here of establishing a distinct personality across 11 tracks, which means that you won’t mistake them for being British. There are some tangible similarities however, e.g. a less twee Camera Obscura, The Primitives, and briefly, The Vaselines. The longer and increasingly loud “Coming to the End” is suitably sequenced last. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Harold Budd, Luxa (Curious Music) This ’96 full-length was initially a CD-only affair, but no more, as the resuscitated Curious Music offers it on double 180gm black vinyl remastered by Tim Story and pressed at 45RPM in a matte finish gatefold jacket with a high res numbered art print (there’s also a FLAC download available). If you’re thinking this is all a bit extravagant, then chances are you don’t know Budd, an artist for whom aural depth and detail is crucial. Many have been introduced to him through connections to Eno and collabs with Cocteau Twins, but here he goes it alone, and the results are so much more than tranquil, concluding with superb covers of Marion Brown’s “Sweet Earth Flying” and “Pleasure” by Steven Brown (of Tuxedomoon). Altogether a beautiful thing. A-

Sleepyhead, Future Exhibit Goes Here (Drawing Room) Drawing Room’s third recent ’90s indie rock reissue (after Sandra Bell’s Net and a double vinyl edition of Kicking Giant’s debut CD) is a 2LP twinning the second and third full-lengths (Starduster, 1994, and the formerly CD-only Communist Love Songs, ’96) from the NYC trio of bassist Michael Galinsky, drummer-vocalist Rachel McNally, and guitarist-vocalist Chris O’Rourke. Sleepyhead’s thrust can be considered no-frills, essentially alternating betwixt melodic punk and tough power-pop with guitar noise appropriate for the era and scene, so some will likely wonder what’s the big deal. I’ll just say that it went down sweet at the time and gives me a warm feeling now. Comes with a book collecting band reminiscences and Galinsky’s ace photographs. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Mind Over Mirrors, Bellowing Sun (Paradise of Bachelors) I’ve been in the camp of Harmoniumist-electronic specialist-composer Jaime Fennelly for a while now, but this 2LP, which captures Mind Over Mirrors’ evolution from a truly solo project to a dialogue with added participants (documented on last year’s Undying Color) to a solidified full-on band, is a knockout. Commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Bellowing Sun’s gist pertains to the celestial, and unsurprisingly, the kosmische aura is strong. But there’s a coinciding elemental focus that’s beautifully expressed in Janet Bean’s vocals/ zither, Jon Mueller’s drumming, Jim Becker’s fiddling, and Fennelly’s leadership. Namechecking Popul Vuh, Henry Flynt, Terry Riley, and Alice Coltrane is no reach. Superb. A

Air Waves, Warrior (Western Vinyl) Here’s full-length #3 (and #2 for Western Vinyl) from Brooklyn-based Nicole Schneit. Described by the label as indie pop, that’s immediately perceptible in opening gem “Home.” Guitar is present, but so are electronic elements, though this doesn’t morph the indie pop into synth pop (the beginning of the title track is an exception), and that’s cool with me. Closer “Blue Fire” does exude a singer-songwriter-ish new wave vibe, reminding me of ‘Til Tuesday (there’s probably a better comparison, but damn if I can put a finger on it right now), and hey, that’s cool with me, too. A poem by Adrienne Rich was the song’s inspiration, which is quite fitting for an album concerned with struggle (Schneit’s own as a queer woman, her mother’s battle with cancer). Nice cover photo, also. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Scientist & Prince Jammy, Strike Back! (Real Gone) For this guy, prime dub equates to summertime sounds par excellence, and while I’m admittedly itching for warmer weather, this one has a surplus of sweetness to offer at any time of year: the space-sci-fi theme manifested in both the spiffy cover art and the song titles’ tantalizing hybrids (“Buck Rogers in the Black Hole,” “Flash Gordon Meets Luke Skywalker”); the limited edition of 700 on yellow-green “Lightsaber” vinyl; the production and compositions by Linval Thompson; the top-flight instrumental contributions from the Roots Radics; and naturally, Scientist and Jammy in strong form. The sheer amount of dub that’s available for listening can surely be intimidating, but the studio warpage on display here matches the presentation. A-

Jack Kerouac, Blues and Haikus (Real Gone) It seems with every passing day the allure of this key (in truth, the most key) Beat Generation figure fades a bit more under the harsh light of modernity, but for those who’ve been positively impacted by his writings and are desirous of adding a little of his essence to their vinyl shelves, this is the one to get if you only get one, and for a variety of reasons. First, unlike his likeable debut (which found him accompanied by the okay piano tinkling of comedian-talk show host Steve Allen), this pairs him with the real jazz deal in saxophonists Al Cohn (who also plays piano) and Zoot Sims. Second, it delivers a hearty dose of Kerouac’s poetic-spiritualism. Third, Jack sings! Fourth, the album’s as messy, frustrating, fascinating, and imperfectly beautiful as the man was himself. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, March 2018, Part Five

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Cavern of Anti-Matter, Hormone Lemonade (Duophonic) Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Tim Gane and drummer Joe Dilworth, both ex-Stereolab, plus synth specialist-electronic manipulator Holger Zapf, Cavern of Anti-Matter’s sound is inextricably linked to Krautrock. Unsurprisingly and undisguisedly so, as opener “Malfunction” is a 16-minute motorik excursion that for many will justify the purchase of this 2LP all by itself. Even more impressive is the territory covered in the tracks that follow, which travel quite a distance by the end of side four. As the trio operate sans vocals, the range adds extra value. There are a few moments recalling Stereolab, but had I been ignorant to the association upon listening, it’s questionable I would’ve made the connection. Fine stuff. A-

XOR Gate, Conic Sections (Tresor) Detroiter Gerald Donald has been one of techno’s most reliably interesting practitioners, and amongst a load of projects and collabs, most prominently Drexciya and Dopplereffekt, he’s also issued material under a bunch of pseudonyms, the most well-known perhaps being Arpanet and Heinrich Mueller. His latest venture/ moniker is XOR Gate, the tag borrowed from linguistic or electronic logic, with the music taking the form of eight themes all edited together as one 30-minute track where “waveform and synthesis merge entirely with emotions.” If this all seems somewhat (or considerably) obscure, don’t be intimidated, as this tangibly Germanic excursion is not a bit dry, and to my ear would make a fine companion to this week’s other new release pick. A-

REISSUE PICKS: V/A, Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop from the 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives (Pharaway Sounds) This continues my crash course in the Spanish genres of the title, a line of study I’m happy to be making, though from a personal perspective, I suspect the best way to engage with this material is through well-selected comps. Of which this is one; Rumbita Buena puts its weakest track right up front and then blossoms, the funkiness hearty rather than flashy and the pop rooted in substance over the saccharine. Plus, there are all sorts of cool twists; I especially dig Los Candelos’ hard rock guitar-infused “Te Estoy Amando Locamente” and Teresiya’s truly zonked gipsy yé-yé gem “El perro de San Roque.” Are there handclaps? Goddamn right there are handclaps. A-

The Damnation of Adam Blessing, S/T & The Second Damnation (Exit Stencil) Two slabs of hard rock from ’69-’70 that come with the Paul Major seal of approval. The Damnation of Adam Blessing hailed from Cleveland and got signed by United Artists, who by all accounts screwed the pooch in promoting them. For the first LP, the band’s psychedelic roots are a lot more obvious, but amid cool covers of “Morning Dew” and “Last Train to Clarksville” their original material makes clear that the “should’ve been” status isn’t hype. But an even better barometer of their worth relates to their second LP topping the debut. Comparisons have been made to Grand Funk, but I dunno if those guys (whose early stuff I like) had a song as killer as “Back to the River.” Vocals steer refreshingly clear of caterwauling. B+/ A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Brother JT, Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey) Easton, PA’s John Terlesky has been active since the ’80s, initially with excellent garage-punks The Original Sins, but in the early ’90s he began releasing more invitingly out-there records under his current sobriquet, and I’ve never heard one that’s not been worth the time. His recent stuff has garnered comparisons to glam, and this tendency is indeed palpable, though at the core remains sweet, song-based psychedelia. JT definitely has a way with humor, but on this solid and oft-terrific new one, there’re wisely no attempts at a redux of “Sweatpants” (from 2013’s The Svelteness of Boogietude). However, as evidenced in “Ponin’” and “Mississippi Somethin’,” his wordplay can be as smile-inducing as ever. Which these days is a valuable thing. A-

Elk City, Everybody’s Insecure (Bar/None) Led by the vocalist Renée LoBue and drummer Ray Ketchem (former bandmates in the Melting Hopefuls), Elk City are back after a long absence (their last one House of Tongues hit in 2010), retaining guitarist Sean Eden while breaking in new keyboardist Carl Baggeley and bassist Martin Olson. Last autumn’s digital cover of The Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer” announced the return and was an apt choice, as LoBue is a strong, expressive singer, and Ketchem is a noted producer (Guided by Voices, Luna, Versus, the Brother JT album above); opener “Sparrow” could’ve been gussied up and made too fragile, but instead, it and what follows benefits from weight and directness. Amongst the standouts are the sharp “25 Lines” and the intriguing “Root Beer Shoes.” A-

REISSUE PICKS: Cocteau Twins, Head Over Heels & Treasure (4AD) If you’d told me back in the ’80s that the Cocteau Twins would stand as one of the decade’s more influential acts, I suspect I would’ve quietly disagreed. Not because I didn’t like ‘em. I really liked ‘em. Most of my friends liked ‘em. Hell, Tesco Vee liked ‘em. But they did go about their innovation without a whole lot of fanfare, which is why I would’ve (probably) quibbled. 1983’s Head Over Heels is their second album, cut by the duo of Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie, and it captures a bolder gothic-edged sound prior to the splendid Treasure of the next year, which adds Simone Raymonde and marks their transition into the ethereal-dream zone. Decades on, hardly anybody’s done it better, and yes, (far too) many have tried. A-/ A

Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton, Music and Poetry of the Kesh (Freedom to Spend) Amongst 2018’s sadder news is the passing of the great science-fictioneer Le Guin, author of the groundbreaking and multi-award winning 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness and much more. The list includes ’85’s Always Coming Home, an account of the Kesh, invented inhabitants of the Pacific Coast in a far distant time; the original boxed trade release was accompanied by an audiocassette of field recordings and indigenous song, and this is its vinyl reissue. Created by Barton with instruments and a conlang of the author’s invention, what was conceived as an enhancement now serves as enticement to dig back into Le Guin’s works, with Always Coming Home foremost. But it sounds just fine on its own. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Mount Eerie, Now Only (P.W. Elverum & Sun) In 2016, Phil Elverum’s wife, the cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée, died at age 35 from pancreatic cancer. Last year’s A Crow Looked at Me, the ninth album by Elverum as Mount Eerie (he recorded previously as The Microphones) dealt with that terrible loss, and likewise, Now Only: largely an acoustic affair (piano figures on the title track and “Earth” has plugged-in guitar, drums, and keyboard textures for a full band feel), as reflected in the longer track lengths, he pushes deeper here. The cumulative effect is intensely personal and weighted with observations and confessional passages (the power of which crests with the ruminative 11-minute “Distortions”), but in the end is not despairing. Ultimately, it’s a transformative listen. A

Linqua Franqa, Model Minority (HHBTM) Athens, GA-based rapper Mariah Parker recorded this LP while completing her master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Georgia, and her course of study has informed her art to frequently superb effect. The wordplay is impressive in how it embraces complexity without faltering into mere displays of verbal gymnastics; instead, there are hooks galore as she grapples with tough subject matter, and she’s got the music to match, with much of the disc recalling the ’90s heyday of underground hip-hop (e.g. the jazzy elements in “Midnight Oil”) but with a persistent (and distinctive) vibe of strangeness that’s wholly appreciated. Model Minority takes her prior EP, places two new tracks and three remixes on side two and holds interest to the very end. A-

REISSUE PICKS: NRBQ, S/T (Omnivore) Although select cuts have been featured on comps over the years, this is, quite astoundingly, the first time The New Rhythm and Blues Quintet’s classic debut LP has been reissued in its entirety in any format; appropriately, Omnivore offers it on vinyl (in a gatefold sleeve), CD and digital. Cut in ’69 but about a million miles away from the rock mainstream of that year, NRBQ might not be as consistently killer as ’77’s All Hopped Up, but it does firmly establish the unstrained eclecticism that’s come to define this persevering band’s existence. A transformation of Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” is the perfect opener, a reading of Sun Ra’s “Rocket #9” delivers one of music’s great hard left turns, and the whole is a life-affirming plunge into real, robust Americana. A must. A

Gary Numan, Dance (Beggars Arkive) Having finally dropped needle on this 2LP edition of the CD expansion of Numan’s third solo set (it came out in January), my assessment is that the man’s departure from the robotic synth-pop that made him famous holds up much better than some have suggested. But don’t get the idea that it’s not very much a byproduct of its era, as the fretless bass and sax of Japan’s Mick Karn (one of a handful of guests here, including Queen’s Roger Taylor and the Canadian prog-electro-new wave violinist Nash the Slash) helps to solidify the ’80s art-pop thrust (which I appreciate much more now than back then). It’s far from a complete break with the past, however; “She’s Got Claws” was a big UK hit, and overall, Dance is just the sound of its maker spreading his wings. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tania Chen, John Cage: Electronic Music for Piano (Omnivore) The immediate draw, at least for those with a casual interest in Cage, will be the players; Thurston Moore brings his guitar, Flying Lizard and Eno cohort David Toop multitasks, experimental electronic composer Jon Leidecker contributes mobiles and mixer, and noted musician and composer Gino Robair produces. But it’s Chen who gets the deserved top billing. An esteemed interpreter of Cage (and many of his peers), this finds her tackling one of his most rarely performed scores (due to its cryptic, minimal instructions), and fans of experimental classical (and lovers of abstract noise) should be stoked. Cage’s (lack of) guidelines offer latitude most can’t handle, but Chen and crew embrace it. The results are gripping. A

Keiji Haino & SUMAC, American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look at Face On (Thrill Jockey) Haino’s the avant-noise king of Japanese guitar and SUMAC’s comprised of ex-members of Baptists, Russian Circles, and ISIS, so one could be forgiven for assuming this collab is a start-to-finish exercise in aural brutality. To be sure, there are some hairy (but communicative) passages here, many of them extended, but hey, the title track (and what a title it is) opens with flute, and the reality is that both sides of this team-up deliver more than pummel and abrasion. Much more. Across four sides of vinyl, free-rock is in abundance, a mode familiar to Haino fans through Fushitsusha and Nazoranai, but SUMAC (and Nick Yacyshyn’s drum thunder especially) instills a distinct flavor. A

REISSUE PICKS: Milt Jackson & John Coltrane, Bags & Trane (ORG Music) I’ve covered this meeting of vibraphonist Jackson and sax giant Coltrane before, as part of Rhino’s The Atlantic Years in Mono box set, but this is the 2LP 180gm stereo version, back in stock after being OOP for two years. It’s not inexpensive, but for audiophiles, it’s an utterly rich dish. I’m generally a non-fan of the vibes, though Jackson is one of the big exceptions. He does solidify the expertly executed straight-ahead direction here, as pianist Hank Jones, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Connie Kay (Jackson’s cohort in the Modern Jazz Quartet) fill out the band. Trane’s in fine form. If I persist in ranking this set as a little less than top-tier, it’s largely due to the atmosphere of casualness. Of course, this brings its own appeal. A-

Cindy Lee, Act of Tenderness (W.25TH) Cindy Lee is the project of Patrick Flegel, formerly of the Canadian outfit Women, and like Malenkost, which was reissued by W.25TH last year, Act of Tenderness dates from late 2015; it was initially issued in an edition of 300 on the CCQSK label. Described as Flegel’s diva alter-ego, Cindy Lee plants a flag at the intersection of lo-fi, experimentation and ’60s Brill Building-ish pop, and the results are fascinatingly surreal. In my short review of Malenkost, I mentioned David Lynch, and this time W.25TH pinpoints Eraserhead. Last time out, the mentions of No Wave were validated, but on “Bonsai Garden” here, I’m getting more of an Industrial noise vibe. However, “Miracle of the Rose” comes off like first LP Velvets at their most extreme shorn down to a duo of Cale and Nico. Wowsers. A-

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