Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Norbert Rodenkirchen / Robbie Lee / James Ilgenfritz, Opalescence (Telegraph Harp) As part of the ensemble Sequentia, Rodenkirchen is a heavyweight medieval music flautist. Lee’s a woodwind specialist who likes bringing early music instruments into contempo settings; amongst others, he’s played with Mary Halvorson and Brian Chase. Ilgenfritz is a bassist, composer, and leader of The Anagram Ensemble; of collaborators and credits, he has a ton. Although flute is a hard sell for me when not played by Eric Dolphy or Roland Kirk, this LP proves to be a non-stop pleasure, largely because it resides in an avant zone where clichés, flute or non, are absent. That doesn’t mean medieval/ early music aspects aren’t perceptible amid the post-jazz thrust, there’s just no grafting. Sweet. A

Arp, Zebra (Mexican Summer) Artist-producer-DJ Alexis Georgopoulos is Arp, and his latest is a consistently engaging and occasionally delightful tour of an instrumental landscape that’s more than slightly reminiscent of the post-Eno/ Jon Hassell progressive-ambient ‘80s, with definite nods toward the era’s global adventurousness. There are elements recalling rainforest New Age, rhythms African and Reich-like, Multikulti jazz, mellow kosmische, Japanese avant-pop, and a boatload of fluttering, burbling, and swirling electronics. Employing a wide array of instruments, maybe the most appealing being double bass, Georgopoulos isn’t merely striving for period synthesis here, with a few moments bringing The Necks and The Books to mind. “Halflight Visions” and “Fluorescences” are amongst the standouts. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A / Hugh Tracey, Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music (Dust-to-Digital) The reports of the compact disc’s demise are greatly exaggerated. While I’m no fan of the format overall, the recent proliferation of CD-books is a cause for great cheer, especially when assembled by the folks at Dust-to-Digital. These 84 pages spotlighting field-recordings made in the titular regions from 1950-’58 is an information trove, and the emphasis on the work of pioneering ethnomusicologist Tracey, a native South African who established the International Library of African Music in 1954, is surely admirable. but it’s the two CDs of wide-ranging and unswervingly beautiful music, all 47 tracks of it, that makes this essential for fans of African sounds. A+

V/A, Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (Dust to Digital) Dipping into the substantial life’s work of audio recordist, filmmaker, folklorist, and professor William Ferris, this offers a 120-page hardcore book teeming with insights and photos illuminating African-American art and culture, a DVD of his documentary films (one of which covers the fife and drum master Othar Turner), and three CDs, the first focused on a wide variety of blues, the second offering a wonderful serving of gospel, and the last loaded with storytelling from an array of voices including a handful of the contributing musicians (plus B.B. King and Pete Seeger) as well as authors Barry Hannah, Alice Walker, Alex Haley, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Penn Warren. The cumulative effect is staggering. A+

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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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