Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Pagé, Dose Curves (Backward Music) Harpists aren’t as rare on the scene as they used to be, but theirs is still a fairly uncommon instrument. Some may know Montreal resident Pagé for her playing in The Barr Brothers, who are described as both rootsy and indie folky, but Dose Curves is my intro to her work, and it’s a wide-ranging treat for adventurous ears. There’s certainly an abundance of plucked beauty passages (e.g. closer “Pleiades”), but the opening title-track is reminiscent of cello or viola in an avant context, while “Lithium Taper” uses her homemade pickups and pedal setup to cultivate an appealing ambient field. Notably, the entire LP (in an edition of 222 copies, most of them already purchased) is one unaltered performance, and it delivers a major artistic statement. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Booker T & the MG’s, The Complete Stax Singles Vol. 1 (1962-1967) (Real Gone) Starting with that instrumental R&B cornerstone “Green Onions” and then rolling through 28 more sides up to “Silver Bells,” the flip to their ’67 Xmas 45, this is a smart way to amass this band’s prime work on either CD or 2LP. Featuring Booker T. Jones on Hammond, Steve Cropper on guitar, Al Jackson, Jr. on drums, and either Lewie Steinberg (early) or Donald “Duck” Dunn (joining in 1965) on bass, theirs is one of the most distinctive sounds in the genre, often imitated but never duplicated, partly because others struggled to attain the appropriate measure of tight and lithe. As Stax’s house band, this is only part of their story, but these chapters are essential, all taken from mono sources. A

Gary Numan, Replicas – The First Recordings & The Pleasure Principle – The First Recordings (Beggars Arkive) To commemorate the 40th anniversary of these two seminal and groundbreaking post-punk electronic pop-rock albums, Beggars is issuing the early recordings of both on 2CD and 2LP, Replicas (co-credited to Tubeway Army) on sage green wax and The Pleasure Principle on orange. Note that neither set includes the actual released albums, so if you don’t have those, you still need ‘em. And anyone interested in the abovementioned styles does need ‘em (they were both reissued by Beggars in 2015). With this said, it’s difficult for me to rate either of these sets as must-haves, but they are both wholly worthwhile documentations of works in progress. If you love the finished LPs, you’ll probably want ‘em.

That each set includes a Peel Session does substantially increase the value, though both have been previously released on wax. Plus, Numan was creating rapidly in this era, and these collections magnify his development (leaving Tubeway Army behind in the process) without getting bogged down with the ephemeral. These ears retain a special affection for the Replicas material, mainly because there are still traces of the band’s punk beginnings in an overall attack that’s sharply focused on the future, but it’s Pleasure that captures him in full flower, and this dive into its gestation wafts a pretty sweet aroma. It should also be mentioned that the 2CDs offer extra stuff, in the case of Replicas just a third early version of the title track, but Pleasure has six (and six unreleased cuts, two of which are on the wax). B+/ B+

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Michael Vincent Waller, Moments (Unseen Worlds) Waller is a NYC-based composer whose debut The South Shore was released in 2015 on XI Records, the label of composer Phill Niblock. Amongst others, Waller has studied with La Monte Young, and if these info tidbits are leading you towards the drone, I say whoa there, partner. On this, his third release (out on CD and 2LP) Waller more appropriately fits the bill of minimalist, or maybe better said miniaturist, as the piano pieces here, played by R. Andrew Lee, are reminiscent of Erik Satie. The selections for vibraphone, played by William Winant, are more resistant to easy comparison, at least for me; ultimately, they chart their own contemplative course. With excellent notes by Tim Rutherford-Johnson and “Blue” Gene Tyranny. A

Boduf Songs, Abyss Versions (Orindal) Mat Sweet from Southampton UK (and who is currently based in Toledo, OH) is the man behind Boduf Songs, a long-running endeavor (roughly 15 years) combining home recordings blending organic instrumentation and assorted electronic additives plus field recordings. He’s been described as an electroacoustic musician, an that’s not wrong, but Sweet is, per the name of the project, invested in songs, and he displays appealingly broad range across his seventh album. If the domain is the homestead, this isn’t a lo-fi thing, instead reminding me a bit at times of Mark Kozelek or Warn Defever crossed with Low (there is a Kranky connection). However, other parts cozy up to darkwave flirting with bedroom industrial, and the guitar playing is consistently sharp. A-

Gong Gong Gong, Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏 (Wharf Cat) Duo music in an approximate rock mode commonly features a drummer or some form of mechanical device in service of creating beats. This record is a striking exception in that its Beijing-based makers Tom Ng (born in Hong Kong) and Joshua Frank (born in Montreal but an intermittent resident of Beijing since he was a child) play guitar and bass respectively. Ng sings in his native tongue, which is described in the label PR as a defiant gesture (folks currently following world news should understand). However, don’t go thinking there’s an absence of rhythm here, as they work up robust post-punk grooves. They have wide-ranging influences (Bo Diddley, Cantonese opera, desert blues, drones and electronics) but a focused attack. Impressive for a debut. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Ethel Mae Bourque, Chansons de la campagne (Nouveau Electric) CDs and tapes are reviewed in this column, as the point of the endeavor is what’s newly available to buy in stores. However, it takes a special release on these formats to grab a weekly pick, and that’s the case with this CD from the label of Lost Bayou Rambler Louis Michot. Ethel Mae Bourque was a friend, mentor, and inspiration to the fiddler, with a large store of original songs and versions of Louisiana French nuggets at her command. These field recordings were made by documentarian Erik Charpentier in her kitchen in 2003-’04 (she passed in 2011) with occasional contributions from Michot and his brother David on guitar. It unwinds like a choice Lomax session but with heightened personal flavor. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Roots, Things Fall Apart (Geffen / UMe / Urban Legends) One of the best records of 1999 and a hip-hop cornerstone gets a deserving deluxe reissue here, spread across six sides of vinyl with sides five and six holding Questlove-curated bonus tracks. There’s also a 24-page booklet with essays from Black Thought and Questlove (who also delivers track-by-track liner notes) and photos. And that’s just the standard version. The collector’s edition offers the three LPs on clear vinyl with a die-cut slipcase with all five covers as interchangeable lithos, plus a bonus sixth cover and foil stamp numbering. And the music hasn’t gotten subsumed in the trappings, as this isn’t an attempt to gussy up a pretty good record but is rather a wholly fitting presentation for a masterpiece.

The Roots’ fourth full-length really drove home their organic reality as not just a crew or collective but as a band. That is, they were and remain an outfit utilizing live instrumentation. On their Wikipedia page, there is a quote crediting them as “hip-hop’s first legitimate band,” which strikes me as wrong. I mean, I don’t think Smokin’ Suckaz wit Logic was very good, but I wouldn’t call them illegit. I completely agree that The Roots are hip-hop’s first great, or maybe better said, the style’s first non-gimmicky band (I’ll add that Guru’s Jazzmatazz is accurately described as a project and a collab). But the thing (well, one thing) that makes Things Fall Apart outstanding is that it never loses its handle on hip-hop’s core essence. It simply deepens the genre’s possibilities rather than trying to be something else. A+

Bro David, Modern Music from Belize (Cultures of Soul) Even if I didn’t care for this record, which is the latest in this label’s reissues of global groove music, I’d probably hold onto a copy due to the sleeve, as it offers an illustration of a lion with a rather confused look on its face. Confused why, exactly? Because there is a person standing on its back with a globe in each hand. Bluntly, that’s the kind of thing I like to have around the house. But what’s nice is that I need not worry about keeping an LP that’s main interest is visual, as Modern Music from Belize is both an enjoyable listen and an insightful (and succinct) dip into the work of Bredda David Obi, who is a new global music discovery to me and I’m guessing to most folks reading this. It’s the dedication of this label that has brought this music into a brighter light.

This is not just a taste of Bro David, whose recording career began with No Fear in ’84, followed by Cungo Musik in ’87 and We No Wa No Kimba Ya in 1990, it’s an intro to the danceable pop of Belize, a Caribbean country often overlooked when focusing on the region’s music during this era. With this said, the seven tracks included here, which are taken from the three LPs above (all pricey in original form, so obviously folks beyond Culture of Soul’s operator Deano Sounds are hip to this stuff) isn’t a radical departure from the more well-known strains of the Caribbean; there’s a whole lot of reggae, in fact, plus a general vibe of positivity that never gets overbearing, in part because the record’s low-budget reality insures against slickness. Bro David called his synthesis kungo (or cungo) and it’s a treat. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Telepathic Band, Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 (577) The third album from this exceptional five-member NYC group is also the first half of what promises to be an absolute knockout. The Telepathic Band features Daniel Carter on saxophones, clarinet and trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on keyboard, Hilliard Greene on bass, and Federico Ughi on drums, and for this LP they took an improvised earlier recording session back into the studio and created a new thing in collaboration with producer Stelios Mihas, who also contributes guitar. While the four tracks on side two tangle with the finer side of ’70s fusion and robust astral jazz, it’s side one’s 19-minute dive into psychedelia that’s the real grabber here. The Telepathic Band and 577 Records are boundary breakers. A

Joel Paterson, Let It Be Guitar! Joel Patterson Plays The Beatles (Bloodshot) This one unabashedly throws back to an era when technically sharp instrumentalists could carve a livelihood by putting an adept and distinct stamp on their chosen material. To sharpen the description, Chicagoan Paterson’s influences include Les Paul and Chet Adkins as he blends jazz, exotica, blues, rockabilly, western swing and C&W with ease. That’s mucho range, and he’s not about showing off but instead making the right sounds. While the LP’s sleeve enhances the retro angle, the music hits just right (in fact more consistently than some of his influences), and only partly due to the solidity of the source material. Paterson tackles a few later Beatles tunes but seems to prefer the early stuff, and that’s fine with me. A-

somesurprises, S/T (Drawing Room) Seattle’s somesurprises began as the solo project of singer-songwriter Natasha El-Sergany but is now a full-on band. Although there are some cassettes in the discography, this is designated as the debut album, and it establishes El-Sergany as being substantially impacted by the sound of shoegaze. This is cool, and especially because the work transcends expectations (mine, anyway) for this sorta thing. To elaborate, a whole lot of recent shoegaze (neo-shoegaze, if you will), even when it’s (very) good, can be assessed as somewhat or largely formulaic. Not this record, the opening track of which doesn’t even gaze at any shoes at all. Instead, it offers a celestial retro futurist vibe that bookends nicely with the extended closing motorik burner “Cherry Sunshine.” A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Kristin Hersh, Crooked (Fire) Released in 2010, this was Hersh’s eighth full-length, making its vinyl debut here with a new sleeve design. There was a CD issued in ’10 (Fire has a CD out with fresh cover, as well), but Crooked was notably first issued as a book with digital download that included ample extra material; that stuff ain’t here, but that’s alright, as the core is represented, though interestingly with a new track sequence. “Mississippi Kite” opened matters in 2010, but now it’s the fourth track and side one’s closer. This is also alright. Hersh is a writer, and writers are prone to the need to revise. What hasn’t changed is the intensity of her work; I like her stuff in Throwing Muses but tend to love her in solo mode, where the power kick only increases. She’s weathered, but not beaten. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Sequoyah Murray, Before You Begin (Thrill Jockey) Murray emerged earlier this year with the 4-song “Penalties of Love,” and this long-player fully delivers on the promise of the EP (only one cut, the title track of the prior release, is featured on Before You Begin). Initially, there was talk of Arthur Russell, and with the presence of cello in “Blue Jays” and “Let’s Take the Time,’ that’s still a relevant point of observation, though much more pertinent is Murray’s blend of soul/ R&B/ hip-hop/ trap and experimentation spurred from the Atlanta free-improv scene. Yes, this experimental side can swing us back to the topic of Russell, but the approach is thoroughly contempo (but occasionally utilizing vintage gear). I also dig how Murray plays around with a croon that recalls ’80s UK synth pop a bit. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Osondi Owendi (Hive Mind) By the time he’d released this utter beauty of Nigerian highlife in 1984, Osadebe had already chalked up a multi-decade career, having initially made his mark in ’59 with the hit “Lagos Life Na So So Enjoyment.” In fact, this record was something of a strategic stylistic adjustment for Osadebe, made in reaction to the upsurge of rock and funk on the Nigerian scene. The bandleader slowed it down, stretched it out (the LP features two side-long tracks), smartly borrowed contemporizing aspects from the rock and funk styles that had momentarily displaced him at the forefront of Nigerian music, and then dubbed this revamping oyolima. For anyone who digs the highlife style, Osondi Owendi is an absolute necessity. A

Rain Parade, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (Real Gone) This 1983 debut, the only LP made by the band’s original lineup, is a cornerstone of Paisley Underground architecture, as crucial to understanding the breadth of that movement as the debuts from the Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, The Bangles, and the Three O’Clock (then called The Salvation Army). Featuring the brothers Stephen (bass) and David Roback (guitar, notably later of Mazzy Star), Matt Piucci (guitar), Eddie Kalwa (drums), and Will Glenn (multiple instruments), the band’s approach blended aspects of the L.A. scene (Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Love) with pop-angled psych (rooted in Nuggets and early Floyd rather than San Fran) to superb effect. If you’re into neo-psych and aren’t hip to Rain Parade, here’s an easy fix. A

Lee Hazlewood, 400 Miles from L.A. 1955-1956 (Light in the Attic) Discoveries of early, embryonic recordings by departed artists regularly reek of barrel-scrapings gussied up for completists and the manically obsessive, but these early home demo recordings of a youthful Hazlewood made in Phoenix, Arizona as he was attempting to infiltrate the music industry are insightful and a non-stop pleasure across four sides of vinyl (there’s also a deluxe bundle where the wax is gold and is accompanied with a silkscreen print, a travel journal, a shot glass and drink coasters). Lee is considerably less eccentric here, with the voice still deep and low but not as distinctively so as he later became. That’s alright. But much better than alright is the opportunity to hear Trouble is a Lonesome Town in early form. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. 

NEW RELEASE PICK: Fahmi Mursyid, One Instrument Sessions (One Instrument) Mursyid is a Bandung, Indonesia-based composer, sound designer and producer. The third vinyl installment in this label’s documentation of their modus operandi (which has a much larger bi-weekly digital presence on Soundcloud) underscores that Mursyid is also a player of distinction. The One Instrument label’s guidelines are that for each released composition the artist can use only one instrument, though there are additional parameters: yes to volume adjustments, compression, EQ, reverb, multilayering, multiple patches (but only of the same instrument), sequencing and editing, no to any effects besides reverb (meaning no delay or distortion) and no to sampling.

I say that Mursyid is solidly a player, as for each of this record’s six selections he engages with a different instrument, so folks worried over a possible lack of tonal variety (i.e. monotony) can rest easy. The half-dozen axes, all acoustic, are in order: the saron, the kendang, the piano (a Rösler model from the ’50s), the karinding, the bonang, and the pan flute. That’s a high ratio of choices associated with gamelan music. Indeed, Mursyid consciously selected instruments with a connection to the culture of the Sudanese, who are the second largest ethnic group in Indonesia. While some undeniable gamelan vibes do emerge as this tidy set (at 25 minutes) unwinds, more prevalent is the aura of experimentation, or perhaps better said, of consistently tapped-into possibilities. And that’s the point, y’know? A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Omara Portuondo, Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Omara Portuondo (World Circuit) At 70 years of age upon this record’s release in 2000, the great Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo, who’d received widespread exposure as part of Wim Wenders’ film Buena Vista Social Club and its soundtrack, delivered a set of impeccable performances in tandem with a band of unfailing brilliance including a full string section and guest spots from pianist Rubén González and singer Ibrahim Ferrer. She’s often called the Edith Piaf of Cuba, and as this recording plays it’s easy to understand the comparison; Portuondo achieves an essentially perfect balance of stateliness and deep feeling, all while exuding utter poise in the spotlight. On vinyl for the first-time, this is a life-affirming delight. A

Ali Farka Touré, Savane (World Circuit) Sometimes, a great artist’s final work falls a bit short of the heights of quality that established the artist’s rep. Depending on circumstances at the time of release, slack is often cut, and this is occasionally totally appropriate. However, there is no need for adjustments in assessment regarding Savane, which was released in July of 2006, four months after the death of the pioneering Malian desert blues guitarist. Part of why is that it’s a focused effort; Touré was suffering from cancer at the time of Savane’s making (cut on the top floor of the Hôtel Mandé and produced by Nick Gold), and along the way a statement of finality takes hold. But Savane’s enduring stature mainly derives from the playing and singing of Touré, as wonderful at the end of his life as it ever was before. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part Five

Part five of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for August, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Andrew Munsey, High Tide (Birdwatcher) Munsey is a drummer, composer, producer, and with the release of this often-superb quintet debut, solidly established as a jazz bandleader. His counterparts for the record are Steph Richards on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ochion Jewell on tenor saxophone and kalimba, Amino Belyamani on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Sam Minaie on double bass, and they cover broad territory across 11 compositions, all Munsey originals save for Stravinsky’s “Les Cinq Doigts: Lento,” while settling into a hearty zone that’s thoroughly “advanced” without tipping over into the avant-garde. However, assorted nudges; a blown line here, an abstract passage there, and numerous crescendos of intensity, do acknowledge jazz’s outside, and that’s cool.

There are more than a couple of spots where Richards reminds me of ’60s Don Cherry, which deepens the coolness considerably. But Munsey the composer clearly expands upon the structural jazz richness of the ’60s-’70s. I threw the quotes around advanced above in part because I was reminded of the “advanced bop” that Blue Note specialized in during the ’60s (this was also when Cherry recorded for the label). Belyamani on Rhodes brought forth thoughts of Corea, but on the straight keys my attention turned to Andrew Hill, though this is reinforced by the strength of Munsey’s composing. To his and the band’s credit, they aren’t shy over straight beauty moves, and we can all use some beauty in 2019. It’s out tomorrow digitally and on CD but also on double vinyl, so wax-loving fans of new jazz take note. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant: OST (50th Anniversary Edition) (Omnivore) Every season has its appropriate sounds, and as fall nears that’s mainly Halloween stuff, but due to its association with Thanksgiving, Alice’s Restaurant has become an autumnal standard. I’m talking about the original song/ album, but folks craving a fresh spin on Guthrie’s mammoth story-tune should look into this set on CD or 2LP. In my memory, Arthur Penn’s film of the tale, which starred Guthrie, wasn’t very good. This expanded byproduct of the movie is much better. The song is done numerous times, intermingled with bluegrass-tinged instrumental bits, a group-sung “Amazing Grace,” Pete Seeger, and Tigger Outlaw’s version of Joni’s “Song to Aging Children.” Not a mindblower, but very likeable. B+

Vince Guaraldi, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Craft) This wasn’t necessarily what I was referencing with the above mention of Halloween stuff, but you really can’t get more seasonal than this set, which is making its vinyl debut. That factoid might seem crazy, but please understand that the music totals all of 20 minutes; it’s all on side one, with an etching of Linus’ obsession on the flip. Also of note: it glows in the dark. While the iconic “Linus and Lucy” and “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” are here, most of the rest is quite short and even fragmentary. But hey, what these collected pieces might lack in fully developed flow they make up for in sheer joyous-jazzy ambiance. The aura is amiable, maybe too much so for some serious jazzbos, and includes fluting, which is no surprise as he was a West Coast guy. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for August, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Slumberland Singles Subscription Series |  These are the freshest two installments from this 30th anniversary project, copies of which will also be available in stores.

Wildhoney, “Naïve Castle” b/w “Kiss Me” Formerly from Baltimore and now on the West Coast, Wildhoney have dialed back their reported earlier shoegaze orientation a good bit. Well, on the A-side here, they’ve dialed it back a whole lot, as the tune is chiming Sundays-esque pop that could easily fit on mainstream radio except for the late boost of distortion that makes clear their ‘gazey sensibility hasn’t disappeared entirely. There’s also a roughly two-minute ambient kosmische finish that’s readymade for Hearts of Space. I like it, but, ahem, speaking of pop radio, I’m far more taken with a version of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” that reduces the original’s wispiness in favor of budget tech and an amply hazy finale. Avoiding the cutesy pop cover impulse, it completes a winning circular combination. A-

Smiles, “Gone for Good” b/w “This Boy” Smiles is a Bay Area proposition, though I agree with the assessment made in Slumberland’s PR notes that in its power-pop approach the 45 resonates like a byproduct of the Southeastern USA; that means Big Star, but I also hear their mention of Dwight Twilley. By extension, “Gone for Good” is destined to give adorers of the Teenage Fanclub a considerable thrill, so folks who fit that description should step right up to this platter whether or not they’re inclined to check out the entire subscription series. Barely breaking two minutes, the flip is not a gyp but is instead just the right dose of guitar-pop goodness, reinforcing this platter as in the lineage of 45s that’re bought for a buck and after played at home make you feel like you won the lottery. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: House Guests, My Mind Set Me Free (Shake It!) After working with James Brown, where they were called the Original JB’s, and prior to becoming part of Funkadelic as led by George Clinton, there was the House Guests, featuring brothers William “Bootsy” and Phelps “Catfish” Collins on bass and guitar respectively, Frank Waddy on drums, Clayton Gunnels on trumpet, and Robert McCollough on sax. The cut a couple of 45s in 1971 (one as House Guests Rated X), which are compiled on this set along with subsequent work from the groups Bootsy, Phelps & the Complete Strangers and Bootsy Phelps and Gary (as this group presaged Bootsy’s Rubber Band, I’m guessing the third named is Gary “Mudbone” Cooper).

From the opening title track complete with its lift from the Mission Impossible theme, this is as imaginative as it is funky, with the modest production values keeping things from getting too slick. The early stuff leans nearer to Brownian groove density, though “What So Never to Dance” has a celebratory atmosphere that will be great for late-summer parties. I don’t have recording notes handy (notably, this is the first time this stuff’s been legitimately reissued), but it seems to be following a roughly chronological progression, inching toward Funkadelic-style wildness along the way, and while “Be Right Back” had me momentarily worried that (as on many comps) the late stuff here was going to be of lesser interest, “Say Something Good” swings matters upward in a big way as the set rolls to a sweet finale. A-

V/A, Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth in Action Community Corporation Talent Hunt Winners (Big Crown) A reissue as enjoyable as it is historical. The ten songs here (plus a short introduction by Reverend Horace Tyler) are the byproduct of Youth in Action, Inc., a grant-funded community organization that achieved numerous goals including a musical talent contest. Having chosen a song to cover, with a focus on soul/R&B, the winning groups were subsequently backed in the studio by the Thrillers Band, who get to strut their stuff via instrumental theme song as faux crowd noise is mixed in to replicate the ambiance of the original performances. The subsequent cuts document a surfeit of skill in ’60s Bed-Stuy; in fact, I’d say this would fit quite nicely into a listening rotation of ’60s regional soul comps. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for August, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: loscil, Equivalents (Kranky) For his latest, Canadian composer Scott Morgan takes inspiration from a series of photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. The objects in the photos were clouds, but the subject of the series was abstraction, or better said a freeing of the photographed from direct interpretation. Morgan borrows the title of Stieglitz’s series for his 12th LP and its eight tracks, though they are sequenced out of order. If you’re new to the work of loscil, don’t get stuck in the clouds and draw a connection between ambient music and drifting, vaporous insubstantiality, as what Morgan has achieved here is often quite intense and in fact eschews expectations (clichés and stereotypes) over what ambient music sounds like. One could simply call it experimentation, abstract yet focused. Do it. A

Oh Sees, Face Stabber (Castle Face) When I first glimpsed the cover of these San Franciscans’ umpteenth full-length (this one a double), I immediately thought of Frank Frazetta. And it’s indeed credited as being a ’70s van airbrush of Frazetta’s “Swamp Demon.” Recognizing the artist was no great accomplishment on my part; I don’t know Frazetta’s work well, but it is highly distinctive, as anyone who’s seen it is likely to concur. I’m considerably more familiar with the Oh Sees’ steadily growing body of work. Their blend of heavy psych, Krautrock, experimental punk, and in a recent twist, organ-driven prog, is nearly as recognizable as ol’ Frank. And the mention of prog might seem to fit with the cover artist, but it’s never a hackneyed trip. Things even get a little funky. How am I feeling? Pretty fucking fine, my friend. A

Blanck Mass, Animated Violence Mild (Sacred Bones) When an artist I primarily know through another outfit or endeavor has a “solo electronic project,” I can get a little fidgety, mainly because the results can sometimes be, to put it charitably, less than stellar. My knowledge of Benjamin John Power comes via Fuck Buttons, though I’ve known of the existence of Blanck Mass for a while now and have indeed heard them/ him while watching Ben Wheatley’s drug film freakout A Field in England. That didn’t really prepare me for these large-scaled and highly danceable electronic tracks which often stretch out into cinematic territory, and more appropriately hit the emo-rush/ high-five-isms suitable as a soundtrack for live sports/ group catharsis. Well, except for the post-industrial aggro. Which is plentiful. A-

Prana Crafter / Tarotplane, Symbiose (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) As this label is hitting an impressive qualitative stride, here’s a very cool split album with one long track per side featuring two one-man acts. Prana Crafter is William Sol from the woodlands of Washington State and Tarotplane is PJ Dorsey from Baltimore. The stated objective was to platter up some complementary kosmische, and they’ve achieved this goal rather nicely through appreciable levels of edge, intensity, and of course drift and glide. And there is distinctiveness, with Prana Crafter’s “Jagged Mountain Melts at Dawn” sliding in all sorts of directions; a little San Fran, a smidge of Can, some Eastern burn, while Tarotplane’s “We Move Slowly Through the Past” connects in a big long stretch like Popul Vuh crossed with Pompeii-era Floyd. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for August, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: YUNGMORPHEUS and Fumitake Tamura, Mazal (Leaving) This hip-hop collab, with YUNGMORPHEUS the Los Angelino rapper and Tamura the Japanese-based producer, is distinguished by a persistent druggy aura. Bent and hazy, nothing here registers as fast (even the tracks with prominent jazz samples/ loops), which isn’t the same as a lack of urgency. YUNGMORPHEUS’ vocal delivery can be described as heavy-lidded, though I kinda prefer the descriptor of monotone; it contrasts productively with subject matter that touches on getting high but is just as concerned with the current nightmarish reality that is the USA and surviving as a black man within it. Mazal is dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s bleak. Its ten instrumental tracks add to its wonderfully twisted sum, and it’s all right up my alley. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Strangeloves, I Want Candy (Real Gone) Now this vinyl reish is very useful, as the only copies I’ve ever laid eyes on were badly battered and beaten, indeed essentially unplayable; this edition of 1,000 is sure to go quick. The Strangeloves are the story of music biz cats Richard Gottehrer, Jerry Goldstein, and Bob Feldman cravenly striving for hits and coming up with a few, most notably the title-track here, but also “Cara-Lin” and “Night-Time” (both included, as well). They also cut the original “Hang On Sloopy” (here, also) and were directly involved in the rerecording by The McCoys (that version is absent). One way to inaptly describe this LP is as authentic (they faked it as Australians, for one thing), but it is a fine dose of pre-Sgt. Pepper’s stoopid-doopid pop-rock. A-

Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock Sunday August 17, 1969 (Real Gone) Last week it was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s concise Woodstock set getting the vinyl treatment and the archival pick. This week it’s the Airplane’s comparatively sprawling (well, an hour and 40 minutes, anyway) Sunday morning set spread across three LPs and released in its entirety for the first time (only one tune was on the original 3LP), though I’m certain it’s also included on Rhino’s upcoming Woodstock box set, which totals 38 CDs, and purports to offer nearly every note played at the festival, even the shitty ones. There aren’t many, or in fact hardly any, shitty notes in the Airplane’s performance for the early morning risers; 7 a.m., it says. Nicky Hopkins even roused himself out of slumber (if ever he went to sleep) to join them.

However, the band was right on the cusp of releasing Volunteers, which isn’t my favorite album from the band. Not even close. Still, after an intro from Grace, they give Fred Neil’s “Other Side of This Life” a nice rocking out, which instills a positive forward motion that helps to offset a few of the weaker moments. There may have been hardly any bum notes, but there are peaks and valleys of quality throughout. Fortunately, there are more ups than downs (there’s also a little audio roughness early on). “Wooden Ships” starts out…well, it starts out like “Wooden Ships,” and then morphs into something special. After 21 minutes, it’s over. But really, this takes the morsel once provided of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock and with a snap and a bang turns it into a deluxe picnic-style spread. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for August, 2019. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Werner Durand with Amelia Cuni and Victor Meertens, Processions (besom presse) Here’s the first record, a double LP, from a new label based in Los Angeles that’s devoted to experimental sounds, with the focus, at least thus far, on the eternal drone (their second release is covered directly below). Durand is a composer, performer, and instrument-maker, his partner Cuni is a dhrupad singer, and Meertens is a visual artist, though he’s an instrumentalist here; specifically, he hammers a guitar (think dulcimer) on these four side-long tracks in just-intonation. Long passages are like the guitars of Sonic Youth in abstract/ outside mode mingling with the potent extendedness of La Monte Young. But Cuni’s voice and Durand’s horns instill substantial uniqueness to this stellar collab. A

David Watson and Tony Buck, Ask the Axes (besom presse) Buck is percussionist for Aussies The Necks, here joining experimental Highland Bagpiper Watson in a duo of striking intensity and distinctiveness. Like the above LP, it should bring drone lovers much joy. Watson begins the 22-minute A-side “Beating” with a deep bedrock tone and matters just gradually get thicker and richer from there. Rather than strive for elongated sounds himself, Buck’s contributions are recognizable as percussion, but often cyclical, which is as cool as kittens. It’s Buck’s snare that commences the 19-minute B-side “Exhale,” and I’m tempted to say he’s the dominant presence on the track, though Watson’s playing wiggles and hangs in the air quite beautifully. The conclusion is wonderful. This is quite the way to start a label. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Live at Woodstock (Craft) I don’t know about you, but when I think of Woodstock (which admittedly isn’t all that often, though as the festival nears its 50th birthday, it’s been entering my mind a bit more frequently of late) I don’t think of CCR. This general non-association is due to the band not being included in the film or on its soundtrack, by their (or we should clarify, John Fogerty’s) choice. But in fact, they were top billed on the fest’s Saturday night, though they didn’t hit the stage until after midnight due to the Grateful Dead playing an extra long set (of course they did). While the appearance of the group’s complete performance on 2LP, CD and digital isn’t a revelation, I, like nearly everybody else, am just getting to hear it all, and it’s a sweet earful.

What I have heard, is a LOT of CCR in my life; in fact, other than The Beatles, there may not be a band I’ve heard more. This is largely because they are (arguably, though I don’t know how many counter examples could be reasonably broached) the most adaptable of the classic rock acts. I like ‘em. Chances are good you like ‘em. And you, and you. Hippies like ‘em. Punks like ‘em, too. My Mom likes ‘em. Surely there are folks who don’t like ‘em, but that contingent doesn’t seem to be very vocal in their opposition. The thing that makes Live at Woodstock such an immediate treat is the fresh twists on songs that are branded into my (and likely your) memory banks, plus a few surprises, like “The Night Time is the Right Time” from Green River, and very productive stretch-outs of “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Suzie Q.” A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for July, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Rosenau & Sanborn, Bluebird (Psychic Hotline) When I first glanced at the artists’ name, my brain stirred thoughts of some neo-soft rock/ yacht rock duo, but Bluebird is pretty far from that. Pretty far? How about a few thousand yards, at least. This is Chris Rosenau of Collections of Colonies of Bees and Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso, and while I’ve not glimpsed any credits for this collab it’s safe to assume that the former plays guitar and the latter is responsible for the electronic component, which is substantial and varied. From the seed of live performance this studio recording, a casual affair, was born; one of the music’s real strongpoints is how the ambient background, including chirping birds and rain, was left in. Warm in the way The Books are warm, this is likely to be a grower. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Tubby Hayes Grits, Beans and Greens: The Lost Fontana Sessions (Decca / Universal Music Group) Edward Brian “Tubby” Hayes was probably the finest hard bop tenor saxophonist the UK produced, a player whose work could satisfy sticklers who hold Coltrane, Rollins, and Gordon in the highest of esteem and generally grouch or grudgingly acknowledge the worth of most everything else. This is not to infer that all Tubby is great Tubby, for until recently his supposed final studio recording, a highly mersh pop tunes-focused large band effort The Orchestra concluded his non-live discography with something of a whimper. That one came out in 1970. Hayes passed in 1973 at age 38 during a second open heart surgery, though he’d struggled with substance abuse, as well.

Cut in 1969 and due to The Orchestra’s poor sales shelved, forgotten, misplaced and even neglected once it was discovered that the tapes weren’t lost after all, this set is a sweet short cooker in its single LP/ CD configuration, featuring five tracks, and an absolute banquet for jazzbos in its deluxe 2CD edition, which expands to 18 selections and includes the alternate takes, the false starts, and the conversation in studio. Decca and UMG have made a number of smart decisions, like presenting the deluxe set in the order in which it was found on the tapes, getting Gearbox Studios involved in mastering the music for 180gm vinyl, and also making sure that all the tunes (three Hayes originals, two interpretations) are on the wax, so that non-obsessives get the root of the whole undertaking.

Actually, that’s not exactly true, as the initial three tracks on the 2CD, all takes of Cy Coleman’s “Where Am I Going?” from 5/27/69, feature a quartet of Hayes, bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer Spike Wells with guitarist Louis Stewart; for the rest, cut on  6/24 (making this a 50th anniversary set), pianist Mike Pyne replaces Stewart. This means the beginning of the deluxe gets closest to the greasy-dinner plate soul-jazz feel suggested by the release’s title, a composition by Hayes that kicked off the session with Pyne. However, leaving the group with Stewart (who plays exceptionally well) off the vinyl makes total sense, as it reflects the clear intentions for the LP. Highlights? The “Giant Steps”-like “Rumpus” and a reading of Duke Pearson’s “You Know I Care” that’s reminiscent of “Naima.” LP; A-/ 2CD; A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for July, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Chuck Cleaver, Send Aid (Shake It) Cleaver’s a Cincinnati guy whose been at it for a long time, first in the Ass Ponys and more recently in Wussy, an oft-terrific band he co-fronts with Lisa Walker, where they both play guitar and sing. The blurb for Send Aid informs that, after being at it for a few decades, this is Cleaver’s first solo record, and with Walker and Wussy’s Mark Messerly lending a hand, Send Aid isn’t exactly a radical departure. And yet: for those who know his prior work, the record is a distinct and refreshing affair, with his bandmate’s input fairly restrained (backing vox and mandolin for her, accordion for him) as a half-dozen others step into the studio to assist and Cleaver plays multiple instruments across a tidy ten tracks in under 30 minutes.

Back in the early ’90s I had this habit of haunting any joint that sold cheap used tapes, mainly so I could play them in my jalopy of the moment. Send Aid brought back this memory, in part because the non-polished, not-quite lo-fi quality of the recording, and the tunes of course, connect like an indie record from approximately ’92-’96. And the more I play this (and at 27:45 I can play it a whole fucking lot) I’m convinced that if it had come out during the era mentioned, and I’d grabbed a copy on tape, it would’ve stayed in the deck for weeks at a time. What else? Fine use of drumbox rhythms on a pop-rock and roots-inclined record. Even better use of jaw harp in the standout stomper “Children of the Corn,” in which the Stephen King reference goes deeper than the title and is doubly terrific. A total keeper. A

Lea Bertucci, Resonant Field (NNA Tapes) Bertucci’s bio describes her as a “NYC based sound artist and composer whose work bridges performance, installation, and multichannel activations of acoustic space.” I dig. For Resonant Field, she’s traveled upstate to the Marine A Grain Elevator at Silo City in Buffalo, with the intention of exploring the sonic possibilities of the cast concrete cylinders, which are approximately 18 feet wide and 130 feet tall. The range of what she’s captured is impressive, and she expands it even further by having Robbie Lee play Renaissance flute in the opening “Wind Piece” and James Ilgenfritz add bass to the other three tracks, plus there are drum samples (played by Tigue) in the title track. The avant-garde aura coupled with the environmental timbres and textures is superb. A

The Lewis Express, “Clap Your Hands” b/w “Stomp Your Feet” (ATA) Soulful-funky grooving is happening at the moment, and the ATA label of Leeds, England is a big reason why. We’re talking music by The Magnificent Tape Band, The Sorcerers, Tony Burkill and indeed, The four-piece Lewis Express. The combined success comes partly through organic instrumentation rendered live to tape, but range is also crucial; it’s a quality that’s present on this 45. The Lewis Express’ baseline is the ’60s piano-based groove jazz of Ramsey Lewis and the Young-Holt bands, but the a-side here mingles that with boogaloo to splendid effect. The flip is more straight-up, though handclaps remain. I love George Cooper’s electric piano, but everybody’s firing on all cylinders. If you want to live Mod in 2019, this is unbeatable. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for July, 2019.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Rachel Musson, Pat Thomas, Mark Sanders, Shifa – Live at Cafe Oto (577) The stream of 577 jazz vinyl continues with this absolute stunner from the UK-based trio of Musson (last heard on Federico Ughi’s excellent Transoceanico) on tenor and soprano sax, Thomas at the piano and Sanders behind the drum kit. The participants have played together before but not in this configuration, though there’s nary a trace of the tentative across the two free improvs. To the contrary, as the energy level gets way up there, deep into “Improvisation 1” Musson threatens to tear the roof off the sucker. Along the way, Thomas unfurls a bevy of angular clusters, board runs and rumbles that bring to mind Cecil Taylor and Matthew Shipp, but he’s so consistently good that comparisons are easy to forget.

Sanders sounds terrific throughout. Obviously due to those thoughts of Taylor, his playing led me to Andrew Cyrille and Rashied Bakr, and that’s swell. Musson really shines however, even deeper into “Improvisation 1” there’s a passage reminiscent of Peter Brötzmann (in trio with Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake Live at the Empty Bottle) that’s quickly followed by a cooler exchange with Thomas that’s briefly akin to mid-’60s Sam Rivers conversing with Paul Bley. The heat quickly gets turned back up, and it’s kinda like a “lost” LP cut by Cyrille, Dave Burrell and Frank Wright for BYG/Actuel. Actually, no; it’s just Musson, Thomas and Sanders at the top of their game. The opportunity to hear sax, piano and drums discoursing at such a level is special, indeed. LP includes download of the unedited “Improvisation 1.” A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Television Personalities, Some Kind of Happening – Singles 1978-1989 & Some Kind Of Trip – Singles 1990-1994 (Fire) My introduction to Dan Treacy’s Television Personalities came through the inclusion of “Part Time Punks” on Rough Trade’s majestic Wanna Buy a Bridge? compilation LP, which I scored secondhand not long after the ’90s got rolling. Now, you might be thinking that it’s fortunate my intro to this enduring outfit was culled from the group’s second single (that’d be the 4-song “Where’s Bill Grundy Now?” EP), and I totally agree, but I’ll add that it took me a couple of years to hear the whole thing (through an Overground Records repress) and even longer to catch up with their debut 45 “14th Floor” b/w “Oxford St., W.1.”

That’s just how it was in those days. While contemporarily it’s much easier for the ear to absorb an artist or band’s musical history with some semblance of promptness and order, it really helps when a label rounds up the material with consideration and quality, which is exactly what Fire has done here. The 2LP vinyl came out for RSD, with Happening adding a 7-inch (keep in mind that downloads complete the wax editions) but here are the CD bookbacks (everything is on the discs), and since both formats are still available, now’s a great time to enthuse over their considerable worth. Of course, this isn’t the complete TVP picture (as there are a bunch of killer LPs), but these collections do a wonderful job documenting the proto-DIY beginnings into twee psych-pop toward a bigger/ brighter/ bolder neo-psych sound. A/ A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for June, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Abdullah Ibrahim, The Balance (Gearbox) South African-born pianist Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, has been on the scene for decades, cutting his debut LP as part of the sextet the Jazz Epistles (alongside Hugh Masekela) in 1959. I’m not anywhere close to hearing all of his work, but my favorites would include his numerous early solo piano sets and an informal series of duos, including with Argentinian saxophonist Gato Barbieri, fellow South African bassist Johnny Dyani, and two with greats from the US scene, drummer Max Roach and saxophonist Archie Shepp. Ibrahim’s ’60s trio work has also struck my ear, and I recall liking his ’76 effort Banyana – Children of Africa with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Brooks, though it’s been a long time since I sat down with that one.

I’ll confess to being less familiar with his later stuff (’80s and forward), though I do enjoy his soundtracks for Chocolat and No Fear, No Die, the first two features by Claire Denis (a director born in Paris but raised in colonial French Africa). This is his first album in four years, and at age 84, Ibrahim’s prowess is still quite sharp. Indicative in the record’s title is a sort of heightened beauty through interconnectedness that never succumbs to insubstantiality, even as the opening track features Cleave Guyton Jr.’s flute and is titled “Dreamtime.” Adding weight throughout the album is Marshall McDonald baritone sax, especially in the meaty “Tuang Guru.” Andrae Murchison’s trombone is sweet, as well. The buoyant up-tempo “Jabula” is an immediate highlight, but everything goes down wonderfully. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Catherine Christer Hennix, The Deontic Miracle: Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku (Blank Forms Editions / Empty Editions) The discography/ bibliography of Swedish-American composer Catherine Christer Hennix is undergoing a considerable expansion. Noted as part of the NYC minimal drone avant-garde scene, for a long time the only place to hear her work (credited as C.C. Hennix) was on the recordings of Henry Flynt; she contributes tambura to C Tune, Purified By Fire and is co-billed as drummer on Dharma/Warriors. All three were released by Locust Music in the first decade of the 2000s, though the recordings date from 1980-’83. However, in 2010 the Die Schachtel label released the CD/ book The Electric Harpsichord. It was, as they say, revelatory.

Recorded in 1976, The Electric Harpsichord is dedicated to the memory of Ṥṛi Faquir Pandit Pran Nath (who passed in 1990) and includes poems by La Monte Young and a liner enthusiasm from Glenn Branca. This should provide a few clues from where Hennix’s vast thing derives. The music on this release, two long tracks, each divided in two across four sides of vinyl and totaling nearly an hour and 25 minutes, also dates from ’76 and was created by her group The Deontic Miracle, a trio of Hennix, her brother Peter and Hans Isgren. Based on the concept of just intonation, fans of the Theater of Eternal Music should consider this a must. It follows Blank Editions release last year of Hennix’s Selected Early Keyboard Works (also dating from ’76) as two books of her writings are on the horizon. Outstanding. A+

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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