Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 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 June, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Kongo Dia Ntotila, 360° (Pussyfoot) BBC DJ and noted rocker Tom Robinson has praised this Kongo-Jazz group as being “…as good as anything you get coming out of Africa…” Absorbing their second LP, it’s easy to understand his (and others) enthusiasm, and by the finale, I’m won over myself. However, it should be noted that Kongo Dia Ntotila have honed their thing to an audience-thrilling precision; this is music custom-built for outdoor shows in the sunshine. That they have done this without weakening the music’s power by becoming too calculated (or too “tight”) is borderline remarkable. Instead, there are a series of instrumental surprises, like the deft guitars in “Mbongo” and the free jazz horn flirtations in the title track. Miraculously, this baby finishes the trip with a full tank. A

SPAZA, S/T (Mushroom Hour Half Hour) SPAZA is a band with no fixed personnel brought together by the label. As their first release, it features a half-dozen musicians (for the closing track “Stametta Spuit: Invocations,” seven) from Johannesburg, South Africa. The band’s name derives from the makeshift neighborhood stores common to the region, and also from the gallery where this album was recorded live in one take, with the music completely improvised. If the circumstances of creation insinuate a lack of focus, wipe those notions away right quick. Rhythm is a constant, though the record is as vocally driven (often with contempo enhancements) as it is groove-based. Additionally, synths, electronics, and FX blend with upright bass, trombone and electric violin (again, with FX). Altogether, this is a stunner. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Jambú e Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia (Analog Africa) Loaded with inventively rhythmic selections from Northern Brazil in the ’70s and the city of Belém in particular, this offers two LPs worth of goodness unlikely to have been previously heard by all but the most diligent of sound excavators. A big reason for the success here derives from variety thwarting monotony, which is a credit to compilers Samy Ben Redjeb and Carlos Xavier but is more deeply linked to Belém’s reality as a port city; as people of assorted nationalities arrived, they brought the sounds of their home regions with them (this is the nature of the port situation; think New Orleans), which then combined with Belém’s already considerable diversity. Of the 19 tracks, not a single one disappoints. That’s impressive. A

Band Apart, S/T (Crammed Discs) For those looking to procure as much No Wave and scene-adjacent material as possible, this reissue is a must, and the quality is consistently high that pickier consumers with an interest in the style should also give it some serious consideration. It features the entirety of this Franco-American duo’s debut 1983 EP and five tracks from the follow-up full-length (on the vinyl; the CD and digital offer two additional tracks). What NYC poet and performance artist Jayne Bliss and Marseille-based musician and producer M Mader came up with was very much of its time, but it has aged surprisingly well, which is no small feat given how they lean toward the sophisto (rather than the disruptive) end of the subterranean ’80s spectrum. Originally issued on Crammed, and so it remains. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 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 June, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble, Where Future Unfolds (International Anthem) This live recording from Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory, undertaken last November 15, features a striking ensemble of six alumni from the Chicago Children’s Choir as one element in a cross-pollination of “gospel, jazz, activism & 808 breaks.” Last week’s new release pick, the Membranes’ What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away, also featured a choir, though the effect here is markedly different, with Locks’ guiding his work into territory that can be succinctly described as extending the tradition of “Great Black Music Ancient To Future” (a Chicago thing), though the label mentions Phil Cohran (also Chicago), Eddie Gale, Shepp’s Attica Blues and even Public Enemy. An emphatic yes to all. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Buzzcocks, Singles Going Steady & A Different Kind of Tension (Domino) It has occurred to me, and perhaps the notion has crossed your mind as well, that the pop-punk style has been long debased. This has to do with an ever-narrowing set of permissible but ill-advised choices made by pop-punkers producing results akin to what lands in the incubators when inbreeding is rampant. It’s an unpleasant thing to see and hear. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, before hardcore, a sizable percentage of punk was catchy; it’s just that it was frequently played so fast that fogies couldn’t comprehend or handle it. This is one reason why the 45rpm single is the perfect vessel for punk action, as the 7-inch has also effectively served other forms of undiluted sonic genre gusto.

Buzzcocks are often considered the kings of merged pop melodicism and punk energy, partly because of a run of singles that stands as worthy as the output of any likeminded band of the era. Singles Going Steady corrals eight of them, the A-sides on side one and the flips on the other, and even if it lacks my favorite Buzzcocks 45 (that would be their self-released first one “Spiral Scratch,” with Howard Devoto still in the band) it stands as basically flawless and absolutely essential. I’d say that all the LPs from Buzzcocks 2.0, as Jon Savage calls them in his nifty liners for A Different Kind of Tension (Clinton Heylin handles Steady) are indispensable also, though that’s not to say they’re perfect; ’79’s Tension, their third album, certainly isn’t, but it still has the songs, and side two’s attempts to stretch out are a blast. A+/ A-

Hank Williams, The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings (BMG) This set, which marks the first time these eight transcriptions of Williams’ short-lived radio program of 1949 have been released on vinyl (it’s also on 2CD), is pretty clearly intended for heavy-duty aficionados of Hank, but I’m just gonna say that even with a lot of repetition (like the “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” theme and fiddler Jerry Rivers’ “Sally Goodin” outro), when taken a side at a time this is still a good pickup for more casual fans, as it’s more than solid. This is to say, the man is in fine form, Miss Audrey’s contributions hinder matters not a bit, and the same goes for the gospel numbers. Plus, Rivers’ turns in the spotlight, if truncated to fit into a 12-minute program time, are terrific. Overall, it’s a fascinating immersion into an era long gone. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

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

NEW RELEASE PICK: The Membranes, What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away (Cherry Red) Springing to life in the late ’70s UK, the Membranes became something of a fixture in the ’80s u-ground scene as post-punk agitators who refused to settle down and smooth things out. They reformed in 2009 for live shows and eventually released the well-received Dark Matter/Dark Energy in 2015, followed by that album remixed as Inner Space/Outer Space the next year. Cherry Red released the 5CD Everyone’s Going Triple Bad Acid, Yeah! (The Complete Membranes 1980 – 1993), one of this writer’s Best box sets picks for 2017, and now the same label is releasing the band’s new music, a 72-minute whole that defies all expectations for what’s likely to be frustratingly categorized as just another “reunion” record.

As founder John Robb is here, alongside Nick Brown who joined in ’82, to call the Membranes reunited isn’t wrong; Peter Byrchmore and Rob Haynes, who entered for the ’09 performances, remain. While a comeback noted as much better than the norm, even more unusual in their current equation is how What Nature Gives… is the group’s most ambitious and expansive release. And I’m not just talking about length, as Dark Matter/Dark Energy reached 68 minutes. No, it’s that half of these 16 cuts utilize the BIMM choir (conducted by Claire Pilling). More importantly, the choir’s addition works as it justifies the comparison to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Sure, spots here settle down to typical aggro, but they are surprisingly few. Shirley Collins and Kirk Brannon (of Theater of Hate) are amongst the guests. Oy! A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit, April is the cruellest month (Blank Forms Editions) Chicago the band are responsible for a higher than usual percentage of used-bin cluttering shit, but their debut as Chicago Transit Authority has its moments. One of them, “Free Form Guitar,” ripped a hole in the known universe of Japanese guitarist Takayanagi, leading him to renounce the inside jazz scene where he had built a sizable reputation and head for the outer regions of free jazz (a cited contemporary is guitar monster Sonny Sharrock and countryman saxophonist Kaoru Abe, with whom Takayanagi played), free improvisation (another peer is sui generis Brit string-wrangler Derek Bailey), and noise (Blank Forms states Takayanagi paved the way for Keiji Haino and Otomo Yoshihide).

Had this been released as planned by ESP-Disk in ’75, Takayanagi’s influence in the years after would’ve surely spread beyond Japan; issued on CD by Jinya Disk in ’91, the man’s formidable heft eventually did have a global (u-ground) impact. Featuring two cuts on side one and the 20-minute “My Friend, Blood Shaking My Heart” on the flip, the record begins in wild abstract territory (Kengi Mori starting out on flute and progressing to bass clarinet, action rightly pegged as Dolphy-esque) and culminates in the utter freakout zone. Likened by the label to Coltrane’s The Olatunji Concert, Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun, and Dave Burrell’s Echo, April is notable for having the smallest band, completed by Nobuyoshi Ino (bass and cello) and Hiroshi Yamazaki (percussion). Takayanagi really ratchets up the mayhem, natch. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 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 May, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Emily A. Sprague, Water Memory / Mount Vision (RVNG Intl.) Sprague was born in the Catskills but currently resides in Los Angeles, and maybe I’m just succumbing to possible stereotypes relating to ambient synth-based sound design of this style (we’re not far from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith territory), but the work offered here seems a perfect byproduct of the US West Coast. This 2LP collects two prior cassettes self-released in small editions by Sprague, and it adds previously unheard tracks to each, so even if you have the tapes, there is reason to invest in a copy of this set; the edition of 200 with ocean blue and mountain green LPs is sold out, but the 800-copy flat black run is still available, as are CDs. Also, a portion of the proceeds benefits the LGBTQ center in Kingston, NY.

The first 300 mail order customers will receive Ambient Poems (2017 – 2018), a Risograph-printed booklet of Emily’s poetry. However, if you’re late to the game or just pick up a copy of the release at your local brick and mortar, Sprague’s writing still enters the equation, as both Water Memory and Mount Vision begin with a short poem; make that short, appealing poems recited by the author. They provide just enough of a taste to instill the desire to read more of her stuff, as the records shift focus to her music, which stands up wholly on its own (notably, neither poem was part of the original tapes). It’s not that further word-sound combos wouldn’t be of interest, it just that doing so here would (seemingly) diminish the music’s standalone power. Which is considerable. This is very fine work. A-

Causa Sui, Summer Sessions Vols. 1-3 (El Paraiso) These early LPs by this Danish space-rock/ stoner outfit are available together as a slipcase boxset, but only directly from the label and in an edition of 200. Importantly, the albums are also purchasable separately in stores and from online retailers, with numbers totaling 750 each. Initially released separately in 2008-’09 (on wax and CD) by the Elektrohasch Schallplattenin label, it appears they corralled the contents into a vinyl box in 2010 and again in ‘13, but it’s pretty clear that non-used copies of those are scarce, and of course the original standalone vinyl. At the onset, the Summer Sessions were intended as a side-project of sorts for Causa Sui, and more specifically a way to branch out stylistically, with inroads established into free jazz, Krautrock and more.

The branching is handled well, with guest saxman Johan Riedenlow blowing hard on Vol. 2’s “Rip Tide” as the electric piano and extensive guitar soloing bring a non-lame fusion flavor to the track that follows, “The Open Road,” which also features Riedenlow (he’s all over all three LPs, in fact). But Causa Sui also like to stretch out, doing so right away on side one of Vol. 1 with the appropriately temperate “Visions of Summer,” though the cut does offer some organ grinding that put me in a decidedly prog state of mind. Although “The Open Road” breaks 14 minutes, Vol. 2 drops the side-long number “Tropic of Capricorn” on side two, and fans of unhackneyed rock heaviness are unlikely to be disappointed. The multipart “Manifestations Of Summer” wraps up Vol. 3 on a nicely expansive note. A-/ A-/ A- Box A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 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 May, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

BOOK PICK: Rachel Alina, Ashley Smestad Vélez and Birdie Busch, Locals // If You Swim Far Enough (Styles Upon Styles) Locals is a collaborative illustrated chapbook of narratively linked poems; the words are Alina’s, the black & white drawings rendered by Vélez, and it’s a treat of a quick read detailing the author’s youth/ early adulthood in and around her hometown of Ocean City, NJ and her loose apprenticeship as a recording engineer at Scullville Studios (she has subsequently mixed numerous releases on Styles Upon Styles). Alina’s poetry is vivid but direct, effectively relating her experiences, while Vélez’s illustrations, which remind me a bit (but just a bit) of R. Pettibon, enhance the poems (and the storyline of sorts) by expanding upon elements of the text in occasionally unexpected ways.

That is, Vélez is a fine illustrator and a little more. And as said, Locals worked for me as a fast read, but it doesn’t have to be that, and it’s the hope of Alina and the label that buyers will accompany these poems with Birdie Busch’s If You Swim Far Enough, a digital-only release (free with purchase of the book) described as Locals’ companion album (Alina and Busch struck up a friendship through Scullville). I can attest that combining text, drawings and songs is in this case a productive blend, but I’ll add that after a handful of standalone spins, Busch’s nine cuts (totaling a little over 25 minutes) stand up well on their own. Her sound hits the folk target right in the bullseye with no-nonsense verve that should please young and old alike. This strengthens an already sturdy fit with Alina’s words. A-/ A-

NEW RELEASE PICK: Luka Productions, Falaw (Sahel Sounds) Based in Bamako, Mali, Luka Guindo is Luka Productions, and this is his third full-length. Succinctly described as a leading producer in Malian hip-hop, Guindo has employed a highly productive approach in his own work by combining the tech-infused sound of the now with traditional Malian musics. His records feature organic instrumentation including ngoni, djembe, kora, and balafon. Falaw is no different, though it’s distinct in flavor from his prior effort, the “New Age” (Craig Leon-influenced) Fasokan; what’s clear is that Guindo’s creative engine is nowhere close to running low on gas. Falaw is loaded with diversity as it rolls, and if somebody cooked up a 25-minute extended 12-inch remix of “Indienfoli” I’d buy five copies. A-

Spiral Wave Nomads, S/T (Twin Lakes / Feeding Tube) It seems like only yesterday that I made the acquaintance of More Klementines, a psychedelically robust trio featuring drummer and Twin Lakes co-founder Michael Kiefer; that band’s self-titled debut, like this one, was a co-release with Feeding Tube. Spiral Wave Nomads are the duo of Kiefer, who’s also played in Myty Konkeror, Rivener, and No Line North, and Eric Hardiman of Burnt Hills and Century Plants. While Kiefer’s attention remains focused on the drums, Hardiman plays bass, sitar, and double tracks his main instrument, the guitar. This lends the record a full-band feel that’s lacking the unfocused spillage that can result from too many hands. This set is rock-edged but outbound (of course) and not too heavy. It’s never cheesy, not even the sitar. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 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 May, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Aseethe, Throes (Thrill Jockey) Here’s the third full-length from this Iowa-based doom metal trio; they have a relationship with drone that’s sturdy but still strikes me as mostly implicit (the big exception is “Suffocating Burden”); this is just fine to my ear. If an undercurrent rather than a mainstream, the drone works because Aseethe like to stretch out, and their stuff hangs in the air as much as it thuds. Aseethe also have a new member in bassist-vocalist Noah Koester, who’s largely responsible for the record’s anti-fascist and anti-greedmonger lyrical bent. I’ll confess that when vocal cords get this guttural, I essentially engage at the level of pure texture instead of striving to parse what’s actually being said, which is often not really worth the trouble. It’s nice to know this is an exception. A-

Doomstress, Sleep Among the Dead (Ripple / DHU) This Houston, TX-based four-piece released a 7-inch in 2016 and followed it up the next year with one side of a split LP with the band Sparrowmilk; this is their proper full-length debut, and I’m digging it quite a bit, in large part because they fortify a solid doom foundation with an approach to songwriting that hits my ear as fairly distinctive as it radiates classic vibes (notably, they dished a B-side version of Coven’s “Wicked Woman” on that first 7-inch). The consistently appealing vocals of Doomstress Alexis (who also plays a sturdy bass) initially hooked me, reminding me at times of Heart’s Nancy Wilson but in a thoroughly metallic context (getting a little operatic at times a la Ronnie James), but it was the quality of the songs that sealed the deal. A-

Full of Hell, Weeping Choir (Relapse) Folks who are bonkers over the whole extreme metal scene are likely already hip to Full of Hell, but this is my introduction, in part because I consider Relapse to be a signifier of quality; this is their first for the label. Full of Hell hail from Ocean City, MD, a once and current “tourist destination” where folks in some proximity of adulthood commonly passed out in bathtubs (or yes, on the beach) after too many National Bohemians. As it’s title should make clear, Weeping Choir isn’t music for swimming and suds but grindcore mingled with power electronics; they have prior collabs with Merzbow and The Body. At nearly 25 minutes, this is just the right amount of textured pummel. It looks like I’ll be spending some time investigating Full of Hell’s back catalog. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Joe McPhee, Nation Time (Superior Viaduct) Part of the ’70s jazz corrective was impressing on folks that the urge to get funky didn’t automatically equate to Bob fucking James. This live LP originally released on CjR in ’71 but basically a very well-kept secret until it was reissued as the inaugural CD in Atavistic’s out-jazz-focused Unheard Music Series in 2000, offers a splendid example of what I’ll call groove searching; the label mentions a potent blend of James Brown and Archie Shepp, and that succinctly describes “Shakey Jake.” McPhee remains one of our enduring free-jazz explorers. This was his second record on a label designed specifically to document his artistry (‘twas also initially the case with Hat Hut). It’s a crucial document available on wax for the first time in forever. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 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 May, 2019. Part one is here.

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Wes Montgomery, Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings (Resonance) This and the Evans set below are the latest gems from this indefatigable reissue/archival enterprise; both were offered as 2LP sets in April for Record Store Day, and I’m guessing copies are still around, though the 2CD editions are also available now, so if you can’t locate (or don’t want to pay an inflated price) for the wax, the high quality digipaks with booklets are a sensible alternative. And this Montgomery collection, the recordings of which derive from the guitarist’s hometown of Indianapolis sometime in the second half of the ’50s (predating his stellar debut for Riverside), is described as a find with no hyperbole; anyone interested in post-bop jazz guitar will want to check it out.

The emergence of these privately taped studio recordings is directly related to Resonance’s earlier Echoes of Indiana Avenue collection; when that set came out in 2012 the recordings’ origins were a mystery. Now, through the “jazz detective” work of Zev Feldman, we know the answer. Don’t expect Van Gelder-levels of audio richness, but it all sounds fine, offering Wes in a variety of ensemble settings, my faves being the piano quartet that opens disc one and the Nat Cole-styled trio (meaning no drums) featured on disc two. The organ trio grabs me the least, though it’s still quite appealing and leads into a nifty sextet with sax and ‘bone. Knowledgeable ears suggest the additional musicians include organist Melvin Rhyne, pianists John Bunch and Carl Perkins, Wes’ brothers and more. A consistent treat. A

Bill Evans, Evans in England (Resonance) Resonance’s release history with Montgomery is considerable, with Back on Indiana Avenue the fourth collection the label has devoted to the artist. With Evans in England, there is now an equal number of releases in the catalog featuring this pivotal modern jazz pianist, all of them spotlighting his work in the trio format. The first, Bill Evans Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate, came out in 2012 and featured live work from ’68 by the threesome of Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Marty Morell. The next two, 2016’s Some Other Time and the following year’s Another Time, shifted to uncover material from Evans’ short-lived group from earlier in ’68 featuring Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

Short-lived and essentially unheard, so it might seem that this return to Gomez and Morell, a lineup which lasted for seven years and became Evans’ most enduring group, is a comparatively less alluring proposition. But as this two-disc set offers performance material from December of 1969 at the club Ronnie Scott’s, the trio’s rapport by this point well-established and allowing for the flights of individual expression that Evans’ required, any assumptions that Evans in England is somehow second-rate are ill-founded. Although captured surreptitiously on a small portable machine by an avid fan, the sound is clean and vibrant (helping matters is that by this point audiences clearly came to Evans gigs for the music) and the sequencing (lacking in any repeat versions) supports maximum listenability. Splendid. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 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 May, 2019. 

BOOK PICKS: Gillian G. Gaar, World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story (BMG) This item and its counterpart below came out late last year as the initial two entries in the BMG imprint’s RPM series, which in a nutshell is shooting to do for notable record labels what Continuum’s 33 1/3 series has done for individual albums. The comparison isn’t a tidy as all that, as these books are bigger and info-loaded as well as perspective-driven; it’s unlikely folks will be finishing either in a day or two. I obviously didn’t. Gaar’s volume tackles a tale that I witnessed unwind, at least partially as an indie rock fan from my vantage point on the east coast, and I was a little worried that it was going to handle the subject unsatisfactorily, either through a lack of new info or by overemphasizing certain aspects of the saga.

I needn’t have worried. Gaar takes a good long time setting up the underground background of the label and she does a nice job illuminating the differing personalities of Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, and doesn’t shy away from the fact that they nearly imploded the label before Nirvana broke big; ‘twas Grunge that yanked them from the jaws of bankruptcy. In a sense, the heroes of this story are Rich Jensen (whose accounting and basic discipline served as an anchor after the Kurt & co. cash came rolling in) and Megan Jasper (who righted the ship after the inevitable grunge backlash and Pavitt’s exit). Sub Pop’s ultimate success story (tapping into ’00s indie) isn’t exactly a mystery, so Gaar expands the tale to include how the label smartly navigated the sweeping changes in the industry from the ’90s forward. A-

Randy Fox, Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story (BMG) Fox does something similar with his spotlight on one of the great mid-20th century indie labels (which includes the persevering Nashboro gospel label), detailing its extensive long-term success in the mail order business through label owner Ernie Young’s “Ernie’s Record Mart.” Many sensibly think of Excello in relation to the swamp blues of Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, and of course Slim Harpo, but the label cut a ton of R&B throughout the ’50s, and when they didn’t score hits, those records reliably “sold through” via placement in package deals that customers could purchase through the mail. The records reached all the way to the UK, which is part of the reason why Slim Harpo had such an impact on the burgeoning Brit blues-rock and Beat scene.

As the story progresses, Ernie Young is depicted as a businessman and a record producer by necessity, but also as something of a rarity in the music biz, a fundamentally decent guy (in marked contrast to his New Orleans connection Jay Miller, who is revealed as sort of a shithead and definitely a bigot); really, the worst you could say about Young was that he drove a hard bargain (maybe sometimes a little too hard), but here’s the thing; EVERYBODY GOT PAID. This includes royalties. I’m going to guess that as the RPM series (hopefully) continues, unpaid royalties will be a not-uncommon thread in the individual stories. Another part of Fox’s scheme that’s such a treat is how much time he gives to specific recordings in a way that had me stopping to listen, even to tracks I already knew well. This is a special thing. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

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

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—in shops for Record Store Day this Saturday, April 13, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Elkhorn, Sun Cycle & Elk Jam (Feeding Tube) Elkhorn is the guitar duo of Drew Gardner on Fender Telecaster and Jesse Sheppard on 12-string acoustic; they have three prior releases out, starting with their self-titled 2016 effort on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and now here’s two more, released simultaneously but separately via one of the current scene’s best (and most prolific) small labels. If you’re excited for some electric-acoustic duo interplay, that’s exactly what you’ll get on Elkhorn’s prior records, but here they are joined by Willie Lane on third guitar and Ryan Jewell on drums and tabla, the impulse to add players first documented last November on CDR (in an edition of 50 and still available digitally). The presence of supplementary hands is felt here, but especially so on Elk Jam.

On Sun Cycle, the duo interplay is still very much discernible, with Sheppard coming from an American Primitive place and Gardner exploring lysergic plains reminiscent at times of raga rock and unsurprisingly ’60s San Fran. Gardner’s background in avant-jazz (having played with John Tchicai and Sabir Mateen) combines well with Sheppard’s dexterous fingerpicking to ensure that the outward-bound travels never meander or for that matter simply spin wheels while navigating out of a psychedelic rut. The lack of vocals is also a major plus. The Bay Area vibe is particularly strong on Elk Jam, with the title of the LP inspiring thoughts of Elkhorn releasing it as a free album a la Moby Grape’s Grape Jam. They didn’t, but I can’t imagine psych fans being the slightest bit disappointed after dropping cash for both of these. A/ A

Reese McHenry, No Dados (Suah Sounds) Lovers of gal-throated hard-edged garage-based belting should step right up to this one. Chapel Hill, NC-based McHenry’s second album after prior experience with the Dirty Little Healers delivers a powerful kick, but it’s also an inspirational story, as it documents McHenry’s return to the musical path after being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and suffering a near-fatal stroke (followed by a series of smaller ones). It was a tough road back, but Bad Girl, cut with backing from Spider Bags, solidified her return, and No Dados extends the positive trajectory. Her band this time is out is Raleigh’s Drag Sounds, who tear it up like experts, but it’s McHenry’s show all the way; compared to Janis J., contempos Shilpa Ray and Neko Case also came to mind, and that’s wonderful. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Griot Galaxy, Kins (Third Man) This gleaming nugget of underheard jazz history intertwines some sturdy threads. They feature a three-sax lineup of Faruq Z. Bey (tenor and alto), Anthony Holland (alto and soprano), and David McMurray (all three), this configuration bringing the World Saxophone Quartet to mind. But with bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Tani Tabbal on hand, there are aspects reinforcing the influence of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra. Additionally, they dish some killer post-Ornette free-bop, and as Shahid plays electric as well as acoustic bass, unusually appealing jazz funk. If you’re thinking Kins is all over the place stylistically, no. If the seed of Afrofuturism is planted in your mind, that’s a most emphatic yes. Altogether delightful. A

Cheap Trick The Epic Archive Vol. 3 (1984-1992) (Real Gone) I’m gonna make it plain. The music collected here is not the music I think of when I think of Cheap Trick, and I do think of them, if not daily, then with some regularity, for when they were on top of their game, they were a great fucking band. This is not to say that some of this doesn’t jog the memory banks. Of course, “The Flame” does (I’d rather it didn’t, though it’s not a bad song), and so does their association with Up the Creek, a 1984 raunch comedy, essentially a pale imitation of Animal House. I recall Cheap Trick’s theme song being the best thing about it (I mean I guess so; it’s been a while). Overall, this is a mixed bag of ups (they seem to be having a good time) and downs (a few songs are near dud-like). Kinda like life in general. B

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

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

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—in shops for Record Store Day this Saturday, April 13, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Inter Arma, Sulphur English (Relapse) Mountain Goat John Darnielle penned a short bio for this Richmond, VA-based doom-sludge-progressive metal unit’s fourth album. It’s an utterly adoring text, which is cool, as I very much enjoy when musicians enthuse over the productivity of their contemporaries, especially when those gestures span across genres (though indie singer-songwriter Darnielle has been long-noted as a major metalhead). With this said, I normally take these appreciations with a grain or two of salt. The difference here is that I was pretty much knocked sideways by the expansive heaviness of Inter Arma’s prior album, 2016’s Paradise Gallows, and was wondering how they’d follow it up. At just short of 67 minutes, this one’s nearly as long and just as accomplished. A

Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story, Lunz 3 (Grönland) Roedelius is noted, amongst other achievements, for co-founding the Krautrock-kosmische staples Harmonia and Cluster. Story is a veteran ambient composer who made a considerable impact on the ’80s New Age scene via recordings through Windham Hill and Hearts of Space. The first meeting of these figures took place in the Austrian city of Lunz, with their ongoing collaboration named after the locale. Lunz 3 means this is the pair’s third recording. I haven’t heard the others, but based on what’s here, some backtracking is in my future. In terms of their individual discographies, I’m more in Roedelius’ camp, but the prettiness I associate with Story’s work integrates well in this context, and along the way there are all sorts of surprises. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Art Ensemble of Chicago, The Spiritual (ORG Music) Like Tutankhamun (which ORG reissued earlier this year), this was cut during the Art Ensemble’s early and highly fertile days in Paris, where they solidified as a group (in terms of sound and under the name AEoC) prior to the addition of drummer-percussionist Don Moye, who joined in 1970 (the year after The Spiritual was recorded). No Moye doesn’t mean a lack of percussion however, as everyone contributes on that front. Yes, this LP is an experience in abstraction, but it’s also strikingly cohesive (and disciplined) in its desire to re-inhabit the pre-swing/ bebop New Orleans spirit of jazz collectivity while getting at something unmistakably new and at times thrillingly theatrical. After 50 years this still challenges and rewards. A

Cecil Taylor, The Great Paris Concert (ORG Music) Recorded in November of 1966 but not released until 1973 by BYG as Student Studies (the ’77 edition by Freedom carried the title used here; reissues have alternated since), this features Taylor with alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, bassist Alan Silva, and drummer Andrew Cyrille; essentially the band on Conquistador! (which was recorded for Blue Note less than two months prior) minus trumpeter Bill Dixon and second bassist Henry Grimes. Notably, everyone here also played on Unit Structures (cut in May of ’66) so it suffices to say the band knows the complexities of Taylor’s music well (Lyons had been with him since ’61). Crucially, they add their own strains of individualism. For those just getting into Taylor, this one is essential. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for April 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 April, 2019. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Viking Moses, Cruel Child (Epifo) I’ve long known Viking Moses, which is the performance moniker/ band name of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brendon Massei, through his track on The Golden Apples of the Sun, a 2004 various artists CD compiled by Davendra Banhart for the Bastet imprint of the free magazine Arthur. I love that release, but Viking Moses is one of the handful of contributors who I never made a deeper acquaintance with…until now. Where Golden Apples was a vessel of freak folk and shades of New Weird activity (the Viking Moses track was submerged smack dab in it like a celery stalk in a bowl of organic peanut butter), Cruel Child reminds me more of Bill Callahan but with some cool twists, like the poppy “Headstrong.” Pretty terrific, overall. A-

Lee Fields & the Expressions, It Rains Love (Big Crown) The fifth release by Lee Fields & the Expressions and the second for Big Crown doesn’t disappoint. Like 2017’s fantastic Special Night, it benefits from the production of Big Crown honcho Leon Michels, himself a musician crucial to the old school funk and soul scene where Fields is a prime torch carrier, especially since the passing of Charles Bradley. That means folks who discovered Bradley through his cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” or are just into the Daptone sound in general (exemplified by Sharon Jones) who haven’t hipped themselves to the Big Crown roster should rectify that lack right quick. A congruence with hip-hop has been mentioned in relation to Fields’ work, but it’s either implicit stylistically or appealingly subtle. A stone winner. A-

Stewart A. Staples, Music for ‘High Life’ (Milan) Let’s go way back; in an earlier era, soundtracks used to function (well, it was one function, anyway) as a sort memory enhancement of a film that, once it exited movie theaters, was effectively gone outside of TV reruns or a cinematic rerelease. Today, scores can help to promote a film in a crowded artistic landscape, especially when they are by musicians with a substantial rep outside the cinematic scene, which is the case here with Stuart A. Staples, who’s known for his work with the group Tindersticks. Celebrity film scoring can occasionally seem like a deliberate maneuver on the part of a director and/ or producers, but that’s not the case here, as Staples (either with Tindersticks or on his own) and High Life’s auteur Claire Denis have worked together extensively.

At this point, purely in terms of name association for cinephiles, their collab is reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work with Jonny Greenwood, and the results have been quite worthwhile across a variety of genres, though this one, a movie set in outer space, stands out a more than a little bit. Just a smidge over an hour long, Staples’ score is appropriately moody/ atmospheric (with one late song exception, “Willow,” which features vocals by the movie’s lead actor Robert Pattinson) and successfully establishes tension. In “Rape of Boyse,” this tension gets released at a level of intensity suggesting something nearer to Alien than Solaris. Or perhaps a sweet blend of space thriller and sci-fi art-film, the possibility supported by the brief accompanying synopsis. It’s a cinch that I’ll be checking it out. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for March 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 March, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones, From Untruth (Northern Spy) Matt Nelson’s soprano sax and Nick Dunston’s upright bass lend this LP a jazzy (and decidedly out-jazzy) component, though it’s augmented by drummer Max Jaffee adding “Electronic Sensory Percussion” to his standard kit and Nelson doubling on Moog. But the focal point is unquestionably vocalist Kidambi, who adds synthesizer and harmonium to four compositions that on this aggregation’s second release cohere into a uniformly superb, at times gripping (and thrilling!) post-category statement. The mention of “futurist realms” rings true. From Untruth also tackles major themes of politics and injustice, but with the intent to give the listener respite from the ugliness of our current reality. Kidambi has succeeded mightily. A

The Underground Youth, Montage Images of Lust & Fear (Fuzz Club) In 2017, this Manchester-born but currently Berlin-based outfit led by vocalist-guitarist Craig Dyer released What Kind Of Dystopian Hellhole Is This?, a record that reminded me somewhat of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe. But this follow-up, the band’s ninth overall, reminds me of Newcombe’s output not at all. Instead, the dark and tense atmosphere makes me think of the Birthday Party, but with instrumental precision (matched with sharp lyrics) that helps the whole to stand apart. Suicide is mentioned by the label, but I thought more of Michael Gira (Swan Kristof Hahn guests on six tracks here) and occasionally of Joy Division. When Dyer shifts to ballads, things get distinguished even more. Borderline excellent. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Mary Lou Williams, S/T (Smithsonian-Folkways) Along with Lucinda Williams’ Happy Woman Blues (reviewed in full earlier in March) this and the Elizabeth Cotten LP below comprise the 2019 Women’s History Month installment in Smithsonian-Folkways’ vinyl reissue series. It’s a well-rounded trio. This record, originally released in 1964 on this great jazz pianist’s Mary label (distributed by Folkways back then) is probably the most underrated of the bunch, in part due to how it transcends category. Though infused with jazz (Percy Heath and Grant Green contribute), the music here, titled Black Christ of the Andes, is a devotional work that features choral sections of considerable scale and beauty, and all the better because it’s a sound almost unheard of today. A major achievement. A

Elizabeth Cotten, Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar (Smithsonian-Folkways) Many folks know this LP as Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes; it’s reissued here under the title of its initial release. The story of Cotten’s life is well-known (it’s recently been told as a children’s book by musician Laura Veirs) and her rediscovery (through the family of Pete Seeger, which accurately was just a discovery, as she’d never recorded previously) commenced one of the most welcome and enduring byproducts of the whole mid-20th century folk revival. Taped by Mike Seeger in Cotton’s bedroom in her Washington, DC home in 1957, this is powerfully intimate music, reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt in its calmness, featuring guitar, banjo and vocals. For folk music lovers, I’d call this one essential. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Charles Wesley Godwin,
The TVD First Date

“I wish I could say that I discovered great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, or Kris Kristofferson at the age of four and from that day forth became a lifelong fan of the craft.”

“While growing up, I wish that I had frequented my local record store discovering new music on a weekly basis. I wish I could say that I begged my parents for a Sears and Roebuck catalog guitar before I could stand on my own two wee legs, but I can’t. In fact, I grew up not singing in church, assuming that I couldn’t sing at all, listening to Cher in the family van during road trips across the west, sitting in silence in my mother’s car on our way to school, and occasionally listening to the oldies station while riding along in my father’s old Ford Ranger. To defend my mom for a second, she spent her entire career teaching young children. I think she found those silent moments in the car incredibly peaceful. I get that now.

I had a tune stuck in my head many times in my early life. I specifically remember having songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “Fortunate Son” stuck in my head for weeks at a time. However, I actually had a hard time thinking of when exactly was the first time that I sought out a piece of music. I know that I never fell in love with music until I was nineteen or twenty. For days, I’ve been thinking about when was the first time I actually wanted to purchase music. I know that seems hard to believe considering what I do now for a living, but it’s the truth.

I ended up coming to the conclusion that Linkin Park’s Meteora was it. While growing up, the Godwin side of my family had a Christmas get together sometime in December every year. We had so many children in the family that it was impractical to get everyone a gift, so we did the secret Santa thing. All the aunts, uncles, older cousins, parents and grandparents would each have one kid to buy one present for. I remember asking for that Meteora CD for my secret Santa gift.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for March 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 March, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves, S/T (Free Dirt) The debut of this duo, with de Groot playing clawhammer banjo and Hargreaves bowing the fiddle, coheres into a powerful instrumental statement with numerous vocals turns that dives deep into the old-time style and comes up with something wonderfully fresh. The combined acumen comes from experience, with de Groot a member of Molsky’s Mountain Drifters and her own groups The Goodbye Girls and Oh My Darling, and Hargreaves backing such august names as Gillian Welch and Laurie Lewis, playing on the latter’s Grammy-nominated The Hazel and Alice Sessions, and releasing her own debut Started Out to Ramble at age 14. The freshness of this LP comes in part through their inspired, unusual choice of material.

It’s not an attempt to one-up folks into old-time stuff. For one thing, they dig into “Willie Moore,” a song well-known from The Anthology of American Folk Music (through the version by Dick Burnett and Leonard Rutherford). No, the objective is to lessen the divide between the world that spawned the music we now refer to as old-time and the cultural climate of the present day. They do so by tackling the work of black guitar-fiddle duo Nathan Frazier and Frank Patterson, digging into “Farewell Whiskey” by John Hatcher, “the avant-garde fiddler of 1930s Mississippi,” dishing the trad tune “I Don’t Want to Get Married” (with lyrics by Edna Poplin), and shedding light on sexual assault of women in prison with a reading of Alice Gerrard’s “Beaufort County Jail” that reminds me of Dock Boggs. And more. Top-flight. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: June Chikuma, Les Archives (Freedom to Spend) This is a “reinvented” and retitled edition of composer Chikuma’s Divertimento LP, which was originally released in 1986 on Toru Hatano’s Picture Label. The transformation largely centers on a total sleeve redesign and an adjustment in first name; in ’86 she went by Atsushi Chikuma. The sequencing of Divertimento is essentially retained, though for the close of side one there is the previously unreleased “Mujo to Ifukoto” from the same sessions. Giving video game ambience a methodical cut-and-paste treatment, the effect is not so much disorienting but rather a precise scramble of psychedelia. Along with another unreleased cut offered on a bonus 45 with the record’s vinyl edition, “Mujo to Ifukoto” is a considerable boon.

Speaking of video games, Chikuma is maybe best-known for her soundtracks to Nintendo’s Bomberman franchise, though she’s also composed for film and TV. The first Bomberman game appeared in ’83, three years prior to what is now Les Archives, but while game sounds are tangible, this record is onto something more, stemming from a one-person show that utilized a KORG SDD-3000 digital delay, drum machines and samplers. This presents a sort of best-of-all-possible-outcomes scenario. While I’ve liked some of the vid game soundtracks I’ve heard, they’ve never really attained repeat listening potential. In branching out, with inspirations including Satie, Mozart, and Paul Hindemith and modes ranging from hurky-jerky dance action to a piece for string-quartet, the likelihood of return listens here is assured. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
March 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 March, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Hearing Things, Here’s Hearing Things & “Tortuga” b/w “Hotel Prison” (Yeggs) Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes came out back in 2003; shot B&W and offering a series of filmed conversations (spontaneous to varying degrees) between actors, musicians and artists who were either friends with or just highly esteemed by the director, it’s what some would call a minor film. And y’know, as this LP and 45 offer a hearty dive into a surf and early instrumental R&R featuring the saxophone of leader Matt Bauder, the organ of JP Schlegelmilch, and the drumming of Vinnie Sperrazza, it’s what some might call a minor record. But I raise the subject not to connect one minor circumstance to the other, as in terms of stature, I disagree with this assessment of both.

No, I bring it up because Here’s Hearing Things’ opening cut “Shadow Shuffle” conjures visions of an unreleased portion of Coffee and Cigarettes where David Lynch and Lux Interior (RIP) wax enthusiastic about Bill Doggett and “Green Onions” while smoking like chimneys. Well, Lynch anyway. Instrumentally, this is sharp, which is to say they’re adept but also savvy enough to not muck matters up by overplaying, which isn’t the same as being chained to simplicity as a supposed virtue of authenticity. Bauder has worked in avant contexts, notably with Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier, and occasionally this background flares up, and that’s cool. But mostly this is just a blend of lounge pop, Meek-like vibes, surf rock and R&B jams, with a little guest guitar, I’m assuming from Ava Mendoza. A-/ A-

REISSUE/ARCIVAL PICKS: The Fall, Bend Sinister/The ‘Domesday’ Pay-Off Triad-Plus! (Beggars Arkive) This label’s reissue program of The Fall continues with a wonderfully exhaustive plunge into the band’s ninth studio record from 1986, expanded to double vinyl by rounding up eight tracks from period singles. For some, this is just the record with their cover of The Other Half’s “Mr. Pharmacist” on it, but the whole is an art-punk blast that’s potency has diminished nary a whit, and the additional LP offers no letdown. Importantly, the 2CD expands to 28 tracks with a four-song Peel Session and a bunch of unreleased stuff. No download card came with my vinyl copy and there’s no current digital buying option that I can see, so choose you purchase wisely. I’ve soaked it all up; this grade applies to both. A

Bibi Den’s Tshibayi, Sensible (Pharaway Sounds) Unlike some unearthed African treasures (this is from the Ivory Coast, 1983), this artist has additional recording experience of note. From the same period, there’s “The Best Ambiance” 12-inch on Rough Trade and its companion LP of the same title, which came out in numerous editions including two through Celluloid and Rounder. In 2000, he issued Nge Na Munu under his birth name Denis Tshibayi with production by Adrian Sherwood and Skip McDonald, and in ’02 provided guest vocals to a song on Alpha Blondy’s Merci. With four tracks totaling 26 minutes, this set might strike some as a wee bit brief, but while opener “Africa Mawa” offers poppy funkiness that’s middling for me, the rest taps into African grooves with gorgeous vocals. A pretty delightful time. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text