Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2020, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2020.

NEW RELEASE PICK: V/A, Cover Charge: NC Artists Go Under Cover to Benefit Cat’s Cradle (coverchargemusic.com / Bandcamp) Living as I do near the tiptop of North Carolina’s neighbor to the north, I’ve only been to Cat’s Cradle once…well, actually it was four consecutive nights while attending Merge Records’ 15th anniversary festivities back in 2004, an experience that persists as a wonderful memory. That’s one thing: live music, especially the kind that’s played in the close quarters of clubs, is about potential great times in the moment, but it’s also about remembrance, which is part of the reason people keep returning for more. But another thing: live music is impossible without musicians of course, but it also doesn’t happen without the investment of time and money into places to play, so in times like these, both artists and show venues are struggling. The straight scoop from the folks responsible for this digital-only benefit: the Cat’s Cradle is in trouble.

Featuring a slew of NC-based or aligned acts and bands, this batch of cover material rolls along with a few peaks and valleys but no outright stumbles or even hiccups, starting out with a version of The Go-Go’s’ “Can’t Stop the World” by Superchunk that fits into their energetic power-popping late period quite well, and concluding with a reading of Madonna’s “Dress You Up” by The Veldt that dishes an appealing groove landing smackdab between neo-psych and the dancefloor. Hot cha! The predictable (but still nicely done) covers of Neil Young (represented twice, thrice with Buffalo Springfield) are fine, but my faves are the unexpected or leftfield sources, like the roots double whammy of Southern Culture on the Skids’ “Let’s Work Together” from Wilbert Harrison and Dex Romweber’s “A Face in the Crowd” from Andy Griffith as sung in Elia Kazan’s film of the same name (very timely, as it’s about a populist fraud). At 25 tracks, this is a long one, but it rewards the time spent. And as said, the cause is worthy. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: James Booker, Classified (Craft) The legendary New Orleans pianist and singer James Booker doesn’t have an extensive studio discography. I rate this as his best in studio and maybe period, reissued by Craft in part to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rounder Records, who originally issued it in 1982; it’s a jewel in the label’s extensive discographical crown. Booker’s addictions shortened his life and career (he died shortly after making this album), surely damaging his opportunities to get on wax in a non-live context. Fittingly, this set’s contents reportedly came forth in a four-hour spurt after days of unproductive recording, but boy howdy, did a gem arise from that late gush of inspiration. Fleet of finger and smooth of voice, Booker’s playing style has similarities to Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Allen Toussaint just for starters, and his singing is approachably bluesy, reminiscent of Jimmy Reed blended with prime ’50s Atlantic R&B. Which brings us back to Fess. Not sure why Craft didn’t reissue the 2LP expanded edition from 2013. It would’ve received the +. A

Airto, Seeds on the Ground—The Natural Sounds of Airto (Real Gone) Last year, Real Gone reissued Natural Feelings, Brazilian drummer-percussionist Airto Moreira’s debut from 1970, his first of two for the Buddha label, and now here’s its follow-up in a pressing of 1,000 reproducing the original gatefold sleeve and on ocean blue vinyl. I remain impressed by Natural Feelings, and this set largely extends the blend of Música popular brasileira, bossa nova, folk, proto-world music and jazz elements, including fusion (as Airto was a member of Weather Report, Miles Davis’ electric band, and Return to Forever). The whole of this one is as pleasing as his first, bringing back the same players (including his vocalist wife Flora Purim and bassist Ron Carter). Reviewing Natural Feelings last year, I speculated that it was a distinct item in Airto’s discography; Seeds on the Ground clarifies that the two Buddha LPs are of a piece, though this one’s a bit more psychedelic and takes a definite turn toward fusion on side two. ‘tis OK. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2020, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Thumbscrew, The Anthony Braxton Project (Cuneiform) A CD to celebrate jazz master Braxton’s 75th birthday, and a very sensible idea, as the three sharp and brilliant points on Thumbscrew’s triangle have all been impacted to varying extents by the greatness of the saxophonist-composer-educator. I’d say this is especially true of guitarist Mary Halvorson, who made a considerable splash in my consciousness pool through her playing on the 9CD+DVD live collection 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 on the Firehouse 12 label. Bassist Michael Formanek and drummer-percussionist Tomas Fujiwara have both played with Braxton too (Fujiwara on record), so the trio’s invitation to select previously unrecorded (or hardly ever recorded) pieces from the archives of the Tri-Centric Foundation (the non-profit organization dedicated to the work and legacy of Braxton) was as wise as it is successful.

I’ll add that Thumbscrew, who are releasing their fifth CD with this set, have been one of my favorite groups in what’s often called the Creative Music scene for quite a while. For their self-titled 2014 debut and 2016 follow-up Convallaria, the trio offered their own individual compositions, but for Theirs and Ours they tackled ten pieces by others on the first disc and nine of their own on the second (both were released on the same day in 2018). This background situates that The Anthony Braxton Project isn’t entirely new territory for the group (it’s the third straight album recorded at a residency at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh), though there are some fresh developments, such as the introduction of Fujiwara’s vibraphone. But mostly, this sounds like Thumbscrew putting their personal stamp on work from one of the last century’s greatest musicians. The interaction is as energetic, vivid and supple as ever, Halvorson’s guitar remains thrillingly distinctive, and this is easily one of the year’s best. A+

Lingo Seini et son groupe, Musique Hauka (Sahel Sounds) Another grand slam for Sahel Sounds, this time documenting Hauka ritual music captured in Niamey, the capital city in the West African country of Niger in 2017. Until now, the Hauka, described in a fascinating Sahel Sounds blog post as “the Songhoy spirits of the pre-Islamic pantheon and possession ceremonies,” have been better known to hardcore cinephiles familiar with the work of French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch, specifically his short movie of 1955 Les maîtres fous (The Mad Masters). I caught this film in January of 2019 through the streaming service MUBI and found it striking, if surely a difficult watch due to an instance of ritual animal sacrifice. Jumping forward well over half a century, this is one of the first full-length recordings of the Hauka’s ritual music, longer and even more powerful than the film, rhythmically unrelenting and featuring a monochord lute. A must for lovers of ceremonial sounds, only 500 were pressed. Get it. A

Even As We Speak, Adelphi (Shelflife) Back in 2018, the estimable Flagstaff, AZ label Emotional Response reissued this Sydney band’s 1993 set Feral Pop Frenzy, which was originally released by the beloved Sarah Records. It was a righteous gesture, deserving of a reissue pick in this column, and Adelphi is strong enough to land in this week’s spotlight for new releases. Part of the reason is that the five-piece, fronted as ever by Matthew Love and Mary Wyer, knocked-off any rustiness prior to recording their 2017 10-inch “The Black Forest.”  This 10-song LP finds them as boldly sophisto as ever they were before, with the crucial distinction that the upsurges of raw guitar allow one to connect the dots back to the foundation of punk (filtered through indie pop, of course). However, the synthpop flourishes are just as appealing, largely because they are gestures rather than full-blown style moves. Also, there’s a grown-up quality to the whole that’s appropriate for the reunion scenario. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2020, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2020. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Deerhoof, Future Teenage Cave Artists (Joyful Noise) Yes, this one came out at the end of May, but I’m just sauntering up to their 15th studio full-length now, reviewing it in part to deliver a strong new release pick combo-punch with the benefit release directly below. However, the reality is that Deerhoof is a unit I’ve long loved; that they are still going strong after a quarter century of existence is worthy of note, and that they’ve released another killer slab of experimental-noise-punk-prog-pop in the midst of, indeed reflecting and commenting upon, such an uncertain and occasionally tumultuous time is a gesture deserving of celebration. Future Teenage Cave Artists is tidy at 36 minutes but hits hard while keeping a tight grip on their virtuosic, indeed often athletic, eclecticism, but also tending toward the fun rather than the punishing, ending quite beautifully with a prelude by Bach, “I Call on Thee.” Still potently weird but not formidable, Deerhoof has delivered us a wide-ranging gift. A-

Deerhoof & Wadada Leo Smith, To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough (Joyful Noise) This digital-only Bandcamp release shares its title with a line from Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” with its first six tracks showcasing Deerhoof throwing down with supreme heaviness, while the last six retain the forceful drive but expand it in collaboration with the great trumpeter-composer-bandleader-teacher Wadada Leo Smith, with all of the proceeds going to Black Lives Matter. Captured as part of the Winter Jazzfest at Le Poisson Rouge in January of 2018, the meeting isn’t an impromptu excursion into letting it fly, but features Smith enhancing Deerhoof songs from La Isla Bonita (“Last Fad” and the set closing “Mirror Monster”), Breakup Song “(Breakup Songs” and “Flower”) and Offend Maggie (“Snoopy Waves”). Smith’s playing is magnificent, reminding me a little of his work in Yo Miles. Massive sounds for a crucial cause. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, Orange Crate Art (Omnivore) If you’re unfamiliar with this collaboration but know the duo’s work on Smile, the long lost but eventually completed (with a due abundance of fanfare) masterpiece from the Beach Boys, don’t go expecting this 1994 reunion (the first time they’d worked together since the ’72 Beach Boys single “Sail On, Sailor”) to attain the same level of quality. I write this not to diminish Orange Crate Art but to hopefully allow you newbies to gather an appreciation and ultimately, satisfaction independent of Smile. Because this set, which has been out for roughly a month now in expanded 2CD and 2LP editions (with bonus instrumental versions of the album’s vocal cuts on the CD’s second disc), is a good one. At times, it’s very good. With flashes of excellence, even.

The short scoop is that Parks had a batch of songs with California as the unifying theme, and he wanted Wilson to sing them. Now, for folks who love Parks’ classic records for Reprise, this set doesn’t hit the heights of Song Cycle or Discover America either, but that’s in part because the contribution of Wilson brings a pop focus to much of the record. This offers its own charm, distinct if comfortable in the memory; a few of the cuts here, particularly “Sail Away,” could’ve landed airwave rotation at the time of release on those stations that were then pumping “Kokomo” (it might’ve needed a radio edit, though). Still, Parks’ arranging skills are in sharp form, especially on the original release’s closer “Lullaby.” The bonus outtake of “Rhapsody In Blue” with Wilson’s wordless singing is a total treat, as well. For turntable-owning listeners primarily interested in ol’ Bri, the vinyl will probably suffice, but those with a deep love for Parks will want to have those CD instrumentals handy, as they kick much ass. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2020, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2020. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Wolfhounds, Electric Music (A Turntable Friend) Formed in Romford, Essex, England in 1985, the Wolfhounds were one of the 22 lucky bands (all bands) included by the Brit music periodical New Musical Express on their now long-legendary, genre-defining indie-pop compilation C86, initially a tape purchasable via mail order but released on vinyl by the end of that year (reissued in 2014 as an expanded 3CD and then spread out onto 2LP with no extra tracks as a Record Store Day item in 2016, both editions released by Cherry Red). For many, all this background is old news, but it’s worth mentioning in large part due to the Wolfhounds not fully conforming to the subsequent indie-pop model. C86 did offer a handful of acts who spanned stylistically beyond the jangle norm, e.g. Stump and Half Man Half Biscuit, but it should be further clarified that the Wolfhounds’ cut on C86, “Feeling So Strange Again,” fit the jangle mold pretty well.

The same is true for second single “Anti-Midas Touch,” which is my fave cut from the original lineup. Really, it was with a late-’80s personnel shift that the band’s sound became heavier and more in line with indie-rock (often compared to Sonic Youth) than indie-pop, though by 1990 they were kaput. Reformed in the mid-’00s by founding guitarist-vocalists Dave Callahan and Andy Golding, with Richard Golding on bass and Pete Wilkins on drums, they’ve just released their third full-length since, and it finds them retaining and sharpening their denser rock approach, in the process underscoring that the return to activity was no nostalgia gambit. Electric Music is solid throughout and recommended for indie rockers and post-punk lovers alike; hey, there’s even guest bassoon from Scritti Politti’s Rhodri Davies, plus sleeve notes from noted fan Stuart Lee. The title track here is a monster. A-

Silver Scrolls, Music for Walks (Three Lobed Recordings) Featuring Dave Brylawski on guitars and vocals and Brian Quast on drums and vocals (plus bass, guitars, organ), Silver Scrolls have delivered a debut album (they have one prior 7-inch, “Tiny Reason” from back in 2015) that, fitting for its title, is functionally psychedelic, and with blues-rock undercurrents and even a little math-rock, which isn’t surprising as Brylawski was a founding member of Polvo (he was also in Idyll Swords and Black Taj) and Quast drummed in a later incarnation of that band (he was additionally in Cherry Valance and Vanilla Trainwreck). I’ll emphasize a little bit of math-rock, just so you don’t go expecting this to sound like Don Caballero or something. Overall, this set fits into the Three Lobed scheme quite well, which is to reiterate that Silver Scrolls have a handle on expansive possibilities.

Divided into Walk One (side one, four tracks) and Walk Two (side two, two tracks), Music for Walks is described in the nifty promo text (really better described as an online set of liner notes) by Rob Munk as a “light” concept album, which gets us back to the functional. Munk also says that the record starts out in the city and ends up in the mountains, but as they go rural, they avoid taking any detours into the deep weeds, which often happens in heavier psychedelic scenarios. Another way of putting it; this is a record of continual momentum. Silver Scrolls might roll into the thick forests, but they stay on the path. That may read as a disappointment for those who like to get lost and linger, but there are plenty of records that will let you do that. The path exists for a reason, and Silver Scrolls follow it with purpose. Recorded in Arlington, VA by the reliable Don Zientara, Music for Walks might not be heavy, but it is robust. And it has drum solos (more like drum passages) during Walk Two. I totally fucking dig it. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2020, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2020. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Thiago Nassif, Mente (Gearbox) Rio de Janeiro-based vocalist-guitarist Nassif has been active as a recording artist since 2009, but it was really his third album, 2015’s Três, that put him on the international radar. Arto Lindsay produced and played on that one, with Nassif returning the favor by helping to produce Lindsay’s 2017 effort Cuidado Madame. Now, Arto returns for Três, co-producing and playing on two tracks, and it’s a fitting combination, as Nassif’s work can sound like a blend of prime Tom Zé and the wilder side of ZE Records. Now, if you’re thinking Mente is the sort of record David Byrne would’ve done backflips to sign in the early days of Luaka Bop, well okay, but I also feel Nassif’s work is maybe a little (and occasionally much) too weird for that association, while never coming off like he’s forcing the strangeness. I guess that means if you dig the Brazil Classics series, there’s no reason to not check out this superb LP, which is one of the treats of 2020 thus far. A

Idjah Hadidjah & Jugala Jaipongan, Jaipongan Music of West Java + Reworks (Hive Mind) This 2LP came out in March, but it’s still available and deserves a belated spotlight, as it provides a magnificent serving of the Javanese style known as Jaipongan, which flourished in the ’70s-’80s in Indonesia, though the recordings that comprise the first LP here date from 2007, with vocalist Idjah Hadidjah at the fore and backed by the house band of Jugala Studios in Bandung, Java. The backstory is that this was a reunion of sorts, as Hadidjah was invited, back in the early ’80s, by the inventor of the Jaipongan style, composer and choreographer Gugum Gumbira, to sing in his Jugala Orchestra. She accepted, and had considerable success, becoming one of the country’s most adored singers as the collab lasted through the decade. This return to the studio also produced strong results, but as the music plays, it’s enlightening to consider how the Jaipongan style is, unusually, considered the invention of one person.

Specifically, Gumbira was understandably displeased over the Indonesian government’s ban on Western music, including R&R (this ban dating from 1961), and in the early ’70s, he adapted the traditional style of ketuk-tilu into a contemporary form, not as a way to smuggle in outside influences, but instead simply as modernization. Along with adding in gamelan, Gumbira had the singers focus solely on singing, with dancing cast aside. Hadidjah had been a professional singer with Sundanese Shadow Puppet Theatres prior to joining Gumbira, and her abilities remain extraordinary here, evident even to me, a non-expert in the Jaipongan style, as she’s elevated by playing of remarkable intensity and precision. The second LP, + Reworks, is the byproduct of Kai Riedl providing multitrack tapes made in Java to a variety of electronic musicians and modular sythesists for the purpose of form extension. Per the title, reworking, rather than the standard and potentially underwhelming remixing, a goal that’s largely realized. Excellent. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part Five

Part five of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Céu, APKÁ! (Six Degrees) This is the fifth release from the São Paulo, Brazil-based singer and composer Céu, but it’s the first I’ve heard. The blend of pop, electronic elements, dance rhythms, classic Brazilian song and even flashes of psychedelia has me excited to investigate her earlier stuff, though this set is being promoted as a metamorphosis for the artist (indeed, a chrysalis gets mentioned). She’s accompanied here by her producer-drummer husband Pupillo and a core band of familiars that includes Frenchman Hervé Salters on keyboards (he also co-produced). There are a few guests, with guitarist Marc Ribot among them, which I admit perked my interest right up, though the quality of Céu’s vocals and compositions had me shifting focus right quick.

Nine out of the eleven tracks are hers. In what’s described as a new move for Céu, she tackles a pair of outside compositions, specifically interpreting Caetano Veloso’s “Pardo” and a fresh piece, as she requested that Dinho from the group Boogarins write a song for the album (“Make Sure Your Head is Above”), a smart move as she and Ribot shine on the track. Overall, I’d guess that listeners into folktronica and Tropicalia should find this record right up their alley. The album also seems to have been out for a while, as a compact disc and vinyl was issued in Brazil last year (a green opaque club edition co-released by a few Brazilian entities), though Six Degrees is handling the distribution in the USA and Europe. My copy of APKÁ! arrived on CD, but I have noticed a vinyl pre-order online. Hopefully, it gets another pressing on wax, as the contents strike my ear as especially conducive to the format. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Sound of The San Francisco Christian Center, s/t (Cultures of Soul) Founded in 1954, The San Francisco Christian Center is noted as one of the first churches, circa the late ’60s, to welcome disaffected hippies. If you’ve studied up on the era, you know there was quite a few youngsters in the Bay Area fitting the description, as thousands seeking the idyllic liberation lifestyle poured into the region and were greeted with…something else. Frankly, the SFCC’s generosity was just a Christian thing to do, but mentioning it really gets to the good vibes positivity that emanates from the grooves of this reissue. The LP was initially self-released in 1978, with that edition (there have been no other pressings until now) highly sought after and very expensive. It features a killer band soaring under the direction of multi-instrumentalist and arranger Carl Fortier, with the results stylistically intersecting with the bold and lush motions of the same era’s pop-soul and R&B.

To be sure, this album effectively underscores the intrinsic connection between gospel and its secular genre descendant, soul, but folks who prefer their Christian sounds to be hotter and a little edgier and rawer need be prepared for the pure breadth that’s in evidence across this album, as Fortier and the band gained access to what sure sounds like a mellotron (there are also synths), which intensifies the lushness placing this as contemporary to ’70s Stevie and Earth, Wind & Fire. Another stated influence on the proceedings is the San Fran-based Andraé Crouch, with this association hopefully driving home the sounds on offer here. Still, as someone who gravitates to those wilder examples of gospel heat (as previously compiled by labels like Tompkins Square), I must relate how this LP completely won me over, as the sheer celebratory joie de vivre in the playing and singing ultimately proved impossible to resist. Originals have sold for hundreds of dollars, so this repress is a smart buy for those inclined. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: V/A, The Longest Day – A Benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association (Mon Amie) The Alzheimer’s Association’s yearly fundraiser is called The Longest Day, and this year Mon Amie, the one-woman bedroom label run by Mona Dehghan, has released a compilation on double vinyl, CD and digital with 100% of the profits going to the foundation. Right on, Mona! Those ordering now will be emailed a download starting today (June 19), with physical copies scheduled to arrive by October 1. Here’s the full list of contributors, in sequence: Anna Calvi, Rituals of Mine, Daniel Avery, Cold Specks, TR/ST, Shadowparty, Beach Slang, New Order, HAAi, J. Laser, Sad13, Algiers, Astronauts, Etc., Wolfmanhattan Project (consisting of Mick Collins, Kid Congo Powers and Bob Bert), Hayden Thorpe & Jon Hopkins, Moby, and Rhys Chatham.

Dehghan is also part of the daily operations at Mute Records, specifically the senior director of marketing and project management, which likely helped in landing the second extended mix of New Order’s “Nothing but a Fool,” which makes its vinyl debut here. It sounds quite nice stretching out to over nine minutes, but it’s not even the best track. Those who know me might be guessing I’m giving the honor to Wolfmanhattan Project’s “Friday the 13th,” as I dig all those dudes. It’s a good one, but no. Beach Slang’s nifty cover of The Church’s “Under the Milky Way”? Nope. The anthemic ’80s-esque pop-rock of Shadowparty’s “Marigold”?  It makes me feel young, but nah. Thorpe and Hopkins’ cover of Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” is close, but no cigar. The out-of-nowhere indie folk-tronic goodness of Moby’s “In Between Violence” is even closer, but I’m awarding the standout track to Chatham’s excellent “For Bob – In Memory (2014) for Flute Orchestra.” Dehghan saved the very best for last. A-

ONO, “Kongo” & “Mercy” 12-inch (Whited Sepulchre) Yes, this long-running and inspirational Chicago-based “Avant-Industrial Gospel” outfit received a new release pick in this column back on May 1 of this year for their album Red Summer (released on the American Dreams label), but there are a couple good reasons to spotlight the outfit again so soon. First, these two tracks derive from the Red Summer session and extend that record’s worthiness quite nicely. Second, as pointed out by Whited Sepulchre, the label is releasing this one-sided 12-inch (and three more, all reviewed below) on this day, that’d be June 19, aka Juneteenth, that Bandcamp is donating all of its profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. To align a purchase of this fiercely political record (perhaps paired with Red Summer, which is still available in a variety of physical formats) with Bandcamp’s gesture (which, per the company, will occur annually every Juneteenth hereafter) registers as a thoroughly righteous way to exercise freedom of the consumer. A-

Jaki Shelton Green, The River Speaks of Thirst (Soul City Sounds) Speaking of Juneteenth, this is the release day for the debut album from North Carolina’s Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green. Anybody with an interest in poetics with a focus on social justice should seek out a copy, as it’s on vinyl, CD and digital. Green has published eight books of poetry, so while The River Speaks of Thirst is her first recording, it documents a command of language that unwinds with substantial force and beauty. Her work is lacking in tangible flaws.

She’s also been reading publicly for decades and wields an edge that is at times wonderfully theatrical (check out “Letter From the Other Daughter of the Confederacy”). While musical elements and production techniques are heard throughout, most prominently in “A Litany for the Possessed,” they combine well with Green’s readings, as do the handful of guest voices, including Shirlette Ammons on the aforementioned track. However, it’s Green’s own words and delivery that elevate this record to such a rare plateau. Oh, and as Juneteenth is also Green’s birthday, there is a Zoom celebration from 6:30-8 PM today (liked on her Facebook page) for the LP’s release and her arrival date. Happy birthday! A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Caleb Dolister, Daily Thumbprint Collection 3, The Wandering (Orenda) Although this is a digital-only release, Queens, NYC-based composer and drummer Dolister announced on June 5, 2020, that he will be donating and personally matching the June Bandcamp sales (up to an amount of $1,500) of this album, which has been ten years in the making, with the recipient Equal Justice Initiative, an organization devoted to racial justice and equality. The PR text further adds that while the release of Daily Thumbprint is of major personal significance to Dolister, he also believes “this is a time to maintain awareness on changing social and systemic issues for the better.” So again, while there is no physical format for this set (at least not at this point), this lack is small potatoes next to the positivity of Dolister’s gesture. And as the music is a vivid blend of avant-prog, jazzy elements, and post-rock (the label mentions post-jazz), spreading the word is an easy thing to do.

Now, the styles cited might lead folks to the possibility that Daily Thumbprint is a formidable beast, but that’s really not the case, as Dolister’s temperament, if open to the expression of technical deftness, ultimately leans more toward the melodic than the thorny. Bluntly, I wouldn’t have minded a little more wildness, but Dolister’s thrust is still appreciated, and there is enough heaviness to counterbalance the pleasantness of the grand compositional sweep. There is also a wide range of instruments (the rock rudiments, assorted horns and strings, piano, Fender Rhodes, vibraphone, mandolin, and harp) integrated into the mix, and played by two dozen individuals and necessitating considerable travels by Dolister and illuminating the decade spent in creating it. As said, I would’ve been happy with some crazier detours, but the comparisons to Tortoise, Electric Masada, Jaga Jazzist and others feels right on the money to me. A few of the heavy rock moves remind me a bit of the Ipecac family of bands. A-

Let It Come Down, Songs We Sang in Our Dreams (Shimmy Disc / Joyful Noise) The musical output of Kramer has been with me for nearly as long as I’ve been into the underground scene, as has his myriad credits as a producer and label runner. He was a member of Bongwater at that time, and had just started Shimmy Disc, which issued records by a slew of notable acts ranging from King Missile to GWAR to Boredoms to Ween to Naked City to a handful of his collaborations with such major figures as Jad Fair, Ralph Carney, Penn Jillette and more. He was also a member of New York Gong and the excellent Shockabilly (with David Licht and Eugene Chadbourne) and toured with The Fugs, Butthole Surfers and B.A.L.L. His production credits range from Daniel Johnston to Urge Overkill to Galaxie 500 to Low to Will Oldham. There are also over a half dozen solo records, including three for John Zorn’s Tzadik label.

To say the guy has had a distinguished career is an understatement, but it also seems he’s been nowhere near as busy recently as he was in the 1980s-’90s. So, Joyful Noise’s announcement that Kramer is their 2020 artist in residence is excellent news. As part of the endeavor, he’s releasing five distinct LPs this year, which will be compiled in a box set that’s available for preorder now. And the five albums effectively reignite Shimmy Disc’s engine, which is a fine turn of events. Let It Come Down, his duo project with the UK vocalist Xan Tyler, is the first, and it’s a sweet dose of neo-psychedelia that ranges from dream-pop to folktronica to more glacially-paced indie-chamber-folk action to even a sweet bossa move, and it all flows together damn well. Tyler has worker previously as half of synth-poppers Technique (with Kate Holmes) and extensively with dub maestro Mad Professor, so she’s no novice. Kramer’s input is typically assured, with a few instances of his trademark found audio sampling. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Daniel Carter, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 (577) This label, co-founded by the multi-horn man on this record Daniel Carter, is simply not holding back in the frequency of their release schedule. As my prior enthusiasms in the virtual pages of this website will attest, I’m flat-out overjoyed, and have grown to anticipate the steady flow. But still, when news of this set hit my inbox, I was stunned to an almost spit-take level, and that’s specifically due to the players involved. It’s out today in a choice of standard black vinyl, CD and digital, with a cloudy clear wax edition of 100 available directly from the label or the artists. Bluntly, to describe the assembled contributors as a supergroup borders on understatement.

But supergroup is a rock term that often historically denotes underperformance or dysfunction, so it’s better to simply relate that jazz records rarely offer lineups that are this stacked in an “All-Star” sense (but the reality is thousands of jazz recordings are loaded with top-to-bottom talent). In fact, I immediately thought of the group that produced Jazz at Massey Hall (that’s Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach), though the differences are considerable and it only took a few seconds to shake off the comparison. Listening to the music here drove home how Welcome Adventure! is a direct byproduct of long relationships forged inside the NYC avant-jazz scene, a community that these men have played a major role in defining, reaching back to the 1970s. Bassist extraordinaire Parker and Carter, who plays tenor sax, trumpet and flute here, have created together the longest, with recorded documentation dating to the mid-’70s.

Those two really got the ball rolling in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which is when pianist Shipp made his big splash on the scene. Detroit native Cleaver is the youngest, but his discography is immense, as great drummers are consistently in demand. Let’s expand upon that; drummers possessing Cleaver’s level of sensitivity are reliably invited to play gigs and sessions, and this scenario extends to everybody involved, as they’ve made a ton of music and have indeed done so together before, though this is their first studio album as a quartet (I’m chuffed it’s not the last). Now, Parker, Shipp and Cleaver have been on record a few times, and the interactions here (a long track followed by a shorter one on side one and a side-long piece on the flip) can recall some of their work on the terrific Aum Fidelity label. Here, this means a deep connection to the avant scene unfolding for big stretches in a non-harried manner that can perhaps be described as post-Loft scene. So much talent, so much beauty, so little ego. Outstanding. A

Brigid Mae Power, Head Above The Water (Fire) This is the third full-length for Galway, Ireland’s Power, after two nice ones for the Tompkins Square label. Co-produced by Alasdair Roberts with Power and her frequent collaborator Peter Broderick, Head Above the Water certainly fulfills the label’s promise of country meets trad folk, but the record is so much more, which given her prior work isn’t a shocker, though the breadth and intensity are striking all the same. There is a psychedelic Brit folk quality that shines especially bright in “I Was Named After You,” but is to varying degrees pervasive throughout the ten tracks. The playing is excellent, featuring Roberts and Broderick on assorted instruments, plus Stevie Jones on upright bass amongst others and of course Power’s guitars, mellotron and mellotron organ, but the strongest component is her singing, which enhances said Brit folk atmosphere while favoring forcefulness over fragility; her surname is appropriate. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys, La Danse à St. Ann’s (Nouveau Electric) The French Creole style known as zydeco is foremost a celebratory music. Now, it can function just fine as solitary listening, but it’ll assuredly make one pine for good company and enough space to dance while drinking something strong, preferably from a jar. With this said, on past occasions when zydeco bands have been invited into studios, the results sometimes got slicked-up to the point where the pleasure knob gets turned down. Well, there is no such problem here, as the 15 tracks on this CD were captured in a church hall in Mallett, Louisiana last November during the Thibodeaux Family Reunion. And so, there is intimacy (enhanced between tracks through interaction between Goldman and his assembled kin and in-laws), but astutely recorded by veteran musician, producer (Marianne Faithfull, Dr. John, Flat Duo Jets) and longtime New Orleans resident Mark Bingham.

But there’s a whole lot more going on here, such as the documentation of a family band, with the Lawtell Playboys having been extant since shortly after the end of WWII. Formed by brothers Bébé and Eraste Carriere in 1946, the Playboys first began featuring Goldman, who sings and plays accordion and is 87 years old, around two decades later. However, he didn’t start learning accordion until he was in his 50s, eventually taking over for Delton Broussard, who’d himself replaced Eraste Carriere. Before fiddler Calvin Carriere died in 2002, Goldman, who is his cousin, asked for permission to carry on the Lawtell Playboys. This version has Goldman on accordion and vocals, Brock Thibodeaux on frottoir (aka rubboard), Louis Michot on fiddle and vocals, Courtney Jeffries on acoustic guitar, Justin Leger on electric bass, and Barry Cormier on drums and vocals.

Over the decades, there hasn’t been many recordings of the Lawtell Playboys. La La Louisiana Black French Music, a split with the Playboys and the Carriere Brothers, came out on the Maison De Soul in 1977, with that album’s participants included on Zodico – Louisiana Créole Music, which Rounder released in ’79. Much later, Calvin and Goldman cut Les misères dan le Coeur for Louisiana Radio Records. It was released on CD in 2000 and was the only recording they made together. It seems rather scarce these days, and would make a fine reissue, though right now, let’s cherish the contents of this disc. Sure, this stuff flows in a more contempo zydeco party fashion than the trad sounds heard on the Maison De Soul LP and other likeminded releases, but that’s in part due to the size of the ensemble and some of the instruments used. The bottom line is that La Danse à St. Ann’s is an utter gem. Dishing pure gusto for nearly 75 minutes, the only thing missing is a big plate of food. Cue this up and get one. A

Threadbare (featuring Jason Stein, Ben Cruz & Emerson Hunton), Silver Dollar (NoBusiness) Stein plays the bass clarinet, Cruz the electric guitar, and Hunton the drums on this CD of contempo avant-jazz with a compositional foundation. The whole occasionally rubs up against a jazz-rock sensibility that’s closer to art-metal than fusion-esque noodling, and that’s sweet as a candied yam. From a Chicago home base, Stein has excelled in a whole lot of situations over the last fifteen years, including Locksmith Isidore and the Jason Stein Quartet and co-leading Hearts & Minds and Nature Work. This is doubly impressive, as the bass clarinet is no easy axe to handle. I say that not from experience, but from the reality that a man who passed in 1964, namely Eric Dolphy, is still considered the benchmark in jazz on the instrument. And it’s not that people haven’t played it since, it’s just that it’s hardly anybody’s main focus, a scenario harkening back to Dolphy himself (as he was a triple threat on alto sax and flute).

Plus, when folks do tackle the bass clarinet, it’s often in more progressive and downright avant-garde situations. This is the case with Silver Dollar, on which Stein plays the distinctively toned instrument exclusively and deftly. What Stein doesn’t do is compose, with that role filled by his bandmates, both recent Oberlin College grads and each younger than him. Their pieces are uniformly interesting as they cohere into a gripping whole of digestible length. Cruz’s guitar is at times reminiscent of Mary Halvorson, which is a treat for my ears (hopefully yours, too) and when coupled with his and Emerson’s compositions (they only co-write one of the eight tracks, the untitled finale), the sound can remind me a bit of Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant. Just a bit, mind you, as the pieces here aren’t as angular (not as convulsant) if no less powerful. There are moments of full-boil (and texturally metallic) intensity, but early on in “Funny Thing Is” (and only for a few seconds), I heard a touch of Ornette’s ’60s trio. I dig. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Seven

Part seven of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here, and part five is here, and part six here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: TALsounds, Acquiesce (NNA Tapes) Chicago’s Natalie Chami is a member of the trio Good Willsmith and is half of Damiana and l’éternèbre, but her solo music, which can be encapsulated descriptively as experimental electronics with vocals, is released as TALsounds. The earliest recording listed in the TALsounds Discogs entry is Sky Face, which came out on cassette in 2013 (it’s still available digitally via TALsounds’ Bandcamp). A deeper inspection of her output shows that magnetic tape has been the preferred physical format for nearly all of Chami’s solo stuff, though there was a split 7-inch with Iron Galaxy released in 2013 in an edition of 100 copies and then Love Sick on LP and CD in 2017 through Ba Da Bing! Acquiesce is also available on wax (standard black or 100 copies in white) and is a truly solo affair, with Chami responsible for all the playing and recording, an improvisational process finding the results “later trimmed down and reformatted into songs.”

Cooper Crain of Bitchin’ Bajas is credited as producer, but as Acquiesce is her fifth album, the process of trimming down outlined above is pretty clearly Chami’s own, a conclusion drawn from the striking confidence of the music here as it unfolds rather than seeking out specifics of/ in her earlier stuff. Equally impressive is how her vocalizing, which is often wordless and described by Chami as “leaning into vowels instead of phrases,” is enhanced by the cascading soundscapes, which indeed have songlike structure but also possess drifting qualities unsurprising in experimental (and improvised) electronics. By extension, her history of opening for artists as diverse as Tortoise, Mary Lattimore, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Merzbow is easy to understand. One can also easily absorb Chami’s statement that for her, it’s the playing rather than the recording that brings therapeutic value. On that note, we should consider ourselves lucky she’s produced such a large body of work, with Acquiesce the latest example. A-

Ami Dang, “Meditations Mixtape Vol. 1” (Leaving) Dang is a Baltimore-based South Asian-American ambient artist, singer and player of electronics, plus most distinctively, a mean sitarist. This was all in evidence on Parted Plains from last year, also on Leaving and still available on LP, though “Meditations Mixtape Vol. 1,” which, appropriately for a mixtape, is available on cassette in an edition of 300, provides a tidier dose of the same, but with urgency that one might not expect given Dang’s ambient sensibility. Specifically, she was inspired to create this music after her aunt and uncle became very ill with coronavirus. In her words, “Whether you or a loved one are ill, you’ve lost work, or are feeling general anxiety about the state of the world, these meditations are for you.” Her sitar is as strong as on Parted Plains, but it’s really her vocals that stand out on these four tracks and especially in “Simplicity Mind Tool” and closer “Tension, Tension Release.” An inspirational whole. Thank you, Ami Dang. A-

Matthewdavid’s Mindflight “Care Tracts” (Leaving) Matthew David McQueen mastered Ami Dang’s Meditations Mixtape, and he’s also the co-founder of Leaving Records, which has been one of the more consistently rewarding indie labels to have emerged over the last dozen or so years. A part of Leaving’s discography derives from McQueen’s work under the handle Matthewdavid (with LRH001 in fact, DISK Collection Vol.1, a CDR packaged in a hand-crafted 5¼-inch floppy disk), and a sub-portion as Mindflight, which on the new “Care Tracts” cassette EP (300 copies) strives for a plateau of elevated consciousness across three selections of 10 minutes each: “Tract of Animalia,” “Tract of Gentle Healing,” and “Tract of Bell & Flute Magic.” You might be thinking, “New Age?” You can bet your sweet keister this is New Age, bub. But in wholly embracing the style it avoids the clichés of the genre (especially in the final tract) and hopefully, any negative connotations you might still hold regarding the form. Just let go and float, ok? A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Six

Part six of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here, and part five is here.

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Three LPs from Smithsonian Folkways. The massive archive of this esteemed label (better described as a jewel of public works) is not difficult to investigate, but original vinyl can be hard to come by and occasionally pricey, so the decision to reissue selected titles (in sharp reproductions of the distinctive tip-on jackets that define a significant portion of Folkways’ output prior to founder Moses Asch donating the entire discography to the Smithsonian in 1987), has been appreciated, and covered pretty extensively both in this column and in larger reviews in TVD’s Graded on a Curve. Unsurprisingly, the focus has largely been on folk, blues, old-time, bluegrass and Americana recordings, but Folkways’ interests also spanned into experimental and avant-garde regions, which is reflected in the three most recent reissues, all out tomorrow, and all spotlighted directly below.

The Entourage Music and Theater Ensemble, The Neptune Collection. Of the artists responsible for these three LPs, this group, with connections to Baltimore and Connecticut in the 1970s, likely has the highest profile, due in part to their music getting sampled by Four Tet, but more recently, through the release by Tompkins Square of the Ceremony of Dreams : Studio Sessions & Outtakes, 1972​-​1977 3CD (which also has a scaled back single LP edition). This album, Entourage’s second, recorded in Silver Spring, MD in May 1975, features recordings exclusive to the album, so if you have and dig either or both of those comps, you’ll probably want this one, too (their debut was reissued in 2012). Featuring Joe Clark, Wall Matthews, Rusti Clark and Michael Smith, they collectively composed for dance-theater, with this the home stereo equivalent. Listeners into world-jazz should find its contents appealing, though it often goes beyond that sorta thing, “Space Needle Suicide” in particular. A-

Craig Kupka, Crystals: New Music for Relaxation 2. Okay, so I’ll confess that music specifically made for relaxation hasn’t been a high priority in my life. That means I’m not familiar with Kupka’s prior effort, Clouds, which came out in 1981, also on Folkways. After “extensive field testing found this lovely album as popular as Mr. Kupka’s first” (you have no idea how much I enjoyed reading that on the back cover), this one followed in ’82, featuring Kupka on trombone, MXR digital delay and Arp synth, Norman Beede on Fender Rhodes and Siel synth, Bob Ose on trombone and Kenny Sawhill on bass trombone. That’s a lot of trombone, enough that the nearly 20-minute “Trombones of Lithia” on side one had me thinking of it as a possible distant cousin of ’70s NYC Minimalism, which isn’t a terrible stretch, as Kupka’s other recorded work is three volumes of Modern Dance Technique Environments. Side two’s 21-minute title track goes easy on the ‘bones but lands in early electronic territory to pleasurable effect. A-

Ann McMillan, Gateway Summer Sound: Abstracted Animal and Other Sounds. Across the decades, Folkways has released recordings of speeches, interviews, recitations by poets, authors and educators of their own works or those of others, field recordings of rain forests, junk yards, and cable car soundscapes; there’s even a self-hypnosis instructional album. But one of the more popular “non-musical” LPs, at least in my experience, as I’ve seen it in so many collections, is Sounds of North American Frogs. I own it. I enjoy it. But I appreciate McMillan’s work here a lot more, as it’s intriguing in its abstraction, blending aspects of sound collage, field recordings and early electronic music as she manipulates the sounds of frogs, insects and birds, but also children’s voices, sounds of land, air and sea traffic, pan percussion, harpsichord, and even Frederick Kiesler’s sculpture “The Gong.” There are parts that hit the ear like sound effects for a ’50s sci-fi film but are probably just a hoot owl. ‘nuff said. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Five

Part five of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Phillip Sollmann, Monophonie (A-Ton) Sollmann is a Berlin-based DJ and producer, who when recording via the alias Efdemin, produces a brand of techno that’s, reportedly, “psychedelic, and idiosyncratic,” doing so as recently as last year on the New Atlantis album (which was based, per the title, on an unfinished 17th century novel by Francis Bacon). He’s also produced work that falls outside of the techno realm, specifically experimental and microtonal composition, which includes the “Panama / Suez” EP (a collaboration with Konrad Sprenger and Oren Ambarchi), Gegen Die Zeit (a co-billed collab with John Gürtler) and Monophonie, which, as a live performance with Ensemble Musikfabrik, dates from 2017, premiered at Berlin’s Volksbühne theatre and then taken to Ruhrtriennale and Kampnagel in Hamburg.

For Monophonie, Sollmann has orchestrated a massive undertaking that employs the “rare historical instruments of sonic research” developed by 19th century physician-physicist Hermann von Helmholtz (including the double siren, an original of which Sollmann played in performance with Ensemble Musikfabrik), the microtonal instruments made by the great 20th century avant-classical composer Harry Partch, and the metal sound sculptures of Harry Bertoia (I did say massive). Utilizing the tuning system of just intonation, Monophonie, akin to his work in techno, attains the psychedelic, which in this case is a transportive music reminiscent at times of ’70s Steve Reich blending with early Terry Riley, but with tones and instrumentation enhancing the non-academic side of the modern classical tradition a la Partch naturally, but also nodding toward Moondog and even La Monte Young. Monophonie is a record of startling beauty and precise, disciplined ambition, destined to be one of the best of 2020. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Ike Yard, S/T (Superior Viaduct) NYC’s Ike Yard hold the distinction of having the first record released on Factory Records’ short-lived Factory America label, their eponymous 1982 LP sporting the catalogue number FACT A SECOND (FACT A FIRST was given to a NYC live show featuring Ike Yard opening for New Order, whose set was later released on the Taras Shevchenko VHS). Featuring vocalist-percussionist Stuart Argabright, guitarist Michael Diekmann, vocalist-bassist Kenny Compton and synth player Fred Szymanski, Ike Yard’s second release (following the “Night After Night” 12-inch, issued in 1981 by Les Disques Du Crépuscule, a label associated with a few Factory bands. It’s slated for reissue in August by Superior Viaduct) fits into Factory’s post-punk scheme quite nicely while also standing out and being stylistically prescient, distinguishing them as an influential cult band.

This appears to be the first US vinyl reissue for this album (there was a French pressing in 2012), but the music was notably released by the Acute label in 2006 on the CD 1980-82 Collected; that was a welcome set, as original copies of Ike Yard’s releases aren’t exactly common in the bins, which makes Superior Viaduct’s endeavor especially appealing for vinyl lovers who favor electronics-infused experimental rock. As said, the music here oozes chilly alienation that’s right up Tony Wilson’s alley, but with an edge that situates the band as evolving out of their city’s No Wave scene. Sort of by extension, the danceability of their stuff, which draws fair comparisons to other Factory signees (A Certain Ratio, Section 25) and as Superior Viaduct points out, Cabaret Voltaire and Front 242, never registers as Ike Yard’s main goal, which is a big part of why this record continues to hit so hard. Essential for post-punk collectors. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Pharis & Jason Romero, Bet on Love (Lula) Residing in Horsefly, British Columbia, Canada, the married folk-Americana-bluegrass duo of Pharis & Jason Romano also make instruments. Specifically, they build banjos, and Bet on Love, the fifth album for the Juno Award winners, was recorded in their shop at home. It’s a delightful record evincing strong ties to the old-time folk root while flowing forth with bright, crisp production that places the album as a contemporary release, if one unburdened by any trends of the moment. Put another way, the Romeros aren’t throwing back to the past, but instead, being deeply invested in tradition (as instrument builders, more so than most), are carrying the old styles into the present with clarity that’s reflected in Bet on Love’s expert musicianship.

The reliable anchor of Patrick Metzger’s double bass and the strumming and occasional flourishes of John Reischman’s mandolin aside, Bet on Love ultimately lands nearer to Americana than the elevated ensemble flair of bluegrass. But happily, the record lacks the mild-mannered sensibility that hinders, at least for this listener, so many current practitioners of the Americana style. This shouldn’t suggest that the music here isn’t primed to be soaked up without a hindrance by as many receptive ears as possible, it’s just that the beauty with which this album is infused is delivered with considerable power. Part of this intensity derives from the sturdy folk foundation, but a larger reason comes down to the sheer gorgeousness of Pharis Romero’s voice, which hits a peak in the record’s title track but sounds splendid throughout. She also plays guitar as Jason utilizes a variety of banjos and guitars; while often pretty, the playing is better assessed as possessing great verve. A magnificent set, on vinyl and compact disc. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: V/A, Early Works: Funk, Soul & Afro Rarities from the Archives (ATA) Whether it’s releases by The Sorcerers, The Magnificent Tape Band, The Lewis Express, Abstract Orchestra, Rachel Modest, or Tony Burkill, the ATA label, based in Leeds, UK, has made it crystal clear that contemporary funky soulfulness in a classic vein isn’t exclusively the provenance of US labels like Daptone, Big Crown, and Colemine. The label of Neil Innes & Pete Williams, ATA commenced operations in 2013 and not long after had their initial work compiled by the Here & Now label in an edition of 300 copies that sold out in weeks. With new artwork, notes that illuminate the label’s origins, and a slightly altered title, this is a welcome reissue.

That Innes and Williams are involved with everything lends cohesiveness to the whole, as does the largely instrumental nature, which helps the label to standout a bit, though the approach does bring them into the general proximity of Big Crown. Still, ATA’s stuff hits hard but is noticeably distinct from the work of Leon Michels, frequently coming off as a neo-library music experience. However, the sitar and flute in “Thought Forms” by um, Ivan Von Engelberger’s Asteroid is tasty neo-psych. I also adore the ripping baritone sax in “Hawkshaw Philly” by The Yorkshire Film And Television Orchestra, which is a late standout. There are also two vocal cuts courtesy of Cleveland Freckleton, though for one he goes under the handle Reverend Barrington Stanley. Represented by three cuts, The Sorcerers bring some Ethio-jazz to the table with “Elephant,” while The Cadets cinch up a soul-jazzy finale with “What Are We Made Of.” This album is great for dancing in your sock feet on the hard word floor of the living room. I tried it. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Beauty Pill, Please Advise (Northern Spy) The first new music from Beauty Pill since the brilliant Describes Things as They Are is not a letdown, though the brevity of the release does leave me wanting more, which isn’t the same thing as disappointment, as the four tracks cohere into a worthy whole. The shortness means Please Advise might be an EP, but I’ve only seen it referred to as an LP; Beauty Pill have been tagged as post-rock, but they are also post-duration, apparently (a different bonus track comes with each format). Beauty Pill is also the band of Chad Clark, who doesn’t lump the music into the post-rock genre but rather the Beauty Pill genre, which reinforces how post-rock is in many ways post-category; Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are up to different things, and Please Advise doesn’t sound like either of them, partly because Beauty Pill is an ever-evolving band, here introducing newest member Erin Nelson right away through her AI-like vocals in “Pardon My Dust.”

Alongside Nelson’s contribution, there’s also a horn-quartet blowing a wiggly pattern reminiscent of the Downtown NYC of yore and underscoring Clark’s love of Arto Lindsay. The mention of Lindsay provides a nice segue into some general enthusiasm for Clark’s guitar playing, which shines in closing cut “The Damnedest Thing.” But guitar isn’t a constant factor in Beauty Pill’s equation (it’s not even a constant factor in “The Damnedest Thing”). Neither is Nelson’s voice, though she’s crucial to “Prison Song.” However, rhythm is a constant here as the songs feature a blend of live and programmed drums that occasionally skitter forth in a manner similar to electronica. That’s nice. A sound that reminds me of a synthetic hammered dulcimer in “Tattooed Love” is even nicer. And the horn arrangement that pops up in “Pardon My Dust” hits my ear a little like those heard on Illinois by noted Philip Glass-fan Sufjan Stevens, so this review has come full circle. A-

Steve Dawson & Funeral Bonsai Wedding, Last Flight Out (Kernel Sound) Succinctly, Funeral Bonsai Wedding is a project that came to life in Chicago, bringing together Americana affiliated singer-songwriter Dawson (of the band Dolly Varden) with musicians from the Windy City experimental jazz and improv scene including bassist Jason Roebke, vibes player Jason Adasiewicz, and on self-titled 2014 debut, drummer Frank Rosaly, who’s replaced here due to the constraints of distance (as he moved to Amsterdam) by Charles Rumback. Additionally, the all-female classical string ensemble Quartet Parapluie partook in the recording of this follow-up, with their input, often terrific, going a long way in solidifying the comparison to Astral Weeks that accompanies the album in preparation of its release on vinyl, CD, and digital this week.

The other reason for the connection to Van is due to the mingling of the songwriter scene with jazz, which often doesn’t produce much beyond expert playing and trivia (as in, “hey, do you know who’s soloing there?”) but delivered something truly special on Astral Weeks. Now, Last Night Out isn’t as great as Weeks (very few records are) but there are a few spots where the similarity jumps out as accurate, mostly due to Roebke but in “However Long it Takes,” very much through Dawson’s vocals. His singing more frequently reinforces his Americana background to the point where this set is recommended for folks deeply invested in the style’s contempo developments, although he can occasionally remind me of Tim Buckley, a circumstance surely helped by how Adasiewicz can recall David Friedman on Happy Sad, Blue Afternoon, and Dream Letter. But really, this set is a winner on its own merits; the songs are as strong as the singing and the playing is just top-flight all the way through. A-

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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