Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Oiseaux-Tempëte, From Somewhere Invisible (Sub Rosa) Described as an evolving collective rather than a band, Oiseaux-Tempëte (translates as Storm Petrels) was formed in 2012 by multi-instrumentalists Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul. This recorded incarnation features vocalist G.W. Sok formerly of The Ex, electronic producer Mondkopf, drummer Jean-Michel Pirès of Bruit Noir, violinist Jessica Moss of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, and multi-instrumentalist and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart. It was Moumneh who initiated this lineup by inviting the quintet of Oberland, Pigneul, Mondkopf, Pirès and Sok to Canada for live shows, with Jerusalem In My Heart reforming to play alongside them.

This is presumably how Moss, who’s based in Canada, got involved. She’s a welcome addition to an ensemble sound that covers a wide range of possibilities as the tracks, a few of them lengthy, unfurl. To call From Somewhere Invisible experimental is fitting, but the collective’s thrust is also quite structural, but with a looseness that never quite tips over into spark-of-the-moment improvisation. Horns emerge, as do electronics, and the way Sok speaks rather than sings really reinforces this as an intellectually vibrant art-rock shebang. We could also call it a post-rock throwdown, but in doing so I feel it’s necessary to specify that this record, had it not been issued by Sub Rosa, could’ve easily fit on the roster of Constellation Records (Moss and Moumneh obviously help promote this observation). A

Dopolarians, Garden Party (Mahakala Music) A spectacular CD of avant-jazz from a new label, with an undercurrent of sadness, as it documents the final studio recording of percussionist Alvin Fielder. He’s joined here by tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, alto man Chad Fowler (who also plays a little saxello), bassist extraordinaire William Parker, pianist Christopher Parker, and vocalist Kelly Hurt. As said, Garden Party is inextricably tied to the avant-garde, but don’t get the idea that this is a big group exhale of freedom’s breath (worry not, there are a few sweet blasts). This is a compositionally rich batch of music (totaling just over an hour), with three of the six selections credited to Fowler. Everything maintains a high level of quality, but Hurt’s title track, complete with warm storytelling, nearly steals the show. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: The Springfields, Singles 1986-1991 (Slumberland) Part of Slumberland’s lasting appeal is in how they thrived as part of an indie pop trajectory that continues right up to now, with the label, as listed below, making worthy contempo contributions to the style. The imprint is also psyched to share influences and enthusiasms, which is what’s happening with this comp. The Springfields were Chicago based and featured Ric Menck and Paul Chastain, two dudes likely better known for the band Velvet Crush. The glorious post-Byrds jangle pop collected here was released by labels including Sarah of the UK, so take that as a sign of quality. Also cool is that the comp opens with both sides of the “This Perfect Day” 45 by pre-Springfields Menck/ Chastain outfit Choo-Choo Train. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Fea, No Novelties (Blackheart) Hailing from San Antonio, TX, Fea is Latina punk with ties highlighting the band’s relationship to the style’s classicism; specifically, No Novelties is released on Joan Jett’s label with production by Alice Bag (Iggy Pop is also a fan). The music has been compared to Bikini Kill and The Gossip, and yeah, as this LP unwinds it does implant into the brain a similarity to the gal side of the ’90s-’00s Kill Rock Stars shebang (Riot Grrl central, essentially), but Fea has also been likened to Priests, which is nice shorthand in expressing that the band effectively carries this sound and screamingly relevant perspective into the present rather than just delivering a carbon copy. For example, Fea’s music is bilingual, and that’s fucking great. “Pelo Suelto” kicks major ass. A-

Juliana Hatfield, Sings The Police (American Laundromat) Although I do like some of their songs, mostly early stuff, I’ve no special esteem for The Police. In fact, in my personal hierarchy, I value Juliana Hatfield a whole lot more, in part because Blake Babies were an often-terrific band. So, you might think this tribute project (obviously, she holds a much higher opinion of The Police) would be somewhat up my alley. But I’ll confess that tributes of this stripe only pull my chain on occasion; I mean, I’ve yet to even listen to Hatfield’s prior set doffing the hat to Olivia Newton-John. But that’s also because my interest in ON-J is basically nil. What can I say, I can be a fickle motherfucker sometimes. All this didn’t bode particularly well for this album of interpretations of tunes by Sting, Summers and Copeland.

Well, Hatfield emerges creatively victorious, for a variety of reasons. First off, her long-extant likability has diminished not even a little. She’s in strong voice and is clearly engaged with the concept (as she should be, as she initiated it), but Hatfield also plays nearly everything herself, which works in relation to a production style that is both stripped-down and vivid. The way her tough guitar sound mingles with the choice of occasionally rudimentary drum programming and additional modest tech is also a plus. All this counteracts a frequent problem with The Police’s later stuff, which is that even when the songs were okay (or a little better) the whole ultimately reeked like bags of money. In contrast, Hatfield’s Sings the Police registers as an act of love thriving on inspiration rather than inflated or propped up by cash.

We’re nearer to the spirit of The Police’s initial handful of singles and Outlandos d’Amour, and that’s swell. Other smart decisions: Hatfield stays fairly close structurally to the sturdier of the band’s songs (like “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”) while giving others a punky kick in the pants (“Murder By Numbers”). She also doesn’t simply up the reggae quotient, which would frankly be a pretty lazy thing to do. But maybe her most unlikely achievements are in revitalizing overplayed warhorses “Roxanne” (a true highlight here) and “Every Breath You Take,” and back-to-back, even. Amongst all this success, I can even forgive a few spots that remind me of Sheryl Crow. Hey, maybe I should check out that Newton-John thing after all. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Jumpstarted Plowhards, Round One (Recess) Bassist Mike Watt is, with no hyperbole, indefatigable. In the recent past, he’s been out on the road as part of Tav Falco’s band, assisted (along with singer David Yow) in a bunch of shows with Flipper, and has just wound down a tour with his own outfit The Missingmen. Recordings have been prominent as well, with this set a back-and-forth project with singer-guitarist Todd Congelliere of Toys That Kill and a rotating cast of drummers including a few with long associations with Watt, namely George Hurley, Raul Morales, and the youthful Nick Aguilar. Toys That Kill is a San Pedro-based outfit, so this is all literally close to home for Watt, with the foundation of the songs beginning with his bass parts as recorded to click tracks.

They were then passed on to Congelliere, who fleshed out the tunes and finally picked the drummers as he felt appropriate; amongst the contributors is Patty Schemel of Hole. Not being super-familiar with Toys That Kill, the results are pretty surprising as the concise set begins in what I’ll call a late ’70s-early ’80s UK art-punk zone that borders on that era and that nation’s subterranean DIY explosion. As the next seven tracks unwind, the general aura of Britishness remains but without ever slipping into the territory of a best-accent contest. The whole is cohesive as fuck (this bodes well, as there are five more prospective installments of Jumpstarted Plowhards material) and rocks like a mofo, which given the participants, isn’t the least bit surprising. It all syncs up very nicely with the below. A-

Fitted, First Fits (ORG Music) If Jumpstarted Plowhards is near to Mike Watt geographically, Fitted connects to the Minutemen (the bassist’s most high-profile endeavor, as ever it will be) pretty solidly, as amongst the participants is founding member of Wire, bassist-vocalist Edvard Graham Lewis; rounding out the band is later and current Wire member Matthew Sims on guitar and Bob Lee (Fearless Leader, Claw Hammer, The Freeks) on drums, with Watt on bass and spiel. Lewis adds synth and sampler, while Simms brings modular synth and organ to the studio. Well, five studios, as this was cut in various locations in Cali, the UK and Sweden in 2017-’18. Amazingly, Fitted practiced once, on March 30, 2017. The music is sharp-edged post-punk and expansive; at six tracks, it’s twice the length of Round One. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Peter Ivers, Becoming Peter Ivers (RVNG Intl.) Peter Ivers is far from forgotten, but along with the mysterious circumstances of his death in 1983, he’s probably remembered mainly these days for writing “In Heaven,” which was featured in David Lynch’s Eraserhead as sung by Laurel Near (it has since been covered many times, including by The Pixies). He was also the host of Los Angeles-area public access show New Wave Theater, which benefited from wider exposure on Night Flight and last decade by making the internet rounds. But as a recording artist, Ivers debuted all the way back in ’69 for Epic with Knight of the Blue Communion. Neither it nor his epic follow-up Take It Out On Me sold much, but he still ended up signed to Warner Brothers, where he cut two more albums.

Ivers’ role on New Wave Theater might position him on the surface as an early punk-era oddball personality, which he certainly was, but as the above should highlight, he was much more than that. His ’74 album Terminal Love was produced by Van Dyke Parks, who appears on one selection on this collection, “Window Washer.” Five years in the making and collecting mid-’70s demos, four of them of songs from Terminal Love, Becoming Peter Ivers really underscores Ivers’ talent as a songwriter, his solid harmonica playing (he was mentored by Little Walter) and the kind of ’70s presence that didn’t fit in to the decade’s scheme, a la Tom Waits, though the music here, often in the singer-songwriter mode with a funky undercurrent, is distinct. While demos, these aren’t song skeletons. A valuable eye-opener. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Swans, Leaving Meaning (Young God / Mute) It can seem a bit unfair to other promising and thriving acts to so regularly spotlight the work of Michael Gira in this column (and in year end best lists), but after consideration, Leaving Meaning fully deserves the attention, as it’s something distinctly more than just another great Swans release. That’s because it documents a new phase of Gira’s band; much attention was paid to the winding down of the prior lineup, arguably the best in the outfit’s long history, after the release of the masterful The Glowing Man. There was promise of more to come under the moniker with the understanding that the results would constitute a break with what had commenced at the beginning of the decade and solidified Gira as one of our most important artists.

Leaving Meaning assuredly marks a fresh chapter in the saga, though unsurprisingly, Gira hasn’t inaugurated this phase with concision, as the release is over 90 minutes long on 2CD and over 80 on 2LP. This is in keeping with his penchant for large-scaled works (which predated the prior Swans iteration going back to the mid-’90s and even earlier as ’87’s Children of God broke 70 minutes). And with expected similarities aside, Leaving Meaning justifies the new start hubbub; back in the day, Swans was occasionally compared to Industrial, but this set inches into the ballpark of the Gothic, or maybe more appropriately dark folk, partly through depth of vocals but also because Gira is never cheerful, which, along with many returning players, reinforces this as a Swans record. A very brilliant Swans record. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: The Pop Group, Y (Definitive Edition) (Mute) This expanded edition of the first LP from these essential UK post-punkers completes a reissue program that commenced on the band’s own Freaks R Us label back in 2016 with the rerelease of their second LP from 1980, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? There was also a fresh pressing of the “We Are All Prostitutes” 45, Cabinet of Curiosities, which collected the debut single and unreleased stuff including a session for John Peel, and The Boys Whose Head Exploded, which was a collection of live songs documenting various locations on a 1980 tour. This stream of fanbase-funded material overlapped with two new records from the group that to my ear did a pretty okay job of not sullying their significant legacy.

Perhaps in part because Pledge Music (the platform for the Freaks R Us reissues) went bust, Mute is now on the scene. But I’ll add that the multi-format nature of the affair required hefty label muscle; along with single CD and cassette offerings of Y, there is a 3CD that includes the rare and unreleased comp Alien Blood plus the self-explanatory Y Live. There is a 2LP of Y with a 12-inch reissue of debut 7-inch “She Is Beyond Good and Evil” and two limited 4LP sets, one on Inca Gold wax, corralling everything. Those unfamiliar with The Pop Group’s importance might be wondering if all this activity is justified, to which I’ll reply most certainly, as the music offered here greatly expanded possibilities, and as reflected by how many folks once hated this band, was way ahead of the game. So, it still holds up, big time. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Negativland, True False (Seeland) This enduring and intermittently notorious outfit are better described as sound collagists and media satirists than a trad band. Old enough to have made the Nurse with Wound list, their ’87 record Escape from Noise is their masterpiece, or one of ‘em, anyway. One could say that the time is ripe for a new Negativland release (this is the first of two interconnected 2LPs), but the reality is that the time is forever ripe for their brand of deconstruction and commentary (here featuring the return of The Weatherman) plus the requisite guests (including Matmos’ M.C. Schmidt and guitarist Ava Mendoza). As agitators, Negativland are not partisan; True False’s making began in 2012. Strange, troubling, and occasionally funny, just like it’s always been. A-

Moonchy & Tobias, Atmosfere (Hidden Shoal – Tiny Room) While the second full-length from vocalist Pat Moonchy and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias is self-described as a more subdued affair (adjusting the debut’s psychedelia), it still has numerous positives, including a comfort level that reinforces the duo as something more than a studio project. And although Moonchy’s often breathy voice enhances a persistently dreamy quality, it’s not like the psych aura has been eradicated. To the contrary, much of Tobias’ playing, in particular some solid acoustic fingerpicking, is nicely (if subtly) outward bound. But the icing on the cake (for me) is that Moonchy sings nearly the entire record in her native Italian, making the brevity of the whole a wee bit disappointing. Atmosfere is just over too damned quickly. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Willie Colón, The Hustler (Craft Latino) One of four reissued classics from the Fania catalog via Craft Recordings, three of which are available in brick and mortar stores (the other, listed below, is an October Record of the Month from subscription by mail service Vinyl Me, Please). We’re so far away from the ’60s that most people won’t immediately associate this record’s title and cover art with the Robert Rossen-directed, Paul Newman-starring flick about big money billiards, but that was the reference, and it signified a major break from the Latin music norms of the time, specifically a generally clean and safe image and an emphasis on boogaloo. The Hustler was a big step in the move toward salsa, featuring Colón’s trombone hugeness and Héctor Lavoe’s Spanish vocals. A

Curt Boettcher & Friends, Looking for the Sun (High Moon) Dawn Eden Goldstein’s excellent notes for this set begin by noting that Boettcher was once essentially forgotten, but these days, I’d guess that plenty of heavy-duty fans of ’60s pop know his work. This is the first collection to spotlight him as producer, arranger and writer. Having produced the Association hits “Cherish” and “Along Comes Mary” (plus Tommy Roe’s “Sweet Pea”), those cuts aren’t here. The biggest name is Sagittarius, who conclude the record, though there is an abundance of sunshine pop preceding them. When said style is average it can connect as a whole lot worse, but that’s not a problem here, as miraculously, Looking for the Sun improves as it progresses. I can’t think of a better compliment for Boettcher than that. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Los Siquicos Litoraleños, Medianos Éxitos Subtropicales Vol. 2: El Relincho Del Tiempo (Hive Mind) From the rural north of Argentina comes a sound that’s gloriously weird. While the folk music of their home country is the bedrock, with the spirt of Tropicalia also present, there is detectible punk fuckery happening, though a better way of putting it is to say this reminds me a lot of The Residents. Once heard, it was a hard similarity to shake, but the group never sounded too much like the Eyeballers, and that really increased the impressiveness. Mixing new material with selections from the group’s extensive archive of home recordings probably aids in the strangeness retaining such a consistently high level of quality. There is a Vol. 1, released on tape in 2016, and it’s still available. A-

The Muffs, No Holiday (Omnivore) Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Kim Shattuck has left us far too soon, departing this mortal coil shortly before the release of this, her band’s seventh LP. Soaking up the 18 tracks drives home the solidity of the endeavor, which makes its release especially bittersweet. Shattuck was a rock scene lifer, playing in The Pandoras when this middle-ager was just discovering the whole ’80s u-ground rock shebang, and one thing about long-haulers is how they regularly exude a sorta careerist vibe, an understandable aura if one that’s often underwhelming. But not Shattuck. Her stuff, No Holiday’s stuff, a batch of songs written between ’91-’07, radiates love for ’60s-ish pop mixed with ’77 punk roar. It’s out on CD and 2LP but with a standard album length. RIP Kim, you’ll be missed. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Milton Delugg & His Orchestra, Music for Monsters, Munsters, Mummies & Other TV Fiends & The Munsters, S/T (Real Gone) Halloween is coming, don’tcha know. We’ll cover these two vinyl reissues now to give folks ample time to swipe copies for their upcoming costume soiree, and we’re going to group them together as that makes utter sense, though they do offer fairly distinct approaches to the holiday theme. The Delugg album can be considered as a cash-in, and a kitschy one at that, but it’s also a load of fun, leaning HARD into a ’60s TV theme-talk show big band sensibility that I find hard to resist. There are undisguised steals from Mancini, cuts reminiscent of or in direct reference to Neal Hefti and Vic Mizzy, plus a fair amount of non-crap organ stylings.

The Munsters is also a money grab, but it’s a Wrecking Crew-affiliated one, featuring Glen Campbell and Leon Russell in the studio. Produced by Joe Hooven and Hal Winn, the results are much closer to the youth sound and culture of ’64. It’s surfy with flurries of hot licks and hot rod sounds (the Jan & Dean-knockoff “(Here Comes the) Munster Coach” is borderline ridiculous, and that’s swank), references to Frankenstein wearing a Beatle wig, a vampire stripper scenario with saloon piano, Martin Denny-esque exotica, vocal contributions from the Go Gos (who are noted for their own ’64 LP), and more. Original copies go for hundreds, so this run of 1,000 on grey wax will surely please interested parties who don’t require a first press. The Delugg is a 900-copy edition on green vinyl with a cover by Jack Davis. B+/ B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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