Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: V/A, 3 x 4: The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade (Yep Roc) A lot of scene-oriented regroupings/ get-togethers are hindered by a sense of self-congratulation, but this endeavor by four key Paisley Underground bands, with the above-named participants covering each other’s songs, doesn’t give me that vibe at all, partially because this celebrates a movement that was initially a rejection of “gotta-make-it-big”-ism in favor of classic stuff (as listed by Steve Wynn in the booklet; VU, Nuggets, Syd-era Floyd). They all sounded so good though, that making it big (to varying degrees) was basically inevitable. This has three songs each by all four, and if you ever wondered what the Bangles covering “That’s What You Always Say” would sound like, well wonder no more. A-

Tav Falco, Cabaret of Daggers (ORG Music) Memphis titan Tav Falco came to prominence as arguably the finest, and less contentiously, the deepest of the post-punk (as in after punk) champions of pre-Beatle rock ‘n’ roll and sweet Southern roots. I consider it hard to dispute that he was the most striking personality of the bunch, and his flair has extended into his later work, which has retained its relevance through a consistently expanding sphere of interests, including tango music. Accompanied by his Unapproachable Panther Burns, Cabaret of Daggers sounds markedly different from Tav’s thing in the 1980s, though the man’s huge presence integrates it quite nicely into his oeuvre as a whole. That he gets political in “New World Order Blues” (and a cover of “Strange Fruit”) is a welcome bonus. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Almost Acoustic (ATO) I know this one well through the Deadheads in my life, but I’ve never owned it; ‘tis nice that I can rectify that with ease. Recorded live in San Francisco and Los Angeles, this 70-minute set of bluegrass, blues, and roots reinforces both Garcia’s talent as a guitarist and his pretty-much unfaltering taste in material, as he chooses a bounty of traditional songs, “Blue Yodel #9” from Jimmie Rodgers, “Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” from Elizabeth Cotten, two from Mississippi John Hurt, and more. The entire band is in top-notch form (of special mention is the record’s producer Sandy Rothman on mandolin and dobro) and they roll with clear delight all the way to a concluding version of “Ripple.” You know the crowd loved it. I do, too. A

Bauhaus, “The Bela Session” (Leaving), Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape & The Sky’s Gone Out (Beggars Arkive) For Bauhaus lovers, the EP is the crown jewel in this batch of 40th anniversary reissues, as three of the five cuts are previously unreleased (one is “Boys” from the ’79 “Bela” 12-inch in its original version). Those who like but are not bonkers over Bauhaus might be wondering if these tracks hold more than historical interest, but it’s really getting to hear the band before they totally solidified their direction that makes it all such a treat. Press the Eject is the ’82 live alb; it’s solid but skippable if you’re on a budget. Third LP proper Sky holds signs of strain but is strong enough that their positive trajectory was essentially maintained. The opening cover of Eno’s “Third Uncle” rips. A-/ B+/ A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Josephine Foster, Faithful Fairy Harmony (Fire) In the wrong hands, the title for this one would likely indicate an aural quagmire, but as this is Josephine Foster, I hadn’t a worry over its contents, and this four-part 2LP didn’t disappoint. Foster’s voice is capable of sweetness, deeper beauty, and sharp intensity, plus the ability to resonate as from an earlier time without affectation. But she’s also sturdy instrumentally, playing guitar, piano, organ, harp, autoharp, harmonica, and percussion as well as producing here (recording again in Nashville with Andrija Tokic). Having come to prominence during the New Weird folk wave, Foster’s music was impressive then, and over the years she hasn’t redirected or streamlined her sound, but rather transformed it. This just might be her best one yet. A

Zaïmph, Rhizomatic Gaze (Drawing Room) I’ve expressed approval more than once over the vinyl format’s help in curbing full-length releases as containers of seemingly unedited spillage. Of course, in the right hands, records of longer duration do provide a special kick, and like Foster directly above, the mitts of Marcia Bassett (formerly of Un, Double Leopards, GHQ, and numerous collabs) are right as rain. It’s a scenario that extends to her instrumental prowess on a variety of instruments, particularly guitar. At just short of 72 minutes, there’s plenty of room here for Bassett to explore drone, noise, and ambient motifs, and while her sound has been described on more than occasion as dark, seriousness of intent keeps this far away from black capes and plastic fangs territory. Halloween is over. Outstanding. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Robbie Basho, Venus in Cancer (Traffic Entertainment) Of the three big names in American Primitive guitar’s original wave, Basho remains the least well-known, but as this very cool LP is being reissued for the third time since the turn of the century, his cult has endured (there was also a 1982 live set issued on ESP Disk last year). Originally released in ’69 or ’70, this was Basho’s sixth album and first for Blue Thumb, and it opens with the exquisite nine minutes of the title track; suffice to say no fan of Guitar Soli will want to be without it. Basho does sing on three tracks, and I’m not going to say his voice doesn’t take some getting used to, but in the 25 years since I first heard those pipes, they’ve become an integral part of the experience, which means this LP is sounding better than ever. A

The Posies, Amazing Disgrace (Omnivore) When praising Omnivore’s reissue of The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater back in August, I ranked that record as my favorite from the band, and I still feel that way. However, upon reacquaintance with this one, I’m a bit surprised at how well it’s held up. Beater has been anointed “the loud one” in the band’s discography, but they retained a lot of that spit and fire for Amazing Disgrace, and in terms of attitude, this has some of their most aggressive stuff. It also reinforces the songwriting of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow as still up to standard, which in pop-rock is a more difficult achievement that you might think. Even at their heaviest there’s catchiness plus an avoidance of the hackneyed. The vinyl is 2LP (sans download), the CD has oodles of exclusive extras. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Two

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Mourning [A] BLKstar, The Garner Poems (Electric Cowbell) As of this writing, the Election Day polls in the USA have closed, but the outcome is far from decided, and I’ve shut off social media for a necessary breather and to focus on last few items in this column. Regardless of the electoral outcome, there’s much work ahead in the struggle to heal the open wounds of oppression, bigotry, and violence, and artists creating politically will be integral in the fight. This Ohio-based DIY Afrofuturist soul outfit’s latest record is a beacon of music as righteous action, blending a diced-up, sample-infused, hip-hop, jazz and soul-informed instrumental foundation with socially impassioned lyrical clarity. The whole shines a defiant light on the ugliness of inequality, and police brutality in particular, all with the goal of remembrance, justice, and the hope of a better future. May we work together to achieve it. A

Tallawit Timbouctou, Hali Diallo (Sahel Sounds) From Northern Mali, Tallawit Timbouctou are specialists in the traditional musical style takamba, with its structuring instrument the tehardent, which is described as a four-stringed lute and precursor to the banjo. The rhythms are produced by pounding on an overturned calabash. The style has a long history, possibly stretching back to the Songhai Empire of the 15th century, but it hit another level in the ’80s with the introduction of amplification. The results are hypnotic (an uninterrupted stream when listened to digitally) and highly distorted. If you haven’t heard ‘em, you’re going to imagine a certain level of distortion. Upon listening, these glorious note tangles are going to blow those expectations completely away. A stellar release. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Thing, S/T (Cultures of Soul) Not to be confused with the extant Norwegian/ Swedish free jazz trio, this Thing existed in early ‘70s Boston, formed by saxophonist and jazz educator Arni Cheatham, and they specialized in a robust stream of fusion that while undeniably evoking the sound of electric Miles and early Weather Report, ultimately stands on its own (consistently sharp playing helps matters considerably); it’s all held up well over time. Featuring two side-long live suites from ’72 (one from Harvard U), some may recall excerpts from these performances on Cultures of Soul’s comp The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983, but now here’s the whole shebang on wax. Your chances of finding a copy of an original are basically nil, so this is an affordable gesture of goodness. A-

Yoruba Singers, Fighting for Survival (Cultures of Soul) Active since 1971 and cited as the longest-running musical act in Guyana, the Yoruba Singers recorded this set ten years into their existence (after a few prior singles and an LP), and in the press release the contents get described as their “magnum opus.” I’ll add that its stylistically all over the place, but fascinatingly so, and with a funky thread that manages to hold their range together. There’s some light funk, a little deeper funk, a few pop-tinged tunes, touches of reggae, excursions in afrobeat, and even calypso. There are elements in the Yoruba Singers’ stew that don’t really float my boat, but on the other hand, every song here lands on the plus side of the equation, and it’s easy to understand why original copies of this have sold for $300. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for November, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Heather Leigh, Throne (Editions Mego) As a former member of Charalambides and with collaborators ranging from Thurston Moore to Jandek to Chris Corsano to Richard Youngs to Peter Brötzmann (see directly below), Heather Leigh is a versatile yet singular force to be reckoned with, specifically due to her choice of instrument, the pedal steel guitar in combination with a powerful singing voice. After a batch of CDRs, tapes and a couple of limited wax slabs, 2015’s terrific I Abused Animal for Ideologic Organ raised the profile of Leigh in solo mode, and with this follow-up her work blossoms to captivating effect (while adding touches of violin, synth and bass). Others’ mentions of Kate Bush and Coil are apropos, but the ambiance is like 2:30am in a cabin in Appalachia. Hell yeah. A

Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights (Trost) Leigh and German horn giant Peter Brötzmann have three prior releases, Ears Are Filled With Wonder, Sex Tape, and the tour only Crowmoon, all recorded live. For this studio set, nearly 80 minutes long on CD but scaled back to six tracks for the LP, there are moments that if not tranquil, certainly do unfold less aggressively than has been the performance norm. This is not to suggest that Brötzmann is weakening in his later years; far from it, as he ranges from alto to bass sax here and kicks up a glorious racket in the full set’s centerpiece “This Time Around.” But Leigh’s unorthodox approach is indispensable to the piece’s success, and her riveting solo opening to “It’s Almost Dark” is maybe my favorite passage from this amazing duo exchange. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Deben Bhattacharya, Paris to Calcutta: Men and Music on the Desert Road (Sublime Frequencies) Since emerging 15 years ago, Sublime Frequencies has been an undisputed leader in uncovered global sounds, offering a distinct approach that’s been tagged “punk ethnography.” Up to now, we’ve yet to cover anything from the label in this space, but with four releases dropping this week, here’s an overdue spotlight. This 4CD+160pg book documenting a 1955 trip from France to India by “field recordist, poet, filmmaker, musicologist, and amateur ethnomusicologist” Deben Bhattacharya is the jewel of the bunch, and it’s assured to be amongst the finest archival sets of the year. At times wildly intense, if you dug Dust-to-Digital’s recent Paul Bowles collection, this one’s an absolute must. A+

V/A, To Catch a Ghost: Field Recordings from Madagascar (Sublime Frequencies) This is the second volume in Sublime Frequencies’ documentation of Charles Brooks’ field recordings from central and southern Madagascar, (the first was Outlier: Recordings from Madagascar) and the results are of a much more recent vintage than the Bhattacharya set, and shorter too, fitting onto a single LP. To Catch a Ghost is also wonderfully varied, featuring everything from complex (and intense) harmony, to strummed strings (sometimes guitar-like, but in one instance similar to a dulcimer), to whistle-like wind instruments, to the bowed lokanga (which on “Prosper Razafimamdimby” sounds like a distant relation to Appalachian fiddling). There’s also fair amount of throat breathing, which is a major plus. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, October 2018, Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings (International Anthem) Everything I’ve heard thus far from Paris-born, New England-reared, and long-time Windy City resident Makaya McCraven has been sweet, but this 90-minute 2LP/ 2CD is a knockout, in part through sheer enlargement, comprised as it is from four sessions (one per vinyl side), two of them live (in NYC and Chicago), one in studio (in London) and one at guitarist Jeff Parker’s house (in L.A.). Hitting a sweet spot between the flowing expansiveness of spiritual jazz and the rhythmic thrust of hip-hop (which adds some crucial toughness), there’s also some beneficial avant-garde edge as drummer McCraven provides significant post-production to the whole. Overall, it clarifies how the “jazz is dead” crowd remains utterly full of shit. A

Neneh Cherry, Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound) Given the title, you might expect Cherry’s latest (and first since 2014’s Blank Project) to be a (perfectly appropriate) rage fest, but while anger is an element in this sonic stew, no; in some ways this is an antidote to the exhaustion that can result from too frequent bouts of furiousness. Working at Creative Music Studio in Woodstock and again with producer Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet), there’s mucho nuance here, and the range of topics, amongst them the refugee crisis in “Kong” and gun violence in “Shot Gun Shack,” fruitfully combine with a broad musical palette (vibraphonist Karl Berger guests for a track). Along with Cherry’s rich voice (whether singing, speaking, or rapping), Hebden’s occasionally trip-hoppy production lends focus. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Bauhaus, In the Flat Field & Mask (Beggars Arkive) Even if the qualitative track record of subsequent Gothsters was pretty dang poor, Bauhaus shall not be blamed; often credited as the kick-starters of said musical (life)style (given Siouxsie, it’s a distinction that’s at least somewhat arguable), Bauhaus was a fine band (‘tis true many didn’t think so while they were extant), and one that I don’t think ever sounded better than they did early on. Commencing a hefty reissue program that stretches into December, here’s full-length debut In the Flat Field and follow-up Mask. Keeping in mind the lack of extras from later CD editions, Flat offers a handful of the band’s strongest moments, while Mask’s positive refinements help to shape their most consistent, and best album. A-/ A

Space Streakings, First Love 初恋: Debut Album and Demo Tracks (Skin Graft) Part of a fertile Japanese u-ground scene that’s highest-profile export was Boredoms, Space Streakings sometimes sounded like an espresso company-sponsored video game tournament taking place in the pit of a battle of the bands where the horn-section-flanked spazz-core finalists nix the idea of taking turns and just go for broke simultaneously. This glass-mastered compact disc in a six-panel jacket collects their ’93 debut Hatsu-Koi, originally released on Nux Organization (the label of Zeni Geva’s KK Null, who also produced), and adds a prior demo. For those bummed over the lack of vinyl, both of Space Streakings subsequent efforts, ’94’s Steve Albini-assisted 7-Toku and their ’96 collab with Mount Shasta, are currently available on wax. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Madison Washington, (((( FACTS ))))) (Def Pressé) This NYC-UK duo’s “Code Switchin’” EP from last year was solid, but here is a major leap forward and one of the best hip-hop full-lengths (available on 2LP) that I’ve heard in quite a while. After the short opening track’s spoken poetics (with a touch of sonic manipulation) reassert the politically-socially conscious verve of their debut, the title cut delivers a rhythmic tour de force, setting matters into motion with a high point, and it’s to MC Malik Ameer and producer-DJ thatmanmonkz’ credit that what follows never falters or even runs low on gas. Interestingly, I’m hearing a much stronger P-Funk/ Outcast vibe than I did before but sprinkled with some jazzy bits and bushels of smart rhymes. A knockout that’s invigorating for the body and mind. A

V/A, Mexican Summer: A Decade Deeper (Mexican Summer) Emerging in 2008 as a subsidiary of Kemado Records, Mexican Summer has grown into one of the more interesting labels on the contempo independent scene, and stylistically diverse, which means that the previously unreleased selections on this anniversary compilation (which lean toward the imprint’s recent and current activities) are unlikely to please most listeners equally. As evidence, my preference is for the tracks by Arp, Drugdealer, Robert Lester Folsom, Allah Lahs, PAINT, Connan Mockasin’s Jassbusters, Gregg Kowalsky, and Tonstartssbandht over Part Time’s lite-pop-fuckery and Dungen’s cut, which kinda sounds like America with their mouths sewn shut. But hey, nothing gets even close to stinking thing up, so cheers for ten good years. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Damaged Goods 1988-2018 (Damaged Goods) Rearing to life as a punk reissue label in ’88 London, Damaged Goods began dishing out fresh stuff not long after. With 30 years of elevating global record store bins in the books, this 37-track 2LP anniversary celebration of “top tracks, deep cuts, lost gems and personal favourites,” if far from exhaustive (as there’s 500 releases in the catalog), delivers a roaring, banging, at times grabbingly melodic, and more than adequately varied good time, even as the label’s enduring and crucial stewardship of Wild Billy Childish’s output (in its assorted guises) is well-represented (and fairly diverse, as selected here). Highlights? Too many to list, but if punk classique brings you warmth, this’ll get ya nice and toasty in the record den. A-

Black Artists Group, In Paris, Aries 1973 (Aguirre) Formed in St. Louis, the Black Artists Group was a free jazz collective similar in operation to Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. An additional connection was Joseph Bowie, the brother of Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie. BAG membership included saxophonists Julius Hemphill, Luther Thomas, and Hamiet Bluiett (RIP), but for this recording, the players are saxophonist Oliver Lake, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore, drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, and trombonist Bowie. Having traveled to France a la an earlier excursion by the Art Ensemble, the likenesses between the two collectives extend further, but much of this fire is of the BAG’s own making. Far more than of historical interest, and in an edition of 500. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, October 2018, Part Two

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores, The Opposite (Cuneiform) After a short hiatus, Silver Spring’s venerable avant-prog-experimental-jazz label is back at it, and along with digitally reissuing prior material by this always interesting Providence, RI-based band, they offer the outfit’s latest on LP and CD. It’s a treat. Over their 20-year existence, Redfearn and cohorts have stood out a bit in Cuneiform’s general scheme (this is their fourth for the label), but upon listening here, they and Steve Feigenbaum’s enduring love of art-rock remain a perfect fit. Redfearn plays accordion, and his knack for keeping it in the forefront of his music while eradicating even a hint of novelty remains impressive. Those keen on ambitiousness in the rock sphere should definitely lend this one some time. A-

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, Love’s Middle Name (Blue Corn) Borges has been on the scene for a while, with prior efforts with the Broken Singles and solo in her discography. The sound? It’s been called Americana (she’s won an Americana Music Award, in fact), but it’s important to qualify that hers is an approach well-suited for humid, boozy weekend bars. That means it rocks, and the thrust here is maybe better tagged as country-punk. What distinguishes Borges from some with a similar inclination is the quality of her songs and the strength of her pipes, and on this new one, the smart choice of hooking up with producer Eric Ambel, who also plays lead guitar on the record (as he did in Joan Jett’s Blackhearts). The outcome is that all the elements are in fine balance, with nary a misstep. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Fall, I Am Kurious Orang (Beggars Arkive) If memory serves, anti-Brix-era sentiment reached something like its apex post-The Franz Experiment in early ’88; certainly, there were some who’d suggested Mark E. Smith was “over with” or had “sold out.” Emerging in the autumn of the same year, this set, created to accompany a ballet by the Michael Clark Company loosely based on the life and “psyche” of William of Orange, made it plain those negative assessments were balderdash. Having listened to this record a ridiculous number of times in the year or so after its release (returning to it intermittently ever since), I know it well, and it hasn’t lost a thing. To my ears, at least half of this is as good as post-Rough Trade Fall gets, and the rest isn’t far behind. That makes it utterly essential. A

The Groundhogs, Blues Obituary (Fire) When it comes to the ’60s wave of Brit blues-rock, I rate The Groundhogs higher than Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even Ten Years After (I’m guessing those nutzo for Alvin Lee will consider this heresy). In fact, I’d rank the ‘hogs as roughly equal to Fleetwood Mac (and another group of readers has just thrown up their hands in disgust). Like the Mac, guitarist Tony TS McPhee, bassist Pete Cruikshank, and drummer Ken Pustelnik moved beyond the blues, and after doing so entered their classic period. But this, the band’s second LP (and trio debut) directly led to that phase. The no-frills punch of the recording, McPhee’s smoking guitar, the air non-reverence combined with good taste, and the sharp trio interaction is a major achievement in itself. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, October 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Nathan Bowles, Plainly Mistaken (Paradise of Bachelors) Oh, yes. The latest album from banjoist Bowles (of Pelt, Black Twig Pickers, and Steve Gunn) is the first to journey into the full-band zone, and it’s an absolute delight. Mostly instrumental (there are two tracks with vocals) and peppered with interpretive selections (from Ernie Carpenter to Cousin Emmy and Her Kinfolk to an opening stab at Julie Tippetts’ “Now If You Remember”), the music extends Bowles’ immersion into Appalachian-Piedmont traditions, moving so far beyond mere Americana that it deserves a category of its own. Casey Toll’s bowed double bass helps bring to mind NC’s Shark Quest (a cool thing), but “Ruby in Kind I” is like a hybrid of Roscoe Holcomb, Up On the Sun-era Meat Puppets and Henry Flynt. Hot effing damn. A

Puce Mary, The Drought (PAN) Puce Mary is Frederikke Hoffmeier, and since 2013 the Copenhagen-based sound artist has released five LPs combining power electronics, industrial noise, and experimentation. For number six, new label PAN says she’s dialed back the extremity a bit; dipping into her prior stuff backs up the claim, though on the general musical scale, The Drought is still pretty uncompromising, with opener “Dissolve” a fitting soundtrack for a journey into the bowels of hell. But to her credit, that’s not really the atmosphere she’s striving for, with cited inspirations including Baudelaire, Jean Genet, and Antonioni’s masterpiece Red Desert. Power electronics-related stuff once regularly marinated in ideologically sketchy subject matter, so the lack of such here is refreshing. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Alvin Curran, Canti E Vedute Del Giardino Magnetico (Superior Viaduct) Curran was one of the founders of Musica Elettronica Viva, who along with AMM served as a cornerstone of free improvisation. If the term free improv brings you automatic associations with jazz, MEV was not that, just as this mid-’70s LP is not MEV. Using field recordings (ocean waves, wind, high-tension wires, frogs, birds, and bees), synth, chimes, and on the first of two side-long tracks, the human voice, Curran integrates aspects of Minimalism without ever becoming an example of the then-nascent style. In part due to the vocals, side one holds some similarities to Modernist classical, while the flip drifts like prime kosmische. All-in-all, a fully formed and deftly conceived avant experience. A

Phill Niblock, Niblock For Celli / Celli Plays Niblock (Superior Viaduct) Niblock is an avant-gardist of distinction, but as Superior Viaduct mentions in their press for this reissue, he didn’t get around to recording until the early ’80s (SV already has his stellar debut Nothin To Look At Just A Record in their catalog). The delay wasn’t out of frustration or late-blooming, as Niblock had been composing (and filming The Magic Sun, a killer experimental short documenting a performance by the Sun Ra Arkestra). He was certainly also accumulating experience, which really shines through in his first two LPs (originally for India Navigation). This is the second, with Joseph Celli on oboe and English horn, and it’s an utter feast for drone lovers. If that’s you, then dive right in. Also, Niblock advises you to crank this baby up. A+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Andrew Bernstein, An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain) The skinny on the full-length debut from Charm City saxophonist Bernstein is that it sits at the crossroads of elevated technique and pure stamina. The cumulative effect is striking and occasionally inspires awe. A lack of background will assuredly lead to assumptions that a looping apparatus (or three) is part of the scheme, but with one exception it’s all Bernstein, and without a trace of show-off gimmickry. What he conjures in the first couple tracks lands firmly in the zone of Minimalism, and that’s cool. Even better is his expansion into territory reminiscent of solo Evan Parker and Colin Stetson, though the Minimalist aura never totally dissipates. Rigorous but never cold, this is experimental music at its best. A

Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes (Sacred Bones – Bella Union) Nadler’s eighth album is her finest yet. Featuring a load of guests including Angel Olsen, Hole drummer Patty Schemel, Sharon Van Etten, Mary Lattimore, Dum Dum Girl Kristin Kontrol, and Janel Leppin, the confluence of female talent (all but one of the contributing musicians are women) surely adds to For My Crimes’ value, but it’s mainly great because Nadler’s songs, hovering between introspective-confessional folk and robust singer-songwriter territory, are consistently top-flight and at times quite inventive, especially lyrically. And yet it all unfolds naturally. Dealing with relationship troubles/ marital strife, the album is emotionally resonant but never a bringdown; instead, it inspires immediate repeated listens and blooms under the exposure. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Algebra Mothers, A-Moms = Algebra Mothers (Third Man) Until now, the sole release by Detroit’s Algebra Mothers was their “Strawberry Cheesecake” b/w “Modern Noise” 45 from 1979, a superb hunk of subterranean punk from the arty-wavy end of the Killed by Death spectrum. A new pressing of that one is forthcoming from Third Man, which is cool as it’s never been reissued, but nearly as snazzy is this collection of previously unreleased home-recorded demos and live stuff covering ’77-’84 (A-Moms opened for, amongst others, Pere Ubu and The Sonic Rendezvous Band). While it’s not really the thing for those with a casual interest in punk, avid fans of the style’s early years should find much to enjoy. The single remains tops, but a high percentage of this gets in the ballpark. B+

Jack Wilkins, Windows (We Want Sounds) This reissues a very interesting guitar trio LP from Bob Shad’s Mainstream label that crate-diggers will know from A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders. It’s easy to peg the era of origin (‘twas issued sans fanfare in ’73), but it’s far less marred by ’70s excesses than you might suspect. In fact, I’d say it’s not really marred at all, though the potential does hover in the background. And so, the whole registers as a little short of a knockout for me, but thankfully the recording budget was small, with the ambiance appealing. Wilkins is a virtuoso and shows it without going overboard. Drummer Bill Goodwin and electric bassist Mike Moore are solid. There’s a nice, slow version of Coltrane’s “Naima.” Originals go for over a hundred, so this one is a public service. B+

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Devin Gray, Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan) Of the players here, I’m most familiar with tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin (through his stuff on hatOLOGY and Eremite) and bassist Michael Formanek (his own bands, Tim Berne’s Bloodcount and Thumbscrew), but the compositions and overall conception belong to drummer-leader Gray on this sequel to a group’s debut from 2012, with trumpeter Dave Ballou completing the lineup. The Ornette quartet vibe can be strong at times, which is an unambiguously fine thing, but through Gray’s writing and the players’ rapport, imagination and overall experience, a splendid distinctiveness is achieved. For vinyl-only folks into avant-free-friendly but compositionally rich jazz, this one (and the first Dirigo Rataplan) are on wax, so don’t futz around. A

V/A, Music of Southern and Northern Laos (Akuphone) Between 2006 and ’13, “self-taught ethnologist” Laurent Jeanneau (aka Kink Gong) traveled to Laos to capture numerous musical practices of the country’s minority groups, and the results are captivating, but unlike the sometimes studious, other times polite and commonly distant aura of recordings in this tradition, this set (one CD and two separate LPs by titular region) is wild and intense. With a deep interest in South East Asia, Jeanneau’s been at this for a while (releasing on Akuphone, Atavistic, Discrepant, Loup, unsurprisingly Sublime Frequencies and others), and it shows. While part of the richness comes from the clarity of modern portable recorders, listening on headphones really gives the impression of being right in the thick of it. Wonderful. A / A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Stella Chiweshe, Kasahwa: Early Singles (Glitterbeat) Zimbabwean Chiweshe has been called “The Queen of Mbira,” and her discography backs up the praise. If you’re into her work, it’s a cinch you’ll want this collection of her early output, initially cut to 7-inch vinyl mostly in the ‘70s, as it’s never been issued outside of her home country. However, if you’re a curious newbie, this short but abundantly beautiful set would make a fabulous introduction. Featuring just vocals, shakers, and of course the metal-and-wood thumb piano (the mbira, which also names the style she’s mastered), this lacks the bright production and interpolation of other genres that marks her subsequent stuff, but the root essence is strong and delightful, especially on the 8-minute standout “Mayaya (Part 1 & 2).” A

Dur-Dur Band, Dur-Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks (Analog Africa) If you hunger for all things globally funky, then you may already be hep to the Dur-Dur Band, who rose to fame in ’80s Mogadishu as the funkiest act in Somalia. Awesome Tapes from Africa reissued the group’s 1987 cassette Volume 5 on multiple formats back in 2013, and now here comes this massive and very welcome 18-track roundup of their first and second releases plus additional material on a choice of two cassettes, a 2CD, or a 3LP gatefold edition. Dur-Dur’s stated mission was to combine traditional Somali music with “funk, reggae, soul, disco and new wave” plus anything else that would get bodies moving. And so, a groove monster, but one that not only holds up but encourages pure listening. That’s rad. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Two

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Underground System, What Are You (Soul Clap) Led by guitarist Peter Matson and fronted by vocalist-flautist-percussionist Domenica Fossati with horns, keys, synths, and a load of rhythmic specialists thrown into the mix, New York City’s Underground System spring from an Afrobeat base but with a poppy, revelry-inspiring trajectory that makes this full-length debut a welcome delight. Boldly recorded with assistance from Tony Miamone, the mildly B-52’s-ish “Rent Party” is a standout, but so is Maria Eisen’s chewy saxophone in the title-track (and elsewhere), and “Just a Place” is a Euro-tinged dancefloor beast. In short: those predisposed to a more song-based, African-rootsy cousin of !!! (with whom they’ve played) just got dealt a full house, so ante up and then rake in that pot. A-

The Chills, Snow Bound (Fire) New Zealand’s reformed Chills continue to impress, with vocalist and cherished pop song fount Martin Phillipps as sturdy as ever. On one hand, the quality of the tunes here is astounding, as comebacks after long hiatuses often garner goodwill (and yes, occasionally produce strong albums), but rarely reconjure the creative vitality which made the recommencement of activity such a big deal. Hey, you take what you can get. But upon second thought, why not? Because back in the day (this would be the ’80s on Flying Nun into the ’90s on Slash), Phillipps’ pure pop acumen could register like a velvet pouch stuffed tight with pearls the size of jumbo marbles. Sure, on first listen Snow Bound might seem a little lesser, but after a half-dozen spins, its true excellence is revealed. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Miles Davis Quintet Miles Smiles (8th) While my favorite music from Davis’ “second great quintet” remains Live at the Plugged Nickel; once upon a time a gorgeous 2LP, and for a while now a copious boxset documenting two nights of utter brilliance, this studio album, the group’s second, cut in October of ’66 and released early the following year, is a direct extension of that Chicago visit. The ’65 debut E.S.P. is great of course, but it also documents the lineup getting comfortable. Next came Plugged Nickel and then this return to the studio, which is abundantly rich. For two examples, there’s Herbie Hancock’s piano soloing, particularly in opener “Orbits,” and Tony Williams’ drumming in the wonderful transformation of Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Absolutely essential. A+

The Beta Band, Three EPs & The Best of the Beta Band (Because Music) Lots of folks’ positive energy regarding The Beta Band directly correlates with the first time they heard “Dry the Rain.” Therefore, it’s no surprise that in addition to providing the Three EPs with an essentially perfect lead-off track, it also opens the Best of. Three EPs is offered here as a multicolored vinyl 4LP+CD set, with the breakdown into component parts appreciated, as it’s a looonnnggg one, while Best remains 2 CD-only, its second disc holding a live show from London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2004 that aids in rendering it as non-superfluous for heavy-duty fans, though that doesn’t necessarily make it a must have. You decide. It is a nice, at times very nice, synopsis of a band that helped to expand the possibilities of folktronica. A– / A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, September 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Gilberto Rodriguez y Los Intocables, Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda (Empty Cellar) Succinctly tagged as experimental Chicano soul and consisting of guitarist-vocalist-bandleader Rodriguez, percussionist Ahkeel Mestayer, keyboardist Ruben Sandoval, and trumpeter brothers Carlos and Jorge Rodriguez, the outfit’s 82-minute 2LP is an intriguing, engrossing, and at-times astounding collection, with Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez referencing Caetano Veloso’s Transa in praise of its worthiness. I can hear that, but Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda is more sprawling and looser, and is ultimately its own Bay Area street-level thing. This vinyl edition of 500 copies is housed in a Stougton tip-on gatefold jacket cut and pressed by Timmion in Helsinki, Finland, so procrastination isn’t a smart move. A

Universal Eyes, Four Versions on “Artificial Society” (Trip Metal Limited Series / Lower Floor Music) This 2LP (on white and coke bottle clear vinyl and bound to be scarce within minutes of release) documents the reunited forces of Michigan noiseniks Universal Indians and Wolf Eyes. Consisting of three side-long tracks and two on side-four to be played at a speed “to be determined by the listener” (all but one of my promo MP3s were encoded at 33rpm), much of this is more expansive, pulsing, ominous, and even science-fictive than it is outright pummeling, though things do get nicely harried (and tribal) late. Also, skronk is plentiful and very much appreciated (and unsurprising, as Universal Indians are named after a cut from Ayler’s Love Cry and Wolf Eyes have collaborated productively with Anthony Braxton). A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Faust, The Faust Tapes (Superior Viaduct) As a Krautrock cornerstone, Faust’s first four albums (and their collab with Tony Conrad) are essential. But where to start? Some will tell you at the beginning (with 1971’s Faust), but that’s not the way most have discovered them. Indeed, many thousands of Brits received their introduction through this, their third release and first for the fledgling Virgin label, which was offered at the price of a single; the sales figures range from 60,000-100,000 copies, with the distinction that it wasn’t Faust’s third LP but instead a pleased-to-meet-you collection of uninterrupted work tapes stringing together abstraction, experimentation, grooves, and yes, actual songs, some pleasantly folkish amid the discernable influence of early Zappa. It remains superb. A

Pentangle, Sweet Child (Real Gone) If I had to limit myself to one Pentangle release, this, the band’s sophomore effort, would be it, in part because I’d get to keep the equivalent of two full albums, one live at Royal Albert Hall and one studio, with both offering Terry Cox, Bert Jansch, Jacqui McShee, John Renbourn, and Danny Thompson at the top of their individual and collective games. Manly cats are known to belittle this group as airy-fairy light stuff, but as I give this set a fresh listen, palpable intensity runs through its four sides, and the way they blend trad Brit songs, early music, American blues and jazz (Thompson’s truncated reading of Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song” is sweet), beaucoup fingerpicking and rich vocalizing (especially McShee) is simply magnificent. It’s a highpoint for progressive folk. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ohmme, Parts (Joyful Noise) Chicagoans Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are both trained classical pianists, but for their first album as Ohmme they choose to focus upon rich vocal harmony and guitar crunch. What they and drummer Matt Carroll put together (with assistance from hometowners Doug McCombs of Tortoise, cellist Tomeka Reid, and saxophonist extraordinaire Ken Vandermark) is solid and occasionally splendid, displaying confidence and range that’s rare in a debut. In a better world, the hooky opener “Icon” would be a huge pop hit, but stuck in this reality, the whole of Parts, experimentally edged while essentially inhabiting a pop-rock zone, is improving my existence considerably. From the title track: “I don’t like little things touching my face.” Hey, me neither! A-

Roy Montgomery, Suffuse (Grapefruit) In 2016, after a long break in activity, New Zealand u-ground cornerstone Montgomery came back in a big way with the 4LP R M H Q -Headquarters. When first reading of this project, which stems from the R M H Q LP Tropic Of Anodyne (featuring the singing of reluctant vocalist Montgomery) with a troop of female voices (Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, She Keeps Bees’ Jessica Larrabee, Katie Von Schleicher, Purple Pilgrims’ Clementine and Valentine Nixon, Julianna Barwick, and Grouper’s Liz Harris), I thought of Stephin Merritt’s 6ths project, but the results aren’t like that at all, being much more invested in the spirit of collaboration (the Nixon sisters, Barwick, and Harris wrote the lyrics for their tracks). The results are superb, with Montgomery’s artistry shining through. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Jimmy Smith, The Sermon! (Down at Dawn) A fine but limited spate of jazz wax (300 copies each) has arrived from this upstart label, so if the objective is fortifying your shelves with a few classics of the form, don’t flake. When organist Smith hooked up with Blue Note a massive recording spree resulted, and this album, gleaned from two ’57-’58 sessions, just might be the best of the bunch. Taking advantage of the then novel LP format, side one’s 20-minute title track is hard-bop soul-jazz par excellence, and the flip picks up and slows down the tempo without a hitch. The personnel add major value, with Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Donald Bailey, Eddie McFadden, the underrated Tina Brooks, a young George Coleman, Art Blakey, and Kenny Burrell all on board. Essential. A

The Posies, Frosting on the Beater (Omnivore) As detailed in the liner notes by Wilco’s Pat Sansone and author Craig Dorfman and the track-by-track recollections of the band’s core duo Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow (‘twas they who wrote the songs), The Posies’ second release for Geffen is considered “the loud one,” which is unsurprising as it was produced by Don Fleming, who’d notably assisted on Sonic Youth’s Goo and Hole’s Pretty on the Inside. But he also worked with Teenage Fanclub, which made him a good fit for the helming of this excellent record (my favorite from the band). As detailed by Sansone, if you dig The Beatles and Big Star and also the heyday of SST Records, this is the one for you, offered, like the reissue of Dear 23, as either a bonus cut-loaded 2CD or a standalone 45RPM 2LP sans download. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Rich Halley, The Literature (Pine Eagle) The occasional question: if I could only listen to one type of music for the rest of my days, what would it be? The answer is easy. It’s jazz all the way. Mainly due to the sheer breadth of the form, but also volume, as the notes to this CD relate that Halley, a new name for me, has 20 prior recordings. This one, his first devoted to material by other musicians (the “literature” of the title) makes me want to hear them all. The tenor saxophonist, his drummer son Carson Halley, and bassist Clyde Reed launch from a high energy avant platform but with structural ties to bop and clear love of the tunes, which includes Miles, Monk, Duke, Ornette, Mingus, Sun Ra, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and the Carter Family. Folks, this is Americana, and it sings. A

Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef (Domino) While I remain a proponent of Animal Collective’s prime material, I was less than smitten with 2016’s Painting With, so learning of a new recording by the group didn’t terribly excite me. Then I read that it was an audiovisual album collab with Coral Morphologic, the art-science duo of marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay, to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. Things were looking up! As Animal Collective’s first full-length without Panda Bear, this differs from their prior work in interesting ways, and I’m sure it’ll get even more interesting when viewed with the accompanying video after it hits the band’s website on release date. On double vinyl, with three sides of music and an etching on side four. Hey, nice comeback, fellas. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Even as We Speak, Feral Pop Frenzy (Emotional Response) Operated by Stewart Anderson and his wife Jen Turrell out of Flagstaff, AZ, Emotional Response has grown into one of the most interesting indie-punk-pop-rock labels on the current scene, and with their recent slate of Sarah Records reissues (plus one collection of new material) they’ve just hit a grand slam. Included in the program is the 25th Anniversary Remaster of the sole LP from Aussies Even as We Speak. Formed by Matthew Love and Mary Wyer in Sydney and filled out to a five-piece, their sound benefited from flights of experimentation and eccentricity and yet was (appropriately, for the connection to Sarah) pure pop. Twee? Nah. Erudite? Oh, yes, as this minor gem of an LP goes to places you likely won’t expect. A-

Action Painting!, Trial Cuts (1989-95) (Emotional Response) During their lifespan, this UK outfit (formed in Gosport) released four singles, three of them on Sarah Records. It’s all rounded up here with additional material (unreleased cuts, alternates, demos, a radio session and interview); the LP includes a download, with everything on the CD. Coming from a tougher, rawer place than a fair amount of Sarah’s roster, these guys weren’t (I should say aren’t, as they’ve recommenced activities) Napalm Death or anything, but they did retain the heft, buzz, and energy associated with many of the leading lights of indie pop’s original wave (their fourth 45 was on the Kent-scene-associated Damaged Goods label). Those with a casual interest in the style might consider it skippable, but indie pop lovers will want. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Two

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tomberlin, At Weddings (Saddle Creek) An earlier edition of Sarah-Beth Tomberlin’s debut, which held seven tracks, emerged last autumn in a hand-numbered edition of 500 through Joyful Noise’s White Label series, an artist-picked affair with At Weddings selected by Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn. As the music resides in an introspective indie folk zone, the stylistic connections between chooser and chosen are minor, and within the parameters of the style, Tomberlin has her own thing happening; assured of voice and warm instrumentally, the whole goes down really well. Saddle Creek’s release isn’t limited, and adds three tracks, smartly not tacked onto the end, as the final three songs, “Self-Help” into “Untitled 2” into “February,” offer a striking culminating progression. A-

Walter Salas-Humara, Walterio (Rhyme and Reason) Salas-Humara co-founded The Silos in mid-’80s NYC, the still extant band sometimes classified as a progenitor of alt-country, though they always struck me (especially on their first couple records) as rock with a classic sensibility and an edgy spark. He was also in The Setters with Alejandro Escovedo and Wild Seed Michael Hall, and has dished a few solo records, of which Walterio is the latest. Unsurprisingly, the ten tracks here are fairly rootsy, but this attribute is nicely counterbalanced with songwriting smarts reflecting his diverse background; born in Florida to Cuban parents, Salas-Humara studied visual art in NYC before choosing music (that’s one of his popular dog paintings on the cover). What is surprising is the enduring high quality of his stuff. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Vulgar Boatmen, You and Your Sister, Please Panic & Opposite Sex (Play Loud!) Before he was in The Silos, Walter Salas-Humara was part of the Gainesville, FL outfit The Vulgar Boatmen. While he contributes a bit instrumentally to 1989’s You and Your Sister, his main role is sharing the co-producer chair with member Robert Ray. Alongside ex-Gizmo Dale Lawrence (based in Indiana), Ray (who continued to live in Florida) served as the band’s songwriting core, with each fronting a distinct lineup 800 miles apart. An unusual mode of operation in the pre-internet days, but fruitful, as all three of the group’s releases are stellar; much of the contents extend from a VU/ Feelies place, but with an utter lack of big city attitude. This is the sound of College Rock’s promise fulfilled. / / A-

The Fall, 458489 A-Sides (Beggars Arkive) There are numerous collections in The Fall’s myriad discography, and this one covering what’s known as the ’80s “Brix Smith” era, is essential, even if you already own all the albums and/ or the singles from which this 17-track LP derives. As I was getting acquainted with the output of Mark E. Smith’s lineup-shifting band of soon to be logic-defying endurance, this music was still fresh in the bins, and while some older heads were inclined to rake The Fall of this vintage over the critical coals, as the days of “Live At the Witch Trials” or “Grotesque” were over (though really, a lot of folks just didn’t like Brix), this summary sounds even better on the occasion of its white wax reissue by Beggars Arkive as it ever has to me before. First time on vinyl in the USA. A

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