Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, January 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2017. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: OST, Iris (Erased Tapes) Composer Dustin O’Halloran and Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie are A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and their blend of modern classical, ambient, and drone gets its third full-length release via the soundtrack to the 2016 French thriller from director Jalil Lespert. While often tagged as cinematic, this is the duo’s first film score, with the music on prior album Atomos serving as accompaniment to a dance piece by choreographer Wayne McGregor. Iris taps into the above-listed styles and underlines the duo as a major exponent in contemporary post-rock. A-

REISSUE PICK: Pat Thomas & Ebo Taylor, Sweeter Than Honey, Calypso “Mahuno” And High Lifes Celebration (Presch Media GmbH) This reissues an excellent and pricey 1980 LP from a pair of Nigerian Highlife kingpins, Thomas the vocalist and Taylor the composer, arranger and lead guitarist. Those having scooped up Strut’s 3LP/ 2CD Thomas retrospective Coming Home will know this album’s “Ma Huno,” and it delivers Sweeter Than Honey its highpoint. But that’s no indictment of the quality found throughout this superb if succinct album, for in the truth in titling department, this baby rates high. A

Amas, Grill (Presch Media GmbH) Per PMG’s promo blurb, which quotes extensively from Peter Moore via the website African Revolutions, not only is Nigerian vocalist Gbubemi Amas smooth, articulate, cultured, and classy, he also possesses immaculate enunciation on this reish of a big-bucks 1981 boogie funk LP. Indeed, furthering the good-natured vibe is a cover of “Fire and Rain,” with Amas’ version closer to pop crooning than boogie or funk. Lacking the kick of Afro-rock or Highlife, this is solidly in the post-disco pop mold. Exuding hints of Talking Heads and Boz Scaggs, “Slow Down” is a highlight. B

Bash & Pop, Friday Night is Killing Me (Sire/Reprise) Tommy Stinson, with a lengthy cast of notables on hand, has a new record coming out this week under the revived Bash & Pop moniker. It’s titled Anything Could Happen, and I haven’t heard it. Hopefully, what happens will mark an improvement upon this formerly one and done group’s ’93 release, which is hitting vinyl for the first time on 1/24. To be fair, Stinson’s initial post-Replacements effort isn’t terrible; in fact, it’s a little better than the Mats’ final effort All Shook Down. Giving it a fresh spin, it persists as an okay but not terribly exciting listen. B

Black Anvil, As Was (Relapse) Reportedly one of the few black metal acts based in New York City, Black Anvil are now four albums deep, with all but their 2008 debut Time Insults the Mind on Relapse. That sort of label consistency frequently bodes well for overall quality, and so it is here. This is exactly the sort of LP to stoke the demonic fire of the genre’s sticklers the globe over, as it’s got the mauling guitars, the thudding rhythms, and the threatening croak-growl in spades, but there is a musicality to the 8-songs in 50-minutes that helps them to stand out. Familiar moves resist becoming mere tropes. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, November 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the reissued wax presently in stores for November, 2016. Part one is here.

REISSUE PICK: Jungle Brothers, Done by the Forces of Nature (Get On Down) Jazzed by We Got It from Here…? Jonesing for more in the same vein? If so, then check out the 2LP reissue of this ’89 classic from Tribe’s contemporaries. To be accurate, Mike Gee, Africa Baby Bam, and DJ Sammy B slightly preceded their cohorts in the Native Tongues collective, blazing a trail without reaping the immediate recognition; instead, they’ve been the next step for those knocked out by 3 Feet High or People’s Instinctive Travels. Through uplift and inclusion, this sharp album’s immaculate flow has only improved with age. A

REISSUE RUNNER-UP: Waylon Jennings, Dreaming My Dreams (Fat Possum) That Jennings’ 22nd album (in a decade!) is arguably the best he ever cut inspires pause, for that’s hardly ever how it works. Ultimately, the fact reflects newfound artistic freedom through a fresh RCA deal, and the byproduct is subdued but rich with positives; tributes to Hank and Bob Wills (the latter recorded live in Austin), production (by Jennings and Jack Clement) that disdains overdubs, and an utterly non-dated atmosphere. The man is in superb voice (of course he is), and the material consistently delivers. A

Las Kellies, Friends and Lovers (Fire) The fifth studio album (and third for Fire) from this Argentinian grrl group (herein composed of Silvina and Cecilia Kelly) is impressively varied, its contents inhabiting the post-punk end of the spectrum; there’s the soul liberation through body movement of “Sugar Beat,” the reggae-infused “Tied to a Chain,” the riffy VU-update “Make it Real,” the new wavy “I’m on Fire,” the indie poppish “Summer Breeze,” and up-tempo rocker “I Don’t Care.” And that’s just the first six cuts; the LP’s second half tightens the focus. “Sundays” is a late pop-tinged highlight. A-

Lungfish, Rainbows from Atoms (Dischord) From the perch of hindsight some have painted this as a formative work, but at the time this third LP connected as a major stride forward. Sure, the Baltimore group’s roots in ’80s post-HC emo are still very much in evidence (“Mother Made Me,” “Open House,” “Seek Sound Shelter”), but Daniel Higgs’ poetic sensibility was beginning to cohere (“Fresh Air Cure” and especially “Creation Story”) and the cyclical-drone-roar was rapidly evolving as well (“Instrument,” “8.21.2116,” “You Might Ask Me What,” closer “Seek Sound Shelter” again). A minor classic. A-

Harvey Mandel, Snake Pit (Tompkins Square) Guitarist Mandel contributed to a handful of classics (like Charlie Musselwhite’s debut) but he’s also taken part in some iffy sonic situations, so I approached his first widely distributed album in two decades with a certain amount of trepidation. Recorded over two days at Berkeley, CA’s Fantasy studios with a solid band (all Ryley Walker alumni), like a percentage of Mandel’s prior output (e.g. Baby Batter) this is all-instrumental blues-rock; the fusion-y use of keyboards/ strings inspires a personal tug-of-war between pleasure and ambivalence. B

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, November 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the brand new wax presently in stores for November, 2016. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Wadada Leo Smith, America’s National Parks (Cuneiform) This 96-minute six-movement suite might seem an arduous undertaking, but in resisting nature’s majesty in favor of celebrating the idea of preservation and public works, the trumpeter-composer sidesteps Ansel Adams-style grandeur for the poetic (think Whitman and Gary Snyder). And by celebrating New Orleans, the Mississippi River, and the writing of Eileen Jackson Southern as deserving of National Park status, he eclipses the danger of mere respectfulness. Yet another highpoint in a long, distinguished career. A+

NEW RELEASE RUNNER-UP: Elliott Sharp, Port Bou (Infrequent Seams) Sharp’s been a crucial part of avant-NYC from the late ’70s right up to this release, an opera devoted to the final moments in the life of philosopher Walter Benjamin at Port-Bou Spain in 1940 as he fled Nazi-occupied France. The tenor of the times has surely deepened the emotional impact of this demanding but not formidable avant-classical work, but the primary reasons are bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, pianist Jenny Lin, accordionist William Schimmel, and of course Sharp, who adds electro-acoustic backing tracks. A

Apostles, S/T (Presch Media GmbH) Once The Funkees left for London, it was reportedly The Apostles who stepped into the void to become the leaders of the Nigerian rock scene; this first-time reissue of a ’76 EMI LP is proof positive pudding. Presch Media states that album opener “Never Too Late” “could well be the best Afro Rock song ever recorded,” and after listening that seemingly bold statement isn’t at all farfetched. Although they don’t maintain that level of quality, the rest is consistently up to snuff, particularly the organ-infused “Play Girl” and the psychedelic guitar flights all over side two. A-

Beastie Vee, “Vee Sides” (BUFU) Native of France Bastien Vandevelde previously beat the skins for Juan Wauters. Beastie Vee is his side project, tagged as post-punk/ noise rock; I’d assess it as nearer to the former, though to Vandevelde’s credit it’s not easy to draw direct lines to precedent. “Outro” sets this 4-song EP into motion and is something This Heat fans might want to check out, a scenario that persists during “Lvvrrss.” A subterranean ’80s vibe does inform “Make a Wish Break a Stick,” while the brief “Bonus Clic” concludes matters with shout-racket. Promising stuff. B

Kadhja Bonet, The Visitor (Fat Possum/ Fresh Selects) Enjoyable debut from an LA soulster with a considerable amount of tradition in her scheme, though the finished product still connects as a contempo situation. Merging psychedelia with strains of sci-fi and hip-hop rhythm during “Intro: Earth Birth,” much of what follows extends from the progressive soul-R&B of the 1970s, utilizing string-sections, bilingualism, and a general tony atmosphere to positive effect. Falling short of a knockout, folks with collections holding Roberta Flack, Curtis Mayfield, Sun Ra, and Shabazz Palaces should investigate. B

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, November 2016

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for November, 2016.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Wayne Hancock, Slingin’ Rhythm (Bloodshot) Specializing in ’40s-’50s honky-tonk, rockabilly and post-Bob Wills country bop, Hancock’s been dishing it out for over two decades; his latest solidifies the unlikelihood he’ll ever modernize his style, and that’s good news all around. Unashamedly throwback, the depth of feeling, lack of playacting, and utter love for bygone genres keeps him out of the mere retro pile. As usual, a few wildcards are pulled from his sleeve, e.g. the rich gospel of “Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine” and a sweet reading of the Merle Travis nugget “Divorce Me C.O.D.” A

REISSUE PICK: V/A, Cologne Curiosities: The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 (Mental Experience) An intriguing reissue from one of the multiple subsidiaries of the Spanish label Guerssen, the consumer hook comes in form of a question: “the Nuggets of Krautrock?” Opener “Interstellar Shortwave” by The Astral Army gets off to an underwhelming start, but thereafter the program expands rather nicely. The story here relates to lathe cut LPs from a “label” called Pyramid that were art objects rather than store-bought items, and if not in the league of Nuggets it’s surely good listening. A-

Hamish Anderson, Trouble (Kobalt/AWAL) From Melbourne and currently residing in LA, this is Anderson’s debut studio LP after a couple of EPs and live album. Noted for his guitar prowess, he’s undoubtedly got chops, but the accolade ultimately isn’t about flash. Instead it relates to his bluesy approach; citing Albert, B.B. and Freddie King as influences, the trifecta underscores a decidedly pro-like sophistication. Roping in over a half-dozen session heavies, the songwriting here is impressive and the results likeable a la Petty or the Black Crowes, but I’ll confess to needing a higher ratio of grit. B

Arrowhead, Desert Cult Ritual (Ripple) Stoner stuff from Down Under, specifically Sydney, that has its Sabbath-isms in check, largely keeps the vocal wail of Brett Pearl from going overboard in the mix (he also plays guitar), and retains a proper balance of heaviness to riff motion, with drummer Matt Cramp and bassist Arron Fletcher forming a powerful rhythm section. There’s also plenty of psych-tinged pedal-stomping going on, which assists in keeping the pot-permeated grooves from getting monochromatic, man. A few more stinky behemoths like “Weed Lord” would take these guys right over the top. B+

Tredici Bacci, Amore Per Tutti (NNA Tapes) Simon Hanes’ influences range from soundtracks to big band to exotica to Broadway stuff infused with an aura of the New York-ish New, and this debut LP puts a gaggle of guest vocalists (JG Thirlwell, Ruth Garbus, Jennifer Charles, Ryan Power) in front of a classically trained crew as Hanes adopts the persona “Luxardo” in his role as arranger, composer, conductor, and guitarist. Edgy yet approachable, I’m reminded a bit of Zorn and Mike Patton’s soundtrack stuff and even Hal Wilner in a not-bad way. Classique post-modern on the cusp of great things. B+

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, October 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for October, 2016. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Tony Molina, “Confront the Truth” (Slumberland) An 8-song 7-inch in a B&W pic sleeve radiating like a gem rescued from a dusty 50 cent bin, these guitar-pop miniatures lean toward Beatles-esque psych, particularly the utter gem “Hung Up On the Dream,” which oozes the influence of “Strawberry Fields…” with nary a trace of heavy-handedness. Fully stuffed platters such as this surfaced with some regularity back in the ’90s, and Molina’s brevity also recalls early Guided by Voices, but “No One Told He” actually reaches 2:28 as it extends the moves Teenage Fanclub copped from Big Star. A

REISSUE PICK: The Flesh Eaters, Forever Came Today (Superior Viaduct) As great as A Minute to Pray a Second to Die? Nope, and frankly only an overzealously ruthless B-movie reform school taskmaster would demand such a thing. But hey, Chris Desjardins does get in the ballpark, assembling a fresh band (only saxophonist Steve Berlin remains from the prior unit) for a leaner, harder rocking result. Easier for punk sticklers to digest (the genre mavens I know have taken a liking to it, at least), the playing is anything but generic and one of rock’s most fruitfully unconventional vocalists is in fine form. A

Axis:Sova, Motor Earth (God? Records) Third full-length effort from a project led by Brett Sova, and it really only takes a listen to understand its release through the Drag City-distributed imprint of Ty Segall. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as an exercise in predictability, however; comparable garage guitar haze is definitely in evidence, but so are some very pleasurable differences, in particular an occasional use of drum-box giving “Emoticog” a more than passing resemblance to Metal Urbain and a consistent psych-punk quality reaching an apex in the extended amp-pedal shitstorm “Routine Machine.” A-

Kurt Baker Combo, In Orbit (Wicked Cool) Garage denizen Steven Van Zandt is a fan, but this is better pegged as a Raspberries-Cheap Trick scenario dolled up in punk finery a la the Replacements. Some tough biscuits are sure to consider this album too polished/ calculated, an assessment missing Baker’s musical point; during “Baby’s Gone Bad” and especially “Modern Day Rock N Roll Girl,” In Orbit deftly approximates early ‘80s power pop-new wave FM radio crossover. A cover of Devo’s “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” is carried into the neighborhood of The Romantics, so if that sounds enticing, step right up. B+

Born Loose, “Death from Above” (Hound Gawd!) This label’s running theme is punk with the emphasis on rock. With a moniker nodding to Johnny Thunders, Born Loose dive into the ’76-’78 zone and come out faster and brawnier, so it’s clear these five songs derive from the present-day; simultaneously, the band (which features members of Candy Snatchers, Iron Prostate, Ghetto Ways, and Heroin Sheiks) avoid befouling the waters with any offputtingly contempo gestures. The cover art is by Mort Todd, so this tidy blast should really stoke fans of the Back from the Grave comps also into New Bomb Turks. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, October 2016

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for October, 2016.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Noura Mint Seymali, Arbina (Glitterbeat) With this LP the Mauritanian griot Seymali has easily matched her international debut, an achievement of no small magnitude as Tzenni stands amongst the strongest entries in Glitterbeat’s discography. Seymali’s songs and even more so her vocals grip the attention as the instrumentation, with Seymali on ardine, Jeiche Ould Chighaly on guitar, Ousmane Touré on bass, and Matthew Tinari on drums, offers a wildly funky ride throughout; in particular, “Ghlana” attains a splendid plateau. Expertly produced by Tony Maimone. A

REISSUE PICK: V/A, Afterschool Special: The 123s of Kid Soul (Numero Group) That it took nearly a decade for this follow-up to Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul to appear is testament to Numero Group’s dedication to quality. Recordings of music by kids and young teens will probably always be associated with gimmickry/ novelty, a fact understandably frustrating fans of the Jackson 5, the Osmonds, and Kris Kross. In the end it’s hard to deny the adult organization necessary in formulating the musical worth as well as historical relevance of these nuggets. The Future Kind’s “Simon Says” is a highlight. A

Acid Arab, Musique de France (Crammed Discs) The prospect of combining Middle Eastern and North African music with techno frankly conjured visions of an aural horror show, but I really shouldn’t have worried; the label responsible was a tipoff to a baseline of quality, and inspecting the contents made plain this isn’t contempo exotica. Torsos will certainly move, but what makes this 2LP/ CD a success is its hard-driving density; appropriate to the group’s name, the contents can get somewhat psychedelic, particularly through the wild keyboard of Rizan Said on standouts “Le Disco” and “A3ssifa.” B+

Ablebody, Adult Contemporaries (Lolipop) The hint of tape drag during the ’80s-tastic synth haze at the start of opener “Backseat Heart” portended a puddle of irony that thankfully never happened; instead, Christoph Hochheim (he of Pains of Being Pure at Heart) and identical twin brother Anton combine indie pop (think Orange Juice), mersh synth pop (a la later Berlin or something), and ’70s soft AOR pop (Al Stewart? Sure…) into carefully crafted formal specimens. And it’s all so meticulously fashioned that I gradually lose interest; the songs are well written but lack brevity, which is an added problem. B-

Lucio Battisti, Amore E Non Amore (Light in the Attic) The notes posit Battisti as Italy’s Serge Gainsbourg, but this 1971 album (some will recall a CD reissue from a decade ago) is a helluva lot more than that; emanating from a psych-folk place and holding a share of instrumentals alongside collaborations with lyricist Giulio “Mogol” Rapetti, getting reacquainted with this LP, Battisti’s fourth, has been a treat. The ’60s are still palpable (e.g. the aggressive sitar at the end of “Una poltrona…”) as moments brought Os Mutantes, Scott Walker (mainly the symphonic sections), and even Procol Harum to mind. Dig. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, September 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for September, 2016. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Shield Patterns, Mirror Breathing (Gizeh) As the latest by this Manchester duo (and the first to make this writer’s acquaintance) plays, vocalist Claire Brentnall definitely brings Kate Bush to mind. That’s cool; even cooler is how she and Richard Knox rewardingly alter a trip hop-ish foundation, adding ambient/ ethereal elements and experimentation. Along the way the thud-echo of many of the drum beats insinuate they’ve been listening to Coil or something similar, the post-industrial quality also infusing the avant-jazzy standout “Balance & Scatter.” Julia Kent guests on cello. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Normally it’s not at all difficult to choose a pick from releases of roughly equal quality, but these two are so complementary that selecting one over the other just seemed wrong.

The Quick, Untold Rock Stories (Burger) This legendary LA band’s stuff finally on 2LP. The contents range from early Who/ Move motion (opener “No No Girl”) to raw glam-tinged power pop action (“Teachers Pet”) to a sprinkling of killer covers (The Four Seasons’ “Rag Doll,” The Beatles’ “It Won’t Be Long,” and a deeper glammy dip via “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). Split between demos for Mercury and Elektra and wrapping up with bonus tracks exclusive to the vinyl (alt versions of “Poison Polly” and “My Purgatory Years”), the quality never lessens. “Pretty Please” is a standout. Get it before it’s gone. A

Dow Jones and the Industrials, Can’t Stand the Midwest: 1979-1981 (Family Vineyard) Those seeking insight into the widespread nature of the whole punk impulse need only soak up this deserving and lovingly deluxe compilation. From West Lafayette, IN, the herky-jerky, technology-infused personality will surely remind some of early Devo, but Dow Jones frequently rocked up a storm (for evidence, please check the title track) and possessed strong songs amongst the rawness, ranting, and alienated tension. This 2LP holds 29 tracks and comes bundled with a 7-inch and DVD of a complete 1980 show. A

The Album Leaf, Between Waves (Relapse) Jimmy LaValle has amassed a large discography, but this is the first LP since 2010; in the interim he’s been busy with soundtracks. Migrating from Sub Pop to Relapse positions this album, which comes in standard and deluxe editions, as something of an outlier amongst metallic happenings; as The Album Leaf’s electronic post-rock has its own established base of support this shouldn’t be an issue, with fans not likely to be disappointed. Between Waves thrives on group interaction, and the handful of Pet Shop Boys-esque vocal pop moments are very welcome. B+

Alsarah and the Nubatones, Manara (Wonderwheel) Sophomore album of what Sudanese-American vocalist, lyricist, and bandleader Alsarah describes as East African Retropop; along with her assured and engaging voice, the main ingredients are the oud and ngoni of Brandon Terzic and the rhythmic foundation of percussionist Rami El Aasser and bassist Mawuena Kodjovi, a core nicely accented with accordion, violin, keyboard, and on the title track, Kodjovi’s trumpet. Winningly contempo in nature, this compares well to the recent output on the Glitterbeat label; “3roos Elneel” is a standout. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, September 2016

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for September, 2016.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Myrkur, Mausoleum (Relapse) One-woman Danish black metal juggernaut Amalie Bruun made some waves last year with full-length debut M. Here she records live in the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo with the Norwegian Girls Choir; less a follow-up than an extension, it features seven acoustic reinterpretations of songs from M along with a new piece and a Bathory cover. Her prior LP is a major statement, but its main audience will be black metal fans. Mausoleum is wholly recommendable to anyone with an interest in the commingling of the human voice and great beauty. A

REISSUE PICK: Joseph C. Smith Orchestra, Songs of the Night: Dance Recordings, 1916-1925 (Archeophone) Although he wasn’t an improviser, violinist-bandleader Smith was an innovator in moving the recording of dance music away from military bands and toward jazz. He was also a commercial success, with many of these 47 tracks spread across two CDs and representing nearly a third of his output big sellers. Undeniably well-mannered, the aim of physical movement keeps things lively as the playing is strong throughout. Ryan Bama’s notes nicely detail the history. A

Abaddon, “Blues Tomorrow” b/w “Gotta Have It” (Alona’s Dream) The first of three items in this dispatch from a very cool Chicago label, this reissues a 1969 single from the vaults of Golden Voice Recording by a central Illinois band who combined firm if fairly standard garage punk and non-bloated blues rock. The a-side lands closest to the garage template through ample vocal haughtiness (namedropping Hendrix and Clapton) and a slight structural affinity to The Music Machine; the flip is a heavier proposition, but it unfortunately fades out just when it should take off. Enjoyable, if minor. B

Hasil “Haze” Adkins, Chicken Walk (Jambalaya) The Duke of West Virginia brings the goods. Post ’80s rediscovery Adkins cut a bunch of LPs, some better than others, but it’s the material from his raw and bizarre early days that secures his reputation. Lacking backing musicians and going it alone as a half-demented and gloriously grungy one-man band, Haze was a key influence on The Cramps, and while some persist in assessing the man as a striking survey in wrongness, that’s off-target; he most assuredly got it right. This slab and Norton’s Out to Hunch present a wicked combination. A+

Dennis Alcapone, Yeah Yeah Yeah: Mash Up the Dance (Kingston Sounds) Welcome repress of a 2012 compilation from this essential Jamaican toaster. Together with U-Roy and Big Youth, Alcapone (born Dennis Smith) was one of ’70s reggae’s three big DJs; this 14 track set highlights his work with producer Bunny Lee and features the musical bedrock of such heavyweights as saxophonist Tommy McCook, trumpeter Bobby Ellis, and the rhythm team of drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Any creeping repetitiveness gets bested with flights of eccentricity, as during “Steve Austin.” A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, August 2016

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for August, 2016. 

NEW RELEASE PICK: The Dead C, Trouble (Ba Da Bing) Dating back to 1987, Kiwis Bruce Russell, Michael Morley, and Robbie Yates comprise one of the underground’s great treasures; that their current output still sounds this inspired and stimulating is a true source of amazement. Taking a sharp left turn at the fork where many of their Flying Nun peers veered toward conventionality, they specialized in “free-rock”; so it was then and so it remains. Maintaining a balance of inspiration and abstraction in rock music is rare, as even the best can fall victim to wank. Here, a creative streak for the ages continues. A    

REISSUE PICK: V/A, Venezuela 70: Cosmic Visions of a Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock in the 1970s (Soul Jazz) The title gets right to the point; this set isn’t likely to melt the synapses of experienced listeners as much as it will, through smart choices and sequencing, illuminate yet another layer of 20th century global sounds. Soul Jazz draws a comparison to contemporaneous German stuff, and that’s certainly on point, but much of this is equally reminiscent of Brazilian Tropicalia and US jazz-funk. Angel Rada’s gloriously antiquated synth excursion “Basheeba” nearly steals the show. A

-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth (Relapse) These Los Angelinos are now seven albums deep into gruff-throated chunky-sludge. Against the odds, the attack remains effective, though bluntly, the faster the tempo (easily chalked up as a lingering facet of a stated hardcore influence) the less these ears are swayed; when they choose to dish out the copious riff bombast of “Gallows Humor” the album finds a sustained apex. There are a whole lot of vocals to contend with here, but to Cris Jerue’s credit he largely resists going overboard, which isn’t the same as fading into the background. B

Jon Bap, What Now? (Astro Nautico) Very impressive for a debut, as drum ‘n’ bass, hip-hop, ambient, jazz, spoken word and poetry, sound collage, and a high ratio of funk and soul get acquainted with an experimental approach. The presence of drummer Mike Mitchell gives parts of this a slightly jazzy avenue of accessibility (he plays in Stanley Clarke’s trio), but that’s only after the first couple tracks traverse shrewdly deceptive alleyways of minimalist sonic grafting and avant-poetics. As the record progresses elements of pop do emerge, but often in hunks and shards; it’s all quite intriguing. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, July 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores for July, 2016. Part one can be found here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (Relapse) This Richmond, VA five-piece breaks the 70-minute barrier without losing points at the finish line; along the way the sound is about as heavy as metal gets, combining doom, crunch, growl, and pummel with surprising attention to songwriting. They also resist clichés, impressively so given the duration, and consistently broach the unexpected; there are soaring guitar motifs, stately piano, and in the midst of “Primordial Wound” agitated, higher pitched vocals, delivering a highlight to this remarkable whole. A

REISSUE PICK: V/A, Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz, & Electric Folklore from Haiti 1960 – 1981 (Ostinato) Producer-researcher Vik Sohonie adopts the generosity of a DJ alongside his scholarly approach (he also penned the liner notes) and like a record spinner he favors the impulse to dance, but his finds are so instrumentally rich and varied, spanning from small groups to big bands and urban sophistication to rural gusto, that the program should easily please those afflicted with two left flippers. Available on CD and gatefold 2LP with a 20-page booklet, this is a stone winner all around. A    

Glenn Branca, Symphony No. 13 (Hallucination City) for 100 Guitars (Atavistic) Plus one drummer (Virgil Moorefield). Documenting a Feb 28, 2008 performance from the Auditorium Parco Della Musica in Rome, in terms of massive scale the sounds on this CD really deliver, but even more impressive is the litheness and the complete non-gimmickry on display throughout the piece’s four sections; that is, the heaviness, which again is substantial, never falls victim to grandiosity and just as often exudes subtlety backing up the claims (for any doubters lingering out there) of Branca as a major composer. A

William Burroughs, Let Me Hang You (Khannibalism/Ernest Jenning Record Co.) This finds Hal Wilner pulling 20-year-old tapes of Burroughs reading from Naked Lunch off the shelf and having King Khan finish them; mingling the original backing of Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Eyvind Kang, and other NYC-based musicians with Khan’s rougher rock-based input, the results are surprisingly cohesive, but the real treat is how Burroughs’ glorious croak reintroduces him as one of the 20th’s great smut peddlers; if you didn’t know Steely Dan was named after a Burroughsian dildo, well, you certainly will after hearing this. B+

John Cage with David Tudor, Variations IV (Modern Harmonic) From a 1965 performance at the Feigen/Palmer Gallery in LA, this captures Cage’s chance compositional period; originally on budget label Everest, this was one of the few Cage LPs intermittently turning up used (at least in my neighborhood) and was also high-test fuel for those rating the man as a provocateur-charlatan rather than a “serious” composer. Briefly, the randomness of this sonic collage brings real uh, variations in quality, but this is a historically important recording and it remains an involving listen over a half century later. A-

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