Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April 2016

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new or reissued wax presently in stores from April, 2016.

The Bevis Frond, Miasma and Inner Marshland (Fire) Through sheer prolificacy and erudition Nick Saloman’s psych unit became a fixture in the review sections of a formidable stack of late ’80s-early ’90s zines. During the period others deliberately replicated vintage ’66 (or thereabouts), but Saloman blended classicism and non-trite psych weirdness without sounding like a standard update. These ears aren’t familiar with the full Frond spectrum, but nothing meeting my acquaintance has been underwhelming; these reissues of the debut and follow-up, both from ’87, are amongst the best. A-/ A-

DNA, “You & You” b/w “Little Ants” (Superior Viaduct) The three acts comprising Superior Viaduct’s 2016 punk singles roundup, Suicide, The Fall, and DNA, all embraced the fringes over formula and represent the kind of uninhibited norm-destruction that many were (are) all too eager to dismiss or ignore. Of the three it’s the trio of Arto Lindsay (guitar-vocals), Robin Crutchfield (keys), and Ikue Mori (drums) that have retained the strongest aura of extremity. Recorded shortly before No New York this debut 45 is an undiluted hunk of No Wave racket with a barking Lindsay wrangling his axe like a champ. A

The Fall, “Bingo-Master’s Break-Out” 3-song EP and “It’s the New Thing” b/w “Various Times” (Superior Viaduct) As punk rock was expanding, straining and convulsing amid sneers, jeers, and cheers, The Fall’s debut EP and follow-up single offered an inkling of what was going to happen next. Outbursts of divergence (“Psycho Mafia,” “Bingo-Master,” “It’s the New Thing”), a manifesto (“Repetition”) and a harbinger of what was to come (“Various Times”) are now integral components in the narrative; these reissues give newcomers the opportunity to discover the essentiality as the band’s initial fans did. A+/ A

Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories (Bloodshot) Fulks’ follow-up to last autumn’s enjoyable collab with members of the Mekons (Jura, also on Bloodshot) is an absolute gem of a record. Infused with gentleness and spiked with moments of gripping intensity, this consistently beautiful document weaves country, folk, bluegrass, and even a touch of soul (hey, that’s Americana in a nutshell) into a rewardingly personal whole. Easily wipes the floor with country music’s recent pack of supposed saviors, though that’s obviously not Fulks’ intent. A

Graves at Sea, The Curse That Is (Relapse) It’s taken nearly 15 years for these Portland, OR-based sludgy doomsters to get their debut full-length into the racks, so excessive length should perhaps be overlooked; in fact, the 76-minute duration actually works in consort with the bleakness of the material, for this is a record to be endured as much as enjoyed. B+

Gris-de-Lin, “The Kick” (Noisy Little Birds / BB*Island) Debut from a Bridport Dorset, UK songstress and multi-instrumentalist who’s collaborated with Joe Gideon; conceived and orchestrated mostly by her lonesome, this 4-song EP is initially defined by eclecticism and a clinical studio aura enhanced by occasional sharp edits on the opening title cut and furthermore by “Your Ghost”’s vocal loop. “Birthday” underlines her ability with a song however, and it leads into a culminating burst of relative straightforwardness via “Fireworks Begin.” Overall, a situation worth keeping an eye on. B+

Tom Hingley Band, “Beggar’s Hand” b/w “Toy” (Newmemorabilia) Hingley is probably best known as the longtime (and former) vocalist for Inspiral Carpets, though he’s also fronted the Lovers, a band featuring the ex-Fall siblings Steve and Paul Hanley. Since the turn of the century he’s knocked out a bunch of solo records and one as The Tom Hingley Band. This new single finds the leader’s lungs in strong form as distortion envelops the velocity, though the flip is sadly afflicted with doofus lyrics; sounds okay going down but after a bunch of spins neither side sticks in the memory. B-

Long Tall Jefferson, I Want My Honey Back (Red Brick Chapel) Even before the trumpet arrives in track two there’s no doubt this exercise has been impacted by indie-folk, and one can pick out the similarities to M. Ward, Oberst, and Neil Young without difficulty. But it would be unfair to brand Mr. Jefferson as a mere genre copyist; a non- overzealous whiff of The Pogues is detectable in “The Sweetness of Mortality” and as the tracks progress they take on a more general folk air that’s likeable if well short of startling. B

Gary Lucas and Jann Klose, Stereopticon (Cosmic Trigger) The lesser of two Lucas items considered here is far from negligible, the guitarist’s chords and notes appealing throughout as he accompanies Klose’s bold all-purpose vocals; having provided the titular singing voice in the biopic Greetings from Tim Buckley, he is anything but fraudulent at the mic and the duo spends a substantial portion of the duration in between the coffeehouse and AOR land. “Well of Loneliness” jumps straight into late ‘70s AM radio drive-time mode with some guest sax; the psych-folk of “Jewel Julia” delivers a standout. B

Stuart Masters, Mystic Blue and the Black Balloon (Cedar Room) Though it stems from a Brit-folk template, this is a varied and exploratory set from a skilled young guitarist. Strengthening his fabric are threads of Guitar Soli, Indian classical music and the use of 12-string harp guitar as the electric slide, drums, bowed strings, and synth splatters of “Colorado River” helps to integrate a contempo feel. Masters impresses with his technique without resorting to flash and based on this early evidence he could be capable of a masterful record or two. B+

Mr. Lif, Don’t Look Now (Mello Music Group) Very welcome return from this Boston-based Definitive Jux-affiliated MC. Highpoints include the massive forward motion of “The Abyss,” the back-to-back femme vox of “Let Go” and “A Better Day” (by Selina Carrera and Erica Dee respectively), Edan’s production and Blacastan’s guest spot on “Whizdom,” the return of The Perceptionists on “Mission Accomplished,” an appearance from Del the Funky Homosapien on “World Renown,” and the intelligence, confidence and inventiveness of Mr. Lif throughout. A-

New York Tourists, You + Me (Self-released) This UK band knows exactly what they want to be and largely achieve it; unfortunately, I’m moved hardly at all. Large scaled, thoroughly modern rock sure to go down a storm at festivals, alongside contemporary trappings much of this connects in the tradition of INXS or U2. There’s a flash of falsetto chutzpah and gestures toward their professed harder rocking influences (some of which don’t really rock all that hard), but overall this struck my ear as an unexciting exercise in the mainstream. C

Nightmen, Fifteen Minutes of Pain (Lövely) The Ramones, Dead Moon, and The Cars are listed as relevant to this potent serving of Swede power-pop, which conjures thoughts of a lost record from the Stiff or Chiswick labels and sports the dress sense to match. The amped-up guitar brings early Damned to mind, and as lost Stiff or Chiswick platters are actually nonexistent, slapping down cash on the barrelhead for this one is a smart idea. B+

Nisennenmondai, #N/A (On-U Sound) After investigating the back catalog of this Japanese trio, it’s screamingly clear their blend of Krautrock, minimalism, no wave, and post-punk experimentalism should be much better known. Joining forces with producer Adrian Sherwood means dub elements have entered into the equation without diminishing the potency of the group’s avant-thrust. Capped with a pair of live tracks also featuring Sherwood, this is yet another notch in the guy’s belt of relevance. Hopefully On-U Sound’s profile will widen Nisennenmondai’s listenership. A-

Pearly Clouds, s/t (Trapeze Music) Described as a psychedelic world trio, this is American Gary Lucas on guitars, Hungarian Enikő Szabó on vocals, and her countryman Tóni Dezső on saxophones, and their eponymous debut consists of traditional Hungarian songs sung with rich aplomb and steeped in avant-garde edginess from the horns as folk and blues guitar textures deepen the whole. Expansive yet organic, the results will be of interest to ears attuned to adventurous global sounds alongside the expected mavens of experimentation, outsider jazz and non-noodlesome prog. A-

Red Wizard, Cosmosis (Ripple/STB Records) Undoubtedly a genre experience, these San Diego residents are pretty handy with a brand of hard rock/ metal holding special appeal on long late-night tours of the back-back roads in a gas-guzzling 4-door sedan. It’s fair to assess recent bands of this ilk as not bringing anything new to the picnic, but then again Cosmosis is front to back more consistent than many of the LPs by their prime influences. The three parts of the “Red Wizard Suite” do stretch things a bit, but the album still wraps up nicely. Good use of harmonica, too. B+

Suicide, “Cheree” b/w “I Remember” and “Dream Baby Dream” b/w “Radiation” (Superior Viaduct) Coming out shortly after their self-titled late ’77 debut, the UK remix of “Cheree” is distinctive enough from the album version to be worth obtaining, though heavy-duty fans very likely already possess it in some form. They’re probably familiar with the electro-drone of “I Remember” as well, but grabbing it as part of Superior Viaduct’s double shot of Suicide is still a smart maneuver. By now “Dream Baby Dream” is easily Alan Vega and Martin Rev’s most well-known song, but that doesn’t negate its mastery. A/ A+

The Joe Tatton Trio, “Bang Bang Boogaloo” b/w “Sunday Shade” (ATA) A March 45 simply too good to let slip through the cracks. Amongst other activities Tatton is the organist in The New Mastersounds, but here his instrument is piano, and the playing is superb throughout the a-side’s blend of Latin groove and soul jazz. ATA mentions Ramsey Lewis and that’s not off-target; those with an unquenchable thirst for “The ‘In’ Crowd” should investigate before this one’s gone. The mid-tempo flip subs guitar/ horns for congas/ timbales; think of ’60s Blue Note’s populist side seasoned with a touch of ’70s Philly soul. A-

Tombs, “All Empires Fall” (Relapse) Having tweaked their lineup by adding a new drummer plus synth and electronics, the latest EP by this Brooklyn-based experimental metal act brandishes the unsurprising guttural growl and huge chunky riffing (check “Deceiver” for both), but these genre markers get mingled with non-ridiculous Goth ambiance in part through the new instrumentation but additionally courtesy of guitarist and leader Mike Hill’s clean vocalizing. Refreshing stuff. B+

V/A, BIS: 001 – 020 (Beats in Space) A two and a half hour 2CD/digital survey of the first 20 releases on Beats in Space, a label spawned from the long-running WNYU radio show of Tim Sweeney. The majority runs toward contempo dance music and offers a fairly wide spectrum, from neo-symphonic disco to electro-bup to hints of underwater dub to flourishes of techno pop. These ears prefer the edgier entries, but the whole thing holds together extremely well as a portrait of one guy’s deep interest in club-inclined sounds; put this on at a shindig and prepare for the carpet to get carved up right. A-

V/A, Every Song Has Its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali (Glitterbeat) Please discard any notions possibly formulating over the traditional (i.e. safe) nature of this collection of field recordings, for this stuff gets WILD. Captured by producer/educator Paul Chandler in “off-the-grid” regions of Mali, the sounds are as varied as they are powerful; guitars, bowed strings, drums, and voices interweave with less common instruments such as elk horns, balafon, and warrior harp. Issued with a DVD holding 11 videos, this 2LP edition is limited to 500 copies, so don’t dally. A

V/A, Wake Up You! Vol. 1 (Now-Again) I’ll have much more to say on this one after its accompanying volume comes out later this month. Some of the groups (Hygrades, Funkees, Apostles) included on the CD/2LP have already made my acquaintance, but it’s in how the assembled sounds illuminate the information offered in the 100+ page book that makes this such a praiseworthy endeavor. A

Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock (Fuzzorama) Cincinnati act getting off to a solid start through bluesy-boogie-down hard rock, though the sound is updated to include grunge, and frankly that’s where the whole gets undermined; three songs in and the momentum is derailed as “Speaketh” lingers for over five minutes, inspiring recollections of an unappealing strain of the Alt-rock radio ’90s and foreshadowing the direction of much of what follows. C+

The Veldt, “The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP” (Leonard Skully) Soul-inflected shoegaze isn’t exactly clogging the current distribution channels, nor has it ever, so this comeback by the Chavis brothers is a welcome one. There might be a little too much sonic emphasis placed on sheer newness by the group and producer Robin Guthrie, but this EP goes down rather well and should provide a real eye-opener for TV on the Radio fans unfamiliar with The Veldt’s prior work. B+

Virginia Wing, “Rhonda” (Fire) This Camberwell UK-based trio’s 2014 debut Measures of Joy gave a sweet pill to those aching for a fix of the Broadcast-Stereolab post-rock kosmische shebang and this 3-song EP expands on that template with a title-track a-side that gets as danceable as it is psychedelic and features a rhythm that sounds like a manipulated sample of a typewriter. The two on the flip serve as a swell soundtrack while perusing the Scarfolk Council website. B+

Western Skies Motel, Settlers (Lost Tribe Sound) Folk/ Americana, Modern Classical, and Drone aren’t genres normally lumped together; frankly I was skeptical, but Danish guitarist René Gonzàlez Schelbeck pulls it off as the record often lingers around the periphery of post-rock. Soaking up the cover pic prior to listening also inspired worry that Settlers, which is conceptually tied to Schelbeck’s interest in the long gone American West, was going to be plagued with the rustic, but that’s not the case either. Enjoyable throughout, the guitar isn’t jaw dropping; what’s striking is the consistent good judgement. A-

ZMEI3, Rough Romanian Soul (Six Degrees) Pronounced zmay-tray, the group consists of vibe player Oli Bott, double bassist Arnulf Ballhorn, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist Mihai Victor Iliescu, and powerhouse lead singer Paula Turcas. The 15 tracks are indeed soulful but also bluesy, folky, and even a little jazzy as the disc, recorded live without overdubs with producer Ian Brennan (his services acquired through a Kickstarter campaign), exudes a robust atmosphere that’s rootsy but not bucolic. Turcas’ pipes could easily override everything else but impressively don’t, showing restraint and displaying finesse. A-

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