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-

The Beach Boys, Becoming the Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions (Omnivore) Exhaustively detailing the Boys’ pre-Capitol recordings in multiple takes of nine songs on two CDs, the cumulative effect is modest, mainly because greatness was still gestating, and yet fascinating, largely through knowledge of what was coming but also due to “Surfin’,” “Surfin’ Safari,” and “Surfer Girl” getting worked over extensively. Glimpses of Brian’s transformation are present, but even for fans of the early stuff (e.g. this correspondent), this set is more a historical artifact than a frequent spinner. B+

Bossacucanova, The Best of… (Six Degrees) As the collected material by this DJ-trio and assorted guests doesn’t bowl me over, I remain skeptical of the bossa nova meets electronica merger; organically evolving hybrids are one thing, but dolling up the old in the latest trends is kinda suspect, and much of this comp sounds dated in a way that prime bossa nova does not. On the other hand, respect for the source material is palpable amid polite comportment, so if one desires turning closing time at the coffee shop/ juice bar into an early evening dance fest, step right up to this one. B-

Cosmonauts, A-OK (Burger) This LA band has been extant for a while, chalking up four albums and a slew of 45s and EPs; along the way they’ve glided away from garage-psych racket toward the neighborhood of pop songs while retaining the guitar emphasis and a definite ’80s neo-psych/ indie pop angle. Bluntly, I dig the old stuff more, but they don’t fall victim to any terrible ideas; really, the main problem is that garage is basically unoriginal by design while pop ambition thrives on freshness of material. The execution is down pat, but these songs are best geared to aficionados of the referenced styles. B

Cowtown, Paranormal Romance (HHBTM) Leeds UK trio that pulls off the anxious keyboard-infused herky-jerk very nicely, and with a guitar presence that keeps an intermittent resemblance to Devo from tipping over into replication. The energy recalls the days when the pogo was king of the punk dance floor, there is a likeminded disregard for structural convention as the opening title track clocks in at 35 seconds, and by extension the whole record is less than 23 minutes long. Flaunting a swell ratio of nerdiness and swagger, they sound like a prospective blast live. A-

Delroy Edwards, Hangin’ at the Beach (LA Club Resource) Apparently Edwards intends these sounds for the club environment; I’m not doubting him, but much of this seems preferable for headphones. There are beats that could easily inspire physical movement, but most are over pretty quickly as this is 30 tracks in 50 minutes. The modus operandi is a lo-fi veneer applied to dated electro sounds of all stripes; sometimes rubbery, at other moments hazy, occasionally clinical, and yes regularly danceable, with edge that puts the kibosh on irony. There is also a Neue Deutsche Welle angle; see “Moscow Girls.” A-

Gap Dream, This is Gap Dream (Burger) Gabe Fulvimar is a one-man outfit beset with compound problems. First, there is the matter of quality control, a recurring issue in this type of scenario. Second is an infrequent flare-up of the rinky-dink, a situation not unexpected when employing programmed drums for what’s essentially an approximation of indie/ garage pop-rock. Third; when he comes up with a solid song, which is often enough to make this point quite frustrating, the results are plagued with the suspicion they’d be improved with an actual band. Oh well; there’s always East River Pipe. C+

Gene & Eddie, True Enough: Gene & Eddie with Sir Joe at Ru-Jac (Omnivore) Vol. 2 of material from the ’60s Baltimore R&B/ Soul label Ru-Jac (the first being the terrific Winfield Parker set Mr. Clean from earlier this year); this one focuses upon the vocal duo of Eugene Alton Dorsett and Eddie Best, Jr. with additional sides by writer-performer Sir Joe Quarterman. Combining passion and sophistication, this is far above second tier; everyone involved was striving for national prominence, and these 21 cuts (including the ’65 single by Eddie & Gene and the Nightcaps) show they weren’t wasting time. B+

The Hallucinant Telepherique, Absorbed by the Forest (eRRatic Music) Austin-based prog-rock consisting of Gino Montoya on guitar and keyboards and his brother Sergio on drums and synth pedals; akin to a sizable percentage of the style, this offers a mixed bag. In its favor; a largely instrumental framework focusing on crisp, energetic delivery instead of overzealous complexity. On the other side, the keyboard and synth frequently cultivate atmospheres reminiscent of prog’s ’70s heyday. They do avoid succumbing to egregiousness across the board, so devotees of the form shouldn’t hesitate. B

Marielle V Jakobsons, Star Core (Thrill Jockey) Multi-instrumentalist Jakobsons has made her mark as one half of Date Palms, and her second solo album is a fine addition to the current wave of spacy New Ageist synth glide. Those suspicious of this stylistic turn of events (as this writer once was) need not fret; Jakobsons’ violin, bass, and for the first time her voice help to transform Star Core into more than just another aural flotation device. The instrumentation and singing deepen the psychedelic attributes as restraint and intelligence emphasize Jakobsons’ academic background. A stone winner. A-

Lovely Little Girls, Glistening Vivid Splash (Skin Graft) On album these conceptual Chicago avant-rockers lack their noted visual component, which reportedly includes a sizable cast of players, makeup, prosthetics, and partial nudity. As they’ve been at it for roughly a decade under the direction of visual artist-vocalist Gregory Jacobson and bassist Alex Perkolup (Cheer-Accident), the music overcomes this obstacle with hardly a hitch and lays the content on pretty thick, featuring beaucoup precision spillage, a twisted carnival/ sideshow aura, oddball jazz-prog horns, and a prevailing air of strangeness. B+

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West (The Sign) Bluesy psych-tinged hard rock from Sweden that hangs together at an acceptable level while intermittently offering hints of future potential; as this is their debut, that’s not at all a bad place to be. On the positive side, the playing is cohesive without being too tight, but working against them is inconsistency and sameness of material. Matilda Roth adds crucial distinctiveness as she sings in English with a noticeable and appealing Swede accent. Lengthy instrumental “Heaven and Earth” closes matters on a high note. B

nonkeen, oddments of the gamble (R & S Records) This is the second installment of material conceived by Nils Frahm, Frederic Gmeiner, and Sepp Singwald, with the gamble came out earlier this year. Having amassed considerable stuff, according to the band the decision on what to release was made by coin flip. These are the tracks that lost, but given the randomness there is no tangible drop-off in quality. The lack of vocals and instrumental dexterity lend this a decided Krautrock/ post-rock feel; drummer Andrea Belfi of Il Sogno Del Marinaio is here, and for one track so is guitarist Peter Broderick. A-

Savage Beliefs, Big Big Sky: A Recorded History of Savage Beliefs (Alona’s Dream) Those heavy into pre-shit hardcore may already know about this collection. It’s been out for a while but entered my consciousness only recently, so here we are; elements of HC are tangible, but the overall thrust is considerably melodic with cerebral touches, which is unsurprising as they formed while attending art school. The presence of Dave Riley (Big Black) on bass should substantially raise interest for ’80s US u-ground aficionados, though this lacks the surly abrasion of noise rock to come. Still quite interesting. B+

Silver Abuse, Consider the Pigeon (Alona’s Dream) New and totally unexpected LP from an outfit that’s been tagged as Chicago’s first punk band. That was numerous lineups back, though the presence of two original members (Santiago Durango of Big Black isn’t one of them) inspires interest. The hit and miss results are in line with the group’s early off-kilter (some have likened them to No Wave) and inconsistent incarnations (they produced a 7-inch and lent cuts to the Busted at Oz comp), just not as endearing. Sadly, a Sam Fuller tribute song is a disappointment; their “Final Solution” is better. B

V/A, Continental Drift (Slumberland/ Fortuna POP!) Two songs each from four bands, the lineup evenly split between US acts Wildhoney (Baltimore) and Mercury Girls (Philly) and the UK’s Tigercats (East London) and The Spook School (Edinburgh, Scotland); as a succinct dose of contemporary indie pop this goes down very well, and unsurprisingly so as the contents were assembled by two of the more respected labels in the field. The Spook School and Mercury Girls tickle this writer’s fancy the most, though Tigercats’ “Rent Control” and Wildhoney’s “T L (Reprisal)” wrap up side two in strong fashion. A-

V/A, Total 16 (Kompakt) The latest entry in Kompakt’s Total comp series starts out strong with Kaytlin Aurelia Smith’s mix of The Field’s “Reflecting Lights” and then rolls across two CDs sequencing Weval, old hands The Orb, and 22 more. While most of the nearly two hours 45-minute running time is corralled from recent Kompakt releases, there are also a handful of new tracks (these entries given a separate issue on 2LP with three exclusives). Make no mistake; much of this is hi-test fuel for the dance floor, but a few honest-to-goodness songs are found amongst the selections and nothing feels tossed off. A-

Vomitface, Hooray for Me (Help Yourself) If the audio stamp of Steve Albini doesn’t shift units like it once did, his talents still hold a measure of allure. Bluntly, hiring him was the smartest thing this NYC trio did in prep for their full-length debut, as instead of a flagrant approximation of the moments just prior to the ’90s grunge-indie explosion, the results connect like a legit manifestation. Given a more anonymous studio approach this disc would’ve likely imploded from a severe imitative impulse; a deal breaker for many will be a huge similarity to Nirvana’s early convulsions. Utterly unoriginal, but very heavy. B

Warhaus, We Fucked a Flame into Being (PIAS) Maarten Devoldere’s main gig is Balthazar, a band these ears have not heard, but the foul-mouthed album title copped from Lady Chatterley’s Lover sparked interest in his solo debut. Listening validated the summarizations of Gainsbourg and Cohen; much of this is paced like the drowsy morning-after shuffling of a decadent young poet, but as the album unwinds, matters do branch out, cresting with the faster moving “Memory” followed by the swell instrumental “Wanda,” and closing with a guy-gal duet that impressively avoids aping Serge and Brigitte. B+

James Williamson & Petra Haden, “Blues Jumped the Rabbit” b/w “Last Kind Words” (Leopard Lady) Nifty vinyl/ digital benefit 45 teaming two major talents and digging into a pair of trad folk-blues numbers with vibrant and diverse results. The a-side begins as modestly scaled folky Americana showcasing Haden’s always impressive voice and then gradually blossoms into a deftly arranged and layered affair. The flip is a sturdy rocking of a song first waxed by Geeshie Wiley in 1930, with Williamson’s guitar and Haden’s violin terrific. Proceeds go to the Tazzy Animal Rescue Fund. A-

X-Ray Spex, Germ Free Adolescents (Real Gone Music) A train of thought currently navigating the web concerns a persistent focus on Riot Grrl obscuring knowledge of ’70s female punk trailblazers, but I’m more than a little bit skeptical. Regardless, as one of a half-dozen or so LPs defining the original UK punk wave, this is primed to rattle uninformed foundations and provide the already clued-in with a fresh ownership opportunity. Musically and ideologically sturdy, X-Ray Spex’s sole LP has aged splendidly; even as it lacks Poly Styrene’s shining moment (that’s “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”), this still kills. A+

ZED, Trouble in Eden (Ripple) This label’s output gravitates toward hard rock of the stoner, sludge, and doom varieties, but the third album from this San Jose four piece explores a lively and straightforward heaviness harkening back to the alt-metal of the ’90s. Thankfully, they resist going all the way with this dynamic, and yet as the tracks unwind it’s a sensibility that’s difficult to shake. Lyrically serious to a unique degree in relation to the majority of their hard and heavy peers, the societal/ environmental focus is somewhat refreshing and helps to offset the occasional underwhelming form move. B

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