Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, December 2017

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Cindy Wilson, Change (Kill Rock Stars) That Wilson’s solo debut doesn’t sound like the B-52’s isn’t exactly jaw-dropping. No, what’s impressive is the level of success achieved in migrating away from new wavy party pop-rocking, especially as she’s chosen to engage so heavily with an electronic template that could’ve easily spelled disaster. Some of this, like the title track, dives deep into techno ambience (there are a few pepperings of Gary Numan throughout the alb), but there’s plenty of strong songwriting to be found, and the guitars in late track “Brother” are a nice surprise. A-

The Telescopes, Stone Tape (Yard Press) In terms of the whole shoegaze/ neo-psych thing, to my mind Stephen Lawrie’s The Telescopes don’t get enough credit. Debuting on a split flexi with Loop, they ended up on Creation Records before taking a decade off. Returning in ’02, they’ve been steadily at it since (issuing As Light Return earlier this year), and this concept LP (concerning the Stone Tape Theory of Thomas Charles Lethbridge), the first release on Italian graphic designer Giandomenico Carpentieri’s new label, has moments recalling Spacemen 3, Tony Conrad, Suicide, Velvets, and even early Doors. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Basil Kirchin, Worlds Within Worlds (Superior Viaduct) Not to be confused with Kirchin’s ’71 album of the same name on EMI, this came out in ’74 through Island, and it’s a splendid hunk of elevated musique concrète, integrating horns, cello, organ etc. with sounds of animals, engines, the docks in Hull, and autistic children in Schurmatt, Switzerland. Kirchin had a varied career; in addition to a long Brit big band period with his dad, he also contributed to the score for The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Along with the EMI set and Quantum, this is a must for avant-garde shelves. (out 12/15) A

Zazou/Bikaye/CY1, Noir et Blanc (Crammed Discs) This collaboration between Congolese musician Bony Bikaye, French composer Hector Zazou and his countrymen Guillaume Loizillon and Claude Micheli, who worked as the analog synth duo CY1, was initially released in ’83, but in defying expectations it sounds as fresh as last week, in part due to the exploratory curiosity of everyone involved. The results (reissued here with welcome demos and bonuses) offer a legit African/European fusion, and I find it more engaging than Eno/ Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, to which it’s sometimes compared. A

Chie Mukai, “Hi Tsuki” (Mesh-Key) 300 people are gonna feel lucky they got their mitts on this. Chie Mukai is noted as the founder of Ché-SHIZU, an improv-folk group that’s integral to the whole PSF Records’ story (she’s collaborated with Keiji Haino, John Duncan, etc.). This short, long-delayed 2002 set collects four pieces in duo with Justin Simon, who records as Invisible Conga People and operates Mesh-Key. Mukai bows the Chinese er-hu and sings, he plays guitar and synth (the closing cut spans back to ’93). Adding drums and bass, the title track spreads out to deliver a foreboding highlight. A-

Tav Falco, A Tav Falco Christmas (ORG Music) Veteran roots revitalizer Falco has the offbeat personality and musical savvy to make an LP of well-worn Christmas selections worth hearing. Some of the choices are so deeply wired into the seasonal foundation that folks who don’t know Tav might be puzzled as to the point, but those who are familiar with his brand of magic will understand how the man and his band (which features Mike Watt, Toby Dammit, and Mario Monterosso) turn selections by Burl Ives, Dean Martin, Elvis, Bobby Helms, and James Brown into a unified, family gathering-friendly whole. B+

Alex Lipinski, Alex (A Recordings) Reportedly recorded in an evening, the core of Lipinski’s sophomore outing is songs, a voice, and an acoustic guitar, but it’s not a ramshackle affair. Enhanced with backing vox, harmonica, drums, strings, etc. amid the warmth of producer Anton Newcombe’s studio in Berlin, I’ve read it described as psychedelic in comportment. Perhaps this is due to the BJM frontman’s input (he also runs A Recordings), but outside of a few spots (e.g. the nifty acid guitar in “Lonely Kid”) it strikes me as a solid blend of folky singer-songwriter tendencies. “The Devil You Know” is a pick cut. B+

Juana Molina, Un Dia (Crammed Discs) Molina’s Halo is one of my favorite releases of 2017, but it didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. This 2008 set, originally released by Domino and getting its first vinyl pressing through Crammed Discs, starts out with the title track’s absolute smash of near delirious repetition. If it doesn’t sustain that level of intensity from start to finish, Molina nearly makes up for it with vividness, touches of the weird, the ability to spread out (only one track is under five minutes) without wearing thin, and most importantly, an almost singer-songwriter level of intimacy. A-

Paternoster, S/T (Now-Again Reserve) The sole album from this Vienna-based band came out in ’72 on CBS, and it’s received numerous reissues, including two by Now-Again, maybe in part because it gets tagged as part of the Krautrock surge, of which it doesn’t really fit. Is it worth picking up? If you’re a prog fan, the answer is yes. Still, distinctions should be made. Paternoster do utilize Hammond organ, but to cathedral-like ends that are closer to Procol Harum than ELP, which means very little wanking is on display. Spots also ooze a Floyd feel, specifically post-Syd pre-Dark Side. Nice fuzz guitar, too. B+

Suicide, First Rehearsal Tapes (Superior Viaduct) These aren’t recently unearthed recordings, as Blast First paired this set with the duo’s second album on a long available double vinyl/ compact disc package. However, the ’75 practice session documented here is certainly strong enough to stand on its own, and the illumination it sheds upon Vega and Rev’s process makes it a must for fans, so recent converts are getting presented with a golden opportunity. Some of this is aptly assessed as embryonic, but the selections here aren’t just early, less potent versions from Suicide, a fact that’s quite striking. A-

Tanda Tula Choir, S/T (Hippie Dance / Bush Recordings) Superpitcher’s been riding high in 2017 through the monthly Golden Ravedays series, but Aksel Schaufler (who’s the man behind the moniker) also been up to more; this LP is the unplanned fruit of a trip he made to South Africa. After arriving at the Tanda Tula Safari Camp, the Shangaan songs of the staff choir knocked him sideways, which is no surprise, as his resulting field recording is loaded with tribal rhythmic power, wild injections of horn, and vocal beauty moves. The camp currently offers it in their shop, and baby that’s one helluva souvenir. A-

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Live in 1960 (ORG Music) This isn’t peak Rosetta; for that, one needs to seek out her work from the late ’30s up to the early ’50s, especially her smokin’ crossover tandem with pianist Sammy Price, but the performances here do find her in appealingly soulful, if not knockout, sanctified folk-blues form. Delivered after she’d settled back into the gospel listenership’s good graces post hubbub over a foray into the straight blues market, she’s going it alone with just vocals and guitar. This sands off the proto-R&R links, but she still gets plenty bluesy on “The Gospel Train.” (out 12/15) B+

V/A, Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk: 1981-1988 (Cultures of Soul) Surely this compilation’s title is enough to trigger Scanners-style cranial explosions of expectation in a certain segment of the listening public, but that’s not me. This is still an enlightening introduction to City Pop, a phenomenon the liners describe as “Japanese music for Japanese people.” Cultures of Soul’s prior geographical boogie/ disco surveys tend to get appealingly weirder as they progress, but likely due to intensity of purpose and refinement of execution, an adherence to pop is the foremost objective here. (out 12/15) B

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