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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Bush Tetras, “Take the Fall” (Wharf Cat) Formed when Pat Place exited James Chance & the Contortions and teamed up with vocalist Cynthia Sley, bassist Laura Kennedy, and drummer Dee Pop, Bush Tetras constitute one of the finer extensions of the original No Wave impulse. Sporadically active over the decades, here they return after a long absence with three original members (Kennedy exited after the release of Beauty Lies in 1995 and passed in 2011), with Val Vera (aka Val Opielski, ex Krakatoa, 1000 Yard Stare, etc.) strapping on the bass; this trim five-track outing not only doesn’t sully their rep, it hangs with the earlier work sans hitch. They may be a smidge moodier and less dance-punky than in the early days (heaviness hath not abated), but the change suits them well. A-

Say Sue Me, Where We Were Together (Damnably) Say Sue Me hail from Busan, South Korea, but their sound derives to a significant extent from late 20th century developments out of the United Kingdom. Damnably describes their thing as surf-inspired indie rock, and that’s not off-target, but I’d simply tag ‘em as purveyors of indie pop…except that doing so runs the risk of losing them in a sea of likeminded outfits. The good news is that Say Sue Me aren’t mimics and do a fine job here of establishing a distinct personality across 11 tracks, which means that you won’t mistake them for being British. There are some tangible similarities however, e.g. a less twee Camera Obscura, The Primitives, and briefly, The Vaselines. The longer and increasingly loud “Coming to the End” is suitably sequenced last. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Harold Budd, Luxa (Curious Music) This ’96 full-length was initially a CD-only affair, but no more, as the resuscitated Curious Music offers it on double 180gm black vinyl remastered by Tim Story and pressed at 45RPM in a matte finish gatefold jacket with a high res numbered art print (there’s also a FLAC download available). If you’re thinking this is all a bit extravagant, then chances are you don’t know Budd, an artist for whom aural depth and detail is crucial. Many have been introduced to him through connections to Eno and collabs with Cocteau Twins, but here he goes it alone, and the results are so much more than tranquil, concluding with superb covers of Marion Brown’s “Sweet Earth Flying” and “Pleasure” by Steven Brown (of Tuxedomoon). Altogether a beautiful thing. A-

Sleepyhead, Future Exhibit Goes Here (Drawing Room) Drawing Room’s third recent ’90s indie rock reissue (after Sandra Bell’s Net and a double vinyl edition of Kicking Giant’s debut CD) is a 2LP twinning the second and third full-lengths (Starduster, 1994, and the formerly CD-only Communist Love Songs, ’96) from the NYC trio of bassist Michael Galinsky, drummer-vocalist Rachel McNally, and guitarist-vocalist Chris O’Rourke. Sleepyhead’s thrust can be considered no-frills, essentially alternating betwixt melodic punk and tough power-pop with guitar noise appropriate for the era and scene, so some will likely wonder what’s the big deal. I’ll just say that it went down sweet at the time and gives me a warm feeling now. Comes with a book collecting band reminiscences and Galinsky’s ace photographs. A-

Eric Andersen, The Essential Eric Andersen (Real Gone / Sony) This one surprised me, not because I felt the subject was/is undeserving of the 2CD retro treatment, but that they actually went and did it. A duet with Phil Ochs ends the set, but Andersen is accurately described as belonging to the introspective side of the folk spectrum (the artist self-identifies with Fred Neil and Tim Hardin), and had the tapes to Stages, his follow-up to ’72’s commercial breakthrough Blue River not been confoundingly mislaid, it’s probable his career would’ve unwound differently. The problem for me is that post-Vanguard Records, Andersen’s work has been frustratingly hit-and-miss, and it’s a scenario that begins in the middle of disc one. The ’80s-’90s-’00s work found on disc two, while better than expected, is still uneven. B

Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sunday Down South (ORG Music) The use of the conjunction might give the impression that this is a collaboration, but no, it’s a split LP (which the back cover makes plain), given a fresh edition by ORG in their reliable stream of material from the vaults of Sun Records. Originally issued in 1970 but comprised of recordings cut mostly in the ’50s, with nearly all of a spiritual orientation, the corralling succeeds for a couple reasons. First, while (to my secular ear) a lot of Caucasian gospel can become so well-mannered as to be of minimal interest, both Cash and Lewis elevate the songs through their individual, complementary styles. Just as importantly, the music was captured casually, as part of a larger recording scheme; the packaging concept came later. A-/ A-

Chaos Echoes with Mats Gustafsson, Sustain (Utech) France’s Chaos Echoes can be described as post-Black/ Death/ Doom metal, which means they’re more inclined toward abstraction and even atmospherics than throttle or bombast. This desire to get somewhere else musically is comparable to the stirrings that helped to formulate avant-garde jazz, a movement that’s reverberations are still felt on a worldwide scale; indeed, it’s a form still very much extant, with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson a prime example. The reality in 2018 is that both sides of this collab are working in well-established territory, and their meeting seems intended to just stir up some shit and then let it fly. Chaos Echoes brings the dark heaviness and Mats’ searching lung-fury is typically up to snuff. A-

The Cyclist, “Alabaster Thrones” (100% Silk) Here’s the first of two this week from a techno-inclined L.A. label with a bunch of releases under its belt. This 12-inch is the work of Birmingham, UK’s Andrew Morrison, whose work as The Cyclist has been tagged as a progenitor of lo-fi house. The artist has named his personal sound as “tape throb,” and it’s a distinction I can appreciate, as the sheen that I generally associate with the house style (a polish that’s perfectly well-suited to the club environment) is replaced by a messier, grittier, but no less layered and intricate sensibility (which to my ears registers as an adaptation rather than a subversion). It works terrifically whilst stationary at the ol’ homestead. On last year’s Sapa Inca Delirium Morrison spread out; here, he reins matters in without playing it safe. A-

Sonido Gallo Negro, Mambo Cósmico (Glitterbeat) The psych-dipped Amazonian Cumbia of Mexico City’s Sonido Gallo Negro is now three albums deep, and it’s a sound that fits Glitterbeat’s modus operandi like a custom-stitched glove. The promo text cites a newfound integration of mambo, cha-cha, porro and danzon styles, but their sound remains unified, obviously through rhythm, but also organ (including Farfisa), with a light ’60s garage feel is part of the weave. Theremin occasionally nods to Space Age Pop, and by extension, the arrangements recall everything from the Tornadoes “Telstar” to surf rock instrumentals to spy movie themes to spaghetti western soundtracks. The use of sampler reinforces the broadness of approach. Mambo Cósmico isn’t a heavy trip, but it’s expansive all the same. B+

Goldmund, Occasus (Western Vinyl) Along with a slew of ambient-electronic discs released as Helios and a handful of other projects, Keystone State-native Keith Kenniff has produced eight post-classical releases as Goldmund. This is the latest, and it delivers the expected calming piano-based atmospheres across 15 tracks. I’ve stated elsewhere that my level of engagement with this style relates to palpable depth reaching beyond mere calming prettiness, and Occasus is consistently more than just a mood relaxer, most prominently in the edgy drift of “Terrarium” (Kenniff’s electronic expertise comes into play across the LP) but also in the Modernist-tinged late cuts “Moderate” and “What Lasts,” the appealing piano miniature “History,” and the closeness of the recording in “Radiant.” A-

Enter to win the Concert for George, 4-LP, 180-gram box set here!

Lio, Lio Canta Caymmi (Crammed Discs) This CD, the impetus of which is a celebration of defining Brazilian songwriter Dorival Caymmi, was shepherded into existence by Belgian lyricist Jacques Duvall. Through the skilled arrangements of Chris Vandeputte and the voice of Euro-pop icon Lio (noted internationally as an actress and for her recordings with Telex, Sparks, and John Cale), it bypasses the realms of respectful tributes by a wide margin. It’s also Lio’s first record in her native Portuguese; she does approach the material with loving reverence (nary a note is laid wrong), but in part due to Duvall’s added French verses (one for each song), and the input of Vandeputte, who warmly extends a classic feel rather than safely falling back into it, this should easily satisfy lovers of Brazilian song. A-

Pleasure Model, The Executive (100% Silk) Upon soaking up the techno motions of Pleasure Model’s second full-length, which exists physically on cassette (limited edition of 50), it’s no surprise that the man responsible, one Antoni Maiovvi, is a Bristol, UK-to-Berlin transplant. Maiovvi’s output under his own name is described as giallo disco, which as you might guess is a Euro horror soundtrack-dancefloor hybrid. I report all this as a newbie to the sound-worlds of Maiovvi, though I can relate with authority that The Executive’s EBM travels a path that’s decidedly cyber-android-robo-futurist, and thankfully, lacks heavy-handedness in execution. As with much quality straight-ahead techno, the more I listen the more the subtleties emerge, and these 40 minutes peak late with “The Wave.” B+

Craig Smith, Love is Our Existence (Maitreya Apache Music) Smith’s life has been documented by Mike Stax (of Ugly Things mag) in the book Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith & the Mystery of Maitreya Kali. In brief, he was in the Good Time Singers, then the Penny Arkade, and had his songs cut by Andy Williams, The Monkees, and Glen Campbell. Under the spell of psychedelics and mysticism he changed his name to Satya Sai Maitreya Kali and dished the classic private press 2LP Apache/Inca. Next came institutionalization and homelessness before dying in 2012. This album collects 19 unreleased studio tracks from between ’66 and ’71 that aren’t as strong as Apache/Inca (the solo folkiness isn’t as strange) but do highlight the man’s songwriting talent. Limited edition of 455. B+

The Sorcerers / The Yorkshire Film & Television Orchestra, “In Pursuit of Shai Hulud” b/w “The Anderson Spectrum” split (ATA) The Sorcerers are a Leeds, UK-based instrumental group digging into the fertile soil of Ethiopian jazz, and Mulatu Astatke in particular. Their A-side fits snugly into this description, while also radiating a ’70s Euro soundtrack vibe that really benefits from hindsight; the playing is funky but lean and never too busy, not even in the soloing, which is a blessing as flute is prominent. The flip (which was recorded by The Sorcerers for their 2015 debut under the title “The Viking of 5th Avenue”) is by an affiliated ATA act, and as their name suggests, there’s a definite library music sensibility at work, oozing a sharp ’60s feel; hindsight applies here, as well. A-/ A-

Super Hi-Fi, Blue and White (Very Special Recordings) My intro to Brooklyn’s Super Hi-Fi came via their set of dub reggae-infused Nirvana tunes (+ one original tribute). Nearly all neo-skank junk tickles my fancy not even a little, so I approached with trepidation, but the embrace of dub (instead of debasing 2-Tone ska, say) made Super Hi-Fi an exception further distanced from the dud-like by guitar rumble and flareups of jazziness. Blue and White’s edition of 500 (in one-of-a-kind silkscreened covers) continues the scenario. The presence of trombone does instill an occasional party atmosphere, but overall, they’re still more druggy than skanky. That’s cool. Ezra Gale’s vocals can inspire imaginings of waiting in line for falafel at an outdoor summer festival, but as nobody’s asking to bum a cig, that’s cool, too. B+

V/A, Flowers from the Ashes: Contemporary Italian Electronic Music (Stroboscopic Artefacts) With ten tracks from ten artists, this is a varied survey of the titular style across two LPs, and with a runtime of just under an hour, digestible. As is the comp norm, quality varies, but no nosedives occur, and overall, the contents establish a healthy national scene. Silvia Kastel’s mildly Ralph Records-like “Errori” and the shifting soundscape of Andrea Belfi’s “Spitting and Skytouching” planted an inkling that the proceedings were going to take a restrained approach to rhythm, but ‘twas not to be. Not that the more beat oriented selections are disappointing; to the contrary, the pieces by Alessandro Adriani, Lucy, and Lori D are quite cool, but I’m glad for balancing cuts by Chevel, Neel, and Caterina Barbieri (a highlight). A-

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