Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, May
2018, Part Three

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: GAS, Rausch (Kompakt) The latest from Wolfgang Voigt’s reignited ambient-electronic project is a 60-min piece designed to be listened to in one sitting. Out on CD and standalone digital, the 2LP comes with a download allowing for the realization of Voigt’s aim, this pairing exquisitely combining the beauty and heft of the tactile (a reliable component in Kompakt’s output, and distinctively in the oeuvre of GAS) with the possibilities opened up by technological advancement. But y’know, this wouldn’t really be worth noting if the music was merely okay. The good news is that Rausch is impeccably constructed, with nary an inch of excess or traces of ran-through motions. Offering many unexpected (and dark) turns along the way to a splendid finale, it’s amongst Voigt’s finest work. A

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard, BooCheeMish (Prophecy Productions) Initially assembled by Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices released an LP back in 1975 (as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) that roughly a decade later was reissued on 4AD (Nonesuch did the honors in the US), so this collab with vocalist and Dead Can Dance co-founder Gerrard has roots in precedent. Furthermore, the MotBV has always been dedicated to combining the traditional and the modern, so even after a break in recording of over 20 years, the music here unfurls comfortably but intensely (likewise, Gerrard’s contribution) and without straining for the up-to-date. And while the instrumentation holds a consistent allure, it’s the singing that’s really where it’s at. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Bark Psychosis, ///Codename: Dustsucker (Fire) After some notable singles and EPs, ’94’s debut LP Hex put this UK act (led by sole constant member Graham Sutton) at the forefront of the New. An essential post-rock acquisition, it was reissued by Fire late last year, and now here’s the ’04 follow-up (and Bark Psychosis’ final statement). Musically, a decade is a long time. Although a whole lot had transpired in the post-rock realm since Hex helped to define it, these selections display no hints of being eclipsed. Overall, if not quite rising to the level of its predecessor, Codename reliably hangs in the ballpark of excellent, and everything still sounds fresh in 2018. How ‘bout that? If you dig Hex, you’ll want this one, too. Featuring guest drums by Lee Harris of Talk Talk. A

Franco Battiato, Clic (Superior Viaduct) Italian experimental pop/ avant-garde composer Battiato’s three prior LPs have recently been reissued by Superior Viaduct, and this one, originally issued by Bla Bla in ’74, is the latest in a program that’s scheduled to culminate with ’78’s L’Egitto prima delle sabbie. Sometimes tagged as the Italian Brian Eno, Battiato’s work occasionally offers similarities to Krautrock/ kosmische (“Propriedad Prohibida,” here), but much of this alb’s sonic motion is resistant to easy comparisons. The saxophone in opener “I Cancelli Della Memoria” delivers a nice surprise, and twists are common. However, there are recurring gestures toward classical experimentation (Clic is dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen), and the sampling of Henry Cowell’s ’50s Folkways recordings is tremendous. A

Miss Ludella Black, Till You Lie in Your Grave (Damaged Goods) If you know The Delmonas, you know Ludella Black, and if you’re up to speed with Thee Headcoatees, ditto. These credits ensconce her as a veteran of the Medway garage punk scene, and this LP is her third solo effort. Featuring 14 tracks, a dozen of them written by Mickey Hampshire (of Milkshakes fame), this delivers a potent and welcome dose of the Medway sound, with dashes and drizzles of fuzz accenting the UK Beat-derived stomp. Additionally, a cool Diddley-esque mover (“Every Little Bit of You”), a solid hunk of ’60s-ish gal pop (“I’m Not Going to Cry”) and covers of The Beatles (“Wait”) and Black Sabbath (“Am I Going Insane?”) deepen the appeal. But strong of voice on everything, this is Miss Black’s show all the way. A-

The Brian Jonestown Massacre, “Hold That Thought” b/w “Drained” (A Recordings) The last BJM release I spent any time with was 2012’s Aufheben, and bluntly, of its contents I was not smitten. This explains why I haven’t heard any of the half-dozen full-lengths put out by Anton Newcombe (who’s effectively been the BJM for a long while now) since then, an act of avoidance leaving me pleasantly surprised by this 10-inch vinyl single. Holding a song each from the two BJM LPs scheduled to hit racks in 2018 (the first in June, the other in Sept.), both tracks, and especially the B-side, would fit nicely into a mix of ’80s Anglo (or Aussie) pop auteur-inclined singer-songwriter material. As said, I haven’t the foggiest when exactly this shift occurred, but I’m interested in finding out and hearing what’s in store. B+

Del + Amp Live, Gate 13 (I.O.T. Records) I’ve been a fan of Bay Area rapper Del the Funky Homosapien since he hit the scene in the early ’90s, and I rate his sophomore effort No Need for Alarm as a hip-hop classic from a decade loaded with ‘em. I’m far less familiar with Amp Live, a DJ-producer noted as half of Zion I; with a handful of albums and a bunch of singles/ EPs out on his own, the inventiveness and flow of Gate 13 suggests some backtracking is in order. In part due to this introduction, Amp Live’s contribution (increasingly ’80s funky as the record progresses but with coinciding progressive elements) shines throughout. However, it never feels like he’s propping up a word-slinger who’s past his prime, with Del in consistently strong form. If you value hip-hop for fun, this one should satisfy. A-

Exitmusic, The Recognitions (felte) This is the third full-length (and the first I’ve heard) from Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church, with the making of this record having coincided with the unraveling of their marriage (they are now divorced). Learning of this fact prior to absorbing Exitmusic’s dream pop-imbued electronic indie inevitably added weight to the experience, but I’m also quite certain that had I known nothing of the split, these nine selections would’ve still packed a punch. It all comes down to a refreshing avoidance of standard form moves from inside a genre hybrid where adherence to cliché can sometimes be vaunted as a virtue. Palladino’s vocals are affecting rather than merely mood-setting (nowhere more than in the restrained finale “The Distance”) and the music is fleetingly superb. B+

The Last Poets, Understand What Black Is (Studio Rockers) It’s been half a century since The Last Poets debuted in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, NYC, USA, and also a couple of decades since their last recording. On one hand, that a new record from this groundbreaking crew is pertinent to the country’s (nay, the planet’s) current social fabric is more than a bit depressing, but ultimately the approach, thoughtful, historically enlightening and pointed (nowhere more than in late track “Rain of Terror”) rather than despairing, refreshes and energizes rather than leaving one to marinate in hopeless anger. Also, the engagement with reggae (with a few jazzy touches) courtesy of UK producers Ben Lamdin and Prince Fatty, adds a fresh wrinkle to their discography, but it also reduces the edge a bit. B+

Mary Lattimore, Hundreds of Days (Ghostly International) Since the release of The Withdrawing Room, harpist Lattimore has been one of the joys on the contempo scene, with her instrument’s distinctive sound helping her to stand out amid the deluge of current musicmaking. Distinctive and accessible, a combination that helps her tendency for experimentation to go down easy. But an instrument is only as worthwhile as the person playing it, so all credit to Lattimore (and her deft use of the Line 6 looping pedal) as she branches out here, bringing an array of instruments including guitar, keyboards, Theremin, and her voice to the equation. The exquisite beauty of 12-minute opener “It Feels Like Floating” justifies the price alone, but the fruitful mingling of ambience and melodic motifs never flags. A gem. A

Malo, Latin Bugaloo: The Warner Bros. Singles (Omnivore) Malo came together in the Bay Area of the early ’70s, evolving from prior act The Malibus. Along with vocalist Arcelio Garcia and a surplus of rhythm and horns, they featured Jorge Santana, the younger bro of Carlos, on guitar. Emerging in an era receptive to assorted fusions including the influx of brass sections into the rock framework, Malo have been compared to Tower of Power and Blood, Sweet & Tears, but even as their hit “Suavecito” recalls Chicago’s early pop excursions, they brandished a sound preferable to the strains of BS&T. However, Malo are less appealing than the best of the East Coast Latin explorations offered up by the Fania label, and as these shorter 45 versions unwind, a nagging mainstream inclination sets in. B-

Numb.er, Goodbye (felte) Here’s the debut by an LA outfit led by photographer/ visual artist Jeff Fribourg. The sound is an arty strain of post-punk, enough so that the self-appointed descriptors of darkwave and synth-punk also fit the bill. If this was a (re)discovered archival release, it’d be accompanied with a degree of fanfare; the rock-taggable moments would suggest lingering punk roots, other selections might inspire thoughts of Wire’s experimental side (circa 154) coupling with gloomy (but not gothy) post-punk, and the rubbery early synths could bring Tubeway Army to mind (except when they don’t, a la the femme-voiced highlight “Hate”). However, Goodbye is a new release, and its contents reveal a discerning approach to hindsight. It’s at once promising and fulfilling. A-

The Sediment Club, Stucco Thieves (Wharf Cat) This album, the NYC-group’s third (not counting a split with Guerilla Toss), marks a decade of existence, a duration that’s perceptible in the cohesiveness of execution. The Sediment Club have been clearly influenced by the early, scrappy moments of their city’s No Wave movement, and I know what you’re saying; another one? But hold the phone, bubbs, for the trio attack here casts a long gaze all the way over onto the opposing coast of the USA and somehow locates the Minutemen circa The Punch Line. Good fucking eye. And this isn’t a case of flinging a couple of ingredients into a blender, adding a pint of practice space sweat, and selecting puree, as I’ll say this’ll give good squeeze to fans of Mofungo, God Is My Co-Pilot, and good ol’ James Chance. Sweet stuff. A-

Stimulator Jones, Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures (Stones Throw) Had I been asked to guess where Stimulator Jones receives his mail, I’d’ve said Los Angeles or thereabouts. That’s because Exotic Worlds offers a generous serving of ’70s-’80s-derived funky pop that seems intrinsically linked to cruising around in temperate weather in a gas-guzzling convertible. But no, the man is from Roanoke, VA, and he plays all the instruments himself on this likeable debut. Bluntly, a lot of this reminds me of the soundtracks to the couples-skates that transpired while I’ll was falling on my ass at the roller rink back in the day, but the lack of sketchy tech and glossy overload solidifies a fun time that should sound nice while sucking down cheap suds at cookouts. A nice start, Mr. Jones, but please up the weirdness. B+

Wax Chattels, S/T (Captured Tracks / Flying Nun) If you’ve noticed the label on the right side of that slash, you might be thinking of a certain thing. Well, quit thinking of that thing and instead focus on this Kiwi band’s self-description of “guitarless guitar music.” To help get a handle on that, consider a trio inspired to kick up a considerable amount of punky-noisy commotion (but still recognizable as rock) on keyboard, bass, and drums. This is an unusual but not unheard-of proposition, and Wax Chattels are robust/ non-gimmicky in execution (the distorted keys help instill a fair amount of normalcy) and varied enough in tempo and structure to fend off any sense of monotony. Typically, when I see a song title as blunt as “Facebook” (this LP’s closer), I keep moving along, but in this case I’m glad I didn’t B+

Kamaal Williams, The Return (Black Focus) Keyboardist Williams, aka Henry Wu, was half of Yussef Kamaal with drummer Yussef Dayes, the duo (having split after one LP, 2016’s Black Focus) helping to shape the UK’s side of the current vouge for mingling jazz, funk, and hip-hop. We can also call this tendency fusion, though this trio, featuring drummer MckNasty and bassist Pete Martin, is less hip-hop influenced and more inclined toward innovations in Brit-electronica (see “Catch the Loop”). The results are a mixed bag. There are rhythmically driving cuts (“High Roller”), appealing journeys into abstraction (the live “Situations”), and late-Modal simmer (“Medina”), but alongside them is a whole lot of fusion-esque futzing around and mersh-R&B atmospheres, like it’s ’78 rather than ’72. Turn back the clock. B

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