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

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July, 2018. Part one is here and part 2 is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Emma Tricca, St. Peter (Dell’Orso) After three full-lengths and an EP, the latest from Rome-born and London-based singer-songwriter Emma Tricca features a handful of notable guests, including Dream Syndicate guitarist Jason Victor (who also produced) and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. Thus, her often Brit-folk-reminiscent sound (with occasional gusts from up the Canyon) has acquired a new flavor. Victor’s input means the sweet Paisley Underground vibe of “Fire Ghost” (wherein Arizona roots giant Howe Gelb lends a vocal hand) is no coincidence, but with her songwriting and personality shining throughout the record, it’s still clearly Tricca’s show. “Solomon Said” welcomes a terrific spoken-word cameo from folk cornerstone (and formative Tricca influence) Judy Collins. A-

Forma, Semblance (Kranky) Mark Dwinell, George Bennett, and John Also Bennett are Brooklyn’s Forma, now four albums deep with this one their second for Kranky. Their goal is to “broaden the idea of what an electronic music ensemble can sound like,” and they’ve succeeded, but with clear ties to precedent. One can detect Krautrock’s electronic models and certainly ’90s techno, but most rewarding to these ears are the elements derived from the classical minimalism of the ’70s, and not just Glass and Reich but significant gusts of Terry Riley. Plus, Forma aren’t just swiping from a distance and then serving up a pastiche, as George and John are recent vets of minimalist composer Jon Gibson’s group. Across seven tracks and a concise whole, the music spreads far beyond the cited stylistic points. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Steve Reich, Drumming (Superior Viaduct) Intermingling African percussion and Balinese gamelan-derived polyrhythms with the still-budding impulse of classical Minimalism, this reissues a crucial entry in Reich’s oeuvre. In their promo text, Superior Viaduct touts it as one of the 20th century’s most important musical works, and upon time spent, it’s a statement devoid of hyperbole. But hey, I was already somewhat in agreement, though my conclusion was based on the 1974 recording of the piece as released by Deutsche Grammophon. This one, captured in performance at NYC’s Town Hall in late 1971 and released only in a private edition of 600 (this is its first-time vinyl and CD reissue), is even sharper and more entrancing as it extends to nearly 83 glorious minutes. A+

Masta Ace Incorporated, SlaughtaHouse & Sittin’ On Chrome (Craft Recordings) Offering five reissues of vintage titles from the vaults of Delicious Vinyl, Craft is doing wax-loving fans of old-school hip-hop a considerable service. All are included in this week’s column, but we’ll award the pick to Masta Ace, who was already well-seasoned and underrated at the point of ’93’s SlaughtaHouse (he got his start as a member of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew and had a prior, pre-Incorporated full-length under his belt). Listening today, it’s status as a classic is secure. Masta Ace hailed from Brooklyn, but the second and final Incorporated release is something of a bridge between East Coast and West; unsurprisingly, it was his biggest seller, but it’s not as strong as what came directly before. It still holds up, however. / A-

Dentist, Night Swimming (Cleopatra) Hailing from Asbury Park, Dentist are billed as indie pop surf rock, and with Emily Bornemann holding down the vocals/ bass/ co-songwriter role (Justin Bornemann plays guitar and Matt Hockenjos handles drums), they’re closer to The Primitives or Best Coast than to Dick Dale or The Chantays (hey, just a little clarification for the fellow old-timers). This is their third record, and without hearing the others it’s still obvious they’ve been at it for a while (in fact, the duo Bornemann have been collaborating since meeting in 2008). Although unlikely to knock any experienced listeners out of their chairs, the songs are sharp, so’s the playing, and the Jane Weidlin-esque singing (maybe even a little Clare Grogan-ish) adds value. The only bummer is that it’s seemingly CD-only. B+

Father Murphy, Rising. A Requiem for Father Murphy. (Ramp Local – Avant!) The final release from Freddie Murphy and Chiara Lee, who comprise this Italian “occult duo” (2001-2018), this also marks the end of their musical character Father Murphy, described in the promo text as having progressed from “religious fanatic, to heretic priest, and ultimately concealing to his final fate on the cross,” this 2LP is where he “finally meets his death.” Grim? Boy howdy, yes (opening their Bandcamp bio: “Father Murphy is the sound of the Catholic sense of Guilt”), but the potential to be merely bummed out is significantly curtailed by the boldness of ambition and the strangeness of the whole. Not a gut punch but mysterious. Listening with the lights out through headphones, things can get quite chilling. A-

Khôrada, Salt (Prophecy Productions) Formed by ex-Agalloch members Don Anderson (guitar), Jason Walton (bass), and Aesop Dekker (drums) with former Giant Squid guitarist-vocalist Aaron John Gregory, the Portland, OR-based Khôrada debut here, and unsurprisingly land firmly in the u-ground metal scheme but without revamping or hybridizing their prior achievements (I checked). The results do bring the heavy, and much of the record is moody and dark (impacted by the dawning of the Trump-era) while not tipping over into doom territory. But for all the emphasis on atmosphere, Salt is composed of honest-to-goodness songs, with loads of technical prowess on display that never moves into the prog zone. Not everything works for me equally, but the whole is impressive, especially for a debut. B+

Carol Liebowitz / Bill Payne, Spiderwebmandala (Line Art) When it comes to progressive jazz piano, there are many worthy names on the current scene, but none are more satisfying to me than Carol Liebowitz. This is in part through her special affinity for duo exchange, with her playing on the recent First Set with saxophonist Nick Lyons a consistent grabber. This meeting with clarinetist Bill Payne is just as choice. They’ve recorded together before, on a sweet trio disc with violinist Eva Lindal in fact, and while the improvisations captured here (in live performance) surely benefit from familiarity, this CD offers chance-taking and surprise throughout. Additionally, on two selections, there is the added value of the post-Beat (think Snyder or Whalen) and utterly non-clichéd poetic syllables of Mark Weber. A

OST, 1922 (Ipecac) Because I don’t partake in Netflix, the streaming monolith that hosts this Zak Hilditch-directed film (my movie streaming $$$ go to FilmStruck, MUBI, and Fandor, thanks), I have not watched this adaptation of a novella by Stephen King. It comes with a score by Mike Patton; those only familiar with the man as the vocalist for Faith No More have missed a helluva lot, and therefore shouldn’t think for a sec that he’s unfit for the task at hand. As can be deduced from the photo and style of lettering on the jacket (and the titular year), there are all kinds of rural gothic possibilities to be had (to expand, Nebraska, with the story concerning a man who murdered his wife and his subsequent haunting). Patton neither wastes ‘em nor falters into stock horror soundtrack maneuvers. Nice work. A-

The Pharcyde, Labcabincalifornia (Craft Recordings) Make no mistake, the essential release by ’90s L.A.-based alternative rappers The Pharcyde is their debut, ’92’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, which has already been reissued by Craft in 2LP and 5LP boxset editions. Alongside records by Souls of Mischief and Del the Funky Homosapien, that one was a groundbreaking thing, helping to expand the alt-rap impulse to include the West Coast, but this follow-up, like so many sophomore efforts (both rap and non), it just isn’t as strong. What saves matters is a lack of a discernible struggle through most of the tracks in trying to match or bypass its predecessor. Until it nears conclusion, this one isn’t as wild an affair, though there are other charms, including inventive sample choices and integration. B+

Alynda Segarra & the Special Men / King James, “Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over” b/w “Kalunga 2” (Special Man Industries) Here’s an interesting one. Special Man Industries is the label of New Orleans outfit King James & the Special Men, and the A-side here finds James in the producer’s seat with his band backing Alynda Segarra, who’s noted as the vocalist-leader of Hooray for the Riff Raff. It’s an achy early ’60s-style soul nugget given the vibrant but never too busy instrumental treatment to enhance the focal point of Segarra’s remarkably Ronnie Spector-esque pipes. A killer. The flip is a total curveball, featuring King James diving into a stream of avant-guitar-drone experimentalism (a four-minute excerpt of a 20-minute whole) that sounds a little bit like Bardo Pond getting slow with Mr. Lee Ranaldo. Wow. A-

Soul Asylum, Say What You Will… Everything Can Happen & Made To Be Broken (Omnivore) Had Soul Asylum broke up in late ’80s instead of graduating to the majors and Platinum status and a Grammy, the music on these CDs would be looked upon much differently. They began as Loud Fast Rules (Say What You Will includes their demo amongst the copious bonuses) and briefly were Proud Crass Fools (ditto the two songs from the Kitten comp), and by these Bob Mould-produced recordings had clearly absorbed the regional stylistics of both Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, along with doses of hardcore and trashy hard rock. The growth in songwriting and band cohesiveness on Made To Be Broken (which is also loaded with extras) is considerable. An ’80s punk u-ground time capsule, but good. B+ / A-

Spaceslug, Eye the Tide (BSFD) Hailing from Wroclaw, Poland, Spaceslug deliver their third record, blending doom, stoner, and prog rock influences into a highly attractive whole. Thankfully, things don’t get too intricate; imagine mid-’70s Sabbath rebuilt as a jam-inclined trio, perhaps. Jam isn’t exactly right though, as Spaceslug like to work up groove-patterns and then ride them for a while rather than expand outwardly; in a few brief spots I picked up a sorta math-rock vibe. Additionally, as can be expected with trios, the playing is consistently sharp and the vocals neither extraneous or overwrought, though when the cords do get a workout (as during “Words Like Stones”) it’s effective. Give it a Southern Lord/ Relapse-style boost of contemporaneous heaviness and it all coalesces into a winner. B+

Swans, Soundtracks for the Blind (Young God) If you’ve been investing in Young God’s Swans reissue program thus far, then sleeping on this one is near inconceivable, for a couple of reasons. First off, the original 1996 release was 2CD-only, with this edition marking its debut on vinyl (‘tis a 4LP set). Second, after a disappointing (but not disastrous) major label dalliance, each subsequent Swans release charted an upward curve of quality, with this one the best of the period and arguably the finest recording from Michael Gira’s personnel-shifting outfit up to that point (in my estimation, the other contender is Children of God). Next was a hiatus lasting until 2010, after which they came back even better than before, but that’s not what’s here. What’s here is fantastic, and it’s great to see it grooved into vinyl. A

Tone Lōc, Lōc-ed After Dark (Craft Recordings) I’ve heard a fair amount of negativity regarding Tone Lōc over the years, but I’ve never bought it. First off, “Wild Thing” is one of ’89’s best singles; to this day, I can’t hear it without smiling. “Funky Cold Medina” is nearly as strong; Lōc cemented his personality, simultaneously raw and personable, and if his unwitting interaction with a drag queen in the song isn’t exactly enlightened, it’s not homophobically hostile, either (and if he’s no Aesop Rock on the mic, he’s solid). Meanwhile, the song thrives through inventive sampling and production by The Dust Brothers. Interestingly, both it and “Wild Thing” were co-written with Young MC, which likely contributes to Lōc’s lack of stature. No, “I Got It Goin’ On” isn’t as sharp, but it was the third single for a reason. B+

Young MC, Stone Cold Rhymin’ (Craft) “Bust a Move,” and to a lesser extent “Principal’s Office,” are the songs everyone remembers, but it was sweet to hear “Know How,” with its fake-out “Theme from Shaft” sample, turn up in Baby Driver. If it’s the visceral nature of Gangsta Rap or the complexity and flow of the ’90s East Coast wave that you desire, this disc won’t deliver, but in pop-rap terms it’s hard to beat, and deeper than you might think. Yes, a lot of it connects like a sorta West Coast companion to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, but hey, that’s not a knock. The presence of The Dust Brothers (the sample of Sabbath’s “The Wizard” in “Know How” is brilliant) and the bass by Flea on the album’s hits help to strengthen the record, but there are also nods in the general direction of Slick Rick and DC go-go. A

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