Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, September 2018,
Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Andrew Bernstein, An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain) The skinny on the full-length debut from Charm City saxophonist Bernstein is that it sits at the crossroads of elevated technique and pure stamina. The cumulative effect is striking and occasionally inspires awe. A lack of background will assuredly lead to assumptions that a looping apparatus (or three) is part of the scheme, but with one exception it’s all Bernstein, and without a trace of show-off gimmickry. What he conjures in the first couple tracks lands firmly in the zone of Minimalism, and that’s cool. Even better is his expansion into territory reminiscent of solo Evan Parker and Colin Stetson, though the Minimalist aura never totally dissipates. Rigorous but never cold, this is experimental music at its best. A

Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes (Sacred Bones – Bella Union) Nadler’s eighth album is her finest yet. Featuring a load of guests including Angel Olsen, Hole drummer Patty Schemel, Sharon Van Etten, Mary Lattimore, Dum Dum Girl Kristin Kontrol, and Janel Leppin, the confluence of female talent (all but one of the contributing musicians are women) surely adds to For My Crimes’ value, but it’s mainly great because Nadler’s songs, hovering between introspective-confessional folk and robust singer-songwriter territory, are consistently top-flight and at times quite inventive, especially lyrically. And yet it all unfolds naturally. Dealing with relationship troubles/ marital strife, the album is emotionally resonant but never a bringdown; instead, it inspires immediate repeated listens and blooms under the exposure. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Algebra Mothers, A-Moms = Algebra Mothers (Third Man) Until now, the sole release by Detroit’s Algebra Mothers was their “Strawberry Cheesecake” b/w “Modern Noise” 45 from 1979, a superb hunk of subterranean punk from the arty-wavy end of the Killed by Death spectrum. A new pressing of that one is forthcoming from Third Man, which is cool as it’s never been reissued, but nearly as snazzy is this collection of previously unreleased home-recorded demos and live stuff covering ’77-’84 (A-Moms opened for, amongst others, Pere Ubu and The Sonic Rendezvous Band). While it’s not really the thing for those with a casual interest in punk, avid fans of the style’s early years should find much to enjoy. The single remains tops, but a high percentage of this gets in the ballpark. B+

Jack Wilkins, Windows (We Want Sounds) This reissues a very interesting guitar trio LP from Bob Shad’s Mainstream label that crate-diggers will know from A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders. It’s easy to peg the era of origin (‘twas issued sans fanfare in ’73), but it’s far less marred by ’70s excesses than you might suspect. In fact, I’d say it’s not really marred at all, though the potential does hover in the background. And so, the whole registers as a little short of a knockout for me, but thankfully the recording budget was small, with the ambiance appealing. Wilkins is a virtuoso and shows it without going overboard. Drummer Bill Goodwin and electric bassist Mike Moore are solid. There’s a nice, slow version of Coltrane’s “Naima.” Originals go for over a hundred, so this one is a public service. B+

79.5, Predictions (Big Crown) The claim is that NYC’s 79.5 resists easy categorization, and I concur, though it’s fair to say that much of this full-length debut’s flavor is reminiscent of ’70s-’80s pop, with the impact of the disco era undeniable. A honey-voiced and instrumentally sharp combo led by Kate Mattison, they plunge wholeheartedly into sounds that would’ve easily fit on drive-time R&B radio at various points ranging from the Ford Administration all the way into our current century, but with deftness (and sheer depth) of execution (aided by producer Leon Michels) that keeps matters far away from pastiche and underlines the group’s artistic verve; fittingly, the jacket art sorta fuses Mati Klarwein with Casablanca Records. If you have equal love for the Supremes and ESG, then sashay right up. A-

Jerry David DeCicca, Burning Daylight (Super Secret) On his second LP of 2018, DeCicca maintains his singer-songwriter-ist approach while adjusting to a more common guitar-focused full-band rocking mode (Time the Teacher spotlighted piano and was accented with horns). This may read like a backslide, but the crack band he’s assembled (if Gary Mallaber’s name rings an immediate bell, just stop reading and make a beeline to the bins) cut this batch of high-quality tunes live in the studio. DeCicca isn’t trying to be anybody’s cult hero; amongst the stated inspirations are Springsteen, Petty, and Mellencamp, but the surliness of “Cutting Down the Country” and his vocal delivery in general remind me of T-Bone Burnett from around Proof Through the Night. The title-track duet with Eve Searls is a standout. A-

GØGGS, Pre Strike Sweep (In the Red) I missed the self-titled first LP from this Ty Segall-aligned outfit (featuring Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw and Fuzz’s Charles Moothart) when it came out in 2016. I certainly knew about it, but Segall had so much stuff happening that GØGGS never landed on my turntable, even as the lineup and its prospects seemed very promising. However, when the opportunity arose to check out this follow-up, I jumped, and the speedy yet pounding psych-infused guitar-flailing racket hit me hard enough that I promptly went back to size up the debut. Pre Strike Sweep isn’t a statement of progress, instead just picking up where they left off. Bottom line: had GØGGS existed in the mid-’80s, they would be championed today as primo “out-there” punk mayhem. But the time is now, and this baby burns. A-

Hater, Siesta (Fire) For their second LP, Malmö, Sweden’s Hater are assuredly sophisto (a characteristic emphasized by the cover photo), but they leaven the erudition with bursts of urgency and instrumental crispness that should provide a comfortable fit for indie pop fans. Belle and Sebastian lovers too, though don’t go thinking Hater are twee (and not to paint B & S with that brush at this late date), it’s just that there’s a sense of refinement that avoids faltering into the saccharine or the milquetoast. And the ample runtime allows them to strut some range, a few spots are synth-poppy, a standout cut is saxophone-spiked, there are electronic burbles recalling Stereolab and even slide guitar. Yes, the band is sharp throughout, but it’s Caroline Landahl’s vocals, sweet yet substantial, that provide cohesiveness. A-

The Joy Formidable, AARTH (Seradom) This Welsh outfit are no strangers to this website, but as a reviewer I’m coming to ‘em fresh. AARTH is their fourth since The Big Roar in 2011, with the Alt-rock thrust and their comfort with heaviness palpable (that they’ve worked with engineer Andy Wallace is no surprise), but nothing here falters into hackneyed ’90s style thudding; the songwriting is sharp (if not mind-blowing), and they make up for any lacks through the application of texture. Dream pop and shoegaze are amongst the adjectives that’ve been applied to The Joy Formidable, and regarding the latter, it’s most apparent in the excellent slow build of “All in All.” Not everything here works for me equally, but nothing made me wince or grit my teeth, either. “You Can’t Give Me” is a late standout. B+

Jason Lee & the R.I.P. Tides, Monsters and Mai Tais (Dionysus) Here’s the first of two surf albums from an L.A. label, operated as always by Lee Joseph, that’s been active, with some ups and downs, since 1983. Dionysus resides in the general no-frills R&R zone, so this San Diego trio’s instrumental beach rock slides into the scheme like a tanned tuchus wiggles into a wetsuit. In 2018, this type of sound, unapologetically retro and as polished as a tricked-out woody, but with a few touches (like a bit of ska, egads) situating a portion of the attack in the ’80s rather than two decades prior, is primarily an exercise in form, and they have it pretty much down pat. That means no surprises, but the use of vibes on a few tracks does suggest Cal Tjader crashing a late-summer clambake. And right about now, that’s alright. B

Klara Lewis & Simon Fisher Turner, Care (Editions Mego) Active since the early ’70s, Simon Fisher Turner has a loaded résumé; you may know him as The King of Luxembourg, as half of Deux Filles (with Colin Lloyd Tucker), or for his extensive soundtrack work (he’s scored films for Derek Jarman, Michael Almereyda and David Lynch). Uppsala, Sweden’s Klara Lewis (the daughter of Wire’s Graham Lewis) was born in 1993, and since 2014 has released two full-lengths and an EP of experimental electronics. On this abstract set of four tracks (ranging from eight to fourteen minutes, and occasionally reminiscent of sound-collage) it can be hard to parse the contributor’s individual input, which is how it should be; better to just let it intriguingly flow. Through field recordings, Lewis’ presence is discernible. A-

Nova Materia, It Comes (Crammed Discs) Comprised of France’s Caroline Chaspoul and Chile’s Eduardo Henriquez, both formerly of the Chilean Alt-rock outfit Panico, Nova Materia have released a pair of EPs and now this, their full-length debut and first for Crammed Discs. Described as generating sounds from such materials as metal and rocks, the sound of It Comes isn’t as esoteric or abrasive as said mode of operation might lead one to expect. Metal clang is certainly extant, but the gist is energetically rhythmic throughout to the point of being downright danceable. Of the moments where this flirts with being too approachable, I lost count fairly early, but across nearly an hour it never sank into mere body music for black leather-clad club denizens. But yeah, I could’ve used a little more Industrial-style pound. B+

Reverend Beat-Man & Nicole Izobel Garcia, Baile Bruja Muerto (Voodoo Rhythm) Bern, Switzerland’s Reverend Beat-Man is often a one-man band, but here he’s joined by Nicole Izobel Garcia, who drums, plays organ, and sings in English and Spanish. As the visuals radiate a William Castle-Forrest Ackerman vibe, prior to listening I was expecting something in the mode of Cramps. Although surely simpatico with Lux and Ivy, this has its own twisted thing going on: there’s some garage blooze with a hint of Suicide, vocals recalling Howlin’ Wolf (but more of a straight croak, really), covers of Venom’s “Black Metal” and The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times,” and passages recalling Hasil Adkins, Dave “Baby” Cortez, Brother Theodore, and Copernicus (the performer, not the mathematician-astronomer). Yes, a strange one. B+

Surfer Joe, Swell of Dwell (Dionysus) Along with organizing the annual Surfer Joe Summer Festival in his home country of Italy and co-owning the restaurant-tiki bar-music spot Surfer Joe’s Diner in the city of Livorno, Lorenzo “Surfer Joe” Valdambrini has released 14 albums of instrumental surf guitar action, so to say he’s committed is something of an understatement. This new one, his first for Dionysus, is also the first to make my acquaintance, and as it sweetly blends Dick Dale with the Ventures and Chanteys, I’m glad it did. Bluntly, if you’d presented me with a new LP so blatantly retro approximately 25 years ago, I likely would’ve been rather blasé about it, but in 2018 I’m just glad somebody’s keeping this sound alive. The attention to period detail is quite impressive, and it sounds good. Good? Make that great. A-

Linda Thompson, My Mother Doesn’t Know I’m On the Stage (Omnivore) While I’m as big a fan of Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights as you might expect, I’ll confess to not being the most diligent keeper-upper with Linda’s post-One Clear Moment solo career, but with this new set that’s largely irrelevant, as it’s a celebration of the 18th and 19th century English music hall. It’s guest-star studded, including Thompson’s son Teddy, Martha Wainwright, Colin Firth, Jools Holland, Pretender James Walbourne, and experienced UK songsters Bob Davenport and John Foreman, which shapes it up as not a solo effort at all, but instead a set of classic, flair-suffused songs with Thompson as guiding hand and producer. She sings two, which are amongst the best. Appropriately, recorded live. CD only. A-

Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends, FRKWYS Vol. 14: Nue (RVNG Intl.) This latest entry in RVNG Intl.’s “intergenerational collaboration” series FRKWYS is up to the usual standard. Akin to the Marfa Myths festival or BOMB Magazine asking two artists to have a chat, that FRKWYS exudes a consistently high standard is something of a surprise, as this sort of stylistically complementary endeavor, if admirable, can often fall short of expectations. But here, the potential to bear creative fruit would appear substantially higher, as father Yoshi and son Tashi join up with some heavy associates including Julia Holter, Corey Fogel, and Simone Forti (whose recent CD retrospective Al Di Là was issued on Tashi’s Saltern label). For avant-drone fans, this is a grabber, and it’s nicely varied across ten tracks. A-

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