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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Madison Washington, (((( FACTS ))))) (Def Pressé) This NYC-UK duo’s “Code Switchin’” EP from last year was solid, but here is a major leap forward and one of the best hip-hop full-lengths (available on 2LP) that I’ve heard in quite a while. After the short opening track’s spoken poetics (with a touch of sonic manipulation) reassert the politically-socially conscious verve of their debut, the title cut delivers a rhythmic tour de force, setting matters into motion with a high point, and it’s to MC Malik Ameer and producer-DJ thatmanmonkz’ credit that what follows never falters or even runs low on gas. Interestingly, I’m hearing a much stronger P-Funk/ Outcast vibe than I did before but sprinkled with some jazzy bits and bushels of smart rhymes. A knockout that’s invigorating for the body and mind. A

V/A, Mexican Summer: A Decade Deeper (Mexican Summer) Emerging in 2008 as a subsidiary of Kemado Records, Mexican Summer has grown into one of the more interesting labels on the contempo independent scene, and stylistically diverse, which means that the previously unreleased selections on this anniversary compilation (which lean toward the imprint’s recent and current activities) are unlikely to please most listeners equally. As evidence, my preference is for the tracks by Arp, Drugdealer, Robert Lester Folsom, Allah Lahs, PAINT, Connan Mockasin’s Jassbusters, Gregg Kowalsky, and Tonstartssbandht over Part Time’s lite-pop-fuckery and Dungen’s cut, which kinda sounds like America with their mouths sewn shut. But hey, nothing gets even close to stinking thing up, so cheers for ten good years. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Damaged Goods 1988-2018 (Damaged Goods) Rearing to life as a punk reissue label in ’88 London, Damaged Goods began dishing out fresh stuff not long after. With 30 years of elevating global record store bins in the books, this 37-track 2LP anniversary celebration of “top tracks, deep cuts, lost gems and personal favourites,” if far from exhaustive (as there’s 500 releases in the catalog), delivers a roaring, banging, at times grabbingly melodic, and more than adequately varied good time, even as the label’s enduring and crucial stewardship of Wild Billy Childish’s output (in its assorted guises) is well-represented (and fairly diverse, as selected here). Highlights? Too many to list, but if punk classique brings you warmth, this’ll get ya nice and toasty in the record den. A-

Black Artists Group, In Paris, Aries 1973 (Aguirre) Formed in St. Louis, the Black Artists Group was a free jazz collective similar in operation to Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. An additional connection was Joseph Bowie, the brother of Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie. BAG membership included saxophonists Julius Hemphill, Luther Thomas, and Hamiet Bluiett (RIP), but for this recording, the players are saxophonist Oliver Lake, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore, drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, and trombonist Bowie. Having traveled to France a la an earlier excursion by the Art Ensemble, the likenesses between the two collectives extend further, but much of this fire is of the BAG’s own making. Far more than of historical interest, and in an edition of 500. A-

Big Black, Songs About Fucking (Touch and Go) Big Black was a potent vessel of extremity; traversing their catalog, the guitar tones of Steve Albini and Santiago Durango become ever more caustic, bassist Dave Riley delivers the lithe heft, and the drumbox overdrive resulted in enduring comparisons to the fledgling Industrial scene (punishing sonics aside, this was a somewhat spurious assessment). As vocalist, Albini matched it all with antagonisms and aggression. In terms of individual songs, Atomizer holds their finest moments, but this ’87 follow-up (the second and final album amid 45s, EPs, live sets, and comps) is the more consistent, with the first side wildly effective in its varied, discomfiting intensity. Side two isn’t as strong, but it still offers a few gems, e.g. the funky abrasion of “Kasimir S. Pulaski Day.” A-

Bixiga 70, Quebra Cabeça (Glitterbeat) Hailing from São Paulo, Bixiga 70 are a ten-piece band that places dancefloor gyrations quite high on their list of objectives. This is the outfit’s fourth record, second for Glitterbeat (not counting a 2016 RSD album of dub versions by Victor Rice), and the first to make my acquaintance. The impression I’m left with is more than satisfactory, though as is the case with a high ratio of danceable material, I would’ve welcomed an edgier overall thrust. However, on the plus side, the arrangements regularly attain grooves without blundering onto vamped-out dead ends (in this, they remind me of Budos Band), the arrangements are varied (if not necessarily inventive) and the same is true of the instrumentation. Cuca Ferreira’s baritone sax solos are amongst the highlights. B+

Kasper Bjørke Quartet, The Fifty Eleven Project (Kompakt) Spanning three LPs and over two hours, the latest from Danish producer Bjørke is “an entirely ambient concept album” relating to the artist’s five-year battle with cancer (he’s two-years free of the disease this week) made with “vintage analogue synths, reverbs, echo and sequencers,” plus violin, viola, cello, all played by composer Davide Rossi, and piano (including a Steinway grand) courtesy of fellow Dane Jakob Littauer, with the music set to be accompanied in instillation by eleven films by Justin Tyler Close. On one hand, the lack of electronics (the only computer used was for recording) stands apart from Kompakt’s usual thing, but on the other, Bjørke’s ambient objectives, often superbly realized, should suit the label’s core audience just fine. A-

Rachel Taylor Brown, Run Tiny Human (Penury Pop) The idea of one person hearing every worthwhile emission from the contempo musical landscape is ludicrous; and so, for me, the deluge of promo submissions, while primarily a (necessary) ritual of transaction, also comes sprinkled with gifts of discovery, of which this is one. Based near Portland, OR, Brown has a bunch of prior releases, which is unsurprising given the assurance and power of these songs. The root of the disc is piano and voice, but she avoids the monochromatic through superb singing and added instrumentation (there are many guests) without faltering into the overly ornate. Brown says she has a love/hate relationship with humanity, which is sensible. But she’s channeled it into something extraordinary. CD-only. A

Molly Burch, First Flower (Captured Tracks) We last covered Austinite Molly Burch in these here parts a year ago last March. That was her debut Please Be Mine, and this follow-up offers no great (or even moderate) stretch in style; that is, her take on old-school (as in pre-Nixon Administration) gal vocal pop is well-accounted for, so if you dug her last one you’re likely to cotton to this one too. This may read as a likeably minor situation (and that’s not a bad way to size it up), but a few attributes propel it to a higher echelon. For starters, there’s an appealing huskiness to the singing (Burch’s jazz background remains at play) that when combined with a subtle, yet tangible idiosyncrasy of inflection makes it difficult not to smile. Another positive is a solid set of songs, crisply played here with an eschewal of the cutesy. A-

Domkraft, Flood (Blues Funeral Recordings) I hold positive feelings for this Stockholm doom trio’s previous LP The End of Electricity (see part one of this column’s November 2016 installment for details), and the same is true of this follow-up, which finds them moving from the Magnetic Eye label to a new imprint started by Jadd Shickler, who co-founded MeteorCity (this should be taken as a sign of quality). As on their last rec, Domkraft’s doom leans toward the rocking side of the equation (as opposed to the arty-experimental), a zone where a fair amount of faltering occurs. But there’s not a misstep to be heard on this one, which is doubly impressive as they continue to stretch out (though not every cut’s a long one). Instrumentally, they have it down (with heavy psych touches), and the vocals don’t detract. A-

Don the Tiger, Matanzas (Crammed Discs) Adrián de Alfonso, once of Barcelona but now of Berlin, is Don the Tiger. In the promo essay for this record, Alfonso cites his background in no wave and noise bands, activity that renders his guitar playing with Lydia Lunch and Mark Cunningham unsurprising. But Matanzas isn’t an abrasive affair. It’s certainly an unusual one, however; focusing far more on sonic construction and warm, deep vocalizing than guitar, amongst the stated inspirations are rumba, guabina, flamenco, and Fania Records. The opening track, “Cantos al Aral menguante,” put me in the mind of a leftfield ’80s international art-pop record, like something uncovered and reissued by Luaka Bop. Much of the rest remains in this zone (bordering on avant) but is harder to peg. That’s good. A-

Friendship Commanders, BILL (Trimming the Shield) Nashville-based Friendship Commanders are a full-on hard-rocking duo of vocalist-guitarist B. Arson and drummer, bassist, and harmony vocalist Jerry Roe, but don’t go thinking they sound like other recent notably heavy two-piece acts. They’re not bluesy, preferring instead to throw down some speedy but melodic fuzz-mauling (helped on their second full-length by studio vet Steve Albini) and with a positive lyrical bent (this release came to me described as “feminist rock”) that extends to life practice (part of the profits from all their releases goes to assorted worthy causes). A couple of cuts rely a little too much on hyper riffing, but that’s no great crime, and making up for it are a few anthemic numbers (which succeed through speed) and some fine belting. B+

Maria w Horn, Kontrapoetik (Portal Editions/XKatedral) To be as succinct as possible, Swedish composer Maria w Horn’s new record is a “personal and simultaneously historical investigation” into the tumultuous past of her home region of Ångermanland, specifically the conflict between a worker’s movement and the country’s military in the 1930s, and centuries before that, the mass execution of women accused of witchcraft. This railing against governmental injustice and the misogynist/ patriarchal traditions of Christianity utilizes archival field recordings, mellotron, church organ, and Buchla 200 synth. Similar at times to industrial, electronics and drone, Kontrapoetik’s experimental gist might seem like a lot to digest (and it is), but it’s also packs a fascinating wallop in under 35 minutes. A-

Connan Mockasin, Jassbusters (Mexican Summer) I have something of an inner divining rod, kindled largely by Flying Nun, that leads me to most things New Zealand. But thus far, and for no particular reason, I’ve steered clear of Connan Mockasin. This 35-minute soundtrack to Mockasin’s “five-part melodrama” Bostyn ’n Dobsyn is probably not the best place to start. But fuck it. Strange? Oh, yeah. But quite accessible in a ’70s AOR singer-songwriter kinda way, and with a decided lack of polish; this kinda connects like demos, or a “back-to-basics” album. Low-point: “Late Night,” which turns the corner from strange into goofy. Highs: the guitar playing, and James Blake’s vocals on “Momo’s.” Recommended if you have: John Frusciante’s first solo LP, a big ol’ shelf of soft-rock, and a big ol’ bag of drugs. B+

Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe, S/T (A Recordings) Toronto native Parks’ first musical movements occurred in London, where she made an impression on Alan McGhee and landed her debut Blood Hot on his label 359 Music. Since then, she’s struck up a collaboration with Newcombe (who you may know as the leader of Brian Jonestown Massacre) that’s been fertile (two prior EPs and an LP) as it bears a more than slight resemblance to Mazzy Star. This observation deserves a little elaboration, however. While this twosome does share some of the same psychedelic influences as the post-Paisley U-grounders, the comparison mainly comes down to the sound of Parks’ voice, which is in no way a bad thing. Overall, this album rocks a lot more, which means that Newcombe’s input is undeniably felt. B+

SUMAC, Love in Shadow (Thrill Jockey) This has been out for a few weeks but deserves belated praise; if you’re what Thrill Jockey describes as a cerebral metalhead, it’s going to be difficult to find a record in 2018 that better suits your discerning taste. These four long pieces (one for each side of the double vinyl, for a total runtime of a smidge over 65 minutes) being written prior to and then recorded after collaborating with Keiji Haino is a big point of emphasis in the press release, and the positive effects of rubbing shoulders with sui generis greatness are pretty obvious. But it’s not as if this outfit was a bunch of chugging dullards before. Expansive, multifaceted, and yes, often downright heavy, Love in Shadow may have been impacted by the relationship with Haino, but the achievement is SUMAC’s alone. A

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