Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Five

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Foghound, Awaken to Destroy (Ripple) The new LP from doom-riff behemoths Foghound arrives with non-musical heaviness relating to the death of the band’s bassist Rev. Jim Forrester last December (RIP). After overcoming health problems delaying the recording of Foghound’s follow-up to their second album The World Unseen, Forrester was gunned down in Fells Point in Baltimore. Rather than fold activities, the band rallied and finished the LP (Forrester had been part of the basic tracking) and have recruited Adam Heinzmann to continue forward. The perseverance directly relates to Forrester’s memory, but Foghound also have a smoking album on their hands, one that’s raw and pummeling and engaging until the very end. Amid this enduring style, one of the year’s best. A-

Jacco Gardner, Somnium (Polyvinyl) Gardner is tagged as a baroque pop multi-instrumentalist, but one with a penchant for integrating ambient and kosmische elements (the promo text mentions Bo Hansson, Vangelis, Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Eno, and Oldfield). The album’s title is in direct reference to Johannes Kepler’s book from 1608 that’s been cited as the first science-fiction novel. This reinforces the considerable retro-futurist spaciness of the whole, but there are also appealing tendrils of psychedelia manifest in part through injections of fuzz guitar (and longer pedal-driven washes). It’s altogether an inviting ride, expansive yet crisp, with passages reminding me of Laurie Spiegel, the BBC Workshop, and even David Axelrod (so this would pair well with the Pride reish below). A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Michele Mercure, Beside Herself (RVNG Intl. – Freedom to Spend) Between 1983 and ’90, Pennsylvania-based synth composer Mercure self-released a handful of cassettes through tape-trading networks; until this 2LP retrospective covering her early work, 2017’s Eye Chant (the first release on Freedom to Spend) was her only music to grooved into vinyl. The 19 pieces collected here, while unmistakably from the 1980s, are refreshing in how they navigate and transcend the aura of the period. At times, like when she manipulates audio taken from TV news program, her circumstances as a denizen of the underground come to the fore, but as the collection unwinds the surprises pile up, with “An Accident Waiting to Happen” just one of the standouts. Another revelatory release from RVNG. A

The Germs, “What We Do is Secret” (ORG Music) I was just chatting with a pal the other day about the cornerstone LPs of classic LA punk. We came to a consensus over Los Angeles by X, Group Sex by the Circle Jerks, The First Four Years by Black Flag (which is a compilation, I know), and (GI) by the Germs. There are other fine full-lengths sure, but this is an effective starter kit for the scene. “What We Do is Secret” is not as massive and essential as (GI), but its best moments aren’t far behind, and its eight songs would serve as a fine introduction. Well, better make that seven songs, as one track consists of captured banter from a 1980 gig at the Starwood that, rather than superfluous, magnifies the band’s essence (and segues into a pair of worthy cuts from the show). A tidy taste of disheveled glory. A

America, Highlights From Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 (Omnivore) When Omnivore issued Heritage a year ago, my expectations weren’t high, mainly because the group’s brand of harmony folk, which was simultaneously derivative of and distinct from (but to my ear superior to) Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, never thrilled me. While lending the set some ear didn’t launch me out of my listening chair, I hung with it okay (I still don’t like CSN&Y, though). This vinyl edition holds 11 of the 16 songs from the CD, and while the truncation doesn’t detract from my mild uptick in esteem for the band, it does lack my fave from the disc, the early version of “Ventura Highway” cut at the Record Plant in ’72.  The psych flavor of “Sea of Destiney” and the Rundgren-esque “Goodbye” are the standouts. B

didi, like memory foam (Damnably) The second LP (and the first I’ve heard) from Columbus, OH’s didi is indie rock in a nutshell, and it’s the type of guitar-based indie rock that I really like. Consisting of guitarists Meg Zakany and Kevin Bilapka-Arbelaez, bassist Leslie Shimizu, and drummer Sheena McGrath, through interchangeable lead singing there’s an appealing lack of a member in charge, which is really their strongest comparison to the stated inspiration of Sonic Youth. Spots remind me a bit of the Breeders, but just a bit, and the also-mentioned influence of Built to Spill can be heard, though the stated collectivity works against any long passages of Martsch-like guitar soloing. I realize this reads like a ’90s-’00s throwback but pointed social-political lyrics do help to place this firmly in the now. A-

Herbie Hancock, Flood (Get On Down) Plainly, I don’t hold much enthusiasm for Hancock’s Headhunters era. I do find pockets of interest from this chapter of the pianist-composer-bandleader’s fusion period but overall am much more taken with Sextant (which was cut just pre-Headhunters with his Mwandishi band). This live 2LP is from ’75 and originally released only in Japan. It begins with Hancock alone and acoustic on his chestnut “Maiden Voyage,” and it’s a twist that’s nicely unexpected (foreshadowing the arrival of V.S.O.P. the next year). But before long the group asserts the general Headhunters recipe of a funky foundation and jazzy soloing. Moments are to be found, but there’s too much space between them for me to get excited. At all. If you dig the theme to Night Court, you might feel differently. B-

Kid Doe, “Lucky Wheel” (ORG) This nifty 12-inch (arriving on 11/24 for Small Biz Saturday) features John Doe of X and Micah Nelson of Particle Kid, but it’s not a collab of an oldster and a young’un, but rather each covering one of the other’s songs plus a cut from an outside but complementary source. The sheer bigness of Nelson’s dive into Doe’s “Lucky Penny” (from 2011’s terrific The Keeper) contrasts pretty sharply with the following take of Michael Hurley’s “Captain Kidd,” which is solo-folky and sweet. Doe’s version of “The Wheels” connects with the guy’s usual sturdiness, which quietly reinforces the strength of Nelson’s songwriting (the original version is markedly different). A take of The Carter Family’s “Hello Stranger” (with Doe in duet with a mystery female) completes this short but pleasant ride. A-

Ingrid Laubrock, Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt) German-born NYC-based saxophonist-composer Laubrock’s debut recording for chamber orchestra is a doozy of wonderfulness that features amongst many other players on a wide (and I’m talking wide) array of instruments including piccolo, bassoon, tuba, and amplified contrabass clarinet, guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist Kris Davis, trumpeter Nate Wooley and Laubrock herself, plus an eight-piece choir. Eric Wubbels conducts the through composed parts as Taylor Ho Bynum does the same in shaping backgrounds for an interactive result. Modernity is definitely tangible, but then so are sturdy ties to chamber classical music’s long history. It’s a total beauty. One highlight: Halvorson’s brief similarity to Eugene Chadbourne in improv mode. CD-only. A

Loscil, Submers (Kranky) This is the week for Black Friday RSD titles of course, but as the entries above should establish, that’s not the only thing happening. For another example, in connection with Kranky’s 25th anniversary, the second full-length from Loscil (aka Scott Morgan), originally released in November of 2002, is hitting vinyl for the first time. Kranky’s endurance has at least something to do with variety; amid the post-rock, u-ground folk, psych, slow-core, indie-rock, and noise there has been experimental techno, and Loscil fits that bill with an emphasis on the ambient that’s unshakably redolent of Wolfgang Voigt’s work as Gas. This isn’t a bad thing, and as this hour unfolds on 2LP there’s enough sonic variation in the grooves that a rewarding case of parallel pursuit rather than coattails-riding becomes clear. A-

OST, Seventeen Moments Of Spring (Earth) A short while ago now, after having been given extended exposure to the work of Russian composer Mikael Tariverdiev through Earth’s outstanding 3LP/3CD collection Film Music, I began watching (via streaming service Filmstruck, RIP) the 12-part Tatyana Lioznova-directed Russian TV miniseries Seventeen Moments Of Spring. I was digging the espionage vibes, but as I’m not a binge watcher, the show was gone before I finished. Bummer. But now here’s Tariverdiev’s full score (only some was on Film Music) with unreleased tracks. Decidedly not a bummer and recommended to all soundtrack fans. And I just discovered the whole series (with English subs) is online, so I (and just maybe you) can hear these pieces in context. Wonderful news all around! A

Pride, S/T (Get On Down) This is the sole LP by composer-arranger David Axelrod and his son Mike, cut for Warners in 1970, a folk-rock affair with some baroque touches and a whole lot of Spanish guitar. There’s also some electric 12-string that lends this an occasional atmosphere of untainted early Cali psych. Interestingly, the vocals are by Nooney Rickett, an obscure name but a member of Love for False Start, which was released by Blue Thumb around the same time as this album. The quality that most heavily reinforces the input of Axelrod the father comes through the rhythm section, which is reputedly Carol Kaye on bass and Earl Palmer on drums. They conjure up that warm, assertive but supple largeness familiar in Axelrod’s classic stuff, and if you into that you’ll want to soak this one up, too. B+

Scone Cash Players, Blast Furnace! (Flamingo Time – Mango Hill) When it comes to instrumental Hammond organ-led combos, I’m perhaps too much of a stickler, and it’s a situation that applies to both jazzy and funky templates (and of course, the zone where the two mingle). A big part of my problem is simply too many notes, and by extension long streams of liquidy spillage. On the jazzy side, there can be an overemphasis on finesse, but on the funky, uninspired grooves and too much horn vamping. But hey, all these personal stumbling blocks don’t apply to the work of Adam Scone, a veteran Hammond specialist who’s played with Lou Donaldson on the jazz side and Sugarman 3 in funk context. Here he is fronting a band loaded with Dap-Kings, and the varied sound they kick out is just how I like it. A-

Yama Warashi, Boiled Moon (Small Pond) This is the second LP from this Bristol, UK-based outfit led by Japanese musician/ visual artist Yoshino Shigihara. Amongst the stated inspirations are Japanese folk, free jazz, African tribal music, and psych, a blend that might suggest Boiled Moon as a wild affair. But while there are a few spots where this comes to pass, Yama Warashi exudes a sensibility that’s fairly assessed as pop. It’s been tagged elsewhere as “dreamy pop,” which is cool, though please don’t misread that as dream pop. I think art-pop fits, but while possessing smartness to spare, the record’s not especially intellectual or quirky. There are grooves in the landscape, which jives with their predilection for festival shows. “Kofun No Uta” is the single, but I was really drawn in by “Parallelogram.” A-

Würm, Exhumed (ORG) For ’80s punk fans who took long inhalations of SST Records’ potent fumes, an encounter or two with Black Flag’s bassist Chuck Dukowski’s other band Würm was basically inevitable. They were on four of the label’s compilations, with the material mostly drawn from their ’83 45 and ’85 LP, Feast, both of which this 2LP reissues with some worthy extras. Amongst those bonuses is “Modern Man,” which many will know from Black Flag’s Loose Nut; it’s now firmly established as a Würm tune, cowrote by Dukowski and guitarist Ed Danky, and it fits like a sword into this hefty sheath of sludge metallic-punk. Of the previously released stuff, I like the single best, though the LP has its standouts (like a version of “Padded Cell”), but it’s in the lo-fi aura of side four that things burn the brightest. A-

Xymox, Twist of Shadows (Pylon) I certainly recall Dutch Goth/ synth-poppers Xymox (formerly Clan of Xymox) from back in the day but must confess that over time I’d forgotten exactly what they sounded like. This is in part due to vetoes by an old friend who derided them as an “inferior band”; New Order was his gold standard. However, I surely had a rough idea what a fresh listen to Twist of Shadows would bring, and my premonition pretty much hit the bullseye. I can relate anew to my associate’s lack of esteem, as this is far from New Order’s heights, but while undeniably dance-driven (this reissue expands to double vinyl, with the side four bonuses including two “club mixes”), the group’s songs, if far from great, are at least bona fide songs. I kinda have a soft spot for “Tonight” into “Imagination.” B-

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