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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Josephine Foster, Faithful Fairy Harmony (Fire) In the wrong hands, the title for this one would likely indicate an aural quagmire, but as this is Josephine Foster, I hadn’t a worry over its contents, and this four-part 2LP didn’t disappoint. Foster’s voice is capable of sweetness, deeper beauty, and sharp intensity, plus the ability to resonate as from an earlier time without affectation. But she’s also sturdy instrumentally, playing guitar, piano, organ, harp, autoharp, harmonica, and percussion as well as producing here (recording again in Nashville with Andrija Tokic). Having come to prominence during the New Weird folk wave, Foster’s music was impressive then, and over the years she hasn’t redirected or streamlined her sound, but rather transformed it. This just might be her best one yet. A

Zaïmph, Rhizomatic Gaze (Drawing Room) I’ve expressed approval more than once over the vinyl format’s help in curbing full-length releases as containers of seemingly unedited spillage. Of course, in the right hands, records of longer duration do provide a special kick, and like Foster directly above, the mitts of Marcia Bassett (formerly of Un, Double Leopards, GHQ, and numerous collabs) are right as rain. It’s a scenario that extends to her instrumental prowess on a variety of instruments, particularly guitar. At just short of 72 minutes, there’s plenty of room here for Bassett to explore drone, noise, and ambient motifs, and while her sound has been described on more than occasion as dark, seriousness of intent keeps this far away from black capes and plastic fangs territory. Halloween is over. Outstanding. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Robbie Basho, Venus in Cancer (Traffic Entertainment) Of the three big names in American Primitive guitar’s original wave, Basho remains the least well-known, but as this very cool LP is being reissued for the third time since the turn of the century, his cult has endured (there was also a 1982 live set issued on ESP Disk last year). Originally released in ’69 or ’70, this was Basho’s sixth album and first for Blue Thumb, and it opens with the exquisite nine minutes of the title track; suffice to say no fan of Guitar Soli will want to be without it. Basho does sing on three tracks, and I’m not going to say his voice doesn’t take some getting used to, but in the 25 years since I first heard those pipes, they’ve become an integral part of the experience, which means this LP is sounding better than ever. A

The Posies, Amazing Disgrace (Omnivore) When praising Omnivore’s reissue of The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater back in August, I ranked that record as my favorite from the band, and I still feel that way. However, upon reacquaintance with this one, I’m a bit surprised at how well it’s held up. Beater has been anointed “the loud one” in the band’s discography, but they retained a lot of that spit and fire for Amazing Disgrace, and in terms of attitude, this has some of their most aggressive stuff. It also reinforces the songwriting of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow as still up to standard, which in pop-rock is a more difficult achievement that you might think. Even at their heaviest there’s catchiness plus an avoidance of the hackneyed. The vinyl is 2LP (sans download), the CD has oodles of exclusive extras. A-

Camera, Emotional Detox (Bureau B) Here’s the fourth LP from Berlin’s Camera, a size-shifting unit (as small as a duo, and for this release, a quintet) with Michael Drummer the sole constant member. If you know Bureau B, then the group’s stylistic associations to Krautrock won’t be a surprise. However, the promo text states that with Emo Detox they’ve now extended beyond the style. I’ll concur. Opener “Gizmo” struck me as far less Germanic and a lot more Italian. Specifically, it’s like credits music for a skuzzy ’80s horror flick where a bunch of arrogant SOBs sail slowly down a river in some Third World nation looking for something (anything) to exploit, only to be disemboweled and eaten by cannibals. Cool. But as the disc unwinds, the vibes of the home country do emerge. And that’s cool too. B+

Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries, S/T (Emotional Response) Hailing from Fresno, CA, this five-piece has been tagged as body positive queercore riot pop, but I like their description better: an “all grrrl gang band that promotes positive mental health and being yrself at the buffet.” However, the mention of riot pop is surely useful in communicating the gist of this solid 12-song Alice Bag-produced debut. The punk thrust is consistently non-generic, so things stay interesting, while their pop side ensures that the record holds tight over successive spins. In keeping with the Riot Grrl ethos, the band directly addresses the band’s core audience, but the issues all speak to the moment and are interweaved with themes that’re universal (love aches, sucky jobs, hating fascists). There’s an appealing sense of fun throughout. B+

Human Adult Band, T. Penn Collections (Saga House) The scoop here is that Saga House is attempting to recycle 1700 blank tapes found in a church basement. Releases will come in editions of 100 for $3 a pop until the tapes are gone. Saga House #03 gathers eight archival rarities from the long-running band/ project/ mode of expression of New Jersey’s T. Penn. It’s a pretty bent ride, and for parts of it, the nod to Flipper rings true, but it’s like that band, instead of fucking with the rock form, had rejected it in favor of druggy low-fi basement murk. Along the way a few songs pop up, including covers of Marc Bolan and R. Stevie Moore. At times I’m reminded of Twin Infinitives-era Royal Trux and Forgotten Foundation-era Smog. Those were the days. A la Sonic Youth’s debut, the A-side is the 45-minute B-side backwards. B+

I-LP-ON, ÄÄNET (Editions Mego) Pan Sonic was a pleasingly rigorous component in the ’90s electronic explosion, but the duo (originally a trio) split into solo projects late last decade, and then Mika Vainio died unexpectedly in April of last year. This LP finds Ilpo Väisänen returning to Editions Mego with an expansive LP-length collection inspired by and paying tribute to the outfit he co-led with Vainio. If fittingly abstract and at times aggressive in its racket in remembrance and resemblance to Pan Sonic’s work, it’s also a heartfelt undertaking, which isn’t something I normally associate with this sorta thing. In part due to their collabs with Alan Vega, F.M. Einheit, Merzbow and others, Pan Sonic always stood apart from the norm in experimental electronics, and this trib is worthy of their legacy. A-

Louis Michot & the Special Men / King James, “Ti Fi” b/w “Jimmy’s Blues” (Special Man Industries) Following up his split with Alynda Segarra & the Special Men from July of this year, New Orleans’ King James delivers another joint 45, this time pairing Louis Michot (of the Lost Bayou Ramblers/ Michot’s Melody Makers) with his label’s house band on the A-side. “Ti Fi” is Michot translating James’ tune “Baby Girl” into Louisiana French, and the results plunge into the bluesy, swampy zydeco zone complete with accordion and washboard; the only complaint I have is that it’s over way too quickly. The blues by James on the flip sports a guitar line mildly reminiscent of Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” combines it with front-porch foot-tap rural gusto, and solidifies another two-sided winner. A-

Moonchy & Tobias, S/T (Hidden Shoal – Tiny Room) Italian vocalist Pat Moonchy has considerable credits including the Tai-No Orchestra, experimental duo Sothiac, collabs with trombonist Angelo Contini and drummer Lino Liguori, and even Faust. Though he has a number of solo records under his own name, instrumentalist Todd Tobias is best-known as a member of Guided by Voices and by extension GbV splinter band Circus Devils. Moonchy and Tobias have collaborated before, but this CD appears to be the first time they’ve done so as a duo, and the results hit a sweet spot between art rock and psychedelic pop. Alternately ethereal, carnivalesque and heavy but consistently expansive and serious-minded in its focused eclecticism, Moonchy’s impressive pipes flourish in the spotlight. I dig. A-

Sandra Kerr & John Faulkner, The Music from Bagpuss (Earth) Undoubtedly for certain Brits, this soundtrack to the children’s TV show Bagpuss will bring back fond memories, but as a Yank I’d not heard of it, and so I lacked personal nostalgia over these recordings made by UK folkies Kerr and Faulkner for the program’s brief (13 episodes) but enduringly popular mid-‘70s run (it’s rated high and even taken top honors in Brit polls of the best kid’s shows). Specific nostalgia anyway, for as the 72 minutes unfurled (on a single LP with lithographs and a download of it all, or a CD with 24-page book), general memories of youth enriched by children’s folk music did come rushing back. Overall, I’m not destined to spin this a lot, but it’s sung and played at a high level and exudes substantial trad-folk depth. A-

Ty Segall, “Fanny Original Demo” b/w “Acoustic San Diego” & “Fanny Sketch” (Aagoo) Ty Segall is known for many things, significant amongst them that he’s the current rock king of San Francisco. But another info tidbit is that the man loves his dog. So much so that he wrote a song about her: that’s “Fanny,” presented here in three versions. But Ty doesn’t just love his own pooch, he cares for canines in general and wants them to be treated well, with this standard wax or picture disc 45 (featuring Segall’s painting Goopy Poodle) a benefit for animal rescue organizations NKLA and Mighty Mutts. Good for Ty and great for dogs! For those who dig Segall’s psych-rock thing, this’ll be a swell acquisition, as well; the demo cut’s hefty and the flip brought Robyn Hitchcock and Move-era Jeff Lynne to mind. Everybody wins. A-

Christopher Sky, Vastness (Aagoo) Given Sky’s (aka Christopher Garcia) ambient tendencies, the expected comparisons are extant: Christian Fennesz, Tim Hecker, William Basinski, Kompakt’s Gas (Wolfgang Voigt), Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Eno as the granddaddy of ‘em all. Except that Erik Satie’s name also surfaces; the recurring use of electric piano establishes this as more than casual namedropping. Indeed, there’s a prettiness to a few of the selections here that’s lacking in some of the abovementioned stuff, and yet it’s just an aspect. And while a lot of music in this style blends into one big thing, there’s notable differentiation between tracks here, which underscores Sky’s range, both stylistically and in terms of mood. I like that. Available in a handsome edition of 75 copies, on bone-colored vinyl. A-

V/A, Unusual Sounds (Anthology Recordings) Library music is a genre that is often interesting but too seldom the sort of thing I seek out for repeated play. Maybe I’ve just been listening to the wrong stuff. Leave it to Anthology to reinforce this supposition. A 2LP companion to the David Hollander-curated book Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music, this begins with “Funky Fanfare” by Keith Mansfield, which was instantly familiar to me through its use in the retro Feature Presentation bumper in Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse (and for a while hence at Alamo Drafthouse cinemas), nothing else was, and it didn’t take long for the selections to live up to the record’s title. Keep in mind that unusual does not necessarily equate to weird, but some of the best stuff here does. A definite keeper. A-

They Will Burn Us To Ashes, S/T (Saga House) This new Philly-based tape label (see the Human Adult Band entry above for background into the imprint’s objective) has hooked up with Mike Mangino, and if you are ’80s cassette underground cognizant, then you just might know the man from SMERSH, a highly-prolific industrial duo that existed into the mid-’90s. There’s some debate over whether or not SMERSH was “really” industrial, but I always thought of them that way (they were on the ’84 comp tape The Last Supper with Test Dept., SPK and others). However, Mangino’s work here is something decidedly different, landing closer to the experimentalism of William Basinski and the electronic ambient of Gas. As you might imagine, the run time isn’t skimpy, and my interest never flagged. Which is impressive. A-

Gabriel Zucker, Weighting (ESP Disk) Pianist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, Yale grad, Rhodes scholar and sharp dresser Zucker has three prior releases on ESP Disk, but I’ll confess to just getting hip to him now. He’s responsible for a handful of projects, with this eight-part suite inspired by Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers the latest; based on its sustained power at just over an hour I’m eager to hear them all. The instrumental lineup of Zucker on keys, Adam O’Ferrill on trumpet, Eric Trudell on tenor sax, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums places this solidly in the jazz zone, but Zucker’s compositional fortitude never gets misplaced, and while there are certainly passages that are aptly pegged as abstract, Weighting isn’t an improv free-for-all. But racket? Yes, the quartet can kick up a good one. CD-only. A

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