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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Mourning [A] BLKstar, The Garner Poems (Electric Cowbell) As of this writing, the Election Day polls in the USA have closed, but the outcome is far from decided, and I’ve shut off social media for a necessary breather and to focus on last few items in this column. Regardless of the electoral outcome, there’s much work ahead in the struggle to heal the open wounds of oppression, bigotry, and violence, and artists creating politically will be integral in the fight. This Ohio-based DIY Afrofuturist soul outfit’s latest record is a beacon of music as righteous action, blending a diced-up, sample-infused, hip-hop, jazz and soul-informed instrumental foundation with socially impassioned lyrical clarity. The whole shines a defiant light on the ugliness of inequality, and police brutality in particular, all with the goal of remembrance, justice, and the hope of a better future. May we work together to achieve it. A

Tallawit Timbouctou, Hali Diallo (Sahel Sounds) From Northern Mali, Tallawit Timbouctou are specialists in the traditional musical style takamba, with its structuring instrument the tehardent, which is described as a four-stringed lute and precursor to the banjo. The rhythms are produced by pounding on an overturned calabash. The style has a long history, possibly stretching back to the Songhai Empire of the 15th century, but it hit another level in the ’80s with the introduction of amplification. The results are hypnotic (an uninterrupted stream when listened to digitally) and highly distorted. If you haven’t heard ‘em, you’re going to imagine a certain level of distortion. Upon listening, these glorious note tangles are going to blow those expectations completely away. A stellar release. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Thing, S/T (Cultures of Soul) Not to be confused with the extant Norwegian/ Swedish free jazz trio, this Thing existed in early ‘70s Boston, formed by saxophonist and jazz educator Arni Cheatham, and they specialized in a robust stream of fusion that while undeniably evoking the sound of electric Miles and early Weather Report, ultimately stands on its own (consistently sharp playing helps matters considerably); it’s all held up well over time. Featuring two side-long live suites from ’72 (one from Harvard U), some may recall excerpts from these performances on Cultures of Soul’s comp The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983, but now here’s the whole shebang on wax. Your chances of finding a copy of an original are basically nil, so this is an affordable gesture of goodness. A-

Yoruba Singers, Fighting for Survival (Cultures of Soul) Active since 1971 and cited as the longest-running musical act in Guyana, the Yoruba Singers recorded this set ten years into their existence (after a few prior singles and an LP), and in the press release the contents get described as their “magnum opus.” I’ll add that its stylistically all over the place, but fascinatingly so, and with a funky thread that manages to hold their range together. There’s some light funk, a little deeper funk, a few pop-tinged tunes, touches of reggae, excursions in afrobeat, and even calypso. There are elements in the Yoruba Singers’ stew that don’t really float my boat, but on the other hand, every song here lands on the plus side of the equation, and it’s easy to understand why original copies of this have sold for $300. B+

Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore, Ghost Forests (Three Lobed) Some intros: Meg Baird is a fine singer-guitarist known for her solo work and for playing in Espers and Heron Oblivion, while harpist-vocalist Mary Lattimore is primarily and justly celebrated for her own solo stuff, though like Baird she’s also a noted collaborator (in Lattimore’s case, recurrently with Jeff Zeigler) and a guest ace. Longtime friends from the Philly scene, this is their first full joint effort, and it’s a beauty. They bring their respective axes (and some synth) to Ghost Forests, and while much of the album offers gentle psych-folk environments, the specificity of their combined individualism (and the harp, natch) makes this well-nigh impossible to mistake for anybody else. A short record that ends strong with the trad “Fair Annie.” A-

BEAST, Ens (Thrill Jockey) BEAST is composer Koen Holtkamp, who you may know as half of the drone-ambient outfit Mountains. This project has two prior vinyl LPs, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, both from last year (on the Pre-Echo label) that have been described as performance-related and directly linked to 3D laser projections. I’m down with that. I’m also down with Ens, which is just a plain old album, except that it was inspired by the birth of Holtkamp’s son, and that’s a pretty big deal. Ens is also far from plain-sounding, offering bright and at-times very (and fittingly) optimistic moods, especially “Color Feel,” which moves into territory that’s downright inspirational. And so, a tonic for tough times, but a whole rec at that level might’ve been a bit much. This means the kosmische avenues are very welcome. A-

Jay Bolotin, No One Seems to Notice That It’s Raining (Delmore Recording Society) Bolotin’s story is populated with characters ranging from John Jacob Niles to Norbert Putnam to Kris Kristofferson to Joan Baez to Merle Haggard. He cut an LP for Commonwealth United in ’69, three weeks before the label folded, that was reissued by Locust in ’09. There was also a CD collection of retrospective material from the mid-’00s with no overlap, and the same goes for this LP, which collects demos made from 1970-’75. After a long stretch as a performer and songwriter, he transitioned to visual art and filmmaking with greater success. Bolotin’s talent is obvious (and garnered major chart success when covered by Dan Fogelberg) and his unperturbed delivery goes down easy. Maybe a little too easy to hit the top tier. B+

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt, Brace Up! (Palilalia) The heavy-duty improv sparks do fly on the first studio disc from this duo; I’d even go so far as to call much of this one ecstatic. Indeed, there’s a high energy jazz component to Corsano’s drumming that brings some of the great free twosomes to mind, except in those instances, there is usually a saxophone. Orcutt steps into that role here on electric guitar, and he meets his partner halfway in spectacular fashion. A few of the tracks here (“Double Bind,” “She Punched a Hole in the Moon For Me,” “Love and Open Windows”) reveal an easily graspable beauty in Orcutt’s playing (‘tis wonderful), but there are other currents, like a handful of swell free-noise-rock miniatures, Corsano’s relentless stamina, and a late spot where Orcutt briefly reminded me of Greg Ginn. Wow. A

Curses, Romantic Fiction (Dischi Autunno) Curses is a gent from NYC who’s based in Berlin. This is his full-length debut, and it’s quite a gyrational scenario, though Curses states he’s less about the dancefloor and more about the songs. I can hear that, and I’m also picking up the new wave, post-punk, and early EBM vibes he’s laying down. The bio mentions punk as well, but that’s essentially tangible in spirit. At times, this reminds me of ’80s Depeche Mode if they’d embraced their subversive side, were signed to Some Bizarre, or maybe moved to Germany to record for ZickZack (the Nina Hagen-esque guest vox in “Gold and Silber” reinforce this observation). The beginning of opener “Surrender” made me nervous, but this one’s largely a winner, and the spoken samples remind me of the old days. B+

Sara Forslund, Summer is like a shadow (KAIP) This is native Swede Forslund’s second LP (she’s also collaborated with David Wenngren as Birch and Meadow) and my intro to her work, with the difficulties in recording (pertaining to money, specifically the lack of it) having no discernible effect on the outcome, which coheres into an appealing serving of indie folk co-produced by John Wood. You may know that name through Nick Drake; although Forslund professes the influence, to my ear her sound explores distinct, more current avenues. While she’s a deft guitarist, it’s really her varied songwriting and warmth of voice, in equal measure gentle and strong, that makes this one such a treat. Pretty but not precious, and with contempo instrumental-production touches that avoid sounding grafted on. A-

Camila Fuchs, Heart Pressed Between Stones (ATP) London-based electronic act Camila Fuchs is composed of Camila de Laborde and Daniel Hermann-Collini, she from Mexico City and he from Munich, and this is their second album (and first for ATP, a label I’d assumed was defunct. It’s nice to know that’s not the case). The PR text portrays a duo with a shared interest in a wide range of electronics, with de Laborde bringing a pop thread to an often experimentally edged approach. It’s a solid combination intensified by de Laborde’s strong vocals, though I’m not the first (and surely won’t be the last) to note that she sounds more than a little like Bjork. This isn’t a problem, as it never connects like she’s cultivating the similarity for effect. I’d say fans of The Knife will find this one in their zone. B+

Gadadu, Outer Song (Birdwatcher) Here’s the second album from Brooklyn’s Gadadu, and the aura of jazz is all over it, which isn’t surprising as the lineup offers trumpet (by Patrick Adams), bop-tinged keyboard (by Nicki Adams), and upright bass (by Daniel Stein); the core group is completed with drums (by Arthur Vint) and vocals and viola (by Hannah Selin). And yet the main thrust of this CD is songs, more specifically big, at times lush (there are multiple tracks with string arrangements), progressive pop songs. One of the treats here is “Julia,” which interpolates the Beatles nugget without being a straight cover (far from it, actually). Sharply played, consistently inventive and beautifully sung, this had me thinking of everything from Stereolab to Alice Coltrane to Freddie Hubbard to Manhattan Transfer. A-

Ross Goldstein, The Eighth House (Birdwatcher) This is Goldstein’s third LP and the second in just a little over a year; Inverted Jenny came out on Northern Spy in August of 2017. Before and after his ’07 effort Trail Songs he was in a handful of bands/ projects, including Devin, Gary & Ross with artists Devin Flynn and Gary Panter. I haven’t heard all of Goldstein’s motions, but a constant thread in what has entered my consciousness is psychedelic in nature, but refreshingly lacking in the oft-predictable form moves that have become so familiar in expansionist contexts. Inverted Jenny is a left-field, at-times orchestral pop record, but for this one he leaves song-form behind for soundscapes, or per the label, soundtracks, although his approach remains as resistant to expectations and out-there as ever. And that’s cool. A-

The Last Hurrah!!, Los Angeles (Rune Grammofon) Helmed by Norwegian producer-multi-instrumentalist HP Gundersen, The Last Hurrah!! is as much a project than it is a band, though I suppose that statement can be inverted, as vocalist Maesa Pullman has returned from Mudflowers playing numerous instruments herself in a core trio rounded out with another multi-instrumentalist in Los Angeles’ co-producer Jason Heller. In short, The Last Hurrah!! tap into varying strains of ’60s and ’70s pop and rock, with a recent focus on California, all whilst avoiding stale nostalgia. Their last one explored country-rock, but here they dabble productively in styles ranging from singer-songwriter-ism to gal-voiced production-pop with AOR touches to a late soul-move that seals to deal; this is a fine one. A-

Porcupine, What You’ve Heard Isn’t Real (DC-Jam – Dead Broke Rekerds) They have substantial prior output, but I knew not of Porcupine until now, and I’ll admit they made this week’s column directly due the trio’s bass player being Greg Norton, formerly of Hüsker Dü. I came for Greg, but stayed for band’s tough and hooky rock, though I didn’t have to stay long as the record’s six tracks (one of which is the Grant Hart-penned Hüsker tune, “Standing By The Sea”) are over in 17 minutes; I might quibble with the description of this as an LP (the wax is available through Dead Broke), but I also understand the concept of “leave ‘em wanting more.” Completed by singer-guitarist Casey Virock and drummer Ian Prince, Porcupine is an increasing rarity: a straight-up rock act that’s more than worth the time. A-

Qluster, Elemente (Bureau B) This is the seventh album from the third incarnation of Kluster/ Cluster, the lineup composed of Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Onnen Bock, and Armin Metz, and if you’re familiar with the outfit’s work from Zuckerzeit forward, you’ll have a rough idea of what these eight tracks are about. Edited down from longer improvisations with everything done on analog equipment, it’s worth mentioning that the group has integrated a vintage ’70s sequencer into the mix for the first time. What’s even more notable is how Roedelius is at the forefront of this music 50 years after forming Kluster. I may not have dug everything he’s done equally (I can’t recall hearing anything I felt was downright bad), but I like this one a whole lot. The man and his cohorts can still show the youngsters a thing or two. A-

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