Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for January 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for January, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

BOOK PICK: Mary Lee Kortes, Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob (BMG) Upon first learning of this collection, in which musician and Dylan-aficionado Kortes assembles the number of dreams cited in the book’s title, dreams that in some way include Bob, dreams as remembered and written down by individuals ranging from the anonymous to laborers to lawyers to fellow musicians, a few of them notable, my worry was that it would be hampered by an overabundance of whimsy, or if not that than the zany, or possibly even a lethal combination of the two. The first thing that steered me in a more hopeful direction was a casual flip through. In doing so, I was immediately struck by the colorful and inventive design, its pages loaded with photos, art, and repurposed materials and objects.

While quirkiness and zaniness are both in evidence, that’s to be expected as dreams are rarely normal. But hearing people relate their sleep scenarios, particularly in groups, can sometimes register like a contest for who had the kookiest night before. Kortes keeps these qualities in check mainly through a non-sequential ordering of the dream entries, the lengths of which range from a few words to a few hundred (but mostly on the shorter side), so that uneventful unusualness offsets the more truly strange scenes. The next thing you know, many pages have turned, with Bob consistently enigmatic, sometimes pleasant, at other moments aloof; at a few spots, he’s even a little dickish. It’s not a mindblower of a read, but I laughed out loud and amazingly, was never annoyed. It’d make a terrific coffee table item. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Knud Viktor, Les Éphémères (Institute for Danish Sound Archaeology) Born in Denmark and a resident of Southern France for nearly 50 years, the late Knud Viktor (1924-2013) didn’t set out to create in the field of music, having instead studied at the Royal Art Academy in Copenhagen. In fact, Viktor didn’t consider himself a musician at all, but rather a sound painter; only two records of his work were issued in his lifetime, Images and Ambiances from 1972, reissued by the label above as a 2LP set in 2017. The material here was intended for release in ’76, but that didn’t pan out. However, the master tape and cover design layout for Les Éphémères were discovered in Viktor’s archives after his passing, so here it is now on 180-gram vinyl with a 20-page booklet and an essay by Magnus Kaslov.

After graduating, Viktor moved to Provence with his wife so they could both subsist as painters (he met her at Academy), but directly due to the incessant sound of cicadas around their residence his energies were refocused toward sculpting with audio; insects, animals and nature was his domain, and by the mid-’70s via tape recorders, homemade parabolic microphones, and audio effect processing machines (also homemade) he was creating in quadraphonic sound. On Les Éphémères, which like Ambiances consists of two side-long pieces (here specified as parts of a whole), the sounds of the living creatures of Viktor’s surroundings are easy to discern, especially birdsong, though other passages are harder to peg; a distinctive aspect is poetry spoken by the artist. Altogether an immersive, delightful listen. A

Big Star, Live on WLIR (Omnivore) Big Star nuts already know these 15 songs, as they came out on CD in ’92 titled simply Live; it documents a live radio set from NYC in ’72, and this is its first time on vinyl. There’s a DJ and a small audience and an interview that if short is still steeped with Alex’s vivid personality coupled with expressed frustrations from the period (which are now the stuff of legend). If you’re a recent convert who bought and dug Live at Lafayette’s Music Room but are wondering if you need another live Big Star record, this is the trio lineup with Andy Hummel replaced by John Lightman. And so, historical. The sound mix (captured direct to two-track) is off throughout opener “September Gurls” but gets worked out pretty quickly afterward. Alex also plays some acoustic tunes. A-

Black to Comm, Seven Horses for Seven Kings (Thrill Jockey) German sound artist Marc Richter has been at it as a solo artist for over a decade, crafting atmospheres that bypass dark and travel deep into the neighborhood of downright discomfiting; it’s a natural fit for soundtracking fucked up images, which has indeed been the case, though instead of horror cinema, his 2012 album Earth accompanied a film of the same title by Ho Tzu Nyen in an art museum context. Still, he’s prolific enough that he might’ve scored a scare flick at some point. In a cool twist, foreboding tension isn’t the only thing this record has going for it. Like a whole lot of abstract stuff these days, there’s a post-Industrial vibe at work here, and I wholeheartedly support the man’s use of horns. At just over an hour, thoroughly non-lightweight. A-

Lance Ferguson’s Rare Groove Spectrum, S/T (Freestyle) Ferguson’s a Melbourne-based guitarist, producer, DJ, and leader of The Bamboos (amid participation in a bunch of other groups), and he’s helmed a fiesta of large-band, horn-laden funk here, with two eyes locked on the dancefloor and an emphasis on refinement. Part of the stated objective was to craft a set reminiscent of extended-altered DJ edits but with the verve of a live band, a gesture that’s appreciated as this baby rolls. I don’t dig everything equally (I’m not thrilled with late rack “Brazilian Rhymes”), but Ferguson’s approach is so varied that it hardly matters at all. Digging into sources that are wide-ranging and far from played out (from George Rene to Brother Jack McDuff to Anderson Paak), this one’s a surefire party igniter. B+

Gentleman’s Dub Club Lost in Space (Easy Star) I prefer my dub to be thick and druggy, so the new LP from this London-based combo had an uphill climb. They only got partway there, which is a double letdown of a sort as the title’s indicator of a futuristic-sci-fi angle had me hopeful but realistically so, as the likelihood of Sun Ra levels of exploratory quality were slim. My reasons for disappointment really come down to dub being only part of the overall equation, with elements of dancehall and pop reggae prevalent. This translates to horn charts and singing-chanting galore, but hey, let’s accentuate the positive; in “Ground Shakin’” the vocal approach works quite well, and “God of War” proposes Joe Meek pilfering the ’70s theme to S.W.A.T. By the final two cuts, the pop focus acquired an agreeable appeal. B

Lip Talk, D A Y S (Northern Spy) New Yorker Sarah K. Pedinotti is Lip Talk, and on her debut LP chanteuse-like vocal ability (honed by singing as a child in her parents Saratoga Springs jazz club) is intertwined with an instrumental attack that combines modern art-pop with flashes of a funhouse mirror reflection of contempo R&B (of sorts) asserted at times, and as the set rolls into the consecutive numbers “Gold ^ Pink” and “Lemon Drop” into “After All” and “Doublethink,” she saunters nearer to straight-up pop territory. That’s not to say that the strangeness exhibited in the first few tracks subsides, it’s just that along the way the inside and outside elements cohered pretty well. Or maybe I just got used to Pedinotti’s approach. Or something. The whole is accessibly surreal, and quite promising. B+

The Lurkers, “Electrical Guitar” b/w “That Was Julia” (Damaged Goods) I used to cast aspersions upon the whole “we’re putting the band back together” thing, even after noting that more than a couple reunions proved wholly worth the time. I just woke up and realized I was more than slightly resembling those who act like the sky is falling whenever Hollywood remakes one of their childhood faves. Sure, most reunions will to varying degrees suck, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big a deal. This 45 from the Lurkers doesn’t suck. To the contrary, it roars without a hint of rustiness, as they’ve already released two full albums this decade. Making this something other than a nostalgia trip is Featherz’ vocalist Danie Centric, who shines in the lead spot on the flip. Bold and as Ramonesy as ever. A-

Mope City, News from Home (Tenth Court) The second LP from this Merrickville, New South Wales-based duo (formed as a two-piece and once again, after a stretch as a trio) was recorded at home and at nearby Audile Studios but mixed and mastered by Kramer at his Noise Miami facility. Described by the label as downer-pop (hence the name, y’know?), the results should interest folks into associated Kramer productions Low and Galaxie 500, though Mope City aren’t slowcore or post-VU psych-guitar-pop. They’re better tagged as indie, but with understandable Aussie touches (a PR quote from The Wire mentioning Go-Betweens, Triffids, and Moodists is spot on) integrated with influence from neighboring Flying Nun and filtered through an aesthetic reminiscent of the ’90s Matador and Merge labels. B+

Jaye P. Morgan, S/T (We Want Sounds) I’m old enough to have watched Morgan as panelist on the what-the-fuck-fest that was the original ’70s Gong Show. This is her ’76 LP, originally released by the Candor label, considered a private press with originals going for hundreds (hell, the 2001 Japanese vinyl repress sells for over $50). If you’re anticipating a Golden Throats celebrity train wreck situation, don’t; Morgan could sing. Like, she could really sing (having chalked up a major string of pop hits back in the ‘50s). Her sound here, specifically soulful funky pop of the disco era (but not really disco), is bluntly not my bag, but as produced by pre-Earth Wind & Fire David Foster with a studio pro battalion, it’s executed with aplomb. As it plays, it settles into a likeable zone with a pop-jazzy finale. I think I’ll give it a B

Rose Ette, Ignore The Feeling (Miss Champagne) A four-piece hailing from Houston playing a strain of indie pop that frankly doesn’t bring the Lone Star State to mind, this LP does make me think of Sarah Records and the One Last Kiss compilation and Chickfactor zine, which is to say this is as ’90s East Coast USA as it is ’80s UK, and that’s alright. Crisply harmonious and largely lacking in any punky trappings, the vocals of Teresa Vicinanza (who also plays guitar and keyboards) occasionally recall Amelia Fletcher, but the music (completed by vocalist-lead guitarist Daniela Hernandez, bassist Jessica Baldauf, and drummer John Baldwin) can strike the ear like Camera Obscura, but less mopey and not as ambitious in the songwriting department. The modesty of achievement is understandable, as this is their first record. B+

Hunt Sales, Get Your Shit Together (Big Legal Mess) Drummer Hunt Sales was in Runt, which was the band that recorded what’re now considered Rundgren’s first two solo LPs, plays on Iggy’s Kill City and Lust for Life, and was a member of Bowie’s ’80s-’90s hard rock venture Tin Machine. Per the label’s notes, the biggest deal in Sales’ life was kicking a longtime heroin habit, which allowed him to refocus energies in better health and then cut this LP, which the artist describes as the best from a creative flurry of over a hundred songs. It’s a solid set. The roughness of Sales’ voice reminds me a bit of Lemmy, which is fitting as the approach, while rootsy-bluesy (befitting an Austin resident who recorded this album in Memphis) and enhanced with a horn section, is tough and driving and no-nonsense. B+

Surachai, Come, Deathless (BL_K Noise) Absorbing the title before gleaning any other info, my expectation was that this was going to bring some form of dark metal aggro, but even as the style is cited as part of the record’s recipe and with former-ISIS drummer Aaron Harris as a contributor (alongside K. Joseph Karam of The Locust), that’s not the situation. Aiding my misconception was an assumption of Surachai as a band; nope on that count as well, as this is the work of one Chicago guy. His modus operandi is a combo of “live playing, field recordings, analog synthesizers, and heavy digital manipulation.” Initially and at various points thereafter, I thought of Autechre and Squarepusher, but other moments reminded me of a less caustic Wolf Eyes if they’d recorded for Warp. Fine stuff. A-

Jack Wilson, Call Me: Jazz from the Penthouse (Century 67) Wilson is a rarely discussed jazz pianist these days, even as he recorded in the ’60s for Atlantic and Blue Note. Making this lack of recognition a tad perplexing is his second Blue Note Easterly Winds delivering an ample serving of soul-jazz/ hard-bop from a sextet featuring Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, and Billy Higgins. This previously unreleased live set (opening for Redd Foxx) from the summer of ’66 at Seattle’s Penthouse jazz club is by a quartet of Wilson, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, drummer Varney Barlow, and bassist Barney Woodson just prior to the pianist cutting his Blue Note debut Something Personal (Ayers and Barlow play on that one); Call Me’s nine selections include three from that album and one from Easterly Winds.

It’s no surprise that Ahmad Jamal wrote a short but moving appreciation of Wilson for this album, as the pianists’ styles are complementary if distinctive. That is, both are very much of the mainstream, with Wilson about as straight-ahead as it gets without sinking into the innocuous. He’s an engaging improvisor, but his tendency for stately pop-classical opening flourishes grows wearisome. Along with Jamal, at times Wilson brought Ramsey Lewis, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Billy Taylor, and Wynton Kelly to mind, which certainly elevated matters, though as said Wilson’s personality is ultimately his own. However, Call Me, if enjoyable, didn’t bowl me over; the fast pace of “C.F.D.” came closest. The uncovered history is cool. I’m no great fan of the vibes, but pre-’70s jazz-funk Ayers sounds fine here. B

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