Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
March 2019, Part Two

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

NEW RELEASE PICK: Hearing Things, Here’s Hearing Things & “Tortuga” b/w “Hotel Prison” (Yeggs) Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes came out back in 2003; shot B&W and offering a series of filmed conversations (spontaneous to varying degrees) between actors, musicians and artists who were either friends with or just highly esteemed by the director, it’s what some would call a minor film. And y’know, as this LP and 45 offer a hearty dive into a surf and early instrumental R&R featuring the saxophone of leader Matt Bauder, the organ of JP Schlegelmilch, and the drumming of Vinnie Sperrazza, it’s what some might call a minor record. But I raise the subject not to connect one minor circumstance to the other, as in terms of stature, I disagree with this assessment of both.

No, I bring it up because Here’s Hearing Things’ opening cut “Shadow Shuffle” conjures visions of an unreleased portion of Coffee and Cigarettes where David Lynch and Lux Interior (RIP) wax enthusiastic about Bill Doggett and “Green Onions” while smoking like chimneys. Well, Lynch anyway. Instrumentally, this is sharp, which is to say they’re adept but also savvy enough to not muck matters up by overplaying, which isn’t the same as being chained to simplicity as a supposed virtue of authenticity. Bauder has worked in avant contexts, notably with Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier, and occasionally this background flares up, and that’s cool. But mostly this is just a blend of lounge pop, Meek-like vibes, surf rock and R&B jams, with a little guest guitar, I’m assuming from Ava Mendoza. A-/ A-

REISSUE/ARCIVAL PICKS: The Fall, Bend Sinister/The ‘Domesday’ Pay-Off Triad-Plus! (Beggars Arkive) This label’s reissue program of The Fall continues with a wonderfully exhaustive plunge into the band’s ninth studio record from 1986, expanded to double vinyl by rounding up eight tracks from period singles. For some, this is just the record with their cover of The Other Half’s “Mr. Pharmacist” on it, but the whole is an art-punk blast that’s potency has diminished nary a whit, and the additional LP offers no letdown. Importantly, the 2CD expands to 28 tracks with a four-song Peel Session and a bunch of unreleased stuff. No download card came with my vinyl copy and there’s no current digital buying option that I can see, so choose you purchase wisely. I’ve soaked it all up; this grade applies to both. A

Bibi Den’s Tshibayi, Sensible (Pharaway Sounds) Unlike some unearthed African treasures (this is from the Ivory Coast, 1983), this artist has additional recording experience of note. From the same period, there’s “The Best Ambiance” 12-inch on Rough Trade and its companion LP of the same title, which came out in numerous editions including two through Celluloid and Rounder. In 2000, he issued Nge Na Munu under his birth name Denis Tshibayi with production by Adrian Sherwood and Skip McDonald, and in ’02 provided guest vocals to a song on Alpha Blondy’s Merci. With four tracks totaling 26 minutes, this set might strike some as a wee bit brief, but while opener “Africa Mawa” offers poppy funkiness that’s middling for me, the rest taps into African grooves with gorgeous vocals. A pretty delightful time. A-

Brian Jonestown Massacre, S/T (A Recordings) Anton Newcombe is in the midst of a prolific period, with his group’s 18th LP arriving just seven months after Something Else; the scoop is that the release of this was delayed a bit. Along with BJM’s recent resurgence (which totals four full-lengths and two EPs), Newcombe has two collab LPs with singer-songwriter Tess Parks and a batch of soundtrack work. The cool twist in all this is the consistent high level of quality, though it’s also true that I haven’t heard a BJM release from the last few years that stands head and shoulders above any other. This means certain record buyers are going to need them all, while others could, as of this point anyway, make do with only one. Offering solid melodic neo-psych with rhythmic punch, this set would work just fine. B+

Dragon Welding, S/T (A Turntable Friend) Hey, David Lance Callahan isn’t the only member of The Wolfhounds (who’ve been reformed since 2005) to have some new side music out or on the horizon. This here’s the new project of guitar playing and singing Wolfhound Andrew Golding, freshly available on CD and digital. All this attention paid to his prior band might register as far afield of the matter at hand, but one of this set’s standouts “The Builders” comes with comparisons to Moonshake, the post-Wolfhounds act that to my knowledge Golding was never a part of. But that’s okay, as the connection is borne out in the listening. Described as largely written, mixed and edited on mobile devices, the songs occasionally sound like it, though not the excellent drone swirl of finale “Lament for Common Sense.” B+

Film Jacket 35, The PR Foundation (Patari) Based in Athens, Greece, Film Jacket 35 is a four-piece working in the standard guitar-bass-drums-vocals zone. This LP follows-up Limbo Mind & Infected Cells, which came out on wax in 2017 on Body Blows Records. Between them was the digital-only “Zombie” EP; back in 2015 there was a self-titled 4-song CD. All this activity has led to FJ35 getting their instrumental chops down in pursuit of a cohesive sound that’s not as potentially broad as the cited influences might suggest; they mention ’60s psych, pre-haircut new wave, ’00s indie punk, and even contempo surf rock. Overall, they remind me of the catchy side of the whole ‘80s post-punk shebang, but the way they bear down on their guitar lines often reminds me of vintage art punk. That’s nice. B+

Hasting’s Street Opera, Slippery When Wet (Out-Sider) When this promo CD arrived in the mail, the band name immediately took me back to my high school days (the ’80s second half) and listening to the Detroit Count’s two part piano opus “Hastings Street Opera” on the comp Detroit Blues – The Early 1950s, (as part of Arhoolie’s Blues Classics series). This is extremely fitting, as Hasting’s Street Opera was a ’60s New Jersey high school band influenced by the same song/record. All this led me to think I’d be entering the Canned Heat zone, but no; if rooted in the blues, this is closer to Butterfield and the Blues Project (the latter enhanced by the presence of flute) except cut by youngsters as a private press with an utter lack of career ambition. A fine listen and testament to the worthiness of early freeform radio. B+

Alice Phoebe Lou, Paper Castles (Self-released) This is the second LP for a vocalist-guitarist whose biography reads like an outline for a film screenplay; mountainside-dwelling in South Africa, restlessly traveling across Europe, fire walking as a street performer in Paris, settling and busking in Berlin; there, Lou made the transition to recording artist. Her style reflects her experience, both in its range, as she can be folky and jazzy and poppy and classically singer-songwriter-like and even electronics-tinged (at a few moments appealingly retro-futuristic), and in vivid individualism; a distinctive personality, Lou’s not eccentric, at least not on this set, which serves as my introduction to her stuff. The uniqueness really helps pull the diversity together, but none of that would matter without songs. She’s got ‘em. B+

Love Trap, Rosie (Wild Honey) What do you get when Stefano Isaia (of Movie Star Junkies and LAME) and Marco Spigariol (of Vermillion Sands and Krano) get together in a room offering two chairs, a “fucked up plinky piano,” a guitar, and some percussion instruments, with the intention to make some music? You get this eight-song effort, which if lacking an air of the essential goes down more than okay. Given the state of those 88s, I was half expecting this to be an excursion into bent ambience, a suspicion that increased when the PR text mentioned free improvisation. However, if to varying degrees off-kilter (the piano does enhance this scenario), Rosie is predominantly song-based throughout, though the record is still very much about mood. If not twisted, the atmosphere is appealingly loose. B+

Mandrake Paddle Steamer, Pandemonium Shadow Show (Sommor) Folks having heavily investigated the deep nooks of ’60s Brit psychedelia will likely know Mandrake Paddle Steamer (later just Mandrake) from their ’69 single for Parlophone “Strange Walking Man” b/w “Steam.” Other than a mysterious 45 apparently issued only in Sweden, this was the extent of the group’s output during their lifetime, though they played on the radio for John Peel and recorded pretty extensively in studio, enough so that a few bootlegs subsequently appeared. If you don’t have ‘em, don’t worry about ‘em. Get this instead. Formed by students at art college, Mandrake have a seriousness about them (and an organ) that gives off early prog vibes, and that’s cool (think early Nice). The tangible influence of Syd-era Floyd is even cooler. B+

Matmos, Plastic Anniversary (Thrill Jockey) M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, collectively known as the Baltimore-based Matmos, have long been one of the most interesting electronic acts on the scene, in part because their inclination for experimentation and the conceptual is simultaneously rigorous and inviting; their prior record, 2016’s Ultimate Care II, consisted entirely of sounds made by washing machines, and this follow-up is derived exclusively from the sonic potential of plastic. The record easily transcends what some will perceive as a gimmick, but with that said, a huge part of the fun of this set (and this record is a lot of fun, partly because it seems like a great time was had making it) is contemplating the circumstances of its creation while listening. A-

Motel Mirrors, “Gotta Lotta Rhythm” (Wild Honey) Although from an artistic standpoint Memphis is one of my favorite burgs, the time I’ve spent there is limited. I can’t help but imagine there are hundreds of outfits there trying to capture the musical essence of the city; if not failing outright, the amount of success they manage is limited. Based on this assumption, when a group gets it down, which is the case with Motel Mirrors, I’m pretty stoked. On this EP, guitarist John Paul Keith, doghouse bassist Amy LaVere, and Austin, TX guitarist Will Sexton (everybody sings) dish five covers (including Jimmy Reed, Patsy Cline, and Gram Parsons) and a reworked original that span far beyond Memphis’ municipal limits. Could’ve benefited from a smidge more wildness, but their well-mannered flair isn’t too polished. B+

Oozing Wound, High Anxiety (Thrill Jockey) Here’s the fourth album (plus a couple of cassettes and a split with Black Pus) by Chicago’s Oozing Wound, and it’s time I pay them some mind. Consisting of guitarist-vocalist Zack Weil, bassist Kevin Cribbin, and drummer Kyle Reynolds, they sprang from the underground noise scene with a connection to Lightning Bolt (which is where the split with Brian Chippendale’s Black Pus comes in), but unlike the abstract splatter aggressiveness of some u-ground noise merchants, the sound here is much nearer to metal. In fact, if not secured on hometown label Thrill Jockey, Oozing Wound would be a comfortable fit on the Relapse roster. They might be metallic, but they avoid the genre pitfall of the retrograde, particularly during side two’s textural goings-on. A-

Pan Amsterdam x Iggy Pop, “Mobile” b/w “15 Seconds” (Def Pressé) Last year Pan Amsterdam, which is the moniker of trumpeter Leron Thomas, released The Pocket Watch in collaboration with Madison Washington’s thatmanmonkz. On this vinyl 45’s B-side the other half of MadWash, Malik Ameer Crumpler, serves as the producer of an excursion into slowly unfurling u-ground hip-hop, its strangeness bordering on the psychedelic. But hey, I realize side one and its noted guest contributor is what’ll be spiking the public’s interest. Like a lot of hip-hop collabs with non-hip-hoppers, this is thoroughly Pan Am’s show (shining vocally and on horn), but by the end, Iggy’s solitary vocal line, repeated often, really transports me to waiting in line in a suburban gas station. You’ll understand when you hear it. A-

Benoît Pioulard and Sean Curtis Patrick, Avocationals (Beacon Sound) Benoît Pioulard is the pseudonym of electronic-experimental musician Thomas Meluch. Of releases, he has a fuckton, ranging from CDRs to cassettes to lathe-cut 7-inches to albums on Kranky. Sean Curtis Patrick output is also substantial across a variety of formats, many of them sold out. He’s also noted as a photographer, filmmaker and painter. For this collaboration, the Michigan-based artists use synths, reel-to-reel tape decks, field recordings, guitar, and processed vocals to “conjure the ghosts of 20th century Great Lakes shipwrecks.” Fittingly, the intensity here is a few clicks more robust than is the general standard for ambient, though fans of the style should still be quite pleased. Note: 300 very attractive vinyl copies only. A-

Ana Roxanne, ~~~ (Leaving) The debut release from this intersex Southeast Asian musician (currently based in Los Angeles, born and raised in the Bay Area), available digitally and on cassette in its second edition, is the byproduct of a range of studies and influences. Impacted as a youth by the R&B and pop divas in her mother’s CD collection, she carried this seed through Catholic church choir singing, learning in jazz and classical music programs, touring in live performance, a later revelation brought on by classical Hindustani singing during a stay in India, and the completion of her music studies at the experimental Mills College. Her concept of the diva as representing divinity is most overtly expressed during final selection “In a Small Valley,” but a sense of the spiritual is pervasive throughout. A-

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