Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2019, Part Three

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Aseethe, Throes (Thrill Jockey) Here’s the third full-length from this Iowa-based doom metal trio; they have a relationship with drone that’s sturdy but still strikes me as mostly implicit (the big exception is “Suffocating Burden”); this is just fine to my ear. If an undercurrent rather than a mainstream, the drone works because Aseethe like to stretch out, and their stuff hangs in the air as much as it thuds. Aseethe also have a new member in bassist-vocalist Noah Koester, who’s largely responsible for the record’s anti-fascist and anti-greedmonger lyrical bent. I’ll confess that when vocal cords get this guttural, I essentially engage at the level of pure texture instead of striving to parse what’s actually being said, which is often not really worth the trouble. It’s nice to know this is an exception. A-

Doomstress, Sleep Among the Dead (Ripple / DHU) This Houston, TX-based four-piece released a 7-inch in 2016 and followed it up the next year with one side of a split LP with the band Sparrowmilk; this is their proper full-length debut, and I’m digging it quite a bit, in large part because they fortify a solid doom foundation with an approach to songwriting that hits my ear as fairly distinctive as it radiates classic vibes (notably, they dished a B-side version of Coven’s “Wicked Woman” on that first 7-inch). The consistently appealing vocals of Doomstress Alexis (who also plays a sturdy bass) initially hooked me, reminding me at times of Heart’s Nancy Wilson but in a thoroughly metallic context (getting a little operatic at times a la Ronnie James), but it was the quality of the songs that sealed the deal. A-

Full of Hell, Weeping Choir (Relapse) Folks who are bonkers over the whole extreme metal scene are likely already hip to Full of Hell, but this is my introduction, in part because I consider Relapse to be a signifier of quality; this is their first for the label. Full of Hell hail from Ocean City, MD, a once and current “tourist destination” where folks in some proximity of adulthood commonly passed out in bathtubs (or yes, on the beach) after too many National Bohemians. As it’s title should make clear, Weeping Choir isn’t music for swimming and suds but grindcore mingled with power electronics; they have prior collabs with Merzbow and The Body. At nearly 25 minutes, this is just the right amount of textured pummel. It looks like I’ll be spending some time investigating Full of Hell’s back catalog. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Joe McPhee, Nation Time (Superior Viaduct) Part of the ’70s jazz corrective was impressing on folks that the urge to get funky didn’t automatically equate to Bob fucking James. This live LP originally released on CjR in ’71 but basically a very well-kept secret until it was reissued as the inaugural CD in Atavistic’s out-jazz-focused Unheard Music Series in 2000, offers a splendid example of what I’ll call groove searching; the label mentions a potent blend of James Brown and Archie Shepp, and that succinctly describes “Shakey Jake.” McPhee remains one of our enduring free-jazz explorers. This was his second record on a label designed specifically to document his artistry (‘twas also initially the case with Hat Hut). It’s a crucial document available on wax for the first time in forever. A

Alessandro Adriani, “Embryo” & Morphic Dreams (Stroboscopic Artefacts) My introduction to Adriani came through his entry on this label’s Flowers from the Ashes: Contemporary Italian Electronic Music compilation; naturally, this EP and full-length (the artist’s second) make a bigger impression, “Embryo” underscoring the man’s propensity for art-tinged techno and Morphic Dreams, a double set (but one totaling just under 56 minutes) simultaneously amplifying his dancefloor derivation and highlighting his range; it brandishes some swell Euro-disco overload with spots that unravel like strategic lifts from Giallo soundtracks and even has a few portions flirting with outright experimentalism. Interestingly, the track featuring guest Simon Crab of Bourbonese Qualk is bouncy rather than industrially edgy. B+/ A-

Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason, Chateau (Radio Bongo Edition) Unless I’m missing something (this is certainly possible), this is LP number four in the Les Adventures de President Bongo series, which is slated to span seven years and 24 more vinyl releases. President Bongo the man is formerly of GusGus; here he assumes the mantle of “producer/ instigator/ writer/ artistic director.” The final gesture in this undertaking will be a handmade boxset, though in an edition of 20 copies, so if you want to acquire an entire run, the smart thing to do is start purchasing separately now. If you’re thinking about cherry picking the stronger entries, I wouldn’t sleep on this one, because it holds inside its rather tidy 31 minutes a high percentage of superb work for violin, viola and cello, plus rhythm. Quite striking. A-

The Candy Snatchers, Moronic Pleasures (Hound Gawd!) Here’s an archival unveiling of the rejected first attempt by this noted Virginia Beach, VA garage-punk act to dish a second LP. Said record eventually emerged in ’98 as Human Zoo!, but that set is quite diff from this one, which was cut fast in Brooklyn a year earlier at Compactor Studio with Paul Johnson at the helm. After time spent, I dig this one more and am at a loss as to why late guitarist Matthew Odietus so disliked the guitar sound here, other than the fact that it was his playing, and musicians are historically noted to be sticklers (sometimes to confounding lengths). Occasionally compared to Dwarves, I’m reminded of a more Dolls-Heartbreakers-Raw Power obsessed Clawhammer, due partially to singer Larry May’s pipes, and that’s killer. A-

Paul Den Heyer, Everything So Far (A Turntable Friend) Den Heyer made his initial mark on the scene back in the ’90s as a member of Fishmonkeyman, though more recently he’s produced Sunstack Jones and played in the Brit all-star affair The Red Sided Garter Snakes. This is his debut solo record, and it’s stylistically focused, crafted with assurance, and likely to stoke fans of strummy, mildly psychedelic post-Byrds beauty moves. Mojave 3, Slowdive, Mazzy Star, and Red House Painters have all been mentioned, and I hear some of these references more than others, but there are a few gliding passages that definitely put me in the mind of the Clientele, and that’s an unmitigated positive. Overall, this is relaxed without faltering into the trivial and if inhabiting well-establish territory the songs are fresh. A-

Dommengang, No Keys (Thrill Jockey) The label calls L.A. Dommengang’s “spiritual home,” but it’s also where the trio physically reside; the psych heaviness of No Keys continues to suggest the desert outskirts as inspiration. Their debut’s title was Everybody’s Boogie and sported a photo of a muscle car, but Dommengang are no bunch of hair-wagging, cowbell-thwacking goofs. With this one, the raison d’être remains serious, though with a tangible “hang loose” sensibility. Leaning into that too hard could pose a problem, but hey, they don’t, instead offering late-album old-school Cali psych gem “Arcularius – Burke,” getting Golden Void’s Camilla Saufly-Mitchell to add sweet guest vocals to “Jerusalem Cricket,” and then, with “Happy Death (Her Blues II),” riding out like champs on a vaguely Neil-like note. A-

Rod Hamdallah, “Think About It” (Hound Gawd!) Dating from 2014, this seems to be this EP’s vinyl debut, on 10-inch wax. Hamdallah is an Atlanta guy who some may recognize through his work with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers; indeed, his former Shakers bandmate J.D. Wilkes guests here on the disc’s second track “Carry You Home,” playing Wurlitzer piano and banjo. Overall, this is a sweet 5-song dose of bluesy hard-rocking garage, bursting out strong with opener “Think About It” and not really slowing down until “Heartbeat,” which lands a nice combination punch of chain gang rhythm (from drummer Gabriel Pline) and through the use of accordion (courtesy of keyboard specialist Adam Holliday), a carnival atmosphere that’s nicely seedy-pulpy. Finale “Take Me Back” drives things home very nicely. A-

Isotope Soap, Monitored By Zu Tse (Emotional Response) Nabbing their name from the Geza X song on the classic Let Them Eat Jellybeans! compilation, this Swedish band kicked out two 7-inch EPs and an 8-song mini-LP in 2016-’17; this LP gathers up all that synth-lurch-thump and brings with it comparisons to Devo, ISM, Screamers, Koro, and naturally Geza X, though I also hear some Dow Jones & the Industrials and even a little Count Vertigo. And here’s the thing; if the three releases compiled here dated ’79-’83 and were the handiwork of a band located in Scandinavia (perhaps released on the Plurex label) it’s very likely original copies of the bunch would set you back hundreds of dollars. Picking up this album will be much cheaper of course, but its contents are no second-rate imitation; it holds right the fuck up. A-

The OGJB Quartet, Bamako (TUM) This leaderless group featuring saxophonist Oliver Lake (alto and soprano), cornetist Graham Haynes, double bassist Joe Fonda, and drummer Barry Altschul specialize in a strain of avant-jazz that I’ll call invitingly free. While collective improvisation is very much in evidence, particularly the CD’s last two pieces, everybody brought at least one composition to the studio for this debut recording from mid-2016 (their first live performance occurred at NYC Winter Jazz Fest earlier that year), and the result is a welcoming sense of creative dialogue and equality throughout. As the exhaustive bios included in the booklet make clear, everybody here is a major player with extensive and varied experience, and Laurence Donohue-Greene’s excellent liner essay offers valuable context.

Right off the bat, Donohue-Greene situates this recording in a contemporary political framework, though the title of the opening cut (credited to Fonda), “Listen to Dr. Cornel West” does an effective job of this on its own. More importantly, the notes detail the diversity of background and the heights of artistic communication; as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet (another leaderless group) Lake is maybe the most well-known participant here (if it’s not Altschul, whose played on some massive records since hitting the scene in the early ’60s), but there’s no feeling of hierarchy. Lake recites his poem “Broken in Parts” (and blows some fine horn) in the title track, Haynes plays the dousn’goun (the composition is his), Altschul brings the mbira and Fonda lays down some sweet bedrock on the bass. A

Psychic Graveyard, Loud as Laughter (Skin Graft) Comprised of vocalist Eric Paul, guitarist Paul Vieira, and synth maestro Nathan Joyner, a threesome described by Skin Graft as “noise rock pioneers” (with time served in units such as Arab on Radar, Chinese Stars, Doomsday Student, and Some Girls, this isn’t overstating the case), Psychic Graveyard opt for pummeling precision rather than abstract spillage, and that’s alright. Part of the reason for the relatively coherent (if suitably raucous) attack is that Joyner hangs his hat in San Diego while Paul and Vieira reside up Rhode Island way; if the music is the byproduct of a long-distance studio approach, it’s still connects as appropriately together (drums are featured, played in part by Paul). I’m reminded at times of a less new wavy Six Finger Satellite. B+

Sumo Princess, When an Electric Storm (Ruined Vibes / Educational Recordings) This L.A.-based duo, with Abby Travis dishing vocals and bass while Gene Trautmann handles the drums, has been called an amalgamation of post-punk, stoner rock, and art core. Both are vets; back in the ’80s, Travis played in the Lovedolls while Trautmann was part of The Miracle Workers. Since, she’s recorded-toured with Cher, the Go-Go’s, Beck etc. and he’s played with Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. Travis has stated this is a cutting-loose sorta record for her, and with the bass as mauling as it is buoyant, that’s not a hard thing to comprehend. She also has vocal range. Motörhead meets Nina Hagan has been mentioned, but I’m thinking of Nina backed by Big Business and maybe produced by Gibby Haynes. B+

Matt Surfin’ & Friends, S/T (Community / Muscle Beach) Matt Surfin’ is the handle of one Matthew Seferian, a New Orleans guy who has played and toured in the bands Donovan Wolfington and Pope. Of those two outfits, I know bupkis, but listening to this record’s 11 tunes leaves me in a throwback pop-rock frame of mind with a lingering aftertaste somewhat reminiscent of Weezer, or even The Rentals, due in part to the keyboards and particularly the mixed-gender vocal back-and-forth heard in “Bleep.” However, guitar is pretty much omnipresent here, making this a less quirky affair then you might be imagining, and a handful of cuts dive wholeheartedly into the ’80s radio guitar-pop zone. Ultimately, this is a pretty low-stakes affair, but it never rubbed me wrong, and naturally that works in its favor. B

Josephine Wiggs, We Fall (The Sounds of Sinners) I go back a long way with Josephine Wiggs, enjoying her work in The Perfect Disaster before getting blown away by Pod, the debut from The Breeders. With this said, no other Breeders record hit me the same way as their first (I did like them, they just didn’t nail me like Pod), and while I was cognizant of some of her other projects, I never took the plunge, partly because a portion of them came out on Grand Royal (the label of the Beastie Boys), the output of which I’d assessed (with a few exceptions) as likeable but minor; hey, it was the ’90s and I wasn’t made of money. We Fall, billed as Wiggs’ first solo album, can also be tagged as minor, though as she wades deep into territory far afield from her highest-profile work, it connects as more than likeable.

It’s difficult to utilize the descriptor of “minor” without it sounding dismissive, if not an outright putdown, but neither slight is intended here. I use the term instead to denote that We Fall is somewhat new territory for Wiggs, though where she travels is well-established, specifically the cited realms of Eno, Harold Budd, Alva Noto, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I say somewhat because many of Wiggs’ projects have been departures from the standard pop-rock paradigm, and that she’s working again with Jon Mattock of Spacemen 3 (who contributed to her ’92 album Nude Nudes, released as Honey Tongue). While nothing here blows me away, that’s not really the intent (which kinda extends to her stated influences). We Fall strikes me as a well-considered, sharply crafted affair. I’m glad I heard it. B+

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