Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 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 June, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Abdullah Ibrahim, The Balance (Gearbox) South African-born pianist Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, has been on the scene for decades, cutting his debut LP as part of the sextet the Jazz Epistles (alongside Hugh Masekela) in 1959. I’m not anywhere close to hearing all of his work, but my favorites would include his numerous early solo piano sets and an informal series of duos, including with Argentinian saxophonist Gato Barbieri, fellow South African bassist Johnny Dyani, and two with greats from the US scene, drummer Max Roach and saxophonist Archie Shepp. Ibrahim’s ’60s trio work has also struck my ear, and I recall liking his ’76 effort Banyana – Children of Africa with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Brooks, though it’s been a long time since I sat down with that one.

I’ll confess to being less familiar with his later stuff (’80s and forward), though I do enjoy his soundtracks for Chocolat and No Fear, No Die, the first two features by Claire Denis (a director born in Paris but raised in colonial French Africa). This is his first album in four years, and at age 84, Ibrahim’s prowess is still quite sharp. Indicative in the record’s title is a sort of heightened beauty through interconnectedness that never succumbs to insubstantiality, even as the opening track features Cleave Guyton Jr.’s flute and is titled “Dreamtime.” Adding weight throughout the album is Marshall McDonald baritone sax, especially in the meaty “Tuang Guru.” Andrae Murchison’s trombone is sweet, as well. The buoyant up-tempo “Jabula” is an immediate highlight, but everything goes down wonderfully. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Catherine Christer Hennix, The Deontic Miracle: Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku (Blank Forms Editions / Empty Editions) The discography/ bibliography of Swedish-American composer Catherine Christer Hennix is undergoing a considerable expansion. Noted as part of the NYC minimal drone avant-garde scene, for a long time the only place to hear her work (credited as C.C. Hennix) was on the recordings of Henry Flynt; she contributes tambura to C Tune, Purified By Fire and is co-billed as drummer on Dharma/Warriors. All three were released by Locust Music in the first decade of the 2000s, though the recordings date from 1980-’83. However, in 2010 the Die Schachtel label released the CD/ book The Electric Harpsichord. It was, as they say, revelatory.

Recorded in 1976, The Electric Harpsichord is dedicated to the memory of Ṥṛi Faquir Pandit Pran Nath (who passed in 1990) and includes poems by La Monte Young and a liner enthusiasm from Glenn Branca. This should provide a few clues from where Hennix’s vast thing derives. The music on this release, two long tracks, each divided in two across four sides of vinyl and totaling nearly an hour and 25 minutes, also dates from ’76 and was created by her group The Deontic Miracle, a trio of Hennix, her brother Peter and Hans Isgren. Based on the concept of just intonation, fans of the Theater of Eternal Music should consider this a must. It follows Blank Editions release last year of Hennix’s Selected Early Keyboard Works (also dating from ’76) as two books of her writings are on the horizon. Outstanding. A+

Lena Andersson, Söder Mälarstrand (Raster) Lena Andersson is not a real person but a fictional character worked up for this collaboration by Berlin-based Japanese artist Kyoka and Irish producer Eomac; they met in 2016 as part a residency at the Stockholm EMS studios. While the two producers initially bonded over and collaborated on the Buchla synth held in the EMS space, they expanded beyond that instrument, and on Söder Mälarstrand, to results that’re consistently worthwhile. The balance of what’s here can be described as rhythmic; I would say beat-driven, except Kyoka and Eomac are just as interested in layering, abstraction and, well, vocals, as in “Das Tier,” “After 88 Years,” and “Le.” Seiki of Cocobat and Mike Watt guest in opener “Middle of Everywhere.” CD/ digital only. A-

André Bratten, Pax Americana (Smalltown Supersound) Bratten’s been around for roughly five years, though Pax Americana is something of a return to activity for the electronic producer as he and his family moved from the midst of Oslo to the city’s suburbs (for just one thing, this necessitated rebuilding his studio). He reemerged last year with a trio of 12-inchs, two tracks each, with three cuts helping to shape the whole of this LP. That includes the title track, which was recorded the day after Trump’s election. Learning of this fact adds a degree of social awareness to proceedings that likely wouldn’t have done so otherwise, though on the other hand, the title probably would’ve tipped me off. Bratten cites influences such as Boards of Canada and Autechre, and hey, I can really hear that. B+

Graham Day and The Forefathers, Good Things & Graham Day and The Gaolers, “Just a Little” b/w “I’m Not the Only One” (Damaged Goods) The Forefathers’ full-length is an expanded reissue of a set from 2014. It has three extra tracks for a total of 15 including an aces version of Jimi’s “Freedom.” Who’s Graham Day? Well, along with Forefather Allan Crockford he was in the ’80s Medway act The Prisoners. Joining up with Forefather Wolf Howard in ’88 to form the Prime Movers, the three have played together in assorted groups since, and in 2013 they combined forces as a live band for the purpose of ripping through the Graham Day songbook across the aforementioned outfits and more; this may read as pretty far from a big deal, but the results are inspired, and the sound isn’t exactly growing on trees.

Now, if Medway immediately conjured thoughts of Billy Childish, there are surely aspects of commonality here, but The Forefathers are never going to be mistaken for the Wild one (even as Graham and Wolf were in The Buff Medways). So, what do they sound like? Well, I’ll just say this; if you have a neighbor or a co-worker or an aunt/uncle or just a coffee-shop compadre who reliably enthuses over The Smithereens, well, playing this for ‘em is almost guaranteed to bring a smile. Melodically sturdy while being tougher and less polished, overall, it’s a little nearer to ’77 punk than ’60s garage, though there’s some of that, too. The Goalers recently reunited for Damaged Goods’ 30th anniversary, with this 7-inch of fresh material the byproduct. It’s a good one that amplifies the ’60s attributes a bit. A-/B+

Dire Wolves, Grow Towards the Light (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) The fourth “official” LP from this San Fran-based “cosmic free-rock” combo led by Jeffrey Alexander is the first I’ve heard and the first to feature the vocals of Georgia Carbone, who sings in her own invented language, though don’t go thinking this sounds like Magma. I know the things I know about Dire Wolves largely through the sweet PR notes by Marissa Nadler, wherein she mentions that her friend Alexander, who’s played in Jackie-O Motherfucker and Black Forest Black Sea amongst other activities, followed the Dead around for a while in the 1980s. This activity’s impact can be heard in the finished album, but Arjun Mendiratta’s violin also reminds me a bit of (non-sludgy) Bardo Pond, which is a fantastic thing to have planted in the brain. A-

Fairuz, Wahdon (Wewantsounds) By 1978, the year of this LP’s initial release, the Lebanese diva Fairuz was already an experienced recording artist and performer with international success, working in tandem with her husband Assi Rahbani and his brother Elias. Due to Assi’s ailing health, their son Ziad took over as producer-composer-musical director, with Wahdon described as something of a metamorphosis. Side one presents the singer in essentially traditional mode, and the results are enjoyably solid; “here I am doing this thing you know I know how to do and doing it well.” Side two however, opens with the lengthy disco track “Al Bosta” (unsurprising given this label’s recent reissue of Ziad’s Abu Ali) and follows it with a serving of lush symphonic classic balladry. Altogether okay. B+

The Galileo 7, There is Only Now (Damaged Goods) Allan Crockford is a bass player, having held down that spot in The Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solarflares, James Taylor Quartet, and as considered and graded above, Graham Day and The Forefathers. He’s also a songwriter. The Galileo 7, which is actually a four-piece featuring Crockford on vocals and guitar, Paul Moss on bass and vocals, Viv Bonsels on keyboards and vocals, and Matthew “Mole” Lambert on drums and vocals, is the vehicle for spotlighting his tunes. You may have noticed that everybody sings, and that’s a big tip-off toward general catchiness, here manifested in a decidedly ‘60s psych-pop sensibility. Damaged Goods mentions the Dandy Warhols, and I can hear it, but other spots remind me of Robert Pollard, and I like that even more. B+

Scone Cash Players, As The Screw Turns (Flamingo Time / Mango Hill) My introduction to the group of funky-jazzy organist Adam Scone came last year with Blast Furnace! I dug that set, largely because the instrumental equation was pretty much how I liked it, which is to say not too busy or vampy. This follow-up LP adjusts the template more than a little, adding vocals for half the tracks and in turn leaning into the funky side of the whole organ combo shebang (Scone has played with both Lou Donaldson and Sugarman 3, so he can cover the waterfront). The singing doesn’t detract as the playing is reliably interesting. I must downgrade this a bit for including a Xmas song (released on 45 late last year), but at least it’s a good Xmas song, and the fuzz guitar overload in “Dr. Red Teeth” helps balance things out. B+

The Shadracks, “Tranquil Salvation” b/w “Count to Ten” & “Walking On My Grave” (Damaged Goods) One thing I really like about Damaged Goods is how they carry forth into the present day the aura of a wide variety of classic punk labels. There are times they remind me just a bit of Stiff or Chiswick, and at other times the bands resonate like they could’ve been scooped up by Small Wonder or Cherry Red. Of course, Ian and Duncan have been at it for thirty years and have long outlived those comparisons, so credit where it is most assuredly due. Still, I can’t resist mentioning how the A-side corker on this short-player blasts and burns in a manner reminiscent of Raw Records, and that’s fucking swank. “Count to Ten” has a touch of punky smarts about it, and “Walking On My Grave” is a rad Dead Moon cover. A-

Solid Bronze vs. Lee “Scratch” Perry “Invisible Man (Radio Edit)” b/w “Invisible Man (Dub Mix)” (Schnitzel) This is the first release for Trenton, NJ’s Solid Bronze, and it’s a teaser for their LP The Fruit Basket, which is due in September. Getting “Scratch” Perry to dub mix your debut a-side is no small achievement, but the list of contributors to “Invisible Man” is just as big a deal; there’s Atlanta hip-hop artist CLEW on vocals and Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton on guitar, plus production by Dean Ween from his studio in Lambertville, NJ. CLEW’s auto-tuned singing gets offset by deep-voiced ponderings and wordless femme backing vocals as Hampton glides amid the oddball funk. With this said, the flip is wonderfully warped (more bent than anything on Perry’s new album) and takes the prize here. B+

Chris Stamey, New Songs for the 20th Century (Omnivore) Anybody who appreciates The dB’s knows that Chris Stamey can write a good song. This release has two CDs worth of ‘em, but it’s a considerably different scenario from that for which Stamey, who’s done a whole lot of varied stuff since leaving the dB’s, is generally known. Having gotten smacked atop the head by The Great American Songbook (the arrival of an old piano in the Stamey home also aided in the situation), after three years, he’d amassed a slew of originals (25 and a closing reprise here) in the tradition of Jerome Kern, Irvin Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, etc. This may seem like a dicey proposition, but while it took a little bit for me, who’s largely not enamored by standards, to warm up to this, once I did my pleasure never flagged.

There are a whole bunch of interconnecting reasons for New Songs for the 20th Century’s success. For starters, even as the cover sports the term ultramodern, Stamey is neither trying to revamp (or in fact even alter) this method of classic songwriting for the contemporary landscape. Simultaneously, he’s steering far wide of the triteness of worshipful tribute; the fact that the record is composed of originals surely helps in this, but so does the musicianship from a band that includes Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Branford Marsalis. Crucially, the male and female vocalists avoid the affected or cutesy (though an air of the late-night piano bar does occasionally emerge). The multiple singers can bring 69 Love Songs to mind, but minus Stephin Merritt’s eccentricity and the synth-pop. A considerable achievement. A-

Fernando Viciconte, Traitor’s Table (Fluff & Gravy) Born in Argentina, Viciconte grew up in L.A. and in 1994 moved to Portland, OR where he released a slew of albums, though creative difficulties brought on by an undiagnosed hiatal hernia slowed his output substantially in the new century. Listening to Traitor’s Table, I’d say he’s back in full force. Recorded, produced, and co-written by Luther Russell in his studio (dubbed the “Miracle Garage”), the results exude an aura of pop-rock classicism that’s unsurprising, though Viciconte’s personality shines through amid fleeting similarities to Robert Pollard, Jeff Lynne, and even Harry Nilsson. Like a lot of current stuff, Traitor’s Table is lyrically concerned with the mess that is the current USA. The commitment shines through as the catchiness puts it securely in the keeper pile. A-

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