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

NEW RELEASE PICK: Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble, Where Future Unfolds (International Anthem) This live recording from Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory, undertaken last November 15, features a striking ensemble of six alumni from the Chicago Children’s Choir as one element in a cross-pollination of “gospel, jazz, activism & 808 breaks.” Last week’s new release pick, the Membranes’ What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away, also featured a choir, though the effect here is markedly different, with Locks’ guiding his work into territory that can be succinctly described as extending the tradition of “Great Black Music Ancient To Future” (a Chicago thing), though the label mentions Phil Cohran (also Chicago), Eddie Gale, Shepp’s Attica Blues and even Public Enemy. An emphatic yes to all. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Buzzcocks, Singles Going Steady & A Different Kind of Tension (Domino) It has occurred to me, and perhaps the notion has crossed your mind as well, that the pop-punk style has been long debased. This has to do with an ever-narrowing set of permissible but ill-advised choices made by pop-punkers producing results akin to what lands in the incubators when inbreeding is rampant. It’s an unpleasant thing to see and hear. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, before hardcore, a sizable percentage of punk was catchy; it’s just that it was frequently played so fast that fogies couldn’t comprehend or handle it. This is one reason why the 45rpm single is the perfect vessel for punk action, as the 7-inch has also effectively served other forms of undiluted sonic genre gusto.

Buzzcocks are often considered the kings of merged pop melodicism and punk energy, partly because of a run of singles that stands as worthy as the output of any likeminded band of the era. Singles Going Steady corrals eight of them, the A-sides on side one and the flips on the other, and even if it lacks my favorite Buzzcocks 45 (that would be their self-released first one “Spiral Scratch,” with Howard Devoto still in the band) it stands as basically flawless and absolutely essential. I’d say that all the LPs from Buzzcocks 2.0, as Jon Savage calls them in his nifty liners for A Different Kind of Tension (Clinton Heylin handles Steady) are indispensable also, though that’s not to say they’re perfect; ’79’s Tension, their third album, certainly isn’t, but it still has the songs, and side two’s attempts to stretch out are a blast. A+/ A-

Hank Williams, The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings (BMG) This set, which marks the first time these eight transcriptions of Williams’ short-lived radio program of 1949 have been released on vinyl (it’s also on 2CD), is pretty clearly intended for heavy-duty aficionados of Hank, but I’m just gonna say that even with a lot of repetition (like the “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” theme and fiddler Jerry Rivers’ “Sally Goodin” outro), when taken a side at a time this is still a good pickup for more casual fans, as it’s more than solid. This is to say, the man is in fine form, Miss Audrey’s contributions hinder matters not a bit, and the same goes for the gospel numbers. Plus, Rivers’ turns in the spotlight, if truncated to fit into a 12-minute program time, are terrific. Overall, it’s a fascinating immersion into an era long gone. A

Martin Brandlmayr, Vive Les Fantômes (Thrill Jockey) Often, turning over a record can be a welcome thing; it is certainly an intrinsic part of the vinyl experience. However, I’ve never gotten any joy from the fading out, the flipping over, and the rising return of a piece of music that is longer than one side of an LP. One of the boons of CDs, and now pure digital of course, was the possibility of listening to a long piece uninterrupted, the better to soak up its full, uncompromised essence. Of course, the vinyl resurgence has produced more than a few instances of lengthy works divided, though most of them come with a digital download of the unbroken piece. Naturally, there are exceptions, plus instances where the artist(s) and/ or label deems it unacceptable to break up the music for physical release.

Vive Les Fantômes is one of those times. Issued only on CD (I don’t currently see an option for digital download) and holding one track with a length of 53:35, the release preserves a radio play created last year for the German station SWR by Brandlmayr, who is a founding member of and drummer for the Austrian post-rock group Radian. Based on interview, rehearsal and performance snippets of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Jacques Derrida, and Chris Marker (all artists of great value to Brandlmayr), the results are highly abstract but with fascinating stretches of repetition and frequent passages of silence, and I tend to agree that the cumulative effect (the mystery, the anticipation) would be diminished (if not totally destroyed) by breaking it in two. Repeat listens prove fruitful, however. A-

Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore, Working-Class Heroes: A History of Struggle and Song (Free Dirt) Featuring 20 selections, this one’s also CD-only, for no known reason other than that’s how the artists and label desired it, and so be it. The contents are both admirable and musically resonant; anybody with an enduring interest in protest song or curiosity sparked by the tide of current events should find this release of interest. Callahan has been on the scene for decades, both as a musician and as a writer-historian of various leftist causes; his strum is sturdy here, as is his singing. But it’s Moore, no stranger to community involvement herself, who’s the vocal powerhouse; while she has her own vocal thing, in terms of commitment and heft, she reminds me a bit of Barbara Dane, and that’s sweet. A-

Cosmonauts, Star 69 (Fuzz Club / Burger Records) It’s a safe bet that L.A.’s Cosmonauts, formed a decade ago by guitarists Alexander Ahmadi and Derek Cowart, will never make a record I dig more than their initial garage-centric material. Not that I was especially into them early. On the other side of the equation, it’s not as if their newer stuff, which is considerably more neo-psych tinged, turns me off. I do think Star 69 is a bit stronger than their last one, 2016’s A-OK, in part because the cited influences of Spacemen 3 and Sonic Youth are more tangible (and in the same song, “Wicked City (Outer Space),” though not really at the same time). Burger and Fuzz Club as co-releasers makes total sense, though there’s enough maraca shaking that I thought more than once of Anton Newcombe’s A Recordings. B+

The Deviants, The Deviants #3 (Real Gone) In the mid-’80s USA, if one’s rabid u-ground music fandom extended to fanzines and small press mags, there was a strong chance the UK’s Deviants would be known of before they were heard. Ensuing CD reissues remedied this, though reissued wax has never been easy to find and used copies of earlier editions are pricy. That means this pressing of the band’s third and final full-length is quite welcome. Led by Mick Farren, who’d go on post-breakup to greater renown as a writer as his bandmates all joined the Pink Fairies, the Deviants blended tough psych with Zappa and the Stooges, often to considerable success. Some, like Farren, rate this as their weakest as others think it’s their masterpiece. I lean closer to the latter assessment. On B&W “nun’s habit” vinyl. A-

Earthen Sea, Grass and Trees (Kranky) When it comes to electronic music and the stuff that gets defined as techno in particular, a whole lot of the practitioners just sorta show up on the scene (or I should say, my personal radar) with their sound at least partially solidified on albums (but more often EPs). It’s less frequent for individuals noted for playing in other genres to make an aesthetic adjustment into the electronic arena and to contribute something worthwhile, but that’s just what Jacob Long, he formerly of Black Eyes and Mi Ami (both outfits part of DC’s post-hardcore community), is doing with Earthen Sea. This sorta crossover is polluted with hubris and triteness, but Long’s rhythmic ambient is robust and consistently rewarding as Grass and Trees is easy to engage with as an album-length work. A-

Philipp Gropper’s PHILM, Consequences (WhyPlayJazz) Gropper is a German saxophonist and composer who, as part of the advanced jazz continuum, has worked extensively as a sideman and in a number of ensembles including Hyperactive Kid, Tau, and PHILM, which has been extant since 2012; Consequences is the band’s fourth CD (there is also the digital-only Live at Bimhuis from last year). Gropper is the leader, but the lineup is secure: Elias Stemeseder on piano and synth, Robert Landfermann on bass, and Oliver Steidle on drums. Everyone plays at a high level, including Gropper, whose leadership role is cemented through his socially focused compositions, which are stylistically wide-ranging; “Saturn” should turn on folks into the intersection of post-rock and jazz, and it’s all consistently excellent. A

Karen Haglof, Tobiano (True Morgan Music) Haglof is an NYC-based singer-songwriter with roots in Minneapolis, who might be best remembered as a guitarist for Rhys Chatham and in Band of Susans. I say might because she’s returned to musical activity with what’s now a string of solo efforts, Tobiano her third, and I say returned for Haglof had bailed on the Gotham avant-guitar thing, instead working as an oncologist (with a specialization in hematology). Her new stuff mines territory that’s considerably more pop-rock, which is very much in keeping with her Minnesota days; Suicide Commando Steve Almaas has returned as producer. Mitch Easter, Haglof’s old (brief) bandmate in the Crackers, mixed. Peter Holsapple is amongst the guests. Haglof does branch out here and her assurance is palpable. B+

The Jackets, Queen of the Pill (Voodoo Rhythm) This is fuzzed-out Swiss garage with a lack of calculated, overdone moves; that full-length number four (the first one I’ve heard) doesn’t suck is kinda miraculous. Not only does Queen of the Pill not stink up the joint, it elevates into something pretty special, in part because they have strong, honest-to-goodness songs (again, they aren’t just swiping and reassembling a bunch of preexisting maneuvers), but it’s also due to singer Jackie Brutsche (she also plays guitar), who has the lungs of a belter plus distinctive flair (at a few spots she reminds me a little of Chrissie Hynde). In summation, it’s cool that Alice Cooper and Little Steven are hip to the Jackets, but it’s the involvement of King Khan (who produced) and Jim Diamond (who mixed) that really seals the deal for me. A-

Jeanines, S/T (Slumberland) Oh fucking yeah. These Brooklynites, a duo of Alicia Jeanine on vocals and guitar and Jed Smith on bass and drums, are a thoroughly indie pop proposition, delivering a rapid-fire succession of beauty moves (16 tracks in under 30 minutes) but with sturdiness (the jangle is tough, the vocals if pretty are forceful rather than twee to my ear) and a direct approach coupled with energy that situates the whole thing as more than just descended from the punk playbook. Slumberland’s bio is a small avalanche of namedrops (and that’s cool) but I’ll add one of my own; really quickly (track two), “Winter in the Dark” put me in a Flying Nun frame of mind, and then they follow it up with the sweet ache of “Enough” (as in “it’ll never be…”). All this and a Siddeleys cover. Like I said, oh fucking yeah. A-

Juju, Maps and Territory (Fuzz Club) If the Cosmonauts above land comfortably in Fuzz Club’s neo-psych airstrip and then sidle right into the hangar, Juju transcends expectations by more than a little. Formed by Sicilian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti, whom some may know through his project Herself and as half of the Lay Llamas, Juju’s thrust reaches into African sounds and Krautrock while sticking closer to the artist’s home with aspects of Mediterranean folk. As this is a six-song, 40-minute effort, Valenti also enjoys stretching out, and he does so productively, with “Motherfucker Core” really setting forth on a dancy course, and “If You Will Fall” offering a nice undercurrent of cinematic funk. There is a perceptible early ’90s Brit thing happening, but through the overall inventiveness this one goes down pretty easy. B+

The Rayo Brothers, Victim & Villain (Nouveau Electric) This is their third album, but it’s my intro to the Rayos. Beforehand, due specifically to Lost Bayou Rambler Louis Michot’s production credit (it’s also on his Nouveau Electric label), I was anticipating something more Louisiana rootsy with possible Cajun elements. When Michot and his brother Andre join in on “Rye Whiskey,” this quality rises up, but much of this LP is contempo mainstream Americana. Picture me not blown away. Additionally, a few of the songs (“Darkroom” and “Goodbye Jane,” in particular) could’ve derived from ’80s Hoboken, or for that matter any college town with a sizable music scene from the midst of that decade. It’s all more than a little lacking in wildness and edge. Those are my expectations of course, but I’m stuck with ‘em. B-

V/A, Electronic Voyages: Early Moog Recordings 1964-1969 (Waveshaper Media) As a single LP, this is surely not going to encompass all the Moog work from between the years of the title, but the stated claim that most of the included tracks are new to vinyl increases the specialness of this release, as does its status as a fundraiser to help finish the feature-length documentary on Robert Moog, Electronic Voyager. In fact, Moog opens side one with an audio letter to Herbert Deutsch, who follows with a track of his own. A sustained point of emphasis here is works that foreground the Moog synth, and if you think that’s going to mean a whole lot of blooping, bleeping, buzzing and squirting, hey, you’re as prescient as Criswell.

But it also offers “Milkweed Love” by Lothar and the Hand People (a band more noted for their use of the Theremin) followed by “Changing Colours” by Innersystems, so the breadth is a little wider than some might expect. While much of the value here is historical, e.g. the Moog track, Deutsch’s piece (the first ever composition for Moog), and the emergence of the Moogtonium, which is a specific synth commissioned by and played here by avant-gardist Max Brand, the whole resists dryness, though it should be mentioned that nothing on the album is going to rip your wig off. This is mostly by design. Appropriate for the fundraising objective, there are only 1,000 copies pressed. To quote contributor Ruth White: “Time is a greedy gambler who wins at every turn of the wheel…without cheating.” A-

Vanishing Twin, The Age Of Immunology (Fire) England-based but truly international in scope, with members touching down in the UK from Belgium, Japan, Italy, France, and the USA, Vanishing Twin fits securely into Fire’s post-Broadcast/ Krautrock/ BBC Workshop zone (others include Death and Vanilla and Orchestra of Spheres) as the geographical diversity works toward the spirit of pluralist acceptance in an ugly time. Absorbing this info prior to listening, Vanishing Twin’s intent gets borne out by the modal jazz-Alice Coltrane-Sun Ra nods of opener “KRK (At Home In Strange Places),” but I’m really knocked out by the late LP “Backstroke,” which blends Stereolab and Delia Derbyshire with what rings in my ear like Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (I might be alone in hearing this). Quite impressive for a sophomore effort. A-

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