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

NEW RELEASE PICK: Rosenau & Sanborn, Bluebird (Psychic Hotline) When I first glanced at the artists’ name, my brain stirred thoughts of some neo-soft rock/ yacht rock duo, but Bluebird is pretty far from that. Pretty far? How about a few thousand yards, at least. This is Chris Rosenau of Collections of Colonies of Bees and Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso, and while I’ve not glimpsed any credits for this collab it’s safe to assume that the former plays guitar and the latter is responsible for the electronic component, which is substantial and varied. From the seed of live performance this studio recording, a casual affair, was born; one of the music’s real strongpoints is how the ambient background, including chirping birds and rain, was left in. Warm in the way The Books are warm, this is likely to be a grower. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Tubby Hayes Grits, Beans and Greens: The Lost Fontana Sessions (Decca / Universal Music Group) Edward Brian “Tubby” Hayes was probably the finest hard bop tenor saxophonist the UK produced, a player whose work could satisfy sticklers who hold Coltrane, Rollins, and Gordon in the highest of esteem and generally grouch or grudgingly acknowledge the worth of most everything else. This is not to infer that all Tubby is great Tubby, for until recently his supposed final studio recording, a highly mersh pop tunes-focused large band effort The Orchestra concluded his non-live discography with something of a whimper. That one came out in 1970. Hayes passed in 1973 at age 38 during a second open heart surgery, though he’d struggled with substance abuse, as well.

Cut in 1969 and due to The Orchestra’s poor sales shelved, forgotten, misplaced and even neglected once it was discovered that the tapes weren’t lost after all, this set is a sweet short cooker in its single LP/ CD configuration, featuring five tracks, and an absolute banquet for jazzbos in its deluxe 2CD edition, which expands to 18 selections and includes the alternate takes, the false starts, and the conversation in studio. Decca and UMG have made a number of smart decisions, like presenting the deluxe set in the order in which it was found on the tapes, getting Gearbox Studios involved in mastering the music for 180gm vinyl, and also making sure that all the tunes (three Hayes originals, two interpretations) are on the wax, so that non-obsessives get the root of the whole undertaking.

Actually, that’s not exactly true, as the initial three tracks on the 2CD, all takes of Cy Coleman’s “Where Am I Going?” from 5/27/69, feature a quartet of Hayes, bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer Spike Wells with guitarist Louis Stewart; for the rest, cut on  6/24 (making this a 50th anniversary set), pianist Mike Pyne replaces Stewart. This means the beginning of the deluxe gets closest to the greasy-dinner plate soul-jazz feel suggested by the release’s title, a composition by Hayes that kicked off the session with Pyne. However, leaving the group with Stewart (who plays exceptionally well) off the vinyl makes total sense, as it reflects the clear intentions for the LP. Highlights? The “Giant Steps”-like “Rumpus” and a reading of Duke Pearson’s “You Know I Care” that’s reminiscent of “Naima.” LP; A-/ 2CD; A

B Boys, Dudu (Captured Tracks) The two prior studio efforts by Brooklyn trio B Boys, specifically their 2016 EP “No Worry No Mind” and the next year’s Dada, were okay by me, quite okay in the case of the LP; impossible to imagine without the example of UK post-punk, they cite Wire (along with The Clash and Talking Heads, neither of which jumped out at me on their prior stuff nor here), and I continue to detect Gang of Four, though Dudu does lessen the obviousness of their inspirations a good bit without updating the overall thrust of their sound. This is beefy and shouty and raw and most importantly, connects as inspired; it also doesn’t hurt that Veronica Torres of fellow NYCers Pill guests on “I Want.” I don’t dig B Boys quite as much as Pill, but that probably comes down to the absence of sax skronk. B+

El-Jay Burner, “My Thing” b/w “Dub Thing” (Fabyl) While this label has been diligent in giving their releases the vinyl treatment, this is (unless I’m overlooking something) the first 45 in a still tidy discography. The A-side is a nice combo of eras, blending an instrumental foundation that radiates Classic Soul (and a smidge of reggae that’s expanded upon on the okay but not mind-melting flip) with Burner’s considerably more contemporary R&B approach: as the lyrics explain, he’s just a brother trying to do his thing. To go a little more in depth, it conjures thoughts of a late ’80s- early ’90s crooner mingling with the “old-school” flavored hip-hop production aesthetic of the period, perhaps in a remix that might’ve landed on a CDEP or cassette single. This wax gives it a much better look. B+

Daniel Carter, Stelios Mihas, Irma Nejando, Federico Ughi, Radical Invisibility (577) Another highly multifaceted work from 577 (and once again on vinyl). Carter displays numerous dimensions instrumentally, playing sax, trumpet, clarinet, flute, and keyboard. It’s the keys, along with Mihas’ guitar textures, that bring an atmosphere of fusion to the table. Carter’s title is notably a concept extending to the bassist on this record, an anonymous individual credited as Irma Nejando (a Spanish wordplay meaning “to go driving”). This might’ve begun as a contractual thing, but if so, it’s bloomed into Carter’s notion pretty seamlessly. Inspirations include Gertrude Stein and on the bonus track “Mrs. Myth” Bessie Smith. Folks into Chicago Underground, Isotope 217, and 577’s New York United should dig. A-

Cherubs, Immaculada High (Relapse) Austin’s ’90s noise-rockers Cherubs are an outfit I remember pretty fondly, so it was a swell turn of events when they reformed a few years back and bashed out an album and a double 45 for the Brutal Panda label. Other than sharing a split lathe cut 7-inch with Gay Witch Abortion, there have been no releases up to this new full-length for a new label. While primarily known for metal offerings, Relapse does dabble outside that sphere, though if not metallic, Cherubs excel at the heavy, and if they’ve gotten older, the general level of noisiness hasn’t diminished. They have honest-to-goodness songs however, which many of their fellow noise merchants didn’t and still don’t. Plus, the Texas weirdness is still tangible. Highlight: the Unsane-like “Tigers in the Sky.” B+

Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey, S/T (Sub Pop) Louisiana-born Craft has been on the scene for a while, with Gashcat his prior band. He was based in Austin then, but Portland, OR is where he resides these days, with this his second solo album (and my introduction to his stuff). The tunes support the idea that you can take the guy out of the south, but you can’t take the Southern Rock out of the guy. The major point of difference here is Craft’s considerable Glam Rock streak, which might seem an odd mix until you realize the distance from Elton John to Leon Russell isn’t far to travel. Craft doesn’t sound like Elton and in fact not much like Leon, either (piano is an element in the equation, though), but I’m going to suggest that if you like the recent work of (or even the older stuff by) Luther Russell, you’ll like this, too. B+

Cut Beetlez & The Good People, “Cut People” (Fabyl) This is a hip-hop team-up of Finland’s Cut Beetlez (consisting of DJ J-Man and HP Lovescratch) and NYC’s The Good People (that’s Emskee and Saint) that delivers the sort of loop, sample, and scratch fiesta that one might understandably think is a lost art of an era long gone, but whoa there, partner. The vocal side of this equation adds flowing complexity to the whole (with a decided ’90s flavor), but this is really a showcase of construction and production, with some of the beats so massive in an ’80s way that it can seem like the record’s transformed into a radio show from DJ Red Alert. This is especially true of the instrumentals. This is marketed as an EP, but it offers its six tracks on side one and puts the non-vocal versions on the flip. A-

Satoko Fujii, Confluence (Libra) After a magnificently prolific 2018, this great pianist continues to astound. To expand a bit, Fujii achieved her goal of releasing a CD a month throughout that calendar year, a 60th birthday project and a feat that might give those with a casual knowledge (or less) of improvised music the impression that the overall quality might take a backseat to the end objective. That wasn’t the case, and the same is true for this collab with drummer Ramon Lopez. Shiro Matsuo’s notes for this set explain that Fujii and Lopez played together in a trio convened for her birthday project, but that the recordings of the group, for “certain reasons,” were put on the shelf. It should be obvious why; improvisation isn’t an end to itself. Artist satisfaction with the interplay is integral.

Artist satisfaction is maybe why Fujii hasn’t released a duo record with a drummer since Erans, her 2004 pairing with frequent collaborator Yoshida Tatsuya (of Ruins) for the Tzadik label. According to the notes, other than a 2013 show in NYC with Tom Rainey, she can’t recall even performing in duo with a drummer in the intervening time. For those of us who’ve fallen under Fujii’s creative spell, that makes this CD a special occasion, and the union doesn’t disappoint. By now, it makes no sense to compare Fujii to other pianists, but it can’t hurt to say that folks who dig Cecil Taylor, Marylin Crispell, Matthew Shipp, Myra Melford, and Paul Bley will likely find much to love here. To not short-shrift Lopez, parts of Confluence made me think of Misha Mengelberg in duo with Han Bennink, and that’s wonderful. A

Lafayette Gilchrist, Dark Matter (Creative Differences / Lafayette Gilchrist Music) Gilchrist is a gem of a pianist. Along with leading his own groups the New Volcanoes and the Sonic Trip Masters All Stars plus representing a third of the collective outfit Inside Out, he’s been David Murray’s choice on the keys for over a decade. He’s also noted for the influence of hip-hop and go-go in his playing, though he doesn’t apply these elements like a spice newly discovered by an amateur chef and then added to every dish they serve. As a Baltimore-DC area resident, Gilchrist acquired his love of go-go (and hip-hop) naturally, and yet on this solo CD (recorded live at the University of Baltimore’s Wright Theater) he reminds me as much of New Orleans; that his music has been used by David Simon for Treme is unsurprising. A

Heron, Sun Release (Self-released) Based in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Heron are a non-vocal trio specializing in glistening, soaring, and intermittently distorted post-rock. The grand sweep of their trajectories could inspire one to call them cinematic, which is perhaps an overused term. It’s not that Heron’s stuff conjures imagery, as in noir or action or horror-suspense, but rather that it all seems generally solid for the purposes of soundtracking. Fitting given their locale and choice of name (maybe taken from the Pennsylvania Blue Heron) and even the album’s title, Sun Release does connect as an um, natural fit for accompanying the scenic. It’s that grandness, which is largely kept from getting too grandiose. I like it best when they bear down, as in “Gravity Shift.” CD/ digital out now, LP out 9/15 B+

Modern Studies and Tommy Perman, Emergent Slow Arcs (Fire) A designer, video maker, sound artist and arranger, Perman’s works are as likely to be glimpsed in a gallery or instillation as a record store. He’s previously created audio with Modern Studies’ Rob St. John as Water of Life, but Emergent Slow Arcs lacks the give and take of collab. Instead, it’s Perman reimagining, reassembling, and reinventing Modern Studies’ 2018 Welcome Strangers into an undeniably new thing, and hence the anagram title. There’s a bit of ambiguity in the PR as to whether or not the band even knew Perman was undertaking this endeavor; more clearly, there was worry Modern Studies wouldn’t care for the results, which are decidedly electronically abstract. They dug and so do I, but not as much as the source album. B+

Victims, The Horse and Sparrow Theory (Relapse) Playing a blend of hardcore, d-beat and crust, Sweden’s Victims have been active since 1997 with a sizable but far from unwieldy discography. This is their first for Relapse. I was tempted to say that alongside Cherubs above, this is another example of the label’s reaching beyond the strains of extreme metal, but in reality the combo of styles outlined at the start of this review can at times be difficult to differentiate from the sound for which Relapse is known (the guttural utterings have a lot to do with it). So here we are. Said genre mix also had me prepared for a high level of pessimistic hopelessness, and the album sorta delivers, but the highlight “We Fail,” with its extended samples from a talk on climate change, is quite a socially engaged excursion. I like that. B+

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