Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
August 2019, Part One

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Werner Durand with Amelia Cuni and Victor Meertens, Processions (besom presse) Here’s the first record, a double LP, from a new label based in Los Angeles that’s devoted to experimental sounds, with the focus, at least thus far, on the eternal drone (their second release is covered directly below). Durand is a composer, performer, and instrument-maker, his partner Cuni is a dhrupad singer, and Meertens is a visual artist, though he’s an instrumentalist here; specifically, he hammers a guitar (think dulcimer) on these four side-long tracks in just-intonation. Long passages are like the guitars of Sonic Youth in abstract/ outside mode mingling with the potent extendedness of La Monte Young. But Cuni’s voice and Durand’s horns instill substantial uniqueness to this stellar collab. A

David Watson and Tony Buck, Ask the Axes (besom presse) Buck is percussionist for Aussies The Necks, here joining experimental Highland Bagpiper Watson in a duo of striking intensity and distinctiveness. Like the above LP, it should bring drone lovers much joy. Watson begins the 22-minute A-side “Beating” with a deep bedrock tone and matters just gradually get thicker and richer from there. Rather than strive for elongated sounds himself, Buck’s contributions are recognizable as percussion, but often cyclical, which is as cool as kittens. It’s Buck’s snare that commences the 19-minute B-side “Exhale,” and I’m tempted to say he’s the dominant presence on the track, though Watson’s playing wiggles and hangs in the air quite beautifully. The conclusion is wonderful. This is quite the way to start a label. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Live at Woodstock (Craft) I don’t know about you, but when I think of Woodstock (which admittedly isn’t all that often, though as the festival nears its 50th birthday, it’s been entering my mind a bit more frequently of late) I don’t think of CCR. This general non-association is due to the band not being included in the film or on its soundtrack, by their (or we should clarify, John Fogerty’s) choice. But in fact, they were top billed on the fest’s Saturday night, though they didn’t hit the stage until after midnight due to the Grateful Dead playing an extra long set (of course they did). While the appearance of the group’s complete performance on 2LP, CD and digital isn’t a revelation, I, like nearly everybody else, am just getting to hear it all, and it’s a sweet earful.

What I have heard, is a LOT of CCR in my life; in fact, other than The Beatles, there may not be a band I’ve heard more. This is largely because they are (arguably, though I don’t know how many counter examples could be reasonably broached) the most adaptable of the classic rock acts. I like ‘em. Chances are good you like ‘em. And you, and you. Hippies like ‘em. Punks like ‘em, too. My Mom likes ‘em. Surely there are folks who don’t like ‘em, but that contingent doesn’t seem to be very vocal in their opposition. The thing that makes Live at Woodstock such an immediate treat is the fresh twists on songs that are branded into my (and likely your) memory banks, plus a few surprises, like “The Night Time is the Right Time” from Green River, and very productive stretch-outs of “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Suzie Q.” A-

Ami Dang, Parted Plains (Leaving) South Asian-American vocalist, sitarist, composer and producer Amrita “Ami” Kaur Dang is based in Baltimore. She has two prior albums, Hukam and Uni Sun, and is half of Raw Silk with cellist Alexa Richardson; their S/T debut came out last year. Parted Plains is described as being “strictly sitar and electronics,” and upon listening, that’s bullseye. But hey. If you’re worried that it’s going to be a bunch of buppy retro-dance-exotica, nah. Dang has studied North Indian classical in New Delhi along with holding a degree in music technology and composition from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. Now, if reading that leads you to wonder if the sitar is going to somehow take on a less prominent role, also nah.  At a few points, it’s like there’s a goddamn swarm of sitarists. Yes! A-

Deadbeat Beat, How Far (Arrowhawk / Crystal Palace) Deadbeat Beat’s Bandcamp profile is a study in terseness: “two guys and a girl.” From Detroit, they are Maria Nuccilli of Outrageous Cherry (she plays drums and sings), Alex Glendening of Tyvek (he plays guitar, sings, and writes the songs), and Zak Frieling (he plays the bass). Given Nuccilli’s psych-pop activity and Glendening’s punk leanings (he’s also lent a hand to the reactivated Moles and to the work of fellow Detroiter Stef Chura), one might gather a rough idea of what How Far is about. But in my case, the notion was only partially accurate. Produced by Fred Thomas, the jangle-strum is hearty and the songs spring from a post-Brian Wilson place, with the overall vibe a bit like early Elephant 6 blended with ’80s Flying Nun. I wholeheartedly approve. A-

floral print, S/T (Tiny Engines) This Atlanta-based three-piece has a few prior records out, and it shows in the sharpness of their attack, which is angular, indeed mathy at numerous points across this cassette EP, which offers four longer tracks and a couple shorter numbers for a tidy but satisfying sum. The instrumental adeptness is ample, as this is a trio at work, but there is also a pop sensibility happening here, more specifically a guitar pop (not indie pop) approach. It comes through strong in closer “viridian,” which makes the group a little less easy to peg. That’s good, but not great; the songs are solid, not amazing. Others have mentioned an emo angle in floral print’s geometry, and I’m sure that’s right (I get a smidge of a Saddle Creek vibe), but I feel the math and the pop more. And that’s nice. B+

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Bizarre Years (Real Gone) Last year, when Manifesto Records issued Hawkins’ complete recordings for the Bizarre label on a 2CD titled Are YOU One of Jay’s Kids?, I concluded my assessment in this column thusly: “An edited comp would’ve been way preferable…” The ellipsis indicates that a “fair amount of fun” was on offer with that set. This 10-track vinyl offering is a tidier affair, and it is preferable; indeed, I do feel like I’m having more fun, though I’ve kinda determined that the leap in enjoyment isn’t as great as I surmised it would be. While the aura of schtick remains, The Bizarre Years is easier to swallow, obviously because it’s not a three-album banquet. Two covers of Tom Waits are here, as is Hawkins’ concluding ode to Twin Peaks actress Sherilyn Fenn. B+

John Lee Hooker, The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker (Craft) As this column has been extant for a few years now, variations on reissued material (truncations, expansions) are becoming more frequent (as in the Hawkins’ reissue directly above), and the same is true for multiple editions of the same releases. Such is the case with the great bluesman Hooker’s ’59 debut for Riverside, which I covered here in 2017 when offered by the Cornbread label. Here it is again via Craft Recordings, an enterprise with consistent attentiveness to quality making it worthwhile to mention this one again, wherein Hooker dives into an acoustic folk-blues environment for the first time. I tend to appreciate the man most when he’s wild and bent and electric, but this side trip unfolds as more than okay, with the vocal richness standing out. B+

Roselit Bone, Crisis Actor (Get Loud Recordings) If asked to guess where this band hangs their lids, I wouldn’t’ve picked Portland, OR. My speculations over from whence this country-punk sprang would’ve been Texas or Southern California. And the latter’s not far off actually, as the eight-piece outfit’s Charlotte McCaslin (a founding member) got a hearty dose of roots punk in Cali clubs back in the day before jetting up the coast for less anarchic climes. Part of Roselit Bone’s thing has been tagged as Marty Robbins meets The Cramps, and I can hear it, though this LP doesn’t sustain the heights that pairing suggests. More importantly, there’s range, as I heard flashes of twisted-countrypolitan, Roy Orbison and more. It adds up to a good time, a la the rougher side of the Bloodshot stable. B+

Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes, Astral Traveling & Cosmic Funk (Real Gone) Keyboardist Smith is probably remembered most today for his contribution to a major string of Pharoah Sanders’ albums, plus Miles Davis’ On the Corner and Big Fun, though he emerged on the scene in the mid-’60s via three fine LPs by Roland Kirk; he’s also on Gato Barbieri’s The Third World and Sonny Simmons’ oft-overlooked Burning Spirits from ’71. I qualify the above statement because Smith’s was prolific as a leader with the Cosmic Echoes, amassing over a dozen records, with Astral Traveling, cut in ’73 for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label, the first. It’s sometimes understandably described as part of the decade’s fusion happenings, but really, the best way to categorize it is as a spiritual endeavor.

There’s a whole lot of soaring and gliding, but overall Astral Traveling is robust enough to please fans of Sanders and Alice Coltrane. And in “I Mani (Faith)” saxophonist George Barron takes it outside, reminding me of Sanders’ avant-leanings very much. While I do dig, it’s not enough to elevate the record to classic status. But is it a keeper? Yes. It shouldn’t be difficult to ascertain the stylistic direction Cosmic Funk takes, though it’s not as direct of a move as it might seem. The record features vocals from Smith’s brother Donald. I dig his cracked screams in the opening title track, but his smooth crooning elsewhere? Nope. Especially not during the version of “Naima.” And yet the modal throwdown of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” is a treat. Can you say mixed bag? Also, Smith’s taste in knit caps is impressive. B+/ B-

Richard Thompson, Across a Crowded Room – Live at Barrymore’s 1985 (Real Gone) I consider myself a fan of Richard Thompson, but not at the level of intensity where I owned the 18-song laserdisc edition (or the VHS, for that matter) of this show from Barrymore’s in Ottawa, CA on April 10, 1985. I do own a copy of the studio album that’s referenced in the title of this 2CD. Thompson was touring in support of that record with a band featuring multi-instrumentalist Clive Gregson of Any Trouble, backing vocalist Christine Collister, drummer Gerry Conway of Fotheringay and Pentangle, and bassist Rory McFarlane. This release adds two songs to the video edition’s total and completes that evening’s set. It quickly establishes and sustains a high standard, with the songwriting choice and the execution blade sharp.

There are of course highlights, with “Shoot Out the Lights,” “Wall of Death,” and “The Wrong Heartbeat” fitting the bill on disc one. Later on, “For Shame of Doing Wrong” and “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” deliver a combo wallop. It might register to heavy-duty fans that I’m giving short shrift to the record Thompson and crew were out on the road promoting, but as said, everything here sounds more than fine, even the Gregson’s tune “Summer Rain,” which opens disc two. To expand a bit, the band’s sound really gets to the heart of the mid-’80s blend of post-New Wave, college radio rock, elevated pop songwriting, and touches of what would soon be known as Americana, though one of the treats is how much this set rocks, and notably in an extended dive into “Tear-Stained Letter.” A-

UV-TV, Happy (Deranged) My intro to Gainesville, FL’s UV-TV came via a 2015 split 45 with Los Angeles’ Shark Toys on the Emotional Response label. I dug that one, but have lost track of this band’s activity since, which includes an LP prior to this one, even though I mentally noted to keep my ears open and eyes peeled. For that, I am sorry, for myself, as I have some catching up to do. Part of the reason I’d wanted to keep track of UV-TV is their locale, as Florida might not be a hotbed of punk action, but when the state’s stuff is good, it can be great; e.g. Roach Motel and especially The Eat. I was going to say that UV-TV aren’t at that point yet, but shit, they’re damn close, managing a wholly effective LP of non-generic punk toughness that’s enhanced with some indie pop action and even a smidge of shoegaze. A-

V/A, Infinite Futures (Full Spectrum) While the besom presse label above is just getting started, Full Spectrum has been at it now for a decade, and this release, available digitally and as a double cassette, celebrates the occasion with nearly two hours of experimental creativity. The notes for the collection observe that some folks might find it hard to tidily categorize what exactly Full Spectrum’s thing is, but that’s OK, for as these selections unwind it’s clear that the label knows what’s up. It’s undeniably avant-garde, but not academic. Rather, the spirit of DIY is tangible throughout. More to the point is a sustained atmosphere of cooperation, as the four sides are loaded with the byproduct of duos, trios and groups. Some passages are disruptive, while others are ambient. Nothing disappoints. Here’s to ten more. A-

Derek Hunter Wilson, Steel, Wood, & Air (Beacon Sound) This is Portland, OR composer-pianist Wilson’s second LP (Travelogue from 2017 was his first), but it’s my introduction to his work, which is described as being impacted by neoclassical (which makes sense, given his instrument) and the early releases on the ECM label (considering the prominence of Keith Jarrett in ECM’s discography, this is also not a surprise). Both sides of this equation are discernible as Steel, Wood, & Air plays, but in addition to piano, the ten pieces feature bass clarinet and strings, which really helps to distinguish this from the standard air of crisp neoclassical prettiness, which can become innocuous or aggressively inspirational (i.e. annoying). Instead, this occasionally brought minimalism to mind, and via the horns, Dicky Landry. A-

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