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

NEW RELEASE PICK: YUNGMORPHEUS and Fumitake Tamura, Mazal (Leaving) This hip-hop collab, with YUNGMORPHEUS the Los Angelino rapper and Tamura the Japanese-based producer, is distinguished by a persistent druggy aura. Bent and hazy, nothing here registers as fast (even the tracks with prominent jazz samples/ loops), which isn’t the same as a lack of urgency. YUNGMORPHEUS’ vocal delivery can be described as heavy-lidded, though I kinda prefer the descriptor of monotone; it contrasts productively with subject matter that touches on getting high but is just as concerned with the current nightmarish reality that is the USA and surviving as a black man within it. Mazal is dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s bleak. Its ten instrumental tracks add to its wonderfully twisted sum, and it’s all right up my alley. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Strangeloves, I Want Candy (Real Gone) Now this vinyl reish is very useful, as the only copies I’ve ever laid eyes on were badly battered and beaten, indeed essentially unplayable; this edition of 1,000 is sure to go quick. The Strangeloves are the story of music biz cats Richard Gottehrer, Jerry Goldstein, and Bob Feldman cravenly striving for hits and coming up with a few, most notably the title-track here, but also “Cara-Lin” and “Night-Time” (both included, as well). They also cut the original “Hang On Sloopy” (here, also) and were directly involved in the rerecording by The McCoys (that version is absent). One way to inaptly describe this LP is as authentic (they faked it as Australians, for one thing), but it is a fine dose of pre-Sgt. Pepper’s stoopid-doopid pop-rock. A-

Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock Sunday August 17, 1969 (Real Gone) Last week it was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s concise Woodstock set getting the vinyl treatment and the archival pick. This week it’s the Airplane’s comparatively sprawling (well, an hour and 40 minutes, anyway) Sunday morning set spread across three LPs and released in its entirety for the first time (only one tune was on the original 3LP), though I’m certain it’s also included on Rhino’s upcoming Woodstock box set, which totals 38 CDs, and purports to offer nearly every note played at the festival, even the shitty ones. There aren’t many, or in fact hardly any, shitty notes in the Airplane’s performance for the early morning risers; 7 a.m., it says. Nicky Hopkins even roused himself out of slumber (if ever he went to sleep) to join them.

However, the band was right on the cusp of releasing Volunteers, which isn’t my favorite album from the band. Not even close. Still, after an intro from Grace, they give Fred Neil’s “Other Side of This Life” a nice rocking out, which instills a positive forward motion that helps to offset a few of the weaker moments. There may have been hardly any bum notes, but there are peaks and valleys of quality throughout. Fortunately, there are more ups than downs (there’s also a little audio roughness early on). “Wooden Ships” starts out…well, it starts out like “Wooden Ships,” and then morphs into something special. After 21 minutes, it’s over. But really, this takes the morsel once provided of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock and with a snap and a bang turns it into a deluxe picnic-style spread. B+

By the Spirits, Visions (Eisenwald) Hailing from the “mystic woods of the Lower Silesia and ancient Ślęża mountain,” this is one Michał Krawczuk, his work “inspired by Nature, Death and Spirituality” (and also “ancient magick”). It’s mystical folk. One could call it dark folk. To shed even more light on what’s happening here, there is a cover of Coil’s “Fire of the Mind.” It’s also important to note that Visions is a comp, but one with three new songs, the Coil track and two alternate versions of already released tunes. That means if you’re a By the Spirits nut, you’ll need to contemplate whether or not this warrants purchase. But hey, this record is intended to spread the global word on Krawczuk’s thing. While I’m not blown away, I’m kinda into it, especially when it hits like a combo of ’80s goth and neo-psych. B+

Che Apalache, Rearrange My Heart (Free Dirt) I’m no purist, but sometimes reading about unusual musical hybrids leads me to be a little cautious. I’ll confess that was the case here, as Che Apalache is a self-described fusion of Latin and US roots music, with bluegrass a major part of the equation. It’s fiddler-vocalist Joe Troop (from the USA), guitarist Franco Martino (from Argentina), mandolinist Martín Bobrik (also from Argentina) and banjoist Pau Barjau (from Mexico). Produced by Béla Fleck, sonically this is a full-bodied affair, but it’s also as smooth and cool as a marble countertop. It’s really quite close to the refined modern bluegrass Americana sensibility of which Fleck is a major figure. And so, my response to Rearrange My Heart was initially a bit muted, a circumstance that somewhat persists.

But there are a few aspects that helped put this one partially in the favorable column. In terms of execution, this is considerably more than just bluegrass and Latin simmering in a style pot. The influences listed by Free Dirt: Uruguayan murga, candombe, flamenco, mountain gospel, Spanish Sephardic Jewish music. Plus, Rearrange My Heart address contemporary social issues like immigration and religious fundamentalism, and more generally, per Free Dirt is invested in “challenging hateful narratives.” I’ll also note that Troop is homosexual in a scene that hasn’t been historically accepting of queer artists. And so, along with the sharp playing, a percentage of this (particularly the gospel portions) won me over. Note: the CD is out this week, the 150gm LP in September. B

Disturbed Furniture, “Continuous Pleasures” (Arevarc) This is five new songs from a reactivated NYC band that was part of the ’80s Club 57 scene. They featured vocalist-keyboardist Alexa Hunter back then and they feature her now, alongside Jorge Arevalo on guitar, Mick Oakleaf on drums, and Shin Sakaino on bass. The bio says Hunter tracked down original members still in NYC for Disturbed Furniture’s return to action (which was inspired by a MoMA retro on Club 57), though I’m unsure who here besides Hunter plays on the self-released 45 from 1981; I’m going to guess Oakleaf, as there is a Micki Crash on the 7-inch. These songs are frankly not as good as the old stuff, but Hunter’s early-days association with Ann Magnuson gets fleshed-out, and that’s alright. There is arty pop, rocking out and a political finale. B

Janie Fricke, It Ain’t Easy – The Complete Hits (1979-1988) (Real Gone) This one is far outside my wheelhouse, but I did hear a lot of Fricke as a kid as she dominated the ’80s country charts. Her pre-Billy Sherrill work is essentially mainstream pop. Make that very mainstream pop; over a half-dozen tracks breeze by here before a pedal steel emerges. Fricke’s voice is strong throughout, but of course the material varies, and her best moments are the cheatin’ and heartbreak ballads in the latter portion of disc one. But hey, “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” is up-tempo (and reminiscent of Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts.”). That leaves a whole lot of stuff that just slides by innocuously or melodramatically or soaked in production syrup. And yet, her duet With Merle Haggard is solid. B-

Gerbils, Are You Sleepy (Elephant 6) Gerbils were part of the Elephant 6 shebang, though probably not a key star in the outline of that scene’s constellation. However, as the band is reliably overlooked when folks contemporaneously consider that pocket of the ’90s-’00s indie landscape (to be fair, a lot of acts comprised that scene), I’d say this alb from 1998, their first of two, counts as a welcome reissue. They notably featured Scott Spillane and Jimmy Barnes in the lineup, with both very important to the Neutral Milk Hotel side of the Elephant 6 trajectory, though this set moseys nearer to Rob Schneider’s side of the equation, but more adenoidal and like a big wad of bubblegum that’s been rolled in dryer lint. This new edition also gets Elephant 6 back in motion as a label, with more on tap, and that’s exciting. B+

Horseburner, The Thief (Ripple) Like many contempo metal acts, this four-piece has chalked-up a fair amount of live shows both at home (Parkersburg, WV) and on tour. Formed in 2008, they have a pair of EPs followed by the full-length Dead Seeds, Barren Soil from 2016. There have been lineup changes along the way, but on this follow-up and first for Ripple (and my introduction to their work) Horseburner strike the ear as quite the cohesive unit. The impact of the Sludge and Doom subgenres is evident as The Thief’s nine tracks unwind (totaling a highly digestible “classic” vinyl runtime), but they also flat-out rock in a manner that reminds me a bit of 1980s metal and with hints of prog, as well. The chunky hard-charging thunder and intertwined guitars of “The Oak” stands out. They also like extending a bit. B+

Steve Goodman, Santa Ana Winds & Unfinished Business (Omnivore) By the time Santa Ana Winds came out in 1984 as the third release on Goodman’s own label Red Pajamas, the man had passed due to leukemia. Now, folks with a cursory knowledge of Goodman’s career might suspect the record would possess rushed, stressed or incomplete qualities, but it’s cited by Lee Zimmerman in this CD reissue’s booklet notes as the most polished collection of tunes he ever made (this is perhaps arguable, as I recall a few of the late ’70s Asylum discs being in the same ballpark). A marked difference is that Santa Ana Winds is a country album, although one with a few eccentric touches, like a version of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” that style shifts from straight folk to sophisto jazz. This jazzy aura continues in the title track.

As it plays, it’s unsurprising that a sizable percentage of Goodman fans have long loved its contents, but I can’t say I share the same level of enthusiasm. In fact, I’m much more taken with the bonus tracks, or at least the six that are solo acoustic (Goodman’s mellowness does shine through, though). This leaves us with some true Unfinished Business, which by Zimmerman’s admission in the liners is a hodgepodge of live stuff, radio cuts and unused studio material. It doesn’t get off to the strongest of starts, in part because Goodman was wading (well, at times more like plunging) into some pretty commercial territory in search of a hit. There are some jarring transitions, but they ultimately reinforce the record’s scrapbook quality. Amongst it all, the live version of “The Dutchman” stands out as a gem. B/ B

Leech, Data Horde (Peak Oil) In electronic music terms, Brian Foote’s been around for a good long time, but his project Leech is a relatively new proposition; this is its first full-length, anyway. There is an earlier 12-inch and cassette release, neither of which I’ve heard, though I’m curious, as the inspirations here, namely drum ‘n’ bass, acid and jungle, are dealt with appealingly. While there’s obvious love for these intertwining subsects of the same electronic impulse, Foote never goes full-blown raver nostalgic. And he really hits an apex in the record’s closer “Bit Rot,” which skitters and sizzles and echoes for a while, and then, a little over two minutes in, dishes out some reverberating low bass before blending two cyclical motifs, one which sounds totally new and the other resonating like it was ripped from 1992. A-

Total Hate, Throne Behind a Black Veil (Eisenwald) I’m going to be blunt. This really hasn’t been the best week to check out a record by a band named Total Hate, especially one with a track titled “Thou Shalt Kill (Killing Spree Unleashed).” However, this is black metal, certainly misanthropic, but not exactly unsettling as it plays (that I feel that way might bum these heavily made-up Germans out). It all comes from a band that’s been at it for 19 years. Really, setting this record aside makes about as much sense as blaming actual mass killings on violent video games, and only an asshole would do that. But enough. Total Hate have their sound down pat; it’s lithe, the guitars roar, the drums flail and thump, and there’s a whole lot of fucking growling going on. The whole is a bit long for my tastes, though. B+

Akiko Tsuruga, Jeff Hamilton, Graham Dechter, Equal Time (Capri) The booklet notes for this CD make it clear it offers a thoroughly accessible organ-trio jazz groove fest, with the Japanese-born Tsuruga at the keyboard, Hamilton on drums, and Dechter on guitar. While I can be finicky over this subgenre to the point where my viewpoints can seem esoteric, overall this set goes down pretty well, mainly because of Tsuruga’s approach. She neither succumbs to note spillage nor does she get too liquidy, though I could’ve handled a little more funk grease in her approach. See what I mean by esoteric? Hamilton’s crisp playing is perfect for this sorta thing, and ditto Dechter’s clean-toned style, which resists getting too flashy. Still, a few tunes impact my ear as too light. Note I didn’t say too smooth. B+

Ungfell, Tôtbringære (Eisenwald) More black metal from Eisenwald, with this set reissuing the 2017 full-length debut by this Swiss outfit; while there seems to have been an LP pressed that year in an addition of 50, this is the first time it’s been widely available on vinyl. Apparently, the only permanent member is one Menetekel, who along with handling the vocals, which are appropriately shrieky amid a general sense of the demonic, plays guitar, bass, and…accordion. A few cuts here, like the “hey, wait a minute” opener “Viures Brunst,” throw waaaaayyyyy back in a folk-ritual style, which aligns with the album’s dominant topic of witchcraft. There are acoustic passages and even a little jaw harp in “Der Ozsieche und sine Grimmede.” The instrumental variety really helps put this one in the positive column. B+

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