Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Los Siquicos Litoraleños, Medianos Éxitos Subtropicales Vol. 2: El Relincho Del Tiempo (Hive Mind) From the rural north of Argentina comes a sound that’s gloriously weird. While the folk music of their home country is the bedrock, with the spirt of Tropicalia also present, there is detectible punk fuckery happening, though a better way of putting it is to say this reminds me a lot of The Residents. Once heard, it was a hard similarity to shake, but the group never sounded too much like the Eyeballers, and that really increased the impressiveness. Mixing new material with selections from the group’s extensive archive of home recordings probably aids in the strangeness retaining such a consistently high level of quality. There is a Vol. 1, released on tape in 2016, and it’s still available. A-

The Muffs, No Holiday (Omnivore) Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Kim Shattuck has left us far too soon, departing this mortal coil shortly before the release of this, her band’s seventh LP. Soaking up the 18 tracks drives home the solidity of the endeavor, which makes its release especially bittersweet. Shattuck was a rock scene lifer, playing in The Pandoras when this middle-ager was just discovering the whole ’80s u-ground rock shebang, and one thing about long-haulers is how they regularly exude a sorta careerist vibe, an understandable aura if one that’s often underwhelming. But not Shattuck. Her stuff, No Holiday’s stuff, a batch of songs written between ’91-’07, radiates love for ’60s-ish pop mixed with ’77 punk roar. It’s out on CD and 2LP but with a standard album length. RIP Kim, you’ll be missed. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Milton Delugg & His Orchestra, Music for Monsters, Munsters, Mummies & Other TV Fiends & The Munsters, S/T (Real Gone) Halloween is coming, don’tcha know. We’ll cover these two vinyl reissues now to give folks ample time to swipe copies for their upcoming costume soiree, and we’re going to group them together as that makes utter sense, though they do offer fairly distinct approaches to the holiday theme. The Delugg album can be considered as a cash-in, and a kitschy one at that, but it’s also a load of fun, leaning HARD into a ’60s TV theme-talk show big band sensibility that I find hard to resist. There are undisguised steals from Mancini, cuts reminiscent of or in direct reference to Neal Hefti and Vic Mizzy, plus a fair amount of non-crap organ stylings.

The Munsters is also a money grab, but it’s a Wrecking Crew-affiliated one, featuring Glen Campbell and Leon Russell in the studio. Produced by Joe Hooven and Hal Winn, the results are much closer to the youth sound and culture of ’64. It’s surfy with flurries of hot licks and hot rod sounds (the Jan & Dean-knockoff “(Here Comes the) Munster Coach” is borderline ridiculous, and that’s swank), references to Frankenstein wearing a Beatle wig, a vampire stripper scenario with saloon piano, Martin Denny-esque exotica, vocal contributions from the Go Gos (who are noted for their own ’64 LP), and more. Original copies go for hundreds, so this run of 1,000 on grey wax will surely please interested parties who don’t require a first press. The Delugg is a 900-copy edition on green vinyl with a cover by Jack Davis. B+/ B+

Béret, Jesus White (Born Yesterday) Although Born Yesterday is a Chicago label, Béret is Seattle-based Ian Kurtis Crist, with Jesus White described as a songwriting project. It’s Béret’s third album and the first I’ve heard. The feel is decidedly post-punk, though it’s more post-post-punk: hey, a few more posts and hyphens could be added on without overdoing it. The PR mentions the record’s lack of drums, but this aspect didn’t really stick out to me upon blind introductory listen, in part because the instrument is prominent in the back-to-back “Book of Hera” and “Relapse.” A comparison is also made to John Cale, and I heard that in “White Hole” (with some ’80s NYC art-rock blended in) but closer “World Revolves Around Me” hits like a DIY descendant of Lou. That’s swell. There are a few Fall vibes, also. B+

Bremer/McCoy, Utopia (Luaka Bop) These Danes, namely Jonathan Bremer playing acoustic bass and Morten McCoy on a few different models of keyboard, are releasing their fourth LP with Utopia (there is also a 7-inch), but I’m just getting familiar with their work now. Reading that they specialized in dub-jazz had me excited, but the sound is markedly different from what I was hoping for (though I’ll admit I never formed a specific expectation). Instead, as glistening keys and pretty melodies inspire thoughts of bright sunlight, crisp air, and snow-covered mountaintops, it’s all pretty solidly Nordic in my ear (this is something of a stereotype, I know). At times I was reminded of ECM, but a lot more often Windham Hill, and with far less dub than I was primed for. I wonder what the earlier stuff sounds like. B

Captain Cheesebeard, “Deadwood” (Mottow Soundz) This is an EP, but its four songs total over 30 minutes, so vinyl-loving Zappa-fans shouldn’t hesitate to take the plunge. I mention Frank because this outfit, formed by guitarist-vocalist Johan De Coninck, began as a Zappa tribute project ten members deep, and while the transition to original material began with the 2015 CD Symphony for Auto​-​Horns, the influence doth linger. As the impact seems to generally derive from post-Mothers stuff, this set is only going to moderately win me over, but in their favor, they don’t get too Zappa-ed out, as the mostly straightforward rock with a proggy glaze (and horns) avoids dipping into the sorta “edgy” humor that’s made much of Frank’s later work tough personal sledding. Ultimately, this one stands on its own. B

David J, Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infamy and Allure (Glass Modern) David J is best known for his bass playing in Bauhaus, where he contributed to a cornerstone achievement in Goth rock. Once that band broke up, he was part of Love and Rockets, who drifted away from the darkness and cobwebs toward the poppier side of ’80s neo-psych and early Alt-rock. He’s had an extensive solo career as well, with this 2LP his latest and a return to the reactivated Glass enterprise, as that label issued his second solo disc, the recently reissued Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh, way back in ’85 (there was also a singles comp On Glass). Like most double sets, his new one is too long (it clocks in at nearly 70 minutes),  but it simultaneously oozes the appeal of a dapper rock elder wrangling his artistic gush.

Missive has a slew of guests including Bad Seed Toby Dammit, Swan Paul Wallfisch, Luna’s Sean Eden, Czech violinist Karel Holas, the band Annabel (lee), Emily Jane White, and on “Migena and the Frozen Roses,” Asia Argento and Anton Newcombe. That one and “The Auteur (Redux/The Starlet’s Cut)” were pre-release singles, the latter somewhat atypical of the whole as it attains a literary-inclined pop-rock lushness with a nifty bit of cinematic throwback interplay between J and Rose McGowan at the close. Much of the rest of Missive reminds me quite a bit of Dylan, which is not a negative, though for me the Bob influence gets filtered through the highlight of the release, a gemlike cover of Peter Laughner’s “Baudelaire.” If too long, there are no duds, and that’s no small accomplishment. B+

Fletcher C. Johnson, Are You Feelin’ It (Cocomo) I’m moderately familiar with Johnson’s prior work, so I could recognize that his fourth solo record is a bit of a return to his earlier country-folk sound. Before going it alone, he was a member of The Weight, and the name of that band can give an inkling to what Johnson’s up to here, but the rootsy qualities get offset by a breezy sensibility that reminds me of ’70s singer-songwriter stuff. The return to acoustic instruments surely underlines the country-folk atmosphere (with some pedal steel helping out) but Johnson’s penchant for a pop tune hasn’t been cast aside (e.g. “Our Home”). At first, the record struck me as a little too breezy, but with a few spins the songs get their hooks in, and there’s an appealing, if fairly subtle, tinge of eccentricity. A grower. B+

Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue, The Collection & Reptiles In Motion (Rave On) Mick Ronson plays on Reptiles in Motion, recorded in ’79 and released for the first time this year, and his presence will understandably stir the interest of many. But that was the Rhode Island-native and then Connecticut-based Reale’s intended follow-up to Radioactive, his ’78 debut for the Big Sound label. The first one is a power-popping good time, with some ’77 punk muscle and a little street rockin’ flair, plus G.E. Smith on guitar, though he exited prior to the second album. The follow-up makes no appreciable changes to the approach; it just betters it a little through stronger songwriting (and Ronson doesn’t dominate the proceedings). The Collection has both records on CD, while Reptiles is available on vinyl. B+/ A-

Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra with Brooklyn Raga Massive, Ragmala – A Garden of Ragas (Meta) Composer, improviser and percussionist Rudolph is a veteran who leads numerous bands and is noted for his achievements in World Music; this 2CD totaling nearly two hours is destined to be one of the deepest notches on his musical belt. Combining his Go: Organic Orchestra, a 30-piece group that utilizes Rudolph’s original notation and conducting system, with the Brooklyn Raga Massive, previously praised in this column for their excellent CD Terry Riley In C, is a recipe for success, but Rudolph’s commitment to robust improvisational threads is the crucial baseline of quality. He’s played with such vital figures as Wadada Leo Smith, Muhal Richard Abrams, Pharaoh Sanders, and Fred Anderson.

Imagine that in the mid-’70s, instead of curdling into Spyro Gyra and The Yellowjackets, fusion had embraced Indian music and then went big band on a grand scale, and you have an idea of the goodness on offer here. But really, the initial sources for Rudolph’s splendid fusions span back to the 1950s; Ragmala – A Garden of Ragas is accompanied with a note of gratitude to Yusef Lateef and Don Cherry, “who opened the doors to the world for us all.” I’d say Cherry’s biggest impact comes via his globally infused work from the ’70s forward; Rudolph played with him and notably, another World Music pioneering trumpeter in Jon Hassell. There is a load of outstanding contemporary players on this set, Hamid Drake and Graham Hayes for two, but I especially dig the harp of Mia Theodoratus. A

Shepherds, Insignificant Whip (Arrowhawk) Shepherds are based in Atlanta and have been extent since 2011, though they haven’t exactly been prolific on the release front, as they’ve issued a cassette, a digital EP, and a lathe-cut 7-inch. I’d say this LP is poised to expose them to a wider audience, and particularly folks who get all charged up gazing at a Venn diagram focused on the UK ’80s with the big circles demarked post-punk and art-rock and two smaller ones indicating indie-pop and pop-auteurs, though Insignificant Whip is a band effort. Refreshingly, the songs aren’t a study in stylistic replication, as the noisy crescendo at the end of opener “Savor Your Sons” doesn’t easily fit the Reagan/ Thatcher-era scenario, unless we bring Sonic Youth into it. That’s just one example. Strong stuff. A-

Trixie & the Trainwrecks, “Too Good to Be Blue” b/w “Get Busy Living” (Voodoo Rhythm) Raw blues-rock, punk in spirit more than in sound. Trixie Trainwreck sings, plays guitar and handles the bass drum and hi-hat. Impressive. Charlie Hangdog blows the harmonica. This San Francisco and London by way of Berlin experience also features noted Headcoat Bruce Brand on drums, percussion stomps and claps, plus Alex McGowan and someone named Bow on “barking vocals.” The a-side is structurally similar to something Willie Dixon might’ve knocked off, with a sped-up midsection reminiscent of the Yardbirds. The flip digs deep into an incessant rootsy groove that feels descended from Fred McDowell’s electric stuff, though the prominent harp and Trixie’s unstrained vocals put me in a different place. B+

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