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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Oiseaux-Tempëte, From Somewhere Invisible (Sub Rosa) Described as an evolving collective rather than a band, Oiseaux-Tempëte (translates as Storm Petrels) was formed in 2012 by multi-instrumentalists Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul. This recorded incarnation features vocalist G.W. Sok formerly of The Ex, electronic producer Mondkopf, drummer Jean-Michel Pirès of Bruit Noir, violinist Jessica Moss of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, and multi-instrumentalist and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart. It was Moumneh who initiated this lineup by inviting the quintet of Oberland, Pigneul, Mondkopf, Pirès and Sok to Canada for live shows, with Jerusalem In My Heart reforming to play alongside them.

This is presumably how Moss, who’s based in Canada, got involved. She’s a welcome addition to an ensemble sound that covers a wide range of possibilities as the tracks, a few of them lengthy, unfurl. To call From Somewhere Invisible experimental is fitting, but the collective’s thrust is also quite structural, but with a looseness that never quite tips over into spark-of-the-moment improvisation. Horns emerge, as do electronics, and the way Sok speaks rather than sings really reinforces this as an intellectually vibrant art-rock shebang. We could also call it a post-rock throwdown, but in doing so I feel it’s necessary to specify that this record, had it not been issued by Sub Rosa, could’ve easily fit on the roster of Constellation Records (Moss and Moumneh obviously help promote this observation). A

Dopolarians, Garden Party (Mahakala Music) A spectacular CD of avant-jazz from a new label, with an undercurrent of sadness, as it documents the final studio recording of percussionist Alvin Fielder. He’s joined here by tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, alto man Chad Fowler (who also plays a little saxello), bassist extraordinaire William Parker, pianist Christopher Parker, and vocalist Kelly Hurt. As said, Garden Party is inextricably tied to the avant-garde, but don’t get the idea that this is a big group exhale of freedom’s breath (worry not, there are a few sweet blasts). This is a compositionally rich batch of music (totaling just over an hour), with three of the six selections credited to Fowler. Everything maintains a high level of quality, but Hurt’s title track, complete with warm storytelling, nearly steals the show. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: The Springfields, Singles 1986-1991 (Slumberland) Part of Slumberland’s lasting appeal is in how they thrived as part of an indie pop trajectory that continues right up to now, with the label, as listed below, making worthy contempo contributions to the style. The imprint is also psyched to share influences and enthusiasms, which is what’s happening with this comp. The Springfields were Chicago based and featured Ric Menck and Paul Chastain, two dudes likely better known for the band Velvet Crush. The glorious post-Byrds jangle pop collected here was released by labels including Sarah of the UK, so take that as a sign of quality. Also cool is that the comp opens with both sides of the “This Perfect Day” 45 by pre-Springfields Menck/ Chastain outfit Choo-Choo Train. A

Scott H. Biram, Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram (Bloodshot) At his best, which is intermittent on the records of his I’ve spent time with, Biram actually cashes the check that almost always bounces whenever the Psychobilly genre rears it’s head (complete with ridiculously quiffed hairdo). He’s more than that however, as this set compiling his bent and wildly inspired gospel material makes plain. If you’re nutsoid for the guy’s stuff there’s only one unreleased cut, but it’s a doozy as he tackles the Louvin Brothers’ “Broadminded” in full-blown country style. Biram works best here with sanctified blues stuff, including a couple tunes associated with Son House and Rev. Gary Davis. Distorted and flailing, what Biram dishes can be aptly categorized as Psychogospel. A-

Brume, Rabbits (Magnetic Eye) This San Fran doom metal trio works a distinct angle of hybridization, as bassist Susie McMullan’s vocals effectively conjure the qualities of a bold art chanteuse. The stylistic references cited by the band are Bjork and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons; I hear more of the latter as the unit, completed by guitarist-vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins, does an effective job of mingling this facet (and just this facet; there are some strings and piano, but no electronics) with their metallic thrust (rather than just stitching the aspects together). Brume’s heaviness is well-honed, as this is their third release (not counting a split EP with Witch Ripper) and the riffs resist the hackneyed. This is important, as they like to stretch out; were talking five tracks breaking 40 minutes. Solid stuff. B+

Dumb Things, Time Again (Coolin’ By Sound) Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, this five-piece, comprised of four guys and one gal, satisfactorily deliver the sort of crisply chiming guitar-pop that has become something of specialty in their homeland since the Go-Betweens and The Apartments. The band calls it hangover pop, and this is their second full-length following a self-titled debut in 2017. If connected to their stylistic Aussie forebears (and ’80s indie pop in general with a few similarities to the fledgling Flying Nun sound) and a handful of current acts, Dumb Things also have ties to the melodic indie ’90s, if not any particular band. Well, in “Today Tonight” Madeleine Keinonen’s vocals (a welcome recurring facet; she also plays one of the band’s three guitars) did strike me a bit like Camera Obscura, but less twee. B+

Jessica Ekomane, Multivocal (Important) This is Ekomane’s debut LP, released in an edition of 500, and it’s drawn comparisons to such contempo names as Caterina Barbieri, Alessandro Cortini, Shasta Cults, and ELEH. I’m currently familiar with the first two of those names, and can surely absorb the relationship, but to my ear, the sounds she’s making are somewhat timeless, as there is a reliance on repetition, or more specifically, there are pulses that commence with a one millisecond difference in tempo and then begin to gradually phase organically and move through a progression of rhythmic patterns (though the incessance of the pulse remains) before returning to where it started. If having heard this ignorant of any background and told it originated in the 1970s, I sure I would’ve believed it. A-

Failed Flowers, “Faces” b/w “Broken Screen” (Slumberland) This entry in Slumberland’s 30th Anniversary Singles Club series features Fred Thomas, an august name in the annals of US indie pop through his work as leader of Saturday Looks Good to Me, and Anna Burch, who landed on my radar last year via Quit the Curse, her full-length debut. Burch’s involvement with Failed Flowers predates that record, as she replaced Autumn Wetli in the group. The a-side here is the first song Burch brought to Failed Flowers, though it derives from the group’s most recent sessions, and it reminds me a little of Amelia Fletcher (of Heavenly) but dreamier, and that’s cool. The flip has Fred singing, and it has the sort of jangle verve that could’ve landed it in another singles series, namely K Records International Pop Underground. A-

Lake Ruth, “Extended Leave” b/w “Strange Interiors” (Slumberland) Here’s the other Slumberland 30th Anniversary Singles Club entry, and it diverts from expectations a bit with satisfactory results. Lake Ruth was formed by multi-instrumentalist Hewson Chen, drummer Matt Schulz, and vocalist Allison Brice, with the expanded lineup including James Canty of The Make-Up and Ted Leo’s Pharmacists. The a-side blends synth-pop, dream-pop, and post-yé-yé sophisto-pop. Singing in English, Brice glides without getting too breathy, but maybe my favorite aspect is the synth, which comes off like an electrified scuba suit. That is to say, rubbery. The flip has some ’70s keyboard-synth action, a big beat, and more chanteuse vocals. I think I like it the best. Importantly, I’m interested in checking Lake Ruth’s LPs. B+

Anne Müller, Heliopause (Erased Tapes) I’m going to speculate that if a person plays the cello well and is open to collaboration, then the world, or at least the contempo music scene, is their oyster. Not exactly a bold statement, but I bring it up to highlight cellist Anne Müller’s first album as far from the tentative first steps of a nervous novice. Of course, most debuts offer a modicum of confidence, but Heliopause is strikingly assured, but again unsurprisingly so, as the artist has over 60 credits since she began recording in 2007 and has collaborated fairly extensively with Nils Frahm. Where a lot of contempo string-based stuff can get too cheerfully bright, Müller doesn’t have that problem. Folks averse to the overly melancholy (not me) shouldn’t worry, though. Overall, Heliopause is robust and wide-ranging. A-

Neuland, S/T (Self-released) Neuland is the project of Peter Baumann, who was in Tangerine Dream from 1971-’77, and Paul Haslinger who was in Tangerine Dream from 1985-’90. As I quite like TD’s early stuff, I’m familiar with the Baumann era, but I’m much less familiar with the period of Haslinger’s involvement, though I do know some of his more recent soundtrack work (e.g. Halt and Catch Fire). Given TD’s propensity for scoring while Haslinger was part of the group, it’s no surprise that he continued on that course, and in fact much of this rather sprawling if largely satisfying feature-length 2LP/ 2CD is suggestive of soundtrack material for dystopian thrillers; playing the CDs in the car could make a routine drive to the store for some milk into a far more tense experience. I say go for it. B+

Andrea Parkins & Matthew Ostrowski, Elective Affinities (Infrequent Seams) For this CD, Parkins and Ostrowski are credited with electronics (she additionally plays accordion and manipulates objects), as both of these New Yorkers are composers, installation artists and electroacoustic aces. This is their first time recording together, though they are far from strangers, and these eight selections offer a gripping journey into finely ordered abstraction. That’s gripping as in grab you by the fucking ears and drag you around your listening den; where the term electroacoustic can occasionally combine with sounds that are to varying degrees sparse, Elective Affinities raises a major racket (as appropriate for the times we are living in). But there are other moments less formidable but no less intriguing. Major stuff. A

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