Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2020, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2020. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Caleb Dolister, Daily Thumbprint Collection 3, The Wandering (Orenda) Although this is a digital-only release, Queens, NYC-based composer and drummer Dolister announced on June 5, 2020, that he will be donating and personally matching the June Bandcamp sales (up to an amount of $1,500) of this album, which has been ten years in the making, with the recipient Equal Justice Initiative, an organization devoted to racial justice and equality. The PR text further adds that while the release of Daily Thumbprint is of major personal significance to Dolister, he also believes “this is a time to maintain awareness on changing social and systemic issues for the better.” So again, while there is no physical format for this set (at least not at this point), this lack is small potatoes next to the positivity of Dolister’s gesture. And as the music is a vivid blend of avant-prog, jazzy elements, and post-rock (the label mentions post-jazz), spreading the word is an easy thing to do.

Now, the styles cited might lead folks to the possibility that Daily Thumbprint is a formidable beast, but that’s really not the case, as Dolister’s temperament, if open to the expression of technical deftness, ultimately leans more toward the melodic than the thorny. Bluntly, I wouldn’t have minded a little more wildness, but Dolister’s thrust is still appreciated, and there is enough heaviness to counterbalance the pleasantness of the grand compositional sweep. There is also a wide range of instruments (the rock rudiments, assorted horns and strings, piano, Fender Rhodes, vibraphone, mandolin, and harp) integrated into the mix, and played by two dozen individuals and necessitating considerable travels by Dolister and illuminating the decade spent in creating it. As said, I would’ve been happy with some crazier detours, but the comparisons to Tortoise, Electric Masada, Jaga Jazzist and others feels right on the money to me. A few of the heavy rock moves remind me a bit of the Ipecac family of bands. A-

Let It Come Down, Songs We Sang in Our Dreams (Shimmy Disc / Joyful Noise) The musical output of Kramer has been with me for nearly as long as I’ve been into the underground scene, as has his myriad credits as a producer and label runner. He was a member of Bongwater at that time, and had just started Shimmy Disc, which issued records by a slew of notable acts ranging from King Missile to GWAR to Boredoms to Ween to Naked City to a handful of his collaborations with such major figures as Jad Fair, Ralph Carney, Penn Jillette and more. He was also a member of New York Gong and the excellent Shockabilly (with David Licht and Eugene Chadbourne) and toured with The Fugs, Butthole Surfers and B.A.L.L. His production credits range from Daniel Johnston to Urge Overkill to Galaxie 500 to Low to Will Oldham. There are also over a half dozen solo records, including three for John Zorn’s Tzadik label.

To say the guy has had a distinguished career is an understatement, but it also seems he’s been nowhere near as busy recently as he was in the 1980s-’90s. So, Joyful Noise’s announcement that Kramer is their 2020 artist in residence is excellent news. As part of the endeavor, he’s releasing five distinct LPs this year, which will be compiled in a box set that’s available for preorder now. And the five albums effectively reignite Shimmy Disc’s engine, which is a fine turn of events. Let It Come Down, his duo project with the UK vocalist Xan Tyler, is the first, and it’s a sweet dose of neo-psychedelia that ranges from dream-pop to folktronica to more glacially-paced indie-chamber-folk action to even a sweet bossa move, and it all flows together damn well. Tyler has worker previously as half of synth-poppers Technique (with Kate Holmes) and extensively with dub maestro Mad Professor, so she’s no novice. Kramer’s input is typically assured, with a few instances of his trademark found audio sampling. A-

Tim Buckley, The Dream Belongs to Me (Real Gone) The late Tim Buckley has not exactly been neglected in terms of reissues and archival releases. The best ones have focused on rather concentrated timeframes, such as live shows or demos from before the guy succumbed to one of the more disheartening creative nosedives of any musician who sustained a level of high quality and was awarded the admittedly ambiguous distinction of being great. This 2LP set is pretty evenly split between solid early Buckley and his subpar later stuff, as album one is a ’68 demo cut between Goodbye and Hello and Happy Sad and the second a ‘73 demo for the Sefronia album landing right in the midst of his late plunge into (with apologies to Andrew Sarris) Strained Soulfulness. That the later stuff is in demo form makes some of it easier to contend with, but the drop in worthiness is still substantial. Still, this set is definitely worthwhile for fans, as none of the songs from the first album are on Lady, Give Me Your Key. B

Electric Prunes, Release of an Oath (Real Gone) This band’s third album Mass in F Minor, the one before this one, features limited involvement by the legit Prunes, as composer arranger David Axelrod and the group’s producer Dave Hassinger felt compelled to bring in other musicians due to the music’s difficulty and time constraints. Garage hardliners often deride it a hunk of crud, but while overly ambitious to the point of pretension, it’s not really that bad. I wouldn’t even call it bad. It’s a damn sight better than The Beat Goes On by The Vanilla Fudge. But hey, this is all background to the specifics of Release of an Oath, which intensified Axelrod’s change of direction, decisions that were Hassinger-approved as he owned the name and could do whatever the fuck he wanted. What he (they) did is a Prunes’ record in name only, as no actual member from the first two albums plays on the thing.

Release of an Oath shares with its predecessor a component of religious ritual (complete with chanted incantations) that can be generously assessed as bogue and is the album’s weakest aspect, though it’s pretty easy to ignore, as much of the (very short) LP is given over to Axelrod’s now signature blend of lush orchestration, hard-hitting rhythmic action, and psych-rock guitar soling. And when those vocals do swim into the scheme, they often register as one part of an inherently studio-based architecture and are pretty easy to swallow. A big part of this album’s success derives from how the prior album’s replacement players were themselves nixed for a batch of session ringers that includes Don Randi on keyboards, Earl Palmer on drums and Carol Kaye on bass, whose big round lines of flowing sturdiness are an absolute delight. Palmer also gets busy at the kit without going overboard, but it’s the burning acid-rock guitar excursions of Howard Roberts and Lou Morrell that send matters right over the top. A-

Kleeer, Intimate Connection (Real Gone) Described by Real Gone as ’80s electro-funk, truer words were never spoken. Kleeer are also rated as a cult act by the label, which is possibly why I’ve not heard them prior to this review, though a bigger reason is that the style isn’t one I frequently (or even occasionally) turn to for kicks. I can surely appreciate the genre when it’s done nicely, and Kleeer, who were well-seasoned as an outfit by the release of Intimate Connection (their sixth album), effectively take care of business, but do so from a song-based R&B foundation rather than dishing the club grooves. This hasn’t stopped hip-hop producers from sampling this album, however. Also, five of the eight songs break five minutes, and nothing is shorter than four, so dancefloor spinning was likely still part of the idea (Eumir Deodato produced). At home, sitting down, a few of these cuts go on too long, even the opener “Ride It,” with Richard Lee’s guitar flourishes providing evidence of the band’s pre-Kleeer hard rock past. B+

Nihiloxica, Kaloli (Crammed Discs) Having released EPs in 2017 and last year on the noted label Nyege Nyege Tapes, this UK-Ugandan band follow them up with this set, which kicks with substantial rhythmic force and expands outward with robust techno elements, including the use of analog synth. The Ugandan side of the equation consists of four members of the Nilotika Cultural Ensemble, which is based in the capital city of Kampala and is as much a community youth outreach program as a band. There are live performances however, and these four ended up connecting with drummer and producer Spooky-J and engineer and synthesist pq (both from the UK) prior to the 2017 Nyege Nyege Festival. Combining live Ugandan drums with electronics, the results are loose but heavy (please check “Bwola,” which is a beast) and are brought to the turntable by the same folks who released Konono Nº1, so if you dig Congotronics, I’d say grab a copy of this one without hesitation. A-

Noveller, Arrow (Ba Da Bing!) As she creates some of the most compelling instrumental soundscapes on the current scene, guitarist and composer Sarah Lipstate has received ample praise in this column, both in long review and in the weekly New in Stores roundup. After a pair of albums and a reissue of some earlier work hitting shelves through Fire Records, she’s changed labels and moved from NYC to Los Angeles, and with these developments there is growth in her sound, as well. California? I’m not going to say she’s up and went laidback, but while in the past I always heard enough Fripp in her work to think of her and guitarist Dustin Wong as sharing a few stylistic attributes, with Arrow a few passages reminded me of, not another guitarist, but analog synth master Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. That’s cool as a basket full of cucumbers, but, even better, Lipstate has maintained enough of a grip on the New York-ish intensity of her earlier stuff so that it doesn’t feel like anything’s been lost. And so, terrific, all-around. A-

Kate NV, Room for the Moon (RVNG Intl.) Kate NV, aka Kate Shilonosova, is from Moscow, and her prior album for RVNG Intl., для FOR, reviewed in this column in September 2018, was a good one. Of its traits, one was synth-y art-pop (so said me at the time), which hasn’t evaporated but has instead morphed into a sort of bass heavy, saxophone infused sophisto but still street level urban neo-new wave that is well-served by the comparisons to Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Akiko Yano and Ann Steel. The press release explains how the initial sketches for Room for the Moon began before her prior album’s release and that she eventually reevaluated her approach away from a composer and Buchla synth-based set of music and toward a more pop-oriented direction. One result is that, while there was only one song with vocals on для FOR, she sings a whole lot here, and it all comes together very nicely. Too often, records of this stripe can sound (often deliberately) thin, but these tracks have considerable heft. Quite a treat. A-

Dougie Poole, The Freelancer’s Blues (Wharf Cat) A lot of musicians fitting the descriptor of punk or noise or experimental who transition into some form of relationship with roots styles do so with the intent to subvert. This used to be especially true of folks crashing the country music party as the genre became increasingly commercial. I can’t speak of Poole’s initial intent, as this, his second LP, is the first I’ve heard, but with The Freelancer’s Blues he’s not trying to demolish and rebuild or dump sand into the gears of the mersh country machine, but rather, he simply approaches the stuff without abandoning contempo resources such as synths, drum machines and occasional strangeness and humor (e.g. “Vaping on the Job,” “Buddhist for a Couple Days” and “These Drugs Aren’t Working”). Influences cited are Haggard, Nelson and Kristofferson, but Poole’s generally mining the C&W radio era of 1975-’85. Solid writing, playing and singing that reminds me a bit of Chris Crofton’s Hello It’s Me. B+

TENGGER, Nomad (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) This South Korean-Japanese duo (itta and Marqido, with their seven-year-old son RAAI helping out on this album) has released a bunch of prior stuff, including Spiritual 2 just last year for this label. Mentioning that their name is Mongolian for “unlimited expanse of sky” might give you an idea, if you didn’t already have an inkling, of what Nomad is about. It’s New Ageist, it’s meditative, it’s environmental, it’s kosmische. They like to travel around a lot, so much so that this is the second record they’ve released titled Nomad (don’t confuse this one with their CD from 2008 on the Yogiga label, though at that point they were called (((10))) or simply 10). There are no surprises along the way, but that’s not really what TENGGER are striving for. I do like how they drift into a zone reminding me of Harmonia and Popol Vuh. Relaxing, but with an undercurrent of sturdiness. B+

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